(Pictured: Three Dog Night performs at the Grammys in March 1972.)
Fifty years. I can’t get my brain around the concept, particularly as it relates to songs (and to times) that do not seem so far gone. Travel back with me to the end of summer with the American Top 40 show from August 26, 1972.
40. “Honky Cat”/Elton John
39. “This World”/Staple Singers
38. “Sweet Inspiration–Where You Lead”/Barbra Streisand
37. “Run to Me”/Bee Gees
36. “You’re Still a Young Man”/Tower of Power
This show gets off to a rough start. “Honky Cat” and “Run to Me” are both fine and will become big hits, but “This World” is more shouty than funky, and “You’re Still a Young Man” just kinda sits there. Casey plays all six deadly dull minutes of “Sweet Inspiration” and “Where You Lead,” a medley recorded live at a McGovern-for-president rally earlier in the year. In six minutes you could play Barbra’s vastly superior 1971 studio version of “Where You Lead” twice, and you should.
35. “Gone”/Joey Heatherton. My 45-buying habits 50 years ago are amusing to me today. In 2012, I wrote about buying “Gone”:
It’s not especially difficult to understand what drew me to this record—the horn blast that opens it could knock down the walls of Jericho and it sounded great on the radio. The song had been a big pop and country hit for the splendiferously named Ferlin Husky in 1957, but Heatherton finds drama in it that Husky never perceived. When she comes back one last time with “Oh, what I’d give for the lifetime I’ve wasted,” even a 12-year-old who knows practically nothing about love or girls or any damn thing can tell that whatever the singer is feeling, it’s as serious as a heart attack. So maybe it’s not so peculiar why I bought it, when other things I liked better I never did.
34. “Pop That Thang”/Isley Brothers. Which Casey introduces by suggesting that the Isley’s 1969 hit “It’s Your Thing” helped popularize that particular use of the word “thing.” “This time,” Casey says, “they’re singing it and spelling it with an accent: T-H-A-N-G.”
32. “When You Say Love”/Sonny and Cher
17. “Rock and Roll Part 2″/Gary Glitter
Sonny and Cher don’t sound all that interested in singing “When You Say Love.” Nobody could have known it would have a 50-year afterlife in Budweiser commercials and down unto this very day at the University of Wisconsin, as a popular song at sporting events: “When you say Wis-consin, you’ve said it all.” “Rock and Roll Part 2” also became a sports anthem, although it is frequently banned for inspiring obscene chants. And it hasn’t been on the radio much since Glitter’s 2006 conviction for child molestation.
31. “Lean on Me”/Bill Withers
30. “Too Late to Turn Back Now”/Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
29. “Small Beginnings”/Flash
28. “Go All the Way”/Raspberries
27. “Power of Love”/Joe Simon
26. “How Do You Do”/Mouth and MacNeal
25. “Baby Let Me Take You”/Detroit Emeralds
24. “Beautiful Sunday”/Daniel Boone
There’s glorious AM-radio pleasure right here, although your mileage may vary regarding whether “Small Beginnings” qualifies.
And the pleasure continues:
23. “Black and White”/Three Dog Night. Zooming into the 40 from #47 the week before. Casey introduces it by mentioning songwriters whose careers have been boosted by Three Dog Night, including Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro, and Randy Newman. He then says that “Black and White” was written by “D. Arkin and E. Robinson” and to “keep your eye on ’em.” But David Arkin, the father of Alan and grandfather of Adam Arkin, never wrote another popular song. Earl Robinson had already written the labor anthem “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night” but was known mostly for classical music. A phone call to ABC/Dunhill Records might have been all it took to learn their first names, their significant backstories, and that the song was written years before in response to Brown v. Board of Education, although maybe Casey told those stories in later episodes.
21. “School’s Out”/Alice Cooper
20. “Saturday in the Park”/Chicago
Casey says that “School’s Out” is currently #1 in England, and that “Saturday in the Park” is the biggest mover within the 40 this week, up 13.
A listener asks which artist has hit the Hot 100 the most without cracking the Top 40. The answer: Steve Alaimo, who’s done it nine times. Casey says, “I really hope Steve hits soon with a big one, and he will.” But Alaimo would never hit the Hot 100 again.
Welp, I have reached my entirely arbitrary word limit and we’re only halfway through this show. Please join me for part 2, eventually.
5 thoughts on “I Dreamed I Saw Three Dogs Last Night”
Man, 11 in a row stone cold classics
“You’re Still a Young Man” just sits there? Not on my radio. I’d suggest maybe it was KFRC’s processing, but I know it wasn’t.
“When You Say Love” had a two-year head start as the Budweiser jingle. Writers Jerry Foster and Bill Rice straight-up stole the hook and wrote their song around it and then sold it to Sonny and Cher (more likely to Snuff Garrett, who produced S&C’s records). The guy who wrote the melody for Budweiser ads in 1970, Steve Karmen, sued Foster and Rice for copyright infringement and won.
If I had to record a song based on the Budweiser theme, I’d probably be as bored as Sonny and Cher were in recording it. It had to have cracked the top 40 on the melody alone, because the lyrics are blah.
And Buddy Miles surpassed the dubious record held by Steve Alaimo in 1975 when he placed his tenth song on the Hot 100 to fail to make the top 40. In fact, none went higher than number 62. He later became the lead vocalist of the California Raisins, which also failed to crack the top 40 with their version of I Heard It Through the Grapevine in 1988. I somewhat hate the fact that I know all this trivia.
One database shows that “thang” first occurred on the title of a Duane Eddy LP in 1960 (The Twang’s the Thang) and that Brother Jack McDuff (who is generally classified as jazz or funk) used it next in late 1965. Odd that its next usage was by C&W singer Nat Stuckey in mid ’66 with “Sweet Thang,” which went to #4 and spawned a handful of covers. After that, all references of “thang” are R&B or funk.
I was fortunate to see Three Dog Night…twice. The first time was in 1984 at the Carleton West in Green Bay, Wisconsin. At that time, there weren’t a lot of performers touring on “the oldies circuit” so a band from the late-60s/early-70s performing in the 1980s was sort of a new concept. This wasn’t some sound-a-like band calling itself Three Dog Night because the singer was related to Corey Wells’ eye doctor. This was Corey Wells, Danny Hutton, and Chuck Negron and they were EXCELLENT! They opened with “One Man Band” and followed with all the Three Dog Night hits you know and love. They let it rip with their version of “Try a Little Tenderness” and did an extended version of “Mama Told Me Not To Come” while chatting with the audience. Five years later, I saw them again at a festival in New London, Wisconsin. This time, Danny Hutton had left the band, so Corey Wells and Chuck Negron carried on. Prior to that, I got to record a radio interview with Corey Wells which aired on WDUX/Waupaca. Corey Wells was a terrific interview. He said ABC/Dunhill Records was a great record company…never pressured them, let them do their thing, and never insisted they have just one lead singer. Considering that Paul McCartney, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, members of The Eagles, and even Billy Joel are still performing today, imagine what kind of money Three Dog Night would generate on a tour today.