Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

A Self-Explanatory Six-Pack

June 12, 2014

Originally posted June 5, 2009

“So Tired” by the Chambers Brothers from The Time Has Come [1967]
“Sick and Tired” by Chris Kenner, Imperial 5448 [1957]
“So Tired” by Eva from the Vanishing Point soundtrack [1971]
“Tired of Sleeping” by Suzanne Vega from Days of Open Hand [1990]
“Things Get Better” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from On Tour With Eric Clapton [1970]
“Got To Get Better In A Little While” by Derek & The Dominos from Live at the Fillmore [1970 performance, 1994 release]

Saturday Single No. 110

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 17, 2009

Well, since we’re just past the middle of the month, I thought I’d look into the library and see what songs have been tagged as being recorded during January. Keep in mind that maybe five percent of my mp3s have that kind of data available, so this won’t be a comprehensive list. But it could be interesting.

The oldest song I have that was recorded in January is “Slave to the Blues,” a 1926 record by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, often called the “Mother of the Blues.”

Recorded not much later than that is a cluster of songs that come from the celebrated Anthology of American Folk Music. The anthology originally came out in 1952 as a set of six records. It’s now available in a box set of six CDs; it’s not something I play often, but it’s fascinating now and then to drop one of the CDs in and hear the foundations of our current popular music. One of the January recordings in that cluster is Frank Hutchison’s performance of “Stackalee.”

As Wikipedia points out: “Lee Shelton (also known as Stagger Lee, Stagolee, Stackerlee, Stack O’Lee, Stack-a-Lee and by several other spelling variants) was a black cab driver and a pimp convicted of murdering William ‘Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve, 1895, in St. Louis, Missouri. The crime was immortalized in a blues folk song that has been recorded in hundreds of different versions.” For those inclined to explore further, a good place to start might be Greil Marcus’ discussion of the song – and the folklore and archetypes behind the song – in his book Mystery Train.

The 1930s finds us in the divergent territories of developing blues and big band music. Kansas Joe McCoy, Charlie Patton, the luminously named King Solomon Hill, Memphis Minnie and a few others document the blues as it developed in the years before World War II. At the same time, January recordings included Tommy Dorsey’s “Song of India,” Harry James (with Helen Humes) performing “Song of the Wanderer,” and the remarkable “Sing, Sing, Sing” as performed by Benny Goodman and his orchestra during the famed Carnegie Hall concert on January 16, 1938, seventy-one years ago last evening.

The 1940s bring us Artie Shaw and his big band, Big Joe Turner and some jazzy early R&B (although it would be years before it was tagged with that label), and Henry “Red” Allen with a whirling and spinning romp of horns and piano called “Get the Mop.” The meaning is veiled, but the music cooks.

January recordings from the 1950s find Hank Williams sitting next to Muddy Waters, with Turner, Big Boy Crudup, Little Walter and the second Sonny Boy Williamson adding some tunes, as do Big Maybelle Smith, Little Richard and – toward the end of the decade and nearing the end of his brief life – Buddy Holly.

The Sixties aren’t particularly well represented in this list of January recordings. The artists that fill most of the 1960s slots here are Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, although there are also single recordings by Tim Hardin, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Fleetwood Mac (in its early incarnation as a British blues band) and Cream.

From there – 1980 through the current day – the list is mostly a pairing of Bruce Springsteen, with recordings from his Tracks box set, and Bob Dylan, with material from the recently released Bootleg Series Vol. 8. There are a few other things: a live 1980 performance of “Pavanne” by Richard and Linda Thompson; Big Joe Turner’s 1983 recording of “Crawdad Hole” and a 2006 romp through “Crash on the Levee/The W.S. Walcott Medicine Show” by Levon Helm, Jim Vivino and other friends at one of Helm’s legendary Midnight Rambles.

So what is it we’ll listen to this morning? Well, I skipped over a title in the late 1950s, a recording that became the inspiration for one of the great cover versions in blues history. According to what I’ve read, Muddy Waters first heard “I Got My Mo-jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You)” when Ann Cole and the Suburbans performed it live, and he and his band covered the song, which eventually came to be identified with Waters. In an earlier post here, I said that Ann Cole and the Suburbans had evidently recorded the song in 1956. Since then, I’ve learned that the session took place in New York on January 27, 1957.

