Archive for the ‘1956’ Category

Saturday Single No. 133

June 28, 2013

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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Kottke, Goodman, Buchanan & Goodman

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 21, 2008

After Tuesday’s post of Leo Kottke’s two versions of “Eight Miles High,” my friend Mitch in Alabama let loose the hounds of email, shipping me a couple of Kottke albums and a link to a video. The albums will likely show up here in the future, but here’s the video of Leo Kottke, probably in 1974, performing “Last Steam Engine Train” and “Stealing.” (The video unhappily ends in mid-song, but still, the finger-picking is incredible.)

After that, I decided the world could always use more Dickie Goodman, so I dug around YouTube myself. Goodman’s silliness doesn’t lend itself to videos, so there’s nothing to see, but no matter. Here’s “Mr. Jaws” from 1975, when the record went to No. 4. (There’s a little noise in the recording, but it’s still listenable.)*

And here’s the record that started it all, “Flying Saucer, Parts 1 & 2,” from 1956. Buchanan and Goodman were working out the kinks with this one; the references to the records themselves are awkward. But it was a start. The record went to No. 3.

*The “Mr. Jaws” video originally posted had no visuals; the replacement video found during archival posting obviously does. Video replaced and note added August 3, 2011.

Celebrating Vinyl At 45 RPM

July 27, 2011

Originally posted August 12, 2008

I thought hard as this summer meandered, trying to decide how to mark Vinyl Record Day 2008, the 131st anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by old Tom Edison. (A reminder: You can find updates on all the posts in today’s blogswarm at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, whose proprietor, JB the DJ, organized the event this year and last. Thanks, JB!) The vast majority of my record collection is LPs, but I took an exhaustive (and likely exhausting, for many readers) tour through the albums last year, so finding a new hook for a post based on LPs seemed difficult at best.

Besides, as I’ve mentioned before, we’re planning to move, and I anticipated that the LPs would be packed before August 12. (And so they have been, filling about sixty liquor boxes.)

So I turned to the poor stepchildren of my record collection: my 45s. My singles are split into three groups: There are the four singles by the Beatles whose B-sides weren’t released on the original albums by the Fab Four on Capitol/Apple (a state of events I discussed during the celebration of last year’s Vinyl Record Day). There are about fifteen other singles that I prize for various reasons; they include a Danish 45, my copy of the Mystics’ 1969 regional hit, “Pain,” and some other stuff that rarely gets played but has sentimental value. And then there are the two carrying cases.

Those metal cases, eight-inch cubes with handles on top, are home to about a hundred singles. Some are remnants of my sister’s small collection in the early 1960s. Some of them were gifts from Leo Rau, the jukebox operator who lived across the alley when I was a kid. Some of them I got at a south Minneapolis garage sale during the 1990s when I bought one of the two carrying cases; I bought the case for a quarter and got about twenty 45s that were still inside. And some I got in one of those sequences that sometimes happen to collectors.

While I was working for the Eden Prairie newspaper during the early 1990s, I was assigned to write a story about a local organization called Bridging Inc. Its founder, a retired fellow named Fran Heitzman, showed me around a warehouse filled with furniture, household goods, clothing and more. The idea, he told me, was to provide a figurative bridge between folks in the generally well-off southwest suburbs who had things to donate and organizations elsewhere in the Twin Cities that served folks who needed things. Donations came into Bridging for a number of reasons: from people who redecorated and had used but good furniture to give away, from people who moved and had to downsize their household holdings, and – frequently – from sons and daughters whose parents had passed on and whose households were being dissolved.

The way it worked, Fran told me, was that an organization, maybe the Salvation Army in north Minneapolis, might need a double bed and two twin beds help to re-house a family. Workers at the Salvation Army would call Bridging, and Bridging would check its warehouse and – more often than not – be able to fill those needs. Fran had started Bridging on his own, and I marveled as we walked through the warehouse at the good work that one determined person can do. (In the fifteen or so years since then, the organization has grown, as one can see at its website.)

As we walked, I noticed several boxes of records, mostly LPs but some 45s. “People send you records?” I asked.

“Sometimes people clean out entire houses,” he said, “and we get everything they’ve got, including records. We can’t use them, of course.” I must have looked at him with a question on my face because he explained: “Well, the Salvation Army never calls us and says, ‘We have a family that needs some records.’”

“So what happens to them?”

He shrugged. “We throw them out.” I tried not to wince. I was there on assignment, after all. But Fran noticed. “You want them?”

I nodded, told him I was a collector, and he said that anytime Bridging got records in, he’d call me at my office. And for about four years – until shortly after I left the Eden Prairie paper and Fran cut back his hours at Bridging – I’d get a call every couple of months and stop by Bridging and pick up a box or two of records.

Mostly, it was LPs. Generally, about one-third of the records I got were things that I wanted for the collection, a third I already had, and a third didn’t really interest me. I’d pull out the stuff I wanted, sell a few things at Cheapo’s and then donate the remaining records to the Salvation Army store near my home. And along the way, I ended up with another metal carrying case and some 45s that came with it.

So, for this year’s celebration of Vinyl Record Day, I thought I’d dig through those two cases of 45s and see what might be interesting. As it turned out, some of the most interesting records are so hacked up that they’re unplayable: They include a four-song EP by Chuck Berry released on the Chess label in 1958 and a Fats Domino EP on Dot from 1957. But as I sorted through the boxes, I did find some stuff that was interesting. Some of it pleased the ear, and some of it brought winces.

So here’s a Baker’s Dozen of 45s, all ripped from vinyl, of course. There will be some noise here and there, but I think it’s worth it.

I have quite a few Herman’s Hermits’ singles in the boxes, most likely from the records I got from Leo Rau. I like a few of the band’s singles when they’re mixed in with other oldies, but Herman’s Hermits always seemed kind of lightweight. And then I flipped over one of the most lightweight singles the band ever did, “Dandy.” And I was pleasantly surprised. Speed on!

“My Reservation’s Been Confirmed” by Herman’s Hermits, MGM 13603, 1966

Another Rau record was one of those traditional pop numbers that sometimes showed up in the mid-1960s, this one squeezing its way onto the charts to No. 10, where it sat between Martha & the Vandellas and Gerry & the Pacemakers.

