Category Archives: Wings

Today’s Top 5: February 19, 1977 (via Weekly Top 40)

Forty years ago today, as I write, the first full month of the Carter presidency was almost over; and, all things considered, it had been rather boring. The big news of the day was the revelation that Jordan’s King Hussein had been on the CIA payroll for at least a decade; and, because Jimmy Carter vowed during his presidential campaign to be the first to shed light on such shenanigans, some saw his administration’s newly announced policy of not commenting on covert affairs as being somewhat hypocritical.

Beyond that, the scourge known as inflation had jumped half a percent point to 5.9 percent this month; and the unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, about the same as it had been the year before. Weather-wise, at least in the Philadelphia region, it was freakishly mild – in just a few days (the 23rd), we’d hit 70 degrees.

Probably the biggest news in my world, however, was that the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries had premiered on ABC on the last day of January.

There was plenty of good TV shows in those days – well, what I, at all of 11 years old, considered to be good, including Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley on Tuesdays; and The Donny & Marie Show on Fridays. For anyone who has never had the pleasure of that specific variety show, here’s the Feb. 11th, 1977 episode in its entirety:

Anyway, enough of the preamble. Here’s today’s Top 5: February 19, 1977 (via Weekly Top 40) – and they are, in fact, the Top 5 songs of the week.

1) Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – “Blinded by the Light.” Written and recorded by Bruce Springsteen on his 1973 debut, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, and released as his first single, this classic song was destined for general obscurity until Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their cover version as a single. Not only did it chart, but it went to No. 1!

2) Eagles – “New Kid in Town.” Glenn Frey, Don Henley & Co. released their classic Hotel California LP in December 1976; and this, the first single from it, worked its way to the top of the charts for the week of Feb. 26th. This week, however, it was holding steady at No. 2.

3) Mary MacGregor – “Torn Between Two Lovers.” Falling from No. 1 to. 3 this week is this soft-rock ode to infidelity, which was co-written and co-produced by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary.

4) Barbra Streisand – “Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born).” Clocking in at No. 4 is this theme from A Star Is Born, which was co-written by Streisand and Paul Williams. It would top of the charts in two weeks’ time.

5) Kenny Nolan – “I Like Dreamin’.” Until just now, I’d never heard or heard of this song before. Nolan, it turns out, co-wrote such hits as “My Eyes Adored You” and “Lady Marmalade” before launching his solo career.

And a few bonuses:

6) Thelma Houston – “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” The Number 19 song this week is this fun disco-lite tune.

7) Wings – “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Released as a single on Feb. 4th, this live version of the classic Paul McCartney song checks in at No. 37 (on its way to No. 10). It was a single from the Wings Over America, a live set that, according to Wikipedia, set history by becoming the first triple-LP release by a group to hit No. 1 on the album charts.

8) Olivia Newton-John – “Sam.”

Today’s Top 5: December 1980 (via my Christmas List)

fullsizeoutput_1167That’s me sometime in December 1980: I was 15, a high-school sophomore and unabashed music freak. My all-time favorite act was Paul McCartney & Wings, though the Beatles were a pretty close second. I owned several of the Beatles’ LPs, including their red (1962-66) and blue (1967-70) best-ofs, and listened to them quite a bit. But McCartney (with and without Wings) was current, and churning out new product on a regular basis – an important thing. His erstwhile partner and friend, John Lennon, was shot to death on the 8th of the month, not long after releasing his first album in five years.

Prior to his death, I owned Lennon’s Shaved Fish compilation and the “(Just Like) Starting Over” single, which had been released in late October; I bought both at the Hatboro Music Shop. Joe Celano, the proprietor, was accustomed to me taking upwards of an hour flipping through the LP racks in his (fairly small by today’s standards) store before settling on a single 45, which cost a buck. What can I say? I was a kid; money was tight.

Money was tight for adults, too. The economy was, all things being equal, a disgrace. Unemployment clocked in at 7.1 percent for the year; and the wage killer known as inflation was 13.5 percent. Those economic bad times, which continued for the next few years, were why Ronald Reagan soundly defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter that November.

Anyway, to my Christmas list:

fullsizeoutput_116b

It consisted, as the above picture shows, of two hand-held video games, neither of which I received; four LPs, three of which I did; three books, of which I received all; a calendar; and a wallet. (I also received, as always, clothes and stuff.)

fullsizeoutput_116aOf the video games: I was a Space Invaders enthusiast, and often played for 20 or 30 minutes on one quarter at the arcade in the Village Mall. I believe I already had it for our Atari VCS console, but could be mistaken – that may have been to come. The handheld Entex model just meant that I could have taken it with me – perfect for backseats, the school bus and/or school cafeteria. I have no idea what drew me to list Toss-Up; I likely saw a TV commercial and thought it looked like fun. (It was actually made by Mego, not Meeco; and now goes for $1,499 on Ebay.)

Of the books – G. Gordon Liddy’s autobiography, Will, is an odd request for a 15-year-old kid to make, but I was an odd kid; I saw Liddy interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show and found him fascinating – just as I found professional wrestling fascinating, which explains The Main Event. The Beatles Forever, of course, needs no explanation. I still have the copy I received that Christmas in my personal archives (aka the attic).

And now to today’s Top 5: Christmas 1980 (via My Christmas List).

1) Pat Benatar – “Heartbreaker.” I’ve written about Pat Benatar before on this blog, most notably on this Top 5. Although I’m sure I first heard “Heartbreaker,” “I Need a Lover” and “In the Heat of the Night” in 1979, simply because I listened to rock radio, I didn’t buy anything of hers until her second album, Crimes of Passion, in late 1980.