Cole’s version and Waters’ version were released as singles at the same time.  According to Baton Records founder Sol Rabinowitz, who maintains a website that includes the history of Baton Records, Waters’ Chess release went to No. 7 on the R&B charts, while Cole’s version on Baton records reached No. 3. Neither record, however, is listed as making the R&B chart in Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits.*

So here’s Ann Cole & the Suburbans’ “Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You)” today’s Saturday Single:

“Got My Mo-Jo Working (But It Just Won’t Work On You)”
Ann Cole & the Suburbans (Baton 237, 1957)

*Additional information about chart performance added July 22, 2013.

Saturday Singles Nos. 95 and 96

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 11, 2008

JB from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ left a comment about Wednesday’s post, the Baker’s Dozen from the 1990s. He wrote: “Biggest question unanswered by your post: the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir?”

Well, the quick answer would be that Bulgarian choral music has become a somewhat hot property among world music fans since 1987, when Marcel Cellier recorded the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir and then released the recordings on an LP titled Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices).

Interest was honestly so large that in 1988, a second Cellier album, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2, was released; it included recordings by several small ensembles – some of them archival – as well as performances by the BSR&TFV Choir. Volume 3, which I have never seen, followed, as did Vol. 4, which I only have as mp3s. I do not know if Volume 4, for which I have no documentation, was recorded entirely by the choir or whether it also includes various small ensembles, as did Volume 2. At the very least, though, the tags on my copy of Vol. 4 are partly wrong, so in the absence of any other information, Wednesday’s offering should have been credited to the original group, the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir. But that’s a quick answer.

A longer answer starts with records in the 1960s and 1970s on the Nonesuch label, which included In the Shadow of the Mountain: Songs and Dances of Pirin-Macedonia, which was recorded in Bulgaria. I’m not sure of the date on that one; I found a 1970 date online when I was cataloging my vinyl, but I’m not entirely certain that’s right. I do know that there were earlier releases of Bulgarian choral music, whether by large choirs or small ensembles. How do I know?

I recall reading – I think it was in one of the Rolling Stone record guides, but I cannot put my hands on the piece this morning – that David Crosby gave at least partial credit for the close harmonies of Crosby, Stills & Nash to his having listened to the impossibly close intervals in Bulgarian singing. And that happened before the 1968 formation of CS&N.

It was, in fact, reading that statement by Crosby that got me interested in Bulgarian choral music. I have two different editions of the first record as well as the second on vinyl. I’ve found the first on CD and got rips from friends of the second and fourth.

I’m by no means an expert on ethnic music, and I have to acknowledge that I rarely listen to the albums all the way through. But the songs – with their odd-to-western-ears harmonies and intervals – make a nice break when they pop up during random play.

When I was pondering this post this morning, I took a look at YouTube, and found a clip of the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir performing in 1990 on Johnny Carson’s Tonight show:

I’m sure there are holes and gaps in this brief account. Anyone who has more, or more accurate, information is welcome to leave a comment. I’ll just say that I find the music fascinating.

And here are two songs. First, a 1957 recording, “Ovdoviala Lissitchkata (The Fox Has Lost His Cubs)” by the Orchestra Yvan Kirev from 1988’s Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2 and the second, “Polegnala e Pschenitza” by the Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir from Cellier’s original effort, Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, today’s Saturday Singles.

Orchestra Yvan Kirev – “Ovdoviala Lissitchkata (The Fox Has Lost His Cubs)” [1957]

Bulgarian SR&T Female Vocal Choir – “Polegnala e Pschenitza” [1987]

‘If You Wanna Dance With Me . . .’

August 19, 2011

Originally posted October 7, 2008

In this blogging lark – as darcy of the blog feel it once called it – we find our inspirations where we can, even in the bits and pieces left on another blog’s floor, if need be. So it was this morning when I stopped by The Great Vinyl Meltdown and pondered what caithiseach had to say in last Saturday’s post about Chuck Berry’s “Little Marie.”

