Posts Tagged ‘Mark Lindsay’

Saturday Single No. 464

September 19, 2015

Things have been pretty sparse around here, what with the Texas Gal on vacation for the first portion of the month, followed by a scrambled week of getting reorganized. And come next week, we should be back to regular postings here.

But this morning, we’re off to staff our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s booth at the annual Pride In The Park celebration. We’re set to be there pretty much all day, joined along the way by other members, so by the end of the day, we’re likely to be pretty tired.

So here’s a Saturday song, a pretty good cover of “Come Saturday Morning” by Mark Lindsay. It’s from his 1970 album Silverbird (a pretty decent record from a good year), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

See you next week!

I Wore My Tiger Every Day

March 25, 2012

Originally posted March 30, 2009

The Texas Gal and I watch Friday Night Lights and enjoy it immensely. Based around the lives of the members of the fictional Dillon Panthers in West Texas, the show is about much more than high school football. It’s truly one of those rare television shows that finds its drama in the small workings of day-to-day life. That’s not to say that it’s entirely subtle, but it’s character-driven, and the folks who live in Dillon are generally finely drawn, not caricatures. They are folks who are changing – many of them young people who do so as they take on the hard work of growing up, of course – and sometimes the changes are surprising, just as they are in real life.

The episodes currently playing on NBC on Friday evenings were shown last fall on a satellite service, and during this season, as in the previous two, the producers do pretty well in fitting their characters’ stories into the subfolders of high school life, high school football and life in West Texas. There aren’t a lot of obvious mistakes. But I think I spotted one in the episode that ran last Friday.

The week’s climactic scene dealt with a confrontation between J. D. McCoy, a ninth-grade quarterback new to town, and his father. Nothing wrong with the drama, but in the scene – which followed a football game – J.D. was shown wearing a letter jacket with a “D” on the front and a football patch on the sleeve. Now, maybe they do things differently in Texas, but I’ve never heard of a high school where you could wear a varsity letter on a letter jacket before you’ve earned it. And being new to town, J.D. couldn’t yet have done so. (Maybe I’m wrong and there are places like that. Anyone know?)

It’s not a big deal, but for a show that generally gets the details right, it stood out. And it reminded me of my letter jacket.

I was a manager, not an athlete. I spent three seasons going to wrestling practices and keeping the scorebook; two seasons at football practices, hauling balls, pads and other stuff around; and one season tending to the training room for track. And among the rewards for doing all that stuff were three varsity letters and the right to wear a letter jacket.

It was March 1970 when I finished my second season as a wrestling manager. Near the end of the month, I got a letter in the mail from the high school’s athletic director. The letter granted me permission to go to Fitzharris Athletic downtown and buy a St. Cloud Tech letter jacket. So the following Friday evening, my folks and I went into Fitzharris and I presented the letter to the clerk. Shortly after that, I walked out wearing an orange and black jacket. The next day, my mom sewed a tiger head on the front, my name on the pocket and the year “71” on the sleeve. I remember how smooth the leather (or maybe simulated leather) sleeves were, a condition I wanted gone as soon as possible, as it identified me as a newbie.

(I got my actual letter, my “T,” at the athletic banquet that spring. I put it away in a box, as the tradition at Tech at the time was to wear the tiger head on the jacket instead of the letter. I never knew anyone who put his letter – and it was an exclusively male group in the early 1970s – on his jacket.)

Looking back, it’s amazing how much that jacket mattered to me: It made me feel as if I belonged somewhere. And I think I wore that jacket to school every day from then on, even as the weather turned warmer in the spring and then – during my senior year – even though there were days when the temperature dropped below zero. The other guys did the same, I think: If you’d earned the right to wear a letter jacket, you wore it.

I continued to wear the jacket around town during my first year of college. (For those interested, the etiquette for wearing your high school jacket during your college days was to remove your high school letter [or tiger, in my case], your graduation year and any patches other than your name.) Most likely, it was sometime during the spring of 1972, as my freshman year at St. Cloud State was ending, when I took the jacket off for the last time. By the time I got home from Denmark two years later, my mom had packed it away. And there it stayed until I took it with me when we closed the place on Kilian a few years ago.

