Mike Marvin Knows
Our very own Mike Marvin shares his vast knowledge and in depth perspectives of all your favorite songs and artists monthly in his very own column.
It seems that in the colder months of an old year, Top 40 radio would play some real downer songs. The Shangri-Las were #1 around Thanksgiving 1964 with the melodramatic “Leader Of The Pack” in which that bad motorcycle boy drove off into the rain after he and his girl friend split up. He would fail to negotiate a sharp turn and he went off to his just reward. A year later the drama queens from Queens NY were again on the charts with “I Can Never Go Home Anymore”, a song about a mother-daughter relationship which went horribly wrong. The conflict was over a boy and the daughter would run away from home. Suddenly she recalls her mother’s kindness but it was too late, To quote a lyric the angels picked her mother for their friend. This teenage soap opera would peak at #6 just before Christmas 1965.
Jackson Five were indeed hot property. In the first half of 1970, they had three consecutive chart toppers with “I Want You Back”, “ABC”, and “The Love You Save”-all three in the sprightly soul-bubblegum vein. Someone at Motown suggest that their next single should be a love ballad. Well that suggestion paid off very well. “I’ll Be There” would spend five weeks on top throughout November. It would also be Motown’s biggest hit of the 70s. That would be the pinnacle of their early career for the number one hits would stop happening. For the rest of their career, they would have three near chart toppers with “Mama’s Pearl”, “Never Can Say Goodbye”, and “Dancing Machine”. All together the Jackson Five or the Jacksons as they were later known had a total of 24 top forty hits. Motown never participated in the “gold records” awards program. I’m sure many of these records on that label sold enough to be gold-or platinum. However when the group was on Epic, two of their singles “Enjoy Yourself” and “Shake Your Body Down To The Ground” were certified platinum for 2 million or more sales. “State Of Shock”, Michael Jackson’s duet with Mick Jagger, was certified gold.
Since the Fab 4 split up in the Spring of 1970, the ex Beatles were competing against each other for public attention. All four had records on the charts in November, 1974. Paul McCartney debut at #59 with the rocker “Junior’s Farm”. it would peak at #3 in January, 1975. Its flip side the countrified “Sally G” shared that chart position. Ringo debut with his remake of the Platters’ standard “Only You”. Featuring his good friend Harry Nilsson on background vocals, it would hit #6 just after New Years’ 1975. George Harrison continued his mystical magic with “Dark Horse” debuting at #69 and would reach #15 as its highpoint also in January, George formed his own record label named after the tune. John Lennon was #1 those cold November times with the rollicking “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” with a little help from his friend Elton John.
Here is a group who had two chart singles and label hopped in the process. Free Movement was high on the charts with “I Found Someone Of My Own” issued on Decca Records. It was #5 on the Hot 100 in November, 1971. It peaked at #20 on the R&B charts and #7 on the easy listening charts-pretty respectable chart rides. Well for some reason the R&B quintet switched to Columbia records-and managed one more charter with “The Harder I Try (The Bluer I Get). It peaked at a disappointing #50 in early 1972 while making one chart position higher on the R&B charts. It did better on the “easy listening” chart-peaking at #6. Columbia released their lone album with both the big hit and the semi-hit-and that was their fifteen minutes of fame.