18 June 2008

1974: The Pointer Sisters go country!


Got your attention, didn't I? But it's true. Read on.

The date: Saturday, November 23, 1974. I was in fourth grade at Pierce Street Elementary School in Tupelo, Miss., and completely oblivious to the birth of my sister-in-law two states away. Seraphim's younger sis was born on this date. And here are the 40 pieces of vinyl laid on us by Casey Kasem for this week.........

*40) WILLIE AND THE HAND JIVE / Eric Clapton
EC took a stab at Johnny Otis' blues workhorse and got a minor hit out of it. Not my favorite record in God's repertoire, but it's still passable.

As for those spray-painted messages in the '60s proclaiming "Clapton is God", they were bad spellers. What they really wanted to say was "Clapton is GOOD."

*39) LET'S STRAIGHTEN IT OUT / Latimore
1974 was the year my love of R&B music awakened. A little background: when I was little I used to keep the radio on all night as I slept. Normally I had it on local station WTUP by default, although sometimes I'd listen to WLS out of Chicago. Earlier this year I woke up in the middle of the night for whatever reason, and I heard this 'strange' music. It sounded a bit like the regular pop music, but there was something fascinating about it. What I'd discovered was "Soul Patrol", WTUP's overnight program hosted by a guy named Johnny Weber. He didn't play The Osmonds, Helen Reddy, or whatever fluff pop was on the chart .... Mr. Johnny turned an unsuspecting blond-haired blue-eyed boy on to Latimore, Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, B.T. Express and other great names in 1970s R&B music.

What I didn't know was that, per recollections by a couple of WTUP alums, Johnny Weber was nothing less than Tupelo's answer to Venus Flytrap. At one point he was serving jail time for something or other, and he did the show on work release!

Well, for some reason my brain awakened me at about the same time each morning so I could catch a few fleeting minutes' worth of Johnny's show. And I baffled my parents and especially grandparents with my sudden fascination of soul music. "Straighten" is one of those records which recall those 3 AM nights hearing, "Johnny Weber GOT somethin' for ya!"

*38) MUSTA GOT LOST / J. Geils Band
Fellow chirren of the '80s, this group did NOT start with "Love Stinks" and "Centerfold." Their first single was in 1972 - "Looking For a Love", and they did fairly well in 1974 with this.

*37) WOMAN TO WOMAN / Shirley Brown
Better-remembered for the country version by Barbara Mandrell in 1977, Shirley's original was #1 on this week's Billboard soul chart. If you ask me, she was too nice. Listening to this song, you want those claws to pierce your speakers.

*36) THREE RING CIRCUS / Blue Magic
Second hit song for this warmed-over Stylistics clone.

*35) FIRE, BABY I'M ON FIRE / Andy Kim
No, Andy, your previous hit "Rock Me Gently" was the fire. This wouldn't qualify for a "Bic" lighter.

34) YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET / Bachman-Turner Overdrive
On its way down after a top-10 destination. Recognizable even to a fetus. And burned to a crisp like the alleged fire in #35 above.

33) AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG / The Rolling Stones
Ain't too keen to listen. Better when mixed with Temps instead of Glimmer.

32) LAUGHTER IN THE RAIN / Neil Sedaka
Some have called 1974 a wasteland for pop music. I wouldn't entirely agree, except for being reminded that pure, untempered shit like this existed. But wait, there's more. A year later, Sedaka would remake his early '60s classic "Breaking Up is Hard To Do", turning it into a pile of MOR road apples.

Moving right along.....

31) LOVE DON'T LOVE NOBODY / The Spinners
Minor single largely forgotten amidst the larger trees in their forest of hits.

30) LA LA PEACE SONG / Al Wilson
Wilson's 15 minutes of fame was in the form of his earlier smash "Show and Tell." "La La" was coasting on "Show"'s afterburners.

29) I FEEL A SONG (IN MY HEART) / Gladys Knight & The Pips
And soul (in my ear). See "Spinners", above. Good song, but doesn't do as well in those soccer-mom auditorium tests as "Midnight Train to Georgia." Speaking of which, "Train" was written by Jim Weatherly. Remember that name.

*28) JUNIOR'S FARM / Paul McCartney & Wings
Highest debut'er this week. I've always loved it, and it's only gotten better with age.

