Posts Tagged ‘Glen Campbell’

Survey Digging: May 31, 1969

May 31, 2019

It’s time for a visit to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive to check out what folks were listening to around the country fifty years ago, as May 1969 drew to a close. We’ll check out the No. 31 record at four stations and note the No. 1 and No. 2 records as well.

We’ll start in New York City with the Music Power Survey at WABC. Parked in the No. 31 slot in the survey was “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & The Aces. The first portion of the second sentence of the Wikipedia entry on the record sums up my memory of the single: “Although few could understand all the lyrics . . .” I recall straining my ears to figure out what the song was about and not really succeeding for years. Wikipedia goes on to note, “the single was the first UK reggae number one and among the first to reach the US top ten (peaking at number 9). It combined the Rastafarian religion with rude boy concerns, to make what has been described as a ‘timeless masterpiece that knew no boundaries’.”

(The “rude boy” culture in Jamaica, another Wikipedia entry points out, correlates roughly with what’s called “gangsta” culture in the U.S.)

Sitting at No. 2 at WABC fifty years ago was “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, while the No. 1 record was the Beatles’ “Get Back.”

We’ll head south along the East Coast and make a stop in Miami, where we’ll take a look at the Fabulous 56 Survey from WQAM. The No. 31 record there as May 1969 came to a close was “Goodbye” by Mary Hopkin. The song was written by Paul McCartney (though credited, as was the arrangement at the time, to John Lennon as well). McCartney also produced the recording, adding bass, an acoustic guitar solo and the somewhat odd acoustic guitar introduction. I recall liking the record, which makes sense as it’s kind of a sappy and sad love song, and anyone who’s read this blog more than once knows that’s one of my soft spots. The record peaked at No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 6 on the magazine’s easy listening chart.

The No. 2 record on the Fabulous 56 was the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” and the Beatles’ “Get Back” and its flip, “Don’t Let Me Down,” were listed as a double No. 1.

Our next stop is in Tucson, Arizona, home of KTKT and its mundanely named “Top Forty.” The No. 31 record in that part of the southwest on May 31, 1969, was “Pinball Wizard” by the Who. The centerpiece in the group’s rock opera Tommy, the record – full of slashing acoustic guitars and suspended chords (among my favorite sounds) – doesn’t sound nearly as loud or disruptive to me now as it did fifty years ago. I know I didn’t hear it a lot back then, but I sought it out about a year later when I came across the piano arrangement for the song and began to work on it at the keyboard. I got pretty good at it, but it never sounded as cool on the piano as it does on the Who’s guitars, so I let it go. The record went to 19 on the Hot 100.

Sitting at No. 2 on KTKT fifty years ago was, again, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, and the station’s No. 1 record was “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” by Henry Mancini.

I was going to end this trip in the Twin Cities, but WDGY’s survey only goes to No. 30, and KDWB didn’t release a 6+30 Survey until June 2. So we’ll finish our excursion with the Entertainment Survey from WLTH in Gary, Indiana. The No. 31 record there fifty years ago today was a favorite of mine: “Where’s The Playground Susie” by Glen Campbell. I wrote some years ago about discovering the song on a live Campbell recording given to me in a box of cassettes: “[W]hen I heard Campbell’s live performance of what was another [Jimmy] Webb gem, the sweep of its melody, the sadness and confusion in its words and the playground metaphor all made me sit up and take notice.” The record went to No. 26 on the Hot 100, to No. 10 on the easy listening chart and to No. 28 on the country chart.

The No. 2 record at WLTH fifty years ago was, as in New York and Tucson, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, and – as in Miami – the No. 1 spot was the double-sided “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles.

(As it happens, I could not have pulled any information from a June 2, 1969, edition of KDWB’s 6+30. The station did not begin calling its survey the 6+30 until the end of June in 1969. Before then, the station’s survey was called the Heavy Hit List. It had other names earlier than that, I know. Perhaps someday I will sort them all out. Note added June 1, 2019.)

‘If You See Your Brother . . .’

August 9, 2017

So Glen Campbell’s journey has ended. The Arkansas-born musician – and how slender a reed that word seems, given Campbell’s accomplishments! – died Tuesday in Nashville from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

As happens when someone of Campbell’s stature passes, it’s all over the news, and there seems to be no point in my repeating what others have reported at venues with wider reaches than this one. The New York Times’ coverage is here, and the report from Rolling Stone is here.

And I guess I’ll share here a link to the piece I wrote the day after the Texas Gal and I saw Campbell and his band at the Paramount Theatre here in St. Cloud. The show took place in May 2011, after Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but before that diagnosis was made public. When Campbell and his family made the public aware of his illness the next month, the Texas Gal and I both nodded, recalling moments during the show when Campbell has seemed a little confused.

Beyond the memories of that wonderful evening at the Paramount, I have plenty of Campbell’s music around: A total of 103 tracks on the digital shelves encompassing the four great 1960s albums, Gentle On My Mind, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman and Galveston plus his 1968 album of duets with Bobbie Gentry and some other bits and pieces. And rummaging through them this morning, one of them brought me an “Oh, yes,” moment.

I have no idea what Glen Campbell would want for his musical epitaph, maybe something from his last album, Adiós, released earlier this year, or maybe something else from the final cluster of albums released since his condition was made public. But one of the tracks on my digital shelves spoke to me this morning. It went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1969, peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s country chart and was No. 1 for a week on the easy listening chart. Here’s “Try A Little Kindness.”

‘Sitting At No. 100 . . .’

