Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Earth Quake - "Tickler" (1971)

Earth Quake - "Tickler" (Billboard regional breakout hit: San Francisco, entered 1/22/72). Written by J. Robert Dunbar. Produced by Earth Quake and Allan Mason. 45: "Tickler"/"Guarding You" (A&M 1971). LP: Earth Quake (A&M 1971).

San Francisco's Earth Quake played the type of well-chiseled rock and roll that genre judges would eventually label power pop. Their first single, "Tickler," is the only record between 1970 and 1974 to appear on Billboard's listings as a San Francisco "regional breakout hit" and to not move any higher.

This first single of theirs would actually be their only Billboard appearance although they'd maintain both a steady following in the Bay Area and a cachet of historical coolness for their involvement with Beserkley Records, the indie label their manager Matthew "King' Kaufman formed out of frustration with A&M. (He'd also gotten some money from New Generation Pictures, who'd used a snippet of uncredited Earth Quake music in the 1972 Steve McQueen movie The Getaway - it's a scene where McQueen and Ali MacGraw are at a drive-in while Sally Struthers shimmies in a motel room wearing radio headphones.)

The label also carried artists such as Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers, the Rubinoos (who included Tommy Dunbar, brother of Earth Quake guitarist and "Tickler" composer Robbie), and future hit makers the Greg Kihn Band. By 1979, with six solid power pop albums under their belts, Earth Quake would call it good. (The video link above cuts off the last 30 seconds or so.)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Early '70s "Break-In" Records on the Charts

The novelty record boom of the late fifties brought forth the "break-in" single, a creation by record producer Dickie Goodman in which he'd insert snippets of current hits into a little melodrama usually set up as a newscast. "The Flying Saucer" (credited to Goodman and his partner Bill Buchanan) was his biggest one, hitting #3 in 1956, after which Goodman, the original mad sampler, went straight to court. (He prevailed after judges saw his records as fresh artistic statements.)

The early seventies novelty resurgence spawned more break-in records thanks to the nostalgia boom among adults and the strong preteen radio demographic who appreciated their entertainment value. Dickie Goodman resurfaced along with some imitators, but the difference between these new break-in records and those of previous years - and those after - was a darker undercurrent reflecting frustrating current events. Kids could laugh at them, but adult ears were crucial to their success. (The image above comes from a 6/2/73 Billboard ad.)

The Delegates - "Convention '72" (Billboard #8, entered 10/21/72). Written by Nick Cenci and Nick Koselaneos. Produced by Nik-Nik Productions. 45: "Convention '72"/"Funky Butt" (Mainstream 1972). LP: The Delegates (Mainstream 1972)

Pittsburgh record men Nick Cenci and Nick Koseleanos concocted this racy spoof of the Republican and Democratic conventions, which they had gotten KQV disk jockey Bob DeCarlo to record. Its top ten success must have irked Goodman, who had never quit creating break-in records before they caught fire on the charts again in 1972. In fairness, "Convention '72" did create a renewed interest in Goodman's stock in trade. Most kids, though, likely had no idea who and what the record spoofed.

Samples included: "Troglodyte" (Jimmy Castor Bunch), "I Gotcha" (Joe Tex), "Lean on Me" (Bill Withers), "Sealed with a Kiss" (Bobby Vinton), "Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" (Donna Fargo), "Jungle Fever" (Chakachas), "Alone Again (Naturally)" (Gilbert O'Sullivan), "Coconut" (Nilsson), "A Horse with No Name" (America), "Take It Easy (In Your Mind)" (Jerry Reed)," "If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don't Wanna Be Right)" (Luther Ingram), "Back Stabbers" (The O'Jays), "Liar" (Three Dog Night), "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" (Bee Gees), "Mr. Big Stuff" (Jean Knight), "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" (Cher), "Last Night I Couldn't Get to Sleep" (5th Dimension), "Double Barrel" (Dave and Ansell Collins), "The Candy Man" (Sammy Davis Jr.), "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (Yvonne Elliman).