“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana, Dolton 304, 1965

One of the silliest records in my collection – which I ripped some time ago when I moved it from the carrying case to the “sentimental favorites” shelf – was one my sister owned, having found it in one of those “ten 45s for $1.29” deals in 1963 or so. It spent two weeks at No. 2.

“Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 849, 1962

And as long as we’re talking silly, here are the two of the numerous records by the Royal Guardsmen that were inspired by Snoopy the beagle, one of the central characters in Charles Schulz’s Peanuts, which was quite likely the most popular comic strip in the world in the mid-1960s. The first was No. 2 for four weeks and the second reached No. 15.

“Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3366, 1966

“The Return of The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3379, 1967

Here’s another pair, two sides of a Beach Boys’ 45. The sound on these is not all that good, but I couldn’t resist sharing them anyway, as this might be the worst pair of songs ever released by a major band on one record. “Wild Honey” was the A-side and went to No. 31.

“Wild Honey” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 2028, 1967

“Wind Chimes” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 2028, 1967

I know it’s been released on CD, but I’m not sure that the B-side of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was ever released on an LP. (This was a Leo Rau record; sorry about the noise near the end.)

“Lime Street Blues” by Procol Harum, Deram 7507, 1967

With the remarkable exception of “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore spent a lot of time in the early 1960s trying to please boys, especially that rat Johnny, who made her cry at her own party and then dropped Judy to slink back to Lesley once she had a hit record. Here’s Lesley’s utterly non-feminist manifesto on how to excuse boys’ bad behavior. It went to No. 12.

“That’s The Way Boys Are” by Lesley Gore, Mercury 72259, 1964

The oldest single I found in those two cases was the most unhip and the most shameful. When rock ’n’ roll hit big in the mid-1950s, too many record companies had their white artists cover songs originally released by artists with darker skins. In this case, it didn’t work entirely: Pat Boone’s version of “Long Tall Sally” went to No. 8 on the fragmented charts of the time, but Little Richard’s original went to No. 6.

“Long Tall Sally” by Pat Boone, Dot 15457, 1956

The Four Aces had used their sweet pop harmonies to score seven hits between 1954 and 1956 on those same fragmented charts. They tried again in 1958, this time using the magic words “rock and roll” in an attempt to be unsquare. It didn’t work; the record did not chart.

“Rock and Roll Rhapsody” by the Four Aces, Decca 30575, 1958

The best record I found in the metal cases – even with a little bit of noise – was a B-side:

“Daddy Cool” by the Rays, Cameo 117, 1957

After I ripped it to vinyl, I noticed something I’d not seen the few other times I’d handled it. There was a name and address stamped on the record: “Clifford J——, 9145 Meadow View Road, Bloomington 20, Minnesota.”

The last name was not a common one. In fact, as I used an online search, I learned that there are only twenty folks listed with that name in Minnesota. One of those listed was Clifford, in the exurban city of Mound, west of Minneapolis. I dithered for a few days, then called Friday evening and left a message.

Saturday noon, I called again and left a more detailed message, explaining that I had a 45 with Clifford’s name on it. Within fifteen minutes the phone rang, and I found myself talking to Lloyd J. He told me Clifford had been his father, gone since 2004, but the record had been Lloyd’s.

“My dad had a stamp with his name and address,” Lloyd said, “and I used to stamp my records before parties and so on.”

I’d done some digging through the other 45s since I’d seen the stamped record, so I asked Lloyd, “Did your sister, Julie, mark hers with her name written on adhesive tape?” He laughed and said she had in fact done so, and I told him I’d found a couple of her records in my collection, too.

He said, “Julie was the one who cleaned out the house in Bloomington when Dad moved out, and I imagine she just gave everything away.”

“To Bridging?” I asked.

“Yes, to Fran Heitzman. He’s a long-time friend of the family.”

I thought to myself, “How circles sometimes close!” And then I asked Lloyd about records and rock ’n’ roll.

“I think between us,” he said, “we had seventy-five to a hundred records. That was when Elvis was big, and I remember the Crew Cuts, but they were a little earlier. I graduated from high school in 1960, and the records were [from when I was in] junior high school and high school, sock hops and so on.”

Now 66, Lloyd has spent his career in banking and stays involved in banks in Mound and in Delano, a small town west of Mound. “It gives me a place to pick up the mail,” he said with a laugh. And he still listens to music.

“I listen to the Fifties on my XM radio,” he said. “It’s still my favorite music. There was a piece on the news the other night about how music brings back memories more than anything, even pictures. And music does jog the memories.”

So what song remains Lloyd’s favorite from the Fifties?

“I don’t recall the title, but it was about the fellow out for a walk and the shades pulled down and he sees the couple inside . . .”

I nodded, and flipped over the 45 that Lloyd had stamped more than fifty years ago. “That’s the A-side of the record of yours that I have,” I told him.

“It’s still my favorite,” he said.

And here it is for you, Lloyd:

“Silhouettes” by the Rays, Cameo 117, 1957

Edited slightly on archival posting July 27, 2011; YouTube videos, which are not my rips, added February 26, 2014.

‘Blue Monday’ Times Three

July 25, 2011

Originally posted August 5, 2008

“Blue Monday, I hate blue Monday,” sings Fats Domino. “Got to work like a slave all day.”

“‘Blue Monday,’” wrote Dave Marsh in The Heart of Rock & Soul, “is the foundation of a rock and roll tradition of songs about hatred of the working week and lust for lost weekends. The chain now includes such significant links as the Coasters’ ‘What About Us,’ Gary ‘U.S.’ Bonds’s ‘Seven Day Weekend’ (the first call for the abolition of Mondays, blue or otherwise), the Vogues’ ‘Five O’Clock World,’ ‘Friday on My Mind’ by the Easybeats, ‘Manic Monday,’ the hit Prince wrote for the Bangles, and the Sex Pistols’ ‘Holidays in the Sun’ (in which the vision turns ugly from mass unemployment and begins to die).”

