Today's trip features a star-studded journey past the likes of the Statler Brothers and Johnny Mathis, all the way to Santana and Led Zeppelin! Plus, what was really in... The Letter. Climb on in!
10 debuts in the hot hundred this week in 1975, and I knew 4 of them-plus I'm going to mention one more. Coming in at 100 were the Statler Brothers with I'll Go To My Grave Loving You. At 94- this one was not one I knew, but I did listen to it- the follow up to Pilot's hit Magic, called Just A Smile. Having already burned their big UK hit (that flopped here) January, I thought it might be worth a listen, and it was. Way up at 76, James Taylor comes in with soft pop hit Mexico; at 74, Calypso (actually the b-side of a certain John Denver song we'll be seeing higher up) enters the chart. And WAAY up at 46, Elton John rockets in (he is a rocket man, y'know) with Island Girl. The big dropper this week is the Isleys' Fight the Power, falling 20 to 53; and guess what? We get to see a big jumper before we get to the top 40 this week! Nights On Broadway by the Bee Gees shoots up 27 to #56 this week.
How about we start the specials with my personal tops of the seventies countdown. We're at #35, which is Terry Jacks' Seasons In The Sun. This ultimate tear jerker was originally called Le Moribund when recorded in Europe by Belgian artist Jacques Brel, and was actually about a guy killing himself because of a cheating wife and a backstabbing best friend. Jacks took up the English version of the song after the Beach Boys abandoned their attempts to record it (and I have heard the Boys singing both versions- the original words are just creepy. "Now that the spring is in the air/ with your lovers everywhere/ Just be careful, I'll be there"). #34 is another visit to Carole King's Tapestry album, this time the top 10 hit So Far Away. 33 is another non-released track, and maybe one of the most emotionally charged songs of all time, Fleetwood Mac's The Chain from the album Rumours. 32 is Bread's great ballad If- a song that hit #1 in the UK in March of our beloved 1975 as done by, of all people, Telly Savales! And finally at 31, a song that's 36 and on its way out of this weeks' countdown- Barry Manilow's Could It Be Magic.
Coming into airplay alley this week are 5 tunes, 2 of which I didn't recognize when I played them. Not one of those is Linda Ronstadt at 39, up from 53 with Heat Wave. Up from 50 to 38 is one of those two, George Harrison's You. The other is the Ohio Players' Sweet Sticky Thing at 37, up 8. Moving a fast 14 to 34 are the Captain and Tenille with The Way That I Want To Touch You; and climbing 9 to 32 is the CCR-less John Fogarty with Rockin' All Over The World. We do have an Almost but not quite this time; Michael Martin Murphy peaks at 24 with Carolina In The Pines. Murphy, who started his career in a folk band with Mike Nesmith of the Monkees ( and in fact wrote on of my favorite Monkees songs, Why Do You Keep Me Hanging 'Round) re-released this song on the country charts in 1981, and it peaked at #9 there.
As long as we're in the middle of the chart, here's a curiosity I just noticed. KC and the Sunshine Band had recently dropped out of the top ten with former top dog Get Down Tonight, landing at 21. Since then , it repeated at 21, slipped one to 22, and this week climbs back up 2 to #20! Talk about stubborn!
Only one into the top ten this week, only one out- Feelings, having peaked at 10 last week, drops to 14 this week.
Number ones of other years this week Begins in 1997, where the Billboard #1 this week was the Princess Diana remake of Elton John's Candle In The Wind, which was beginning a 14-week run that would not end until January 10th of the next year and leave it one of the best selling singles of all time. 1987 saw Whitesnake at #1 with Here I Go Again; 1977 was the beginning of Debby Boone's 8-week rampage across the radio with the severely overplayed You Light Up My Life. At 1967 we find The Letter by the Box Tops, and this neat story:
The track was recorded at American Sound Studio in Memphis in a session produced by Dan Penn. Previously a musician and engineer at FAME Studios, Penn had been hired as production assistant to American Sound's owner Chips Moman, who Penn felt was shutting him out as a collaborator. Penn recalls: "Finally, I just told [Moman]...'Look, we can't produce together...I think I can produce records [alone]...But I do need somebody to cut. Give me the worst one you got'." Moman suggested Penn record a local five man outfit who had been pitched to him by disc jockey Ray Banks (Penn - "Chips was just graspin'. He'd never heard [the group]") and also passed on to Penn a demo tape of songs cut by his friend Wayne Carson Thompson which included "The Letter". Thompson's father dabbled in songwriting and would suggest ideas to his son, who had written "The Letter" after his father had suggested: "Give me a ticket for an aeroplane" as a potential opening line for a song. Penn met with some of the members of the group - who were eventually dubbed the Box Tops - "and told them to pick anything they wanted from this tape [by Thompson], but make sure that we do 'The Letter'" which Penn considered the one outstanding song.
