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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rocktober Chart Toppers

Since it’s Rocktober, I thought I’d revisit the charts.

When I was growing up in New York City, the local stations made a big deal about their weekly countdowns, and every week music fanatics (like me) were glued to the radio, ready to jot them down as they were played and guess which songs finished where. Forget Dick Clark and Casey Kasem, in NYC it was all about WABC and WMCA. At the end of the year they’d do their annual countdown and even mail you the final list if you sent in an envelope. Somewhere in a dusty attic box, I still have a few that I treasured as a kid.

I guarantee that when pop culture historians look at the tail end of the 1960s, they will rate that period as important to music history as the Industrial Revolution was to Western Civilization. Living through it was amazing. But even looking back on how the charts morphed over a decade, it’s obvious that a seismic shift had occurred.

So this week I give you Ten Rocktober Chart Toppers – the Number One hits from the first week of October. It’s only going to get stranger each Friday.

1963) Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton) – The early 60s was crooner heaven, as well as a haven for single-named teen idols. Four lads from Liverpool changed all that the year prior, but you don’t build Rome in a day. I can’t listen to this song anymore without picturing Dennis Hopper.

1964) Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison) – I still can’t believe that voice came out of that head. Orbison’s growl on the bridge just made a cool song even cooler – even Van Halen couldn’t ruin this gem.

1965) Hang On Sloopy (The McCoys) – The Ohio State National Anthem, this garage rock chestnut featured a teenage Rick Derringer and still sounds great. A very underappreciated band who cut some great pop sides and then morphed into Johnny Winter’s best band. (This rare version has the extra verse)

1966) Cherish (The Association) – Not quite rock, I know, but you must have that slow grind song for the prom, and this was it – plus it covered the pain of unrequited love! And if you want to punish this great vocal group for being wimpy, you have to give them props for “Along Came Mary”.

1967) The Letter (The Box Tops) – Teenage Alex Chilton hooked up with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham and cut one of the gruffest, blusiest vocals ever recorded. Absolute killer stuff, in and out in under two minutes and always sounds fresh when you hear it.

1968) Hey Jude (The Beatles) – Beginning its nine week run atop the charts, an instant sing-along classic and one of the longest tracks in chart history. Whatever happened to those guys?

1969) Sugar Sugar (The Archies) – If he could make a gazillion dollars with four actors, how much could Don Kirschner make from four cartoon characters who wouldn’t insist on playing their own instruments? This was the song that dethroned “Honky Tonk Women”…I am not making that up.

1970) Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Diana Ross) – Motown ruled the charts in the 60s but this version pales in comparison to the 1967 version by the great Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – a hit three years earlier.

1971) Maggie May (Rod Stewart) – Single and album simultaneously blew up and made rooster head a star. For a couple of years he and The Faces made the best music on Earth and then Rod followed the money, which he is still doing forty years later.

1972) Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me (Mac Davis) – And you wonder why people said “rock is dead”? Other 1972 chart toppers included “Candy Man” from Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson’s turgid “Ben” and Melanie’s screeching “Brand New Key”. The year was so lame that Gilbert O’Sullivan’s nasal “Alone Again Naturally” spent four weeks at the top, lost its place and then floated up again like a dead fish for two more.

Thankfully, album rock was there to save the day.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Wishes for 2010 Comebacks

 

Happy New Year! Many of us look upon January 1st as a fresh start, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start a new plan. For others, it’s an opportunity and a challenge to make a mark in life, to have a sense of purpose and accomplish a goal. And for pop culture freaks, it’s a chance to wonder what the year ahead has in store, as every year brings us some wonderful surprises, whether a great album or a new TV show. Who will occupy our thoughts in 2010? Certainly there will be some new breakout artists, but as always, some blasts from the past will knock us for a loop as well. 

All too often we take our cultural heroes for granted, expecting them to continually churn out yet another book or album or screenplay at the same pinnacle of quality. If they hibernate or quit, we pine that they walked away too early. Yet if they start to slip, we pounce upon them for overstaying their welcome and selling out. But our culture seems preoccupied with success and redemption, so we seem to be especially cognizant of those who recapture some past glory, especially if the road since then was paved with difficulty. 

