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Recommended Percentage of Wiggling It

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The Forgotten Hits: 70’s Rock and Pop

Every era and genre of music has songs that were popular in their day, but whose footprints have been washed from the sand over time. Our goal in this series of posts is to resurrect their memory; to help in a small way to reverse the process of the “top tenning” of oldies formats, which reduce hit makers from previous decades to their most popular song or two and then overplay them until you almost loathe an artist you used to enjoy (think “Sweet Caroline” or “Don’t Stop Believin’”).

I’ll be citing the Billboard pop charts for reference. Billboard Hot 100 charts of the 60′s and 70′s were a much more accurate reflection of a song’s popularity, before there were so many other ways for a song to enter the public consciousness (reflected by the number of pop charts Billboard now uses). It was an era when radio ruled–before a car commercial, social music sharing site, or Glee were equally likely ways for a song to break through.

badfinger

Badfinger: “Baby Blue”

#14 in 1972

Badfinger were responsible for three of the decade’s classic pop songs, “No Matter What”, “Day After Day” and “Without You” (which Nilsson recorded a Grammy Award-winning version of). But “Baby Blue” from 1972 is a lost treasure and a classic case of pop oldies radio’s “top tenning” of its format. Give it a listen and see if you agree it deserves a better fate than its obscurity:

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I'm In You

Peter Frampton: “I’m in You”

#2 in 1977

Following the impossible-to-follow Frampton Comes Alive album, the LP credited with single-handedly bringing the record industry out of a mid-70’s slump, Peter Frampton was somehow talked into one of the most unfortunate cover shoots in pop music history. Where he’d looked like a badass guitar hero on the iconic live album’s cover, here he looked like kind of a pussy. And “I’m in You”, as a musical follow-up, was kind of a pussy song.

Don’t get me wrong, I love pussy rock songs. But when you’ve just established yourself as an FM radio god (we made the disctinction back then, because AM was still home to top 40 stations) and recorded the 14-minute “Do You Feel Like We Do” and brought the talk box into our collective consciousness and so on, “I’m in You” seemed like a concession to the female segment of your audience, and a betrayal of the pale young boys–you know, the ones who bought Frampton Comes Alive.

A career-killer if there ever was one. Frampton never really recovered from this.

Nice song, though.

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Alice Cooper Goes to Hell alice From the Inside

Alice Cooper: “I Never Cry”

#12 in 1977

“You and Me”

#9 in 1977

“How You Gonna See Me Now”

#12 in 1978

I know, I know. Alice Cooper, Shock Rocker. In your face, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “School’s Out” Alice. To the uninitiated he was one-dimensionally demented. But I’ll say this for the man Bob Dylan called the most underrated songwriter of his generation: he could write a pretty ballad. No less than three qualify as Forgotten Hits in my book. All date from a period when he was trying to kick the bottle and change (or at least broaden) his image.

His personal life needing to be put in order, Alice the man had to learn to keep Alice the character onstage, for the sake of his own sanity and longevity. Like Kiss a couple of years later, he even took the makeup off. Looks rather charming I think on the “You and Me” 45 sleeve above–though it’s hardly Peter Frampton in pink silk pants…

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sally g

Paul McCartney: “Sally G”

#17 in 1975

Ever restless in the first post-Beatles decade, Paul seemed to record in a different location each time he worked on a record. The flip side of non-album single “Junior’s Farm” came from sessions he recorded in Nashville in 1974–and the fiddle and steel guitar didn’t exactly make it a country song. They made it a McCartney song with fiddle and steel guitar. But even as a stylistically atypical B-side it went top twenty on the pop charts. A cute, largely forgotten piece of Paul’s catalog.

