Posts Tagged ‘Isley Brothers’

‘You Were Light And Breezy . . .’

August 5, 2021

According to the Joel Whitburn book #1s, here are the singles and albums that topped the seven major Billboard charts this week in 1971, fifty years ago:

The Bee Gees were atop the Hot Singles chart with “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” in its first week at No. 1.

On top of the R&B chart was a record that likely has the longest title for any single ever mentioned in this space, James Brown’s “Hot Pants Pt. 1 (She Got To Use What She Got, To Get What She Wants).”

Charley Pride was on top of the Country chart with “I’m Just Me,” in its second week in the top spot.

And “If Not For You” by Olivia Newton-John was perched atop the Adult Contemporary chart.

Things were more long-term on the album side:

Carole King’s Tapestry was in its eighth week at No. 1 on the pop chart.

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On was No. 1 on the R&B chart for the second week.

And I Won’t Mention It Again by Ray Price was No. 1 on the country chart for the fourth week.

As is almost always the case, I know the pop stuff, I know half of the R&B stuff – What’s Going On has been on my shelves for many years – and I don’t know the country stuff. But since we’ve come across Tapestry again, I thought we’d take a look at another cover of its most well-known track, “It’s Too Late.”

Among the artists who have covered the song that I noticed but didn’t mention earlier this week are the Isley Brothers, who gave the song a ten-minute-plus workout on their 1972 album, Brother, Brother, Brother. Here it is:

What’s At No. 100? (LPs, October 1971)

October 29, 2020

Not long ago, we bounced around the charts from the autumn of 1970, a neat and clean fifty years ago. We’re going to move up a year to 1971, when the charts should be nearly as interesting but without that nifty round number.

We’ll start today with the Billboard 200, the album chart, and in coming days, we’ll look at the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening chart from the last week of October of 1971.  Here’s the top ten from the album chart from forty-nine years ago this week:

Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart (1991)
Imagine by John Lennon (1972)
Shaft by Isaac Hayes (1989)
Santana III
Tapestry by Carole King (1983)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues (1977)
Carpenters (1980)
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens (1995)
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)
Who’s Next (1988)

As you can see by the years listed in parentheses, nine of those ten albums eventually found places on my shelves, some early, some late. I don’t know why the Santana album never did.

And even though I only owned one of those albums at the time the chart was released – I’d gotten Ram for a high school graduation present in June 1971 – I think I’d heard portions of all of those by the end of the academic year in the spring of 1972. New music was all around me, on my radios, across the street at Rick’s, in the dorms where I hung out with my friends, and at the St. Cloud State radio station.

And at that time, I likely would have rated Ram, the Moody Blues album, and maybe Imagine as the best albums in that chart. Now? I’d likely put Tapestry at the top of the list by a good margin, then Who’s Next and the Rod Stewart album. At the bottom of that very good list would likely be the album by the Carpenters along with Imagine and Ram.

Well, let’s check out the iPod, which as much as anything reflects my current listening. Eight tracks from Tapestry are among the 2,700-some in the iPod, and so are five tracks from Ram, four from the Cat Stevens album, three each from Every Picture . . . and Every Good Boy . . ., two from the Carpenters’ album, and one from Who’s Next. John Lennon, Isaac Hayes and Santana are shut out. (And “Shaft” will be added to the device by the end of the day.)

So are there any lessons or conclusions to be drawn there? Probably not, except to acknowledge that all those college women whose copies of Tapestry I heard as I walked along dormitory hallways during my freshman year at St. Cloud State knew their stuff. (And to note that despite the glory of its title track and the decent quality of one or two other tracks, Imagine wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of folks – including me – wanted it to be.)

Having checked out the iPod, let’s go to the mid-point of the Billboard 200 from forty-nine years ago this week, and see what album sat at No. 100 during the last week of October 1971. And we find a serving of R&B courtesy of the Isley Brothers: Givin’ It Back.

The album leads off with a nine-minute medley of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and Jimi Hendrix’ “Machine Gun.” That’s followed by covers of James Taylor (“Fire & Rain”), Bob Dylan (“Lay, Lady, Lay”), War (“Spill The Wine”), Stephen Stills (“Love The One You’re With” and “Nothing To Do But Today”), and Bill Withers (“Cold Bologna”).

