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My Personal Chart Blog, 1970
December 16, 2020
So, working on the 1970 year-end chart had me going down a 1969 rabbit hole. First, I wanted to finish up my exploration of the second half of 1969 in an effort to put together the mid-year charts that I have been doing since the summer music party. My regular year-end chart goes from Dec-Nov and the mid-year chart goes from June-May. This set up allows late-year songs to see their full potential. Often with just a year-end chart, songs that straddle both years don’t see good chart positions in either year. There are glaring examples of this actually occurring on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1969-71 range. 5 songs that reached #1 on the Hot 100 never showed up on the year-end lists. These are the songs:
PARTRIDGE FAMILY I Think I Love You
SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES The Tears of A Clown
STEAM Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
PETER, PAUL & MARY Leaving On A Jet Plane
DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES Someday We'll Be Together
Conversely, some songs that never made the top 20 made the year-end chart.
Peak Year-end #
30 55 MAMA CASS ELLIOT It's Getting Better
28 100 THE BOX TOPS Sweet Cream Ladies, Forward March
21 78 MOUNTAIN Mississippi Queen
34 79 IKE & TINA TURNER I Want To Take You Higher
23 83 CHRISTIE Yellow River
Seems a bit of a letdown (if you follow these things). Doing the mid-year chart avoids this situation on a personal level. Here’s a comparison of the top 40 from my 69-70 cycle compared to how the songs fared in either year.
69# 6970# 70#
16 1 31 CHICAGO Questions 67 And 68
57 2 14 ELTON JOHN Skyline Pigeon
81 3 10 THE BEATLES Oh Darling
29 4 45 ELTON JOHN Empty Sky
7 5 260 MAMA CASS ELLIOT It's Getting Better
56 6 32 THE FIFTH DIMENSION Wedding Bell Blues
94 7 19 THE BEATLES Maxwell's Silver Hammer
3 8 x THE COWSILLS Hair
109 9 25 THE BEATLES Abbey Road Medley
8 10 x THREE DOG NIGHT One
x 11 2 THE HOLLIES He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
121 12 26 MAMA CASS ELLIOT Make Your Own Kind Of Music
30 13 148 THREE DOG NIGHT Eli's Coming
9 14 x FRIENDS OF DISTINCTION Grazing In The Grass
22 15 x THE GRASS ROOTS I'd Wait A Million Years
38 16 138 ELVIS PRESLEY Suspicious Minds
58 17 82 SMITH Baby It's You
x 18 3 EDISON LIGHTHOUSE Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)
157 19 38 THE JACKSON 5 I Want You Back
135 20 54 GLEN CAMPBELL Try A Little Kindness
x 21 4 RAY STEVENS Everything Is Beautiful
40 22 202 CUFF LINKS Tracy
2 23 x THE FIFTH DIMENSION Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In
x 24 13 THREE DOG NIGHT Celebrate
x 25 17 SLY & THE FAMILY STONE I Want To Take You Higher
33 26 x THE BEATLES Martha My Dear
192 27 22 MARMALADE Reflections Of My Life
34 28 x THE ARCHIES Sugar Sugar
87 29 x PROCUL HARUM A Salty Dog
x 30 5 CHICAGO 25 Or 6 To 4
123 31 72 R.B. GREAVES Take A Letter, Maria
168 32 58 ARETHA FRANKLIN Eleanor Rigby
42 33 298 THE TEMPTATIONS I Can't Get Next To You
23 34 x THE BEATLES Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
72 35 171 PEGGY LEE Is That All There Is
11 36 x CREAM Badge
35 37 340 NEIL DIAMOND Sweet Caroline
x 38 21 BADFINGER Come And Get It
86 39 157 THE BEATLES Come Together
189 40 59 MARK LINDSAY Arizona
I could not complete this exercise without filling out 1969 in total. There were a number of songs from ’69 that I had completely forgotten about until doing this. 3 of those made my top 25. I was most excited by #4, Edwin Starr’s “Twenty-Five Miles”. I never knew the title of this song or who it was by, but I remember it well. This will absolutely be put on my next party playlist. Cream comes in at #11 with “Badge” a song I know through osmosis of radio exposure over the years. It did better than “White Room” at #32 but that was a late 1968 release so it would probably be in the top 10 for the 68-69 cycle.
Eric Clapton was a member of the Cream trio. He also was part of the trio Blind Faith (with Steve Winwood and his Cream bandmate Ginger Baker). That one album supergroup scored 2 songs just outside the top 100, “Sea of Joy” at #104 and “Can’t Find My Way Home” at #106. They did a bit better on the mid-year. Winwood was also a member of the band Traffic that had “Empty Pages”, “Glad” and “Freedom Rider on my chart in 1970. Between Clapton and Winwood, who both went on to impressive solo careers, there is an interesting family tree of bands that intersect. Traffic connects to Bread, Seals & Croft, and Fleetwood Mac. In the mid-‘60s Clapton was in the Yardbirds, which connects to Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck, while Winwood was in the Spencer Davis Group which connects to Elton John’s ‘70s backing band. In addition, with Clapton part of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac (again) and the Rolling Stones enter the mix. Clapton’s involvement with the one-off band Derek & the Dominos (with a Traffic connection as well) brings the Allman Brothers to the family, while his work with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends adds George Harrison, Leon Russell, and Rita Coolidge. This could go on and on.
Another song I had forgotten about was “I’d Wait A Million Years” at #22 by the Grass Roots. I have a number of favorites by that band, 1971’s “Sooner Or Later” definitely the best of the bunch. I’ve discovered quite a few songs by the band that I did not know like “The River Is Wide” at #63, “Bella Linda” at #90, and “Baby Hold On” (#44 of 1970). I did not know their first top 10 hit was 1967’s “Let’s Live For Today”, definitely a different vibe than most of their other hits. I remember the song but didn’t know who it was by.
