Sunday, July 18, 2010
July 22, 1972, WCWC (Ripon, WI) Record Survey
TW LW Title/Artist(Label)
1 4 HOW DO YOU DO?/Mouth & Macneal(Philips)
Now this was truly an odd pairing. Willem “Mouth” Duyn was apparently the Joe Cocker of Holland, delivering pop hits with a voice loaded up with even more gravel than The Cooker was doing. Sjoukje Van’t Spijker was a sexy blonde rocker in the Gayle McCormick/Chi Coltrane manner who adopted the pseudonym Maggie Macneal and had a huge European hit with a version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” that pilfered the Creedence Clearwater Revival arrangement of that tune. Somebody at Philips Records in Amsterdam obviously thought the two would make a dynamite vocal duo (perhaps that Philips A&R exec was hitting Amsterdam’s hash bars a little too frequently?). Well, at least in the case of this record, which took a somewhat novelty-tinged approach to a mediocre pop song, it obviously worked, although the #1 position that WCWC gave “How Do You Do?” was distinctly higher than either Billboard or Cash Box gave it. The Australian group Jigsaw, who’d already had a hit down under with a cover version of Christie’s “Yellow River,” also rode this one to Aussie chart success in a more conventional performance.
2 3 TOO LATE TO TURN BACK NOW/Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose(United Artists)
3 5 TAKE IT EASY/The Eagles(Asylum)
4 1 BRANDY (YOU’RE A FINE GIRL)/The Looking Glass(Epic)
With this song, the New Jersey-based band The Looking Glass took the premise of a verse of Phil Ochs’ marvellous 1967 record “Pleasures of the Harbor” (which itself had been inspired by the 1940 movie of Eugene O’Neill’s play The Long Voyage Home) and applied it to a tune that bore more than a passing resemblance to Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride,” itself a big hit in 1970. Fittingly, “Brandy” would itself be given the retread treatment in 1986 when the Swiss duo Double came out with “The Captain of Her Heart.”
5 9 ALONE AGAIN (NATURALLY)/Gilbert O’Sullivan(MAM)
In the early ‘70s, British pop music producer and manager Gordon Mills saw a split emerge in the one-time friendship of his two biggest performing properties, Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. It seemed that Eng thought Gordon was paying more attention to Tom’s career than his own; after all, Humperdinck’s string of U.S. Top 40 hits had dried up by the end of 1970 while Jones’ kept chugging for a few years past that, and This Is Tom Jones was a three-season smash hit for ABC (and saw rerun life in syndication for a year after that) while the same network only gave The Engelbert Humperdinck Show the first half of 1970 before cancelling it. Engelbert was convinced something was radically wrong with that state of affairs. Mills distracted himself from Humperdinck’s ego with his latest find, an Irish tunesmith named Raymond O’Sullivan who Mills promptly renamed Gilbert O’Sullivan. In early 1972, Gilbert recorded one of his prettiest melodies, which he’d fitted with some of the most downright depressing lyrics ever to crack the American and British pop charts. A tale of parental death, a widow’s depression and a son’s contemplation of suicide by jumping off a church steeple, this was undoubtedly the most sorrowful Top 40 hit since The Shangri-Las discovered “I Can Never Go Home Anymore” (1965) or Keith Barbour noticed the old man on a bench in “Echo Park” (1969). Depressing as it was, “Alone Again (Naturally)” turned out to be an even larger hit single than either Tom Jones or Engelbert Humperdinck would ever have in the States, so Gordon Mills could more easily tell Humperdinck to go cool his jets in Vegas and Tahoe for a while. A few weeks after “Alone Again (Naturally)” faded from the Stateside pop charts, O’Sullivan hit again with “Clair,” an ode to Mills’ youngest daughter, Clair Mills, whose favourite babysitter was none other than O’Sullivan himself. “Clair” also hit #1 on some of the U.S. and Canadian charts. After a few more chart appearances on both sides of the Atlantic, O’Sullivan noticed that his contract with Mills was an awful little affair, especially as he’d sold more records than Jones and Humperdinck combined in 1972-73. O’Sullivan proceeded to sue Gordon Mills for control of his publishing rights and master recordings – and, to the astonishment of the music industry (and horror of Gordon Mills), won his case, as well as his catalogues. This, as well as the loss of The Rolling Stones to Atlantic Records, ZZ Top to Warner Brothers and Thin Lizzy to Mercury, was considered the virtual death knell of London Records, MAM’s distributors in the United States, as a major label here. Past The Moody Blues and Al Green, London handled very few bankable recording artists, and by the time either Jones or Humperdinck themselves had any more American hits, their contracts had been transferred from London’s Parrot subsidiary to CBS’ Epic. O’Sullivan has since made a nice steady income by licensing his early ‘70s recordings to reissue labels like Rhino, and his works remain notably popular in Japan (after all, the Japanese seem to love being depressed as much as the Irish do; Japan and Ireland were the two national markets that made the 1971 film of Dalton Trumbo’s tragedy Johnny Got His Gun profitable). And Claire Mills still loves her “Uncle Ray,” even if his lawsuit against her father meant that she won’t automatically inherit the royalties of the song she inspired.
