Archive for the ‘1966’ Category

Saturday Singles Nos. 164 & 165

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Singles Nos. 162 & 163

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 5. 2009

Yesterday, at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, jb recommended to his readers some posts at other blogs. One of jb’s recommendations was Thursday’s post here, “Complications With Fries On The Side.” He wrote: “whiteray remembers a vanished gas station/diner, but leaves an even better story hanging.”

Well, I guess I did. I ended the memoir portion of that post like this:

Then there was the evening in early December 1970, during my senior year of high school. The St. Cloud Tech High School choirs had performed in concert, and a young lady and I were going to double up with another couple for burgers and fries at Townsedge. For some reason, the other guy had to cancel, so there were only three of us, my date and me on one side of the booth and the other young lady sitting across from us.

I dropped a quarter into the jukebox terminal in our booth. I have no idea what I played, but one of the other young folks elsewhere in the café had cued up the week’s No. 1 record, and that’s what we heard first. My date sang along for a few moments with the Partridge Family’s ‘I Think I Love You.’ We all laughed, and I realized that my life right then was about as complicated as it had ever been. None of us mentioned it, but all three of us – my date, the other young lady and I – knew that if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been sitting on the other side of the booth, next to the gal whose boyfriend hadn’t been able to join us.

Then the waitress brought us our burgers and fries, and life moved on.

And I thought that this morning I would unhang that story just a little. There’s not a lot to tell, really. The outlines will be familiar to anyone who’s been through that difficult time of life we call adolescence: Senior boy meets sophomore girl. Girl already has boyfriend. Boy says, I would be better for you. Girl says, maybe, and thinks about it. Boy dreams. Girl says, sorry but no. Boy writes bad poetry.

It wasn’t the first time I’d wanted what turned out to be unattainable. I’d been practicing to be Don Quixote since seventh grade, at least. The difference with this young lady was that she was not entirely unattainable; she liked me enough that she considered changing her life. To be taken that seriously and regarded that well was a new thing for me. As the school year spun out, my Dulcinea wavered from time to time, but she never did move from where she stood. And – as I indicated in Thursday’s post – I dated others, but I never found enough attractions to permanently divert my vision.

We were all young, of course, and much of the tale I’m telling was spun out back then with quick glances in the hallway, messages sent through intermediaries and notes left in lockers. The notes I left for her – I wrote everything in purple ink that year, so there was never a need to sign my name – were frequently song lyrics, which said so well the things I wanted her to know.

There were some heartfelt face-to-face conversations. One of them took place in December when I spent an evening at her home. I brought along a Beatles LP, and she recognized one of the songs from one of the notes I’d dropped in her locker. Another serious conversation took place as spring approached; a day later, I closed my efforts to change her heart by leaving her, as a kind of benediction, the lyrics to another Beatles song.

I graduated that spring and went off to college and the life that waited for me there. She and her boyfriend did the same, and I saw them occasionally. I wished them well as they moved on and eventually got married; the last time I talked to her, they were happy. As for me, I took the long path that led me eventually to my Texas Gal.

So how interesting a story did that turn out to be? For readers, I’m not sure. It was, after all, just your basic high school hallway drama. For me, it was more than that, of course. It was my life, and if I didn’t get what I wanted, at least I learned a little bit better how one deals with that. And that’s a good thing to learn.

The two Beatles songs that framed our story? They’re today’s Saturday Singles.

“Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles, from Revolver [1966]
“I Will” by the Beatles, from The Beatles [1968]

(Note from 2022: My Dulcinea’s pairing with her high school sweetheart was not permanent. She, like I, met someone later in life, and she seems now to be abundantly happy.)

The Joy of Yellow Pea Soup

May 27, 2022

Originally posted September 30, 2009

During my childhood and youth, one thing that was sure to bring a smile when I came home from a hard day at school was seeing the pressure cooker on the stove. While that might mean vegetable soup – which was a fine meal itself – more often than not the sight of the pressure cooker mean that we were having yellow pea soup for supper. (For folks like my parents and their forbears out on the farms, “supper” was the evening meal; “dinner” was what you had at noon and “lunch” was a snack at mid-afternoon.)

I loved pea soup, and in our house, it was always made with whole yellow peas, just as it had been by generations of my Swedish ancestors in Minnesota and in the Swedish province of Småland for years before that. It’s a simple dish – a large pot of yellow peas, an onion and some pork hocks – cooked for hours and then enjoyed for days, with the soup becoming thicker and thicker each day. The only other thing on our table on those evenings was saltine crackers, though I imagine my ancestors likely had brown bread of some sort.