Another band that I have been able to explore a little more deeply recently is the Turtles. This resulted from one of the early podcasts and that’s when I discovered “Elenore” at #26 and 1967’s “She’d Rather Be With Me”. They also show up at #114 with “You Showed Me”. Of course, their biggest hit was “Happy Together” in 1967 but their first top 10 was 1965’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe”. I have no recollection of this song. When the band broke up in 1970 the vocalist's Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan joined the Mothers Of Invention, the experimental band that included frontman Frank Zappa. That band leads down another family tree that includes Little Feat, Journey, Canned Heat plus circles back to Traffic, John Mayall, and Jeff Beck.
Volman and Kaylan contractually could not use their real names (or that of the Turtles) so they became Phlorescent Leech & Eddie. They left the Mothers in 1971 and became Flo & Eddie. I certainly knew the name but absolutely nothing about them. This could become another rabbit hole as the Spotify bio describes them as the Partridge Family and Redd Foxx on one album. Just listening to 2 songs, “Thoughts Have Turned from 1972 and “Keep It Warm” from 1976, I could spend some time exploring these guys.
December 8, 2020
I started out in January of this year with the intention to write a series of blogs connected to my personal charts of the past and felt 1970 was a perfect starting point, 50 years in the rearview. I was 9 at the time and I had not started doing a weekly chart (that didn't commence until 1974) so the first thing I needed to do was create a chart for January 1970 that reflected how I felt about the songs now. I have been doing this for every month of the year so now I can compile a year-end chart for the year. I had done a version of this in 2001, the last time I did an all-time list (I am due for an update in 2021). I only did a top 60 then based on my gut. On the following chart that original position is on the left and the current rankings are based on the charts from Dec. 1969 through Nov. 1970 that I created this year. 3 songs in the top 20 were not on my list in 2001 and 4 songs in the top 10 made substantial moves.
The Carpenters moving to #1 (up from #6) was slightly surprising, though it is a song closely related to my mother, who actually passed in April 2001, so the 20th anniversary is coming soon. I have a copy of the “Close To You” sheet music framed above my desk that my best friend gave me after she died. In a related occurrence, a few days ago I was texting with my friend Lisa, sitting in my new Beyond Radio studio. We had our garage converted this fall to an office that I can do my work from. I’m moving my albums, 45s, CDs, and mixed tapes that were relegated to our basement years ago. It’s a fabulous space with stone walls that will be a perfect place to record future podcasts. All extremely exciting. Anyway, when texting Lisa my Mom came up and I told her the story about “Close To You”. As I was writing to her the song unexpectedly came on. I told Lisa that my Mom had just christened the studio. It was a beautiful moment and if you have listened to any of the podcasts, just another crazy coincidence that happens to me all the time.
The Hollies move from #22 to #2 with “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, is another surprise, but that song's connection to childhood is just so strong, as is the case with Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful” at #4. Both evoke a certain warm feeling that remains in the past. And, of course, it’s a beautiful song (Neil Diamond’s version-not so much). Funny, another song in a similar mode, “The Long And Winding Road”, fell from #1 to #9. At one point in the late ‘70s, it was my #1 song of all-time, displacing “Funeral For A Friend” by Elton John for a brief time, when I was really discovering the Beatles catalog. My #2 song of 1969, “Oh Darling” shows up behind ‘Road’ at #10. The Beatles scored 5 titles in the top 25 with the Abbey Road Medley being considered one song at #25. In addition, “Let It Be” comes in at #24 and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” at #19. Paul McCartney also shows up in the top 25 as a solo artist with the original version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” at #18. And the McCartney written “Come And Get It” by Badfinger lands at #21.
John Lennon also shows up at #36 with “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)”. I was just reminded by my ex-girlfriend Chris from high school that today is the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s murder. What a sheer tragedy that was. I had just talked about the song “Imagine” in my most recent 2010 blog post. The band Live did a version during their 1999 tour leading up to the millennium. When I saw them on that tour it was paired with my favorite song of all-time at that point, “Pillar Of Davidson”. It is my favorite concert experience ever. ‘Karma’ was the first solo Beatles song to sell a million copies.
The move for “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)”, 51-3, is totally appropriate, just a great bubblegum Pop song of the time. The kings of bubblegum in 1970 were the Jackson 5, whose “The Love You Save” was their highest charter at #12. All 4 of their Billboard #1 hits from the year made the top 100 with “ABC” at #20. Elsewhere on the chart, Bobby Sherman fell some from my previous version of the list. “Easy Come, Easy Go” down to #46 from 29 and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” at #60. The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” is at #47, but only because of the late-year release. More about the PFam when I write about the December 1970 chart.
The 3 songs that enter the top 20 that were not on my original list all come from the R&B side. “Ball of Confusion” at #8, a killer remake of the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” by Merry Clayton (who was the female singer on their version) at #16, and “I Want To Take You Higher" by Sly & The Family Stone at #17. I didn’t appreciate this music as a child, so it was really great to re-discover some and be introduced to others from the time (like Aretha’s version of “Eleanor Rigby” at #58 and “Psychedelic Shack” by the Temptations at #61).
Elton John’s “Skyline Pigeon”, which comes in at #14 and was originally #4 of 1969, is definitely My #1 song of 1969 at this point. A simple, harpsichord driven hymn, this is most definitely in my top 50 of all-time. “Take Me To The Pilot” at #6 remains my favorite song from his American debut album. “Empty Sky”, his true debut, was released in the UK in 1969 but not until 1975 in the States. The title track comes in at #45, though it really was a late ’69 song (#1 for me the month of Nov. 1969), so really a much more important song overall. In all EJ placed 10 songs in the top 100, the rollicking “Rock ‘N Roll Madonna”, at #11, was prominently featured in the movie “Rocket Man”.
