(Pictured: the Jackson Five.)
Not long ago, I paged through Billboard magazine from the week of November 7, 1970, as one does.
A headline story on page 1 says that in response to the recent drug-related deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Al “Blind Owl” Wilson of Canned Heat, MGM Records president Mike Curb has terminated the contracts of 18 MGM artists he accuses of promoting hard drugs. The artists are not listed by name, although Curb claims that some of them are top sellers. History would show that most of them were marginal at best.
Elsewhere, jukebox operators are concerned about the increasing length of records and its impact on their revenue. More than half of the songs on the current Hot 100 run more than three minutes, and the average song runs 3:32. “Green Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf runs 5:58, and both “Closer to Home” by Grand Funk Railroad and “Fresh Air” by Quicksilver Messenger Service run in excess of five minutes. (Anne Murray’s “Snowbird” is the shortest, at 2:08.) Some operators have refused to program the longest popular singles, but most admit that if a record gets big enough, they have no choice. The long-song trend is not expected to reverse. Bill Prutting of jukebox manufacturer Seeburg says, “You can write about long singles until doomsday, but labels cannot tell their artists how long their singles should be.”
The magazine reviews a number of new albums, including Bob Dylan’s New Morning, Greatest Hits by Sly and the Family Stone, and I (Who Have Nothing) by Tom Jones. Several new Christmas albums are reviewed, by the Williams Brothers (Andy and his siblings), Ed Ames, Buck Owens, Charley Pride, and Jose Feliciano. The review of Feliciano’s album says he “adds interesting new dimensions to old Christmas favorites,” but doesn’t mention a new song from the album that will remain on the air for the next half-century: “Feliz Navidad.”
Charley Pride is #1 on the Hot Country Singles chart with “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me.” Among the other songs in the Top 10 are “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash and “It’s Only Make Believe” by Glen Campbell, which have crossed over to pop. Other pop crossovers include “Snowbird,” “For the Good Times” by Ray Price, “Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed, and Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden.” The hottest record on the chart, up 30 spots to #37 in its second week on, is “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn. Merle Haggard’s Fightin’ Side of Me is #1 on Hot Country LPs.
Billboard‘s Top Soul LPs chart is dominated by Motown: Third Album by the Jackson Five, Temptations’ Greatest Hits Volume 2, and Still Waters Run Deep by the Four Tops are in the top three positions. Also riding high: Signed Sealed Delivered by Stevie Wonder, the self-titled solo debut by Diana Ross, and Ecology by Rare Earth.
Rare Earth, signed to a Motown subsidiary, is not the only rock act on the Soul LPs chart. Santana is at #6 with Abraxas, Cosmo’s Factory by CCR is #13, Band of Gypsys by Jimi Hendrix is at #16, Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen is at #24, and Led Zeppelin III debuts at #44. (Led Zeppelin III and Abraxas are #1 and #2 on the Top LPs chart; the Jackson Five and Creedence Clearwater albums are in the Top 10.)
On Easy Listening, “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters continues to dominate, in its fifth week at #1. Also in the Top 10: “It Don’t Matter to Me” by Bread, James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” and the hottest record on the Easy Listening chart, “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, up 14 spots to #8.
The #1 song in Britain is the Matthews’ Southern Comfort cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” In Canada, it’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond. In Singapore, “Candida” by Dawn is #1, and in Spain it’s “El Condor Pasa” by Simon and Garfunkel. In the United States, “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson Five is #1 for a fourth week; “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Fire and Rain” hold at #2 and #3. One song is new in the Top 10: “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family, up from #17 last week.
The magazine’s radio column, Vox Jox, runs down the on-air lineup at WLS in Chicago: Larry Lujack, Joel Sebastian, Chuck Buell, Scotty Brink, Kris Stevens, Jerry Kaye, new arrival Steve Lundy, and weekender Bernie Allen. On the other end of the wave in his Wisconsin bedroom, a 10-year-old kid listens to them, and it won’t be long until he wants to be like them.