Posts Tagged ‘Tyrone Davis’

Saturday Single No. 237

May 7, 2011

Sometime during this last winter – I think it was in February – the Texas Gal and I joined my pal Dan and his wife along with his two brothers and their wives for dinner and a performance at the Paramount Theater in downtown St. Cloud.

The attraction was an evening of the music of the Eagles, performed by the Fabulous Armadillos, a pretty well-known area tribute band, and a group called the Collective Unconscious. It was a very fun evening; the performances were pretty well spot-on, and it was good to spend some time with Dan and the rest of his family. (I’d known one of his brothers since we shared some classes at St. Cloud State, but it had been years since we’d had a chance to talk to each other.)

Our seats were scattered throughout the restored theater’s main floor, and during the intermission, Dan made his way over to where the Texas Gal and I sat. He plopped into the seat next to me, and after a few minutes of talking about the show, we began talking about how our musical interests had formed. And he said something interesting: “I think that every music fan has a about a five- or six-year period – call it a sweet spot – and the music from those years influences that person’s listening for the rest of his life.”

That made sense. His sweet spot, if I recall correctly, ran from 1972 to 1977. He’s a couple years younger than I am, and those years cover the end of his junior year of high school through a couple years of college. Mine, I told him, covers nearly the same period of my life, starting the summer before my junior year in 1969 and running through 1974.

A quick look at the distribution of records in the Ultimate Jukebox project verifies that: Of the 228 records in that list, 108 come from 1969-1974. And along with being an interesting idea, the concept of a sweet spot – which I think I’ve mentioned a time or two along the way – provides another way to sort information.

So the thought this morning is to take a look briefly at the Billboard Hot 100 charts released in the first week of May during the years I consider my sweet spot: 1969 through1974. And because today is May 7 – 5/7 – I’m going to look at the No. 1 tunes and then at the tunes that were at No. 57 during those weeks. Maybe we’ll find some previously un-noticed gems.

In 1969, the first Billboard Hot 100 of the month was dated May 3. Topping the chart for the fourth week was “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)” by the 5th Dimension. The most successful of the group’s thirty-one records in or bubbling under the Hot 100, it would stay in the No. 1 spot for two more weeks. Fifty-six places lower on the chart sat Tyrone Davis with “Is It Something You’ve Got,” his second hit record (after 1968’s “Can I Change My Mind”). “Is It Something You’ve Got” was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 34. Davis eventually placed twenty records in or near the Hot 100.

During the first week of May in 1970 – in the Hot 100 dated May 2 – the No. 1 record is “ABC” by the Jackson 5. It was in its second week at the top of the chart, and was the second of four No. 1 hits and the second of thirty-one total records in the Hot 100 for the group from Gary, Indiana. At No. 57 that week, we find some country: “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife,” by Marty Robbins. One of thirty-five records by Robbins to make the Hot 100 or bubble under it, the single was retreating from its peak at No. 42. (Robbins was far more prolific on the country charts, of course: He put a total of eighty-three records into the country Top 40 between 1952 and 1983.)

As I was opening the file of the Hot 100 for the first week in May 1971, I made a guess as to the No. 1 record. And I was right: It was “Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night. By the time the chart dated May 1 was released, the Hoyt Axton tune had been at No. 1 for four weeks and had another two weeks left in the top spot. It was the second of three No. 1 hits for Three Dog Night and the tenth of the group’s eventual twenty-two singles in or bubbling under the Hot 100. And at No. 57, we find a performer whose name doesn’t often pop up in thought or conversation any more: Perry Como, with “I Think Of You.” The record, which marked the fiftieth time that Como had either reached the Hot 100 or bubbled under it, had peaked at No. 53 a week earlier and was on its way down the chart. Como would end up with fifty-three records in the Hot 100 or the Bubbling Under section.

By 1972, as I’ve written before, I was listening less to Top 40 and more to albums. But as long as there were radios in cars and jukeboxes in restaurants and songs used in movies, the Top 40 would remain familiar. Sitting at No. 1 in the Hot 100 dated May 6 was in fact a song I’d first heard in the movie Play Misty For Me: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack was in the No. 1 slot for the fourth week with two weeks to go. Deeper in the Hot 100, at No. 57, was a double-sided single that had already been in the chart for eight weeks and would eventually climb to No. 2: Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song.” Flack would end up with twenty-one records in or near the Hot 100 – the last in 1980 – and Preston would score nineteen such records, the last in 1981.

