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A purely mathematical exercise.

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Rather than crack wise about old records, I’m going to try a different approach.

The ARSA database of local radio airplay charts has a couple of surveys from eastern Pennsylvania radio stations representing this week — one ending March 7, 1971; one ending March 11, 1974; one ending March 11, 1975; and one ending March 5, 1979.

To each song on the Top Ten, I’ll assign a numerical grade, ranging from 0 (never wanna hear it again) to 5 (one or two spins a week would be fine, thanks) to 10 (play it all night long).

Then I’ll add ’em all together, and the year with the highest score wins.

(And yeah, I’ll probably toss out a couple irresponsibly dismissive value judgments while I’m going about it.)

Here goes, then. All song titles are reproduced as they appear on the surveys, for what that’s worth.

1971 (WRAW-AM, Reading):
1. Janis Joplin – Me And Bobby McGee – 8 (I’m kinda tired of this, but I can’t deny it’s a magnificent record, especially the joyous jam at the end)
2. The Carpenters – For All We Know – 2
3. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Seen The Rain – 6 (can’t give CCR too low a score, but I like it better when they put the pedal down a little bit more)
4. Jackson Five – Mama’s Pearl – 8 (this is glorious, at least until it gets too far away from the chorus and kinda loses its way)
5. Tom Jones – She’s A Lady – 7 (a different sort of glorious. Gloriously hammy.)
6. The Temptations – Just My Imagination – 6 (oh, yeah, that Stones tune)
7. Osmonds – One Bad Apple – 7 (and I could have given it a point or two more. Osmonds/Jax 5 back-to-back on the radio would have been as much fun, in its own way, as Beatles/Stones or Beatles/Beach Boys)
8. Partridge Family – Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted – 2
9. Sammi Smith – Help Me Make It Through The Night – 3
10. Wadsworth Mansion – Sweet Mary – 5 (for pop records about chicks, I’ll still take “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” but this one’s OK anyway)

1971’s total: 54
(Would the average have been higher if I’d rated all the songs?: Hard to say. The rest of the countdown is evenly split between killers – “I Hear You Knocking,” “Proud Mary,” “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You” – and crap – “Cried Like A Baby,” “Amos Moses,” and “D.O.A.,” which would get a negative score if such a thing were possible.)

1974 (WKAP-AM, Allentown):
1. Terry Jacks – Seasons In The Sun – 0 (This one was in the midst of a three-week run at Number One nationally. The purest distillation of the tacky/mawkish side of the Seventies.)
2. Cher – Dark Lady – 1
3. John Denver – Sunshine On My Shoulder – 2
4. Carly Simon & James Taylor – Mockingbird – 3 (that’s being kind, probably, but it’s uncouth to speak ill of pregnant ladies)
5. Jim Stafford – Spiders & Snakes – 2
6. Redbone – Come Get Your Love – 5 (there is room in the universe for “it’s stupid but it grooves”)
7. David Essex – Rock On – 4
8. Sister Janet Meade – Lord’s Prayer – 1 (it’s probably uncouth to speak ill of nuns, also — they work hard for the money — so SJM gets a solitary point. If you look at the survey, WKAP was running a promotion for a private showing of “The Exorcist” at the same time it was spinning Sister Janet in heavy rotation.)
9. Paul McCartney – Jet – 9 (not Macca’s best lyric but a fabulous soaring piece of rock n’ roll, and one of my five favorite McCartney solo tunes, were I to list them)
10. Barbra Streisand – The Way We Were – 3

1974’s total: 30
(Would the average have been higher if I’d rated all 25 songs?: Yes, probably.)

1975 (WKAP-AM, Allentown):
1 Frankie Valli – My Eyes Adored You – 2
2 Minnie Riperton – Lovin’ You – 5
3 LaBelle – Lady Marmalade – 10 (not a typo, nor a mistake. Outrageous sassy New Orleans funk. The radio needed more of this. It still does.)
4 Doobie Brothers – Black Water – 7 (their finest moment? yeah, most likely.)
5 Sugarloaf – Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You – 7 (underrated wiseassery)
6 Ringo Starr – No No Song/Snookeroo – 3
7 Styx – Lady – 2
8 Olivia Newton John – Have You Never Been Mellow – 2
9 Average White Band – Pick Up The Pieces – 8 (I taped this off the radio when I was maybe 13 and just learning about a whole class of Seventies tunes that were bad and funky and colorful and totally un-Eighties. Like “Lady Marmalade.”)
10 Joe Cocker – You Are So Beautiful – 4 (as professional hit-making songwriters, did Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston and Mike Love all fare better in the Seventies than Brian Wilson?)

1975’s total: 50
(Would the average have been higher if I’d rated all 25 songs?: Probably not, although “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Harry Truman” and “Shaving Cream” would all have scored strongly.)