John and Ernest - "Super Fly Meets Shaft" (Billboard #31, entered 4/14/73). Written and produced by Dickie Goodman and Sal Passantino. 45: "Super Fly Meets Shaft"/"Part Two" (Rainy Wednesday 1973). LP: Mr. Jaws and Other Fables by Dickie Goodman (Cash 1975).

Dickie Goodman teamed up with a partner named Sal Passantino for this pseudonymous record featuring two white guys satirizing black popular culture. It's another record that could entertain preteens who likely had little familiarity with the contemporary icons of blaxploitation films that it referenced.

Samples included: A mystery version of Jackie Ross's "Selfish One," "I Got Ants in My Pants" (James Brown), "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" (Temptations), "Keeper of the Castle" (Four Tops), "Me and Mrs. Jones" (Billy Paul), "I'll Be Around" (Spinners), "Shaft" (Isaac Hayes), "Back Stabbers" (O'Jays), "Love Train" (O'Jays), "Freddie's Dead" (Curtis Mayfield), "Daddy's Home" (Jermaine Jackson).

Dickie Goodman - "Watergrate" (Billboard #42, entered 6/16/73). Written and produced by Dickie Goodman. 45: "Watergrate"/"Friends" (Rainy Wednesday 45).

The Watergate break-in spawned a break-in record, having more fun with political complexity. This came out shortly after the Senate Watergate committee hearings became a regular televised event. Side B contained soul instrumental filler music played by nameless session players, with writing credits to "P.D." (public domain). The "Watergrate" title jibed with all of the other mangled names on the record, such as "John Snitchell."

Samples included: "Soul Makossa" (Manu Dibango), "Pillow Talk" (Sylvia), "Drinkin' Wine Spo-De-O-Dee" (Jerry Lee Lewis), "Stuck in the Middle with You" (Stealers Wheel), "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (Alice Cooper), "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" (Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando), "Wild Flower" (Skylark), "The Cisco Kid" (War), "Funky Worm" (Ohio Players), "Reelin' in the Years" (Steely Dan), "I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)" (Glen Campbell), "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (Stevie Wonder), "My Love" (Paul McCartney and Wings).

Dickie Goodman - "Energy Crisis '74" (Billboard #33, entered 2/2/74). Written by Dickie Goodman. Produced by Dickie Goodman and Phil Kahl. 45: "Energy Crisis '74"/"Ruthie's Theme" (Rainy Wednesday 1974). LP: Mr. Jaws and Other Fables by Dickie Goodman (Rainy Wednesday 1974).

This Top 40 hit perhaps took the edge off of radio listeners waiting in the early seventies' notoriously long gas lines, thanks to the Arab oil embargo. Helen Reddy's recurring "Leave Me Alone" voiced the precise response cynical Americans expected to hear from higher ups regarding the crisis. Side B is more horn-rock filler music, as with the previous single. Goodman's son John explains in his memoir The King of Novelty (2000) that "Ruthie" was the name of Goodman's mistress, which was perhaps a good reason for its public domain writing credit.

Samples included: "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" (Helen Reddy), "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" (Brownsville Station), "Livin' for the City" (Stevie Wonder), "Helen Wheels" (Paul McCartney and Wings), "Mind Games" (John Lennon), "The Joker" (Steve Miller Band), "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Elton John), "Hello It's Me" (Todd Rundgren), "You're Sixteen" (Ringo Starr), "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (Charlie Rich), "Top of the World" (The Carpenters).

Dickie Goodman - "Mr. President" (Billboard #73, entered 6/5/74). Written by M. Alexander. Produced by Dickie Goodman. 45: "Mr. President"/"Popularity" (Rainy Wednesday 1974).

At this stage the Watergate hearings were all about the tapes and missing conversations, as was this record. "Mr. President" would be the last of Goodman's political break-in offerings to crack the Hot 100. (M. Alexander was likely a Goodman pseudonym.) His last two charting hits would be movie tie-ins: "Mr. Jaws" (#4 in 1975) and "Kong" (#48 in 1977).