2) Wings – “Wild Life.” The Wild Life album wasn’t one of McCartney’s best, but it has its moments.

3) Paul McCartney & Wings – “Medley: Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut.” Red Rose Speedway, the album that followed Wild Life, is a much better produced effort from McCartney & Co. Originally slated to be a 17-song, double-LP set, it was trimmed down to one LP by cutting nine songs and adding this 11-minute medley…which, for whatever reason, I liked at the time. I still do, though that may be nostalgia at play.

4) The Beatles – “A Day in the Life.” Nicholas Schaffner’s Beatles Forever tome, remains one of the most insightful books about the Beatles written. And, since there is no actual song associated with the book – I’ll go with one of the Beatles’ best.

5) The Doors – “L.A. Woman.” I didn’t receive the Doors’ Greatest Hits that Christmas. I actually didn’t need it – anytime you wanted to hear the Doors, all one had to do was turn on rock radio and, within an hour or so, you were guaranteed to hear “Light My Fire,” “Hello, I Love You” or one of their other radio staples. In time, I eventually picked up their first album, Morrison Hotel and the L.A. Woman LP.

Paul McCartney: Overlooked Gems

IMG_4526Tomorrow night, weather and health permitting, we’ll be situated in über-expensive first-level seats at the Wells Fargo barn in South Philly and grooving to the sing-along stylings of Sir Paul McCartney for the first time since 1990. There are dozens of songs I’d love to hear, and I have no fear that most will make the set list. But as a life-long, somewhat obsessive fan, quite a few of my wants fall into the obscure category – lesser-known album tracks and b-sides that, to my ears, are as good as quite a few of his biggest hits.

With that in mind, here are some of the overlooked gems from McCartney’s catalog that, really, he should dust off and perform from time to time –

1) “Golden Earth Girl.” Off the Ground (1993), the follow-up to the stellar Flowers in the Dirt (1989), was a spotty affair. Some of the best songs from the sessions for the album were relegated to CD singles – “Long Leather Coat,” “Kicked Around No More” and the full-length “Cosmically Conscious,” for example. Even if they’d been included, however, this song would remain the best on the album. Its melody lingers in the soul long after the music ends.

2) “My Carnival.” Recorded with Wings in New Orleans during the Venus & Mars sessions in early 1975, this party song wasn’t released until a decade later as the flip side to “Spies Like Us.” (It’s since found its way onto V&M as a bonus track.) I have no idea if it actually captures the flavor of Mardi Gras, as I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it sure captures my idea of it.

IMG_45173) “Daytime Nighttime Suffering.” Recorded with Wings during the Back to the Egg sessions, this was the b-side to the 1979 single “Goodnight Tonight” – and is a much better song, in my opinion. It reportedly came about because a b-side was needed for that disco-light number, which was already slated as the next single; McCartney challenged the other members of Wings, including Linda, to write a song over a weekend, with the best one getting the flip side. Come Monday, he arrived in studio with this tasty treat and the song battle was, needless to say, done. (It’s since been added to the BTTE CD as a bonus track and is also available on the Wingspan collection.)

4) “Vintage Clothes.” From the overlooked Memory Almost Full (2007), a latter-day masterpiece that features an Abbey Road-like song suite on its second half. This is lifted from that.

IMG_45405) “What It Is.” From Run Devil Run (1999), the first album he released after Linda McCartney’s death. The set was a collection of rock ’n’ roll and R&B chestnuts from the 1950s, similar to his 1988 Choba B CCCP collection, but also featured three excellent new songs – the title track, “Try Not to Cry” and this one, which reportedly was one of the last songs he wrote for Linda prior to her passing. Backing him is an all-star band that includes Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice on drums. (It’s not the first time Gilmour lent a hand to Paul – he plays on “No More Lonely Nights,” as well.)

Bonus Song #1: “Country Dreamer.” Recorded in 1972 and intended for Red Rose Speedway (1973), which initially was to be a double-LP set. Plans eventually changed, of course, but it found a home on the b-side of that year’s “Helen Wheels” single. It’s since been included as one of the Band on the Run bonus songs.

Bonus Song #2: “Back Seat of My Car.” The closing track on Ram (1971), it likely isn’t all that unknown – yet, given McCartney’s expansive catalog, it does get lost in the shuffle by some. It would have been at home on Abbey Road (or any latter-day Beatle album, for that matter) and, to my ears, is one of his greatest songs.

Bonus Song #3: “No Words.” A Band on the Run highlight co-written with Denny Laine. Wondrous harmonies.

Bonus Song #4: “Spin It On.” A tasty little rocker from the underrated Back to the Egg.

Bonus Song #5: “Once Upon a Long Ago.” Supposedly written for The Princess Bride, but rejected by director Rob Reiner (who found it too sentimental), this nostalgic number wound up on the British version of the 1987 All the Best collection. Never released in the U.S.

Bonus Song #6: “All My Trials.” Paul and his Flowers in the Dirt band deliver this classic folk song with aplomb. He released it as a CD single in the UK, where it made the Top 40, and also included it on the single-CD Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights there, as well. It’s yet to be released in the U.S.

Bonus Song #7: “Check My Machine.” The b-side to the McCartney II-era “Waterfalls” single is truly bizarre and eccentric, and accented by a groovy beat. Some fans likely hate it, but I think it’s great.