It’s in a closet again, near the back, its usefulness gone. I certainly won’t wear it again. I have no one to leave it to, and I doubt that anyone else would want it. But I also doubt that I’ll ever get rid of it.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, March 28, 1970)
“Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9074 (No. 9)
“Psychedelic Shack” by the Temptations, Gordy 7096 (No. 24)
“Reflections of My Life” by the Marmalade, London 20058 (No. 51)
“Rag Mama Rag” by The Band, Capitol 2705 (No. 58)
“Run Sally Run” by the Cuff Links, Decca 32639 (No. 77)
“Miss America” by Mark Lindsay, Columbia 45125 (No. 117)

A couple of weeks ago, I called “Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board “chirping and warbling and absolutely wonderful.” It’s all that and more, one of the really great singles that I think tends to be a little overlooked. At the time of this particular chart, the record had just dropped from its peak position at No. 3; it would slide to No. 30 by April 25, its fifteenth week in the Hot 100, and then tumble completely out of sight by the next week’s chart.

‘Psychedelic Shack” seemed utterly weird at the time, especially for the Temptations, a group with records like “My Girl,” “I Wish It Would Rain” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” in its pedigree. But “Shack” is what happened when producers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong were handed the reins. With “Psychedelic Shack,” the Whitfield and Strong pushed the boundaries they’d stretched with the No. 6 single “Cloud Nine” in late 1968, and “Shack” went to No. 7. The follow-up, “Ball of Confusion,” went to No. 3. (This is the album track and has the same running time as the single, but I don’t remember ever hearing the knocks on the door when the record played on the radio; maybe they were there, or maybe there was a radio edit without them. I don’t know.)

When it was on the charts, “Reflections Of My Life” seemed musically adventurous and lyrically important. I’m not sure how well “Reflections Of My Life” holds up as a piece of philosophy these days. I mean, “The world is a bad place, a bad place, a terrible place to live” isn’t Nietzsche; it isn’t even Lennon, for that matter. But the music, on the other hand, does owe something to Nietzsche (Jack, who worked with Phil Spector, not that German dude), with its horns and Wall of Sound-ish references. Maybe I’m still hearing this one with the ears of a high school junior, but man, I still love this record! At the end of March, it was still on its way up the chart, heading for a peak of No. 10.

I heard the second half of “Rag Mama Rag” on the radio – probably late at night on WLS from Chicago – sometime during the early months of 1970 and was frozen, staring at the radio as the song played out with its fiddle and honky-tonk piano. I didn’t catch the title or the name of the group, and I wondered for a long time what the hell it was I’d heard. I mentioned it to a few people I knew, and from my description, they said it sounded like country and they were sure I couldn’t have heard it on a Top 40 station. I quit asking people about it, and it wasn’t until the following Christmas when Rick gave me The Band that I learned what it was I’d heard. Utterly unlike anything being played at the time (probably well-defined as Americana before anybody thought about such a label), “Rag Mama Rag” never really had a chance of making the Top 40. It peaked at No. 57 the week of March 21; three weeks later, after eight weeks in the Hot 100, the record had dropped out.

“Run Sally Run,” the Cuff Links’ follow-up to their No. 9 hit “Tracy,” lasted six weeks in the Hot 100, with the March 28 position of No. 77 being its peak. There really were no Cuff Links, of course. What you got on the record was bubble-gum master Ron Dante and a bunch of studio musicians. Still, it wasn’t awful: It was fun, it had a good beat and you could chew it!

As I’ve noted here before, I do have a difficult time being at all objective about the Top 40 music of the second half of 1969 and all of 1970. Although I’d heard Top 40 before that – it would have been hard for any American kid to escape it – I’d not really listened until the late summer and autumn of 1969. So, as I’ve also said here before, when I think about and write about the music I heard during that period, I’m thinking and writing about old friends. Two of those friends are Mark Lindsay’s singles, “Arizona” (No. 10 in early 1970) and “Silver Bird” (No. 25 in the late summer of 1970). The single posted here is one that came in between the two, and to my mind, it’s a better single. Credited only to J. Kelly at All-Music Guide, the song is an allegory casting America as a young girl, with a nifty, if somewhat predictable, lyrical twist: “Do you miss America? I know I do.” The record, which peaked at No. 44, is pure pop with nothing of rock about it, and – not recalling it at all from 1970 – I wonder if the implicit political commentary kept programmers from playing it.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Columbia Singles

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 25, 2008

It was about four in the afternoon yesterday when the Texas Gal and I took a break. We’d hauled four carloads of stuff over to the house – following five loads on Saturday – and I’d made another trip to the big-box home center, followed by the assembly of two more sets of utility shelves in the basement.

