Posts Tagged ‘Hot’

Cosmic Marker? Or Just Another Day?

November 11, 2011

Today’s date is, of course, irresistible: 11-11-11.

According to the soothsayers of one type or another out there, the confluence of all those identical digits either means that a lot of very good things or a lot of very bad things are going to happen. Today could find some regular dude in Artmart, Idaho, winning it big in the lottery, or else all those 1’s lining up might mean the universe has reached some long-awaited cosmic alignment and tomorrow – if there is a tomorrow – we’ll find ourselves either in eternal nothingness or an existence of peace, love and Melanie tunes.

I wouldn’t bet on any of those. After all, I’m writing this in the late morning. We’ve already had ten and a half hours here of the Day of the Elevens and everything looks to be okay outside my window. It’s already Saturday – 11-12 – in Manila, and there is no sign of either the apocalypse or the Age of Aquarius on Yahoo! News. It seems to be a perfectly normal day, one during which we wander out and take care of our business and then wander back toward home, thinking about indulging in a doughnut, some chocolate or maybe that bottle of cream stout that’s been waiting patiently at the back of the refrigerator for a month or two.

But it’s a regular day. After all, days like this come along eleven times a century, usually eleven years, one month and one day apart. About a decade into a new century, we get a cluster of four of them. Now, that’s not all 11’s, of course Just last October, we had 10-10-10. Last January, we rolled through 1-1-11. Next December, we’ll have 12-12-12. Then, in not quite ten years, we’ll get 2-2-22. After that, for the next seventy-seven years, we’ll get what I call jackpot dates every eleven years, one month and one day.

I don’t know that they have any significance at all, except that they might be more memorable simply because of the numbers. But I’m not even sure about that. I recall noting the confluence of the numbers on June 6, 1966. But I remember little else about the day. And I don’t recall even noting the passage of the date when similar days came past in 1977, 1988 and 1999. But thinking about those dates today gives me an excuse – as if I need one! – to dig into my library of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. We’ll start with 1955.

On May 5, 1955 – a date I have no chance of recalling, as I turned twenty months old that day – the No. 5 song was “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” by Fess Parker, who played the role of Crockett in the Disney television series that spawned the record (and so much more merchandise for the young’uns of the mid-1950s). That was the peak for Parker’s version of the tune; the version by Bill Hayes was sitting at No. 4, on its way down the chart after spending five weeks at No. 1. And that’s it for 1955, as the Billboard chart only included thirty records.

By June 6, 1966, the Billboard chart had gotten larger, and so had I. I was twelve, and I remember the day – a Monday, according to the perpetual calendar at timeanddate.com – as being one of those bright summer vacation days that we’d like to have last forever. But that and the fact that I noted the uniqueness of the date are all I remember. The No. 6 record that day was “Strangers in the Night” by Frank Sinatra, on its way to a one-week stay at No. 1. The No. 66 record was “Take Some Time Out for Love” by the Isley Brothers. The brothers’ follow-up to “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You),” the record would go no higher, which is too bad, as it’s a good one.

I do not recall anything at all about July 7, 1977. It was a Thursday, which likely meant that I spent the day at St. Cloud State in a summer workshop for either newspaper production or 16mm film production. That was a full summer: I burned my hand badly, I broke up with my girlfriend of the time and – after spending some weeks with another young lady – got back together with her, and I played guitar and harmonica in an ensemble that performed a couple of times in a city park near the college campus, and I took three or four workshops. Any one of those things could have touched on July 7 that summer, but I cannot say for sure.

Sitting at No. 7 on 7-7-77 was the somewhat racy-for-its-time “Angel In Your Arms” by the trio from Los Angeles called Hot. The record was on its way up the chart and would advance one more slot, peaking at No. 6. Further down the chart, at No. 77, we find Leo Sayer with the awful “How Much Love” making its way up the chart to No. 17. (Believe me, if Sayer’s record had not been No. 77 on 7-7-77, there’s no way I would have featured it here.)

