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Encore Performances: When British eyes are smiling.

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The smiles seem to be coming harder and harder lately so I am turning to the old blog for help. Originally published September 2010. I actually did get a comment or two on the original post; feel free to jump in.

Time for some audience participation, folks.

Who among the following performers has the Best British Rock Smile of the Seventies?

Tom Evans, Badfinger: Several times in this TV performance clip of “Come And Get It,” Evans breaks into a wonderful, completely unforced, somewhat lopsided smile.
(Watch around 0:35, and especially around 1:12. It really looks like he’s trying to hold back his pleasure, and failing miserably.)
This, of course, was the band’s first hit; and it’s easy to imagine that Evans might have been totally jazzed to be singing (or at least lip-synching) on Auntie Beeb.

Given the turbulent future that would await Badfinger, this clip gets extra points for sentiment … these guys wouldn’t have much to smile about in the years to come.

evansStuart Tosh, Pilot: Tosh’s bandmates in Pilot weren’t much to look at; you’ll notice that keyboardist Billy Lyall doesn’t even get face time in this TV clip.
No matter.
Tosh looks up at about 0:20 and gives a big, winsome, look-Mum-I’m-on-the-telly smile, and you just want to ruffle his hair and send him out to play until dinner.

toshColin Earl, Mungo Jerry: The keyboard player for the immortal Mungo Jerry has a certain rugged handsomeness that reminds me of … somebody, like maybe a character actor I can’t quite put my finger on.
(He looks a little bit like Robinson Crusoe after ten days on the island, is what he looks like.)
Anyway, at about 1:14 and again at 2:08, he looks to be laughing at the absurdity of something — perhaps at the appearance of MJ frontman Ray Dorset, who looks like a berserk Juan Epstein.

earlNorman Watt-Roy, Ian Dury and the Blockheads: Look quick at about 0:15, and you’ll see a big grin spread across the bass player’s face as he locks into the trench-deep groove. It’s another one of those “they pay me to do this!” moments.

wattroy(While we’re at it, Watt-Roy also flashes a totally different but still wonderful grin about one minute into this live performance of “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick.” He looks ecstatic and totally drained.)

wattr2George Harrison: The “Crackerbox Palace” video features the Quiet/Somber/Reticent Beatle flashing a crazed smile at about 2:12 (as he murmurs, “It’s twue, it’s twue!,” a completely irrational “Blazing Saddles” reference.)
The smile at the very beginning, when Neil Innes is pushing him in the baby carriage, is kinda charming too.
And then there’s the bizarre moment at about 3:00 in, when George is shimmying and driving the lawn tractor at the same time.

hari

Ray Davies and John Gosling, the Kinks: In the early to mid-’70s, the song “Alcohol” was a highlight of Kinks stage shows, with Ray Davies drawing the drama of the verses out to absurd lengths, balancing bottles of ale on his head, and generally camping about to the ragtag strains of the band’s in-house horn section, the Mike Cotton Sound.
This particular clip, representative of the era, uses split-screen to give us simultaneous smiles from the gap-toothed Davies and his accompanist, keyboardist John “The Baptist” Gosling. They’ve had a couple, and they know what’s coming.

goslingdaviesPete Budd, The Wurzels: It would be easy to dismiss the frontman of this West Country novelty act as either infantile or maniacal.
But I like his style, me.
He buys merrily and completely into the weirdness of his own particular schtick.

buddAny other nominations? You know where the Comments section is.

I went back.

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I had no real good excuse to go back to the 50-cent bin at Allentown’s Double Decker Records.

But I went anyway, leaving roughly $10 in their coffers and walking out with another pile of secondhand (maybe even third- or fourth-hand) goodies.

I didn’t get any of the country or gospel stuff that turned my head the first time I went … mainly ’cause I couldn’t find any of it.

Instead, this latest batch is roughly equally split between Seventies mellow gold and classical.

Here’s the latest. Cheer or throw stuff as you choose:

101_1391To Be True, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Theodore Pendergrass: A former No. 1 album on the R&B charts (for the week ending May 10, 1975), and a marvelous showcase for the finest voice Philly soul ever produced. Of all the stuff I bought, this got played first.

