It is October 28th, 1976. As we watch, Jimmy Carter has seen a 33 point lead over incumbent Gerald "Jerry Baby" Ford drop to a virtual dead heat with just days left before the election. As usual, the issues are vital to the very core of America- pardoning Nixon vs brother Billy, "no Soviet domination in Eastern Europe" vs "I've lusted in my heart", peanut farming vs stumblebumbery. Young CW Martin is a punky freshman learning first hand about bullying and religious prejudice and learning in a school that has as many kids in one class as his grade school had in any three grades. But at night, he can shut the door to his bedroom and listen to Ron Gregory on WOWO spin the tunes, give the "Hollyweird report" long before ET and Extra, and get the top of the hour commentary by Vernon Jordan or Jacqueline Grenin Wexler. And if dad was drunk and telling the latest "Goddamnit, Woody, you're right" story, young CW could just turn up the radio and dream of a day when he might just get a girl to notice him on a non-"creep" level. Ah, those were the days. But at least the music was good.
And if he was attuned to the pulse of music at the time, he'd have been looking at these stories this week: the Vice President of the USA who co-wrote a #1 song; the Aussie supergroup who once turned a doo-wop b-side into a "chipmunk" #1 song; and what last week's top dog has in common with Willy Wonka. Curious? Bored and nothing better to do? Or just attracted to my manly good looks? It's all good, strap in and let's go. (Disclaimer: I am attempting my first "scheduled" post so's I can sleep in, it's actually 1:13 am as I type, and I take no responsibility for any attempts at humor herein.)
As usual, we kick off with hot hundred debuts for this week- which are also the songs celebrating their 35th birthdays this week. Seven songs debut, and you may actually know these three: at 88, the follow up to the hit Boogie Fever for that mob-like amalgam known as the Sylvers, Hot Line. At 82, an AOR tune that breaks into the chart, Slowhand Eric Clapton's Hello, Old Friend. And at 72, the opening salvo from ELO's new album A New World Record, Livin' Thing. This is probably the best ELO singles lp of their career, though as a complete work I think Eldorado still tops it. Tightrope, which leads off the lp, is probably the best single they never released, and Telephone Line remains one of the two best songs they ever did. Oh, and Livin' Thing wasn't bad either.
Joining them in our birthday group at the 40-year level are (are you ready?) Michael Jackson's Got To Be There, Sly and the Family Stone's Family Affair, and the Who with Behind Blue Eyes. At 45 years old this week are the New Vaudeville Band's Winchester cathedral, the Supremes' oft-covered You Keep Me Hanging On, and the Stylistics' You Are Everything. And turning 50 this week, James Darren with the immortal words: "Goodbye cruel world, I'm off to join the circus." Blow out the candles...
With the weather getting cold now, it's only appropriate that War's hit Summer would be our big dropper, falling 16 spots to #55. The big mover awaits in the top 40.
Guess what? We finally have a #49 that we can salute on the Where Are They Now Segment! On their way down, the Little River Band stops at 49 with It's A Long Way There. I don't know about you, but I think these guys were highly underrated.Probably not so much back in Oz, where they had quite the pedigree. The original group centered around three men. Glenn Shorrock started out with a band called the Twilights, and it was in part due to their nationwide popularity (rare in those days Down Under) that a National Top 40 chart was established, which they promptly topped with a tune called Needle In A Haystack. (I'm sampling this right now.Pretty good!) He moved on to another outfit called Axiom, which scored two top tens in 1969-70. Bassist Beeb Birtles was in a band called Zoot along with a young Rick Springfield, and they had scored a top five hit with a powered-up version of Eleanor Rigby (which I shall sample next. Man, this rocks!) He and the third member of this core, Graeham Goble, were both involved in another top ten-hitting act, called Mississippi. They also took the flip side of the Rays' #3 1957 hit Sihouettes, a song called Daddy Cool, and turned it into a "chipmunk version" under the name the Drummonds and held the #1 spot for 7 weeks in '71. (Yeah, I'll check this out when Zoot's done.)
So where is the LRB now? Well, attrition over the years left the ownership of the name with a non-original member, Steve Housden, and he kept it even when he retired from what now passes for LRB in 2006. The actual core members reunited in the late 1990's but had to go by the moniker Birtles Shorrock Goble. They split in 2007. Shorrock still tours small venues and pimps new acts; Goble, after beating codeine dependence in 2006, released a solo lp, Let It Rain, in 2008; Birtles has a website, but doesn't look like he does much with it. And Daddy Cool? If you like Chipmunk stuff, this isn't bad.
