Forgotten Albums: The Primitives, Lovely

To date, a decent majority of entries in the Forgotten Albums series have been for disks I bought between 1988 and 1992. That makes some sense, I was buying scads of CDs then. Relatedly, it was also when my “adult” musical tastes were forming: female singer/songwriters, folk-rock/jangle pop, melodic college/alternative, with a dollop of country tossed in here and there for good measure. The means of discovery varied–TV, friends, Rolling Stone, hearing them played in record stores–where did those days go? Today’s album is another one introduced to me by Greg after we started hanging out in early 1990, a real dazzler that had come out of Britain a couple of years earlier.

The Primitives, led by guitarist/songwriter Paul Court and vocalist Tracy Tracy, came to notice with a few singles in 1986-87 and soon garnered enough positive buzz to warrant a record deal with RCA. Some of those early songs were re-recorded and added to others to form Lovely, which came out in the spring of 1988. Full of shimmer and 60s retro-stylings, Lovely became a Top 10 LP in the U.K.; two of its songs made the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart as well. Let’s sample a few of its delights.

The big hit on Lovely is lead-off track “Crash,” in which Tracy gives a potential suitor the kiss-off because he’s being a bit too reckless. It was a #5 hit in Britain and made #3 on MRT here–would that the U.S. pop market had given it a shot. Two-and-a-half minutes of pop bliss.

Eastern influences abound on “Shadow.” A true highlight, it sounds like nothing else on the album (and perhaps not like anything else coming out at the time).

One of those re-recorded early singles is “Thru the Flowers.” Love the fuzz. (Here’s the original.)

“Way Behind Me” came out as a single after Lovely‘s initial release but was included on later pressings (including the U.S. version). It also found a spot on Pure, their second album. It’s likely my favorite overall Primitives tune–simply brilliant.

Another single that charted in the U.K. was “Out of Reach.” I found this clip of a 7″ version of the song–it’s somewhat shorter and has a different mix from what I’ve known and loved all these years, but well worth a listen.

Court’s vocals are more prominent on a couple of Lovely‘s songs, including the closer, “Buzz Buzz Buzz.”

Court and Tracy are still active in the Primitives–they recorded a charming pandemic version of “Buzz Buzz Buzz” almost eighteen months ago, if you’re interested in seeing them in their current incarnations.

Lovely was the Primitives’ peak, both commercially and artistically; the two followups, Pure and Galore, each have their moments but in the end aren’t as satisfying. The members of the band went their separate ways in 1992, though they did re-form seventeen years later.

Lovely is indeed a lovely album, one I find myself revisiting regularly. If it’s not familiar, I definitely recommend taking it for a spin.

Bubbling Under, 1/21/78

This weekend forty-four years ago, the top ten on Billboard‘s pop singles chart included hits by the Bee Gees (two of ’em, even), Paul Simon, Styx, and Queen; “Baby Come Back” was #1. Way on the other end, sitting just outside the Hot 100 in the Bubbling Under section, were songs almost exclusively by R & B and dance acts. Only one–Stargard’s “Which Way Is Up?”–went on to graduate from purgatory, and it eventually climbed to #21. I wasn’t aware of any of the others at the time, but I sure can work on appreciating them now. Let’s take a look:

#110. Grace Jones, “La Vie en rose”
This cover of Edith Piaf’s signature tune went Top 5 in Italy and the Netherlands, and made #10 on the U.S. Dance Chart. Taking a song like this on demonstrates that Jones was already plenty willing to go big or go home. Here, she won, even if it would climb only one spot higher.

#107. The Blackbyrds, “Soft and Easy”
These former Howard University students were already done with their Top 40 career, having hit twice with “Walking in Rhythm” in 1975 and “Happy Music” a year later. They would continue making on the Soul chart until 1981, one of which was this quiet storm number that climbed to #102 here.

#106. The Village People, “San Francisco (You’ve Got Me)”
I was about six months away from knowing about the Village People, but disco-goers all across the nation had already been grooving to them for a while. “San Francisco” spent an incredible twenty-four straight weeks from October ’77-April ’78 a-bubbling, never getting above #102. (It made a few one-week returns after that, as well.) It bears more than a little resemblance to “Macho Man” without being as immediately arresting.