Samples included: "The Streak" (Ray Stevens), "Seasons in the Sun" (Terry Jacks), "Bennie and the Jets" (Elton John), "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" (Stevie Wonder), "My Girl Bill" (Jim Stafford), "Dancin' Machine" (Jackson 5), "The Entertainer" (Marvin Hamlisch), "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" (Gladys Knight and the Pips), "The Loco Motion" (Grand Funk), "Oh My My" (Ringo Starr), "Hooked on a Feeling" (Blue Swede), "I Won't Last a Day Without You" (The Carpenters).

Grand Canyon - "Evil Boll-Weevil" (Billboard #72, entered 11/2/74). Written by Jeff McKee and Ed Brown. Produced by Jeff McKee. 45: "Evil Boll-Weevil"/"Got to Find My Way Back" (Bang 1974).

The stuntman Evel Knevel was a break-in subject all age groups could understand thoroughly. But Jeff McKee, the co-writer and producer (with no involvement from Dickie Goodman) explains in the comments for the YouTube link that this single suffered from bad timing. It mimicked Ed Sullivan but appeared at the same time as the beloved TV personality's death in October 1974, affecting stations' willingness to air it.

McKee and co-writer Ed Brown worked at Top 40 station WQXI in Atlanta, hence the "Chattahoochee," "Doraville" and "Peachtree" references. An outtake from Paul Davis, signed to Bang at the time, appears as the single's flipside.

Samples included: "Jet" (Paul McCartney and Wings), "Summer Breeze" (Seals and Crofts), "Rocket Man" (Elton John), "It's My Life" (The Animals), "Evil Ways" (Santana), "Dialogue (Part I & II)" (Chicago), "Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynyrd Skynyrd), "Help Me" (Joni Mitchell), "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (Elton John), "Baby You're a Rich Man" (Beatles), "Clap for the Wolfman" (The Guess Who), "Here, There and Everywhere" (Beatles), "Rock and Roll Heaven" (Righteous Brothers), "Feel Like Makin' Love" (Roberta Flack), "Billion Dollar Babies" (Alice Cooper), "Do It Again" (Steely Dan), "Doraville" (Atlanta Rhythm Section), "Please Come to Boston" (Dave Loggins), "La Grange" (ZZ Top).

Bonus:
Dickie Goodman and Ruthie - "Speaking of Ecology" (did not chart). Written by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman. 45: "Speaking of Ecology"/"Dayton's Theme" (Ramgo 1971).

Ecology was on everyone's mind in the early seventies, but perhaps even more so on Goodman's because of his involvement in the glass bottle industry campaign discussed in the previous post. His non-charting "Speaking of Ecology" listed "Dickie Goodman and Ruthie" as artists, with Ruthie, as mentioned above, being Goodman's mistress at the time.

A glance at Goodman's rather enormous discography indicates a consistent eye for politics and current events from the fifties all the way to his tragic death of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1989.

Samples included: "Shaft" (Isaac Hayes), "Ain't No Sunshine" (Bill Withers), "Make It Funky" (James Brown), "Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves" (Cher), "Only You Know and I Know" (Delaney and Bonnie), "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" (Joan Baez), "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" (Persuaders), "Yo Yo" (Osmonds), "Maggie May" (Rod Stewart), "Do You Know What I Mean" (Lee Michaels), "Never My Love" (5th Dimension), "Sweet City Woman" (Stampeders).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Glass Bottle/Dickie Goodman Connection

The "break-in" novelty record legend Dickie Goodman started The Glass Bottle as a marketing ploy for Manhattan public relations firm Benton & Bowles. They had hired Goodman to battle the burgeoning aluminum can and plastic bottle industries, and he'd developed a strategy to form a topical band, write the (non break-in) songs, and possibly make a fortune. He gathered together six young musicians from New Jersey, featuring the Johnny Maestro-esque lead vocals of Gary Criss, who'd released a number of teen idol disks on the Diamond label in the early sixties.