“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” was in third week at No. 1 when the Billboard Hot 100 dated May 5, 1973 was released. Credited to Dawn, the record would stay at No. 1 for another week and provide Tony Orlando and the rest of the group their second No. 1 hit (“Knock Three Times” topped the chart in 1971). Counting Orlando’s pre-1970 work, he and Dawn reached the Hot 100 twenty-five times between 1961 and 1979, with four early singles perching in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart. At the same time as people were thinking about tying ribbons to trees, the Staple Singers were holding down the No. 57 slot on the chart with “Oh La De Da,” a live performance from the previous summer’s Wattstax concert in Los Angeles. The single was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 33. The Staples would end up with fifteen singles in the Hot 100 and one more that bubbled under between 1967 and 1984.

The first week of May in 1974 is the last one we’ll take a double-barreled look at this morning. Sitting in the top spot in the chart dated May 4, 1974, was “The Loco-Motion,” Grand Funk’s cover of Little Eva’s 1962 hit. It was Grand Funk’s second No. 1 hit (“We’re An American Band,” 1973), and was one of nineteen records the band put into the Hot 100 (with an additional record bubbling under) between 1969 and 1981. At No. 57 that week was ‘Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” by Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods,” in the third week of its climb to No. 2. It was the second of five eventual Hot 100 hits between 1972 and 1975 for the group from Cincinnati, Ohio.

So our early May adventures through the years of my sweet spot bring us six very familiar No. 1 records and six No. 57 records that range from familiar to obscure. And sifting through the less well-known records, there is one gem: Tyrone Davis’ “Is It Something You’ve Got” from 1969. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Case Of Senioritis

November 19, 2010

As the third week in November of 1970 spooled out, I was right back where I had been during the last two Novembers – going to classes and then hanging around wrestling practice as a manager at St. Cloud Tech High School. My main duty as wrestling manager was to maintain the scorebook and the statistics, which meant that during matches, I sat at the table at the front of the gym with the scoreboard operator.

In addition, I dispensed aspirin for minor bruises and contusions, wrapped vulnerable thumbs and ankles with an armor of athletic tape, treated raw spots – we called them “strawberries” – on arms and legs with a viciously painful spray called Nitro-Tan, and spent a lot of time sitting and doing nothing. And doing nothing got boring, as did watching wrestling practice. So I got in the habit of bringing a book to practice and sitting on the small gymnastics mat on the side of the wrestling gym, reading science fiction and astronomy. I was a little bit bored with wrestling, and that season marked the seventh out of eight sports seasons in my high school life that I’d spent as a manager for an athletic team. I was getting tired of the locker room and was wondering if I had any options anywhere else.

I’d not focused entirely on managing during high school. I’d played one year in Concert Band, and I was in my second year in Concert Choir and my third year in the orchestra. And as the holidays approached, I would be a member of the ten-voice Carolers, who dressed in something approaching Victorian costumes and performed frequently during December around the St. Cloud area. I’d miss a few wrestling practices for that, which I’d cleared with the coach, but I wouldn’t miss a match.

Still, I was a little unsettled, anxious to try something new. I was being adventurous in my social life, seeing a number of sophomore girls, although the young lady I preferred was directing her attentions elsewhere. (I told the story here and here.) But I wanted something new in the rest of my life, and I was looking.

It didn’t go unnoticed. The wrestling coach – whom we called “Kiff” and who lived less than a block away from us on Kilian Boulevard – told me the following spring, “I could see your attention wandering.” I began to apologize, but he waved it off. “It’s pretty normal for seniors. You’d been there two years and you begin to wonder what else there is to do. Most kids, when that happens, quit what they were doing and go off. You hung in there, and I appreciate that.”

