The Forgotten Hits: 70’s Soul 2

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.

mainThe Main Ingredient: “Just Don’t Want to be Lonely”

#10 in 1974

The Main Ingredient found the recipe for top ten success only twice over the course of their career. Their first hit was the #3 “Everybody Plays the Fool”, which has lived on via oldies radio and cover versions (most notably Aaron Neville’s top ten in 1991). “Just Don’t Want to be Lonely” is from the same mold: a few bars of spoken-word from lead vocalist Cuba Gooding Sr. (father of the actor) lead into a smooth R&B ballad with a surprising degree of complexity in the arrangement. The Main Ingredient’s best work was on par with that of the Spinners. The main ingredient they lacked was the ability to cook up hits on a consistent basis.

_________________________

natalie

Natalie Cole: “I’ve Got Love on My Mind”

#5 in 1977

To be honest, I have little or no recollection of this song from radio airplay in 1977. It seems most of us have gaps in the memory even from years when we know the music well. And somehow this song climbed to #5 and spent 21 weeks on the pop charts and yet made no lasting impression in my brain. I may have been preoccupied by having just discovered Elvis Costello…

_________________________

impressionsThe Impressions: “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man)”

#17 in 1974

The Impressions put an amazing 39 songs into the Hot 100 over a chart career that spanned from 1958 to 1975, but only reached the top ten twice (“It’s Alright” in 1963 and “Amen” in ’65).

Although they continued to record albums until 1981, this final top 20 hit found them nearing the end of their hit years, and two lead vocalists removed from the legendary Curtis Mayfield, who’d gone on to solo success.

_________________________

sylvers

Foster Sylvers: “Misdemeanor”

#22 in 1973

I think the AllMusic Guide goes just a little bit overboard in their appraisal of this song:

Dismiss Foster Sylvers as little more than a poor man’s Michael Jackson if you must, but damn, the smash “Misdemeanor” lays to waste everything MJ recorded solo until “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” A sinuous, loping evocation of street-smart puppy love, it’s one of the most underrated funk jams ever.

But it is a cute little piece of bubblegum soul–nothing more, nothing less.

Foster also sang with his 9-sibling family group The Sylvers, who hit top ten with the disco hits “Boogie Fever” and “Hot Line”.

_________________________

tops

The Four Tops: “Are You Man Enough”

#15 in 1973

From the movie Shaft in Africa, this one splits the difference between The O’Jays’ “Backstabbers” and “What’s Going On”-era Marvin. But it certainly hasn’t earned a lasting spot on radio alongside songs from the era with sunnier messages, such as the Four Tops’ own “Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)”.

_________________________

awb

Average White Band: “If I Ever Lose This Heaven”

#39 in 1975

If you’re not native to the land of 70’s soul, you’ve probably grafted some Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire onto your iPod playlist for a little hip cred, as they say. I’m here to tell you not to forget AWB. Despite hailing from Scotland they defined the sound of 70’s funk/soul as much as anyone in the era. Their first two records in particular are amazing, including this rather forgotten gem from their second album Cut the Cake.

_________________________

sun

Ramsey Lewis & Earth, Wind & Fire: “Sun Goddess”

#44 in 1975

When the Ramsey Lewis Trio spun off members Eldee Young and Red Holt as Young-Holt Unlimited, the pianist replaced them with a new rhythm section which included Maurice White on drums. White, of course, also subsequently resigned to form Earth, Wind & Fire. A couple years later, after Lewis moved to Columbia Records–the same label as EWF–White produced Lewis’ 1974 Sun Goddess LP with members of Earth, Wind & Fire playing on the sessions.

The album’s jazz fusion sound and use of electronic keyboards represented a departure from Lewis’ previous work, and the title track was a big jazz crossover hit. In fact, another single featuring EWF, “Hot Dawgit”, reached #50 on the pop charts as well. Maurice White is listed as co-writer of both songs. Ramsey Lewis isn’t credited with writing either. This, as well as the fact that “Sun Goddess” was recorded for the same label as Earth, Wind & Fire and featured the band, leads me to believe this song could have been included on an Earth, Wind & Fire greatest hits compilation, but it never has; they’ve only released a live version under their name.