101_1393Tumbleweed Connection, Elton John: In 42-plus years of my existence, this is the first Elton John album I have ever owned. A few months ago, something brought me to a YouTube video with the entire album, and I listened to it all, thinking, “Y’know, this is pretty damned good.” Have listened to Side 2 since I got it home and my opinion has not changed.

101_1394There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Paul Simon: Forgetting that I will probably receive my parents’ vinyl copy of this in a month, I gave in to a whim and bought it. I hadn’t heard the full album from start to finish in many years. Put it on again last night and I thought it was solid, if a little too polite and well-groomed in places. (I had an incorrect memory that “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” went double-time at some point, the way “Kodachrome” does. It would have been better that way, methinks.)

101_1397The Marblehead Messenger, Seatrain: Double Decker Records had two Seatrain albums, neither of which included the band’s one semi-hit, “13 Questions.” I’d read about them, and something in their style (Wiki called it “roots-fusion”) sounded appealing, plus I’m a sucker for anything Massachusetts, so I figured this was worth a shot. (Also: Produced by George Martin.)

101_1398I’m In You, Peter Frampton: The second album on this list to stall at No. 2 on the U.S. album charts. I have written in the past (not in this space) about my deep fondness for the title track. As for the remainder … well, it was 50 cents, and in good shape. And Stevie Wonder and Ritchie Hayward are on it. I’ll listen at some point.

101_1400Beethoven: Christ on the Mount of Olives, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra: From Frampton, to this … let’s play Segue Fever!
This record looks like the feel-good hit of the season, doesn’t it? Its aura of suffering and seriousness helped draw me in. This just looks like the sort of cultural work I need to chew on, and can only aspire to be worthy of and to understand. I feel like maybe I should drag nettles along my forearms while I listen.
(I do know that the Philly Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy was a force to be reckoned with; so whatever I think of the music, I’ll at least know that it’s being conducted and played about as well as it can be.)

101_1402Modest Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition, Leopold Stokowski and the New Philharmonia Orchestra: Thanks perhaps to early exposure to EL&P, this is probably my favorite classical piece. And even though I’ve got CDs of Vladimir Horowitz playing it on solo piano and someone heavy (George Szell and Cleveland, maybe?) playing the orchestral arrangement, I’m still up for an additional version.
The bonus jam on this elpee is something called The Engulfed Cathedral, which sounds frothy and danceable.

101_1405Charles Ives: Symphony No. 1 and Three Places in New England, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra: All the stuff I said about Ives in my first crate-digging expedition still applies. And hey, there’s Ormandy and the Philadelphians again. Not sure why I haven’t spun this one yet … maybe during dinner prep while I’m making tonight’s spring rolls?

101_1406Various and sundry by Britten, Elgar and Schoenberg, Victor Desarzens and the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra: It looked interesting and  curious and sorta modern-ish, and it was 50 cents. If it sucks I’ll frame the cover. (The classical music industry has provided lucrative work for all manner of artists over the decades, hasn’t it?)

101_1408Camille Saint-Saens, I can’t read the rest of the bloomin’ cover but it’s a bunch of preludes for organ: I like pipe organ music.

101_1410Moments, Boz Scaggs: I read a contemporary Rolling Stone review of this that said it was a pretty good record, so I thought it was worth a shot. (I’m vaguely interested in what Boz was doing in the wilderness before Silk Degrees made him a superstar.) Features the studio version of “We Were Always Sweethearts.”

101_1413Bombs Away Dream Babies, John Stewart: The popularity of the single “Gold” (with help from Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks) lifted this one into the Top 10 on the LP chart in the summer of 1979. “Gold” is the only song I know, but I was in a mellow-gold mood, so I decided to give this a chance.
And really: Put a white guy in a white suit with a white Les Paul against a white background, and you’ve pretty much got the ultimate visual representation of mellow gold, haven’t you? If the music on the album is half of what the cover photo promises, it ought to be an easy ride.

