Posts Tagged ‘Rufus’

No. 45, Forty-Five Years Ago

February 28, 2020

Dropping into 1975 for a game of Symmetry this morning, I have absolutely no idea what we’ll find, but I’ll likely know it well. (I think so, at least. It would be fun, though, for our excavation to find something utterly new. I’ll settle, though, for not lame.)

Here were the top ten records in the Billboard Hot 100 during the week that February turned into March in 1975:

“Best Of My Love” by the Eagles
“Have You Never Been Mellow” by Olivia Newton-John
“Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers
“My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli
“Some Kind Of Wonderful” by Grand Funk
“Lonely People” by America
“Pick Up The Pieces” by the Average White Band
“Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle
“Nightingale” by Carole King
“Lady” by Styx

Eight of those rated on the plus side in 1975; I never cared much for the Grand Funk or Styx singles. In fact, nothing I ever heard from Styx ever clicked with me although I never dug too deeply into the band’s work. Grand Funk? Well, I liked “Closer To Home” and “Bad Time” – the latter of which takes me back viscerally to New Year’s Eve 1974 – and liked “We’re An American Band” when I finally heard it long after its release. But “Some Kind Of Wonderful” left me cold.

As to the other eight in that mix, the best is the LaBelle single; it was the only one of those ten to make it into my long-age Ultimate Jukebox, and, of course, it’s one of the 3,900-some tracks currently in the iPod, which is how I measure current relevance.

Which of the other nine in that aged top ten are still in my current listening? Well, five of them. Missing are the records by Grand Funk, the Average White Band, America, and Styx. (And the absence of “Lonely People” surprises me just a hair, but I don’t think I’ll bother to add it.)

Our other business, of course, lies lower down in that chart, and at No. 45 we find an up-tempo piece of funk that I must have heard before: “Once You Get Started” by Rufus (featuring Chaka Kahn) is actually on the digital shelves here, having arrived as part of the album Rufusized. And the record reminds me of the question once posed here: When was the first usage of the phrase “party hearty”? I dabbled with that question in a post in 2012, but “Once You Get Started” was not one of the records I considered. (I think “Do It, Fluid” by the Blackbyrds was likely recorded earlier than “Once You Get Started,” but I do not know, and I will leave the question for others to research in more depth.”)

Anyway, “Once You Get Started” kicks and might itself be elevated to the iPod. Back in 1975, it went to No. 10 on the Hot 100 and to No. 4 in the Billboard R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 282

March 17, 2012

So, St. Patrick’s Day. Well, I’m not Irish. But then, neither are most of the folks who’ve made the day into a drunken carnival in the past forty or so years. I wrote about that – call it the unIrishing of St. Patrick’s Day, if you will – maybe three years ago, though, in a post that I imagine will soon find its way to the archives site, so we’ll let that go this year.

Instead, we’ll use the date as a source for a number, as we often do here, and then look at a few Billboard charts from the years 1955-1980 and see what might pop up as a good tune for a mid-March Saturday. We’ll look at the No. 17 songs and wend our ways back five years at a time.

The No. 17 record as St. Patrick’s Day dawned in 1980 was Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall.” I don’t think I need to tell you too much about the artist. After all, he only dropped forty-eight records in the Billboard Hot 100, with twenty-eight of those reaching the Top Ten and thirteen of those hitting Number One. Add in the numbers from the Jackson 5 and the Jacksons – thirty-one in the Hot 100, eleven in the Top Ten and four No. 1 hits – and the totals become surreal. Better yet, “Off the Wall” – now overshadowed by the avalanche of treasures found on 1982’s Thriller – is a sweet piece of funky late Seventies R&B that peaked at No. 10.*

We stay with R&B as we head back five years to 1975: No. 17 on St. Patrick’s Day was the exuberant “Once You Get Started” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. Another slice of brilliant Seventies funky stuff, the record peaked at No. 10, a little bit of a come-down from the previous summer’s No. 3 hit, “Tell Me Something Good.” The group hung in there until the mid-1980s, eventually scoring seventeen records in or near the Hot 100, with “Sweet Thing” going to No. 5 in 1976 and providing Rufus with its third Top Ten hit.

The theme of exuberance continues as we drop back another five years and land on “Celebrate” by Three Dog Night. Kicking into gear after a slightly laid-back introduction, the record was sitting at No. 17 during the third week of March in 1970, heading to No. 15. Another chart power, Three Dog Night racked up twenty-two records in or near the Hot 100 between 1969 and 1975, with eleven of those reaching the Top Ten and three going to No. 1. “Celebrate” might not have been TDN’s best, but it was pretty damn good.

The contrast can hardly be greater. Landing in 1965, we find a piece of traditional pop that’s not only out of step with the three records we’ve touched on this morning but that was also out of step with the chart during its own time. Vic Dana’s “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” harked back to the pop standards of the 1950s but somehow found itself sitting at No. 17 in mid-March, just under the Impression’s “People Get Ready” and just above the countryish folk-rock of Bobby Goldsboro’s “Little Things” on a chart topped by the Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week.” An admittedly pretty song with a sweet (if traditional) arrangement, “Red Roses” would peak at No. 10, the only Top Ten hit for Dana among sixteen records he placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1961 and 1970.

