Jim Croce recorded two albums in the late sixties, one as a solo artist and one as duo with his wife Ingrid. Nothing productive came from the releases, and they retreated from New York City and lived in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania.
Jim was introduced to Maury Muehleisen, another singer/guitarist, and the two of them worked up an act over the next two years. Jim signed a contract with ABC Records and had an immediate top ten record with You Don’t Mess Around With Jim. Two more almost successful singles followed in the next year. The more successful single was Operator, which managed to get up to #17. Several of Jim and Maury’s live shows were recorded, so we can still see the two of them singing harmonies and playing guitar together.
I went to hear Jim live in concert with my friends Carl and Diane on April 1, 1973, in Nashville. Carl noticed that while Jim often told folksy stories about the songs he had written, when he played one of his singles he simply launched right in without saying a word. That pattern made it clear that his next single would be Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. Sure enough, two weeks later the single was released, and in July the record reached the top of the charts.
Sadly, in September Jim and Maury died in a plane crash. His last album was released a week later and a handful of singles followed before all his music was turned to vinyl.
Atlantic Records released early Ray Charles recordings beginning in 1952. The records usually only did well on the R&B charts. His fifth #1 R&B record, What’d I Say, also got up to #6 on the pop charts. By then Ray’s contract with Atlantic had run out, and he signed with ABC-Paramount Records in 1960.
His second single for ABC was Georgia On My Mind, which quickly reached number one on the Pop charts. His next single was the two-sided hit, Ruby/Hardhearted Hanna. Ruby was the A-side and got to #28 on the Pop charts and #10 on the R&B charts. The flip side got some airplay on the Pop charts as well, reaching as high as #55, but failed to chart on the R&B side.
The original record for Ruby was nearly four minutes long, but Ray’s live performances often went longer. One live video from the early sixties spends a lot of time with quick shots of the audience. After about two minutes of that, the camera settles in on Ray, so we can watch his technique on the piano.
Ray’s career continued strongly for most of the sixties, scoring multiple chart-topping records on each chart. By the mid-seventies, his success on the charts waned, but he found a new career on the Country charts. He even scored a number one record on the Country charts in 1985 (Seven Spanish Angels, a duet with Willie Nelson).
We’ll talk about his hit records in the 1990s some other time!
We’re used to talking about the British Invasion that was led by the Beatles in the middle of the sixties, but little fuss is made about the Canadian invasion. Perhaps it’s because a lot of the Canadian stars relocated to the US, or maybe because the Canadian acts did not dominate the US charts all at once. Either way, there’s no denying that one of the most successful acts to come south of the border was Bryan Adams.
Bryan’s first two albums did not contain any singles that broke big on the US charts, but that changed with his third album. Straight From The Heart was a top ten single, and the title song (Cuts Like A Knife) got as high as #15.
The third single from the album was This Time, and it only climbed up to #24 (which was actually higher than the record got in Canada). The video was a simple black and white affair. He was filmed in 1985 performing the song live, again clad in a white t-shirt and a worn pair of jeans but not wearing the heavy leather jacket from the video.
Three additional singles were released from the album, but none of them appear to have been released in the US. Take Me Back, I’m Ready, and The Only One were released as CD singles or cassette singles primarily in Canada and/or the UK, but none of them were released in the US. None of those singles appeared on any national charts.
Bryan’s next album (Reckless) was released in early 1984 and spawned no less than six top twenty records over the next two years. His career really took off, netting him four number one singles and a long list of top ten hits that extended into 1996.
Ashton, Gardner & Dyke sounds like a law firm or a group of accountants, but it was actually a music group that had its beginnings in Liverpool in 1963 (you know, before that other group from Liverpool hit it big!)
After a few lineup changes, by 1968 the trio had added a lead guitarist (without adding his name to the mix). They then settled in to record their first album in 1969. Their first single failed to do much. They switched record labels, and in January 1971 released Resurrection Shuffle, a song written by Ashton. The record shot up the charts in the UK, hanging around for 14 weeks and reaching number three.
