Posts Tagged ‘Searchers’

What Was At No. 81?

August 1, 2013

It’s August 1, but I’m not going to go to Wikipedia to find out what happened on August 1 through the years. It’s not that I’m not interested; it’s just that I’ll likely not find the day owning a pairing of events as nifty as the First Defenestration of Prague and the birthday of Edd “Kookie” Byrnes that showed up Tuesday.

So we going to play with the numbers as we often do. We’ll turn 8/1 into No. 81 and see what we find in six editions of the Billboard Hot 100. Just for grins, we’ll start in an appropriate year that I don’t often visit – 1981 – and go back four years at a time from there. We’ll also note which records were No. 1 at the time.

And as we land on August 1, 1981, we run into a record I don’t know. I evidently did not hear “Summer ’81 Medley” during that season of newspaper work. The medley is a reasonably good rendition of (by my count) nine Beach Boys tunes credited to the Cantina Band. The record was in its second week on the chart; it would last one more week and go no higher. Though it doesn’t say so on the record label in the video, Lou Christie joined in, and in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, the record is credited twice, to Lou Christie and to Meco recording as the Cantina Band. (That moniker is a reference to Meco’s No. 1 hit from 1977, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band,” the first of eleven records that Domenico Monardo and his friends put on the chart). As for Christie, “Summer ’81 Medley” was the last of eighteen records that he placed in or near the Hot 100 between January 1963 and August 1981. During that same week, sitting at No. 1 for the first of two weeks was Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl.”

Natalie Cole holds down the No. 81 spot as we move back to the first week of August in 1977. “Party Lights” boogies nicely but it didn’t do much more than that and it didn’t get much attention, moving up the chart only two more spots during its four-week stay in the Hot 100. (It went to No. 9 on the R&B chart.) Cole was, of course, a reliable chart presence for a decent length of time, notching twenty-two records in or near the Hot 100 between 1975 and 1998. As Cole was heading for the party lights, the No. 1 record was the late Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” in its second of four weeks on top of the chart (and the first of three straight No. 1 records for the youngest of the Brothers Gibb).

The Eagles don’t often show up here – I’m not entirely sure why that is – but it’s nice when they do. As August began in 1973, “Tequila Sunrise” was making a relatively brief and undistinguished appearance in the Hot 100. Forty years ago this week, the record was at No. 81, retreating from its peak rank of No. 64 (No. 26 on the Adult Contemporary chart). That’s not nearly as high as I would have guessed, given the record’s iconic stature. The Eagles, of course, have been a chart presence for more than forty years, with twenty-four records in or near the Hot 100 between 1972 and 2007. As “Tequila Sunrise” was holding at No. 81, Maureen McGovern’s “The Morning After” was in the first week of its two-week stay at No. 1.

Heading back four more years, we find ourselves in 1969, and sitting at No. 81 during the first days of August was “Simple Song of Freedom” by the late Tim Hardin. The anti-war anthem brought folk singer Hardin his only singles chart presence in a career that lasted from the mid-1960s until his death from a drug overdose in 1980. He’s better known, certainly, as the writer of numerous folk classics, including “If I Were A Carpenter,” “Reason To Believe” and “Lady Came From Baltimore.” The No. 1 record during the first days of August 1969 was Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus).”

Our next stop is August 1965, and the No. 81 record during that month’s first week is another record I’m not sure I’ve heard before: “He’s Got No Love”by the Searchers. The eleventh of fourteen records the Liverpool group would place in or near the pop chart, “He’s Got No Love” sounds good to these ears almost fifty years on. The record was in its second week on the chart; it would last only one more, rising to No. 79 before falling off. The No. 1 record during the first week of August 1965 was one of the major earworms of its time, Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” (“Second verse, same as the first . . .”)

And in the first days of August 1961, twenty years back from where we started, the No. 81 spot in the Hot 100 belonged to Ronny Douglas, whose “Run, Run, Run” was in the second week of what would be a three-week visit to the chart. A decent enough record, it was the only appearance ever on the pop chart for New York singer-songwriter. Sitting at No. 1 during the first week of August 1961 was Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” in the fifth of seven weeks on top of the chart. (Lewis’ record spent ten weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

Chart Digging: Mid-October 1964

October 20, 2011

Having been distracted and interrupted last time out by the Everly Brothers’ “Gone, Gone, Gone” and the resulting covers, I went back this morning to the Billboard Hot 100 for October 17, 1964, forty-seven years ago last Monday.

