(Above: Sabbath at 50.)
February 14, 1970
Heavy metal turns fifty this week. The LP considered by many to be the first metal record, the eponymous Black Sabbath, was released in Britain on February 13. It’ll go on to be a big hit there and not see release until June 1 in the States, where it will eventually sell a million copies.
The next night, The Who will perform a show at a 2100-seat college auditorium. The recording of the concert, The Who Live at Leeds, is regarded as a masterpiece.
Valentine’s Day is also the day that Erich Segal’s Love Story is released. The novel goes on to become the best-seller of 1970, and – oh, yeah – there’s a film as well.
The following Tuesday, composer Alfred Newman passes away at the age of 69. Newman won nine Oscars for his film scores, and may be best known for writing the music that let you know that the movie was starting. (And, yes – singer/composer Randy Newman is his nephew while his son Thomas has earned 14 Oscar nominations of his own.)
On the charts: there’s a new #1 song this week – it’s “Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly & Family Stone. It’ll stay at the top of the charts for 2 weeks.
The new records this week all debut fairly low. Let’s see what we have:
“It’s a New Day (Part 1 and 2)” – James Brown (debut at #83). There’s a lot of James Brown stuff that I like. This one doesn’t do a lot for me. It will go on to be a #32 hit, unlike his next release, which comes up later in the year, fails to make the 40, and gets sampled a zillion times. Wait for that one!
“Keep On Doin’” – Isley Brothers (#84). I’ll hazard a guess that if your station played the last one, it played this one, too. This track, however, doesn’t get above #75 on the pop charts. It’s a top 20 record in New York and Pittsburgh, and Chicago’s WVON gives it considerable play as well.
“Something’s Burning” – Kenny Rogers and the First Edition (#85). It seemed that most weekends during my first stint at WCFL/Morris I’d draw this record on my shift. (I usually filled six hours, so it wasn’t necessarily that the rotation was bad.) I liked it once it got going; I never cared for the first third or so. It’ll go on to hit #11 on the pop charts, so clearly my opinion was in the minority.
“Walking Through the Country” – The Grass Roots (#86). This one isn’t bad, but it must have sounded a little strange to fans of the band. It’s as if Tom Jones covered Three Dog Night. It just misses the Top 40, stalling out at #44. It’s a top ten hit on KDWB in the Twin Cities.
“A Friend In the City” – Andy Kim (#90). Likewise, fans of the more bubble-gummy Andy Kim records must have wondered what they landed on here. It tends to do well in the South, charting considerably higher than its peak here, which is right where you see it.
“Ticket To Ride” – Carpenters (#92). We start to see the cover versions creep back into the charts again; this one, though, catches my attention because it feels so decidedly different than the original. It’s also significant since this is the first record to hit the charts for The Carpenters, who will go on to put two dozen tunes on the list in the 1970s. This one peaks at #54; the next several will go much, much higher than that.
“Heartbreaker” – Grand Funk Railroad (#93). The band still has yet to really hit its stride by the time this one comes out. It’ll peak at #72, and it’s not until their next record – later this year – that the band starts to see some more mainstream success. (That’s a theme for this chart, it seems – “just wait.”)
“All I Have To Do is Dream” – Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell (#95). Here we have another cover, but it’s pretty true to the original version by the Everly Brothers. Despite the similarity, nostalgia pays off, and this goes on to be a #27 hit. (Recall that the same duo covered “Let It Be Me” in early 1969, and this continues that roll.)
“Kentucky Rain” – Elvis Presley (#96). I’m designating this an “oh wow,” despite the fact that we’ve all heard it thousands of times. It’s that good a record. Eddie Rabbitt wrote the tune in collaboration with Dick Heard, and how it ends up only at #16 has always been a mystery to me. It’s a #2 record on KSND in Seattle, and is top ten in too many cities to list. It’s also one that I’ll always sing along with in my best/worst Elvis whenever I hear it. It may be as perfect a pop record as we have.
“If You’ve Got a Heart” – Bobby Bland (#97). Here’s an “oh wow” for a different reason – this is a fantastic record that you may well have forgotten about. This will only spend one more week on the chart, climb one more place, and then disappear. On WJLB in Detroit, this is a top 5 record.
“Rag Mama Rag” – The Band (#98). This one is another one of those songs that I have a hard time hearing segued into or out of most of the rest of this list. It’s a relatively minor hit, spending two months on the chart and stopping at #57.
“Take It Off Him and Put It On Me” – Clarence Carter (#99). Clarence is one of those artists whose catalog sometimes confuses me. For every “Strokin,” there’s something like this that jumps out at me and makes me want to dig even further. This one stiffs, only climbing up to #94. Later this year, something much, much bigger will get a whole lot of airplay.
“The Fightin’ Side of Me” – Merle Haggard (#100). It’s a straight-up rightie rant with a twang that has crossed over from the Country charts. It’s the follow-up to “Okie from Muskogee,” which hit its peak in January after appearing on the charts in November 1969. Think of this as the follow-up record. It won’t do as well on the pop charts, stopping at #92 and dropping off after three weeks.