Dad’s 45s, Postscript: The Ones That Got Away

I’ve said a few times before that as the 70s progressed toward their end, some of the singles that Dad bought earlier wound up in the hands of me and my sister. Thus, to give a full accounting of his 45 collection, I must paw through my stacks of 7″ vinyl in the basement (and as it turns out, the catacombs of my memory). Some of these were mentioned along the way in this series, but hey, let’s assemble them all in one place, by artist in alpha order. Unsurprisingly, I can’t resist commenting, occasionally noting the quality of the single’s flip side. An asterisk (*) means I didn’t find the record a couple of days ago; maybe I let them get away from me, into my sister’s hands?

Badfinger, “Come and Get It” No doubt Dad loved this one for its Beatlesque sound. The B-side, “Rock of All Ages,” is truly epic.
*The Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.”/”Shut Down” Yeah, I said last month that I liked “Surfin’ Safari” more, so I can’t explain why only this one migrated over. If Dad ever expressed bemusement when one of the very first 45s I bought, in the summer of 1976, was the Boys’ “Rock and Roll Music,” I don’t recall it.
Jim Croce, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”/”One Less Set of Footsteps” I’m thinking that this one, as well as the Helen Reddy below, may have been purchased in part because Amy and I loved to sing along with them on the car radio.
*John Denver, “Annie’s Song” and “Back Home Again” Dad would have bought both of these for my mother, I’m pretty sure.
*Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline” Mom went by Caroline, her middle name, so this one was an automatic purchase. It took me years to realize it was “touchin’ me, touchin’ you,” not “touch in me, touch in you.” Of course I could make no sense of that, but it’s hard to unscramble a first impression, especially if it comes at the age of five.
*The 5th Dimension, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in” An inner-circle Hall of Fame song.
Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit in the Sky” Also an all-time classic. However, the B-side, “Milk Cow,” is pretty dumb.
*Elton John, “Crocodile Rock” I would have expected this to be Dad’s top tune from Reg, but he ranked “Philadelphia Freedom” higher on his list of all-time favorite rock songs. The B-side, “Elderberry Wine,” is very good.
Helen Reddy, “Delta Dawn” I grew up thinking that the song takes place at the visitation of the title character after she’d died, and that the man she had been looking for was Jesus (taking her as his bride being only metaphorical, of course). I imagine the gospel-y nature of the arrangement only reinforced that thought.
*Billy Swan, “I Can Help” I imagine this one attracted his favor with its retro sound. The B-side, “Ways of a Woman in Love,” is just okay.

And that’s a wrap. In case you missed one or more of the previous installments, here are links to all of them:

Part 1: Early #1s
Part 2: 50s Greats
Part 3: 1968
Part 4: The Fab Four
Part 5: The EPs
Part 6: Double-Dips
Part 7: Early 60s Minor Hits
Part 8: 1970-71
Part 9: Obscurities
Part 10: Local Legends
Part 11: 60s Miscellanea
Part 12: Back Where We Started

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/19/76: ‘Fin Lizzie’, “The Boys Are Back in Town”

The third weekend of June 1976 was the second time I wrote down the songs being played on AT40. As well-documented here many a time previously, my first chart is from the 6/5/76 show; the next week, I missed the first seven songs due to attendance at a Cincinnati Reds doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals. For some reason I elected not to make a formal record of that week’s top 33 (or if I did, it got lost along the way). In many ways, then, it’s really the 6/19 show that began the solidifying of the ritual/practice/obsession I’d carry with me for six-plus more years.

Rather than wait another couple of weeks to show you in a Charts post what I recorded on that Sunday evening from WSAI, here it is in all its battered, tattered glory:

The notation of circles for debuts, asterisks for risers, underscores for fallers, overscores for the songs staying put, and predictions for the following week had begun with the 6/5 chart–I guess I was ready for stats-keeping from the get-go, even if most of that disappeared by October. Note also that I’d fully internalized ‘notches’ already, as well.

