Posts Tagged ‘Marvelettes’

On Summers Gone

May 13, 2022

Originally posted July 31, 2009

I’ve been trying for an hour now to write something meaningful about how it felt to be a kid in summertime. And I’m not sure that what I remember is really how it felt. There is a tendency, a temptation, to put a nostalgic and meaningful glaze on all the memories and perceptions of childhood and youth (a temptation I frequently find difficult to resist), as if the only purpose of being a child in the 1960s was to provide memories for us in later life.

That’s not how it was, of course. We didn’t run through our summer days constantly thinking how fine our memories of those days would someday be. Oh, there were times, special days, when the thought came: I hope I remember this forever. And I do remember thinking that at times, but sadly and ironically, I don’t recall in any of those cases what it was that I hoped to remember.

I do remember games: We boys – with a few girls, now and then – would play workup baseball in the street during the day and into the late afternoon. After dinner, as the evening approached, all of us – boys and girls alike – would play games like “Kick the Can,” a hide-and-seek type game. We played across a territory that ranged widely around the neighborhood, with some yards in play and others – generally those of folks who had no kids – not in play. That would go on until the very last light of the day was fading and the streetlights came on. Then, in ones and twos, kids would make their ways home.

At other times, we – generally Rick and I – might make our way to the grocery store half a block away on Fifth Avenue. We’d dither over the best investment for our pennies and nickels, maybe buy some Dubble Bubble or Sour Grapes bubble gum. Or maybe we’d buy one of those balsa wood gliders that – with luck – flew loops in the backyard air without getting stuck in the trees.

We were unconcerned, for the most part, with the events and realities of life beyond Kilian Boulevard and the southeast side. I, being who I’ve always been, followed the news at least a little, but the accounts I read of the civil rights movement, and of war and unrest in a place called Vietnam, didn’t touch us. Not then, in the first half of the 1960s.

We got older, and one by one, the older kids quit playing the summer games we’d always played. And one summer, sometime in the latter half of the 1960s, Rick and I were the older kids, and the younger kids were playing their own games. With a figurative shrug, we went off and did something else.

Many things about those summertimes are hazy, with specific memories replaced by generalities. But one thing I know: As I made my way from being one of the little kids to being one of the older kids, I was aware of summertime music. I remember how it seemed like the volume was turned up during those three months. Even in the very early years, I heard music during summer that I evidently chose to ignore the rest of the year.

Some Summertime Hits From Motown
 “Heat Wave” by Martha & The Vandellas, Gordy 7022 (No. 4, 1963)
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 3, 1971)
“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by the Temptations, Gordy 7054 (No. 13, 1966)
“I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder, Tamla 54151 (No. 2, 1967)
“It’s the Same Old Song” by the Four Tops, Motown 1081 (No. 5, 1965)
 “I’ll Keep Holding On” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54116 (No. 34, 1965)
“You Beat Me To The Punch” by Mary Wells, Motown 1032 (No. 9, 1962)
“The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5, Motown 116 (No. 1, 1970)
“Where Did Our Love Go” by the Supremes, Motown 1051 (No. 1, 1964)
“The Tracks Of My Tears” by the Miracles, Tamla 54118 (No. 16, 1965)

When selecting from the massive Motown/Gordy/Tamla catalog, it’s comforting to have a few rules in place. Given my framework here of choosing only songs that entered the Top 40 in June, July or August, as well as choosing one song per performer/group, I thought I did pretty well.

Many of these, of course, came out in the years before I paid much attention to rock, pop or R&B, but Motown’s best work – like a lot of the great music of the time – was part of the environment. Wherever we went, there were radios, and wherever radios were, you heard the tunes of the time. I’m not saying I heard all of these when they were on the radio regularly, but I know I heard most of them, and for today, that’s close enough.

‘And Sitting At No. 87 . . .’

August 7, 2012

It’s another edition of “Games With Numbers,” this time turning today’s date, August 7 into No. 87 and seeing what records occupied that spot in the Billboard Hot 100 on this date during six years in the 1960s and 1970s.

We’ll head back to August 1960 and start there, landing on “You Mean Everything To Me” by Neil Sedaka. A mostly minor key outing, the tune would – I think – rapidly become wearisome. Enough listeners liked it, however, for the record to make it to No. 17 (while the flipside, “Run Samson Run,” got to No. 28). The two sides are sandwiched in the Sedaka listing in Top Pop Singles between two of Sedaka’s bigger hits: “Stairway to Heaven,” which went to No. 9, and “Calendar Girl,” which went to No. 4. The final tally shows Sedaka with thirty-seven records in or near the Hot 100 between 1958 and 1980.