Marsh wrote in 1989, a couple of generations ago as far as music genealogy goes. If I wished, then, I could dig through the last nineteen years of pop and rock and no doubt find other examples of dismay for the fact that we are born to toil, whether that toil be tightening bolts on the assembly line, installing someone else’s new clutch, balancing lunch plates at the diner, making alterations in someone’s new dress, planning lessons and teaching fifth-graders, installing new software, researching legal precedents or writing an account of a ballgame with a deadline fast approaching. I’m sure those songs are out there, but I’m more interested this morning in “Blue Monday,” as Marsh sees it as a signpost.

In “Blue Monday,” Marsh notes, it’s not just hatred of the work week that’s on the table: “Fats,” Marsh writes, “is talking about something much more modern: the demand for leisure. He discards the working week and his loathing of it in the first verse; it’s the weekend that the song dwells upon, and in the end Fats’ feeling for its excesses is clear and profound. ‘Sunday mornin’ my head is bad,’ he sings, ‘But it’s worth it for the times that I’ve had.’”

In other words, Marsh sees “Blue Monday” as possibly the quintessential song for 1950s America, the time and place when leisure became more and more a regular portion of life instead of something possessed by very few and envied by the many. Oh, don’t get me wrong: Not everyone prospered so. But enough did so that having fun for the sake of fun was widespread enough to be the subject of “Blue Monday” and the other songs yet to come in the chain Marsh cites above.

Interestingly, Fats’ version of “Blue Monday” was not the first recorded. Smiley Lewis recorded and released the song – written by New Orleans genius Dave Bartholomew – in 1954, when it was released as Imperial 5268. Modern rock and roll charts starts in 1955, so I don’t know how well Lewis’ version sold. But Bartholomew and Domino recorded Fats’ version in 1956 and released it as Imperial 5417. It entered the charts the second week of January 1957, eventually making its way to No. 5.*

In the fifty years since then, “Blue Monday” has been a popular song to pick up. All-Music Guide lists more than 250 CDs with a version of “Blue Monday.” Even accounting for the repeats of Domino’s version (and for other songs of the same title), there’s an impressive total of covers. Other artists listed as having recorded the song include Bonnie & Francis, the Crickets, Bobby Darin, Dion, Dave Edmunds, Ian Gillan, Wilbert Harrison, Cecil Hill, Huey Lewis & the News, the Kingsnakes, Alexis Korner, Delbert McClinton, Randy Newman, Bob Seger, Cat Stevens, Dave Van Ronk and the Zydeco Boneshakers.

I won’t say that my favorite cover version of “Blue Monday” gets to the song’s center better than any of those versions, as I have – oddly enough – heard none of the versions by the artists listed in the above paragraph. But I really doubt very much that anyone – other than Domino, and maybe Lewis – can deliver the song any better than New Orleans’ own Dr. John, who recorded “Blue Monday” for his 1992 album, Goin’ Back to New Orleans.

Here, then, are Smiley Lewis’ original version, Fats Domino’s hit cover and Dr. John’s take on Dave Bartholomew’s “Blue Monday.”

Smiley Lewis – “Blue Monday” [Imperial 5268, 1954]

Fats Domino – “Blue Monday” [Imperial 5417, 1956]

Dr. John – “Blue Monday” [From Goin’ Back to New Orleans, 1992]

*A quick check of Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B & Hip-Hop Hits shows no sign of Smiley Lewis’ version of “Blue Monday,” making me think – though I could certainly be wrong – that its sales were not too notable. Fats Domino’s version, on the other hand, was No. 1 for eight weeks on the R&B chart.  Note added July 25, 2011.

Tum-Ta-Tum! (Da-Da-Do) Tum-Tum!

July 7, 2011

Originally posted June 3, 2008

By now, the news isn’t news any more: Bo Diddley is dead. Born December 30, 1928 as Elias Otha Bates (and later surnamed McDaniel – formally? informally? I’m not sure – after his teenage mother’s first cousin, who raised him), he was 79 when he crossed over.

Famed for the “Bo Diddley beat,” a rhythmic signature that became the foundation of his music, Diddley was a prolific writer and recording artist in the 1950s for the Checker label of Chess Records at a time when Chess was probably the second-most important U.S. record company, at least as far as rock ’n’ roll and R&B was concerned. (Atlantic Records would have come first.) His productivity – and the influence of his rhythmic innovations – did not translate into record sales: The McComb, Mississippi, native had only one Top 40 hit in his career, 1959’s “Say Man.”

“Say Man” is listed in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits as a novelty record, with the eighth edition of the book noting that on the single, “Diddley trades insults with maracas player Jerome Green.” Calling it a novelty seems a bit harsh, but it was different. The single – which went to No. 20 – had Diddley and Green laying down over a simple rhythmic bed a bowdlerized version of the urban insult game called “the dozens.”

While Diddley’s music didn’t have the impact on the charts he certainly would have liked, he influenced many musicians in his and following generations of rock, rock ’n’ roll and R&B. One early example: Buddy Holly appropriated the Diddley beat for “Not Fade Away” in 1957, an approach that the Rolling Stones echoed when they recorded the song on the British edition of their 1964 album, The Rolling Stones (England’s Newest Hit Makers). The record was the Stones’ first to hit the English charts and their first U.S. single.

His long-term influence on rock music brought Bo Diddley into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of its second group of inductees in 1987. He toured and performed regularly until health concerns took him off the road last year.

There are certainly hundreds – more likely thousands – of cover versions of Bo Diddley songs. I rummaged through my mp3s and came up with three versions of “Bring It To Jerome.” The first is Diddley’s own, released in 1956. The first of the covers is by the British group Manfred Mann and was released on the Manfred Mann Album in 1964. The second is by a group of L.A. musicians, Joel Scott Hill, Chris Etheridge (of the Flying Burrito Brothers) and Johnny Barbata – helped, as I understand it, by some famous friends – called L.A. Getaway, who released their very different version of “Bring It To Jerome” on their only album, a self-titled 1971 release.