We’re beginning to envision how the living room will be arranged, and the Texas Gal has a handle on where things will go in the loft, which will be her quilting and sewing space. I can see that my study will have room to have my keyboard out, which means I can make some music again, and we’re negotiating colors for the bedroom. We’ve agreed on a Scandinavian motif for the kitchen.

Those things are much more vision than reality now, and much heavy lifting remains before the gap between those two words is bridged. This will be the first house the Texas Gal has lived in as an adult; she’s been an apartment dweller. And though I shared a house with some fellows during my late college years (I’ve lived in mobile homes and apartments since), this feels like my first house, too. So we’re trying to take in all of the process that gets us home, even the drudgery of piecing together plastic shelf sets and of sorting out boxes of fabric.

As we took our break in what is still a sparely furnished kitchen, she drinking a Dr. Pepper, me sipping a Summit India Pale Ale, we looked at the bare walls and saw the décor that will soon be there; we looked through the archway into the empty dining room and saw the table and chairs that will soon welcome dinner guests. And we smiled at our house-to-be and at each other.

Translating that to music can be sketchy, but I went to my favorite song about smiles, and moved on from there.

A Baker’s Dozen of Columbia Singles

“Make Me Smile” by Chicago, Columbia 45127, 1970

“My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius, Columbia 44163, 1967

“My Back Pages” by the Byrds, Columbia 44054, 1967

“Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins & Messina, Columbia 45719, 1972

“Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire, Columbia 10090, 1975

“Gotta Serve Somebody” by Bob Dylan, Columbia 11072, 1979

“Going Down To Liverpool” by the Bangles, Columbia 04636, 1984

“Can’t Get Used To Losing You” by Andy Williams, Columbia 42674, 1963

“Silver Bird” by Mark Lindsay, Columbia 45180, 1970

“Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers, Columbia 44414, 1967

“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde, Columbia 44590, 1968

“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, Columbia 45236, 1970

“I’d Love To Change The World” by Ten Years After, Columbia 45457, 1971

A few notes:

“Make Me Smile” still grabs me by the collar and says “Wake up, we’re playing music here!” The same is true, of course, for many of Chicago’s early singles. (Take a look at what JB the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ had to say about “25 or 6 to 4” recently.) Unhappily, the band didn’t keep up this level of quality. When did I give up on Chicago? Maybe with “Wishing You Were Here” in 1974, but certainly by the time of “If You Leave Me Now” in 1976. For a few years, though, Chicago had a good hold of my collar.

“My World Fell Down” comes from the confectionary talents of Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher, the producers behind Sagittarius. A little too cloying, maybe, but the single is worth noting because the 1997 CD release restored an avant-garde bridge of noise that had been brutally edited when the LP was released in the Sixties.

The Dylan track was the single from Slow Train Coming, the first of Dylan’s three Christian albums of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Recorded in Muscle Shoals, with production from Barry Beckett and guitar provided by Mark Knopfler, Slow Train Coming is far better – and far more enjoyable – than the two albums that followed. (Dylan earned a Grammy for “Best Male Rock Vocal Performance” for “Gotta Serve Somebody.”)

“Silver Bird” was one of two great radio singles Mark Lindsay released in 1970 after leaving Paul Revere & the Raiders. “Arizona” was the other, and it went to No. 10 in the early months of 1970. “Silver Bird,” which entered the Top 40 in July, reached only No. 25. They were Lindsay’s only Top 40 hits. I don’t recall the last time I actually heard either one of them on the radio, but they still sound plenty good popping up on the player.

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits notes that the Avant-Garde was the duo of Elkin “Bubba” Fowler and Chuck Woolery. “Naturally Stoned” was one of those rare hits that almost wasn’t: The record reached No. 40 in its only week on the chart. The book doesn’t say what happened to Elkin after that, but Woolery, the book notes, went on to host TV games shows like Wheel of Fortune, Love Connection and Greed. Even with all that, it’s not a bad record although it’s certainly a period piece.