Three years later, we find an early Tamla single sitting at No. 87, with the Marvelettes admitting in the tumbling “Daddy Knows Best” that all the advice a young girl gets from her father may make some sense. The record was the sixth by the girls from Inkster, Michigan, to hit the Hot 100, and it went to No. 67. The Marvelettes would continue to put records into and near the Hot 100 into 1969, but none of the other twenty-four records ever equaled the performance of their first hit, 1961’s “Please Mr. Postman,” which went to No. 1 (No 7 on the R&B chart).

Traditional pop shows its head as we look at early August 1966, with Al Martino’s “Just Yesterday” sitting at No. 87. I’ve never heard the record before, but as I listen this morning, I hear what are to me unmistakable echoes – melodically, harmonically and thematically – of Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers In The Night,” which had gone to No. 1 just a month earlier. Martino’s single peaked at No, 77, one of forty singles he placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1959 and 1977. The best-performing of those was 1963’s “I Love You Because,” which went to No. 3 on the pop chart and No. 2 on the adult contemporary chart (although I have a fondness for some reason for 1967’s “Mary In The Morning,” which went to No. 27).

Sitting in the No. 87 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 8, 1969 was a single that featured names that in a few years would be among the best-known in R&B. “One Night Affair” was the ninth single by the O’Jays to show up in or near the Hot 100. The previous eight had been on the Imperial and Bell labels; this one was on the Neptune label (a division of GRT Records), which called itself “The Sound of Philadelphia.” The label’s founders – who also wrote the song and produced the record – were Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who in a few years would spread the Sound of Philadelphia all around the world on their Philadelphia International label. And the record’s arrangement came from Bobby Martin and Thom Bell; I don’t know what happened to Martin, but in the 1970s, Bell – who’d already struck gold working with the Delfonics – would arrange and produce numerous hits for the Spinners, the Stylistics and more. “One Night Affair” peaked at No. 68 (No. 15 R&B), but in three years, the O’Jays – by then recording for Philadelphia International – would see “Back Stabbers” go to No. 3, and six months later, in early 1973, “Love Train” would go to No. 1.  The O’Jays would end up with thirty-three records in or near the Hot 100 between 1963 and 1997.

In the early days August of 1972, the No. 87 single was one of the slightest hit singles Neil Diamond had to that point placed into the Hot 100. “Play Me” would eventually rise to No. 11, the thirty-first of an eventual fifty-six singles Diamond would place in or near the Hot 100. At the time, I thought “Play Me” was an insubstantial piece of fluff as it trailed in the wake of Diamond’s earlier work like “Sweet Caroline,” “Solitary Man,” “Kentucky Woman” and more (including the album track “Done Too Soon,” which remains my favorite Diamond track). But listening to “Play Me” this morning, and looking at the hits that came later – records like “Love On The Rocks,” “Heartlight” and “America” – I find myself liking “Play Me” a lot more than I did forty years ago. It’s still not a great record; but it’s better than I remembered.

Larry Graham was the bass player for Sly & The Family Stone until 1972. A year later, says All Music Guide, he joined an Ohio R&B/funk band he’d been producing and renamed it from Hot Chocolate to Graham Central Station. In early August of 1975, a single from the group’s third album was sitting at No. 87, on its way to No. 38 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart. “Your Love” is a sleek and only occasionally funky piece of work that turned out to be the best-charting of the four singles Graham Central Station got into the pop chart; as a solo artist, Graham placed five records in or near the Hot 100 and had a No. 9 hit (No. 1 R&B) in 1980 with “One In A Million You.”

A Six & Two Twelves Equals Thirty

June 12, 2012

Being in a mood to play games with numbers this morning, I headed out to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive this morning. I took today’s date of 6-12-12 and added that up to thirty, and then I headed to ARSA to find out what records were at No. 30 on various radio stations during this time of June during six different years.

I also decided to do some geographic sorting along the way, looking for charts from various regions, starting in the Northeastern U.S. and ending up on the West Coast.

We’ll start in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1965, where WHYN released one of its weekly surveys on June 12, forty-seven years ago today. The No. 1 record in Springfield was “I Can’t Help Myself” by the Four Tops, and at No. 30 we find “I’ll Keep Holding On” by the Tops’ labelmates, the Marvelettes. The Marvelettes record would reach No. 34 in the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 11 on the R&B chart), one of twenty-five singles the Marvelettes would place in or near the Hot 100 between 1961 and 1969.