A little more than eleven years later, August 8, 1988, found me in Minot, North Dakota. I most likely spent the day at a phone bank on the third floor of an office building in downtown Minot, trying to supplement my college teacher’s salary by selling memberships to a health club. Whatever I did, I likely stayed home and listened to the radio that evening. The No. 8 record on 8-8-88 was “Monkey” by George Michael,which was on its way to a two-week stay at No. 1. It’s not one of my favorites. I quite like, however, the record that was sitting at No. 88: Belinda Carlisle’s cover of “I Feel Free.”  The song – written by Peter Brown and Jack Bruce – had been recorded and released as a single by Cream in 1967; that version bubbled under for one week at No. 116. Twenty-one years later, Carlisle’s cover would peak at the No. 88 spot where it sat on that day of eights.

And that’s all the further down the timeline we’re going to go today. The hits of 1999 don’t interest me much – I did look to see what they were – and, anyway, I have to go keep an eye on the cosmos just in case.

First Steps Into The Adult World

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 22, 2008

It was about late August in 1977 when I finally quit going to college and entered – however tentatively – the adult world. A recession the year before had made it tough for that year’s college grads – of which I was one – to find jobs, so I’d remained in school, doing some graduate work in 1976 and then, in 1977, adding a print journalism minor to my undergraduate degree in mass communications/television.

By the end of the summer, I had that minor finished, having taken a couple of courses in print reporting, editing and layout and a couple of writing workshops. I’d also spent six months as the arts editor for St. Cloud State’s University Chronicle, the student newspaper, corralling reporters to write about everything from theater productions to ceramics festivals; I wrote a lot of movie reviews and had a grand time with all of it.

I was renting a small mobile home from Murl, next to the one where he and his wife lived. I sat at my kitchen table many evenings that July and August, writing letters to newspapers that might need a reporter and listening to WJON, where my college classmate, Jim, usually took the evening shift. I chatted with him occasionally and frequently won the station’s trivia contests.

As the summer drew to a close, two things became clear. First, I’d likely have to find another place to live. Murl, faced with an unexpected vacancy in the spring, had rented me the mobile home at a discount rate for five months. Come September, the rate would revert to the norm, and that would be beyond my means unless I found a job at one of the small newspapers in the area. Second, the state of the economy combined with my lack of experience meant that the odds of finding a newspaper job – whether near St. Cloud or elsewhere – were slender at best. One day in August, my girlfriend of the time and I drove to a small town north of Eau Claire, Wisconsin – about 150 miles away – where I interviewed to be the editor of the local newspaper.

The publisher expressed reservations throughout the interview about my inexperience, while I tried to reassure him that I could handle whatever came my way. I was torn as we drove back to St. Cloud: I needed a job, but did I want to live in a town where four of the five businesses on the main street had displays in their windows of Green Bay Packers souvenirs? It was a question I didn’t have to ponder long. A few days later, the publisher called me and told me that he’d “found a real writer.”

(Even though I likely wasn’t prepared for that job at the time, his dismissal rankled. In the spring of 1983, while I was at the Monticello paper en route to graduate school, I saw in the Minneapolis paper that the same publisher was once again seeking an editor for his paper. I was tempted to send my resume, complete with the list of ten or so state and national reporting awards I’d won, and apply for the job. If it were offered, I thought darkly, I’d decline, telling him I’d decided to write for a real newspaper. I didn’t apply.)

Not quite despairing but concerned, I went one August day to the local offices of a federal program called the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), which acted – among other things – as a bridge between workers and jobs. Perhaps the center’s listings had some job for which I was qualified. My intake interviewer turned out to be a fellow who had bought a car from one of my roommates while I was living in the cold house on the north side. He recalled that my training was in communications, and forty-five minutes after walking into St. Cloud’s CETA office, I was the office’s public relations manager.

The job didn’t pay a lot, something a little better than minimum wage, if I recall correctly. But it was an income, and with the right living circumstances, I could make it work. As it was, my girlfriend also needed new quarters, and her mother owned a cabin on a lake about fifteen miles southeast of St. Cloud. It was rustic: no heat and limited hot water, but we were young, and it was still summertime. So she and I and the two cats we shared moved out to the lake at the end of August for a two-month stay.