What stands out to me now, though, are the errors wrought by a twelve-year-old listening to a possibly crackly AM signal.
–Well, the signal wasn’t responsible for getting the year wrong;
–Casey didn’t give the title for #40 before playing it. Apparently I made my best guess while Mike Love crooned and did my best to correct things on the outro;
–I believe the same thing happened with #37;
–This would have been the first time I heard “Turn the Beat Around.” Could not discern ‘Vicki Sue’ that day; you can see I ultimately settled on ‘Casey.’ I figured it out by the following week’s show;
–I considered myself a very good speller back in the day, but apparently ‘rhythm’ was befuddling;
–Apparently I hadn’t fully grasped the titles of the Eric Carmen and Doobie Brothers pieces, making the former into a semi-remake of the Bacharach/David classic and the latter sound even more like a call to action. ‘It’ got added on the 6/26 chart, while ‘Gonna’ had to wait until 7/10;
–And then there was the name of the band singing “The Boys Are Back in Town.” I’d gotten fooled by Casey’s pronunciation of ‘Thin’ two weeks earlier, and it’d be another month before it got corrected. Phil Lynott and company would climb as high as #12 before the end of July. It’s now one of my very favorites from those first months I was keeping close tabs on the ebb and flow of the chart performances of pop 45s, an almost perfect summer song. Who wants to head down with me to Dino’s?

(I covered some of this three years ago, when I posted pictures of my 6/26/76 chart.)

Stereo Review In Review: June 1977

Back in January I was mapping out which Stereo Review issues I wanted to write up this year, skimming through the archives at worldradiohistory.com.  For June, a trip back to 1977 looked pretty appealing, except for one thing: something had gone wrong in the scanning process, and pages 110-123—smack in the middle of the Popular Music Reviews section—were missing. Was I to be deterred by this? Of course not—a couple of months later, I purchased a copy (along with another issue that will be featured later this year) from a fellow in British Columbia on eBay.

Flipping through these has sent me back in time—the memories keep flooding in. The original owner had taken wonderful care of them, including not removing the postcard inserts encouraging one to subscribe to SR, Psychology Today or Car and Driver. (You can bet I’d take them up on their offer of three years for $11.97 now if I could.)

It’s one thing to see the text and advertisements of yesteryear in online scans, quite another to hold it in your hands again. I’d forgotten all about the red stripe on the spine—when you arranged six months’ worth of issues together (volumes ran Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec), the stripes aligned on a downward slant—that’s one way to keep your collection in order.

As for the contents, it’s another solid mix of hit albums of the day along with interesting now-obscurities…

Article
Rick Mitz Interviews Bette Midler
Midler touches on her youth in Hawaii, her work ethic, and what it’s like now that she’s a big star. Throughout she reveals vulnerability via rapid shifts between introspection and brash confidence. At the end, there’s a very positive review of Midler’s recently released double-album Live at Last, by Peter Reilly (“It is roses all the way, and all on an energy level—high and unrelenting—that should leave no one feeling short-changed.”).

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Phyl Garland wouldn’t come on board until the October issue.

Best of the Month
–Natalie Cole, Unpredictable (PR) “…a dazzler, proof that the potential she showed in her two earlier albums has been realized, that the daughter of Nat ‘King’ Cole has come securely into her own as a performer of quality.”
–Gary Lawrence and His Sizzling Syncopators, S/T (JV) “…a delightfully jovial yet deadly serious collection of period tunes all done up in Twenties and Thirties stylings…”
–Joel Shulman, Nowhere But Here (CA) “…a series of candid aural snapshots of pianist Joel Shulman and musician friends who regularly drop in at the Garden Party, a combination plant shop/restaurant operated by Shulman and his wife in a Toronto basement.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (NC) “I guess the point to make here is that Buffett in transition is still more satisfying than most people snuggled in on a comfortable plateau.”
–Johnny Cash, The Last Gunfighter Ballad (NC) “…he’s written some wryly comical liner notes, and the songs he wrote and chose include something for just about every facet of his audience. It’s surprising to me how many facets I seem to fit into.”
–Marshall Chapman, Me, I’m Feelin’ Free (NC) “My favorite blues singer who was born rich is still Bonnie Raitt, by a long shot. But Chapman writes (usually with someone else) good tunes and better than average words, and there’s a quality of toughness in both her songs and singing.”
–Paulhino da Costa, Agora (CA) “…it is the last track, ‘Ritmo Number One,’…that really makes this an outstanding album…an eight-and-a-half minute impression of the rhythms that fill the streets and alleys of Rio de Janeiro at carnival time…”
–Mel Lewis, Mel Lewis and Friends (CA) “…forty-five minutes of excellent, free-wheeling, and totally acoustic jazz.”
–Mary MacGregor, Torn Between Two Lovers (PR) “Although none of the others have the quiet power of the title song, they all reflect a natural and observant sensibility of a high order.”
A Poke in the Eye (PK) “Imagine a benefit performance featuring the best comedic talent alive in England (including several from Monty Python’s Flying Circus—WRH)…here is just such a recording, made at an extraordinary benefit put at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London for Amnesty International.”
–Buddy Spicher, American Sampler (PK) “…a Nashville violinist who has a taste for all kinds of music and the nerve to bring off almost anything to which he applies his skillful bow.”