I’ve never been much of a Streisand fan, but she and producer Richard Perry got it right with “Stoney End.” The record did well, too, going to No. 6 after entering the Top 40 in December 1970. (The similarly titled album came out in February 1971, which explains the seemingly contradictory tags on the mp3.)

Chart Digging: Late April 1970

April 28, 2011

I suppose it was inevitable that I slept through most of the movie.

In the spring of 1970, St. Cloud Tech High School sent its Concert Choir on a two-day trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba. We performed three times: At a school, in a shopping mall and on the long steps inside the provincial capitol building.

We also took advantage of our free time during our one night in Winnipeg, heading in groups from the downtown hotel out into the Canadian evening. I really don’t recall with whom I hit the Winnipeg streets that night, except that I’m sure that my pal Mike and I were in the same bunch. We stopped for dinner and then headed into an area of the city that had a fair number of movie theaters.

We looked around at the marquees, the eight or so of us, assessing our options. Earlier that day, as we rode the bus through downtown to one of our performances, we’d seen the theater where the current feature was I Am Curious (Yellow). That had gotten our attention, as the Swedish film was quite notorious. Not only was the film revolutionary in its structure – Wikipedia notes that “the movie uses jump cuts and its story is not structured in a conventional Hollywood way” – but it was said to be one of the most sexually frank films ever. It had originally been banned in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, an action that was reversed by a U.S. federal court.

From where the eight of us stood after dinner that evening, we could see the theater where I Am Curious (Yellow) was playing. Were we tempted to head down the street and take in the steamy – and, based on my reading, politically turgid – Swedish movie? Perhaps, but we were certainly too timid. I’m not sure we could have gotten in; I imagine there were some age restrictions for steamy movies in Canada at the time, and the eight of us were all sixteen or seventeen.

But we didn’t even head that way. I’m not sure that any of us thought about it seriously. We considered seeing Midnight Cowboy, the Dustin Hoffman/John Voigt film that had recently won the Academy Award for Best Picture. (It remains the only X-rated film to have done so, although on a re-release without any changes, the film was re-rated R.) Some of the students in the choir saw Midnight Cowboy that evening. But not the group I was in.

For whatever reason – for many reasons, I imagine, including not wanting to tell our parents when we got home that we’d gone to a steamy Swedish movie or an X-rated film – the eight or so of us walked over to a third theater and bought tickets to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’m not sure about the rest of the guys, but I really didn’t see the movie. We’d spent the previous night riding the bus from St. Cloud to Winnipeg, and I’d gotten little sleep during the four-hundred mile trip. So as I sat in the darkened theater and the story of Butch and the Sundance Kid played out on the screen, I fell asleep. I do remember seeing the sequence showing Paul Newman’s Butch and Katherine Ross’ Etta Place riding a bicycle as B.J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” plays on the soundtrack. But that’s about all I recall of those hours in the theater.

(And though I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie here and there over the past forty-one years, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the entire movie at one time. Maybe I should.)

One memory from that choir trip to Winnipeg that’s certainly more vivid than the movie is connected to that long nighttime ride the night before. About ten minutes after we headed northwest out of St. Cloud, someone pulled a radio out a traveling bag, and we cruised through the Minnesota night to the sound of the Top 40. Here’s the Billboard Top 10 from that week:

“ABC” by the Jackson 5
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” by John Lennon
“American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who
“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
“Come And Get It” by Badfinger
“Love Or Let Me Be Lonely” by the Friends of Distinction
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Turn Back The Hands Of Time” by Tyrone Davis

Boy, that would be a great hour or so of radio! I imagine we heard all of those during the hours we had the radio playing during that drive. And I imagine we heard tunes from lower in the Top 40 as well, and maybe a few that were lower down in the Billboard Hot 100. There would have been some interesting tunes to choose from once you dropped below No. 40.

One of those tunes was sitting at No. 47. Mark Lindsay – one-time lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders – had reached No. 10 earlier in the year with “Arizona.” And in late April, his “Miss America” was moving up the chart, having jumped seventeen places to No. 47 in the past week. It’s a political plaint posing as a love song, and it peaked at No. 44.