Discussing Berry’s 1964 sequel to his own “Memphis, Tennessee” and the early rock ’n’ roller’s influence on the music we love, caithiseach noted a couple of covers of Berry tunes that did pretty well: the Electric Light Orchestra’s take on “Roll Over Beethoven” went to No 42 in 1973, and the Beach Boys’ version of “Rock and Roll Music” went to No. 5 during the Bicentennial summer of 1976.

I blinked. And I thought of two other Berry covers, neither of which was released as a single. The Beatles put their very good version of “Roll Over Beethoven” on their second LP, With the Beatles, released in Britain in late 1963. In the U.S., “Roll Over Beethoven” showed up on The Beatles’ Second Album, which came out in the spring of 1964. And the Fab Four’s version of “Rock and Roll Music” was released in Britain on Beatles For Sale in December 1964.

Here in the U.S., “Rock and Roll Music” was included on the first Beatles LP I ever owned: Beatles ’65.

One of our family traditions at Christmas during my childhood was that just before we left St. Cloud for the three-hour drive to my grandparents’ home, either my mom or my dad would go back into the house to check on something. While in the house, Mom or Dad would pull from a closet two additional gifts, unwrapped, and place one on my bed and one on my sister’s bed, evidence we’d find when we came home from Grandpa’s that Santa Claus had not overlooked us just because we’d been out of town.

The gifts we found on our beds were generally toys and games, standard 1960s childhood fare. Twice, my sister and I shared gifts: One year, we each found the end of a ribbon on our beds, and found the ribbons attached to the game Geography, a game we enjoyed for many years. In December of 1965, we each found an envelope, containing pieces of a note that had been cut up. We quickly realized we each had only half a note and combined our pieces. The note read:

We come to thee from across the sea
With melodies quite rare.
Which you will find if you look
There or there.

We looked at each other, digesting the meaning of Dad’s bit of doggerel.

“It’s a record!” we said, nearly simultaneously, and we ran downstairs to the living room, where the RCA stereo and our household’s few LPs were kept. There, in the front of the stack of records, was a crisp, new copy of Beatles ’65. As soon as we unpacked a little, we were allowed to open the record and play it for the first time.

Beatles ’65 was one of those records that Capitol – which issued Beatles’ recordings in the U.S. – created piecemeal, in this case by pulling some songs from Beatles For Sale, one track from the British version of A Hard Day’s Night and adding the single “I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman,” which was not released on an album in the UK at the time.

I don’t know how well my sister liked the record. She never seemed to be too interested in the Beatles. As for me, I was still a few years from being a rock ’n’ roll boy. But I liked some of it: the opener “No Reply,” the feedback-triggered “I Feel Fine,” the sweet folk rock of “I’ll Be Back” and “I’ll Follow The Sun.” But my favorite track of all – and thus the first rock ’n’ roll cover I loved – was the Beatles’ take on Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.”

It took years before I got around to listening to Berry’s version, which is – and I find myself feeling silly damning one of the fathers of rock ’n’ roll with faint praise – a good one. There is joy in Berry’s delivery of his classic, which was released as Chess 1671 in late 1957 and went to No. 8 on the combined charts of the time. Had I heard Berry’s original first, it might be my favorite.

But I heard the Beatles’ version first, that December night in 1965. The swift introductory chords, John Lennon’s urgent vocal, the driving accompaniment of the other Beatles behind him and the amazing piano triplets (Paul McCartney’s work, according to Geoff Emerick in Here, There and Everywhere) all made for one of the first rock recordings that I really loved. I wasn’t ready to give up on Al Hirt and Herb Alpert and my soundtracks yet, but man, did I love “Rock and Roll Music”!

Then there was the Beach Boys’ version a little more than a decade later, at a time when, to me, the Beach Boys were utterly irrelevant. I’m not the only one who thought so. In The Great Rock Discography, Martin C Strong writes about the band in 1976: “At this point, the Beach Boys abandoned even the slightest attempts to push their own musical boundaries, Instead [sic] relying upon tired retreads of their earlier sound.”

