Saturday, August 18, 2012

Good Old-Fashioned Forgotten Hits

This weekend we're going to be featuring a BAKER'S DOZEN worth of Forgotten Hits, all worthy of a spin now and again on oldies radio. 

(Hopefully some of the jocks on the list will follow suit and feature a few of these on their programs next week.)

It's what I like to call GOOD OLD-FASHIONED FORGOTTEN HITS ... and this is the way we used to do it way back when.

Our first seven features come courtesy of FH Reader (and noted Rock and Roll Journalist / Historian) Gary Theroux ...

As we've been slowly rebuilding the archives, we ran across this feature that Gary wrote for Forgotten Hits a few years back (2007 to be exact!) ... and have decided to resurrect seven of his Forgotten Hits favorites from that series. Enjoy!

COMING ON STRONG – Brenda Lee (Decca 32016)
Charted 13 weeks beginning October 1, 1966; peaked at #11. Brenda Lee cut so many great records that radio ignores today (“Johnny One Time,” “Dynamite,” “Too Many Rivers,” etc.) it’s hard to pick out just one, but this one does have a special place in pop music history. It’s the track the Dutch group Golden Earring liked so much that they sang about in their first U.S. hit, “Radar Love” (1974). “The radio plays a forgotten song / Brenda Lee’s ‘Coming On Strong’.” Over her 16-year pop career – encompassing 55 Hot 100 hits – “Little Miss Dynamite” sent us a lot of “radar love.” Too bad there is NOTHING on the Hot 100 today even CLOSE to being as emotionally rich and satisfying as any of today's selections.

TONIGHT (COULD BE THE NIGHT) – The Velvets (Monument 441)

Charted nine weeks starting May 29, 1961; peaked #26. Roy Orbison is credited with discovering this R&B quintet from Odessa, Texas, which was led by Virgil Johnson. Yes, Texas is pretty far from the L.A., Philly or New York base of so many doowop groups, but that didn’t stop these guys from crafting some of the finest recordings of the genre (check out their thrilling take on “That Lucky Old Sun” sometime). Like Dusty Springfield's “I Only Want To Be With You” or the Crystals' classic "Then He Kissed Me," this record perfectly captures the swelling excitement that comes when you realize you're at an all-time emotional turning point peak in your life. "For tonight ... is - the - NIIGHHT!"


JOY - APOLLO 100 (Mega 0050)

“The aim and final reason of all music,” wrote Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), “should be none else than the glory of God and the recreation of the mind.” The German classical composer certainly had Divinity on his mind when he composed “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring” as part of his contata “BVW 147” in 1723. 248 years later, arranger-keyboardist Tom Parker formed the British studio group Apollo 100 (featuring organ, brass and harpsichord) and recorded this euphoric, innovative adaptation. Incredibly, “Joy” bombed in the U.K. but rocketed to #6 in the U.S., where it had been released on the tiny Mega label out of Nashville. (Mega’s other claim to fame: Sammi Smith’s 1971 pop and country masterwork “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”) “Joy” broke one year after that hit on New Year’s Day, 1972 and rode the charts for 14 weeks. One minor annoyance for DJs trying to cue the record up was the fact that it FADED IN, rather than starting on a single note. Regardless, fans (and DJs, too) loved the way “Joy” built and built like a glittering tornado up to its final shattering moment. In April 1972, Apollo 100 tried again with a second track off the “Joy” album, this time “Mendelssohn’s 4th,” but the novelty of “classical rock” (if you want to call it that) has already subsided. Every once in a while, though, it comes back. Check out Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth Of Beethoven” (1976), or The Toys’ “A Lover’s Concerto” (1965; adapted from Bach’s “Minuet From The Anna Magdalena Notebook”).

AN AMERICAN TRILOGY - Mickey Newbury (Elektra 45750)

Houston's own Milton S. Newbury, Jr. earned his initial fame after moving to Nashville in 1963 and writing both a string of country hits and the 1968 debut rock single of The First Edition: “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” Mickey seemed to specialize in slow, aching, heartfelt ballads, although he did turn relatively upbeat now and then (“How I Love Them Old Songs”). Following an unsuccessful run as an RCA artist, Newbury signed with Elektra and was handed a micro budget to record with. He pulled in a few favors and managed to turn out the classic 1971 album “Frisco Mabel Joy.” Starkly soulful, the LP featured “An American Trilogy,” his deeply moving medley of three all-time standards: “Dixie,” “All My Trials” and “Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” Upon release in November 1971, a lot of people confused “An American Trilogy” with another song out at the same time with a similar title: “American Pie.” Regardless, “An American Trilogy” climbed to #26 over am electrifying 11-week run and was eventually covered by both Elvis and Kenny Rogers (among others). Remarkably, Newbury’s other greatest vocal performance is on the B side of “An American Trilogy” – the brilliantly conceived and hauntingly performed story song. “San Francisco Mabel Joy.” For some odd reason, Elektra left “San Francisco Mabel Joy” off the “Frisco Mabel Joy” album and issued it instead on Mickey’s follow-up LP, “Heaven Help The Child.” Both deeply introspective albums are certified gems – and just think: you could have gotten both of Mickey’s top two classics on one 45 -- Elektra 45750 – had you had a dollar in your hand at Musicland at the tail end of 1971. 

