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BIG Jay's BIG Week In Pop Music History

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The Week of April 12th


The '60s



Big Jay’s Big Week in 1967

THE BIG SINGLES 

For the week ending on Saturday, April 15, 1967

Hot 100 Singles chart: 

This was the first of an eventual four weeks at the height of the Hot 100 Singles chart for Nancy Sinatra & Frank Sinatra with their duet, the 2:36 gem, “Somethin’ Stupid” on Frank’s label Reprise Records. Many people thought this was a new song. It wasn’t. A folk singer named C. Carson Parks (the brother of songwriter Van Dyke Parks) wrote and recorded the song with his then singing partner Gaile Foote as a demo. Kapp Records liked what they heard and released “Something Stupid” (note the word “Something” and not “Somethin’”) as a single by the act Carson And Gaile. It bombed when released in 1966. Frank Sinatra became aware of the song from his daughter and her producer Lee Hazelwood. Ol’ Blue Eyes suggested that he and his daughter should sing it together quickly. Word has it, Lee (who had already sung duets with Nancy) actually told Frank to record it with his daughter, or HE would. The Chairman of the Board booked a studio and history was made on February 1, 1967 when “Somethin’ Stupid” was put on tape in four takes; making it the first and only father/daughter vocalized No. 1 record. It ended up being Frank and Nancy’s last chart-topper on the Hot 100 as either a solo or combined act. The song appeared on Frank’s 1967 LP, The World We Knew. The distinctive acoustic guitar on the track was performed by Al Casey, with Nancy’s producer Hazelwood and Frank’s producer at that time Jimmy Bowen sharing duties.  

 

Easy Listening Singles chart:

In addition to having a four-week run at the top of the Hot 100, Nancy & Frank Sinatra’s

 “Somethin’ Stupid” had already hit the No. 1 position with the week ending on April 1, 1967 (this was the third week on top here) and the record would continue as the Easy Listening Singles chart-leader for another six weeks; nine uninterrupted when all was said and done. Nancy & Frank’s 45 RPM release was by far the biggest Easy Listening Singles chart hit for all of ’67.

 

Top Selling R&B Singles chart:

The Top Selling R&B Singles chart had the future “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin sitting at the crowning position for the fourth of an ultimate seven weeks  with “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You)” on Atlantic Records.

 

 THE BIG ALBUMS

For the week ending on Saturday, April 15, 1967

Top LPs chart:

The Monkees had a stranglehold on the peak position on the Pop Top LPs chart again this week in ’67 with More Of The Monkees. This Colgems Records album was in its tenth of an eventual 18 consecutive weeks on this chart, spending more weeks at No. 1 than the revolutionary album due for release in a few weeks by the Beatles—Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  

 

Top Selling R&B LPs chart:

The principal R&B album in America for the second of a concluding three weeks was another Motown gem called Temptations Live! This Gordy Records set was filled with some of the groups’ hits, cover versions of other Motown copyrights, plus some standards and even a Beatles tune. The LP was recorded at the Upper Deck of the club called Roostertails in Detroit during the fall of ’66 and released on March 6, 1967. The album included a live rendition of the Temptations’ just released hit (in October ’66) “Beauty’s Only Skin Deep.”

 

Big Jay’s Featured Big Record-of-the-Week

 For the week ending on Saturday, April 15, 1967

45 RPM: “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You)”

by Aretha Franklin – Atlantic Records 45 – 2386

The right-rockin,’ good-lookin,’ good-cookin’ Lady Soul had two of the biggest R&B records of 1967. The first 45 RPM was No. 1 on the Top Selling R&B Singles chart this week (the fourth of an ultimate seven weeks) with “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You)” on Atlantic Records. Aretha Franklin’s single was the title track of her current album. That LP rose to No. 2 on the Pop Top LPs chart, with a long 14 non-consecutive week residence at the peak position on the Hot R&B LPs chart beginning in the weeks ahead, making it attain one of the longest runs at No. 1 in the R&B albums field.  