Chicago had a good year as well with 4 songs in the top 100. I never questioned what “25 Or 6 To 4” (#5 for the year) meant. Now I have learned it means 25 or 26 minutes before 4am. I had to chuckle. Other meanings for the title have been floated around about illegal drugs or a famous person’s name in code. “Make Me Smile” at #29, was actually the band’s first Billboard Top 10, peaking at #9. The radio version is different than the album version on “Chicago II”. It is part of a 7-song suite called “Ballet For A Girl in Buchannon” (kind of similar to the “Abbey Road Medley”). The song suite also includes the song “Colour My World”, an extremely popular prom and wedding song from the early ‘70s. It was the b-side of both “Make Me Smile” and the re-release of “Beginnings” (#74) from their 1969 debut in 1971 after the band gained their popularity. “Questions 67 and 68” (#31) was also re-released in 1971.
I only learned of the #7 “Little Green Bag” from the 1992 movie “Reservoir Dogs”. I don’t believe they played it on the radio in the New York area. It was my #49 in 1995 when I saw the movie. The original title of the Dutch band The George Baker Selection’s debut single was “Little Greenback”, a reference to the color of the American dollar bill. You can hear it sang that way in the song. How it became “Little Green Bag” I am not sure, but again with a drug reference, it was thought to mean a bag of marijuana.
Three Dog Night has 4 songs in the top 200 with “Celebrate” at #13. The band would become one of my favorite artists of the first half of the decade. “Mama Told Me Not To Come” at #27, is a song written by Randy Newman (most famous for the song “Short People”) and was originally recorded by Eric Burdon & The Animals in 1966. Three Dog Night took it to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for 2 weeks in July. “Ride Captain Ride” at #28 was the only hit for the Florida band Blues Image. One of its members later joined Three Dog Night. The song reached #4 on the Hot 100, the same position as the one hit from British band Free, “All Right Now” (#35). The song was sung and co-written by Paul Rodgers, who would later become the frontman of the hugely successful band Bad Company. The song “Vehicle” (#37) was another one-hit wonder by the Illinois band the Ides Of March. That song peaked at #2 on the Hot 100, and many people thought it was by the band Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Vocally and stylistically it totally makes sense. The song was written by frontman Jim Peterik who would also go on to greater success as the leader of the ‘80s band Survivor. This theme is born out once more with “The Rapper” (#39) by the Pennsylvania band The Jaggerz. Another one-hit-wonder, this song reaching #2 on the Hot 100. The lead singer Donnie Iris had a moderately successful run as a solo artist in the early ‘80s with the songs like “Ah Leah” and “Love Is Like A Rock”.
Finally, Diana Ross had a 3-week run at #1 on the Hot 100 in September 1970 with her remake of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (#40). The original version peaked at #19 in 1967 for Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell. Ross had the defining version which was nominated for a Grammy. The funny thing about this song is that it was the #1 song when my podcast partner Jeff was born. We discussed the song on the original episode of the podcast and he is not a fan of the song.
My Personal Chart Blog, July 1970
The companion Spotify playlist has all the songs discussed in the blog that are available. Individual playlists for each blog entry are available on My YouTube Channel.
**Songs in bold were on my top 100 this month in 1970 & the number in parentheses is its position on the chart.
Part 2, Family Ties, The 70/20 Parallel and the Writer Behind the Song
The Carpenters/(They Long To Be) Close To You (2)
I was definitely not finished with my discussion of the Carpenters. Since my mother was such a huge fan of Karen Carpenter, I was fortunate enough to have my first concert experience when I was 10 years old. We drove in the wood-paneled station wagon down to the Garden State Arts Center to see them perform. I can’t say I remember much about the concert itself, but I remember the excitement of going and the feeling of being in this cool amphitheater. Years later when my sister was a teenager in dancing school her troupe got to perform on that stage as well, which was a big deal.
In listening to the songs from the album I was surprised at how many of the songs I remembered but I am sure that most were played at the concert as well. One of the more interesting ones is the Richard Carpenter/John Bettis penned “Mr. Guder”. Triangle, Flute, and signature harmonies are the backdrop for a song about a robotic company man. With Carpenter, Bettis penned quite a number of the duo’s hits like “Only Yesterday” and “Yesterday Once More”. Bettis has co-written songs for a myriad of Pop and Country artists including “Crazy For You” by Madonna, “Slow Hand” by the Pointer Sisters, and George Strait’s “Heartland”. In addition, he wrote the theme to the sitcom “Growing Pains” and the anthem for the Summer Olympics in 1988, Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time”.
One of my favorites from the album is “Maybe It’s You” with its prominent use of the oboe and lovely chorus. In Sept. 1970 they released “We’ve Only Just Begun”, my #11 of the year, co-written by another well-known lyricist, Paul Williams. Williams had his fingers in another television theme song, writing lyrics for “The Love Boat”. 2 of his most important songs, in my opinion, are Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen” from “A Star is Born” and “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie”. Many people may remember him from his acting career as well. He showed up a lot in TV and film through the ’70s, most notably the “Smokey And The Bandit” film series.
The origins of ‘Begun’ are interesting as well. It first showed up in early 1970 as the music in a commercial for the Crocker National Bank of California, sung by Williams. Upon hearing it Richard Carpenter asked Williams if there was a full version of the song. They were both under contract with A&M Records. From an insignificant beginning to a major radio smash (hitting #1 in Cashbox Magazine and #2 for 4 weeks in Billboard), the song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 as well as making the Rolling Stone top 500 of all time at #414.