27) YOU'RE THE FIRST, THE LAST, MY EVERYTHING / Barry White
Practically dead center of a long string of mid '70s hits by a man whose larnyx gave much inspiration to one Rick Astley. I could even imagine Astley singing this, too! You're the tweeter, the midrange, MY WOOFERS, BABY.

26) FAIRYTALE / The Pointer Sisters
Their first hit was in 1973, the irresistible "Yes We Can Can", and around the same time these girls recorded the (infamous) "Pinball Number Count" for Sesame Street. However, this, their second top-40 single, was just plain surreal ... especially when looked at from their '80s repertoire, i.e. "Automatic", "I'm So Excited", "Jump (For My Love)." You see, "Fairytale" is a straight ahead country record. And it squeaked into the C&W top 40 this year!! What's more, The Pointer Sisters got their first Grammy award (Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal) for "Fairytale", and they also played the Grand Ole Opry! Yes, The Pointer Sisters. THOSE Pointer Sisters.

Listen to this record, and just remind yourself: these same girls, 10 years to the month later, would have a hit called "Neutron Dance."

25) TOUCH ME / Fancy
Scorcher of a song I never heard in Tupelo. Had to wait 'till my next visit to Birmingham -- hardly a rare case during these wilted salad days.

24) AFTER THE GOLDRUSH / Prelude
Prelude was an English acapella folk trio and they delivered a stunning take on Neil Young's 1970 classic (whose actual title is After the Gold Rush ... but on the label it's "Goldrush"). I do not remember this one from 1974. I don't remember hearing it in Birmingham, either.

23) PROMISED LAND / Elvis Presley
Elvis Himselvis was still crankin' out the hits while in the bloated jumpsuit. And WTUP - true to form - always played 100% Elvis music each year on his birthday.

22) PEOPLE GOTTA MOVE / Gino Vannelli
If you look at pictures of this Canadian singer/songwriter, you'd think, "*phffft!* The Michael Bolton of his day!" And yes, SCTV savagely satirized him in one of their skits (Lee Iacocca's Rock Concert - Eugene Levy played Gino and each time he showed up on camera, he'd have more and more hair. By the end of his song, he looked like a werewolf!). Musically, though, Vannelli had substance. Multi-layered synthesizers defined the music (often arranged by Gino's brother), and it sounds good three decades later. "Move" was a moderate hit, a delight with each needle drop.

21) SO YOU ARE A STAR / The Hudson Brothers
Three brothers -- Bill, Mark and Brett -- who scored a Summer-replacement TV variety show in 1974 (for Sonny & Cher). I remember the show well, and thought they were somewhat amusing. Now I look back and wonder just what the f(BLEEP)k I was thinking. It was your typical variety hour, back in the days when Fred Silverman ran CBS and handed out one-hour variety shows like the Gideons and those little green Bibles.

They were best-remembered for The Hudson Brothers Razzle-Dazzle Comedy Show, a fixture on Saturday morning TV (CBS) for the 1974-75 season. Lots of lame, slapstick humour. I watched it a couple of times over my Cap'n Crunch "Crunch Berries" and went back to Pink Panther on NBC. "Star" was the first of two top-40 singles the Hudsons would have, the other would be "Rendezvous" in the Summer of '75 ("Rendezvous, ohhhh rendezvous, ron-day, ron-day, ron-DAY-voo!")

And I just found out that the entire run of Razzle-Dazzle has just been issued on DVD. *groan*

20) YOU GOT THE LOVE / Rufus feat. Chaka Khan
Love it. As good as any '70s funky soul made.

19) JAZZMAN / Carole King
Still crankin' out the hits ... and no misses. Yet another that's aged like a fine wine.

18) ROCKIN' SOUL / The Hues Corporation
If you rock the boat, you only get yourselves wet. Stop rocking the soul and go back to the VIP lounge of the Howard Johnson's in Lake City, Fla. where you belong.

17) SHA-LA-LA (MAKE ME HAPPY) / Al Green
Al Green made us all happy in 1974. The Memphis horns never failed us. Never.

16) LIFE IS A ROCK (BUT THE RADIO ROLLED ME) / Reunion
Indescribable. Just try to decipher all that Joey Levine's saying. (Levine, by the way, was lead singer of those '60s bubblegum perveyors Ohio Express, best known for "Yummy Yummy", and he fronted this one-hit wonder RCA studio group).