In other words, this song is sort of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “lost hit”, having only appeared on a Ramsey Lewis album, despite arguably sounding more like Earth, Wind & Fire than Lewis.

The Forgotten Hits: 70’s Rock and Pop 2

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.

mashmakhan

Mashmakhan: “As the Years Go By”

#31 in 1970

Some of these songs are being resurrected from the dustbin, but “As the Years Go By” by Montreal’s Mashmakhan sounds, at least for the first 30 seconds, like it’s rising out of a tomb. Surely one of the more distinctive-sounding songs to brush the top 40, perhaps it suffered from being a little too distinctive. The lyrics have been criticized as being typically jejune for the time. But hey, it’s cut from the same cloth as Zager and Evans’ “In the Year 2525” and I happen to have a soft spot for both songs.

“As the Years Go By” does have a message, and it’s one you don’t hear in a hundred other songs. It’s got mad hooks too. Plus the intro is super scary.

Though this song only peaked at #31 in America, it actually sold a million copies in Japan.

_________________________

rafferty

Gerry Rafferty: “Get it Right Next Time”

#21 in 1979

Ex-Stealers Wheel Gerry Rafferty had one massive, platinum selling success (1978’s City to City) then Nite Owl managed to sell gold in ’79. But with each successive subsequent release his albums were being dipped in less and less precious metals before framing. It’s the sad, clammy tale of many a 70’s pop star.

Rafferty, who struggled with alcoholism, died of liver disease in 2011. His two best-remembered works will surely be “Stuck in the Middle With You” and “Baker Street” while a layer of dust has already settled on hits like “Get it Right Next Time”.

_________________________

sugarloaf

Sugarloaf/Jerry Corbetta: “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You”

#9 in 1975

Almost five years after their only other top 40 hit, 1970’s #3 “Green-Eyed Lady”, Sugarloaf slyly made tribute to The Beatles, both by cribbing the guitar riff from “I Feel Fine” and by mentioning “John, Paul and George” in this amusingly cynical look at record company relations. (“You ain’t bad, but we’ve heard it all before”)

My favorite line is the spoken aside: “I said, ‘you got my number?’–He said, ‘yeah I got it when you walked in the door'”

_________________________

tin tin

Tin Tin: “Toast and Marmalade for Tea”

#20 in 1971

Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees produced this debut single by Australian pop duo Tin Tin, and it certainly carries the stamp of the Brothers Gibb’s stately ballads of the same period (think “Lonely Days” or “I Started a Joke”).

Singer/keyboardist Steve Kipner later went on to write hits like Chicago’s “Hard Habit to Break” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”.

Thanks, Steve.

_________________________

masonDave Mason: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”

#39 in 1978

 An original member of Traffic, Dave Mason only cracked the top 40 twice in his subsequent solo soft-rock career. His 1977 #12 single “We Just Disagree” represents 3 minutes of classic 70’s soft rock, if you believe there could be such thing.

Mason brought a very similar sound (harmonies and flanger-effect acoustic guitar, switching out piano for organ) to his cover of a Carole King standard the next year, recording what is my personal favorite version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”. It grazed the top 40 and then was pretty much forgotten overnight. Kind of ironic, no?

_________________________

ironhorseIronhorse: “Sweet Lui-Louise”

#36 in 1979

Randy Bachman’s career trajectory (The Guess Who, then Bachman-Turner Overdrive, then Ironhorse) certainly makes the case that artists peak early in life. That’s not to say “Sweet Lui-Louise” is any worse a song than “Takin’ Care of Business” ’cause nothing is. But it’s no “Undone” or “These Eyes”.

This was the only time Ironhorse’s orbit brought them within the top 40. Interestingly (or maybe not) Bachman reprises his stuttering vocal style of BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”.

But we had. We’d seen it and we’d heard it. And we collectively said, “Go away and come back when you’ve reformed The Guess Who”.

Randy’s son Tal had a hit in 1999 with “She’s so High”.

