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My Personal Chart Blog, July 1970

 

See my July 1970 chart here

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

View the chart here

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.

  1. Songs that I remember from the time.

  2. Songs I have come to know through the years (from commercials, movies, classic rock radio, etc.)

  3. Songs that were completely new to me.

In doing this exercise I decided I wanted to share context of this. And in doing so I started to find the background connections. What follows is a breakdown of the music that touched me in the form of personal anecdotes, background history of the music and chart information from the time. The hope is as always is to draw out YOUR nostalgia and bring some discovery with it.

The structure will follow the personal chart I’ve created for the month of January 1970 and the chart positions on that list will be in parantheses’. Since my discovery of music is now international, I looked at when songs/albums were 1st released (whether here, Europe or Australia).

Skyline Pigeon/Elton John (1)

This gorgeous hymn-like ballad is culled from Elton’s 1st album, “Empty Sky”, which was released in June 1969 in the UK. It is mainly harpsichord and organ. A simple yet powerful song that remains one of my all-time favorites (probably in my top 100 of all-time). We played it at our wedding in 2004. I credit Elton John with solidifying my lifelong pursuit of music discovery.

Pigeon was the 1st song that he and songwriting partner Bernie Taupin ever got excited about. Prior to his debut album he did release 2 singles in 1968, “I’ve Been Loving You” and “Here’s To The Next Time”. The former was recorded by Canadian band Wednesday and became a hit there in 1976 with the reworked title “Loving You Baby”. Though “Skyline Pigeon” was never released as a radio single, it was re-recorded with full band during the sessions for his album “Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player” in 1972. That version is the B-side of the single “Daniel” and can also be found on his 2017 release “Diamonds”.

It was not uncommon in the late 60’s early 70’s for songs to be re-released. David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (59) was 1st released in Sept. 1969 and reached #5 in the UK (his 1st hit there) but it wasn’t until March 1973 that it peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. In 1975 it was re-issued again in the UK and reached #1. This is such a ubiquitous song that it is hard for me to judge fairly now.

Additionally, Chicago’s “Questions 67 and 68” (4), their debut single in July 1969, was not a hit until Sept. 1971 when it reached #24 on the Hot 100. It took a long time for the debut album, “Chicago Transit Authority”, to take off. “Beginnings” (43) was the 2nd single in Oct. 69 but was their 1st true hit, peaking at #7 almost 2 years later in the summer of 1971. The album remained on the charts for 171 weeks through much of the early 70’s.

I would count “Questions 67 and 68” as possibly my favorite Chicago song. What I did not realize was that the title refers to romantic questions posed by the writer during those years. The band shared a producer with another Jazz-Rock band of the time, Canadians Blood, Sweat and Tears. That band’s best year was 1969, when they placed 3 songs at #2 on the Hot 100, including “And When I Die” (78). Both these bands are credited with the origin of that hybrid genre which featured a heavy use of brass. The instrumental bridge of ‘Questions’ when it increases the tempo, reminds me of the opening of the song “Up, Up And Away” by the Fifth Dimension.

Back to the Elton John album, it did not receive much exposure at the time and wasn’t released in the U.S. until January 1975, during the height of his popularity. Upon release it hit #6 on the Billboard album chart and that’s when I discovered it. The title track "Empty Sky" (9), is an 8-minute excursion that sounds, to me, of the time and forward thinking at the same time (the ending does meander a bit though). It starts off with just bongo for the 1st 15 seconds and then adds piano. It’s not until 42 seconds that the band kicks in. It was compared to Jefferson Airplane. It is a great headphone song with many layers. There are psychedelic elements and a part of the chorus slows down with a prominent flute. In creating a personal chart for the time “Empty Sky” would have been my #1 in probably Nov. of ’69.

Elton called the album naïve, but I disagree. “Western Ford Gateway” (18), with an echo-y vocal and organ suggest his penchant for U.S. western imagery that showed up a lot in his early 70’s product. “Lady Samantha” (63) sounds most like the era and “Lady What’s Tomorrow” (71) is an early piano ballad. While certainly not my favorite album of his. I still enjoy the highlights of it.

