Today, a very special time machine- in honor of Robert Easterday.
Bob passed last night, just 2 days away from his 81st birthday. So to acknowledge the occasion, we will be forgoing most of the usual specials in exchange for two new ones- a look at the top ten "death songs' in pop music; and a look at the number one song when Bob was born.
Leading off the countdown of death songs (this is totally my list):
10. Dead Man's Curve- Jan and Dean. Hit #8 in 1964 and nearly proved prophetic 2 years later.
Well, the last thing I remember, Doc, I started to swerve/And then I saw the Jag slide into the curve/I know I'll never forget that horrible sight/I guess I found out for myself that everyone was right/Won't come back from Dead Man's Curve.
9. And When I Die- Blood Sweat And Tears- #2 in 1969. Now troubles are many, they're as deep as a well./I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell/.Swear there ain't no heaven and I pray there ain't no hell,/But I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell.
8. New York Mining Disaster 1941- Bee Gees. Though no one actually dies in the song, it's based on a real incident in Aberfan, Wales, in 1966 which took the life of 28 adults and 116 children. #14 here in 1967, it was the Bee Gees first charting single.
In the event of something happening to me,/there is something I would like you all to see./It's just a photograph of someone that I knew...
Seven songs hit the hot 100 for the first time this week. The four I knew were: Kiss with Shout It Out Loud at #89; Bad Company's cover of the Coaster's 1957 #8 Young Blood at 84; Olivia Newton-John at 83 with Come On Over; and Barry Manilow's title-track follow-up to I Write The Songs, Tryin' To Get The Feeling at 71. The big dropper this week was a song called In France They Kiss On The Street by Joni Mitchell, which drops from 55 where it peaked to 85; the big jumper is another song I don't really remember, the O'Jays' Living For The Weekend, going from 82 to 57. While we're in the nether regions, I'll point out two others that I have mentioned and fell short of the top 40: January by Pilot, which peaks out here at 87; and CCR's posthumous Heard It Through The Grapevine, which topped off at 47 and drops to 62 this week.
7. Chiseled In Stone- Vern Gosdin. This one is a country tune, hitting #6 on the country charts in 1988. Unbelievably hard for me to listen to. Ironically, Vern died in 2009.
Then that old man sat down beside me and looked me in the eye,/and said "Son, I know what you're going through,/You ought to get down on your knees and thank your lucky stars that you got someone to go home to."/You don't know about lonely,Or how long nights can be,/Till you lived through the story/That's still livin' in me,/And you don't know about sadness'til you faced life alone,/You don't know about lonely/'til it's chiseled in stone.
Man, I even have a hard time READING it.
6. Tell Laura I Love Her- Ray Peterson. A #7 hit in the states in 1960. The lyrics were considered "too vulgar" in the UK, and a modified version by Ricky Vallence (not Valens) hit #1 over there. Originally to have been about a rodeo incident, but the popularity of (song name withheld because it's coming up) convinced them to change it to a drag race.
No one knows what happened that day/Or how his car overturned in flames/But as they pulled him from the twisted wreck/With his dying breath, they heard him say/Tell Laura I love her/Tell Laura I need her/Tell Laura not to cry/My love for her will never die.
5. He Stopped Loving Her Today-George Jones. Another Country tune, often voted the greatest country song of all time, it was a #1 hit in 1980.
He stopped loving her today/They placed a wreath upon his door/And soon they'll carry him away/He stopped loving her today...
We only had one new entrant into the top 40 this week, but I make up for it by adding the one I forgot to put in last week. In keeping with our country theme, Freddie Fender comes in at 39, up 4, with You'll Lose A Good Thing. And last week, despite the fact I even LISTENED to the darn thing before I started typing, I forgot to mention the song Action by Sweet. It has gone from 53 two weeks ago to 38 last week to 29 this time around. Apologies, dudes!
As for our almost but not quite, top 40 edition, The White Knight peaked at 20 last week, and drops to 31 this week.
4. I've Got To Get A Message To You- Bee Gees. Not a list you expect to see these guys on twice, is it? A #8 hit here and their second #1 in the UK, a fight between Robin and his wife inspired this story of a man awaiting his execution.
Well I laughed but that didn't hurt,/And it's only her love that keeps me wearing this dirt./Now I'm crying but deep down inside,/Well I did it to him, now it's my turn to die...
3. Seasons In The Sun- Terry Jacks. Need I say more? This was actually #1 this week in 1974.
Goodbye, Papa, please pray for me,/I was the black sheep of the family./You tried to teach me right from wrong./Too much wine and too much song,/wonder how I get along./Goodbye, Papa, it's hard to die/when all the birds are singing in the sky,/Now that the spring is in the air./Little children everywhere./When you see them I'll be there.
Three songs come into the top ten, three go out. The droppers are 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, from 4 to 12; Take It To The Limit, from 5 to 13; and Fanny Be Tender, from 9 to 16.
2. Teen Angel- Mark Dinning. Despite being banned by stations on both sides of the Atlantic for its subject matter, it hit #1 here and #37 (despite the fact that a BBC ban meant NO airplay) in 1960. Sha Na Na performed it at Woodstock.
What was it you were looking for/that took your life that night?/They said they found my high school ring/clutched in your fingers tight.
1. Last Kiss- J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers-This song is about Jeanette Clark and J.L. Hancock, who were both 16 years old when their car hit a tractor-trailer on a road in rural Barnesville, Georgia. They were on a date a few days before Christmas in 1962. A local gas station attendant helping with the recovery of the bodies did not recognize his own daughter when he helped pull the bodies out of the wreckage. Wilson hit #2 in 1964 with his version, the same spot Pearl Jam hit with their remake in 1999.
When I woke up the rain was pouring down/ There were people standing all around /Something warm flowing through my eyes /But somehow I found my baby that night /I lifted her head she looked at me and said /Hold me darling just a little while/ I held her close I kissed her our last kiss /I found the love that I knew I would miss/ Well now she's gone even though I hold her tight /I lost my love my life that night .
Zooming into the top ten this week from 27 to 10 is Johnny Taylor and Disco Lady. Nazareth moves up a notch to 9 with Love Hurts. Aerosmith moves up from 12 to 8 with Dream On. Also going up 4 to join the top ten at #7 is Rufus featuring Chaka Khan with Sweet Thing. Down 3 to #6 is Rythym Heritage with the Theme From SWAT, a former top dog. Last week's top dog, the Miracles' Love Machine, drops to #5. The Captain And Tenille move from 6 to 4 with Lonely Night/Angel Face. Gary Wright shoots up to #3, up 4, with Dream Weaver. An even bigger jump is made by the Four Seasons, from 8 to 2 with December 1963 (Oh What A Night). And moving into the top spot this week- Eric Carmen with All By Myself.
The man whose orchestra performed the #1 song on Bob Easterday's birthday is named Bob Selvin. A son of Russian Immigrants, he first learned the fiddle before moving into all branches of music. With an estimated 13,000 recordings under dozens of different act names, he is considered the most recorded act in history. He was also the first programming director for Muzak and supervised the first muzak broadcast in 1936. Despite making a living as a radio act, he often attacked radio- and recording- for putting live musicians out of work. He wrote a report for James C. Petrillo, head of the American Federation of Musicians, in 1942, though, examining the music industry exhaustively and recommending against a ban on recording- a ban Petrillo briefly enacted anyway.
What is the song, you ask?
May The Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.