Do That to Me One More Time

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In the summer of 1975, I did not like the Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together,” even as it did a month at #1, the first record to last that long at the top in over two years. I did not like “The Way I Want to Touch You” that fall, even as it insinuated itself into my head and now inspires strong flashbacks to the end of that year. (Which is omething I intend to write about next week.) The Captain and Tennille were woven into my favorite year, 1976, with three big hits. “Shop Around” didn’t bother me, but “Muskrat Love” and “Lonely Night (Angel Face)” did. (Click the link for Professor O’Kelly’s thoughts on the latter, and several C&T songs.) By 1977, however, they ceased to register much at all with me. By the end of 1980, they were gone from the charts, never to return, and I felt no void because of it.

As the years went by, I called them a cocktail-lounge act. I called Toni Tennille’s voice an in-your-face bleat, and I said that she reminded me of that mouthy cheerleader you hated in high school. I described the Captain’s style on keyboard as “blips and farts.” I even criticized them on a sociological basis. In their last two big hits, “You Never Done It Like That” and “Do That to Me One More Time” (which went to #1 in February 1980), I heard Toni criticizing the Captain’s prowess in the sack. “You Never Done It Like That” contains one of the most demeaning things a woman ever said to a man after he’s made love to her: “Hey little man, I want to shake your hand.” In “Do That to Me One More Time,” Toni seems mildly surprised to have gotten off.

Even in the early days of this blog, I was prone to snark. Back in 2005, I wrote:

September 20, 1976: The Captain and Tennille’s variety show premieres on ABC. It becomes one of the most enduring hits in the history of television, remaining on the air until 1994. Its staggering popularity results in seven consecutive number-one albums, 24 top-10 singles, and the 1997 induction of Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Wait, maybe not.

Now, all these years later, “Wait, maybe not” is right.

The variety-show crack gets at something truthful in a backward way: a network variety show did not often boost an act’s hitmaking profile. Sonny and Cher, Roy Clark and Buck Owens (with Hee Haw), Tony Orlando and Dawn, Donny and Marie, and the Captain and Tennille never scaled the charts after their TV shows like they had before. And if the Captain and Tennille’s show was cheesy, it wasn’t much more so than its contemporaries. As a time capsule of what TV celebrity looked like in 1976 and 1977, you can scarcely do better.

As for the rest of it—in-your-face bleat, mouthy cheerleader, and so on? Nah, that’s not fair, and I don’t believe it anymore.

Toni Tennille and Daryl Dragon were hipper than people knew, as Ultimate Classic rock summarizes here, including the funny story about the Pink Floyd fan who discovered Toni is on The Wall, and the Captain’s history with the Beach Boys. In the middle of the 1970s, they cut some great songs: several by Neil Sedaka and one (“Shop Around”) by Smokey Robinson. They were backed on record by the LA superstars known as the Wrecking Crew. And they hit in an era that was perfectly perfectly primed for solidly built pop music, lightweight and catchy and fun.

(One of their records was more than just fun. “Shop Around” contains advice no young man ever needed. But by gender-flipping it, the Captain and Tennille told young women of the 70s that they could control their own lives and make their own choices—topical and significant advice amidst the changes of that decade. It’s my favorite record of theirs by a mile, but I like this one a lot, too, speaking of lightweight and catchy.)

No, the Captain and Tennille aren’t getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And no, I’m not going to buy their complete-works box set, should there ever be one. But it’s hard to imagine the 1970s without them, and that’s the biggest tribute I can pay anybody. Rest well, Captain, and thank you for the music.

16 responses

  1. “The Way I Want to Touch You” is a perfect record, more amazing that it was released on a small label and then picked up by the big boys (Herb Alpert’s label, no less).

    “Shop Around” was on the cable TV music channel the other day and my 24 year-old son (who knows his music just like his pa) saw a graphic of the duo and said, “I thought the singer was African-American.”

    In my days as a used record store manager Toni’s big band LP from the early 80’s had a very strong following, folks (ok, older men) were always looking for a copy of the out-of-print item.

    Two side points: “Love Will Keep Us Together” is a member of a small club of #1 hits that featured in-studio applause. Other members: Billy Swan’s “I Can Help,” Elton’s “Benny and the Jets” and The Jaggerz “The Rapper” (in on a technicality as it hit #1 in Record World and #2 on Billboard).

    And…..both the C & T and your previously posted subject Dr. Hook both ended their careers on Neil Bogart’s Casablanca label.

    1. Do the Tempts’ “I Can’t Get Next To You” and the Jax 5’s “ABC” (which I think sample the same applause track) count?

  2. Daryl Dragon was a keyboard player with The Beach Boys from 1967 to 1972. Beach Boys lead singer Mike Love gave him the nickname “Captain Keyboard”, and it stuck.