_________________________

nash

Graham Nash: “Chicago”

#35 in 1971

Graham Nash cut his pop music teeth with the Hollies during the British Invasion and the beginning of the psychedelic era. But while he was part of a truly great pop songwriting team along with Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks, responsible for such hits as “Stop, Stop, Stop”, “Carrie Anne”, “On A Carousel” and “Pay You Back With Interest”, he began to feel stifled when some of his more reflective, singer-songwriter style material only languished as obscure album tracks. Long story short, it wasn’t long before he hooked up with David Crosby and Stephen Stills and made the kind of singer-songwriter tunes that people still respect, such as “Our House” and “Teach Your Children”…before “singer-songwriter” came to mean “James Taylor” and it earned as many enemies as fans.

Fast-forward to 1971 and Nash is releasing his first solo album, Songs For Beginners, along with a star-studded lineup of guest musicians including Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge, Phil Lesh and Neil Young (“Joe Yankee” on the album credits).

The two best-known songs from this album are “Military Madness”, which missed the top 40 but remains relevant today due to the more universal and timeless message of the lyric, and “Chicago”, which actually hit the top 40 but was aimed lyrically at a specific time and place–the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the trial of the Chicago Eight, who were charged with inciting. The line “won’t you please come to Chicago just to sing” is thought to be directed at band mates Crosby and Stills, in a plea to come to Chicago to protest the trial of the Chicago Eight.

But if the specificity of the lyric’s message is the reason you don’t hear the song today, why is Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio”, which is similarly a protest song about a specific incident, still a classic rock staple?

Maybe it’s simply because pop music is essentially a fickle and inexplicable thing.

The Forgotten Hits: 70’s Soft Rock 3

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.

And now our third installment dedicated to 70’s hits that fell between rock and a soft place…and through the cracks of oldies radio.

The Addrisi Brothers: “We’ve Got to Get it On Again”

#25 in 1972

“Slow Dancin’ Don’t Turn Me On”

#20 in 1977

Pop singing/songwriting duo Dick and Don Addrisi are responsible for writing at least one certified classic pop song, that being the Association’s “Never My Love”. As performers they cracked the top 40 twice, with neither song seeing much airplay since the decade of its release. At least one, “We’ve Got to Get it On Again” deserves a better fate. Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t chart higher than #25 at the time.

“Slow Dancin’ Don’t Turn Me On” however, is among the cheesier hits the decade produced. This one’s a forgotten hit with pretty good reason. “Wiggle their class”?

____________________

Chris Thompson & Night: “Hot Summer Nights”

#18 in 1979

“If You Remember Me”

#17 in 1979

Night had two top 40 singles with two very different sounds. “Hot Summer Nights” was a cover of a Walter Egan song with Stevie Lange on female lead vocals, and the ballad “If You Remember Me” featured a male vocal from Chris Thompson. (Thompson was the lead singer on Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded by the Light” a couple of years earlier.) If you remember it, I bet you haven’t heard it in a while.

____________________

Michael Nesmith & The First National Band: “Joanne”

#21 in 1970

“Silver Moon”

#42 in 1971

Mike Nesmith will always be best known as one of the Monkees, but he was a professional musician before joining them and his songwriting credits include “Different Drum”, which gave Linda Ronstadt her very first chart hit. With The First National Band he released three albums of country rock from 1970-71.

____________________

Ian Gomm: “Hold On”

#18 in 1979

English pop singer/songwriter Ian Gomm is a classic one-hit wonder in the U.S. But he did co-write at least one other hit, Nick Lowe’s “Cruel to be Kind”. The two songs share a prominent strummed acoustic guitar and a catchy chorus.

____________________

Eddie Rabbitt: “Suspicions”

#13 in 1979

Eddie Rabbitt mastered the country crossover hit in the early 80’s with songs like “Drivin’ My Life Away” and “I Love a Rainy Night”. All but forgotten though is this 1979 hit that sounds like the perfect blend of pop and easy listening. Such was the blurring of the lines between genres in the 70’s that this song, which sounds like it could be an Ambrosia hit, was recorded by a nominally country artist.

____________________

Bread: “Hooked On You”

#60 in 1977

Bread’s excellent 1977 comeback album Lost Without Your Love was their first since ’72. It would prove to be a brief reunion and the album was the band’s last. The title track was their final top ten single and “Hooked On You” its less successful follow-up. But it’s a typically lovely David Gates ballad.

