Getting back to that July 7, 1973, issue of Billboard magazine we were looking at a little while ago … it’s time to see what Seventies treasures await us in classical, country and other niches.
We pick up the action on page 33:
– ASCAP honors composer Dmitri Shostakovich at a luncheon in New York City. Guests include Eugene Ormandy, Aaron Copland and Isaac Stern, as well as other classical-music bigwigs whose names I’m less familiar with.
– In unrelated news, Ohio college-town FM station WOXR wrings 15 inches of copy out of the fact that it’s testing a classical format on Saturday nights. The station’s usual fare is Top 40 and progressive rock.
(It seems, from reading the story, that the station’s Saturday-night jock decided to bring in the dozen classical albums in his collection and put them on.)
– A remarkably young-looking Luciano Pavarotti is pictured receiving a copy of his latest album. From there we jump randomly to …
– … several pages of country music coverage, starting with a note that the number of U.S. radio stations programming only country music has risen 25 percent over the past year.
As the kids on the Internet say: Big, if true.
– On page 34, the Nashville Scene column brings us the following juicy tidbits:
Brian Collins (whoever he was) is cutting an LP as “a quick follow-up to his single.” Yup, bet that album came out great.
The Sons of the Pioneers are working again and preparing to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Sonny James is touring too, noting that “his problems with his allergy continue to disappear and respond to treatment.”
Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe has committed to a festival at Vanderbilt University on Sept. 15, possibly the last gig before his planned retirement. (I am not sure the retirement lasted.) Also on the bill at Vanderbilt: banjoist-humorist David “Stringbean” Akeman, who was killed during a home break-in later that same year.
The Kansas City Royals will host a country music night at their new ballpark July 20, with featured performers including Dottie West and Red Sovine. (The Royals’ home game that same night drew about 16,100 fans. Not sure if the game and the concert were stand-alone events, or whether one ticket got you the whole shebang.)
– Page 35 gives us the Hot Country Singles chart, with Kris Kristofferson’s dreadful “Why Me” at Number One, and Tom T. Hall, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and Jeanne Pruett holding down the rest of the Top Five.
Being unfamiliar with Seventies country, I’ve never heard most of these songs. And as I glance down the lower reaches of the Top 75 (?), I can only wonder what some of them sounded like.
Like Anthony Armstrong Jones’ version of “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
Or Red Simpson’s “Awful Lot To Learn About Truck Drivin'” (swear to God, I’m not making that up.)
Or “Watergate Blues/Spokane Motel Blues” by Tom T. Hall.
Or “The Great Filling Station Hold Up,” parked at No. 61 in its ninth week, by a young singer identified as “Jim Buffett.”
– Page 36 brings us the Country LP charts. Charlie McCoy’s Good Time Charlie sits at Number One. Other albums of note include The Blue Ridge Rangers, John Fogerty’s one-man country show, at No. 12; Glen Campbell’s I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Star) at No. 15, and Jimmy Buffett’s A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean at No. 44.
– Of greater historical interest is a seven-paragraph article (not even the lead on the page) noting that Austin, Texas, is becoming a country music center — thanks mainly to the influence of Willie Nelson.
Even a country illiterate like me knows Austin as the center of the outlaw country movement of the Seventies, and a place still renowned for its fertile music scene. It’s kinda neat to see a report from the birth.
– Page 37 notes that some stations refuse to play “the various Watergate songs,” but others are “having a field day with them.”
– Page 38 brings us gospel news, chiefly notable to me for the appearance of several names (J.D. Sumner, Sherrill Nielsen, Donnie Sumner, the Stamps Quartet) familiar from Elvis Presley’s performing world of the Seventies.
– The bottom of the Gospel Notes column features an unattributed but oddly touching claim that Allene Hart, the “Queen of Gospel Music” and member of the Musical Harts, is “an exceptional person … an evangelist, bus driver, wife, mother, singer and musician.”
I have no idea what became of Allene and her brood, but I am reminded of those millions of people over the years who have traveled the back roads, slept in vans and made no money, performing largely for the love of it.
There’s probably a great novel in the adventures of a family gospel group grinding it out in Richard Nixon’s America, too.
– Page 39 kicks off a special section on kids’ music, which is increasingly rock-influenced. Writer Ron Tepper points out that “kids of today are being raised by the Beatle fans of 1964 … today, while they’re doing their housework and other chores, rock radio is still supplying the background.”
(This sounds like a reasonable description of my childhood home.)
– Page 40 presents a feature on “Capt. Kangaroo: Tiny Tykes’ Superstar,” which likens the TV host to David Bowie and Elton John for perhaps the only time in history.
Another article describes the challenge of cover albums — lower-priced records that offer, for instance, the songs of “Sesame Street” without the actual performers.
Record industry execs suggest parents and kids are both perfectly fine with these knock-offs — it’s the song they want, not the singer. (I do not think that would be true today.)
– Page 41 is a full-page ad for Disneyland Records — the stodgy Mickey Mouse albums of yesteryear, of course, not the sleek teen pop Disney purveys now. The Mouse hadn’t discovered that niche yet.
– Damn, this special section is meatier and more interesting than I thought. Page 44 features an article explaining that schools are buying fewer audiovisual materials because the Nixon administration is withholding $140 million in funding for such things.
(The article features the deathless line: “How do you turn a kid on with Mother Goose after he’s spent the night before watching ‘Emergency’ or ‘The Rookies’? You can’t.” Ah, ’73.)
– Finally, for the lefties and anti-corporates in the crowd, Folkways Records has an ad billing itself as “the best records for children.”
Folkways artists listed in the ad include Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Langston Hughes, Arna Bontemps and Lord Invader.
(I wish my childhood had included a little less Billy Joel and a little more Lord Invader … but, it can’t be helped now.)
It becomes increasingly apparent that this is gonna take still another post to finish, but I’ll plow through another page or two:
– Page 45 brings us Hits from the World — what’s at the top of the charts in other places around the globe — and that in and of itself could be still another post. Highlights:
Clocking in at Number Two in Denmark (behind The Sweet’s “Hell Raiser”) is “Ring Ring” by a group credited as Bjorn Benny Agnetha and Annfrid. Starting in the fall of that year, the group would adopt the name ABBA.
Number One in Holland is “We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee” — presumably a topical record — by Redbone, the U.S. pop group with Native American roots. Wonder what turned the Dutch on about that one?
Sitting at Number Two on the Swedish LP charts is Hooked on a Feeling by Bjorn Skifs and Blablus. The band would be rechristened Blue Swede for its brief but successful U.S. recording career.
Fifties Australian teen idol Col Joye (former frontman of Col Joye and the Joyboys) is on the Aussie Top Ten with a comeback hit, “Heaven Is My Woman’s Love.”
One of my favourite British groups of the Seventies, Slade, holds the U.K. Number One single with “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me.”
There is no East German chart, sadly … but in West Germany, Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Get Down” is Number One. Elsewhere on the Top 20, among the middle-of-the-road pop, are Thin Lizzy’s “Whiskey in the Jar” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.”
I’m at 1,300 words and that’s more than enough. See you again with the arse end of the magazine.