Her signature song “Respect” was also on that LP (leading off the set) and would become her first Pop No. 1 single in the coming months. But that song had to be recorded in New York, as Aretha’s then husband Ted White pulled a hissy-fit while his bride was recording what would be the B side of “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)” at the Muscle Shoals, Alabama FAME Studios; “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” Legend has it that a session musician was looking a bit too leeringly at the future Queen of Soul, and White had a fist-fight with the studio cat. That halted the session rather quickly, with Franklin and hubby departing for her home in Detroit. Franklin was nowhere to be found according to Jerry Wexler, her producer. They needed her to finish the track to be able to release the A side on vinyl which Atlantic thought to be the stronger of the two cuts in the can. This altercation forced the recording of the rest of the LP to move to the Atlantic studios here in the Big Apple. That shift was made grudgingly by Wexler, who was specifically looking for the gritty sound and ambience of the Muscle Shoals-based studio. He shifted the same musicians to New York to complete the album after White and Franklin cooled down about the incident. White later claimed the clash was racial in nature; disputed by Wexler and others in attendance.

Having gone virtually nowhere on Columbia Records for several year, this week’s No. 1 R&B song became the springboard that launched Franklin into a superstar orbit; reaching No. 9 on the Pop Hot 100 Singles chart. “I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You)” was written Ronnie Shannon, who also would write a future hit (also a No. 1 R&B smash and Top 4 Pop record) by Aretha called “Baby I Love You.” Franklin would eventually divorce Ted White after she wrote and recorded a future hit “Think” allegedly about Lady Soul’s feelings about the man.




 
 

The '70s





Big Jay’s Big Week in 1974

THE BIG SINGLES

For the week ending on Saturday, April 13, 1974

Hot 100 Singles chart:

Here’s a song that Elton John didn’t even want to BE a single plucked from the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; and still doesn’t see it as a 45 RPM release in 2014. But it gained his attention when “Bennie And The Jets” was a big single in Detroit due to R&B radio play in Detroit in late ‘73. MCA Records had originally wanted “Candles In The Wind” to be the second A side single from the double-album set, but because of the noise “Bennie And The Jets” made in the Motor City, the label had to talk Elton into putting it out as a 45. He admits now, that he needed to step back from the track and let it happen. Happen it did, as it eventually sold almost three-million copies as a single! The song reached No. 15 nationally on the Best Selling Soul Singles chart. “Bennie And The Jets” was No. 1 in the nation on the Pop Hot 100 Singles chart this week, but for just a sole seven-day period. Elton has said when he got the lyrics from his partner Bernie Taupin, he knew the music would have to be a bit left-of-center—a little funky, and a little raunchy. Recorded at the Strawberry Studios at Château d’Hérouville in France, producer Gus Dudgeon added audience applause sound effects taken from a concert at the London Royal Festival Hall during the early days of Elton’s career with added whistles and cheering. Lyricist Bernie Taupin pictured an androgynous woman fronting a proto-sci-fi/punk band for this track. I wonder what Elton thinks of that? Bernie also claims the lyrics were written as a satire on the state of the often zany music biz in the early ‘70s. The B side to “Bennie And The Jets” was the very popular song “Harmony.” MCA Records had originally wanted another track from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, “Candles In The Wind” to be the second A side single from the double-album set, but put “Bennie And The Jets” out instead. “Candles In The Wind” would have its day years later with the revamped tribute version for Princess Diana becoming the 2nd biggest-selling single in the history of recorded music. What’s the first? That honor goes to “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

 

Easy Listening Singles chart:

Helen Reddy was in the first of two back-to-back weeks in the pinnacle position of the Easy Listening Singles chart with her tune “Keep On Singing” on Capitol Records. The song was originally recorded by Austin Roberts who had hits like: “Something’s Wrong With Me,” “Rocky” and sang “Scooby-Doo—Where Are You” from that animated show’s second season. Roberts’ version of “Keep On Singing” reached only No. 50 on the Hot 100 Singles chart in 1973. Reddy took it to No. 15 on the Hot 100 the following year, but made it to the summit of the Easy Listening Singles chart. The song was notably co-written by a guy named Danny Janssen (who wrote “C’mon Get Happy” the theme song for the Partridge Family and songs for  and Bobby Hart of Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart-fame—one of the co-writers of “Last Train To Clarksville” by the Monkees. “Keep On Singing” must have been a bit of a frustration to Helen Reddy, as her two previous singles: “Delta Dawn” and “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” had both been million-selling singles. She did come back with one more million-seller with the future No. 1 Hot 100 single “Angie Baby.”    

Hot Soul Singles chart:

This was the second and final week at the helm of the Hot Soul Singles chart for veterans Gladys Knight & the Pips on Buddah Records with “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me.” The song reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 Singles listing and was a million-selling single. The tune was written by Jim Weatherly who also wrote “Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)” and “Midnight Train To Georgia”—both hits by the Gladys Knight & the Pips. Weatherly had a few hits on his own, singing the pop song “The Need To Be” (No. 11 on the Hot 100 and No. 6 on the Easy Listening Singles chart) and few minor Country hits in the ‘70s. Ray Price had a No. 1 Country version of “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” a year before Gladys and her family struck it rich with their adaptation from the album Imagination. “Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” was the fourth and final single from that album, with both “Midnight Train To Georgia” (No. 1 on the Hot 100) and “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination” (No. 4 Pop) topping the Hot Soul singles chart from the Imagination LP. The first single from the set was “Where Peaceful Waters Flow” getting to No. 6 on the Hot Soul Singles chart, and No. 28 on the Hot 100. 

THE BIG ALBUMS

For the week ending on Saturday, April 13, 1974

Top LPs & Tape chart:

Band On The Run was in the first of an ultimate four non-consecutive weeks at the crest of the Top LPs & Tape chart for Wings. McCartney’s band Wings had just lost two members due to dissatisfaction of their compensation and status with the future Sir Paul. Denny Seiwell quit just moments before the entourage was leaving for Nigeria to record the album, and Henry McCullough having quit not long before the trip. So it was up to Paul and Linda McCartney with former Moody Blues co-founder Denny Laine to head to the EMI studio in Lagos, Nigeria. They trio were robbed at knifepoint of their cameras, tape recorders—including some already recorded songs. To his credit, McCartney and company went back into the studio (despite local musicians constantly coming in to give them a hard time) and put together what many consider Paul’s best album after the breakup of the Beatles. Singles in the U.S. from Band On The Run were: “Helen Wheels” (No. 10 on the Hot 100 and only released on U.S. versions of the LP) backed with the exquisite “Country Dreamer”) “Jet” (No. 7) backed with the song “Mamunia” (but replaced quickly with the song “Let Me Roll It”) and the song “Band On The Run” backed with “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five.”

 

Hot Soul LPs chart:

The zenith of the Hot Soul LPs chart was occupied by MFSB with Love Is The Message, featuring the single “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” on Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. 

Big Jay’s Featured Big Record-of-the-Week

For the week ending on Saturday, April 13, 1974

LP: Love IS The Message by MFSB

Philadelphia International Records -- KZ 32707

It was the fifth of an ultimate six weeks at the peak of the Hot Soul LPs chart for the instrumental collective called MFSB (Mother, Father, Sister, Brother—sometimes known as Mother, Fu*****, Sister, Brother) on Philadelphia International Records for Love Is The Message. The large ensemble contained some of the finest studio musicians in the City Of Brotherly Love, and had a huge hit single (No. 1 for two weeks following “Benny And The Jets” reign at the top this week) “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia).” The song also topped the Easy Listening Singles chart for two weeks in May of ’74.

The song “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” won a Grammy® for Best R&B Instrumental Performance; recorded at Sigma Sound Studios on S. Broad Street in Philly—the former home of the Cameo-Parkway record labels and studios. Adding to the incredible rhythm section was Don Ronaldo and his strings and horns. The Three Degrees DID have a vocal version of the song released featuring the words “Soul Train.” But Don Cornelius, the owner and host of the TV show (who had invited Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to write a new theme for his program) asked them NOT to call the song “Soul Train” as he was very protective of the copyright. Cornelius reported kicked himself for NOT allowing them to use the name. Other highlights on the album were the title track and “Zack’s Fanfare.”

Some musicologists call this song the first Disco record. I don’t. I consider “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart” by the Trammps as the first true “Disco” record on Buddah Records in 1972. Note that there were “Discothèque” records recorded in the ‘60s. For our purposes, I’d like to exclude the Johnny Rivers-type songs for this discussion. If you disagree, drop me a line at BigJay@BigJaySorensen.com as this could be an interesting debate. I say it’s the Trammps single because it had all the ingredients of Philly Soul with many of the same musicians that made up MFSB. What do YOU think?  






