Lost On Campus

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 29, 2009

I was seven or eight years old when I had my first great adventure on the campus of St. Cloud State College (as it was titled then). If I were eight at the time, then it took place in mid-summer of 1961, and from this long distance, that’s close enough for our purposes.

I wrote a little earlier this summer about attending summer classes at the Campus Lab School at St. Cloud State, spending mornings there so the college’s education students had someone to teach as they pursued their college degrees. If I recall correctly, on most days, my dad would be waiting when I left the school, and I’d ride home with him in his beloved ’52 Ford. Then came the day of the all-college picnic.

Think about this for a moment, as this is – at least for me – a quintessential 1960s event: A summertime picnic on the lawn, open to all students, all faculty and staff members, and all of their family members. The college was, of course, a much smaller place than is today’s sprawling institution, and then, summertime enrollment is always less than during other quarters. But still, a college-wide picnic! Barbecued chicken and beans and cole slaw for how many? Maybe five hundred people? It was a tradition that wouldn’t last much longer, as I don’t recall such picnics taking place during the summers I was a student on campus.

It was a different era, of course, one of freshman beanies and letter sweaters, with the young men mostly wearing dress slacks or khakis and the young women almost always wearing dresses, kind of like Faber College in Animal House (without the fascists or the slobs). I recall during one of those annual picnics looking across the street at a battered wooden building. It housed the campus bookstore and a student hangout called the Chatterbox.

The Chatterbox, probably ca. 1960. (SCSU Archives)

I asked a family friend, one of my dad’s student workers, what it was like inside, and he said it was crowded and noisy. He said they sold burgers and fries and coffee and malts. It was an honest-to-god malt shop! Except for the coffee, it sounded pretty good to a preteen whiteray, and I asked him if he’d take me in there someday. He shook his head no. A few years later the Chatterbox was gone, razed to make way for the new student center.

Anyway, on the day of the all-college picnic in 1961, I was supposed to meet my mom outside the Campus Lab School and we’d walk the three or so blocks or so to the picnic. I went out the door where I usually found Dad in his car. No Mom. I waited a few minutes, wondering what to do. And when she hadn’t shown up in ten minutes, I set out across campus, heading for Dad’s office. I wasn’t at all sure of the campus’ geography, but I knew Dad’s office was in the basement of the library, and if I could find the library, then I was in good shape.

So every once in a while, I asked a passing student where the library was. The college men chuckled at me, and one asked if I were going to do research for a term paper. The college women told each other I was cute, and a couple of them wanted to know if I wanted them to take me to the library. No, I said, I could find it myself, as long as I had good directions. And I did find it. And I found the stairs down to Dad’s office. The door was locked and the dark basement corridor was a little spooky.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but sitting in a dark basement corridor was kind of scary, and it wasn’t getting me any chicken. I clambered up the stairs, and went to the picnic. And that’s where I found my folks, who were of course, quite worried. (Though perhaps not as worried as parents in similar circumstances might be today; although a good portion of today’s horrors also existed back then, they were not placed nearly so firmly on our minds’ center stage then as they are today.) My mom told me she’d waited at the front door of the lab school for a fair amount of time; I told her dad had been picking me up at the side door.

And after a few minutes more of discussion, we got in line and filled our plates.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, June 26, 1961)
“Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1008 (No. 1)
“Every Beat of My Heart” by the Pips, Vee-Jay 386 (No. 8)
“Peanut Butter” by the Marathons, Arvee 5027 (No. 23)
“Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 824 (No. 62)
“Theme from ‘Goodbye Again’” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 319 (No. 85)
“Rainin’ In My Heart” by Slim Harpo, Excello 2194 (No. 99)

A couple of these are pretty well known: “Quarter to Three” and “Let’s Twist Again” are staples on any self-respecting oldies radio station, and they deserve to be so (although Checker’s original “The Twist” is a better single than “Let’s Twist Again”). Both of them, at the right moments, can get you out on the dance floor, and thus, they remain among the best that not only 1961 had to offer, but the entire era post-Holly and pre-Beatles. “Quarter to Three” spent two weeks at No. 1, and “Let’s Twist Again” peaked at No. 8 later in the summer.

Speaking of that era of American pop, the one that began with the plane crash in Iowa and ended with the Beatles playing on Ed Sullivan’s show: I’ve seen that era written off entirely. Now, it’s true there was a lot of bad pop and faux R&B being played on radio and racked in the stores – Fabian, anyone? – but there was still more good music than a lot of post-Sixties critics have recalled over the years. Some of the other records on that week’s Hot 100, stuff that I could have shared, were: “Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Hello Walls” by Faron Young, “Cupid” by San Cooke, “I Like It Like That (Part 1)” by Chris Kenner and “Mama Said” by the Shirelles. And that’s just a quick glance.

Now, there’s no doubt that pop music slumped a little in those years, but my point is that it wasn’t quite the desert that some writers have claimed it to be.

There’s a riddle surrounding “Every Beat of My Heart.” It’s listed twice on the Hot 100 for this week: Vee-Jay has a release credited only to the Pips (before Gladys Knight got top billing) at No. 8, and it’s also listed at No. 60 as a release on Fury Records, credited to Gladys Knight and the Pips. From everything I know, I have the Vee-Jay release here, but if anyone out there knows any better, let me know, please. According to The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, the Vee-Jay version peaked at No. 6, while the Fury version failed to make the Top 40.