101_1416Compositions by Bartok and Hindemith, Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: What were we saying a moment ago about classical music providing extensive opportunities for graphic artists? I assume the two gents on the cover are Bartok and Hindemith, and not, say, Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg. This one promises to break up the mellow gold nicely.
101_1418Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony Orchestra: I’ve been meaning for years to try to work Bartok onto my dance card. Robert Fripp, who I consider one of the most creative and interesting guitarists to reach mainstream rock notoriety, has cited him as an influence. With a world-class orchestra playing, I figured it was worth a shot.
101_1420Beethoven: Emperor Concerto, Glenn Gould, Leopold Stokowski and the American Symphony Orchestra: We heard from Stokowski and the ASO the last time I went digging for vinyl. Here they are again, this time in the company of the great Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.
“Will he ever get away from this highbrow shit and back to pop?” you ask. Well…
101_1422Chicago 13: This album — Chicago’s first LP without any hit singles at all, I believe — is so bad it’s almost legendary. I thought I had gotten away from buying bad music just to make myself laugh, but I guess not, quite. Features “Street Player,” the dance mix of which I enjoy unashamedly. Can’t wait to hear the songs where Peter Cetera sings in a lower register.
101_1423The Pretender, Jackson Browne: Another YouTube special; I found myself a while ago listening to the entire thing online and thinking, “Hey, this is much more accessible than Late For The Sky, and really is pretty good, except for the mock-flamenco Mexican-restaurant nonsense of ‘Linda Paloma,’ which I would instantly and invariably skip over if I owned my own copy.”
Well, now, I do.

101_1426Living and Dying In 3/4 Time, Jimmy Buffett: I have a dear old friend — one of my truest and longest — who introduced me years ago to both the first Ramones album and Blood On The Tracks, which gives you some idea of his eclecticism. In recent years he has become fond of Jimmy Buffett, so I figure I’ll check it out myself and see if there’s anything to it. (I made sure to find an album from Buffett’s earlier years, before he turned into a franchise.)

101_1428Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 and Karelia Suite, Alexander Gibson and the London Symphony: I have lit’rally no idea why I picked this up. We’re almost done, anyway.

101_1430Feels So Good, Chuck Mangione: The third album on this list to stall at No. 2. The title just about says it all, doesn’t it? Dunno why Betty got rid of her copy, but I’m glad she did.

The best-laid plans.

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The last time I wrote about an old local radio airplay chart, I found the story of a band that was huge on most continents but small potatoes in the U.S. … except for a couple of weeks in the Lehigh Valley, when they got Top Five airplay.

I’m looking at another of these old radio charts. And this time, the story is an album — one of those earnest high-concept Seventies jobbies — that stiffed in most other parts of the U.S., but was unaccountably popular here in the Valley.

Set the controls for the week ending Aug. 26, 1973, and the radio for Allentown’s old Top Forty station WAEB 790 AM.

Summer’s nearly over. What are the kids reporting for fall sports practice at Northampton and Nazareth and Becahi buzzing over?

Well, the list of top singles is a typical ’73 mix of the sublime (“Here I Am (Come And Take Me),” “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne,” “Live and Let Die”) and the ridiculous (“The Morning After,” “Uneasy Rider,” “Gypsy Rose”).

But what interests us is the LP chart. That’s an uneven mix too — you’ll see the kids in the Lehigh Valley getting off on Leon Live and Sing It Again, Rod alongside the more lasting likes of 1967-1970 and Countdown to Ecstasy.

And then, near the bottom, you’ll see the Osmonds’ The Plan.

The Plan, released in June of that year, is an openly religious album — an attempt by the group to express aspects of its Mormon faith in a pop setting.

If you skip to about 1:30 into this promotional video, you’ll see one of the guitar-toting Osmond bros explain it in a po-faced voice-over: “Recently, we released a new album … a concept album … based on our philosophies about life. Where did I come from? Why am I here? And where am I going? In other words — the plan.”

Anybody who knows their Seventies pop culture knows where the Osmond family of Ogden, Utah, formed its “philosophies about life” — philosophies that guided the group members’ offstage lives and, on this album, spilled over into their music.

Like other musicians of faith — including fellow ’73 hitmakers George Harrison and Al Green — the Osmonds found ways to package their spiritual concerns in ways that would be palatable to a mass audience.

Two of the album’s songs cracked the lower reaches of the U.S. Top Forty and one hit No. 4 on the Adult Contemporary chart, testament to the professional talent of family songwriters Merrill and Wayne Osmond.

That said, online reviews of the album suggest that most listeners found The Plan too openly religious to embrace. (Some reviewers also criticize the album for skipping too wildly between musical genres.)