____________________

Stephen Bishop: “Save it for a Rainy Day”

#22 in 1977

Although we get the full wrath of Chaka Khan in this song’s final coda, its other featured guest, Eric Clapton, is wasted on a 6-second guitar solo. I know you’re a Bishop but…Clapton is god.

The Forgotten Hits: 80’s Soft Rock

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.

Rockihnroll

Greg Kihn Band: “The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)”

#15 in 1981

Baltimore, Maryland’s Greg Kihn Band hit the top 40 only twice in the 80’s. Their most successful hit was the #2 “Jeopardy”, which lives on due of course to its top ten placement. But “The Breakup Song” holds a special place in the memory of many fans of 80’s pop, probably due in part to its relative obscurity today.

_____________________________________________________________

Three Times In Love

Tommy James: “Three Times in Love”

#19 in 1980

Pittsburgh, PA is often said to be Tommy James’ hometown. But actually he was born Tommy Jackson in Dayton, Ohio and raised in Niles, Michigan. He formed the group The Shondells at age 12, and had a local hit in Niles with “Hanky Panky”, released on the obscure Snap label in 1963. Eventually Jackson and the original Shondells graduated high school and parted ways and that was that.

Until a Pittsburgh DJ found a copy of “Hanky Panky” in a used record bin and began playing it at dance parties there. It became a number one record on Pittsburgh radio stations in early 1966, selling an estimated 80,000 illegal bootleg copies in just ten days.

Jackson was informed of the record’s tremendous, belated hit status in Pittsburgh and he was asked if he’d come there to perform the song live. He came to Pittsburgh alone, his Shondells having broken up two years before. So at a Pittsburgh bar called the Thunderbird Lounge he asked the five-man house band, known as the Raconteurs, if they’d like to become the new Shondells. He then changed his stage name to Tommy James, the band signed with Roulette Records, and “Hanky Panky” became a national number one hit. James recounts, “One night I was playing for 20 drunks in a bar in Michigan, and the next night I’m playing for 10,000 screaming fans in Pittsburgh. It was literally overnight. It was very unexpected, one of those winning-the-lottery type stories.”

The band had a nice run of hits on the Roulette label showing an upward arc of sophistication (“I Think We’re Alone Now”, “Mony Mony”, “Crimson and Clover”, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”) but turned down the chance in 1969 to play a concert on a pig farm in upstate New York. James was 6,000 miles away in Hawaii at the time and, failing to grasp the importance of playing the Woodstock Festival, told the Roulette Records secretary, “If I’m not there, start without us”. The Shondells called it quits in 1970.

James carried on as a solo act on Roulette, scoring a top ten hit in ’71 with “Draggin’ the Line” and writing and producing another top ten hit with “Tighter, Tighter” by Alive and Kicking in 1970. But he went nearly a decade without sniffing the top 40 before signing with Millennium Records and hitting with “Three Times in Love” in early 1980.

James just last year published the biography Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells, which reveals how Roulette Records was a front for organized crime and money laundering, and how James had to leave New York for Nashville to avoid a mob hit.

The man has had a helluva ride indeed.

_______________________________________________________________

WITHOUT YOUR LOVE 7 INCH (7" VINYL 45) BELGIAN POLYDOR 1980

Roger Daltrey: “Without Your Love”

#20 in 1980

From the soundtrack to the movie McVicar, which Daltrey also starred in. This song really catches the Who frontman out of character–part of the song’s appeal to those who remember it. I like to occasionally throw in a few of the “forgotten hits” as dinner music at a party, and perhaps no song has brought more guests up to express their appreciation, or to ask who sings it (“Is that the Who?”). Like all these forgotten songs, it resides in some corner of memory and brings a nostalgic smile when that memory is rekindled.

_______________________________________________________________

Felix Cavaliere

Felix Cavalieri: “Only a Lonely Heart Sees”

#36 in 1980

More than a decade after logging his last top 40 hit as organist/vocalist of The Rascals, Felix Cavaliere resurfaced with a smoother, almost easy listening sound on his only top 40 solo hit. In fact, “Only a Lonely Heart Sees” went to #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It’s a wispy thing, maybe even too lightweight for me, and I do have a soft spot for the wimp rock. Let’s move on…

________________________________________________________________

I BELIEVE 7 INCH (7" VINYL 45) GERMAN RCA 1981

Chilliwack: “I Believe”

#33 in 1982

Vancouver, BC pop rock band Chilliwack were presumably named for the British Columbia province by that name, in case you wondered how a band could end up with such a lame sounding name. I mean, even if they’d recorded “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Hot For Teacher” would you have bought a concert T-shirt with Eddie Van Chilliwack’s name across the front? If you joined their fan club, would you then be known as a “wacker” or what?