Bo Diddley – “Bring It To Jerome” [Checker 827, 1956]

Manfred Mann – “Bring It To Jerome” [1964]

L.A. Getaway – “Bring It To Jerome” [1971]

Afternote:
Plenty of other folks in blogworld are remembering Bo Diddley in tales and/or music. Some of them are Jeff at AM, Then FM, Ted at Boogie Woogie Flu, Vincent at Fufu Stew, and our friend at The Vinyl District. In addition, jb from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ gave Bo some props at the WNEW blog.*

*Unhappily, the link to jb’s piece at the WNEW blog no longer seems to work. Note added July 7, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Moons

June 12, 2011

Originally posted February 20, 2008

I must have been about seven, which would put it sometime during the winter of 1960-61, when my dad showed me the darkened and red moon.

I’d been in bed a few hours, I imagine, with bedtime for a seven-year-old being about eight o’clock back then. But Dad woke me and had me look to the south, out the bathroom window. Floating above the trees, there rode the Moon, looking larger than usual, its normally pale white face colored a dusky red.

“It’s a total eclipse of the moon,” he told me. “The Earth comes between the Sun and the moon, and we can see the Earth’s shadow on the moon.” We looked for a while. I asked why the moon was red. He said he thought it had to do with the atmosphere, with the weather. (He was right.)

We looked at the moon for a little while longer and then went back to bed. It’s been nearly fifty years since Dad showed me the red moon. I imagine other total eclipses have come and gone, maybe many times, since then. There’s another one tonight, visible in most of North America. Starting at 7:43 Central Time, the Earth’s shadow will fall across the Moon. From 9:01 to 9:51, according to NASA, the eclipse will be total.

I hope lots of dads show their kids the darkened moon tonight.

A Baker’s Dozen of Moons
“Under the Darkest Moon” by Boo Hewerdine and Darden Smith from Evidence, 1989

“Moon River” by Henry Mancini from the soundtrack to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961

“Neon Moon” by Brooks & Dunn from Brand New Man, 1991

“Love on the Moon” by the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver from Reach For The Sky, 1975

“Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck, Private Stock single 45,036, 1976

“Blue Moon” by Elvis Presley , RCA single 47-6640, 1956

“All Around The Sun And Moon” by Joy of Cooking from Castles, 1972

“Copper Kettle (Pale Moonlight)” by Bob Dylan from Self Portrait, 1970

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Levon Helm, from Coal Miner’s Daughter soundtrack, 1980

“Desert Moon” by Dennis DeYoung, A&M single 2666, 1984

“Yellow Moon” by the Neville Brothers from Yellow Moon, 1989

“Underneath the Harlem Moon” by Randy Newman from 12 Songs, 1970

“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy single 622, 1969

A few notes:

“Under the Darkest Moon” comes from one of my favorite albums, one I shared here a while back. When I found it, I began to follow the solo careers of the two artists. In the past few years, though, I’ve pretty much quit following Hewerdine while continuing to track Smith, whose music continues to inhabit the intersection of rock, country and folk. (He’s issued nothing since 2005’s Field of Crows, so I’m waiting patiently.) Why did I quit following Hewerdine? His melodies are artful, sometimes beautiful, and his words are often eloquent, but, to me, the more I listened, there was a lightness in his work that was unrelieved; they needed a little more weight.

When I was working at the newspaper in Eden Prairie in the early 1990s, one of my colleagues, an ad man, was a country music fan, though he liked oldies as well. On his recommendation, I ordered through my music club one of Brooks & Dunn’s albums. I listened to it a couple of times, shrugged, and passed it on to Alan. Since the Texas Gal came into my life eight years ago this month, I’ve listened more to country music than I ever had before, and Brooks & Dunn are quite likely my favorite country performers. (Whenever they pop up on the RealPlayer, the little message box tells me that the only recording duo that has sold more records than Brooks & Dunn is Simon & Garfunkel. If that’s true, and I have no reason to doubt it, that’s an astounding fact.)

For most of the summer of 1976, the Starbuck tune was as inescapable as it is catchy. It spent fourteen weeks in the Top 40, beginning in mid-May, going as high as No. 3. It has to be one of the few Top 40 hits with a marimba solo. (I think it’s a marimba.)

When it was released in 1970, Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait was greeted with confused stares and derision. Among other things, critic Greil Marcus wrote, “I once said I’d buy an album of Dylan breathing hard. But I’d never said I’d buy an album of Dylan breathing softly.” “Copper Kettle (Pale Moonlight)” has been one of the few tracks that, over the years, has been given some respect. Wikipedia reports that it was written by “Alfred Frank Beddoe (who was ‘discovered’ by Pete Seeger after applying for work at People’s Songs, Inc. in 1946).” (Exactly who was doing the applying there is unclear, but never mind.) To me, “Copper Kettle (Pale Moonlight)” is not just the best track on the album, but one of Dylan’s best tracks ever.

I was never a Styx fan, but I found I enjoyed 1984’s Desert Moon, the first solo album by the band’s keyboard player and vocalist, Dennis DeYoung. Part of that was no doubt familiarity with the title track, as the song’s video was in heavy rotation on MTV that year, the first year I had cable. It’s still a nice song, but it sounds a little bit slight after twenty-four years.

Another Walk Through The Junkyard

June 4, 2011

Originally posted January 18, 2008

I’m not feeling particularly well this morning (it will pass), and I am behind on household chores, so I’m not really going to write anything. But I thought I’d take a fifteen-song walk through the junkyard (pre-2000) and see what we find. I’ll sort the songs by running time, and then start with the best song I see at about the midpoint of the collection, and we’ll go random from there.

