Don’t Say No

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(Pictured: Billy Squier on stage in the summer of 1981.)

As I might have done with a hard copy back then, let’s digitally page through the edition of Radio and Records dated July 3, 1981, to see what we can see.

Item: Congress is considering the expansion of Daylight Saving Time, which currently runs from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. The Federal Communications Commission is concerned about the impact on daytime-only radio stations. Those not authorized for pre-sunrise operation would see up to two additional months in which they would lose an hour of profitable morning drive-time.

Comment: DST was expanded in 1986 so it started on the first Sunday in April instead of the last. In 2007, DST changed to its current schedule, from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.

Item: TV ratings for the week ending June 28 show M*A*S*H at #1, followed by the M*A*S*H spinoff Trapper John M.D. at #2. The sitcom featuring former M*A*S*H star Wayne Rogers, House Calls, finished at #3 for the week.

Comment: Few successful TV series have gone further down the memory hole than House Calls, which finished in the Top 25 during all three of its seasons but isn’t streaming or seen on vintage TV diginets. Co-star Lynn Redgrave was fired midway through the 1981-82 season for wanting to breast-feed her newborn daughter at work, which the studio would not abide. After Redgrave was suddenly replaced by Sharon Gless, ratings plummeted, the show was canceled, and lawsuits followed.

Item: WZZQ in Jackson, Mississippi, one of the first album-rock stations in the South, has switched to a country format after 13 years. The station’s general manager believes the AOR format attracts too young an audience, and that country will help the station capture more national advertising dollars aimed at 25-to-49 year-olds. As the only AOR station in Jackson, WZZQ ranked second overall in the most recent Birch Report ratings. It becomes the fourth country station in the market.

Comment: WZZQ would not have been the first or last station to trade a bird in the hand for two that it thought were in the bush. Nevertheless, it seems deeply weird for a heritage album-rock station with strong ratings and market exclusivity to enter a four-way battle and expect to do better. This feels like a change that’s officially about one thing but actually about something else. For example, stations have been known to change format because of the owner’s personal taste, profits notwithstanding. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but it could have.

Item: KWRM, a 5,000-watt adult-contemporary station in Corona, California, outside of Los Angeles, has gone all-in on contesting. The station runs five or six contests an hour, 17 hours a day. The jocks don’t back-announce songs; they give prizes to listeners who can name titles, artists and chart positions. The station carries Dodgers and Lakers play-by-play, and the scores are used for quiz questions. Prizes are mostly items already being advertised on the station. General manager Pat Michaels insists that the station isn’t trading advertising time for prizes, but advertisers who provide large prizes get promos and mentions equivalent to the value of the product.

Comment: If you weren’t interested in playing contests (and the vast majority of listeners are not), KWRM must have been positively exhausting to listen to. As a jock, I’d have been exhausted by it, too.

Item: The National Airplay 40 for album-rock radio shows the Joe Walsh album There Goes the Neighborhood as the week’s most played nationwide, nosing out the Moody Blues’ Long Distance Voyager. Other hot albums of the moment include Tom Petty’s Hard Promises, Don’t Say No by Billy Squier, Fair Warning by Van Halen, Face Value by Phil Collins, and Santana’s Zebop! Jazz albums getting play on album-rock stations include As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, Unsung Heroes by the Dixie Dregs, Lee Ritenour’s Rit, and The Clarke/Duke Project by Stanley Clarke and George Duke.

Comment: The Top 40 in this summer wasn’t great, but album-rock radio was loaded with new releases by superstar acts. And if there has been a cooler album title than As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, I’m not sure what it is. Many album-rock stations were playing the track “Ozark,” which could easily have been made to fit alongside Tom Petty, the Moody Blues, and Joe Walsh.

Coming in the next installment: a single day from the summer of 1981.

Head Shops and Jukeboxes

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(Pictured: Aretha at the Grammys, March 1971.)

There are moments—more scattered and less frequent than they used to be—when the summer of 1971 comes vividly back to me. I’ve written about it a lot over the years: about being a full-time child for the last time, about how radio school was in session, about the family vacation we took that year. Here’s more, from the edition of Billboard dated June 19, 1971.

—United Artists Records will showcase some of its artists on one night at the Hollywood Bowl later this month. Tickets will be 99 cents each with no reserved seats. Scheduled performers include Canned Heat, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Sugarloaf, and War. UA estimates it will cost $25,000 to stage the show. All groups will work for union scale.

—UA has also taken a full-page ad to plug the band Cochise, their album Swallow Tales, and the single “Love’s Made a Fool of You.” UA calls the song “2:47 of screaming excitement. Already Cochise entered the Top Ten at WLS in Chicago and went to #1 in Peoria at WIRL. Rock and roll is NOT dead.”