Featured Reviews
–Janis Ian, Miracle Row (PR) “…she has seized for herself the title of Girl Most Likely to Get Pop off Its Moribund Ass in the Late Seventies.”
–Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Dancer with Bruised Knees (Rick Mitz) “…not a follow-up to their spectacular debut album—it’s a follow-through…an equal, not a sequel.” I picked up a copy of this LP seven or eight years later, in college—I’d carried some small semblance of a memory of this review, or at least the name of the record, around all that time.
–The Ramones, Ramones Leave Home (Lester Bangs) “So, if you don’t like the Ramones, don’t come crying to me about the watered-down quality of today’s rock. There is an alternative.”
Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits (SS) Plus six British reissues of works produced by Spector, on the Phil Spector International label. “…if you’re unfamiliar with what the man has accomplished over the years, this is clearly the place to start educating yourself.”
–Richard Thompson, Richard Thompson Live! (More or Less) (SS) “If you buy no other album this year, this is the one you should invest in; it’s as close to a masterpiece as anything you’ll ever have in your collection.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–The Band, Islands (SS) “…exactly what you’d expect from them, given that everyone is obviously more interested in getting his individual career launched and consequently is saving his good material for forthcoming solo LPs.”
–George Benson, In Concert—Carnegie Hall and In Flight (CA) Regarding the latter: “I have to admit that I’d rather hear him play the straight jazz he plays so well, but I’m glad he’s making it, and I’d rather listen to his way of making it than to, say, Herbie Hancock’s.”
–Glen Campbell, Southern Nights (PK) “…he’s surrounded here by gigantic orchestral arrangements that unfold like the petals of great plastic orchids in the climaxes singers these days seem to think they have to achieve to impress upon us that they’re in excellent form, thank you…”
–Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (SS) “The only really successful track here is Buckingham’s hit ‘Go Your Own Way,’ as catchy and energetically performed a rock single as we are likely to hear in the immediate future…(t)he rest is all solidly crafted and certainly pleasant, but it seems rather pointless to shell out $7.98 for what is essentially a one-song album.”
–Dean Friedman, S/T (NC) “There’s a good line here and there, though, and some promise. Make a note to look him over again in his junior year.”
–Genesis, Wind & Wuthering (NC) “From the sound of it, Genesis continues to write with its thumbs and then sits up all night stretching melodic lines all out of shape to fit this stream of self-consciousness.”
–John Miles, Stranger in the City (NC) “I suspect the real Miles is more interesting than the one he projects. May that suspicion someday visit him too.”
–Pablo Cruise, A Place in the Sun (Lester Bangs) “It’s not that there anything so terrible about this group; it’s just that there is nothing particular about them at all…Every track is smoothly inoffensive and instantly forgettable…”
–Piper, S/T (Lester Bangs) “(Billy) Squier’s vocals are ragged and sprawling, with a sort of squashed-Jagger effect…(t)here should be nothing to stop these boys from stepping into Aerosmith’s boots in a couple of years. On the other hand, there’s no evidence here that they aspire to any greater distinction.”
–Jean Redpath, The Songs of Robert Burns (PR) “…beautifully researched and explained by Serge Hovey (who also produced it) and sung in what is presumably authentic (late 1790s) style…I must admit that it has a certain otherworldly charm.”
–Smokey Robinson, Deep in My Soul (JV) “…this collection of slick, highly professional soul-pop is an impressive demonstration of how a performer works an audience so that the audience works for him.”
–Rufus, Ask Rufus (JV) “The orchestral arrangements always stop just this side of being too lush or preposterous, and Chaka Khan’s singing, despite elements of night-club gospel, displays a kind of sassy craftsmanship.”

On to sampling some tunes. “Party Lights” reached #79 on the Hot 100 in August.

Here’s a live version of a song that appears on the Sizzling Syncopators album.

Simels notes that one disk of the Thompson release is actually Richard and Linda’s 1974 album I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight.

One of the French-language selections from Anna and Kate.