And when I heard the Beach Boys’ 1976 cover of “Rock and Roll Music,” released as Brother/Reprise 1354, I thought it was flabby and never gave it another thought until today.

There are other versions of Berry’s classic song, of course. All-Music Guide lists versions by the Ballroom Band, the Bay City Allstars, former Beatle Pete Best, Bingo Kids, Gary Busey (!), the Everly Brothers, Bill Haley, Ray Hamilton, Humble Pie, Jan & Dean, Tom Jones, the Manic Street Preachers, REO Speedwagon, Showaddywaddy and Tenpole Tudor, to mention only a few.

I don’t think I’ve heard any of those versions, but I know they’d have to be better than I can almost imagine to improve on the versions by Berry and the Beatles, offered below. I’m also posting the Beach Boys’ version. Enough people liked it in 1976 that it went to No. 5. I’ll just note that the Beach Boys’ version reminds me of H.L. Mencken’s comment: You’ll never go broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Chuck Berry – “Rock and Roll Music” [1957]

Beatles – “Rock and Roll Music” [1964]

Beach Boys – “Rock and Roll Music” [1976]

A Baker’s Dozen of caithiseach’s Favorites

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 24, 2008

(Our guest poster today is caithiseach, who generally hangs his hat at The Great Vinyl Meltdown.)

It must have been the frozen custard cake. We were eating it when whiteray asked me what my favorite single was. I thought for far too long, then I gave him an answer. A day later, with the custard still in his system, he invited me to guest-blog this Baker’s Dozen of my favorite singles. I could not pass up the opportunity to write in this blog, the first music blog I ever read, and the inspiration for my own blog, which deals with quirky old 45s I collected when I was a kid.

Today I have been set a different task: to write about songs that you probably know. I had made my job somewhat easier by adding a marker to the digital filenames of my favorite Hot 100 hits. So I sorted out the favorites, some 400 of them. Then, in order not to think too much or too long, I culled any song I thought might be one of my thirteen favorites. I may have missed some really good songs that I didn’t mark, and surely I am skipping some superb singles that I don’t own or have not digitized, but I used the Force and let it tell me what to do with the material at hand.

One thing I looked for was songs that truly were singles. Crisp story lines, nicely rounded finishes, no sense that the song was hacked out of a larger work, the way a Pink Floyd single would be. I see an artistry in a perfect single that matches the magic of an excellent short story. It’s satisfying in itself, not incomplete and co-dependent like a chapter in a novel. As Oliver Wendell Holmes might have said, I know a real single when I hear one.

By accident I pulled out exactly forty finalists, which suits my way of thinking about music – in terms of countdowns. When I was ten, I started counting down my ten favorite hits, playing them in my mind when I mowed the lawn each Saturday. That short music chart had as much fluidity as a Billboard chart, but it also had a consistency that reflected the amount of thought I put into it. I remember such momentous decisions as replacing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at No.1 with “The Love You Save.”

Today’s Top Thirteen doesn’t have a lot in common with my final lawn-mowing Top Ten, because I stopped mowing the family lawn around 1982, when I graduated from college. But several songs from that era slipped into the forty candidates for this Baker’s Dozen, and I’m pleased that I still like the songs I enjoyed in my teen years. It would be awful to have outgrown myself completely.

I also started doing the DJ countdown thing on my record player when I was about eight. With just one turntable, that made for a lot of chatter between songs. That’s what you’ll get here; I’m going to explain my choices, rather than give valuable information about the artists, as whiteray does. And I’ll go bottom to top, so here goes:

13. “Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond [Bang 578, 1970]

As much as I like other early Diamond hits, this song about betrayal and the response to it stuck with me as a clean discussion of the topic, with no self-pity to muck it up. The delicious Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich production, with the acoustic guitar accented by somber horns, meshed perfectly with the message.