CASINO ROYALE - Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (A&M 850)

If you saw the 2006 version of “Casino Royale” with Daniel Craig as James Bond, you didn’t hear this -- the ORIGINAL “Casino Royale” movie theme from April 1967. It seems that when Eon Productions snapped up the movie rights to Ian Fleming’s 007 novels in the early ‘60s, they were unable to secure a claim on “Casino Royale” -- as those rights had already been sold to CBS. And after “Dr. No” (1962), “From Russia With Love” (1963) and “Goldfinger” (1964) proved that James Bond was, ahem, a marketable movie franchise, interest in cashing in was in high gear at the rival United Artists studios. From CBS, UA bought the movie rights for $10 million -- but what to do about the fact that Sean Connery demanded an additional million (a lot of money at the time) to again play the lead role? This problem was solved by hiring a whole bunch of actors -- from David Niven and Peter Sellers to Orson Welles and Woody Allen -- to all play James Bonds in what evolved into a raucous parody of the franchise. The movie was, in fact, billed as “Too much for one James Bond.” The 1967 version of “Casino Royale” went on to become the third most money-making movie of the year and even nabbed an Academy Award nomination for “Best Song.” Ironically, though, it wasn’t Herb Alpert’s catchy title theme. Instead it was “The Look Of Love,” as popularized by Dusty Springfield. In a further ironic twist, SONY (CBS) bought MGM (Bond’s studio) in 2005, clearing the path for the 2006 “serious adaptation” of Ian Fleming’s classical novel. The back of the DVD packaging of the latter day “Casino Royale,” by the way, includes the hype line “Daniel Craig is the best James Bond in the franchise’s history.” Nice try, but everybody knows Sean Connery will forever rule.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE MIND - The Amboy Dukes (Mainstream 684)   
While not engaging in blood “sports” -- taking enormous pleasure in causing mortal suffering within the animal kingdom -- Ted Nugent got his rocks off as a longtime heavy metal rock singer and guitarist (1977’s “Cat Scratch Fever” was his biggest solo single). A dozen years earlier, though, the Detroit native had formed the Amboy Dukes with John Drake, Steve Farmer, Rick Lober, Bill White and Dave Palmer. The seven signed with Mainstream Records, a label otherwise noteworthy chiefly as the original home of Big Brother & the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin). It was Drake who sang lead on the group’s surging, soaring, solitary hit, “Journey To The Center Of The Mind,” which reached #16 in the summer of 1968. After 15 years as a solo artist, Ted Nugent again joined a band, the Damn Yankees, in 1990. They’re best known for their million-seller that year, “High Enough.”


ROLL ON –The New Colony Six (Sunlight 1001)

The Windy City’s own New Colony Six never cut a bad record – be it an LP or 45 issued on one of the four labels they released on between 1966 and 1971 (Centaur, Sentar, Mercury and Sunlight). Starting out as a garage band, they chose their name and initial look in order to fit in among all the British Invasion groups that were hot at the time (even though the band itself was from Chicago). They even wore Revolutionary War uniforms – having thought up that idea at the same time that another band, Paul Revere & the Raiders, independently came up with the same gimmick. Incredibly, the two bands later become housemates --- for a while – in Los Angeles. (The Raiders then landed a TV gig through Dick Clark that gave their look television exposure; the less fortunate New Colony Six did not.) The NC6’s first relatively crude releases (“Love You So Much,” “I Confess”) earned heavy hometown airplay over WLS and WCFL, as did their one-time hook-up with the Chess rhythm section (“I’m Just Waitin’, Anticipatin’ For Her To Show Up,” which was written by Tony Orlando!). The NC6 evolved into a romantic soft-rock band upon signing with Mercury, the label that released nearly all of their best stuff but never fully understood how to market their talents. Regardless, gems like “I Will Always Think About You,” “Things I’d Like To Say” and “Barbara, I Love You” became huge in Chicago, despite receiving scant airplay elsewhere. (Seek out their Rhino compilation CD for proof; the only weak material being early lo-fi experiments like “Marmaduke”). After their Mercury deal ended, the boys released several singles (but never an album) on their own label, Sunlight, starting with the catchy, engaging “Roll On.” Despite being on a tiny label, the 45 did reach #56 over a seven-week Billboard run in the fall of 1971.


Please Note: ALL of the material supplied by GARY THEROUX for this special FORGOTTEN HITS Feature is © 2007 Pop Record Research

We'll have six more Forgotten Hits favorites (suggested by our readers) coming to you tomorrow ... ya'll come back now, hear?!?!?  (kk)