The session for "The Letter" began at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning and took over thirty takes wrapping at either three or five o'clock that afternoon. Penn met Box Tops' vocalist Alex Chilton for the first time at the session: "I coached him a little...told him to say 'aer-o-plane", told him to get a little gruff, and I didn't have to say anything else to him". (Composer Thompson, who says he played guitar at the session, was thrown by Chilton's vocal, having imagined the song being sung in a higher key.) Penn - "[Chilton] picked it up exactly as I had in mind, maybe even better. I hadn't even paid any attention to how good he sang because I was busy trying to put the band together...I had a bunch of greenhorns who'd never cut a record, including me...I borrowed everything form Wayne Thompson's original demo - drums, bass, guitar. I added an organ with an 'I'm a Believer' lick." Penn added the sound of an airplane take-off to the track by recording off of a special effects record played in an office adjacent to the recording studio. When the track was previewed for Chips Moman he suggested the take-off sounds be excised, to which Penn responded: "Give me that razor blade right there...[and] I'll cut this damn tape up! The airplane stays on it, or we don't have a record."
Finally in 1957, we find Johnny Mathis with the classic Chances are. I got looking at his discography, and was surprised- for as popular as he was and is, he's had only 6 top tens, and his only other #1 was Too Much Too Little Too Late with Denise Williams some 20 years later.
I'm going to split the top ten in two - 5 now, 5 after the next installment of the top albums of the seventies. Coming in at 10, up one, are Sweet with Ballroom Blitz. Run Joey Run, last week's top dog, runs down to #9 this trip. Caught in its wake if David Bowie's Fame, dropping from 3 to 8. Orleans moves up 1 to 7 with Dance With Me; Helen Reddy does likewise to 6 with Ain't No Way To Treat A lady.
Our album countdown takes us to October 24th 1970 and Santana's Abraxas. Their second lp, it then dropped for 4 weeks before returning on Thanksgiving week and closing out the year. This album included Black Magic Woman (a #4 hit that was actually a cover of a Peter Green Fleetwood Mac song) and Oye Como Va (a #13 hit, who's opening lines roughly translate to Check it out, my rhythm; originally done by mambo star Tito Puente in 1963). Interrupting it's reign was Led Zeppelin (once again) with Led Zeppelin III. This lp included Immigrant Song (#16, and the genesis of their "hammer of the gods" nickname), along with Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp and a song I recently heard on my pandora station, Gallows Pole. The new year, 1971, began with George Harrison at #! for all of January and half of February with his 3-disc debut album, All Things Must Pass. This album had a who's who of guest artists on it, including Ringo Starr; John Lennon (according to some); Badfinger; Eric Clapton with Derek and the Dominos; Billy Preston; Gary Wright; Maurice Gibb, on keyboard on one song; Bob Dylan wrote one song for the album, and Harrison also covered Dylan's If Not For You; and finally, on the bongos on one of the songs, a young Phil Collins, prior to his joining Genesis. It also had 2 singles: the number ones My Sweet Lord and What Is Life.
Top 5: The Eagles fly up 4 to #5 with Lyin' Eyes; The Spinners edge up 1 to #4 with Games People Play. Neil Sedaka blasts up 3 to #3 with Bad Blood; Dickie Goodman laughs his way to number 2, up 2, with Mr. Jaws; and that means the new top dog this week in 1975 is....
John Denver, higher as promised, with I'm Sorry.
That's it for another journey. Keep on Humming!