If the public would have responded favorably to Goodman's initial plan, we'd now recognize the Glass Bottle for songs he'd written with titles like "Glass," "Little Bottle Baby," and "Soda Pop Tonite." According to his son Jon, in his 2000 book The King of Novelty, Goodman eventually withdrew his own compositions from the hungry band's repertoire (which was fine by him because he was "still getting paid") and hooked them up with the AVCO Embassy label, for whom three of their recordings made the Hot 100, with "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" cracking the Top 40. Another non-charting single of theirs, "Mama Don't You Wait Up for Me (Wonderwheel)" appeared in the soundtrack for the well-regarded 1970 narcotics film The People Next Door. 

As for Goodman's ongoing commitment to Benton & Bowles, a captioned Billboard photo (above) that misspells Criss's last name refers to the group's "antilitter campaign," which suggests that they might have shifted their PR strategy from recording glass bottle industry-themed songs to speaking favorably about the easily recycled product during their appearances. (Aluminum and plastic recycling hadn't yet become so normalized at that point.)

All three of their charting records were MOR-suitable songs arranged by Goodman's business partner Bill Ramal. They also hearkened back to the teen idol ballad tradition Criss knew well and which many a music listener was feeling a nostalgic tolerance for during the troubled early seventies. The Glass Bottle's hit-making career didn't make it past the era, although Criss had some late-seventies traction with a disco album on the Salsoul label before calling it good with the music business.

The Glass Bottle - "Love for Living"  (Billboard #109, entered by 5/30/70). Written by Clare Torry. Produced by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman. 45: "Love for Living"/"The First Time" (AVCO Embassy 1970). LP: The Glass Bottle (AVCO Embassy 1970).

This song had been a 1969 B-side for singer-songwriter Clare Torry, who later recorded the famous vocal segment for Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky" in 1973.

The Glass Bottle - "I Ain't Got Time Anymore" (Billboard #36, entered 7/17/71). Written by Mike Leander and Eddie Seago. Produced by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman. 45: "I Ain't Got Time Anymore"/"Things" (AVCO Embassy 1971). LP: I Ain't Got Time Anymore (AVCO Embassy 1971).

The Glass Bottle's biggest single had been a #21 UK hit for Cliff Richard in 1970.

The Glass Bottle - "The Girl Who Loved Me When" (Billboard #87, entered 12/4/71). Written by Neil Goldberg. Produced by Bill Ramal and Dickie Goodman. 45: "The Girl Who Loved Me When"/"Because She's Mine Again" (AVCO Embassy 1971). LP: I Ain't Got Time Anymore (AVCO Embassy 1971).

Songwriter Neil Goldberg was also an active contributor of songs to the Archie's Funhouse TV show.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Chart Song Cinema: Billy Jack (1971)

Much movie biz folklore surrounds Billy Jack, the 1971 sequel to Born Losers (1967). The film stars Tom Laughlin, who also produced, wrote, and directed it, and then worked its distribution to make up for Warner Bros's inactivity. (AIP and 20th Century Fox had both dropped the film, after which WB came to the rescue but with little promotional commitment.) Laughlin's efforts paid off in 1973, when his re-release of the film struck a chord and took in over $40 million.

Laughlin plays the title character, a Native American ex-Green Beret who, somewhere in the arid southwest, becomes a bodyguard figure for a multiracial Freedom School for troubled youths. Tensions rise between the school and certain bigoted townspeople, who bring the martial arts master Billy Jack's anger to a boil. Although the film's violence definitely sold tickets and consequently invited plenty of criticism, the dubiousness of violence as a cure-all prevails as the message when the closing credits roll.