6 2 OUTA-SPACE/Billy Preston(A&M)
In 1967, jazz pianist Dick Hyman, best known for his updating rags and Dixieland for the soundtracks to certain Woody Allen movies, bought one of the very first Moog synthesizers ever manufactured. (Micky Dolenz, Buck Owens and Walter/Wendy Carlos all bought Moogs before Hyman.) The following year, Hyman released the first jazz album completely recorded with a Moog, titled MOOG: The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman, on ABC’s Command subsidiary label. From that album was taken an edited version of Hyman’s composition “The Minotaur,” which promptly became the first completely synthesized Top 40 hit in the United States. It took another four years, but jazz synthesizers would return to the pop charts with this thoroughly funky Billy Preston smash. Preston, before civilising the contentious Let It Be sessions for The Beatles (and becoming, on “Get Back”/”Don’t Let Me Down,” the only performer The Beatles would share a performing artist credit on one of their records), had cut an album for Capitol titled The Wildest Organ in Town! What he did with the synthesizer here, and on his sequel single “Space Race” a couple years later, was wilder than anything he’d done with an organ on any of his Capitol albums.
7 8 LIVING IN A HOUSE DIVIDED/Cher(Kapp)
8 14 COCONUT/Nilsson(RCA Victor)
9 6 SONG SUNG BLUE/Neil Diamond(Uni)
10 12 LEAN ON ME/Bill Withers(Sussex)
11 15 CONQUISTADOR/Procol Harum(A&M)
12 7 TROGLODYTE/The Jimmy Castor Bunch(RCA Victor)
13 13 WHERE IS THE LOVE/Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway(Atlantic)
14 16 I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE/Michael Jackson(Motown)
Not nearly as good as his first solo credit on a single, “Got to Be There,” but still proof that he was the biggest star among Joe Jackson’s brood from Gary.
15 10 NICE TO BE WITH YOU/Gallery(Sussex)
16 20 LONG COOL WOMAN IN A BLACK DRESS/The Hollies(Epic)
One of the big hits of 1972 that you could have sworn was recorded by someone else; here, The Hollies sounded more like Creedence Clearwater Revival than John Fogerty’s Blue Ridge Rangers did. Earlier in 1972, America’s “A Horse with No Name” sounded uncannily like Neil Young, whose “Heart of Gold” it knocked out of #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
17 21 SCHOOL’S OUT/Alice Cooper(Warner Brothers)
Naturally, this ode to teenage terrorism was banned from many American radio stations’ oldies rotations after the Columbine High School Massacre; somewhat ridiculously, it was also one of the records the Chump Channel Brain Trust banned from airplay for months after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. That it got radio airplay at all so soon after Kent State and the University of Wisconsin bombing is itself amazing.
18 11 ROCKET MAN/Elton John(Uni)
19 24 DUNCAN/Paul Simon(Columbia)
20 17 METAL GURU/T.Rex(Reprise)
The follow-up to T.Rex’s only U.S. Top 40 hit, “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” back in the Winter. Interesting that WCWC would even play this record, let alone chart it as highly as it did; it never cracked the Billboard Hot 100.
21 30 WHEN YOU SAY LOVE/Sonny & Cher(Kapp)
One of the worst things this duo ever perpetrated on its audience, a song-length restructuring of a Budweiser commercial.
