(Pictured: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, beloved above all other bands by teenage boys of my acquaintance 40 years ago this fall.)
Recently I said this about American Top 40: “Every now and then [the show] hits a streak that captures the full, glorious panoply of 70s music, and even more than that, demonstrates just how much damn fun it was to listen to the radio back then.” It was like that on practically the whole show dated November 30, 1974—one of the most entertaining AT40s ever.
The first hour contains a few clunkers: “Whatever You Got, I Want” by the Jackson Five, in which a really good funk track is undercut by Michael’s pre-pubescent vocal; “Fire Baby, I’m on Fire” by Andy Kim, in which the guy who had asked you to rock him gently only a few months before now wants to burn you down like General Sherman; and “The Need to Be” by Jim Weatherly, in which a man of the Me Decade disappears up his own external orifice. But the show catches fire in the second hour with some quintessentially 70s radio songs and just keeps rolling right to the end. They’re on the flip.
It’s December of 1964 and the Beatles are back.
A month earlier, the Beatles had gone missing from the Billboard Hot 100 and from the chart at WOKY in Milwaukee. But in late November, their new single, “I Feel Fine,” backed with “She’s a Woman” hit the radio, and just as Beatle hits had been doing since February, soon conquered all. They charted at WOKY on November 28, shown together at #20. The double-sided hit would pause at #7 for the week of December 5, 1964, before hitting #1 on the 12th, where it would hold for four weeks. On the Hot 100 for December 5, “I Feel Fine” charted at #21 and “She’s a Woman” at #46.
The British Invasion bubbles along in Milwaukee, although just one British hit, the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” is in the station’s Top 10 for December 5. Elsewhere, the Zombies (“She’s Not There”), the Dave Clark Five (“Any Way You Want It”), the Rolling Stones (“Time Is on My Side”) and Manfred Mann (“Sha La La”) are in or close to the Top 20. So are Julie Rogers, with the now-forgotten “The Wedding,” and crooner Matt Monro with “Walk Away.” Marianne Faithful’s version of “As Tears Go By” and Herman Hermits’ “I’m Into Something Good” make their chart debuts. On the Hot 100, Chad and Jeremy’s “Willow Weep for Me” and the Searchers’ “Love Potion #9″ are taking aim at the Top 20. Sandie Shaw, the Animals, and Gerry & the Pacemakers are farther down, along with Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” making its Hot 100 debut at #80.
Elsewhere, the Hot 100 is crowded with future classics: “Come See About Me” (which is #1 for the week of December 5), “Baby Love,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” plus lesser hits by the Marvelettes, the Four Tops, and the Miracles. “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las is on its way out; the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” is on its way up.
And aside from all that, there are these five records from the WOKY chart:
(Pictured: you know who. Don’t worry; this post isn’t really about them.)
Here’s an excerpt from something I wrote for Popdose back in 2008:
In “My Son, the Feminist,” the December 11, 1970, episode of The Partridge Family, Keith’s girlfriend wants the band to perform at her women’s lib rally. The family is skeptical, but when a group of hostile, anti-lib parents threatens to run them out of town, Mother Partridge says “screw you” [loose translation] and the family decides to perform. The appearance nearly doesn’t come off when the hostile parents storm the psychedelic tour bus, and Keith’s girlfriend announces that the band has to sing “women’s liberation songs”—grim, unshaven-armpit agit-prop [loose translation]—but after threatening to quit, a rebellious Keith says goddammit [loose translation], the show must go on, and the family kicks into a song the girlfriend considers exploitative and demeaning to women: “I Think I Love You.” Lo, its powerful bubblegummy mojo wins over the girlfriend, the hostile parents, the school principal, and even Mr. Kincaid, and they all live happily until the next week’s episode. As well they might have: On the night “My Son, the Feminist” aired on ABC, “I Think I Love You” had already spent three weeks at Number One.
“I Think I Love You” first hit #1 44 years ago today, a number that leaves me woozy after contemplating how damn long ago that really is. The songs from the fall of 1970 and what they mean in my life has been chronicled here often, perhaps past the point at which you’re willing to read any more about them. So instead of getting all moony and stupid about “I’ll Be There” and “Tears of a Clown” and “Gypsy Woman” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Share the Land” again, here are five other songs from deep in the Hot 100 on that long-distant date.
(Pictured: Johnny Cash at the Newport Folk Festival in the summer of 1964.)
Fifty years ago this week, the Beatles continued their absence from the weekly music survey at WOKY in Milwaukee. We noted the beginning of this absence in our last monthly check of the charts; the Fabs had been off since last appearing during the week of September 26th. The drought would continue for eight weeks in all, until the week of November 28, when “I Feel Fine” and “She’s a Woman” hit in Milwaukee. The Beatles were similarly absent from the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of November 7, 1964, unless you count the Chipmunks’ version of “All My Loving” that was bubbling way under at #134. “Matchbox” had spent its last week on the Hot 100 during the week of October 24th; the chart of October 31 was the first without a Beatles song since January 11, the week before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” debuted. Their Hot 100 absence would continue for another month.