Of particular note, it stalled at #2 in Billboard behind 2 other families. The real family, Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There”, and the fictitious family, the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” (more on them later in the year). Right behind the Carpenters on my July 1970 chart is the Jackson 5 with “The Love You Save” (3), their third of 4 Billboard #1’s that year. While the previous 2 songs had reached my top 10 (“I Want You Back” #7 and “ABC” #5 (38)) this was my favorite of the bunch. You may not be aware that the song references 4 historic figures; Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, and Christopher Columbus.
The ballad “I’ll Be There” followed ‘Save’ in September and became the group’s biggest hit, and their last #1 in Billboard. It would not be the last time the song reached #1, as Mariah Carey brought it back to the summit in 1992. The song replaced Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” as Motown’s most successful single until it was supplanted in 1981 by “Endless Love” the movie theme sung by Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross. Of course, Mariah Carey comes back into play, as her version of this song with Luther Vandross climbed to #2 in 1994.
While the group did not have another Billboard #1, the next 2 singles which peaked at #2, both reached #1 in the rival magazine Cashbox. “Mama’s Pearl” was another favorite of the time. It certainly fell in line with the other bubblegum oriented tunes from the group. The original name of the song was “Guess Who’s Making Whoopie (With Your Girlfriend)’” but that was changed (along with lyrics) to keep the 12-year-old Michael’s image pure. The song was kept out of the top spot in Billboard by another group of brothers, The Osmonds, and their song “One Bad Apple” (a 5-week chart-topper), ironically written by a guy named George Jackson. He also co-wrote “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll” for Bob Seger and a song called “The Only Way Is Up” for soul singer Otis Clay in 1980 (thought the version that became a hit was by Yazz and the Plastic Population in 1988 ( a UK #1 and Dance chart #2). That version surprisingly only reached #45 on my chart, a song that has stood up quite well for me.
The next single, “Never Can Say Goodbye” was written by Clifton Davis, an actor best known for his roles in the mid-70’s sitcom “That’s My Mama” and the late 80’s sitcom “Amen” starring Sherman Hemsley of “The Jeffersons”. The ballad was re-imagined as a dance song twice, first by Gloria Gaynor in 1974 (#9 Hot 100, #1 Dance) and then by the UK outfit The Communards in 1987 (a #2 Dance hit and top 5 in the UK).
The next band has a connection to the Jacksons. Alive ‘N Kickin’ was a one-hit-wonder from Brooklyn that scored a major hit in 1970 with “Tighter, Tighter” (7), a song co-written by Tommy James. The band had started working with him in 1968 and he almost gave them his 1969 hit “Crystal Blue Persuasion” but decided to keep it for himself. Their song peaked at #7 on the Hot 100. One of the 6 members of the band was Bruce Sudano.
In 1984 he wrote the song “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming (Too Good To Be True)” for Jermaine Jackson featuring Michael Jackson. That song was never released as a single due to conflicts from the 2 brothers opposing record companies but did reach the top 10 in airplay on the Pop chart in June 1984. It also received a Grammy nomination for R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. Some of you may know that Sudano, who was a member of Brooklyn Dreams later in the ’70s, is Donna Summer’s husband. I discovered their 1979 song “Make It Last” when I was working on the precursor to these blogs last fall. The very '70s era Hall & Oates style song made it up to #62 on my chart this past January. They had a few minor chart entries in the late ’70s but scored best with their collaboration with Summer, “Heaven Knows”, reaching #4 on the Hot 100 in early 1979.
The Jackson 5 had been given the moniker “the first family of soul” but it originally had been bestowed on the Five Stairsteps, a Chicago family of 5 boys and 1 girl. Between 1966 and 1969 they charted 13 songs that made the lower reaches of the Hot 100, many of which made the R&B top 20. It wasn’t until 1970 that they scored their signature hit “O-o-h Child” (18), a song that also shows up in Rolling Stone’s top 500 of all-time at #402.
As was a common occurrence 50 years ago, this was another time when the B-side became the A-side. The original single release had their cover of the Beatles “Dear Prudence” as the A-side but “O-o-h Child” started performing well in Philadelphia and Detroit so they flipped it after 7 weeks on the chart. ‘Prudence’ topped out at #66. They had a few more minor songs in the early ’70s, a #10 R&B hit in 1976 with “From Us to You” and then again in 1980 as the Invisible Man’s Band with “All Night Thing”.
The family was neighbors of Fred Cash, a member of the Impressions, one of the premier R&B groups of the ’60s. In their earliest incarnation, there was a pair of brothers in the band. The 1965 song “People Get Ready” is another in the Rolling Stone all-time 500 at #24 and also a 1998 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee. My connection to that song came in 1985 with Jeff Beck’s bluesy version accompanied by Rod Stewart on vocals. Curtis Mayfield was ostensibly the band's leader and he took the Stairsteps under his wing and became their producer through the late ’60s.
Mayfield, who became paralyzed in 1990 from a stage lighting accident and passed at 57 in 1999, wrote most of the Impressions songs and through the years his lyrics became more socially and politically aware. In 1970 he left the group to embark on a solo career. His first solo single “(Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go” is a 7-minute song about race relations and starts with a woman talking about the “Book Of Revelations” from the Bible. It was a #3 R&B hit and also cracked Billboard’s Top 30. The next release was “Move On Up” that only charted in the UK (#12) but has become a soul classic. Joe Biden has used the song at the end of speeches during the presidential campaign.
The era was full of socially important songs like The Impressions’ “Check Out Your Mind” (97) and the Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” (6). As a 9-year-old I was not drawn to these types of songs but now I can appreciate the relevance they had. ‘Confusion’, a politically charged song that is as appropriate today reached #3 on the Hot 100 but went all the way to #1 in Cashbox. A song I did not know well growing up was the Temptations’ “Psychedelic Shack” (83). The song was a top 10 Billboard hit early in the year. As I am creating my 1970 charts based on how I feel about the songs now (I didn’t start my personal chart until 1974) this (and the Mayfield songs) are enjoyable nuggets of the time, ‘Shack’ peaked at #16 on my April 1970 chart.