#105. Dorothy Moore, “With Pen in Hand”
Vickie Carr had the most successful version of this Bobby Goldsboro-penned tearjerker, reaching #35 in 1969. It was also a hit to varying degrees by Billy Vera (in his pre-Beater days), Goldsboro, and country singer Johnny Darrell. Moore (who reached #101) really draws out the pathos at the end as she says goodbye to the daughter for whom she’s just lost custody.

#104. T-Connection, “On Fire”
We’ll wrap up on a higher note with a couple of funky funfests (or are they fun funkfests?). First up is a Bahamian group who had their greatest success in the spring of 1977 with the #46 hit “Do What You Wanna Do.” “On Fire” is another one that wandered in Bubbling Under territory for quite a while–fourteen weeks, never getting higher than #103.

#103. Parliament, “Bop Gun (Endangered Species)”
A few weeks after this, “Flash Light,” the second single from Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome (was there a better album title at the time?), would light up dance floors and climb to #16 on the pop charts. At this moment, though, “Bop Gun” was close to wrapping up a nine-week Bubble run, having already topped out at #102.

Exploring these tunes today makes me realize I was missing out on something at the time. Was I just too focused on Top 40 stations to go exploring around the radio dial? Too young to appreciate a wider variety of music? I dunno; I’ll just have to work on continuing my education…

A New Best Friend

After we lost Buddy this past summer, I think we expected someday, eventually, to welcome another dog into our household. Grieving took time, part of which was removing reminders of his presence. Most–the food and water bowls, the crate in the basement, the bed in front of our living room fireplace–were put away quickly. Others took a little longer to get around to, either out of sheer sentimentality (nose smudges on car windows and the front storm door) or obscurity (pet hair can lodge itself in the darndest places). But Martha and I also needed space and rest. The last few months with Buddy had been wearing as his health issues worsened. While it was hard in respects not to have a canine friend in the house, we welcomed the freedom to (more or less) come and go as we pleased again.

There came a point in the fall, though, that we began to think about a new pup. Martha discovered, where one could browse through pages of available dogs within a 100-mile radius. Eventually I also started visiting the site, and before long we were sharing potential pooches we’d identified. We agreed that, since we were only going to be getting older, there had to be an upper bound on size and weight (sixtyish-pound Buddy had been awfully hard to manage toward the end). Martha expressed interest in looking at low-shedding breeds. As far as personality goes, gentleness was a must. And we weren’t too sure how much we wanted to try our hand at training a puppy.

The pace of visits to and the websites of local shelters and rescues we learned about through it picked up through December. Occasionally we lamented missing an opportunity to put in an application on a particular dog, but mostly we felt paralyzed–what were we looking for? And how much could we really know about a dog from a picture or two and a thumbnail sketch?

Once we got through Christmas and put all the decorations away, things became more serious, to the point that we began making arrangements to see dogs. Martha and I started this past Thursday at the local animal shelter, checking out a couple of strays: a Schnauzer mix that had recently been picked up in the parking lot at Big Lots and a feisty Feist mix who was literally bouncing herself (and a toy) off the walls. The former had possibilities, but the latter, while exceedingly entertaining, was just a bit (understatement alert) too wild for us.

In the meantime, we’d submitted an application to a rescue about fifty miles away. Over the weeks we had identified several dogs of interest at this rescue, the latest being a bit of a surprise, a ten-week-old border collie mix. Their application asked for quite a bit of info, including the name of the vet we used, a character reference, how many hours a day we expected to leave the dog at home by itself, etc. We found out just before our animal shelter visit that our application to the rescue had been approved, along with a would you like to visit on Saturday morning and might you also want to meet this other, six-month-old puppy?

So, yesterday Martha, Ben, and I drove to Adopt Me! Bluegrass Pet Rescue in Crestwood, KY. Before we walked into the place, I was conservatively estimating the probability of walking out with a dog at 75-80% (conservative because we’d begun discussing names). Within ten minutes, I could tell it had shot up to virtually 100%. Our host at the rescue chose to bring out the six-month-old first. She’d been brought to the rescue less than three weeks earlier, along with her brother (they’d been informally christened as Bonnie and Clyde). The two had been found alongside a rural road in the area, huddled not far away from their deceased mother. The speculation was that the three had been dumped in the countryside; the mother had been hit and killed by a vehicle.

