The Only War

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(Pictured: Alice Cooper and friend on stage in Roanoke, Virginia, on March 10, 1973.)

While doing a bit of research the other day, I found myself poking around the edition of Billboard dated February 17, 1973, as one does. Here’ some of what’s inside:

—Willis “Bill” Wardlow has been named associate publisher of Billboard. Over the next several years, Wardlow would be responsible for occasionally jiggering the Billboard charts to reward or punish record labels, and to do favors for industry friends. As we learned a few years ago, his manipulations led to Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” spending only 12 hours at #1.

—A full-page ad plugs Alice Cooper’s upcoming American tour and the band’s new single, “Hello Hurray.” The tour opens in Rochester, New York, on March 5, and it will be grueling, with 52 shows in 90 days. Between April 25 and May 5, the band will play 10 shows across the South in 11 days. The last date is set for June 3 in New York City.

—A review of Bruce Springsteen’s recent show at Max’s Kansas City in New York suggests that while Springsteen is not yet Bob Dylan’s 70s heir, he “shows definite signs of acquiring the mantel.” Other reviews cover separate Las Vegas shows by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition and the Supremes, a triple-bill of Al Green, the Spinners, and the Sylvers at the Forum in Los Angeles, Lou Reed at Alice Tully Hall in New York, and the opening night of a weeklong stand at the Bitter End in New York by jazz/funk player Roy Ayers and his group Ubiquity. Ayers’ show is opened by “a promising black comedian, Jimmy (sic) Walker, a man with an undeniably racy sense of humor.” Is it the same Jimmie Walker who will be in the cast of the TV sitcom Good Times a year in the future? Probably.

—A full-page ad with the heading “Grand Opening” features a cartoon woman with blonde hair, pursed red lips, and high heels, wearing a nightgown through which her nipples are clearly visible. Her hands are at her waist, seemingly ready to untie the gown. Below the tie are the words “lift up.” There is no other text on the page. Whoever scanned the issue for World Radio History has also scanned what looks to be a lifted flap: underneath are the covers for two albums. One I cannot identify, since the title isn’t legible; the other is Under the Skunk by Laurie Kaye Cohen. A similar ad appears on another page with the “Grand Opening” headline reversed and the women seen from the back, with another flap that can be lifted. Under that flap is a shot of the woman’s underwear; appearing below are the words “pull down.” Whether anything is under that, I can’t tell; there’s no corresponding scan. Even by the standards of 1973, the whole thing is astoundingly offensive—but Billboard likely collected a fortune for it, considering how elaborate it was. The Cohen album was released on the Playboy label; if they’re the ones who placed the ad, it explains a lot.

—A full-page ad from Brunswick pushes a coin-operated air hockey table that’s about the same size as a standard pool table, calling it “the fastest profit maker you’ve ever seen.” This point is illustrated by a bikini-clad woman sitting on the table, hiding her seductive smile behind a fan of obviously fake paper money.

—On the Easy Listening chart, “Dueling Banjos,” billed only to Deliverance Soundtrack, is the new #1 song. “Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend” by Lobo is at #2 after two weeks at #1. “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack is already at #6 in only its third week on the chart. On Hot Soul Singles, “Love Train” by the O’Jays is the new #1, replacing “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love” by the Spinners. Also in the Top 10 are Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and James Brown. On the Hot 100, “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John holds at #1. “Killing Me Softly” and “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver are new in the Top 10. The biggest move in the Top 40 is made by Dr. Hook’s “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” up 11 spots to #19, although “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Deodato debuts within the Top 40 at #25 from #50 the week before. The new #1 album is The World Is a Ghetto by War, dropping Carly Simon’s No Secrets to #2. A full-page ad celebrating War’s rise to the top contains the line, “Let Us Pray From Now On, We Are The Only War.”

8 thoughts on “The Only War

  1. John C

    You probably already knew this: Jimmie Walker was the producer of Bob Grant’s talk radio show in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s in New York. Given Grant’s right wing and racist opinions on air, that Walker never spoke badly about him (I knew Jimmie from the comedy club circuit back then) made you think it was all an act. Sadly, as others like Imus and Rush have shown us in the years since, it wasn’t.

  2. porky

    I love looking through the old Billboards. A few years back I did the entire trawl through them from 1964 up to about 1978 (when I ran out of interest). My intent was to see how Beatlemania unfolded in “the industry” in real-time. I annotated everything I found interesting (using page numbers) and somewhere there is a four-inch thick stack of my notes in the basement. In case I want to revisit them, I guess…..

    Yes the use of sexy ladies is pervasive; ads from my guitar magazines from the 70’s were the same way, spirit of the times I guess.

    Another thing one notices after perusing a few issues is how many times they uncovered boot-leggers or broke up a ring of folks trying to get the best of the recording industry.

    Here’s some trivia: “Hello Hurray” (or sometimes Hooray) began life as an album cut by Judy Collins on her 1968 LP “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.” (hat tip to The Originals Project website).

  3. Wesley

    An unknown foreign musician moves up 25 spots with a five-minute-plus instrumental that was a cover from a five-year-old movie. That’s the story I’m taking away from this blog about “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Deodato. Another one of those stories about pop music whose circumstances seem impossible to happen nowadays.

    1. mikehagerty

      The story of Deodato’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is maybe even a little stranger than that, Wesley, and it has as much to do with the label he recorded for as anything else.

      Jazz was having a moment in the late 60s and the early 70s, The best MOR stations were liberally sprinkling it into their mix since legitimate core artists (Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis, Patti Page) were increasingly doing watered-down covers of top 40 hits from six months before.

