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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Machine week thirty five

Normally here I would be telling you that on September 28th, 1970, we had the death of Egyptian dictator Gamel Abdel Nasser, best known in the free world for getting throughly whupped in 4 wars with Israel; best known in the formerly Communist world for merging his nation with Syria to prevent communists from taking it over in 1958, having the Syrians kick him out in 1961, and then buying arms from the USSR with which to get his butt whupped; and best known in the Arab world for having King Faud of Saudi Arabia give a check to a member of the Jordanian military to shoot him down (which that dude promptly gave to Nasser).

But today, I'm starting things a different way (just mentally move that last bit down farther).  This week, we lost yet another of music's icons.

Andy Williams was more than just another singer.  He crossed generations and genres.   He gave up a successful singles career to be himself- and went from a star to a legend.  He was a bright spot in summer re-run season, a singing uncle at holiday time, and now, he is another giant hole in my heart.  I'm going to get to the usual stuff here as well, but the specials are going to be overtaken by something even more special, even as my typing keeps getting overtaken by the lump in my throat.

This week in 1970, we had fifteen hot 100 debuts, of which 4 are in the mention category.  The Partidge Family break onto the charts for the first time at 100 with I Think I Love You.  Bread's follow up to the top dog Make It With You, It Don't Matter To Me, debuts at 75.  Blood Sweat and Tears has their own follow up, following the top 10 Hi-De-Ho with Lucretia McEvil at 68.  And at 65, the Who with See Me, Feel Me from Tommy.

Those songs turn 42 today.  Turning 30 this week are a couple of R&B crossovers, Jeffery Osbourne's On The Wings Of Love, and Patti Austin and James Ingram with Baby Come To Me, along with Billy Squier's Everybody Wants You, Timothy B. Schmitt's cover of the doo-wop hit So Much In Love, and one of the worst top ten songs in history IMHO, Diana Ross' slutty classic Muscles.  Turning 35 are James Taylor's Your Smiling Face, Barry Manilow's Daybreak, the Babys'  Isn't It Time, and Player's Baby Come Back.  Turning 40 are the immortal If You Don't Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, and Donna Fargo's Funny Face.  Hitting 45 are Aretha Franklin's cover of You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, the Bee Gees' Holiday, and Partridge Family forerunners the Cowsills with The Rain The Park And Other Things, probably better known by the chorus line, "I love the flower girl".  And finally, turning 55 today, Little Richard's classic Keep A Knocking.  Blow out the candles...

It is hard to know how to pay tribute to this man, who collected 28 top 40's, 8 top tens, and the 1957 #1 Butterfly.  I imagine the best place to start is at the beginning, when he and his brothers formed a successful quartet.  That quartet hit the heights of its popularity when they sang behind Bing Crosby (see, I still managed to bring Bing into the show) on his huge #1 Swinging On A Star.  It was #1 for seven weeks in 1944, in a year where Bing had the top spot for eighteen weeks with four different songs.  He went solo as a singer on Steve Allen's Tonight Show, and that got him a recording contract with Cadence Records and its boss, Archie Bleyer.  His first single was Walk Hand In Hand, which was released somewhat after Tony Martin's version which went to #10; Andy only got to #54.  But his next release was Canadian Sunset, which made the top ten at #7.

Couldn't resist this one- Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margaret, Andy, and Andy Griffith on Andy's show.

Our big mover this week on the countdown is God, Love, And Rock And Roll by the duo of Teegarden and Van Winkle, zipping up 21 spots to #51.  Dave Teegarden went on to become the drummer for Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band on the Stranger In Town and Against The Wind lps.  Dropping the most this week are The Chairmen Of The Board with their former top 40 Everything's Tuesday, falling 25 to #64.  And if tragedy can have a good side, this one's is in the fact that it interrupts this week's Where Are They Now Segment, because the song at #50- Elvis' The Next Step Is Love- hits on the way down after already hitting on the way up.  The King's a bit greedy, eh?

