Saturday, June 26, 2010
Starting this week, I’ll be listing at least one of the record playlist charts for the radio stations I would listen to between 1970 and 1975, when I was living in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I’ll also be commenting on some of the records as they’re listed. Most frequently, we’ll probably be looking at a chart from WOSH, 1490 in Oshkosh, which was located just a couple of blocks east of my house, and I could see the tower by looking out my kitchen window at breakfast. Unfortunately, the station now pumps out nothing but fascist hate talk (it was one of Limbaugh’s earliest affiliates) and is run by Cumulus, one of the crappiest companies in the broadcasting industry today.
Other stations I’ll source here include WCWC 1600 Ripon and WOKY 920 Milwaukee. However, I’ve decided to start the series off with a station that I worked for in 1981, WYNE 1150 in Appleton. Actually, the WYNE studios were in Winchester, a town about a dozen miles southwest of Appleton, in Winnebago County; at the time, their towers were behind the studio in the Town of Menasha. When I worked for them, their format had just changed to Country; their city of license had been changed to Kimberly, a town east of Appleton; and because the operating power had been increased from 1,000 to 10,000 watts, the transmitting towers had been moved to even farther south, to between Neenah and Oshkosh. Ten years after I left that station, WYNE was bought out by the company owning WHBY 1230 Appleton so that WHBY could take over that frequency and stronger signal. WHBY is also now polluting the airwaves with fascist hate talk on my old frequency.
LW TW Title/Artist(Label)-Weeks on Action 30
3 1 DON’T PULL YOUR LOVE/Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds (Dunhill/ABC)-6
My father, an avid boxing fan of the era, had misheard an introduction of this record and thought that instead of “…Joe Frank…” he’d heard “Joe Frazier.” As I recall, Frazier was making noises about starting a recording career, and Dad probably thought this was Frazier’s first record. A few years later, I did hear what was supposedly a Joe Frazier single, and I recall it sounding like Blind Willie Johnson being backed by The J.B.’s. Or something kinda like that.
2 2 TREAT HER LIKE A LADY/Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose (United Artists)-6
1 3 IT DON’T COME EASY/Ringo Starr (Apple)-7
7 4 THAT’S THE WAY I’VE ALWAYS HEARD IT SHOULD BE/Carly Simon (Elektra)-5
8 5 SIGNS/The Five Man Electrical Band (Lionel/MGM)-5
Lionel was a subsidiary label that MGM had set up for some of its pop sides; I don’t know if MGM was somehow connected to the same Lionel company that marketed the great model trains that my friend Tom Snyder loved so dearly. Other MGM pop subsidiary labels of the time included L&R, which Bobby Bloom had a hit on with “Montego Bay,” and Sunflower, on which Daddy Dewdrop’s “Chick-a-Boom” and Frank Mills’ “Love Me Love Me Love” appeared in the States. Sometime in 1972, all three of these labels were combined into Lion, on which Danny Bonaduce cut a somewhat infamous LP as a side “solo project” during his days on The Partridge Family (why Lion/MGM got that thing instead of Bell, on which the Partridge Family records were already appearing, I don’t know. I’ll have to ask Danny sometime.)
9 6 INDIAN RESERVATION/The Raiders (Columbia)-5
The movie Billy Jack had just come out at the time this record was a hit, but I rather doubt that it had any connection with the success of this version of the Loudermilk lament. (The Coven version of “One Tin Soldier” that had been heard in the movie didn’t chart nationally until October.)
3 7 IT’S TOO LATE/Carole King (Ode 70)-8
Curiously, the name of the record label at this point actually was Ode 70, even though, as a CBS-distributed label, Ode had already been established in 1967 with Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco.” Perhaps the “70” was added to emphasize the new distribution through A&M; it was dropped a few years later, and Ode itself broke from A&M and hooked back up with CBS by the end of the decade. Interestingly, Island had also been distributed at this time by A&M in the States; this probably explains why Cat Stevens appeared on Island in the U.K. and A&M in the U.S. Island also eventually drifted away from A&M, but ironically both labels got bought out by Universal Music by the end of the century, so they’re reunited as of at least the last two decades.