Regarding “Peanut Butter,” writer Dave Marsh notes the strange tale: The Olympics and their producers, Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith, sold the single to Argo, a subsidiary of Chicago’s Chess Records. But as the group was still under contract to Los Angeles-based Arvee, the record was credited to the Marathons, a not-too-subtle change from the Olympics. And the song had a strong resemblance to the Olympics’ 1960 hit, “(Baby) Hully Gully.” So, without too much ado, the record wound up on the Arvee label anyway, and went to No. 20. Now, the tale is told quite a bit differently by Joel Whitburn in The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Whitburn says that with the Olympics on tour, Arvee brought in the Vibrations to record “Peanut Butter.” But the Vibrations were under contract to Chess/Checker, which stopped the Arvee release and then had the Vibrations record a version of the song for Argo, the Chess subsidiary. At which point, Arvee brought in another group – evidently neither the Olympics nor the Vibrations – to record “Peanut Butter” yet again. That third release, I guess, is what is offered here. And none of that matters when the lead singer calls out “Scarf now!”

The Ferrante & Teicher record was in its third week in the Hot 100 this week. It would linger in the lower levels one more week before falling off the chart. And in August, the piano duo would have their first Top 40 hit with the “Theme from The Apartment,” which would peak at No. 10.

“Rainin’ In My Heart” would eventually rise from the depths of the Hot 100 to become one of two Top 40 hits by Slim Harpo, whose real name was James Moore. “Rainin’ In My Heart” would rise to No. 34, and five years later, his “Baby Scratch My Back” would go to No. 16. Those were Harpo’s only Top 40 hits, but he may be better known for two songs covered by the Rolling Stones: “I’m A King Bee,” which was on the album The Rolling Stones in 1964 (and was covered by many others as well, including Muddy Waters), and “Shake Your Hips,” which wound up on 1972’s Exile on Main St. (Oddly, the Exile on Main St. jacket listed the song as “Hip Shake,” but the label on the record had the correct title.)

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Saturday Single No. 138

February 11, 2019

Last Saturday, we looked at the June log of record purchases up through 1989, when I was about to leave Minot, North Dakota, after two years. The following June found me living in a small town about thirty miles outside of Wichita, Kansas, which turned out to be a city that did have, I discovered, some good used record stores.

And there were lots of garage sales.

The haul in June 1990 included LPs by the Average White Band, Long John Baldry, Phil Collins, Eric Carmen, Burton Cummings, Neil Diamond, Leon & Mary Russell, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Vassar Clements, Edith Piaf, Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, Sandy Denny, the Dream Academy, Levon Helm and Roxy Music. There were also some compilations and a few soundtracks made up of pop rock performance (American Gigolo was one of them). The best of the haul was likely Helm’s American Son album, although Sandy Denny’s Like An Old Fashioned Waltz is a treat, too.

And there was one major purchase. While at a garage sale somewhere southwest of Wichita, I bought a small record cabinet for $10 and got as well the seven classical albums and a few other things that were in the cabinet. I don’t have a lot of classical – at least not in comparison to other genres – but this haul included some very nice stuff: Mozart’s Requiem, Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished), and a record that included orchestral versions of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances and Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.

By the time of June 1991, I was living in Columbia, Missouri, for the second time, working on a project that would complete my master’s degree and having dinner a couple of times a week in a Lebanese restaurant. I was a little too busy interviewing folks and writing to do much bargain hunting. But I found records by Steve Winwood, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin and the genius of Chess Records, Willie Dixon. None of those finds really stand out, although the best of them is likely Simon’s Rhythm of the Saints.

I was still settling into my apartment on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis – where I would stay for seven years – when June rolled around in 1992. I hadn’t yet become a super-regular at Cheapo’s, just five blocks away, so I would guess the few albums I got that month came from garage sales. I found LPs by Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Phil Ochs, Joe South, the New York Rock & Roll Ensemble, Don Henley, Little Feat, Van Morrison, the Platters and Bob Seger. I also found a copy in very good condition of a 1983 reissue of Phil Spector’s Christmas album from 1963. The best of the bunch? Probably Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken. Van Morrison’s Hard Nose the Highway was probably the least impressive.

Oddly enough, in June of 1993, I bought no records. I somewhat made up for that lapse the next year when I brought home eighteen LPs in June. The best? Probably Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room or Rick Nelson’s Garden Party. The worst? Either Bawdy Songs Goes To College by Oscar Brand & Dave Sear (1955), or Bawdy Barracks Ballads by the Four Sergeants (1958). (I’d forgotten about those two LPs until this morning; I may have to pull them out soon to see if they qualify for an extended Jukebox Trainwreck.)

No LPs in June 1995. A year later, ten albums came home, including work by Judy Collins, Mike Post, Minnie Riperton, Stevie Wonder, John Denver, Foreigner and Blood, Sweat & Tears. To me, the best is an idiosyncratic choice of Denver’s Whose Garden Was This? while the least valuable was Riperton’s Love Lives Forever.