And a stop in 1960 finds us even more far afield from the pop, rock and R&B that make up much of our playlist here. Sitting at No. 17 on St. Patrick’s Day fifty-two years ago was former Disney Mousketeer Annette Funicello – billed as simply Annette – with “O Dio Mio.” Seventeen at the time of the record’s release, Annette lays her adolescent yearnings – “How much I need him! How much I long for his love!” – on a bed of strings and vocal choruses. The record went to No. 10, Annette’s second and last Top Ten hit among thirteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1959 and 1963.

As we end our morning with a stop in 1955, the thought comes to mind that, as disappointing as the 1960 entry was, at least Annette sang it competently. That doesn’t seem to be the case with Jaye P. Morgan’s traditional pop recording of “That’s All I Want From You.” Singing in front of the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra (which provides an arrangement that’s more interesting than many from that genre and era), Morgan – whom I remember more as a celebrity guest on 1970s game shows than as a singer – sounds for most of the record as if she’s not very interested in the proceedings. The record went to No. 3, though, the first of twenty-two that Morgan placed in or near the Hot 100 between 1955 and 1971. (According to Wikipedia, Morgan had a couple of Top Twenty hits in 1953, the year before Whitburn’s listings kick in.) The best-performing of her records after “That’s All I Want From You” was “The Longest Walk,” which went to No. 6 in 1955. I’m not inclined to seek it out.

So, with six records to choose from – three traditional pop records, one up-tempo pop-rock record and two pieces of funky R&B – which direction do we go? The records by Annette and Morgan don’t thrill me (I think that was already apparent), and I featured Dana’s sweet record here on a long-ago Vinyl Record Day. And as good as the Michael Jackson and Three Dog Night singles are, it comes to mind that I don’t often find a reason to share anything from Rufus and Chaka Khan.

So that’s why – even though the video seems to be a rip of the album track from Rufusized instead of the shorter single edit – “Once You Get Started” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan is today’s Saturday Single.

*I’m not entirely sure when Michael Jackson’s participation with the Jackson 5 – later the Jacksons – came to a practical end. Neither Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles nor two editions of the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll are entirely clear. If I had to put a date on it, I’d say 1989, and that’s at best an educated guess. As to the chart impact, only one of the charting records referenced above seem to have come along after that time: “Nothin (That Compares 2 U)” went to No. 77 during the late spring and summer of 1989.

Diggin’ On Neil Diamond In The Basement

March 10, 2010

Wherever I might have looked for a history lesson in 1970, Rick’s turntable was a pretty unlikely choice. But one day or evening during the summer of that year, he and I were hanging out in his room. He’d taken over half the basement and turned it into what was essentially a crash pad: a  mattress on the floor, a stereo, brick-and-board shelves filled with LPs, posters on the walls and a lava lamp. We spent a lot of time down there during the last years of the 1960s and the early years of the 1970s, listening to tunes and making our minds up about the things that really mattered in life; those topics ranged from the importance of the then-burgeoning environmental movement to the likely identity of the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie during the next NHL season.

But as diverse as our topics were, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I heard when Rick played Neil Diamond’s Tap Root Manuscript. The fourth track on Side One, “Done Too Soon,” grabbed me and – at the same time – provided a little bit of a history lesson:

Jesus Christ, Fanny Brice.
Wolfie Mozart and Humphrey Bogart and
Genghis Khan and
On to H. G. Wells.

Ho Chi Minh, Gunga Din,

Henry Luce and John Wilkes Booth
And Alexanders
King and Graham Bell.

Rama Krishna, Mama Whistler,

Patrice Lumumba and Russ Columbo.
Karl and Chico Marx,
Albert Camus.

E. A. Poe, Henri Rousseau,
Sholom Aleichem and Caryl Chessman.
Alan Freed and
Buster Keaton too.

And each one these
Has one thing to share:
They have sweated beneath the same sun,
Looked up in wonder at the same moon,
And wept when it was all done
For bein’ done too soon.
For bein’ done too soon.

For bein’ done.

I was fascinated, and we listened to it again until I was certain I had all the names right. I knew all but two of them. I was unfamiliar with the name of American actor and singer Russ Columbo and with that of Alexander King. (There are two men by that name whom I think Diamond could have been referring to, one a writer, the other a scientist. I still have no idea which one he meant to name-check.)

I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely clear at the time why some of those men whom Diamond mentioned were prominent: For example, I knew Patrice Lumumba was African, but I didn’t know that he’d been the prime minister of the Republic of the Congo for a brief time in 1960 before being overthrown in a coup.

There were a few others where my data banks were slender as well: death row inmate Caryl Chessman, author Albert Camus and deejay Alan Freed were persons whose names I recognized without knowing why they were famous. And, of course, being a good sixteen-year-old Midwest Lutheran, I had no idea that Rama Krishna was, as Wikipedia notes, a famous Indian mystic of the nineteenth century.

