Old Fashioned Love Songs

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(Pictured: the Stylistics on tour circa 1974. Note the song titles painted on the side of the bus.)

It is always a challenge, especially with time periods I have covered extensively, to find new songs to write about or new things to say. But I’ll take a shot with the Bottom 60 of the Hot 100 from the week of November 13, 1971.

59. “You Are Everything”/Stylistics. In the fall of 1971, I’d only been listening to the radio for a year, so lots of things would have sounded new and exciting. But “You Are Everything” hit different. There was not, had never been—and would never be—anything that sounded quite like it. I am a fan of little moments in songs, and the instant where the dreamy, ethereal introduction gives way to the opening line, “Today I saw somebody who looked just like you” is an all-timer, still raising goosebumps after 50 years, every time I hear it. But the whole record is great—pain and regret made impossibly beautiful in the way only the best pop music can. Last week I tweeted a new profile of the great Philadelphia songwriter/producer Thom Bell and suggested that while there should be a statue of Bell somewhere, “no matter how grand we made the thing, it wouldn’t be as great as intro of ‘Back Stabbers.'” I could have said “as great as ‘You Are Everything.'” Nobody else on Earth has that man’s gift. 

65. “Rub It In”/Layng Martine. I have written a bit here about Billy “Crash” Craddock, the mid-70s country star, and his pop crossover hit “Rub It In.” This is the OG, recorded by the man who wrote it, eventually a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and produced by Ray Stevens. (It’s easy to imagine Stevens singing it, actually.) Craddock’s version is better, and it was timed better, running the charts in the summer of 1974.

73. “Gimme Some Lovin’ (Part 1)”/Traffic, Etc. This is an oddly credited single from an oddly credited album. The album is Welcome to the Canteen, which is a live album taken from two English concert dates in the summer of 1971. The album was not credited to Traffic, but to the seven individual musicians who made up the group at the time: Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, Ric Grech, Dave Mason, Reebop Kwaku Baah, and Jim Gordon. But since it wasn’t practical to issue a single with all those names, “Gimme Some Lovin'” was credited to Traffic, Etc., with part 1 of the nine-minute album version on one side and part 2 on the other. That it got any traction as a single is pretty surprising, as it’s mostly a jam and not the sort of thing you’d expect your local Top 40 station to play.

76. “Stones”-“Crunchy Granola Suite”/Neil Diamond. Another excellent article I read recently was by the great Dan Epstein, about how Lenny Bruce inspired Neil Diamond to write his best song, “I Am … I Said,” which appeared (according to Epstein) on Diamond’s worst album. I feel more warmly toward “Stones” than Epstein does (fall of 1971 and all), and “Crunchy Granola Suite” is just odd enough to be charming. But your mileage, like Epstein’s, may vary.

77. “Old Fashioned Love Song”/Three Dog Night. A friend and I were talking the other day about the sound of music on AM radio. To the extent people think about it at all (which is not much anymore), I suspect they find AM’s sound quality inferior and figure that everybody just lived with it until something better came along. But the great AM music stations cared deeply about the quality of their audio. They tweaked their processing in various ways to minimize the limitations of the AM band, and to provide the best possible sound on the radios most commonly in use, especially little transistor sets and car radios. Although that’s not done much anymore, I still enjoy listening to 60s and 70s music on AM. (And it’s not just music. If I am listening to a sports broadcast and I have a choice, I will always choose the AM signal.) Record labels helped too, with special mixes for 45s and/or for radio. It’s a subject I’ve written about before so I won’t belabor the point here, but “Old Fashioned Love Song” is a record that you have not heard properly until you have heard its 45 mix.

It’s arguable, of course, that you have not heard “Old Fashioned Love Song” properly until you’ve heard it on a fading nighttime skywave from 100 miles and 50 years away, but insert shrug emoji here.

14 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Love Songs

  1. Your observations are on target as always, JB.
    But my eyes go back to that picture at the top, and I imagine those five guys sprawled in bus seats, smoking yet another cigarette (or yet another joint) and watching trees and billboards zoom past the window as a few hundred more miles go by, and boy, there’s got to be stories there.

  2. Yah Shure

    “You Are Everything” had that fading nighttime skywave sound baked right into it to perfection.

    Last month, I took a leisurely five-hour drive south on U.S. 169 to Fort Dodge, Iowa, to revisit the city that was home during the early ’50s, via the once-familiar route I hadn’t taken since the ’70s (I-35 has since reduced the time by two hours.) During trips to and from Oklahoma City during the ’80s, I marveled at how much Fort Dodge’s most powerful AM station, country KWMT/540, always stood out with a loud, ballsy sound that any top-40 AM would’ve killed to have.

    After surviving a carousel of ownership changes, including a stint under Clear Channel, I was really surprised to find that KWMT has managed to retain its signature major market audio sound, even as its classic country programming has been gutted of much of its human presence. But hot damn, does that station sound BIG!