12. “Shattered Glass” by Laura Branigan [Atlantic 89245, 1987]

This cut climbed only to No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. What puts it here is ninety percent appreciation and ten percent desire to share a song you probably have never heard. I was rolling into Bloomington, Indiana after a very long drive, and I got stuck at a very long light at two a.m. This song, new to me then, came on the radio, and I cranked it to stay awake. My car was rocking on its springs already when Laura hit the climax notes of the chorus. The tsunami of sound left my brain unable to process all of the sound in real time. If you play this song loudly enough, her voice at that point will leave an impression on you that will never fade.

11. “No Matter What” by Badfinger [Apple 1822, 1970]

The story of Pete Ham and Tom Evans is tragic, and their band’s output was inconsistent, but they worked magic several times, most notably here. I am a sucker for songs that go silent abruptly and use a drumbeat to pull the music back in. I love the guitar work. I don’t tire of listening to Pete Ham singing. It’s a song about hanging in there. I wish people had hounded these two guys less relentlessly.

10. “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” by the 4 Seasons [Warner/Curb 8168, 1976]

Three of my forty finalists were on the same chart in March-April 1976, and two of them are in the final thirteen. This song’s bass line has whiteray’s blessing as perhaps the best bass line ever, and that is what drew me to the song in the first place. An amazing piano part carries the song into the second vocal phrase, where the bass kicks in, and Gerri Polci’s turn as lead vocalist gives welcome respite from Frankie Valli. Apart from the message that not learning a lover’s name is an okay thing, the song chronicles a wondrous event without getting tacky. And you should fiddle with your graphic equalizer and isolate that bass line. Mmmmm.

9. “Lucky Lips” by Ruth Brown [Atlantic 1125, 1957]

The year of 1957 was very good for me, musically. I wasn’t born yet, but Pérez Prado recorded “Why Wait” then (had it been an A side, it would be No. 2 here), and Ruth Brown gave us this bright shuffle that rolls along like a diesel engine with a hundred cars behind it. Any song that starts with a long, growly sax note gets my vote, and this one boasts the “No Matter What” silence as well. It would be a good song with anyone else singing it, but no one could put joy into a vocal the way Ruth Brown did.

8. “No One Is to Blame” by Howard Jones [Elektra 69549, 1986]

Almost an answer to No. 4 below, now that I think about it, I found this song heartbreaking at a time when I was heartbroken. Singing about the unattainable, Jones doesn’t get all of the words right, says I, but the melody, his soulful delivery, the percussion – it works for me in inexplicable ways.

7. “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies [Calendar 1008, 1969]

We’re getting to writhe-on-the-floor-in-ecstasy territory now, at least in the case of the upbeat songs. I blogged about this song, which was my one source of joy in 1969, a year that beat me to a pulp. I admire Jeff Barry beyond words, and if you forget the reasons why this song is so gentle, you’ll be able to appreciate the genius he injected into every beat.

6. “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones [London 910, 1969]

Charting simultaneously with “Sugar, Sugar,” this song gave my appreciation of music new range. Until then, I was too young for the Stones, but I figured them out here. The recurrent caithiseach theme of a horn section helps to reel me in, but I also love suspended fourths in any song, and the unified vision the guitars give to the subject matter round it all out. I always think about this being Brian Jones’ last work, and it tears me up.

5. “Misty” by Johnny Mathis [Columbia 41483, 1959]

The song is amazingly evocative poetry, and this arrangement, with artfully understated vocals, is the only version anyone needs to hear. Even so, I didn’t become familiar with “Misty” until 1984, when I waited table at the Raging Bull, a fine-dining establishment in Merrillville, Indiana, that provided music by pianist-singer Tony Liggins. He turned me on to the song, then I found the Mathis version on a Time-Life CD of 1959 hits. From there, the recording crept into my mind to the point that, after a bit of meditation, it wound up at No. 5 here.

4. “Diamonds and Rust” by Joan Baez [A&M 1737, 1975]

As much as I enjoy her singing tunes by The Band, and as much as I could enjoy her singing almost any song, Joan accomplished something here that almost defies description, so forgive me if I fail you: She should be as bitter as Alanis Morrissette in these lyrics, but she is so graceful with her condemnation of Dylan that she soars above the situation and avoids sounding like a bitch. Start there, and add a chord progression that is as memorable (and inspired) as what Hoagy Carmichael came up with for “Stardust.” But “Stardust” does not have the eerie, haunting resonance of this song, of course. I don’t know how she could use any major chords in this song, but she chose exactly the right ones, at the right moments. I would crawl to where she is to thank her for the song, if I thought I could get past her bodyguards.

3. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen [Elektra 45297, 1976]

I can explain this one. Freddie Mercury trusted his audience to be able to handle big words and big sounds. I enjoyed his work when he was alive, and I ache to have him back now that he’s gone. As a polar opposite to its fellow 1976 chart hit “December, 1963,” this song provided gravity without being maudlin or unlistenable in its pomposity. I think the song must have been a lot of fun to write and record, and I have always found it fun to listen to. My big problem with it came when my sister borrowed my single and scratched it in such a way that you could hear the entire song except for the gong, which is where it skipped. Thanks, Lisa.

2. “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA [Atlantic 3457, 1978]

In 1977-78, on Friday nights I watched Midnight Special. About two a.m., a truck would drop off Saturday newspapers for me to deliver. If I felt like it, I delivered the papers after the show rather than get up four hours later to do my job. Apart from almost getting shot once, it worked out fine. And one morning, I delivered my seventy-five papers with one song stuck in my head. Wolfman Jack had just played a string of ABBA promo clips, and he ended with their “new single,” which was three months away from its U.S. release. I had never heard an intro like the one to “Take a Chance on Me”: an a cappella female lead with male chant underpinning? Then the synth comes in, and finally the song explodes. A sweet message of at-some-point-to-be-requited love, the song is boundlessly cheery but not cloying. Another time, I was sitting in a disco in Salzburg, Austria, drinking expensive imported beer (Budweiser, their only beverage). The dance floor was empty. The DJ tossed on this song, the locals screamed, and before the chant started, there were a hundred couples grinding away. As they say, two hundred Austrians can’t be wrong.

1. “He’s a Rebel” by the Crystals [Philles 106, 1962]

The vocalists are actually Darlene Love and the Blossoms. Phil Spector needed a Crystals record, and they weren’t available, and a voice is just a musical instrument, right? Well, I don’t think so. Gene Pitney’s composition captured the tug-of-war between leather-clad surly teens and frightened parents, with a girl’s arms as the rope, as succinctly as could be done. The girl’s choice is clear, which makes the song scarier for “adults” and an anthem for teens who want to push the envelope. Spector recorded some of his other songs very well, but this one includes a wistful piano, hot horns, a tasteful sax solo – and Darlene Love. She appeals to me more than any other Spector girl singer, and she took control of this song to a degree the actual Crystals might not have attained. From the time I became well-aware of this song, around 1970, it has ranged from first to third on my list of favorites. It’s time I admitted to myself that I don’t think any juxtaposition of lyrics, melody, vocals and arrangement tops this one.

Thanks, whiteray, for giving me this chance to think about the concept, and for the space to publish it. Thanks to you for reading what I wrote.

Some of the other songs I considered were:

“Theme from A Summer Place” by Percy Faith

“What’s a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” by Timi Yuro

“Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph

“Washington Square” by the Village Stompers

“Java” by Al Hirt

“Downtown” by Petula Clark

“Bus Stop” by the Hollies

“Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat

“Cecelia” by Simon & Garfunkel

“The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5

“Be My Baby” by Andy Kim

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon

“The World Is a Ghetto” by War

“ I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” by ABBA

“ Just Between You and Me” by April Wine

“Rosanna” by Toto

“Hello” by Lionel Richie

“Cherry Bomb” by John Cougar Mellencamp

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.

One Of Those Days

July 18, 2011

Originally posted June 30, 2008

I’ve never written in any great detail about my health here (and I don’t plan to; I don’t want this space to turn into a “woe is me” place), but the fact is that there are days – generally Mondays – when my body tells me I’ve done too much in the past few days and it’s time to rest.

Today is one of those, but as I am loathe to leave the space entirely unmelodied, here’s a repost a reader requested, and a link to the original post.