A look at that week’s Top Ten is intriguing:

“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann
“Dancing In The Street” by Martha & The Vandellas
“Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison & The Candy Men
“We’ll Sing In The Sunshine” by Gale Garnett
“Last Kiss” by Frank Wilson & The Cavaliers
“Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand)” by the Shangri-Las
“A Summer Song” by Chad & Jeremy
“It Hurts To Be In Love” by Gene Pitney
“When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)” by the Beach Boys
“Let It Be Me” by Betty Everett & Jerry Butler

Boy, with the exception of Manfred Mann’s No. 1 record and the Chad & Jeremy tune, that Top Ten looks pretty much like the British Invasion had been thwarted at the Atlantic shore. (Gale Garnett was New Zealand-born but came to the U.S. before she was ten, and her record is pretty close to traditional pop or maybe even country; the recording academy called it folk and gave her a Grammy for it.) There are all sorts of sounds and styles in that Top Ten.

What I wondered was: Where were the Beatles when we got to mid-October? I found their cover of Carl Perkin’s “Matchbox” sitting at its peak of No. 17, and “Slow Down” was sitting at No. 39, on its way to No. 25. They hadn’t had a Top Ten record since “A Hard Day’s Night” topped the charts in August (although they’d had seven records in the Hot 100 during that time, four of them – including “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” – peaking in the Top 40.) This was, in fact, a minor lull, one that would end in five or so weeks, with Beatles releasing four Top Ten hits – “I Feel Fine,” “She’s A Woman,” “Eight Days A Week” and “Ticket To Ride” – between early December 1964 and late April 1965.

As to other Brit groups and performers, the highest I find is the Honeycombs, whose “Have I The Right” was sitting at No. 20 on its way to No. 5. In the rest of the Top 40, we find numerous British acts – the Nashville Teens, Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas, the Animals and others – so this is a chart that shows the transition created by the British Invasion underway but not complete, as I see it.

I should note that the Top Ten would be, for the most part, a good stretch of listening. I love “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and “Dancing In The Street,” and – with one exception – the rest of those ten are good, if not favorites. The exception? I dislike “Last Kiss” intensely.

As always, though, I did some digging for nuggets in the lower portions of that Hot 100 from forty-seven years ago, and found a few things worth some attention. Among them is another tune about bereavement: “Death of an Angel” by the Kingsmen. With its garage-rock rhythm and riffs, it almost seems to be a better fit for 1966 than 1964, but then, the Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie” always sounds like it belongs to a year later than 1963, when it went to No. 2. “Death of an Angel” didn’t do nearly as well as “Louie, Louie”, though. Forty-seven years ago this week, it was sitting at No. 53, on its way to a peak of No. 42. (The Kingsmen would have their second and last Top Ten hit in early 1965 with the novelty “Jolly Green Giant.”)

In October 1964, Columbia still hadn’t figured out what to do with Aretha Franklin. She’d had eleven records in or near the Hot 100, but only one of them had found its way into the Top 40, and not that far in at that: “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” had gone to No. 37 in the autumn of 1961. Columbia would eventually give up, and starting in 1967, Aretha would become a legend on Atlantic. But in the autumn of 1964, Columbia was still trying, and in mid-October, Aretha’s “Runnin’ Out Of Fools” was sitting at No.78, on its way to No. 57. (The record went to No. 30 on the R&B chart.) I don’t know how the studio version sounded, but when Aretha sang the song on the December 2, 1964, episode of Shindig!, there were hints of the Aretha to come:

Garnet Mimms is probably best known for recording the original version of “Cry Baby,” the Bert Berns/Jerry Ragovoy song that Janis Joplin covered on 1971’s posthumously released Pearl. Mimms’ 1963 version – credited to Garnet Mimms & The Enchanters (although Joel Whitburn notes that the backing singers were actually the Sweet Inspirations) – went to No. 4 on the pop chart and spent three weeks atop the R&B chart. After that, two late 1963 records with the Enchanters reached the lower half of the Top 40, another peaked at No. 78, and two 1964 solo releases stalled short of the Top 40. So in mid-October 1964, Mimms was still seeking another Top Ten hit, and his “Look Away” was sitting at No. 89. The record didn’t do all that well – peaking at No. 73 – but what interests me is that the song tells pretty much the same tale as did Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By” when it went to No. 6 in the spring of 1964.