“I’m Ready” by Muddy Waters from Fathers & Sons, 1969

“I’ll Follow The Sun” by the Beatles from Beatles For Sale, 1964

“Not My Way Home” by Nanci Griffith from The Dust Bowl Symphony, 1999

“I’m Her Daddy” by Bill Withers from Just As I Am, 1971

“Feels Like” by Al Stewart from Famous Last Words, 1993

“Little Girl” by Billy Preston from Encouraging Words, 1970

“Quiet About It” by Jesse Winchester from Jesse Winchester, 1970

“The Woo Woo Train” by the Valentines, Rama single 196, 1956

“The Spa” by John Barry from the soundtrack to Thunderball, 1965

“Funky Broadway” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic single 2430, 1967

“Angel of the Morning” by Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts, Bell single 705, 1968

“High, Low and In Between” by Townes Van Zandt from High, Low and In Between, 1972

“If (I Could Be With You)” by Lavelle White, Duke single 198, 1958

“I’ll Be Satisfied” by Don Covay from Mercy!, 1965

“The River” by Dan Fogelberg from Home Free, 1972

A few notes:

Fathers & Sons was a Chess Records project that brought together Muddy Waters and piano player Otis Spann with three members of the Butterfield Blues Band: leader Paul Butterfield, guitarist Mike Bloomfield and drummer Sam Lay. Also sitting was Duck Dunn of Booker T and the MGs, while drummer Buddy Miles played on one of the live tracks that made up the final album. Such mergings of talent and generations don’t always work out, of course, which makes Fathers & Sons that much more of a treasure. It’s one of the great albums of Waters’ long career, and a milestone for the other musicians, as well.

“I’ll Follow the Sun” is listed here as being from Beatles For Sale, and that is where it’s found these days in the CD racks. But I’ll always hear it as part of Beatles ’65, one of those albums that Capitol created during the group’s early years by trimming a few songs off a British release and adding some singles that weren’t on albums in the U.K.

The Dust Bowl Symphony was Nanci Griffith’s attempt to recast some of her more memorable songs as a suite, with backing from the London Symphony Orchestra. It doesn’t always work, and most of the songs on the album are likely better heard in their original settings. (“Not My Way Home” was originally released on 1997’s Blues Roses From the Moons.) One track that works, and is worth seeking out, is “Love at the Five and Dime,” which Griffith recast as a duet with Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish.

The Valentines were one of those groups that sprang up on street corners all through New York City during the mid-1950s. According to Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks, “The Woo Woo Train” was composed and arranged by the group in the recording studio’s men’s room the morning of the recording session. I think it’s a great track; I especially love the raucous sax solo.

Come June 1, it will be forty years since “Angel of the Morning” entered the Top 40. It’s still a gorgeous song – written by Chip Taylor – and a great record, and it’s certainly one of the most enduring of all one-hit wonders.

The bluesy R&B grit of “If (I Could Be With You)” is, to my mind, of a kind with most of the recordings coming from Texas-based Duke records in the late 1950s. (The label was also the home of legend Bobby “Blue” Bland.) Lavelle got her first success with the self-penned “If,” which she recorded while she was in her late 20s, if the date of 1958 is accurate (and it seems to be). White is still recording, and since 1994, has released three albums, two of them on the Antone’s label. The most recent of those is 2003’s Into the Mystic.

Celebrating Vinyl At 2,906 And Counting!

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 10, 2007

As mentioned here earlier, it’s time to celebrate Vinyl Record Day at Echoes In The Wind this weekend with a blogswarm. Organized by the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, the weekend swarm will feature posts here and at these other fine music blogs:

AM Then FM
Bloggerhythms
Davewillieradio
Flea Market Funk
Fufu Stew
Funky16Corners
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Got the Fever
Ickmusic
Jefitoblog
Lost in the 80s
Py Korry
Retro Remixes
The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
The Stepfather of Soul

The actual day selected as VR Day is Sunday, Aug. 12, which turns out to be the 130th anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison.

Now, old Tom didn’t invent the vinyl record. That came quite a bit later. Edison used wax cylinders to record sound, and around 1900 came the invention of the 78 rpm record made out of shellac. Both had obvious drawbacks. The wax cylinders were soft and could melt too easily, and 78s were heavy and more fragile than china. The dual problems of durability and weight were solved in 1948 when engineers at Columbia and at RCA invented the LP and the 45, respectively. But celebrating vinyl on the anniversary of old Tom’s breakthrough in recording sound just feels right.

So how should the vinyl record be celebrated? Well, by talking about record collecting.

But instead of talking in generalities, I thought I’d look at my collection and the milestone records. Which record was the 100th? Which was the 2,500th? And how about the numbers in between? I should note that having many times bought multiple LPs on the same day made it difficult to specify in some cases exactly which record was, say, the 500th I ever bought. I decided that any record bought the day I reached a milestone number was eligible, and I selected the record I thought most interesting.

I should also note that every mp3 shared in this post is a rip from the vinyl being discussed. There are a few pops here and there, as a result.

A third note: This will be a very long post.

No. 1: Honey In The Horn by Al Hirt, Sept. 5, 1964, St. Cloud, Minnesota. This 1963 release was the first record I can recall that was specifically mine. It was a present from my sister for my eleventh birthday. I’d been playing cornet for about three months, and after hearing “Java,” which reached No. 4 on the pop chart that year, I’d begun to look at Big Al as my model. “Java” is no longer my favorite song on the record. More than any other track, I love Al’s incredible work on “I Can’t Get Started,” a song that most horn players have left alone since Bunny Berigan’s definitive version in 1937. But the track I’ve decided to share is “Malibu” because, well, it just sounds like 1963 to me: There’s a couple in a car. It’s night, and they’re heading out of the city on the Pacific Coast Highway, maybe actually heading toward the beaches of Malibu. They’re in a convertible, maybe a Thunderbird, and its headlights slice through the post-midnight darkness. He’s probably something in show biz, maybe beginning a career in the business side of television, and she, well, she might work for the same network or studio. And life is good, with the soft sounds of the horn and the choir providing the soundtrack as they glide north through the night into the future.

No. 100: Mancini’s Angels by Henry Mancini, May 15, 1977, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was just finishing college at St. Cloud State, and one day, down by the television studio, there was a box of records the radio station didn’t want. I grabbed a bunch, and this was one of them, a 1977 release that had Mancini and his pals performing not only the “Theme from Charlie’s Angels” but such classics as “Evergreen,” “Car Wash” and “Silver Streak.” (Just from this entry alone, it becomes obvious that I rarely throw anything out of the collection.)

No. 200: Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan, June 19, 1987, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got this 1965 release as a gift from a lady friend with whom I was trying to acquire a complete collection of Dylan’s works. We succeeded at that, at least, and when we split up, I got the records. The track I’ve ripped is “She Belongs To Me.” I first heard the song when Rick Nelson took his version to No. 33 in early 1970. Although I like Nelson’s version, there’s nothing like the original.