Make Your Own Kind Of Music/Mama Cass (2)

My parents did not have a lot of albums when I was growing up but “Mama’s Big Ones” was one of them. The cover and songs are indelible in my brain. To my surprise this album only reached #194 on the Billboard album chart.  It was sort of a greatest hits package and in the end 9 of its songs got some radio exposure. Neither this nor “New World Coming” (28) were big pop hits, reaching #36 and #43 respectively on the Hot 100. They, along with most of the other singles fared better on Adult Contemporary (both went top 10) and I’m pretty sure that’s the type of radio my parents were mostly listening to.

In the mid 90’s my husband and I had a mini Mama Cass revival because of the film “Beautiful Thing” with a storyline and soundtrack of mostly Mama Cass and the Mamas & the Papas. The album cover is featured on the wall of the character Leah’s bedroom. We discovered the songs “One Way Ticket” and “California Earthquake” (a #67 Hot 100 entry in late 1968) from this movie.

In 2017 British songstress Paloma Faith covered “Make Your Own Kind Of Music” on her album “The Architect” and was one of 7 singles released. It peaked at #28 in the UK and almost reached my personal chart. What I had forgotten was that the song is heavily featured in the TV series “Lost” (one of my faves), starting in episode 1 of season 2. One of the producers, Damon Lindelof, said the song reminded him of his mom.

In an interesting exchange Bobby Sherman had a version of the song on his album “Here Comes Bobby” while Mama Cass covered his hit “Easy Come, Easy Go” (a song released in February 1970) on “Mama’s Big Ones”.

There is also a connection to the song “Venus” (24), by the Dutch band The Shocking Blue that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in Feb. 1970. In listening to that it occurred to me that it was sort of a psychedelic/country hybrid with a twangy country guitar line about a minute in. What I then learned through the research is that the distinctive strummy opening riff and the chorus structure are ripped from a 1964 song, “The Banjo Song”, by a folk trio The Big Three which included Mama Cass! That song was itself a re-working of the standard “Oh Susanna”.

Another band from The Netherlands, The Tee-Set, had a stateside hit in early 1970 with “Ma Belle Amie” (58). The song went top 5 in the U.S., Canada, Australia and some European countries while going all the way to #1 in South Africa.

“Venus” is connected to another Hot 100 #1 of the era, the sporting staple “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (62) by Steam. Both of those songs were remade by the 80’s UK girl group Bananarama. Both were hits in England (in 1986 and 1983) while the band brought “Venus” back to #1 in the U.S.

Also of interest, Steam was not a real band at the time of the song’s release. It was recorded by session singer Gary DeCarlo and then a band was put together after the fact. There are a number of incidences like this from that time period. Ron Dante was alone the band The Cufflinks. He did all the harmonies on the Billboard #9 hit “Tracy” (54). He was also responsible for the cartoon group The Archies. As “Tracy” was peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 in late 1969 the Archies song “Sugar Sugar” had just peaked at #1 (it went on to become the top selling single of 1969).

The follow up single, “Jingle Jangle”, peaked at #10 in January 1970 but failed to make my top 100 of the month. Though the song sounds like it has a female vocal it is Dante singing in falsetto. After that Dante went on to produce the 1st 9 albums by Barry Manilow and sang backup on many of them.

Oh Darling/The Beatles (3)

What can I say, “Abbey Road” is a masterpiece. I’m sure I was aware of plenty of Beatles songs growing up but it wasn’t until high school in the late 70’s that I fully immersed myself in their catalog, When I was doing my personal chart then I was not charting older songs so nothing showed up on my charts that were not released currently by them.

This is my favorite song from the album and I only now realized the doo-wop influence of the song. It is also born out of what is called Louisiana Swamp Blues. The song was actually covered by an artist from that genre, Jay Randall.

This track was never released as a single in the US or the UK, but its iteration from the movie “Sgt. Pepper” in 1978 by Robin Gibb (more of a ballad), peaked at #15 on the Hot 100. The soundtrack to that movie also spawned hits from Aerosmith (“Come Together” Hot 100 #23) and Earth, Wind & Fire (“Got To Get You Into My Life” Hot 100 #9).  The movie itself, starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton (sounds cringe worthy and its Rotten Tomatoes score is a dismal 12%), bombed but the soundtrack helped to cut the losses.

