Saturday Single No. 133

Originally posted May 23, 2009

It was during a long-ago May – 1970 – that I first bought a rock ’n’ roll LP: the Beatles’ Let It Be. I’d gotten some rock and pop albums as gifts before then, records by Sonny and Cher, Herman’s Hermits, the 5th Dimension and the Beatles. But Let It Be was the first album for which I’d laid down my cash at the counter in Woolworth’s.

I remember being confused and disappointed by the album. It seemed disjointed, almost a series of recordings strung together randomly, with no attention to sequence. It was so unlike Abbey Road, which I’d gotten on cassette as a gift the fall before, and those differences were disconcerting. To top it off, the version of “Let It Be” on the album wasn’t the same as the single that I’d heard on the radio for a few weeks in the late winter. I read on the back of the record jacket that the tracks had been recorded live and that their final form was the work of Phil Spector, whose name was fairly new to me. I could tell that the tracks weren’t necessarily done live. There was too much stuff added to them: Tons of, if you will, Spectorian frosting on some tracks overwhelmed the flavor of the cake.

I played the record frequently over the next few months (I had little else to play on the stereo at the time, if I wanted to listen to rock and pop), and I learned to enjoy it, even if I never really loved the album. But it was a poor start to building a record collection. And I wondered this morning, as I thought about Let It Be, what other albums came home to my shelves in May during my early years of collecting?

A year earlier, in 1969, I’d brought home a recording done by the Concert and Varsity bands at St. Cloud Tech. I was one of twenty-some trumpet players in the Concert Band that year; I bailed after that one year for Concert Choir, doing my horn-playing in the orchestra. A year later, in 1971, I brought home a record of Tech’s choirs; the orchestra never did make a record. I also brought home in May 1971: Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album; a recording of classical works by Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana; and a copy of the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today, my high school graduation present from Rick, which he’d wrapped in the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune’s sports section that detailed Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

(Thirty-five years later, not having any wrapping paper, the Texas Gal and I presented to Robinson, Rob’s son and Rick’s nephew, a graduation present wrapped in the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s coverage of Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. We included a note explaining that it was now a tradition and asked him to pass it along sometime in the future.)

What else came my way in May during the early years of record collecting?

In 1972, there was a copy of The Early Beatles, an album created by Capitol by pulling stuff from all over the early days of the Beatles’ recording career. In 1974, in a record store in Fredericia, Denmark, I found a copy of Sebastian’s Den Store Flugt (The Great Escape). As I’ve related before, it wasn’t until I played it a week later back home in St. Cloud that I learned there was a skip in the record. In May of 1977, I won a Beatles’ trivia contest on WJON radio in St. Cloud; my prize was any Beatles album I wanted. As I had them all, I decided to replace the most hacked of them – Help! – with a new copy. Also that month, I picked up Neil Diamond’s live Love at the Greek, the soundtrack to Roots by Quincy Jones and Mancini’s Angels, a mediocre outing by the generally reliable Henry Mancini.

We jump to May 1980, when I added Joy by the studio group Apollo 100 (the title track, a pop version of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” went to No. 6 in early 1972) and albums of classical music by Bach and Johannes Brahms. In May of 1984, living in Missouri, I bought 99 Luftballoons by Nena, the German group named after its lead singer. May of 1985 brought me a 1968 album, Switched-On Bach, a collection of Bach works performed on synthesizer by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos.

Then, it was quiet until 1988, when the sad month of May found me buying thirty LPs, ranging from Winelight by Grover Washington, Jr., to my first new copy of Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Other artists included in that May 1988 haul were Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot, Roger Whittaker, Bruce Springsteen, Boz Scaggs, Dan Fogelberg and the Righteous Brothers. I also dug a little further back into early rock ’n’ roll with the soundtrack to The Big Town, the 1987 Matt Dillon/Diane Lane fable detailing gambling life in the big city circa 1958.

And that’s where I met Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby,” a sweet slice of R&B from 1956, when it went to No. 12 on two of the major pop charts of the time and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the main R&B chart. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

“Since I Met You Baby” by Ivory Joe Hunter, Atlantic 1111 [1956]
(From the soundtrack to The Big Town [1987].)

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