Saturday, September 29, 2012

This Week's Review -- September 26, 1970

There were ten debuts in this week's Billboard Hot 100. Of these hits, three graced the Top 40 and one went into the Top 10. The hits include two stalwart radio hits, as well as one song that has been undeservedly forgotten. Digging a little deeper in the chart, several acts that are known for other hits appear, and Roger Cook/Roger Greenaway wrote two of the songs that appear here.

Several issues of Billboard are available at Google Books, including the September 26, 1970 edition. The full Hot 100 list can be found on page 76. On page 10, there's a neat little recap of Ted Wallerstein's 50 years in the recording business. Sadly, the artice was also an epitaph for him. Tha large "pull-out" section tells about the advent of the Cartridge TV that was expected to be all the rage in the 1970s (but wasn't) and all the differing formats being offered.

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The Who - "See Me, Feel Me" Listening to You / See Me, Feel Me - Tommy (Deluxe Edition)

(Debuted #75, Peaked #12, 13 Weeks on chart)

Though "See Me, Fee Me" was part of the rock opera Tommy, it was never a separate track on the soundtrack LP. Instead, it was part of the larger song "We're No Gonna Take It." Enough has been written about Tommy so I'll focus on a memory from my youth.

My friend Reuben usually came up with inappropriate lyrics for songs, and most of them were the same type you'd expect from a 14-year old. Today, I can still "hear" some of those even when I know better. The same summer I played some tracks from the Woodstock soundtrack LP (which also included "See Me, Feel Me" in a medley with "Listening To You"), Reuben cut loose with the words "eat me." Yes, that broke up a group of teens...and I still hear his voice on that song to this day.  

Bread - "It Don't Matter To Me" It Don't Matter to Me - Bread

(Debuted #78, Peaked #10, 11 Weeks on chart)

I was once told by a friend that sometimes, if you want to get the girl, you can play the game of "he who cares the least." The idea...if she wants to go, let her go and avoid killing yourself to let her know you're distraught about it. She'll see that she isn't able to control you and will return to you in time. Personally, I don't know how effective that is, but it seems to be a prevailing mood for "It Don't Matter to Me."

However, in the single version of the song, the musical accompaniment is really laid back. It's the musical equivalent of saying, "Whatever, Baby. I'll leave the light on if you ever decide to come back around." Which is really walking a fine line between hopefulness and just giving up without a fight. The original LP track took a harder stance and was much faster, but the success of "Make It With You" led the band to re-record it in the same style and see whether Lightning struck twice.

"It Don't Matter to Me" was definitely a hit, but it also led the group's record company to avoid some of their rougher material when it came time to issue singles. So while that gave a boost to member David Gates -- who wrote nearly everything deemed "single worthy" -- it eventually led to the rift that broke up the band.

Wilson Pickett - "Engine Number 9" Engine Number 9 (Single Version) - The Very Best of Wilson Pickett

(Debuted #83, Peaked #14, 13 Weeks on chart)

After recording most of his hits in the South (Memphis and Muscle Shoals), Wilson Pickett went to Philadelphia to record an LP in 1970. While that might sound like an odd pairing, it pointed the passing of the baton from the Southern Soul that flavored the 1960s to a city where many of the new hits would appear in the 1970s.

While Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia was undoubtedly done in Pickett's inimitable style, the song was written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. A song using the imagery of the train that would take him back home, it helped revitalize him enough to return to Muscle Shoals for one last hurrah. 

White Plains - "Lovin' You Baby" (Not available on iTunes)

(Debuted #86, Peaked #82, 2 Weeks on chart)

White Plains is the first of two groups in this week's review where the folowup hit was totally forgotten by almost everybody but the performers and maybe their families. It's also the first of two songs written by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. However, it's a great slice of bubblegum that really deserves a listen. Yes, it might be disposable pop, but that doesn't mean it's irredeemable.

White Plains was known as one of Tony Burrows' many projects, but this was no one-off rendition. Though Burrows was never really a member of the group (he only lent his voice in the band's first recording session), the group is remembered simply because of him. Burrows wasn't the lead singer of "Lovin' You Baby," but it's well worth a listen anyway.

Blue Mink - "Our World"  Our World - Good Morning Freedom: The Anthology

(Debuted #90, Peaked #64, 6 Weeks on chart)

Blue Mink was a British group that boasted Roger Cook (the famed songwriter and the composer of the song I just reviewed) and New Jersey native Madeline Bell, a highly respected singer. The mulitracial group predictably used that worldview in its lyrics, and "Our World" is no exception; the song is filled with optimism that the new decade will bring about harmony among the people living in it. Even if it does sound like it could have been a beer commercial on TV.

Though "Our World" was Blue Mink's only U.S. hit, the group had 4 Top 10s in their native U.K. (interestingly, "Our World" wasn't one of went to #17.)

