Author Archive: jb

I’ve Got a Feeling

Here’s a pretty fabulous survey from R&B station KGFJ in Los Angeles dated May 24, 1976. It includes many songs that had been, were, or would become major pop hits that year: “Love Hangover,” “Disco Lady,” “Get Up and Boogie,” “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker,” “Misty Blue,” “Livin’ for the Weekend,” “I’ll Be Good to You.” Many familiar groups are listed with less-familiar hits that didn’t become pop-radio blockbusters. And there are plenty of oddballs to note, which is how we roll around here.

8. “Traveling Man”/Masqueraders. Formed in Texas around the turn of the 1960s, this group toured briefly as the New Drifters, although none of their members seem to have had any connection to the original Drifters. In 1965, they moved to Detroit with the promise of an audition at Motown, but were stranded there after the label passed on them. They walked across town and knocked on the door of La Beat Records, run by a guy named Lou Beatty, who gave them a place to sleep and eventually bankrolled several singles. Later, they moved on to Memphis, working with Chips Moman and Tommy Cogbill, finally signing with Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul label. “Traveling Man”—correct full title “(Call Me) The Traveling Man”—was so big in Philadelphia that Kenny Gamble approached the group about signing with him. They remained loyal to Hayes, however—not knowing that Hot Buttered Soul was about to go bankrupt. (Did not make Hot 100; bubbled under at #101.)

21. “Let’s Make a Baby”/Billy Paul. At the crossroads of idealistic hopefulness and the physical need to get down, there’s this. No way they weren’t getting the line “be fruitful and multiply” in there. (Hot 100 peak: #83.)

24. “Love Hangover”/Fifth Dimension. The story goes that when Berry Gordy got wind of the Fifth Dimension’s plan to release “Love Hangover,” he rushed out a version that Diana Ross had cut—which she did not like. Both charted the very same week, but Diana rose to #1 while the Fifth Dimension lasted but four weeks on the Hot 100, even though the two records sound almost exactly alike. “Love Hangover” turned out to be the last of the Fifth Dimension’s 30 Hot 100 hits. (Hot 100 peak: #80.)

27. “I’ve Got a Feeling”/Al Wilson. Everybody who reads this blog can think of at least a dozen singles—or a hundred—that deserved to be huge but were not. “I’ve Got a Feeling (We’ll Be Seeing Each Other Again)” is one from my list. Wilson had hit #1 with “Show and Tell” a couple of years earlier, a record that’s damn near perfect. I suppose “I’ve Got a Feeling” was a little too much like “Show and Tell,” but other singers have copied themselves and repeated their previous successes. So I dunno. (Hot 100 peak: #29, which is not bad but still.)

40. “Spanish Hustle”/Fatback Band. The story of how I learned to do the Hustle in physical education class sometime in 1975 or 1976 is part of my personal mythology. I can’t remember much other than the fact of it, or my general embarrassment at having to do something that required physical grace, and in the presence of the opposite sex yet. I seem to recall that we learned to do a step called the Spanish Hustle, but how it differs from the plain old Hustle, I don’t remember. I’m pretty sure, however, that we did it to this. (Did not make Hot 100; bubbled under at #101.)

KGFJ occupies a unique place in the history of radio. It was apparently the first radio station in the United States to broadcast 24 hours a day, beginning in 1927. Although some stations had done occasional all-night broadcasts as early as 1922, KGFJ was the first to do it full-time. During its soul music heyday, its jock lineup included Hunter Hancock, the Magnificent Montague, and Frankie Crocker. It changed call letters a couple of times over the years; today it’s a Korean language station called KYPA.

The Girl in the Control Booth

Here’s another walk through an old Billboard magazine, found at American Radio History and dated May 10, 1975. As before, these are random thoughts as I page through.

Page 1: “U.S. Courts Refuse Dupers’ Pitch: Can’t Copy Pre-1972 Masters, Judges Say.” Two companies were claiming the legal right to market tapes of records made before February 15, 1972. I confess that the ins and outs of the decision as described in the article are a little hazy to me—but the February 15, 1972, date remains significant 40 years later. Sirius/XM and Pandora are involved in legal disputes over whether they should be obligated to pay royalties for playing records made before that date. Also on page 1 is a story about Ampex deciding to get out of the business of pre-recorded tapes. By this, they mean they will stop doing duplications for major labels including London and Brunswick.