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 Hearts

America: “Woman Tonight”

#44 in 1976

Although the guitar effect known as the “talk box” has a history dating back to 1939, Peter Frampton’s use of the effect on Frampton Comes Alive‘s “Do You Feel Like We Do” was the effect’s first exposure to many. But a few months earlier America (of all people) used it on the reggae-tinged single “Woman Tonight”. The song isn’t typical of America’s stuff–it’s neither the dour meditation of “A Horse With No Name” or a pretty harmony-laden ballad like “I Need You”. It sounds like a party song. And maybe it’s because it sounds so little like an America song that radio programmers have left it behind. Or maybe it’s because it never charted very high in the first place. Either way it deserves another listen.

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Endless Wire

Gordon Lightfoot: “The Circle is Small”

#33 in 1978

“The Circle is Small” was the final top 40 hit in Gordon Lightfoot’s nearly 8-year run as a pop star. He’d never really followed up the success of the #2 “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” a year and a half earlier. Funny how you don’t really see the end of an artist’s run until a few years go by and you’re wondering whatever happened to… Such was the case with Lightfoot, at least as an American pop artist. He remains a Canadian folk music legend, though, to this day.

Gord’s hits like “Sundown”, “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Carefree Highway” fit the playlists of senior radio perfectly. But they’ve never found a place in the rotation for his final chart hit. The circle is small, indeed.

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5th

The Fifth Dimension: “If I Could Reach You”

#10 in 1972

“If I Could Reach You” was the last top ten, or even top thirty, hit of the many the Fifth Dimension racked up between 1967 and ’72. The sophisticated, proto-Adult Contemporary ballad peaked at #10 and I don’t know why it doesn’t slot into the same radio formats that still keep “Wedding Bell Blues” and “One Less Bell to Answer” and “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” in the mix. Marilyn McCoo’s melancholy delivery nails it on this ode to unrequited love. Should be a classic. It’s a buried treasure instead. Dig it.

Four Chords. Hundreds of Songs.

Video

Songs You May Have Missed #156

guest

Electric Guest: “Awake” (2012)

Electric Guest are a duo made up of Asa Taccone and Matthew Compton. “Awake” is from their Danger Mouse-produced debut. Their sound is similar to MGMT but with a smoother sound and more addictive songs. No, wait: they sound like classic Motown updated for the 21st century. Scratch that–they sound like Broken Bells…

I guess it depends which song you happen to be listening to. Anyway, I think this particular one is hard to shake.

Songs You May Have Missed #155

rouse

Josh Rouse: “Sweetie” (2007)

I wish I could remember who said, “If you don’t fall in love at least once a day you have no imagination” because I’d love to give him credit (I’m pretty sure it had to be a “him”). Anyway, it’s very much like that for me with songs.

I fell in love with this affecting little ballad just today, and I send it along hoping it finds a place in your heart too. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to share it with your sweetie today. Or with someone else tomorrow…

Two lazy dreamers on a winter’s night
Making plans for the spring
You paint a picture while I put away my clothes
A crooked couple standing side by side
Is that you? Is that me?
We laugh in circles and we dream of some place to go

We’ll sleep on roof tops
We’ll ride on bicycles
Maybe we’ll get married
Don’t you want to, sweetie?

With so much talent you’re not fit for this world
As an actress, there’s no screen
A couple movies now you’re stuck in this broadway show
Sink full of dishes and a dirty face
Where’s the passion? Talk is cheap
We laugh in circles then we turn the lights down low

We’ll sleep on roof tops
We’ll ride on bicycles
Maybe we’ll get married
Don’t you want to, sweetie?

We hear some music
Coming from the street down below
And the melody carries
Won’t you sing with me, sweetie?
Won’t you sing with me, la, la, la, la, la…

I hope I can love you
Just like you deserve to be
Tell me what you’re feeling
Don’t you want to, sweetie?

