Saturday Single No. 38

Originally posted October 27, 2007

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, the Texas Gal and I watch a fair amount of television. Too much? Well, I’m not sure. But as I also wrote, we’re usually doing something else as we watch – I’ve usually got a magazine or a book, and she’s generally got a project of some sort, crochet in the past and now, most recently, quilting.

We weren’t reading or quilting last evening as we cuddled on the couch, but we were nibbling on a poppy-seed bread the college girls upstairs had baked for us and dropped off earlier in the day. And we were keeping an eye on Numbers, the CBS drama about an FBI agent and his mathematical genius brother. A commercial break started, and I leaned back on the couch, feet on the coffee table, ignoring the sales pitch.

I’m one of those people who always hear music when it’s present, even when it can slide past many people, unnoticed in the background. In the restaurant of a St. Cloud hotel last evening, as we sat waiting for our meals, smiling happily at each other, I noticed that the speaker in the ceiling was playing “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” If it wasn’t a cleaned-up recording of the 1935 Tommy Dorsey hit, it was a darn good remake. The Texas Gal noticed the music, too, as she almost always does. And all through our meal, we heard music from the Thirties and Forties – big band and other standards – floating down to us from the ceiling.

Other people I’ve known throughout my life – family, friends, earlier partners – often didn’t hear the music in the background. I’d be with someone in a grocery store, perhaps, and nod and say, “Steely Dan,” as the sounds of “Rikki, Don’t Lose That Number” came from speakers high overhead. My companion would look at me blankly. Or we’d be leaving a movie, and I’d say, “Wasn’t the music for the chase scene good?” only to be greeted with a another blank look and a comment like, “I didn’t notice any music.”

As we waited for Numbers to resume and we talked about something inconsequential, I noticed the sounds of a snaky guitar lick and insistent percussion being used as the soundtrack for a commercial. It was a familiar sound, and I glanced at the television.

I saw a scene of a field of soybeans – even though I’m a city kid, I can recognize a few agricultural commodities, having spent good portions of childhood vacations on my grandfather’s farm – and a farmer walking along the edge of the field, telling the viewer how beneficial some product had been for the quality of his soybeans. I thought to myself that, yeah, it’s late October, the harvest is pretty well done, and the various firms that sell such products are gearing up for sales for next year’s growing season.

We’ll see similar commercials throughout the winter and into the spring, for pesticides, for herbicides, for seeds for various crops and for other products that go along with farm life. Seeing such messages has always been, for me, a reminder that even though we live not far at all from a major metropolitan area, we also live in an area where many people make their livings from farming. It’s a thought that for some reason always pleases me. So I looked at the green field of soybeans on the screen and at the bins full of tan soybeans in storage, and became aware, again, that the snaky guitar and insistent percussion were still there, still familiar. I began to sort through my memory.

The commercial neared its end, and I recognized the song just as the vocal came in over the guitar. But instead of the “Boom, boom, boom, boom” I expected, I heard “Beans, beans, beans, beans,” with that familiar snaky guitar lick following. I sat back and laughed as the commercial ended and the music faded out on the third repetition of “Beans, beans, beans, beans.”

So that’s why we’re listening to John Lee Hooker and what I’m pretty sure is his 1961 performance released as Vee Jay single 348. (If anyone knows differently, let me know.) It’s one of many recordings Hooker made of “Boom Boom,” today’s Saturday Single.

John Lee Hooker – “Boom, Boom” [1961]


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