Don Nix – Living by The Days [1971]

And just because, here’s the Fat Man with a song entirely appropriate for the day:

Fats Domino – “Blue Monday” [Imperial 5417, 1957]

LaVern & The Kids From Northwood

June 4, 2011

Originally posted January 17, 2008

I found this video this morning showing Atlantic recording artist LaVern Baker visiting The Milt Grant Record Hop in Washington, D.C., on Monday, May 27th, 1957. The show that day hosted teens from Northwood High School in Silver Springs, Maryland. This clip shows one of her performances, as she Baker lip-syncs to “Jim Dandy Got Married” backed by the Coasters.

The Milt Grant Record Hop ran on WTTG from 1956 into 1961. Also available at YouTube – but not available for embedding here – is a longer video showing this performance as well as Baker’s performance of “Play The Game Of Love” with the backing provided by Thurl Ravenscroft. She also selected a sweepstakes winner of a Motorola radio.

Video deleted.

Every Sunday Evening: ‘Bonanza’

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 12, 2007

I didn’t watch a lot of television when I was a kid. I was – once I got to the age of six – more interested in reading or in creating my own adventures, quite often with Rick, in the playhouse of my imagination.

I did watch some, though. I do recall watching Ruff & Reddy, the first animated series developed by the team of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the creators later on of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and countless other cartoon characters. I also recall watching Huckleberry Hound from the time of his first episode in 1958. The show aired weekly at 6:30 p.m. on, I think, KMSP, which would have been the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities at the time.

Early Saturday morning was television time, too, with much of the fare being classic Warner Bros. cartoons that had originally been shown in movie theaters. Other shows I recall were Annie Oakley, a western; Sky King, a series about a rancher with his own plane, Songbird, and his perky niece, Penny; The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, another western; and a show with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing songs and riding down bad guys on their horses Trigger and Buttermilk.

Then there was Andy’s Gang, a kids’ show featuring Andy Devine, a large man with a raspy voice who’d played Jingles, the sidekick on the Wild Bill Hickok show. Andy introduced cartoons for kids, and between cartoons, dealt with interruptions from a cast that included Midnight the Cat and Tige the Dog. The most frequent interruptions, though, came from Froggy the Gremlin, a rubber character with a foghorn voice who was always up to mischief. When Andy got flustered enough with Froggy, he’d send him away in a cloud of smoke by saying, “Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy!”

One of the toys my sister and I discovered a few years ago when we helped Mom clean out the house where we grew up was a rubber Froggy the Gremlin, battered but still mostly whole. I remember playing with it, but it must have been my sister’s originally, from the time when Ed McConnell hosted the show featuring Froggy. Devine became the host in 1955 after McConnell’s death.

But for most of my childhood, the one time all four of us watched television together was Sunday evening, often with a large bowl of popcorn (actually popped in a frying pan as microwaves were only a dream and Jiffy Pop, per serving, was more expensive than buying a bag of popcorn and a bottle of oil). We’d gather in the living room at 6 on Sundays for the Walt Disney show, which went through numerous name changes over the years. The content was the same, though: nature documentaries, animated features, programming about Disneyland – the site of today’s Disney complex in Florida was still empty acreage at the time – and serialized movies.

(In 1961, which was about the time our Sunday family viewing nights started, Disney moved his show to NBC because of that network’s ability to broadcast in color. That made no difference to us. We watched on the mid-1950s Zenith until 1968, when one of my dad’s friends got a color television and gave us his old black and white set, which was still newer than our Zenith was. I’m not sure when the folks got a color television, but I know it was after I moved out in 1976.)

Anyway, we’d watch the Disney show together, and then there was an hour that NBC filled with various situation comedies, none of which ever seemed to last very long. I recall Hazel, starring the great actress Shirley Booth in what had to be one of the low points of her career. There was Car 54, Where Are You? about two bumbling New York City cops played by Joe E. Ross and Fred Gwynne, the latter of whom would go on to play Herman Munster in The Munsters. There was also Grindl, a comedy that starred 1950s television genius Imogene Coca. But the comedies between 7 and 8 were for the most part something to get through.