More than twenty LPs came home with me in June 1997. My favorites were the two Bobby Whitlock albums, his self-titled release and Raw Velvet, both from 1972. I also liked Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Peter Gabriel’s So. I regret spending even a little bit of money at a garage sale for three albums by Renaissance. By the next June, in 1998, I was deep into my routine of thrice-weekly visits to Cheapo’s, and I brought home forty-nine albums. The best of them? Easily the Phil Spector box set Back to Mono, but I have great affection as well for Stephen Stills’ Manassas, Judy Collins’ Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Richie Havens’ Mixed Bag and the live collection, The Fillmore: The Last Days. The least of them? Most likely Ronnie Spector’s Siren, Joe Cocker’s Civilized Man and a record of Russian folk by singer Channa Bucherskaia.

By June 1999, I was preparing to move further south in Minneapolis, but that didn’t stop my visits to Cheapo’s. I would just have to find more boxes for the move, as I brought home seventy-three LPs that month. The best were probably two self-titled albums, Tom Jans and The Wild Tchoupitoulas. Much of the month’s haul was a little obscure or at least items from deeper in groups’ and artists’ catalogs than I’d dug before. I was also looking for hits collections by groups and artists I’d ignored before, so the weakest album of the month was likely the greatest hits collection from the Classics IV. (I’m not sure that five records in the Top 40 are enough to make a hits collection viable; one of those hits – “What Am I Crying For?” – isn’t even included on the LP.)

And when I moved away from Cheapo’s (and not coincidentally got my first CD player about the same time), the pace of record buying diminished greatly. I bought five records in June 2000: LPs by Head East, Lou Ann Barton, Cris Williamson, Laura Nyro and Pablo Cruise. The Lou Ann Barton album, Forbidden Tones, is a 1980s mess, so the best of that bunch is likely Head East’s Flat As A Pancake (a favorite of the Texas Gal, whom I’d met earlier that year).

I hit a few garage sales and thrift stores in June 2001, as well as buying a few records online: I got Smith’s Minus-Plus and two Gayle McCormick solo albums for the Texas Gal, a couple of Frank Sinatra 1950s LPs, and some work by Aretha Franklin, Delbert McClinton, Tony Joe White, Mary Hopkin and Johnny Rivers. Nothing really stands out, though if I’m in the right mood, the Sinatras are nice. A year later, I bought a couple of boxes of records at garage sales and came home with twenty-six LPs. The best were likely Stevie Wonder’s Songs in The Key Of Life and Delaney & Bonnie’s Home. The least interesting were Today – My Way by Nancy Wilson and the Chad Mitchell Trio’s Typical American Boys.

Another box at a garage sale in June 2003 brought me records by Al Hirt, Al Martino, Doc Severinsen, the Stanley Brothers and a 1976 self-titled album by a lesbian duo called Jade & Sarsaparilla. I also got the Undisputed Truth’s self-titled 1971 debut, which was the best in the box. And my last June acquisitions came two years ago, with records by blues/folk artist Mike Auldridge, Neil Diamond, Spanky & Our Gang and – from my pal Mitch – an early album by Duane & Gregg Allman (on which Gregg’s name is misspelled).

Many of the albums mentioned here are records I’ve already shared. Of those I have not, my favorite is likely Sandy Denny’s 1973 album, Like An Old Fashioned Waltz. So here’s Track Four, which turns out to be “Friends” today’s Saturday Single.

The Passing of Michael Jackson

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 26, 2009

The unexpected death yesterday of Michael Jackson prompts some thoughts: The Texas Gal and I have never been huge fans of either Jackson himself or of his childhood family group, the Jackson 5. And yet, I find five LPs on the shelves this morning – three solo works and two from the Jackson 5. And we have Thriller on CD as well as a Jackson 5 hits compilation.

That’s a pretty good chunk of music, considering that we both agreed as we watched yesterday’s news that we’d never been anything more than casual fans. That’s one small indication that Michael Jackson’s figurative shadow was large.

Here’s another, larger, indication of the same thing: News theory notes that the more newsworthy the event, the more prevalent will be the impulse among people to pass the word along to friends and strangers alike. Back in 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded during my second day of work at St. Cloud State. I remember passing the news on to my new boss and to a couple of people whom I did not know in the snack bar at Atwood; and as I ate there, I saw other folks doing the same thing: “Have you heard?” or variations thereof, repeated over and over.

So it’s telling that the first thing I did yesterday when I read online the news of Michael Jackson’s passing was to pick up the phone and call the Texas Gal at her office. I missed her; she was already on her way home. And the first thing she said to me when she came in was, “Have you heard? Michael Jackson died.”

Beyond that, what’s the impact of Michael Jackson’s death? For his family and friends, it’s a tragedy, obviously. For his ardent fans, it’s a great loss.

For the music world? I’d say it’s a loss of a great memory, not of a current giant. When I think of him, I see three Michael Jacksons in my mind: First, there was the powerhouse child belting out “ABC” and other hits. Then came the sly and lithe entertainer of “Thriller” and vampires, of “Billie Jean” and the moonwalk. Those two Michaels, especially the second, ruled and changed pop music. But finally, there was the seemingly confused and unhappy man of the years since, oh, 1990 or so. Others more attuned to his music may have a different take, but to me, it’s been close to twenty years since Michael Jackson was musically relevant.