12 8 DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?/The P-Nut Gallery (Buddah)-3
This one is a true curio. All of the Wisconsin Top 40 stations played it, even though it never charted any higher than #62 on the Billboard Hot 100. The whole record was an exercise in nostalgia, as the song title and studio group name were direct references to Howdy Doody, the kiddie TV show that had left NBC eleven years before; to open each show, star Buffalo Bob Smith would ask the child-packed audience, known on the show as The Peanut Gallery, “Say kids, what time is it?” To which the Peanut Gallery responded, “IT’S HOWDY DOODY TIME!” Of course, by the time Buddah put this one out, the youngest of Howdy Doody’s audience were freshmen in college, hardly the audience for nostalgia single. I’m wondering if Buddah thought that, since their subsidiary label Kama Sutra was the home of ‘50s nostalgists Sha Na Na, maybe they could become the default label for all things nostalgic.
14 9 IF NOT FOR YOU/Olivia Newton-John (Uni)-4
The Dylan song made into Livvie’s first U.S. hit; the arrangement was pilfered from the one performed by George Harrison on the All Things Must Pass triple-record set, which was a huge seller at this time.
16 10 NEVER ENDING SONG OF LOVE/Delaney & Bonnie (Atco)-4
11 11 TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS/John Denver with Fat City (RCA Victor)-4
18 12 YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND/James Taylor (Warner Brothers)-3
5 13 DOUBLE LOVIN’/The Osmonds (MGM)-5
A song with this title being performed by a family of Mormons. Make your own gag here.
9 14 I’LL MEET YOU HALFWAY/The Partridge Family Starring Shirley Jones Featuring David Cassidy (Bell)-9
The Pre-Fab Brood’s third single hit, and the only one of those first three that I can listen to today without cringing. “I Think I Love You” was one of the worst #1s of the entire rock era, and “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” had decent enough verses but a cruddy refrain. The next PF single Bell unleashed after this, “I Woke Up In Love This Morning,” was back to fingernails-across-chalkboard level. Should you be curious, there actually are a few other Partridge slices that I do like nowadays – “Point Me In The Direction of Albuquerque” and “Echo Valley 2-6809” usually pop up on the compilation LPs and CDs – but as far as the singles, this is pretty much the limit. (Of David Cassidy’s “solo” stuff – I assume that means his stepmother wasn’t anywhere to be found on the master tape – I can still dig “Could It Be Forever,” “How Can I Be Sure” and “Rock Me Baby,” though even in that last case Johnny Farnham had a better Australian hit version the year before Cassidy got a hold of it.)
6 15 RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS/Carpenters (A&M)-9
Karen had the most phonogenic voice of the decade, and I usually like Paul Williams’ tunes, but this wasn’t a personal favourite in my house. For Karen, my preferences include “Bless the Beasts and Children” (my all-time favourite song), “Hurting Each Other” and “Desperado” (with honourable mention given to “Ordinary Fool,” a great Paul Williams song that even the legendary Ella Fitzgerald couldn’t quite do a decent record of); of Williams’ songs, there’s “Ordinary Fool,” “Family of Man” and Paul’s own recording of “That’s Enough For Me.”
21 16 DRAGGIN’ THE LINE/Tommy James (Roulette)-3
Tommy James had a crook of the first water (Morris Levy) for a boss (wiseguy Levy ran Roulette Records) and, allegedly, still passionately loathes the great Chicago disc jockey Larry Lujack to this day (dunno exactly why, but Ol’ Uncle Lar ain’t the cuddliest teddy bear on the shelf, by his own admission).
26 17 SOONER OR LATER/The Grass Roots (Dunhill/ABC)-2
22 18 HERE COMES THAT RAINY DAY FEELIN’ AGAIN/The Fortunes (Capitol)-2
29 19 HIGH TIME WE WENT/Joe Cocker (A&M)-2
23 20 GET IT ON/Chase (Epic)-3
For those of you in the U.K. who’ve forgotten this one, it has no relationship to the T.Rex record of the same time, and in fact was the reason the T.Rex single was renamed “Bang a Gong” when Reprise Records issued it over here in the wake of Chase’s success with this side. Bill Chase was a marvellous fusion artist, but my preference would be “Open Up Wide” to this item.
20 21 BRING THE BOYS HOME/Freda Payne (Invictus)-4
Invictus Records had an interesting habit of boosting the treble on its radio station promo singles, so that the sound of those sides would stand out on the lowest-quality AM radio signals. Most of the commercial singles didn’t get the special remix, although at the time mono phonographs were still being sold by the chain stores like Sears and Montgomery Ward, and they usually sounded as lousy as the one-lung AM Top 40 station in Eagle River, Wisconsin, that would play records like this.