On my chart here, “Come Together’ (46) would be descending In January from a peak of #10 in November 1969. Interestingly for Aerosmith, it was their last top 40 hit for almost a decade, until their late 80’s surge starting with “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” in 1987.

“Oh Darling” was, however, released as a double-sided single in Central America and Portugal (I love this). It was backed with “Maxwell Silver Hammer” (6). To me, that song is one of my earliest realizations of where song lyrics (dark) are juxtaposed with a bright melody (this one very child-like and carnival-esque). In Japan it was released along with “Here Comes The Sun” (60). Supposedly and somewhat surprisingly, that song is the most played Beatles song ever.

I’m not sure when the term “Beatlesque” became a thing but it might have been 1970. 2 bands of the time, Badfinger and Marmalade, fit the mold. Marmalade’s “Reflections Of My Life” (debut-39), a song my 8 year old self totally remembers well, is a pretty downer of a song. Lyrics like “all my sorrow, sad tomorrow” and “the world is a bad place, a bad place, a terrible place to live, but I don’t want to die”!! exemplify the point.  I guess, like “Maxwell Silver Hammer” it makes me strangely happy. The horns, strings and melody take me to a safe place. This Scottish group was originally called the Gaylords and, in 1969, they actually released a cover of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” that reached #1 in the UK and was the 1st ever by a Scottish group.

Badfinger were the 1st group signed to the Beatles label, Apple in 1968 (the Beatles were maybe the 1st band to start their own label). Like Marmalade, they changed their name from The Iveys to Badfinger. Now keep up with me here; the new band name was taken from the original title of the Beatles song “With a Little Help From My Friends”. That title was “Badfinger Boogie” and it clearly didn’t last long. In addition, the Badfinger song “Come And Get It” (debut-49) was written by Paul Mccartney. Since many people I’m sure thought it was a Beatles song, well you get it.

So to give more context, the song “Without You” that was made famous 1st by Nilsson in 1971 and then Mariah Carey in 1993 was written by Peter Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger. The song has been recorded by 180 artists(!!) and Paul McCartney described it as “the killer song of all-time”. Yeah it’s up there.

Let’s tie this thought up. In 2011 an album came out called “Back To Back: Badfinger/Marmalade” with mostly re-recordings of the original songs (I hate that and can tell them from a mile away). Not coincidentally(?), Marmalade had a single called “Baby Make It Soon” which is a prominent lyric in the 1971 Badfinger hit “Day After Day”. As an aside, Badfinger is credited with having a major influence of the genre of Power Pop. That genre includes bands like the Raspberries, Cheap Trick and even Weezer. That is a discussion is for another time.

Wedding Bell Blues/The Fifth Dimension (5)

The Fifth Dimension has already been mentioned here and this group is another one of my parent’s favorites. They really gravitated towards vocalists probably because they were both singers in local bands in the late 40’s/early 50’s.

The group,  2 men and 2 women (like the Mamas and the Papas), had a huge presence during my childhood. Marilyn McCoo was the lead female vocalist with a 4-octave range. She was born in Jersey City, NJ, not far from where we lived in Passaic. This song was my #1 for December 1969 on my newly formed charts and spent 3 weeks atop the Hot 100 in November of that year. No blues for McCoo and husband Billy Davis Jr. (the male lead). They celebrated 50 years of marriage last July.

The song was written by Laura Nyro, a NY singer-songwriter, who was a go to for many of their hits. Later in 1970 they scored a moderate hit with the song “Save The Country”, written in response to the Robert Kennedy assassination.  Though never having any hits of her own, Nyro was hugely influential and scored hits for other artists. Just in this late ‘69/early ’70 time-frame she had 3 major hits (‘Blues’, “Eli’s Coming” (29) by Three Dog Night and “And When I Die” (78) by Blood, Sweat And Tears). These 2 songs reached #9 and #2 on the Hot 100 respectively. As Elton John has said, he idolized her, and she influenced his epic 1971 song ‘Burn Down the Mission”. She had a penchant for changing time signatures in a song.