An interesting tidbit of info that I came across about ‘Confusion’ links to the resurrection of Tina Turner’s career in the ’80s. In 1982 she recorded a version of the song for an album by production team B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation). This was 2 former members of the Human League and soon to be 2 thirds of the trio Heaven 17. They produced an album of covers by various artists in 1982 called “Music Of Quality and Distinction, Volume 1”. Turner’s version of ‘Confusion’ caught the attention of Capitol Records, who signed her. The first release with them was her version of “Let’s Stay Together”, made famous by Al Green, and this helped push her to superstardom.
In 1970 Turner along with her then-husband Ike put 2 cover songs on the Hot 100, first with the Beatles’ “Come Together” and then Sly & the Family Stone’s “I Want To Take You Higher” (55). The original Family Stone version had peaked at #4 on my chart in March 1970. We discuss this song on the Beyond Radio Presents podcast episode released on May 29 this year. It is Castlist 005, Episode 5 in which I relate it to the song “Something’s Got To Give” by UK artist Labrinth and Jeff remembers it from a Saturday morning TV show. The song had originally been released in 1969 as the B-side of “Stand!” (#244 on the Rolling Stone Top 500 of all-time). I am surprised this only peaked at #22 on the Hot 100. ‘Higher’ peaked separately at #60. Almost a year to the date later ‘Higher’ was released as the A-side and charted again, peaking at #38.
The band (including Sly’s brother Freddie and sister Rosie as well as cousin Larry Graham), had another song in my top 100 this month, “Everybody Is A Star” (40). This was the B-side of the winter 1970 Hot 100 #1 “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again” (#410 on the Rolling Stone Top 500). It did not chart separately in Billboard but in Cashbox it peaked at #40 and I certainly remember it from the time. I think these less substantial charters must have received a lot more airplay in the NYC market (I grew up in north Jersey) than other regions.
Graham left the band in 1972 and formed the group Azteca, a Latin-Rock/Jazz-Fusion ensemble. One of the members of Azteca was Neal Schon (formerly of Santana) who would go on to form Journey in 1973. Another was Sheila E who is the daughter of one of the founders, Pete Escovedo. From here part of the ensemble would morph into Graham Central Station. The band had a number of moderate Funk hits between 1974-76 but Graham is best known for his 1980 solo top 10 “One In A Million You”. He is credited with the invention of the electric bass-slapping technique.
Sly’s band also connects to 2 other popular rock band of the ’80s. Member Jerry Martini (who also spent time in Azteca) formed a band called Rubicon in 1978. The band included 2 future members of Night Ranger (Brad Gillis and Jack Blades) and a future member of Huey Lewis & The News (Johnny Colla). The band had 1 top 40 hit in 1978. The breezy “I’m Gonna Take Care Of Everything” peaked at #28 on the Hot 100 and at #14 on my personal chart, though it has become a lasting favorite, now my #21 of 1978.
While Sly & The Family Stone were a psychedelic R&B group that dabbled in many styles, the Poppy Family, a band from Canada, were on the folk side of the psychedelic spectrum. The spring of 1970 gave them their 1 U.S. hit, “Where Are You Going, Billy?” (60). The group was led by the husband-wife team of Terry and Susan Jacks. They managed 5 top 10’s in Canada before they split up (and the Jacks divorced in 1973) with the harbinger of doom “Where Evil Grows” being their second biggest hit in 1971.
Both went on to solo careers with Terry becoming infamous for his 1974 smash hit “Seasons In The Sun”. That song was originally intended to be recorded by another family band, the Beach Boys, but they passed on it. The song has an interesting history, beginning as the song “Le Moribond” from 1961 by Belgian artist Jacques Brel. In 1963 songwriter and poet Rod McKuen translated it and other of his songs to English, resulting in ‘Sun’. Jacks version is an adaptation of McKuen’s version. The Americanized versions don’t really sound anything like the original.
Brel has been on my radar for a long time. I met my friend Chris Morin who is a singer-songwriter in 1985 during a summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was that summer that he introduced me to the artist through the album “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”, the Original Cast Recording from the 1968 Off-Broadway production. That production ran for 4 years in Greenwich Village. A highlight from that is the song “Jackie”, a song that was covered by Marc Almond of Soft Cell in 1991. David Bowie was also a big fan of Brel, recording his version of “Amsterdam” in the early ’70s.
The British vocal group the Fortunes released a version of ‘Sun’ in 1968, though it did not chart. What I learned about them through this process is that they had 2 songs that I know of from my childhood but had no idea who sang them until this moment. The first was the 1965 hit “You’ve Got Your Troubles” (#7 on the Hot 100) and the other is 1971 song “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (Hot 100 #15). Both of these songs conjure up memories of my Dad. The latter is also extremely reminiscent of the Four Seasons.
A lot of male artists and vocal groups of the era link to my Dad. B.J. Thomas comes to mind first. I have a cassette of my Dad singing “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, the first Billboard Hot 100 #1 of the ’70s and Oscar winner for Best Song (from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”). It also ended up as the #4 song of the year. The song was originally offered to Ray Stevens, who turned it down”, but he did just fine in 1970 with the Hot 100 #1 song “Everything Is Beautiful” (23) which topped my chart in April 1970. It was an atypical song for the singer who was more well known for his novelty songs like 1962’s “Ahab The Arab” and 1969’s “Gitarzan”. The spiritual pop song, which speaks of racial harmony, won the Grammy for Pop Male Vocal Performance. The parallels between 1970 and 2020 just keep coming. “I Just Can’t Help Believing” (42), is another Hot 100 top 10 song from BJ Thomas (he also sang the Theme to Growing Pains), that like ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Raindrops’ crossed the line between Pop and Country.