July 8, 2014

It’s time for a little bit of chart digging. We’re going to look at four Billboard Hot 100 charts released on July 8 over the years – 1967, 1972, 1978 and 1989 are the years that come up when I sort out the files (well, so do 1995 and 2000, but I’m not interested) – and see what records sat at No. 100 on those four dates. If there was a Bubbling Under section, we’ll take a quick look at what record brought up the rear and see what we can find out about that.

Right off the top, we get a classic. Sitting at No. 100 on July 8, 1967, was “Gentle On My Mind” by Glen Campbell. It was the first week in the chart for Campbell’s cover of John Hartford’s tune, and the record would stall out four weeks later at No. 62 (No. 30 country). Capitol re-released the single a little more than a year later, and in November 1968, the record hit No. 39 (without re-entering the country Top 40). I’ve always tended to think of “Gentle” as Campbell’s first big hit, but by late 1968, the singer had already hit the Top 40 (and No. 2, 1 and 3, respectively, on the country chart) with “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “I Want To Live” and “Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife.”

Sitting at the very bottom of the chart and bubbling under at No. 135 on that July day forty-seven years ago was the original version of “My Elusive Dreams” by Curly Putman. The Alabama singer-songwriter’s version would go one notch higher, but a little higher on that same chart (and eventually peaking at No. 89), was a version of the tune by David Houston and Tammy Wynette that would go to No. 1 on the country chart. Sadly, I can’t find a version of Putnam’s original single; he seems to have re-recorded it in recent years, but I’m not interested in that. (Bobby Vinton in 1970 and Charlie Rich in 1975 would release versions of “My Elusive Dreams” that each hit the pop, country and adult contemporary charts.)

When we dig into the very bottom of the Hot 100 from July 8, 1972, we run into a band that’s been mentioned at least twice in this space over the years, now with a slight change of name. Sitting at No. 100 is “Country Woman” by the Magic Lantern. The band from Warrington, England, had previously called itself the Magic Lanterns and had hit No. 29 in late 1968 with “Shame, Shame.” “Country Woman” came out on Charisma, the band’s third label; previous releases had come out on Atlantic and Big Tree. The record, the last the band would get into the chart, peaked at No. 88.

My files show no Bubbling Under section in the July 8, 1972, Hot 100.

Our first two stops at No. 100 found records on the way up; when we look at the Hot 100 from July 8, 1978, we find a record about to leave the chart: George Benson’s “On Broadway” had peaked at No. 7 (No. 2 R&B and No. 25 AC) in mid-June and had then tumbled back down the chart. Benson’s cover of the Drifters’ 1963 hit was the second of his eventual four Top 10 singles: “This Masquerade” went to No. 10 (No. 3 R&B and No. 6 AC) in 1976, “Give Me The Night” would go to No. 4 (No. 1 R&B and No. 26 AC) in 1980, and “Turn Your Love Around” would go to No. 5 (No. 1 R&B and No. 9 AC) in 1982. Benson’s last chart presence came when 1998’s “Standing Together” bubbled under at No. 101, giving Benson a total of twenty records in or near the Hot 100.

There were only ten singles bubbling under that July 7, 1978, chart, and sitting at No. 110 was “I Just Want To Be With You” by the Floaters. The Detroit R&B group had hit big a year earlier when “Float On” went to No. 2 (No. 1 for six weeks on the R&B chart), but the second time was no charm, as “I Just Want To Be With You,” which actually sounds pretty good to me this morning, bubbled under for five weeks and got no higher than No. 105. (I have to be honest: I don’t remember “Float On” at all. As large as its national profile was, the record either did not dent the playlists of the stations I was listening to that summer of 1977, which were KDWB in the car and WJON in the evenings, or it just made no impression on me.)

And as we get to the Billboard Hot 100 from July 8, 1989, we again find a week when nothing bubbled under. And the last entry in the chart, No. 100, is the last presence in the charts for the London trio Wang Chung: “Praying To A New God.” The record had peaked at No. 63 and would be gone by the next week’s chart. The group is far better remembered, of course, for its three Top 20 hits: “Dance Hall Days,” No. 16 in 1984; “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” No. 2 in 1986; and “Let’s Go,” No. 9 in 1987. I was familiar with those three, likely because I was in grad school at Missouri and teaching and working at St. Cloud State during those years. But I don’t at all remember “Praying To A New God,” and I think that’s okay. Here’s the official video for the record:

‘She’ll Just Hear That Phone . . .’

August 2, 2012

As most readers know, I’m always looking for an interesting cover of a familiar song. And I found one this morning. On this date in 1969, a cover of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” by a group called the Mad Lads was sitting at No. 90 in the Billboard Hot 100:

It turns out that the Mad Lads recorded for Volt in Memphis. Originally from Detroit, the lads got three singles into the lower reaches of the Hot 100, starting in 1965. But after “Phoenix” peaked at No. 84 in 1969, the Mad Lads were gone from the charts and, one would guess, were mostly forgotten.

Tthe song certainly wasn’t. According to Second Hand Songs, more than ninety artists or groups have covered Jimmy Webb’s tune since 1966, when Johnny Rivers included it on his album Changes. A year later, Glen Campbell saw his version of the tune go to No. 26. And after that came Floyd Cramer, Johnny Mathis, Henson Cargill, Larry Carlton, O.C. Smith, Burl Ives and more, right down to singer Carol Welsman earlier this year. (It’s interesting to note that the next-to-last version of the tune listed is the one by Webb and Campbell from Webb’s 2010 album Just Across the River.)

