Big Star is one of the most influential, but under rated, bands from the early 1970s. I have always been a huge fan. Here’s a demo of a little Holiday ditty written by the late, great Alex Chilton and performed by Big Star. I hope you enjoy it!
To try to get back into the Holiday spirt I have a special Big Star holiday gift for you. Chick on the link below to visit my friends at the Aquarium Drunkard music website and download a great 1974 live performance by Big Star.
In the Spring of 1975 I was getting ready to graduate from college with a Bachelors degree in Math. My career plan was to be a high school Math teacher and my final three months of school were set aside for Student Teaching at a local high school. I had about a 30 minute drive to the local high school each morning and I always had the radio blasting to help me relax.
Fortunately for me, there was wonderful new song called How Long that was on high rotation on our local AM radio station. The song was a great mix of British pop and Philadelphia soul, the lead vocal was incredible, and I managed to catch it on the radio almost every morning. The fact that this song is such a big part of my memories from that time tells you how much I loved it! Let’s listen…….
How Long was by a British pub band called Ace. I bought their first album (named Five A Side) based strictly on my love of How Long. While the album was pleasant, none of the other songs came close to How Long. I was content; however, to wait patiently for their next single which I knew would be at least as good as How Long. Unfortunately I am still waiting. Ace, as a group, made two more albums but never again came close to recording anything that was as good as their first single. Cue the crickets………..
By the way, I never became a high school Math teacher!
I am very happy to report that Paul Carrack, the owner of the voice that I fell in love with on How Long, went on to have an amazing career as a successful singer for a number of bands and as a solo artist. Here is a great song that he did with Mike and the Mechanics. Let’s listen…..
That boy had an amazing voice so I just have to play one more. Here is one of my favorite Squeeze song with Paul sharing lead vocal duties with Glenn Tilbrook.
Zager and Evans were another duo from the late 60s and early 70s. They released In The Year 2525 in 1969 and it zoomed right to the top of the US charts and stayed there for six weeks. Number one with a bullet if you will.
The level of success achieved with In The Year 2525 makes Zager and Evans the superstars of underachievement. They made it all the way to number one and then never managed to break the top 100 again. As far as I know, they are the only group to ever accomplish this feat!
Let’s listen to their one and only hit…..
Without further ado…..cue the crickets……
Brewer and Shipley, a folk rock duo from the late 60s and early 70s, released One Toke Over The Line as a single in 1970 and it quickly climbed to number 10 on the US singles chart. If you were around back then you know exactly what the song was about and if you weren’t around then it probably doesn’t matter so I don’t intend to explain the lyrics.
I will tell you that Spiro Agnew, Vice President to Richard Nixon labeled the song as subversive which was probably the best compliment that anyone could have every paid Brewer and Shipley. Let’s listen….
It was really a nice piece of music and I expected that more hits would follow but they never did. Cue the crickets……
On a humorous note, it is funny/sad how conservatives in the US grasp onto songs that they don’t understand and try to make them mean something that is completely different from their true meaning (Think about Ronald Reagan trying to use Born In The USA as a campaign song). This was the case with One Toke Over The Line as well. 1971 a cover of the song was performed on the Lawrence Welk show. Let’s watch…..
I don’t know about you but I am laughing my ass off. A “modern spiritual” indeed!
Let’s change things up a little bit today and start with the song. See what you think….
So what did you think? I love this song….whenever I hear it it screams Summer to me. So many good memories of being a kid with three months of sun, play and no school. But let’s leave memory lane behind for now and talk about Alive and Kicking.
Alive and Kicking is a New York band that originally formed in the late 60s. From everything that I have read, they were a very tight band but as we all know it takes more than being a good musician to be successful. In the case of Alive and Kicking, they were lucky enough to get signed to Roulette records which was also the home to Tommy James. Tommy, who created some of the best pop hits in the 60s with his band the Shondells, took the group under his wing; gave them the song Tighter and Tighter; and produced their album. The rest is history….talent and a little luck and you have a huge hit on your hands. Tighter and Tighter spent 16 weeks on the charts in the summer of 1970 and was a gold record for the group. Surely there was more great stuff to come from this group. Well maybe not…it’s not like Tommy James was going to abandon his career and keep writing hit songs for you!
Cue the crickets………..
Speaking of Tommy let’s leave this post on a high note and listen to one of Tommy’s greatest hits.
It’s funny how the first time you hear a song can stick in your mind forever. I first heard this song when I was at camp the summer between 10th and 11th grade. It was way past lights out and I was listening to WLS from Chicago on my little transistor radio in my upper bunk. (I had managed to sneak the radio and the original mono earphone into camp) This song came on the radio and I thought I had died and gone to heaven…I had never heard anything like it and I don’t know if I have ever heard anything as original since then. Good memories….
Based on overwhelming demand from my loyal readers, i present you with my second Underachievers post. OK…I just lied two times. There was not overwhelming demand in fact no one commented on the first Underachiever post. Also, I seem to have a shortage of readers in general. Grand total for yesterday 0.
Nevertheless I feel compelled to continue posting the best music you have never heard. Today’s post is about a 1980 era duo called David and David that was composed of David Baerwald and David Ricketts. The put out an album called Boomtown in 1986 and I think it was one of the best albums of the 80s in general. I was particularly fond of their first single from that album called Welcome to the Boomtown. Let’s listen…..
All of their songs were similar to Welcome to the Boomtown in that they all featured interesting characters and the music was engaging. The stories told in the songs were not happy ones but they served as a mirror to what was going on in the United States during Ronald Reagan’s reign.
The ambulance arrived too late. I guess she just didn’t want to wait…….
The group released Swallowed by the Cracks as it’s second single. See what you think….
It too was somewhat of a hit. I had the album and couldn’t wait for their next one. I am still waiting for that album today.
Cue the crickets………………
This is the first in a new series of posts that explores artists with demonstrated talent but no ability to translate their talent into a long term career. Some people refer to these artists as “one hit wonders” but I have never liked that term because. To me “one hit wonder” applies to people that do novelty songs (think Disco Duck by Rick Dees) not to people with real talent. So….we will avoid that term and refer these people as underachievers – people that achieved less success than expected.
Up first is Benny Mardones.
Benny seemingly came out of nowhere with his incredible 1980 hit song called Into the Night. Let’s listen…….
The vocals on this song are amazingly soulful and I just knew he was going to be a long term success.
I bought, and still own, his first album and could not wait to see how he was going to out do himself as he progressed in his career.
Cue the crickets…………….