1979 (WKAP-AM, Allentown):
1. Neil Diamond – Forever In Blue Jeans – 3 (there’s more to this song than the chorus but damned if I remember it)
2. Little River Band – Lady – 2 (classy and professional and ultimately rather boring)
3. Rod Stewart – Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? – 4 (Jorge Ben’s “Taj Mahal” smokes this)
4. Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing – 4 (should get more but I’m plenty sick of hearing it)
5. Melissa Manchester – Don’t Cry Out Loud – 2 (classy and professional and ultimately rather boring)
6. The Bee Gees – Tragedy – 4
7. The Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes – 4
8. Nigel Olsson – Dancin’ Shoes – 4 (never heard it enough for it to wear out its welcome)
9. The Babys – Every Time I Think Of You – 3
10. Donna Summer – Heaven Knows – 4

1979’s total: 34
(Would the average have been higher if I’d rated all 25 songs?: Possibly, though even in its full incarnation, the chart is lacking in 9 or 10-scores.)

The winner: For all the time I’ve spent deriding 1971 countdowns — it is, pound for pound, not my favorite year — that was a pretty good March to have the radio on. At least around here.

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.

You eat yet?

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It’s the first week of the year. Roughly nine out of every 10 Americans are hating themselves for overindulging in rich or otherwise non-nutritive foods over the past month.

So I think I’ll write about … packaged food.

Earlier this week I stumbled on the Flickr account of Jason Liebig, who collects food labels, wrappers and packaging. He has kindly scanned in hundreds of items from his collection.

It has never occurred to me that someone might see fit to collect, say, empty potato-chip bags. Just never thought of things like that as something people might save.

But some people do. And it’s kinda cool to spend a few minutes paging through the scans — both to recognize products from my youth, and to compare and contrast the finer points of packaging design through the ages.

A few of my favorites from the Liebig collection, then:

Welch’s grape-jelly donuts: Can’t say I remember these from the freezer aisle. (Yes, they were sold frozen.) I love the colors and design, though.

Grapefruit Tang: I had no idea this existed either. I imagine combining it with $7.99-a-bottle gin for an evening of drinking that would buckle my knees, muddle my brain, but provide me roughly 1,550 percent of my daily quota of Vitamin C.

Minute Rice fried rice mix: Does anyone still use the Standard Oriental Typeface any more with a straight face?

Hi-C Apple Cranberry Drink: In my newspapering days, I covered Lynn Swann for a couple hours during a local stop as part of his quixotic campaign for governor of Pennsylvania. I should have asked him if Hi-C still cut through his thirst. Alas, I hadn’t seen this label at the time.

(Since I went back to the newsroom after the event and wrote a story for the paper, that means I can claim to have successfully covered Lynn Swann. A lot of NFL cornerbacks and defensive backs would love to say as much.)

Pillsbury Milk Break milk bars: I remember once having the Chocolate Mint flavor of these. I liked them, though my palate as a 10-year-old was not especially refined. I suppose I have that half-cup of powdered milk to thank for my sturdy, erect bearing today.

Morton beef pot pies: I ate a whole bunch of frozen pot pies as a kid, though not necessarily Morton; they might also have been Swanson or store-brand. If I keel over out of the blue one of these years, that might be a contributing factor.

Andy Capp’s Pub Fries: The “Andy Capp” cartoon had roughly one-and-a-half jokes (layabout squabbles with wife, goes to pub). I was always astonished, not only by its longevity, but at the longevity of its apparently successful spinoff in America’s snack aisles. I think I had Andy Capp’s Pub Fries once; I remember them as being amazingly salty (even by my standards then) and perhaps also spicy as well.

Underwood Deviled Ham: Can’t remember ever having Underwood tinned meat as a kid. But I remember it stood out on the shelf because it was canned, and the cans were wrapped in white paper. Always seemed weird to me.

Uncle Ben’s Stuff n’ Such: A remarkably noncommittal product — the “anytime stuffing mix for the outside of things.” Peanut-butter sammiches? White Castle sliders? Beached whales? Bring ’em on.

French’s Chicken Fixns Sweet n’ Sour Sauce Mix: Only included here because it dates to the days when French’s corporate headquarters were in Rochester. When one set of my grandparents bought their house in the Rochester area circa 1986, I remember them finding a manila envelope or poster tube with some French’s materials that had belonged to the prior owner. (It wasn’t a recipe for the perfect dijon chicken or anything useful like that … just a couple of random documents the guy had brought home from work and lost down the back of a cabinet or something.)

Hi-C Florida Punch: No idea what this stuff tasted like. But if it had existed during my childhood, I’m sure I would have craved it, just because of the evocatively sun-drenched name and the surprisingly effective green and dark red of the packaging.

Irischer Fruhling: Early-’70s Irish Spring soap package for the German market. This is baader than Meinhof.

Quaker Peanut Butter Granola Dipps: Obligatory pop music content: Check out the box, which promises one of five free records about the history of rock n’ roll. (I assume no actual rock n’ roll was included, for cost/licensing reasons.) This particular box included a record about Live Aid; other subjects included “Rock’s Greatest Guitar Heroes” and “A Tribute to John Lennon.”

I am trying to imagine a young-ish kid sitting down in front of the family stereo and getting a potted (and, probably, at least partially incorrect) history of John Lennon from a record that came with his granola bars.

Dentyne Dynamints: 40-year-old Wonder Bread goes moldy. 40-year-old Twinkies go green. But 40-year-old breath mints look as shiny and effective as ever. Maybe the weirdest stuff in your cupboard isn’t what you thought it was.