Hi everybody! It’s Friday and we’re back for another edition of CHART ATTACK! Before we dig into this week’s chart, I want to note a correction: Last time we met up here, I told you that Yvonne Elliman had reached #16 in 1974 with her cover of the Bee Gees’ “Love Me,” when what I meant to say was that she reached #14 in 1976. I didn’t know that I meant to say this, but JB, from the fantastic The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, informed me that I did. I’m almost positive JB knew this off-hand, without having to look it up. Impressive? Frightening? A little of both? You decide. Either way, thanks, JB!
This week, we’ll be looking at a solid chart from 1975, a very good year in general for the Billboard Hot 100, if you can get past “The Hustle.” (Just kidding, Van McCoy fans!) And as I’m sure you’ll be ashamed to know, at least six of these songs were pretty much unknown to me before I started working on this post. I’m happy to have found almost all of them. Sit back and enjoy as we look at the week of June 7, 1975!
10. Philadelphia Freedom — The Elton John Band Amazon iTunes
9. Love Won’t Let Me Wait — Major Harris Amazon iTunes
8. I’m Not Lisa — Jessi Colter Amazon iTunes
7. Before the Next Teardrop Falls — Freddy Fender Amazon iTunes
6. When Will I Be Loved — Linda Ronstadt Amazon iTunes
5. Old Days — Chicago Amazon iTunes
4. Bad Time — Grand Funk Amazon iTunes
3. How Long — Ace Amazon iTunes
2. Sister Golden Hair — America Amazon iTunes
1. Thank God I’m a Country Boy — John Denver Amazon iTunes
10. Philadelphia Freedom — The Elton John Band
Well, well, well, Sir Elton. We meet again. It’s almost like we’ve barely parted company, what with my nose so far up your ass after Rock Court earlier this week. (Which seemed to help deliver a verdict in your favor — congratulations!) Not only that, but we’re meeting to discuss the very song that the prosecution claimed was the one that ended your golden period. Well, as you know, I can’t really agree with that statement, but I can certainly talk about the song. There’s lots of interesting things to say about the song.
Although Philadelphia adopted this tune, it’s really not about Philadelphia per se. Elton did dedicate the single to “the soulful sounds of Philadelphia,” and certainly those sounds are evident here, but as you may know, the song was written for tennis champion Billie Jean King and her World Tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. As the legendary story goes, Elton was a huge fan of tennis and a good friend of King’s, and King had the team’s designer make a custom warm-up suit for him. Everybody knows the way to Elton’s heart is through either cocaine, dick or clothing. King struck gold with the outfit, and Elton promised to write her a song. Before a match in Denver, Elton arrived at the dressing room and presented King with the song.
Elton has said that he doesn’t write songs for the express purpose of becoming a hit, but this song was a blatant exception. “Philadelphia Freedom” was released expressly as a single, unavailable on any album until his second greatest hits compilation. Credited to the Elton John Band, he assisted sales of the single by putting a live version of “I Saw Her Standing There” on the B-side…featuring what would be John Lennon’s final stage performance. (The song was eventually released on both Lennon and Elton box sets in 1990.) Smart move, Elton! That wasn’t his only calculating move, however: a national radio programmer had publicly complained that Elton’s singles were too long and were messing up his playlists. He announced he’d be boycotting any single of his clocking in at over four minutes. “Philadelphia Freedom” was deliberately longer than it needed to be, clocking in at 5:39, but was so immensely popular that the programmer had no choice but to play the song. I don’t know if that’s a completely true story, although I’ve read it in a number of different books. Either way, I love it.
Here’s Elton performing the song on Soul Train. He wasn’t the first white artist to appear on the show, but let’s just say it wasn’t a common occurrance.
9. Love Won’t Let Me Wait — Major Harris (download)
There are no words to describe how uncomfortable I felt when I heard “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” for the first time (which, by the way, was Monday). I don’t have a problem with the smooth vocal stylings of former Delfonics member Major Harris (and yes, that’s his real name, folks). I don’t have a problem with the most excellent R&B groove, either. Nor do I raise any issue with the somewhat sketchy lyrics, which pretty much say, “hey, I’ll do whatever the hell I want to you, whenever I want, and don’t blame me, baby, blame love, ’cause it won’t let me wait. Press charges against love, y’see? Not me. Love.”
No, my problem is with none of the above. Listen to the track and surely you will figure out what my problem is. Here’s are some hints: I raised my eyebrows slightly at 1:35. I furrowed them at 2:33. I looked around to see if anybody could hear what I was hearing at around 3:16. At 4:00 I checked my iPod and actually said “WHAT?” out loud when I saw there was another 1:30 left. At 4:16 I’m pretty sure I was making a face like I had just accidentally eaten a slug. And at 4:30, I just turned the damn song off.
Despite all of this, as I said, the song actually is pretty solid. It’s been covered by many artists, including Luther Vandross, Jamie Foxx, Johnny Mathis & Deneice Williams (thank you, Deneice, for not going there) and John Legend. This was Major Harris’ biggest hit; in recent years, he’s reunited with the Delfonics, or at least one of the Delfonics groups out there touring at the moment. No clue who gets stuck with those backing vocals, but I’d love it if they couldn’t afford female backing vocalists and one of the dudes had to do it. And hey, is Major Harris big pimpin’ on this cover or what?
8. I’m Not Lisa — Jessi Colter
I’m pretty sure we could do an entire Mellow Gold post about Jessi Colter and “I’m Not Lisa.” It’s something of a rarity when a woman enters MG territory, so let’s take a good look, shall we? Check out these lyrics from the first verse:
I’m not Lisa
My name is Julie
Lisa left you years ago
My eyes are not blue
But mine won’t leave you
‘Til the sunlight has touched your face
Everybody got that? So apparently she’s singing this to the guy who not only can’t remember her name, but is calling her by the name of his old lover. And it’s not like they just broke up, either: she left him years ago! Why the hell is she with him? Then, on top of that, she says that she won’t leave him until the sunlight blah blah blah. So forget why she’s with him — why is she going to leave once the sunlight touches his face? This is the most selfless woman the world has ever known. She doesn’t care that he’s heartbroken over Lisa, and apparently he doesn’t even need to love her. He just needs to find happiness, and then she’s off? Really? Really? What kind of man winds up with such a woman?
The answer, apparently, is Waylon Jennings. Colter (whose first name is neither Lisa nor Julie) and Jennings were married in 1969 (following her brief marriage to Duane Eddy), and she really did stand by her man through all of his substance abuse problems. She gave up her own career in later years to take care of Jennings before his death in 2002. Though her website claims that “I’m Not Lisa” was self-penned, the lyrics were rumored to have been written by a ghostwriter — though she did write the music and played keyboards on the track. One of the things that makes this song so interesting is that she never laments for her own condition — the rest of the lyrics (and there are only a few other verses) focus on the man’s pain of losing Lisa.
Unsurprisingly, the song was a huge hit on the country charts, reaching #1, and is one of three songs on this chart to experience tangible success on both country and pop charts. It peaked at #4 here, and was Colter’s last significant appearance in these here charts. (I’m trying to sound country.) Colter did return to music after Jennings’ death, and has also released a cookbook, Cooking Waylon’s Way — you can check out her website if you’re so inclined. Here’s a video of Colter performing her hit song many years ago.
7. Before the Next Teardrop Falls — Freddy Fender
I like this song. It’s sweet, romantic and pretty. And although he wasn’t the first to record the song — apparently over two dozen artists have covered it, most notably Charley Pride — Fender was the first one to make any impact on the Hot 100 whatsoever. Though the song did reach #1 on this chart, it found its greatest success in the country world — it topped the charts, won the Country Music Association’s Single of the Year Award, and undoubtedly influenced Fender winning the CMA awards for Album of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. So am I weird for not immediately associating it with country? Given the style and instrumentation of the song, I likened it more to a 1950s soul song. Its country success is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the entire second verse is sung in Spanish.
Freddy Fender, who died of lung cancer in 2002, led a fascinating life. For starters, his real name is Baldemar Huerta, which leads me to wonder why he wasn’t automatically drafted into a life of swordsmanship or bullfighting or something. What a name! Why can’t I have that name? Before assuming the name of Freddy Fender, he also went by El Bebop Kid and Eddie Con Los Shades, thus paving the way for unforgivable Spanglish crimes led by assfaces such as Gerardo. He served three years in jail for marijuana possession. After getting out, he re-recorded a song of his from the ’50s, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” which reached #8. When he died, they erected a Freddy Fender Museum in San Benito, Texas, where he was born. Interesting, right? And yet, through all of this, the most interesting thing about Freddy Fender was his hair.
Here’s another great pic. I like this one best. He’s totally channeling Fozzie Bear in this one. If I could write “wakka wakka wakka” in Spanish right now, I totally would.
Check out this video from the height of his popularity, when his collars extended past his shoulders and he resembled some sort of Mexican Elvis.
Let’s close this entry out with some cold shit. This is courtesy of Wikipedia:
BMI Songwriter Sterling Blythe claimed that he had sold the rights to a portfolio of songs, among them “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” for $4,500 to settle debts when he left Nashville for the West Coast prior to Fender’s recording. Until his death in Sacramento in 2001, Blythe carried a newspaper clipping about Fender’s bankruptcy filing in his wallet.
6. When Will I Be Loved — Linda Ronstadt
Although I’ve had Ronstadt’s version of this song for a long time, I’ve never really given it a listen before — I’ve always gone straight to the original by the Everly Brothers, which I’ve known and loved for years. Stupid me, since Ronstadt does a killer job. It was the second of two mega-hits from 1974′s Heart Like a Wheel, the album that really established Ronstadt as a star. This song is a winner all-around: the arrangement, the guitars, the fantastic harmonies (especially the last line), they’re all terrific. And you know who we can thank for it?
That’s right: my alter ego, Andrew Gold! Gold played that awesome guitar solo, and was the arranger for the entire Heart Like a Wheel album. He even re-covered the song in his band Bryndle, featuring fellow Mellow Goldian Karla Bonoff! We love you, Andrew Gold!
Here’s Ronstadt, Gold and the band with a great live version of “When Will I Be Loved.”
5. Old Days — Chicago (download)
I went searching for a video clip of Chicago playing “Old Days” back in the ’70s, but couldn’t find anything, then spent another 5 minutes inexplicably watching a clip of the band playing “Along Comes a Woman” from 1984. And I wonder why it takes me so long to write these posts.
What a fantastic song. You’ve got hard rock in the intro, you’ve got some extremely funky drums in the same section, and then suddenly you’ve got a pop song, complete with horn and string section, and an awesome vocal from Cetera. And the band just segues through each section seamlessly. Not much more to add. This was one of two hits from Chicago VIII, along with “Harry Truman,” which reached #13. If you haven’t heard it before, enjoy.
4. Bad Time — Grand Funk (download)
I have to plead my ignorance on two levels here. For starters, it took me about 20 minutes to figure out this band’s name. Is it Grand Funk? Grand Funk Railroad? Wikipedia seems to use the names interchangeably. I finally figured out that the band went by Grand Funk Railroad until 1973, when they shortened the name to Grand Funk, and reverted back to Grand Funk Railroad in 1976. Why did I spend time researching this? I could have been watching “Along Comes a Woman” again.
Second plea of ignorance: I’ve known this song for a number of years, but not because of Grand Funk. I thought it was a Jayhawks song, as it’s on their album Tomorrow the Green Grass. I know, I know. I apologize. (Side note: have you heard about the Jayhawks reissues and anthology? Go to Addicted to Vinyl for info.)
In any case, now I’ve heard this original version, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how awesome it is. Farner’s vocal is really greatÂ — so great, in fact, that I’m willing to overlook the idiocy of the line “I’m in love with the girl that I’m talking about.” (Almost.) It’s fun, it’s light, and perhaps even more importantly, it’s short. (I’m looking at you, Major Harris.)
By the way, I also looked for the Simpsons clip where Homer talks about Grand Funk, because I figured it’d come up in the comments. I couldn’t find it. I know one of you will, and will make me look stupid. I’m fine with that.
3. How Long — Ace
You might think this song is a man asking his lover why she’s cheated on him, but you’d be wrong. This song, which peaked here at #3, is actually about another band trying to steal this band’s bassist. I’m not making this up. For much, much more on this song, why not check out Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold #5? I don’t have much more to add to what I wrote back then; I still think it’s a great song with a strong vocal from Paul Carrack. However, it’s only recently that I’m noticing the similarities between the guitar solo from “How Long” and the guitar solo in Steely Dan’s “Do It Again.” You be the judge.
2. Sister Golden Hair — America
Man, we’re just teeming with Mellow Gold on this week’s chart, aren’t we? I covered this song in Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold #38. If you’re curious about the cryptic lyrics, the odd conspiracy theory that he’s singing about his half-sister, and what we call Mellow Deception, please, head on over to the archives to check it out. The video I posted there is my favorite, but here’s another one from The Midnight Special.
I still love the unabashed dorkiness of Gerry Buckley. There’s only one person dorkier than Buckley, and luckily enough, he’s at #1!
1. Thank God I’m a Country Boy — John Denver
Facts first: This song was written by Denver’s guitarist, John Martin Sommeres. The studio version of the song went largely unnoticed, overshadowed by the success of “Annie’s Song” from the same album, Back Home Again. The version that topped the charts was a live version from the Universal Ampitheatre in California, shown on the television special An Evening With John Denver. Both this song and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” enjoy the distinction of being two of six songs that topped both the Billboard Pop and Country charts in 1975.
I imagine I’m going to catch hell from all of you for liking this song. Let me preface this by telling you a little something about my upbringing. My parents liked music, but were nowhere near the obsessive music fan that I am. I don’t know where I get it from. But there were a few artists that my parents were, as a couple, pretty crazy about, and for whatever reason, John Denver was one of them. (My mom is from Queens and my dad is from the Bronx, so don’t ask me.) My first dog was named Denver. I loved Denver. So I kind of have to love his namesake. Here we are in 1980. (Me and the dog, not me and the singer.)
(Matthew Bolin calls my haircut “the Conrad Bain,” which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.)
Here’s my argument for “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Rock Court on you: it’s hard to argue with the fact that Denver (now I’m talking about the singer, not my dog, may he rest in peace…well, I guess may both of them rest in peace) is totally selling the shit out of this song. He may not have written it, but you can tell he believed in it, and like I said, he’s a complete dork (as evidenced in the below clip), but he’s earnest, and his audience loved him for it. You can hate it, but I’m totally on board with this song and John Denver in general. He sang with the Muppets, dammit!
Well, I guess that’s a shameful a way as any to end this week’s post, huh? Enjoy your weekend, thanks for reading, and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks for another edition of CHART ATTACK!