Well, as you might expect on a Friday the 13th, I have a bit of a challenge with this week’s chart. With the exception of #s 8 and 10 flipping places, NOBODY MOVED in the top 10. Now, I know you might be tempted to say, “Well, then, let’s just look at last week’s TM, transpose, and go read Al Penwasser's blog. Good idea, but before you do, why not hang out here and give me the chance to tell a couple really good stories, and give you the Time Machine Name Game.
The Name Game works like this- I’m going to give you four real names, and you have until I hit them in the stories to guess! Here’s those names, ready? Joseph Alfred Souter; Asa Yoelson; Gayle Peck; Bill Robinson; and Carmine Granito.
So today is April 13th, 1970- a Black Monday rather than a Friday. Today, Mission Control will hear the chilling words- “Houston, we have a problem,” as three tiny humans floating in the vastness of space find themselves with a blown O2 tank and a LOOOONG way from home. Also, Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, known for the movie scores to Zorba The Greek and Serpico, was released from the concentration camp the Army junta had slammed him into, and sent him into exile in Paris. And my lovely Oakland A’s tried out gold colored bases for the first time. And MLB made sure it was the last time.
And in music, 16 songs hit the hot 100 this week. Notables among them include White Plains featuring lead singer Tony Burrows (who is one of two guys this week with two songs under different names in the hot 100) at #97 with My Baby Loves Loving. The Sandpipers come in at 86 with Come Saturday Morning. The Who come in at #80 with The Seeker. And at 71, Simon and Garfunkel hit with Cecilia.
Our birthday list is a bit sparse too. Turning 30 this week are Paul and Stevie with Ebony And Ivory; turning 40, Wayne Newton’s Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast; and turning 50, Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart In San Francisco. (the Vegas crew, eh?) Blow out the candles…
The big dropper this week is Who’s Your Baby? by the Archies, led by Ron Dante (real name Carmine Granito) dropping 15 to 44. Dante will be returning- under another group name- later on in the top 40. The big climber is No Sugar Tonight, the flip side of The Guess Who’s American Woman, shooting from 73 to #41.
Today’s look back in time took me to a man whose name I knew, but shamefully knew little about him. He was on top of the charts three times on this date- in 1921 with O-H-I-O (Oh-My!-O!); the next year with April Showers; and in 1926 with I’m Sitting On Top Of The World. He was named Asa Yoelson, born in 1886 in Russian Lithuania. You know him better as Al Jolson.
Al Jolson was world famous the blackfaced, singing Gus. But he started out singing and doing burlesque to keep his family alive after his mom died. in 1902 he landed a paying gig at the Walter L. Mann circus- initially as an usher till Mann heard him sing- which folded the next year. He then had a succession of short term jobs in the biz, until producer JJ Schubert, a fellow eastern European Jew, discovered him and made him first a recording act and then a legend. As Al Jolson, he racked up 83 top 40 hits, with all but five making the top ten ( the last hit of his main career- ironically- was 1933’s Hallelujah, I’m A Bum which hit #19) and an incredible 21 #1s.
But the amazing thing about Jolson was the man himself. He used the blackface “mask” he wore to bring exposure to African-American talent. In 1927, he made a conscious effort to override DW Griffith’s racist The Birth Of A Nation with his great movie The Jazz Singer. Bringing black music to the big screen in order to help break down the barriers in society between black and white. But he didn’t stop there- he found out about a pair of black songwriters, for example, who’d been thrown out of a “whites only” restaurant, and invited them to dinner with him, threatening anyone who’d evict them with “a punch in the nose”. He was good friends with many of the age’s black artists, including Bill Robinson, better known as Mr. Bojangles.
