A Baker’s Dozen From 1978

Originally posted May 16, 2007

After I settled on the Moody Blues’ ballad “Driftwood” to kick off this week’s Baker’s Dozen, I was thinking in about four different directions.

I was pondering 1978, which is the year from which this week’s songs come. I thought about the first time I heard the Moody Blues. I thought about belonging to various music clubs over the years, as I believe that’s how I got Octave, the album from which “Driftwood” comes. And I was wondering how many songs in the major rock canon feature French horn.

I’m pretty sure I heard the Moody Blues for the first time at Rick and Rob’s along about 1970, after Rob borrowed a copy of Question of Balance from a friend. I’ve belonged to music clubs about six times over the years and currently subscribe to Yourmusic.com, which is the best – for value provided – service of that type I’ve ever belonged to, if you can do without the absolute latest up-to-the-minute hits. (That’s an utterly unsolicited testimonial, of course.) And I thought instantly of two other songs that, like “Driftwood,” feature a French horn prominently: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles’ “For No One.” (Anybody have any others?)

But what struck me was pondering 1978. I’ve got a pretty good memory, and many of the things I remember, I recall vividly. And there’s not much about 1978 that stands out. All right, I got married, a union that was later dissolved, and I haven’t forgotten that. But beyond that – and those who have lived through the slow death of a union that was expected to be permanent will understand the ambiguity with which I recall that event – it was a quiet year, at least in my memory.

The interesting thing about that is that it was my first full calendar year in the so-called adult world. I left St. Cloud in December of 1977 for my first newspapering job, in the small town of Monticello about thirty miles away. After some growing pains, I settled into the routine of a weekly newspaper, a routine I stayed with for almost six years. I enjoyed my work there, and did well with it, and I liked living in a small town (about 3,000 people at the time), for the most part.

But it was a quiet time in my life, not as unsettled as the college years that preceded it, nor, come to think of it, as vibrant as the years in graduate school that followed it. And as I gathered this Baker’s Dozen, I pondered the ancient Chinese curse (or so I have been told it is): May you live in interesting times.

Consider that, along with trying to think of songs with French horn in them.

“Driftwood” by the Moody Blues from Octave

“Doubleback Alley” by the Rutles from The Rutles

“Easy From Now On” by Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

“Before My Heart Finds Out” by Gene Cotton, Ariola single 7675

“Field Of Opportunity” by Neil Young from Comes A Time

“Twins Theme” by Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg from Twin Sons Of Different Mothers

“Let’s All Chant” by Michael Zager Band, Private Stock single 45184

“Miss You” by the Rolling Stones from Some Girls

“Who Are You” by the Who from Who Are You

“’Till You Come Back” by Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz from Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz

“Song On The Radio” by Al Stewart from Time Passages

“Who Do You Love” by Townes Van Zandt from Flyin’ Shoes

“Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” by Kenny Loggins, Columbia single 10794

A few notes on the songs:

“Doubleback Alley” by the Rutles is, of course, part of one of the great musical spoofs of the rock era. The record The Rutles is the soundtrack to a mock documentary satirizing the rise and fall of the Beatles, of course, done by a troupe that included members of the Monty Python group. The film was at time hilarious, but the music was dead-on, matching the sounds of the Beatles through the years. (The same was true of Archaeology, released at the time Apple released the three mammoth Beatles anthologies.)

“Field Of Opportunity” is from Comes A Time, Neil Young’s return to the countrified roots that he first presented on Harvest in 1972 and would return to from time to time. The record was a major success for Young, but I’ve always gotten the feeling that he was a little bored with it once he released it. I recall reading a comment from him to the effect that he could have stayed in the middle of the road for his career but that the view from the ditch was more interesting.

“Let’s All Chant” by the Michael Zager Band is one of those things that come up in anybody’s player from time to time, I imagine. You know, a song that brings the reaction “Where the hell did I find that and why did I keep it?” Zager’s only Top 40 hit, was featured in the Faye Dunaway film The Eyes of Laura Mars and reached No. 36. I’m still debating whether it stays, although it did turn out to be kind of catchy.

I think, without checking, that this is the first appearance of the Rolling Stones in a Baker’s Dozen, which is interesting, as almost all of their work from, say 1966 through the Seventies is in my RealPlayer. And I think this list has the first appearance by the Who, as well.

The late Townes Van Zandt, despite being little known by the general public, was one of the greatest country and folk writers and performers of his generation, from the start of his career in the mid-1960s up to his death in 1997. Flyin’ Shoes, which included his take on Bo Diddley’s classic, “Who Do You Love,” has just been remastered and re-released.

The female vocal on “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” is by Stevie Nicks.

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