I may be wrong about that judgment, but that doesn’t diminish the tabloid tragedies that we’ve all seen played out in print, on television and online during these latter years. And altogether, the fact that he was once the best in the world at what he did – truly the King of Pop – and that he lost that stature at least partly through his own seeming inability to cope is sad enough.

I’ll let others deal at length with Michael Jackson’s musical legacy, and there will be plenty who will do that. For now, I’ll just note that the first thought that entered my head when I heard that Michael Jackson had died was, “Well, he’s free now.”

Addendum, February 11, 2019: When this was first posted, some readers thought I was celebrating Jackson’s release from the accusations of sexual misconduct that dogged his final years. I was unclear. My thought was that Jackson was free from a life that was at its base unhappy, and though I failed to say so, I thought then and still think that Jackson’s unhappiness had its foundation in his childhood.

“I Shall Be Released” by Joe Cocker from With A Little Help From My Friends [1969]:

It’s Video Thursday!

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 25, 2009

As long as I mentioned Modern English and “I Melt With You” yesterday, I thought I’d look for the original video. I think this is it.

Here’s a live performance of “None But The Brave” by Bruce Springsteen with the Max Weinberg 7. It took place at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on December 7, 2003.

And continuing to be fortunate, I found a live performance of “I’ve Been Working Too Hard” – with side excursions into “Little Queenie” and “Can I Get A Witness” – by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes from a 1992 concert at the Music Hall in Cologne, Germany.

And here’s a Farm Aid ’86 performance of “Comes A Time” by Neil Young with harmony vocals from – I believe – the late Nicolette Larson.

As for tomorrow, I’ve got a couple of Jim Horn albums in the pile to rip, and a few other things that might be interesting. I’ve also got a little bit of an itch to see what was going on in, oh, 1961 or 1962 around this time of year. I’ll figure it out tomorrow morning.

Into The Eighties

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 24, 2009

I generally don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the 1980s. The years of big hair, thirtysomething and “Greed is good” don’t attract me much. I find myself, as regular readers no doubt figured out early on, much more interested in the 1960s and the 1970s, the years when I did the bulk of my growing up.

I do tend to subscribe to the theory that we never cease growing up. There is always work to be done, and there always will be. For me, some difficult parts of that work came in the 1980s, making some of those years hard. On the other hand, some of the finest years of my life – professionally and personally – came during that decade, so on the plus-minus scale, it’s mostly, I would guess, a wash.

But according to the numbers I shared here a few weeks ago, I’m not all that much interested in the 1980s, as least as far as the music of the decade goes. Here are the numbers of mp3s, sorted by decade since 1950, as I reported a few weeks ago:

1950s: 1,152
1960s: 8,820
1970s: 13,445
1980s: 3,327
1990s: 4,525
2000s: 5,319

There are fewer songs from the 1950s than from any other decade because, turning six just before the decade ended, I remember so little of those years, both in a large sense and musically.

If I were asked what song from the Fifties I remember most from hearing at the time, it would be a tie between Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” (No. 1 for six weeks in 1958) and David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” (No. 1 on three different charts in 1958 as well). Those are fun, which has its place, but not exactly the kind of artistry I like to recognize here.

Leaving the 1950s, then, as something incomplete, the numbers above show an interesting tale: I clearly have much less interest in the 1980s than I do in any of the other decades I remember. And I’m not sure I know why.

I used to think it was the music: arena rock and synthpop and drum machines and dancepop are what come to mind. I know I wasn’t listening to much pop music when the decade started. As I spent time on various college campuses through the decade, as a grad student, a writer and a teacher, I heard more current music than I had in a while. I liked some of it, and as I dig further into that lost decade these days, I find I like more of the music than I would have expected. (That means that on another day down the road, when I run the numbers, that imbalance may have diminished a bit.) So it might not have been the synthpop and the drum machines and the dance pop. (Arena rock remains less than attractive.)

I called the 1980s a lost decade just above. That might be a bit harsh, but it’s not far from the truth. I didn’t care for a lot of what I saw happening in public affairs or in popular culture, so I think that for chunks of the decade, I just checked out – from music, from most television, from film, from current fiction and nonfiction and from current events (with the exception of those that immediately affected how I was earning my living at the time as a reporter, a public relations writer or a teacher). And at the same time, I was looking for a place to roost, moving from Monticello, Minnesota, to Columbia, Missouri, and back to Monticello. From there, I spent a summer in St. Cloud, then moved to Minot, North Dakota, for two years, and finally ended the decade in Anoka, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis.

And here’s a random selection from each year of that decade of drifting:

1980: “One Love” by Sniff ’N’ The Tears from The Game’s Up
1981: “The Innocent Age” by Dan Fogelberg from The Innocent Age
1982: “Tables Turning” by Modern English from After the Snow
1983: “Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” by Bob Dylan, New York City, April 23
1984: “None But The Brave” by Bruce Springsteen, Born In The U.S.A. sessions, New York City
1985: “Minutes to Memories” by John Cougar Mellencamp from Scarecrow
1986: “Love You ’til The Day I Die” by Crowded House from Crowded House
1987: “Isolation” by Joe Cocker from Unchain My Heart
1988: “Let The Rain Come Down On Me” by Toni Childs from Union
1989: “The Last Worthless Evening” by Don Henley from The End of the Innocence

That’s kind of an interesting mix. I do have a few thoughts:

As much as I like most of Fogelberg’s work, and as beautiful as I thought The Innocent Age was when it came out, its lush orchestration is sounding more and more overblown as the years pass.