28 22 FUNKY NASSAU/The Beginning of the End (Atco)-2
24 23 SUMMER SAND/Dawn (Bell)-3
HB 25 HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART?/The Bee Gees (Atco)-1
HB 26 DOUBLE BARRELL/Dave & Ansil Collins (Big Tree)-1
I still wonder if Ric Flair based his heelish promos on the rap that opens this record (assuming Ric ever understood what the hell Collins was running off).
HB 27 SHE DIDN’T DO MAGIC/Lobo (Big Tree)-1
HB 28 RAINY JANE/Davy Jones (Bell)-1
The story on this Neil Sedaka composition is supposedly that Bell Records had an album’s worth of Davy Jones vocals still in the vaults, leftover from the recording sessions for the last two Monkees albums, and decided to put them out on an LP, culling this track for the single. Nationally, this side stalled before it could crack Billboard’s Top 50 (curiously, a Neil Diamond single of “I’m a Believer” did the same that year).
19 29 QUIET ABOUT IT/Jesse Winchester (Ampex)-6
I have absolutely no idea what this record is like. It never cracked the Billboard Hot 100, none of the other stations I listened to at the time played it, and thus I don’t recall ever hearing it. Ampex was the record label of the same company that manufactured 8-Track tapes and cassettes for Mercury and A&M when those products were first marketed; and was based in the suburbs of Chicago. Ampex’ first hit single under its own brand was “We Gotta Get You a Woman” by Runt (a.k.a. Todd Rundgren), and if I recall correctly Winchester went with Rundgren to the Warners subsidiary Bearsville label when Ampex folded. Ampex also distributed Big Tree, the label on which #26 and #27 above were issued; that label was placed with Bell after Ampex folded, and eventually wound up an Atlantic subsidiary label; the Bell-to-Atlantic sequencing explains how the 1975 U.S. reissue of Suzi Quatro’s “Can The Can” was put out on Big Tree under Atlantic distribution, as Quatro’s first two albums had originally appeared on Bell in the States and did poorly (I assume that someone at Big Tree arranged for Suzi’s old Bell/Arista contract to go with Big Tree when the Atlantic deal was struck).
HB 30 RINGS/Cymarron (Entrance)-1
This song had several attempts to make it a big hit in the ‘70s. First was this one, a moderate hit in the U.S. (with a reference to “James Taylor on the stereo”); then in 1973, Normie Rowe had an Australian hit with it (retaining the Taylor reference); in 1974, both Lobo (referencing “Jim Croce” rather than Taylor) and Reuben Howell (dunno who he referenced) made the Hot 100 without cracking the 40; and in 1976, Twiggy tried to get a British hit out of it (referencing The Doobie Brothers) as a follow-up to her nice Top 20 version of Country Joe McDonald’s song “Here I Go Again.” One of those songs that’s immediately familiar, even if you can’t quite recall exactly who did the version you’d heard back when.
A couple of other notes worth mentioning, in relation to other radio stations’ charts: WCWC listed “Ajax Liquor Store,” the Grammy-winning comedy record by Los Angeles disc jockeys Bob Hudson & Ron Landry, as reaching #25 on their chart (on the Dore label), showing that spoken-word material wasn’t out of the question on that station (I usually recall hearing “Ajax Liquor Store” on Country stations like WOSH-FM). As well, WCWC charted Sonny Curtis’ Ovation single of “Love Is All Around,” the theme song he’d written for The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Ovation, as I recall, was also a suburban Chicago outfit I most noticed for putting out Bonnie Koloc and The Kendalls, frequently in quadraphonic-only LP pressings. And, curiously, the WOSH “Fun-One Forty for Winnebagoland” dated June 11th lists Beverly Bremers’ Scepter single of “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember,” one of my favourites of the year, as a “Pick Hit,” even though that record didn’t crack WOSH’s chart until Christmas Eve. I doubt WOSH played it all those months while waiting for the sales to pick up. (“Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” eventually hit #1 on the WOSH chart on 28 January 1972; the best it did in Billboard was only #15.)
Friday, June 18, 2010
Mind you, The Dr. Demento Show is still heard in one community over the terrestrial airwaves, thanks to a contractual obligation with KACV in Amarillo, Texas, although that’s simply an edit of his online show. And the show will still be available as an Internet stream at drdemento.com for future programs. But, for all intents and purposes, Dr. Demento as we knew him for the last 40 years is gone from the airwaves, and the era of creative radio programming went with him when he left.
