Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Tom Jones's biggest hit of the early seventies distinguished itself by serving up the phrases "she always knows her place" and "she's never in the way" during the glory years of women's lib. Even so, its high ranking on the easy listening charts indicated that the minor-key sizzler likely had a wide female listenership. Or did that ranking reflect older generation values?
Composer Paul Anka apparently regretted it. From Jones's Over the Top and Back: The Autobiography (2015), p. 298: "Paul Anka wrote ['She's a Lady'] especially for me, scribbling the lyrics on the back of a TWA menu, somewhere between New York and London, and adding the tune in an hour and a half at a piano later. Afterwards he'll declare that he hates the song--will claim that it's his least favorite number of any that he wrote and that he thinks it's chauvinistic. Maybe he's right. Actually, definitely he's right. But it was a hit for me--a dance floor number in the earliest days of disco and the last significant hit I would have in America for a number of years."
Indeed, in his My Way: An Autobiography (2014), Anka says: "I dislike 'She's a Lady' more than anything else I've written. I'm not saying I don't have a chauvinistic side, but not like that. Still, I wanted to make it as realistic as possible, and Tom Jones is swaggering and brash as a Welsh coal miner in a pub on Saturday night."
The 2013 Paul Anka Duets album includes a version of the song with Jones, featuring a remodeled first verse sung by Anka. Instead of "Well, she's all you'd ever want/She's the kind I like to flaunt and take to dinner/But she always knows her place/She's got style, she's got grace, she's a winner," he sings, "Oh she knows what love's about/She turns me inside out, that's not easy/She loves me through and through/She knows what to do and how to tease me." Verse two, though, about never being "in the way" gets a faithful, unaltered delivery by Jones.
Tom Jones - "She's a Lady"
Monday, October 3, 2016
With its nickname "the Quixie in Dixie," 790 WQXI launched itself as a Top 40 vehicle sometime in 1960, then shape-shifted according to subsequent eras' conceptions of the format until the mid-80s. In 1974, the station's FM signal became its mothership, billing itself as "94 QXI-FM," then becoming "94 Q" by 1977.
The rare Southern Gold promo LP images above (thanks to radio station vinyl resource Radio Use Only) come from 1973, during the station's final glory days as a classic AM entity that loomed large in reputation (if not wattage) throughout the Southern US. A typical umbrella format hodgepodge, the album does showcase a "New South" attitude with Charlie Daniels' "Uneasy Rider" and leads off with "Brother Louie," one of the era's quintessential black/white issue hits.
Among the disk jockeys who spun records for WQXI during the early seventies were longtime morning man Gary McKee, Dr. Don Rose (who left in 1972 and became a San Francisco institution), Scott Shannon, John Leader, and J.J. Jackson (who was neither the MTV personality nor the singer included on side 2 of the Southern Gold album). The station's long time general manager Jerry Blum became an inspiration for the character of Arthur Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati, having once pulled, in real life, the turkey stunt that inspired the show's most famous episode.
I'm hoping that a clearer album image of the jocks in front of the Peachtree Street sign eventually turns up. Clockwise from the top: Dave Smith, Dave Weiss, Ron Parker, Tomm Rivers, John Leader, Lee Logan, Barry Chaser, and Gary McKee. (You can hear a full Gary McKee morning show from 1972 at Airchexx.)
Stories - "Brother Louie"
Climax - "Precious and Few"
Isley Brothers - "It's Your Thing"
Gallery - "Nice to Be with You"
Charlie Daniels Band - "Uneasy Rider"
Lobo - "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo"
Sylvia - "Pillow Talk"
Curtis Mayfield - "Superfly"
Melanie - "Brand New Key"
Freda Payne - "Band of Gold"
Focus - "Hocus Pocus"
J.J. Jackson - "But It's Alright"
Five Man Electrical Band - "Signs"
Sugarloaf - "Green Eyed Lady"
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Mac Davis's second charting single as a vocalist was his own version of a song he'd written for Glen Campbell to sing on Norwood in a train car in the middle of the night - fully orchestrated but waking no one. "I'll Paint You a Song," with its rainbows and bluebirds, featured a comparable easy listening backdrop arranged by Artie Butler that laid the groundwork for Davis's forthcoming stream of crossover MOR-country hits. By 1972, his "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me" would turn him into a multi-media figure in the mold of Campbell.
(In the late seventies a song came through my dad's Salt Lake City recording studio that turned into a familiar tearjearker for the Mormon church educational system. It was called "I'll Build You a Rainbow" and clearly used Davis's song as a template.)
Mac Davis - "I'll Paint You a Song"
See also: Chart Song Cinema: Norwood (1970)
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Written by future country-pop crossover star Mac Davis, Glen Campbell's "Everything a Man Could Ever Need," from the Norwood soundtrack, runs on "Gentle on My Mind" fumes, using that song's opening root to root-major7 sequence, which borrowed from Bob Lind's "Elusive Butterfly" (1966). Bobby Goldsboro's "Honey" also used it in 1968, as did Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin' " in 1969, giving Norwood another minor connection to Midnight Cowboy (see previous post). That chord sequence became a familiar late sixties/early seventies sound on the radio, usually accompanying itinerant male self-analysis. "Everything a Man Could Ever Need" included Campbell's fellow Wrecking Crew alumnus Al DeLory as a co-arranger, who helped make the already too-crafty song sound even less likely to have stood a chance on the real Louisana Hayride.
