Archive for the ‘1970s’ Category

Last night, I popped a recent find into the DVD player: a grey-market Linda Ronstadt release with the unimaginative title of Rare TV Appearances. Quality-wise, it ain’t much. The box sports a so-so cover picture of Linda at the microphone; and a back cover that advertises “more rare Linda DVDs.” Inside is a stamped DVD, but no insert that lists the featured clips. For that, one needs to either save or reference the disc’s contents from the label’s website.

December 17, 1969 – The Mike Douglas Show: “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”; “Break My Mind”

October 1970 – Darin Invasion: “Long Long Time”

1970 – Something Else: “Baby You’ve Been on My Mind”

November 3, 1973 – In Concert: “Love Has No Pride”; “Fill My Eyes”; “First Cut Is the Deepest”

November 20, 1974 – Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert: “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”; “When Will I Be Loved”; “Heart Like a Wheel”; “You’re No Good”; “You Can Close Your Eyes”; “Faithless Love”; “Silver Threads and Golden Needles”

December 31, 1974 – Rockin’ New Year’s Eve: “Love Has No Pride”; “You’re No Good”

May 23, 1975 – The Old Grey Whistle Test: 12-minute interview

December 6, 1975 – Capitol Theatre, NJ: “When Will I Be Loved”

November 28, 1976 – Hits a GoGo: “Lo Siento Mi Vida”; “That’ll Be the Day”

June 18, 1980 – Studio 3: “Mad Love”

January 8, 1983 – ChampsElysées: “Lies”

February 2, 1983 – Plantine 45: “Lies”

Visually speaking, the collection is akin to watching a worn VHS tape on an ancient tube TV – or, for those too young to remember the bulky cathode-ray wonders of yore, a YouTube playlist that includes clips from a variety of so-so sources. The latter hints at how I discovered it, in fact. Last week, I came across this 1975 interview with Linda…

…and there, in the clip’s description, was an advertisement for this DVD. I figured, for $12.99, why not give it a go? And after viewing it, I can say that – despite the varying video quality – the set is well worth the investment for Ronstadt fans, especially those of us who can never get enough. The disc charts, albeit in a haphazard manner, the evolution of her singing prowess, and includes her jaw-dropping rendition of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is the Deepest.”

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Linda Ronstadt’s Rare TV Appearances.

1) “Break My Mind.” The oldest clip on the disc, Linda’s 1969 appearance (and solo TV debut) on The Mike Douglas Show, is also the worst. The audio is out of sync with the video, which can happen when encoding from videotape. How do I know? For one, it happened to me when I digitalized some old VHS recordings a few years back. For two, here’s one of the two songs she sang that day, and everything lines up as it should:

2) “Long Long Time.” In 1970, Linda had her first taste of solo success with this single, which reached No. 25 on the charts and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Female Vocal Performance. Here, she performs it on The Darin Invasion, a 1970 Bobby Darin TV special. (The performance is available in better quality on the Darin Invasion DVD.) 

3) “Love Has No Pride,” “Fill My Eyes” and “The First Cut Is the Deepest.” The DVD hits its stride with this three-song set lifted from ABC’s late-night In Concert series. All I can say is: Linda’s rendition of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” rivals P.P. Arnold’s. It’s amazing. One wonders if she was contemplating recording it at the time and, if she did, if an outtake exists somewhere in the vaults. (As an aside: The video quality is better on the DVD.)

4) “You’re No Good.” On December 31st, 1974, Linda shared the bill with Tower of Power, Billy Preston and the Pointer Sisters on Dick Clark’s second-ever New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, which was hosted by George Carlin. The quality on DVD is far, far better than this clip, which (as of this writing) is the only YouTube video available for it.

5) “When Will I Be Loved.” Linda performs this classic Everly Brothers’ song, which was a No. 2 hit for her, at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, on Dec. 6, 1975.