Nyro’s 1969 album “New York Tendaberry” contained her version of “Save The Country” and “Time and Love” a 1971 minor hit by Barbra Streisand that I remember well. It was the highest-ranking album of her career, peaking at #32 on the Billboard album chart. Streisand also recorded her song “Stoney End”, a top 10 hit for her in 1971. Strangely and sadly, Nyro died of ovarian cancer at 49; the same age her mother died of the same thing.

Between 1969 and 70 “Save The Country” was recorded by 6 different artists. This seemed to be a common occurrence before the 70’s. Besides the Fifth Dimension, Thelma Houston’s version (31) reached the Hot 100 6 months before theirs. In addition, Paul Revere and the Raiders opened their 1970 album “Collage” with the song but the most fun of all is the Canadian band the Sugar Shoppe. You must check out the video of them performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. The band is another 2 female/2 male group and includes Victor Garber. For those who don’t know, he was Jesus in the movie version of “Godspell” and the dad on “Alias” among myriad other roles. Waking to this tidbit made my day.

I could spend all my time discovering these amazing connections. So, here is another. 50 years after “Wedding Bell Blues” was a hit, Morrissey released a version in 2019 for his cover’s album “California Son”. In the gay twist (“won’t you marry me Bill”), Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day sings the backup part.

Things don’t end there. Morrissey recently released a new song, “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?” with a major vocal assist by Thelma Houston. This is another 'you must check it out' thing. Besides not having any idea who or what they are singing about, this song is crazy (in a great way). It’s almost 6 minutes of great instrumentation, quirky lyrics, and outlandish belting by Houston (much different than her 1976 #1 “Don’t Leave Me This Way”).  The backbone is piano and simmering synth, but then it goes into an instrumental bridge of late 60’s organ (straight out of the Doors playbook) and then alto sax. It is pure gold.

 

The Doors released their 5th album “Morrison Hotel” in February 1970, containing probably my favorite song by them “Peace Frog”, though “Touch Me”, their #3 Hot 100 hit from a year prior, with its use of brass and strings, could rival it. I did not discover “Peace Frog” until much later but its political lyrical bent, along with “Save The Country”, could easily be in response to our current landscape as well. Back to the Beatles for a moment. Of all the songs on “Abbey Road”, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” (84) is the only one I find derivative, and certainly of the Doors.

I Want You Back/The Jackson Five (7)

Late 1969 saw the introduction of the Jackson Five, no small event. Released in October 1969, the song was 1st considered for Gladys Knight and then Diana Ross. It went on to reach #1 on the Hot 100 in late January 1970. The title of their debut album is “Diana Ross Presents the Jackson Five”. Motown’s marketing suggests she discovered the band, but it seems Gladys Knight was actually responsible for bringing the boys to Berry Gordy’s attention. Knight, along with the Pips, had a top 20 hit with “Friendship Train” (85), another song in the peace and love theme of the time.

“I Want You Back” began a string of 4 #1’s in a row, a 1st on the charts. They were not the 1st family band to chart, but probably the most successful. A few years earlier, the family band The Cowsills had a number of hits, including the atypical flower power song “Hair”, from the Broadway play of the same name.

The Cowsills consisted of 6 siblings and their mother Barbara and were the prototype of the TV show and recording group The Partridge Family. Their last charting single “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” (57) peaked at #74 on the Hot 100 in Nov. ’69. The B-side of the single was “Love American Style” (80), which was the theme of the TV show in its 1st season. In subsequent seasons the theme was re-recorded by a group called the Ron Hicklin Singers. That was a group of studio singers who were also responsible for the background vocals on the Partridge Family songs. Of course because it all makes sense, “Love American Style” was the 10pm part of the ABC Friday night lineup that consisted of “The Brady Bunch”. The Partridge Family”, “Room 222” and “The Odd Couple”.

For more background on the Cowsills and the Partridge Family check out our “Beyond Radio Presents” episodes from Castlist 001. The bulk of the episodes connect the Partridge Family to different genres and work, in essence, as a thesis about my favorite band from early childhood.

