Posts Tagged ‘Supremes’

Christmas is the time to say “I love you.” I’m not sure why, but that Billy Squier lyric (and accompanying melody) has stuck with me since I first heard it way back in…1981?! Yes, I suppose so. I was never a Squier fan, never bought anything by him, but this song –

– just takes me back. Martha Quinn, aka Mrs. Bobby Brady, introduces it; the song itself starts at the 1:40 (or so) mark. In fact, I likely saw the clip when it first aired or shortly thereafter, as we had MTV by then (I think).

Seeing Martha reminded me that I have an autographed photo and letter from her, circa April 1983 – perhaps a post for another day? – and, somewhere lost in my archives, I possess a letter from Santa…yes, you read right – not to, but from. The jolly old elf took pity on me one year, though I don’t remember the specifics. Perhaps that’s the year I got hit in the eye by a mud ball? Could be.

Anyway, for today’s Top 5: Christmas Songs. No rhyme or reason to the picks, just songs and performances that I enjoy – and, hopefully, you will, too!

1) Duffy – “The Christmas Song.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas videos and renditions of “The Christmas Song.”

2) David Crosby & Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.” What needs to be said about this classic clip?

3) The Supremes – “Children’s Christmas Song.” Pure joy set to music – that’s this song in a nutshell.

4) Rumer – “Remember (Christmas).” I created this slideshow from pictures my dad took while serving in Korea during the war. Earlier this year, I was surprised when Rumer retweeted to me someone’s request as to where to find the song. (Of which, I have no idea. Someone shared it with me.) She watched the video, liked it and was intrigued to learn the history behind the slides. Kinda cool.

5) Hayley Westenra – “River.” Not a real Christmas song, but it’s become a seasonal favorite – as this Washington Post article explains. And I love Hayley’s crystalline voice.

And, of course, a few bonuses…

6) The Waitresses – “Christmas Wrapping.”

7) Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”

8) Bob Seger & the Last Heard – “Sock It to Me, Santa.”

9) Pat Benatar – “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

10) Paul McCartney – “Wonderful Christmastime.” Yeah, some folks hate this. I don’t. And Annie Zaleski over at Salon gives a good defense of it.

 

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Newsflash: Teenagers confound adults.

fullsizeoutput_1158In 1966, however, they weren’t just confounding the older generations; they were concerning them, too, because of the largeness of their numbers. According to the unsigned editor’s note in this Newsweek issue, the “17.9 million young Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 loom like a subcontinent within U.S. society. Their numbers exceed the population of Australia and New Zealand, and at times they seem as far-off and hard to reach.” Thus, the magazine’s braintrust decided to delve deep into the world of the modern teen, to learn not just who they were but, as noted newsman Les Nessman might phrase it, what they were plotting.

That tongue-in-cheek reference to the WKRP in Cincinnati reporter serves a purpose. If you watched the show, odds are you remember the shy and sly Bailey Quarters –

Bailey was played by Jan Smithers – who, it just happens, is the 16-year-old girl riding the motorcycle on the cover. Inside, she’s afforded a mini-profile in a section titled “Six Faces of Youth”: “Beneath the Fluoristan smile, Jan worries. ‘Sometimes when I’m sitting in my room I just feel like screaming and pounding my pillow,’ she says. ‘I’m so confused about this whole world and everything that’s happening.’ But she wants to understand why.” She also observes that ‘[w]hen you’re young you might as well take advantage of it. And even if I become old and saggy, I’m still going to be young.”

As a whole, the in-depth investigation of all things teens paints kids as spoiled creatures who subscribe, more or less, to a parentally-approved lifestyle: “In contrast to the troubled minority, most teenagers seem docile indeed. They criticize themselves sternly: drinking, smoking, long hair, hot rods, eye makeup, net stockings, eccentric clothes.”

Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5: March 21, 1966 (via Newsweek).

1) The Beatles – “Nowhere Man.” There, on page 102, is an article titled “Bards of Pop.” In the last three years, we’re told, Beatle bards John Lennon and Paul McCartney “have written 88 songs that have been recorded in 2921 versions and have sold close to 200 million copies.”

fullsizeoutput_1140“Their latest album of originals, ‘Rubber Soul,’ now fourth on U.S. charts, marks a turning away from the percussive electric backgrounds of rhythm & blues to more intimate settings and subtler forms. Still simple and direct, their lyrics are no longer concerned with handholding, but with desertion, seduction and satire.”