For years after I left home, Mom and Dad made the occasional large kettle of pea soup, freezing much of it for later meals. During the time I lived away from St. Cloud, nearly every visit to Kilian Boulevard would end with Dad pulling containers of food out of the freezer for me to take home, and several of those containers would hold a good-sized serving of pea soup. I’d ration them carefully, trying to make them last until close to my next trip to St. Cloud. In their later years together, Dad did most of the cooking. He passed on six years ago, and since then, Mom’s moved into an assisted living center and doesn’t do much cooking at all. So there’s been no home-made pea soup for me or for Mom for at least six years.

On occasion, I’ve made soup with split peas, but it just wasn’t the same. I’ve intended for a while to try my hand at the real thing, so for some time, there’s been a pound of whole yellow peas in our pantry, waiting for me to get organized. I did so about ten days ago, first soaking the peas overnight and pouring off that water. Then I sliced a large onion and cut the slices into eighths. I took a pound of ham and cut it into cubes that were roughly a third of an inch square. (I prefer the flavor of pork hocks, but they’re quite fatty, so I deferred to a healthier choice.) I put the peas, the ham and the onion in a five-and-a-half quart crockpot, filled the pot with water and added two teaspoons of celery seed, and then set it to cook on “high” for about six hours.

It turned out pretty well. The Texas Gal and I had a meal from the pot, and there was still more than enough left to provide lunches for me for a few days. As good as those meals were, however, there were two things that I enjoyed above all: First, I’d forgotten how pleasing it is to walk into a kitchen filled with the aroma of cooking pea soup. And second, after years of getting my home-made pea soup from Mom, I set aside a container of soup for her and was finally able to return the favor.

And here are a few songs from one of the years when the aroma of pea soup in the kitchen would have brightened the end of a rough junior high day:

A Random Six-Pack from 1966
“Somebody To Love” by The Great! Society, recorded live in San Francisco.
“Ribbon of Darkness” by Pozo-Seco Singers from I Can Make It With You.
“Where Were You When I Needed You” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4029.
“Down In The Alley” by Elvis Presley from the soundtrack to Spinout.
“At The River’s Edge” by the New Colony Six, Centaur 1202.
“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?” by the Rolling Stones, London 903

Bonus Track
“Who’s Driving My Plane” by the Rolling Stones, London 903

The Great! Society was the band Grace Slick was in before she joined the Jefferson Airplane, and it was during her time with the Great! Society that she penned her two most famous songs, “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit.” According to the notes from the Love Is The Song We Sing collection, the Great! Society released a 45 version of “Somebody To Love” on the Northbeach label in 1966, but it got little attention. The version offered here is a live performance during the summer of 1966 at the Matrix club in San Francisco’s Marina district. After Slick moved to the Airplane and she and her two best songs became famous in 1967, Columbia Records released the Great! Society album, Only In Its Absence, and included the live performance of “Somebody To Love.”

The Pozo-Seco Singers were a trio that came out of Texas and had a couple of Top 40 hits in the mid-1960s. (“I Can Make It With You” went to No. 32 in 1966, and “Look What You’ve Done” went to No. 32 as well in 1967.) Better known, perhaps, for being a starting place for country singer and songwriter Don Williams (“I Believe In You” was a No. 1 hit on the country charts in 1980) than for anything else, the Pozo-Seco Singers – Lofton Kline and Susan Taylor being the other two members – nevertheless are worth a listen for finding a middle ground in the folk/folk-pop spectrum that was evolving in the mid-1960s. As All-Music Guide notes, the Pozo-Seco Singers were “[n]ot as hip as Ian & Sylvia or Peter, Paul & Mary,” but “not as blatantly commercial as, say, the Seekers.” That’s not a bad place to find yourself as a musical group, and I’ve often wondered why the Pozo-Seco Singers didn’t have more success as they did.

There’s nothing too mysterious about the Grass Roots: Fourteen Top 40 hits between 1966 and 1972, starting with today’s choice, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which went to No. 28 during the summer of 1966. Nevertheless, the group was – and remains – kind of faceless; and the group’s history frustrates anyone trying to sort out the discography, as there were – according to AMG – “at least three different groups involved in the making of the songs” credited to the Grass Roots. AMG continues:

The Grass Roots was originated by the writer/producer team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri as a pseudonym under which they would release a body of Byrds/Beau Brummels-style folk-rock. Sloan and Barri were contracted songwriters for Trousdale Music, the publishing arm of Dunhill Records, which wanted to cash in on the folk-rock boom of 1965. Dunhill asked Sloan and Barri to come up with this material, and a group alias under which they would release it. The resulting “Grass Roots” debut song, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” sung by Sloan, was sent to a Los Angeles radio station, which began playing it.

