Oh my God, he’s back! Just when we thought we were rid of that blowhard…
Yes, loyal readers, tonight marks the return of Top 10 Flashback after a hiatus of several weeks. It all started when my job took me to Toledo for a week. The best thing to be said about Toledo is that it’s only 75 miles from home. I could have just commuted, but hey, I had a room! After I got back, I spent Memorial Day weekend in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, specifically the Marquette area, to visit someone I hadn’t seen in years. If not for the long, cold, snowy winters and the lack of jobs, I could totally do the U.P. It’s such a nice, slow, peaceful way of life; the kind of life where going to a place like Wal-Mart is an all-day excursion. Oh, it’s not perfect – for one, they’ve got a real problem with meth there. I suppose you’ll do fine if you steer clear of those people. I drove the Crown Vic, which stood out like a sore thumb up there, and it averaged 23 mpg at a steady 75-80 mph. Not bad for what it is. Then, well, hell, I just decided to take a few weeks off.
Meanwhile, Casey Kasem disappeared, was found, and is now near death. The latest is that he was removed from life support, so by the time this is posted, he may no longer be with us. But let’s think happy thoughts with a Top 10 flashback!
Since I did a little bit of traveling (yeah, right, the furthest I got from home was 450 miles), forgive me if I once again look to my hometown for this week’s return, and tune to a station I often mention, but haven’t spotlighted. I’m referring, of course, to the great Big 8, CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. CKLW owned this market in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and even in the mid 70’s could pull a 25 share. That means that 1 of every 4 radios that were switched on, in a market of 4 million, were tuned to 800. They also dominated in Toledo and Cleveland. Only WJR, next door at 760, could beat them. In 1970, the year we’re remembering this week, there was CK, JR, and everyone else. Both had 50,000 watts on a clear channel, and if you lived in the eastern half of the the U.S. or Canada, chances were you could hear them just fine at night. CKLW still exists today as a news/talk station focused on Windsor listeners; they barely show up in the ratings on this side of the river. The sound of the station, along with a lot of rare and unique oldies, is kept alive at AM 580, CKWW. You can listen at http://www.am580radio.com . Let’s check out the Big 8 in its heyday, 44 years ago this week.
So vote for me and I’ll set you free! Survey dated June 15, 1970.
Ronnie Dyson – Why Can’t I Touch You
This song is usually lumped into the “soul/R&B/whatever they call black music” category, but I’m not buying it. It’s a pop song that happens to be sung by a black man (it’s actually from the musical “Salvation”). Ronnie Dyson went from the churches to Broadway, starring in “Hair” and other productions, to the Philly soul sound. He was only 40 when he died in 1990.
Elvis Presley – The Wonder Of You
Elvis had made his comeback two years earlier, and he kept churning out the hits for several years, inexplicably stopping in August of ’77 for some reason. I never was a big fan of this era of Elvis – this song’s OK, but some were downright maudlin. He would do his last great rocker, “Burning Love,” two years later.
Boys In The Band – How ‘Bout A Little Hand
This song has been not just forgotten, but erased. I hadn’t heard it or thought of it in 44 years until I pulled up this video, causing one long-dormant section of my brain to spring into action. Did it have that effect on you, too? And who else hears Roy Head’s 1965 hit “Treat Her Right”?
Beatles – The Long And Winding Road
The Beatles’ last chart single. Well, that’s not exactly true – “Got To Get You Into My Life” wasn’t released as a single until 1976. This song was infamously overproduced by Phil Spector, and Paul was PISSED when he heard it. This is what he intended:
Yeah, I prefer it, too.
Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me (Not To Come)
Oh, I love me some Three Dog Night! We’ve all been to parties like this, haven’t we? Written by Randy Newman.
Jackson 5ive – The Love You Save
The Jackson 5ive was certainly the hottest group of 1970. It’s really surprising this song isn’t heard much any more, even here in the home of Motown. I like it as much as the two songs you always hear today.
Pickettywitch – That Same Old Feeling
Another song that hasn’t been heard in 44 years. Meh. It’s nice to hear again, but I think I’ll just put it back. Lead singer Polly Brown sure was a cutie, though.
Vanity Fare – Hitchin’ A Ride
Lots of “lost 45s” this week. When was the last time you heard this?
Temptations – Ball Of Confusion
The Temptations’ best work was with producer Norman Whitfield at the helm, and this is one of the best of those. We’ve seen it here before, and I remarked that my eight-year-old self thought “tax deduction” was a pretty cool phrase to have in a song. A great protest song that holds up well today.
Well, even though many of these songs haven’t been heard in over four decades, we will still feature the “oh, wow” song of the week, a song below #10 that was tossed into radio’s dustbin despite its worthiness. Melanie Safka, known professionally by just her first name, got off to a strong start in 1969 – hell, she performed at Woodstock. She had had a couple of hits in Europe before her Woodstock appearance, but her first U.S. hit came in the summer of ’70 and was inspired by that appearance, which took place as it was raining. She could have been mentioned in the same breath with Joni Mitchell and Carole King, but she wrote “Brand New Key” a year later and totalled her image, proving that sometimes a #1 hit can kill your career. At #20 this week and rising, here’s Melanie featuring the Edwin Hawkins Singers with the excellent “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain),” scratches and all.
One of my all-time favorites. Melanie was one of the prototypes for the whole “girls with guitars” thing, but all she’s remembered for is “I got a brand new pair of roller skates, you got a brand new key…” THIS is what she should be known for.
Yes, now it’s time for the Motor City’s number one song from this week in 1970. What could it be? Tough question, but things are gonna get easier:
I fucking love this song. When I die, I hope I get to take it with me.
Listen to an aircheck of CKLW featuring Steve Hunter and Walt “Baby” Love from around this time in 1970, featuring many of these songs:
Part 1 (Steve Hunter): http://thebig8.net/hunter.mp3
Part 2 (Walt “Baby” Love): http://thebig8.net/wblove.mp3
Yeah, the music’s snipped. It’s an aircheck. Maybe I’ll edit it together and restore the music.
Well, all right! Glad to be back. I’ll try not to stay away so long again.