I used to be among the camp that wanted to leave well enough alone – don’t tarnish a reputation with a comeback, but walk off on top and disappear into legend. With very few exceptions, no one does that voluntarily; it’s usually an untimely death that cements a legend. James Dean might have made as many horrible film choices as Robert DeNiro had he lived into his sixties. Had Elvis died while in the service, he’d still be larger than life, only not literally. But instead we usually witness a fall from grace – Willie Mays playing center for the Mets, Dick Clark still counting down New Year’s Eve. 

But after seeing Mott The Hoople reform in 2009, after watching Jim McCarty and Johnny Badanjek rocking like they were teenagers again, after having Dana Gould and Steven Wright release hilarious new albums years after I thought they were done with it all, I’ve jumped ship. Life is short – give me all I can handle. Not everyone will succeed, but I can swallow the moments of ineptitude for a calculated risk that there will be moments of pure magic that otherwise never would have happened. 

So with that caveat in mind, here are ten reunions, revivals and/or comebacks I’d like to see this year…a few of which might actually happen! 

Risk and Reward

The Faces – A test run happened late this year where Ian McLagan, Ronnie Wood and Kenney Jones finally gave up on Rod Stewart‘s false promises and played a gig without him. If only they would have done this while Ronnie Lane was still alive, but throw in Glen Matlock on bass and someone like Sulo of The Diamond Dogs on vocals and this could be magic. 

Arrested Development – Maybe line-for-line the funniest television comedy ever, and it’s a crime that something that great couldn’t find a strong audience let alone a network exec with a spine who would have kept it on the air for the sake of art. (Yeah, right) Rumors about a movie continue to swirl – please get it done before it’s too late! 

RockpileBilly Bremner is playing music in Europe, Nick Lowe is still great but sedate, and…well, where the hell is Dave Edmunds, anyway? Technically they only made one album although all those Lowe and Edmunds records were really Rockpile albums in disguise. Seconds of Pleasure turns thirty this year – how about a sequel? 

Eric RobertsMickey Rourke was right – if someone would just give Eric Roberts a chance, I think he’d knock the ball out of the park. After all these years tolerating his sister’s horrible movies, I think Hollywood owes me a film where Roberts has a great role to sink his teeth into. Tarantino, you listening? 

The Kinks – Come on, guys, even The Zombies have managed to get back together. Dave is recovering but back out on the stage, and Ray’s work over the past couple of years has been among his best. There’s an entire generation who hasn’t seen the band live on stage. Please guys…one for the road

Mel Brooks – I know he’s having great success reviving old hits on Broadway, and I know he’s in his eighties. But he’s still one of the quickest, sharpest wits around and perhaps five years after losing the great Anne Bancroft he will dig deep for one more devastating comedy film. 

The J. Geils Band – Peter Wolf still has the chops, and lord knows we need a band that doesn’t take itself so seriously. A kickass band with a guy who knew what being a front man was all about, their party atmosphere the antithesis to indie shoegazing. 

David Simon – The man gave us two of the finest television shows in history – Homicide and The Wire. Both scripted dramas were far more real than any of that reality TV crap that we drown in today. Save us, David. 

Tonio K. – I think I wish this every year. Not sure if he’s flying well under my radar or just involved in other projects (like assembling a blues compilation) but it’s been over a decade since Gadfly Records released his reissues and almost twenty since an album of new material. America needs all the cynics it can get.

Robert KleinGeorge Carlin might have been the one to make the most of the opportunity, but it was Robert Klein who helped put HBO on the map with his comedy specials. Whip-smart and multi-talented, I can’t believe that the events of the past several years haven’t inspired him to create a new hour of material. We need you, sir. 

"You start something this time, we all get a half-life, go figure it out on your own..."

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T.G.I.F. – Ten TV Memories

Cheesey? Gouda nuff for me at the time.

Cheesey? Gouda nuff for me at the time.

R.I.P. Soupy Sales.

Nostalgia is an odd thing. I think no matter how hard you try to explain something to a future generation, life goes through so many changes so fast that what was important and relevant to one generation seems odd and arcane to the next. Try explaining how you were mesmerized by the technology of “Pong” on a monochrome 12″ monitor to a kid playing “Halo 3” on a 50″ HDTV with surround sound. I’m sure that children of today who text message each other as a primary method of communication will seem like cavemen to those communicating wordlessly through sensory implants sometime in the future.