  3. “You Never Done It Like That” and “Do That To Me One More Time” take on an uncomfortable significance when realizing that Toni says she divorced Daryl in 2014 because he was incapable of showing affection. “You Never Done It Like That” was a Sedaka song, but Toni wrote “Do That To Me One More Time”.

    But major character points to Toni, who, after the divorce, upon hearing Daryl was being abused by a caretaker, moved to Prescott, Arizona to care for him. She was with him until the end.

  4. The Captain had better musical taste than you think. The 1979 C&T special featured both Ella Fitzgerald and BB King, while they actually made an appearance on “Soul Train” the next year.
    From the 1979 special:

  5. I’m glad you’ve had an epiphany (or, at least, you view has softened) regarding the Captain and his lovely some-time wife. Are you familiar with the backstory regarding “Muskrat Love”? Radio guru Johnathon Little was PD at either WISM or WZEE (can’t remember which) when C+T had a gig at the Dane County Coliseum. Little heard them do Muskrat Love and after the show, backstage, told them they HAD to insist that it be released as a single, assuring them that it would get giant radio airplay. Little says they were reluctant to accept his counsel, but then had a change of heart, and convinced the A&M folks to put it out as a single, and…well, the rest (of that terrible song, with the Captain’s horrible keyboard antics) is history. I enjoyed your “lounge act” comment – I think there’s a measure of truth to that, ala “The Fabulous Baker Boys”; but we’re on different pages regarding Toni’s voice. I think she’s every bit as good as Karen Carpenter, and more versatile. The two of them can sing a low A-flat right on pitch (long before the days of Autotune) and sustain it with plenty of breath support. That kind of technical facility is called “natural talent” by voice coaches. Great read, as always, JB.

    1. I’m glad you told the “Muskrat Love” story because I didn’t have time for it. Given that one of the scoundrels responsible for the national release of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” recently outed himself at this blog, we’re developing quite a historical niche here.

      1. Guilty as charged, JB. It helps to remember that “Muskrat Love” pre-dates the Captain and Tennille’s version by several years—all they did was make it a hit. Willis Alan Ramsey wrote it, included it on his first (and only) album, and people actually dug it.

        The band America actually put it on US radio first—including it on their album “Hat Trick”, releasing it as a single and getting as far as #67 on the Hot 100 (#11 Adult Contemporary).

        But—a year before America, Lani Hall (then not quite yet Mrs. Herb Alpert) made the song—with some significant lyrical alterations by Lani and Herb—the title track of her debut album “Sundown Lady”:

        Given that the Captain and Tennille were on the label Alpert owned, A&M, I’m kinda surprised they didn’t go with the Herb/Lani revisions. Which would have spared us the electronic muskrat noises. It might still have been a hit, and likely would have been less reviled.

      2. That Willis Alan Ramsey album is a jewel — top-notch early 1970s progressive country similar to Jerry Jeff Walker or Guy Clark. I picked it up about 20 years ago after hearing Lyle Lovett rave about it. Other than some new scattered songs that others have performed, Ramsey hasn’t released anything in 40+ years. When asked where the new album is, he often responds, “What’s wrong with the first one?”

        It’s very strange to me that this man is responsible, even if somewhat indirectly, for “Muskrat Love.”

      3. Well, heck—if we’re going to break out Willis’ album, we may as well play his version, which he titled “Muskrat Candlelight”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HEao5-DIYI

  6. Does anyone remember if Smokey Robinson had any comment about “Shop Around” or the Linda Ronstadt remakes of his songs? I’m guessing he would be at least publicly enthusiastic, even if his original versions are hard to top.

    1. According to Toni, the Detroit-area radio stations were very reluctant to play the Captain and Tennille’s version until Smokey told them he thought was fine. The fact that he got songwriter royalties from it helped, I’m sure. And I bet the exposure from Linda Ronstadt help boost the profile of “Ooo Baby Baby” in oldies replay cycles as well.

    2. They duetted on the “Motown 25” special: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOShmw_jqK4

    3. I imagine Smokey liked Linda’s versions of his songs – the insert of the “Prisoner in Disguise” LP had a photo of his handwritten lyrics for “Tracks of My Tears.”

  7. […] “The Way I Want to Touch You”/Captain and Tennille. When I wrote about C&T last week, I mentioned that I didn’t like this song much in 1975. It liked me, however, and now […]

  8. […] wrote a bunch of tributes again this year: to Daryl Dragon of the Captain and Tennille; to Dr. Hook’s Ray Sawyer; to the quintessential Man of the 70s, […]

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