“I Believe” is a nice song, though. Like most of these songs it kept a particular strand of music alive a few years after New Wave had basically shown it the door. The acoustic guitar/harmony vocals/sentimental lyric sounds of Player, Firefall, Orleans, and Little River Band was extinct by 1982 but got a few parting shots in at the end. Songs like “Three Times in Love” and “I Believe” were a genre’s gentle dying gasps. By 1982 these sounds had already been virtually crowded out of the charts by the colder synthesized sounds of songs like Gary Numan’s “Cars” and M’s “Pop Muzik”.

Not hatin’. Just sayin’.

_________________________________________________________________

Little River Band - Greatest Hits

Little River Band: “The Other Guy”

#11 in 1983

Hey, look who it is. Weren’t we just talking about these guys?

With 13 top 40 American hit singles, Australia’s Little River Band was one of that country’s most successful musical exports. “Reminiscing”, “Lady”, “Lonesome Loser”, “Cool Change”…these guys had a run of hits that people seem to have a special affection for.

But they were nearing the end of that run with the release of “The Other Guy” in 1983. Again, their style of music was too…musical for 80’s radio. Too much harmony. Too much melody. Too many notes. Too little hair dye.

I’m being facetious but it is true only the most talented and adaptable of 70’s artists seemed to make the transition to the new 80’s pop sensibilities. Hall & Oates for example. Listen to “Sara Smile” followed by “Say It Isn’t So” and you’ll see how they morphed their warm Philly soul into the sound of the lean, mean 80’s. Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits and The Cars pulled it off, too. Of course many rock bands–like Heart, Aerosmith and (Jefferson) Starship–found 80’s success only by becoming a hollowed-out version of themselves, which is sad.

“The Other Guy” just missed the top ten at #11. Tsk tsk. It missed radio immortality by one slot on the chart. But if you read this and then hum the tune for a day then we’ve done our part to drag it out of pop music limbo. You’re welcome, Little River Band.

____________________________________________________________

Vacation

Lindsey Buckingham: “Holiday Road”

#82 in 1983

Few songs this well-loved charted so poorly. Maybe the pointless video is to blame. “Holiday Road” was the opening title music in National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983 and also featured in two sequel movies. It’s maddeningly difficult to find on CD or even as a music download in its original version. Collectors and ordinary fans alike have begged for the movie soundtrack to be re-released for years with no luck. You can, however, either buy Lindsey’s live version or choose from a number of inferior cover versions. I recommend this as the most inferior:

http://www.amazon.com/Holiday-Road/dp/B0065GERIO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350547036&s=dmusic&sr=1-1

Not to give Monica Matocha more coverage than she deserves, but I must mention there is one thing to this very simple song that makes it irresistible: the harmonies Buckingham wrote into its chorus. That’s it. Pretty basic, two-minute song otherwise. You can fudge on that tricky guitar solo, but if you want to cover “Holiday Road” you must get those harmonies. You, Monica Matocha, actually recorded a version without any harmonies. None. You shouldn’t be allowed to make any more music.

The Forgotten Hits: 60’s 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.

The Joe Jeffrey Group: “My Pledge of Love”

#14 in 1969

Cleveland’s Joe Jeffrey isn’t exactly a household name, and it isn’t easy digging up information about him or his band. That’s what one-hit status will do for you. He did release a cover of British group White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin” that was released a week earlier stateside, but his bid to steal their chart thunder failed when his version charted just outside the top 100 while White Plains’ went to number 13.

His label, Wand, did issue a poor-selling LP with the same title as his hit single though, and its liner notes hyped it as “the best all-around pop album since ‘Sgt. Pepper.'” Hmm…

Good song, though.