From there, we’ll head down to No. 67, where “Deeper (In Love With You)” had gotten the O’Jays into the Hot 100 for the ninth time since 1963. But the Canton, Ohio, group still hadn’t cracked the Top 40. They wouldn’t this time, either, as “Deeper” would peak at No. 64. It would take another two years for the O’Jays to get into the Top 40; “Back Stabbers” would go to No. 3 in 1972.

The Gentrys had made the Top Ten in 1965, when “Keep On Dancing” had gone to No. 4. A few singles after that had gotten into the Hot 100 (or bubbled under it), but nothing had clicked. In early 1970, the band from Memphis signed with its hometown label. The band’s first Sun single, “Why Should I Cry,” went to No. 61 in the late winter, and in spring, Sun sent the Gentry’s cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” out to play. The record went only to No. 52. But that was still better that Young did. Backed by Crazy Horse, Young released the song as a single during the summer of 1970 and saw the record stall at No. 55.

As I was scanning the Hot 100 from April 25, 1970, this morning, for some reason the title “I Got A Problem” by Jesse Anderson popped out at me, and I’m glad it did. A tale of juggling a wife and at least two lovers, it’s a funky piece of R&B that was sitting at No. 95 that week. It would go no higher, though it went to No. 35 on the R&B chart. Neither the book Top Pop Singles nor All-Music Guide knows much about Anderson. A note left at YouTube not quite a year ago says, “Jesse Anderson is alive and well, living in Wichita, KS. He has recently released Funk N Blues, an album compilation of his songs from the 70’s. He’s working again with Gene Barge on some new material and possible record deal. Good luck to him!” (Anderson’s compilation is available at cd Universe.)

Dipping below No. 100 and into the Bubbling Under section of that April 25, 1970, chart, we find the Canadian group the Original Caste and what appears to be the group’s follow-up to “One Tin Soldier,” which went to No. 34 in February 1970. “Mr. Monday” was sitting at No. 119; a week later it was gone. The same thing happened to two more singles by the band: “Nothing Can Touch Me (Don’t Worry Baby, It’s Alright)” spent one week at No. 114, and “Ain’t That Tellin’ You People” spent a week at No. 117.

Finally, we find Rare Bird’s “Sympathy” sitting at No. 121 in the last of its three weeks Bubbling Under. Rare Bird is listed by AMG as a British prog band, and based on the sound of the single – which I’d describe as naïvely charming – that’s probably accurate. The group would have one more single bubble under – the oddly titled “Birdman – Part 1 (Title No. 1 Again)” would spend one week at No. 122 – and a couple of its albums reached the lower half of the Billboard 200. As the band kept recording and releasing albums into 1975, I’m assuming that Rare Bird was more successful in Britain than in the U.S.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1970

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 11, 2007

I’ve been dithering back and forth for a few days, trying to decide what year to feature in today’s Baker’s Dozen. I spent some time sorting out the tunes from various years on the RealPlayer (in the process realizing that I might need to beef up the number of tunes for some of the years prior to the British Invasion and for the 1980s) trying to decide.

I was thinking about 1969 and about 1970 but I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, as the Texas Gal was pulling on her coat to leave for work this morning, I gave her the choice between those two years and 1966. Without hesitation, she chose 1970. So I looked at my list of love songs that I sometimes use as a starting point. Two were from 1970: “It Don’t Matter To Me” by Bread and “Long, Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt.

Without telling her which songs they were, I asked her to choose between Love Song No. 1, Love Song No. 2 or a random start. And she chose a random start.

And I think we came up with a pretty good set of songs for the year, which is truly one of my favorite years for music, as it was the first full calendar year when I was listening consistently to pop and rock. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my first two album purchases with my own money – as opposed to gifts – were the Beatles’ Let It Be and the double album with the silver cover that was labeled simply Chicago and has since come to be called Chicago II.

By the end of the year, the collection had grown to include albums by the Bee Gees, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band as well several more LPs by the Beatles. I also spent a lot of time listening to Top 40 radio; looking at a list of the year’s major single releases in Norm N. Nite’s Rock On Almanac is like looking at a roster of old friends.

So here are thirteen old friends:

“Arizona” by Mark Lindsay from Arizona

“Please Call Home” by the Allman Brothers Band from Idlewild South

“Heavy Church” by Three Dog Night from Naturally

“The Mob” by the Meters from Look-Ka Py Py

“Blue Boy” by Joni Mitchell from Ladies of the Canyon

“Built for Comfort” by Howlin’ Wolf from The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions

“New Morning” by Bob Dylan from New Morning

“Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead from Workingman’s Dead

“Sunny Skies” by James Taylor from Sweet Baby James

“Down Along The Cove” by Johnny Jenkins from Ton-Ton Macoute!