I won’t say I ran out and began to find out about those men during that summer of 1970. But as time moved and on one occasion or another I learned why those men were famous, I’d make the connection to Diamond’s song and nod with a bit of private satisfaction.

And from that first hearing in Rick’s crash pad, “Done Too Soon” has been one of my favorites. Rick and I were fortunate enough at the end of that summer to hear Diamond perform the song in concert at the Minnesota State Fair. In fact, we heard it twice. We were in the open-air grandstand for Diamond’s first show of the evening, and then went back to wandering around the fair until it was time to meet my folks near the grandstand. We could hear Diamond performing his second show as we waited, and just before my folks showed up, we heard “Done Too Soon” one more time.

(The video above is pretty well done, but it requires some comment. When pulling a visual from the 1939 film, Gunga Din, the creator showed a still of the English characters played by Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., instead of Sam Jaffee’s Gunga Din, the title character created by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 poem. And the video also showed a portrait of Alexander the Great instead of either the scientist or the writer named Alexander King.)

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 7
“Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, Philles 116 [1963]
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton, Elektra 45687 [1970]
“Done Too Soon” by Neil Diamond from Tap Root Manuscript [1970]
“She’s Gone” by Hall & Oates from Abandoned Luncheonette [1973]
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus, ABC 11427 [1974]
“Romeo’s Tune” by Steve Forbert from Jackrabbit Slim [1979]

As I’ve mentioned before, I try to separate Phil Spector’s brilliant work in the 1960s and 1970s from the events of recent years that culminated in murder. It’s difficult to do. But Spector’s Wall of Sound needed to be somewhere in this collection, so I went back to what I think what his most typical production, if not his greatest. The Crystals’ “Uptown” and “He’s A Rebel” might be better records by a little bit, but they don’t grab me at any moment like “Be My Baby” does with its introduction and then with Hal Blaine’s drum fills. So maybe this one – which went to No. 2 in the autumn of 1963 – makes the list more for Blaine’s work than for any other reason.

Continuing with uncertainty, I’m not sure I can relate what it is that qualifies Crabby Appleton’s “Go Back” for the Ultimate Jukebox. When it came blasting out of the radio speakers during the summer of 1970, it sounded about as tough as anything in the Top 40 at the time. (Glancing at the Billboard Top 40 for the last week of June 1970, I should acknowledge that Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” had some edge to it, as did CCR’s “Up Around the Bend.”) Add to that, I guess, that “Go Back” was a song I heard rarely on oldies radio over the years. That made it seem fresh when I came across Crabby Appleton’s first album during my early wanderings through music blogs. It wasn’t a huge hit: It went to No. 36. But it still sounds pretty good coming out of the speakers.

I still recall the first time I heard Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone.” It was spring break in 1975, and I was working with another student for St. Cloud State’s Learning Resources Services, wandering around campus and finding audiovisual equipment (as it was called in those days). We’d paint a black stripe over the large yellow letters that read “SCS LRS” and then, when the black paint dried, spray smaller white letters that read “SCS LRS.” My dad said the director of Learning Resources had never liked the yellow paint. Anyway, on one of those nine or so days, my co-painter and I grabbed some fast food and then went to his apartment for lunch. While we chowed, he dropped an LP on the stereo and cued up “She’s Gone.” I long ago forgot the guy’s name, which is too bad, because I still love the record and I’d like to say thanks. A single edit went to No. 60 in 1974 and then, on re-release, went to No. 7 in 1976. The only YouTube video I found of the album version when I originally created this post used the song behind, for some reason, visuals of Pam Grier in her roles as, evidently, Foxy Brown, Jackie Brown and Sheba. But a newer, more rational video now allows me to present “She’s Gone” in a form I prefer.

The story is that Stevie Wonder stopped by for a visit one day when Rufus was in the studio. While more or less messing around, he wrote “Tell Me Something Good” on the spot and handed it over to the group, whose lead singer, Chaka Khan, did a hell of a job on the record. It’s a slinky, snaky, sexy record that provides a public service along the way: If you’re not twitching or at least moving a little bit as the record plays, get yourself to a doctor because you might be dead. The record, Rufus’ first hit, went to No. 3 during the summer of 1974.

I’ve said something like this before, but one of the worst things that can happen to any performer or act is to be tagged the next something. During the 1960s and 1970s, the bargain record bins were filled with LPs by folks who had been dubbed the new Beatles, the new Dylan, the new Baez, the new Cream and on and on. Very few performers or groups, it seems to me, can recover from that kind of promotional linkage. When Steve Forbert showed up in 1978 with his debut album, Alive on Arrival, some called him the new Dylan. He soldiered on, and although he never came close to living up to the weight of that tag – who could? – he’s put together a decent career that continues to this day. (He released his thirteenth studio album, The Place and the Time just about a year ago.)  He’s reached the Top 40 only once, in 1979, when the jaunty “Romeo’s Tune” went to No. 11. Why is it here? Partly because, as I’ve also said before, I’m a sucker for a descending bass line but also because – beyond that – I think it’s a great record.

(Edited slightly on January 24, 2014.)