The vast majority of covers of “By The Time I Get To Phoenix” came early, with forty-six versions listed in 1968 alone, including versions I’d love to hear by saxophonists Ace Cannon and King Curtis. I can probably get by without the version by Ray Conniff and the Singers, though. As often happens, a foreign language version of the tune intrigues me, this one a 1969 cover of the tune in French – “Le Temps Que J’arrive à Marseille” – by Claude François. (Both videos available of François’ version, sadly, chop off the last few seconds.)

But no one, I’m sure, could match what Isaac Hayes did with Webb’s song, stretching it for more than eighteen minutes and most of the second side of his great 1969 album, Hot Buttered Soul. For nine minutes, over a quiet but insistent beat, Hayes tells the back story of the song, the tale of the man who’s driving toward Phoenix and away from the woman who’s broken his heart over and over. Then he breaks into the song. Some strings sweeten it, and horns, piano and then organ provide punctuation as the track pulls the narrator toward Albuquerque and Oklahoma and, finally, home.

(An edit of Hayes’ long version was released as a single and went to No. 37. I’ve never heard the edit, and I think I’d like to. I saw several edits available for purchase online this morning, but I have no idea which one, if any, is true to the 1969 single. Even when I finally hear it, though, I doubt that it could be any better than Hayes’ original version.)

Love Means What?

July 11, 2012

Forty-one years ago this week, a sweet little ditty occupied the No. 45 spot on the Billboard Hot 100: “Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry)” by the Sounds of Sunshine. The Sounds of Sunshine were actually three brothers from the Los Angeles area – Walt, Warner and George Wilder – and the sound they offered on their only hit record owed a lot to the Lettermen and the Sandpipers (and probably a few other vocal groups that don’t come to mind at the moment).

For a one-shot hit, the record did pretty well, peaking at No. 39 in the Hot 100 and at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album from which the single was pulled got to No. 187 on the Billboard 200.

The source of the song – written by Warner Wilder – is, of course, the most famous line from the movie Love Story, a 1970 film “about a girl who died” co-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. Here’s the scene in which the impossibly young McGraw delivers that line:

The line became the 1970s equivalent of a meme: It was impossible to avoid and to ignore. The same was true of the movie’s theme, of course (“Where do I begin . . .”). The theme made the Hot 100 in versions by Andy Williams, Henry Mancini, Tony Bennett, the duo of Nino Tempo and April Stevens and its composer, Francis Lai. It was a pretty tune, very hummable and generally inconsequential. The famous line of dialogue offered by McGraw (and originated by Erich Segal, who wrote the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based) is, however, bullshit.

Now, pop culture offers all sorts of twaddle to its audiences as wisdom. Listeners, viewers and readers can, if they are so moved, pull epigrams or advice on living well from almost any bit of pop culture ephemera. (Well, “Disco Duck” might be a stretch.) And if those epigrams help those pop culture consumers make their ways through the crabgrass of life, that’s just fine.

But I think that a large swath of the Baby Boomer demographic closed Segal’s book or walked up the theater aisle during the closing credits of the movie with the thought circling through their minds that maybe love really does mean never having to say you’re sorry. I wonder how many college relationships foundered because one or the other of the individuals involved held to the wisdom of Segal and McGraw during a disagreement when a simple “I’m sorry” would have repaired a lot of damage.

Well, maybe not all that many. I don’t know. I’m sure there were those who thought “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a sweetly romantic idea, but I’d also like to think that most of those folks realized that what works in the movies rarely works in real life. For my part, I was not all that experienced in what worked in love at the time, but even at seventeen, I knew that a philosophy of no apologies would be more nearly lethal than nurturing to a romantic coupling.

Ah, well, it’s a line from a movie that inspired Warner Wilder to write a pretty song. If we dismissed all the songs based on bullshit, then the pop charts would be a lot shorter and not nearly as much fun.

So what else was going on in the Hot 100 during the week that the Sounds of Sunshine saw their single sitting at No. 45? Here’s the Top Ten:

“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Indian Reservation” by the Raiders
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor
“Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Draggin’ The Line” by Tommy James
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees
“That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” by Carly Simon

The only one of those I would wince at as it came out of the speakers today would be the Bee Gees’ record; I didn’t like it that much when it came out, either (and I would have guessed its time in the Top Ten to be much closer to February 1972 than the summer of 1971). I’ve written about “It’s Too Late” and “Treat Her Like A Lady” before (and they both popped up this week on the little mp3 player that holds the Ultimate Jukebox), but there are three other records here I like nearly as well: “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be,” “Don’t Pull Your Love” and “Draggin’ The Line,” and my regard for that last record is a surprise to me. It must be the purple flowers.

I found a few other surprises looking further down in the Billboard Hot 100 from July 17, 1971. We’ll jump off from No. 45, where we found the Sounds of Sunshine’s single, and drop down from there.

Finding an Elvis Presley record I’ve never heard before isn’t all that startling. My Elvis listening has focused mostly on the work at Sun Records in the 1950s and in Memphis in 1969 (with a little bit of digging into a few of the soundtracks from the early 1960s). So until this morning, I’d never heard “I’m Leavin’,” which was sitting at No 59 during this week in 1971. It’s a record with a different (some might say “odd”) sound to it; the original poster at YouTube had some comments about that. “I’m Leavin’” was heading to a peak at No. 36 and a surprising (to me, anyway) peak of No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Someday, I’m going to burn myself a CD of covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s songs. One of the tunes on that CD will be “The Last Time I Saw Her” as performed by Glen Campbell. It’s a very good version of a song I know much better from Lightfoot’s 1968 album, Did She Mention My Name. Campbell’s version was at No 69 forty-one years ago this week; it peaked at No. 61 on the pop chart and went to No. 21 in the country chart.