The Dylan track is an early version of “Tight Connection To My Heart,” which showed up on Empire Burlesque in 1985; you can find this version on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3. It’s interesting to compare the two and get a look at Dylan’s creative process, looking at what he retained and what he changed. The Springsteen track is from the third CD of The Essential Bruce Springsteen. It sounds more relaxed – but no less muscular – than the songs that made it on to Born In The U.S.A., if that makes any sense.

The Crowded House tune is a lot more, well, angular than the stuff I know best by the band. I have a soft spot for “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” but the lushness of that ballad wasn’t a fully accurate picture of the band, either. The truth was, I guess, in the middle.

I’ve never known Sniff ’N’ The Tears’ work well, so we’ll let “One Love” pass. As to the Modern English track, “Table Turning” is kind of just there, with nothing – to my ears – that differentiates it from a thousand other songs from the same period. It certainly pales next to the same album’s gorgeous “I Melt With You.”

The Toni Childs’ track is from a cryptic album I’ve loved since 1988. The Mellencamp and Cocker can go without any comment. I do wish that a different Henley tune from The End of the Innocence had popped up. From the first time I heard “Heart of the Matter,” I’ve thought that Henley asked the key question about the 1980s:

“How can love survive in such a graceless age?”

Well, love did survive, of course, as did I and most of us who were around for those years. But they truly were, in so many ways, graceless. As do most years, however, they at least left some good music behind.

Some Work

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 23, 2009

Hi. I ran some errands this morning, and my to-do list is approaching an unmanageable length. So here’s an appropriate selection for today. See you tomorrow!

A Six-Pack of Work/Busy
“Working In The Vineyard” by Jesse Winchester from Let The Rough Side Drag [1976]
“The Working Hour” by Tears For Fears from Songs From The Big Chair [1985]
“The Work Song” by Maria Muldaur from Maria Muldaur [1974]
“I’ve Been Working Too Hard” by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes from Better Days [1991]
“Working On A Groovy Thing” by the 5th Dimension from The Age of Aquarius [1969]
“Work To Do” by the Average White Band from Average White Band [1974]

The Inevitable Kodachrome Reference

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 22, 2009

News from Rochester, N.Y., this morning: The Eastman Kodak Co. is retiring Kodachrome. The film will no longer be produced.

According to an Associated Press piece filed this morning, sales of the film – sold by the company for seventy-four years – now account for less than one percent of the company’s total sales of still-picture film. And, notes AP, only one commercial lab in the world – in, oddly enough, Parsons, Kansas – still processes Kodachrome.

The AP reporter, Carolyn Thompson, led the story with, almost inevitably, a reference to Paul Simon: “Sorry, Paul Simon, Kodak is taking your Kodachrome away.”

Well, I likely would have done the same. And the news makes life just a little easier for me this morning, as I’ve been trying to figure out how to ease into a six-song random selection from the years 1960-1999. Now I have an obvious place to start:

A Six-Pack of Mostly Random Tunes
“Kodachrome” by Paul Simon, Columbia 45859 [1973]
“Down In The Seine” by the Style Council from Our Favourite Shop [1985]
“Alone” by Wishbone Ash from Pilgrimage [1971]
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton, Elektra 45687 [1970]
“Comes A Time” by Neil Young from Comes A Time [1978]
“Song For the High Mountain” by Jorma Kaukonen from Jorma [1979]

I imagine the story of “Kodachrome” is available somewhere (and I’ve never really looked), but I’ve wondered occasionally since 1973 about the genesis of the song. What sparked “Kodachrome”? Its infectious melody, sparkling production (at Muscle Shoals) and somewhat off-beat lyrics made it a No. 2 hit in 1973. In some ways, I suppose the song shows that Simon could write a song about anything. In any case, it’s a great piece of pop that became a cultural touchstone, as the lead to the AP story shows.

I continue my explorations of Paul Weller: Our Favourite Shop was the Style Council’s second true album, if I read things right. U.S. releases were slightly different than those in Britain, which makes the whole thing a mess; as an example, Our Favourite Shop was released in the U.S. as Internationalists after the track “Our Favourite Shop” was removed. I imagine there was a reason, but . . . Anyway, “Down In The Seine” seems to be a typical Weller conglomeration: some soul touches, some jazz touches, some odd bits – the accordion – all tossed together. On some tracks, the approach didn’t work very well; in this case, it did.

Every time something pops up on the player from Wishbone Ash’s first three albums – Wishbone Ash, Pilgrimage or Argus – I find myself wishing I’d been a little more adventurous in my listening habits as high school ended and college began. I was on a different listening track entirely, and it was one that served me well, but hearing some Wishbone Ash and a few things in that vein might also have served me well. “Alone” is an instrumental that’s a lot more mellow than the rest of Pilgrimage.

