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


Friday, March 29, 2013

Time Machine #61.

It's March 29, 1971.  Today the court system gave us two verdicts, and two outcomes, to ponder.  Today, Lt. William Calley was found guilty of the My Lai massacre.  It became such a divisive issue that even President Nixon tentatively stepped in.  It seemed to me that Calley got a lot of misplaced sympathy for "following", at least in his opinion, an order he should have disobeyed.  Others might say that he wasn't competent enough to come up with such an original thought, and wouldn't have had the moral character to refuse in the first place.  In the end, his life sentence (which he would still be serving today) was thrown out by a tribunal that found that his defense was denied some very important rights, his maximum security accommodations were exchanged for house arrest on a military base, and in fall 1974 he was let off with time served- almost a 40-year gift.

Also today, the jury on the Charles Manson multiple murder trial found he deserved the death penalty.  Within two years- occupied by legal wrangling and more murders committed in his name by his followers- the death penalty was abandoned in California, and Manson has had a 40-year gift at the expense of a not-so-bright state IMHO.  His sentence was commuted to life in prison (which he IS still serving today).

Calley and Manson... and justice for all?

Welcome to a Good Friday edition of Time Machine, in which I will (ironically but not intentionally) share what I learned in my study of #1 acts that have passed on, along with turning last week's #1 song into Mashed Potato Time, a look back at a #1 hit singer who was accused of beating his dog because he was gay (oops, didn't intend for that to come out THAT way, either), turning a preacher into an amphibian,  and a lot of leading ladies!

This week's hot 100 had 10 debuts, and two of them I'll point to.  At 83 is Harry Nilsson with Me And My Arrow from his animated movie The Point.  That movie was one of my fondest childhood memories and worth netflixing or youtubing..  At 91 is Lobo with another childhood favorite- Me And You And A Dog Named Boo.

Hey.. excuse me... I like that one too!

Which brings us to the birthday list for this week.  Turning thirty are a half dozen songs:  David Bowie's #1 Let's Dance; Ronnie Milsap's crossover hit Stranger In My House; Lou Rawls with the much finer version of Wind Beneath My Wings; Modern English with their new wave hit I Melt With You; Duran Duran's Rio; and INXS with The One Thing.  That's more than we had on all the other years together!  Turning 35 were Travolta and Newton-John with You're The One That I Want; Journey with one of my favorites, Wheel In The Sky; and another favorite, Steely Dan's Deacon Blues.  Turning 45 is Tommy James and the Shondells' Mony Mony; and turning fifty, the Beach Boys with Surfin' USA.  Blow out the candles...

"Let's see... you were thirty when we were supposed to be 18 in the movie... and that was 35 years ago... so that would make you..."
"You'd better stop right there... no number you come up with will save your life if you don't..."
So what did my bleary eyed nights of research come up with on the subject of #1 acts who are performing now in rock'n'roll heaven?  Keep in mind that I couldn't find facts on everyone (starting with Bill Snyder, the alter-ego of our friend from a couple weeks ago, Sir Hubert Pimm), and some of the details on groups I was a little loosey-goosey with (as in I tried my best to get the details on the lineup that had the hit... but sometimes I may have fudged a bit), and some people even old band mates have lost track of (including two members of the Tijuana Brass).  Anyway, I looked at all; the #1s from 1950 to this week on TM- a total of 249 acts!  It was about 1965 that that totals of new acts every year started to really pick up- it hovered under 10 most of the fifties but exploded to hit 20 new acts four times in the sixties and seventies.  The only year that I could find no one alive was 1950 (out of 11 acts), but from there on the survivor rate climbed to 36.8 percent by the end of the decade.  The sixties stabilized in the 55-60% range in the sixties, and was around 80% after January 1970.  My final count ended up 237 dead, 391 still alive for a 62.3 survival rate.  It was 1962 before we started having consistently more survivors than passed on, and it was 1965 when the total alive passed the graveyard shift.  Not surprisingly, that's when the volume of new acts per year started really climbing.  And that's the story.

Our big mover this week is Dawn with the tune (and a bright deduction it is) I Sing And Play.  It climbs 25 spots to 56.  Sweet Mary takes the big dive this week, plunging 53 notches to #84.  And that brings us to the Where Are They Now feature- and the last single for the Miracles featuring Smokey Robinson, I Don't Blame You At All.

This was the swan song for the original Miracles.  Smokey had wanted to retire before this, but hung around when Tears Of A Clown became such a big hit.  He soon made up his mind, and in 1972 he and wife Claudette retired from that end of the business.  Good buddy Marvin Tarplin left about then as well, and Smokey's successor- the 60th man who auditioned- was Billy Griffin.  The Miracles forged on, hitting #13 in '74 with Do It Baby, and #1 with the 1975 hit Love Machine.  After that the hits dried up, but the band held together until 1978.  Originals Bobby Rogers and Ronald White reunited the group in 1993 with new members, but White passed from Leukemia in 1995.  Rogers kept the band together until he retired in 2011; he died earlier this month.