Page 3: A company called 2001 Clubs of America intends to franchise “a totally computerized ‘turnkey’ discotheque concept.” The company operates two locations itself, in Pittsburgh and Columbus. Everything is controlled by computer, from air conditioning to music to drink sales. “A professional deejay is not needed,” a spokesman says, “but a girl in the control booth takes requests and puts on the pre-programmed tapes and records.”

Page 4: “A Dead Apple in London: Label’s Staff Gets Pared.” The lede: “Apple Records, for all intents and purposes, has closed down.”

Page 7: There’s a full-page ad for Dyn-o-Mite, the album by TV star Jimmie Walker, on the Buddah label.

Page 8: Alabama Custom Tape, located in Florence, Alabama, was recently raided by the FBI. The company and its owner, Autry Inman (who has made an appearance at this blog before) are being sued for copyright infringement.

Page 20: The Vox Jox column pays tribute to Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue, often credited with inventing progressive FM radio at KMPX in San Francisco. He died of a heart attack on April 28th at age 46.

Page 21: The Great American Birthday Party is “the complete bicentennial celebration package from Dick Orkin, producer of Chickenman and the Tooth Fairy.” It’s a package of “wild and zany features, heartwarming and inspiring dramas, kookie contests, powerful promos, memorable music and jingles and 76 daffy DJ inserts. They’re all packaged into very salable lengths of less than two minutes each.” I’d love to hear some of it, but there’s precious little about it on the Internets other than this ad.

Page 31: We find three different articles about companies getting into home video. Sony’s Betamax unit appears poised to be the market leader, although you’d need a big living room to accommodate it, and up to $2,000 to buy one.

Page 52: “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” by Tony Orlando and Dawn holds at #1 for a second week, tucked in ahead of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” by Freddy Fender. There’s one new entry in the Top 10, “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” by Paul Anka at #10. “Old Days” by Chicago is new in the Top 40, all the way up at #17. (Apart from “Old Days,” the mightiest leap within the Top 40 is made by Linda Ronstadt, whose “When Will I Be Loved” vaults from #33 to #20.) Only two other songs debut within the 40: “Magic” by Pilot at #36 and “Get Down Get Down” by Joe Simon, the current #1 on the soul chart, at #39. The highest-debuting song on the Hot 100 is “Attitude Dancing” by Carly Simon at #71.

Page 54: On the album chart, Chicago VIII is #1 again this week. Only two albums in the Top 10 have a bullet: That’s the Way of the World by Earth Wind and Fire (moving from #3 to #2) and Bad Company’s Straight Shooter (moving from #12 to #8). The highest-debuting new album is Elvin Bishop’s Juke Joint Jump at #115. The album chart lists 200; Carole King’s Tapestry is in the anchor position, down from #198 the week before, in its 214th week on.

Apple Trees and Honeybees

(Spoilers for the Mad Men series finale are below, but if you’ve been online more than 30 seconds today, you already know how it ended.)

Mad Men ended last night with the fabled Coca-Cola commercial featuring “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” I don’t know whether Don Draper took his Esalen experience back to New York and turned it into one of the most iconic ads of all time. The more I ponder it, however, the more I think that’s probably what the show means to suggest. Which is a cynical way to end the show—that for all the emotional pain Don felt in the final episode and those leading up to it, he ended up using it to sell something to people—but one in keeping with Mad Men‘s recurring theme that true change is impossible.

So let’s talk about “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.”

Adman Bill Backer of McCann Erickson hatched the idea on a weather-enforced layover at an airport in Ireland, then songwriters Roger Cook and Billy Davis blended the idea with a tune Cook had written with Roger Greenaway. Davis had been on the production staff at Motown and toured with the Four Tops; Cook and Greenaway had some success as performers as the duo David and Jonathan. Cook was also a member of Blue Mink. He and Greenaway were responsible for some of the finest British bubblegum: Greenaway teamed with the great Tony Burrows in the Pipkins (“Gimme Dat Ding”) and was also in the group Brotherhood of Man for a bit. Greenaway and Cook wrote “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” recorded by White Plains, and the Fortunes’ “You’ve Got Your Troubles.” They would eventually write “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” as well.