A true One-Hit Wonder, Crabby Appleton was a Los Angeles-based group, and its one hit, “Go Back” was actually a pretty good piece of pop-rock when it rolled out of the speakers during the summer of 1970. The single spent five weeks in the Top 40 but stalled at No. 36, which means that the record rarely pops up on radio, even in the deepest oldies playlists. All that does, from my view, is make the record sound more fresh when it does surface, and I like it a lot. The group also released a self-titled album that featured the single, but the record didn’t sell well. Nor did any of the follow-up singles or the band’s 1971 album, Rotten to the Core, sell very well.

Neil Young has recorded many albums that rank higher in critics’ eyes than does Comes A Time. It’s not a particularly challenging album, for Young or for the listener. And yet, it remains my favorite, and I’m not entirely certain why that is. The one thought I have – and it popped up again the other day when the CD was in the player as I sat nearby with a book – is that throughout the entire album, Young sounds like he’s happy. And that’s a rare sound.

Jorma Kaukonen played guitar for Jefferson Airplane and then, when the Airplane broke up in 1973, focused on solo work and his work with Jack Cassady as Hot Tuna. Jorma was released a year after Hot Tuna broke up and it’s quite a nice album, as I hear it. Critical assessment says it’s not as good as Kaukonen’s work with Cassady or even his earlier solo album, Quah, released in 1974. I’ve always thought, though, that Jorma was the sound of a musician taking a figurative deep breath and exhaling, figuring out where he wants to go next, now that things are quieting down.

Edited slightly on archival posting.

Saturday Single No. 137

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 20, 2009

Well, we’re a little past the mid-point of June and right on top of the summer solstice. The actual moment, I learned this morning, will come at 12:45 a.m. tomorrow, so if I stay up past midnight for forty-five minutes, well, I can look at the darkmess outside and say “Somewhere on the other side of the world, the sun has reached its limit.” I doubt I’ll do that. I may be up at that hour, being somewhat of a weekend night-owl – as is the Texas Gal – but I don’t know that I’ll notice the passing of the moment.

But the middle of the month brings with it a regular feature here: A look into the LP log to see what records have made their ways home with me during the month. As usually, we’ll likely stretch this look over two weeks, 1970 to 1989 this week and then picking up from there next week.

My first June records were presents from my[future] brother-in-law for graduating from high school in 1971. Having been well-advised by my sister, he gave me Janis Joplin’s Pearl and the album Ram, which was credited to Paul and Linda McCartney. I still listen fairly frequently to both – on CD/mp3 more often than on vinyl and to Pearl more than to Ram – and that’s something I can’t say about every record I got back in my high school and college years.

In June of 1972, I laid one more brick in my wall of a complete Beatles collection when I picked up the disappointing Yellow Submarine, with its first side presenting “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love” bracketing four Beatles songs that the boys hadn’t bothered to use anywhere else. The second side was orchestral soundtrack work written and orchestrated by George Martin. Also in June of that year, I picked up a two-record set that probably led me to as much good music as any album has: Clapton At His Best, an anthology that led me to dig deeper into Clapton’s solo work as well as into Blind Faith, and Derek & the Dominos. As I’ve said before, I then followed the path to the music of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends and eventually to the Allman Brothers Band (with an assist from others here and there). As I’ve also noted before, if there ever was an album that laid the foundation for my changing from a blank-faced receiver of music into an active, credit-reading and context-seeking listener, it was Clapton At His Best.

By June of 1973, I was being miserly, saving every bit of money I could for my adventure in Denmark, which would begin in September. The only LPs I got that month – in fact, all summer long – were gifts from a friend who was cleaning out his collection. He handed me Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, a 1970 album whose opening tracks, “Glad/Freedom Rider,” I’d heard frequently while hanging around the college radio station, and the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., an album whose aesthetic I didn’t quite grasp at the time. I enjoyed it, but it would be a few years before I came to the judgment – one I share with many, I think – that Exile on Main St. can legitimately be included in the discussion when one talks about the greatest rock albums of all time.

After that, June fades away for a few years as a month for records. My next June purchases came four years later, in 1977: A new copy of Stage Fright by The Band, replacing a used copy I’d gotten in 1972; Before the Flood, a 1974 live package by Bob Dylan and The Band; and Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks. I don’t listen to Stage Fright much anymore. I maybe should; it’s probably better than I remember, even if it isn’t quite as good as Music from Big Pink or The Band. The live double album, even thirty-five years later, still has some power. Of those three albums, however, I most frequently listen to Blood On The Tracks, a still potent album: In a recent Time magazine piece, reviewer Joe Klein called it Dylan’s “mature work of genius.”

We fast-forward to June 1980: A flea market visit brings me Simon & Garfunkel’s Wednesday Morning, 3 AM and two albums by the Carpenters: Carpenters and A Song For You. Why the latter two? For some names in the credits: drummer Hal Blaine and horn player Jim Horn. I’ve still got all three of the records, but they don’t get much play or much consideration when I ponder which LPs to replicate in my CD collection.

In June of 1981, I was reading Anton Myrer’s novel, The Last Convertible, set in large part during the years between the two world wars. The book contains a long passage about big band music and its joys, with a comparison of the major bands of the time, a comparison that sets the music of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman above the work of all the rest. Interested in knowing more, I went to the sources and bought LPs of the music of those three, Miller, Ellington and Goodman, all titled Pure Gold. The music was good – at times, brilliant – but it wasn’t my era, and the records have gotten only occasional play.