I say this only because I know some will look at these clips and just not get it. And that’s okay, not everything transcends time. But it’s pretty amazing that as a child in New York City I was able to find plenty of entertaining diversions on television even though there were only three stations, and none of them broadcast 24/7. As an adult with digital cable, I’m stunned that there sometimes isn’t a single viable program during a particular hour. Perhaps it’s the ability for children to be open-minded enough to find the value in anything. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s all been done so many times, I’m jaded.

But I fondly remember looking forward to certain programs after school and on Saturday mornings. One of these was The Soupy Sales Show, a “kiddie show” that featured corny puns, some zingers aimed way over kid’s heads, and two of the most unlikely sidekicks on television, Black Tooth and White Fang.  Soupy played his own girlfriend (in drag), a detective named Philo Kvetch (my favorite of his characters) and probably took more pies in the face than anyone outside of the Three Stooges. He wasn’t afraid of doing the silliest thing to get a laugh, and his charm radiated through the television set.

So Rest in Peace, Milton Supman, a/k/a/ Soupy Sales.

So with nostalgia on the brain – and with apologies to several other programs that could easily make this list – here are ten early childhood memories, some of which still pop up on television (and rightfully so):

 B&W TV

Soupy Sales – “Do The Mouse” and more. Most late night hosts consider interacting with the crew an integral part of the show, but you can tell from this clip just how loose and fun it must have been on set. It was always a bit crazy – including the famous incident where Soupy asked kids to tiptoe into their parents’ bedroom and send him all the pictures of the Presidents from their wallets – but he was one of a kind.

Popeye cartoons – Another show where the content was framed and introduced by an adult authority figure – in this case “Captain Jack McCarthy”, a local host posing as a sea captain in a yellow slicker. I seem to recall that the Popeye cartoons ranged from the classic Max Fleischer originals to the later King Features editions, but I was a mere Swee’pea at the time.

The Three Stooges – When dozens of previously filmed “shorts” were made available to television, someone got the brilliant idea of marketing them to children. The Three Stooges show was also staged with an adult authority figure (“Officer Joe Bolton was the guy in NYC) who would open the program and introduce the film and a cartoon. And parents were rightly concerned that a new generation of kids would want to poke each other in the eyes.

Abbott and Costello – Not to be confused with their movies, The Abbott and Costello Show was a half hour comedy program that was a framework for the duo to perform gags and burlesque routines under the guise of a sitcom. The show originally aired before I was born but was shown in syndication for years.

Shindig – Hard to believe there was more great rock’n’roll on television in the early ’60s than there is now. Check out the guests on this last episode and the legacy of artists who…uh…shindug. This was hip at the time.

Where The Action IsDick Clark’s follow-up to American Bandstand featured Paul Revere and the Raiders as the virtual house band and was loaded with great bands and songs for thirsty music lovers like me.

The Little Rascals – I’m sure they mixed in Our Gang comedies along with the Little Rascals flicks, but the premise was the same. And odd collection of precious and precocious children with little or no adult supervision, a dilemma and usually a lesson learned. Not a happy ending in real life, though.

Hullabaloo – Yet another font of great music, this show occupied the Monday time slot that eventually went to another staple of my youthful TV diet, The Monkees. The show tried to bridge the generation gap a bit by having established artists introduce newer ones.

Rocky and Bullwinkle – Hilariously subversive and one of the best written shows ever on the air. Like many children I enjoyed the campy stories, bad puns and funny characters (not to mention the additional features including Aesop and Son and Fractured Fairy Tales). As an adult, I’m getting the jokes I can’t believe the censors missed!

The Adventures of SupermanGeorge Reeves was already dead and gone by the time I was religiously watching the program at dinnertime every weekday. I must have seen every episode of this show fifty times each.

And for your bonus round…

The Bowery Boys – Also known as the Dead End Kids, the Little Tough Guys and the East Side Kids, the Bowery Boys were a more comic descendant of the Depression-era street kids from movies like Angels With Dirty Faces and Dead End. I’ve had a lifelong argument with my father about who the leader of the gang was, but that depends upon whether you are discussing the original crime drama films or the comedy flicks. Billy Halop was the film guy but Leo Gorcey was the undisputed leader of the comic programs. Saturday mornings will never be the same without Slip Mahoney and Sach (Huntz Hall).

I gotta investegrate this citation

I gotta investegrate this citation

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