This was a lane that my Dad liked to be in, though he was definitely not an overt Country music fan. I can also connect my Dad to the First Edition, the band fronted by Kenny Rogers before he embarked on this monstrously successful solo career. They also straddled that Pop/Country fence beginning with the 1967 Hot 100 #5 psychedelic anti-drug song ‘(Just Dropped In) To See What Condition My Condition Was In”, and then 1969’s “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” plus 1970’s “Something’s Burning” (93). In an interesting happenstance, Dolly Parton recorded a version of the First Edition’s 1968 top 20 hit “But You Know I Love You” that in 1981, followed the Kenny Rogers duet with Dottie West “What Are We Doin’ In Love” into the #1 position on the Country chart. All 3 men also saw success on Christian radio “Through the Years”. See where I went there?
Glen Campbell, another huge fav of my Dad, played on First Edition’s ‘Condition’. I spoke about Campbell in 1 of the January 1970 blog posts. He had a busy year in ‘70 with 6 charted singles. He took the song “It’s Only Make Believe” into the top 10 on the Hot 100 in October. The song was co-written by Conway Twitty, who had himself taken it to #1 on the Hot 100 in 1958 (though it strangely did not show up on the Country chart). At the time people thought it was Elvis Presley using an assumed name and the vocals are eerily similar. This was again, a time when the B-side became the A-side, this due to the decision of an Ohio radio station. In 1983 the Australian band Cold Chisel did a rollicking live cover of the song, sung by Jimmy Barnes, who had a number of chart-toppers on my personal chart in the ’80s including “Working Class Man”.
I have recently discovered 2 covers than Campbell did in his later life. When I was writing about Guided By Voices for one of the 2000 blog posts I found his version of their “Hold On Hope”. In May when the Live Lounge Allstars (a mostly British USA for Africa style ensemble) covered the Foo Fighters “Times Like These” as a COVID-19 charity single I also came across his 2008 version of that song. Both of those are currently in my weekly top 150.
As I spoke to on the blog posts from the January 1970 chart the Fifth Dimension and Tom Jones were big artists for my parents as well. In July, the Fifth Dimension’s take on “Save The Country” (4) was proving to be the most successful of all the versions. I wrote about the history of this song in that blog post. They also were represented on my chart is July with “Puppet Man” (22), a song co-written by Neil Sedaka. I totally remember the line “if you wanna see me do my thing, pull my string” from childhood. I seriously did not know the next tidbit until researching this, but Jones also recorded this song and released it the following year. On the Hot 100 the Fifth Dimension beat him by 2 points. They reached #24 on the Hot 100 and his only #26 (and theirs is so much better). In 1972 he kept the puppet theme going with “The Young New Mexican Puppeteer”, a UK #6 with lyrics about civil rights and Martin Luther King!?
His “Daughter Of Darkness” (61) was 1 of 4 songs that made the Hot 100 in 1970 (The Fifth Dimension had 9 songs chart that year). The follow-up to that song is the oft-recorded “I (Who Have Nothing)”, with his cover the most popular. I originally remember this song from Sylvester’s Disco version in 1979. Like the previous “Seasons In The Sun” the origin of this song came from a 1961 Italian song “Uno Dei Tanti” that was given English lyrics by the songwriting team Leiber and Stoller. Among the 70 hit songs they wrote are “Jailhouse Rock”, “On Broadway” and Peggy Lee’s iconic “Is That All There Is” (my #14 in November 1969). Ben E. King and Shirley Bassey were the first artists to popularize the song on either side of the Atlantic.
I can not end this post without acknowledging the song “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” (debut-32)” by Bobby Sherman. My sister’s name is Julie and at the time she was 4. As would be expected this became her theme song and we sang it a lot. She does not remember much about it but definitely knows the chorus. Now I have to say I am gleeful at what I just found out in the research. So, the song was written by Tom Bahler whose name I recognized from his part in the Partridge Family. He along with his older brother John were vocalists in the Ron Hicklin Singers, who were the real background vocalists for the group. 2 of the songs from the pilot episode of the TV show were originally recorded by the brothers late 60’s band The Love Generation, “Let The Good Times In” and “Together (Havin’ A Ball)”. This background connection alone would make me thrilled and would be a great way to end the post but there is more. I just spoke about USA For Africa and Bahler won a Grammy as associate producer of the song “We Are The World”. 11 of the artists mentioned in this post appeared on that record. He often worked with Quincy Jones and had also been a vocal arranger for the Jackson 5. Again, these would be great connections, especially circling back to the Jacksons. But wait, there is 1 more thing, relating to a Jackson and another artist spoken about here.
Bahler wrote the Michael Jackson hit “She’s Out Of My Life”, originally written with Frank Sinatra in mind, but he never recorded it. The other artist connected to this song is Karen Carpenter! From Bahler’s Wikipedia page: “It has been claimed he wrote "She's Out Of My Life" about Karen Carpenter, who broke up with Bahler after discovering he had fathered a child with another woman, but Bahler says the song was written about Rhonda Rivera.” On the Wikipedia page for the song here is what Bahler confirmed: “The song is about a painful breakup. It has been claimed that Bahler wrote the song about Karen Carpenter, whom Bahler had briefly dated. However, he has stated, "The fact is, I had already written that song by the time Karen and I became romantic. That song was written more about Rhonda Rivera... Rhonda and I had been together for two years, and it was after we broke up that I started dating Karen."In the end Rivera married actor, game show host, and singer John Davidson in 1983.
To close this out with it only coming into play at the very end. “She’s Out Of My Life” was released on April 19 in 1980. That is my mother’s birthday, tying the family ties up in a nice bow.