Rogers was the brother of founder Sonny Rogers and Claudette Robinson's cousin.  Pete Moore was, after Smokey, the most prolific songwriter, having a hand in songs like Ooo Baby Baby, Tracks Of My Tears, and later on Love Machine.  He was with the group until the breakup in 1978, but other than a reuniting of the original band in 1983, he was not involved in any of the regroupings.  Tarplin also stayed out of the regrouping, helping Smokey on his 1979 comeback hit Cruisin'.  Claudette and Smokey divorced in 1986, and performs today billing herself "the first lady of Motown".  No word on whether she arm-wrestled Diana Ross for that title.  Smokey was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 1987- without the Miracles.  A special group trying to right such wrongs in the Hall Of Fame's proceedures, retroactively admitted the other originals in 2009 (posthumously in White's case).  Another reason why I love the RNRHOF so much- always full of class. (He says tongue in cheek.)

Seven new top 40 hits this week.  Up 7 to lead off the 40, Elvis with Where Did They Go, Lord; Stevie Wonder, who copped the WATN feature last week, moves from 50 to 39 with We Can Work It Out; Up 5 to 38 is the ever-delightful Engelbert Humperdink with When Ther's No You; Stephen Stills climbs 7 to #34 with Sit Yourself Down.  Up 11 spots to 33 is Alice Cooper with Eighteen; Neil Diamond's high debut last week, I Am.. I Said jumps 23 to #31.  Finally, climbing 12 to #30, Three Dog Night with what would become one of the biggest hits of the decade, Joy To The World.  This song was born when Hoyt Axton came up with the tune, and was told, "Just write any old words for it."  He began it with "Jeremiah was a prophet, " but nobody liked that, thus the prophet became a bullfrog.
Our lookback takes us to the big mover of this week in 1957, and one of three top 40 hits for movie heartthrob Tab Hunter.  He had already hit #1 with Young Love (which he and Sonny James would reach the top with within weeks of each other).  This time, he was moving 10 spots to 24 with Ninety-Nine Ways.  Born Arthur Gelien, he was a boy- and then man- of many talents, including being a competitive figure skater.  Soon, his good looks made him the highest grossing star in Hollywood from 1955-9, in movies opposite a bevy of leading ladies, including:

Kathryn Grant ( soon to be Mrs Bing Crosby #2)...

Debbie Reynolds...

Sophia Loren...

...and Natalie Wood.
But despite the supposed romances with one or more of these ladies that Hollywood would have us believe, Tab's tab ran the other way... or as they used to say off set, "Natalie Wood, but Tab wouldn't."  In fact, at one point he was taken to trial for beating his dog, a charge fabricated (as it was finally learned) by a neighbor woman whom he would not go out with.

He got his own sitcom in the late fifties, in which he played a cartoonist with dating problems, but he was opposite Ed Sullivan, and didn't last long.  Later he would become a "cult star" with roles in movies like Grease 2.  Lately he has been in an off-Broadway production of Love Letters with Joyce DeWitt- insert your own Three's Company gag here.

Three songs go into the top ten three go out.  Dropping are Have You Ever Seen The Rain ( 7 to 21), Mama's Pearl (9 to 23), and Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You (10 to 24).

Bobby Sherman moves up a pair to #10 with Cried Like A Baby.

Marvin Gaye rises 4 to #9 with the classic What's Going On.

George Harrison's What Is Life is up three spots to 8.

The Osmonds drop a couple to 7 with the former top dog One Bad Apple.

The Carpenters nail themselves to the #6 slot for a second week with For All We Know.

Ike and Tina move up 3 to #5 with Proud Mary.

And that brings us to the six degrees victim du jour.

The Temptations slip from the top to #4 with Just My Imagination.  This was the swan song for the departing Eddie Kendricks, who was about to walk out in mid-show to go solo.  He would go on to hit #1 with Keep On Truckin' a tune written by Leonard Caston, Jr.  In addition to having a famous bluesman for a father, Leonard was an accomplished songwriter and played as a session man, including the piano on Fontella Bass' Rescue Me.  Fontella also had a parent in the business; her mother Martha played with the great gospel stars the Clara Ward Singers ( for a brief time).  For all her gospel stardom, Clara did have one moment of pop "fame":  she joined her sister Willa's group in singing backup vocals on Dee Dee Sharp's Mashed Potato Time.

Stuck in place:  the next two songs- #3 Me And Bobby McGee for Janis Joplin, and #2 Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted by the Partridge Family.

And climbing from #4 to the very top...

Tom Jones with She's A Lady!!!!!!

Have a great holiday weekend, everyone!!

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