Posts Tagged ‘Helen Reddy’

October 11th, 1975, began as an overcast day in the Delaware Valley, with occasional showers gradually giving way to the sun by the afternoon, when the temperatures topped off in the low 70s. At least, that was the prediction in the morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

The big story: Pennsylvania governor Milton J. Shapp couldn’t recall what he did with two large cash contributions that were handed to him during his 1970 gubernatorial campaign; he claimed to have funneled the money into one of his many statewide campaign committees, but couldn’t produce records to back him up.

Shapp, I should mention, didn’t need the influx. A millionaire, in the mid-1960s he spent his own money in a campaign to prevent the merger of Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central. The effort went for naught, however, and cost him when he sought the governorship in 1966 – the Pennsylvania Railroad president was a pal of President Lyndon B. Johnson. As a result, he lost in the general election to Republican Raymond P. Shafer; the national Dems abandoned him, more or less. But he ran again in 1970 and came out victorious, becoming the state’s first Jewish governor in the process. Not everything he did won favor, such as instituting a state income tax, but – despite allegations of corruption that surrounded his administration – he was popular enough to win a second term.

In retrospect, however, the biggest story of the day occurred after the late news came to an end at 11:30pm: 

Yep, SNL – then known just as Saturday Night – debuted on this date – not that I stayed up to watch it, as I was 10 years old. Instead, I probably tuned into the other Saturday Night Live, a short-lived show hosted by Howard Cosell. The guests: Bill Cosby, Roberta Flack, Barry Manilow, the Rockettes, and Andy Griffith. I was not into music at this point in my life, however, though I enjoyed it enough to watch Hee Haw at 7pm – so, though my first memory of hearing Roberta Flack is 1978, the reality is I likely first heard her this night. Her most recent single was “Feelin’ That Glow,” but whether that’s what she performed is anyone’s guess…

For those curious what a pre-cable/pre-streaming TV life was like on a Saturday night in 1975, here’s the Philadelphia Inquirer’s TV listings:

And, for the movie fans in attendance, here are the movies in the theaters:

You may notice among the listings many non-recent films; that’s the way it was, back then. Without cable and streaming services, movies had a much longer shelf life. The Budco Hatboro theater, for instance, lists a “kiddie matinee” of The Shakiest Gun in the West, which was released in 1968.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: October 11, 1975 (via Top40Weekly.com). I’m digging beyond the Top 5 to uncover some hidden treasures…

1) Helen Reddy – “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady.” Helen Reddy was more than “I Am Woman.” This, the second single from her No Way to Treat a Lady LP is a somewhat stereotypical adult-contemporary tune, tasteful as all get out. It reaches No. 8 on the pop charts this week, where it will remain for 14 days before dropping to No. 22. (Ain’t no way to treat a fine pop tune!) It does top the adult contemporary charts, however.

2) Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons – “Who Loves You.” Given that we saw Frankie and his Faux Seasons in January 2020 (one of our last pre-pandemic concerts), how can I not include this catchy and classic song? It’s No. 14 this week and will eventually reach No. 3. 

3) Linda Ronstadt – “Heat Wave”/“Love Is a Rose.” The ‘70s rock queen’s infectious take on the classic Martha and the Vandellas song, taken from her Prisoner in Disguise album, leaps 13 spaces to land at No. 18, where it won’t remain for long; it peaks at No. 5 in November.

4) Janis Ian – “At Seventeen.” Above, I mentioned the premiere of Saturday Night Live; one of the musical guests was Ms. Ian. At No. 28, the song is on its way down the charts after reaching No. 3 in September. 

5) Silver Convention – “Fly Robin Fly.” The West German disco act consisted of Sylvester Levay and Michael Kunze, who relied on session vocalists to complete their catchy conconctions; and this, their Grammy Award-winning earworm – which will top the charts in late November – began life as “Run, Rabbit, Run”; they changed the simple lyrics mere moments before recording it. (Incidentally, the enthusiastic women in the video – Penny McLean, Ramona Wulf and Linda G. Thompson – came on board once the duo realized they’d need someone to appear on camera.)

IMG_5084Reading an old magazine is akin to unlocking a time capsule. You see the first draft of history before specifics are lost and/or second-thoughts have crept in. Which is why, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I began to pick up (select) old copies of magazines wherever I found them – usually, though, at the Book Trader on South Street in Philly. The store was a mammoth vault that housed dusty treasures, from used books to used vinyl to old magazines, such as this particular issue of Rolling Stone, which sports a cover date of March 15, 1973.

At the time, the magazine was printed on slightly thicker-than-newspaper paper and folded in fourths, as the picture below shows. It was headquartered in San Francisco, and considered counterculture – rock music as a whole was generally counterculture. The cover story is of Robert Mitchum. There’s a long article on Timothy Leary; a remembrance of the “landlord of the Woodstock Nation,” Max Yasgur, who’d recently passed away; a “crazy” Ben Fong Torres profile of Al Green; and a Chet Flippo piece on Bob Dylan’s experience in Mexico IMG_5085shooting Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid with Sam Peckinpah, James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson.