After that, Sloan and Barri went out to find a group that could be the Grass Roots and go on tour, and – with several groups playing the part of the band – the hits kept happening for about six years.

I always kind of liked the Grass Roots’ singles, and it didn’t matter to me, really, who was in the studio on the other end. The songs were good radio pop-rock, and some days, that’s more than good enough.

I may have posted Elvis Presley’s version of “Down In The Alley” before, but it’s good enough to get an encore. The song was originally an R&B tune written by Jesse Stone and the Clovers and released in 1956, and Presley – during a time when his recordings missed the mark as frequently as they hit it – found the groove in the song. I don’t have enough Elvis information in my library to find out, but I’d sure like to know who’s backing Elvis here.

One evening in Denmark, a bunch of us were trading music trivia back and forth. A fellow known as Banger asked me to name the two hits by the New Colony Six. I’d never heard of the group, so I just shrugged my shoulders. Turns out the group was from the Chicago area – and reached the Top 40 twice: “I Will Always Think About You” went to No. 22 in the spring of 1968, and “Things I’d Like To Say” reached No. 16 in the late winter and early spring of 1969. I’m not sure how much airplay either of the two records got in the Twin Cities; when I finally heard the records years later, they weren’t at all familiar. In any case, what I’m offering today is the third recording in my collection by the New Colony Six, “At The River’s Edge,” released on Centaur before the group was signed by Mercury. I like it better than I like the other two: It’s got much more of a garage band feel to it, while the two hits – though nice – are a little too buffed and polished.

“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow?” might be the loudest record the Rolling Stones ever made. When I ripped the 45 this morning – an earlier rip I offered here was one of the first rips from vinyl I ever made and had, to my ears, some flaws – it red-lined for nearly the entire song. I backed that off a bit, but still, the single has a loud and thick sound. This was the first Rolling Stones record I ever owned, but it’s not like I was savvy enough in 1966 to go out and get it: I got the record from Leo Rau, the guy across the alley who owned a series of jukeboxes in St. Cloud. As an extra, because I don’t see it around very often, I’m offering the flip side, “Who’s Driving My Plane,” as a bonus track.

Sorry, Not Today

May 17, 2022

Originally posted August 26, 2009

A Six-Pack of Tomorrows
“Today Was Tomorrow Yesterday” by the Staple Singers from “City in the Sky” [1974]
“Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Brighter Day” by Jim Croce from “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” [1972]
“Getting Ready For Tomorrow” by Johnny Rivers from “Changes” [1966]
“Tomorrow Never Comes” by Big Head Todd & the Monsters from “Sister Sweetly” [1993]
“After Tomorrow” by Darden Smith from “Darden Smith” [1998]
“Beginning Tomorrow” by Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite from “The Joy” [1977]

The Greatest Cover?

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 11, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I offered some thoughts on Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and posted a couple of cover versions. In the comments to that post, Robert – a frequent visitor and commenter – wondered if Jimi Hendrix’ version of “All Along the Watchtower” could be considered the greatest rock cover version ever. He offered the Beatles’ take on “Twist and Shout” and Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” as other possibilities and said he could likely add a few others.

It’s a question I’ve pondered on occasion, and I don’t know that I’ll ever come to a satisfactory conclusion. Robert’s suggestions are certainly deserving. When I saw them, without doing any deep digging, I mentally added one more to the list: Otis Redding’s version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” released in 1966. And there are more I’d likely drop into a list of great cover versions if I took the time to get organized about my thinking.

I am, however, going to invest my time today in a post for tomorrow’s observance of Vinyl Record Day, commemorating Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph on August 12, 1877. So I’m going to turn to my readers and ask:

Which cover versions – in rock, soul, R&B or related genres – would you put on a list of the top, oh, fifteen cover versions of all time?

Here’s my nomination: The previously mentioned Otis Redding track. And, just for fun, I’m throwing in José Feliciano’s 1970 version of the same tune.

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by Otis Redding, Volt 132 [1966]

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by José Feliciano from Fireworks [1970]

At The County Fair

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 10, 2009

It’s county fair time. All throughout Minnesota – throughout the United States, for that matter – late July and early August is the time for county fairs, those sweet and dusty remnants of a time when agriculture was one of this nation’s main businesses.

So the Texas Gal and I took a couple hours yesterday and wandered through the grounds of the Benton County Fair in Sauk Rapids, the smaller city just north of the East Side of St. Cloud. We walked through the midway, shaking our heads at invitations to throw darts or basketballs, or to play the pinball-style Pig Race. We also decided against any of the rides; none of them looked too stomach-churning, but we passed anyway.