Wrapping up with the da Costa track mentioned above.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/7/75: Michael Murphey, “Wildfire”

It’s June 10, 2012, a notable day in my son’s life—the day of his baptism. Throughout the spring, he and three other boys have been preparing via a membership class led by our pastor. It’s traditional in our congregation for each person in the class to have an adult sponsor, for conversation and guidance. Ben chose one of my religion colleagues at the college for his sponsor—Ben is good friends with my colleague’s older son. The service goes smoothly, and afterward there are four happy families. Martha’s sister and my mother are also present, and the five of us have a nice lunch out.

It turns out to be a notable day for me as well, the day that parts of my past resurface in the present and go on to shape my future.

My eighty-year-old father isn’t feeling well at all. Two weeks prior, he bailed on flying to Florida with Mom and me to witness my nephew’s high school graduation; he just ate the cost of the ticket. Dad has talked up coming down to Georgetown for the baptism, but as Sunday approaches, he realizes that he wouldn’t be able to endure several hours away from home. In order to minimize my mother’s time away from him, I agree to meet her in Dry Ridge, about midway between us, and ferry her to Georgetown and back.

One of my favorite stations to listen to in the car is WWRW, Rewind 105.5 (“70s and 80s Hits”). I’m aware that old American Top 40 shows from the 70s are being rebroadcast on Sunday mornings, but up until now, I haven’t taken the time to tune in intentionally. Today, though, an opportunity has arisen. I’m at the main intersection of town, heading north, when I flip on the radio. I don’t recognize the song, and I try to guess which pre-1976 year this might be. Casey tells me on the outro that Eddie Kendricks is at #30, with “Shoeshine Boy.” Up next is a cover of “The Way We Were,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, so that limits the show to either 1974 or 1975. When the Ozark Mountain Daredevils close out the first hour with “Jackie Blue,” all is revealed: I’m listening to 6/7/75.

I meet Mom just as #20 (“Magic,” by Pilot) is playing, and drop her off at the door to the church as Major Harris croons “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.” I learn that Jessi Colter’s “I’m Not Lisa” is #8 as I park the car. Sometime that evening, I root around the internet and find that John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was the final song Casey spun.

That was the start of what’s now been a nine-year re-connection with AT40, closing in on 50% longer than the span I listened to it growing up. It’s become a weekend ritual once again, and I’ve noted before how much it’s taught me about the music of the early 70s. It’s not clear at all this blog would exist had I not stepped back into that world. I’m amused that it was a show from the first weekend of June, exactly 52 weeks before I started keeping my charts, that kicked things off again. It took a few years to realize there was irony involved, as well.

I listened to 6/7/75 in its entirety yesterday (unlike in 2012). When “Shoeshine Boy” came on, I began reliving the trip to pick up my mother; I knew exactly where I was along the way up when unfamiliar songs from Carly Simon, the Temptations, Tavares, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, Seals and Crofts, and Paul Anka all played in a row. The Carpenters, Alice Cooper, Joe Simon, and Average White Band were part of the soundtrack of the return leg. Knowing now how little time my parents had left in 2012, remembering my father’s increasing fragility, thinking about life in the mid-1970s—listening to the middle 90 minutes of the show again was an emotional experience.

Michael Murphey’s “Wildfire” was also a part of that morning nine years ago, sitting at #17. In two weeks, it would jump from #12 to #3, where it would be stymied from further progress by the Captain and Tennille and Linda Ronstadt.

It’s a weekday afternoon, mid-to-late June 1975. Mom and Dad are off attending to things that need to be attended to, and Amy and I are at a farm a few miles outside of Walton, spending time with friends. It belongs to the family of our dentist; their youngest is a boy my age, though he and I don’t go to the same school. One of his sisters, maybe three years older than I, is around, too. Years later, the two of them will jointly take over their father’s practice.

I think we four kids are in a car, likely with their mother, when “Wildfire” comes on the radio. The girl declares it’s one of her current favorites—is it possible that she’s into horses? I like it pretty well, too. The association of the song with the moment will last a lifetime.

These days, the melancholia in “Wildfire” seems to be a foreshadowing of the sheen of sadness I hear and feel when listening to the songs on 1975 shows from later that summer and fall. It’s a sense I didn’t quite realize was present at the time.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/1/91

It was around this time that I started a subscription to Hoot, a bi-weekly comics newspaper out of Columbus, OH. I’d learned about it on a May visit to a college friend who was doing the med school thing at the Ohio State University. Not all of it was to my taste, but it did serve as an introduction to Zippy the Pinhead and Bizarro. Not sure now whether I kept getting it after I moved back to KY; I do wish I’d held on to at least one copy. It’s long been defunct, but I’ll bet I could find issues in the archives at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at tOSU.