Givin’ It Back peaked at No. 71. Here’s “Love The One You’re With.”

Saturday Single No. 445

May 2, 2015

A little later than usual, the spring season of outdoor chores is on us.

The Texas Gal’s broken fibula has limited her, and she’s been fretting in the past few weeks, wondering when she would get to uncover the strawberries, clear the leaves from the near garden and begin implementing this year’s garden plan. (More cabbages, more cucumbers and fewer tomatoes, as I understand it.)

And I’ve let a few body aches and some other things keep me from changing the kitchen and dining room windows from storms to screens. I’ll get that done today. (The house has central air, but it’s nice to have the occasional light breeze waft through, and the cats dearly love to sit on the dining room window seat with their noses to the screen, checking out the neighborhood aroma news.) I’ll also haul some of the summer necessities up from the basement and do some general pick-up around the yard.

All of that and more – we hope – gets done today, as we mark what could be designated as Outdoor Work Day No. 1. I’m going to make certain the Texas Gal doesn’t overburden her healing leg, and we’ll see how much energy I have myself. But we should get enough done that come early evening, I’ll have hauled out a couple of lawn chairs and we’ll take our reward for our work, sipping beverages in the springtime sunlight.

And here’s an entirely appropriate tune for the day. We have offered it here before, but that was back in 2008, and seven years is a long time in blogyears, so here’s the Isley Brothers’ “Work To Do” from 1972, today’s Saturday Single.

More Chart Digging, August 1969

August 20, 2014

Yesterday, as we dug in the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100 released August 23, 1969, we pulled out Henry Mancini’s truncated version of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” At the same time, we ran across five other records in that Bubbling Under section that seemed worth notice, if not exactly deserving of more attention than they got forty-five years ago.

The New Colony Six kind of baffles me. They had two medium-sized hits – “I Will Always Think About You” (No. 22) and “Things I’d Like To Say” (No. 16) – in 1968, but I have no recollection from the time of having ever heard the records or having even heard of the group. Admittedly, I wasn’t listening to Top 40 very avidly in 1968, but it was all around me, and most records of the time were familiar to me in later years when I finally was catching up. So I was a little taken aback in the early 1970s when a couple of college friends sang the praises of the group and I had no clue what they were talking about. Ah, well, I’ve been clueless plenty of other times in this life, too, so we’ll just note that the New Colony Six’s “I Want You To Know” was parked at No. 105 during this week in August 1969; it would eventually climb to No. 65.

Just below that, at No. 106, the Isley Brothers were offering the world the notion that “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.” The thundering, almost lumbering “Black Berries – Pt. 1” was ostensibly about life in the berry patch as the Isleys grew up in Cincinnati, but the just-naughty-enough tagline was perfect for an era during which racial attitudes and sexual mores were changing rapidly and becoming suitable topics for (slyly coded) pieces of pop culture. The record made it to No. 79, one of more than fifty records the Isleys – in various combinations – put in or near the Hot 100 between 1959 and 2004.

As I noted a couple of years ago, Marva Whitney was a soul/R&B singer from Kansas City, Kansas, who toured between 1967 and 1970 as a featured performer in the James Brown Review. She recorded a fair number of singles during that time and on into the 1970s, with most of them released on the King label. Earlier in 1969, the Brown-produced “It’s My Thing (You Can’t Tell Me Who To Sock It To),” an answer record to the Isleys’ “It’s Your Thing,” went to No. 82 (No. 19, R&B). In late August, “Things Got To Get Better (Get Together)” – also a Brown production – was sitting at No. 112; it would move up only two more spots, but it would get to No. 22 on the R&B chart.

By August 1969, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass had not had a Top 40 hit since “A Banda” went to No. 35 in September 1967. (“This Guy’s In Love With You,” which went to No. 1 in the spring of 1968, was credited to Alpert alone.) And a summer 1969 cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” didn’t do it for Alpert and his men. The record, which was sitting at No. 118 forty-five years ago this week, isn’t all that great and actually seems kind of joyless, which to me is the antithesis of the best TJB records. It would spend one more week at No. 118 and then go away for good.