At the end of 1969, Diana Ross would be at the summit of the Hot 100 with “Someday We’ll Be Together” (68), the last #1 of the 1960’s and the last of 12 #1’s by the Supremes. What is most interesting about this song is that the 2 other members of the Supremes did not sing on it. It was slated to be Diana Ross’ 1st solo single and other background singers were used. It was decided in the end,  that this would be credited to the group.

Ross’ actual 1st solo single was “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” later in 1970. It was not the major hit she was looking for, only peaking at #20, although in retrospect it became one of her most popular songs. Ironically the Supremes recorded a version of the song in 1970 as well, with new lead singer Jean Terrell and the Four Tops. It is a track on the album “The Magnificent 7” a reference to the combo of the 2 groups.

Abbey Road Medley/The Beatles (8)

The string of 8 songs on side 2 of “Abbey Road” could be taken separately but that would do the concept an injustice. All parts are very different from each other, but the theme is tied together by referencing “You Never Give Me Your Money” later in “Carry That Weight”. It’s a piece that really needs to be listened to in tandem.

 “Mean Mr. Mustard”, “Polythene Pam” and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” are all based on true stories. ‘Mustard’ and ‘Pam’ were written by John Lennon while in India and thematically the name Pam was substituted for either Shirley or Pat (2 different real people she was based upon) because the lyric “his sister Pam” in ‘Mustard’ connects the two. This reminded me of a 2016 song called “Thank You Polystyrene” by Helen Love which reached #112 on my personal chart. It is full of Brit cheekiness and in retrospect it should have charted much higher for me. I’m convinced I was a Brit in a former life. Seek that one out.

‘Bathroom’ was inspired by fans who tried to break into their Apple studios and individual homes. By Joe Cocker, a cover of ‘Bathroom’ (41) reached #30 on the Hot 100, but not released in the UK. It is one of 4 Beatles covers he did in that era. Almost simultaneously with the Beatles version of “Something” (65), he reached #48 in France with his. In 1968 his bluesy take on “With A Little Help From My Friends” hit #1 in the UK and “Let It Be” (a less grand version than theirs) was on the 1969 album “Joe Cocker!” before the Beatles version came out in 1970.

There were other cover versions of Beatles songs at the time. Aretha Franklin used herself as the protagonist of “Eleanor Rigby” (10), with some re-worked lyrics. I’d never heard her version before but I’m glad I have now, almost a gospel rave-up.

My introduction to the Carpenters was their version of “Ticket To Ride” (37), which only reached #54 in April 1970. No fear, the later part of the year would be very kind to them and establish the brother-sister act as a major force.

Their debut album “Offering”, released in October 1969, did not perform well but after their success it was re-issued in November 1970 as “Ticket To Ride”. It includes a Neil Young song originally performed by his band Buffalo Springfield in 1966, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”. On their 2nd album they also covered the Beatles “Help”.

Conversely, the Beatles also did their share of covers. One of those, “Baby It’s You”, was 1st a hit in 1962 by the Shirelles and then again in late 1969 by the band Smith (19), when it reached #5 on the Hot 100. I love the female vocal in that version. It’s kind of moody and is sort of psychedelic light. The Carpenters also covered it, also on their 2nd album.

The co-writer of that song, Burt Bacharach, is one of the most well-known songwriters of the 20th century. He and his usual songwriting partner, Hal David, were responsible for many of Dionne Warwick’s hits, including “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” (40). The song was originally from the musical “Promises, Promises”, whose score was completely Bacharach/David songs with a book by Neil Simon. It is based on the 1960 movie “The Apartment” starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Too much to unfold here.

Back to the medley, “Golden Slumbers” was based on a poem called “Cradle Song” from 1603 by Thomas Dekker. That had been set to music in the 1800’s though the Beatles version has no connection to that specifically. In the 2016 animated movie “Sing”, Jennifer Hudson sings the combo of “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight”. A movie I’m relatively unaware of that did quite well at the box office.

The final piece of the medley, “The End”, has a lengthy instrumental part but ends in a lyric that touches me deeply, “and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”. I’m getting verklempt as I write this.

Arizona/Mark Lindsay (11)

 

From this song, I remember the word Arizona and the horns well, but definitely not the other lyrics or the theme of the song. Rainbow shades, hobo shoes, Indian braids, the girl depicted in the song was certainly a hippie. Lindsay wants her to grow up. And what’s not to love about a song that speaks of reading an Aesop’s fable. I know that would get me to grow up.