“Let It Be” by Aretha Franklin from This Girl’s in Love With You

“Do You Remember The Sun” by It’s A Beautiful Day from Marrying Maiden

“Upon The Earth” by Illustration from Illustration

A few notes about this Baker’s Dozen:

Mark Lindsay, as you might know, had been the frontman for Paul Revere and the Raiders, which had thirteen Top 40 hits – four in the Top Ten – during the 1960s. I’ve always thought that “Arizona” was one of the last gasps in the Top 40 of the hippie sensibility with its references to San Francisco, rainbow shades, posting posters and Indian braids. And “Arizona” was a perfect self-adopted name, in an era when hippie children called themselves Sunshine and Harmony and Wavy Gravy and Heloise and Abelard.

I’ve thought for years that “Please Call Home,” a Gregg Allman original, was nearly the perfect blues song, and it’s still surprising, almost forty years after the fact, to realize that when it came out, the Allman Brothers Band had been together for only a year or so (although all of its members had been woodshedding in other bands for years).

The Meters, as All-Music Guide says, “defined New Orleans funk, not only on their own recordings, but also as the backing band for numerous artists,” including Allen Toussaint, Paul McCartney and Robert Palmer. Look-Ka Py Py was the second album by the group headed by Art Neville.

Howlin’ Wolf’s “Built For Comfort” comes from the sessions recorded in London in 1970. The Wolf, who was not healthy, brought along his long-time guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Joining them in the studio were such British luminaries as Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. Former Stones pianist Ian Stewart pitched in, and a dummer credited only as “Richie” but better known as Ringo Starr came by for a track or two. Blues purists don’t care much for the resulting album, but I think it’s fine. Highlights include Clapton quietly asking the Wolf to demonstrate to the players how he wants the opening to “The Red Rooster” to go, and a rousing version of Big Joe Williams’ classic “Highway 49.”

“Down Along The Cove” was originally intended to be part of a Duane Allman solo album that never came to fruition after the creation of the Allman Brothers Band. The backing tracks already in the can were presented to Jenkins for Ton-Ton Macoute. That’s Duane on guitar here, and fellow Allman Brothers Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Berry Oakley also worked on the sessions.

The boys from Muscle Shoals provide the backing for Aretha on This Girl’s In Love With You, and the saxophone solo comes from King Curtis.

Illustration was a horn-rock band fronted by Bill Ledster, and “Upon The Earth” was the opening cut from the group’s self-titled debut on the Janus label. (The group also released Man Made in 1974 on Good Noise.) According to the website of band member John Ranger, the group was formed at the Fontain Bleu in St. Jean, Quebec in 1969. You can listen to both of Illustration’s albums – and a few other things – at Ranger’s website.

Back To 1970 Once Again

October 19, 2010

A lot of records from 1970 have been explored in this space in the past few months, but it’s been a while – going back to July, actually – since we looked at a chart from that year, which I noted some time ago was my first great music year and the first full year I spent digging into Top 40.

So what was I doing forty years ago as October entered its final fortnight? Well, I finally got my driver’s license, passing the behind-the-wheel test on my fifth try. Nerves had been my nemesis, but knowing that another failure meant retaking driver’s training focused my attention, even if it didn’t really settle my nerves, and I squeaked through.

My afternoons and Friday evenings were spent as head manager for the St. Cloud Tech high school football team, which was struggling through the first season of two high schools in St. Cloud. We had kids on the team who’d never gone out for football before in their lives, and although some of them did quite well, our inexperience showed on the field and in our won-lost record.

Other than that, I filled my time with a number of hobbies: I was deep into making model rockets, shooting them off in the empty field just down the alley from Rick’s house. I was expanding my collection of LPs, still catching up on the Beatles; but I was also savvy enough to be one of the first people among my small group of friends to get a copy of Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And along with rockets and records, I spent a good deal of my free time pondering a group of sophomore girls, one of whom became, as I told some months ago, the recipient of song lyrics – original and otherwise – printed in purple ink.

