DEAR JERRY: Living in Detroit for much of my youth and record buying years, I also picked up a lot of records across the river in Windsor, Ontario.
One thing I always noticed about the Canadian releases of U.S. hits is that they never seemed to come in picture sleeves, as was quite common in Michigan.
Many of the top U.S. artists Elvis, Connie Francis, Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee, Beach Boys, etc. had picture sleeves with nearly all of their singles.
Yet those same records being simultaneously manufactured and sold in Canada very rarely came with picture sleeves. Any idea why?
Wilson Hobbs, Milford, Conn.
DEAR WILSON: It is because Canadian record shops, most of which are near the U.S. border, did not often get Canadian-made counterparts to U.S. hits until several weeks after the records went on sale in the states.
By then, the first U.S. pressings often the only copies shipped with picture sleeves were already distributed stateside.
With no U.S. sleeves available to import, and the focus of the Canadian labels being record production and not printing picture sleeves, the discs went on sale in Canada in each label's generic paper sleeves.
The tide turned a bit in early 1964, and the British Invasion.
Beginning with the Beatles' “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” Canada sold many singles in picture sleeves, by British as well as American artists.
Most of these were printed in the U.S., others came from the UK., and a few are Canadian-made.
Special thanks to our Canadian advisor, Peter S. McCullough, for assistance with this topic.
DEAR JERRY: Your comments on soundtracks always interest me, but I'd now like to inquire about recordings of a similar nature ones originally written for television programs that later became big pop hits.
Some instrumental themes “Hawaii Five-O” and “Bonanza” being two good examples have the magical ability to communicate the spirit of the show itself.
Note I do not refer to TV shows that use a hit of the past for their theme, such as the “Las Vegas” theme, “A Little Less Conversation,” by Elvis.
Did many TV show themes make the Top 10? Did any reach No. 1?
Ronnie Wolfe, Lakeland, Fla.
DEAR RONNIE: Yes to both!
First is a chronological list of TV themes that topped the charts, of which there are four:
“Theme from S.W.A.T” (Rhythm Heritage, 1976); “Welcome Back Kotter” (John Sebastian; 1976); “Miami Vice Theme” (Jan Hammer, 1985); and “How Do You Talk to an Angel” (The Heights, 1992).
In addition to those four, 10 others reached the Top 10:
“Dragnet” (Ray Anthony and His Orchestra, 1955); (Theme from “Dr. Kildare”) “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight” (Richard Chamberlain, 1962); (Theme from “Secret Agent”) “Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers, 1966); “Hawaii Five-O” (Ventures, 1969); “The Rockford Files” (Mike Post, 1975); “Happy Days” (Pratt & McClain, 1976); “Makin' It” (David Naughton, 1979); “Theme from Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)” (Joey Scarbury, 1981); “Hill Street Blues” Mike Post & Larry Carlton, 1981); (Theme from “Cops”) “Bad Boys” (Inner Circle, 1993).
IZ ZAT SO? Only two of the TV themes above are performed by the lead actor in the series" “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight” (Richard Chamberlain) and “Makin' It” (David Naughton).
Elsewhere on the TV theme trivia front:
The Heights group is comprised of TV cast members on the show of the same title. This rock band, played by real singers and talented musicians, hails from the fictional suburb, The Heights, whose name they selected.
If you don't recall this show, you are not alone. Hardly anyone does because Fox cancelled the series after just 12 episodes meaning their theme, “How Do You Talk to an Angel,” remained on the charts (20 weeks) longer than the television series! Ironically, the network announced the axing of The Heights just one week before “How Do You Talk to an Angel” rose to No. 1 (November 14, 1992).
“How Do You Talk to an Angel” was even nominated for an Emmy in the Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics category, only to lose to Liza Minnelli (“Live from Radio City Music Hall”).
Though beaten at the Emmys, the tune did win in the Special Recognition category at the 1993 BMI Film & TV Awards.
Two recordings that should have charted but surprisingly didn't are “Theme from Peter Gunn” (Henry Mancini and His Orchestra, 1959) and “Naked City” (Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra).
Mancini's “Peter Gunn” album hit No. 1 and won a Grammy, so how is it the single (RCA Victor 47-7460) completely flopped? The hit single of “Peter Gunn” ended up being by Ray Anthony and His Orchestra.
“Naked City” (Nelson Riddle and His Orchestra). This marvelous follow-up (Capitol 4843) to his “Route 66 Theme” hit should have been just as big. The flip side is even “Theme from The Defenders.”
Apart from the “Miami Vice Theme,” Jan Hammer had no Top 100 hit singles. Thus he joins a list of atypical acts whose only hits peaked at No. 1.
Other one-hit wonder artists in this fleeting-fame society include: Joan Weber (“Let Me Go Lover”); Hollywood Argyles (“Alley Oop”); Zager & Evans (“In the Year 2525”); and M (“Pop Muzik”), just to name a few.