The illustration for this post happens to be the front cover of Dr. Demento’s Delights, a 1975 Warner Brothers concoction of novelty songs ranging from the brightly amusing (Jim Kweskin’s revival of “If You’re a Viper”) to, frankly, the disturbingly demented (Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” has never generated a laugh out of anyone with a loved one who has been institutionalized for mental problems, or for that matter anyone who has had to deal with a stalker). It was my first exposure to the good Doctor’s works, as I lived at the time in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a community that didn’t have any radio stations hip enough to add the show to their schedules. A few months after the purchase, I moved to Kenosha, where I got a weekly fix of Dementia over WRKR in Racine (somehow fittingly, on Sunday nights, right before falling asleep for the next day’s scholastic traumas). This just proved to me that Kenosha has always been cooler than Oshkosh.
Dr. Demento, born Barret Hansen in Minneapolis (also cooler than Oshkosh) on the day after April Fool’s Day 1941, was the last living morsel of the era of creative radio programming known as “Underground FM.” After making his daily bread by writing liner notes for those $2 two-record LP mail-order sets that Warner Brothers used to advertise on their inner sleeves, and being a talent scout for Specialty Records before that, Ol’ Barry Hansen got a radio gig at one of the country’s first outlets of the hippie counterculture, KPPC-FM in Pasadena, California. After a couple of 1970 hours of material like Harry “The Hipster” Gibson’s “Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine” and The Novas’ affectionate immortalisation of The Wrestler That Made Milwaukee Famous, “The Crusher,” relief jock The Obscene Steven Clean took over the KPPC airwaves by uttering, “Man, you gotta be demented to play that stuff on the radio.” Ol’ Barry relished the recognition of what his work had thus accomplished, and the Demento handle stuck.
Flash forward to the end of May, 2010. The last major affiliate of Dr. Demento’s syndicated radio show, WLUP in Chicago, cancelled the program after running it for over 30 years. (For a while, when WLUP used Steve Dahl as the big “star” of its roster, Dr. Demento was the only thing worth listening to on the station.) From a peak of over 100 affiliates – including KMET and, later, KLSX in Los Angeles and WNBC in New York, all now long gone from those communities’ dials – the show’s affiliate roster is now down to one, that straggler in Amarillo. And at the end of the summer, even Amarillo will most likely be gone, too.
Thanks in large part to Bill Clinton’s signing that horrendous broadcasting deregulation bill in 1996, terrestrial radio has now become 57 boring varieties of the same basic glop. There may be more stations licensed in the United States than ever before, but there are less station owners in the United States than at the end of the Coolidge Administration (1929, for the historically-challenged). Music radio is invariably plucked off a satellite or a computer file sent from Nashville or Hollywood, regardless of the type of music it is. “Air personalities” (if there are any left with actual personality, please let me know) are invariably not at the radio stations’ studios when you hear their voices over the signal, and in most cases have never even set foot in the stations’ offices or cities of license, either. Talk radio has mutated from thoughtful conversations featuring flesh-and-blood humans (Good God, how I miss Tom Snyder, Chicago Eddie Schwartz and Don Vogel) to five tiers of satellite-fed fascist demons pounding into their audiences’ heads who their Orwellian daily three-minute hate should be aimed at today. Past, say, my old acquaintances Steve King & Johnnie Putman on WGN Chicago and Danny Bonaduce on Philadelphia’s WYSP, Harry Shearer’s Le Show on KCRW Santa Monica, Duke & Banner on KBBF Santa Rosa (and dukeandbanner.com for you virgins) and maybe Tom Leykis’ Tasting Room syndicated show, there’s precious little justification in tuning to a terrestrial U.S. radio station anymore.
And I can’t exactly call what my business has turned into “iPod Radio,” since my own mp3 player is stocked with old KHJ and KRLA airchecks from the 1960s heyday of “Boss Angeles” radio. The Real Don Steele may have died a dozen years ago, but every day I still hear him at the peak of his powers, making even the worst of ‘60s pop music – Herb Alpert should never have taken that trumpet off his lips in order to sing – worth waiting through.
Whenever I visited with him, Tom Snyder would rib me about how twisted a mind I maintained in my brain. Well, it was he, along with Larry Lujack, Wolfman Jack, Connie Szerszen, Jerry & Dody Cowan and Dr. Demento who did the twisting. Now they’re all gone from the airwaves (and, in the cases of the Wolfman and Brother Snyder, gone from the planet). I weep at the thought of the newest crop of radio listeners having to draw inspiration from, horror of horrors, Ryan Seacrest. Perhaps that’s the real curse mentioned at the end of the Book of Malachi?