No. 300: Cruisin’ 1967 by various artists, June 8, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. This is one of a series of LPs put out in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Increase Records. Each album centers on one year and packages hits from that year in the context of a Top 40 station, featuring a different announcer from a major market in the U.S., complete with jingles and commercials. The 1967 album, released in 1984, features Dr. Don Rose of WQXI in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s an interesting curio, but this one is the only one in the series I ever bought.

No. 400: Gaucho by Steely Dan, December 10, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. I likely got this 1980 album from the bin at the Minot Public Library, as December is not a month for garage sales, and there’s no price tag on the jacket, as there would be if I bought it retail, even second-hand. Library records are usually in bad condition, and I tend to avoid them. If that’s where I got this, then I did well, as it’s in pretty good shape. It’s an okay album, but it’s not my favorite Steely Dan album; I prefer Pretzel Logic.

No. 500: Chicago VI by Chicago, February 17, 1989, Minot, North Dakota. This 1973 album came from a pawnshop in downtown Minot, where every record was $2.50 or something like that. I didn’t get there a lot during my two years on the North Dakota prairie. These days, I imagine I’d be checking the new arrivals every couple of weeks, at least. I decided to share “What’s This World Comin’ To?” because, to my ears, it’s one of the last times Chicago really rocked.

No. 600: Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, July 11, 1989, Edina, Minnesota. I went on a binge in the Minneapolis suburbs after I moved back from the prairies in mid-1989, buying something more than thirty records my first month back in Minnesota. As to this 1967 album, well, it’s essential for any serious attempt at a good collection. I love “The Wind Cries Mary.”

No. 700: Tap Root Manuscript by Neil Diamond, June 2, 1990, Conway Springs, Kansas. This album came out in 1970, and I always meant to buy it but for some reason never looked for it. I ran across it and finally bought it on a Saturday morning of garage sale stops during a three-month stay in Kansas. I’m sharing “Done Too Soon,” which after thirty-seven years remains one of my favorite songs.

No. 800: Wet by Barbra Streisand, April 3, 1991, Columbia, Missouri. I’ve never been a big Babs fan, so I must have grabbed this 1979 release for something less than a dollar at a garage sale. I was teaching at a women’s college and beginning my final project for a master’s degree at the University of Missouri at the time. College towns are always good used music locales: I got some very nice albums during my two stays in Columbia.

No. 900: Wild Things Run Free by Joni Mitchell, Sept. 5, 1992, Minneapolis. I must have been spending birthday money when I picked this 1982 release up. I think I bought it new, and it fits in with the other Joni releases on the shelf even though it’s not a favorite of mine. I think this is one of Joni’s experiments that wasn’t real accessible.

No. 1000: Great Hits by Eddie Cochran, May 5, 1993, Minneapolis. The pace of buying is accelerating here, and so is the scope of my purchases. This is a collection put together in 1983, and it’s not bad, considering that Cochran had only three singles reach the Top 40 before he died in a car crash in 1960. I’ve ripped “Pink Peg Slacks” a 1956 recording that was released as Liberty single 10204.

No. 1100: My Baby Loves Lovin’ by White Plains, October 15, 1993, Richfield, Minnesota. This 1970 bit of studio Bazooka is pretty hacked up, but I only spent fifty cents for it as I made my way home through the suburbs one day. I got a good Al Stewart and a few other things at the same stop, so it wasn’t a total loss.

No. 1200: Burgers by Hot Tuna, August 4, 1995, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I’d left the newspaper in Eden Prairie for a job in downtown Minneapolis in July, and one Sunday morning I got a call from the woman who’d coached gymnastics at Eden Prairie High: She and her husband were clearing out their old vinyl. Did I want it? I headed out to the southwest suburb pretty quickly and got this little gem from 1972 and another forty or so records. Best find of the batch? Probably two albums by Bonnie Koloc, a little-known singer/songwriter whose stuff I intend to post here soon.

No. 1300: History of Hi Records, Vol. Two by various artists, October 8, 1996, Minneapolis. I got this 1988 release and its companion first volume on a very odd Saturday morning. Unattached at the time, I went on a blind date, meeting a woman of similar age at a farmer’s market in Richfield, a suburb just south of Minneapolis. After wandering around the small market in a chill wind, we made our way to a record store in Minneapolis, one new to me. We browsed for a while, and when I went to the register to pay for the two Hi LPs and a book, she laid her two records on top of mine at the counter. The clerk rang them up on my tab as I stood there stunned. I paid and didn’t say anything, but I never called her for another date. I’ve ripped “You Made Me What I Am” by Erma Coffee, one of the lesser-known artists for Hi, the home of Al Green and Ann Peebles, among others. It was released in 1973 as Hi single 2253.

No. 1400: Beaucoups of Blues by Ringo Starr, July 26, 1997, Minneapolis. This is perhaps the most odd record of Ringo Starr’s career. A straight country, featuring some of the best sessions players in Nashville at the time, this 1970 release was Ringo’s second solo album following the break-up of the Beatles. It’s not something I listen to very often, but I’m glad it’s on the shelves.

No. 1500: Lady Day Blues by Billie Holiday, February 14, 1998, Minneapolis. By this time, I was stopping by Cheapo’s several times a week, checking the new arrivals every few days and keeping a bag full of holds behind the counter. I’d either buy the records or put them back in the bins each Saturday. This 1972 release on the AJ label is a goulash of performances from throughout Holiday’s career. Its only real attraction is the first release of a 1939 recording of “Don’t Be Late” with saxophonist Lester Young.

No. 1600: Gerry Rafferty by Gerry Rafferty, June 6, 1998, Minneapolis. This 1978 release – following Rafferty’s No. 2 hit “Baker Street” and the album City to City, which reached No. 1 – is a compilation of work from earlier in Rafferty’s career. Taken from two albums recorded in the early 1970s when he was part of a duo called the Humblebums, the record gives a look at Rafferty in the days before Stealer’s Wheel. I’ve ripped the track “Steamboat Row,” which appears to be an edit of the version the Humblebums recorded in 1970.

