Before we begin: Echoes in the Wind, the fine music blog written by our pal whiteray, got zapped into the cornfield yesterday. The people at Blogger took it down, without warning and without explanation. This is usually done when there’s a complaint about copyright infringement, but Blogger is not consistent in their blog-zapping policy, and whiteray was diligent about posting mostly out-of-print material and taking it down after a brief period. While it’s terrible to lose the audience, whiteray still has the words—drafts of every post are safely filed away on his own computer. (Perhaps this is the universe’s way of telling him to write a book.) As you might expect, his future plans are up in the air. We’ll keep you posted. Whiteray says he’ll be blogging again starting next week at http://niagaseohce.wordpress.com/. Can’t keep a good man down.
We now join our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.
It was Labor Day week, 1961, and there was a new jock on the air at KEWB in San Francisco. He’d just come from his hometown of Detroit to take over the nine-to-midnight shift. According to his bio on the KEWB survey dated September 2, 1961, his main claim to fame was the character voices on his show, but they wouldn’t last. After finding a discarded music magazine, he would hit upon the idea of teasing upcoming songs on his show with biographical bits about the performers, which would become the on-air signature of his legendary career. The young jock’s name was (and remains) Casey Kasem.
The songs Casey and his fellow KEWB jocks were playing this week in 1961 were far from legendary, however. Even to a geek such as I, only about half the songs on the survey are somewhat familiar; to a casual fan, it might be a dozen at the most. Among them:
2. “Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp Bomp Bomp)”/Barry Mann (up from 3). A goofball hit that gets in your head and stays long after it wears out its welcome, “Who Put the Bomp” is notable primarily because it was the only Top 40 hit Barry Mann ever had—but it was far from his only success. With his songwriting partner and spouse Cynthia Weil, Mann would write some of the most indelible hits of all time, including “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “We’ve Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and “On Broadway.” And they also wrote . . .
9. “Michael”/The Highwaymen (down from 6). The Highwaymen (original name: the Clansmen, and wasn’t it a good thing they changed that) deserve a greater place in pop/folk history than they are usually granted. They popularized “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and discovered Lead Belly’s “Cotton Fields” in addition to scoring a monster hit with “Michael,” which you may have learned in Sunday school: “Michael row the boat ashore/alleluia.”
18. “Take Five”/Dave Brubeck (up from 24). One of the most popular jazz records of all time, “Take Five” is in the key of G-flat major, which has six flats, and is in 5/4 time on top of it. Nevertheless, it’s the kind of thing you can whistle to yourself for hours at a time (and it’s a lot more welcome in your head than “Who Put the Bomp”). Composer/saxophonist Paul Desmond specified in his will that the copyright be assigned to the American Red Cross—according to the song’s Wikipedia entry (so who the hell knows), “Take Five” still makes about $100,000 for the organization every year. Here’s a live performance from 1961 that takes it a little faster than the record.
40. “Crying”/Roy Orbison (debut). You’ve got to dip all the way down to the very last spot on this chart to find an actual pop classic that remains worthy of the name nearly 50 years later. Orbison had been to the Top 10 twice within the previous year with “Only the Lonely” and the astounding “Running Scared.” He’d get back there with this.