The Continental 4 was an R&B vocal quartet from Pittsburgh, and during this week in 1971, their only hit was sitting at No. 84. “Day by Day (Every Minute of the Hour)” is a sweeping piece of Philadelphia-style soul that didn’t sound a lot different than a lot of other records fighting for airplay at the time. Still, the record got to No. 19 on the R&B chart even as it stalled at No. 84 on the pop chart.

Sorting out the history of the Nite-Liters, a group started in Louisville, Kentucky, by Harvey Fuqua and Tony Churchill, is a little confusing. Joel Whitburn says in Top Pop Singles that the project evolved to include seventeen people in three groups: the vocal groups Love, Peace & Happiness and the New Birth as well as the band still called the Nite-Liters. All of that was yet to come during mid-July 1971, when the Nite-Liters’ “K-Jee” was sitting at No. 92.  The record, the first of ten in the Hot 100 for the Nite-Liters and the New Birth, peaked at No. 39 and made it to No. 17 on the R&B chart.

When I glanced at Sonny James’ entry in Whitburn’s Book of Top 40 Country Hits, I did a double-take. Between November of 1964 and July of 1972, James had twenty-five consecutive records reach the top three spots on the country chart; one of those peaked at No. 3, three of them went to No. 2, and the other twenty-one records, including a remarkable sixteen in a row, went to No. 1. Those years were, of course, only a portion of James’ long career: Between 1953 and 1983, he placed sixty-four records in the Country Top 40. His presence on the pop chart was a little less daunting but still notable: Twenty-six records in or near the Hot 100 between 1956 and 1972. He’s here today because forty-one years ago, his “Bright Lights, Big City” was sitting at No. 100. It would peak at No. 91 on the pop chart, and it was the fifteenth of those sixteen consecutive No. 1 hits on the country chart.

It’s The Same Song Again Tonight

June 1, 2011

Originally posted January 3, 2008

One of the things I sometimes wonder about: How hard must it be to perform the same songs, usually in the same way, night after night? When I saw Paul McCartney in 2002, he’d added to the set list some Beatles’ tunes he’d either not performed before or hadn’t performed in a long time, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Back in the U.S.S.R.” among them. But he was still performing “Hey Jude,” and I doubt a concert goes by when he’s not required by audience expectations to sing “Yesterday,” a song now nearly forty-three years old

I thought of that the two times I saw Bob Dylan, too, wondering which songs would be on his essential list every evening. Dylan can be unpredictable, but even so, I would guess that hit set lists nearly always include “Like A Rolling Stone,” also recorded forty-three years ago.

For performers like McCartney and Dylan, at least, the catalog of available songs is deep enough that a good portion of the set list can be changed and still be familiar to the audience (though I would think some songs would always be expected). But for performers without such deep catalogs, it must get tiring. I thought of that the two times I saw Don McLean, once here in St. Cloud and once in Missouri: How tired is he of singing “American Pie”? Weary, I imagine, and it seemed like it in 1987 when I saw him at St. Cloud State; his performance of the song was a bit perfunctory. Three years later, I saw him in a small club-like venue in Columbia, Missouri, and he was far more into the entire show, including “American Pie.”

I’ve never seen Glen Campbell in concert, but I imagine he deals with the same difficulty: Making songs he’s sung thousands of times seem fresh for new audiences, including “Galveston,” featured here yesterday. But I would guess that, if music and performing is your job, you find ways to make the tunes fresh. The video I found for today shows Campbell backed by a band during a televised performance of “Galveston.” There is a crawl that apologizes for audio difficulty, but beyond the sound being a bit thin, I don’t hear any problems. Without knowing for sure, the clip looks like it came from a fundraiser, perhaps for a public television station.

At any rate, based on the hair and the styles, it dates from the late 1960s or early 1970s, about the time when Galveston went to No. 4. And it’s a pretty good performance.

Video deleted.

In The Singles Bin

June 1, 2011

Originally posted January 2, 2008

I never bought many singles. By the time I began listening to and buying rock and pop, the era of the album was upon us. Even though singles were routinely issued from most albums – there were some exceptions – the focus of music was on the album and the overall sense (or message or allegory) that the listener could gain from the forty or so minutes of music on the album.

I remember the first time I bought a single. It was during a shopping trip with my family to downtown Minneapolis during what must have been the summer of 1969. I made my way to – I think – the seventh floor of Dayton’s department store and rummaged through the singles until I found the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius//Let the Sunshine In,” which had impressed me enough the spring before on the radio that I wanted the record. (This was still a few months before I began listening regularly to Top 40 radio, so the record must have impressed me a great deal, indeed!)*

As I found my record and made my way to the cash register, I looked at the expanse of records around me, singles and albums alike. I remember feeling as if I’d walked by accident into a clubhouse where I did not belong, one from which I would be ejected without ceremony if the others there realized that I did not know the password or the secret handshake. I don’t recall if I thought then and there about becoming a member of the club, but within a year, I was shopping for records – almost always albums – with a growing assurance that, if so challenged, I would be allowed to stay.