If you watch the promotional video above, skip to about 4:05 in, and you’ll see the brothers tackle a foreboding, heavy tune called “The Last Days,” which segues abruptly into a bouncy, encouraging tune called “One Way Ticket To Anywhere.” (This is just for the purposes of the promo video; the songs do not abut on the LP.)

For my taste, the whole thing seems a little too theatrical, a little too well-scrubbed, like the soundtrack to the spring musical at a religious high school.

This being the Osmonds, the whole thing is performed with the utmost professionalism, and it’s kinda catchy here and there … but ultimately, it just doesn’t hit a nerve for me.

Audiences in other countries loved it: According to Wiki, The Plan hit No. 6 in the U.K., and its singles went Top Five there.

But American album buyers only sent The Plan to No. 58 on the charts — a letdown compared to predecessor LPs Crazy Horses (No. 14, 1972) and Phase III (No. 10, 1971.) By the standards of religious albums, The Plan was a strong success; by the standards of mainstream pop, it was a misfire.

(It’s true that bands appealing to the teenybop market tend to have short, torrid runs of popularity … and maybe the Osmonds’ time would have been up in 1973 even if they’d released a fully secular album. As it was, they chose to take a chance; commercially, it did not pay off.)

Which brings us back to WAEB in the Lehigh Valley, where listeners highly rated The Plan, even though the region is not particularly a stronghold of the Mormon faith.

In the invaluable ARSA database of local radio airplay charts, only five charts mention The Plan — one apiece from Buffalo, N.Y.; Oklahoma City; Provo, Utah (a Number Three hit there, not surprisingly); Windsor, Ontario, Canada; and Allentown.

That doesn’t mean The Plan wasn’t popular anywhere else. Some Top Forty stations’ airplay charts focused heavily on singles, paying little or no attention to LPs. And the ARSA database is not comprehensive, so there could be additional local charts with The Plan that haven’t yet been scanned in.

Still, the available evidence suggests that the Lehigh Valley embraced this record in a way that didn’t happen just about anywhere else.

The WAEB chart came out a good two months after the album did. So the placement of The Plan must have been based on genuine popularity, rather than being a pre-emptive strike on the station’s part. (i.e., “the kids love the Osmonds, and this new album will probably be hot, so we’ll put it on our Top Ten.”)

The only explanation I can think of for The Plan‘s strong local sales is that eternal shifter of units: Tour dates.

The Osmonds played the Great Allentown Fair — a major annual event, held around Labor Day — in 1973. They’d played the fair the year before, according to the local paper, and would be back yet again in 1975 and 1978. Presumably the anticipation of their upcoming gig drove the local kids out to their local record stores to pick up The Plan.

The Osmonds gigged in lots of other places where The Plan didn’t chart, so that doesn’t seem like an ironclad reason.

But at this distance, trying to peer back into the haze of a distant late summer, that’s as much as I can come up with.

We’re talking here in Allentown.

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The following will seem stupid to everyone but my Twitter buddies Glenn and Jeremy, to whom I am deeply indebted.

Depending on where you get your information, you might have seen the Lehigh Valley in the news today.

Reuters sent a reporter (female) to talk to voters (also female) in Trexlertown, a (gender-neutral) suburb of Allentown, about Donald Trump. Trexlertown is the home and headquarters to a Fortune 500 global corporation, though you wouldn’t have known it from Reuters’ description of “former factory towns in the hills west of New York City.”

(Oh, yeah, I guess I gotta link to it. Here’s the story.)

This is not the first time in recent years that a national or international news organization has come to the Lehigh Valley in search of man-on-the-street commentary.

I attribute this to the idea that the Valley — maybe an hour-and-a-half from New York City — is the closest thing to flyover country you can visit from New York and still be back in time to file your story.

After all, if you want the voice of America, you’re not gonna get it on the streets of Manhattan. New York City is its own world, and people in the rest of the country won’t think it represents the national opinion even when it does.

And New Jersey is seen by much of the country as New York’s bedroom, so you can’t go talk to people there either.

But Pennsylvania — poor battered coal-dusted industry-jilted Pennsylvania — is another thing altogether. That’s where square-shouldered resilient people wait for the Pennsylvania they never found and the promises their teachers gave, as the union people crawl away and The Man throws the American flag in their face.

(Or so Billy Joel said, and he’s a trustworthy source. Everything in “We Didn’t Start The Fire” really happened, didn’t it?)