Tom Jones released his version of the song in the US before Ashton, Gardner & Dyke’s version release caught on there. Tom’s version peaked at #35 on July 17. Ashton, Gardner & Dyke’s version of the song slowly followed Tom’s version up in the charts, but only reached #40 the first week of August. Perhaps the two records competing with each other kept either single from doing well.
Maybe it’s just me, but when comparing the two versions, Ashton, Gardner & Dyke’s video (in color!) it seems a lot more alive than Tom’s video (in glorious black and white).
The group turned into a one-hit wonder and never charted again in spite of recording a few more albums. Tom’s career took a nosedive as well, and it was six years before Say You’ll Stay Until Tomorrow brought him back into the top forty.
In 1987 Richie Sambora wrote a song for the soundtrack of the film Disorderlies that was recorded by Bon Jovi. The song, Edge of a Broken Heart, was on the soundtrack album but never released as an actual single (although it did get enough airplay to hit an airplay chart).
Meanwhile, Richard Marx was hired to write and produce a song for an up-and-coming big hair metal band. This was not your average metal band, all the members were female, so big hair wasn’t much of a challenge for them. His work with the group completed, Richard went on to have three consecutive number one hits of his own that were definitely not hard metal.
The Vixen’s new song was also called Edge of a Broken Heart, and it was the breakthrough that Vixen needed after as many as 17 years of smashing metal chords onstage. The song was a big enough hit (it even got up to #26 on the pop charts) that the group was able to tour with established metal bands. They naturally created a video for the song, and they performed it live at MTV’s Spring Break 1989.
Early in 1989 a second single was released and did even better. Cryin’ got up to #21, but it was their last trip to the top forty. The group has been through a revolving series of lineup changes but continues to perform and record new music thirty years later.
In the early 1970s, Rod Stewart was releasing solo albums that were increasingly successful. At the same time, he also was a part of a group called the Faces. One of the members of the group was Ian McLagan, the keyboard player. Ian had a gay friend who was killed after he moved to New York City, and that incident later inspired Rod to write and record The Killing Of Georgie (Parts 1 & 2).
The song tells the story of a young gay man who is not accepted by his family and moves to New York City where he finds acceptance and an exciting lifestyle. Sadly, he is killed by a group of toughs who were probably out for a night of gay-bashing.
Rod recorded the song in 1976, but his record label initially refused to release the song as a single because of the subject matter. Eventually, they relented, and in the Summer of 1977, the record reached #30 in the US. The record did much better in Great Britain, reaching as high as #2 on their charts. The song clocks in at nearly seven minutes, so the record company split the song into two parts, putting the second half on the flip side of the single.
The subject matter of the song echoes Lou Reed’s A Walk on the Wild Side, and some of the background vocals even appear to be sampling the earlier single.
Being gay was still a challenge in the seventies and the song reportedly helped many young gay men feel more confident about their sexuality. It’s been reported that Boy George’s mother left him a copy of the single when he was fifteen to let him know she was aware of his feelings even though he had not yet come out.
The video that Rod shot for the song was surprising for its time (this was four years before MTV even existed). The video is simply Rod seemingly vogueing and posing long before either was mainstream.
A live performance in 2013 shows a more mature singer (who has to sit through most of the performance), but one who can still deliver both parts 1 and 2 of the song convincingly.
A lot of lost or forgotten oldies really were one-hit wonders, and that includes today’s entry: Wishing For Your Love by the Voxtoppers. The group appears to have been made up of three Tamburo brothers and two of their friends and was initially based in New York City.
The single was released in the Spring of 1958 and fell off the charts after reaching #18. The record was initially released on Amp Records and started its national run after Mercury Records bought up the record. They spent a total of eight weeks on the charts.
Little information about the group has survived, but I’ve tracked down at least four other singles they recorded for various labels over the next few years. None of their other recordings ever made the charts.
All that remains are a handful of scratchy records that avid collectors have found.