Lindsay was also the lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders who charted on the Hot 100 24 times over the course of their career. Back in 1963 they had recorded a version of “Louie, Louie” at the same Portland, Oregon studio as the hit version by The Kingsmen. They garnered interest in the West with theirs. It was released as a single but was eventually squelched by Mitch Miller, yes that Mitch Miller, who at the time was an A&R man for Columbia Records.

“Arizona” is one of eight chart entries between 1969 and 1971 for Lindsay, though his only top 10. While I would say the song has some bubblegum overtones, “Jam Up and Jelly Tight” (12) by Tommy Roe is more along those lines. Roe is perceived as being one of the archetypes of the bubblegum genre. He started his pop career with a #1 song from 1962 “Sheila”, a song that could easily have been done by Buddy Holly. In late 1963 he brought “Everybody” to the top 10, sounding much less like the 50’s.

It was almost 3 years later, in the summer of 1966 that he returned to the top 10 with “Sweet Pea”, a song hinting at the bubblegum sound. Certainly, his most well-known song is from early 1969. “Dizzy” spent 4 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100. When I first ranked my top songs of years I hadn’t done charts for, I ranked that as #21 of 1969.

More bubblegum also lands further down my top 20 of January 1970. Bobby Sherman’s “La La La (If I Had You” (20) was 1 of 4 top 10 songs for him between the summer of ’69 and the fall of ’70 (the only period he achieved top 10 status. While I don’t believe I had heard ‘Jam Up’ before, ‘La La’ seemed familiar and more so as I've heard it several times now. Sherman’s next 2 singles, “Easy Come, Easy Go” (debuting In Feb. 70 at #20 and probably going to the top 3) and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” are staples of my childhood.

Sherman was also an actor who appeared in the TV series “Here Come The Brides”, along with David Soul who became a much bigger name later in the 70’s with his starring role on “Starsky and Hutch”. Along with David Cassidy (certainly a resemblance there) he was one of the bigger teen idols of the early 70’s. Beyond his singing and acting careers he became a paramedic for the Los Angeles Police Department and eventually a Sheriff’s officer in San Bernardino County.

“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” (22), by one-hit wonder Edison Lighthouse, is another very recognizable bubblegum pop hit from my childhood. The song went to #1 in it’s 2nd week on the chart in the UK and reached #5 in the U.S. by March. What is so interesting is that if you consider the lead singer, Tony Burrows, then it was not necessarily a one-hit wonder. Burrows, a prolific session singer, was lead vocalist on 3! other one-hit wonder songs (2 of which were out at the same time) along with another from 1970 by the group Brotherhood Of Man (their 1st hit “United We Stand”). The other 1970 songs were novelty song “Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pipkins and “My Baby Loves Lovin” by White Plains. The other song was 1974’s “Beach Baby” by First Class. As a session singer he sang vocals on 100 top 20 songs in the 70’s, including harmony vocals for Elton John.

 

Try A Little Kindness/Glen Campbell (13)

More Dad music here. My father was a huge Glen Campbell fan. If memory serves me then all his late 60’s hits were part of my childhood soundtrack. From “Gentle On My Mind” to “Galveston” to “Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife”, these songs are part of my blueprint. “Try A Little Kindness”, I would say, is my favorite of his early career product.

His 1st charted single was the song “Turn Around, Look At Me” in 1961 which he co-wrote but was not credited for. It is the 1968 version by the Vogues that I remember oh so well. If you listen to my podcasts you know that there are crazy coincidences that happen with me all the time. So last night I had a dream with Elton John in it (though he was younger and maybe it was Taron Egerton-haha) but it also brought up the song “5 O’Clock World” (I have no idea why). I know that song best from Julian Cope’s version. I was aware it was a remake but did not know it was by the Vogues originally until starting to write this. Just a weird aside.

