In Church

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Since back before Christmas, we have been looking at and listening to songs that spent a single week within Billboard‘s Top 40 between 1964 and 1986. Let’s hit this latest batch in chronological order.

Billy Vera’s “At This Moment” became a left-field smash in 1986, but Vera was a veteran of the music wars by then—and the story of his 1960s collaboration with Judy Clay is actually pretty interesting. Vera and Clay were the first interracial duo to record for a major label (thanks to Jerry Wexler and Atlantic), but late in 1967, when it came time to promote their first single on TV, network executives were reluctant to put them on. They feared a racist backlash at the sight of a white man and a black woman singing to each other about an adulterous love affair, especially given that Clay was pregnant at the time, by her jazz-musician husband. So there was no Ed Sullivan/Hollywood Palace/Kraft Music Hall appearance for them, and “Storybook Children” stalled at #54. Their second effort, “Country Girl–City Man,” squeaked to #36 for the week of March 23, 1968.

A lot of great music came from black and white musicians working together in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, who wrote and/or played on some of the most magnificent records of the 20th century at Muscle Shoals and elsewhere, wrote “I Met Her in Church” for the Box Tops, who made #37 with it for the week of October 12, 1968.

(Digression: Record mogul Sam Phillips was a native of Florence, Alabama, just up the road from Muscle Shoals. I recently read Peter Guralnick’s biography of Phillips, which I can halfway recommend. Halfway, because the stuff you want to read about—the opening of Memphis Recording Service, the discoveries of Howlin’ Wolf and Elvis, the founding of Sun, and the explosive early careers of Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis—is covered in the first part of the book and is largely over by 1963. Phillips lived until 2003, and the story of his last 40 years is the story of a man trying to figure out what to do after changing the world.)

Barbra Streisand’s “People,” which hit in 1964, is one of the most famous of all MOR hits. The Tymes, famed for the 1963 #1 hit “So Much in Love” (and in the 70s, the fabulous “You Little Trustmaker”), squeaked an up-to-date soul version of “People” to #39 for the week of December 28, 1968.

Bill Deal and the Rhondels, an eight-piece band with a horn section, were from New York City, and they made the Hot 100 five times in a little over a year and never made it back. Their first Top 40 hit, “May I,” made #39 for the week of March 15, 1969. There’s a YouTuber who says he’s recreated the all-analog audio processing used at WABC Radio in New York during the 60s and 70s and is reprocessing songs as they were heard back then (although my experts tell me that the reprocessing is not as historically accurate as advertised); the reprocessed “May I” is right here.

It would be the late 70s before the Emotions became a household word, thanks to their #1 hit “Best of My Love” and their collaboration with Earth Wind and Fire on “Boogie Wonderland.” The sweet soul of their first chart hit, “So I Can Love You,” is a lot different from either of those, and it reached #39 for the week of July 19, 1969.

Dyke and the Blazers recorded “Funky Broadway” in 1966, before Wilson Pickett made it a hit. The Buffalo, New York, natives hit the Top 40 twice in 1969. “We Got More Soul” is the better-known of the two (at least to me), hitting #35 in the summer of 1969. Even though “Let a Woman Be a Woman–Let a Man Be a Man” was on the Hot 100 one week longer, it spent only one of those weeks in the Top 40, hitting #36 for the week of November 1, 1969.

Andy Kim is somebody we’re completely nuts about around here, a pop-music genius who’s not recognized as one, as he should be. In September and October of 1969, his collaboration with Jeff Barry, “Sugar Sugar,” recorded by the Archies, spent a month at #1. “Sugar Sugar” was still in the Top 10 when Kim’s “So Good Together” spent the week of November 8, 1969, at #36.

We have at least two installments of this feature left. Maybe three. Stay tuned.

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