Blues Image - "Gas Lamps And Clay" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #95, Peaked #81, 4 Weeks on chart)

"Gas Lamps and Clay" was Blues Image's followup to the hit "Ride Captain Ride" but lacked the quality that marked that hit. Instead of the story about the sailors on a ship on brotherhood, it was a meandering mess. It started out with a bluesy riff, but segued into a poppy "la la la" refrain. I'm not sure which the group was aspiring to...and neither did the record-buying public. It was the last hit the Tampa group who relcated to New York City ever had.

The members of the band would go on to other projects, including Mike Pinera who went to Iron Butterfly and Kurt Henry (his replacement) would join Steppenwolf. You'd think that with those kind of hard rock credits, "Gas Lamps and Clay" would be harder-edged than it is, but you'd be wrong.

Alive and Kicking - "Just Let It Come" Just Let It Come - Alive 'N Kickin'

(Debuted #96, Peaked #69, 5 Weeks on chart)

The Brooklyn band Alive & Kicking's story is fairly well known by 1970s die-hards because of their Tommy James connection and the fact that future Brooklyn Dreams member (and Donna Summer's husband) Bruce Sudano was a member. However, anything the band released besides "Tighter, Tighter" has largely been forgotten.

"Just Let it Come" was the group's second hit single. However, it wasn't written or produced by Tommy James and the buying public largely ignored it. Instead of sounding it could have been another single with the Shondells on backup, it sounded like a harder version of The Righteous Brothers (complete with the dueling voices) with some light fuzz guitar.

Subsequent releases failed to garner any attention, and the group split in 1971. When they reunited later in the decade -- without Sudano -- they named themselves Alive N Kickin', perhaps to avoid any entanglements with former boss Morris Levy. 

Kool and the Gang - "Funky Man" Funky Man (Single Version) - Gold

(Debuted #97, Peaked #87, 4 Weeks on chart)

In 1970, Kool & the Gang weren't yet the phenomena they would become. At the time, they were still a bunch of guys from New Jersey who were getting their sound together. The smoother material was well into the future, what band did during the early 1970s was explore the depth that they could groove.

"Funky Man" was a song that first appeared as a single, and was a song that worked its way into the band's concert repertoire. Originally a jazz/funk jam, in concert the tune was given new life. Through it and other songs, Kool and the Gang were able to evolve into the group that were hitting their stride as the 1970s progressed.

Faith, Hope and Charity - "Baby, Don't Take Your Love" (Not Available on iTunes)

(Debuted #98, Peaked #96, 2 Weeks on chart)

Faith, Hope and Charity was a Tampa-based group whose biggest success came later in the 1970s after Disco became a force in the music business. An earlier incarnation of the group included later members Al Bailey and Brenda Hillard, but also included Zulema Cusseaux, who left the band in 1971 and went on to some solo success. The band's fortune changed in 1970, when producer Van McCoy took them under his wing.

"Don't Take Your Love" was co-written and produced by McCoy and Joe Cobb, who gave it a great-sounding R&B groove. However, their sound was pretty generic for the time and the bouncy tune was off the pop chart after two weeks. It was a minor R&B hit, though, reaching #36 on that chart. If you're not familiar with it, click the video above and check it out. It has a classic groove that may have been "generic" in its time but is great today.

Engelbert Humperdinck - "Sweetheart" Sweetheart - Gold: Engelbert Humperdinck

(Debuted #99, Peaked #47, 11 Weeks on chart)

By the time "Sweetheart" became a hit, Engelbert Humperdinck was at a crossroads in his career. He wasn't conflicted about his singing; rather, he was being told by his management to de-emphasize his recordings and instead focus on performing and touring. His concerts were so profitable and his smooth delivery of his material was certain to draw legions of women who had the money to spend.

As a result, the song "Sweetheart" was pretty much what you'd expect from a Humperdinck tune: an adult contemporary confection, with the right lines and a show of his wide-throated vocal range. On top of that, an angelic-sounding female chorus backs him up, and a Hawaiian guitar makes an appearance in the middle.

The result: a truly middle of the road song, a lackluster showing on the pop chart but a huge AC hit. It went to #2 on that chart, and was the tenth straight Top Ten hit there. But, that was the target audience that was bringing him to the dance.


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  7. R.I.P Chris. Loved reading your stuff. Thanks for keeping the '70s alive as long as you did -- mike

    1. Huh?? The blog is still going...

  8. Unfortunately, Chris passedd away as of September 19. It';s talken a slow timer, basically aince we internet types are the ones that know about him (it would be differnt if it was one of the stars themselves, but he is a star to us). Anonymosu, I hope this ansxwers your question [unless Anonymous was ME!!!!]
    RIP, Chris, 1972-2012.

    STeve J.C