Posts Tagged ‘Melissa Manchester’

Saturday Single No. 645

June 15, 2019

It’s time for Games With Numbers!

We’re going to take the numerals from today’s date – 6/15/19 – and add them together to get 40. Then we’re going to look at four Billboard Hot 100s from the mid-point of June and see what we find at No. 40. We’ll use the chart in each year closest to June 15, and along the way, we’ll note the No. 1 and No. 2 records of those weeks. I think we’ll start in 1966 and jump three years at a time, hitting 1969, 1972 and 1975 along the way.

And we start with a country crossover lament: “The Last Word In Lonesome Is Me” by Eddy Arnold. He was, of course, one of the giants of post-World War II country, putting 128 records into the Billboard country chart between 1945 and 1982, with twenty-eight of them reaching No. 1. He had twenty-nine records chart on the Hot 100; his highest ranking record there was 1965’s “Make The World Go Away,” which got to No. 6. As to “The Last Word In Lonesome Is Me,” it would go no higher than the No. 40 spot where we found it on the June 18, 1966, chart. On the country chart, it got to No. 2, and it went to No. 9 on the magazine’s easy listening chart. It’s a pretty record, but it doesn’t scratch any itches for me.

Parked at No. 1 during mid-June 1966 was “Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones, while the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” was at No. 2.

Off we go to mid-June in 1969, and we find ourselves a chewy piece of bubblegum: The No. 40 record on June 14, 1969, was “Special Delivery” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company. The Fruitgum Company wasn’t really a band, of course; it was a revolving group of players brought together by producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz to back lead singer Joey Levine, who also sang lead on records for Ohio Express, Crazy Elephant and Reunion (and maybe more, I suppose). By the time June 1969 rolled around, the Fruitgum Company had put three singles into the Top Ten: “Simon Says,” “1, 2, 3, Red Light,” and “Indian Giver.” But the group’s brand of bubblegum had lost it flavor, it seems, as “Special Delivery” would stall at No. 38. The group had only two more singles reach the Hot 100, one reaching No. 57 and the other bubbling under at No. 118. “Special Delivery” is catchy, of course, but nothing much, except I do love the saxophone intros.

The No. 1 record as the middle of June 1969 approached was “Get Back” by the Beatles with Billy Preston; sitting at No. 2 was “Love Theme From ‘Romeo & Juliet’” by Henry Mancini and his orchestra.

Next up is 1972, and the record that sat at No. 40 in the Hot 100 released on June 17 was the mournful plaint (with a few power moments mixed in) of “All The King’s Horses” by Aretha Franklin. There’s no point in digging too deeply into the astounding numbers; it’s enough to say that “All The King’s Horses” was the fifty-fourth single Franklin had put in or near the Hot 100, with another thirty-four to come. The record was on its way to No. 26; it went to No. 7 (along with its B-side, “April Fools”) on the magazine’s R&B chart. I like it, but the shift from plaintive to powerful along the way disorients me; maybe it’s supposed to, but I find it distracting.

Sitting atop the Hot 100 at mid-June 1972 was “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr., and “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers was at No. 2.

And as we reach our final stop of 1975, we find ourselves a sweet ballad, Melissa Manchester’s “Midnight Blue.” It was the first of an eventual eleven Hot 100 hits for Manchester, with two more bubbling under. It was on its way to No. 6, and it spent two weeks at the top of the magazine’s easy listening chart. And it’s a potent earworm: Just reading the title off the chart this morning, I hear in my head, “Whatever it is, it’ll keep ’til the morning . . .” And it brings back in full the summer of ’75, a great season in the middle of one of the most potent years of my life.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 released June 14, 1975, was America’s “Sister Golden Hair.” Parked at No. 2 was “Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tenille.

So, as we look for a single for this mid-June Saturday, I have to admit I was a little disappointed in the first three candidates we found. I was on the verge of offering up “Special Delivery” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company simply because it was bubblegum, which doesn’t get a lot of play here. But the instant the first words of “Midnight Blue” sailed into my head, I was lost. And a quick check of the archives tells me that I’ve mentioned the record only twice in twelve-and-a-half years (has it truly been that long?) and have never posted it here.

So here, from the summer of 1975, is Melissa Manchester’s “Midnight Blue,” today’s Saturday Single.

Found In The Unplayed Stacks

March 25, 2012

Originally posted March 9, 2009

At a guess, I’ve listened to eight-five to ninety percent of the LPs that reside in my study. Those I’ve not yet put on the turntable fall into two categories: Records that were my dad’s – mostly classical with an added mélange of show tunes, Swedish folk music and a few odd things – and records that I bought mostly at garage sales that got put into a pile and never got taken out.