So, we’re the ideal destination for reporters seeking the Voice of America.

On Twitter this morning, my friends and I kicked around the idea of monetizing that. What if the Lehigh Valley’s next industry was providing commentary to New York-based reporters trawling the common people for the mood of America? What if we could tap into our natural resource — our battered-but-unbowed common-man image — and become 21st-century thought leaders, literally and figuratively?

The world needs opinions … well, it doesn’t really need them, but it sure seems hungry for them; just look at social media. The Lehigh Valley could become a net exporter of opinions — a carbon-free, smog-free industry, and endlessly renewable so long as we have a decent supply of throat lozenges.

All of which motivated me to rewrite “Allentown” — still the Lehigh Valley’s unofficial albatross-anthem — to reflect the glittering new possibilities.

“Allentown” is a great song, sure, but it’s all about things as they used to be. We need a song that heralds our future.

Here, then, are the (occasionally annotated) words to the Lehigh Valley’s new anthem. If you wanna sing along, click here.

Well, we’re talking here in Allentown
And they’re writing our opinions down
We can tell you what the nation feels
Give us vox pops
Ask us what’s real

And our parents lived on steel and coal
But our future lies in stories and polls
We’re a working journo’s dream retreat
Scrapple and farms
And men on the street

And we’re talking here in Allentown

And our feet are firmly on the ground
And we’ve got so very much to sa-a-a-ayyy…

— INSTRUMENTAL BREAK —

Well, we used to have some factories here
And that ought to make your narrative clear
Everybody here’s down on their luck
Turn a blind eye
to our McMansions and trucks

Though our new diplomas hang on the wall
You need pay them no attention at all
Tell your viewers that we still make steel
Don’t make ’em think
Just make ’em feel

And we’re talking here in Allentown

And all that you can hear is the sound
Of reporters every single day-ay-ay-ay….

Just take the Holland and expense all the tolls
Sketch out a story of blue collars and coal
We’ll all be waiting 90 minutes away
For you to take the pulse of the U.S.A….
Ay, ay, ay

Well, we’re talking here in Allentown
And it’s time that you were New York-bound
Have a nice trip back on Seventy-Eigh-eigh-eigh-eigh-eigh-eigh-eigh-eigh-eight
And we’re talking here in Allentown.

The promised statistical breakdown.

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Five hundred posts in, what do people like to read here?

You, the reader, have voted with your clicks. And, based on my Site Stats page, here’s what you say:

-Seven of the top 10 most-viewed posts are from the Five From The Record series — the posts in which I turn the microscope on a particular item and try to explain what I like about it.

I haven’t written one of these posts in quite a while, but I guess I ought to get back to it, because people seem to like ’em more than I thought.

-The most-read post in all Neck Pickupdom is “Too Fat For Love,” in which I explained my longstanding dislike for Motley Crue.

On an ongoing basis, I get a fair number of search engine queries from people looking for “vince neil fat.” Apparently I am benefiting from the increased avoirdupois of the Crue’s frontman.

-The most-read Five For The Record post is about the Kinks’ LP Sleepwalker. The post was featured on a popular website for Kinks fans, which explains the traffic. I haven’t gotten many visits from there lately, though. Maybe it’s high time I wrote about Preservation, Act II.

-My Edinburgh Exorcism series of posts about the Bay City Rollers got a decent number of hits, but only the “Fender Imprecision” post makes the all-time top-10 most read list. (It has also attracted more comments than any Neck Pickup post.)

I’m still a little sore about that one. I ended up siding with the Rollers’ fans, but most of them missed the point so thoroughly, you’d think I’d written in Esperanto.

I guess every writer needs a slap in the face once in a while: If your audience doesn’t get your point, that’s ultimately not their fault.

-The “What’s In My Fridge?” page has more hits than all but two of my blog posts. Somebody cares about what I’m putting down my gullet.

-Eleven posts have attracted exactly one view apiece, which is just about as ignored as a dude can possibly get. Two of those 11 have been deleted, which helps explain the avalanche of disinterest.

If you’d like to boost some traffic on some generally ignored posts, here are a couple of the one-read wonders:

-The two most-clicked images on this blog have both come from the inside of LPs with gatefold covers. Number One is the Bay City Rollers at Tronno City Hall; Number Two is Grand Funk Railroad naked in a hayloft in Michigan.