No. 1700: Faragher Brothers by the Faragher Brothers, August 4, 1998, Minneapolis. When I pulled this 1976 release from the stacks, I didn’t remember a thing about it, so I dropped it on the turntable as I was writing. It’s inoffensive pop rock with mellow vocals and a few horn flourishes, kind of a Pablo Cruise meets James Pankow of Chicago. The only name in the credits that rings any bells is that of producer Vini Poncia, who played numerous parts on Ringo Starr’s 1973 album Ringo and co-wrote “Devil Woman” for that album with Ringo. A year from now, I imagine I’ll have forgotten all about the Faragher Brothers again.

No. 1800: Caribou by Elton John, October 24, 1998, Minneapolis. I picked up this 1974 LP to help fill a gap. About this time, I realized I was low on stuff by Elton John and began looking for some. This release from 1974, a time when Elton was nearly king of the musical universe, fit nicely on the shelves.

No. 1900: Sonny Terry by Sonny Terry, December 5, 1998, Minneapolis. This was part of the Great Blues Grab at the local Salvation Army store. As I wrote once before, the manager of the store called me when someone dropped off about twenty boxes of nearly mint condition rock and blues albums. This 1965 release of archival performances on the Everest label is one of the relatively few records released during Terry’s lifetime – he died in 1986 – that did not also include his long-time partner, Brownie McGhee.

No. 2000: Dinner With Raoul by the Bliss Band, January 30, 1999, Minneapolis. I think this came in a box of records I bought at a church rummage sale. I’d often buy entire boxes of records – if most of them appeared to be in good shape – at rummage sales and garage sales, then sort through them, keep the ones that intrigued me and then sell the rest at Cheapo’s and a couple other places. I’d generally do no worse than break even, and I’d still have the records that interested me. I’ve ripped the track “Rio” from this 1978 album, which was produced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Like the Faragher Brothers above, the Bliss Band sounds to me a bit like Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band, both of which were hitting the charts about the time Dinner With Raoul was recorded.

No. 2100: The Babys: Anthology by the Babys, March 19, 1999, Minneapolis. A decent greatest hits album from 1981, this was another attempt to fill a (small) gap in the collection. I still do like “Isn’t It Time?”

No. 2200: Copeland Special by Johnny Copeland, May 10, 1999, Minneapolis. I was pretty much grabbing any blues LPs I found in good shape at Cheapo’s around this time, adding to the collection that started in earnest the previous December at the Salvation Army store. Copeland – who died in 1997 – was a pretty decent blues guitarist and singer who hailed from Houston, and this 1981 album was his first. I’ve ripped the title track, “Copeland Special,” which features the wonderfully named Brooklyn Slim on harmonica.

No. 2300: James Cleveland and introducing the Gospel Girls, by Rev. James Cleveland, June 13, 1999, Minneapolis. This LP, which was released on Savoy around 1960, as far as I could ever find out, is one of several gospel albums by African-American artists that I bought around this time. I’d seen the Twin Cities Community Gospel Chorus perform at a street fair, and as I was digging into the blues roots of rock, I decided to dig into the gospel roots of soul. On the back of the jacket, Savoy offers a copy of the label’s entire catalog for ten cents. I wonder if the offer’s still good.

No. 2400: Enigma by P. J. Proby, October 1, 1999, Minneapolis. Albums at Cheapo’s were priced according to quality and rarity. Most LPs in fine condition would cost you $3.60. Every once in a while, you’d find one that was a bit rare and that would run you $4.20. (The store’s owner siphoned off the truly rare LPs the store received; I wish I could have seen his collection.) This 1966 LP by folkie/rocker/singer-songwriter Proby – who was a star in England but never too prominent here – was priced at $5.30, which meant it was rare. I didn’t know much about it, but I grabbed it. It turned out to be kind of a chunky mix of roots and rock and folk, and I like it. I’ve ripped the track “Niki Hoeky,” which was also recorded by artists as diverse as Redbone, Aretha Franklin and the Ventures.

No. 2500: Still ’Round by Michael Gately, December 7, 1999, Richfield, Minnesota. Like the Faragher Brothers and Bliss Band records above, when I pulled this from the stacks, I looked at it and had no idea what it sounded like. So I dropped the needle on it. First came a somewhat funky introductory track with a saxophone solo. But the first vocal track put me in mind of England Dan & John Ford Coley, and then came a country rock thing, followed by more mellowness. After that, it was early 1970s singer-songwriter stuff. All I could ever find out about this record was that it came out in 1972 on the Janus label. By the price tag – sixty-nine cents – I can tell it came from a thrift store on Penn Avenue where I could occasionally find some treasures. This isn’t one of them.

No. 2600: We Got A Party by various artists, October 13, 2000, Minneapolis. Subtitled “The Best of Ron Records, Volume 1,” this turned out to be a nice little gem. I’m not sure where I got it – no price tag – so I’m guessing a garage sale. A 1988 release on the Rounder label, the LP collects fourteen tracks released as singles on the New Orleans-based Ron label from 1958 through 1962. Some of the familiar names are here – Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker – along with some less prominent folks, including a performer named Paul Marvin. According to the notes, Marvin started life as Marvin Geatreaux and also went by the moniker Little Mummy. That was too odd to ignore, so I ripped Marvin’s 1959 single “Hurry Up,” which was released as Ron 322.

No. 2700: Typical American Boys by the Chad Mitchell Trio, June 22, 2002, St. Cloud, Minnesota. Still living in the Twin Cities at the time, the Texas Gal and I drove up to my hometown of St. Cloud on a June Saturday. We saw a parade, visited my folks and went to a few garage sales, one of which provided this 1965 release of super-bland folk. It’s a reminder of what college campuses sounded like in the years before Bob Dylan went electric and rock became something to think about. I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Animal House when John Belushi’s Bluto smashes the folk singer’s guitar.