—For the first time, head shops in Chicago are stocking classical recordings. Most head shops are mom-and-pop operations, and they want to stock music not found in the big national outlets. Young listeners are being exposed to classical music by free-form FM stations, some of whom are incorporating it into their programming.

—Some jukebox operators are not stocking certain big hits, either by customer request or at their own discretion, including “One Toke Over the Line” by Brewer and Shipley (marijuana references), “Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley” (controversial Vietnam content) and “Mercedes Benz” by Janis Joplin (“too frantic,” according to one bartender). “Timothy” by the Buoys (cannibalism) has been yanked from some jukeboxes also, but one supplier in New Orleans says, “I wish I had bought more of it.”

—In Madison, Wisconsin, “Timothy” was rejected by jukebox supplier Pat Schwartz of Modern Specialty Company, but she says she was guided by local radio station WISM, which elected not to play the record. She expresses concern about “Bitch,” which backs the current Rolling Stones hit, “Brown Sugar.” She noticed it while typing jukebox labels. “This is a word I won’t allow my children to use, and yet here it is the flipside of the #1 record on the Billboard Hot 100.”

—An ad in the Radio/TV programming section is headlined “We Believe in the Tooth Fairy.” An impressive list of stations is already running the two-minute comedy serial produced by Chickenman creator Dick Orkin, including WLS/Chicago, WQAM/Miami, WDGY/Minneapolis, WKBW/Buffalo, WRIT/Milwaukee, and WOLF/Syracuse.

—Since January, Canadian stations have been required to program at least 30 percent Canadian-made musical content. Certain stations have found a loophole, counting as Canadian several R&B records by American artists, produced by Americans in American studios, but with rhythm tracks laid down in Toronto. Detroit/Windsor station CKLW counted Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” as Canadian content because two session musicians on it were born in Canada. The Canadian Radio and Television Commission is expected to refine the rule.

—Aretha Franklin is #1 on the Best Selling Soul Singles charts with the double-A sided “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “A Brand New Me.” Aretha Live at Fillmore West is #1 on Best Selling Soul LPs, where Marvin Gaye’s new album, What’s Going On, makes a strong debut at #5.

—On Hot Country Singles, Jerry Reed’s “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” is #1. Just one song is new in the Top 10: Stonewall Jackson’s cover of “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,” currently a big pop hit for Lobo. Reed’s album, also titled When You’re Hot, You’re Hot, is #2 on Hot Country LPs, behind Merle Haggard’s Hag.

—On the Easy Listening chart, “Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters is in its fourth week at #1.

—“Rainy Days and Mondays” is one of several records leap-frogged this week by Carole King’s double A-sided “It’s Too Late”/”I Feel the Earth Move” which goes from #6 to #1 on the Hot 100. Also jumped: last week’s #1, “Want Ads” by Honey Cone; two other former #1 hits, “Brown Sugar” and “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night; and Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy.” King’s album Tapestry is the new #1 on the Top LPs chart, knocking Sticky Fingers by the Stones to #2.

Perspective From the Present: “Love’s Made a Fool of You” kicked every ass in the neighborhood 49 years ago and still does. Episode 1 of The Tooth Fairy is here.

The Static of Decades

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(Pictured: Herb Alpert on stage in 1967.)

Because 2020 is a horror show, let’s seek refuge in the edition of Billboard dated June 3, 1967, the front page of which has a story about the upcoming Monterey Pop Festival, set for June 16-18. It says that artists have consented to play for free, with proceeds going to charity.

Elsewhere:

—Station owner and Top 40 pioneer Gordon McLendon has been arguing recently for a stricter “code of record standards” to keep questionable content off the air. A recent article about the McLendon campaign brought this comment from a radio executive in Louisville who says it’s necessary to protect young people during their “formative years”: “In reviewing our records at this station, we came across a new record by the Grass Roots, titled ‘Let’s Live for Today.’ This record has a lyric line in it that says: ‘Baby I Need To Feel You Inside of Me.’ Needless to say this record will not be heard on our station.” An executive in Denver is willing to compliment the McLendon stations only up to a point: “It is amazing to us that any operator could have been playing the records of which Mr. McLendon speaks all these years and not realize until now that he has been pandering to the youth of his communities.”

—WOR-FM in New York, in conjunction with several college radio stations, has learned that the most popular “olden goldie” among college kids is “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel and “Tonite Tonite” by the Mello-Kings placed second and third.