“Bonnie” charmed us immediately with her submissive nature, rolling over on her back to receive pets. She played with toys a little, but mostly she was eager to please and simply seemed to want to be loved. When Martha let slip an “I love you” while Ben was holding Bonnie, you could tell where things were headed. We did also visit with the border collie mix. “Violet” was completely adorable, though much more interested in playing than wooing us. She will be a fantastic dog for someone. After a few moments of discussion, it was unanimous to adopt Bonnie. On the way home, we settled on a new name for our new friend: Sadie.


We’ve had Sadie home for less than thirty-six hours, and already she’s growing more comfortable in her new surroundings. Yesterday she spent a lot of time in her crate; today she’s learned that sitting on the couch next to Martha is mighty comfy. Housebreaking is going decently so far (knock on wood, of course). I think stairs are new to her but going up them has become a breeze (going down still inspires a little trepidation). She really likes going outside to chase and fetch a squeaky toy. Inside, well, she’s already destroyed a couple of new toys via aggressive chewing. Who knows what developments await us tomorrow?

I’ve been reminding myself that we’re not trying to replace Buddy–we’re simply wanting to offer love to another dog. Sadie doesn’t check all the boxes we might have had in mind originally, but the most important one, the demeanor, is there in spades. She is quite possibly the last pet I’ll own; I’m excited that we’ll be going through the next decade-plus with her.

AT40’s Top 100 of 1979

As 1979 came to a close, the staff at American Top 40 assembled two special year-end shows. On 12/29/79, Casey told us all about the Top 50 of 1979, while on 1/5/80, he counted down the Top 50 Songs of the 1970s. I certainly understand the desire, maybe even the need, to survey the greatest hits of the decade, but I imagine I would have enjoyed hearing a whole Top 100 for 1979 to match what had been presented the previous three years..

Wishes sometimes come true. Last weekend Premiere Networks broadcast a fabricated show of songs #100-#51 from the year the disco backlash began. It was created by Ken Martin, programming director at WTOJ in Watertown, NY, who painstakingly pieced together bits of Kasem’s patter. Much of the time, he used stories Casey had told at some point during the chart year to introduce a tune; in other cases, Martin made him say things he had never actually verbalized (such as “the #98 song of 1979”). It was thoroughly enjoyable to listen in this past New Year’s Day.

But I didn’t stop there, intuiting an opportunity to make one more chart. Perhaps inspired by the Topps Heritage collections (which these days feature current players on cardboard in the style of the cards I collected in the 1970s), I wrote up last weekend’s show as if it really had been broadcast at the end of 1979. Fortunately, I was able to locate a small cache of unused, five-ring wide-ruled loose leaf paper–slightly yellowed, even–in my office to match what I’d used originally (just get in touch if you find yourself in need of supplies that might have been in vogue at some point over the past thirty years).

1979 was the year of cursive writing in making my charts, so I went back to refresh myself on 15-year-old WRH’s handwriting. Not surprisingly, it’s changed over the years–my style is more a hybrid cursive/print these days–but before long I could come close to making capital F, S, and T and lower-case r (plus 2, 4, and 5) like I used to. It’s far from a perfect match, but I’m pleased enough. Without further ado, two sheets of paper, drawn up forty-two years apart:

I looked back through the year’s charts to duplicate the slightly idiosyncratic capitalization rules I followed then. My assumption, not wholly correct, was that the chart year went from 11/4/78 to 10/27/79; I did not use the frozen chart of 12/30/78 for calculating stats or chart points when forming predictions. Alas, either the work used to generate predictions is buried somewhere separate from all of my other chart stuff or it got tossed out years ago. Whatever I did looks pretty solid, and makes me want to reverse-engineer and determine what I had predicted for #51-100 back then–no doubt it was very similar to the process I’d used for 1978 year-end predictions. That may be a summer project…

AT40’s Top 100 of 1981

As I mentioned last week, I applied a formula to calculate points earned by songs that hit AT40 over the 1981 chart year, and then used it come up with predictions for what Casey would count down on the weekends of 1/26/81 and 1/2/82. It was analogous to what I’d done for my own charts: here it was (41 – n) points, where n was the song’s position, plus 10 extra points for each week on the show, with bonuses for multiple weeks at #1 (so a week at #30 got 11 + 10 = 21, a week at #8 got 33 + 10 = 43, etc.). Here’s a sample of the painstaking labor involved:

The end result came out thusly:

Ah, but what did I use as the chart year? I’d remembered that back in 1976, Casey had said they used first week of November to last week of October, so I assumed that five years on that was still the case. This list is based on a 11/1/80-10/31/81 chart year. How did I do? Here’s the full countdown–the three numbers next to each song are: 1) # of weeks on the chart during my theorized chart year; 2) peak position in said chart year; 3) my prediction.