Songs You May Have Missed #154

skye

Skye: “Solitary” (2006)

I’ll let Amazon.com’s review and product description speak for me here, because it’s very nearly what I wanted to say:

Skye Edwards, former vocalist for trip-hop act Morcheeba, has a voice as smooth as silk. In fact, it’s as relaxing as a heavy sedative…Recorded with Daniel Lanois and Pat Leonard, the songs are slickly produced pop that tries to balance the line between adult alternative and jazzy electronics. The real star here is Skye’s distinctive, awesome voice–a cool and mesmerizing instrument, both strong and subtle at the same time… –Mike McGonigal

Product Description
Former Morcheeba singer’s first solo album featuring production by Pat Leonard (Pink Floyd, Madonna) and Daniel Lanois (U2). There is much that is familiar on “Mind How You Go” – the connection to Morcheeba, the beguiling quality of Skye’s voice, the potent melodies that bury themselves deep inside your brain, the cool elegance of her delivery. It’s a sublime collection of vivid songs that present Skye in an entirely new light.
Incidentally, Skye’s chosen name seems to have come from the initials of her given name, Shirley Klarise Yonavive Edwards.
See also: https://edcyphers.com/2012/05/07/songs-you-may-have-missed-97-2/

The Lyrics People Know to YMCA

funny graphs - More Songs Need Letters You Can Arm Gesture

Madonna Defends Her Use of Nazi Symbol

Madonna performs during her MDNA  Tour in London.

(Reprinted from the New York Times)

Madonna defended her decision to use a swastika in a video during her current tour, saying it is a fit image for her message about “the intolerance that we human beings have for one another.”

The Nazi symbol is superimposed on the forehead of the French National Front leader Marine Le Pen during a video that Madonna has been playing while she sings “Nobody Knows Me” at her concerts during a world tour.  Last week, the far-right party said it would sue Madonna after a concert in Paris and accused her of cynically insulting Ms. Le Pen to gain publicity.

Ms. Le Pen, who placed third in France’s presidential election in April, was one of several famous figures depicted in the video: others included Sarah Palin, President Hu Jintao of China and Pope Benedict XVI.  In February, Ms. Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, was found guilty of condoning war crimes after he said the Nazi occupation of France had “not been particularly inhumane.”

Madonna has not changed the video since the National Front threatened to sue her, and it was shown at least three concerts in Britain last week.  Asked about the Nazi imagery by a Brazilian television journalist for a piece that was broadcast over the weekend, the singer said the image was justified because the song concerns intolerance and explores the question of “how much we judge people before knowing them.”

“Music should be about ideas, right?” she said.  “Ideas inspire music.”

The use of the swastika is not the first controversial piece of theater Madonna has employed on her tour to promote “MDNA,” her current album.  On Saturday, she brandished a prop pistol onstage in Edinburgh despite a warning from police not to do so.  And on June 8, she exposed her breast during a show in Istanbul while singing “No Fear.”

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I don’t even need to say it, do I? This is part of Madonna’s process–the cycle whereby she gets herself in publications like Rolling Stone and the New York Times once the attention of a (lackluster) new release has died down. She courts controversy, gets it, then justifies what’s offensive by saying something like “music is about ideas”. Does Madonna really impress you these days as someone who is all about ideas? I think it’s much more likely she’s about finding every possible way to maximize her earnings in an era when she’s been overtaken by so many younger, hotter artists–artists whose “ideas”, shallow though they may be, are connecting with young people in a more impactful way.

To quote Marine Le Pen, the politician whose image was superimposed with the swastika: “It’s understandable when aging singers who need publicity go to such extremes. Her songs don’t work anymore.”

In a sense, she’s taking the low road (resorting to shocking and offending people) while appearing to take the high ground (saying she’s concerned about “the intolerance that we human beings have for one another”). If she wants to examine such topics, why doesn’t she write a serious treatise on the subject? Why not do a benefit tour with all profits going to organizations that fight such intolerance? Is dance music even the best way to address her deep concerns for the human condition? Do you think about human intolerance and the terrible injustice of racist nationalistic regimes while you’re shaking your ass at a club?

Make no mistake, the only idea that concerns Madonna is the idea that you buy her product.

What is Popspots?

(Reprinted from Open Culture)

By day, Bob Egan is a mild-mannered commercial real estate agent in New York City. By night, and on weekends, he transforms himself into something of a pop culture detective, searching out the locations of famous record album covers and other famous pop images. About a year ago he started a Web site, PopSpotsNYC, to share his findings, and the site has been growing in popularity ever since.