      In Los Angeles, the 24-hour jazz station, KBCA-FM went from its usual 1 share in the fall Pulse ratings in 1968 to a 3.8 in 1969 and a 3.3 in 1970, good enough for 8th place both years.

      The ramp-up had begun earlier, when Creed Taylor, a record producer in his 30s who had founded Impulse records and then remade and revitalized Verve records, started his own label, CTi, an imprint of Herb Alpert’s A&M Records.

      CTi was really kind of a jazz version of Motown. The albums were by individual artists (Wes Montgomery, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Herbie Mann, Nat Adderley, Kai Winding and J.J. Johnson, George Benson, Walter Wanderley,. Paul Desmond, Quincy Jones and Milton Nascimento) but if you read the liner notes, the session players were a rotating corps of all-stars—his version of the Fabulous Funk Brothers.

      Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Kai and J.J. on trombones, Roland Kirk and Hubert Laws on woodwinds, Eric Gale, George Benson and Edu Lobo on guitar, Ron Carter and Ron Brown on bass, Grady Tate on drums,, Bernard Purdie and Airto Moreira on percussion….

      And on keyboards? Sometimes Bob James, sometimes Joe Zawinul….and very often, Eumir Deodato.

      Not only that, Deodato was also an arranger. While all the CTi albums were produced by Creed Taylor, a lot of them have the words “Arranged by Deodato” on the album jacket. Jazz jocks and MOR personalities commented on the arrangements and name-checked him.

      Creed ended the imprint deal with A&M in 1970 and revamped CTi into CTI (no small “i”), striking a distribution deal with Motown. Of his A&M artists, only George Benson and Antonio Carlos Jobim followed him, so he signed his sidemen—most of whom had released LPs of their own for other labels—including Deodato.

      “Also Sprach Zarathustra” may have been in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but that isn’t why Deodato cut it. That I can find, he’s talked about it only once, in a 1973 issue of DownBeat:

      “Actually, when Creed Taylor convinced me to record my own version of “2001”, I had already listen to at least over ten pop adaptations of Strauss’ theme,” Deodato explains. “But for me they were all very boring, with no creativity at all. It had always intrigued me how Strauss had developed the melody. I remembered of a tune I had written a long time ago, actually when I was 15, it was a “baião” in C Major that worked against Strauss’ melody pretty well. I took my old tune as a countermelody and, as soon as I put both of them together, I found that I had something interesting to work with.”

      “That was Creed Taylor’s suggestion, among other tunes he had suggested – “Prelude” and some others – I knew the piece already for quite a while. The melody always intrigued me… I had the score of the original Strauss version, and I restructured it. The way he put the chords together it always sounded weak. It doesn’t have the depth, because he was following that traditional orchestra distribution at that time; they didn’t have the facilities – they also didn’t have (engineer) Rudy Van Gelder! He made the whole difference.”

      CTI’s producer Creed Taylor always liked to include classical pieces in his albums, since his days at Verve and at A&M. “Creed also suggested me to include Holst’s “Planets” as well as one of the movements from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, but both ideas seemed very complicated. However, the idea to adapt Debussy’s “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” worked pretty well, and Creed liked it to the point he decided to use it as the title track for the album,” explains Deodato.”

      Creed released a single off every CTI album, and very few of them went beyond promo pressings.
      If he expected anything beyond that for Deodato,

      But—at least in L.A., the pump was primed for the single by Johnny Magnus, who did 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. on KMPC, where he played a lot of jazz. He got an advance copy of the LP just before Christmas of 1972 (as did KBCA) and he played “Also Sprach Zarathustra”—all nine minutes—every night. Sometimes twice. It created a buzz in L.A. and in the industry.

      The single and album were released in mid-January. CKLW in Detroit added the single January 16. KYA in San Francisco the 17th. WYMQ, Miami on the 22nd. WRKO, Boston on the 23rd. WIXY in Cleveland on the 26th. KHJ in Los Angeles held out until the 30th.

      And two weeks later, it moves from #50 to #25 in Billboard.

      1. Wesley

        Mike, I don’t know whether to be more dazzled by your excellent research or storytelling ability regarding this hit. so I’ll credit both to you equally. This is some of the best writing I’ve seen on the internet all week, and a better backstory than most current hits can boast of having as well.

  4. Alvaro Leos

    Some other fun bits:
    –Albums like Elvis’ “Aloha From Hawaii” and Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Catch A Fire” get rave reviews, as does Stealers Wheels’ “Stuck in the Middle With You”. Then again, how many bad reviews did Billboard give out?
    –Radio Luxembourg will give a contest winner in England a trip to meet Curtis Mayfield in NYC
    –The USSR’s only record label, Melodya, is still pressing 78s, but claims it will stop making them for rural markets by 1975.

  5. mikehagerty

    Wesley, that’s very kind of you to say. Normally, research is just what I do (40 years in journalism), but a chunk of that was actually traceable to my having been a weird kid. I started listening to Johnny Magnus at age 7 and to KBCA at 12. I bought one of the Wes Montgomery CTi LPs just before I turned 13 and then branched out to the other artists.

    I heard the advance spins of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” on KMPC and KBCA and, being eight months into my radio career, went fairly nuts trying to find a copy. So that was more a personal reminiscence, apart from finding the Deodato interview with Leonard Feather in DownBeat.

    By the way, here’s who played on the record:

    Eumir Deodato – piano, electric piano
    Ron Carter – electric bass, double bass
    Stanley Clarke – electric bass
    Billy Cobham – drums
    John Tropea – electric guitar
    Jay Berliner – guitar
    Airto Moreira – percussion
    Ray Barretto – congas

    Not bad for 1973 Top 40 radio.

  6. Pingback: What Would You Say – The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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