The meaning of ‘Kindness’ is easy to discern with a lyric like “If you try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness of the narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets”. This is as appropriate now as it was then.  And it brings to mind a new song by Harry Styles, “Treat People With Kindness”. The former One Direction'er has shown through his music that he is an old soul. He dabbles in a lot of sounds from the 60’s and 70’s and that song starts with a choir and feels reminiscent of the early 70’s. Think Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell and the Hilltop Singers. But also think of the next song.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (14) by the Rolling Stones also starts with a choir, the London Bach Choir. It is a dynamic song; a song about drugs, politics and love, with a lot of different instrumentation. It was said at the time the Stones copied the Beatles and there were comments that this was the Stones response to “Hey Jude”.

Originally the song was released as the B-side to “Honky Tonk Women” in the summer of 1969 but was released as its own single in 1973, only reaching #42 on the Hot 100. Clearly though, it is one of their most well-known songs. The song was included on the album “Let It Bleed”, released in December 1969. That album also featured “Gimme Shelter” (33). ‘Shelter’ is also an extremely popular Stones song with backing vocal from Merry Clayton. You might be surprised to know that I didn’t realize that was the title of the song until working on this, but I certainly knew the song. Clayton did her own version of the song as more of a R&B/Gospel rave up, which peaked at #73 on the Hot 100 in July 1970. I just added that to one of my playlists. She may be best remembered for the song “Yes” from “Dirty Dancing” but started her career in the early 60’s and did the original version of “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” at the age of 14.

In addition to Glen Campbell, another one of my Dad’s favorite male artists was Tom Jones.  He was another staple of my late 60’s soundtrack. In January 1970 he reached #5 on the Hot 100 with “Without Love (There Is Nothing)” (38), his 3rd highest chart entry. The spoken intro I do not recall, but the soaring chorus, oh yes. The song was 1st recorded by Clyde McPhatter in 1957 (he formed the Drifters in 1953) but it was a much bigger hit for Jones.

I would think that my Dad would have also liked Engelbert Humperdinck but I only have vague memories of him. I thought he had been around much longer than Jones but his 1st single “Release Me” came out in 1967, 2 years after Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”. Humperdinck had a song, “Winter World Of Love”, out in late 1969 but I’m definitely less than lukewarm about it.

One of my biggest memories of that time was my Dad singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (76) by BJ Thomas. I’m pretty sure I have that on a cassette somewhere. That is another Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition and was featured in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”. The song spent 4 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 but had resistance at radio when it 1st came out in Oct. ’69 (2 months ahead of the movie). Supposedly it was some kind of new sound at the time. The movie helped to propel its status.

Glen Campbell had an amazing knack for straddling the pop and country genres and BJ Thomas started to see country airplay in the mid-70’s. There were 2 other male artists from that era that had success in both genres. Billy Joe Royal is probably best known for 1965’s “Down in The Boondocks”. He reached #15 on the Hot 100 in November 1969 with “Cherry Hill Park” (36), another song I did not know. It is enjoyable as a melodic song of the time but it’s the lyrics that amuse me. She was a tease during the day but “Mary Hill was such a thrill after dark in Cherry Hill Park”.  Hmmm, very little ambiguity. Cherry Hill, NJ was the inspiration of the title. Royal enjoyed more success in the 80’s on country radio. Between 1985-90 he had a string of 10 top 20 country hits.

Joe South, who wrote “Down in The Boondocks” and was a friend of Royal’s (both hail from Georgia), had the song “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” (61) out during this period as well, peaking at #12 on the Hot 100 in February 1970. A year earlier he had reached #12 as well, with “Games People Play” (not the Spinners or Alan Parsons Project songs), which went on to win the Song of the Year Grammy in 1970. He got nominated again for writing Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” in 1972. If you recall in 1989 the band Kon Kan had a #15 hit “I Beg Your Pardon”, based in large part on “Rose Garden”. That song contains multiple music samples from different artists.

Going back to Tommy Roe, South played guitar on his 1962 hit “Sheila”. He produced the hit “Reach Out of the Darkness” by Friend & Lover (“I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally getting together”)  but most interestingly to me he wrote the song “Hush”, which I know from the band Deep Purple (they reached #4 in 1968 and Billy Joe Royal reached #52 with it in 1967). And one final note, he also wrote the Osmond’s rocking bubblegum hit from 1971 “Yo-Yo”.