This Week’s Theme: Songs that Peaked at # 40 on the Billboard Charts (Artists G-J)
See Radio Faux Show Volume 1 #22 and Radio Faux Show Volume 1 #38 for the first two parts of this series, featuring artists from A-C and D-F.
For this week’s show we get to use the greatest reference book ever published, Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. I know that the world has gone online for everything now, and I am not one of those who thinks you need to feel the pages and smell the paper of a book to enjoy reading. But a good reference book like this is not only easy to use, but worth owning just so you can randomly open up the pages and discover songs you don’t know. We own the 7th and 9th (final) editions at our house. This book is a must have in any serious music book collection.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show Volume 2, Number Twenty-Three.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
How to Play Drop the Needle
Drop The Needle is a game designed for playing with records on turntables. There are many versions of this game, but the name Drop The Needle was coined by Ms. Faux’s father. He was a musician and avid life-long record collector himself, and from the time she was a small child they would play together: come home from the record store with a big stack of new purchases, pull one out, and start the game. It’s a super fun way to dig into new stuff, and a wonderful way to revisit and reappreciate old records reshelved and forgotten. In my days as a deejay, we called it “let’s check out the new records” and would flip through dozens of albums on new record delivery days.
No matter what you call it, the basic concept is this.
- Grab a random LP from the stack.
- Put on a random side.
- Drop the needle anywhere you want (starting at the beginning of a song is optional).
- Listen, analyze, discuss, repeat.
And you can still play Drop the Needle in the modern world. Just flip to a page of Joel Whitburn’s book and say “Alexa, play the song such and such by so and so.” This is hours of family entertainment, and much more educational than watching Netflix’s latest season of Rewritten Historical Figures in the Upside Down.
Why only Artists from G-J?
Parts one and two of this series were presented in Radio Faux Show Volume 1 #22 and Radio Faux Show Volume 1 #38. Those shows included artists from A-C and D-F. By my count, there are seventeen songs by sixteen different G-J artists (group or last name) that peaked at number forty by the year 2000. That is enough to fill up about half of the show, so I’ve included them all. We’ll save the rest of the artists (K – Z) for future Faux Shows.
Why is it the Top 40?
Why not the Top 50 or Top 34? The answer is simple. When the format was invented, 40 songs was the number of songs that could fit in the radio time slot. In other words, the technology drove the output. Other similar questions include why are singles usually 3 to 4 minutes long? That is about how long a song can be to fit on one side of a 45 RPM 7 inch record. Why do old vinyl double albums have sides 1/4 and 2/3? This allows you to put both records on your record player and have the disk changer play the first two sides without having to get up to go flip them over. Then you can do the same with sides 3 and 4. Why is the max length on a CD around 70 minutes? Same thing (although probably more technical).
Songs for this week’s theme:
- Marvin Gaye “The End Of Our Road” (7/11/70)
- J. Geils Band “Angel In Blue” (7/3/82)
- Genesis “Man On The Corner” (5/8/82)
- Geto Boys “Six Feet Deep” (6/12/93)
- Andy Gibb “Me (Without You)” (4/11/81)
- Lou Gramm “True Blue Love” (3/31/90)
- Gunhill Road “Back When My Hair Was Short” (6/2/73)
- Bobby Hamilton “Crazy Eyes For You” (8/4/58)
- Heavy D & The Boyz “Nuttin’ But Love” (9/3/94)
- The Hollies “Jennifer Eccles” (5/18/68)
- Luther Ingram “I’ll Be Your Shelter (In Time Of Storm)” (1/20/73)
- The Isley Brothers “Livin’ In The Life” (8/6/77)
- Rick James “Give It To Me Baby” (7/18/81) and “Cold Blooded” (9/24/83)
- Tommy James “I’m Comin’ Home” (10/23/71)
- Jomanda “Got A Love For You” (8/31/91)
- Rickie Lee Jones “Young Blood” (9/1/79)
Why care about songs that peaked at # 40?
If you listen to enough songs that peaked between # 21 and 40 on the Billboard charts, you will find that there isn’t a big difference in quality. In fact, I would argue that the number of weeks that a song stays on the charts probably tells you more about it’s quality than how high it charted. But, it is called the Top FORTY. So, songs that peak at number forty ONE don’t make it. So, maybe that doesn’t sound all that important, except that there is another piece of historical trivia that get’s thrown around all of the time: One-Hit Wonders. That means, literally, an artist that has exactly one song that reached the Top 40. When you read through the list of songs that peaked at number forty, you start to notice a trend. Many of them are one-hit wonders. Therefore, for many artists, getting that lucky bump up from number forty one to number forty is an invitation to immortality. And if being a one-hit wonder isn’t that important, then how do you explain the fact that we all know this?