The vast majority of Andy's singles success came in the Cadence years, with Bleyer picking and choosing what he thought would appeal to teenagers.  Six of his eight top tens came in those years with Bleyer and Cadence (1954-61), but Bleyer's influence was most famous for the one that got away.

The iconic movie Breakfast At Tiffany's (which is most definately on my bucket list) was filmed in 1961, and the music of the movie was a point of controversy.  Henry Mancini co-wrote Moon River for the film's star, Audrey Hepburn.  After an advance screening, the producer decided he wanted to cut Audrey's performance of the song from the movie; legend has it that her response was a somewhat pimped-out rendition of "Over my dead body".  So it stayed in the movie, but the soundtrack instead had Mancini's instrumental (which of course, is Edith Bunker's favorite song).  This version was released at the same time as Jerry Butler's version; they hit #11 one after the other.  Andy recorded it on his latest album, and quickly adopted it as his theme song.  But Bleyer thought that the teenage record buyer was not sufficiently sophisticated to appreciate lyrics like "my huckleberry friend", and refused to release it.  While I don't have the evidence to say it's so, this might have been the last straw for Andy;  The Everly Brothers had left Cadence the year before for Warner Brothers, and Andy left for Columbia right after.  Those were two very large broadsides for the relatively small label, and within 3 years, Bleyer folded Cadence.  Andy bought the entire label songbook rights in 1964, because he didn't want discount labels buying them and "recording my hits onto recycled asphalt parking lots".  He would eventually put the songbook into a label he named Barnaby Records.  Barnaby would go on to revive Ray Stevens' career and give Jimmy Buffett his start.

Andy and Mr. Barnaby, for which the Barnaby Records label was named.

Five songs came into the top forty this week in 1970.  Isaac Hayes, who was the Where Are They Now with this song a couple of weeks ago, moves up 1 to #40 with I Stand Accused.  The Carpenters leap 10 to come in at #39 with the greatest ad a local bank ever had, We've Only Just Begun.  100 Proof Aged In Soul blast up 19 to 38 with Somebody's Been Sleeping.  And two of those draggy songs we've been waiting for finally make it this week.  Up 11 to 36 after 8 weeks of climbing are Sugarloaf with Green Eyed Lady.  And "draggy" takes on a whole new meaning on the song that finally hits the 40 after 7 weeks of climbing- up from 46 to #31, the Kinks with Lola.

Moving to Columbia meant that he could be more himself, singing the sweet ballads that would earn him (in the UK) the nickname "the Emperor of Easy".  In fact, once the Easy-Listening (later Adult Contemporary) chart was established, he had 44 top 40's, fifteen landing in the top five- and the charts were after most of his Cadence hits.  Even then he scored top forty hits with many of his classics:  Cant Get Used To Losing You (#2, and also a #7 hit on the R&B chart), Days Of Wine And Roses (#26), On The Street Where You Live (#28), Music To Watch Girls By (#34), Happy Heart (my favorite, #22), and Where Do I Begin (Theme From Love Story, #9).  He was much bigger as an album act, scoring a huge hit with Days Of Wine And Roses And Other TV Requests (1963), which contained the title single along with the big hit Can't Get Used To Losing You, as well as covers of What Kind Of Fool Am I and I Left My Heart In San Francisco.  But another big lp had another "one that got away" story.  And that was 1963's Andy Williams' Christmas Album.   Perhaps no song is more associated with Andy by non-groupies than his It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year- and like Moon River it was not released.  Instead they released Andy's cut of White Christmas, which hit #1 on Billboard's special countdown of the year's Christmas songs, and #81 on Cashbox's regular survey.

Never missed an Andy Williams Christmas Special.

I have a couple of almost-but-not-quite shoutouts to give out this week.    The Guess Who peaked last week at 13 with Hand Me Down World and this time drops to 32.  And the second coming of Neil Diamond's Solitary Man gets short-shrifted again, peaking at 20 last week and dropping to 35 this time around.  In the meantime, one song joins the top ten, one drops out.  That dropper was In The Summertime, falling from 8 to 19 this week.

