It's August 9th, 1971. The big news is Britain's Parachute Regiment goes on the attack in Northern Ireland. In what became known as the Ballymurphy Massacre, 6 civilians are shot dead- two while helping injured, one allegedly shot 14 times, most of them in the back after he had fallen. In the next three days, another 5 would die; and then a few Sundays later, they would be re-assigned to Derry, where they would kill 13 and wound 17- and an investigation found that most of these were unarmed protesters shot in the back while fleeing. Lest we think they had a corner on stupidity, the second attack was apparently in retribution for a bombing against their own HQ by the IRA, which killed 5 kitchen workers in their building.
But things were happier in radio land, and that's where we go in our Time Machine trip. This week, the long-awaited finale to the Great Fifties Countdown, all of which bring tears to my eyes- with the possible exception of #10. (just ta give ya a clue, they include 7 #1s, a #3, a #7... and one that wasn't even a top ten (but shoulda been!) Also, a funny little six degrees amongst the top songs; a hot 100 debut that brings Sandy Hook to my mind; a pile of birthday songs, including a video; and a new #1! Let's have some fun!
First, let's look at what's on top of the neighborhood. Half of Detroit (WKNR), Minneapolis (WDGY), and Chicago (WLS) have How Can You Mend A Broken Heart at the top; the other half has, respectively, Spanish Harlem (CKLW), Tom Clay's Medley (KDWB), and Never Ending Song Of Love (WCFL). LA is rockin' to Mr. Big Stuff; Pittsburgh, Smiling Faces Sometimes.
Around the world, new faces on top include: In the Netherlands, Peret, a Spanish Gypsy composer of Catalan Rumba, with a song called Borriquito. CCR's Sweet Hitchhiker now tops the Swiss Charts, while Ireland has joined the UK with T-Rex's Get It On on top. If Not For You now tops the AC charts, Sweet City Woman is #1 in the Great White North, and Mercy Mercy Me is the new top on the R&B chart.
And here on the Cashbox charts, we had 15 hot 100 debuts, among which we find: Lee Michaels' Do You Know What I Mean at 98; Joan Baez' take on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down at 96; Stevie Wonder's If You Really Love Me at 82; the Partridge Family at 62 with Woke Up In Love This Morning; Donny Osmond at 59 with Go Away Little Girl. Oh and one more. One whose verses rang in my mind in the hours after the Sandy Hook tragedy:
Listen to the tide slowly turning
Wash all our heartaches away
We're part of the fire that is burning
And from the ashes we can build another day
But I'm frightened for your children
That the life that we are living is in vain
And the sunshine we've been waiting for
Will turn to rain
That, of course is from the Moody Blues' The Story In Your Eyes, which debuts this week at 73.
Now that I am already primed for misty eyes, here's the first three of the GFC top ten!
10- The Battle Of New Orleans, Johnny Horton, #1, 1959. This song was written by a teacher (who later changed his name to Jimmy Driftwood) who simply wanted to get his class more interested in history. Written in 1936, it, and Driftwood, were "discovered" by music publisher Don Warden in 1957. Wore the grooves off this single.
9- The Three Bells (Little Jimmy Brown), the Browns, #1, 1959. First written as a French-language tune in 1945. Brother Jim Ed Brown had a string of hit country duets with Helen Cornelius in the 1970s. Like many of these, one of my Mom's favorites.
8- Mack The Knife, Bobby Darin, #1, 1959 (seeing a pattern here?). Taken from The Threepenny Opera, which debuted in Berlin in 1928. Dick Clark advised Bobby against recording this, fearing it's opera origins would alienate his fan base. I guess everyone's gotta be wrong once.
That takes us back to our other birthday songs. before we start, the "big four standings" in 1983: Making Love Out Of Nothing climbs past Total Eclipse Of The Heart, 45-48, with True at 66, and ... the other one... still awaiting its debut. And turning thirty this week: Stray Cats with Sexy And 17, and the Talking Heads' Burning Down The House. Turning 35, I have seven tunes- including this one you might not know:
Also hitting 35, Bob Seger's Hollywood Nights, Aerosmith's cover of Come Together from the Sgt. Pepper movie, Gerry Rafferty's Right Down The Line, Oh, Darlin'- another Sgt. Pepper release- by Robin Gibb, Meat Loaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, and Paul Davis' Sweet Life.