Over the years, a small collection of singles has made its way onto my shelves. A few of them were in the boxes of 45s that I received from Mr. Rau, the man across the alley who owned a string of jukeboxes in the St. Cloud area when I was growing up. Some date from purchases in the late 1980s when I began making mix tapes for friends from my growing record collection and I didn’t want to lay out the money for an album with, say “Oooh Child” on it, so I bought the single instead. And quite a few date from a few garage sales in the early 1990s when I found metal carrying cases for 45s and bought them, gaining the singles inside as an afterthought.

So I probably have about a hundred singles, as opposed to more than 2,900 LPs, and a good number of the singles are quite obscure. I have some set aside as the ones that I enjoy the most, with the rest organized only by grade. Just to give an example of the range of stuff, I’ll list here the sixth record in each section:

“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”/“What You Gonna Do?” by Manfred Mann, Ascot 2157, 1964

“A World of Our Own”/“Sinner Man” by the Seekers, Capitol 5430, 1965

“I’m Gonna Make You Mine”/“She Sold Me Magic” by Lou Christie, Collectibles 3529, 1985

“The Return of the Red Baron”/“Sweetmeats Slide” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3379, 1967

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”/“Race Among The Ruins” by Gordon Lightfoot, Reprise 0121, date unknown.

“Rock and Roll Rhapsody”/“I Wish I May, I Wish I Might” by the Four Aces, Decca 30575, date unknown.

“Love My Lady”/“Just A Little Lonesome” by Bobby Helms, Decca 30557, date unknown.

The Christie record is a reissue of two of his 1969 hits on the Buddah label. “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” charted in the U.S. and the U.K., but “She Sold Me Magic” charted only in the U.K., according to Wikipedia.

The Lightfoot single collects two tracks from Summertime Dream with the legend “Back to Back Hits.” “Wreck” was released in 1976 as Reprise 1369, and “Race” was released later that year as Reprise 1380, so this is a later reissue, but I’m not sure of the date.

I’ve seen a date of 1958 for the Four Aces record, and that’s likely correct, as their last Top 40 hit, “You Can’t Run Away From It,” was Decca 30041 in 1956. Based on its catalog number, the Helms single likely comes from 1958 as well.

That proves nothing except that the few singles I have in my carrying cases run from the very well known to the very obscure. But the single I remember most clearly is tucked away on another shelf, with a few other singles next to the Beatles’ albums. My dad bought it for my sister and me in February 1964, and it still sits in the original picture sleeve showing the four mop-topped Beatles smiling directly at the camera. I haven’t played it for a long time, but I think it’s still in pretty good shape. And I think we’ll start today’s Baker’s Dozen with the B side, which did pretty well, reaching No. 14 on its own.

A Baker’s Dozen of Capitol singles
“I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles, Capitol 5112, 1964

“Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 5009, 1963

“Sweete Peony” by Bobbie Gentry, Capitol 2295, 1968

“Wildflower” by Skylark, Capitol 3511, 1974

“Galveston” by Glen Campbell, Capitol 2428, 1969

“What About Me?” by Quicksilver Messenger Service, Capitol 3046, 1971

“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes, Capitol 3086, 1971

“I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter, Capitol 4009, 1975

“Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto, Capitol 4945, 1963

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, Capitol 3350, 1972

“Fisherman’s Blues” by the Waterboys, Capitol 17527, 1988

“Pray for Surf” by the Honeys, Capitol 5034, 1963

“Every Beat Of My Heart” by Josie & The Pussycats, Capitol 2967, 1971

Well, it’s an interesting mix. A couple of No. 1 singles – the Reddy and “Sukiyaki” – and several singles that didn’t hit the Top 40 at all: The Gentry, the Quicksilver, the Honeys and Josie & The Pussycats. (And I don’t recall adding that last to the collection!) I’m not sure if the Waterboys single charted, but I don’t think so. [It did not.]

It’s worth repeating here that in my labeling system, songs for which I have the entire album are labeled with that album title and not as a single. That means that a lot of songs that were released as singles on Capitol over the years do not come up when I sort the collection. Still, it’s an interesting list.

The A side of “I Saw Her Standing There” was, of course, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which went to No. 1 in the early months of 1964. It continues to amaze me that both songs – like much of the rest of the Beatles’ catalog – remain vital and fresh forty years later.

Despite the Beach Boys’ place as America’s chief proponents of fun in the sun – and despite the admitted brilliance of Brian Wilson as a writer – the group has never meant much to me, either in its cars and surf incarnation in the early to mid-1960s or when the lyrics and music became more adventurous in the later part of that decade. “Little Deuce Coupe” is what popped up randomly; if I were to choose a Beach Boys single to represent the group in an anthology, I’d probably go with “California Girls.”

“Galveston” was the second Top Ten single for Glen Campbell and was his fourth great single in a two-year period, following “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Gentle On My Mind” and “Wichita Lineman.” (He also charted with “I Wanna Live” and “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” during that time, but those seem like lesser records to me.) Of all Campbell’s hits – and he had nineteen singles reach the Top 40 between 1967 and 1978 – I think “Galveston” is his best. Like many of Campbell’s hits, it was written by Jimmy Webb.

The spare and slightly spooky “I’m Not Lisa” was Jessi Colter’s only Top 40 single. Until the record was released, Colter was better known as the wife of country music outlaw Waylon Jennings.

I know that “I Am Woman” makes many people groan these days, not least the Texas Gal. But there were reasons it was No. 1 for a week, whatever they might have been. (Of course, “Sukiyaki” was No. 1 for three weeks, so I’m not going to go all cosmic here.) Whatever its merits, “I Am Woman” – as I’ve said here before – is one of the prevailing aural memories of my early college years.

As always, bit rates will vary.

