We have a trip this week that’s all over the board, from Vaudeville to WWF wrestling, from Nashville to Detroit, from Jay and the Americans’ last top 40 hit to Led Zeppelin as an opening act! Intrigued? Good! Then I won’t have to tease the six degrees that will take us from Ray Stevens to the devil! Not much of a stretch, you say? Well, stay tuned!
We lead off with another big week of 18 hot 100 debuts, but we feature but 5 of them. Norman Greenbaum debuts at 97 with Spirit In The Sky. I thought it odd that a practicing (then and now)Jew should write a song about Jesus- and when I hit the odder explanation which included westerns, Porter Waggoner and Dolly Parton, and “being buried with my boots on”, I just gave up. Neil Diamond comes in at 96 with Shilo, which was a long-delayed autobiographical account of Neil’s imaginary childhood friend. And no, I don’t think this week’s episode is going to get any more normal. The Carpenters hit the pool at #91 with their cover of Ticket To Ride, the only thing odd therein was that Laurie never realized this was a Beatles original. After a plethora of other tunes I didn’t really know, John Lennon and his Plastic Ono Nuclear Band comes in at #72 with Instant Karma (We All Shine On)- and John makes his own oddity. Finally, way up at 67 is the high debut, Three Dog Night with Celebrate (which I learned was recorded with a large section of Chicago’s horn section.
All of which leads us to a heaping helping of birthdays this week. Stevie Nicks’ classic Edge Of Seventeen turns 30 this week. Turning 35 is Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights. Turning 40 are Donnie Osmond’s cover of Puppy Love, the Stylistics’ Betcha By Golly Wow, and America’s A Horse With No Name. Reaching 45 this week are the Beatles’ double-sided Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, The Mamas and the Papas’ Dedicated To The One I Love, and the poorly named 59th Street Song- better known by the tagline “Feeling Groovy”- by the equally curiously-named Harper’s Bizarre. And finally, you American Graffiti fans, the Dell-Vikings Come Go With Me turns 55 this week. Blow out the candles…
Man, this week’s show is packed tight! Next up are the big movers. On the downward spiral, Englebert Humperdink’s Winter World Of Love melts down 19 notches to #41; the aforementioned Mr. Campbell, along with Bobby Gentry, shoots up 24 to #58 with All I Have To Do Is Dream.
Speaking of Gentrys, it is the Gentrys, currently at #50 with Why Should I Cry, who get the Where Are They Now spotlight. The Gentrys, best known for the hit Keep On Dancing (#4 in 1965), Had two notable members. One was Larry Raspberry (a notable name all by itself), who is basically the one member who has carried on in the business, still active with his band the Highsteppers. The other is Jimmy “the Mouth of the South” Hart- yes, that Jimmy Hart, member of the Hart Foundation, wrestler and promoter. He’s also an accomplished writer of his fellow wrestler’s theme songs, including those for his own Hart Foundation, the Honky-Tonk Man, Brutus Beefcake, the Legion of Doom, Ted DiBiase, Shawn Michaels, and Hulk Hogan. Hart is currently back, it seems, under the WWF umbrella after years of coming and going between WWF and TNA.
Next up are the top 40 debuts- all SEVEN of them, all but two of which I had to listen to to try and remember. Coming in at 39, up 3 spots, is the studio band Steam with their follow up to Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye, called I’ve Gotta Make You Love Me. Zooming into the 40 on a 22-notch climb to #38, is Detroit rockers Frijid Pink with their cover of House Of The Rising Sun. These guys were so popular in the Motor City that a newly minted Led Zeppelin opened for them at the Grand Ballroom in Detroit! How’d you like to have a ticket stub from THAT show to post on eBay? Then comes Lulu at 37, up 9 with Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby), which is much better than that clunky title. Stevie Wonder chimes in at 35, also up 9, with Never Had A Dream Come True. Then with one of the 2 I actually recognized, the Hollies debut at 34, up a big fifteen spots with He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother ( a song I usually replace “my brother” with the name of a former boss who could have went to Halloween as Barney with nothing but purple body paint). Mama Cass pokes into the countdown next, climbing 8 to #33 with New World Coming. And at long last, the last debut is the King, Elvis Presley, with Kentucky Rain, rising 14 spots to #31.
The weekly perusal of the #1s of ancient history this week nets us the original Puttin’ On The Ritz. It was #1 this week in 1930 for one Henry Richman, a multi-talented individual who paid his dues on Vaudeville as the piano accompanist for Mae West, among others. Talented enough, in fact, to give him his own movie, for which Ritz was both title and theme song. Acting, though, did not prove to be his forte- years later, Leonard Maltin’s review of the film went: “ A songwriter drinks and goes blind- after seeing this, you’ll want to do the same.” He was apparently better at flying than acting. He was co-pilot with Dick Merrill on the first trans-Atlantic round-trip flight. He packed the plane with ping pong balls (to float it if it should splashdown), and was selling autographed balls from the plane until his death in 1972.
An almost but not quite shout out to Jay and his friggin’ Americans (not a big fan, as you might guess) as their hit, a cover of the Ronettes’ Walkin’ In The Rain, peaked last week at 14 and slips this week to #21. This would be their last time in the top 40.
Three songs blast- and I mean blast- their way into the top 10, three songs plummet- and I mean plummet- to make room. The droppers are I Want You Back (from 3 to 15), Without Love (There Is Nothing) (from 6 to 20), and Whole Lotta Love (10 to 22).
Dionne Warwick leads off the top ten, dropping 3 to #10 with I’ll Never Fall In Love Again. Mark Lindsay holds at 9 with Arizona. Brooks Benton is the first of our “blasters”, jumping 7 to land at #8 with Rainy Night In Georgia. And falling three to #7 is our six degrees victim.
Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head (our grandpa chair song at 18 weeks), as longtime readers know, was offered to Bob Dylan before BJ Thomas. But, what you might not’ve known is that it was first offered to Ray Stevens. Stevens turned it down to record a new Kris Kristofferson song- Sunday Morning Coming Down. He managed to ride it not very far- #55 on the country charts and #81 on the hot 100. (Of course, Johnny Cash soon took it to #1 on C&W and #46 on the pop charts.)
Kristofferson recorded it for his self-titled debut album, along with an amazing array of his compositions that became classics- for someone else. Besides Sunday Morning, Kristofferson the album also contained Me And Bobby McGee (#1 pop for Janis Joplin), Help Me Make It Through The Night (which Dottie West turned down- “my greatest regret”- and Sammie Smith took to #1 C&W and #8 pop), and For The Good Times ( #1 C&W and #11 pop for Ray Price). Apparently the only cut Kris released was a tune called To Beat The Devil (hence the tease) which failed to chart on either list. In fact, the album tanked until Joplin died and went to #1; then it was re-titled Me And My Bobby McGee and re-released, making #10 C&W and #43 on the top 200 albums.
The other two “blasters” are next: The Temptations jump 5 to #6 with Psychedelic Shack; and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters moves from 18 to #5. The Guess Who shoot from 8 to #4 with No Time. Former top dog Venus by Shocking Blue slips to #3. Eddie Holman moves up from 5 to #2 with Hey There Lonely Girl. And this week’s new top dog:
Sly Stone and the Family with Thank You Fallettenme Be Mice Elf Again!
Woof, that was a workout! See you Saturday for the seventies countdown.