That’s because 8 o’clock meant Bonanza, starting with the map of the Ponderosa bursting into flame and burning away to reveal the four Cartwrights riding their horses into the opening credits. Bonanza was our favorite show, as was the case for many American families in those years. How many? Well, the show was the top-ranked show in television from 1964 through 1967 and was in the Top Ten for many more years during its run from 1959 into 1973.

These days, watching Bonanza on TV Land or other cable channels, the stories are hokey, the scripts stilted and the production values are primitive. But forty years ago, it was good television. And the guitar twang that marked the beginning of the show’s theme song was the signal that heralded another hour of adventure for the Cartwrights and, vicariously, for us.

That’s why I’m starting today’s Baker’s Dozen of random television themes with the theme from Bonanza.

“Bonanza” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, 1959

“Perry Mason” by Fred Steiner, 1957

“Branded” by Dominic Frontiere, 1965

“Winds of War” by Robert Cobert, 1983

“Ancient Voices” (Survivor) by Russ Landau, 2000

“Mission Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin, 1966

“The Contender” by Hans Zimmer, 2005

“Dallas” by Jerrold Immel, 1978

“Mannix” by Lalo Schifrin, 1967

“Streets of San Francisco” by Patrick Williams, 1972

“The Flintstones” by Hoyt Curtin, William Hanna & Joseph Barbera, 1960

“Hill Street Blues” by Mike Post, 1981

“The West Wing” by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden, 2000

I think these are all original themes with the exception of “The Winds Of War,” which is a recording by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. I’ve never seen the score to The Winds Of War on LP or CD, and it’s too lovely a piece of music to pass up.

Through The Junkyard Again

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 23, 2007

As I didn’t get a new album posted today, and I wanted to do something, even at this late hour – it’s 11:09 p.m. as I write – I thought I’d so another walk through the junkyard, putting up a list of twenty-five songs selected by using RealPlayer’s random function:

“Heaven/Where True Love Goes” by Yusuf from An Other Cup, 2006.

“In The Beginning” by the Moody Blues from On The Threshold Of A Dream, 1969.

“I Must Be In Love” by the Rutles from The Rutles, 1978.

“Till I See You Again” by Derek & The Dominos from unreleased sessions, 1971.

“Our Very Own” by Nanci Griffith & Keith Carradine from Hearts In Mind, 2005.

“Sugar Blues” by Al Hirt from Cotton Candy, 1962.

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning” by Hot Tuna from Splashdown, WQIV-FM, New York
City, 1975.

“Muleskinner Blues” by Tony Rice from Cold On The Shoulder, 1984.

“Big River” by Johnny Cash, Sun single 283, 1957.

“Bound For Glory” by Phil Ochs from All the News That’s Fit To Sing, 1964.

“The Hunter” by Albert King from Born Under A Bad Sign, 1967.

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by Norah Jones, WFUV broadcast, New York City, 2002.

“Crossroader” by Mountain from Mountain Live: The Road Goes Ever On, 1972.

“When The Battle Is Over” by Aretha Franklin from Spirit In The Dark, 1970.

“Let Me Do It To You” by J. J. Cale from Troubadour, 1976.

“Miranda” by Fleetwood Mac from Say You Will, 2003.

“San Francisco Bay Blues” by Jesse Fuller, live at Newport Folk Festival, 1964.

“Legend In His Time” by Kate Wolf & the Wildwood Flower from Back Roads, 1976.

“Why” by Fleetwood Mac from Mystery To Me, 1973.

“You Got Some Inspiration” by Boz Scaggs from Middle Man, 1980.

“Allt Jag Behöver” by Lisa Nilsson from Himlen Runt Hörnet (Swedish), 1992.

“Something You Can’t Buy” by Rick Nelson from Intakes, 1977.

“Mary & The Soldier” by Lucy Kaplansky from Flesh and Bone, 1996.

“Travelin’ Blues” by Loggins & Messina from Full Sail, 1973.

“Strong Feeling” by Joe Haywood, Front Page single 1000, about 1969.

Once again, nothing from before 1960, and pretty light on R&B. But it gives another pretty good idea of what about ninety minutes of listening brings me.