Superstars and Not

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(Pictured: Jeff Fenholt and the Broadway cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.)

Having spent time on the American Top 40 show from January 30, 1971, last week, it would be our usual practice to look at the Bottom 60 from that week’s chart. This time, however, I’d like to revisit the Cash Box Looking Ahead chart, equivalent to Billboard‘s Bubbling Under the Hot 100. If there’s anything you recognize on the January 30, 1971, Looking Ahead chart, it’s probably “Treat Her Like a Lady” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose or “Revival” by the Allman Brothers Band. But there are other records worth taking note of.

2. “Wooly Bully”/Canned Heat. After scoring a hit with “Let’s Work Together,” Canned Heat decided to cover another song that most working rock bands of the era would have known. Compared to the hard ‘n’ heavy “Let’s Work Together,” “Wooly Bully” is almost light, and while it’s got some good playing on it, Sam the Sham still owns.

7. “We Can Make the World (A Whole Lot Brighter)/Gravy. Gravy was the songwriting team of Robert John and Michael Gately; John later scored hits under his own name, including the #1 hit “Sad Eyes,” while Gately recorded an album with musicians including Al Kooper, Herbie Flowers, and Paul Kossoff. “We Can Make the World (A Whole Lot Brighter)” would reach a far larger audience after the Brady Bunch sang it on TV in 1972 and later put it on an album.

(Do I need to repeat that the Brady Bunch records were roundly ignored in the 70s, and that it was only in the 1990s, when kids who had grown up on the show discovered them, that they came to be considered “hits”? I think not.)

10. “Nothing Rhymed”/Gilbert O’Sullivan
25. “Brand New Day”/Rufus
A couple of years before “Alone Again (Naturally),” Gilbert O’Sullivan was already moping around on “Nothing Rhymed.” Rufus spent a lot of time in the weeds before breaking through in 1974. “Brand New Day” is their first release; the female voice on it belongs to Paulette McWilliams, who left the band in 1972 and recommended her friend, Chaka Khan, as a replacement.

12. “Theme From Love Story“/Peter Nero.
 Two versions of the Love Story theme, by Henry Mancini and Francis Lai, were already on the Cash Box and Billboard charts in this week and other versions, by Andy Williams and Tony Bennett, would also get some chart action. With the novel atop the fiction best-sellers list and the movie raking it in at the box office in January 1971, peak Love Story was not far away.

13. “When I’m Dead and Gone”/Bob Summers. Summers was the brother of Mary Ford, Mrs. Les Paul. After Les and Mary divorced, she went on the road solo, but with Summers playing Les Paul’s parts. By 1970, Summers was a producer and arranger at MGM Records, which released his “When I’m Dead and Gone” single and album. (The thoroughly English folk-rock version of “When I’m Dead and Gone” by McGuinness Flint was just outside the Cash Box Top 40 in this week.)

19. “Something to Make You Happy”/Mason and Cass. Dave Mason and Cass Elliot’s lone album together, which I have not heard, supposedly sounds like a Dave Mason solo record with Cass providing a few backing vocals. “Something to Make You Happy” sounds like a lost classic, though.

21. “Medley From Superstar (A Rock Opera)“/Assembled Multitude.  Jesus Christ Superstar was a snowballing cultural force in the winter of 1971; the album would spend three non-consecutive weeks at #1 in February and again in May, and two songs, “Superstar” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” would become significant hit singles. Producer Tom Sellers put together the Assembled Multitude from Philadelphia studio musicians and scored a big hit with “Overture From Tommy” in the summer of 1970. You can hardly blame a guy for going to the next well over and trying again, although “Medley From Superstar is not as compelling as “Overture From Tommy” had been. It probably didn’t matter to the Philadelphia studio cats, however. They were about to find themselves playing on dozens of far bigger hits.

22. “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”/Otis Redding. Recorded at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, this isn’t so much a record as it is a force of nature.

If you are a fan of Looking Ahead or Bubbling Under, you will want to keep an eye on Songs in the Key of E, where Erik has just begun a series on Bubbling Under songs from the 80s that never made the Hot 100. It’s been pretty great already.

3 thoughts on “Superstars and Not

  1. mikehagerty

    I heard exactly two of those songs on KHJ, Los Angeles at the time. I was still 14 and three months away from my first radio gig.

    Francis Lai made it all the way to #4 on the Boss 30–way outperforming its showing on Billboard’s Hot 100 (#31). Francis also beat Andy Williams, who only got to #15 at KHJ (compared to #9 in Billboard).

    And the other was Bob Summers’ “When I’m Dead and Gone”. #118 in Billboard—but #23 at KHJ. Someone had some pull—Bob got airplay at not just KHJ, but also KGB, San Diego and KFRC, San Francisco, all stations whose programming was overseen by Bill Drake.

  2. TN

    “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” became two significant hit singles: Helen Reddy took it to No. 13 as her first Top Forty single, while Yvonne Elliman, who played Mary Magdalene in the original cast, took her concurrent version to No. 28. If Miss Yvonne’s had been the only version out there, it might have gone to Number One, because it’s amazing and markedly better than Ms. Reddy’s.

  3. Wesley

    Andy Williams told me Columbia wanted to be fair to him, Tony Bennett and Johnny Mathis, so the record company released all three artists’ versions of “Theme from Love Story” on the same day. Williams thought he had the most commercial rendition, but he admitted having a regular TV series in 1971 to sing the song several times over a period of weeks didn’t hurt either.

    TN, I second your opinion on Yvonne Elliman’s version. Much as I’m ready (no pun intended) to defend Helen on here, Elliman had much better vocals and arrangements on her take.

    Finally, I only wish I was a concert promoter at this time and booked Gravy with Canned Ham, Meat Loaf or Bread. Or maybe all three.

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