Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Couple Of Quickies ...

>>>Is there a possibility that there are two versions, single or album, of the Guess Who's Star Baby? This has been driving me crazy for years as the current versions you hear on the internet just don't sound right. I remember the version that WLS played to death was noticeably faster, more energetic. But then, wasn't one of the Chicago stations accused of speeding up the songs so they could have more room for commercials?
(Dave / Hoffman Estates)
>>>"Star Baby" was a HUGE hit for The Guess Who here in Chicago, where it went all the way to #3. (Nationally, it peaked at #30 in Cash Box Magazine and #39 in Billboard.) MOST of their hits did better here in Chicago ... where the band often came to record in the late '60's and early '70's. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that there are different album and single versions of this tune ... "punched-up singles" were pretty much the norm back then. (And you're right ... at various times, WLS and WCFL were BOTH accused of speeding up their records to not only squeeze a little more music in but to all sound a little more "high intensity" on the air.) kk

Regarding WLS speeding up songs so that they could squeeze more songs in a given hour, it didn’t happen while Sam Holman, Gene Taylor or on my watch as program director. I seriously doubt that it ever did happen as it would have changed the pitch of the music.
Clark Weber
There was quite a bit of press at the time (and for awhile thereafter) that WCFL was speeding up their records by half a pitch, not only to squeeze more music into each hour (what's the most it could have possibly amounted to, one song?!?!?), but also to convey a certain "energy" / "intensity" to the music that you didn't hear on their biggest competitor's station. I'll betcha if you asked a few of the 'CFL jocks that were there at the time, they'll admit to it freely (now that the statutes of limitations has passed!!! lol) And they weren't the only ones ... ANYWHERE where a major city had any kind of serious Top 40 competition, there was talk of this practice going on. (I'm kinda surprised you hadn't heard this before ... I wonder if I'll get any other responses / testimonials on this!!! lol)  kk

Never during my time as Program Director did WLS alter any of the music programmed.
John Rook

Hi Kent;
I asked Bob Dearborn if this story rang any type of bell with him ... perhaps his info will finally shed some light on this story.

That was the practice at WCFL for several months in late 1974 / early 1975. The story has been exaggerated so often in the re-telling that I see from Kent's question that it now encompasses "the 1960s and 1970s." Not so. That's way out of proportion.
The idea was to make the music sound brighter, more energetic on 'CFL. It was hoped that dial-switchers, and you'll recall there were many, would find the music sluggish on WLS by comparison.
I've read some accounts that this was done to make it possible for us to play more records per hour. Maybe ... one very short extra song per hour, tops.
Many of us on the inside complained that cheating in this manner was no way to win the ratings battle, but at that point, with the ratings in free-fall just a couple of years after it was the BillBoard Radio Station of the Year, the people running the show were ready to try anything, even deceit. Speeding up the records was just one of the unfortunate practices going on at WCFL at the time.
WCFL stopped speeding up the music when word of it leaked out to the press. This was the Watergate Era and it seemed like every newspaper guy in town envisioned himself as the next Woodward or Bernstein. It seemed like every week during much of this era, there were several newspaper stories written by local "investigative journalists" about the unsavory things going on at the Voice of Labor. It was an unhappy, embarrassing time for most of us.
By spring of 1975, a new program director was trying to right the ship with an honest, creative and somewhat edgier approach. But again, it was too late. The damage had been done. Although all of the trickery ended before 1975 did, by then the damage to the station's image and reputation had been done. Once you lose people's trust, it's next to impossible to regain it. Then on March 15, 1976, Super CFL was no more.
Bob Dearborn

I was quite surprised that Clark Weber wasn't aware of any of this going on as I seem to remember (even as just the average listener) there being quite a bit of press about it at the time. (kk)
While this CFL incident in 74 / 75 was taking place, I was at WMAQ and more or less out of the loop concerning the LS / CFL war.

While by Bob's own admission, NOT his proudest 'CFL moment, WCFL SURE gave WLS a run for their money for about ten years here in Chicago ... probably the most exciting time in "radio wars" that we ever experienced. As Bob points out below, too often the "bad" outweighs the good ... when the truth is BOTH stations gave us COUNTLESS hours of pure enjoyment during that entire time. (kk)
Thanks, Kent.
I was there for six years, 1970-1976, and proud to be a part of it for almost every minute. The relatively brief period when we resorted to speeding up the records as a desperate attempt to get back to being the #1 Top 40 station in town is not something I like to remember, but it's impossible to forget the embarrassment it caused the majority of us who were working there at the time.
It's a shame that human nature leads us to recall a comparatively short negative time instead of longer stretches that were quite the opposite. There are some people who talk about "the fat Elvis" as if he'd been overweight for most of his 23-year career instead of just the last couple of years of it.
Instead of focusing too much attention on the short time we went astray, I would ask people to remember the many good things they heard from "The Men From Ten" over the years, the fun they (and we) had during the days when 'CFL really was Super.