The records presented here when I do my chart digging are generally lesser-known titles (sometimes deservedly so) or by lesser-known performers (ditto). But last evening, the RealPlayer settled on Jackie DeShannon’s original version of “When You Walk In The Room,” and when I saw the Searchers’ cover listed at No. 97 in the October 17, 1964, Hot 100, I knew that I had to offer it here. The Liverpool group’s defining hit, “Needles and Pins,” had gone to No. 13 in the spring of 1964, and four more singles reached the Hot 100 by the end of the summer, with two of those reaching the Top 40. “When You Walk In The Room” would peak at No. 35, and why it didn’t go higher is a mystery to me (as is the fact that DeShannon’s original only got to No. 99 in January of 1964). Both versions are great records.

I mentioned the Ventures in my last post, noting that the group placed “twenty-five records in or near the Hot 100, including Top Ten hits in 1960 and 1964 with two versions of ‘Walk – Don’t Run’ and then in 1969 with ‘Hawaii Five-O’.” I also noted that I like pretty much anything the Ventures did, and that includes the cover of “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” that was bubbling under the Hot 100 at No. 109 when mid-October rolled around in 1964. The record would go to No. 35 and would be the group’s last Top 40 hit until “Hawaii Five-O” rolled around in 1969. (It’s interesting to note that the flip side of “Slaughter” also got a little airplay, bubbling under at No. 135: “Rap City” was based on Johannes Brahms’ familiar “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5.”)

I know next-to-nothing about the Chartbusters. Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles tells me that they were a garage-rock band from Washington, D.C., and that earlier in 1964, they’d had “She’s The One” go to No. 33. (Based on my listening this morning, I’d never heard the record before.) They were back on the chart in mid-October, when “Why (Doncha Be My Girl)” was bubbling under at No. 122. A decent piece of garage rock, the record would get to No. 92. The Chartbusters had one more record of note: A live version of “New Orleans” would bubble under for one week at No. 134 during the summer of 1965.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1964

May 10, 2011

Originally posted September 12, 2007

As 1964 dawned, we were in a new world, one that we weren’t sure we liked very much. It had been just more than a month since President Kennedy was killed, and we were still getting used to seeing the somewhat stern visage of Lyndon Johnson, the new president, in places like the post office and other federal buildings. There had been a month of mourning for John Kennedy, a period that ended just before Christmas. I recall a sense of sadness, of course, but along with that, I recall among the grownups in my life what seemed to be a wariness, an uneasiness at what might come next, considering that something so unthinkable had already happened.

So 1964 felt like an alien land. In my fifth-grade classroom, we had the morning Minneapolis Tribune delivered, and I – already being a news junkie – tried to get into the classroom early enough each day to take a look at it. (At home, we subscribed to the Minneapolis Star, the evening paper from the same company that, sadly, was merged into the morning paper about twenty-five years ago.) One morning, the front page of the Trib showed a picture of a dignified woman, and the headline told me that she – Senator Margaret Chase Smith from Maine – had announced her intention of running for president. When the other kids came into the room, the headline caused such a commotion that the front page of the newspaper was ripped into several pieces. Unhappy with us, Mr. Lydeen stood by his desk at the back of the room and held the pieces of the paper up, then dropped the entire newspaper into the wastebasket. If it happened again, he said, the room would quit getting the paper.

Other things in the news in 1964 included the New York World’s Fair, which took place at a location with the giggle-inducing name of Flushing Meadows. (My pals and I were ten, okay?) Among the exhibits I recall wanting to see were the audioanimatronic dinosaurs – created by the Disney organization – in, I think, the Ford display, and the Pietà, the Michelangelo sculpture carefully shipped across the Atlantic from Vatican City for its own pavilion at the fair. (I finally saw the dinosaurs – or their electronic descendants – during a 1980s trip to Disneyland and was not impressed; on the other hand, when I saw the Pietà in its home in St. Peter’s Basilica, I was overwhelmed.)

The over-riding sense of the New York World’s Fair from a distance, as I recall, was the shining tomorrow that it promised to all the world, a promise that has not been well kept. We do have technological marvels aplenty in our portion of the world. But the future we have found is one that glitters far less than the one we were told would arrive. Forget about flying cars and elevated monorail service and automated kitchens. There are still too many people in the world – the United Nations says the total is more than a billion, according to Wikipedia – who lack safe drinking water.

It was in 1964 when President Johnson started what he called the War on Poverty, and it was that summer when three civil rights workers – Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – were killed in Mississippi while doing field work for the Congress of Racial Equality. The first major protests against the Vietnam War took place in New York and San Francisco in May. I remember being baffled by all of it, not realizing that the world was beginning to baffle the grownups around me as well.