Highlights from this week’s selections
Two of the songs on this week’s show are by artists who would have been included in that magical club of one-hit wonders if they wouldn’t have had this other song peak at #40 on the pop charts (Luther Ingram and Rickie Lee Jones). I’m sure that at the time they were happy to have a hit, and probably thought it meant there would be more to come. Unfortunately, there weren’t, and this short-term gain kept them off of that historical one-hit wonder list. In both cases, the artists are actually very well known for their other hit, so it is surprising that their chart success ended here.
Artist of the Week: Bob James
Bob James is one of the most prolific musicians in the history of recorded music. His 70-year career as a keyboardist spans session work, solo work, collaborations, and the group he co-founded (Fourplay). A discussion of his career can go in so many directions that I will focus on the two that are most interesting to me, neither of which are part of his work as a straight-ahead jazz pianist, pop keyboard session musician extraordinaire, or R&B keyboard master. You can learn about all of those aspects of his work yourself.
My favorite recordings by Bob James are his classic run of smooth jazz albums from 1974 to 1986. Starting with his third album, One, and up through his 1986 collaboration with David Sanborn, Double Vision, James released around twenty albums that define the smooth jazz genre. During this twelve year span, he expanded upon earlier fusion work of jazz keyboardists like Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea to develop the form of music that everyone now identifies as smooth jazz. I won’t go into all twenty of these albums, but three deserve special attention.
Touchdown was released in 1978 and it was James’ breakthrough, mostly due to the use of its opening song “Angela” as the theme for the now-classic tv sitcom Taxi. Up until this album, James had focused on a sound that straddled the line between fusion and smooth, but this album is the one that broke smooth jazz out into its own category for all artists who followed.
The 1979 album One on One was James’ first co-credited album with another smooth jazz master, guitarist Earl Klugh. James had worked previously with Klugh, most importantly on Touchdown, and this record expanded on the sounds of that album. It is now considered a smooth jazz masterpiece, with its variety of styles and textures and effortless move between groove, beauty, emotion, and power.
Prolific session saxophonist David Sanborn had already worked with James on some of his recordings, including Touchdown, but they had never recorded an album as co-artists until 1986. Double Vision marks the end of James long run of smooth jazz masterpieces but he goes out with a record that bridges his earlier ’70s work with the new sound of R&B/pop music that would dominate the late ’80s charts.
Hip Hop Samples
Bob James may be the most sampled musician in all of rap recording. This is no surprise if you listen to his ’70s recordings and realize that the early days of hip hop drew extensively from the instrumental music of the ’70s and he was not only extremely popular, but also a master of deep grooves and breaks. Most important was his decision to work with one of the greatest session drummers, Steve Gadd, on so many of his recordings, leading to tracks that can’t help but get deep into the groove. The list of important samples attributed to Bob James are extensive, and include two tracks that make up the foundation of hip hop sampling.
“Nautilus” is the final track on the album One and was sampled on Erik B. & Rakim’s sampling masterwork “Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em” and Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story,” as well as tracks by Run D.M.C, Ghost Face Killah, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and others.
When you hear the first four bars of “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” from the album Two you are taken aback when it turns into a smooth jazz masterpiece instead of “Rock the Bells” by L.L. Cool J, “Peter Piper” by Run D.M.C., or “Hold It Now, Hit It” by Beastie Boys. Many others have sampled it as well, making it one of the most sampled tracks in history.
Happy Birthday (July 3)
Paul Barrere was a session guitarist for a diverse list of artists such as Taj Mahal, Chico Hamilton, Robert Palmer, Carly Simon, and many others. Most importantly, he joined Little Feat in 1972 and was their guitarist from their classic third album Dixie Chicken through every album after. He became the de facto leader of the band after they reformed in 1989, ten years after the tragic death of band founder Lowell George. His songwriting credits include several Little Feat classics such as “Feets Don’t Fail Me Now,” “Time Loves A Hero,” and “Down On The Farm.” Most memorable of all of his licks is the timeless guitar riff at the beginning of “Fat Man In The Bathtub.”
Neil Clark was the guitarist for Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, and continued to perform and record with Lloyd Cole for decades after The Commotions broke up. Time has left this band behind in the wake of much more successful Brit-pop, jangle pop, and indie rock bands, but there was a time in the mid-80s when Lloyd Cole & The Commotions were just as relevant as The Smiths.
Vince Clarke was a founding member of Depeche Mode, Yaz, and Erasure. He is one of the architects of electronic pop music.
Damon Harris joined The Temptations in 1971 and was a member for four years. He can be heard on all of their early ’70s records, including “Superstar,” “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” “Take A Look Around,” and “Masterpiece.”