Part 1, Superstar Beginnings and Endings
Elton John/Take Me To The Pilot (1)
As was the case with the January 1970 chart Elton John claims the #1 slot. While he had released his 1st album “Empty Sky” in the UK in 1969 it was his self-titled 2nd album that brought him to the States and started his illustrious 5-decade career. Music researcher Joel Whitburn, who has chronicled the U.S. music charts for 50 years through a series of books, places John as the #3 artist of all-time. “Border Song (Holy Moses)” (15) was the 1st song released when the album hit in April and in the last verse (written by John instead of his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin) he speaks to matters that are almost more pertinent today than ever. "Holy Moses, let us live in peace/let us strive to find a way to make all hatred cease/there's a man over there. What's his colour I don't care/he's my brother let us live in peace."
While this was the 1st song that made a chart in any country for Elton (nothing from “Empty Sky” charted in the UK), it was the cover version of this song that performed better on the Billboard charts. His version reached #92 (#34 in Canada), while Aretha Franklin took it to #37 late in the year. The gospel-tinged song was certainly a perfect fit for.
The 2nd single released was “Rock and Roll Madonna” (9), a rollicking piano boogie stomper that was only released in the UK and again, did not make the official chart there. The b-side was an early version of “Grey Seal” (62) that re-surfaced in a more upbeat version on the 1973 album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. I do prefer that later version, coming in at #11 for the year in ’73. Soon after ‘Madonna’ a song called “From Denver To L.A.” was released. Not on the album, it was featured in the movie “The Games”. It was erroneously credited to Elton Johns and the single was withdrawn quickly because he and his record label objected to its release. It is now quite the collector’s item.
“Take Me To The Pilot”, certainly my favorite song from this album, was slated as the a-side of the next release with “Your Song” as the b-side. We all know how that played out. ‘Pilot’ received airplay mostly on FM album rock radio while “Your Song” became the pop standout earning him his 1st top 10 in the U.S. and 1st chart entry in England ever. I charted a live version of ‘Pilot’ from the 1987 album “Live In Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra” and it again peaked at #1. In 2002 Ewan Macgregor’s version of “Your Song” from the movie “Moulin Rouge” went to #2 on my chart and it is now my preferred version. We’ll see how the original “Your Song” fares when we re-visit 1970 in December. In total I would chart 10 songs form John’s album including “The King Must Die” (72-debut), “Bad Side Of The Moon”, “I Need You To Turn To”, “Sixty Years On” and “The Cage”.
While his career was starting to escalate Joel Whitburn’s #2 artist of all-time, The Beatles, had just released their last studio album “Let It Be”. The album was far from their strongest, especially after the previous “Abbey Road”. Interestingly this album was recorded prior to “Abbey Road”. Only 3 songs from this would make my chart. The Billboard #1 “Let It Be” (26) had made it to #5 on my chart in May and “The Long And Winding Road” (5) (their last #1 in the States) was, for a brief time in the late 70’s when I was truly absorbing all the Beatles catalog, my #1 song of all-time. “Across The Universe” was just outside my top 100 in July and would enter the following month.
Most of the album was recorded in early 1969 and the initial single release was in April of that year, the double a-sided “Get Back” (a 5 week #1 in Billboard) and “Don’t Let Me Down” (Billboard #35). The latter was not included on the album. I have not created a 1969 chart so I’m not sure how these would have performed. “Abbey Road” was recorded after these sessions and released in September 1969 around the same time John Lennon had departed from the group. At this point though it was under wraps, as he agreed to not discussing this publicly.
In March 1970, the gospel influenced title track was released as a single 2 months before the album. In between those 2 releases and somewhat ironically based on the song’s lyrics, Paul McCartney announced the break-up of the group with much controversy. 3 weeks before the album came out on May 8, McCartney released his secretly made debut album “McCartney”. A press release about the album is cited as the final nail in the dissolvement of the band but there were a myriad of factors; drug use, Yoko Ono, the death of their manager Brian Epstein in 1967, McCartney’s overbearing nature, etc. “The Long And Winding Road” became a sad and aching epitaph to the final journey of the band.
There were no single releases from “McCartney” but “Maybe I’m Amazed” (24) garnered substantial airplay. In 1977 a live version of the song reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his band Wings. This powerful tune is a love song and a lament at the same time, dedicating it to his wife Linda, and seemingly addressing the difficult time he was having with the band during that last year.
Long before McCartney’s album came out John Lennon had released 2 1969 singles, the #14 Hot 100 song “Give Peace A Chance” and #30 “Cold Turkey” both credited to the Plastic Ono Band. On the former Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers contributed acoustic guitar. It was also recorded live in a Montreal hotel room. In February 1970 Lennon wrote, recorded and released the song “Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” (44) over a 10-day period, credited as one of the fastest releases in Pop music history. Though I have read nothing to indicate this, it would not surprise me if McCartney was an inspiration (“instant karma’s gonna get get, it’s gonna knock you off your feet”). The name of the 1997 book “The Shining” by Stephen King was inspired by the line “we all shine on”.
Amidst the breakup, Ringo Starr released 2, seemingly strange albums in 1970; his 1st in March, “Sentimental Journey”, was a set of standards and the 2nd in September, “Beaucoup of Blues”, pretty much a country album. The title track of that actually did spend 5 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #87. All 4 of the Beatles were being experimental on their initial solo releases. McCartney went the lo-fi approach on his debut while George Harrison had albums in 1968 (“Wonderwall Music” which was mostly instrumental and featured a blending Eastern and Western instrumentation) and 1969 (“Electronic Sound” that includes just 2 lengthy tracks based around the Moog synthesizer). Similarly, John Lennon went off the wall with Yoko Ono on Unfinished Music #1: Two Virgins” and “Unfinished Music 2: Life with the Lions”, again in ’68 and ’69. On the first, the 2 were shown naked on the front and back covers. The albums, also with a third, “The Wedding Album” (also released in 1969) were controversial to say the least.