No. 2800: Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey by various artists, May 20, 2004, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got almost fifty albums that day. And I wish I didn’t own any of them. They were my dad’s, and I brought them home when Mom was getting ready to move after Dad died. Well, I guess I always knew I would end up with the records, and cataloging them when I brought them home was an afternoon of memories: Among them were Pearl Bailey, the Ray Charles Singers, Guy Lombardo, and about twenty excellent classical records from the Music Heritage Society. (My sister and I used to tease Dad when he was buying the Heritage Society records during the 1960s, and all he said was, “You’ll be glad to have them someday.” He was right.) There was a five-record set by the Mystic Moods Orchestra. And four Reader’s Digest boxed sets, one of which was Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1970. From that box, I’ve selected a 1961 live performance by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra of “Sugar Foot Stomp.” The song was originally known as “Dippermouth Blues” and was first performed in the 1920s by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band; the high point of the song each night was a two-chorus solo by King Oliver himself on cornet. When the great Louis Armstrong moved from second chair in King Oliver’s band to first chair in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1924, he brought the song, now known as “Sugar Foot Stomp,” with him, and he brought King Oliver’s solo, too, note for note. In 1934, Henderson broke up his band and became an arranger for Benny Goodman, and he brought “Sugar Foot Stomp” and its cornet/trumpet solo, still played – note for note – as King Oliver first played it. And in this 1961 performance, following the first, brief solo by Goodman on clarinet, the horn player follows with King Oliver’s solo, played just as the King had done about forty years earlier, now about eighty years ago.

No. 2900: Harper Valley P.T.A. by Jeannie C. Riley, April 24, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are very few places that sell any vinyl in St. Cloud these days. There are a few thrift stores, but I’ve rarely found anything in them worth bringing home. The only other place is the Electric Fetus downtown, with a small selection of new records and a slightly larger offering of used records. I stop in there about once a month, see what’s new in the used CD bins and take a look at the vinyl. Every once in a while, I find a record I’d forgotten about entirely. That was the case with this one. I don’t know that I ever aspired to have Harper Valley P.T.A, but I do recall when the title track was on the radio. (It was No. 1 for a week in the fall of 1968, and the LP went to No. 12, which has to make it one of the more successful crossovers from the country charts to the pop charts.) Along with the tale of the widowed mother calling out the hypocrites – with that sweet twanging guitar or dobro – the LP was almost a concept album, with its other vignettes of late 1960s life in a small southern town. Since I don’t hear it often on the oldies stations, I’ve ripped the title track, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” to share here.

No. 2906: Another Day in Paradise by Bertie Higgins, August 1, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. My most recent acquisition. A while back, I wrote about how I was certain I had a copy of this album somewhere and then learned to my surprise that I was wrong. Well, I saw it on my latest trip downtown, and laughing, I couldn’t resist. (The fact that it was priced at seventy-eight cents with thirty percent off helped.) And of course, I have to share “Key Largo,” which went to No. 8 in the summer of 1982. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

A Baker’s Dozen On Atlantic

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2007

I had an album ripped and ready to go this morning, but as I was researching it, I learned that it is no longer out of print; it’s been re-released on CD. That’s a boundary I try to keep, not posting entire albums that are in print, so I ditched the rip I had planned.

Then I sat there and looked at the pile of albums I have in my “To Rip” pile. I sneezed a few times, as there is some kind of pollen roaming around right now that does not like me. I looked at my list of household chores waiting for me. And I decided I’d move my Baker’s Dozen from Wednesday to today and let Wednesday worry about itself when we get there.

So, without any back story or anything else, here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while: A random Baker’s Dozen of singles on the Atlantic label. If I had more energy, I’d write about the Atlantic label, but I really don’t think I need to go into detail about the influence and importance of the label to American popular music. If you’re unfamiliar with the label and its history, there are any number of useful anthologies available with pretty good liner notes. (A note: In my filing system, if I have an entire album in the RealPlayer, then all songs from that album are listed under the album name, even those that were released as singles. So some favorites won’t have a chance to pop up.)

So let’s see what we get:

“It Tears Me Up” by Percy Sledge, Atlantic 2358, 1966

“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic 2909, 1972

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John, Atlantic 2846, 1972

“Since I Met You, Baby” by Ivory Joe Hunter, Atlantic 1111, 1956

“Whatcha Gonna Do” by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Atlantic 1055, 1955

“I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, Atlantic 89877, 1983

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris, Atlantic 3248, 1975

“Too Weak To Fight” by Clarence Carter, Atlantic 2569, 1969

“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic 2198, 1962

“Drown In My Own Tears” by Ray Charles, Atlantic 1085, 1956

“A Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals, Atlantic 2493, 1968

“Dancing Queen” by ABBA, Atlantic 3372, 1977

“See Saw” by Aretha Frankilin, Atlantic 2574, 1968

A few notes on the songs:

One surprise here is Wilson Pickett’s version of “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” the Randy Newman tune that Three Dog Night took to No. 1 in 1970, two years before Pickett recorded it. It seems an odd choice for Pickett, but keep in mind that he also recorded “Hey Jude” not long after the Beatles released it and nailed it.

Robert John’s version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” pales when compared to the Tokens’ 1961 version, which was itself a revision of a recording by the early folk group the Weavers. The Weavers, in turn, had gotten the song from a recording by African Artist Miriam Makeba. The song’s origins, according to Dave Marsh in The Heart of Rock and Soul, date to the 1930s, and the chain from Makeba to Robert John is a modern version of the way folk music used to evolve from region to region and from era to era.

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” the Major Harris tune with its racy-for-the-times cooing and moaning ran here a while back in a Baker’s Dozen from 1975. But it’s too much fun not to run it again.

I won’t say it was the first time I ever heard the recording, but the first time I really paid any attention to Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You, Baby” was when I heard it in the soundtrack to the 1987 movie The Big Town. Set in a mythical late 1950s, the movie – starring Matt Dillon and Diane Lane – is a noir-ish tale of a young gambler come to the big city with all its perils. The soundtrack, which featured Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, the Drifters, Little Willie John and a few others Fifties artists, was superb.

ABBA’s music is often derided as “just pop.” Well, it may be pop, but it’s great pop, and there are few moments in 1970s music as recognizable as the gorgeous piano glissando that kicks off “Dancing Queen”!