—An executive at Los Angeles Trade Technical College is trying to persuade the administration to start “a jukebox class.” The article does not specify exactly what the class would entail, or what jobs one might be better equipped to get after taking it: selling jukeboxes or fixing them.

—From the “Situations Wanted” column: “Third endorsed, 20 yrs. old, English major, now in LA college, will relocate, summer or longer. 8 months’ experience in Top 40 and FM. Ohio: I’ll see you soon. All others bid fast.” Let’s break that down a little. “Third endorsed” refers to a third-class radiotelephone operator’s license with an endorsement that allows you to operate a transmitter. Back then, you needed a third to get on the air practically anywhere; the endorsement involved answering an extra set of technical questions on your FCC exam. So a “third endorsed” is a very basic credential, one step up from “have driver’s license.” The most precious part, however, is thinking that somebody with eight months’ experience is going to spark a bidding war for his services. Yeah, probably not. But ’twas ever thus: young broadcasters overselling their potential and/or raw talent in hopes of getting a job. I did it myself.

—Aretha Franklin sweeps the charts this week: “Respect” is #1 on the Hot 100 and the R&B singles chart, and I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You is #1 on the R&B album chart. The blue-eyed soul of the Young Rascals has broad appeal this week: “Groovin'” is #2 on the Hot 100 and makes a strong move on the R&B singles chart from #22 to #12, while their album Collections sits at #5 on the R&B album chart, even though “Groovin'” isn’t on it.

—The I Never Loved a Man album is #2 on the pop album chart behind More of the Monkees and just ahead of Bill Cosby’s Revenge.

—At #4 on the Hot 100 is “Release Me,” the first big hit by English crooner Engelbert Humperdinck. Although Humperdinck will become one of the superstars of easy listening over the next decade, “Release Me” makes little impact on Billboard‘s Easy Listening chart. It’s in its second straight week at #32, after two weeks at #33. (Read more about him in this space next week.) The #1 Easy Listening hit is “Casino Royale” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, which has knocked the Sinatras’ “Somethin’ Stupid” to #2 after three weeks at #1. “Somethin’ Stupid,” which spent a month atop the Hot 100 in April and early May, is hanging on at #16 on the big chart in this week.

I couldn’t place “Casino Royale” by its title, but as so often happens with easy-listening hits from the mid 60s, I knew it as soon as I heard it. Mother and Dad’s radio came back through the static of decades, loud and clear.

Welcome Back

I was amusing myself the other day at American Radio History, as one does, poking through the edition of Radio and Records dated May 21, 1976.

Item: “Dean Hallem, PD of WRNW of Westchester, New York, has done some heavy investigative reporting and claims to have discovered that the cut ‘Memory Motel’ on the current Rolling Stones album is in fact a real place in Montauk, Long Island. He called the owner, invited her to the radio station, and conducted an in-depth interview in which she shared with the station’s listeners an extensive history of the motel. One of the fascinating points that she brought up is the fact that many years ago a young boy had died at the motel and that’s why it’s called Memory Motel. There’s even a plaque on the premises commemorating the situation. Dean doesn’t want to hog this valuable information so he taped the interview and is willing to share it with other [album-rock radio stations] around the country. Stations wishing to obtain a free [copy] should call him. . . .”

Comment: One hopes Hallam’s “in-depth interview” eventually got to the interesting parts of the story. The Stones spent some time at Andy Warhol’s estate in Montauk during 1975, and they caused quite a stir. They supposedly visited the Memory Motel bar one night to drink and play pool. The owners didn’t like them, but Mick and Keef found the place memorable enough to title a song after it.

Item: “As any good production man knows, editing is actually quite an art. Witness the new action on the Manhattans release ‘Kiss And Say Goodbye.’ Before the edited version, it was tough getting Pop/Adult airplay. Things now seem much brighter for continued airplay.”

Comment: The edit to which R&R refers involves snipping off the original’s long, spoken introduction and starting the record after the last of it: “Let’s just kiss and say goodbye,” which made the record a lot more palatable to adult-contemporary and Top 40 stations. It worked: “Kiss and Say Goodbye” would end up one of the biggest hits of the year.

Item: “KFXM/San Bernadino’s new CB request line is serving a dual purpose for the station. During peak traffic periods in the area, listeners can use their CBs to call the station with trafic conditions. Reports can’t be directly rebroadcast over the air, so the caller’s name and report are taken off the CB and mentioned on KFXM.”