___________________________________________________________________

Turn Down Day

The Cyrkle: “Turn Down Day”

#16 in 1966

The Cyrkle were managed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein and given their name by John Lennon. Their biggest hit was the #2 “Red Rubber Ball”, which was written by Paul Simon and still gets oldies radio airplay. Time hasn’t been quite so kind to “Turn Down Day” in terms of continued exposure. But it’s a nice musical snapshot of its time. And the fact that someone posts songs like this on YouTube, and tens of thousands of others view it, proves some people havan’t forgotten.

__________________________________________________________________

Oh Happy Day: The Best Of The Edwin Hawkins Singers

The Edwin Hawkins Singers: “Oh Happy Day”

#4 in 1969

The Edwin Hawkins Singers were actually the Northern California State Youth Choir, and “Oh Happy Day” was from an album they recorded (called Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord) with the intention of selling it privately to raise money for a choir trip. But their modest 500-copy pressing wasn’t nearly enough after a local DJ at KSAN in San Francisco started playing the song. Buddah Records signed them to distribute it nationally (also changing the choir’s name to the Edwin Hawkins Singers) and the record became a million-seller.

The song also inspired George Harrison to write “My Sweet Lord” (well, this song and, apparently, “He’s So Fine.”) But it also caused some degree of controversy regarding the commercialization of gospel music. But hey, as I’ll be pointing out in a future post, it wasn’t unique–there was lots of God on the radio in the 60’s and 70’s.

This song’s style may sound like one you’ve heard before, but it was fresh then. “Oh Happy Day” actually helped pioneer the black gospel sound that is commonly used in contemporary worship.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers actually did see the top ten once more, backing Melanie on her 1970 hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.

______________________________________________________________

Best of

James & Bobby Purify: “Let Love Come Between Us”

#23 in 1967

James & Bobby Purify have been described as “Sam & Dave without the ugly and offensive sweat.” They were indeed a poppier version of the legendary soul duo as this, their second-highest charting hit, attests. They were better known for the hits “I’m Your Puppet” and “Shake a Tail Feather”, the latter of which actually charted at just #25. But “Let Love Come Between Us” is the hit that radio left behind for some reason.

The duo were not brothers but cousins James Purify and Robert Lee Dickey.

_________________________________________________________

Reach Out of the Darkness

Friend & Lover: “Reach Out of the Darkness”

#10 in 1968

Friend & Lover were husband and wife duo Jim and Cathy Post. Dig the groovy tune and get hip to the message, man. This one just reeks of the flower power, post-Sgt. Pepper Age of Aquarius and all that–the Indian Summer of Love, if you will.

But something about it wasn’t quite cool enough to earn it an afterlife in movie soundtracks and such, the way songs like “Let’s Get Together” and “Time of the Season” and “Good Morning Starshine” did. Oh well, that just makes it a more powerful burst of nostalgia to listen to if you do remember it.

______________________________________________________________

The Best of The Five Americans

The Five Americans: “Western Union”

#5 in 1967

The only time this Dallas band cracked the top twenty was this catchy little thing that sounds a little like the Hollies’ “Stop, Stop, Stop” with a Roger McGuin guitar sound. Maybe it’s the whole archaic telegram thing that has caused it to fall out of favor–couldn’t be that wonderfully cheesy organ solo!

______________________________________________________________

Very Best of

The Seekers: “I’ll Never Find Another You”

#4 in 1965

Judith Durham-fronted Australian folk-pop group the Seekers have at least one song you probably know: the #2 hit “Georgy Girl” was their biggest hit, though not a highlight of their catalog to me personally.

This one really is a gem I think, and a family favorite since back in the days of my dad’s living room stereo.

The twelve-string acoustic folk sound was a staple on radio from the late 50’s to at least the mid-60’s. The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Mitchell Trio (with John Denver), The Rooftop Singers, The Serendipity Singers, The New Christy Minstrels (with Kenny Rogers) and Peter, Paul & Mary were artists of the ilk that the hilarious film A Mighty Wind totally took a piss on.