I was 7 years old. Rolling Stone was not on my reading list; the Three Investigators book series for kids was. Don’t get me wrong: Music was a known entity to me, but it wasn’t the all-consuming passion that, in five years time, it would become. My favorite album, if I had one, was Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits and that was because of his history-minded novelty songs, such as “Sink the Bismarck” and “The Battle of New Orleans.”

I acquired the LP – the sleeve held together with masking tape – from my father, who brought it home from a low-watt FM station that he helped run for the Raytheon compound in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where we lived at the time. It was a way to bring a touch of home to a decidedly foreign (and strange) land. Censors and customs officials sanitized and/or confiscated anything that might be construed as controversial; I remember my parents reading news magazines with blacked-out articles. In the Desert Kingdom, freedom wasn’t just a word for nothing left to lose; freedom, simply put, was forbidden.

This issue of Rolling Stone, in other words, would have been confiscated – or entirely blacked out. Which leads to today’s Top 5: March 1973 (via Rolling Stone).

IMG_50871) Diana Ross – “Good Morning Heartache.” Rolling Stone writer Stephen Davis – who would go on to author Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga and other rock bios – begins his review of the Lady Sings the Blues soundtrack with a tone-deaf take on Diana’s hit-laden resume: “Throughout a ten-year career of glamorizing what is essentially forgettable junk, Diana Ross has somehow managed to retain the fierce dignity that comes from knowing that you rise above your material.” He then goes on to trash the movie and first half of the double-LP set, which features “snatches of trenchant dialogue, guaranteed to bring back the drear of the film, interspersed with minute-long segments of songs and Michael Legrand’s always tawdry, kitsch-laden ‘love themes.’” But, he says, the second half of the set, which features Diana’s full-length versions of Billie Holiday classics, “succeeds brilliantly…Comparatively ancient standards like ‘My Man’ and ‘Good Morning Heartache’ come off as Ross’ finest recordings.” There’s much to take issue with in his assessment, of course, as Ross (with and without the Supremes) released a string of stellar singles and albums in the 10 years prior to the film, but I’ll leave that for another day.

IMG_50892) Neil Diamond – “Cherry Cherry.” The legendary Lester Bangs pens the review for Hot August Night, the double-LP live set this single was drawn from, and summarizes it as “a fine presentation of the entire spectrum of the Diamond oeuvre, from ‘Solitary Man’ to ‘Song Sung Blue.’ It’s great, pretentious, goofy pop. Neil has always had a marvelously evocative, hymn-like quality, but it’s pure Hollywood reverence, and he really should get a gig writing soundtracks. Which is no putdown. There’s always a place for good corn and good pomp, too.”

This is a song and album I may well have heard right about the time of the review, though I can’t say for sure; it may have been a few – or more – months later. My parents were Neil fans, we had several of his albums, and I recall them playing this, which we had on cassette, quite often.

IMG_50903) Elton John – “Crocodile Rock.” I’ve never been much of an Elton John fan, though I do enjoy some of his older songs – especially since Almost Famous came out in 2001. (How can one not love “Tiny Dancer” after seeing that movie?) Anyway, this fun song comes from Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player, which reviewer Stephen Holden calls “an engaging entertainment and a nice step forward in phase two of Elton John’s career.” Later, he explains, “Typical is the irresistibly catchy and corny hit, ‘Crocodile Rock,’” which “recaptures the spirit of late-Fifties rock ’n’ roll…with such affectionate high spirits that song emerges as a genuinely fresh artifact of the Seventies.”

IMG_50924) Helen Reddy – “I Am Woman.” One of the more interesting aspects of this 42-year-old music magazine is the lack of female artists spotlighted in its pages. Oh, sure, above I singled out Diana Ross and the Lady Sings the Blues soundtrack but, believe it or not, it was only one of two reviews of an album by a woman. The other was Yoko Ono’s Approximately Infinite Universe. The rest of the magazine follows suit. Bette Midler is mentioned briefly in a Ralph Gleason thought piece on the coming Next Big Thing; and, on page 14, there’s a decent-sized article about Helen Reddy, who’d just hosted The Midnight Special. “Dressed in butch battle jacket and pants, Helen sang with little expression and made embarrassingly inane conversation,” the article begins, before expanding to explain that she was an avowed feminist and intelligent, too; and that “I Am Woman,” which hit No. 1 in late 1972, wasn’t actually new, but a few years old. Its use in the end credits of Stand Up and Be Counted, a comedy film released in mid-1972, spurred its success.

IMG_50955) The Spinners – “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love.” Another interesting aspect of this issue: the lack of black artists featured within its pages. Just as there were many worthy and overlooked female artists of the era, there were many black acts that just didn’t get the (white) press they deserved. The Al Green piece was short; and this article on the Spinners was even shorter. Still, it explains how they toiled in the shadows at Motown for a decade before jumping to Atlantic Records, where they’d scored two hits with their first two singles, including this classic.