Those garage sale records sit in bins atop the main stacks here, and I rarely find a reason to go digging to see what’s there. So let’s take a look:

In the first bin, I see, among others, Chilliwack, Bob James, Steve Forbert, Carly Simon, the Electric Light Orchestra, Asia, Devo, W.C. Fields, Weird Al Yankovic, Amy Grant and the soundtrack to the 1962 film Cleopatra (starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Rex Harrison). The second bin brings us a selection that includes Prince, Rosemary Clooney, Ray Anthony, Archie Bell & the Drells, Tina Turner, Patsy Cline, Richard Harris, Madonna and the Looking Glass. And in the third bin, our trove includes Whitney Houston, the Willmar Boys Chorus, Head East, Artur Rubenstein, Culture Club, Al Martino, Chester Thompson (and the Pop Sound of the Great Organ, says the jacket), Sandler & Young and the soundtrack to the 1962 film How The West Was Won.

Despite temptations, I selected none of those records for this morning’s frolic. I chose instead six other albums for today’s music. None of them, alas, were quite as odd as the Willmar Boys Chorus. Willmar – pronounced WILL-mer – is a city of 18,000 or so that lies about sixty miles southwest of St. Cloud; I got the two-record set of that city’s boys chorus at a garage sale here in St. Cloud about five years ago. (Chester Thompson’s album came in the same haul.) The Willmar record could have popped up; I simply went to the stacks and pulled six records out at random.

Having pulled the LPs, I let the records make my selection for me: Using a method I got from Casey at The College Crowd Digs Me, I ripped the fourth track of each record. So what did we get this morning?

A Six-Pack From The Unplayed Stacks
“You Never Miss A Real Good Thing (Till He Says Goodbye)” by Crystal Gayle from Crystal [1976]
“Marcie” by the Four Seasons from Rag Doll [1964]
“Love & Emotion” by Gino Vannelli from Brother To Brother [1978]
“My Heart Echoes” by Kitty Wells from Heartbreak U.S.A. [1962]
“Headlines” by Melissa Manchester from Help Is On The Way [1976]
“Killer Queen” by Queen, Elektra 45223 [1975]

This is not entirely awful. It doesn’t thrill me, but neither did I wince. Probably the best thing here is “Killer Queen.” As it came from Queen’s Greatest Hits album, I went ahead and tagged it with its catalog number as a single. The record went to No. 12 in the spring of 1975, the first of fourteen hits for the group. (“Bohemian Rhapsody” counts as two hits, as it went to No. 9 in 1976 and then – after its inclusion in the movie Wayne’s World – to No. 2 in 1992.)

Other than “Killer Queen,” nothing here really stands out. Maybe the Crystal Gayle tune, which might have been a single. It’s pretty decent late-Seventies country. The Kitty Wells’ tune, on the other hand, is a good example of the blanding of country that took place in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the mass chorus and the less-than-downhome piano licks. (Though I do not have session information for the Kitty Wells album, I’d bet that the piano was manned by Floyd Cramer.)

The Gino Vanelli track is all right, inoffensive but bland, and the Four Seasons’ “Marcie” is a typical Bob Crewe Half-Wall of Sound production, and it’s okay for an album track. Then there’s “Headlines.” I never was a huge Melissa Manchester fan, although I did like her first hit, 1975’s “Midnight Blue.” But “Headlines” – which Manchester wrote – is a very strange song. A few more listens, and it might fall for me into the category of odd songs by so-so performers that I like nevertheless.

As I was ripping these albums and writing this post, I was under great temptation. So I yielded. Here’s a bonus:

“Ebb Tide” by Chester Thompson from The Pop Sound of the Great Organ. [Prob. 1964]

There are some clicks in this rip, but I decided it was odd enough of a track to put up with them. The record, says the notes on the jacket, was the first ever recorded on the giant Wurlitzer organ in Plaza Studios above New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. There’s no issue date on the record, but a reference to “Java” and “More” as “instrumentals of the past year” puts the record almost certainly in 1964.

I departed from vinyl and from the Track Four method for today’s second bonus. I pulled Alfred Newman’s soundtrack for How The West Was Won from the bins and slipped it on the turntable just to get an idea what kind of shape it’s in. And there was just too much noise to work with the record. But the film’s overture blew me away.

An overture, you ask? Yes, films that wanted to be taken seriously offered overtures before the show started, just as Broadway musicals did (and perhaps still do?). Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia are two other films I recall that had overtures. (Anybody recall any others?)

So what grabbed me about this overture? It’s just odd and amazing in its choral approach: At first it sounds almost like a Soviet choral piece celebrating the glory of labor, and then it becomes more American, if still a little odd. It’s a track very much of its time, and though I remember it only vaguely, I wanted to share it. So I went and found a digital copy. Thus, here’s the overture to How The West Was Won, featuring the MGM Studio Orchestra along with the Ken Darby Singers and Dave Guard & The Whiskeyhill Singers.

“Overture: I’m Bound For The Promised Land/Shenandoah/Endless Prairie/Ox Driver” from the soundtrack to How The West Was Won [1962]