Before we set out, a bit of sad news. Robert Lee Dickey died Dec. 29th at the age of 72. Who is Robert Dickey? Well, he was the first of two Bobby Purifys in the duo of James and Bobby Purify. Actually James’ cousin, he was the singer on the duo’s 1966 hit I’m Your Puppet. Retiring from the biz in 1972, he was replaced by another singer who then also became “Bobby Purify” in much the same way that Allan Dennison became “Tommy Reynolds” on Hamilton, Joe frank, and Reynolds.
Now onto January 6th, 1977, a day so boring that the “big news” was that EMI fired the Sex Pistols a few days after calling TV host Bill Grundy a “dirty bastard” and a “f’ing rotter” on live TV after he (allegedly drunkenly) hit on fellow punker Siouxsie Sioux. A lovely lot, that. Things aren’t much better on Time Machine, as the chart seems to be a bit constipated, so to speak. But we shall soldier on, with a number one song you should already know (if you do the math from last week’s special countdown), which turns into a six degrees which takes us back to our Where Are They Now feature. Also, why not everybody might agree when Chuck Berry sings, “Hail, hail, rock’n’roll”. And a set of verrrrry strange lyrics from over 100 years ago. Let’s give it a go, shall we?
In a sleep deprived stupor (much like current conditions) I neglected to check my dates properly, and thus was a week off on all my birthday songs with the exception of the week’s debuts. Rather than correct such a trivial mistake (just like I didn’t correct Al Stewart’s “23 live albums” down to a more reasonable 3 last week), I’ll just close my eyes and skip that part of the show. Those who are sticklers for such things can cut-and-paste last week’s birthday songs
and we’ll move on. Speaking of debuts, there were just 5 on the hot 100 this week, and only one of note- The lead single off the best lp of the decade, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, comes in at #66 this week- Go Your Own Way. Hard to believe that was 35 years ago.
The big dropper is a good song for an almost but not quite salute- Styx peaked 2 weeks ago with their tune Madamoiselle; this week it tumbles 19 to #96. And I am ever so thrilled to announce that the Henhouse Five Plus Too! has the big mover. The clucking chickens move up 18 to #61 with In The Mood. Moments like this keep me from my usual “music was better back then” rants, so I guess it does have a purpose.
Our WATN segment shows at #50 this week a really neat and almost forgotten song called Living Next Door To Alice, by a band eventually named Smokie. Smokie was an English “glam-rock” outfit (think Sweet) whose one claim to fame over here was Alice. Their careers took off when they were wedged into the schedule of glam composers Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn ( who would shortly become disco kingpins as the core of Chic). Chinnichap (their term, not mine) changed their name to what it is now (dangling plotline alert!) and bought them a little more fame when they combined lead singer Chris Norman with their starlet Suzi Quatro (yes, Leather Tuscadero from Happy Days) for the hit Stumblin’ In. Eventually, Norman left in 1986 for a solo career which he still works at. His first replacement, Alan Barton, died in 1995 when the tour bus crashed in a hailstorm in Germany. The band goes on, though, and in 2010 (I almost put “last year”) released the lp Take A Minute in Europe, and it hit #2 in Denmark.
Debuts in the top 40 are a bit sparse as well. ABBA moves from 45 to 40 with Dancing Queen; up 6 to #38 is the Donnie and Marie cover of Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing; and up 10 spots to roost at #31 (you just know this will have something to do with a bird) is Steve Miller’s Fly Like An Eagle.
This would be the week that I started my personal top ten, and I surely regret not keeping the dozen or so little notebooks I used for that purpose. To give you an idea, though, I believe that list roughly went like this: Starting at #1, Weekend In New England (#26 this week); Lost Without Your Love (21);Livin’ Thing (13); Somebody To Love (11); I Like Dreamin’ (19); Blinded By The Light (16); Love Me ( top ten); Dazz (top ten); Jeans On (15); and New Kid In Town (18).
Perusing the #1s of yesteryear, I came across the name George J. Gaskin. Born in 1863, he became so popular in the close of the 19th century, he was known as “the Silver Voice Irish Tenor” (how’s that for a catchy nickname?) Among the #1s he had this week were Slide Kelly Slide in 1892; The Fatal Wedding in 1894; The Sunshine Of Paradise Alley in 1896; On The Banks Of The Wabash in 1898; and My Old New Hampshire Home in 1899. He was the second act (by one day) to record commercially for Edison- the first being former slave George W. Johnson. I’ve got to note two of these songs. On the song Slide Kelly Slide, about baseball star and vaudeville performer Mike Kelly, the chorus says:
“Slide, Kelly, Slide! Your running’s a disgrace! Slide, Kelly, Slide! – Stay there – hold your base! If someone doesn’t steal yer, And your batting doesn’t fail yer, They’ll take you to Australia! Slide, Kelly, slide!”
The reference to Australia would have been well known at the time, as the continent served as a penal institution for British subjects. So it must have been a big laugh to think that if his batting failed he’d be off to prison. From Marty Appel PR.
The other one I have to share is the lyrics to The Fatal Wedding. Whatever you’re expecting, you’re wrong:
The groom stood there waiting for his bride
The best man shiverin' by his side
On him the smell of stale sheep dip
And a flask of brandy on his hip
He knew he'd trod that last long mile
As his dear walked slowly down the isle
This was the day he was waiting for
When he'd get in for his cut and more
Of her old man's station and his gold
As soon as wedding bells had tolled
The fortune sure had smiled his way
This was indeed his lucky day
But the bride, she died at the alter
The bridegroom died next day
The parson dropped dead in the churchyard
As he was about to pray
The hearse capsized at the crossroads
It couldn't make the turn
And the people stood and cheered like mad
As they watched the old church burn
And then the heavens broke open
And the rain it started to fall
And the whole flamin' town got washed away
And there was no one le-eft at all...
I can’t make this stuff up.
One song enters the top ten, one falls out- Stand Tall drops from 9 to #20.
Yvonne Elliman Moves one notch into the top ten with Love Me. The Sylvers’ Hot LIne also edges up one to #9. Elton John flip-flops with Brick- Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word to 8, and Dazz to 7. Former top dog Tonight’s The Night mumbles its way down 3 to #6. After The Loving moves up a spot to #5; so does Stevie Wonder with I Wish to 4 and Rose Royce with Car Wash to 3. Leo Sayer holds another week at 2 with You Make Me Feel Like Dancing.
And of course, the second week at #1 for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis with You Don’t Have To Be A Star. This was the final in a long line of #1 gigs for veteran Motown bassist James Jamerson. Jamerson had a hand in most of Motown’s big hits- he was bassist on virtually everything done by the Supremes, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, and early Stevie Wonder. Unfortunately, Motown was not in the habit of crediting sidemen, and he bitterly drank himself to death in 1983 at the age of 47. One that did recognize him in the credits- the first one- was Marvin Gaye on his watermark lp What’s Going On. The title song (which Berry Gordy thought would be a flop), was co-written by Gaye, “Obie” Benson of the Four Tops, and a gent named Al Cleveland, who also wrote I Second That Emotion. Which of course was a big hit for Smokey and the boys; and Smokey it was that forced the band Smokie to become Smokie, because “Chinnichap” wanted to call them Smokey, but Mr. Robinson’s legal team threatened to sue. Still even that beat their previous moniker- the Elizabethans.
And that’s it for this trip, and my poor sore butt rejoices. See ya tomorrow for the seventies countdown. Right? RIGHT???