Aside from the violence, other elements contributed to Billy Jack's cult appeal. The amateurish nature of many of the film's actors, who were untrained family members, friends, and neighbors of Laughlin, managed to lend it an aura of guileless authenticity. The musical interludes colored the soundtrack with a found-recording time capsule quality, while drama class sequences, a town council hearing, and a narrated rattlesnake ceremony gave the viewing experience an aspect of sketch revue. (A young Howard "Johnny Fever" Hesseman appears in those drama class scenes.)

Another advantage for Billy Jack's re-release was its timing, coinciding with the American Indian Movement's 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee and its demands of the U.S. Government to reopen treaty negotiations. In the recent Reel Injun documentary about Native American portrayals in cinema, film critic Jesse Wente referred to the character of Billy Jack as one who embodied "all seventies angst and anger," which was also true, perhaps, of those occupiers.

The Billy Jack theme "One Tin Soldier" had a peculiar history in keeping with the film's non-standard business trajectory. Written as one of songwriting team Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter's earliest products, the song's "peace on earth" message graced Billboard's Top 40 in 1969 as recorded by Canadian quintet The Original Caste. Two years later, Laughlin had hoped to get an unavailable Linda Ronstadt to record a version for the film, going instead with Jinx Dawson, lead singer of the LA-based band Coven.

Although Dawson sang the song with an orchestra apart from the rest of the band, as she recounts it to Sam Tweedle in his Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict blog, she didn't think twice about the song being billed to Coven because she had no inkling it would become a Top 40 hit and play havoc with the band's reputation. Coven, in fact, were occult to the core. Their first album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls (featuring a thirteen-minute track called "Satanic Mass") had gotten yanked from shelves by their label Mercury when a 1970 Esquire article titled "Evil Lurks in California" associated their musical activities with those of Charles Manson. (By the way, those who have seen Billy Jack and have familiarity with that first Coven album will draw a connection between the album's gatefold image and a key scene from the film.)

The re-release of Billy Jack two years after its first run led to the unusual situation where "One Tin Soldier," having already made the charts in 1969 and 1971, visited the Hot 100 again in 1973 when Coven, at the behest of their management, re-recorded it using a similar arrangement and re-released it on MGM as promotion for a new album. Because copyright law didn't protect arrangements, their new version was barely distinguishable from the old one. That opening flute, sounding so much like the intro to a TV commercial, was still there, and Dawson's vocals came across no less enunciated and ritual-esque.

Before the year was over, the Warner Bros version of "One Tin Soldier," a song Dawson "never understood as a peace/love song," as she told Sam Tweedle, but one of "hypocrisy toward the church," breached the Hot 100 still one more time, peaking at #73 in early 1974.

Here are all the charting versions of "One Tin Soldier":

1. The Original Caste - "One Tin Soldier" (Billboard #34, entered 11/15/69). Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Arranged by Artie Butler. 45: "One Tin Soldier"/"Live for Tomorrow" (T.A., 1969). LP: One Tin Soldier (T.A. 1969).




2. Coven - "One Tin Soldier, The Legend of Billy Jack" (Billboard #26, entered 9/18/71). Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Produced by Mundell Lowe. 45: "One Tin Soldier, The Legend of Billy Jack"/"I Think You Always Knew" (Warner Bros 1971). LP: Music from the Motion Picture "Billy Jack" (Warner Bros 1971).



3. Coven - "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)" (Billboard #79, entered 7/21/73). Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Produced by Mundell Lowe. 45: "One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)"/"I Guess It's a Beautiful Day Today" (MGM 1973). LP: Coven (MGM 1973).

This is the re-do Coven did in 1973. See if you can detect any differences. Here's one for starters: much less piano after the flute intro.

With word likely spreading about their theatrical stage shows in the late sixties, Coven were a highly plausible influence on Black Sabbath, who perhaps co-opted some of their schtick. The first Coven album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, had come out in 1969 with an opening song called "Black Sabbath" and a guitarist named Oz Osborne, while Black Sabbath's debut LP appeared in 1970.