Go Take A Look!
My friend caithiseach – who has frequently left comments here – launches his own music blog, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, today. He plans to post twice a week, taking a year to examine his own collection of 45s, most of them – based on our conversations – fairly obscure. Make sure you check it out!

*As it happens, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” turns out not to have been the first single I ever bought. As noted in a later post, my first 45 I purchased was actually Dickie Goodman’s 1966 opus “Batman & His Grandmother.” Still the 5th Dimension single remains the first musical 45 I ever bought. Note added June 1, 2011.

Watching A Legend At Work

May 18, 2011

So when Glen Campbell wants to close the show – at least the main portion of the show, just before the two scheduled encores – what does he do?

Well, those who’d been keeping track of the hits he’d performed last night at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre had a pretty good idea. And they were right, as Campbell’s seven-person band – four of them his children – launched into “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

It made sense. “Rhinestone Cowboy” was No. 1 for two weeks in 1975, and it was the biggest hit of Campbell’s career, a career that dates back to 1961 as a singer and back into the 1950s as a session guitarist. It’s a catchy tune, but it never caught on with me back then, and – although I knew I would hear it Tuesday evening – it wasn’t one of the songs that drew me to the Paramount.

But when Campbell came out to the lip of the stage as the song’s chorus came around the second time, he pointed his microphone at the audience and asked all 600 or so of us to sing with him. And just like the other folks in the audience, I found myself singing along from my seat in the balcony: “Like a rhinestone cowboy, riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo . . .”

And I was having a great time as I did.

But that’s what great entertainers do: They charm their audiences, pull them in and then send them home humming songs they’d perhaps never much cared for or maybe never even heard before. Glen Campbell did all that last night at the Paramount, and more.

Many performers start a show with one of their hits, and the Texas Gal and I shared guesses as we waited for the show to start. I continued to ponder the question a little bit as I listened – more and more intrigued and interested – to a five-song set by Instant People, an alt country/folkish group made up of three of Campbell’s children and two other musicians.

By the time a couple of other musicians had joined those already on stage and introduced Campbell, I’d decided that he’d likely open with “Gentle On My Mind.” It was, after all, his first major hit, going to No. 39 in 1968. And it was, in fact, his opener last evening, followed by the powerhouse pair of “Galveston” and “By the Time I Get To Phoenix.” I’ve seen a fair number of concerts over the years, but I’d be hard-pressed to remember an opening salvo like that.

From there, Campbell and his band made their ways through his career, touching on other hits – “It’s Only Make Believe,” “Try A Little Kindness,” “True Grit” and more – and then visiting some other friends in the country oeuvre: Campbell gave us “Didn’t We,” a Jimmy Webb song more closely identified with Richard Harris. He and his eldest daughter Debby did a saucy version of “Jackson,” better known as a duet between Johnny Cash and June Carter or Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood. And his younger daughter Ashley – a multi-instrumental and member of Instant People – picked up her banjo and joined Campbell up front for a lightning-fast rendition of “Dueling Banjos,” best known from the 1973 hit by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell (and from its inclusion in the 1972 film Deliverance).

For years before he made it as a singer, of course, Campbell was a prominent session guitarist in the Los Angeles area, working many times with Phil Spector, the Beach Boys and many, many others. He showed last night that even at the age of seventy-five, he’s still a dexterous and evocative guitarist. The pure speed demonstrated on “Dueling Banjos” was balanced by the simple and melodic solos he’d added – at that point in the show – to “Galveston,” “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” and a few others. (Some of those solos did evolve into some pretty quick country picking.) I should note that, given his age, Campbell’s voice has also held up well. It’s still rich in the lower register and effective though a bit reedy – almost like Willie Nelson’s – in the mid-range. He reached for very few high notes last evening, although when he reached for them, he got them.

Shortly after performing “Dueling Banjos,” Campbell and his band took us through a rapid but musically brilliant performance of the finale to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture,” known more popularly among Baby Boomers as the Lone Ranger’s theme. Coming out of that – Campbell played the last minute or so with his guitar held over his head – he slowed things down with the last of the three great Webb songs: “Wichita Lineman.”

I’ve shared here a couple of times my musical bucket list, my collection of certain songs by certain performers I’d like to hear someday. I’m not sure why it wasn’t, but “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell should have been on that list.

(It’s not like it’s rare or anything, but here’s the original version of “Wichita Lineman.”)

There was more, of course. “Southern Nights,” “Let It Be Me,” a duet from Debby and Ashley on Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” the two encores of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (Campbell noted that he played guitar on the Righteous Brothers’ version of the tune in 1964) and the hymn-like “A Better Place.” By the time the lights came up and the Texas Gal and I began to make our ways out of the balcony, I was wondering – out of all the concerts I’ve seen – how many times I have actually seen a legend at work. Whatever the total turns out to be, last night was one of them.

But there was a moment yet to come. After waiting a few minutes in the lobby, the Texas Gal and I went into the theater’s main floor and down to the stage. There, we bought a CD with highlights of Instant People’s album We Must Be Camping and got it signed by both Ashley and Cal Campbell.

And as we left the theater, we saw the tour’s bus waiting at the curb. We figured that the seventy-five-year-old Campbell was already inside, resting, having already done an afternoon show at the Paramount before taking the stage again for the evening peformance. But we thought we’d hang around for a while and see if anything happened. A few moments later, the bus door opened, and out came two of the younger folks on the tour. One slipped away quickly, and I told the other fellow that they’d all done a great show. He thanked me, and I decided, well, what the hell?

