Category Archives: Jackson Browne

Today’s Top 5: September 20, 1980

We watched Ordinary People last night. It’s a film we’d both seen before, though not in decades. Diane first saw it in a movie theater not long after its Sept. 19, 1980, release and I first saw it on PRISM, a now-defunct regional premium cable channel that was popular in the Philly area at the time, about a year later. An understated and powerful movie, it won a bevy of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford, in his directorial debut) and Best Supporting Actor (Hutton).

ordinarypeopleFor those unfamiliar with it, the drama delves into the dynamics of a dysfunctional family following the death of eldest son Buck (Scott Doebler), who perished in a sailing accident that youngest son Conrad (Timothy Hutton) survived. As the story opens, Conrad has recently returned from a stay at a psychiatric hospital after a failed suicide attempt; he’s racked with survivor’s guilt. Mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore, in an Oscar-nominated performance) is emotionally distant, more concerned with appearance than addressing his (or her, for that matter) needs. Father Calvin (Donald Sutherland), on the other hand, just wants everyone to get along. As Roger Ebert put it in his review, he’s “one of those men who wants to do and feel the right things, in his own awkward way.” Enter psychiatrist Tyrone Berger (Judd Hirsch) and the down-to-earth Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern), a girl who catches Conrad’s eye. Both, in their ways, help him overcome the guilt – one knowingly, the other not.

In other entertainment events from that September, the Dionne Warwick-hosted Solid Gold syndicated music series debuted on the 13th.

I have no memory of whether I watched it or not; likely not. If I wasn’t out at a movie – at the Hatboro Theater in downtown Hatboro or the Eric Theater in the Village Mall in Horsham – I was likely reading the Sunday newspaper while listening to the oldies on the radio, listening to music in my room and/or watching TV. (How’s that for narrowing it down?) I was 15, a high-school sophomore and serious music fanatic.

Among the album releases for the month: Kate Bush’s Never for Ever; David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps); the Doobie Brothers’ One Step Closer; Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz; Barbra Streisand’s Guilty; Utopia’s Deface the Music; Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July; and Molly Hatchet’s Beatin’ the Odds.

And, with that – onward to today’s Top 5: September 20, 1980, in which I cherry pick my favorite hits from the Weekly Top 40 for the week in question…

1) Diana Ross – “Upside Down.” For the third week in a row, Diana held the top spot with this infectious song. It, like the 1980 diana album as a whole, was written and produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, though the end result was not what they intended. Afraid that the original mix was too disco, which was quickly falling out if favor, Diana and engineer Russ Terrana gave the set a sleek, more pop-oriented makeover.

2) Irene Cara – “Fame.” Holding steady at No. 4 is this classic theme song. If you watched the above Solid Gold clip, you know that Irene sang (or lip-synced) it there; it’s such a great song, though, that I can’t help but share it again (And, yes, I know I’ve shared this same clip before – here, to be precise.)

3) Paul Simon – “Late in the Evening.” Clocking in at No. 7 is this classic from Paul Simon, which is one of my favorite songs by him.

4) Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra – “Xanadu.” Just bubbling under the Top 10, at No. 12, is this, the title song to the movie musical, which was released the previous month. I saw the film at the aforementioned Eric Theater and, like most who did, didn’t find it a five-star affair. (An understatement, that.). The soundtrack, however, was darn good; I played it to death.

5) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “You’ll Accompany Me.” Here’s a classic song from Michigan’s rock ’n’ roll laureate. Against the Wind, the album that it’s from, was my Album of the Year for 1980; I still think it’s great.

And, for today, a few bonuses…

6) Christopher Cross – “Sailing.” Falling from No. 5 to 15 is this Grammy Award-winning song from Christopher Cross. I imagine that this song, from Cross’ debut, would be lumped into what’s now known as “yacht rock.” Whatever. At the time, I found it a pleasant diversion that I didn’t need to own – it was played fairly often on the radio, after all. Nowadays? I often play Rumer’s version from her 2014 B-Sides & Rarities collection.

7) Olivia Newton-John – “Magic.” This classic ONJ number held the top spot for four weeks in August before beginning its downward drift. This week, it fell from No. 13 to 27. Here she is on The Midnight Special promoting it…

8) Jackson Browne – “That Girl Could Sing.” Debuting on the charts this week, at No. 82, is this classic song from Hold Out, Browne’s only album to reach No. 1.

