Posts Tagged ‘Sandpipers’

Saturday Single No. 420

November 22, 2014

It’s a lazy morning here. I’m usually an early riser, even on Saturdays (the cats frequently help out with that), but this morning, after ushering two felines downstairs about six o’clock – a time that’s close to their normal breakfast hour – I went back upstairs, pulling the door to the stairs shut behind me.

The alarm clock was set to rouse me about ninety minutes later, but I turned it off, deciding that the tasks on today’s list could be delayed until the afternoon, if not later. And as I drifted back to sleep, I briefly thought of a Saturday song. It was still in my head when I woke about 9:30, so after tending to the cats and brewing some coffee, I looked to see if I’d ever written about it.

I haven’t, really. I’ve mentioned it a few times in passing, and I shared it once in a Baker’s Dozen (back in the old mp3 days) without writing anything about it. The record was the last of three Top 40 singles for the Sandpipers, a soft-pop vocal trio from the late 1960s and early 1970s whose work I tend to like a lot. (Given my affection for easy listening tunes from that era, that should not be surprising.) It entered the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1969 and hung around the bottom of the chart for a while. Then it dropped out of the chart for eight weeks before coming back and eventually peaking in June 1970 at No. 17 on the pop chart and at No. 8 on the magazine’s adult contemporary chart. (Its renaissance, one might guess, was a result of the song’s being nominated for an Academy Award for its presence in the movie The Sterile Cuckoo.)

In the days to come, Odd and Pop and I might dig into the rest of the Sandpipers’ catalog, or we might look at covers of the tune that eased its sleepy way into my head this morning. Today, however, all we need is “Come Saturday Morning” by the Sandpipers for our Saturday Single.

A Baker’s Dozen Of A&M Singles

June 27, 2011

Originally posted May 7, 2008

I remember being aware of three record labels when I was a young listener, between the ages of ten and thirteen. Not record labels as in business concerns but as in the designs on the paper at the center of the record, be it an LP or a 45.

There was the yellow and orange yin/yang swirl at the center of the one 45 I claimed ownership of (half ownership, actually, with my sister): the Beatles “I Want To Hold Your Hand/I Saw Her Standing There.” Other records to come would have that swirl, but that 45 in February 1964 was the first. (That swirl popped up the other day when I was wandering through the CD’s: Rhino copied it lovingly for its 1990 issue of The Rutles.)

Then there was the very old logo that RCA Victor used: the dog Nipper leaning over the Victrola, listening to “His Master’s Voice.” (There truly was a Nipper who listened to the gramophone; some of his story is told here.) The label RCA used was a little cluttered: Nipper and his Victrola and the LP’s title were above the spindle hole with data to either side of the hole and track listings and more data below. That was the label on my copy of Al Hirt’s Honey In The Horn, which came to me for my eleventh birthday.

And finally, the third of the labels I was aware of early on was on A&M records, the company started by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss. Looking today at the design on the first A&M record I owned – Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass – I’m impressed by its clean look: the tan background, the very simple A&M logo. (The example shown here is from another album, obviously. As I don’t have a scanner, I find graphics where I can on the ’Net; this one came from BSN Publications, a treasure trove of LP discographies and history, including the histories of many label designs.)*

I don’t know that I had a favorite at the time, but it was during this period – the years from eleven to thirteen – that I began to play around with designing logos for imaginary sports teams, and in doing so, I began to look at typography and design. (Somewhere in a box in the closet is a folder full of logos that came from my pen.) And I recall looking at the A&M label one day and pondering its design as the sounds of Herb and the boys came from the stereo. I’m sure I came to no conclusions, except perhaps the one that might matter most of all: A nice label design is good, but it’s even better when it comes with good music.

And over the years A&M did pretty well with that, as today’s Baker’s Dozen shows.