In the spring of 1969, long-time band leader and arranger Dick Hyman had a mild hit (No. 38) with “The Minotaur,” a synthesizer piece credited to “Dick Hyman & His Electric Eclectics.” The record was three minutes of the kind of noodling that ends Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s 1970 single, “Lucky Man.” Hyman stayed with the synthesizer as the summer came on, releasing the album The Age Of Electronicus, from which he offered “Aquarius” as a single, which was okay, if you like a healthy dose of R2-D2 with your music. Forty-five years ago this week, Hyman’s “Aquarius” was at No. 126. It got no higher.


December 31, 2013

As I write, the WeatherBug program tells me that it’s -20 Fahrenheit out at the St. Cloud Municipal Airport just a mile or two away. Factor in the 3 mph wind, and it feels like it’s -30. (Those temperatures are -29 and -34 for those keeping score in Celsius.)

I’m just back from dropping the Texas Gal at her workplace downtown so she wouldn’t have to walk either two blocks from the parking lot or four blocks from the downtown bus terminal. And although I have one errand to run later today – and of course have to go pick up the Texas Gal at the end of the workday – I will be content to spend the bulk of the day inside where it’s warm. To mark the chill, however, here’s a three-song sampler of “cold.”

Bobby Sherman was a regular chart presence on the Metromedia label between 1969 and 1971 – “Little Woman,” “La La La (If I Had You),” “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” all hit the Top Ten and a few others made the Top 40 – but before that, he scuffled around on at least two other labels. His “It Hurts Me” on Decca bubbled under the chart at No. 116 in 1965, and in 1967, his Epic single “Cold Girl” made no dent in the chart at all. I came across the record in the massive Lost Jukebox files I’ve mentioned several times before. Much of the stuff in those files is easily ignored, but “Cold Girl” is pretty good.

I’m not at all certain what Gordon Lightfoot is singing about in “Cold On The Shoulder.”

All you need is time
All you need is time, time, time to make me bend
Give it a try, don’t be rude
Put it to the test and I’ll give it right back to you

It’s cold on the shoulder
And you know that we get a little older every day

But it really doesn’t matter. Like most Lightfoot tunes, especially those from the mid-1970s, the title tune to his 1975 album Cold On The Shoulder is atmospheric, tuneful and catchy, all of which helped the album go to No. 10 on the Billboard chart. Many of Lightfoot’s lyrics became a little elliptical during those years (and continued to be so for a few years to come). That indirection, as I understand from various interviews, was because he was writing about things in his life that were difficult to come at from the front, so that’s understandable. And metaphor is generally easier to listen to than straight-on blood-letting anyway.

Speaking of metaphor, “Cold Bologna” by the Isley Brothers is both metaphor and tale, as the narrator notes that he’s five years old and “Mama’s out cookin’ steak for someone else,” with that someone else being the rich folks Mama works for. The track, written by Bill Withers, is from the brothers’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back, which went to No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 200 and to No. 13 on the R&B albums chart. Three singles from the album reached the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B singles chart. “Cold Bologna” was not one of them.

As 2013 winds down today and midnight leads us into 2014, the Texas Gal and I would like to pass on our hopes that the New Year will be one of those years that shines while you’re living it and shines even more brightly as it recedes in the past. See you on the other side of the calendar!

Chart Digging: October 30, 1971

October 30, 2013

By the time the end of October rolled around in 1971, your narrator, in the midst of his first quarter of college, had realized a few things: First, he was likely going to fail chemistry and African history. Second, the young lady who sat next to him in sociology was kind of cute and was also a Minnesota Vikings fan. And third, he didn’t particularly like a lot of what he was hearing on the radio anymore.

As I’ve related before, I did fail the two courses, mostly because I didn’t know how to study; I’d never had to do so to get through high school. I did not fail sociology. I got a B, and by the end of the quarter, I was spending several evenings a week with the young lady who sat next to me. (That didn’t last, and it was my fault: I got nervous, never having had a girlfriend before, and I backed off abruptly when the quarter ended.)

