The Only Art That’s Really Worth a Damn

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(Pictured: from somewhere in the 70s, Waylon Jennings is silently judging your taste in music.)

The Cash Box chart from November 1, 1975, isn’t going to be for everybody. For me, it’s a great one. I have to go down to #11 and #12 before I find something I don’t like a lot, and I can tolerate both of them, even “Feelings.” It’s not until I get to #20, and George Harrison’s “You,” that I find something I straight-up don’t like. Part of this chart’s appeal has to do with the way I have mythologized the fall of 1975, but not all of it. Any chart that contains my all-time favorite record, the Spinners’ “Games People Play,” just gots to be cool. And some of the most iconic records of the 70s are here, too: “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Low Rider,” “Born to Run.”

But if you don’t dig it, I understand. Let’s see how you might feel about some of the stuff farther down.

43. “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain”/Willie Nelson
74. “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”/Waylon Jennings
83. “What’s Happened to Blue Eyes”/Jessi Colter
“Lord it’s the same old tune, fiddle and guitar / Where do we take it from here?” “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” is Waylon wondering if there was a path to success in country music different from the one Nashville stars had followed for years. As it turned out, he and the other prominent outlaws found it.

55. “(How I Spent My Summer Vacation) Or a Day at the Beach With Pedro and Man Part 1″/Cheech and Chong. In the fall of 1974, “Earache My Eye” rose all the way into the Top 10 because A) it included a song with a monster riff and B) it was actually funny. Neither of those things is true about “A Day at the Beach With Pedro and Man,” which yammers on in its full-length version for seven deadly dull minutes.

65. “Manhattan Spiritual”/Mike Post. Post hit with the Rockford Files theme in the summer of 1975 and applied the same template to “Manhattan Spiritual,” a 1958 hit by British jazzman Reg Owen. Really, it’s quite remarkable how much it sounds like “The Rockford Files,” to the extent you can tell from the wobbly 45 at YouTube.

89. “Come and Get Your Love”/Roger Daltrey. The YouTuber who posted this says it was marketed in some countries as “Get Your Love.” The United States was apparently not one of them, even though a different “Come and Get Your Love” had been to #1 a year before. This “Come and Get Your Love” is arranged and played like it wants to be a soul record. As such, it would be better sung by quite literally anybody other than Roger Daltrey.

94. “Machines”/John Livigni
98. “Wake Up”/Law
It’s an indication of how obscure these records are that they aren’t posted in full at YouTube or anywhere else, which means they’ve disappeared as completely as any record ever does anymore. To have made the national charts for only a week or two, how many copies must they have moved, or how much payola was distributed on their behalf? Law was on the GRC label, which was a money-laundering operation for one of the largest pornographers in the country, although the artists signed to the label or one of its many subsidiaries didn’t necessarily know it. John Livigni, whose record was on the Raintree label (which was based in Los Angeles, Nashville, or Louisiana depending on which Internet source you prefer), changed his name to John Valenti and scored a minor hit in 1976 with “Anything You Want.” But that’s according to Wikipedia, so caveat emptor.

96. “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”/Ambrosia. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut gets a writing credit on “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” because it’s adapted from lyrics he wrote in his 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle. It was going to be a little much for Top 40 radio, but underground FMs were another story. After hearing it on the radio one night, Vonnegut wrote to the band: “Those who know pop music keep telling me how lucky I am to be tied in with you. And I myself am crazy about our song, of course, but what do I know and why wouldn’t I be? This much I have always known, anyway: Music is the only art that’s really worth a damn. I envy you guys.”

6 thoughts on “The Only Art That’s Really Worth a Damn

  1. Wesley

    Great quote from Vonnegut here. Although I’m not sure he’d have the same sentiment if he heard Ambrosia doing How Much I Feel.

    And that link to the GRC story – oh my gosh! That’s a movie crying for Quentin Tarantino to make.

  2. porky

    Something I just recently found out about the “other” “Come and Get Your Love” is that it was originally titled “Hail” and released as a single, first in the UK in April 1973 then in the US in August of that year with the title we all know it by (thanks to my friend Dick Rosemont’s site, The Originals Project).

    Since I have fond radio memories of 1975, this chart is fantastic.

    A couple of observations: It looks like Freddy Fender joins Charlie Rich as one whose records from another era and from another label charted during their newly found popularity. I’ve seen it cited that #72 Freddy’s “Since I Met You Baby” on the GRT label was from 1959.

    Also, give a listen to #54 Biddu’s “Summer of ’42” as it is nearly ground zero for the disco sound that thrived for another four years. The insistent hi-hat cymbal, the swirling strings, wah-wah guitar, bongos etc, they’re all there.

    1. JP

      With Freddy Fender it’s hard to tell, since he rerecorded “Since I Met You Baby” a gazillion times. But I’m quite sure that the version that made the charts in 1975 was the original ’59 version with modern-day overdubbing.

  3. You know how maps are sometimes reputed to have copyright traps? It would be great if pop charts had them as well — some nonexistent record inserted at No. 98 just to entrap anybody copying the chart in full.

    (I know: a publisher of music charts would have no reason to undertake such an endeavor. I don’t care. I can still imagine “CB Talkin’ Blues” by Smokey McPorkerson, on the Dieselville label, materializing out of the ether and then disappearing again, like a phantom 18-wheeler.)

  4. Thom

    John Lavigni was the lead singer and drummer for a Chicago horn rock band called Puzzle, who released two fairly engaging albums. After failing with his first solo single, he indeed changed his name and released two albums under John Valenti. The second one released in 1981 was big in Japan.

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