Glen Campbell - "Everything a Man Could Ever Need"
See also: Chart Song Cinema: Norwood (1970)
Monday, September 26, 2016
A post-Midnight Cowboy rube-in-New York subplot plays itself out (Portis's novel, by the way, predated Midnight Cowboy by three years), while quirky characters come and go. Campbell, along the way, carries around a fancy Ovation with no case (Campbell was one of the carbon fiber guitar model's first endorsers) and serenades his co-stars to fully orchestrated soundtracks. Joe Namath, the Pennsylvania native who took his New York Jets to a 1969 Super Bowl victory, plays a marine buddy of Campbell who throws a football around at a fish fry and imitates the southern accents he heard as a college player at Alabama.
Of most interest here is the transitional bigger-picture awkwardness of the sixties turning into the seventies and of the old, isolated South morphing into a newer, mainstream version. Glen Campbell was a poster child for this process, hosting his Goodtime Hour on TV from 1969 to 1972, playing with the Beach Boys and the Wrecking Crew in the sixties, popularizing a more sophisticated brand of country song ("Gentle on My Mind," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and "Wichita Lineman"), wearing a peace symbol on his album with Bobbie Gentry, covering the black gospel song "Oh Happy Day," and endorsing non-standard acoustic guitars.
Equally awkward, but typical of 1970, are the real world complexities that - in a film that attempts to come off as a Disney live action film for adults - serve as glaring sexual revolution signifiers. Campbell's sister has shacked up with the effeminate moocher Dom DeLuise, Campbell racks up a shameless one night stand with his Big Apple host, and his eventual "right girl" Kim Darby, who dresses like the Flying Nun, is pregnant with another marine's child - a non-issue compared to Campbell getting to the Hayride.
Director Jack Haley, Jr. was the son of the same Jack Haley who played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (and who appears in Norwood, in his final role, as Joe Namath's dad). Haley Jr.'s best loved movie moment came in 1974 when he put together the Hollywood musical retrospective That's Entertainment. (The other Wizard of Oz connection: he was married to Liza Minneli, daughter of Judy Garland, from 1974 to 1979.)
Two songs from Norwood made the charts thanks to their appearance in the film:
Glen Campbell - "Everything a Man Could Ever Need" (Billboard #54, entered 7/4/70; country #5).
Mac Davis - "I'll Paint You a Song" (Billboard #110, entered 7/18/70; country #68).
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Multiple song renditions still went to battle on the pop charts in the early seventies, a decades-long tradition that finally fizzled out (with few resurgences) after Lost Horizon circa 1973. In the case of "I Don't Know How to Love Him," Hawaiian singer Yvonne Elliman's original 1970 romantic paean for Jesus charted two months after Helen Reddy's cover version did, and one month after a low chart entry by a group called the Kimberlys. Reddy took it to #13, while Elliman, whose version featured a memorable Moog simulation of a wooden flute, saw hers underperform at #28. (In early 1972, she would compete with a version by Petula Clark on the UK singles chart.) For some reason, the 45 issue of Elliman's version placed it on the B-side of the non-radio friendly Jesus Christ Superstar overture. She'd later perform the song in the 1973 film as the beshawled Mary Magdalene.
The successful Jesus Christ Superstar rock opera LP, written and produced by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice, launched a respectable seventies chart run for Elliman, crescendoing with "If I Can't Have You," her #1 hit from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. By 1980, she'd turn her back on the music biz to raise her two kids.
Yvonne Elliman - "I Don't Know How to Love Him" (1971)
Also see: The "Jesus Christ Superstar" hit parade
Friday, September 9, 2016
Jack Jones, with his silky-bourbon voice, was born to sing in Vegas, so it's surprising that this is the first live album he'd ever record. He'd gotten his start as a kid, in fact, singing with his dad, the actor Allan Jones, at the Thunderbird Hotel and Casino. In Person at the Sands, which appeared on a 1970 playlist of the high-powered Los Angeles MOR station KMPC, contains renditions of Jones signature songs like "Wives and Lovers" and "Lollipops and Moonbeams," but it also includes 1970 "brotherhood" songs like the Youngbloods' "Get Together," John Sebastian's "I Had a Dream," and Joe South's "Games People Play." (In spite of these motions, Jones takes a few minutes at the beginning of side two to ridicule Cubans and gays.) Joe Kloess directs the orchestra and would do the same for many of Jones's future seventies LPs.
Although Jones never charted in Billboard's Hot 100 after 1968, he'd appear with regularity on the easy listening/adult contemporary charts all the way up until 1980, the year his "Love Boat Theme" barged into our collective consciousness.
Jack Jones - "Get Together"
See also: A KMPC Playlist circa 1971