We spent a few moments near the animal barns watching eleven- and twelve-year-old girls on horseback compete in barrel-racing. And we walked through the animal barns themselves, checking out the horses and cattle, the pigs, sheep, goats and llamas, the rabbits, geese, chickens, ducks and pigeons. We also spent some time in a couple of the less-aromatic buildings, looking at the photography, quilting and crochet work.

And we had lunch. At the fair’s main crossroads, there was a cluster of booths offering nearly any kind of food you could want, from plain burgers and ice cream cones to funnel cakes, deep-fried cheese curds, smoked turkey legs, barbecued ribs and more. We looked around and finally settled on a French fry stand. The Texas Gal had hers plain, while I had mine covered with cheese and sloppy joe filling.

We don’t get to the fair every year, even though it’s less than two miles away.  Sometimes we just get distracted and forget about it, and other years, we end up with other events scheduled that week.

When I was a kid, however, I rarely missed the fair. I recall going with my family until I was maybe twelve. From then on, for the next six years or so, I went with Rick. Our main focus was the midway. We didn’t go on many rides, maybe the Tilt-A-Whirl or the Scrambler, but we wandered around, played a few games and looked for other kids we knew. We also found ourselves fascinated by the folks who worked the midway, the traveling carnies who went from fair to fair all summer long.

One year, when we were in our mid-teens (which means it could have been any year from 1967 through 1970; if I had to guess, I’d say 1968, when we were fourteen), we biked over to the fairgrounds on Thursday, the day before the fair opened. It was still a busy place. Farmers brought their animals and crops in for judging, as did kids who belonged to 4H. Crafters brought their projects. Merchants put together the commercial booths and displays. And down on the midway, rough-looking carnies put up tents, got the games running and assembled rides from the Ferris wheel on down.

We weren’t the only kids there that day. There were, I guess, about fifty kids, each one straddling a bicycle and watching as the carnies assembled the midway. It was hard work, and our attentions, I’m sure, didn’t make it any easier. After a while, one kid got too close to the work, and one of the carnies snarled at him, snapping off a line that I can still hear in my head: “Go home, kid, and tell your mother she wants ya!”

Rick and I didn’t get snarled at. We got hired. Sometime during that morning, we wandered by the dart game, and for some reason, we asked the guy if he needed any help. He eyed us skeptically, chewed his cheek and then nodded. “Not today,” he said, “but come back tomorrow, and you can blow balloons up for me.”

I had visions that evening of running out of breath blowing up balloons. But when we go to the fairgrounds the next day, I learned to my relief that we’d be using an air compressor, located in the back of the tent, behind the big dartboard. Our employer – I never knew his name and never thought to ask – showed us two chairs, the air compressor, two big empty boxes and a cartoon of balloons waiting for air.

Our job was to blow up balloons, tie them off and fill the two big empty boxes. For doing that, we’d get five or ten bucks, I don’t recall which. We sat on the chairs and got into a routine: Rick would fill the balloon with the compressor, and I’d carefully take it off the compressor’s nozzle and tie one knot in the neck. Into one of the two boxes it went, and by the time I had tossed the balloon into a box, Rick had another ready for me to grab and tie.

It all went pretty fast. In two, maybe three hours, we’d filled both boxes, and we reported back to the dart man. He gave us our money, and we headed off into the fairgrounds with a little bit of extra cash to spend.

A Six-Pack of Fairs
“Scarborough Fair/Canticle” by Simon & Garfunkel from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme [1966]
“County Fair” by Bruce Springsteen, recorded in California, released in 2003 on The Essential Bruce Springsteen [1983]
“Renaissance Fair” by the Byrds from Younger Than Yesterday [1967]
“Too Long At The Fair” by Bonnie Raitt from Give It Up [1972]
“Roseville Fair” by Nanci Griffith from Once In A Very Blue Moon [1984]
“The Fair Is Moving On” by Elvis Presley from Back In Memphis [1970]

There is a temptation, given the monumental status of Simon & Garfunkel’s ”Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” to find a different song to lead off this selection, perhaps one of the several covers I have of the tune. That’s a temptation that arises frequently with well-known recordings, and my reaction to that internal censor often is – as it is today – “Then let’s remind everyone why the song has that monumental status.” When two alternate versions of the song were used in the soundtrack for the film The Graduate in 1968, Columbia released as a single the original 1966 version from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (at least, I believe it was the original version). As a single, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” spent nine weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 11. As a cultural artifact, it seemed to be omnipresent during that spring of 1968, nearly as omnipresent as the duo’s “Mrs. Robinson.”