Here’s some of the music I recall hearing late that summer and during our two-month sojourn at the lake:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1977, Vol. 3
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle, United Artists 1016 (No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of August 20, 1977)

“Heaven on the 7th Floor” by Paul Nicholas, RSO 878 (No. 79)

“It’s Sad To Belong” by England Dan & John Ford Coley, Big Tree 16088 (No. 74)

“Ariel” by Dean Friedman, Lifesong 45022 (No. 63)

“Angel in Your Arms” by Hot, Big Tree 16085 (No. 61)

“Knowing Me, Knowing You” by Abba, Atlantic 3387 (No. 57)

“Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)” by Bill Conti, United Artists 940 (No. 54)

“Boogie Nights” by Heatwave, Epic 50370 (No. 51)

“Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson, A&M 1949 (No. 23)

“Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp, A&M 1938 (No. 17)

“Smoke From A Distant Fire” by the Sanford/Townsend Band, Warner Bros. 8370 (No. 15)

“Whatcha Gonna Do” by Pablo Cruise, A&M 1920 (No. 6)

“Easy” by the Commodores, Motown 1418 (No. 5)

A few notes:

The Crystal Gayle song was inescapable as the summer faded and autumn moved in. It entered the Top 40 in late September and spent three weeks at No. 2 later that autumn. I swear we heard it every evening as we drove home from our jobs in St. Cloud to the cabin.

“Ariel” was Dean Friedman’s only Top 40 hit ever, and it has to be one of the more odd records to crack the charts in 1977. (I’d say “ever,” but there are lots of odd singles out there.) The strained voice, the ramble-on-until-he-has-to-take-a-breath lyrics, the geeky background singers: it’s one of those records your either like or hate. Enough people liked it that it went to No. 26. It’s still got some charm for me, and Friedman got the details right about post-hippie, pre-disco America, from the peasant blouse to the Legion Hall.

“Knowing Me, Knowing You” was Abba’s eighth Top 40 single, and I wondered if the act was getting stale. To me, the great Abba singles were “SOS” in 1975 and “Dancing Queen” from earlier in 1977. But “Knowing Me, Knowing You” grew on me as the season moved on. It was pretty good radio fare, and it stayed in the Top 40 for ten weeks, reaching No. 14.

During the spring and summer of 1977, I filled a lot of space in the university newspaper’s arts section praising the movie Rocky, especially its soundtrack, no doubt boring my readers along the way. I’m not sure these days how highly I would rate the movie (I may ponder that some day and write about it here), but I still think that Bill Conti’s soundtrack – especially “Gonna Fly Now” – was a gem, one of the great soundtracks of the decade and maybe all time. Conti’s version of “Gonna Fly Now” was No. 1 on the Billboard chart for one week in July 1977. Oddly enough, we didn’t hear it all that often in Minnesota; the local stations seemed to prefer Maynard Ferguson’s propulsive cover of “Gonna Fly Now,” which went only to No. 28 in Billboard.

The Brothers Johnson “Strawberry Letter 23” – a cover of Shuggie Otis’ 1971 single – was a piece of smooth-edged funk that sounded like nothing else coming out of a radio speaker that late summer and early autumn. The record peaked at No. 5 on the Top 40 but reached No. 1 for a week on the R&B chart. The guitar solo is by Lee Ritenour.

I’ve posted “Smoke From A Distant Fire” here before, but it’s good enough to repeat it. One of the great one-hit wonders, it popped up on the car radio the other day, and it held its place as one of the few records that I let play, sitting in the parked car until the record is over and only then going about my business. It peaked at No. 9 that fall.

As always, bitrates will vary.

(It’s entirely possible that some of these selections are album tracks instead of single edits. If so, my apologies.)

Coming Attraction
This is just another reminder to stop by here Sunday when caithiseach of The Great Vinyl Meltdown fills us in on his thirteen favorite singles. It’s a good list with some good listening.