Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by alphanguy, Jan 29, 2016.
Now THAT's a song I dig a lot. Not many songs with that kind of slow, languid triplet groove ever made it big on the pop charts. Interesting that this one also divides the lead vocal into single lines sung by various group members. Love the chords and melodies on the verses and a solid chorus, too. Like this a lot more than "can't get next to you." Seems like I almost always prefer the a competing song to the actual #1 at the time.
Absolutely true, one of the better examples of this in 1969 was back in May, when this tune peaked at #34, but yet was #3 in the Boston Market, and top 10 in a handful of others:
Yeah - I heard this for the first time about 5 years ago. And I was a very avid AM listener when it was most popular. Shoulda been a contender.
Nothing But A Heartache and Hot Fun In The Summertime are truly superb records I'd love to see replace some of the lesser efforts we saw in '69. Yeah, the charts can be so unforgiving. This one by The Moody Blues for instance. #91...really??
That proves my point more than Grant's - that the gospel influence was more up-front in soul than pop.
I think the religious/secular work of the late '60s to the mid '70s or so, was rooted in a lot of R&B. The sound was often given a contemporary sound to hook the R&B audiences. That's probably where the sub-genre settled since pop success like "Oh Happy Day" was few and far between. The evolution of the Staple Singers might be an interesting juncture to trace how the sound changed--and when it stopped.
As I mentioned when talking about Everyday People, The Temptations credited Sly Stone with the idea of divvying up the lead vocals, an idea that they used repeatedly during this period.
Incidentally, this is my favorite of all the Family Stone songs. Almost no song makes me think 'summer' more than this one. 'I cloud nine when I want to!'
With the ascension of this song to the top spot, bubble gum music reached its apogee. This song was everything that made bubble gum great: a completely bogus group (in fact, a cartoon!); bubble gum stalwarts Ron Dante and Don Kirschner involved; suggestive lyrics (why were so many bubble gum songs so unapologetically risque?); and best of all, irresistible hooks.
The late sixties was not the only time a bogus group tangentially related to the comics got to #1; Alley Oop by the Hollywood Argyles managed the feat already nearly a decade previous. But 1969-70 was a time when seemingly every cartoon show on TV was featuring the characters either performing in a band or running away from bad guys while bubble gum music played (or sometimes both!). I was very young at the time, but some of my first memories were watching cartoons which featured these types of songs.
The Archies was just another cartoon following this trend. The Archie gang had been around since the 40s, and in the late 60s they got another update to keep them hip with the times. No, the boys didn't grow their hair long, although Betty and Veronica's dresses did get shorter and shorter at this point, and the boy would occasionally sport a medallion around their necks or groovy clothing.
And of course, now they were in a rock band. The Filmation cartoon was cheap even by the standards of the time. Once you saw one of the numbers performed, you basically knew what to expect from then on: that Reggie bobbed from side to side while playing his guitar, Veronica stood at her keyboards while pressing her foot repeatedly on the pedal, and Betty played the tambourine like an absolute dork. Even as a three or four year old I could tell this was not high art. But it was fun and that was all that mattered.
Dante and company parlayed the Archies concept into a bunch of albums and several hit singles, although none was as massive as Sugar Sugar. Why did this one song hit so much bigger than the rest? It was the biggest hit of 1969, in fact. IMO, the hooks are a little bit hookier, and as later covers showed, it had some flexibility to be reinterpreted as more than kiddie fodder (I'm not picturing Wilson Pickett covering Bang Shang a Lang, but he did cover Sugar Sugar, even scoring a hit with it).
Bubble gum songs often functioned on multiple levels: for the kids, the hooks were irresistible just like the sugary cereal with which these records sometimes were shipped (the Sugar Sugar 45 fittingly appeared on the back of Super Sugar Crisp cereal). For adults, there were the suggestive lyrics. It's not surprising that the Archies TV cartoon performance of Sugar Sugar does not feature anyone actually pouring sugar or honey all over Veronica or Archie; but the lyric is certainly intended to have a more sexual suggestion than a G-rated cartoon would allow.
Other Archie songs were not suggestive at all, but still managed to sneak adult content into the lyrics that probably flew over the little tykes' heads (or scared the daylights out of them). My choice for prime nightmare fodder, Archies-style, is 'Mr. Factory'. Archie and the gang sing about how Mr. Factory is polluting the skies and rivers, while we watch dead fish bob in the water and kids asphyxiate. To quote another show Kirshner once did music for, 'Who writes this stuff?'