Back to some auspicious beginnings and connections to the Beatles. The self-titled James Taylor debut album was released Apple Records in December 1968. He was the first non-British artist on the Beatles own imprint. George Harrison and Paul McCartney are featured on the song “Carolina In My Mind” with a lyric that refers to the band, “holy host of others standing around me”. Another song, “Something In The Way She Moves” inspired Harrison to write the song “Something” from “Abbey Road”. Taylor’s album was well received but Taylor had gone into treatment for drug addiction at the time so marketing it proved to be difficult.
1 of the standout songs, “Knocking ‘Round The Zoo” (and a single release in France), was written in response to his stay at the psychiatric McLean Hospital in Massachusetts as a teen. I had never heard this before but I am liking the vibe. It starts with plaintive strings and then goes into the rhythmic acoustic guitar-based verses. There is really no distinctive chorus. It starts to add in brass, at times in an almost Chicago-like way. The bridge brings in the voices of what I would describe as the inmates at the asylum. A really intriguing piece that will undoubtedly make my current personal chart. It sounds that fresh.
After his recovery from drug treatment, he recorded the album “Sweet Baby James” that was released in February 1970. This was his breakthrough, buoyed by his Hot 100 #3 debut “Fire And Rain” (11). This one was written in response to his drug treatment and the suicide of a friend. Even though the lyrical contents are from completely opposite places, I always equate this song with Elton John’s “Your Song”. The title song and “Steamroller Blues” were not Pop hits but have stood strongly as part of his legacy. The album has appeared on numerous all-time best album lists.
Another album that made a greatest album of all-time list (this one Rolling Stone magazine at #175) is “Close To You” by the Carpenters. They also connect to the Beatles, as I spoke of in a previous blog post, with their debut single “Ticket To Ride” and on this album with the band’s “Help”. About a third of the Carpenters album is made up of covers, including “Reason To Believe”, “Baby it’s You” (very different version than Smith’s hit version from late 1969), and “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again”.
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” (2) is also a cover, but the first time the song was a radio hit. Starting in 1963 the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song was recorded by Richard Chamberlain, Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield and Herb Alpert. It was Alpert that suggested the brother-sister duo record the song (He is the A in A&M Records, their label). The song would spend 4 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August (and atop my chart as well), ending up being Billboard’s #2 song of 1970 and winning a Grammy for Best Song by a Duo or Group.
On one of our podcasts I speak about a similarity between the opening musical line of this song and the Lily Allen song “F*** You”. It is Castlist 005, Episode 2, released on April 24 of this year. There is controversy whether the line from the Lily Allen song is from the Carpenters or the theme to the Australian soap opera “The Neighbours”. You listen and decide.
I can’t end this without revealing Joel Whitburn’s #1 artist of all-time, not surprisingly Elvis Presley. On this chart his “The Wonder Of You” just missed the top 100, sitting at #102, right behind the Beatles. It as well, is a cover. The original was a top 40 hit in 1959 by Ray Peterson. Now I had not anticipated this but in 1973 Elvis Presley recorded a live version of James Taylor’s “Steamroller Blues” on a TV special called “Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite” and it peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Somehow there is always a way to tie these blog posts up in a nice bow (or 2 or 3).
Tim's January 1970 Personal Chart Blog
The evolution of Beyond Radio over the last 2 years continues. They have been cathartic, joyous, frustrating and emotional but all in a good way.
The introduction of the Beyond Radio Presents podcast made me turn my need to constantly seek new music backward and bridge the idea of nostalgia and discovery. Where do the connections lie? How do we present it and reach people stuck in the music of their youth or show how the new is a product of the past? Where do I find the time to add another layer to an already full plate?
The process has brought all of the above. Frustration in the form of time constraints, Joy in the discovery of unknown connections, Emotions from the renewed focus on my music from my past and Catharsis in feeling this is where I was supposed to land in this journey. And I have always looked at this as a journey.
Through it all I have been given so many unexpected gifts and now my work life has become an immersive exercise. Driving for Uber offers me flexibility, freedom and time to craft ideas. Music now is part of the bulk of my day. And when the conversations veer towards my passenger’s own connections to music, more ideas and personal discovery ensue.
While the intention of the podcast has been to reach people through nostalgia (a place where many adults park their connection to music) and expand their brains to discovery (whether it be new or new to them); another important layer grew from an unexpected event. You can hear the entire story on the podcast episode “Old Man Rant, Rave and Respects, Ep 2”. The gist of the story is the realization of the therapeutic effect of what we are doing.
That epiphany lead to the inclusion of new playlists on the website this past summer. Music therapy playlists that sometimes work off a music theme (the latest, Music Has Not Lost Its Soul containing R&B and Soul from the last 50 plus years) and sometimes have a more emotional target (From Darkness Into Light). These, like the podcasts, mix nostalgia and discovery.
With the podcast and music therapy playlists as a catalyst, the next step was looking back each month at my personal chart history. I started doing a weekly top 40 when I was 12 after discovering American Top 40. I had already been obsessed with the weekly chart at my local NY/NJ radio station WABC because they only posted their top 14 each week and I’d have to try and fill in the gaps during the week while listening. Those old charts are available on the web at https://www.musicradio77.com/surveys.html
I started that with Sept. 1979 and put together a playlist of my top 60 plus extras for the week of Sept. 23. These playlists are all available on the website and my Spotify account.
As I cycled back in January, I decided to go to 1970. I was 8 at the time and had not started a personal chart. That did not happen until I was 12. My intention was to create a chart for the month based on my feelings about the songs now. In listening to music that was out at that time I could separate the songs into 3 groups.
Songs that I remember from the time.
Songs I have come to know through the years (from commercials, movies, classic rock radio, etc.)
Songs that were completely new to me.