The top of the WOKY chart dated November 7, 1964, is resolutely American (with Jay and the Americans at #1): a British act doesn’t appear until “Have I the Right” by the Honeycombs at #7. “Time Is on My Side” by the Rolling Stones is new in the top 10, and “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks moves up to #14. “She’s Not There” (#17) and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” (#21) are still around, as are lesser hits by the Dave Clark Five, the Animals, and Peter and Gordon. On the Hot 100, the Nashville Teens (“Tobacco Road”) and Gerry and the Pacemakers (“I Like It”) hold in the Top 40, while Herman’s Hermits (“I’m Into Something Good”) sit at #41.
Here are five other records on WOKY 50 years ago this week that are worthy of note for one reason or another:
(Pictured: the first pop-culture obsession of mine that I can remember was Batman. At Halloween 1966, there was no way I have gone as anything else.)
On Tumblr, user instereo007 has been posting remarkably evocative vintage Halloween pictures for a couple of weeks now. Many of them include the sort of costumes kids wore from the 60s into the 80s, those Ben Cooper things you could buy for three bucks featuring every pop culture character imaginable. (At Halloween in 1966, I wore a Ben Cooper Batman costume, and my brother, then four years old, went as an astronaut. Somewhere, there’s a home movie of us in those getups.) Lots of stories this week are noting how expensive Halloween costumes can be today—turn your kid into a character from Frozen for just $85—and although you get a more sophisticated look, it’s doubtful whether the wearer gets more pleasure than we did nearly 50 (!) years ago.
Because we grew up on a farm, Halloween was not quite the big deal it was for our friends who lived in town. Our costumes were mainly for the school Halloween party; our trick-or-treating was generally limited to our grandparents’ house on the other end of the farm. If we were feeling especially brave, we would occasionally visit our neighbors down the road—my mother knew they had a passel of nieces and nephews who lived nearby, so a couple more trick-or-treaters wouldn’t strain their candy budget. But the idea of going into town to trick-or-treat with our friends was never broached, and may never have occurred to us.
To bring this discussion back to the ostensible topic of this blog, and since I’ve already mentioned 1966, here are five songs from the WLS Hit Parade dated October 28, 1966:
(Pictured: For two centuries, southern Illinois has sometimes been referred to as “Egypt.” To find out what that has to do with anything, read on.)
Fifty years ago, Martha and the Vandellas released “Dancing in the Street.” It first charted in August 1964 and reached #2 on the Hot 100 for the week of October 17, tucked in behind “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann. But it was #1 in many places, according to ARSA: New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Washington among them. It was widely recognized at the time as an emblem of the new consciousness of young people, especially young African Americans. Today’s it’s considered one of the pivotal recordings of the 60s, and is the subject of a pretty good new book.
But as we continue our monthly look back at 1964 as it was heard on WOKY in Milwaukee, we find that “Dancing in the Street” did not make #1 there. Neither did it reach #2. “Dancing in the Street” never appears on a WOKY chart, not even for a week. I’d love to know why.
Also not appearing on the WOKY survey, at least for the week of October 10, 1964: the Beatles. It’s the second Fab-free week in a row; “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” appeared on the September 26 survey but were gone on October 3. Such a thing isn’t unprecedented: the Beatles were absent from the WOKY surveys dated June 27 and July 4 as well—the first weeks without the Beatles since “I Want to Hold Your Hand” debuted on the survey January 11. The Billboard Hot 100, always a bit behind the street, shows “Matchbox” at #18 and “Slow Down” at #25 for the week of October 10. “A Hard Day’s Night,” which departed the WOKY survey after the week of September 19, falls to #50 from #24. But that’s all for the Beatles, unless you count George Martin and His Orchestra with “I Should Have Known Better,” from the American soundtrack of A Hard Day’s Night, which is bubbling under at #111.
The British Invasion continues, however. At WOKY, Manfred Mann, Chad & Jeremy (“A Summer Song”), and the Honeycombs (“Have I the Right”) are all in the Top 10; the Nashville Teens (“Tobacco Road”), Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, the Dave Clark Five, and Peter & Gordon are farther down the survey. On the Hot 100, “House of the Rising Sun” is still in the Top 20, and Gerry & the Pacemakers (“I Like It”) are at #41. “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks moves from #81 to #60, and the Zombies are at #101 with “She’s Not There.” Herman’s Hermits and Cilla Black are bubbling under, too.
Since July, the WOKY survey has been topped by a series of timeless classics: “Memphis,” “Rag Doll,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” “House of the Rising Sun,” and “Oh Pretty Woman.” But during the entire month of October, the #1 song in Milwaukee was not quite so titanic: “Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers. Only “I Want to Hold Your Hand” stayed longer at #1 to this point in 1964 (five weeks) and only the double whammy of the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” and “She’s a Woman” would equal its four weeks, later in the year.
All of this is introductory to what we really want to talk about: five other records on the WOKY survey that tell us something interesting 50 years later.