I held out my ticket stub from the concert and asked if Glen was on the bus. The younger fellow nodded, took my stub and turned back to the bus, saying, “I’ll see what I can do.” As you can see from the picture below, he did pretty well for me.

Amended since first posting.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1969, Vol. 2

May 6, 2011

Originally posted August 29, 2007

Autumn approaches. Day by day, the signs accumulate: geese honking their ways across the sky in great V’s; the first tree on the boulevard abandoning its green cover for dusty brown or perhaps orange; and the slight chill hanging in the morning air, accompanied sometimes with a thin haze of fog in the low places.

There are other signs, less tied with nature’s hike toward the season: I drove past one of the three St. Cloud high schools the other afternoon, and the warming air there was filled with the demands of coaches and the grunted responses of athletes in pads as the football team went through its workout. And even more prosaically, the newspaper supplements have been filled for weeks already with advertising for back to school sales and promotions.

My junior year of high school began on a football field, although a different one than the one I drove past the other day. I was at the practice area next to Clark Field, home of the Tech Tigers. I wasn’t a player – my frame was too slight and my pace too slow. Rather, I was a manager, lugging a primitive medical kit between the field and the school a block away, tending to minor injuries, gathering and packing away loose footballs during and after practices, and running errands for the coaches.

And like the players and the three other managers, I hung around the locker room and the training room between and after practices. (This was not today’s complex weight training room but rather a small room with three tables, a tall medicine cabinet, an old refrigerator and a primitive whirlpool bath.) We’d trade jokes and stories –many of them vulgar and tasteless, of course – and listen to the radio, always tuned to KDWB, one of the two Twin Cities stations devoted to airing the Top 40.

In any one hour, we might hear “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies, “Lay, Lady, Lay” by Bob Dylan, “Grazing in the Grass” from the Friends of Distinction,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion” from Tommy James and the Shondells,” Tony Joe White’s “Poke Salad Annie,” Zager & Evans’ “In the Year 2525” and two of the Beatles’ trio of “Get Back,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”

And there was one song that we in Minnesota heard far more than listeners anywhere in the country did: “Pain” by the Mystics, a Twin Cities group also known as Michael’s Mystics. The song was No. 1 for two weeks in mid-August on KDWB’s Top 40 chart. It was a great summer for radio, and a great time to turn sixteen, which I did the Friday of the first week of school.

The beginning of a school year was always a time of great hopes: the hope that I’d like all my classes and teachers; the hope that I would find a place to fit in, a group of kids with whom I had some connection beyond sharing the same crowded hallways; the hope that the football team would succeed and that for the first time I would be able to feel like a part of that success; and the hope – this one a long-recurring wish – that I might find a young lady with whom to spend sweet time.

Well, the football team went 6-3 and wound up being ranked ninth in the state by the Minneapolis Tribune. As there were no playoffs, the newspaper’s ranking was all we had to strive for, especially since we were not a member of any conference and played an independent schedule. We took some pride in the fact that our three losses were to the teams the newspaper ranked first, second and third in the state: the suburban powerhouse Edina Hornets, the Austin Packers from near the Iowa border, and the Moorhead Spuds from the Red River Valley in the far northwest.

My classes and teachers were fine, although I struggled with third-year French. I never really did find that group of kids I sought. I spent some time hanging around in the locker room with the football team and – during winter – the wrestlers, for whom I was a second-year manager, and I also spent time with students who focused on music, as I was in the orchestra and the concert choir. I never did find a place, really.

Nor did I find that young lady. But several of the young women I knew became good friends, which in the long term is worth a great deal. At the age of sixteen, however, it’s difficult to think about anything other than the short term.

One fine moment of the year came in mid-September, when the first dance of the year had live music, provided by the Mystics. With my pal Mike – also a football manager – I hitched a ride from Tech to the dance at the old Central School, where we hung around the edges of the dance floor, listening to the music and watching the dancers. We didn’t dance a step all evening, but the Mystics were pretty good, and we got to hear their hit, the first time for either one of us to hear a band perform a Top 40 hit live.

And that’s where we’ll start this Baker’s Dozen for 1969.

“Pain” by the Mystics, Metromedia single 130

“Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash from Crosby, Stills & Nash

“Where’s the Playground, Susie?” by Glen Campbell, Capitol single 2494

“To Be Alone With You” by Bob Dylan from Nashville Skyline

“Love and a Yellow Rose” by the Guess Who from Wheatfield Soul

“More and More” by Blood, Sweat & Tears from Blood, Sweat & Tears

“All Along The Watchtower” by Brewer & Shipley from Weeds

“Joker (On A Trip Through The Jungle)” by Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band from In The Jungle, Babe

“Woman” by Zager & Evans from In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)

“Nobody” by Three Dog Night from Captured Live At The Forum

“Nitty Gritty” by Gladys Knight & the Pips, Soul single 35063

“Cherry Hill Park” by Billy Joe Royal, Columbia single 44902

“London Bridge” by Bread from Bread

A few notes on some of the songs:

One can argue which version of “Wooden Ships” is better, this one from Crosby, Stills & Nash or the version released later the same year on Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers album. (David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane wrote the song.) The CS&N version is a little more sleek and polished, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a compliment here. Nevertheless, both recordings of this enduring song are worth hearing.

When folks talk about Glen Campbell’s hits, they often forget about “Where’s The Playground, Susie?” and that’s too bad. It’s a fine performance of another Jimmy Webb song. It likely gets ignored because it only reached No. 26 on the pop chart, rather than climbing into the Top 10, as had “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston,” Campbell’s previous two releases to reach the Top 40.