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Today’s Top 5: December 2, 1976 (via Rolling Stone)

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Yesterday, I explored the Archive – no, not our attic, but an ephemera store in Lansdale, Pa. I was there once before, found its contents fascinating, and with time to kill yesterday spent a good three hours combing through second- and third-hand books, magazines and other things, including 45s, LPs, sheet music, maps, autographed pictures and…did I mention magazines? You name it, chances are they have a copy – though not the “Women in Revolt” issue of Newsweek, sad to say. The treasures I came home with were relatively modest: two issues of Rolling Stone, one Creem from ’81 and two Newsweeks (one from 1966, the other from ’69).

fullsizeoutput_1112This Rolling Stone is dated December 2, 1976; I covered much of the year here, so won’t repeat myself. But in addition to marking America’s bicentennial, the Flyers crushing the Soviets and a presidential election, the year is notable for a few personal reasons: I finished elementary school in the spring, turned 11 in the summer, and entered Loller Middle School, the first of two middle schools in the combined Hatboro-Horsham school district, in the fall. (Hatboro-Horsham had one middle school for 6th and 7th grades and another for 8th and 9th grades.) Oh, and that summer my family moved from a rented townhouse on the edge of Hatboro to a home in its heart, which meant instead of taking the bus, I walked to the school. The trek was about half a mile, and took me past Burdick’s, a newsstand-soda shop that also sold reams of candy.

Oh, and at Loller? Unlike every other school in the district, jeans were banned. (I’m sure that added clothing expense went over well with parents.)

With that said, here’s today’s Top 5: December 2, 1976.

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1) Linda Ronstadt – “Tracks of My Tears.” Linda, whose first Greatest Hits album had just been released, graces the cover. The Cameron Crowe-penned article delves into how her life had changed since the release of her breakthrough album, Heart Like a Wheel, two years earlier. (The entire article is available online.) The set collects her hits from 1967 (“Different Drum” with the Stone Poneys) through 1975’s Prisoner in Disguise, which is where this rendition of the classic Smokey Robinson & the Miracles hit comes from.

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2) Jackson Browne – “Here Comes Those Tears Again.” A simple ad hawks Browne’s fourth album, The Pretender, which was his first release following the March 1976 suicide of his first wife, Phyllis. This song was co-written with Phyllis’ mother, Nancy Farnsworth, but predates Phyllis’ death by a year or so.

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3) Heart – “Dreamboat Annie.” As I explained back in October, the Dreamboat Annie LP took some time to sail up the charts.

 

fullsizeoutput_111b4) Bob Dylan – “Lay, Lady, Lay.” In the lead review, Kit Rachlis calls the Hard Rain album an “enigma,” “atrociously recorded,” “problematic,” “a psychodrama of the most solipsistic sort” and a “revisionist critique of [Dylan’s] of his own past. He is not so much reinterpreting his work as blowing it apart.” That is to say, “Mostly his voice pushes the songs past recognition, beyond interpretation.” Of the performance of this classic song, he observes that it’s “no longer a request, but a demand.” And if, after all that, you’re still not sure what he thinks of Hard Rain, he concludes with: “Like a true primitive, Dylan’s work functions as a direct megaphone to himself. The result has been some of the most brilliant art that popular culture in this country has ever produced. But it also means that Dylan is at once his own best and worst critic. Hard Rain is the product of the latter.”

Unfortunately, I can’t find any tracks from the live album on YouTube. So, instead, here’s a 45 for “Lay, Lady, Lay” from 1969 –

5) Lou Reed – “You Wear It So Well.” Lou’s Rock and Roll Heart album did not win over reviewer Frank Rose, who says that it’s “less a collection of rock & roll songs than a series of meditations” and, after giving Lou his due for the continued influence of the Velvet Underground, observes that “[t]he key phrases [on the album] are all refrains: ‘I’m banging on my drum’; ‘You wear it so well’; ‘You’re caught in a vicious circle’; ‘It’s just a temporary thing.’ Reed chants them like mantras, until they’re almost stripped of meaning. He has scooped out their depth and given us nothing but surface.” Ouch!

And that’s that. Kinda. Here, in descending order, are the concluding sections of the Linda, Heart and Dylan pieces.