The 1973 Coven album was a much less forbidding, commercial affair than their debut, which didn't stop two members from "flashing the horns" on the cover. Side B of this single is a relaxed breath of country-rock air that I love but which true Coven-heads might not.

4. Coven - "One Tin Soldier, The Legend of Billy Jack" (Billboard #73, entered 12/29/73). Written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Produced by Mundell Lowe. 45: "One Tin Soldier, The Legend of Billy Jack"/"Johnnie" (Warner Bros 1973). LP: The Original Soundtrack from Billy Jack (Warner Bros 1973).

Yes - it's the same version as no. 2. But the B-side is a spruced up version of the sad song Tom Laughlin's real life daughter Teresa sings in the movie.

Monday, May 2, 2016

KKUA (Honolulu): Top 40, 1967 - c. 1986

Honolulu's Top 40 powerhouse KKUA ("double K-U-A"), residing at 690 AM, called itself "The Big 69" (and its DJs the "The Big 69 Men"). By the late seventies, the station had distinguished itself as a commercial airwave venue especially friendly to local talent. Ron Jacobs (d. March 8, 2016), who was the program director at Los Angeles station KHJ during its storied "Boss Radio" years and who also created the syndicated American Top 40 institution, joined KKUA as an on-air personality in 1976. With his "Whodaguy" nickname, he launched the station's series of annual Homegrown albums that featured nothing but regional up-and-comers. Sometime in the very early eighties, KKUA would simulcast with KQMQ (93.1 FM) before surrendering its call letters later in the decade (if I've sorted the timeframe correctly) to a public radio station.

What follows is a list of 5 selected singles of local interest that racked up tons of airplay on KKUA between 1970 and 1974 (thanks to the year-end lists at the Hawaii Radio and Television Guide). Many of these sound like the music playing at a hotel supper club while Jack Lord's McGarrett pops in to ask the owner a few questions.

1. Liz Damon's Orient Express - "1900 Yesterday" (Billboard #33, entered 12/26/70; easy listening #4). Written by Johnny Cameron. Produced by George J.D. Chun. 45: "1900 Yesterday"/"You're Falling in Love" (Makaha 1970; White Whale 1970). LP: Liz Damon's Orient Express (Makaha 1970; White Whale 1970).

Written by soul songwriter and producer Johnny Cameron, "1900 Yesterday" first showed up as a B-side for Betty Everett's "Maybe" (not a cover of the Chantels classic) in 1969. This version by Liz Damon's Orient Express - a group featuring three female vocalists and six instrumentalists - first appeared on the Makaha label, after which White Whale picked it up once it caught fire. In a 1971 issue of Billboard, KKUA's Scott Edwards (who ran the "sunset sounds" shift from 6 to 9 p.m.) receives mention as the DJ who "broke" the record.

I'll always be crazy for this nighttime song, with its "smoke from a cigarette" catchphrase, ambiguous time-traveling lyrics, and disembodied vocals. It also has capering bone-marimba lines that remind me of some of the Morton Stevens "busybody" instrumental music on Hawaii Five-O I'd once written about.

Liz Damon and her troupe had another massive Hawaii-only hit in 1973 with their version of Bacharach and David's "Me Japanese Boy (I Love You)," which Damon, evoking Karen Carpenter, sings with a chorus of children's voices a la the Carpenters' "Sing."

2. John Rowles - "Cheryl Moana Marie" (Billboard #64, entered 1/2/71). Written by Nat Kipner and John Rowles. Produced by Don Costa. 45: "Cheryl Moana Marie"/"The Love I Had with You" (Kapp 1970). LP: Cheryl Moana Marie (Kapp 1970).

The big voice of John Rowles, New Zealand's Engelbert Humperdinck, sailed with enough regularity on Hawaiian airwaves to give the impression of being local. "Cheryl Moana Marie" (a Don Costa production and arrangement) was Rowles' only single to reach the US charts, although "She's All I Got" and "Juanita Chiquita" were even bigger Rowles records in the islands.