And some of it was over earnest, and hasn’t aged all that well admittedly. But I do have a soft spot for the Seekers, and can’t resist a lyric like:

If they gave me a fortune/My pleasure would be small/I could lose it all tomorrow and never mind at all

But if I should lose your love, dear/I don’t know what I’d do/For I know I’d never find another you

Earnest, yes. But beautifully rendered by folk diva Judith while the 12-string rings sympathetically. This works for me. It’s a loss for all of us that we don’t hear this stuff anymore.

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:

_____________________________________________________

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.

_____________________________________________________

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…

____________________________________________________________

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.

____________________________________________________________

 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.

___________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________

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.

The Forgotten Hits: 70’s Soul

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.

Malo

Malo: “Suavecito”

#18 in 1972

Malo were a Latin rock group from San Francisco which featured Jorge Santana (brother of Carlos) on guitar. Their signature hit, “Suavecito”, has been called the “Chicano National Anthem”, but the track was so forgotten that when Sugar Ray sampled it in their 1999 hit “Every Morning” most people didn’t realize it was a sample.

_________________________________________________________

Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway

Roberta Flack: “If Ever I See You Again”

#24 in 1978

Roberta Flack’s number one singles are household names: 1972’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” won Grammys for Record and Song of the Year and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” repeated both honors the next year and added a third Grammy for Pop Female Vocal. 1974’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” also topped the chart.

But I want to mention a 1978 song that’s criminally overlooked for a couple reasons. First, although it appeared on her 1981 Best of Roberta Flack compilation, it was excluded from the three subsequent Greatest Hits packages issued in the CD era. And the album it’s from, her 1978 record simply titled Roberta Flack, was the lowest-charting of her first eleven albums and remains unissued on CD while most of her 70’s catalog has been issued in remastered editions. In other words, no CD currently in print contains the song (including the soundtrack of the movie that featured the song and shared its name).

And it’s a pity because “If Ever I See You Again” is one of Flack’s most beautiful–and certainly saddest–songs. See if you remember it.

__________________________________________________________

In Heat (Dig)

Love Unlimited: “I Belong to You”

#27 in 1975

“Walkin’ in the Rain With the One I Love”

#14 in 1972

Love Unlimited was a female trio managed and produced by Barry White, who was married to one of the three singers, Glodean James, from 1974-88. Their smooth, shimmering vocal blend calls to mind the Three Degrees or the Emotions. You can take your pick of two top 30 hits, both of which are lost to time.

One is the classy “I Belong to You”, from 1975. The other is the bigger hit but is also somewhat more dated (and a little silly in places): “Walkin’ In The Rain With the One I Love” from three years earlier.

____________________________________________________________

Portrait of the Originals

The Originals: “The Bells”

#12 in 1970

The Originals seem so obscure today that their name might be more familiar to you as one of the former names of the band Spinal Tap than that of a hit making 70’s soul act. But hit makers they were, at least for a proverbial 15 minutes.

Their two biggest songs, “Baby I’m For Real” and “The Bells” both had a throwback, pseudo doo-wop ballad sound. They sounded a little out of time even in their time. And both just missed that top ten cutoff point that’s often the bar of performance for an oldies playlist. Anyway, does this ring a bell?

______________________________________________________

The Top and Bottom Singles Collection 1969-1971

Brenda & The Tabulations: “Right On the Tip of My Tongue”

#23 in 1971

“Right On The Tip of My Tongue”, which should be familiar to you if the above songs are. And #23 wasn’t good enough to carry it through the ensuing decades’ radio playlists. But it sounds like classic 70’s R&B to me.

____________________________________________________________

S/T LP (VINYL) US UNITED ARTISTS 1972

Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose: “Treat Her Like a Lady”

#3 in 1971

Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose had two massive hits, only one of which has become a perennial. 1972’s silky, string-laden “Too Late to Turn Back Now” went to #2 and is an oldies staple. The grittier, more rhythmic “Treat Her Like a Lady”, which climbed to #3 one year previous, sounds a little fresher today due to that whole “absence makes the ears grow fonder” thing. See if you agree…

_____________________________________________________________

I'm Doin' Fine Now

New York City: “I’m Doin’ Fine Now”

#17 in 1973

New York City is probably the least familiar name of this bunch. But their only top 40 hit and its smooth proto-disco sound perfectly evoke the summer of ’73. It’s also as good a Spinners impersonation as I’ve heard, which is high praise indeed.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: