It’s funny how listening to the songs of AM Gold will trigger random memories. Or in the case of this week’s batch, old movies and current sitcoms.
(Spotify users, you can subscribe to our Best of AM Gold playlist, which is updated regularly.)
#6: The Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You” – #1 U.S., and the third chart-topping single from a fictional group.
Jack Feerick – I knew I’d heard this somewhere before.
David Medsker – I clicked on Jack’s link with much trepidation – “he’s going to ruin the song for me!” As it turns out, the similarity only goes a few notes. Thank goodness, because I have a major soft spot for this song, as well as the cover that Voice of the Beehive did 20 years later.
Jon Cummings – Where did you come up with that, Jack? I didn’t find any mentions of the similarity on Google — so now I’m imagining you on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, a giant bowl of cheese puffs in your lap and Turner Classics on the telly, drifting off to sleep while Charlie Chaplin sputters nonsense … and in your half-asleep reverie you start thinking … “I’m sleeping, and right in the middle of a good dream…”
Feerick – Just using the ears God gave me, man. Watched Modern Times on a Sunday night, sat down to listen to some AM Gold on a Monday afternoon.
That sort of pseudo-Russian modal melody is nothing new in pop — “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” treads some similar ground, in the scales it’s using — but the rhythms of “I Think I Love You” sort of made the connection click for me.
Cummings – I’m with Medsker on VotB — that cover is unbelievably awesome. Those first two albums of theirs may have been my most-played CDs of the ’90s. And now I’m going to spend the whole day with “Don’t Call Me Baby” and “Monsters and Angels” floating around in my head. One could do considerably worse … but I digress. It actually took VotB’s (infinitely superior) version to make me appreciate “I Think I Love You.” As has been noted elsewhere on Popdose through the years, one of the first two albums I owned when I was 6 years old was the Partridge Family’s second album, “Up To Date” — and so “I’ll Meet You Halfway” and the other wonderful crap on that LP, rather than “ITILY,” have always been my go-to PF songs. But you’ve gotta give songwriter Tony Romeo props for the song’s fascinating structure (“Modern Times” cribs notwithstanding) and its swings from minor to major key — and for forcing David Cassidy to dip down into his lower register for the bridge.
Dan Wiencek – That Chaplin song (or whoever actually came up with it, it’s an old tune) is one of the most insidious earworms I know.
Dw. Dunphy – As far as fake bands go, I guess Los Familia Partridge isn’t so bad. Would I actually seek out these old records and listen to them obsessively? No, not at all. But on a continuum that ranges from half-assed cash in to an attempt at actually being musically interesting, this song lands much closer to The Monkees than it does the Banana Splits and The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.
David Lifton – The lyric is decent enough, and you’ve got some Wrecking Crew dudes – Hal Blaine, Larry Knechtel – and Tommy Tedesco, so the track works. The weak link is Cassidy, who’s too busy smiling and over-enunciating to put across any of the conflict in the lyric.
#7: The Five Stairsteps, “O-o-h Child” – #8 U.S.; the group’s only Top 40 single.
Feerick – Reminds me how much I miss the days when R&B wasn’t about the tyranny of The Beat — when bandleaders would be sure to give the drummer some, and even if they didn’t, the drummer would just up and take some of his own accord. If there’s anything that dates this record, it’s the lush strings and horns — it’s the blazing rock fills that the drummer keeps dropping. Hot, hot stuff.
Medsker – I am a sucker for the song that keeps it simple stupid, the “There She Goes” kind of hook. Listen to how effortless this song is; find the vocal hook, add more voices and accents in further verses. And has a ballad ever had that kind of manic drumming? Jack is right that the song is very much of its time, but it’s also completely out of its time, as in ‘from another universe’ time.
Cummings – How many songs out there in the universe are this uplifting? From the instant it starts, I can’t wait for that chorus to kick in — especially when the full harmonies are going. But my favorite thing about this single is that at least three members of the Burke family (the “first family of soul,” they called themselves, to mark their territory when the J5 came along) trade off lead vocals during the first minute and a half — and none of them can sing on key! (Neither can I, of course, but that doesn’t stop me from wailing “O-o-h Child” in the shower several times a year. I can never figure out whether the tears that well in my eyes are tears of joy or the result of overexuberant soap usage.) Anyway, How I Met Your Mother used this song a few years back, during an episode when everybody was feeling lovelorn and Ted was about to fall head over heels for Stella — and to my mind, if Stella doesn’t somehow come back into the picture and become the Mother, they will have wasted the song.
Dunphy –They wasted it, then, because the producers, on a couple occasions, said it was neither Robin nor Stella. It was the roommate of the college student that Ted ditched because he was falling for the roommate’s…Why The Heck Do I Know This Stuff?!?
Cummings – Yeah, yeah, I know, we’ll know the mother when we see who’s under the yellow umbrella. And it probably won’t happen too soon, considering the show will last one more season after this one. I guess if we want to see Ted fall in love, we’re going to have to watch Josh Radnor fall for Elizabeth Olson in Liberal Arts, whenever that hits theaters.
One more factoid: “O-o-h Child” charted higher on the Top 40 than on the R&B chart. How did THAT happen?
Dunphy – This song lives and dies by the groove and, fortunately, it lives quite well. You just knew The Five Stairsteps were reaching for a Staples Singers plateau, and didn’t quite make it, but it certainly brings a smile to my face. Wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in the age of Auto-Tune though.
Lifton – I had heard this song growing up, but it wasn’t until years later when it was on the Crooklyn soundtrack that resonated with me. When you analyze ”Ooh Child,” what stands out is how it seems like it’s an unfinished song, just a verse and a bridge, which gets repeated. But that’s also the beauty of it. The lyric doesn’t need to give the backstory. The music provides it all, especially the horns, which are simultaneously sad and uplifting, and the spectacularly funky drums. And that key change between sections gives the whole thing such a feeling of optimism that it always makes you feel better when you listen to it.
#8: Edison Lighthouse, “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” – #5 U.S., #1 U.K.
Feerick – Feels like a song divided against itself: the bluesy chug of the guitars is at odds with the blown-out strings. Imagine a mash-up of ”On-la-di, Ob-la-da” with ”You Sexy Thing.” Sound like something you’d want to listen to? Yeah, me neither.
Medsker – Sounds like it could have been a Partridge Family song. But it’s no “I Think I Love You.” Oooh, key change!
Cummings – It’s a sure sign that I’ve allowed myself to watch “Shallow Hal” on pay cable a few too many times that I now associate this song with that movie. But I never heard “Love Grows” as a kid, beyond the five seconds you’d hear during a TV advert for a K-Tel hits compilation. In fact, the first time I heard it in full was as the lead track on Disc 2 of the “Have a Nice Day” series … and now I feel dirty, like I’m cheating on “AM Gold” while discussing a competitor. But those first four or five “Have a Nice Day” discs were my introduction to a number of one-hit-wonder songs that pre-dated my initial cognizance of pop radio and jukeboxes, which came in mid-1973 or so. The point is, as a result of hearing these songs lumped together, “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” veritably screams “early-’70s pop!” to me, with its bubblegum strings juxtaposed with the chug-a-chug verse melody that I could swear T. Rex appropriated for the guitar lick in “Get It On.” Speaking of juxtapositions, this song was at its chart peak when Kent State happened.
Dunphy – Love grows but this song really blows (hey, someone was bound to do it…)
Lifton – So the most recent YouTube comment for this clip says, “Yes and sadly enough the junk that passes for music today is able to sell, because there are many that don’t know the difference between real singing and auto tune, or actually for some bizarre reason they don’t care.” Somebody is using this song – a synonym for “crappy ’70s one-hit wonder” to bemoan today’s Top 40? Fuck that noise.
On another note, is it me or does the lead singer in the video look like Gram Parsons?
#9: Brian Hyland, “Gypsy Woman” – #3 U.S., #42 U.K.; we last heard from Hyland on the very first edition of Digging for Gold.
Feerick – They prefer to be called ”Romani,” Brian. God. Not cool, man.
This particular pop genre of fetishizing the ”exotic” other — it still squicks me out, thirty years after Iggy Pop put a stake through its heart with “China Girl.” Dead now. Let it lie — especially when it’s as lamely executed as this.
Dunphy – The most interesting part about this for me is to note just how all-consuming the white, male pop demographic was that this would have been so casually accepted even back then. Accepted; nobody probably even blinked at the concept of the white male being seduced by the “mysterious other.” I wonder how it would have been perceived had it been sung by a person of another race, and would it have been accepted at all?
Feerick – Billy Ocean had a worldwide hit with “European Queen” — which was re-recorded as “Caribbean Queen” for the English-speaking world, a change that (purely by coincidence, I’m sure) removed any suggestion of miscegenation. And this was a full decade or more later.
So I guess I’m saying that no, Smokey Robinson singing a romantic ballad called “Beautiful Jewess” probably wasn’t gonna fly.
Medsker – Props to the video, showing the 45 playing. That should send the vast majority of the Popdose audience warp speed back to the womb.
If only the song was worth the trip. This was a #3 hit? This isn’t even worthy of being a #3 hit now. Insert your own joke here.
Cummings – Gypsy Woman, Devil Woman, Witchy Woman … excuse me, “witch-ay” … a guy definitely had to watch his step during the ’70s, lest he be lured into some sort of voodoo iniquity. Curtis Mayfield wrote this song! You’d never know it. Let’s hope he tossed it off for a little extra scratch while he was dreaming up “Super Fly.” It’s not terrible, but it sounds like one of Cher’s early-’70s exercises in swarthy-pop — with a little Native American drumming during the break that no doubt sent Mark Lindsay scurrying off thinking, “Maybe I’ll go cover ‘Indian Reservation.'”
Dunphy – The transition of Hyland from “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” to this is as much a shift as Ricky Nelson took from “Travelin’ Man” to “Garden Party.” Doesn’t mean this song is good though. It’s passable and it is harmless, but it passes as a relic of its time so seamlessly that it hardly leaves an impression.
Lifton – I get what Jack is saying about fetishes, but the Impressions’ original version is much better.
#10: Eddie Holman, “Hey There Lonely Girl” – #2 U.S.
Feerick – Be careful listening to this on high-fidelity speakers: dogs all around the neighborhood have started howling, and bats are crashing blindly into the windows, flying in crazy zigzags.
I always thought this was much older. I also always thought it was by Frankie Valli. In any case, it’s a self-conscious throwback to the dubious Golden Age of New Jersey falsetto. Which just shows that some people can get nostalgic for anything, if you wait long enough.
Medsker – Hey, it’s the Robert John of 1970. I’m trying to find a link to a Toyota ad from about 10 years ago that featured this song, because the girl in it was drop-dead gorgeous. Also, the ad was funny.
But back to the song. It’s surprising that it was that big of a hit in 1970, but then again, that’s a pretty big hook.
Cummings – Jack, this song IS a bit older … Ruby & the Romantics introduced it as “Hey There Lonely Boy” in 1963. And I’d prefer to associate Eddie Holman, if only because of the color of his skin, not with “the dubious golden age of New Jersey falsetto,” but with the thousand and one African-American doo-wop groups who paved the way for the 4 Seasons and their ilk (and received little to no money for their trouble). This song is gorgeous, in any case. I’m surprised Holman never officially changed his name to “Hey, Man, Isn’t That The Stylistics?” (Some fool threw the song up on YouTube and attributed it to the Stylistics — and has so far received 86,666 hits, and 85,555 comments along the lines of, “You idiot, this is Eddie Holman.”) As for Robert John, we can only be thankful that he stopped at covering “Hey There Lonely Girl,” and didn’t try to milk his dwindling “Sad Eyes” fame with a three-LP TV comp titled “Robert John Imitates the Doo-Wop Hits!” (Gotta love “Sad Eyes,” though.)
Dunphy – Well, I like it, even if Holman’s falsetto is shrill. The Stylistics handled it a lot better but, dang it, I’m a sucker for the soul music even if the tune isn’t all the way there.
Lifton – It’s hard to fault the quality of the vocal performance but I’ve never liked this song.