Saturday Single No. 42

Originally posted November 17, 2007

Sometimes, figuring out what to post as a Saturday Single is easy, as it was last week with the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Other times – and this happens more often than I like – there’s nothing that seems substantial enough to link a song to. And being a rational person, that’s when I sit here at my desk, waiting for omens to find me.

As I was casting about last evening for a song to post this morning, the RealPlayer was chugging along quite nicely but not hitting on anything truly memorable for about twenty minutes. Then there came a wash of understated organ followed by a subtle guitar riff played twice. And then came Brook Benton’s vocal: “Hovering by my suitcase, tryin’ to find a warm place to spend the night . . .”

Oh, yes. “A Rainy Night In Georgia,” by Brook Benton, one of the great records from early 1970, right during the first six months that I spent much time listening to the Top 40. Benton’s song went to No. 4 on the Billboard chart during the first three months of the year. But how did it do in the Upper Midwest?

I Googled “WDGY 1970,” looking for the call letters of one of the Top 40 stations in the Twin Cities at the time. (I listened more often to KDWB, and I’m not sure why I looked at ’DGY first.) With that search, I found The Oldies Loon, a website I use frequently, one that catalogs Top 40 charts over the years from around the U.S. At the page for the Twin Cities, I clicked on WDGY and scanned the 1970 charts available. Since we’re in November, I clicked on Nov. 18 first, and then Nov. 11, seeing what the local charts looked like in the weeks that bracketed today’s date.

And then I retreated and clicked on KDWB’s list, and saw that the station released its charts two days earlier each week than did WDGY, which meant that KDWB’s chart came out on November 16. Hey! My Saturday Single for today, November 17, could come from a chart that had just been released thirty-seven years ago. I stopped the RealPlayer so I could focus, copied the chart into MS Word and cleaned up some formatting and then printed it.

As I started to look at the chart, I realized that if I used the 1969 chart, it would have been released on November 17, and I’d be writing on that chart’s thirty-ninth anniversary. So I went back to The Oldies Loon and checked out 1969. Before I did, however, I started the RealPlayer again, moving the cursor to a new spot and letting it roll randomly. I was copying and printing the 1969 chart when, once more, Brook Benton started singing about that rainy night in Georgia. Twice in one night, one song out of nearly 20,000 plays twice! I’d been in search of omens, so I threw away the copy of the 1969 chart I’d printed and went back to 1970.

So what did the KDWB’s chart from November 16, 1970, tell me? First of all, it’s got thirty-six songs on it. KDWB’s frequency was 630, so the station’s weekly handout was its “Six Plus Thirty.”

Top song that week was “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family, also No. 1 a week earlier. New songs on the list included “One Less Bell To Answer” by the Fifth Dimension, “We Gotta Get You A Woman” by Runt and “Be My Baby” by Andy Kim.

There were three songs on the list that I could not remember ever hearing. Lowest of those was “King of Rock and Roll” by the Twin Cities band Crow.* At No. 12 was “Heed the Call” by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. And at No. 6 was “As The Years Go By” from a group called Mashmakhan. At least I’d heard of Crow (“Evil Woman”) and KR & the First Edition (“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” et al.). Mashmakhan? I spent a few minutes casting my nets out into the ’Net and came up with an mp3 of the song. It was mildly interesting, I guess, but I certainly don’t remember hearing it back in 1970. (The group, I learned, was from Canada, and the song is in the collection now, so it may show up sometime in a Baker’s Dozen.)

I looked for a trend in the list, something to hang a single on. And I thought I’d see which songs moved the most – for good or for ill – in the week preceding the chart.

Two songs moved seven places: “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” by Elvis Presley, a record that never grabbed me much, fell seven spots to No. 23, and “Gypsy Woman” by Bryan Hyland, a pleasant if slightly hollow remake of the Impressions’ 1961 hit, moved up to No. 7.

Moving eight places on the chart in the week before November 16, 1970, were three songs: “Lola,” the Kinks’ salute to kink, dropped eight spots to No. 29, Teegarden & Van Winkle’s “God, Love and Rock & Roll,” – one of the great one-hit wonders of all time – fell eight places to No. 17, and Bobby Bloom’s sprightly “Montego Bay” jumped from No. 10 to No. 2.

Two songs shifted nine places: “Candida” by Dawn, the group’s first Top 40 hit, dropped from No. 18 to No. 27, and Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie,” a good song but, to me, one of his lesser efforts, fell from No. 7 to No. 16.

And there were three songs that shifted ten places that week:

“Green Eyed Lady,” Sugarloaf’s jazzy and memorable single (I’m still not sure if I prefer the 3:40 concision of the single to the 6:50 running time of the album track or not) was in descent, falling from No. 15 to No. 25.

“Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles moved ten spots as well, jumping from No. 28 to No. 18. Not only was Smokey a great singer and producer, the man could write a lyric! Just the chorus alone – “Now, there’re some sad things known to man, but ain’t too much sadder than the tears of a clown when there’s no one around.” – is one of the most eloquent choruses in pop-rock history. And it sings well, too.

But the largest jump on the KDWB chart, based on landing higher during that week, came from a single by another Canadian band. The Guess Who’s “Share the Land,” with Burton Cummings and the boys calling for economic redistribution and communal living, moved from No. 19 on KDWB’s chart up to the No. 9 spot. And that jump on the chart dated November 16, 1970, makes “Share the Land” this week’s Saturday Single.

Guess Who – “Share the Land” [RCA 0388, 1970]

*As I learned some time later. the full title of Crow’s record was “(Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The) King Of Rock & Roll,” which I knew, but only via the 1971 version by Long John Baldry. Note added May 22, 2011.

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