While in graduate school in 1984, one of my duties was working as the arts editor for the Columbia Missourian, a daily newspaper produced by faculty and students at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. During weeks when there were more new movies than my small staff of reporters could handle, I’d generally fill in and review one. One of those I reviewed was Streets of Fire, the Walter Hill-directed “rock & roll fable” starring Diane Lane and Michael Paré. I liked the movie and went and bought the soundtrack the next day. I still like the soundtrack, more as individual tracks than as a whole. As long as I was in the record shop, I picked up a copy of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, a portion of which had been used as a theme for the film The Exorcist ten years earlier. That album doesn’t come off the shelf very often at all.

A year later, June brought me John Fogerty’s Centerfield, new that spring, and Al Stewart’s 1980 effort, 24 Carrots. The former has aged better than the latter. In June of 1987, I picked up Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, Dan Fogelberg’s Phoenix, and a used anthology titled Dick Clark: 20 Years of Rock N’ Roll, the last notable only because in those pre-CD days, anthologies that included the full, original recordings of things like the Orioles’ 1955 hit, “Crying in the Chapel” and Duane Eddy’s 1958 hit, “Rebel Rouser,” to name just two, weren’t nearly as easy to come by as they are today.

A total of thirty-two records came my way in June 1988, as the days of bulk buys at garage sales and flea markets began (along with purchases of shiny new LPs on occasion). The best of the month? Probably the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks: 1964-1971, but that’s an anthology, so that’s maybe not fair. Of the rest, maybe the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty or John Cougar’s Scarecrow, an album that’s not a great record but is a better one than most folks remember.

In June 1989, I was packing to move back to Minnesota from Minot, and I bought only six LPs: Stuff by Peter Frampton, Stevie Nicks, James Taylor, the Cars and Enya, topped off by some Russian liturgical music. (Why that last? I have no idea.) None of those really stand out today, but they went into the boxes with the other records, as I hauled nearly six hundred LPs to Minnesota, having no clue that the years of vinyl madness were about to begin.

So, what track do I share? The best album I’ve mentioned here is likely Blood On The Tracks, and “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” is, to me, the heart of the record. But that seems too easy, as do selections from a lot of the albums mentioned above. (Others aren’t simply good enough.) So I’ve decided to share a moment: When I first heard Bob Dylan and The Band and their introduction to “Like A Rolling Stone” from Before the Flood, my jaw honestly dropped. The rest of the performance is tough and biting, but the opening moments are the kinds of moments for me that I think every music fan searches for: Something you want to hear again and again and again. So here’s today’s Saturday Single:

Video unavailable.

Rainy Day Make-Work

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 19, 2009

It was dreary and rainy the other day, and I looked out our front window at the lawn. It’s probably going to need mowing – which our landlord takes care of – this weekend. And the combination of the weather and the wet grass reminded me of part of the summer of 1971, the first half of which I spent as a member of the lawn-mowing crew at St. Cloud State.

There were days, of course, when it rained, and no mowing would get done. But the maintenance department, without question, could always find something for us to do. I recall spending three days that summer in a second-floor hallway in Stewart Hall, armed with chisels and chipping away at old and worn tile on the floor. It was tedious work, made more tolerable by actually being able to talk to one another. When we were out on the lawnmowers, the only people we could talk to was ourselves. (I wrote not long ago about how I addressed that quandary.)

But there, in the hallway, with only occasional supervision – our boss, busy with other stuff, wandered through every hour or so, just to make sure we were making some progress – we could talk as we chipped away. (The tile had likely been in place since Stewart Hall was built in the late 1940s, and in places it had worn away entirely; finding an edge to pry away the bits of tile near those worn spots was a challenge.) Our topics ranged broadly, but music was one we always came back to. During one of those days in the hallway, I recall one of my co-workers and I exchanging views on Ten Years After: He preferred Ssssh, while I held out for Cricklewood Green.

On another rainy day later in the summer, our crew and a few others were dispatched to the new Education Building, which would open for classes that fall quarter. There, in a large room on the second floor, stood at least three hundred file cabinets, still in their boxes. Our work that day would be to get the cabinets out of the boxes and distribute them to the offices that were their intended destinations. While we unboxed the cabinets, someone from one of the painting crews plugged in his radio – the painters were allowed to listen to music as they worked, as long as it wasn’t too loud – and that made the morning more tolerable. I assume the radio was tuned to KDWB in the Twin Cities, but the only thing I recall hearing that morning was Peter Nero’s cover of the “Theme to ‘Summer of ’42’,” a record I welcomed, as I’d recently seen the movie.