15) WISHING YOU WERE HERE / Chicago
With backing vocals by The Beach Boys. One of the smoothest hits in Chicago's repertoire, and one of my favorites. Sounded great on any AM radio, even WTUP's horribly muddy sound with ever-present ground-loop hum underneath.

14) ANGIE BABY / Helen Reddy
Ready for Hell. "Angie baby / You're a special lady / Living in a world of make believe"

Back on the short bus with you, Ang'.

[Here, Casey welcomes a new station to the AT40 lineup: WFGN in Gaffney, S.C.]

13) I'VE GOT THE MUSIC IN ME / The Kiki Dee Band
Kiki Dee wouldn't go breaking Elton's heart for another couple of years. Meantime, we had this piece of dreck on the chart. It sounds like a bad cover version on one of Fred Silverman's TV variety shows.

12) WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT / John Lennon
The background voice you hear is Elton John. One with a great story. Did you know John and Yoko were separated for a time? Yes, Yoko kicked him out. And for a little over a year, he hung out with the likes of Harry Nilsson and Elton John, in a period of time that came to be known as "The Lost Weekend." Well, Elton agreed to help out on this song, and made a bet with JL: if this song went to #1, Lennon had to appear on stage at Elton's New York City concert and do a couple of songs with him. Lennon jadedly took him up on the bet; at the time, he was the only one of The Beatles not to have had a #1 single as a solo artist (yes, even Ringo already had one - "Photograph").

The song hit #1. Lennon appeared with Elton at his concert. And, unbeknownst to him, Elton arranged for Yoko Ono to be in the audience, front and center. From there, reconciliation was sparked.

11) THE NEED TO BE / Jim Weatherly
Weatherly was a pop/country songwriter who hailed from Pontotoc, Miss., just 20 miles west of Tupelo. Best known for "Midnight Train to Georgia", "Neither One of Us" and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me." The success of "Midnight Train" moved RCA Records to give Weatherly a recording contract of his own. "The Need To Be" is a true '70s one-hit wonder. He's in that Rodney Crowell/Laura Nyro orbit -- highly talented songwriters who penned great hits for others, but for some reason couldn't be as successful singing 'em themselves.

10) CAT'S IN THE CRADLE / Harry Chapin
I'm sorry, son, I can't spend any time with you. Matter of fact, I'm leaving. Dear, this brat is your problem now. I'm going to get stoned and go flying in my taxi, then after that I'm going into radio. I hear there's an opening for morning drive at WOLD. The previous jock got fired for saying "booger."

9) BACK HOME AGAIN / John Denver
And just what decade is this? Don't act so surprised.

8) WHEN WILL I SEE YOU AGAIN? / Three Degrees
More of that "safe" soul. Haaaaaaaaah!!!! Oooooooooh!!!! Precious mooooo-meeeeents!!!!

7) KUNG FU FIGHTING / Carl Douglas
You know it. Gawd knows we all do. The big mover of the week -- up 20 notches, and bound for the top. 1974 and 1975 tie for the record of most number-one hits in a calendar year (35) ... it was volatile at the top in those days, so listening to AT40 was truly a suspenseful exercise. No record stayed at #1 for longer than three weeks in '74. Nothing like later in the '70s ("You Light Up My Life"), early '80s ("Physical") or especially the early '90s ("Everything I Do, I Do It For You").

If this had been released in the '60s, I'm sure the song could've been used to sell "Hai Karate" cologne.

6) EVERLASTING LOVE / Carl Carlton
I can't stand this song, regardless of whose version it is. Amusing here, if only because in 1981, Carlton would come back with a completely different kind of hit: "She's A Bad Mama Jama" ... she's built, she's stacked!

Everlasting, indeed!

5) LONGFELLOW SERENADE / Neil Diamond
The '70s saw Diamond moving toward MOR (can you say "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"?) But this one I kinda like, for the piano part here which calls to mind the feel of those great late '60s pop classics of his.

4) TIN MAN / America
Pay no attention to the producer behind the curtain. Even if it is George Martin.

I most associate "Tin Man" with the other 'local' station in Tupelo, WCPC 940 located 35 miles away in the small Chickasaw County town of Houston. Small as in barely 2,500 people in the '70s, and their local station was a maximum power 50,000-watt AM blowtorch! It came in like a local in Tupelo, of course; plus, with a good car radio you can hear it in Birmingham ... and sometimes I could catch a very faint signal of 'CPC 300 miles away in Troy, Alabama!