22 18 IT’S GOING TO TAKE SOME TIME THIS TIME/The Carpenters(A&M)
23 – DAY BY DAY/Godspell(Bell)
24 19 CAT’S EYE IN THE WINDOW/Tommy James(Roulette)
Even more interesting than this record was the career of the man who owned the company that put it out, Morris Levy. The thoroughly “mobbed-up” owner of several early rock ‘n roll classics, Levy threatened the lives of Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers when they asked for royalty payments on “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” and “Goody Goody,” and helped himself to a composer’s credit for the former tune, as well as dozens of others that he probably didn’t contribute one note of melody or word of lyric to. But Levy also owned the greatest of all jazz nightclubs, New York’s Birdland, and when Coral Records and WABC and WNEW-TV New York dumped Alan Freed amid the payola witch hunts, Levy helped Freed out by hiring him to narrate a couple of LPs of Roulette-controlled doo-wop hits as if they were Freed’s radio show. He also recorded the last truly great big jazz band ever created, Maynard Ferguson’s “Message from Newport” unit. By the late ‘70s, Levy was bold enough to start reissuing other labels’ property as Roulette oldies; I used to have a copy of The Grass Roots’ “Heave Knows,” a Dunhill/ABC master, on Roulette. The last performer he tried to make into a recording star was porn legend Marilyn Chambers, with a disco song named after a chain of Japanese restaurants, “Benihana.” After merging his labels with MCA and a 1989 racketeering conviction, Morris Levy died of cancer while awaiting sentencing. The character of Hesh Rabkin on the TV series The Sopranos was based on Levy.
25 – GARDEN PARTY/Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band(Decca)
The title refers to a 1971 nostalgia concert at Madison Square Garden in New York at which Nelson performed some of his newer Country material as well as his 1950s rockabilly hits. The newer stuff was met with almost universal disdain by the audience, and the show was a curious mirror image of Phil Ochs’ 1970 Gunfight At Carnegie Hall concert, at which he performed “I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” and “Pleasures of the Harbor” to enthusiastic applause but got jeered when performing the Conway Twitty arrangement of “Mona Lisa” and a Buddy Holly medley on the same stage. Unlike Ochs, whose performing career never recovered, Nelson wrote a memorable song about the experience and logged his first gold single in eleven years. Interestingly, this record and Jerry Wallace’s “If You Leave Me Tonight” were two of the last #1 hit singles (on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Country charts, respectively) to ever be released on the Decca label in the United States; by the end of 1972, Decca, Kapp, Coral and Uni would all be merged into the newly-minted MCA Records, with Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” being MCA’s first release.
26 28 (IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG) I DON’T WANT TO BE RIGHT/Luther Ingram(Koko)
27 29 WE’RE FREE/Beverly Bremers(Scepter)
28 – MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB/Wings(Apple)
Curiously, this was the second single credited to his backup band rather than Paul McCartney, and the second of McCartney’s Apple singles to not display the Apple logo (it’s alleged that it was McCartney himself who came up with the Apple name and the Granny Smith logo images). The first single, “Give Ireland Back To the Irish,” displayed a row of five shamrocks across the top of the spindle hole. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” displayed a nursery rhyme illustration. The single to come after this one, “Hi, Hi, Hi,” bore a plain red label, and after that, “My Love” showed the “Red Rose Speedway” album logo against a black label. That last one led Nevil Gray to announce over the Radio Nederland program “What’s New,” once the single entered the Dutch pop charts, that Red Rose Speedway was the name of McCartney’s new label. Actually, each of the former Beatles had already issued Apple releases without the usual Granny Smith Apple label images – John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “Mother” had a ghostly white apple image, some pressings of George Harrison’s album All Things Must Pass used the same red apple image as the U.S. release of Let It Be, and Ringo Starr’s “Back Off Boogaloo” used a blue apple image. But it seemed as if McCartney was the ex-Beatle who most wanted to escape what Apple had become. He’d eventually return to the usual Granny Smith logo a year later with “Live and Let Die,” but abandon Apple altogether before the rest of his partners in the label with “Listen to What the Man Said” in May 1975, which not only used the Capitol logo against a black label (on both sides of the Atlantic, even avoiding the Parlophone logo of The Beatles’ first years with EMI), but even seemed to be based on the black-label design of Capitol’s original 78 r.p.m. releases of the mid-1940s. In 1979, McCartney would go so far as to take his U.S. and Canadian releases away from Capitol completely and put them out for the next five years on Columbia (a trademark then controlled by CBS in the Americas and EMI in the rest of the world) while maintaining his relationship with Parlophone throughout the rest of the world.
29 22 DIARY/Bread(Elektra)
30 – YOU DON’T MESS AROUND WITH JIM/Jim Croce(ABC)
See yesterday’s post.
SATURDAY IN THE PARK/Chicago(Columbia)
GOODBYE TO LOVE/The Carpenters(A&M)