3. Sam Kapu - "Chatto Matte Kudasai (Never Say Goodbye)" (Billboard easy listening #39, entered 9/11/71). Written by Jeanne Nakashima. Produced by Ed Brown and John De Marco. 45: "Chatto Matte Kudasai (Never Say Goodbye)"/"Huttin' in the Hall" (Hana Ho 1971). LP: Sam Kapu Again! (Hana Ho 1969).

Sam Kapu is perhaps best known as a Don Ho show biz cohort (who appeared alongside him in a Brady Bunch segment). This single, which has a chorus reminiscent of Glen Campbell's "I'll Paint You a Song," made a brief showing on Billboard's easy listening chart.

4. Honk - "Pipeline Sequence" (did not chart in Billboard)Written by Steve Wood, Richard Stekol, Craig Buhler, Tris Imbuden, and Will Brady. Produced by Honk and Terry Wright. 45: "Pipeline Sequence"/"Made My Statement (Love You Baby)" (20th Century 1972). LP: The Original Soundtrack from Five Summer Stories (20th Century 1972).

Honk was an eclectic Orange County band whose soundtrack for the popular 1972 surfing film Five Summer Stories, by Greg McGillivray and Jim Freeman, sold especially big in Hawaii, where the film's first segment takes place. The sudden "surf band" identity baggage might have unraveled the band, though, who didn't make it past 1975. (Some Beach Boys tracks also appeared in the film but not on the album soundtrack.) If "Pipeline Sequence" reminds you of any FM rock sounds from the later seventies, keep in mind that it pre-dated many of those.

5. The Sweet Marie - "Stella's Candy Store" (Billboard #123, entered 2/3/73). Written by Donald Bennett. Produced by Darby James and the Sweet Marie. 45: "Stella's Candy Store"/"Another Feelin'" (Yardbird 1972). LP: Stuck in Paradise (Yardbird 1972).

Another California band with a Hawaiian following, the Sweet Marie recorded their 1972 Stuck in Paradise album (their second) in Honolulu. Its leadoff single was a back-alley rocker called  "Stella's Candy Store," which caught enough fire nationally to bubble under on Billboard in early '73.

6. Diamond Head - "If That's the Way You Want It" (Billboard #106, entered 5/5/73). Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. 45: "If That's the Way You Want It"/"What Do I Do on Sunday" (Dunhill 1973).

The Southern California quartet Diamond Head took its name from the famous Oahu landmark, and although "If That's the Way You Want It" only reached #106 in Billboard, Hawaiian radio spun it like crazy. Info about this band is elusive, but a 1975 single of theirs on Capitol called "Proud to Be Your Slave," which was written by Steely Dan's Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, has turned up on YouTube. The UK heavy metal band called Diamond Head has no relation to this piƱa colada crew.

7. Ohta-San - "Song for Anna" (Billboard easy listening #26, entered 5/4/74). Written by Andre Popp. Produced by Newell Bohnett. 45: "Song for Anna (Chansons d'Anna)"/"Keeping You Company" (A&M 1973). LP: Song for Anna (A&M 1973).

Herb Ohta is a Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso who is sometimes billed as "Ohta-San" (with "san" being a Japanese term of respect). The 45 of this song is subtitled according to its French title and billed to Ohta's Japanese name. The album title and artist, though, play it straight. Ohta charted only one more time in his long career, with the easy listening hit "One Day of Love" in 1975.

8. Society of  Seven - "99.8" (did not chart in Billboard). Written by Ernie Freeman and Frances Kirk. Produced by Ernie Freeman. 45: "99.8"/"Charming Beau" (Silver Sword Audio 1974). LP: 99.8 (Silver Sword Audio 1974).