As it happened, come late January and for the rest of the season, my “hanging in there” required some flexibility from both Kiff and the English teacher who directed the winter play. On a whim, I auditioned for a part in Tech’s presentation of the Woody Allen comedy, Don’t Drink The Water, and, to my astonishment, I was cast as the comedy lead. That would be in January, though, after 1970 turned into 1971. As wrestling season got underway, I had no idea what to do, and that gave me one more thing to ponder during the evenings I spent in my room with the radio playing.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten I would have heard during the third week of November in 1970, as I was assessing my options.

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom

Boy, even the soul and R&B selections there are a little bit lightweight, but it’s a pretty good Top Ten. I don’t know what the critical assessment of the No. 1 song would be these days, but given its time and place associations for me, the Partridge Family’s hit is a keeper. And so are most of the rest of those. But “Indiana Wants Me” has not aged well, and I have never liked “Montego Bay” although I have no idea why.

Other stuff waited lower down on the chart, of course. This week’s exploration takes place entirely in the bottom half of the Hot 100 and in its subbasement.

B.B. King had been a blues star and a presence on the Billboard R&B chart for years, first hitting that Top Ten in 1955, and he would continue to do so into 1981. His appearances in the Hot 100 were nearly as frequent, according to the list at All-Music Guide. But only a handful of his singles – six in all – reached the Top 40. In early 1970, King’s “The Thrill Is Gone” had peaked at No. 15, his best showing ever. And in the third week of November, his “Chains and Things” was moving up the charts; it would peak at No. 45 in the Hot 100 and would climb to No. 6 on the R&B chart.

Back in July, when several commenters agreed with my reservations about Barbra Streisand’s post-1970 work (especially 1976’s A Star Is Born), another commenter noted that those who criticize Babs are likely too young to appreciate her genius. I’ll dissent, of course, on being too young: I was listening to Barbra Streisand in my living room sometime in the mid-1960s after my sister bought her 1966 album Color Me Barbra. I liked it. And I generally liked Streisand’s work up until the mid-1970s, when – in my view – her ego outgrew her considerable talent. During the third week of November 1970, Streisand’s single “Stoney End,” which I liked a lot, was sitting at No. 59, having leaped eleven places from the previous week. It would go on to peak at No. 6 and be the third of Streisand’s eventual twenty-one Top 40 hits (through 2003).

Earlier in 1970, Tyrone Davis had a hit with the brilliant “Turn Back The Hands of Time,” which went to No. 3 in the Top 40 and spent two weeks on top of the R&B chart. It was Davis’ third Top 40 hit and his fourth Top Ten hit on the R&B chart. He’d have two more Top 40 hits and at least twenty-six more records on the R&B chart (depending on the accuracy of the AMG lists) through 1983. In November 1970, “Let Me Back In” peaked at No. 58 in the Hot 100 and at No. 12 on the R&B chart and was sitting at No. 73 during the third week of that month.

It had been five years since Little Anthony & The Imperials had reached the Top 40. In 1964 and 1965, the group had five Top 40 hits, three of them in the Top Ten, following a pair of Top 40 hits in 1958 and 1960. Other singles made it into the Hot 100 during the lean years from 1960 to 1964 and again from 1965 to 1970, but I’m not sure how many. I do know that during the third week of November 1970, “Help Me Find A Way (To Say I Love You)” was at No. 96 and in its first week in the Hot 100. From what I can find, it would sit there one more week before spending a week in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart and then disappearing completely.

Sitting just below the Hot 100, we find Desmond Dekker and his version of the Jimmy Cliff song “You Can Get It If You Really Want It” at No. 103. Dekker had reached No. 9 during the summer of 1969 with “Israelites,” which was credited to Desmond Dekker & The Aces. “You Can Get It . . .” didn’t technically make the pop chart; the record sat at No. 103 for one more week, then fell to No. 107 for a week before falling out entirely. Two years later, according to AMG, writer Cliff used the same rhythm track to cut his own version of the song for the soundtrack to The Harder They Come.

I know absolutely nothing about the New Young Hearts, nor does AMG, really. The only thing certain is that the group recorded for the Zea label and released one killer track, “The Young Hearts Get Lonely Too.” Forty years ago this week, the single was sitting at No. 123 in Bubbling Under portion of the chart, having moved up one slot from the week before. A week later, the record was gone. It deserved far, far better.

See you tomorrow.

(Incorrcect clip replaced since first posted.)