As to the radio, I was getting tired of Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” which by the end of October that year had been in the No. 1 spot (along with its flipside, “Reason To Believe’”) in the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks. The rest of the Top Ten was:

“Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts & Children” by the Carpenters
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Imagine” by John Lennon Plastic Ono Band
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement

I liked – and still like – the Lennon and Hayes singles. Some of the rest looks better from the distance of more than forty years than it sounded to me back then. I still dislike the singles from the Osmonds and (viscerally) from Joan Baez. If I heard the Free Movement single, it was only if I went to sleep with the radio set to Chicago’s WLS (where the record went to No. 2), as it doesn’t show up on the KDWB surveys collected at Oldiesloon. (Either Google search failed me here or, more likely, I failed to use it carefully, as the Free Movement record did chart in the 30s for two weeks at KDWB, as noted below by our pal Yah Shure.)

Looking deeper into that end-of-October Hot 100, I find – as I usually do when scanning old charts – some singles that I’m generally unfamiliar with even today. Would I have liked them forty-two years ago? I don’t know. I remember a general dissatisfaction with Top 40 during that first quarter of college. Maybe there was something else going on specific to that quarter, as I do recall numerous Top 40 tunes from 1972 with affection. But however I would have felt back then, as I dig in the lower depths of that Hot 100 today, I find some nice things I’ve never heard before.

Sitting right at the bottom of the chart, at No. 100 and No. 99 respectively, we find some nice vocal soul/R&B: “Walk Right Up To The Sun” by the Delfonics and “I Bet He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” by the Intruders. The Delfonics’ single would peak at No. 81 and go to No. 13 on the R&B chart, while the Intruders’ record would peak at No. 92 and reach No. 20 on the R&B chart. Both groups obviously had better performing singles on both charts, and both probably had singles that were just better records, but to fresh ears forty-two years later, those are pretty good records.

The James Gang is a group that I gave little attention, and I’m not sure why. What I heard of the group in folks’ dorm rooms and at parties seemed too hard, too raucous, I think. Now, of course, it seems almost tame. The group’s “Midnight Man” was sitting at No. 94 at the end of October 1971, and it’s not at all what I would have expected from the James Gang; the eighteen-year-old whiteray would have found it much more accessible than he expected, had he heard it as it headed on its way to No. 80.

One of the constant presences in the budget bins at Woolworth’s and Musicland through the first half of the 1970s was the Beach Boys’ 1971 album, Surf’s Up. Its cover art puzzled me, with its depiction of the James Earle Fraser sculpture End Of The Trail as it might have been painted by Vincent Van Gogh. Every time I saw it, it baffled me, and it still does. The cognitive dissonance offered by the cover hid some music that perhaps I should have sampled; the single “Long Promised Road” is intriguing enough. It was sitting at No. 93 forty-two years ago, on its way to No. 89. (My bafflement and avoidance is not limited to Surf’s Up. Over the decades, that’s been my reaction to pretty much anything the group did after “Good Vibrations.” Maybe I need to go back and listen. On the other hand, I recall clearly my reaction of bemused indifference to Brian Wilson’s supposed epic Smile when it was released in 2004. I rarely sell CDs. I sold that one.)

Once the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had its hit single on the Liberty label – “Mr. Bojangles” went to No. 9 in early 1971 – the band moved to United Artists. And in the autumn of 1971, UA went into the group’s back catalog and released “Some Of Shelly’s Blues” as a single. Two years earlier (and before “Mr. Bojangles”), a Liberty single of the song – written by Mike Nesmith – had bubbled under at No. 106. The United Artists release did a little better but only a little, rising to No. 64. It likely deserved more attention.

I first encountered the Isley Brothers’ cover of “Spill The Wine” – the 1970 Eric Burdon & War hippie dream anthem – when I came across the Isleys’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back. I was skeptical. And, as I scanned the Hot 100 from the end of October 1971 and noticed the entry at No. 49, I recalled that skepticism. Yes, the Isleys at the time covered some iconic singles and made them their own – “Summer Breeze,” “Listen To The Music,” “Lay Lady Lay” and others – but “Spill The Wine”? I should have known better. The Isleys gave melody to the recited portion of the Burdon single and took it from there. The record went no higher, but on the R&B chart, it went to No. 14. (The video embedded below is from the album. Scans of the 45 label show a running time of 2:40.)