I think you can make a strong case that the 10-points-per-week-on-AT40 was a decent proxy for what the folks creating this list actually did, awarding (101-n) points for every week on the Hot 100 (along with bonuses for weeks at #1). There are several clumps of songs (#96-#90, #82-#78, #76-#71, for instance) that were grouped together in my predictions, albeit I had placed each group several positions higher on the countdown. My big failure was in not realizing that they were going to extend the chart year well into November of 1981, either two or three weeks (two weeks would get “Hard to Say” and “I’ve Done Everything for You” in about the right spots, but even three more weeks isn’t enough to explain the big misses on “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” “Start Me Up,” “Arthur’s Theme,” and especially “Private Eyes”). It appears they also bestowed credit for some weeks in October of 1980, based on my low-balling of “Dreaming,” “Whip It,” “The Wanderer,” and “Lady,” among others. Alas, I just wasn’t going to get it right, but the effort was certainly fun.

WKRQ’s Top 102 of 1981

January 1, 1982 was a Friday. I was a senior in high school, and I spent the day listening to WKRQ, Cincinnati’s Q102, recording their annual countdown of the Top 102 hits of the year just past. Four years ago, I posted the 1982 list, and two years ago, the 1979 countdown appeared here. This is the third and final such sheet I have; I don’t know now why I didn’t write things down on 1/1/81. I’m not surprised at all by the song at #1.

Here are the songs that Q102 played a-plenty then which didn’t make the Top 40 nationally during 1981 (one did in 1982).

#101. Pat Benatar, “Hell Is for Children”
I heard an AT40 show this fall–10/20/84–where a portion of “Hell Is for Children” was played as a Long Distance Dedication from someone who had grown up in an abusive home. On 1/1/82, we were still more than five years away from Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” and “What’s the Matter Here?” by 10,000 Maniacs settling into the musical landscape.

#97. Foreigner, “Juke Box Hero”
Wouldn’t be released as a single until January 21, but was an early favorite album cut from 4. About a decade or so ago, my next-door neighbors’ young nephew thought it was called “Juice Box Hero” (and why wouldn’t he?).

#79. McGuffey Lane, “Long Time Lovin’ You”
I’ve noted before that Cincinnati radio stepped up and promoted area bands during my years of dutiful listening (I’m sure that was true all over the country); we’ve really lost something with the iHeart-ification of the airwaves. McGuffey Lane got its start in southeastern Ohio; “Long Time Lovin’ You” had reached #85 on the Hot 100 in February.

#73. Don Felder, “Heavy Metal”
An almost-Top 40 hit, as it climbed to #43 in October. The phrase “Take a ride, ride, ride…” certainly sucks me back in time. Another song from the Heavy Metal soundtrack, Devo’s cover of “Working in the Coal Mine,” peaked at #43 the week after Felder had been there.

#41. Russ Mason, “Prep Rap”
I have no idea how widespread an impact on the national psyche “Prep Rap” made in 1981–there’s precious little about it, and basically nothing about its composer, Russ Mason, on the web. The narrator is, as you’d expect, a very white, rather wealthy Northeastern WASP. There are some funny/clever lines, but forty years later the attempts at braggadocio tend to fall flat, at least to these ears.

“Prep Rap” was released on Nemperor, the same CBS affiliate that housed Steve Forbert at the time. It sure was a big thing on Q102 for several weeks and I’ll admit to taping it off the radio at some point during its moment in the sun.

#26. Styx, “A.D. 1928/Rockin’ the Paradise”
You can see that the two big hits from Paradise Theater rank even higher than this; it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the top-selling rock album in Cincinnati for the year (my sister contributed to the cause). Not sure if I ever figured out a way to distinguish “A.D. 1928” from “The Best of Times” in their first five seconds.

How can I not expose the broader world to the exploits of Biffy McAdoo and company? It is a cultural time capsule of sorts, but fair warning: I promise you won’t be able to un-hear it.

And here’s Styx as a chaser.

Wishing everyone the best in 2022.