Down in Orlando, Florida, in the middle of June 1967, the No. 1 record on WLOF was “Airplane Song” by the Royal Guardsmen, the same group that had hit No. 2 nationally with “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” the previous winter. At No. 30 in WLOF’s June 17, 1967, survey was a cover of the Who’s “Boris the Spider” by Joey Covington, better known as a drummer for Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane. Covington’s single didn’t make either the Billboard or Cash Box charts.

As the middle of June 1969 approached, the No. 1 record at Kansas City’s WHB was the Beatles’ double-sided “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down.” Sitting at No. 30 on the station’s survey of June 13, 1969 was “Welcome Me Love” by the Brooklyn Bridge, one side of a two-sided single with “Blessed is the Rain.” “Welcome Me Love” went to No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100, while “Blessed is the Rain” went to No. 45. The Brooklyn Bridge is best-known, of course, for “The Worst That Could Happen,” which had gone to No. 3 in February 1969.

Here in Minnesota as June of 1971 played out, the No. 1 record in the June 13 survey from KDWB was “Indian Reservation” by the Raiders. Down at the No. 30 slot, we find “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees. (I was really hoping for something that I liked more, but that’s how games with numbers sometimes go.) “How Can You . . .” turned out to be the first of the Bee Gees’ nine No. 1 hits on the Billboard chart.

Out in the Arizona desert, the No. 1 hit on Tempe’s KUPD as June of 1973 rolled by was Clint Holmes’ “Playground in My Mind.” Things got quite a bit tougher lower down, as the No. 30 record on the station’s June 16, 1973, survey was “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Alice Cooper. The record would go to No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. (I just checked, and this is the first time – after something like 1,200 posts – that a record by Alice Cooper has ever been featured here at Echoes In The Wind. I don’t really dislike Cooper’s work, but it just never meant much to me, either.)

And we arrive, finally, at the West Coast, where in mid-June of 1975, San Bernardino’s KFXM showed the Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together” as its No. 1 record. At No. 30 in the survey released June 13, 1975, we find “I Dreamed Last Night” by Justin Hayward and John Lodge, members of the Moody Blues. The single came from Blue Jays, an album that Hayward and Lodge released while the Moodies were on a six-year hiatus. Unsurprisingly, Blue Jays sounded a lot like the Moodies. “I Dreamed Last Night” went to No. 47.

We Dialed BLackburn 1 . . .

December 21, 2011

Originally posted February 12, 2009

When I was a sprout and one of the tasks at hand was for me to memorize our home phone number, the chore was helped immensely by the fact that part of our phone number was a word . . . and that was the case all over the U.S. at the time.

In St. Cloud, that word was “BLackburn” and our phone number – a number still in use – began with BLackburn 1. My mom has had that phone number for more than fifty-two years, since some time before we moved from Riverside Drive to Kilian Boulevard. She told me this morning that she thinks that sometime during the nine years on Riverside, the phone number changed from 332OJ to the current one.

Sometime in the 1960s – maybe as early as 1966, using the title of Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” as a rough historical guide – the alphabetic prefixes to phone numbers were discontinued, and phone numbers became all numeric. I imagine the change had something to do with the technology for direct dialing of long distance calls. But in a way, it’s too bad. There was something kind of neat about those prefixes.

I remember a couple of exchange names beyond BLackburn (which was taken from the name of a city in northern England), mostly from movies and television: MUrray Hill and ALgonquin. The Glenn Miller song “Pennsylvania 6-5000” refers to a phone number. But there had to be thousands of prefixes in use. Many of them are cataloged at the Telephone EXchange Name Project, which is a fascinating place to rummage around. Do you remember your phone number’s prefix? If so, feel free to leave a note.

This came to mind this week, of course, because the RealPlayer landed on “Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes. I posted it here once before, but when it sparked memories of BLackburn, I figured I’d post it again, so I went and found a Billboard Hot 100 from the song’s time on the chart.

A Six-Pack From The Charts
(Billboard Hot 100, September 1, 1962)

“Party Lights” by Claudine Clark, Chancellor 1113 (No. 5)

“The Wah Watusi” by the Orlons, Cameo 218 (No. 24)

“Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54065 (No. 39)

“Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” by the Rivingtons, Liberty 55247 (No. 59)

“The Ballad of Paladin” by Duane Eddy, RCA Victor 8047 (No. 67)

“Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures, Dolton 60 (No. 74)

“Party Lights” is a combination of R&B and the girl group sound, and its success was an accident. The hit was supposed to be the other side of the record, a Jerry Ragovoy tune titled “Disappointed.” Since the B-Side was supposed to be no big deal, according to writer Dave Marsh, the folks at Chancellor let Clark record and produce one of her own songs – “Party Lights” – for the flipside. But “Disappointed” stiffed, and a deejay somewhere flipped the record over. “Party Lights” entered the Hot 100 on June 30, 1962, and a little more than two months later, it peaked at No. 5.