-The most-clicked YouTube link I’ve ever posted links to a video of a fire-alarm test. (The accompanying blog post also has to do with Grand Funk, but it’s not the one where they’re nekkid.)

The second-most-clicked YouTube link actually connects to something I thought had been taken down; I’m glad to see it’s still there. It’s a video showing the Kinks live on British TV circa 1977, playing “Stormy Sky,” off the aforementioned Sleepwalker LP.

-I’ve linked to any number of Wikipedia entries over the past 500 posts. The three most-clicked Wiki entries are, in order, Duxbury, Massachusetts; Thunderbolt siren; and the twelve-letter word that will automatically get you ejected from any baseball game.

(I love my readers sometimes. Quite often, actually.)

-This particular Flickr image is the most popular of the ones I’ve linked to. Coincidentally, it is also the backdrop on my work computer.

-I’ve convinced 110 readers to go read my other blog, which I suppose is effective social media leveraging. Yay, me.

-Finally, and most importantly: Akismet has protected my site from 30,180 spam comments.

500 posts, 51 years.

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This is, you’ll be thrilled to know, Post No. 500 in the history of Neck Pickup. To celebrate, I’m both going to give the Five Readers what they want, and go a little out of my comfort zone.

The readership stats and the comments tell me people like it when I write about old radio countdowns — either Casey Kasem American Top 40 jawns, or local radio-station play charts. So I’ll do a little more of that.

But, just for fun, I’m gonna leave my Seventies comfort zone and go all the way back to Beatlemania.

I grew up hearing plenty of Sixties tunes on Saturday-night all-request oldies hours, and some of them still rattle around my transom from time to time. (“Don’t ya know that she’s juuuuuust myyyyy style / Ev’rything about her driiiiiives meeeeeee wild.”)

Left to my own devices, though, I will write about a 15-year period roughly bounded by Sgt. Pepper’s and Business As Usual. Just seems to be where I’m most at home, I guess.

We’re headed somewhere different thanks to Allentown’s old WHOL-AM 1600 (“Top Of The Dial – The Top Popper Sounds!”), and its local airplay report for the week ending Aug. 14, 1964.

Will there be Beatles? Of course. But what else will there be?

Let’s find out:

-Pretty nice mix of stuff in the Top 10.

I often tend to reduce ’64, in my mental periscope, to near-toxic doses of Beatles; a bunch of other Limeys with guitars serving as supporting cast; and the occasional shot of Motown. But WHOL’s biggest hits are a little more well-rounded than that.

We’ve got two Motown and soul classics (“Where Did Our Love Go” and “Under the Boardwalk”) … some smooveness from Dean Martin … Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons doing the Jersey falsetto thang about as well as they ever did it … some handclapping garage rock from the Premiers (hilariously covered, years later, by Neil Young and Crazy Horse) … some acceptably humorous pop-country from Roger Miller … some one-hit-wonder soul from Patty and the Emblems (not the “Mixed Up Shook Up Girl” later performed by Mink DeVille and Boz Scaggs, but a pretty good tune nonetheless) … and, oh yeah, those guys from Liverpool at No. 3 with a song that still owns any room it plays in.

I don’t love all these songs, necessarily, but somebody listening to the radio in Bethlehem or Kutztown would have heard a pretty good range of stuff.

-Just to get the Fab Four mentions out of the way, they notch four songs on WHOL’s 50-song countdown.

I’m counting “And I Love Her/If I Fell” as one song, as listed at No. 12, even though it’s two — and both are gorgeous. I suppose I should count George Martin’s “Ringo’s Theme,” at No. 27, as a Beatles song as well, since the Fifth Beatle wouldn’t have been getting U.S. airplay if not for the Other Four.

At 36, meanwhile, is “Ain’t She Sweet,” a tune recorded by the Beatles in 1961 Hamburg during a session backing Tony Sheridan, and rushed out to make some money off Beatlemania. Could the teens of ’64 tell the difference between the “real” Beatles and the cash-in Beatles, or did they just slurp it all up indiscriminately?

(I would be hard put to point any generational fingers: It was people my age who sent the clearly cobbled-together G’n’R Lies, one full side of which was studio recordings posing as live, to the U.S. Top Five.)