Anyway. Moving on to our next survey of the alternative scene of 30 years ago…

30. Jesus Jones, “International Bright Young Thing”
JJ is tied for having the oldest song on the countdown, as Casey liked to say: 11 weeks, same as “See the Lights” from Simple Minds, to which we tipped our cap back in April.

28. Peter Himmelman, “Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men”
This one is new to me. It’s based on an encounter the artist had with Susan, who was dying of ALS yet persevered in communicating with others after she lost use of everything except her left eyebrow. Himmelman, originally from the Twin Cities, wrote at length about the experience three years ago here. It’s an affecting, earnest song about an important lesson learned.

26. The Popinjays, “Vote Elvis”
This Brit-pop group had one album that went nowhere under their belt by this point. “Vote Elvis” (I’m unsure which one they’re lobbying for) was a subsequent single that ultimately appeared on 1992’s Flying Down to Mono Valley. Fun track, but “Monster Mouth,” which I’ll play here someday, is that album’s best song.

24. Dream Warriors, “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style”
I wasn’t much of one to seek out rap/hip hop back in the day, though there were acts (De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Arrested Development, Us3) that held appeal. Dream Warriors would have been another had I ever encountered them.

The cute thing here (which I confess I wouldn’t have known without consulting Wikipedia) is that the song being sampled–Quincy Jones’s “Soul Bossa Nova”–was the theme for the long-running, 70s and 80s Canadian game show Definition.

20. Too Much Joy, “Crush Story”
Is “Crush Story” my favorite song on this chart? It sure is in the running.

The guys from Scarsdale got back together recently and just released Mistakes Were Made, on Bandcamp, in March.

17. Hoodoo Gurus, “Miss Freelove ’69”
A little less Australian music this time than we sometimes get in these MRT forays. This psychedelic track, from the perhaps appropriately named Kinky, commemorated a real-life bacchanalia involving head Guru Dave Faulkner.

15. Material Issue, “Diane”
Somewhere around the spring of 1992, I created a mix tape consisting of songs with women’s names in their titles. I had my choice from among the first three tracks on International Pop Overthrow–“Diane” won the day. What an intro this song has.

14. Fishbone, “Sunless Saturday”
These fellows from SoCal have been a thing of sorts for over forty years, first getting together while in junior high (a couple of them, vocalist Angelo Moore and bassist John Fisher, have been there the whole time–three other original members are back with the band after taking leave at various times). I don’t think I’ve heard much of their music, but man, “Sunless Saturday” sure is a ferocious, unrelenting piece.

13. Dave Wakeling, “I Want More”
From No Warning, his one solo album. Wakeling and Ranking Roger fronted competing 21st century re-formations of the (English) Beat on the two sides of the Atlantic.

7. The Farm, “All Together Now”
The things one didn’t catch in real time, part 28,517: a song about a soccer match on Christmas Day, 1914 between the warring sides on the Western Front of WWI. And yes, there’s good reason for you to think about Pachelbel’s Canon during the chorus.

6. Electronic, “Get the Message”
A year after “Getting Away with It” had charted on this side of the pond, Sumner/Marr/Tennant finally released their debut self-titled disk. “Get the Message” would hit #1 on this chart in three weeks; it’s long been a fave.

5. Violent Femmes, “American Music”
Why Do Birds Sing? was the Femmes’ fifth album. I didn’t think much of “American Music” when I first heard it that spring–too repetitive, too far removed from their epic debut. I’m hearing some of its joy now.

3. The La’s, “There She Goes”
Amazing to me that the La’s just seemed to vanish after this big breakthrough. The Sixpence None the Richer cover is fine, but I’ll take the original every time.

Am I alone in thinking that vocalist Lee Mavers was kinda doing a Frankie Valli thing when he sings, “And I just can’t contain…”?

1. Elvis Costello, “The Other Side of Summer”
Lead track from Mighty Like a Rose. In many ways this sounds like vintage EC, but the string is just about played out: he’d chart with only one more single in the U.S. after this (1994’s “13 Steps Lead Down”).

Not what Costello was on about, but: here we are, on one side of summer 2021; what will we learn by the time we reach the other?