And one bonus…

The seven-song set lifted from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert is a wonder to behold, but it’s not available in full on YouTube. But here’s a highlight: the J.D. Souther-penned “Faithless Love.”

The good news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. The bad news: I now know my way to and from the local Wal-Mart. 

I’m being somewhat facetious, of course, essentially joking to make a larger point: Since arriving in the Tar Heel State last month, I haven’t listened to music in the car – not via the radio or CD, and definitely not via the iPhone-aux jack connection, as my aux jack crapped out late last summer. Instead, my travelin’ companion has been Siri via Apple Maps. “Turn right,” she instructs. Turn right, I do – only to watch the app re-route because I turned one street too soon.

Such is life in the modern age, I suppose.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: New Finds, Old Souls.

1) Lucy Rose – “Conversation.” The British songstress has a knack for crafting songs that sound like they were lifted fully formed not just from her subconscious, but from yours and mine, too. (It’s as if she taps into the universal synapse, in a sense.) Such is the case with this, the lead single from her forthcoming album, No Words Left, which is due out on March 22nd.

2) Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen.” Van Etten’s looking over her shoulder in this tune, which is a taste of her forthcoming Remind Me Tomorrow album. Sonically speaking, it reminds me of Anna Calvi’s first Bowie-drenched album. (Not a bad thing, in my book.)

3) The Bangles – “Talking in My Sleep.” From the 3×4 compilation, which finds the Bangles, Three O’Clock, Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade covering each other’s songs. In this case, it’s the Bangles covering Rain Parade. (Side note: I hear my youth reverberating in the grooves…)

4) Juliana Hatfield – “Lost Ship.” Yeah, I offered my first impressions of Weird, the new Juliana album, last week. This song, one of its stellar tracks, has been ricocheting around my brain since I first heard it in mid-December. It’s just freakin’ great.

5) Jade Bird – “What Am I Here For.” The Brit singer-songwriter, who melds Americana with old-fashioned rock and pop, delivers an astounding performance in this month-old clip.

And two bonuses…

6) Linda Ronstadt – “1970s interview.” An excellent interview from The Old Grey Whistle Test in which Linda discusses her career, the Eagles and more. About the songs she sings: “I pick them. They have to be about me, in a way.”

7) Another insightful interview with Linda, this one from 1977:

 

It’s safe to say that, when it comes to popular music, 1978 was no better or worse than most years. Disco was hot, but so was pop, rock, country and soul/R&B. I was 13, and listened to WIFI-92, a Top 40 station in the Philly market, and an oldies show that WPEN-AM featured every Saturday night. (I used to send in requests for Jan & Dean songs via postcards.) And, when flush with cash, I usually frequented the Hatboro Music Shop, which was run by the town’s future mayor, Joe Celano.

But although I knew pop music present and past, I was ignorant of much – AOR rock is one example. I remember tuning in a station recommended by a classmate – either WMMR or ‘YSP – and thinking I’d turned the dial to a country station when the deejay announced Jethro Tull was up after the commercial. The only Jethro I knew was Bodine (aka Max Baer Jr. on The Beverly Hillbillies), so I tuned away.

I’ve written about the year before, of course, although not this month, so I’d like to give a shoutout to The Hideaway’s rundown of the WLS chart for 11/4/78, which led me to deep dive into this week. (As I tweeted Herc, “that fall has stuck with me through the decades.” It may not have been the greatest year, but it was a great time to be a kid.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: November 11, 1978 (via Weekly Top 40).

1) Donna Summer – “MacArthur Park.” Okay, so some folks absolutely, positively hate this song in any form, and absolutely, positively hate Donna’s disco-fied rendition, which topped the charts this week and would remain there for the remainder of the month. Me? I hear my first months as a teen. 

2) Anne Murray – “You Needed Me.” The No. 2 song in the land came courtesy of the Canadian snowbird, who was gliding down from the chart’s peak, which she’d perched on the previous week. 

