Monday, September 26, 2016

Chart Song Cinema: Norwood (1970)

Like True GritNorwood featured Glen Campbell (on screen and in the soundtrack) with Kim Darby and used a Glen Portis novel as source material. Unlike True Grit, an esteemed classic, Norwood comes off as a trifle. It tells the story of hayseed guitar picker Campbell who's come back home to Ralph, Texas, from the Marine Corps, and is fixated on getting a spot on the Louisiana Hayride radio show (which had actually stopped airing by 1969.)

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:



"Everything a Man Could Ever Need" (1970)
Glen Campbell

Written by Mac Davis * 45: "Everything a Man Could Ever Need" / "Norwood (Me and My Guitar)" * LP: Norwood * Produced by Neely Plumb * Label: Capitol * Billboard charts: Hot 100 (#54); country (#5) * Entered: 1970-07-04 (Hot 100)

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 small connection to Midnight Cowboy (see above). 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 Louisiana Hayride. Another Mac Davis composition from the soundtrack appears on the B-side.


Side A: "Everything a Man Could Ever Need"


Side B: "Norwood (Me and My Guitar)"





"I'll Paint You a Song" (1970)
Mac Davis

Written by Mac Davis * 45: "I'll Paint You a Song" / "Closest I Ever Came" (Columbia) * Produced by Jimmy Bowen * Arranged by Artie Butler * LP: Song Painter (Columbia) * Billboard charts: Bubbling under (#110); country (#68) * Entered: 1970-07-18 (Bubbling under)

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 scene in the middle of the night—fully orchestrated but somehow 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. The Song Painter album was Mac Davis's debut and presented itself as a full-fledged "Meet Mac Davis-the-artist" affair, with numerous musical interludes. His "Babies' Butts" series might have inspired Tom T. Hall to write "I Love." It's not implausible. (A 1974 reissue of this album had an alternate cover.)

Side A: "I'll Paint You a Song"


Side B: "Closest I Ever Came"


Friday, September 9, 2016

Jack Jones - "Get Together" (1970)



"Get Together" (1970)
Jack Jones

Written by Chet Powers * Produced by Ernie Altschuler * LP: Jack Jones in Person at the Sands, Las Vegas * Label: RCA Victor * Billboard charts: —

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.

"Get Together"

See also: A KMPC Playlist circa 1971