    From what I understand, the reason Three Dog Night’s mono 45s haven’t been anthologized on CD by Real Gone Music (as were their Dunhill brethren Steppenwolf, the Grass Roots and the Mamas & Papas) can be chalked up to licensing issues. MCA’s 1993 ‘The Three Dog Night Story 1965-1975’ set claimed to contain several of them, but close examination proved most of those “mono 45s” to be bogus replication attempts.

    1. mackdaddyg

      “From what I understand, the reason Three Dog Night’s mono 45s haven’t been anthologized on CD by Real Gone Music (as were their Dunhill brethren Steppenwolf, the Grass Roots and the Mamas & Papas) can be chalked up to licensing issues. MCA’s 1993 ‘The Three Dog Night Story 1965-1975’ set claimed to contain several of them, but close examination proved most of those “mono 45s” to be bogus replication attempts.”

      I have to be honest…when I purchased that set, I actually thought they were the proper 45 mixes for a good long while. I really hate when record companies lie to me.

      It’s been a nonstop thorn in my side that Real Gone can’t get the rights to do a proper 45 set. I thought they did a good job with the Grass Roots and Steppenwolf. I wonder who specifically is the Grinch here?

  3. porky

    Next time you’re at Goodwill pick up a copy of “I’m Coming Home” by Johnny Mathis, an entire LP of Creed/Bell tunes that is a stunner.

    From a Paul Williams interview:

    I had a date one night, a young lady named Patti Dahlstrom, she was a songwriter. We were going to go out and have dinner. And right before I left for the date I had gotten a phone call that I had a gold record. And I walked into her house, and I said, “Well, got a gold record for such-and-such, it just went gold. Kid did it again with another old fashioned love song.” It just came out of me. And I went, wait a minute. I went over to her piano and I sat down, and it’s the quickest I ever had a song come out of me. And it sounds like it. It’s a really simple song, I wrote it in like 20 minutes. And it was a big hit.

  4. Wesley

    Let’s face it, giving deejays the name of Layng Martine to introduce Rub It In is a challenge even if you spell it out phonetically. Still, I admire the man for deciding to stick to his birth name rather than use an alias.

    Bell’s ability to produce tight social commentary songs like Back Stabbers along with moving ballads like You Are Everything makes him tops in my book. Great range with great impact.

  5. Two or three years ago, my now-23-year-old son-in-law, who has some audio recording chops, said it was surprising that I understood and appreciated good audio to the extent that I do, given that I’d grown up when “there was only AM”.

    I walked him to the car and played an unmolested unscoped KFRC aircheck from the mid 70s and watched the color drain from his face.

    He thought today’s AM was the limit of what could be done with the technology.

  6. T.

    I work with some kids (they’re in their 20’s and 30’s) and sometimes the conversation gets around to music and radio. I tell them about the glory days of AM radio, how it played music,
    not talk, and how you could hear James Brown and Three Dog Night, etc.
    They just stare at me like I’m from another planet.

  7. Gary Omaha

    >>I am a fan of little moments in songs, and the instant where the dreamy, ethereal introduction gives way to the opening line
    AMEN.

    >>the great AM music stations cared deeply about the quality of their audio
    AMEN.

  8. “It’s arguable, of course, that you have not heard “Old Fashioned Love Song” properly until you’ve heard it on a fading nighttime skywave from 100 miles and 50 years away, but insert shrug emoji here.”

    Three Dog Night had a sound that seemed tailor-made for AM radio stations. I can imagine, especially, how great the underrated and sadly forgotten gem “Out in the Country” sounded on an AM radio 50+ years ago. Just perfect, I imagine.

    1. Gary Omaha

      Now you’ve done it, Guy K. This is nerdy…but I wonder if there’s a filter available for audio that will turn the current audio output into an AM-sounding stream? Click ON the filter and all of a sudden those great Three Dog Night tunes, and a lot of others, can be fading in and out with some static and maybe lightning crackle thrown in every now and then. People over a certain age might just love it. (There used to be a site that made any song sound like AM, but that wasn’t the same — I think that replicated studio processing output, not what one would hear hundreds of miles away.)

  9. John Gallagher

    I wonder how many mono 45’s were pressed for “An Old Fashioned Love Song.” Every copy of the 45 I’ve come across is stereo. The stereo 45 version is easily found on CD.

  10. John Gallagher

    Isn’t there or weren’t there some serious bad feelings between some of the remaining members of Three Dog Night? That might be the heart of the licensing issues preventing a mono greatest hits CD.

    1. mackdaddyg

      Chuck Negron and Danny Hutton (the two remaining original vocalists) definitely don’t see eye to eye any more, but I don’t know if they have any control over this kind of thing or not. I just assumed somebody has a master tape or tapes and they either refuse to work with Real Gone, or are wanting way too much money, which would be moronic but very possible.

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