Saturday Singles Nos. 164 & 165

Originally posted December 12, 2009

As we approach the middle of December, I thought I’d go ahead and look at Decembers past, seeing what LPs have come home with me over the years. As I’ve done throughout this year, I’ll invest two Saturdays, looking this week at records I obtained from 1965 (or so I think) through 1989 and next week at Decembers from 1990 onward.

I wrote last summer about my first December album, Beatles ’65. My database says that my sister and I found the record by our stereo – a shared Christmas present – in 1965, but as I indicated in August, it might have been 1964, as I didn’t keep track of acquisition dates until 1972 or so. Either way, it was the first LP I ever got in December. And as the rip I posted here in August makes clear, it was very good, even if its contents and running order were determined by Capitol Records in the U.S. rather than by the Beatles or even by Parlophone.

(Note from 2022: Some years after this post was written, my sister sent me a photograph of me holding Beatles ’65 and wearing my Beatle wig. On the back of the photo, in my dad’s handwriting, was the note: “Christmas 1964.” So that mystery has been settled.)

Rick walked across Kilian Boulevard on an afternoon just before Christmas in 1970 and did me – through that year’s Christmas gift for me – the great favor of introducing me to The Band via the group’s second, self-titled album. I looked a little skeptically at the cover photo of the five musicians, who looked as if they’d just walked out of 1870. But once I dropped the record on the turntable, the skepticism fled and I lost myself in the best album recorded by the group that continues to hold the title of my all-time favorite.

Christmas continued to be the reason for record acquisition in 1971: Putting me closer to my goal of owning all of the Beatles’ albums, my first college girlfriend gave me Meet the Beatles! A couple of guys I’d hung around with during the first quarter of college game me a copy of Three Dog Night’s Naturally, and my folks gave me the three-record box set of The Concert for Bangla Desh. Not a bad bunch at all.

I’m not at all sure what Rick gave me for Christmas that year, 1971, but I think that was the year of the lemon-colored velour necktie. I still have it, one of the few neckties in my possession. A year later, in 1972, Rick returned to music, and his Christmas gift to me in 1972 was Seventh Sojourn by the Moody Blues, another favorite of mine.

In early December 1974, clearing his shelves of a duplicate, Rick gave me a copy of the live album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Four Way Street. Later in the month, for Christmas, he handed over Dreamspeaker and thus introduced me to the work of flautist Tim Weisberg.

Decembers for the next few years saw no new LPs, but after I joined the Monticello Times in 1977 – my first week with the paper was for the December 1, 1977, edition – I had more income and began to spend a little more on music. That last month of 1977 saw me bring home records by Jefferson Starship, the Moody Blues, Boz Scaggs, Marvin Gaye, Jim Croce and the duo of Henry Mancini and Doc Severinsen.

After that, my record buying was sporadic for years, and December was no different. In Columbia, Missouri, in December of 1983, I picked up Marvin Hamlisch’s soundtrack to Sophie’s Choice, a record that I might have played twice. In December of 1987, I stopped one evening at a record store in Minot, North Dakota, for Robbie Robertson’s first, self-titled solo album, an interesting record with moments of brilliance. While I was back in St. Cloud for Christmas that year, friends gave me The Band’s The Last Waltz and Reminiscing, a Buddy Holly anthology.

During 1988, I began buying records more frequently than ever, and December was no different. I got nineteen LPs that month, including records by Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Brewer & Shipley, Shawn Phillips, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and more. The best of the month? Without a doubt, it has to be Bob Dylan’s five-record retrospective Biograph, another Christmas gift from a friend. The least compelling? There were a couple of collections of hits that were iffy, but beyond those, the most disappointing was the reunion of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for American Dream.

I closed out the 1980s with three albums during December of 1989. Two of them were very good: Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack to Shaft and Gordon Lightfoot’s Summertime Dream, the home of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The other? Well, it’s pretty lightweight: David Soul’s self-titled album.

So, out of those, which album stands out? There are some very good ones here, but to my mind, the best is Biograph. Here are two previously unreleased tracks from that collection, recorded during Dylan’s 1966 tour with The Band, this week’s Saturday Singles.

“I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” by Bob Dylan & The Band
From Biograph (Recorded in Belfast, Northern Ireland, May 6, 1966)

“Visions of Johanna” by Bob Dylan
From Biograph (Recorded in London, England, May 26, 1966)

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