Top 5: Fascinating Things

I lived in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois for a long time—and for Quad Citizens of a certain age, certain sets of call letters call back a whole host of memories. From the mid 50s to the early 80s, KSTT, licensed to Davenport, Iowa, and its great competitor, WQUA, licensed to Moline, Illinois, went nose-to-nose in the sort of epic radio duke-out you just don’t get anymore.

In the early 70s, KSTT’s playlists were pretty adventuresome. The one dated January 14, 1972, contains the mega-hits of the day ranked from 1 to 11 (with “American Pie” at the top), but further down, the playlist goes in alphabetical order, and in that list, we find some, well, fascinating things.

“Fascinating Things”/Gary Wright. Wright, as yet four years away from The Dream Weaver, had come out of Spooky Tooth in 1971; on his second solo album, Footprint, he’s joined by a guitarist who called himself George O’Hara. Just returning the favor, as Wright had appeared on O’Hara’s 1970 album All Things Must Pass. “Fascinating Things” is a great rock record that deserved a better hearing. And if you are still puzzling over the identity of George O’Hara, you’re reading the wrong blog.

“Brian’s Song”/Michel Legrand. It’s been largely forgotten, I think, just how big a deal the TV movie Brian’s Song was. Broadcast on November 30, 1971, it’s the story of Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer in 1970 at age 26, and his friendship with teammate Gale Sayers. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams starred in the film, which any sports-crazed 11-year-old boy was going to watch—and then debate with other sports-crazed 11-year-old boys on the morning after whether it was OK for sports-crazed 11-year-old boys to cry while watching the movie. The official title of the theme is “The Hands of Time,” and it’s surprisingly evocative of the film, even though I haven’t seen it since that night in 1971.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll”/Detroit. Shown on the KSTT survey as “Rock ‘n’ Rock,” it’s actually “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” by some guys who knew how. Detroit was yet another hard-rockin’ Michigan band, featuring Mitch Ryder and John Badjanek of the Detroit Wheels. Their album was produced by Bob Ezrin, who would go on to greater things with Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, and the Kings.

“Take It Slow (Out in the Country)”/Lighthouse. Lots of people know the Lighthouse song “One Fine Morning.” At this blog, we pride ourselves on digging “Sunny Days” and “Pretty Lady,” too—although I missed “Take It Slow” in early ’72, mainly because if WLS didn’t play it, I didn’t hear it.

“To Claudia on Thursday”/Denny Doherty. Billed to Doherty (of the Mamas and the Papas) on the KSTT survey, this is a track from California ’99 by Hollywood composer/arranger Jimmie Haskell, who assembled a concept album about a young man who must find love in a dystopian future America. Some of the song choices are odd: The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” sung by bluesman Jimmy Witherspoon and “Underture” from Tommy. The album also features a nearly unrecognizable Joe Walsh singing on a couple of tracks, and it was produced by future Eagles producer Bill Szymczyk. Our friend Larry Grogan wrote about the album last year over at Iron Leg.

On the flip, mp3s and football picks for the weekend.

I got two right and two wrong last weekend. Like everybody in the world outside of the Pacific Northwest, I picked New Orleans over Seattle. I also picked the Colts over the Jets, but in my defense, I was four seconds away from being right.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh. Amazing fact: in the last 17 games between these teams, each has scored the same number of points against the other. Tells you all you need to know. Steelers 13, Ravens 12.

Green Bay at Atlanta. The earlier meeting between these two teams was decided on a kick at the end after a bad Packers penalty, so I have no fear of playing down there. I worry about stopping the Falcons offense, though. Packers 42, Falcons 35.

Seattle at Chicago. I would like to pick the Seahawks here because the Bears don’t impress me, but I can’t do it. Bears 26, Seahawks 17.

New York Jets at New England. I have no faith in the Jets’ ability to walk a walk that matches the talk they talk. I didn’t last week either, but that was the Colts, and these are the Patriots. Patriots 24, Jets 20.

I expect that Packers/Bears animosity will make Wisconsin and Illinois crumble into Lake Michigan if the two teams meet for the NFC championship, but bring it on.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll”/Detroit (out of print)
“To Claudia on Thursday”/Denny Doherty (features a wee bit of the album’s narration at the end of the track; out of print)

4 responses

  1. Great stuff.

    (And I’m not sure why the mention of Bob Ezrin producing the Kings made me smile.)

  2. Funny you should mention “Pretty Lady,” as it’s playing on CKOC as I type this. “Take It Slow (Out In The Country)” has one of the best lines ever: “Sittin’ here doing nothin’ keeps me busy all day.” Ahh, to be young again…

    I’ll take any of Gary Wright’s A&M singles over the Warner ones any day. As much as I liked “Fascinating Things,” it’s the flip side – “Love To Survive” – that is one of my perpetual earworms.

    KSTT aimed most of its 1,000-watt nighttime signal straight up the Mississippi River valley, so it was audible in the Twin Cities. But it wasn’t quite strong enough to consistently stand out on the 1170 frequency.

  3. Love “Fascinating Things,” and I gotta thank you for tipping me off to the album, if I can find it. I checked the credits and among the players are sax guy Bobby Keys and trumpeter Jim Price, two guys whose stuff I grab whenever I can. King Curtis also takes a sax solo on the album, which is a bonus. (It must have been one of Curtis’ last sessions, too, as he died in August 1971, before the album was released.)

  4. First Brian Piccolo then Doug Flutie? Who was the Bears’ mascot, Ian Anderson?

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