Wacky aside: as a kid, I always thought Veronica was much more attractive than Betty, and obviously a better match for Archie. I suspected that the writers were aware of this, but felt trapped by the idea that he was never supposed to choose between Betty and Veronica and so tried to even the score by intentionally sabotaging Veronica and favoring Betty. In the cartoon, I resented the way they tried to make her hideous, from her horrible 'Archiekins' accent to her snobbery. To me, Betty was colorless and boring, but Ronnie looked like she would have been a heck of a lot of fun to pal around with. Yeah, I thought about this kind of stuff too much even then.
Wacky aside two: The ARCHIES? Some ego you got there, Mr. Andrews. Wouldn't Reggie Mantle have objected being in a group named after his rival? How about Archie and the Riverdales at least? Yeah, I realize this rock group name was necessary for connection to the same-named comics, but in-world, there is no 'Archies' comic, so why would the group be called that? I TOLD YOU I THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT THIS STUFF.
This was the top 2o during the first week when "Can't get next to you" was #1
BILLBOARD (USA) MAGAZINE'S SINGLES CHART FOR WEEK Of October 18,1969
1 I CAN'T GET NEXT TO YOU-TEMPTATIONS
2 HOT FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME-Sly and the Family Stone
3 SUGAR SUGAR-Archies
5 LITTLE WOMAN-Bobby Sherman
6 SUSPICIOUS MINDS-Elvis Presley
7 THAT'S THE WAY LOVE IS-Marvin Gaye
8 WEDDING BELL BLUES-5th dimension
9 EASY TO BE HARD-Three Dog Night
10 TRACY-Cuff Links
11 I'M GONNA MAKE YOU MINE-Lou Christie
12 THIS GIRL IS A WOMAN NOW-Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
13 BABY IT'S YOU-Smith
14 HONKY TONK WOMEN-Rolling Stones
15 EVERYBODY'S TALKIN'-Nilsson
16 OH WHAT A NIGHT-Dells
17 IS THAT ALL THERE IS-Peggy Lee
18 I'LL NEVER FALL IN LOVE AGAIN-Tom Jones
19 GREEN RIVER-Creedence Clearwater Revival
Even Otis Williams, on this, got a part in one of the verses. But it was usually Dennis Edwards, Paul Williams (both of whose voices sounded a tad similar), uber-tenor Eddie Kendricks and bass-baritone Melvin Franklin who were mainly heard. Here Norman Whitfield (and co-writer Barrett Strong) took a break from their "urban decay/societal problems" porn and fashioned a variation on a common theme in some songs. Or as one Forumite (@Grant, I.I.N.M.) put it, "I can do X, and I can do Y, and I can do Z, but I can't do U." @zebop hit the nail on the head in the analysis on this among Whitfield's other Temptations productions during this period.
Aha! So Sly's number - somewhat similar in theme to Beach Boys' tunes in that vein, and indeed that group very late in its career did a cover of this one - was kept outta the top spot by The Temps. (F.T.R., I have amongst this set #1 - 3, 5, 6, 10 - 12, and 14 - 20; as far as Mr. Jones' number, I have the original 1967 pressing which clocked in at 4:18, vs. the '69 reissue which saw the second verse snipped off and its length truncated to 2:55.)
That actually had two releases in the States. The first was b/w a Christmas tune, around Nov-Dec 1968:
(It was also the first to chart in Billboard, B.T.W.) Then, with a different B side, about a month or two later:
Like many a New Yorker of a certain age, I first heard this one on WCBS-FM 101 in the early '80's.
That line, until I found out, always sounded to me like "I cry at night when I want to . . . "
Can't Get Next To You - Great single with infectious grooves, and a big step forward for The Temptations. But it kept Sly's Hot Fun... out of the top spot? While Can't Get Next To You is deserving of a #1 slot, Hot Fun is just so many levels above it in terms of creativity, innovation, daring and originality. I'm not complaining, just observing how the ranking of top songs sometimes doesn't align with their perceived quality.
I didn't say that people who use the term were detestable. I said I detest the term.
Or, they just wanted a different label association with an artist, the same type of reasons Berry Gordy put certain artists on certain labels, like The Temptations on Gordy, Stevie Wonder on Tamla, Rare Earth on Rare Earth...you get the picture...