He was also an indefatigable supporter of our troops, not only hounding his way into performing in the Pacific theatre in WWII (where he lost a lung to malaria), but paid his own way to Korea when he was informed that the USO “had been disbanded”, virtually re-starting it single-handedly. Unfortunately, the dust of Korea took a toll on his single lung; he died the same year (1950), suffering a massive heart attack whilst playing cards. His last words were, reportedly, “Boys, I’m going…”
This whole story just scratched the surface of a life which even in the glance I took at it last night utterly astounded me. Perhaps in a later TM I’ll do Al Jolson part II.
That brings us to #50 and the Where Are They Now segment. And at #50 this week is Mr. Joe South (born Joseph Alfred Souter) with the song Children. Joe had quite a name for himself both before and after he hit the big time with Games People Play. Among the hits he wrote for others were Chain Of Fools (Aretha Franklin, #2), Sheila (Tommy Roe, #1), Down In The Boondocks (Billy Joe Royal, #9), I Knew You When (Royal again, #14), Yo-Yo ( the Osmonds, #3), Hush (Deep Purple, #4), and I Never Promised You A Rose Garden (Lynn Anderson, #3). But tragedy struck in 1971; his brother Tommy committed suicide. Joe became reclusive; after a last album, the darkly introspective Midnight Rainbows in 1975, he moved to Hawaii and disappeared from the spotlight altogether. He battled drug and alcohol problems for years, finally kicking them with the help of wife Jan, whom he married in 1987. Since then he’s popped his head out irregularly, such as when he was elected to the Georgia Music Hall Of Fame in 2004. But the appearances have been few and far between, and his fan site hasn’t been updated since 2007.
5 songs hit the top 40 this week. The Cuff Links- that other act headed by Ron Dante on the charts this week- move up one to #40 with Run Sally Run. Gladys Knight and the Pips hit with their new song You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You). BJ Thomas finally cracks the top with a former WATN feature, Everybody’s Out Of Town, climbing 10 to #35. Another WATN feature is another ten-spot climber- Bobbi Martin’s For The Love Of Him, rising to #32. And driving up a quick 20 notches to 24 are the Ides Of March with Vehicle.
A tip of the Almost But Not Quite hat to Three Dog Night, who peaked last week at 12 with Celebrate and falls to 15 this time around. The horn section of Chicago played on this one, written by Gary Bonneal and Alan Gordon, who wrote most of the Turtles big hits, including the #1 Happy Together; as well as a list of others culminating in Barbra Streisand’s 1977 hit My Heart Belongs To Me.
No body dropped out. Sorry.
The top 10 starts out with one of the 2 songs that actually moved- the Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, slipping 2. Badfinger at 9 with Come And Get It; Bobby Sherman is the other flip-flopper, going up to #8 with Easy Come, Easy Go. #7 was and is Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters. #6 is Frijid Pink’s House Of The Rising Sun. Norman Greenbaum sits at 5 with Spirit In The Sky. #4 finds Tony Burrows in his other guise as Edison Lighthouse with Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes. John Lennon imagines himself still at #3 with Instant Karma. And that brings us to our six degrees victim- ABC by the Jackson 5, stuck at #2.
One of the band members backing the boys was bassist/sax man Wilton Felder. Felder was an original member of the Crusaders, a jazz outfit who had to wait until 1979 for their first taste of mainstream success. That’s when they hit the top 40 with the title track to the lp Street Life. This particular song was used for a handful of movie soundtracks, including Burt Reynolds’ Sharkey’s Machine. That particular sound track had two versions of the classic My Funny Valentine, one of them by a lady born Gayle Peck. You know her better as singer/actress Julie London. And you know Julie London best as Nurse Dixie McCall on the drama Emergency- a TV show that featured her best friend Robert Fuller as Dr. Kelly Brackett, her husband Bobby Troup as Dr. Joe Early, and ex-husband Jack Webb as producer. Small world ain’t it?
And finally, to the unnecessary roll of drums, we have the Beatles at #1 for the third week with Let It Be. Now, see, didn’t I tell you it would be worth it? Okay, now go read Penwasser, and tell him I sent you!