Tag Archives: the Robbs

Top 5: Gimme an A

Several years ago, I attended a lecture by a prominent critic whose gig was decrying the commercialism of education. One example he cited was a promotion by a restaurant that would give a student a free dessert for every A on the kid’s report card. He seemed to think this was, in the middle of the 1990s, a new innovation—but it wasn’t. At the end of the school year 44 years ago, at WCFL in Chicago, night jock Barney Pip invited his young listeners to send in test papers on which they’d received A’s or B’s. Papers with A’s were eligible to win albums in a drawing; papers with B’s were eligible to win singles. One grand prize winner would receive a Honda—which would have been a motorcycle in those days.

Some of the music the kids were listening to during the week of June 16, 1966 has endured as classic: “Paint It Black,” “Paperback Writer,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Some of it has faded into the mists of history. Our task here is to dispel some of the fog.

14. “You Wouldn’t Listen to Me”/Ides of March (debut). This was the first single for the Chicago band that would later score more famous hits with “Vehicle” and “L.A. Goodbye,” but it doesn’t sound much like either one of them, or anything else the Ides would do. But as an example of garage pop circa 1966, you can scarcely do better.

15. “Oh Yeah”/Shadows of Knight (up from 17). From the garages of Mount Prospect, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, the Shadows of Knight had launched their version of “Gloria” earlier in 1966. “Oh Yeah,” which bears a completely understandable resemblance, was the followup, but it wasn’t long afterward before the band began to splinter. By early 1967, only one original member was left.

16. “Day of Decision”/Johnny Sea (up from 19). The Wikipedia entry for Johnny Sea is one of the more interesting Wiki pages I’ve ever come across. It features copious parenthetical corrections by somebody claiming to be Johnny Sea himself. One of the corrections is that Sea had never heard Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” before he wrote the spoken-word “Day of Decision.” Perhaps. It doesn’t address McGuire’s contentions directly, preferring instead to drown dissenters in a wave of timeless patriotic glurge. (Lyrics here.)

New: “The Pied Piper”/Crispian St. Peters. One of the underrated earworms of the 1960s, “The Pied Piper” became an international smash that kept St. Peters (given name Robin Peter Smith) singing professionally and writing songs, over 300 in all, for 30 years before a stroke in 1995. St. Peters died last week at age 71.

(Digression: Is there a more perfect trio of happy summer songs than “The Pied Piper” and two other songs from this survey’s “Sound 10 Stairway” section, “Oh How Happy” by the Shades of Blue (another Midwest act, from suburban Detroit) and “Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle? With all those earworms playing in your head all the time, you’d scarcely need a radio.)

New: “Race With the Wind”/The Robbs. Another act semi-local to the Chicago area, the Robbs were from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, a little bit west of Milwaukee. They were a group of cousins, and according to their Wikipedia entry, they hit the Bubbling Under chart without crossing into the Hot 100 more often than any other act in chart history, which should probably make them the patron saints of this blog. If the perfect pop record that is “Race With the Wind” didn’t make it, nothing of theirs was going to.

In June 1966, I had just finished Miss Morgan’s kindergarten class. I would teach myself to read that summer, and I was looking forward to the arrival of a new sibling in the fall. In my life, change was already constant, but how would I have known?

Recommended: Many of the most influential radio stations in my life were from Chicago. If you were a fan of Chicago radio in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, Chicago Radio Online is worth a listen. Meanwhile, Kinky Paprika discusses the radio stations of his life, and Michele Catalano has some advice for bands touring this summer. And finally, if you’re on Twitter, you need to be following Tweets of Old.

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