And then there was the music, which was going through changes of its own. As readers likely know, the Beatles came to the U.S. for the first time in February of that year, sparking what has come to be called the British Invasion. In April, the Beatles held the top five spots on Billboard’s Top 40 chart, a feat never seen before or since. (The songs were, in order, “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”) And by the end of the year, British acts dominated American pop charts.

There was still some fine music being recorded and performed here, of course, but it became increasingly difficult for it to dent the charts. For many blues and R&B performers, that increasing difficulty was simply a continuation of a trend that had started in the 1950s (although the success of acts on Motown and Stax and related labels was growing). So 1964 was a year of transition in the music world as well as in the world in general.

Here, then, is a Baker’s Dozen from that year:

“Smokestack Lightning” by Manfred Mann from The Manfred Mann Album

“Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” by Jimmy Witherspoon from Blue Spoon

“Spanish Harlem Incident” by Bob Dylan from Another Side of Bob Dylan

“When You Walk In The Room” by the Searchers, Kapp single 618

“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” by the Yardbirds, Columbia single DB 7391 (UK)

“I Live the Life I Love” by John Hammond from Big City Blues

“(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up” by the Ronettes, Philles single 120

“Sweet Home Chicago” by David “Honeyboy” Edwards, unreleased session

“Hold Me Tight” by the Treasures, Shirley single 500

“Slow Down” by the Beatles, Capitol single 5255

“The Girls On The Beach” by the Beach Boys from All Summer Long

“Airmobile” by Tim Hardin from Columbia sessions, unreleased.

“Maybelline” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial single 66056

A few notes on some of the songs:

“Smokestack Lightning,” from the same album that included the marvelous “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” is not as nifty as one would like. Manfred Mann’s band was capable of doing some fine blues work, and did so elsewhere on the album. But “Smokestack Lightning” is too obviously based on Howlin’ Wolf’s extraordinary performance from 1956.

The album Another Side of Bob Dylan found Dylan in transition, shifting in his subject matter from public to personal concerns but still presenting the material as folk songs. The songs on the record – “Spanish Harlem Incident” in particular – would not sound out of place had they been recorded as rock songs and placed with the material Dylan would release in the next year on Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited.

The Honeyboy Edwards session was produced, I believe, by Pete Welding and leased to Sun Records, which chose not to release it. Edwards’ performance of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” is solid but not particularly revelatory. It becomes more interesting when one realizes that Edwards, born in 1915 and still alive today, is likely the only surviving person who performed with Johnson and also likely the only living person who was present that night at the Three Forks Store when Johnson was poisoned.

The Treasures were two Phil Spector associates, Vinnie Poncina and Peter Andreoli. After visiting England in 1963 and sharing a plane with the Beatles in February 1964 – according to All-Music Guide – Spector decided to cover one of the Fab Four’s songs. He chose “Hold Me Tight,” and came up with this wonderful mixture of British pop, doo-wop and the Wall of Sound.

The other Phil Spector production here, the Ronettes’ “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up,” was the third Ronettes single to hit the Top 40, reaching No. 39 in May, just three months after the Beatles and the other Brits began to make chart life difficult for American pop artists. The Ronettes would have two more records on the charts in 1964 – reaching No. 34 with “Do I Love You?” and No. 23 with “Walking In The Rain” – but nothing in the Top 40 after that.

Another One Lost In The Stacks

January 13, 2011

One evening during my late-1980s sojourn in North Dakota, my pal George and I got out our guitars. Casting about for something we both knew, we decided on Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” We found a key and wrangled a decent tempo into an introduction, and we began to sing.

I began to sing:

Clouds so swift and rain fallin’ in.
Gonna see a movie called Gunga Din.
Pack up your money, put up your tent in the wind.
You ain’t goin’ nowhere.

At the same time, George was singing:

Clouds so swift.
Rain won’t lift.
Gate won’t close.
Railings froze.
Get your mind off wintertime.
You ain’t goin’ nowhere.

We stopped, confused. And we compared notes. The version of the song he knew came from two sources: The Basement Tapes, the 1967-era recordings made by Dylan and The Band in upstate New York (released in part in 1975), and the Byrds’ acclaimed 1968 country rock album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

“Where’d you find yours?” he asked me.

The lyrics I was singing, I told him, came from a version Dylan did with Happy Traum, released on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Volume II, a 1971 release.