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Today’s Top 5: February 1977 (via Creem)

IMG_1200I visited the Archive Books and Paper in Montgomeryville, Pa., a few weeks back. It’s a giant warehouse overflowing with old books, magazines, maps, LPs and…I’d say “junk,” and I guess I just did, but it houses something of interest to almost everyone. It certainly does for me, at any rate. Years ago, prior to our old apartment becoming stuffed from our packrat ways, I would have walked out with dozens upon dozens of magazines and books. This day, however, though we’re now in a house with much more room, I left with just two magazines: Circus, dated January 31st, 1977, which I used for the last Top 5, and this Creem, which is dated February 1977.

Circus, of course, billed itself as “the leading rock & roll biweekly.” Cream obviously disagreed with that claim, though, as it calls itself “America’s only rock ’n’ roll magazine.”

Kinda funny.

IMG_1202Anyway, I didn’t realize the closeness in dates between the two issues until after I arrived home. I found them buried beneath an assortment of teen-oriented magazines in the music section, and purchased them because they’re from the ‘70s. Even if I had noticed, though, I would’ve bought them. It’s interesting to see the overlap (and lack thereof) between the two, which likely would’ve shared newsstand space for a few weeks given that magazines are generally dated ahead. As a result, today’s Top 5 will feature a few of the same artists (though not the same songs).

In the history books, this month is memorable for a few reasons: Radio Shack committed to production of the TRS-80 computer on the 2nd (it would hit the stores in August); Fleetwood Mac released Rumours on the 4th; and President Jimmy Carter announced on the 24th that the U.S. would begin taking human rights into consideration when doling out foreign aid. Oh, and at a mere 11 years and seven months, I received my detective badge (from the Johnson Smith catalog) at month’s start. But unlike the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, who were new to Sunday nights, I never stumbled onto any mysteries. That was, suffice it to say, a disappointment.

Weather-wise, the cold from the previous months let up and, by month’s end, the Philadelphia region experienced a string of days in the 50s and 60s. In sports, the Philadelphia Flyers were on a roll: 9-3 for the month. I’d yet to take much of an interest in them, however.

IMG_1204The first thing that grabbed my eye in this Creem: a letter in the Mail section from one Pete Townshend of Twickenham, England, who’s fed up with Creem readers haranguing him about when the Who’s 10-LP set based on the Bible will be released. (A previous issue had included a parody of Pete’s penchant for rock operas.) It’s an echo of the mythical Masked Marauders, of course, and goes to show that, no matter the era, some folks want to be fooled.

This issue’s cover story, as seen above, is on journeyman Peter Frampton, whose domination of the record charts in 1976 (and transformation from rocker into a teen idol) would be equaled within a few years by his descent into near-anonymity. There are also articles, as the Contents page shows, on Eric Clapton, Nils Lofgren, Kiki Dee, Lou Reed and the Runaways, among others.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: February 1977 (via Creem)…

IMG_12061) Linda Ronstadt – “Lose Again.” Robert Christgau tackles Linda’s seventh solo album, Hasten Down the Wind, which was released in August of the preceding year: “Linda’s always wanted to be a Real Country Singer, but RCS put out two or three LPs like this every year. You know—find some good tunes, round up the gang, and apply formula. Like the great RCS she can be, she comes up with some inspired interpretations; the flair of ‘That’ll Be the Day’ and ‘Crazy’ do justice to the originals, and her version of the title song alIMG_1207most makes you forget its unfortunate title. But you cover Tracy Nelson’s ‘Down So Low’ at your own peril even if you believe not one in 10 of your fans remembers it, and the two Karla Bonoff lyrics make her (I mean Karla, but Linda too) sound like such a born loser that I never want to hear anyone sing them again.” He graded it a B-.

That’s a rather mean-spirited take on Karla’s contributions (of which there are three, not two). We saw her in concert a few years back and she was beyond good – a magical set. She talked about the first time she heard Linda cover one of her songs, “Lose Again” (which opens Hasten), at a 1976 concert in L.A. and knowing her life had just changed.

IMG_12102) The Runaways – “Born to Be Bad.” Patrick Goldstein provides a warts-and-all slant on the Runaways, detailing a bit of dissension within the ranks due to sleaze-ball manager Kim Fowley: “How’s the record going? Terrible, [Joan Jett] mutters. Apparently, the Runaways’ marriage with Fowley has followed the contours of the archetypical Liz and Dick affair. Young Mr. F may have discovered the girls (in a Denny’s parking lot or at Rodney Bingenheimer’s or a Ronald Reagan fundraiser—I hear a different story every time I ask, so I don’t vouch for their veracity) but their fondness for the mad studio scientist varies at every mood.” And no wonder. “What AM radio wants is garbage,” Fowley says, “and the Runaways are gonna give them garbage. They heard the applause and got the encores and thought they didn’t need em anymore. Now that it’s time for a make or break record, they’re back in my arms again. The girls know what’s good for them. They sold 70,000 records this time around. If Queens of Noise doesn’t double that figure, Mercury will drop them like that! I wonder how they’ll like working as waitresses on the Strip.”