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” first hit the radio as a single early in 1971 under the title “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” by the New Seekers. It flopped. Radio stations resisted it, for obvious reasons—a free three-minute plug for Coke? I don’t think so—and Coca Cola bottlers didn’t like it much, either. (The company was just coming off a long run of success with the slogan “Things go better with Coke.”) Backer, however, believed so strongly in the concept that he persuaded McCann to spend what turned out to be $250,000 turning the song into a TV ad. The first attempt, intended to feature dozens of schoolchildren, was shot in Europe by cinematographer Haskell Wexler, but the film turned out to be unusable. The concept was scaled down and the footage shot by an Italian company, most of it in Rome. The New Seekers’ version of the song wouldn’t sync to the film, so a new version was recorded by a group eventually called the Hillside Singers.

When the commercial hit the air in America, in July 1971, it was so popular that people called radio stations asking to hear it. By the end of the year, two versions of the song, a recut version by the New Seekers and the version from the ad by the Hillside Singers, were on the charts. The Hillside Singers’ version first appears at ARSA on a survey from WPOP in Hartford, Connecticut, dated November 3, 1971. The New Seekers’ version first shows up at WIXY in Cleveland the next week, and hits the Top 10 there the week after that (and #1 a couple of weeks later). The Hillside Singers’ version made the Hot 100 first, on November 27, with the Seekers charting a week later. For the weeks of January 15 and January 22, 1972, the Seekers’ version held at #7 and the Hillside Singers’ version at #13 on the Hot 100. The Seekers’ version shows up on 255 charts at ARSA, compared to 185 for the Hillside Singers. It was by any measure a monster hit, although the Seekers had the better of it. But “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” didn’t stay on radio station playlists very long. Both versions were gone from the Hot 100 dated February 19, 1972, and I don’t recall hearing it much after that.

“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” wasn’t the first time popular culture was used to sell us something—and not just a thing, but in true Don Draper fashion, an emotion. But it resonated with us like few other ads in history, and in that regard paved the way for the constant remixing of art and advertising we’ve lived with ever since.

For much that’s more interesting on the music used in seven seasons of Mad Men, click here.

One Day in Your Life: May 17, 1973


(Pictured: Tony Orlando and Dawn. It was this or Nixon.)

Here’s a post from 2005 I found while digging in the archives of my first blog, The Daily Aneurysm. It’s been edited a bit. 

On May 17, 1973, the Senate Watergate hearings began. I was in seventh grade that spring, already a news junkie, so if anybody in my school besides the teachers knew about Watergate, it was me. Our social studies teachers, Miss Alt and Miss Odell, made us watch the hearings in class. I am not sure how many students really understood what they meant—and I don’t remember how much I understood about the hearings, either. But I knew major news events when I saw them, so I was interested.

No matter what’s on the front page, above the fold, like the Watergate hearings, life goes on in countless other ways, with events that leave lighter footprints on time. . . .

Continue reading →

Write, Don’t Call

If you’re on Facebook, chances are you belong to one of those “You know you’re from insert-your-town-name-here” groups, in which people share local memories and history. The other day, somebody on the Madison group mentioned the Pyare Square building, a round, 14-story building that contained state offices when it opened in 1969. It had various other tenants through the years, although it’s been mostly vacant since 2005, and it’s reportedly got a date with the wrecking ball in the near future.

One of the tenants that briefly occupied Pyare Square was a radio station, the call letters of which escape me now. Sometime in 1993, that station, which was a Mom-and-Pop operation licensed to one of the outlying towns, put on an all-70s format. In 1994, I was looking for a job, and while my preference was to get out of radio, I was willing to make an exception for an all-70s format in Madison. And so I embarked on a campaign to get them to hire me.

At this distance, I do not remember how I managed to get the station’s general manager to meet me in person. I expect that I called him up and bothered him repeatedly, even after he told me he wasn’t hiring anybody at the moment, until he decided talking to me was the best way to get rid of me. So I drove up to Madison, got a perfunctory tour and an even more perfunctory interview, and was sent on my way.