Gary Ryan was the bassist for The Blackhearts on Joan Jett’s albums in the early to mid-80s, including I Love Rock and Roll.
Lonnie Smith was a jazz Hammond B3 organ master. He worked with George Benson in the ’60s before going solo, and was a 9-time jazz organist of the year award winner. He recorded dozens of albums and never stopped recording up until his death in 2021 at the age of 79.
Tim Smith was the co-founder, lead singer, and guitarist for the British post-punk/prog/experimental rock band Cardiacs. They are one of Faux Junior’s favorite artists and the fact that so few people have ever listened to them is a tragedy. Smith died a few years ago at 59 years of age. You should listen to them.
All of the theme-related songs
Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”
Tommy James & The Shondells and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts “Crimson and Clover”
The Temptations “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”
2 for “Two”day
Marvin Gaye “The End Of Our Road” and “What’s Going On”
Rick James “Give It To Me Baby” and “Cold Blooded”
Tommy James “Crimson and Clover” and “I’m Comin’ Home”
Creation, Duplication, Inspiration, and Theft
This week’s show features an extensive set of songs that are either covers of, inspired by, or sample from other songs.
Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”: This is one of the greatest soul songs ever written.
Bob James “Take Me To The Mardi Gras”: The opening track from the album Two is one of the most sampled songs in history.
Tommy James & The Shondells “Crimson and Clover”: This was one of the first rock and roll songs I remember liking as a very young person.
Boyz II Men “Easy”: This cover of the Lionel Richie composition originally by The Commodores is very true to the original, but adds some nice Boyz II Men trademark vocal flourishes.
Bob James “Take Me To The Mardi Gras”: This oft-sampled song is actually a smooth jazz cover of a Paul Simon song.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts “Crimson and Clover”: This cover from the album I Love Rock and Roll is a great example of making a song sound like your own.
Maze featuring Frankie Beverly “Silky Soul”: This soul group recorded eight great soul albums from 1977 to 1993. They never found the crossover success of many of their contemporaries, but they had a strong cult following among those who appreciate old school soul, and charted 24 songs on the R&B Top 40. They mixed Philly Soul with West Coast Soul and were an opening act for Marvin Gaye in the mid-70s. Their 1989 album Silky Soul pays homage to their mentor’s concept album What’s Going On and charted four Top 40 R&B hits, including “Can’t Get Over You” at #1 and the title track at #4.
Geto Boys “Six Feet Deep”: This song by second generation Gangsta Rap group Geto Boys samples heavily from “What’s Going On” and “Easy.”
Heavy D & The Boyz “Nuttin’ But Love”: This song by one of the early ’90s’ most successful rap groups is one of many to sample Bob James‘ “Take Me To The Mardi Gras.”
Jungle Brothers “What’s Going On”: This early new school hip hop classic is from the band’s 1988 debut and was the first release by the Native Tongue’s collective, a group of hip hop artists that included De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. This song samples heavily from the Marvin Gaye song and the album is one of the greatest rap albums ever released.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Little Feat||Fat Man in the Bathtub (live)|
|2||Genesis||Man On The Corner|
|3||Isley Brothers||Livin’ In The Life|
|4||Rick James||Give It To Me Baby|
|5||Jomanda||Got A Love For You|
|6||Rick James||Cold Blooded|
|7||Luther Ingram||I’ll Be Your Shelter (In Time Of Storm)|
|8||Lonnie Smith||Can’t You Just Feel It|
|9||Temptations||Papa Was A Rolling Stone|
|10||Marvin Gaye||The End Of Our Road|
|11||Marvin Gaye||What’s Going On|
|12||Maze featuring Frankie Beverly||Silky Soul|
|13||Boyz II Men||Easy|
|14||Geto Boys||Six Feet Deep|
|15||Jungle Brothers||What’s Going On|
|16||Bob James||Take Me To The Mardi Gras|
|17||Heavy D & The Boyz||Nuttin’ But Love|
|18||Joan Jett & The Blackhearts||Crimson and Clover|
|19||Tommy James & The Shondells||Crimson and Clover|
|20||Tommy James||I’m Comin’ Home|
|21||Hollies, The||Jennifer Eccles|
|22||Gunhill Road||Back When My Hair Was Short|
|23||Cardiacs (not available on Spotify)||There’s Good Cud|
|24||Lloyd Cole & The Commotions||Lost Weekend|
|25||Rickie Lee Jones||Young Blood|
|26||J. Geils Band||Angel In Blue|
|28||Lou Gramm||True Blue Love|
|29||Andy Gibb||Me (Without You)|