Songs Casey Never Played, 12/6/86

In December of 86, I was just about to muddle through a grad school finals week for the first time. Checking out the Hot 100 posted at Record Service in Champaign was very much an every week thing for me that fall–what did I see in the bottom half of the chart this time?

91. KBC Band, “It’s Not You, It’s Not Me”
We all like to dunk on Starship, and for good reason: they were the final devolution of a one-time pretty important and pretty good band. They gave Diane Warren her first #1 hit, for heaven’s sake! (Never mind that you might catch me singing along to “We Built This City” every once in a while…)

Anyway, after Paul Kantner departed the scene (taking ‘Jefferson’ with him), he hooked back up with fellow former Airplaners Marty Balin and Jack Casady to record one album. I remember seeing the resulting LP at Record Service and hearing the anthemic “It’s Not You, It’s Not Me” a few times on WPGU. It’s hardly a world-beater, but it’s at least two orders of magnitude better than the almost contemporaneous “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now.” Would only get two spots higher.

89. Grace Jones, “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)”
Model, actress, singer–Jones had a long career with varying degrees of success in these fields. I confess I’m more familiar with “Demolition Man” from binge sessions of MTV in the Transy student center. “I’m Not Perfect” is the third and final time Jones hit the Hot 100 (the other two were back in 77). It would peak at #69 in a few weeks.

73. Debbie Harry, “French Kissin”
The second week in a row here at the blog with an appearance from Harry, whose solo career just never got on track (though who could ever un-see the cover of Koo Koo?) This sorta catchy lead single from Rockbird would climb to #57.

69. Paul Young, “Some People”
Just a year earlier, Young had the world on a string, coming off a series of Top 10 hits in the UK and the #1 “Everytime You Go Away” here in the States. A weak chorus in an otherwise decent, shuffling tune doomed “Some People,” the lead single from his next album Between Two Fires. It would get just four positions higher, and seemed to derail Young’s career–the big hits were much harder to come by for him on both sides of the pond after this.

68. Eurythmics, “Thorn in My Side”
Speaking of acts running out of steam… This follow-up to “Missionary Man” would get no higher, the biggest injustice we’re encountering today. “Thorn in My Side” made #5 in the UK, but it was Annie and Dave’s last Top 10 hit there; folks were just moving on, apparently.

64. The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ’86”
Even though the boys in the Police had parted ways following the Synchronicity tour, they got back together briefly a couple years later to update one of their earlier hits for a GH album. It was not so easy to be the teacher’s pet a second time, though, as ’86 is already coming down off a #46 high. I think this Godley/Creme vid could have been shot without Andy, Stew, or Gordon having to spin ’round the set at the same time.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/4/71: Coven, “One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack)”

On the Wikipedia page for a song from this past weekend’s 70s rebroadcast is this somewhat odd sentence:

The single went to number 26 on the Billboard pop chart before it was pulled from radio by the film’s producer. 

The single in question is Coven’s cover of “One Tin Solder.” The film is, of course, Billy Jack, and the producer was also its director, co-screenwriter, and lead actor, Tom Loughlin. On the surface, the twelve-week Hot 100 run of the song doesn’t exactly scream support for the above claim: 87-80-64-52-43-41-39-30-29-27-26-30. There’s no surge up the chart followed by a sudden collapse. Additionally, it was not uncommon at all in the early 70s for songs to tumble out of the Hot 100 from within the Top 40 (on this chart, the songs at #35, #29, #26, and #23 do the same).

On the other hand, it is true that Loughlin was having trouble with Warner Brothers, Billy Jack’s distributor—it appears that perhaps the movie was taken out of theaters suddenly. Loughlin eventually gained control of the distribution rights and re-released it himself, to significant success, two years later. (I’ve never seen it; I don’t find this synopsis of the plot enticing, either.)

And this is where I think my memories of encountering “One Tin Solder (The Legend of Billy Jack)” begin. Even though it didn’t get all that high on the charts in 73 (more on that shortly), based on my mind’s eye, there had to have been stations in Cincinnati playing it then. My sister and I were known to sing along robustly with the chorus; I’m still pretty fond of it.

Some other stuff I’ve gleaned from working the Internet the last couple of days (yes, mostly Wikipedia, I fear), in bullet form:

–Even though Coven is credited on the 71 single, it’s really just their vocalist Jinx Dawson in the studio with an orchestra. Coven did record the song for themselves around the time of Billy Jack’s re-release. The new take peaked at #79 in August of 73. (The Dawson-only version that hit in 71 was also put back out there a few months later; it reached #73 in January of 74.)

