Tag Archives: The Archies

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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Blast From The Past: The Vandalias

Pulled out this old powerpop chestnut and blasted it.

Unfortunately the band went the way of most of the powerpop bands that stormed the 90’s revival – nowhere. A brief flash, some great songs and a lot of memories for record geeks like me who treasure such things. It didn’t mean they weren’t great – they were – but as usual, without radio airplay or any muscular marketing scheme, it was rain through your fingertips.

Big Deal Records was the shit in those days; a roster to die for and a release every month or two by great artists like Splitsville, Cockeyed Ghost, Michael Shelley and The Wondermints. And the series of great Yellow Pills collections…what a time that was! Unfortunately the label didn’t last, either…and sadly, whomever co-opted the label name is doing something completely different these days.

Buzzbomb. Is there a better word to capture the essence of powerpop? Here’s my original review from TransAction

Man, these cartoon characters can rock! Incredible pop rock that hearkens back to Badfinger, Big Star and every “ooh-aah”band that took the lead from the Beatles and moved on. “Down”, “No OneTold Him” and “the faux live “Funk Monkey Baby” rip it up with Cheap Trick energy and harmonies straight out of…The Mamas & Papas?

You bet! Rock ballads too; “Say I’m Sorry” will melt the crustiest of hard hearts. Eleven great songs in thirty five minutes that will make you wonder why someone so talented shields himself behind the front of the “Vandalia brothers”. I won’t expose him directly, but if you want to pay this pop wizard some props, buy Mach V, the previous CD, and dismantle the packaging.

It’s now a decade later, so I’ll save you the treasure hunt. The Todd Rundgren-esque popster was Dan Sarka.

The Vandalias on MySpace

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Bubblegum. Still Like It.

Some Bubblegum retains its flavor

Nine years ago, I contributed a couple of features to Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, a collection of essays, lists and features on the genre and its artists. Edited by Scram magazine’s  Kim Cooper and David Smay, it was the first book to take an in-depth look at the artists, writers and behind the scenes operators of the bubblegum universe. 

 When I was growing up, AM radio featured a melting pot of musical styles, from British Invasion rock to garage to soul to folk. And, yes, bubblegum. The fact that I could enjoy Tommy Roe’s “Dizzy” for what it was – a simple, catchy, sing-along pop tune – didn’t mean I was unable to appreciate Jimi Hendrix reinventing guitar rock, the poetic imagery of Bob Dylan or the not-quite-white blues that The Rolling Stones were channeling. I’ve sometimes seen people admit they like bands like The Ohio Express or The Archies only under the guise of guilty pleasures, as if somehow you need to apologize for what you enjoy. Peer pressure sucks; ignore it.

Exposure to a wide variety of music was a good thin. I sincerely believe the death of the individual DJ and the birth of music consultants and formats did serious damage to the music audience. It’s pretty hard to like something when you rarely get a chance to hear it. Between restricting musical styles and limiting the number of tracks in rotation, at least one generation has had a big hole in their musical education. Now at least people can at least surf and sample to their heart’s content, if they have the drive to do so.

But back to Bubblegum…one of the best bands was The 1910Fruitgum Company. I’ll admit that “Goody Goody Gumdrops” was a little hard to take, but “1-2-3 Red Light” was a deceptively filthy pop song, and “Indian Giver” is still one of my favorite singles from that era. So when asked to write about a couple of bands for the book, they were my first choice…

When today’s artists issue a new release every two years they are dubbed “prolific”. In the late 60’s, however, a band could have a six-album career in that twenty-four month span. And if you consider that the 1910 Fruitgum Company was just one of the several bands springing from the minds of Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz during that time, you begin to understand what an incredible feat the kings of bubblegum pulled off in tandem with Buddah Records mogul Neil Bogart.

Bubblegum music was little more than stripped-down rock and roll with a unique marketing spin, and the Super K boys spat them out as fast as they could put them together in their Bubblegum Factory. The 1910 Fruitgum Company was arguably the duo’s biggest success… (continue reading at the Bubblegum University site)

Now do you like it?

Bubblegum is the Naked Truth at Amazon

1910 Fruitgum Company wiki

Scram magazine

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