"1900 Yesterday" (1970)
Liz Damon's Orient Express
Written by Johnny Cameron * Produced by George J.D. Chun * 45: "1900 Yesterday" / "You're Falling in Love" * LP: Liz Damon's Orient Express * Label: Makaha/White Whale * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#33), easy listening (#4) * Entered: 1970-12-26 (both charts)
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. It's a true wee-hours song, with its "smoke from a cigarette" catchphrase, ambiguous time-traveling lyrics, and disembodied vocals. It also has capering bone-marimba lines that may remind you of some of Morton Stevens's instrumental music on Hawaii Five-O. 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."
"Cheryl Moana Marie" (1970)
Written by Nat Kipner and John Rowles * Producer: Don Costa * 45: "Cheryl Moana Marie" / "The Love I Had with You" * LP: Cheryl Moana Marie * Label: Kapp * Billboard charts: Easy listening (#19), Hot 100 (#64) * Entered: 1970-11-21 (easy listening), 1971-01-02 (Hot 100)
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.
"Chatto Matte Kudasai
(Never Say Goodbye)" (1969)
Sam Kapu is perhaps best known as a Don Ho show biz cohort (who also appeared alongside him in a Brady Bunch segment). This single has a chorus reminiscent of Mac Davis's "I'll Paint You a Song." A big seller and airplay staple in Kapu's native Hawaii, it did make a brief showing on Billboard's easy listening chart in 1971, two years after its original release.
"Pipeline Sequence" (1972)
Billboard charts: —
Honk was an eclectic Orange County band (reminiscent of the seventies version of the Grateful Dead), 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 contributed toward Honk's 1975 unraveling, although they play the occasional reunion show to this day. (Quite a few Beach Boys tracks also appeared in the film but not on the album soundtrack.) If "Pipeline Sequence" reminds you of any sounds from the Boston-Styx-Kansas FM rock era, keep in mind that it predated many of those. A country song on the album called "High in the Middle" became another memorable musical highlight in the film, which seems incongruous until you consider the steel guitar's honored place in Hawaiian music history.
Side B: "Made My Statement (Love You Baby)"
Bonus: "High in the Middle"
"Stella's Candy Store" (1972)
The Sweet Marie
45: "Stella's Candy Store" / "Another Feelin'" * LP: Stuck in Paradise * Label: Yardbird * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#123) * Entered: 1973-02-03
A California head-rock trio 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. A moody, somewhat foreboding track from the album with crashing waves and someone sreaming "help!" at the end (with writing credits given to the three Sweet Marie members) provides contrast for the bender on side A.
Side B: "Another Feelin'"
"If That's the Way You Want It" (1973)
Written and produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter * 45: "If That's the Way You Want It" / "What Do I Do on Sunday Morning" * Label: Dunhill * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#106) * Entered: 1973-05-05
The Southern California quartet Diamond Head took its name from the famous volcanic ridge mark in Oahu, and although the Dennis Lambert-Brian Potter tune "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 piña colada crew. (Side B is another Lambert-Potter tune.)
Side B: "What I Do on Sunday Morning"
Non-charting 1975 bonus: "Proud to Be Your Slave"
"Song for Anna" (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 cover, though, sticks with "Herb." Ohta charted only one more time in his long career, with the easy listening hit "One Day of Love" in 1975.
Society of Seven
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, best known for his late fifties hit version of Bill Justis's "Raunchy." Check out the boosted reverb on the lead vocal during the chorus.