Nobody of note turned forty song wise this week; but turning 45 are The Who's Magic Bus, the Bee Gees' I've Got To Get A Message To You, Brasil '66's Fool On The Hill, Nilsson's Everybody's Talking, and Deep Purple with Hush. And turning 55 was a GFC last weeker- Devoted To You along with its a-side Bird Dog, by the Everly Brothers, along with Eddie Cochrane's Summertime Blues. Blow out the candles...
Ready for the next three?
7- Since I Don't Have You, The Skyliners, #12, 1958. A better testimony than ANY of this song's chart appearances is how many people charted with it: Chuck Jackson of the Del-Vikings (#47), the Vogues (#8 AC), Art Garfunkel (#57), Ronnie Milsap (#6 country), Don McLean (#23), and a surprisingly excellent version by Guns 'N' Roses (#69).
6. Tammy, Debbie Reynolds, #1, 1957. Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote this for the movie Tammy And The Bachelor (with Debbie as Tammy and Leslie Nielsen as the Bachelor- and Walter Brennan as Tammy's grandpa and Fay Wray as the bachelor's mom. They also wrote Que Sera Sera back at #85.
5- Moments To Remember, The Four Lads, #3, 1955. This was another favorite of Mom's. When I was a wee one, I heard the line "the night we tore the goal post down" and modified it to my experiences- there was a light pole in the middle of the parking lot of the Hi-Ho Inn in beautiful downtown Poe, and thus, that had to be the pole that got tore down.
I'm just now getting to the big movers when I should be doing the top 40 debuts, but that's okay- the big climber and one of the big droppers are in the top forty! So let's just go in order:
Coming into the 40 at #40, up nine spots, Steppenwolf with Ride With Me.
Climbing 4 to #39, Elvis with I'm Leavin'.
Speaking of leaving, one of our big droppers is at #38- Funky Nassau, falling 22 to #38. The other dropper of that magnitude, Tom Jones' version of the Resurrection Shuffle, drops to 67.
Up nine places to 37, the Dramatics with Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.
Rare Earth moves up 11, landing I Just Want To Celebrate at #36.
And the high debut, as well as the biggest mover, is Aretha Franklin's Spanish Harlem coming in at 28, a 26-spot climb.
Two songs enter the top 10, two fall out. Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling (8 to 16) is one, and I Don't Want To Do Wrong (9 to 23) is the other.
Okay, here come four, three and two, with that funny little six degrees:
4- Mr. Blue, The Fleetwoods, #1, (you guessed it) 1959. A co-writer on this song was DeWayne Blackwell- who was also a co-writer on Garth Brooks' giant hit Friends In Low Places. The Fleetwoods did an excellent cover of Poor Little Fool...
3- Poor Little Fool, Rick Nelson, #1, 1958. Sharon Sheely basically stalked Rick to get him to hear this song of hers, and he loved it. She wrote it after a breakup with Don Everly...
2- All I Have To Do Is Dream, #1, 1958. See, wasn't that a neat little three degrees? They also had a nifty little three degrees of their own- it was #1 on pop, country, AND R&B.
Okay, so now you have to suffer through this week's top ten to get to that elusive #1 song of the fifties (and if you've been keeping track, you know it hit #7 back then.....)
James Brown lands at #10, up 4, with Hot Pants.
Marvin Gaye is the other new top ten, moving up 2 to #9 with Mercy Mercy Me.
Freda Payne slides a notch to #8 with Bring The Boys Home.
John Denver moves up three (does it really seem like he did this song THAT long ago?) to #7 with Take Me Home Country Roads.
The Raiders retreat 2 spots to #6 with Indian Reservation.
Dropping from top dog to #5, Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds with Don't Pull Your Love.
Jean Knight slips to #4 (sorry, L.A.) with Mr. Big Stuff.
Tommy James Drags the Line up another 2 notches to #3.
The Bee Gees move into the runner-up spot, climbing 4 with How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.
And with a little less fanfare that usual, it's James Taylor moving into the top spot with... You've Got A Friend!!!!
AAAAAAAAAAAND now, from the ballrooms of yesterday to your door, the #1 song on the Great Fifties Countdown.....
1- My Special Angel, Bobby Helms, #7 (told ya), 1957. But four weeks at #1 country, and #8 R&B. I don't think there are 2 better versions of any one song out there than what Bobby and the Vogues did on this one.
Well, I doubt there's anything I can do to top this series, or even this week. But come back next time and watch me fall on my face trying!