As the day wore on and the empty file cabinet boxes piled up on the other side of the room, we might have heard some of these:

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, June 19, 1971)
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, United Artists 50721 (No. 6)
“She’s Not Just Another Woman” by The 8th Day, Invictus 9087 (No. 20)
“Funky Nassau (Part One)” by the Beginning Of The End, Alston 4595 (No. 23)
“Get It On” by Chase, Epic 10738 (No. 50)
“Chicago” by Graham Nash, Atlantic 2804 (No. 61)
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement, Decca 32818 (No. 91)

The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose had two Top Ten hits, and what great records they were! “Treat Her Like A Lady” was the first of them, riding that chugging guitar, superb hook and gospelish call-and-response all the way to No. 3. “Too Late To Turn Back Now,” which went to No. 2 during the summer of 1972, was also a good record, but it was smoother and somehow less demanding. If forced to choose, I’d give the decision to “Treat Her Like A Lady” on points, but both sounded great coming out of the car radio. (The group had two other Top 40 hits, “Don’t Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Little Fool Like Me)” and “I’m Never Gonna Be Alone Anymore,” neither of which reached the Top Twenty.)

The second of these has to have an odd story behind it, but it’s a story I don’t know, and a quick riffle through my reference books this morning has left me uninformed. “She’s Not Just Another Woman” by the group The 8th Day went to No. 11 during the summer of 1971 and eventually went gold for the Invictus label. A slightly longer version of the same recording – an edit of 3:23 as opposed to the 3:04 of the single edit I present here – showed up, also in 1971, as an album track on Somebody’s Been Sleeping in My Bed, the debut album of the wonderfully named group 100 Proof (Aged in Soul), released on the Hot Wax label. Hot Wax and Invictus were sister labels, formed in 1969 by the trio of Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland when the three left Motown Records. So the same recording, essentially, was credited to two different groups. It might be that the single edit I offer here is a bastard edit, created after the fact by license for packaging purposes, but either way, it’s still an edit of the same track that shows up on Somebody’s Been Sleeping in My Bed, giving us, as I said, the same recording credited to two different groups. Very odd.

I don’t know much about the Beginning of the End, which came from Nassau in the Bahamas, or about its hit, which went to No. 15 that summer. I do have a vague memory of hearing the record as I drove around town one evening in my 1961 Falcon, but that’s all. I’m sure there’s information out there, but not through the usual sources. The only thing All-Music Guide has to say is: “One of the very few soul groups from Nassau, the Beginning of the End had one hit in 1971, the scintillating ‘Funky Nassau.’ They [sic] recorded an album of the same name that year, then dropped out of sight.” Obscure or not, the record was pretty good.

“Get It On” by Chase was one of the great and somewhat forgotten records of the early 1970s. Tough vocals and foundation, great horn accents, the escalating tension and the glorious whirling horn runs: What more do you want? Well, a longer career for Bill Chase and his band; Chase and three members of the band were killed in a plane crash near Jackson, Minnesota, in August 1974. What’s left is the group’s one hit, which went to No. 24 during the summer of 1971, and the three albums, all of which have been released on CD.

Let’s say you asked a fan in 1971: Which of the four members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is least likely to release an overtly political single? My guess is that most fans would have responded with the name of “Graham Nash.” Not that Nash didn’t care about such things, but on Crosby, Stills & Nash and on Déjà Vu, Nash’s songs were more personal than political: “Marrakesh Express,” “Lady of the Island,” “Teach Your Children, “Our House.” So it was a little surprising when Nash’s solo album, Songs for Beginners, sandwiched its reflections about romance and personal growth (including the luminous “Simple Man”) with two clearly political songs: The opening track, “Military Madness” addresses the issue of the military’s influence on society in a general way (although it begins with a reference to Nash’s birth in Blackpool, England). Conversely, the album’s closing track, “Chicago,” is a more direct political statement, deploring the treatment of Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther party. During Seale’s trial for conspiracy and inciting to riot – charges that developed out of the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago – one of Seale’s many outbursts led the judge to order Seale bound and gagged, inspiring Nash’s song. The record went to No. 35.

The Free Movement’s “I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” – a good record and a somewhat accurate reflection of the morals and mores of the time as regards fidelity – had been languishing in the bottom section of the Hot 100 for five weeks at this time thirty-eight years ago. The song dropped out of the Hot 100 for two weeks, then re-entered on July 7 and began its long climb that took it eventually to No. 5.

PG&E, Fats, Stevie Ray & Jimi

May 31, 2017

Originally posted June 18, 2009

I found an interesting clip of Pacific Gas & Electric performing a long version of “Are You Ready.” It sounds like a live performance – I miss the background singers – but there’s no sign of an audience, not even any audience sounds at the end of the performance. Still, it’s a decent performance from – according to the video poster – 1970.

Here’s a concert performance of “Walking To New Orleans” from Fats Domino. Based on the few visual clues available, I’d put this in the 1990s, maybe a bit earlier. Does anyone know? From what I can tell on later examination, the performance was in 1985.

I found a clip of Stevie Ray Vaughan doing an instrumental version of “Little Wing” in what appears to be a European open-air venue around, maybe, 1985. He moves into a cover of “Third Stone From The Sun” before the clip ends.

Video deleted.

Finally, here’s a YouTube posting with only still pictures. But that’s okay, the audio is Jimi Hendrix’ performance of “Little Wing” (with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums) during the second show at San Francisco’s Winterland on October 12, 1968.

Video deleted.

A while back, I posted a single track from the self-titled 1974 album by Isis, which was kind of a female version of Earth, Wind & Fire. I’ve been thinking about posting the full album, but I’ve learned that it’s now available on CD, which is good news. It’s an import, yeah, with the corresponding price, but still, it’s out there.

Slightly revised on archival posting.