-The Rolling Stones appear to be just surfacing on the Lehigh Valley’s radar screen, with “Tell Me” (No. 38, up two notches) and “It’s All Over Now” (No. 49, first week) apparently both on their ways up.

On a chart littered with British acts, I wonder how many listeners spotted the Stones as up-and-comers with potential, and how many figured they were just another bunch of here-and-gone long-hairs.

(I have always found “Tell Me” to be, as the British say, wet; but the germ of the Stones’ swaggering genius is present in “It’s All Over Now.”)

-A couple of future American Pop Geniuses were having mediocre weeks in August of ’64.

The once-popular American surfing sound was reduced to a two-song beachhead at Nos. 14 and 15. One song was classic, and one gimmicky. You don’t need me to tell you which was which, right?

(Whoops: Just noticed the Rip-Chords’ “Wah-Wahini” at No. 50. I guess that counts as a third surf song. I don’t think it troubled listeners all that much, though.)

The Beach Boys would be back about two weeks after this countdown with a new single, “When I Grow Up To Be A Man,” a departure from the cocksure teenage strut of “I Get Around.” It resonated well enough with the kids, hitting the Top 10, but intimated that things other than sea and surf were now occupying Brian Wilson’s head.

And, at No. 42 and heading south, you’ll see boy genius Stevie Wonder with “Hey Harmonica Man,” one of a string of commercially and artistically underwhelming singles released after the success of “Fingertips.”

Not until November 1965 would Stevie break out of his teenage rut with another solid hit, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” — never a favorite of mine, but lots of other people dug it.

-Another American genius putting in his time shows up at No. 47.

As a mid-Nineties college graduate, I find that Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” has a permanent stink of 1994 about it, just as strongly as any college-radio hit of that year — thanks to its placement in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a movie you pretty much were required to see if you were in college when it came out.

(Indeed, I am not sure if the aroma that bothers me comes from 1994 or from Quentin Tarantino, who always seemed just a little too eager to tell anyone who would listen about how wide-ranging his record collection was and how much fun it was to match just the right obscure pop song to a scene in which someone gets decapitated by a broadsword.)

I can live without the director, I can live without the movie, and I can live without the song.

Made sense at the time, I guess.

(As a further insult to Chuck, the Dion cover of “Johnny B. Goode” listed as hitbound at the bottom of the WHOL chart topped out nationally at only No. 71.)

-There’s a weird burst of Jamaica down in the 30s and 40s, with the Ska Kings’ “Jamaica Ska,” Millie Small’s “My Boy Lollipop” and Tracey Dey’s “Ska-Doo-De-Yah.” (The latter record, YouTube tells me, was a production and co-write by Bob Crewe of Four Seasons fame. Not exactly straight outta Trench Town, that one.)

I get the sense that the record industry, or some portion of it, had decided that Jamaican ska was the Next Big Thing and was putting some promotion behind it.

(Remember how the “Bosstown Sound” of 1968 tried to ride the wave of the organic San Francisco Sound of ’67? I wonder if the record companies counterprogrammed ska as an attempt to identify the next Beatle-ish trend. It didn’t take.)

-The listing for the “WHOL Pic LP” is American Tour by the Dave Clark Five.

That might sound like a live elpee of the band onstage in Worcester or San Bernardino or someplace, but it ain’t. According to Wiki, American Tour is a studio album. In Canada, where truth in advertising laws were apparently no more stringent, it was released as On Stage With the Dave Clark Five.

A year later, when radio newsman Ed Rudy released an LP of Dave Clark Five interviews, he titled it The New U.S. Tour with Ed RudyWonder if any inattentive kids bought that one, thinking it was the live album they’d hoped to hear with American Tour but hadn’t gotten? (My man Jim Bartlett tells more of the Ed Rudy story here.)

-Finally, I note the tease at the bottom to see all your favorite WHOL personalities at the Great Allentown Fair. That’s an annual end-of-summer tradition with carnival rides, farm animals and such, and indeed this year’s fair will be along in just a few weeks.

According to multiple sources, Andy Williams performed at the Great Allentown Fair in 1964, and brought with him a clean-cut group from his TV show that would, a few unpredictable years down the road, trigger a smaller version of Beatlemania.

At the time, they were called the Osmond Brothers.

Colonial echoes.