Later, McCartney makes a cogent point: “Our best influences now are ourselves. We are so well established that we can bring fans along with us and stretch the limits of pop.” He also says this: “I wouldn’t mind being a white-haired old man writing songs, but I’d hate to be a white-haired Beatle playing at Empress Stadium.”

Anyway, according to Weekly Top 40, “Nowhere Man” was the No. 4 song of the week – and here they are in Munich performing it:

2) The Temptations – “Get Ready.” There’s also a mini-profile of 15-year-old Tommy Brewer, a black kid from Chicago, in the “Six Faces of Youth” section, that follows the peek into Jan’s life. He “travels 6 miles via two buses and an El” to attend Lindblom Technical High School because, unlike his neighborhood school, it has science labs, electronic courses, and woodworking and metalworking shops.” Out of school, he “divides his time between Look and Ebony. He listens to WVON, a Negro rock ’n’ roll station, and his favorite groups are the Temptations and the Miracles…”

“Get Ready” was one of the week’s “power play” songs, having jumped from No. 53 to 42; and here are the Temps, from an appearance on Where the Action Is

3) The Rolling Stones – “19th Nervous Breakdown.” The piece on the Beatles opens with this line: “How long can Animals, Beatles, Stones, Spoonfuls or Supremes survive in the musical jungle? The cruel laws of pop says they will die commercially before they are 30.”

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

4) The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Daydream.” And about those Spoonfuls…they had the No. 10 single of the week with this cool confection. According to John Sebastian, it was inspired by the Motown sound…

5) The Supremes – “My World Is Empty Without You.” And speaking of Motown, here’s the No. 30 single of the week…

And one bonus…

6) Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” In the Jan Smithers piece, there’s this: “Most of the action centers on The Trip, a vibrating folk-rock haven…” I googled that club, and found this cool flashback. It was a short-lived venture, but – by looks of the pictures – booked quite a few happenin’ acts, including Stevie.

“Uptight” was the No. 40 single this week, having fallen from No. 13 the week before. Here’s Stevie from Top of the Pops in ’66…

And, for the curious, here are a few more looks inside this edition of Newsweek:

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Earlier today, I watched (for the umpteenth time) one of my favorite films: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was released in 1962. It’s a whimsical love letter to eccentricity, escape and the human-feline bond, and Holly Golightly may well be Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic role. The movie is also notable, of course, for introducing the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer song “Moon River” to the world.

Here’s some food for thought, though: In 1962, Holly’s opportunities were extremely limited because of her gender. She would have been disqualified from many jobs; and, even if an employer made an exception and hired her, she could expect to be paid much less than a guy doing the same work. She also wouldn’t be able to get a prescription for the birth-control pill, as it was only given to married women (and only in some states); and, regardless of her marriage status, she could be fired if she became pregnant. And if a male colleague or superior grabbed her ass? She had no recourse. Sexual harassment, as a concept, didn’t exist. Oh, and even if she had graduated as the valedictorian of her high school, she couldn’t apply to Harvard, Yale or Princeton, as women weren’t accepted as students. She’d also have difficulty getting a credit card.

fullsizeoutput_10a5Which is why Good Girls Revolt, a fictionalized account of the experiences of women at Newsweek during late 1969 and early 1970, is such an important series. On the surface, of course, it’s about women fighting for the right to pursue their dreams – in this case, reporting and writing. But it’s more than that. It’s about an era when change was spreading through society writ large. And while the America of 1969-70 was different than it was in 1962, it was not as different as, at first blush, it may seem – within the counterculture? Yes. Within the wider culture? Not so much. In 1970, for instance, CBS nixed the idea that Mary Tyler Moore would portray a divorcée in her eponymous sitcom because executives feared it would offend viewers. Instead, her character (Mary Richards) moved to Minneapolis after breaking off a long engagement.

Good Girls Revolt, for those who’ve yet to see it, opens after the concert fiasco at Altamont Speedway near San Francisco in December 1969. As I said here, the dialogue’s occasionally clunky in the first few episodes and the characters sometimes teeter near stereotypical – but it’s well-acted. Let me add an adverb: It’s extremely well-acted. (Genevieve Angelson, who plays lead character Patti, deserves an Emmy Award.) While glimpses of greatness are seen in the early going, it’s not until midway through the 10-episode run – the New Year’s Eve episode, to be specific – that the series hits its stride. (That’s not a criticism; most new shows take a while to find their groove.) By the last episode, when the employees take a public stand, you’ll be left wanting more. Much more.