–I had a conversation with my friend Warren about the song a couple of years ago. He doesn’t like it at all, for reasons I think I can guess (I’ll let him say why, though, if he wishes). But he had a theory for the song’s appeal: its trochaic meter, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. (“LIS-ten CHIL-dren TO a STO-ry THAT was WRIT-ten LONG a-GO”). I don’t know if that’s really what makes it attractive, but I definitely learned something about poetry from the discussion.

–The first version of “One Tin Soldier,” by Canadians the Original Caste, was a Top 10 hit in Canada at the end of 69 (it made #34 here in the U.S. in February of 70).

–I know you’re dying to watch Cher’s medley of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “One Tin Soldier,” doubtless from a December 73 episode of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

Lots of other versions out there, but here’s the one that got to #26 (it was at #30 on its way down on this show).

Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Stan Freberg, “Green Chri$tma$”

I’ve noted before that my dad was a big fan of Stan Freberg’s comedy recordings: the compilation album A Child’s Garden of Freberg was a formative part of my childhood, and certainly helped cement the bond between father and son. I confess I was less interested in Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume One: The Early Years, though I still know a couple of the biggest gags on it. I purchased Tip of the Freberg, a 4-CD retrospective, likely as a Christmas gift twenty years ago, so that Dad didn’t have to dip into his vinyl collection when he wanted a good laugh. I’ve kept all of the above.

Anyway, today’s a day on which I’m thinking of my father, so in honor of him and a performer that he really enjoyed, I offer up “Green Chri$tma$,” a piece that the sales departments of many radio stations definitely did not want their DJs to play after it came out at the end of 1958. Ironically, Freberg soon moved into the advertising business, and was incredibly successful at it.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/29/80: Randy Meisner, “Deep Inside My Heart”

The music of the Eagles has both very loud supporters and detractors. I’m not a hater, but I’m not all that much of a fan, either—so many of their songs are played to death on retro stations, and there are only a very few I’m actively not unhappy to listen to when they pop up on the radio. What about the solo stuff, though? Some of that’s been overplayed as well, but is any of it any good? Let’s take a crack at checking things out.

All told, there were twenty-three solo Top 40 hits by five of the guys who at one time or another were members of the Eagles: eight by Don Henley, seven by Glenn Frey, four by Joe Walsh, three by Randy Meisner, and one by Timothy B. Schmit. Only Henley (four times) and Frey (twice) made the Top 10 (though Henley also had Top 10 duets with Stevie Nicks and Patty Smyth); none went all the way to #1. 

I’ve picked three honorable mentions and an unranked Top 5 Eagles solo hits; a top one-third seems like a reasonable cutoff, maybe before things start smelling a bit. While I’ve tried a little to avoid overweighting personal preference, that can’t help but creep in, I’m sure. Before I get to those eight,though, a small shout-out to Schmit, whose “Boy’s Night Out” came nowhere close to making the cut: he did a fair amount of notable backup singing and session work throughout the 80s, and his “I Can’t Tell You Why” is one of those Eagles hits I can still bear to hear.

Honorable mention:
Joe Walsh, “Rocky Mountain Way,” Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer,” Glenn Frey, “The Heat Is On.”

“Rocky Mountain Way” pre-dates Walsh’s time with the Eagles, and I guess actually isn’t a solo cut (credit really goes to Barnstorm, his band at the time), but label attribution is 90% of the law, no? I’ve always liked “The Boys of Summer” and its oh-so-serious video; I had a couple of college friends who thought the lyric “Remember how I made you scream” was awful, and they may not be wrong. The Frey piece, from the beginning of his Hollywood phase, was in the Top 10 with “The Boys of Summer,” back-to-back at #8 and #9, on 2/16/85.

Top 5, in chronological order:

Joe Walsh, “Life’s Been Good.” Walsh wasn’t content to do only Eagles work after he joined the band. This humorous take on self-destructive rock star behavior probably points toward Walsh’s own excesses, but it’s justifiably a classic. LP version only, please.

Randy Meisner, “Deep Inside My Heart.” I was huge on “Never Been in Love” in the late summer/early fall of 82, but this is Meisner’s best single, and it isn’t that close. A greatly underrated rocker; if I were ranking these, I’d be sorely tempted to put it at #1. It’s a travesty that Kim Carnes gets no label credit (not even a “with”)—without her interplay on the chorus, this wouldn’t be nearly so good.

Glenn Frey, “The One You Love.” I’ll confess I’m letting my bias show here—I just really like this song and the emotions it conveys. If you want to put “The Heat Is On” in this spot instead, I won’t complain too much. I’m realizing now how important the sax parts are to those two Frey hits, as well as “You Belong to the City.”

Don Henley, “The End of the Innocence” and “Heart of the Matter.” No real surprise if you read what I wrote last Saturday. Pretty, mature songcraft in both instances. There’s a strong case to be made that Henley ran laps around Frey in their post-Eagle years.

