Follow by Email

What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Step into my time machine week thirty-eight

Today on Time Machine, a special story (to help make up for another sluggish countdown)- the complicated story of how all roads once led to Rick James, along with (I hope) a tasty video of his collaboration with the legendary Neil Young. Hope you like soap operas (albeit with drugs replacing sex).

10 songs join the hot 100 this week; the only noteworthy entrant was Rod Stewart's cover of This Old Heart Of Mine. Originally an Isley Brothers hit sung by brother Ronnie in 1966, it would gain its greatest fame when Rod and Ronnie combined to have a major hit with it in 1989.

The Big dropper was BTO's Down To The Line, 22 from 38 to 60; the big climber was, again, Cledus Maggert's The White Knight, from 67 to 44. Annnnd, Feelings has yet again slammed on the brakes tumbling a single notch from 68 to 69. And if you think the chart movement is not dynamic yet, wait till we get a bit higher.

Since our special story is a bit on the long side, I'm going to forgo the usual specials. Four songs enter the top 40. Barry White goes from 46 to 40 with Let The Music Play; Linda Ronstadt climbs 5 to 39 with her latest, Tracks Of My Tears. The Bee Gees, who just missed the big dropper with Nights On Broadway, enter the top 40 at 37, up 8, with Fanny (Be Tender With My Love). And ubiquitous opening act Foghat moves, yes again, 5 spots to 36 with Slow Ride.

With Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes at 29 with Wake Up Everybody, I wanted to give a shoutout to them. For a long time, they seemed to my poor memory a one-hit wonder with If You Don't Know Me By Now. In looking for 70s songs to put on CD, I later rediscovered the two hits we've featured here on TM, Wake Up Everybody and Bad Luck. Last night on my pandora station (Scrappy Radio), I "re-discovered" another of their hits I knew but had forgotten. It was called The Love I Lost; and if the title doesn't ring a bell, google up a clip- if you're my age or so, I guarantee you'll remember it by the chorus.

Now onto our story. Last night I heard also some old Buffalo Springfield on Scrappy Radio, and it reminded me of the story that Neil Young had been a bandmate of funkster Super Freak Rick James in a band called the Mynah Birds (or Myna Birds) prior to that. I was curious of how this unlikely combination came together. And what I found amazed me.

I guess we start with Rick himself. Trying to start a music career and anxious about getting drafted, he dropped out of high school and joined the Naval reserve. But that one weekend a month got in the way of what passed for his career, and after a year he fled to Toronto. Toronto was a mini music mecca at the time; Stephen Stills and Richie Furay were members of The Company, an offshoot of another band called the Au Go Go Singers. It was then that Stills met Neil, who, along with a guy named Ken Kolblun, was in a group called the Squires. Stills, Kolblun, and a reluctant Furay decided to try to make it in LA. Around this time, James formed the first version of the Mynah Birds, along with Jimmy Livingstone, Goldy McJohn, and Nick St. Nicholas. Goldy soon left to join Jack London and the Sparrows, and St. Nicholas was "traded "to the Sparrows for bassist Bruce Palmer, who will now become the key block of our story.

Jack London and St. Nicholas would soon leave the nest, to be replaced by John Kay, and the Sparrows began their metamorphosis into Steppenwolf. St. Nicholas would rejoin Steppenwolf at the height of their fame, only to be fired by Kay in 1970 for going on stage "in nothing but bunny ears and a jockstrap". James and Palmer would begin putting the second generation Mynah Birds together, and Palmer, who knew Neil through their Squires connection, invited Young to join the band. Motown signed them to a deal, where they managed to record an unreleased single co-written by James and Young, which we'll get to later. Around this time, original MB Jimmy Livingstone was in a band called Just Us with a dude named Neil Merriweather. This band had just recorded some demos when the manager stole them and took off. This I add because of what is coming.

On the verge of recording an album, the Mynah Birds were shattered when they caught their manager stealing their advance. When they fired him, he went to Motown and informed them that James was AWOL. Motown told James to turn himself in to the FBI, and he spent a year in the brig in Baltimore. The single, "It's My Time", found itself forgotten in the Motown vaults.

At this point, Young decides to reconnect with Stills in LA and takes Palmer with him. Stills (who had auditioned for the Monkees by this point) and Furay were still together, and trying to put together a band at the suggestion of the manager for the Byrds. Stuck on the freeway one day, they see Young and Palmer go by in Neil's distinctive black Hearse, and did a u-turn to catch up. Thus is born Buffalo Springfield. But this supergroup, as is any group containing Neil Young, was extremely volatile; Young began to appear sporadically, and Palmer began a long career of drug induced run-ins with the law. Eventually he was deported (though he snuck back in a year or so later in disguise). To replace them, Jim Messina joined the group, and the Byrd's David Crosby often filled in for Young. But Buffalo Springfield's days were numbered.

James gets out of stir and tries to reform the Mynah Birds, this time with Neil Merriweather. This project morphed into a band called Salt and Pepper, where the duo were joined by guitarist Greg Reeves. Meanwhile, Buffalo Springfield fragmented. Messina and Furay formed Poco; this band, which would later hit the top 40 with "Crazy Love" and "Heart Of The Night", also counted as members Randy Meisner, a founding member of the Eagles, along with later Eagle Timothy B. Schmitt. Messina Would go on to join with Kenny Loggins to form (what else?) Loggins and Messina.

Stills hung out with David Crosby, who'd left the Byrds over the rejection of his song Triad ( a tune about a Menage-a-trois that was eventually recorded by Jefferson Airplane). Soon they met up with the Hollies' Graham Nash, who asked them to do a harmony riff at a party at Mama Cass' house one night. This led to the formation of Crosby Stills And Nash. After their successful first album, Stills invited in Young, and Young again brought Palmer with him. But by this time Palmer was a few bricks shy of a load and was fired two weeks in. His replacement, none other than Greg Reeves, James' band mate in Salt And Pepper. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It's My Time was finally found in 2006 and put on a Motown compilation album, almost 30 years after they recorded it, and 2 years after both James and Palmer had died. Here is a song that deserved a better fate.

No songs into the top ten, no songs out. In fact, everybody from #17 to #5 stays the same this week. That means the top ten starts out with Saturday Night by the Bay City Rollers at 10, David Ruffin's Walk Away From Love at 9, the O'Jays I Love Music at 8, Hot Chocolate's You Sexy Thing at 7, John Denver's Fly Away at 6, and Sweet's Fox On The Run at 5. Last week's top dog Diana Ross slides to 4 with the Theme From Mahogany; the Ohio Players move up one to #3 with Love Rollercoaster. Barry Manilow does a Morris Albert and slams it back into drive with I Write The Songs moving back up to #2; annnnnnd, the new #1 is......

CW McCall, with his friends Pig Pen and the Rubber Duck, and Convoy!

Okay, that's it this week. Be here next week to avoid mayhem... like me.

1 comment:

  1. CWM:
    I have to applaud your devotion to music, especially with the songs that I happened to listen to so often.
    Where do you find ALL the time to put this together???
    It's amazing, and lots of behind the scenes stuff I never knew about back then.

    Kudos to you.
    Keep those hits comin'!