I was not done trying to get hired, however. I had just gotten a seasonal job that required me to travel. That spring, I went all over the Midwest, from Ohio and Michigan to Minnesota and North Dakota. And at every stop, I bought a cheesy local postcard and sent it to the general manager: “Hi, just checking in from Cincinnati [to name one of my stops]. Will be off the road in a couple of weeks and ready to come work for you.” I kept up a steady stream of postcards from across the Midwest for at least a month.

This story would be better if the general manager had responded to any of my cards, or if I’d gotten the job, but he didn’t, and I didn’t.

There’s evidence from my past to suggest that he still could call me. In 1983, I tried to get Magic 98 to hire me for its first staff, and after I followed up with the general manager several times, he finally told me, “I’ll call you in two weeks.” But he didn’t, and I wasn’t hired at Magic until 25 years later. So I wouldn’t give up hope on the all-70s station until 2019 . . . were it not for the fact that, blown on the winds of mid-90s format fashion, the place changed to something else only a few months after I gave up my courtship.

There’s a reason why radio help-wanted listings always specify “no calls.” But they don’t specify “no postcards,” do they?

(The posting schedule around here, as far as I have one, is weird this week. The next new post will be on Sunday.)

Too Many Needles

My Internet friend Gary pointed me to something fabulous recently: American Radio History, which has been collecting and digitizing various radio-related magazines for several years, has recently put up its Billboard collection. Approximately 90 percent of the entire run of the magazine from 1942 through 2009 is available. This is a vast improvement over what’s been available at Google Books for a few years, and I expect we’ll dip into it quite often around here.

I do not mean for this blog to be all-50-years-ago all-the-time, but I decided that a good place to start with the Billboard archive was with the edition dated May 9, 1965. What follows are some observations as I page through.

Page 3: The brief review of the recent TV special My Name is Barbra, starring Barbra Streisand, is headlined “A New TV Star Is Born.” Yes indeed.

Page 8: Record dealers complain that a lack of standardization is hurting their business. A Washington, D.C., store owner complains, “I have to stock 150 types of needles just for the record players I sell. Can you imagine how a housewife would fuss if she had to buy that many different types of lightbulbs?”

Page 10: KHJ in Los Angeles has previewed its new format, to be known as “Boss Radio,” which will launch officially on May 3. (The issue date of Billboard was a bit ahead of the calendar. This means, of course, that if I say such-and-such a song was #1 in Billboard on such-and-such a date, it’s the date on the magazine’s cover and not the date the magazine came out or the date on which the Hot 100 was compiled, a fact that could lead me into a full-blown existential crisis if I let it, so la la la la na na na na not listening.)

Page 14: Brian Epstein estimates the Beatles will make a million dollars on their upcoming American tour, their second. The article says Epstein booked the band for two nights at the Hollywood Bowl instead of a single night at the Rose Bowl, which could have attracted 100,000 fans.

Page 22: “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits tops the Hot 100 for a second week. The highest-debuting new song on the Hot 100 is “Last Chance to Turn Around” by Gene Pitney at #73. (The song is known by many as “Last Exit to Brooklyn,” but that’s not its official title.) An additional 35 songs are shown on the Bubbling Under chart. They include “Gloria” by Them (#113), “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds (#114), and “For Your Love” by the Yardbirds (#116).

Page 24: The Mary Poppins soundtrack tops the album chart again. Soundtracks from The Sound of Music, Goldfinger, and My Fair Lady are also in the Top 10. The original Broadway cast album from My Fair Lady is at #36 in its 444th week on the album chart. (Not a typo.) Also ranking high are the original cast album from Fiddler on the Roof (#15) and the Elvis album Girl Happy, from his current movie (#25). The chart lists 150 albums in all. At #150, in its first week on, is Come Share My Life by Glenn Yarbrough.

Page 32: The Hot Country Singles chart contains a couple of future classics: “King of the Road” by Roger Miller at #3 and “I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail” by Buck Owens at #11.

Page 34: An article about radio in Denver notes that station KIMN has an “ultramodern, all-electronic newsroom which enables one man on duty to handle the work of several.” That said, however, the station also has five news vehicles equipped with two-way radios.

Page 37: The singles reviews section notes a new record by the Four Tops, “a spirited, fast-paced wailer performed in their unique style.” It’s called “I Can’t Help Myself.”

Tune in for future installments of this. It could happen.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 617 other followers

%d bloggers like this: