Saturday Single No. 137

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.

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