Tag Archives: Jackie DeShannon

Soundtrack to the ride of a lifetime

One of the girls was still in high school, the other not long out, listening to the radio as they cruised what they called “The Circuit” in the late 1960s.

They sat up front in that Mercury Cougar, vaguely a muscle car. With all the windows down on an early August night, the air rushed in and the sounds of the Top 40 blasted from the AM radio.

The kids sat in the back, savoring every moment of that late-summer adventure. It seemed oh, so sophisticated.

Those memories have come rushing back, for reasons all too bittersweet.

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Seeing this 1970 Cougar at our local car show on Sunday reminded me of the Cougar those girls drove. One of those girls — my cousin — may not be with us for much longer. Cancer.

My cousin’s given name is Maureen, but we have called her “Pete” forever.

Pete 1966

She was 17 and her sister Debbie was 19 when we made the rounds of Janesville, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1969. I sat in the back along with my brother John. We were 12 and 10. (The photo above is me and Pete and John from 1966, three years before we cruised The Circuit.)

Janesville, then the home of a huge GM assembly plant, had a strong car culture. On weekends, the kids cruised The Circuit, a long, rectangular loop of one-way streets that went over the Rock River and back again.

WLS, the Big 89 out of Chicago, provided the soundtrack to those thrilling rides. We could have been riding The Circuit on the week of Aug. 4, 1969. The top five songs in the WLS chart that week have been seared into my head all these years.

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1. “Honky Tonk Women,” the Rolling Stones. This is the live version from “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!” from 1970.

2. “In The Year 2525,” Zager and Evans.

3. “Put A Little Love In Your Heart,” Jackie DeShannon.

4. “Birthday,” Underground Sunshine.

5. “Polk Salad Annie,” Tony Joe White.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom. Imagine hearing those every three hours.

Some of the other songs in the WLS Top 40 that memorable week, also long blown deep into my head by the wind off The Circuit:

8. “Sweet Caroline,” Neil Diamond.
9. “A Boy Named Sue,” Johnny Cash.
11. “Soul Deep,” the Box Tops.
14. “Laughing,” the Guess Who.
16. “Marrakesh Express,” Crosby, Stills and Nash.
17. “Give Peace A Chance,” Plastic Ono Band.
20. “Green River,” Creedence Clearwater Revival.
24. “Spinning Wheel,” Blood, Sweat and Tears.
25. “Good Morning Starshine,” Oliver.
30. “Get Together,” the Youngbloods.
31. “Nitty Gritty,” Gladys Knight and the Pips.
33. “I’d Wait A Million Years,” the Grass Roots.
36. “Pledge Of Love,” the Joe Jeffrey Group.
40. “Sugar,  Sugar,” the Archies.

What a ride that was, Pete.

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Filed under June 2013, Sounds

A little variety from Ray’s Corner

There was a crisis at Ray’s Corner the other day.

My dad, who is 87, dropped his TV remote. It shattered. Without it, he can’t watch TV. Watching TV has been my dad’s main source of entertainment for as long as I can remember. You can see where this might be a problem. So we got him a new remote and managed to fix the old one.

However, there still are no variety shows for him to watch.

In the ’60s and ’70s, we frequently heard the sophisticated pop songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach on those shows. At the time, they worked most often with singer Dionne Warwick, of whom David once said: “She always interprets my lyrics in a way that sounds as though she had written them herself.”

Four years ago, I took Dad to see Dionne Warwick.  I was certain Dad would remember her from those long-ago variety shows. He didn’t. But once his hearing aid was adjusted, and he heard the songs, he recognized them. That night, Warwick performed two Bacharach-David tunes — “I Say A Little Prayer” and “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — with new, Latin-flavored arrangements and new phrasing. They sounded just fine.

That’s what makes them classics, and why the songs of Hal David — who died earlier today at 91 — are timeless. No matter who interprets them, they usually sound just fine. (Well, those Isaac Hayes covers might be an acquired taste.)

David and Bacharach worked together from 1957 to 1973, an arc that matches the first 16 years of my life, a time often spent watching TV with my dad. Enjoy, as we did, a little variety, some of the most familiar versions of Hal David’s songs, and some covers.

“What The World Needs Now Is Love,” Jackie DeShannon, 1965, from “The Very Best Of Jackie DeShannon,” 1975. The original version. David and Bacharach didn’t think this was such a good song after they wrote it. “We put it away in our desk drawer and kept it hidden there for 10 months,” David once said. “A flop, we thought.”

“This Guy’s In Love With You,” Al Wilson, from “Searching For The Dolphins,” 1968. Herb Alpert did the original version earlier that year.

“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969. Warwick did the original version as a demo in 1963. Lou Johnson had the first hit with it in 1964. It’s such a great song that it became a hit all over again in 1983 for the British synth-pop duo Naked Eyes.

“One Less Bell to Answer,” the 5th Dimension, from “Portrait,” 1970. Out of print, but available digitally. The original version, with Marilyn McCoo’s tremendous vocals.

Finally, a little glimpse of one of those old variety shows.

That’s Tom Jones, of course, doing “What’s New Pussycat.” In 1965, he did the original, for which David and Bacharach were nominated for an Oscar for best original song.

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under September 2012, Sounds