WCPC in the 1970s was amazing. It was the epitome of something-for-everyone block programming. Country programs in the morning, gospel late morning, adult MOR in the early afternoon, and from 3:00 p.m. 'till sunset (sign-off) "The Giant Sound in Houston" was top-40. And they did a better job of playing the hits than WTUP!! Rick Huffman was the afternoon jock and could hold his own.

What I found most amusing was the juxtaposing of program elements. The longtime owner, I'm told, was a bigwig in the Mississippi Baptist Convention ... and some religious "modular" shows used to run, even during the top-40 blocks, too; I remember hearing a backannounce going like this: "That was Grand Funk on WCPC, it's 3:30 and time for What Sayeth the Scriptures, with the Rev. Lebuz Huggs of Even Older Lebanon Baptist Church of Kluxerburg....."

WCPC is still around, although long since disposed of the block format. Today they're a Southern Gospel monster. And the same old moth-eaten jingles, too. Yeah. I'm glad they're still around. But I digress..........

3) MY MELODY OF LOVE / Bobby Vinton
Excuse me, please, while I go barf. Yes, it was that bad.

2) DO IT (‘TILL YOU'RE SATISFIED) / B. T. Express
"...whatever it is" Yes! More Johnny Weber overnight soul memories. B.T. stood for (B)rothers (T)rucking, and they also had a top-10 instrumental hit earlier this year called "Express." As good as it got for black music in the 1970s.

Aaaaaaaaand #1 on the November 23, 1974 top 40 takes us from soul to country:

1) I CAN HELP / Billy Swan
"It would sure do me good / To do you good / Let me help" Catchy rockabilly-type song by a guy hailing from Cape Girardeau, Mo. That droning organ makes the record.

And that's what we were listening to in November of 1974. As always, keep your reaching to the stars and keep grounding your feet.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "DOWN, Snuggles!" Gleck

4 comments:

Kate/Susan said...

Today on the Hit Parade, I knew all of the following:

1. You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet: Who doesn't know this song?

2. Ain't Too Proud to Beg--but I don't know the Stones cover, only the Temptations, so maybe I shouldn't cover this...

3. Laughter in the Rain: is this the song I'm thinking it is? Ooooooooooh, I hear laughter in the rain...

4. First, Last, Everything... Good ole Uncle Barry...

5. Cats in the Cradle. Oh my God do I HATE this freakin' song... It makes me wanna barf

6. Back Home Again... Yeah, never knew it was a Top 40 though.

7. Kung Fu Fighting. Who doesn't know this one, as you said?

Well, I guess I'm consistent... 7 again, right?

Talmadge Gleck said...

2. Ain't Too Proud to Beg--but I don't know the Stones cover, only the Temptations, so maybe I shouldn't cover this...

The Temps' original is the only one you need to know. You can't improve on groveling, Motown style.

3. Laughter in the Rain: is this the song I'm thinking it is? Ooooooooooh, I hear laughter in the rain...

"....walking hand in hand with the one I love." Yup, that's the one.

4. First, Last, Everything... Good ole Uncle Barry...

But can your subwoofers take it?

5. Cats in the Cradle. Oh my God do I HATE this freakin' song... It makes me wanna barf

"There is NO WAY that you can possibly come from my loins. The first thing I'm gonna do when we get back home is go punch your momma in the mouth" -Sheriff Buford T. Justice

Agree on the barf factor.

1974 was a mixed bag. While we had to muddle through dreck like "Cat's In the Cradle", "Laughter in the Rain" and especially "Seasons in the Sun", it was a great year for rock. As Homer Simpson himself once said, "Why do we need new bands? Everyone knows rock achieved perfection in 1974, it's a scientific fact!"

nettiemac said...

Okay, I'm a little late to the party, but.......

*40) WILLIE AND THE HAND JIVE / Eric Clapton
Meh. I actually prefer George Thorogood's cover.

*38) MUSTA GOT LOST / J. Geils Band
Probably my favorite J. Geils song, followed by "Love Stinks."

*37) WOMAN TO WOMAN / Shirley Brown
I'm with you, I'd have clawed the beeyotch's eyes out first. I wouldn't have sung to her. And yes, I'm more familiar with Mandrell's version. Come to think of it, Barbara effed up a lot of good 70s soul, didn't she? I FAR prefer Luther Ingram's "ILYIS (IDWBR)" to hers!

34) YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET / Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Seriously B2AC. But I love Burton Cummings' early attempts at being Richard Cheese.... :D :D

33) AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG / The Rolling Stones
I CONCUR!!! Give me the Temps ANYDAY over the Stones' version.

32) LAUGHTER IN THE RAIN / Neil Sedaka
Okay, I actually like Sedaka stuff from the mid-70s including the revamped "BIHTD." Why? Who knows? Just a happy memory thing. And as far as BIHTD Part Deux, the reason I like it better is because in the first one, he's singing to her but it just doesn't strike me as sincere. In the revamp, he's begging for his life, because he's realized he can't live if living is without her.... ooh. Wait. Wrong song. Okay, he's realized he can't live without, um, something else she can provide.

*28) JUNIOR'S FARM / Paul McCartney & Wings
Agreed -- great song!

27) YOU'RE THE FIRST, THE LAST, MY EVERYTHING / Barry White
Barry is God. Or at least he was in '74. But I swear, the scene in Money Talks where Chris Tucker recites this as a toast to Charlie Sheen and Heather Locklear just SLAYS me. And I can't hear this song without seeing it in my head.

24) AFTER THE GOLDRUSH / Prelude
I don't remember this version, but it's hard to top Neil Young.

23) PROMISED LAND / Elvis Presley
Is this the same one that Willie Nelson did a few years later?

22) PEOPLE GOTTA MOVE / Gino Vannelli
Richard knows it. I'm a little less well-versed in all things Vannelli. But I have heard "Appaloosa" ad nauseum.

21) SO YOU ARE A STAR / The Hudson Brothers
GAAAAAAAAKKKKKK!!!!!!

19) JAZZMAN / Carole King
I love this one. It's on my Rhapsody list on the desktop, along with "Sweet Seasons." A couple of nice tunes.

16) LIFE IS A ROCK (BUT THE RADIO ROLLED ME) / Reunion
Fan-effin-tastic. I really enjoy this song -- the "It's the End of the World As We Know It" of its day.

15) WISHING YOU WERE HERE / Chicago
This is one I really enjoy, even with the Beach Hos in it.

14) ANGIE BABY / Helen Reddy
Oh Lord..... I remember this one, and hear it on occasion if I have the 70s station on out of Canada. But it's not one I really seek out, either.

13) I'VE GOT THE MUSIC IN ME / The Kiki Dee Band
Now at the time I liked it, but yeah, it does have that cheesy variety show opening number feel to it.

12) WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT / John Lennon
Fantastic song -- and with the opening sax solo, I do my mean Don Pardo imitation saying "It's Saturday Night Liiiiiiive!"

10) CAT'S IN THE CRADLE / Harry Chapin
Ugly Kid Joe did it better (snork!)

9) BACK HOME AGAIN / John Denver
John Denver WAS 1974. Wasn't he? I mean, have a nice day, smiley faces and all that. FWIW, I don't mind this song -- again, one of those nice sunny memory things.

8) WHEN WILL I SEE YOU AGAIN? / Three Degrees
I like this one. Safe soul, but good harmonies.

7) KUNG FU FIGHTING / Carl Douglas
Hey, those cats were fast as lightning. I've always wondered if Hong Kong Phooey was created to capitalize on KFF's big fame.

6) EVERLASTING LOVE / Carl Carlton
Now I like this one. Go figure....

5) LONGFELLOW SERENADE / Neil Diamond
I'm of two minds about Neil Diamond. There's a lot I like and a lot I don't. This is one of the ones I can take or leave. It's not so awful that I turn it off.

4) TIN MAN / America
I must be the oddity of the group. I like America's music, mostly because of good memories in college. My buddy Todd played a lot of their stuff on guitar, and it was fairly easy to sing along to.

3) MY MELODY OF LOVE / Bobby Vinton
Oh God, kill me now.

2) DO IT (‘TILL YOU'RE SATISFIED) / B. T. Express
Whatever it was indeed......

1) I CAN HELP / Billy Swan
Now, this is another I can take or leave. It just depends on my mood. But that organ does make the record, to be certain!

nettiemac said...

PS: Elvis' "Promised Land" and Willie's are definitely NOT the same. I just checked to be sure. WAYYYYYY different!