I don't think it's legal to outright pay a DJ or station to play your record, but there were gratuities like (ahem!) drugs, sex..paid trips, ball game tickets...
You win! I'm never here to argue, but it's just all a fun debate. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Since I managed to move the Every Billboard R&B #1 Single Discussion Thread ahead of this thread, we have already covered this Temptations song, so i'll simply link my comment about it here.
It was one of the first soul records recorded in England. The first one i'm aware of is J.J. Jackson's
"But, It's Alright" back in 1966.
The Flirtations number, in particular, shows how different the instrumentalists' approach is from Americans'. The drumming sounds almost Buddy Saltzman-derived, don't you think? - especially on some of the fills. I swear some of the "pickers" were part of the "orchestra" that was led by Ronnie Aldrich for Benny Hill specials. As for "But It's Alright," I'd not have known its recording was British but for what's been writ. Though in sound quality and quality of instrumentation, it's almost otherworldly compared with what came out of Detroit, Chicago, Memphis, New York, Muscle Shoals, L.A., New Orleans, etc., at the time. To be sure, both are favorites of mine (though with the Jackson record, it's via the 1969 Warner Bros.-Seven Arts reissue single that I have it).
Before the cartoon songs fade into the distance...
It's kind of insane just how many cartoons from the late sixties and early seventies featured characters in a band with at least one segment showing them playing a bubble gum number. A lot of these songs hold up surprisingly well.
My choice for a largely unknown cartoon show with some genuinely good songs is Cattanooga Cats. I didn't actually catch this one at the time. The show features four felines in, you guessed it, a rock band. Since the cats are actually professional musicians (they even have a touring van), you would expect them to be better than some group of high school idiots like the Archies (that is, if you would expect cats to be capable of being musicians at all).
The kitties don't disappoint. Several of their songs are really good. The show's theme song, for instance, kicks all kinds of tail.
The Cattanooga Cats don't ever purr.
They know how, but not what fer.
The Cattanooga Cats don't go meow.
Wouldn't try, but they know how.
Don't they sound like a bunch of cool... um... cats?
There's another song, Birthday Suit, which sounds like it could have been recorded by a nineties hipster band (and naturally, the lyric 'how do you like me in my birthday suit?' is typically inappropriate).
But I want to talk about another of their numbers, the sprightly 'Merry Go Round'. This song is seemingly about the simply childlike joy of riding a carousel and reaching for the brass ring. But there's more going on here than wonderful hooks and some great singing; dig deeper, and this song is about nothing less than the inevitable passage of time. Enjoy your youth while it lasts, kiddies:
Children go downtown
and forget merry-go-round
Soon enough will come December,
and then you shall remember
As if that weren't enough, dig this beautiful video for the song from the show, done in the style of a juvenile, feline Peter Max poster or perhaps an outtake from the kitty version of Yellow Submarine. This show was created for five year olds!
This stuff was produced and sometimes co-written by none other than Mike Curb, who became rather infamous when, as the president of MGM Records, he dropped 18 acts from the label due to their "promotion of hard drugs". He later became the Lt. Governor of California under Jerry Brown (!!!). The male singer was Michael Lloyd, a teenage singer/songwriter who featured in the group The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band among others. I believe he also wrote or co-wrote some of the Cattanooga songs. The female singer was named Peggy Clinger, and I really love her voice; she, too, co-wrote a few of the Cat numbers.
It goes to show, you can find art in the most unlikely of places if you look hard enough!
If you can't get enough of the Cats, here's another brilliant track of theirs. It's called I Want to Sleep Tonight, and is about how the girl cat Kitty Jo cheated on her boyfriend and now feels really bad about it. Seriously! Heartbreak and infidelity in a show about cartoon cats. And in this video, the boy cat "Country" is not taking her apology, either, at least not for a while.
Like their best stuff, the production is really top notch here. The woo-ooo backing is really great (I like how they pair it with owl pictures, as if the owls are hooooing the backing vocals). Peggy Clinger gives another awesome performance as well.
Check it out:
Er....your exact words were "I detest people calling musical artists acts". Kinda leaves it open to interpretation. Anyway, I was being a little facetious since I find the term perfectly acceptable. There are more than one meaning for the word act.
Separate names with a comma.