BY THE WAY:  "Star Baby" spent April, May, June and July of 1974 on the WCFL Chart (where it peaked at #3) ... could it have been "sped-up" on the air?  Quite possibly so, I guess, if Bob Dearborn's timeframe is off by a month or two.  It's a great song either way ... so let's feature it here today!  (kk)

For the past twelve years, Forgotten Hits has prided itself on presenting "The Most Accurate Truth" to our readers. FAR too often, erroneous stories are repeated so often that the actual facts soon become blurred ... often to the point that the fiction BECOMES the truth. Not unreasonable, I suppose ... if you've seen it in print SO many times, it MUST be true, right??? Whenever we can, we try (most often with the help of some of the folks that were there) to set the record straight ... our purpose isn't proving somebody wrong or calling somebody a liar ... but rather to get the REAL facts out there in the hopes that the media will pick up on the truth and start circulating THAT for a change!!!
So I was quite disappointed to see that when we printed The Daily Herald article last week remembering the recently passed Ray Herr, one-time guitarist / bassist for Chicago's Ides Of March, the article claimed:

"Herr played guitar with the Ides of March pn their biggest hit, “Vehicle.” The single rose to No. 2 on the national charts and broke ground for its use of a brass section in a rock band.
“Vehicle” became the fastest-selling single in Warner Bros. Records' history. It wound up selling more than 1 million copies, and led to an album by the same name, as well as extensive national tours.
The Ides recorded their second album, “Common Bond,” and one of its singles, “LA Goodbye,” stayed on top of Chicago's charts for five weeks.
Herr continued to record with the Ides, including their other major hit, “L.A. Goodbye,” which reached the top of Chicago charts, but he left the band after that and never looked back.

Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead ... and certainly NONE of this is Ray Herr's fault ... but The Daily Herald reporter should have done a little bit of fact-checking before publishing his story. "Vehicle" did, in fact, reach #2 on Billboard's Chart (after topping the charts here in Chicago.) Although it was a HUGE hit (and still gets played at least a couple of times every single day), I don't show any record of this single ever officially selling a million copies, however.
Meanwhile, despite what The Daily Herald article tells you, "L.A. Goodbye" NEVER made it to #1 on the Chicagoland chart (let alone spent five weeks there!) ... it peaked at #2 ... and nationally petered out (or would that be Peterik-ed out) at #72 in Cash Box and #73 in Billboard. Although it certainly DESERVED to be a much bigger hit, it simply didn't happen.
Worse yet, there is SOME speculation as to whether or not Herr played on the track at all. He's not pictured on nor mentioned in the band personnel on the back of the LP cover ... and some have suggested that he left the band between "Vehicle" and "L.A. Goodbye".
By us simply referencing and quoting from The Daily Herald article only helps to fuel the myth, so we felt obligated to set the record straight. Great guitarist, yes ... one-time member of The Ides Of March ... yes. Everything else??? Maybe ... or flat out "no"! (kk)

A LITTLE MORE RESEARCH: It looks like the extent of Eileen O. Daday's Daily Herald article was a quick look at Wikipedia ... here's what I just found on the Wikipedia website under The Ides Of March:

Having secured a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, in 1970 the band released the track "Vehicle," which at the time became the fastest selling single in Warner's history.[citation needed] The song reached #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the corresponding Cash Box listings. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc in November 1972.[1] The following album, Vehicle, reached #55 nationally.
In 1971, the band released their second album Common Bond. The featured single was "L.A. Goodbye". The song was at #1 on regional charts for five weeks, #2 on WCFL Chicago, #5 on WLS Chicago, but only #73 on the Hot 100.

Wikipedia take note: "Vehicle" didn't hit #1 in Cash Box either ... it peaked at #6. And a quick check of the official RIAA Million Sellers website does NOT show "Vehicle" attaining a million sales either. As to what "regional chart" showed "L.A. Goodbye" at #1 for five weeks, the ONLY major charts in Chicago at the time were the WLS and WCFL charts, the two Top 40 Rock Stations (both AM giants in 1970 / 1971). Since they correctly list "L.A. Goodbye"'s peak position on those two charts, I cannot help but wonder what "regional chart" they're referring to!
And, finally, as for whether or not Ray Herr was a member of The Ides Of March when "L.A. Goodbye" (or the "Common Bond" album for that matter) were recorded, we went right to the source on this one ... here's an email we received from Ides Of March Leader Jim Peterik:

Hi Kent!
You are correct. Ray did not appear on LA Goodbye or Common Bond. He had left the band well before we started that album.
All the best!
Keep rocking!!!

Now seriously ... how hard was that?!?!? (kk)

For those of you who may have missed it (#72 nationally?!?!?  For real?!?!?), here is an Ides Of March Classic ... "L.A. Goodbye"  (kk)