Nonsense sounds! “Wah-Watusi!” “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow!” And you could throw “Lolita Ya-Ya” in there as nonsense, too. The watusi was a dance, of course, and the Orlons’ record found its place in a long line of records about dances that includes “The Stroll” by the Diamonds in 1958, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” in 1960 and 1961 and continued all the way through the years to Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” in 1996. (That’s obviously a quick and incredibly incomplete list; anyone want to add other dance-titled records?) “The Wah-Watusi” was on its way back down as September started. It peaked at No. 2 in July, being blocked from the top of the charts by Bobby Vinton’s “Roses Are Red.”

As to the Rivingtons’ record, by the end, I don’t think the singers have found out what the title means, except that it sounds good on a record. The record reached only No. 48, which I find a little startling for something that was so much fun. If you want more on “Poppa-Oom-Mow-Mow,” the aforementioned Dave Marsh dissects the relationships between it, the Rivingtons’ 1963 record “The Bird’s The Word” (No. 52) and the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” (which went to No. 4 in 1963) in The Heart of Rock & Soul.

The Ventures’ record – even with its nonsense sounds – is a different kind of animal. If it reminds me of anything at all, it’s French pop from about the same time, the kind of music examined lovingly at the blog blowupdoll, for one. And that makes some sense. The Ventures’ record was a cover of a single by Sue Lyon (MGM 13067) pulled from the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film, Lolita. Lyon played the title role in Kubrick’s film. By the start of September, the Ventures’ “Lolita Ya-Ya” had been in the Hot 100 for five weeks, and it moved up to No. 61 two weeks later and then fell from the chart. (I have no idea how well the Lyon version of the song did on the charts, and I’d be interested to know.)

“The Ballad of Paladin” was the theme to a TV western, Have Gun – Will Travel, which starred Richard Boone and ran on CBS from 1957 through 1963. Boone played a bounty hunter and hired gun who used the alias of Paladin. Eddy’s instrumental version of the theme went to No. 33. On the show, the theme was sung by the suspiciously named Johnny Western:

“Have Gun – Will Travel” reads the card of a man,
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.
Paladin, Paladin, where do you roam.
Paladin, Paladin, far, far from home.

As one might guess, Have Gun – Will Travel was regular Saturday evening viewing at our home.

As to the Marvelettes’ single, it’s a nearly perfect bit of early Motown R&B. It was the fourth of ten Top 40 singles for the Marvelettes, peaking at No. 17, and might be the best things the girls from Inkster, Michigan, ever did. (Though “Please, Mr. Postman” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” were close to sublime, too.) The only quibble I have is that the title should have been “BEechwood 4-5789”)

A Dose Of Voodoo From 1962

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 15, 2008

Some of the folks from Bookcrossing, our book club, stopped by last evening for a soup dinner. The five of us filled ourselves on a Mexican rice and beef soup and a cabbage/potato/sausage soup – both creations by the Texas Gal – as well as an assortment of chips, dips and so on. And we talked for a couple hours about books and other stuff.

As happens when we all get together at someone’s home, our visitors scanned our bookshelves. It’s a cliché – one based in some truth, I suppose – that one can get to know a person by a close examination of his or her books. Given the mélange of titles on our shelves, I would guess that the only things that can be deduced about the Texas Gal and me is that we’re interested in a wide range of topics, both fiction and nonfiction, and that we dearly love books. (Both true, of course.)

But as our friends scanned our shelves, I noticed a title that I thought might be of some interest, so I pulled from the shelves and handed to them Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians, a 1961 volume by Mary Nash, reprinted in 1962 by the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club.

How many folks out there remember the Weekly Reader? I was surprised this morning to learn that it still exists. According to Wikipedia, the Reader was acquired in 2007 by The Reader’s Digest Association and continues publication. Wikipedia notes that the first edition of the Weekly Reader, for fourth-graders, came out in 1928, and by 1959, there were editions for kindergarten through grade six.

Wikipedia describes it thus: “The editions cover curriculum themes in the younger grades and news-based, current events and curriculum themed-issues in the older grades.” I recall seeing the Reader regularly during my days at Lincoln Elementary. I enjoyed it, I think, but then, I’ve always enjoyed reading almost anything.