Comment: I am not entirely sure how a CB radio request line would have worked; presumably the station was monitoring a single CB channel and telling listeners to use it to contact them. I suppose that once I got used to it, having to respond to CB radio calls in the studio would be no worse than answering the telephone, although maybe the newsroom was monitoring CB chatter just as they would have done with police scanner traffic. That would, however, require a busy reporter to take time out of the day to tell me that Becky from San Berdoo wants to hear “Boogie Fever.”

Item: Heading into Memorial Day weekend, the big chart on the back page of the magazine (seen at the top of this post; click to embiggen) was fairly static. Songs receive a bullet if they are gaining in popularity among reporting stations, but only 14 of 40 songs on the chart get one. “Silly Love Songs” by Wings holds at #1 for a second week but maintains its bullet; “Welcome Back,” “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” and “Shannon” continue to hang on right behind. “Disco Lady,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “Show Me the Way,” three of the biggest hits of the spring, are still getting airplay, as is “December 1963,” which first charted in the winter.

Also on the back page is a list of active album cuts, which many Top 40 stations would have been mixing in, especially at night. It includes three cuts from Led Zeppelin’s Presence: “Hots on for Nowhere,” “Candy Store Rock,” and “Royal Orleans.” (Although it’s now considered a minor entry in the Zeppelin catalog, Presence was extremely popular on radio in 1976.) The list also includes Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” which would have been the live version from his then-current Here and There album.

Comment: If I ever think of anything new to say about the hit music of 1976, you’ll be the first to know.

Honor Roll

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(Pictured: Pee Wee King and his group, originators of “Tennessee Waltz,” one of the 20th century’s biggest hits.)

We’ve mentioned here a time or two the battery of “main” charts Billboard published in the 1950s: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played by Jockeys, and Most Played in Jukeboxes. But from 1945 through 1963, Billboard also published a weekly Honor Roll of Hits. It was a listing by song title, showing the various versions that were available for sale. The Honor Roll of Hits reflects a reality of American popular music from the birth of recorded sound until the 1960s: the song was often more important to record buyers than the artist. In their ads from the pre-1920 Pioneer Era, record companies frequently touted which songs were available with no mention of who recorded them. From the 20s to the early 50s, competing versions of popular songs frequently charted at the same time.

“The Tennessee Waltz” is a representative example, but by no means the only one of its kind. Several versions hit big on the country charts in 1948, the biggest by Pee Wee King, but also in recordings by Cowboy Copas and Roy Acuff. In late 1950, Patti Page released a pop version that became a generational smash, eventually doing 13 weeks at #1. During the week of February 3, 1951, Page’s version was #1 on Best Selling Pop Singles and Most Played in Jukeboxes. It was #2 on the cumbersomely named Most Played Jukebox Folk (Country and Western) Records chart. And it brought 18 other versions trailing behind it onto the Honor Roll of Hits. The 1948 recordings by King, Acuff, and Copas were reissued, and Copas also cut a duet version with Ruby Wright. Other versions that charted were by Guy Lombardo, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Jo Stafford, Spike Jones, the Fontane Sisters, and Anita O’Day. And there were eight other versions beyond that.

“Tennessee Waltz” was also #1 on Best Selling Sheet Music during the week of 2/3/51, but beyond the evidence of the charts, that week’s Billboard contains a note that vividly illustrates its popularity: a radio station in Utica, New York, did a fundraiser for the March of Dimes in which a listener who made a donation could request a song. They got so many requests for “Tennessee Waltz” that the DJ on the air raised the price to $50. Billboard reports: “He got five $50 contributions for the M.O.D.” By one online calculator, $50 in 1951 is equivalent to more than $500 today.

I really need to write about Patti Page sometime. A pioneer of multi-track recording, Page made several records in the 50s that everybody would have known: not just “Tennessee Waltz” but “Mockingbird Hill,” “Doggie in the Window,” “Cross Over the Bridge,” and the spectacularly beautiful “Allegheny Moon” and “Old Cape Cod.” She hit the Top 10 as late as 1965 with “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte.” Her “Tennessee Waltz” moved six million copies; she’s said to have sold over 100 million in her career.

This post started out to be about one thing and turned into something else, and now I don’t have a good way to tie it all together, so I’m just gonna dump out the last of it and be on my way.

—By the end of the Honor Roll of Hits era, there wasn’t much to see. On the chart issued December 29, 1962, for example, there’s only one version shown for 28 of the 30 entries.