A variety show band that's been doing its thing at Honolulu hotel lounges and beyond since the sixties, Society of Seven's 99.8 album featured the production and co-writing work of Ernie Freeman, who'd had a late fifties hit version of Bill Justis's "Raunchy." Check out the boosted reverb on the lead vocal during the chorus.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Chart Song Cinema: The Strawberry Statement (1970)

The Strawberry Statement, starring Bruce Davison, Kim Darby, and Bud Cort, reimagined (and relocated) the 1968 Columbia University student riots, telling the story of a freshman named Simon who stumbles into campus protest culture and eventually gets his clock cleaned by riot police. It's yet another of the era's bummer movies and it shares thematic similarities with (yesterday's subject) Nicholas and Alexandra: political struggle and befuddlement, idealism shattered, and a sadistic focus on the short lifespan of youth and innocence.

The numerous rock soundtrack songs, as I've complained about elsewhere, add value to the viewing experience while getting cheapened in return by attaching themselves to specific visual images. Two songs bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100, thanks to their appearance in the film. One of these was the British trio Thunderclap Newman's now frequently-licensed "Something in the Air," which had been a 1969 summertime #1 single in the UK. Its previous appearance in the Magic Christian film (starring Ringo Starr and Peter Sellers) and the soundtrack album helped the record reach #37 in the US during its first run, while its placement on the Strawberry Statement soundtrack, where it accompanies scenes of Simon overlooking the city, lifted it up again for a chart encore at #120.

The other charting single from the film, Buffy Sainte-Marie's strident version of Joni Mitchell's "Circle Game," plays during the opening and closing credits, as if to underscore the film's already heavy-handed message.

Buffy Sainte-Marie - "The Circle Game" (Billboard #109, entered 8/15/70). Written by Joni Mitchell. Produced by Maynard Solomon. 45: "The Circle Game"/"Better to Find Out for Yourself" (Vanguard 1970). LPs: Fire and Fleet and Candlelight (Vanguard 1967); The Strawberry Statement (MGM 1970).

"Better to Find Out for Yourself," from her 1969 Illuminations album, is a saucy B-side, sounding especially like the Cree side of Sainte-Marie - on the moon.


Thunderclap Newman - "Something in the Air" (Billboard #120, re-entered 10/24/70). Written by Speedy Keen. Produced by Pete Townshend. 45: "Something in the Air"/"Wilhelmina" (Track 1969). LPs: The Magic Christian (Pye 1970); Hollywood Dream (Track 1970); The Strawberry Statement (MGM 1970).

Most of the media placements for "Something in the Air" don't make room for the distinctive piano solo played by the band's namesake, the pipe-smoking Andy "Thunderclap" Newman. Side B, written by Newman, is a British music hall song gone missing.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Chart Song Cinema: Nicholas and Alexandra (1971)

Engelbert Humperdinck's "Too Beautiful to Last," a #86 single in the US (#14 in the UK), featured the singer's dynamic voice merging words (by Paul Francis Webster) to the alluring theme music (by Richard Rodney Bennett) from the three-hour epic Nicholas and Alexandra. 

Released in 1971, the British production depicted the last days of Nicholas II - the last ruling tsar of Russia - and his family. Behind the gorgeous veneer, though, was another early seventies bummer film, asking us to develop a fondness for the doomed lead characters (including Tom Baker's crazed Rasputin), while additional themes relevant to the emerging seventies psyche loomed large: political complexity, the bittersweet demise of an older generation, the hazardous side effects of revolution, and the fragility of - and fascination with - the larger traditional family.

The character of Nicholas, reminding one of Mike Brady, drew sympathy as a man whose entire worldview focused on his "too beautiful to last" immediate family. For the mid-sixties Von Trapps, such a devotion led toward gorgeous vistas. For the early-seventies Romanovs, it led toward getting shot in a cellar.

Engelbert Humperdinck - "Too Beautiful to Last" (Billboard #86, entered 4/29/72): Written by Paul Francis Webster and Richard Rodney Bennett. Produced by Gordon Mills. 45: "Too Beautiful to Last"/"A Hundred Times a Day" (Parrot 1971). LP: In Time (Parrot).