IMG_1211Later, Goldstein goes deep into Fowley’s effort to cast the band as rock ’n’ roll Lolitas, and quotes Cherie Curie as saying, ’This isn’t a tits-and-ass show. When you’re 16, you can’t stand up there and be a sex object. It’s just not part of being 16. I’m not old enough to play Brigitte Bardot or Raquel Welch. Hell, I’m 16.”

That said, they also have some issues with…Patti Smith, whom they met but didn’t like. “She’s such a snob,” says Curie. And Joan Jett observes that, “I was wearing a leather jacket and she still didn’t talk to me.”

“Born to Be Bad” hails from Queens of Noise. It’s atmospheric, melodramatic and a tad (okay, a lot) silly… and, yet, I love it.

IMG_12123) Nils Logfren – “Happy.” The Runaways aren’t the only ones who had issues with Patti. Nils Lofgren, in a piece promoting his new LP, I Came to Dance, says: “Patti Smith? I thought she was a great entertainer. But when I played with her, her sound people totally screwed me around. Their sound man went out and got drunk and came back before my set and fucked up everything. My monitors were fucked all night. Then she took a sound check and took so long to get it together with her sound people that I didn’t get a sound check at all. I didn’t care—we went out and played fine and the kids really got off, but she’s totally unprofessional—she’s professional as an entertainer, but on a strictly musician level, she’s unprofessional. It’s partly the people around her, but you have to be responsible for that.”

IMG_12134) Jackson Browne – “To Daddy.” Joe Goldberg reviews The Pretender and, like Kit Rachlis in Circus, likes it: “Most of the songs sound like each other, and like songs on Browne’s previous three albums. Somehow, that doesn’t bother me. A lot of very serious people only have one song to sing, one thing to say. Most of us don’t even have that, which is why we depend on Jackson Browne to do it for us. Jackson Browne’s song is mystical and apocalyptic, about the deluge, lost love, changing personalities, friends becoming strangers, the self becomes a stranger, and the healing powers of Mother Water. He has next to nothing to do with Good Time California; he has everything to do with the rootless terror and hopes of redemption that the endless summer sun shines down on. A hundred years ago, he would have made a fine hellfire-and-damnation preacher.”

Of this song, Goldberg writes: “There are any number of memorable lines. I especially like one in ‘Daddy’s Tune,’ about the singer’s attempt to reconcile his difference with his father: ‘Make room for my forty-fives/Along beside your seventy-eights.’ Several places in the record, Browne has the happy facility of being completely specific and totally universal at the same time.”

IMG_12155) Elton John – “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” Richard Riegel reviews Elton John’s Blue Moves, a double-LP set released in October 1976, calling it Elton’s “White Album, similarly color-coded and four-sided, not to mention just as anticlimactic.” He points out that there’s filler, including “Cage the Songbird” and “One Horse Town,” and offers up this snarky observation: “[T]hat atmospheric instrumental, ‘Out of the Blue,’ is not jazz, but it’s not bad, as Mr. Haggard once almost said. This song just may exemplify the ‘blue moves’ of the title, and if Elton continues this trend, soon he can take the late Vince Guaraldi’s place as the chief scorer of those Peanuts TV specials. (Bernie’s already completed a thorough self-analysis through his rigorous study of the complete works of Charles M. Schulz, so he’s all set.)”

… and one bonus:

IMG_12166) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “Night Moves.” Robert Christgau grades Night Moves an A- in his roundup, calling it a “journeyman’s apotheosis. The riffs that identify each of these nine songs comprises a working lexicon of the Berry-Stones tradition, and you’ve heard them many times before; in fact, that may be the point, because Seger and his musicians reanimate every one by their persistence and conviction. Both virtues also come across in lyrics as hard-hitting as the melodies, every one of which asserts the continuing functionality of rock ‘n’ roll for ‘sweet sixteens turned thirty-one.”