—On the same page of Billboard that has the 12/29/62 Honor Roll of Hits are a pair of charts headed Best Selling Phonographs, Radios, and Tape Recorders, one for monaural equipment and the other for stereo. A note in the headline explains: “These are the nation’s best sellers by manufacturers based on results of a month-long study using personal interviews with a representative national cross-section of record-selling outlets (only) that also sell phonographs, radios and/or tape recorders.” Rankings are based on a weighted point system, the methodology of which is not clearly explained. Charts are published every three months, although Billboard is careful to specify that they reflect sales only during the past month. In this particular week, the top brand on both charts is Webcor. Other brands listed include some you’d recognize, like Decca, Sony, Ampex and RCA Victor, and some you might not, like Voice of Music, Roberts, and Telectro.

If you are looking to get lost for hours as we stay on lockdown, I recommend the Billboard magazine archive at American Radio History. It offers a limitless supply of rabbit holes to crawl into.

Unstreakable

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(Pictured: Robert Shaw, Robert Redford, and Paul Newman in The Sting.)

The March 23, 1974, edition of Billboard magazine featured several stories on various efforts by Congress and the record industry to stop piracy. Various firms have been selling tapes of copyrighted music, taking advantage of loopholes in the law. The FCC is considering whether copyright information could be electronically encoded within the audio of records, tapes, commercials, and other broadcast material to deter pirates. Officials at the CBS and ABC radio networks are in favor of the idea, but they want at least a year to test out potential effects of encoding on audio quality, as well as its effect on the networks’ own encoded signals, which are used to send alerts to affiliates, and to switch programs automatically.

In other news:

—Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson have signed a deal with producer Michael Viner to appear in and provide music for a mixed live-action/animated movie called Ringo’s Night Out. Viner and Nilsson have already collaborated on Til Sex Do Us Part, which Viner describes as “a highly artistic X-rated movie which has been well-received in Europe.”

—A number of DJs have either been streaked by someone while on the air, or gone streaking themselves. Exorcist Records released “Streaking” by Zona Rosa and had it delivered to progressive FM stations in Los Angeles by a streaker. The story concludes: “If you haven’t been personally streaked this past week, perhaps it’s only because you’re un-streakable.”

—The ninth annual Academy of Country Music Awards show will be on March 28 and broadcast on tape delay as part of ABC’s Wide World of Entertainment late-night series. It’s the first-ever telecast of the awards. Charlie Rich and Merle Haggard lead the nominations with five each. Roger Miller will host; presenters will include Dennis Weaver, Bob Eubanks, and Barbi Benton.

—The “Talent in Action” section reviews a Long Island performance headlined by Humble Pie with Spooky Tooth and Montrose; Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie at Carnegie Hall; Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton in Oxnard, California; and a New York City showcase for an unsigned bluegrass band called Breakfast Special, which is opened by Buckingham Nicks, which “offered both promise and problems in a brief but telling set.” After remarking that Lindsey Buckingham’s role as lead guitarist and lead vocalist “seems a bit taxing,” reviewer Sam Sutherland says, “Ms. Nicks also encounters problems, chiefly in her solo style, which points up the occasional roughness of her voice and the strident quality to her top end that makes duets bracing but proves less fruitful when she takes the stage alone.”

—Since last August, eight Canadian acts have appeared in Billboard‘s “New on the Charts” feature, giving Canada more than any other country including England. David Foster of the Vancouver-based group Skylark says that he believes Canadian musicians would take as predominant a position in 70s pop as English musicians did during the 60s. Apart from Skylark, the new Canadian hitmakers include Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Bill Amesbury, Wednesday, Ian Thomas, newsman Gordon Sinclair (whose spoken-word tribute “The Americans” had been a hit earlier in the year), and Terry Jacks.

—Jacks is just off three weeks at #1 on the Hot 100, but it’s likely that most popular musician in America at the moment is one who’s been dead since 1917. Three albums of Scott Joplin rags are in the Top 10 of the Best Selling Classical LPs chart; Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” recorded by Marvin Hamlisch, debuts on the Hot 100 this week at #88. The album “The Entertainer” comes from, the original soundtrack of the movie The Sting, is at #15 on Top LPs and Tape. That chart is topped by Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were; Greatest Hits by John Denver is #2. The top 10 on the album chart also includes Court and Spark by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves, Band on the Run, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and Tales From Topographic Oceans by Yes. The new #1 on the Hot 100 is “Dark Lady” by Cher. “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks is at #2.

Perspective From the Present: This same week, Cash Box reported that Til Sex Do Us Part would be released in New York and other cities in April. That doesn’t seem to have happened, and in fact, I can’t find any evidence of a movie called Til Sex Do Us Part being released anywhere until 2002, and it’s not the one Viner and Nilsson supposedly produced. As for Ringo’s Night Out, Viner spent $15,000 on a “pilot” for the film, which got a screening for potential investors in June 1974, but it didn’t impress enough of them, and the full film was never made.