Tuesday, September 20, 2005

History Lesson: Pour a Little Sugar On It, Honey

September 20, 1976: The Captain and Tennille's variety show premieres on ABC. It becomes one of the most enduring hits in the history of television, remaining on the air until 1994. Its staggering popularity results in seven consecutive number-one albums, 24 top-10 singles, and the 1997 induction of Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Wait, maybe not.

September 20, 1975: The Bay City Rollers make their much-hyped American debut on the premiere episode of the ABC variety series Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell. This short-lived attempt to turn Cosell into Ed Sullivan is best remembered today as the reason Saturday Night Live, which premiered three weeks later, was forced to work its first couple of seasons under an assumed name: NBC's Saturday Night.

September 20, 1973:
Jim Croce dies in a plane crash after a concert in Louisiana. Croce had a short-story writer's sense of character development, and it's hard to imagine that he wouldn't have taken up that craft in later years, a la Jimmy Buffett.

September 20, 1970: Jim Morrison is convicted in Miami of indecent exposure and public use of profanity stemming from an incident in which he reportedly dropped trou on stage. Man, they just don't stage concerts anymore like they did in the old days.

Birthdays Today:

Matthew and Gunnar Nelson are 38. Let's hope they invested the money from their 1990 number-one single "Can't Live Without Your Love and Affection," because their career since has been not much. Maybe because people confuse them with Hanson, which I do. All the time.

Chuck and John Panozzo of Styx are 56. Well, Chuck is. John died in 1996. Chuck is still playing with Styx. Do you think that Styx and bands like them really believed, when they started out 30 or 40 years ago, that they'd still be playing the same songs when they were damn near 60? I can't picture it.

Number-One Songs on This Date:
1993: "Dreamlover"/Mariah Carey.
Features a break in the middle in which Mariah does a wordless, Minnie-Riperton style climb to the highest notes in her register. It sounded so absurd to me that the first time I played the record on the air, I keyed the microphone in the middle and said, "Aw, honey, now you're just showing off."

1986: "Stuck With You"/Huey Lewis and the News. The first single from the long-awaited followup to Sports, which would be released later in the year. Fore! started a genre of its own--suburban dad rock, in which hanging out with the wife and kids becomes the ultimate rock-star move.

1975: "Fame"/David Bowie.
One of the strangest-sounding Number-One singles of the 70s, with that ominous fade-in and various weird guitar noises. Co-written by John Lennon.

1969: "Sugar Sugar"/The Archies.
Bubblegum music's "Stairway to Heaven." Do not let its cartoony origins fool you--you want to understand American popular music in the last half of the 20th century, you need to listen to this. For their contributions to that history, on this record and others, Jeff Barry and Andy Kim belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and this time, I'm not kidding). Bubblegum aficionados go weak over Toni Wine's vocal line: "I'm gonna make your life so sweet." She's gotta be singing Veronica, because Betty ain't got that kind of soul.

1955: "Ain't That a Shame"/Pat Boone.
Yes, as a matter of fact, this safe-for-white-folks cover of Fats Domino's original is a shame.


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