Friday, April 21

Friday Filler

Stinky heads to the vet to check on the progress of his thyroid treatment in an hour; can't be fed, can't go out, and the yowling about that has stopped, meaning he's figured out Something is Up and he's probably hidden himself under the basement stairs and I'd better start trying to get him out.

Instead, dedicated to Corndog and the emailed vitriol he received for his ruthless attack on Anne Murray, here's the long-awaited first installment of the idea I had when that "Top 100 Hits of the Year You Graduated from High School" thing first started going around. I didn't listen to Top 40 radio when I was in high school. Sixth grade! I thought. That's when I was most attuned to radio tastes. Let's look at Nos. 1-10 and see how long that lasted:

1. The Ballad Of The Green Berets, Sgt. Barry Sadler

Oooh, two seconds into the first round and a straight right finds his nose! He's out! This one is over before it begins! Wait...wait...he's struggling to his feet...

But he's on Queer Street from here on out. Two positive things about this: one, it's a snappy answer to all those people who think, or pretend to think, that hippies ruled the universe in the 60s. Second, Sadler (actually billed as Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler, and a genuine Green Beret), imagined he was going to become a singing sensation, so I bet there's a cover of "Yesterday" out there somewhere begging for re-release.

2. Cherish, Association

California turtleneck-dickie folk, treacly enough to give you diabetes, only marginally redeemed by the fact that in their first hit, "Along Comes Mary," the Mary in question was Mary Jane.

3. (You're My) Soul And Inspiration, Righteous Brothers

Without checking the discography, I think we're nearing the end of the divinely-inspired melding of the "Little Latin Lupe Lu" guys and the "Tossed on the Fish Wrap Pile After the Beatles Arrived" Phil Spector. It's hard to believe they argued. This is probably my least favorite of their hits together, but man, that was a helluva comet while it burned.

4. Monday, Monday, The Mama's and The Papa's

I don't think they used apostrophes. Never liked 'em, except for Cass' pipes, though I later came to appreciate John Phillips production a little.

5. 96 Tears, ? and The Mysterians

In late '66, now in seventh grade, our music teacher was the worst maniac I ever took a class from (he died two years later of a brain tumor). He set aside one day for the class to bring in its favorite songs, and naturally somebody brought this garage band classic. At the "Ooooh!" near the end I thought he appeared to be having a seizure. I think his intention had been to harangue us into next week about our musical tastes, but it wound up overwhelming him and I just remember him sputtering for the rest of the semester.

I took "Bob Dylan's 116th Dream", and the line, "They asked me for some collateral and I/Pulled down my pants" landed me in the principal's office. Which was okay, actually, because he scratched the hell out of the album when he ripped the tonearm off it, and my Mom made 'em buy me a new one. Anyhow, Love's "My Little Red Book" beats this all t' hell.

6. Last Train To Clarksville, The Monkees

I cannot bring myself to loathe these guys, especially considering that in the history of prefab pop music they're head and shoulders above anything else, from the Bobby Rydell-Frankie Avalon teen idol days through the American Idol quagmire. This, their first hit, is not their best and is far from their worst, but the scientifically measured point at which dumb but well-crafted pop is supplanted by mindless shake-yer-ass is six drinks, at least for me.

7. Reach Out I'll Be There, Four Tops

After the two geniuses, Marvin and Smokey, and Eddie Kendricks' falsetto, the Tops were the best thing Motown had goin', but they always got the b-material. My guess is Levi Stubbs refused to sleep with Barry Gordy.

8. Summer In The City, Lovin' Spoonful

John Sebastian is one hell of a songwriter ("beach boy" and "hoi polloi" is a rhyme worthy of John Hiatt), and this is the band at the height of its powers, before limited musicianship and excessive good-timey-ness caught up with them.

9. Poor Side Of Town, Johnny Rivers

Does anybody remember Johnny Rivers, except maybe for "Secret Agent Man"? He was a rock-and-roll Zelig, from go-go Chuck Berry cover specialist to teen idol/Gene Pitney type balladeer, to psychedelica, to retro rocker; when I finally lost track of him completely in the early 70s he was a sort of proto-John Denver hippie lite. This is one of the ballads, competently done, over orchestrated, but with his fine soft soulful Southern voice.

10. California Dreamin', The Mama's and The Papa's

Again with the apostrophes. Aw, well, their first hit, probably their best.

NEXT: Where the hell are all the English blokes?
(From Help! [1966]:

Scotland Yard Man: How long do you think you'll last?
John: Great Train Robbery, ay? How's that one going?)


Anonymous said...

In honor of me? Wow. Wait until the Styx trolls track me down. I'll get a Purple Heart for that, I bet.

Some great insights here, with my reponses - in no particular order.

Levi Stubbs - great voice, but kind of sad that some of his best material was as Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors. Your theory as to why Levi and the Tops got the short end of the Holland/Dozier/Holland stick reminds me of how crucial it is that William Robinson wrote his own stuff.

Monkees - I too have no real beef with them, and Mike Nesmith turned out to actually have some talent. Go figure.

"Bob Dylan's 116th Dream" - you are my freakin' hero! You know at some point you really need to write the 21st century version of My Life and Hard Times that is in you.

But I must differ with you about 2X(M+P) and "California Dreamin'". Maybe it's too many campfire requests when I'd rather be digging into Declan MacManus' oddities, but I can't stand this song. That low-pitched thrumming you hear is my aneurysm ballooning out as I hear that crappy echoing harmony in my head. Make it stop!

I look forward, albeit with some trepidation, to the next installment.

handdrummer said...

This top 10 list begins to remind me why I lost interest in pop music round about this time Not a single song that I would miss if I never heard it again.

Didn't realize I was such a curmudgeon even in the 10th grade. Knew I had started early, but not that early.

Ghoddam kids didn't know nothin', music ain't been the same since Buddy Holly died.

Anonymous said...

So what's up with nothing by the Beatles or the Beach Boys? Maybe I have my decades confused but weren't they sort of big back then? I am in total agreement with your assessment, except for the 4 Tops which is just because, in those days, I lived for Motown and all those characters still have a special place in my heart. Plus, I remember these as the days that I discovered - gasp - The Rolling Stones with "Satisfaction" and "19th Nervous Breakdown", which I think actually constitutes the loss of my virginity long before anything, ahem, physical ever occurred. Kudos to you, also, doghouse, for your early recognition of Dylan!

Anonymous said...

I wasn't born in 1966.

Anonymous said...

the scientifically measured point at which dumb but well-crafted pop is supplanted by mindless shake-yer-ass is six drinks

More true than the alleged theory of evolution.

I don't remember what was in the Top Ten in my graduation year, but it certainly seemed like something from the Young Rascals dominated every high school summer, Brooklyn chicks had a thing for Tommy James and the Shondells, and Judy in Disguise made us all want to sniff glue just to make it stop.

Also, that monotonous major/minor organ vamp of 96 Tears became like Chopsticks for drummers who needed something to noodle on the Farfisa so's to appear multi-talented.

julia said...

I don't know if he covered yesterday, but Barry Sandler wrote a truly execrable series of books about a fictional mercenary.