Top 5: Monster Bomb Flash

July is dragging. Here in Wisconsin, it’s hot, and when it’s not hot, it’s raining. I think this is what people mean when they talk about the dog days of summer. As for me, I’m low on ideas and short on inspiration, and I’ve got the attention span of a goldfish. The other day I started skipping around the archives at ARSA and found some worthwhile nuggets of trivia to get us into the weekend. Let’s take five of them and call it a post.

WCUE, Akron, OH, July 22, 1978: At Number 28, up from 31, it’s “AM” by Steely Dan. That’s not a typo. I recall reading someplace that a few AM stations, not wanting to promote the competing band, edited in an “a” from some other Donald Fagen vocal to change “FM” to “AM.” If you know more about this, hit us up in the comments and help a brother out.

WBBM-FM, Chicago, July 21, 1973: “Monster Mash” hits Number One. Bobby “Boris” Pickett, who originally recorded the song in 1962, claimed that a radio DJ somewhere in the Midwest played the record on his show one night as an oldie and the phones went berserk. The jock suggested to a friend at a record label that “Monster Mash” was ripe for re-release, and it became not merely the Top 40 rage of the summer of 1973, but one of the decade’s quintessentially weird musical moments. You could understand “Monster Mash” becoming a Top-Ten hit once more if it were in October. But for an obvious Halloween hit to strike in July is just odd.

WRIT, Milwaukee, July 24, 1959: But not unprecedentedly odd. Debuting at Number 34 on this chart (three weeks before it first bubbled under in Billboard) is “The Mummy” by Bob McFadden and Dor. McFadden was a voiceover artist, later to become famous for providing the voice of Milton the Monster on the mid-60s kids’ show, and the voice of Franken Berry in cereal commercials. Dor was future doggerel poet Rod McKuen. According to Wikipedia, McKuen claimed that Bill Haley and the Comets were the band backing him and McFadden on “The Mummy,” but “this has not been confirmed.” I’m guessing it’s not Haley and the Comets on “The Mummy.” They would have been a well-known commodity in 1959, albeit a few years removed from their greatest success. If they’d appeared on “The Mummy,” they likely wouldn’t have done so anonymously. A Comet or two, maybe, but not all of ’em.

B97, New Orleans, July 22, 1980: “Bomb Iran” by Vince Vance and the Valiants moves to Number 5 from Number 10. Vance and the Valiants were a popular New Orleans party band, and they claim that “Bomb Iran” was the most requested song in the country during the summer of 1980. It’s a dashed-off parody of “Barbara Ann” that’s not especially funny, although its popularity during that frustrated, hostage-crisis summer was understandable. The group’s website also calls it a “number-one hit,” which it might have been in a market or two, although this is the song’s only appearance at ARSA. It bubbled under the Hot 100, spending three straight weeks at Number 101 in November 1980.

WRKO, Boston, July 20, 1979: “Hey St. Peter” by Flash and the Pan moves to Number 14 from Number 17, becoming a modest hit in the States two years after its first appearance in Australia. I got an e-mail the other day from longtime reader Miles, who wrote of landing one of the singles on his “most wanted” list recently, and what a rush it is to snare what he calls “a long-lost tune from your past.” Indeed it is, and it’s what I felt when I landed a copy of “Hey St. Peter” a few years back after going nearly 25 years without hearing it.

How about it, crate-diggers and music obsessives? In the comments, tell us about a favorite find of yours.

7 responses

  1. Steely Dan biographer Brian Sweet claims that AM radio stations clipped the “A” from the title track to “Aja” and edited it into “FM.”
    (You know: “Aaaaaaa-ja, when all my dime dancin’ is through …”)

    I’m not sure Sweet is a 100 percent unimpeachable source, but there you go.

  2. “AM” was played a lot in the summer of 78 at then WIRK-AM West Palm Beach (I was down the hall doing 7-midnight on country WIRK-FM). The jocks could choose between the edit or “FM” and the one and only “Famous Amos” preferred “AM.” I don’t recall what Alan Funn (“Funn in the afternoon”) or “Scott Free” liked.

  3. When my brother and I went to the local record store to buy “The Mummy”, they first played us a cover version by Bubi and Bob, which we hadn’t heard and didn’t like. We happily went home with the familiar Bob McFadden & Dor 45, and the thought never occurred to us that it wasn’t Halloween yet. Those technicalities never matter when you’re a kid.

    Here’s an internet version of crate-digging: I heard a song during a 1967 made-for-TV movie that grabbed my ear, and carefully eyed the credits to see what it was: ‘”Everybody Knows My Name” by The Doughboys on Bell Records.’ Neither the local radio stations nor record stores showed any interest. I came up with a catalog number in 1981 – Bell 678 – but still no record.

    Flash forward to the Napster era: A New York ex-DJ/collector was elated to find that I’d posted an obscure favorite of his from the early rock WOR-FM days, and I mentioned “Everybody Knows My Name” when he asked if there was anything I was looking for. He didn’t know the record, but said he’d check “the Bell box” when he next visited his “babies” that were in storage. When the message came that he had it ready to go, I couldn’t download it fast enough. After it finished, I just sat in front of the monitor to savor the moment, then tried my best to recall anything beyond the hook I’d remembered from that sole exposure from more than thirty-three years earlier. No luck.

    I then hit “play,” and what I heard sounded surprisingly familiar; even better than I’d imagined it would. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was the wave of emotion that swept through me as I was reintroduced to a long lost friend. I’ve since acquired my own copy of the 45, which, as it turned out, was a cover of a 1966 Four Seasons LP track. The Doughboys re-formed a couple of years ago and their new stuff sounds great on Little Steven’s Underground Garage. I never have found the name of that 1967 TV movie, though.

  4. Mr. Shure, sir:
    I don’t know how eager you are to find out the name of that movie … but have you tried asking the Doughboys directly? Perhaps one of them remembers.
    There are e-mail addresses in the Contact section of their Web site: http://www.thedoughboysnj.com/.
    Seems worth a try.

  5. @Kinky: I’d thought about doing that, and maybe still will. But the movie itself wasn’t at all memorable.

    I was surprised to learn several years back that Richard X. Heyman had been in the Doughboys. His 1991 ‘Hey Man!’ CD became an instant fave after I heard “Falling Away” on local radio.

  6. I have two that I re-discovered via air-checks. A friend gave me an old WLS tape that was scooped (no songs just the jocks) so I just had the intro and outro to go on. I wracked my brain using pre-internet sources and discovered it to be “That’s Where I Went Wrong,” by the Poppy Family, a great atmospheric record and follow up to “Which Way You Goin,’ Billy.” I instantly remembered it from my youth.

    At a thrift store I recently found a US Army V-Disc from 1970. These were airchecks that were pressed on vinyl and sent to the soldiers to give them a bit of home, overseas. The Real Don Steele is the jock on this and he mumbles the title and plays a song that I instantly recall from my earliest days of AM radio listening (1969). It sounded like “she’s got love” could be part of the title and sure enough with the help of the internet and my recently purchased Whitburn Pop Annual the tune indeed was “She’s Got Love” by Thomas and Richard Frost. It peaked at 83 in 1969 but surely must have gotten play on WLS or other local stations.

    And I second the thumbs up for “Hey Man!” If I recall Richard X. Heyman plays every instrument on the record.

  7. JB, I can get you a copy of the Steely Dan “AM” edit if you want one. A friend of mine from my 1000 watt AM days at WOHN, Herndon, Virginia has a dub of the version we used to play that summer.

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