Posts Tagged ‘Blues Brothers’

 

Thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, as I write, the No. 1 song on the Billboard pop charts was “Coming Up” – but not the catchy tune by one-man-band Paul McCartney from his madcap McCartney II endeavor, but the slightly less catchy live version by Paul McCartney & Wings (Mach III), taken from a December 1979 concert in Glasgow on what turned out to be the final Wings flight. 

Columbia Records, his label home, apparently didn’t think the American public would appreciate his sped-up vocals, so – although the live version is clearly the B-side on the 45, where it’s paired with the eccentric “Lunchbox/Odd Sox” – they promoted the Wings rendition as the A.

And lest fans who bought McCartney II be upset that the song they heard on the radio wasn’t on the LP, Columbia included a special one-sided single of the live version. It even came with a helpful “play other side” instruction on the flip side.

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Let me back up, albeit for a moment: I was 14 on this day, soon to be 15; and having a good time – it was summer, after all. No school. That meant late nights and late mornings, hanging with friends, and – yep, you guessed it – listening to plenty of music. In my neck of the woods, that meant tuning in WIFI-92, WMMR, WYSP and WIOQ.

In the wider world, Ronald Reagan was gearing up to accept the Republican presidential nomination in Detroit in a mere 11 days. President Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, was in the midst of stamping out an insurgency within his Democratic Party, as he was being challenged by Ted Kennedy, and wouldn’t secure his second shot at the Oval Office until the following month, at the Democratic National Convention in New York.

The reason for the tepid enthusiasm for Carter: the economy. Unemployment was rising – it crested at 7.8 percent this month, its highest mark since he took office in 1977, and inflation was at obscene levels – 13-plus percent for the month, and 13-plus for the year. There was also the matter of the ongoing Iranian hostage crisis.

The big movies of the day included Fame, The Empire Strikes Back, Urban Cowboy, Bronco Billy, The Blues Brothers, Airplane!, and, released on this very day in 1980, The Blue Lagoon. I don’t remember seeing any of them in the theaters, though I did eventually see all of them on PRISM, the local premium cable channel that also carried the home games of the Philadelphia Flyers.

As far as TV – it was summer, and summer meant reruns.

And when it comes to music – well, that’s what today’s Top 5: July 5, 1980 (via Billboard, which I occasionally bought), is about. Here are a few selected highlights…

1) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet – “Against the Wind.” Dropping out of the Top 5 to No. 6 is this classic Seger song, which I rate not just with his best, but with the best of all time. It’s the title track to one of my “essential” albums.

2) Olivia Newton-John – “Magic.” In its seventh week, the Xanadu single inches up two spots to No. 14. Here she is lip-syncing to the song on The Midnight Special

3) Carole King – “One Fine Day.” “One Fine Day” is a song with a rich history – written by King and Gerry Goffin, it was first a hit for the Chiffons in 1963, when it reached No. 5 on the pop charts. Seventeen years later, King recorded it for her Pearls: Songs of Goffin & King album, and released it as a single. It reaches No. 16 this week (on its way to No. 12).

4) The Blues Brothers – “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Saturday Night Live’s John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd turned a love for the blues into a side project with legs. They released a hit album in 1978, and a hit movie and hit soundtrack in 1980. This week, the lead single from that soundtrack bounces (like a rubber biscuit) up seven spots to No. 22.

5) Pete Townshend – “Let My Love Open the Door.” Townshend had an unlikely Top 10 hit with this uptempo ditty, the lead single from his classic Empty Glass LP. This week, it’s No. 35 (on its way to No. 9).

And two bonuses…

6) Irene Cara – “Fame.” Cara sounds so much like Donna Summer on this, the joyous title track to the hit movie, that it almost seems unfair to say so. That said, I love the song and performance. 

7) Linda Ronstadt – “Hurt So Bad.” Falling from No. 26 to 80 in its 13th week on the charts is Linda’s spine-tingling rendition of the Little Anthony & the Imperials hit from 1965. (It hails from her 1980 Mad Love album, of course.) 

IMG_5382John Belushi graces the issue of this Rolling Stone, which arrived in my mailbox toward the end of my junior year of high school. The 33-year-old comedian, actor and singer had died on March 5th of a drug overdose. A true waste. Inside, there’s a nice tribute to him that features the recollections of his parents, siblings and wife, as well as such friends as Brian Doyle-Murray, Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon, Jack Nicholson, Anne Beatts, John Landis, Duck Dunn, Ray Charles, Penny Marshall, Hunter Thompson and others.

“Even though he was a bit of a monster, he was our monster, as well as a damned good person you could count on for help in the dark times,” says Thompson.

The entire issue isn’t devoted to him, though. Other articles focus on Joan Jett, whose “I Love Rock ’n Roll” had recently hit the top of the singles charts; independent labels, Jimmy Webb, concerts on cable TV, the plane-accident death of Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads, the Waitresses, Teddy Pendergrass and AM stereo.

There’s also this preview of the future: A company called Video Corporation of America was planning to roll out 300 to 500 video-rental kiosks by the end of the year. (One hopes they got their due from Redbox.)

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Anyway, today’s Top 5:

1) The Blues Brothers – “Soul Man.” In honor of Belushi. From a New Year’s Eve 1978 show in San Francisco…

IMG_53852) Rickie Lee Jones – “Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking.” In July 1981, Rickie Lee released the follow-up to her classic 1979 self-titled debut: the equally classic Pirates, which is home to “We Belong Together” and this song, among others. She didn’t tour in support of the album, however, until early 1982, as this Random Notes mention indicates.

This incomplete clip (no video, just sound) is from her stop in Philly that year. (I was a fan, but I wasn’t there – wouldn’t see her until 1989.) Decades later, Diane and I saw her at a mesmerizing show at Temple University, where she played her first two albums in their entirety back-to-back. Another favorite show: 1994 at the Keswick Theater, when she delivered a spellbinding set of her songs by her lonesome. (This Inquirer review really got it wrong.)

3) Joan Jett – “I Love Rock n’ Roll.” Joan Jett Has the Last Laugh, reads the title of the article about the 23-year-old Jett, which basically relates her not-quite-overnight success. “[K]udos in excelsis are due to Jett herself, who has managed to combine the punch of heavy metal with the adrenalin of New Wave—and make America like it.”

IMG_53884) Bob Dylan – “Jokerman.” Dylan wouldn’t release Infidels until October. Early in the year, though, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame: “As the Jerry Kravitz Orchestra romped through an abbreviated version of ‘Blowing in the Wind,’ Dylan strode to the podium to receive his citation from a beaming Tom Paxton. ‘I think this is pretty amazing, really,’ said Dylan, ‘because I can’t read or write a note of music. I never will be able to. So thank you.’” The short piece ends with this: “And he had one backstage request: to be photographed with Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dinah Shore. He got his wish.”

This “Jokerman” clip is from Dylan’s 1984 performance on Late Night With David Letterman.

5) The Jam – “A Town Called Malice.” The top-selling album this month was the Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat – a classic through-and-through. Other hot albums include (#2) Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire soundtrack,(#3) J. Geils Band’s Freeze-Frame, (#4) the Police’s Ghost in the Machine and (#5) Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ’n Roll. New albums fresh to the charts include (#21) Rick Springfield’s Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me, (#22) Quincy Jones’ The Dude, (#36) Willie Nelson’s Always on My Mind, (#40) Asia’s self-titled debut, (#46) XTC’s English Settlement and (#58) the Jam’s The Gift, which I bought a month or two later, after seeing the video for “A Town Called Malice.”