Much of that pondering came as I listened to my old RCA radio in my room. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the week ending October 24, 1970, forty years ago this week:

“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“All Right Now” by Free
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Candida” by Dawn
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Lola” by the Kinks
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross

The first seven of those are stellar. The final three, not so much. I liked “Indiana Wants Me” a lot at the time, and I still like it as an artifact of its time, but it’s aged much less well than the others on that list, with its sirens and police bullhorns. But it was fun at the time. I’ve never much cared for “Lola” or for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” though.

But there were plenty of records further down the chart that I liked a lot. And looking at the chart this morning, there were plenty of them that I didn’t know all that well.

Mark Lindsay, previously with Paul Revere & The Raiders, had scored two hits earlier in the year: “Arizona” went to No. 10 in the early months of 1970, and “Silver Bird” had reached No. 25 during the summer. During this fourth week of October, his current single, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” was sitting at No. 53. The record, which is a sweet ballad, got as high as No. 44, where it spent two weeks in mid-November, but it got no higher.

Sitting at No. 70 during this week in 1970 is a record I know I heard at least once, though I swear I also heard a cover version of the song as well. Jake Holmes released a few well-regarded albums in the 1960s: The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, A Letter to Katherine December and a self-titled effort. The best known of those is probably the first, as it includes the song “Dazed and Confused,” which was later seemingly appropriated without credit by Led Zeppelin. But the song I remember was from Holmes’ lesser known fourth album, So Close, So Very Far To Go. Forty years ago, “So Close” was at No. 70, and it peaked at No. 49 during the last week of November. Since I found the record at YouTube a couple of weeks ago, I’ve listened to it several times, and although I recall Holmes’ version, I swear I remember another performer singing it, and no, it wasn’t Robert Plant. Is anyone out there aware of who might have covered Jake Holmes’ “So Close”?

It was likely during the autumn of 1970 that I made one of my worst LP purchases of all time, spending five or six bucks for Iron Butterfly Live. The review of the album at All-Music Guide nails it, noting that the album “is noteworthy for its second side, which contains a 20-minute version of ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.’ Even though it’s only three minutes longer than the original version, it’s three times as tedious.” I would have done far better to get a copy of the group’s new album, Metamorphosis, which included a pretty good single. “Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way)” was at No. 82 during this week in 1970; it peaked at No. 66 during the third week of November.

Just a little further down, we find the first record to reach the Billboard charts from one of the first country rock bands. Poco, the foundations of which had emerged from the wreckage of Buffalo Springfield, would have four Top 40 hits from 1979 through 1990, but the group’s best music, most fans would say, came in the first half of the 1970s. “You Better Think Twice,” which was at No. 88 during the week of October 24, 1970, peaked at No. 72 during the third week of November. It should have done far better.

Dipping into the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100, we find a great slice of southern soul sitting at No. 105: “Ace of Spades” by O.V. Wright. While he never had a record reach the Top 40, Wright – according to the listings at All-Music Guide, which are sometimes incomplete – had three records reach the Hot 100 and twelve records in the R&B chart between 1965 and 1978. His highest-charting single was “Eight Men, Four Women” – a song about the jury that convicted the narrator of a crime – which went to No. 4 on the R&B chart in 1967. “Ace of Spades” didn’t do quite that well, but it did all right: No. 11 on the R&B chart and No. 54 in the Hot 100.

And closing our search this morning is a one-hit wonder by a group from Los Angeles: “Games” by Redeye. The record was sitting at No. 116 during the fourth week of October 1970; by the fourth week of January 1971, “Games” was at its peak of No. 27. The record was Redeye’s only Top 40 single, though the group did see “Red Eye Blues” get to No. 78 in the Hot 100 later in 1971.

Now that we’re facing our first week since February without an installment of the Ultimate Jukebox, Odd, Pop and I are dealing with the task of finding something else to fill our time and our posting space here. Stop by Thursday and see what we come up with. (We have no clue at the moment what that will be.)

Baseball Report
For those who are interested, this year’s Strat-O-Matic tournament, about which I wrote briefly on Saturday, went to Dan, whose 1998 Atlanta Braves defeated Rick’s 1961 New York Yankees two games to none in the finals. My 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates and 2006 Minnesota Twins both went down in the semifinals.