A Baker’s Dozen of A&M Singles
“This Guy’s In Love With You” by Herb Alpert, A&M 929, 1968

“I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite” by Boyce & Hart, A&M 893, 1968

“You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker, A&M 1641, 1974

“Is She Really Going Out With Him” by Joe Jackson, A&M 2132, 1979

“Superstar” by the Carpenters, A&M 1289, 1971

“Take The Long Way Home” by Supertramp, A&M 2193, 1979

“Come Saturday Morning” by the Sandpipers, A&M 1134, 1967

“The Captain Of Her Heart” by Double, A&M 2838, 1986

“Homburg,” by Procol Harum, A&M 885, 1968

“Hold On Loosely” by 38 Special, A&M 2316, 1981

“Memphis In The Meantime” by John Hiatt, A&M 2989, 1987

“Don’t You Want Me Baby” by Human League, A&M 2397, 1982

“Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson, A&M 1949, 1977

A few notes:

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were better known as a song-writing team than as performers, although “I Wonder . . .” went to No. 8 in early 1968 and was the second of three Top 40 hits for the duo. The LP, titled after the single, seems to be a collector’s item, at least in some circles. I had a copy of it under my arm at Cheapo’s one day in the 1990s, and an eccentric collector followed me around the store for a few moments, asking to look at the record and gushing, when I did, “Do you know how rare this is? What a prize this is?” He handed it back, and I said, “I do now.”

“You Are So Beautiful” is not my favorite among Joe Cocker’s singles on A&M. I would probably opt for “Cry Me A River,” taken from the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour. But “You Are So Beautiful” is what popped up in a random run of A&M singles. And it did pretty well, reaching No. 5 in the early months of 1975. It was Cocker’s eighth Top 40 single in a little more than five years; it would be his last until he hit No. 1 seven years later with his duet with Jennifer Warnes: “Up Where We Belong.”

I always thought of Joe Jackson as a weird guy who could never figure out what kind of songs he wanted to sing. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that his constant changes were indicative of an inventive mind rather than a lost musician. The new wave textures of “Is She Really Going Out With Him” didn’t grab me much at the time, but then, I was beginning to lose interest in most pop music in 1979. It’s pretty clear to me now that all of Jackson’s oeuvre has had a longer shelf life than much of the stuff that surrounded him at the time.

It was incredibly unhip to like the Carpenters when they came on the scene in the early 1970s. With their squeaky clean image and their music sitting on the softest part possible of the pop-rock sofa, they seemed like what our parents would want us to listen to. But Richard Carpenter was a pretty decent arranger: Some of his work is a bit busy and some a little too gooey today, but most of it now sounds quite good. And Karen Carpenter – poor girl – had a marvel of a voice. I don’t think that “Superstar” is her best performance – I’d probably go with “Goodbye To Love” instead – but she does find the lonely heart of the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett song here.

On those nights when cares and worries keep you up past midnight with the radio playing softly underneath your dismay, the last thing you need to hear filtering from the speakers is Double’s great record, “The Captain Of Her Heart.” The only hit ever for the Swiss duo of Felix Haug and Kurt Maloo (No. 16), the song is guaranteed to increase the intensity of those cares and worries, especially if they’re of the romantic kind. (During the years when I had those kinds of nighttime cares and worries, I generally endured them in silence, just to avoid this sort of song.)

“Hold On Loosely” was 38 Special’s first Top 40 hit, coming before the group dropped the decimal point from its name. It’s a song I wasn’t all that familiar with until the Twin Cities oldies station I listen to shifted its format about a year and a half ago, adding hits and album tracks from the Eighties and trimming the Fifties and Sixties playlists. Angry calls and emails, along with declining ratings, spurred the station to revert to its earlier format not long ago. But “Hold On Loosely” stays in my RealPlayer because the Texas Gal likes it.

It’s entirely possible that some of these mp3s are album versions rather than single edits. If so, I apologize. As always, bit rates will vary.

*At this time, while assembling the archive of posts, I do have a scanner, but several attempts to scan labels on LPs have failed, so I pulled a scan I found online although not, this time, at Both Sides NowNote added June 27, 2011.

Chart Digging: Late October 1966

October 28, 2010

My ongoing tussle with a nasty sinus infection – eight weeks and counting with two different antibiotics – reminded me today of a couple of school years when I spent a fair amount of time home ill: During eighth grade, my tonsils kept telling the world that they were no longer fit company for me, burdening me with a series of sore throats that culminated in the sorest throat of all after they were removed. And during my junior year, I spent a fair number of days home complaining of ailments that – looking back honestly – were likely caused by nothing more than a desire to stay home from school.

Whatever the cause, radio was one of the comforts during sick days at home. In the earlier of the two academic years mentioned here, I’d bring our big brown Zenith up from the kitchen and – unhip creature that I was – leave it tuned to WCCO in Minneapolis. I’d listen to the morning shows – Boone & Erickson, Howard Viken – and turn the radio off in annoyance when Arthur Godfrey’s national show came on the air. I’d read in silence for an hour and then turn the radio back on when Godfrey was gone.

