Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Quite a number of cover version revivals of older hits (and non-hits), seven in total! Ray Stevens' cover of the jazz standard "Misty", Linda Ronstadt's take on the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved", The Doobie Brothers successful revival of "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)" which had previously been a chart hit for both Kim Weston and the Isley Brothers, Gladys Knight & The Pips' interesting version of Barbra Streisand's hit "The Way We Were" which also included some recitation on the topic of nostalgia from the Broadway musical number "Try To Remember" featured in the play "The Fantasticks" and then a couple of songs that weren't hits originally. "Please Mr. Please" was first released by its writer Bruce Welch (of the Shadows) but didn't make any impact until Olivia Newton-John's release. And then the big one from this week, "Love Will Keep Us Together" which was originally written, recorded and released by Neil Sedaka (with 10cc as the backing group - who are also in this week's chart at #17 with "I'm Not In Love"!) but it was Captain & Tennille's version that was the smash hit, becoming the best selling US single of 1975. The Captain & Tennille version cleverly weaves in a tip of the hat to Neil with the fade out lyrics of "Sedaka is back" which was a nice tribute to the legendary songwriter who was indeed experiencing a new wave of personal success at the time.
Paul McCartney makes his own appearance at #8 with the title track from his & Wings' "Band On The Run" LP and then a second appearance as half of the songwriting partnership on Anne Murray's cover of the Beatles 1965 album track "You Won't See Me" which logs in at #12 on this week's chart. The newly reformed Righteous Brothers make an entry at #19 with "Rock And Roll Heaven" written by Alan O'Day (who also wrote Helen Reddy's "Angie Baby" and would have a major hit of his own with "Undercover Angel"). The song was originally recorded by Climax (of "Precious And Few" fame) and paid tribute to Jimi, Janis and Otis but it failed to chart. When the Righteous Brothers recorded it, the producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter added a new verse to include recently departed artists Bobby Darin and Jim Croce which replaced an original verse memorializing Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in the Climax version. Perhaps it was felt that Buddy and Ritchie already got their due respect in Don McLean's "American Pie". Producer Thom Bell has two of his productions in this week's top 20: The Spinners' great "I'm Coming Home" and The Stylistics' legendary classic "You Make Me Feel Brand New", both written by Bell with Linda Creed.
Monday, June 26, 2017
January '68 and underground freeform radio is still gaining steam. Pittsburgh, Buffalo and San Diego now had stations devoting at least part of their day/night to progressive rock programming and all stations are reporting increasing listeners and success. The original stations are starting to feel their power too as record labels are paying attention and being influenced by what's being played on these rock stations to pick which singles they're deciding to release. The labels are also starting to sign more new acts that fit into the underground rock bag - Boston area bands like Orpheus, Ultimate Spinach and the Beacon Street Union are especially being snapped up and thrown together as a marketing gimmick that's being called "The Bosstown Sound" - underground radio supported these new acts but these bands would receive some backlash in the rock magazines like Rolling Stone who claimed the corporations were trying to cash in on the burgeoning underground rock scene. Well, they're businesses looking to make a profit, it really shouldn't have been surprising and the rock press critical panning did have an effect and eventually crushed these bands before the year was over. The truth is, these bands had some fantastic material - just check out Ultimate Spinach's "(Ballad Of) The Hip Death Goddess" in this mix, it was well ahead of its time.
The progressive rock programming was also becoming more socially aware as the music being released was also responding to the political and social atmosphere. The Vietnam war in particular was getting a lot of exposure in song topics as well as getting a lot of criticism in the between-song raps the DJ's were broadcasting. Some progressive radio stations were coming into conflict with their corporate management, notably KPPC in Los Angeles where the long-haired disc jockeys were working alongside their straight Metromedia suit and tie bosses. The FCC was also starting to show interest as strong language and subject matter on records by Frank Zappa and the Fugs were being aired uncensored but legal rules hadn't yet been put in place. This would come to a head eventually, but for the time being, the airwaves were still rocking in the free world.