I went to the record shelf and pulled down the greatest hits album, which I’d had since 1972, and The Basement Tapes, which I’d had only a brief time (and obviously hadn’t internalized yet), and headed to the stereo. We spent half an hour listening to the two versions of that very good Dylan song, sorting through the lyrical changes.

And then we turned off the stereo, picked up our guitars and dove into “She Belongs To Me,” since we knew the same version of that one.

The scene in my living room came back to me this week as I made my way through two books that are treasure chests for fans of Bob Dylan: Revolution in the Air: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1957-1973 and Still On The Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006. The books by Clinton Heylin came out in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and, taken as a whole, list – as chronologically as possible – the six hundred songs known to have been written by the Bard of Hibbing through 2006.

For each song, Heylin notes where sets of published lyrics can be found, lists the known sessions at which Dylan recorded the song, catalogs the albums or singles on which the results of those sessions were released, and finally presents the date and place of the first-known public performance of each song.

Following those headers, Heylin goes into vast detail – where available – about each song, from the writing and recording to a brief public performance history. The project is amazing in its scope, but to me, some of the most interesting portions of those entries are the times when Heylin tracks the multiple changes in song structure and lyrics before the recording of a song is ever finished.

We know that Dylan has many times revised songs already recorded: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is one example; a better one might be “Tangled Up In Blue” which has gone through multiple metamorphoses since its first appearance in 1975 on Blood on the Tracks. But the changes in those two cases (and in many others) came after those songs were already out and about.

Changes during the creative process are much more difficult to track, I would think. But Heylin digs deeply into the available copyright lyric sheets, demo tapes and session tapes to track the development of Dylan’s songs, finding many times that melodies, arrangements and lyrics would go through change after change, version following version. And not always, Heylin isn’t afraid to say, for the better. On occasion Heylin calls out Dylan for lessening the quality and power of songs by the alterations; similarly, he’ll note that Dylan’s tendency to revise can result in a better work.

One example of the former is Heylin’s rough assessment of “Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love),” a track released on 1985’s Empire Burlesque that began life during the sessions for Infidels in 1983 as “Someone’s Got A Hold Of My Heart” (a version of which showed up on one of the Bootleg Series CD sets). In assessing the 1985 version, Heylin calls the added chorus “corny,” the backup singers “annoying” and the production “overbaked.” Whether one agrees with that specific assessment or not – and I’m still pondering it – Heylin’s books, stuffed as they are with details about the evolution of Dylan’s work and of his creative process through the years, are fine reading.

I also find myself intrigued by the entries about songs that Dylan has written and then utterly ignored for his own recordings, leaving them to either wither entirely or be picked up for cover versions by other performers. There are enough of those nuggets listed in the two books that I’m tempted to go back through the two volumes and make a list of cover versions I need to find.

One such version was already on my shelves: Song No. 352 in the chronology is a tune titled “Coming From The Heart (The Road Is Long),” written by Dylan and back-up singer Helena Springs during a tour of Australia and the Far East in early 1978.

Heylin writes: “On the evidence of the . . . audition-tape recorded on their return to L.A. in early April, Dylan may have been considering cutting the song for Street-Legal, where it could well have become as big a radio hit as ‘Baby Stop Crying.’ [As Heylin notes elsewhere, that track was a Top Five hit in Europe.] Otherwise, why attempt a full-band arrangement a mere fortnight before they began recording said album?”

But the song didn’t make it on the album and in fact, Dylan has never recorded it. And Heylin notes that Dylan performed the song just once in concert – an October 31, 1978, performance at Minnesota’s St. Paul Civic Center, which can be heard here – and then handed the song off for cover versions.

Heylin says, “And so this mighty fine song was demoted to demo-tape status, from where it was temporarily rescued by the Searchers, making their first album in many a moon. Their (rather rare) eponymous 1979 LP features the entire song given the full pop-harmony monty it assuredly deserved.”

I read that and thought: I think I have that album, the Searchers’ 1979 record. And in fact, it sits on my shelves, having been played once and then filed. I have to admit that I didn’t notice Dylan’s name on the label; had there been writing credits on the jacket or the inner sleeve, I likely would have noticed his name among them. The song – listed simply as “Coming From The Heart” – evidently made little impression on me when I got the album during the late 1990s, but that happens.

So I went and took another listen to it this week. It’s a good song; Heylin is right about that. But I find the production to be a little thin-sounding. Nevertheless, here it is:

The Searchers – “Coming From The Heart” [1979]