Andy was good friends with the Kennedy clan, often serving as an escort for Bobby's wife Ethel after his assassination; he sang the Battle Hymn Of The Republic at Bobby's funeral.  Despite this, he himself was a lifelong conservative, even giving Rush Limbaugh permission to use Born Free cut with sounds of bombs going off for the bumper music for his Animal Rights Updates.  He had strong feelings about the current President, which I will not go into here; suffice it to say his sentiments mirror my own. 

For fifteen years he was married to Claudine Longet; he also was her main support when, a couple years later, she was accused of murdering her new boyfriend, skiier Spider Sabich.  It wasn't until 1991 that he married again, to Debbie Meyer.  They were still together at his death.

Andy, Claudine, and the kids.

Debbie and Andy.

Back to this week's business, here's the top ten.

Aretha Franklin and the Dixie Flyers remain at 10 for a second week with Don't Play That Song.

Rare Earth blasts its way into the top ten, moving three to 9 with (I Know I'm) Losing You.

Chicago slips a pair to 8 with 25 Or 6 To 4.

Edwin Starr's former top dog War falls three to #6.

I would be remiss to not mention a show I watched my entire childhood, the Andy Williams Show.  Running from 1962-71 (sometimes year round, sometimes not)  It alway began with Moon River, and always ended with Happy Heart.  In between, stars like Bobby Darin, Ray Stevens, Johnathan Winters, Dick Van Dyke, the Lennon Sisters, and the Osmond Brothers sang and danced and made people laugh with innocent joy.  But for me, it was all about the Bear.

Bob Hope, Andy, and the Cookie Bear.
Every week, the Cookie Bear would find some way to try to scam Andy out of a cookie.  Andy had a standard answer every week:  "Not now, not ever, NEVER!!!"  And then he would slink away for another week.  Legend has it that an early internet virus was a cookie bear that would interrupt a program with "I WANT COOKIE" and wouldn't go away until you typed in "cookie";  legend also says this is where internet cookies got their name.  Facts say that the "character" actor who played the Bear was Janos Prohaska, who played in many such costumes on shows from Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea to Star Trek.  He appeared on What's My Line in a monkey suit, and appeared in a handful of Gilligan's Island episodes as the gorilla.  Prohaska died with 34 others in a 1974 plane crash.

Candida climbs two to #5 for Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Clarence Carter slips to #4 with last week's top dog, Patches.

Bobby Sherman, who along with fellow top ten-ers CCR and Aretha Franklin, appeared on Andy's show, climbs a pair to 3 with Julie Do Ya Love Me?

CCR is in a familiar position- #2- with Looking Out My Back Door. 

And our new #1 song is....

...Diana Ross with Ain't No Mountain High Enough!!!

And now, we close this tribute... well the way I think Andy would have wanted.  Thanks for coming along.


  1. CWM:
    God, that was a fantastic tribute to Andy Williams...and NOW I remember the cookie bear...( a precursor to the cookie monster? An inspiration perhaps?)
    An incredible list of hits, too.

    Earlier this year, I got the Andy WIlliams CD of Cnristmas songs, and this year will be the first time I play it...sure gonna be a few moist eyes listeniung to that in December here.

    I miss all the crooners we used to have.
    Somehow, listening tio their songs made a frenetic world seem a bit farther away...and a bit easier to deal with.

    Again, excellent ride this week.

    Stay safe (waitin' round the bend) up there.

    1. I don't know about keeping the frenetic world away, but it sure brings a more innocent age a lot closer.

  2. Hey! Have an awesome weekend and thank you for all the kind comments and well wishings for Mama MB. It means a lot to me and us :))

  3. It can't be my imagination, but it seems like all my childhood icons are dropping like flies this year. Good golly, how long before I hear, "You're next."?
    I think I might get the Andy Williams Christmas CD, as well.
    Thanks for the songs!

    1. This has been a horrible year. I guess the smart ones are trying to get a jump on the Mayans or something. Hard to watch these "friends" leave us, especially when you hear what they're leaving us WITH.