However, last week, Amazon nixed a second season despite the show doing well in every available metric. According to Hollywood Reporter, Sony Pictures Television, which produces the show, is currently shopping it to other networks – ABC, Freeform, USA Network, Bravo and Hulu are all said to be interested – but they won’t take it on if they don’t think there’s an audience. So head over to Care2 and sign the petition.

The women themselves let their voices be heard on March 16, 1970, the same day that Newsweek published a cover story on the nascent women’s movement. The issue is actually dated March 23rd; like most magazines, then and now, Newsweek pre-dated its issues so that it retained newsstand appeal. For the purposes of today’s Top 5, I’m sticking to the 23rd – well, actually the 21st. The charts over at Weekly Top 40 are two days off.

Anyway, here’s today’s Top 5: Good Girls Revolt, Take 2 – March 23, 1970. These are the songs by female artists that, according to Weekly Top 40, were in the Top 40 that week.

1) Aretha Franklin – “Call Me.” The top 18 hits this week are by men; the highest-charting 45 by a woman is this, at No. 19. It was the lead single from Aretha’s 1970 This Girl’s in Love With You album.

2) The Supremes – “Up the Ladder to the Roof.” The next female act, the Supremes, comes in at No. 25. It’s notable as the first post-Diana Ross single by the Motown stalwarts; Jean Terrell handles lead vocals.

3) Lulu – “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby).” This gem from Lulu (one of my favorites by her) ranks at No. 31.

4) Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell – “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Of this week’s Top 40, exactly three and a half songs are by women. (Let that sink in for a moment.) This, a cover of the Everly Brothers’ classic, ranks No. 34.

5) The Five Stairsteps – “O-o-h Child.” This was a newly ranked single within the Top 100; along with its flipside, “Dear Prudence,” it was No. 85. (The Stairsteps were five siblings – four brothers and one sister – and they all take a turn singing lead here.)

And one bonus…

6) Gladys Knight & the Pips – “You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You).” Another new entry this week, coming in at No. 87.

And that, believe it or not, is the extent of women in the chart, which covers Numbers 1 through 50 and adds 14 additional “new this week” entries for the Top 100 as a whole.

Last night, Diane and I veered away from the never-ending Gilmore Girls marathon on Up to give the Amazon Prime series Good Girls Revolt a try. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the polished drama is a fictionalized adaptation of Lynn Povich’s 2012 book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. Names have been changed, characters invented and/or combined into one, and the magazine has been retitled News of the Week – but the gist remains the same. As with most professions in 1969 America, which is when the series is set, women were relegated to secondary and supportive roles in most newsrooms. It took a group of brave women to change that.

At essence, then, Good Girls Revolt is sort of a feminist spin on Mad Men. No, it’s not as solid as that series was out of the gate, but it is a step up from the other Mad Men-inspired series I’ve seen. My biggest complaint: the characters are more archetypical than fully formed. For instance, hippie-in-spirit researcher Patti (Genevieve Angelson) – the lead character – sometimes seems little more than a mature Karen Arnold (Kevin’s one-dimensional big sister on The Wonder Years); and her erstwhile reporter-boyfriend Doug (Hunter Parrish) comes across as a cardboard cut-out of a reporter-boyfriend.

I sound a tad harsher there than I intended; the series is a step above most network fare. It peels the gauzy nostalgia from our collective memory and shows that, indeed, not everything in the past was hunky-dory or better than the present. In fact, as most things societal go, the past was worse.

And, for purposes of this blog, it inspired today’s Top 5: Good Girls Revolt (circa 1969). 

1) Janis Joplin – “Work Me, Lord” From The Woodstock Art & Music Fair, 8/17/1969.

2) Jefferson Airplane – “Somebody to Love.” From Dick Cavett’s post-Woodstock episode (8/19/1969) – note David Crosby playing tambourine beside Paul Kantner.

3) Laura Nyro – “He’s a Runner/Save the Country.” From Bobby Darin’s Sounds of the Sixties TV special (though I believe only “Save the Country” aired), which aired Jan. 22, 1969.

4) Roberta Flack – “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Not sure where this is from, just that it’s 1969. Great song, under-appreciated singer.

5) Dusty Springfield – “Son of a Preacher Man.” From a rather psychedelic 1969 German TV special.

And three bonus songs…

6) Jackie DeShannon – “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”

7) Joni Mitchell – “Woodstock.” From a 1970 appearance on the BBC.

8) Diana Ross & the Supremes – “Someday We’ll Be Together.” The last No. 1 hit of the 1960s…