New Years Gone & Remembered

Originally posted December 31, 2007

It seems a little bit like a slice of science fiction, that date that will show up on our calendars tomorrow: 2008. But then, on the last day of any year, it seems, we’ve always shaken our heads and muttered to one another or to the walls, “I can’t believe it’s going to be 1967,” or “It’s really going to be 1982?” or something like that. For many of us wandering this globe, our distaste for the passing of time shows itself in mock disbelief as each December wanes.

But the next day, the first of whatever New Year it may be, we lever ourselves out of our beds and move on into the future that waits, having no reasonable choice but to – as I put it the other day – put one foot in front of the other. Tonight will be the fifty-fifth time that a New Year has started with me as part of it, and I admit to some surprise these days that the years have spun by as rapidly as they have. But I’d rather be here than not, so there’s no point in whining about the advance of years or how large the number on the calendar is or, for that matter, how large the number on my waistband is. (Having grown up reading and watching 1950s and 1960s science fiction, however, I do admit to wondering what the heck happened to my flying car!)

I don’t recall all of the fifty-four New Years that have passed in my lifetime, of course, but a few stand out, and those that do tend to be those that had a soundtrack.

In the mid-1960s, I spent my New Year’s Eves across the street at Rick’s, as did many of his siblings’ friends, and the result was often cacophony backed by popular music. Rick’s elder sister and her friends generally selected the tunes that became the soundtracks for those December evenings. One year – it had to be the night 1964 turned into 1965 – Petula Clark encouraged us to go “Downtown” at least ten times between nine o’clock and midnight. A few years later, the theme for New Year’s Eve was the faux-1920s sound of the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” which echoed in my ears for a few days.

In 1973, when I greeted the New Year in Denmark, I was visiting my Danish brother in a little town just outside the university town of Århus. At midnight, he and I and his roommates and their friends all looked down on the harbor town as fireworks arced through the sky all over town. As we stood outside, the radio inside continued to play, making “Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne – the Danish language version of Mocedades’ “Eres Tu” – the music that plays in my head as I recall red and white fireworks over the city.

A year later, a lady friend of mine and I were doing little or nothing to mark the evening, watching television at my home, when we got a call from a friend of ours from out of town. He’d driven into St. Cloud and was downtown at one of the bars, looking in vain for anyone from The Table, the irreverent group of students we hung out with at school. My lady friend and I shrugged, turned off the television and headed out into the cold, joining Larry at one of the popular bars downtown. We sat there until closing time. None of the three of us were then involved with anyone, and all three of us were recuperating from relationships recently gone wrong. So we laughed, long after midnight, as the cover band at the Red Carpet closed the night with its version of a Grand Funk tune. “I must have picked a bad time to be in love,” sang the vocalist, “a bad time to be in love . . .”

Two years later, on a farm in north central Minnesota, my girlfriend and I sat in her parents’ kitchen and listened as a radio station in – I think – the little burg of Wadena, Minnesota, played a syndicated program counting down the year’s hits. The No. 1 song of 1976, at least according to that program, was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, which was a tolerable result, we thought.

More than thirty New Year’s Eves have come and gone since then, and music has marked more than a few, although the music hasn’t always been current. One year, in the late 1990s, I played keyboard for a small band hired to bring in the New Year at an American Legion club in a Twin Cities suburb. We were a pretty good band, playing a mix of oldies and a few recent things. We did some Motown, some Doors, some Rolling Stones tunes, some Santana, a few things by Dylan and lots of other stuff. The club had evidently featured country bands other years, so we weren’t all that well received at first by the crowd. But we hung in there, and eventually we had ’em dancing.

We probably won’t be dancing tonight, the Texas Gal and I. We’ll watch some television, probably the festivities in New York, and we’ll most likely put a CD in the player as midnight approaches. And I would guess we’ll greet 2008 to the sounds of a thirty-eight year old recording: Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”

I hope your New Year’s moments will mean as much to all of you.

On the Line – Gary U.S. Bonds
I’ve been planning to rip and share today’s album for some time, but I figured it would have to wait a little longer. With the Texas Gal on vacation for another two days, I’m reluctant to spend any more time on the blog than is utterly necessary, so I figured I’d cobble something together for today from music already ripped. But as I wandered around yesterday, I came across a rip of On the Line, the 1982 album by Gary U.S. Bond at La Columna Flácida, a blog that offers an interesting mix of music.

I shared “Rendezvous,” one of the album’s singles, in a Baker’s Dozen not long ago, and I noted then that if the track sounded at all like Bruce Springsteen, there was a reason. Springsteen and Miami Steve VanZandt co-produced the album for Bonds, whose song “Quarter to Three” had long been a concert staple for Springsteen. And when one listens to On the Line, it does sound very much like a Springsteen work with a guest vocalist. Whether that’s a plus or minus depends very much on how much the listener likes Springsteen’s early 1980s sound.

For me, it’s a plus. Bonds, being a singles artist from the early 1960s – “New Orleans,” his first Top 40 hit, came out in 1960, and “Seven Day Weekend,” his seventh and last 1960s hit, came in 1962 – didn’t have a large body of work on which a listener can hang any hats. The hits all sounded pretty much the same, and the two 1960s albums listed at All-Music Guide were typical albums of the time: hits surrounded by filler tracks recorded in the same style as the hits. There wasn’t a lot to listen to if someone wanted to get an idea of what kind of range Bonds might have.

Bonds get a chance to show that range a bit on 1982’s On the Line (as he had a year earlier on Dedication, an album also produced by Springsteen and VanZandt). The tracks are mostly mid-tempo, but some of them rock along nicely in an early 1960s groove, while others give Bonds a chance to stretch his style.

“On the Line” gives Bonds one of those chances, as does “Club Soul City,” and he does pretty well. “Out of Work” is a track that sounds remarkably like Springsteen’s “Hungy Heart,” though its lyrics are far less cryptic than those of “Hungry Heart,” which, of course, wound up on Springsteen’s 1981 album, The River. It’s a nice track anyway.

Springsteen wrote seven of the eleven songs on the album, and VanZandt wrote one. In addition, the credits are stocked with members of the E Street Band: Danny Federici on accordion and keyboard, Roy Bittan on keyboard, Gary Tallent on bass, Max Weinberg on drums and Clarence Clemons on saxophone. Other musicians are listed on all those instruments, too – well, not on accordion – but the overall sense and sound of the album is that of a Springsteen project, as I wrote earlier.

It’s still fun, though, and Bonds comes off pretty well. He handles the Springsteen/VanZandt material well. But Bonds does just as well with the other three tracks: “Turn The Music Down” and “Bring Her Back,” which he evidently wrote with his wife, Laurie Anderson, and “Soul Deep,” the mid-1960s hit for the Box Tops.

Tracks:
Hold On (To What You Got)
Out Of Work
Club Soul City
Soul Deep
Love’s On The Line
Turn The Music Down
Rendezvous
Angelyne
All I Need
Bring Her Back
Last Time

Gary U.S. Bonds – On The Line [1982]

Thank you
A huge and humble “thank you” to Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. In the inaugural Major Dude Awards, Echoes In The Wind was honored as the Best Singles Blog. And once you’ve checked out the awards, bookmark Any Major Dude . . . It’s a great blog itself!

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