“Love and a Yellow Rose” is a Guess Who album track that sprawls and wanders through simulations of Indian ragas, Gregorian chant (I think), standard pop rock and the kind of silly declamatory stuff that lead singer Burton Cummings was prone to (when he wasn’t writing hit singles, that is). As odd as “Love and a Yellow Rose” is, it’s not the strangest track on the album; that honor goes to the even sillier “Friends of Mine,” in which Cummings channels the still-living Jim Morrison.

“Joker (On A Trip Through The Jungle)” is a not-bad album track instrumental by Charles Wright and his group, but Wright and his band are better remembered for their singles, including the sweet “Love Land” from 1969, and 1970’s funky “Express Yourself.”

“Woman,” another album track, is Zager & Evans’ attempt at sweet and subtle, and the music is nice, but the lyrics are pretty vapid and unsubtle. I think that was the case, however, with pretty much everything the group did. It’s short, which helps.

Billy Joe Royal’s “Cherry Hill Park” is one of those guilty pleasures from the Top 40, and at the time, was just a little bit naughty: “Mary Hill was such a thrill after dark . . . in Cherry Hill Park.” Pretty tame these days, but still fun to listen to.

‘You’re The One Who’s Supposed To Know . . .’

March 15, 2011

Last year, while sharing here on a weekly basis the records in my Ultimate Jukebox, I kept my pocket mp3 player loaded with only those two-hundred and twenty eight recordings, listening at odd times to the combinations and juxtapositions those songs created on random play.

Those tunes used up about two-thirds of the player’s memory, so when I was finished with the UJ project, I hooked the player up to the computer and loaded into it another one hundred recordings, stuff that I either forgot when I was compiling my list or that just missed the cut.

Among those additions were a couple of tunes from Glen Campbell, who’d been absent from the UJ. And as they’ve popped up now and then in the past few months, I’ve pondered Campbell’s place in the vague and mostly instinctual ranking of performers that whirls around in my head. He seems somehow absent when I think about singers and groups that I’ve enjoyed and respected over the years. But when I think about some of his individual records, there’s a lot there. Anyone who can pull off three records like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston” in less than two years has to be reckoned with.

It’s worth noting that all three of those – and much of the rest of Campbell’s extensive catalog – came from the pen of Jimmy Webb, a writer who I sometimes think has been forgotten.* The richness of the Webb/Campbell collaboration sometimes catches me by surprise, and I’ve spent some time trying to figure out why. And the answer, I think, is timing. Those three records mentioned above did in fact come out in less than two years:

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in late October 1967 and went to No. 26. It went to No. 2 on the country chart.

“Wichita Lineman” entered the Hot 100 in early November 1968 and went to No. 3; it was No. 1 for two weeks on the country chart.

“Galveston” entered the Hot 100 in early March 1969 and went to No. 4. It was No 1 for three weeks on the country chart.

And I began listening seriously to the radio and paying attention to the charts in August of 1969. Although I knew of all three of those Campbell records when they were popular, they don’t seem to attach themselves to a particular time as do a lot of the hits that came along – many of them far less good than the trio by Campbell – during my radio/chart years.

In fact, thinking of Glen Campbell and radio at the same time brings up two later and, to my mind, lesser Campbell singles: “Rhinestone Cowboy” from 1975 and “Southern Nights” from 1977. Both of those went to No. 1 on both the pop and country charts, but I didn’t particularly care for either of them.

So when I was collating the records for the Ultimate Jukebox, Campbell’s work didn’t show up. A track or two likely should have. And one would guess that that track or two would be pulled from the three Campbell-Webb city songs. On the other hand . . .

I wrote a while back about my experiences around 1970 as a bugler for military funerals. The funerals were for members of the Disabled American Veterans, so the men being buried were generally veterans of World War I or World War II. A member of the organization by the name of Axel O. would call me and then drive me to the various cemeteries, where I’d stand some distance from the gravesites and then play “Taps” at the end of the service.

Axel knew I liked music, and one day as he picked me up, he handed me a shoebox full of cassette tapes. “Here,” he said. “These came to me, but I don’t listen to tapes. If you do, you can have them.” I’m guessing, but I imagine that the tapes came to him from the estate of one of the deceased veterans whose funerals Axel helped arrange.

Wherever the tapes came from, I was interested. I thanked him, went to the funeral and played “Taps” and then rode home. It wasn’t until I was home that I dug into the box. I don’t recall everything that was there, as most of it was stuff I wouldn’t listen to at the time: Traditional country and easy listening. But there was a two-cassette package of a Glen Campbell live performance, and one of the songs that Campbell performed during that show was a song I’d never heard before.

“Where’s the Playground Susie?” had entered the Hot 100 in early May of 1969 and peaked at No. 26, reaching only No. 28 on the country chart. I don’t recall ever hearing it on the radio, but when I heard Campbell’s live performance of what was another Webb gem, the sweep of its melody, the sadness and confusion in its words and the playground metaphor all made me sit up and take notice.

I do tend to forget the record sometimes amid the presence in Campbell’s catalog of the better-known city trilogy (and his version of John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind”), but I think that if I were to make room in that mythical jukebox for a record by Glen Campbell, it would be “Where’s the Playground Susie?”

*Not entirely forgotten: My friend Dan tipped me off earlier this year to Just Across the River, a collection of thirteen classic Webb tunes performed by a ridiculously rich list of performers, including Campbell and Webb himself.