So last week in the comments, Amy asked if I ever hit up any charts from the ’70s. As I mentioned, I don’t often because I’m more familiar with songs from the ’80s, and that makes for easier (quicker) writing. I didn’t have much more time this week, but I figured I’d give it a shot – so here we go, attackin’ the charts from August 29, 1970!
10. 25 Or 6 To 4 – Chicago Amazon iTunes
9. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross Amazon iTunes
8. (If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You? – Ronnie Dyson Amazon
7. Patches – Clarence Carter Amazon iTunes
6. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder Amazon iTunes
5. Spill The Wine – Eric Burdon and War Amazon iTunes
4. In The Summer Time – Mungo Jerry Amazon iTunes
3. (They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters Amazon iTunes
2. Make It With You – Bread Amazon iTunes
1. War – Edwin Starr Amazon iTunes
10. 25 Or 6 To 4 – Chicago
You have to understand: I was born in 1977. The Chicago I know is from the David Foster era. Therefore, I’ve never had this experience:
Radio DJ: …and here’s the latest single from Chicago!
Jason: Holy shit, this song ROCKS!
I don’t really know what "25 or 6 to 4" is about. I’ve heard the theories. I know that, according to Robert Lamm, it doesn’t have any real meaning, it’s just about trying to write a song, and something about the time being 3:34 or 3:35 AM. I don’t believe it, but I don’t care too much, either. This song isn’t about lyrics. This song is about horns. That’s all. I’m sure you guys all know that Chicago pulled a Mardones and re-made the song in ’86. Read all about it over with our good friend CAPTAIN VIDEO!
9. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross
I’ll admit that I don’t know much about this song, so let me take a look at…holy shit, Ashford and Simpson wrote this?? See, this is why I don’t cover the ’70s; I just wind up looking like a schmuck for all the stuff I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t know that Marvin Gaye did the song first, and Ross actually covered it first while she was in The Supremes (as a duet with The Temptations) before creating her own unique version, complete with spoken word, that eventually hit #1 and earned a Grammy nomination. No, all I thought beforehand was "why does it take her a full two minutes and thirty seconds to actually say the phase "ain’t no mountain high enough?"
8. (If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You? – Ronnie Dyson (download)
Earlier this week, I was on vacation up in the Adirondack mountains with my folks. I started scanning this chart and couldn’t believe this title. Upon saying it out loud, my father responded with "I know what that’s like," and upon playing the song, my mother started doing some weird hula dance. This is why I will never talk with them about CHART ATTACK! ever again.
When I first heard it though, I was extremely surprised to hear a woman’s voice. What kind of woman is in a situation where she’s expressing this type of sentiment? Then I was even more surprised to find out that Ronnie Dyson actually is a guy! He just sounds like a lady! This is worse than Jermaine Stewart! (Okay, not really.)
I’m still not convinced.
I think it’s fair to say that, unfortunately, many people have forgotten about Ronnie Dyson. The dude doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry, for crying out loud. (How the hell am I supposed to write without Wikipedia?) So here’s what I can tell you: Dyson’s career launched in the late ’60s when, at the age of 20, he originated the role of Ron in Hair on Broadway. He also performed in a musical entitled Salvation that didn’t go very far; however, he was able to take this song, from Salvation, to the Top 10. It peaked here at #8. While some of the lyrics are actually quite pretty, I’m having a hard time getting past the title. It’s just…awkward. And Dyson made a career out of uncomfortable titles like these; other songs include "One Man Band (Plays All Alone)," "Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely," "All Over Your Face" (cough) and – my absolute favorite – "The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done to Me)." Sadly, Dyson died of a heart attack in 1990. Now I feel bad about all of my above jokes. But I maintain that he doesn’t sound or look like a dude.
7. Patches – Clarence Carter (download)
Up until this week, I knew one Clarence Carter song and one song only: "Strokin’." My old officemate introduced it to me. I knew of some other song titles, including "It’s A Man Down There," "Back Door Santa" (introduced to me via Foxy), "G Spot," and "Why Do I Stay Here (And Take This Shit from You)," which I’ve never heard but is already my favoritest song in the world. So I thought that Clarence Carter was only a dirty singer like Millie Jackson (NSFW Amazon link), Rudy Ray Moore (also NSFW Amazon link) or Amy Grant. But no, turns out that before he went blue, he was actually a real soul singer. And he’s blind, too. You learn something new every day. (And since I’m not actually talking about "Patches" yet, I’ll ask: why the hell was "Strokin’" not a hit?)
"Patches" – a cover of a Chairmen Of The Board tune from the same year – is an interesting song, a tale of a son who loses a father and is forced to be the grown-up of the family. His nickname is Patches, which really messes with me because my aunt (same aunt who hates my potty mouth) had a dog named Patches. So I’m half thinking of the dog, and half thinking of Forrest Gump. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the accent, or the sad, sad half-spoken story. Either way, Carter took "Patches" to #4.
6. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours – Stevie Wonder
As much as I adore this song, I can’t focus on it for too long, because Stevie Wonder was 20 years old when he released this single and that just depresses me. At 20, Stevie already had nine Top 10 hits under his belt, and he was clearly just getting started. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours" was the first single to feature Wonder’s production, as well as his female
concubines backing vocalists Wonderlove, and marked his very first Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song. Unfortunately, Wonder lost…to "Patches" by Clarence Carter. It’s the blind beating the blind! (groan)
I just listened to this song for the umpteenth time, and like just about every Stevie Wonder song recorded between 1970 and 1976, it just never loses any of its joy for me.
5. Spill The Wine – Eric Burdon and War
This is what happens when you take too many drugs. And when the country’s taking too many drugs along with you, it’s okay to never actually change chords in the entire song.
4. In The Summertime – Mungo Jerry
I had Mungo once. However, I applied some ointment and it cleared right up. I’m also disappointed to find out that Mungo Jerry is not a person, but a group. Because there’s this dirty guy who hangs out by the subway, flapping his arms and trying to sing, and if you had told me Mungo Jerry was a person, I’d swear that he was now living in Queens and greeting me every day as I get off the N train.
I had no idea I knew this song, but I do have a passing familiarity with it, and I’m betting that some of you have some specific memories attached to this song. I’m sure some of our readers in Europe may know more about Mungo Jerry, as they were a British band and had a number of hits in the UK. However, they’re officially a one-hit wonder here; "In The Summertime," which sold millions of copies and reached #3, was their only song to reach the Top 100.
I guess I don’t get the appeal of this song. Idiotic lyrics, the same riff over and over again…maybe it’s because I’m not stoned or having an orgy out on the front lawn. I guess it’s no worse than "Mambo #5" or one of those typical novelty songs. If you’re a Mungo Jerry fan, by all means, join MungoMania.
Ain’t it trippy?
3. (They Long To Be) Close To You – Carpenters
No snark applied to this song, my friends. I think it’s one of the most simple, sweet songs in the world, and I am frequently reduced to a bucket o’ mush when I hear it. If I had to make any criticisms, it’s that I’ve always felt that most of this instrumentation was unnecessary. Karen Carpenter, a piano, maybe a bit of flute. Anybody know if that mix exists somewhere?
By the way, you can thank Herb Alpert for this one. The Carpenters were asked to perform a medley of Burt Bacharach songs (with the man himself) for a benefit performance. Alpert suggested to Richard Carpenter that they include this song in the medley, which, despite being recorded by Richard Chamberlain and Dionne Warwick, was relatively unknown. The song didn’t make it into the medley, but the duo did record the song shortly after, which became their first gold record, a #1 for a month, and the winner of a 1971 Grammy for Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.
Here’s a video of the Carpenters performing the song live in Holland, 1974. I sat pretty much transfixed during this performance. And not just because Richard Carpenter’s bow tie is mere seconds away from engulfing most of the audience.
2. Make It With You – Bread
Crossroads seem to come and go…wait, this isn’t "Melissa?" Whoops. Moving on. It’s almost Mellow Gold, isn’t it? You gotta give David Gates credit: he says it right there in the lyrics: "and if you’re wondering what this all is leading to, I wanna make it with you." That’s candor for you! We’ll be covering some Bread in future Mellow Gold entries, so I’ll wait on most of my thoughts regarding David Gates; I’ll just say outright that this man knew exactly what to say to get laid. Can you believe that this is Bread’s only #1 hit?
1. War – Edwin Starr (download)
Incidentally, this is the fourth cover to appear on this week’s Attack – "War," written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was originally recorded by The Temptations, included on their Psychedelic Shack album earlier in 1970. "War" wasn’t a single, but quickly became the most popular song on the album, due to public dissent over Vietnam – and fans wrote to Motown asking the label to release "War" as a single. The Temptations quickly backpedaled, afraid of what the release of such a single might do to their fanbase. Way to stand up for what you believe in, guys! Motown agreed (for variou$ rea$on$), and Whitfield was furious. Finally, Motown agreed to release the single so long as it could be re-recorded by a – shall we say – less lucrative artist. Starr, already a Motown artist with a #6 under his belt, volunteered, and Whitfield took the opportunity to put some cojones behind the song. There’s really no comparison between the two – while the Temptations version rocks in its own right, it’s no match for Starr’s fierce, funky version. Here, compare!
The Temptations – War (download)
Here’s some video of Edwin Starr lip-syncing to "War." It’s a little grainy, but I found it fascinating anyway: for starters, I had never seen Starr before, and I admit to being a little surprised how much he smiles throughout the performance. I think he’s thinking, "I’m gonna be rich!"
Whew! Listening to all this stuff I didn’t immediately know by heart was relatively exhausting – but I’d say that, overall, this was a pretty good week – wouldn’t you? Those of you who were there when this stuff was piping through the radio – I’d love to hear from you. See you next week for another CHART ATTACK!