Egan’s fascination with album cover locations began in 1977, when he moved to his first apartment in Greenwich Village and discovered he was only a block away from the place on Jones Street where The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan cover photograph was shot in 1963, which showed Dylan walking arm-in-arm with his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, on a cold February day.

“Living in Greenwich Village in the late 70s,” Egan told Open Culture, “I was surrounded by sites I had read about in college: Bleecker and Macdougal, The Bottom Line, the Mudd Club, CBGB’s, etc. I was soaking up information for years later, I guess, because it wasn’t until the mid 90s that I first went into Bleecker Bob’s and asked if they knew where the cover of Blonde on Blonde was shot. When they didn’t know, I said, Well why not find out myself?”

The Blonde on Blonde location remains a mystery, but Egan has tracked down a number of other Dylan cover locations, including Highway 61 Revisited (the front steps of a town house on Gramercy Park West), Another Side of Bob Dylan (the corner of 52nd Street and Broadway), and the single “I Want You” (a warehouse district on Jacob Street that was town down long ago).

The Jacob Street location, also the site of a July 30, 1966 Saturday Evening Post cover of Dylan, was one of the hardest to find. “I searched through every curved street in New York and finally found it online in an old photo from the library,” Egan said. “The entire street, which was next to the Brooklyn Bridge, had been demolished 50 years ago, but I finally clicked on a library image and found myself staring straight into the exact spot Dylan was in the photo. I let out a whoop!”

Egan has found the exact locations of record albums and other famous images of a number of artists, including Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, The Who, and Simon & Garfunkel. The choices reflect his taste in music. “I grew up during the classic rock era,” Egan said. “My ‘musical comfort food’ is Dylan, Van Morrison, Lou Reed, and The Grateful Dead.”

Even though the Grateful Dead was a West Coast group, Egan makes use of online tools like Google Street View and Bing Bird’s Eye to explore locations from his New York home. The 1970 album “Workingman’s Dead” is one of Egan’s current projects. “The Dead photo was supposedly taken next to a bus stop in the Mission District of San Francisco,” said Egan. “I bought a vintage map of the bus route from 1969 from the San Francisco transit museum and searched all the bus routes through the Mission with Street View, but still haven’t found it.”

When we asked Egan what drives his obsession, he said, “I think of it like this: If I went to England and someone asked me if I wanted to see Westminster Abbey or Abbey Road, I’d take Abbey Road.”

Below are several examples of Egan’s detective work. To see more, and to read the story behind each location, visit PopSpotsNYC.com.

The album cover that started it all for Egan was The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, featuring Don Hunstein’s photo of Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo walking through snow at the north end of Jones Street, in Greenwich Village.

The location of the cover photo of Dylan’s 1965 album Highway 61 Revisited posed a challenge. Egan always assumed that Daniel Kramer’s photo of Dylan was taken indoors, but he eventually tracked it down to the front steps of a town house on Gramercy Park West that was the home of Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman.

What could be more British than the 1979 cover of The Kids Are Alright, by The Who? Actually, Art Kane’s photo was taken at the little-known Carl Schurz Monument in the Morningside Heights area of New York City. Egan gives directions on how to find the place at his Web site.

Egan found the precise location of Henry Parker’s cover photo for Simon & Garfunkel’s 1965 debut album, Wednesday Mourning 3 A.M.: the lower subway platform at Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street, for the outbound E and F lines.

Leo Friedman’s cover photograph from the original 1957 cast recording of West Side Story, shows characters Maria (Carol Lawrence) and Tony (Larry Kent) running through the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York. The location was actually one of Egan’s easier discoveries. “How did I find it,” he says on his Web site? “Pretty simple. If you look closely at the garbage can to the left of Maria–the address is right on it! 418 West 56th Street.” (All images courtesy Bob Egan/PopSpotsNYC.com)

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Reading this I just kept thinking: …or he could have just asked the photographer.

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