The '80s





Big Jay’s Big Week in 1987

THE BIG SINGLES 

For the week ending on Saturday, April 18, 1987


Hot 100 Singles chart:

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin made it to No. 1 again (20 years after “Respect” did the same thing) but this time as a duet with George Michael. “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” on Arista Records was the Hot 100 Singles chart leader for the first of two back-to-back weeks. This record was the last of Lady Soul’s Top 10 Hot 100 Singles chart hits; though she had another million-selling single in 1998 called “A Rose Is Still A Rose.” “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” just missed being on top of the Adult Contemporary Singles chart—reaching No. 2. It also charted at a respectable No. 12 on the Hot Dance Clubs chart. This was Franklin’s initial and lone No. 1 song in the U.K. The tune was also No. 1 in Australia, the Netherlands and Ireland. The song also appeared on the album simply titled Aretha, which had the last reported piece of art done by Andy Warhol on the front cover weeks before his death in early ’87.

 

Adult Contemporary Singles chart:

“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” from Starship was the exalted ruler of the Adult Contemporary Singles chart this week in ’87 on Grunt/RCA Records.

  

Hot Black Singles chart:

The biggest Hot Black Singles chart recording this week in ’87 was from Prince with

“Sign O’ The Times” on his Paisley Park Records label; with lyrics that were simply about a doomsday-ish as you could get. The title was shown on the picture sleeve of the 45 RPM as “Sign "" The Times” (yes with a peace sign) and would reach No. 3 on the Pop Hot 100 Singles listing. Reportedly, Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) performed all of the instrumentation on the corresponding album of the same name, with his then girlfriend Susannah Melvoin contributing some background vocals on this song. Prince’s song “Nothing Compares 2 U” was written about her.

 

THE BIG ALBUMS

For the week ending on Saturday, April 18, 1987

Top Pop Albums chart:

Licensed To Ill by the Beastie Boys sat in the peak position of the Top Pop Albums chart this week in ’87 on Columbia Records. This album was the first “Rap” album to reach the lofty spot on that chart. The album cover caused controversy, as the backward image of the made up numbers and lettering on a jet airliner 3 M T A 3 spelled “E A T M E” when held up to a mirror. By 2001, Licensed To Ill had sold over nine-million copies. The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. 

 

Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart:

R&B crooner Freddie Jackson had the No. 1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart-leader for an amazing 20th of an ultimate 26 non-consecutive weeks this week in ’87; titled Just Like The First Time. The Capitol Records artist was riding high on the three No. 1 Hot R&B/Hip-Hop singles: “Tasty Love,” “Have You Ever Loved Somebody,” and “Jam Tonight.” His current single reached No. 2 on that chart called “I Don’t Want To Lose Your Love.” Some pressings of the album featured another No. 1 song—a duet with Melba Moore called “A Little Bit More” which was also featured on her album titled A Lot Of Love, also on Capitol. Freddie Jackson’s album was by far the biggest R&B set of the year in 1987. This album was released on vinyl, cassette and CD formats.

 

Big Jay’s Featured Big Record-of-the-Week

For the week ending on Saturday, April 18, 1987

45 RPM & 12-Inch Single: “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”

by Starship – Grunt Records 5-109-7G

The group Starship held down the No. 1 slot for the second of two consecutive weeks on the Adult Contemporary Singles chart after having occupied the top spot on the Hot 100 the preceding two weeks with the song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.” The song also appeared on the Mannequin Soundtrack. The tune was co-written by Albert Hammond (“It Never Rains In Southern Californian”) and noted songwriter Diane Warren. The track was produced and arranged by drummer, singer and producer Narada Michael Walden. He went on to astounding accomplishments with Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, George Michael, Steve Winwood and dozens of other artists and projects.

The tune “Never Gonna Stop Us Now” was used in the film Mannequin starring Kim Cattrall (Sex And The City) Andrew McCarthy, Estelle Getty (Ma on The Golden Girls) with a young James Spader. Mickey Thomas (the lead singer on “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” by Elvin Bishop Group) and Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship singer Grace Slick did the vocals for this Oscar ® nominated song for the category Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television.

There were two different covers to the single. The first issue featured a picture of McCarthy holding the mannequin while sitting on a motorcycle. Then Grunt Records (distributed by RCA) was determined to re-service the single to radio stations with a likeness of the group on the front picture cover just before the holiday season in 1986. This would prove to be the last of three number one songs from the Starship characterization that originally started in the mid 1960s as Jefferson Airplane, then to Jefferson Starship in the ’70s and then just plain Starship in the ’80s. Grace Slick would leave this incarnation of the group after the album called No Protection to briefly re-join the Jefferson Airplane with some former members of that grouping. “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” also appeared on the Mannequin Soundtrack. 

(Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net -- '60s 45 record image by dan; '70s headphones/vinyl record image by dan; '80s cassette tape image by graur razvan ionut.)




















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