One Chart Dig: December 4, 1971

December 4, 2012

I got up well before my scheduled time this morning, as the Texas Gal had to head into work at an ungodly hour, and I do like to see her off. (I’m the lunch-packer, making sure she has enough nutrients and goodies to get through the day.) There are days – there were a few last week – when I crawl back to bed after shooing her out the door, but most of the time, I turn from the door as she drives off, make myself some breakfast and then head to the study to see what damage I can do.

So early this morning, I took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from December 4, 1971, forty-one years ago today. I was heading into the final three weeks of my awful first quarter of college (a disaster I’ve discussed several times before) and hanging around with some guys from the college dorms as well as with Rick from across the street. (It was sometime around that time that Rob decamped to Colorado for maybe two years, interrupting our 1971-72 table-top hockey season and leaving Rick and me to finish up during the spring of 1973.)

Anyway, I dug into the lower reaches of the Hot 100 from this date in 1971 and found a tune at No. 82 that I thought I’d throw onto the table this morning. (There will likely be more later this week.) I don’t recall hearing the Isley Brothers’ take on Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lady” during the latter days of 1971; I caught up with the track a couple of years ago when I happened upon the anthology How Many Roads – Black America Sings Bob Dylan, which was released in the U.K.

The single went to No. 71 on the pop chart and No. 29 on the R&B chart. A ten-minute version of the track showed up on the Isleys’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back.

‘If You’re Down And Confused . . .’

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 10, 2009

One of the things making its way around Facebook when I opened a profile there not long ago was a note asking musically inclined ’bookers to make a list of fifteen albums that changed their lives. (The note that came with the request made it clear that albums that put one in a specific time and place were okay, too.)

I wasn’t going to compile a list like that off the top of my head, so I dithered a while, thinking. But the time I came up with the list – and none of the entries on it would surprise anyone who’s visited this blog over time – a few days had passed. And a few days in Facebook time is like ten years of regular time: That topic was passé.

So I saved the list, and I may do something else with it, maybe use it as the basis of a post here. I’m not sure. But I bring it up because I was reminded this morning of one of the albums that ended up on the list: Stephen Stills’ self-titled album from 1970. As happened with a number of the fifteen albums that ended up on the list, I spent a fair amount of time pondering the place of Stephen Stills in my life before putting it on the list.

It’s a great album, ranging from rock to folk to blues and beyond, with Stills getting help from David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Booker T. Jones and more. (The credits include a drummer listed only as Richie. Ringo Starr? Does anyone know?) Is it better than Crosby, Stills & Nash? Better than CSN&Y’s Déjà Vu? Maybe. But I reminded myself that greatness is not what the list was about; the list was about the record’s importance to the listener. And I recalled that I always had a greater sense of anticipation when I pulled Stephen Stills out of its jacket than I did for those other two albums. Why? I have no idea. But having realized that, I happily put the album on the list.

That’s all pertinent today because as I wandered through the mp3s this morning, I happened upon a track from Stephen Stills. As Tuesdays are still occasionally devoted to cover versions here, I wondered what kind of cover versions the album sparked, especially its best-known song, “Love The One You’re With.”

So I did some digging. All-Music Guide lists two-hundred and forty-five CDs that offer a version of “Love The One You’re With.” About forty of those are versions by Stills or else versions credited to him and his three well-known friends together. That leaves about two hundred.

Among the names that pop up among those CDs are Bonnie Bramlett, the Bison Chips, Soup Campbell, Joe Cocker, Ian Cussick, Percy Faith, Bobby Goldsboro, Engelbert Humperdinck, the Meters, Tony Orlando, Gary Puckett, Diana Ross & the Supremes, Sam & Dave, Bob Seger, Strange River, the Three Degrees, Luther Vandross and Wailing Souls. Some of those I’d like to hear, and others I think I could easily pass by.

In my mp3 files, I find five versions of the song, Stills’ original and covers by the Isley Brothers, El Chicano, Aretha Franklin and King Curtis. The least worthy of those is the version by El Chicano, released on the album The Best of Everything (not a “best of,” despite the title) in 1975, a couple years after the Latin-tinged group was at its peak. Both the Aretha and King Curtis versions are terrific, the King Curtis version coming from his 1970 album Everybody’s Talkin’ and Aretha’s version coming from the 1971 album she recorded live at the Fillmore West (with King Curtis in the band).

But I think the Isleys’ version is the best of the four covers I have. It’s from the 1971 album Givin’ It Back and it was also released as a single on the group’s T-Neck label.

“Love The One You’re With” by the Isley Brothers, T-Neck 930 [1971]

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 – 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.

Transition and ‘Work To Do’

September 26, 2011

Originally posted November 14, 2008

I was thinking about the word “transition,” and the process of transition, having seen and heard the word used a thousand times in news accounts since Election Day.

It might be glib to say that we’re always in a state of transition, both in the macro sense of the world around us and in the micro sense of each individual. But glib or not, I think it’s true: There are changes every day, most of them so minuscule that we don’t notice them. Then eventually, we look out the window and notice that the kids next door are now in high school when it seems like they were only days ago in kindergarten, or we look in the mirror. That’s the strange one; I’m still not sure when that guy with the grey beard sneaked into my mirror to look back at me.

As I thought about transition, I dropped into my files of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 and thought back as well to the autumn of 1972, my second year of college. I remember finding myself at loose ends that season. During the year before, I’d had a group of folks around – fellow first-year students I’d met through a college orientation. We’d hung out together, done some short road trips and managed a few drunken weekends. We seemed pretty tight.

Then, as my sophomore year began, I took up with those same folks again, guys and gals both. And it no longer worked. We’d all changed since we’d first gotten together a year earlier, and we’d each moved in different directions. I recall spending part of a Friday evening with a couple of the guys who’d been central to my freshman year: Dave and Dave. We were in one Dave’s dorm room, yapping and listening to music. As Loggins and Messina told some gal that her mama didn’t dance, I listened to the Daves talk, and I realized I no longer felt like I belonged there. After a brief wait, I said something suitable and took off. I don’t think I ever saw either of the Daves socially again.

A few months later, as 1973 began, I met the first of the people from the group that became The Table, and the social life that defined the rest of my years on campus began to take shape. But for a while, I was adrift, and I likely turned to the radio in my own room for comfort. Here’s the top fifteen from the Billboard Hot 100 of November 11, 1972.

“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“Nights In White Satin” by the Moody Blues
“I’d Love You To Want Me” by Lobo
“Freddie’s Dead (Theme from Superfly)” by Curtis Mayfield
‘I’ll Be Around/How Could I Let You Get Away” by the Spinners
“Garden Party” by Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band
“My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry
“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Convention ’72” by the Delegates
“Witchy Woman” by the Eagles
“Listen To The Music” by the Doobie Brothers
“If I Could Reach You” by the 5th Dimension
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
‘Burning Love/It’s A Matter Of Time” by Elvis Presley
“Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” by Danny O’Keefe

There’s some good listening there for the most part. But the list contains, to my mind, one of the worst singles ever to reach No. 1: Chucky Berry’s horrific “My Ding-A-Ling” (which had been No. 1 for two weeks in September).

The best of the bunch would be either the Temptations’ track or the Curtis Mayfield. Gritty and realistic, both records hit hard and were good listening, too. (Regarding the Mayfield track, I have to chuckle every time the Texas Gal and I stop at the local co-op. Some of the baked goods available at the co-op, as proclaimed by a sign on the front door, come from an establishment named Freddie’s Bread. Whenever we go in, I can’t help singing under my breath, “Freddie’s Bread . . . that’s what I said.”)

“Convention ’72” was a Dickie Goodman-ish “break-in” record spoofing politics. It was put together, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, by a trio of guys in Florida, one of whom was a deejay; the other two owned a record label.

Some of the Top Fifteen is a little soft. I can do without the Lobo, and I know that the Helen Reddy anthem drives some folks mad. The 5th Dimension track is not one of the group’s best, and “Burning Love” has never meant much to me. (I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the B-side, “It’s A Matter Of Time.”

The rest of the records there are pretty good, especially “Garden Party” and “Listen To The Music.”

But none of the fifteen – not counting the two B-sides – are all that hard to hear these days. So I looked a little deeper into the Billboard Hot 100 of November 11, 1972, and at No. 61, I found a little gem, in its third week on the chart.

It never went too much higher. Four weeks later, it would peak at No. 51 and then spend another two weeks in the Hot 100 before falling off the chart entirely. But it likely deserved better.

Isley Brothers – “Work To Do” [T-Neck 936, 1972]