3) Foreigner – “Double Vision.” A song inspired by a vicious hockey check? That’s what Lou Gramm claims led him and Mick Jones to craft this million-selling single, the title tune to the band’s second LP. 

4) Ambrosia – “How Much I Feel.” According the Wikipedia, this SoCal band scored five Top 40 singles with their soft-rock sound from 1975 to 1980.

5) Nick Gilder – “Hot Child in the City.” The platinum-selling smash topped the charts in October, but remains a heatseeker this week at No. 5. The inspiration for it? Gilder’s shock at seeing underage girls being trafficked on the streets of Hollywood. He wrote the song from the perspective of a lecher.

And two bonuses…

6) Al Stewart – “Time Passages.” In its seventh week on the charts, Stewart’s classic musings on the passing of time – which was produced by Alan Parsons – rises two notches to No. 17. This video, by the way, was recorded on Nov. 12, 1978…

7) Linda Ronstadt – “Ooo Baby Baby.” Debuting on the charts at No. 59 is this wondrous remake of the 1965 Miracles’ hit, the second single released from her Living in the USA album. It would peak at No. 7 on the Billboard charts.

Not long after graduating high school, Tony Joe White (1943-2018) moved from rural Louisiana, where he’d been raised on a cotton farm, to Marietta, Ga., where a sister lived, in pursuit of a better life. He played guitar and, from what I gather, had been in and out of bands back home, but it didn’t pay the bills – as it often doesn’t. He found employment as a dump-truck driver with the highway department, and it featured an odd perk: work was always called on account of rain.

Fast-forward a few years, by which point he’s kicking around the music circuit in Texas: He hears Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” on the radio, and it seems lifted from his own life, just about, inspiring him to try his hand at writing songs. Among the first out of the gate: “Polk Salad Annie,” which harkens back to his childhood, and “Rainy Night in Georgia,” which conjures the rainy nights he experienced in Marietta.

If he’d never written anything else, he would have contributed more to this world than most. “Polk Salad Annie” was covered by Elvis Presley. And “Rainy Night in Georgia”… it’s one of the greatest songs of all time. But no version – not even White’s, which sounds tentative to my ears – equals that of Brook Benton’s masterful single, which went to No. 4 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1970. The texture of the veteran R&B singer’s voice was made for White’s melancholic lyrics. 

That said, Shelby Lynne included a spellbinding rendition of it (as “Track 12”) on her 2005 Suit Yourself album. The grain of her voice echoes the rain, and I’d place it almost on a par with Benton’s rendition. (White plays on the track with her; they were neighbors for a spell, and friends – he appears in her recent film, Here I Am.)

The great Chuck Jackson released a version not long after Benton on what would be his final Motown album, Teardrops Keep Fallin’ on My Heart: 

B.J. Thomas also released a version of it in late 1970 on his Most of All album:

Johnny Rivers also recorded it that year:

Ray Charles covered it on his 1972 album The Genius Hits the Road:

Two years after Ray, Van McCoy (yes, of the “Hustle” fame) and his Soul City Symphony recorded an instrumental version of it for the Love Is the Answer LP. (It’s far more kitsch than cool.)

Otis Rush released his rendition of it in 1976, on his Right Place, Wrong Time album.

In 1981, Randy Crawford included a nice version of it on her Secret Combination album. Although released  as a single, it didn’t chart in the U.S.; it did make it to No. 18 in the U.K., however. 

Conway Twitty and Sam Moore recorded the classic tune for the 1993 Rhythm, Country and Blues compilation CD. 

In 2004, David Ruffin’s rendition – which was recorded in 1970 – was released on the David CD. 

And, finally, Aaron Neville – with an ample assist from Chris Botti – covered the song on his Bring It On Home collection of soul classics.

Those are but some of the many versions of the classic tune, of course, and I’m sure I missed some that others think of as must-listens. (About the only person who never recorded it, but should have: Gladys Knight.)