Saturday Single No. 102

Originally posted November 15, 2008

I thought I’d try something new this morning, a new method of finding a track to share: I went to the alphabetical stacks and went through the albums from the beginning, looking for one that I did not know well.

At that point, I thought, I’ll pull out the lesser-known album and pull a track from it for this morning.

But which track? Well, I thought I’d borrow a technique from Casey at The College Crowd Digs Me and use the fourth track on the record. As Casey explained a little bit more than a year ago:

“‘Track Four’ is my small way of paying homage to my dad.

“While he was in college…when anyone picked up a new album…it was tradition to play… ‘Track Four’…first. Supposedly… ‘Track Four’…was symbolic of whatever album one was listening to.

“Where this started is unknown. And any factual statistics on this particular track would be purely subjective. But anyway…I think it’s kinda cool…in a ‘Freaky long-haired’ sorta way. So…here we go.”

So I made my way through the A’s: ABBA, Bryan Adams, Margie Adams, a bunch of stuff from the Allmans, Herb Alpert, America, the Animals, Apollo 100, lots of Joan Armatrading, the Association, Atlanta Rhythm Section, the Average White Band and Aztec Two-Step. I thought I’d hit something in the middle of the section when I pulled out an album called Ladies Choice by Any Old Time, an all-woman bluegrass group. But the sound on the record was quavery, and I decided there had to be some aesthetic considerations. So we went on.

The Babys, Joan Baez, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Anita Baker, Long John Baldry, the Balkan Rhythm Band (which I happen to know fairly well), Barclay James Harvest, Elizabeth Barraclough, Lou Ann Barton, Les Baxter and the Beach Boys. This was becoming more difficult than I had expected. But I sifted on: Beausoleil, the Bee Gees, Archie Bell & the Drells, William Bell.

And then I found a record I do not know well at all, released in 1975 by a woman about whom I know at least a little. I pursed my lips and loked at the back, checked the credits.

I saw a number of names I do not know, mostly on background vocals. But many names were very familiar: Steve Cropper, guitar. Craig Doerge, keyboards. Chuck Findley, Robert H. Keyes, Jim Horn and Jim Price on horns. Andrew Gold on piano, vocals and acoustic guitar. Danny Kortchmar on guitar. Russ Kunkel on drums. Dee Murray on bass, James Newton Howard on keyboards and Nigel Olsson on drums. Lee Sklar on bass, Sneaky Pete on pedal steel and Robert (whom I can only assume is Waddy) Wachtel on guitar.

That’s pretty much the cream of the Los Angeles session folks back then, with a few others thrown in: Cropper from Memphis, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson from Elton John’s band. This woman had some powerful friends.

So I played Track Four, titled “#1 With A Heartache” written by Howard Greenfield and Neil Sedaka. (More big-gun friends!) It’s a cute little piece of fluff, and I thought the point of view was odd, or at least unclear, but that’s songwriting craft, not the singer’s flaw.

The singer’s voice is thin, pleasant but not very robust. The background singers on the choruses overwhelm her. But then, it was never the singer’s voice that first brought her to public attention. She’s Barbi Benton, born Barbara Klein, and during the late 1960s and early 1970s, she was the girlfriend of Hugh Hefner of Playboy magazine.

She never graced the magazine’s centerfold, but her charms were displayed elsewhere in the magazine a few times. And in the 1970s, Hefner bankrolled Benton’s not-so-successful singing career on his own short-lived Playboy record label.*

So here, pulled from Benton’s third album, Something New, is today’s Saturday Single:

Barbi Benton – “#1 With A Heartache” [1975]

*As noted by jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ after this was originally posted, Barbi Benton was also for some time a cast member of the cornpone TV show Hee Haw. Note added September 26, 2011.

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One Response to “Saturday Single No. 102”

  1. Saturday Singles Nos. 128 & 129 « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] out the first record – alphabetically – about which I knew little. That’s how a song by Barbi Benton – late 1960s and early 1970s Playboy fixture and (thanks, jb) regular on television’s Hee-Haw […]

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