And that includes the books I got through the Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club. I probably still have ten I got through the club, some of which I remember quite well. One of those is Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians. The Mrs. Coverlet of the title is the housekeeper for the three young Malcolm children, and the reader learns that in an earlier title, while their father – evidently widowed – was out of the country on business, Mrs. Coverlet was also called away. Instead of staying with a neighbor as instructed, the children stayed in their own home, with some mild adventure ensuing.

In Magicians, the sequel, the Malcolms’ father is still away, and, after young Molly Malcolm secretly enters Mrs. Coverlet in a recipe contest, the housekeeper is offered a chance to compete in the contest finals in New York City. Determined that her charges be better supervised during her absence, Mrs. Coverlet arranges for spinster Eva Penalty to move into the Malcolm home.

All three children are stifled by the dour Miss Penalty, none more than the youngest, six-year-old Toad. Some time earlier, having found a comic book of horror stories, Toad had clipped a coupon and sent off for a book of magic spells. With Miss Penalty running the house rigidly, Toad devises what is basically a voodoo doll and confines Miss Penalty to her bed for the remainder of Mrs. Coverlet’s absence. Mishaps ensue, but things turn out well, of course. Scanning the book this morning, I remember enjoying the story. When I pulled the book off the shelf to show it to our friends last evening, however, one thing popped into my head:

How would parents react these days to a novel for children based on the ideas of magic spells and voodoo dolls? I would guess that there would be an effort to ban Weekly Reader and its book club from the classroom.

As far as I recall, no one blinked back in 1962.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962, Vol. 2
“Up On The Roof” by the Drifters, Atlantic 2162 (No. 120, “bubbling under” the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 13, 1962)

“409” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 4777 (No. 76)

“Leah” by Roy Orbison, Monument 467 (No. 74)

“Stormy Monday Blues” by Bobby “Blue” Bland, Duke 355 (No. 54)

“Beechwood 4-5789” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54065 (No. 32)

“Popeye the Hitchhiker” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 849 (No. 24)

“I Left My Heart In San Francisco” by Tony Bennett, Columbia 42332 (No. 23)

“It Might As Well Rain Until September” by Carole King, Dimension 2000 (No. 22)

“Only Love Can Break A Heart” by Gene Pitney, Musicor 1022 (No. 13)

“If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)” by Peter, Paul & Mary, Warner Bros. 5296 (No. 10)

“Green Onions” by Booker T and the MG’s, Stax 127 (No. 6)

“Ramblin’ Rose” by Nat King Cole, Capitol 4804 (No. 3)

“Sherry” by the Four Seasons, Vee-Jay 456 (No.1)

A few notes:

“Up On The Roof” was the third Top Ten hit for the Drifters (“There Goes My Baby” in 1959 and “Save The Last Dance For Me” in 1960 were the first two), but the first since Ben E. King left the group and was replaced by Rudy Lewis. “Up On The Roof” eventually went to No. 5.

Roy Orbison’s “Leah” is an odd record. With its other-worldly sound, I’m surprised it got into the charts at all. It’s simply spooky, and the fact that it went to No. 35 still startles me. I mean, I like it, but I wouldn’t have thought the record marketable.

While Bobby “Blue” Bland never had a major hit, “Stormy Monday Blues” was released in the middle of a period when his records were at least reaching the Top 40. “Turn On Your Love Light” had gone to No. 28 in January of 1962, and the double-sided single, “Call On Me/That’s The Way Love Is” would reach Nos. 22 and 33, respectively, in early 1963. “Stormy Monday Blues,” while a good record, wasn’t quite as good as those. “That’s The Way Love Is” is a great record, and I think it’s nearly forgotten. (“Stormy Monday Blues” is tagged as a 1961 record because that was the session date, but it was in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962.)

Chubby Checker’s “Popeye the Hitchhiker” was another attempt to launch a dance craze, with the dance in question, I believe, based on extending one’s thumb and cocking one’s arm, as if hitching a ride. (Sadly, there seem to be no examples of the dance on YouTube.) “Popeye,” which went to No. 10, was the B-side to “Limbo Rock,” which I shared here in August.

“It Might As Well Rain Until September” was a pretty slight record, but it fit right in during 1962 and got as high as No. 22 on the charts. The artist, Carole King, showed up on the charts nine years later, of course, with “It’s Too Late” and was a presence on the charts into the 1980s.

I’ve always loved “Ramblin’ Rose” for some reason. It’s a pretty song, and of course, Nat King Cole had a great voice. This certainly wasn’t his best performance – that would have come on one or more of his jazz/R&B sides, but something about the song grabbed the nine-year-old whiteray in a way that none of the other records in this Baker’s Dozen ever has.