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How much of America’s rock n’ roll history lies closed within the pages of old yearbooks?

You might remember how, a year or two ago, a Texas high school’s circa-1970 photo of a young “Zee Zee Top” made the online rounds.

Kinda makes you wonder how much similar goodness is sitting on the shelves of college and high school libraries, waiting to be discovered.

Concerts are a big part of the annual social calendar at many schools, and when something big happens, there’s usually a staff photographer on hand. So who knows how many glimpses of musicians — famous and forgotten — get captured that way?

I had that thought the other day when I stumbled on the College of William & Mary’s 1974 yearbook, the Colonial Echoes, on archive.org (which has a remarkable stack of high school and college annuals available for browsing).

The school must have had a big budget and a lot of students eager to rock, because it hosted a run of concerts that year that wouldn’t have embarrassed a mid-market city — Chicago, James Brown, the Grateful Dead, and Crosby and Nash, if memory serves.

Browsing 20 years of the Colonial Echoes, you could see the state of collegiate entertainment evolve from well-trimmed vocal groups to big-name, chart-topping rock stars. I doubt anyone got that perspective at the time — most people only stay for four years, after all — but it made for an interesting historical view.

Here, then, are pix from various editions of the Colonial Echoes that trace the evolution of on-campus concerts, while also offering some cool, probably rarely seen views of artists in their prime.

Two caveats:
– Material printed in the Colonial Echoes is, I assume, the property of the College of William & Mary. I’m presenting it here because it’s historically interesting, and because I think my small screenshots made on an ancient PC are too low in quality to be stolen, reused or abused. That said, if I get anything resembling a copyright claim, I’ll take the post down.
– The years given correspond to the year the yearbook was issued, not the year of the performance.

The Lettermen, 1967.

The Lettermen, 1967.

Here's a contrast. Top: Ian and Sylvia. Bottom: The Swingin' Medallions, of "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" fame. 1968.

Here’s a contrast. Top: Ian and Sylvia. Bottom: The Swingin’ Medallions, of “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” fame. 1968.

Top: Rhinoceros, described as the first rock group to play W&M. Bottom: Martha and the Vandellas. 1970.

Top: Rhinoceros, described in the yearbook as the first rock group to play W&M. (Not sure what they thought the Swingin’ Medallions were.) Bottom: Martha and the Vandellas. 1970.

1972. The concert scene explodes at W&M: Just check out the caption. The musician is not identified, but he looks a whole lot like the late Chris Squire of Yes.

1972. The concert scene explodes at W&M: Just check out the caption. The musician is not identified, but he looks a whole lot like the late Chris Squire of Yes.

weir74

Bob Weir, 1974. The Dead enjoyed their September 1973 gig at W&M so much that they booked a second one on short notice and did it again the next night.

Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship, 1975.

Grace Slick of Jefferson Starship, 1975.

Grace Slick and Starship again, '76.

Grace Slick and Starship again, ’76.

The caption says "one of Zappa's Mothers;" I'm fairly sure it's Napolean Murphy Brock. 1976.

The caption says “one of Zappa’s Mothers;” I’m fairly sure it’s Napoleon Murphy Brock. 1976.

Springsteen, 1977, riding out his lawsuit period on the road.

Springsteen, 1977, riding out his lawsuit period on the road. The caption says “Quality Not Quantity” — referring to a lean year for concerts, not to Bruce’s performance.

Smoke from a distant fire, 1978. Mike Love of the Beach Boys, left; the Sanford-Townsend Band, right; and the Little River Band's singer's torso at top left.

Smoke from a distant fire, 1978. Mike Love of the Beach Boys, left; the Sanford-Townsend Band, right; and the Little River Band’s singer’s torso at top left.

Tom Scholz of Boston, 1979, ending the decade with the sound of corporate rock.

Tom Scholz of Boston, 1979, ending the decade with the sound of corporate rock.

Two whole pages devoted to "Rust Never Sleeps"-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse. 1979.

Two whole pages devoted to “Rust Never Sleeps”-era Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They were not wrong to do so. 1979.

Billy Joel, 1980. It is, quite clearly, still rock and roll to him.

Billy Joel, 1980. It is, quite clearly, still rock and roll to him.

Sting, 1986. Yeah, this seems like a good place to get off.

Sting, 1986. Yeah, this seems like a good place to get off.

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