By the time of my junior year, there was no need to haul the radio upstairs. I had Grandpa’s old RCA sitting on my nightstand, but the only times it was tuned to WCCO were for Vikings football and North Stars hockey. (Though I followed the Minnesota Twins baseball team, I rarely listened to their games on the radio.) The rest of the time, the RCA was tuned to Top 40: KDWB in the Twin Cities during the day and either WJON right across the railroad tracks or WLS in Chicago during the evening.

I know pretty well what I would have heard had I spent a day home in late October 1969, my junior year. But I wondered what would have been on the menu had my increasingly unreliable tonsils acted up during the last week of October 1966. So I went to look.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the last week of October 1966:

“96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians
“Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
“Hooray for Hazel” by Tommy Roe
“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow” by the Rolling Stones
“See See Rider” by Eric Burdon & The Animals

Even though I didn’t truly listen to pop music at the time, I remember all of these from those days, which is a sad thing in the cases of “Dandy” and “Hooray for Hazel,” two of my least-favorite songs from the time. All of the rest are pretty good, with a few deserving special mention: “96 Tears” was inescapable and a great record, as were the Four Tops’ record and “Walk Away Renee.” The Rolling Stones record was likely the loudest thing that group ever produced, as I was reminded a few years ago when I ripped my near-mint 45 to an mp3.

And, as always, there were some gems and some interesting records once one went beyond the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s “Mas Que Nada” was sitting at No. 47, up two spots from a week earlier. The group would eventually have three Top 40 hits in 1968, with two them – “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill” – making the Top Ten, and Mendes would reach the Top 40 in 1983 and 1984 under his own name. “Mas Que Nada” would spend another week at No. 47, then a week at No. 48 before falling out of the Hot 100.

The Sandpipers had reached the Top Ten earlier in the year with “Guantanamera,” which had peaked at No. 9, and in October, they reached the Top 40 again with another Latin-tinged record, a cover of the garage rock warhorse “Louie Louie” translated into Spanish. At first listen a tribute to cognitive dissonance, the record was at No. 59 during the last week of October and would peak at No. 30 during the last week of November.

A few slots lower, we find the Olympics, an R&B group from Compton, California, which reached the Top Ten in 1958 with “Western Movies” and the Top 40 in 1963 with “The Bounce.” (Recording as the Marathons in 1961, the same performers charted at No. 20 with “Peanut Butter” and its immortal command: “Scarf now!”) In October 1966, the group was at No. 63 with “Baby, Do The Philly Dog,” a lively workout that I’ve seen called a Northern Soul classic. “Baby, Do The Philly Dog” fell to No. 70 the next week and then dropped out of sight.

The Arbors were a vocal quartet from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who would reach the Top 40 in 1969, when their cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter” would go to No. 20. In late October 1966, the group’s second single (the first went nowhere, says Wikipedia) was in the lower portions of the Hot 100 and moving up slowly. “A Symphony For Susan” would eventually peak at No. 51 during the last week of November and the first week of December, but during the last week of October, the record – a traditional vocal workout – was sitting at No. 80.

By the time October 1966 rolled around, the Ronettes, backed by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, had registered seven hits in the Hot 100, with five of them reaching the Top 40 in 1963 and 1964. From what I can tell – and according to Wikipedia – the last week of October 1966 marked the last appearance of the Ronettes in the Billboard Hot 100: “I Can Hear Music” was at No. 100 and would be there for exactly one week. (It had been in the Bubbling Under section at No. 120 a week earlier; it would fall back to Bubbling Under at No. 113 during the first week of November and then disappear from the chart entirely.)

Finally, sitting in the Bubbling Under section, we find the original version of “Wedding Bell Blues,” which would be a No. 1 single for the 5th Dimension in 1969. Songwriter Laura Nyro’s version, however, would not make the Hot 100. In the last week of October 1966, Nyro’s version of “Wedding Bell Blues” was at No. 127 and in its second week of Bubbling Under. The record would rise to No. 107, where it would spend the last two weeks of November before falling off the chart entirely.

Maybe tomorrow, we’ll take apart a cover version and see how it ticks. If not, we’ll be here Saturday.