Some Tunes From Forty Years Ago

Originally posted March 4, 20009

It’s one of those days.

I’ll be back with some videos tomorrow, and Friday, we’ll see what the sunrise brings. There will be words and music, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s some tunes – some certainly familiar, some likely not – from this week in 1969.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, March 8, 1969)
“The Worst That Could Happen” by the Brooklyn Bridge, Buddah 75 (No. 22)
“Cloud Nine” by Mongo Santamaria, Columbia 44740 (No. 32)
“Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Smash 2191 (No. 45)
“These Are Not My People” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial 66360 (No. 64)
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 (No. 93)
“As The Years Go Passing By” by Albert King, Atlantic 2604 (No. 137)

The Brooklyn Bridge was an eleven-member group that I’ve seen called a “horn band.” There were saxophones and a trumpet in the group, but to me the sound isn’t quite what I’d call a horn band. Maybe I need to listen to the group’s entire first album again, see what I hear. Anyway, lead singer Johnny Maestro had found some earlier success with the Crests (seven Top 40 hits including “Sixteen Candles,” which went to No. 2) before fronting the Brooklyn Bridge. “The Worst That Could Happen” went to No. 3.

I’ve posted a couple of Mongo Santamaria tracks before; I find his combination of hit songs – in this case, from the Temptations – and Latin rhythms fascinating. “Cloud Nine” was his second and – as it turned out – last Top 40 hit; it peaked at No. 32. His earlier hit was a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which had gone to No. 10 in 1963.

“Mendocino” was the third and last Top 40 hit for the Sir Douglas Quintet. It peaked at No. 27, not as good as the group’s first hit, “She’s About A Mover,” which had gone to No. 13 in 1965, but better than second, “The Rains Came,” which stalled at No. 31 in 1966. The quintet’s moving force, Doug Sahm, went on to a long career as a guitarist, composer, arranger, performer and music historian before passing on in 1999.

As far as I can tell, the Johnny Rivers track never appeared on an album, but I could be wrong. Written by Joe South (and included on his great 1968 album, Introspect), the song sounds almost Dylan-esque in its lyric and arrangement. I keep hearing echoes of “Positively Fourth Street” and “Like A Rolling Stone” as I listen, and the arrangement owes a little bit, in spots at least, to Blonde on Blonde. Wherever the inspiration came from, it’s a great song and a great single. Few others heard it that way, and the record peaked at No. 55.

The Flirtations had a fairly long and active recording career in the 1960s and 1970s, according to All-Music Guide. A good deal of their success evidently came in England, where I think they were well-favored (or “well-favoured,” as it would have been) among devotees of the genre tagged Northern Soul and wound up on the Deram label. “Nothing But A Heartache” had some success on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at No. 34 in the U.S. and giving the Flirtations their only Top 40 hit.

“As The Years Go Passing By” is a classic blues song, and Albert King – about as good a bluesman as you could find, especially on guitar – does it well. The song is sometimes credited to King, but its listed composer is Deadric Malone. That turns out to be a pseudonym for blues and R&B producer and writer Don Robey, who founded the Peacock record label in Houston, Texas, and later merged it with Memphis-based Duke Records. King’s version of “As The Years Go Passing By” was pulled from his 1967 album Born Under A Bad Sign, which came from various sessions at Stax with Booker T & the MG’s and the Memphis Horns. The single stayed at No. 132 for two weeks, never even cracking the Hot 100.

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