Four songs hit the top 40 this week. At 39, up 8, one of my top five of the 70s, Nights Are Forever Without You by England Dan And John Ford Coley, who ironically enough sit at #40 with the dropping Really Love To See You Tonight. The week's big mover jumps 20 from 58 to 38, Leo Sayer's You Make Me Feel Like Dancing. At 36, up 12, is another song high on my 70s list- Burton Cummings with Stand Tall. And climbing 10 to 33 is Alice Cooper with I never Cry. "Take away, take away my eyes/Sometimes I'd rather be blind..."
An almost but not quite shoutout to Linda Ronstadt. Her cover of the Crickets' That'll Be The Day peaked at 11 last week and slips down to 18 this time.
Here's our look at the #1s of other years, in the 8s this time. 1998 had Monica at the top this week with The First Night (which wasn't bad, but was no Daddy Cool). Phil Collins topped the 1988 chart with the Mindbenders' Groovy Kind Of Love. 1978 was topped by Hot Child In The City by Nick Gilder. Gilder was lead singer for Canadian act Sweeny Todd, who had a #1 there with Roxie Roller (yes, I'll sample). He would be replaced in that band, eventually, by a 15-year old Bryan Adams. 1968 was topped by a song on my personal "not-hit parade", the Beatles Hey Jude. (That's right; I don't like Hey Jude. Wanna make something of it? I have a time machine, you know...) And the top dog this week in 1958 was Tommy Edwards' It's All In The Game, which melody, under the title Melody In A Minor, was composed in 1912 by Charles G. Dawes, who would go on a dozen or so years later to be the VP under Silent Cal Coolidge.
Crap! we're at the top ten already, so's I best let you know that one comes in, one goes out. The Bay City Rollers begin the long road out by falling from 8 to 12 with I Only Wanna Be With You.
Oh, and Roxie Roller? It's good. Can't miss that it's Gilder. Kinda Hot Child In The City meets Fox On The Run.
Kiss scores their first top ten, moving from 12 to 10 with Beth. The Captain and Tenille move up one spot to 9 with Muskrat Love. Also up one is Blue Oyster Cult with Don't Fear The Reaper at 8. Heart holds at 7 with Magic Man, as does Hall and Oates with She's Gone at 6. This is also our new grandpa's chair sitter, with 26 weeks on the chart, one of 10 songs in the hot 100 with over 20 weeks. A Fifth Of Beethoven slips 2 to #5. Gordon Lightfoot wrecks the Edmund Fitzgerald at #4 this week, up one fathom. Steve Miller moves up a spot to #3 with Rockin' Me.
Which brings us to our six degrees victim, Chicago's If You Leave Me Now, which slips from top dog to second banana. Like Beth, a song so out of the band's character that much of the group wanted nothing to do with it, it was shoehorned onto Chicago X by producer James Guercio- an act that set a domino effect into motion that turned Chicago from an American original to Peter Cetera's back-up band. As a producer, Guercio did much the same for Blood Sweat And Tears, recruiting vocalist David Clayton Thomas to take BST in a new direction with their second, eponymous lp. I was amazed, looking into this, at the sheer number of talents on the writing credits list for this album: Eric Clapton, Laura Nyro, Berry Gordy Jr., Billie Holliday, Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi. And one song written by the new vocalist- the #1 Spinning Wheel. This song was covered by Shirley Bassey on one of her albums; you know her as the singer on the Bond theme Goldfinger. Goldfinger was written by a trio of talent: the music came from prolific movie scorer John Barry, among whose compositions was Born Free. The word came from the duo of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly, whose many credits include Sammy Davis Jr's two biggest songs- What Kind Of Fool Am I, and (from Willy Wonka) The CandyMan. And there you have it,- or, as I learned our friends in Canada might say, Bob's Your Uncle.
And If Chicago slips to #2, that means what's old is new again. Or, the new #1 one is the former #1... (sorry, Bobby G.)
Rick Dees and Disco Duck!
Okay, that took just one hour and thirty minutes. So goodnight, good love, and I'll be seeing you next in dreamland!