“Deep Inside My Heart” made it to just #22 (it was #25 on this show). The audio on the clip below is great, while the quality of the video is anything but. Nonetheless, we get a sense of how Carnes helped take the result up a few notches.

Modern Rock Tracks, 12/2/89

Last month I indicated that quarterly reviews of Hot 100s from thirty years ago were unlikely to continue. There’s just not enough familiarity with the hits of that time to warrant my efforts, especially since I’d too often want to take potshots at the stuff I do recognize. The bimonthly forays into the Modern Rock Tracks charts I started back in April, though–that’s been fun. There’s plenty I don’t know on them as well, for sure, but the fruits of my research are much more in line with my tastes of the day. It’s a feature I hope to keep going for a good while.

Let’s take a look at a dozen of the songs on the 12/2/89 chart.

30. The Del Fuegos, “Move With Me Sister”
Band out of Boston with what turned out to be their final modicum of success prior to breaking apart. Warren Zanes, brother of leader/vocalist Dan, had already bailed on the band by this point; he’s now a VP at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

While I was dimly aware the Del Fuegos back in the day, I must confess that for more than a quarter of a century, hearing their name has immediately brought to mind a different song with the word “sister” in its title. The link takes you to an affecting oral history of the Juliana Hatfield Three hit published in Spin five years ago–you won’t regret clicking through to it.

28. The Primitives, “Secrets”
Another pop charmer from the Coventry quartet. In a more just world, folks would have been listening to this instead of NKOTB.

22. David Byrne, “Make Believe Mambo”
Byrne released his first post-Heads solo work, Rei Momo, a little over eighteen months after Naked. It’s chock-full of Latin rhythms and dance styles, and perhaps pointed him in the direction of the amazing Brazil Classics series he began curating shortly thereafter.

I was today years old when I learned that personal fave Kirsty MacColl is singing backup on this song (then-hubby Steve Lillywhite helped Byrne with the production of Rei Momo).

17. Deborah Harry, “I Want That Man”
Toward the end of 88, The Escape Club had a #1 hit with the odious “Wild Wild West,” a song that featured the forward-looking phrase, “Heading for the 90s…” One year later and a decade ahead of its time, Harry is warning us, “Here comes the twenty-first century…” Granted, King Crimson beat her to this punch by two decades, but I do wonder: how many other songs were out there around this time, or earlier, referencing the upcoming century?

“I Want That Man,” written by Thompson Twins Tom Bailey and Alannah Currie, was a big hit in Australia but hardly made an impression here in the States. I think Harry under-sings it a bit, but it’s a darn catchy tune.

16. Dramarama, “Last Cigarette”
Band from Jersey. Had a few songs get some Modern Rock chart action, but this ode to the day’s final nicotine fix is the one I know best.

11. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Higher Ground”
RHCP’s campaign to conquer the music world entered its next stage with the release of Mother’s Milk late in the summer. Impossible to better the original version of this song, but they gave it a more than credible effort.

9. Lenny Kravitz, “Let Love Rule”
I’m not a big Kravitz fan but do appreciate his approach to the craft. This was our first peek at his retro stylings.

7. The Mighty Lemon Drops, “Into the Heart of Love”
This band from the UK had made some noise a year earlier with the very good “Inside Out.” While this tune isn’t quite as memorable, it is reminding me I should dig a little into their catalog.

Back in 91, I ran across their epic cover of “Another Girl, Another Planet,” on the Just Say Anything sampler from Sire Records. Truth be told, I’m pretty sure I like it better than the original.

4. The Smithereens, “A Girl Like You”
A bit of a breakthrough, as this lead single from 11 became the Smithereens’ first Top 40 hit (one of two). Really solid band that never received their due measure of success.

3. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Blues from a Gun”
Another band that featured a pair of brothers, this time from Scotland. I knew them by name back then but hadn’t bothered to check ’em out. Big mistake–I would have been all over this blistering track if I’d been paying attention.

2. Kate Bush, “Love and Anger”
Between hearing “Running Up That Hill” at the end of 85 and getting the compilation LP The Whole Story a little over a year later, I felt like I’d become a big Kate Bush fan. A little dabbling into her back catalog hadn’t impressed as much, however, though I took the plunge and bought The Sensual World soon after it was released anyway. It did not go into heavy rotation, and I think I eventually sold it. Listening to “Love and Anger” again these last few days is giving me stirrings of regret over that decision; I didn’t fully appreciate the greatness of this song back then.

Yes, we have a David Gilmour sighting about two-thirds of the way through the vid.

1. Ian McCulloch, “Proud To Fall”
First solo hit from the (former) lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen, in what turned out to be a non-permanent parting of the ways. Not a bad tune, but I can’t say it leaves a strong impression, either. They didn’t play it when I saw E&tB in concert in the summer of 18. In its fourth and final week at the top; “Love and Anger” would replace it.