I have not stomped for quite a while on the familiar old grounds of the ARSA local radio survey database. Tonight feels like a fine time to go back. And what better theme than surveys issued on St. Patrick’s Day?
WHEC, Rochester, New York, 1958: I’m aware that it was common, decades ago, for multiple versions of the same song to run the charts at once. I’ve never thought a lot until now about what that must have sounded like for the listener, and how frustrating it might have been.
On this chart, we have three versions of “River Kwai March/Colonel Bogey” (they’re the same thing, n’est-ce pas?) as well as two of “Seventy-Six Trombones,” all in the top 10. I assume the jocks rotated the different versions — i.e., they picked one to play each hour; they didn’t play all three in close succession.
But what if you actually happened to like one version better than the other two? You’d get stuck hearing the one you wanted only once every three hours, and in the other two hours, you’d get versions that just angered you with their comparative shortcomings. That can’t have been the best of all possible worlds either.
Meanwhile, on WCOP Boston that same week, there’s a little bit of duplication, but also a solid one-two punch at the top that WHEC doesn’t have — “Sweet Little Sixteen” and Jimmy McCracklin’s “The Walk,” the riff from which later turned up in the epic blues chestnut “Hideaway.” They could play Berry and McCracklin as many times an hour as they wanted, if you ask me.
WNDR, Syracuse, New York, 1962: How … even … does this chart work? They shoehorn, like, 90 songs into 60 spots. King Curtis and Lawrence Welk rub elbows at the Number 35 spot, somehow. Tico and the Triumphs’ “Motorcycle,” at Number 30, features a voice you might know from elsewhere. And then there’s George Maharis singing “Teach Me Tonight,” which I did not know existed, and … when do the Beatles show up, again?
WEEX, Easton, Pennsylvania, 1968: The inescapable “Love Is Blue” reminds us that we haven’t quite gotten past that same-hit-by-multiple-artists thing yet. Tico & Garfunkel show up at Number 28. The Who’s bouncy, almost Beach Boys-ish, but relatively minor “Call Me Lightning” is “hitbound,” bass solo and all. And who are those newcomers at 37? Sly and the Family …. Stokes?
WEEX, 1972: We approach the end of the days when multiple versions of a song would do battle on the charts. A shame: It would have been a gas to see Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, or Jerry Vale jump into the fray with competing versions of “Roundabout” or “Bang a Gong.”
(Actually, the song on this chart that probably would have inspired multiple versions if this were 1952 instead of 1972 is Apollo 100’s Bach adaptation, “Joy.” Gimmicky but hella delightful. A Hammond goes with anything.)
Which is the greater train wreck here: the segue from “I Gotcha” into “Roundabout,” or from “Jungle Fever” into “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”? And, hey, 100 points to WEEX for wedging McCartney’s insistently hummable protest song onto a St. Patrick’s Day chart.
WEEX, 1973: Some stone cold classics on this chart but I stop by mainly to note the presence of “Frankenstein” on the “Album Action” chart, which I assume was reserved for album cuts. The song, of course, became more than just an album cut; it crossed over into mainstream hit-single status and ended up at Number One in May of that year.
WPTR, Albany-Schenectady-Troy, New York, 1974: An interesting one-two on the album charts. Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, the diary of a witty, wayward professional woman in a love-hate relationship with commitment, is Number One. Carly Simon’s Hotcakes, a paean to domestic bliss that features a radiantly pregnant Simon on its cover and a song about having a baby, is Number Two.
I wonder if these might be two of the most diametrically opposed albums of the Seventies … and whether I might loathe Hotcakes as ardently as I love Court and Spark. There’s only one way to find out, and it is not imminent, though I could get there someday.
KYNO, Fresno, California, 1976: Notable mainly for the presence of Bob Dylan’s “Mozambique” on the hitbound list (next to “Shout It Out Loud.”) “Mozambique” did not hassle “The Theme from S.W.A.T.” for airplay.
WDRC, Hartford, Connecticut, 1978: Some pure Seventies juice on the hitbound list — “Feels So Good,” “Runnin’ on Empty,” England Dan and John Ford Coley. Wonderful things, hitbound lists, like promises that the river of good music will flow forever.
I also note Skynyrd’s Street Survivors on the LP chart, months after the crash. I still wonder whether the surviving members of Skynyrd — no doubt stuck in traction, depression and physical therapy in the spring of ’78 — saw the posthumous chart life of their album as a form of torture or a ray of light.
WRKO Boston, 1978: KISS Alive II and My Aim Is True back-to-back on the album chart? I love living here in Eggheadland. I also note multiple versions of “More Than A Woman” on the New Music list. The ghost of 1958 laughs at me (and a lot of other people), long and loud.
CFGO, Ottawa, 1980: That three-fer of the B-52s, Led Zep, and George Burns … that’s seriously berserk. (XTC into Smokey Robinson would be the biggest train wreck on most charts. Here it’s not even a fender-bender.)
Some solid Canadian content on this chart, too, including a Bruce Cockburn song I’ve never heard but am playing now. It’s maybe a little bloodless, but by 1980 standards, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with it. I’ve featured Cockburn’s “How I Spent My Fall Vacation” from the same album on the blog before; I might just have to shell out for it sometime. (It’s ahead of Hotcakes on my list, I can confirm that.)
CFMB, Montreal, 1983: A couple of these left-of-the-dial bands will go on to be very, very big in the States. England’s Fun Boy Three is not one of them — although their version of a familiar song goes to the Top Ten across the pond.