Springsteen’s “County Fair” was included on the bonus CD that came with the 2003 anthology The Essential Bruce Springsteen. In the notes to the CD set, Springsteen simply labels the song a “portrait of an end-of-summer fair on the outskirts of town.” He goes on: “It’s from a collection of acoustic songs I cut shortly after the ‘Nebraska’ album in California in ’83.” The lyrics are spare, which fits in with Springsteen’s other work at the time. I love the name of the band that’s playing the fair: James Young and the Immortal Ones.

The Byrds’ “Renaissance Fair” was co-written by Roger McGuinn and David Crosby, and has a good dose of Crosby’s impressionistic approach to songwriting:

I smell cinnamon and spices
I hear music everywhere
All around kaleidoscope of color
I think that maybe I’m dreaming…

In less than two minutes, the song does its work: It pulls the listener – this listener, anyway – out of humdrum twenty-first century America to a moment when neither place nor time are specified (though with the song’s title, one wonders about, say, fifteenth century Florence). It’s an easy song to get lost in.

Give It Up was Bonnie Raitt’s second album, and it held – notes All-Music Guide – to an “engaging blend of folk, blues, R&B, and Californian soft rock.” “Too Long At The Fair” fits snugly into that mix. An oddity: The song’s title was listed on the 1972 record jacket as “Stayed Too Long At The Fair,” with the more familiar title printed on the record label. The website of composer Joell Zoss calls the song “Too Long At The Fair.” I’ve never seen the CD package, so I’ll assume – I would hope, anyway – that the correct song title now appears on the label.

“Roseville Fair” shows Nanci Griffith doing what she did best during the early years of her career: Country-based folk and pop. Her version of Bill Staines’ tune is one of the highlights of Once In A Very Blue Moon, her third album.

“The Fair Is Moving On” is one of the tracks that Elvis Presley recorded during his 1969 sessions in Memphis. Though not as gripping as other tracks that came out of those sessions – “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Only The Strong Survive” and more – it’s nevertheless a strong performance in its own right. I pulled the track from a two-CD package titled Suspicious Minds and subtitled The Memphis 1969 Anthology. If I’m tracking things correctly, this was the version of “The Fair Is Moving On” that ended up on a 1970 LP titled Back In Memphis.

On Summers Gone

May 13, 2022

Originally posted July 31, 2009

I’ve been trying for an hour now to write something meaningful about how it felt to be a kid in summertime. And I’m not sure that what I remember is really how it felt. There is a tendency, a temptation, to put a nostalgic and meaningful glaze on all the memories and perceptions of childhood and youth (a temptation I frequently find difficult to resist), as if the only purpose of being a child in the 1960s was to provide memories for us in later life.

That’s not how it was, of course. We didn’t run through our summer days constantly thinking how fine our memories of those days would someday be. Oh, there were times, special days, when the thought came: I hope I remember this forever. And I do remember thinking that at times, but sadly and ironically, I don’t recall in any of those cases what it was that I hoped to remember.

I do remember games: We boys – with a few girls, now and then – would play workup baseball in the street during the day and into the late afternoon. After dinner, as the evening approached, all of us – boys and girls alike – would play games like “Kick the Can,” a hide-and-seek type game. We played across a territory that ranged widely around the neighborhood, with some yards in play and others – generally those of folks who had no kids – not in play. That would go on until the very last light of the day was fading and the streetlights came on. Then, in ones and twos, kids would make their ways home.

At other times, we – generally Rick and I – might make our way to the grocery store half a block away on Fifth Avenue. We’d dither over the best investment for our pennies and nickels, maybe buy some Dubble Bubble or Sour Grapes bubble gum. Or maybe we’d buy one of those balsa wood gliders that – with luck – flew loops in the backyard air without getting stuck in the trees.

We were unconcerned, for the most part, with the events and realities of life beyond Kilian Boulevard and the southeast side. I, being who I’ve always been, followed the news at least a little, but the accounts I read of the civil rights movement, and of war and unrest in a place called Vietnam, didn’t touch us. Not then, in the first half of the 1960s.

We got older, and one by one, the older kids quit playing the summer games we’d always played. And one summer, sometime in the latter half of the 1960s, Rick and I were the older kids, and the younger kids were playing their own games. With a figurative shrug, we went off and did something else.

Many things about those summertimes are hazy, with specific memories replaced by generalities. But one thing I know: As I made my way from being one of the little kids to being one of the older kids, I was aware of summertime music. I remember how it seemed like the volume was turned up during those three months. Even in the very early years, I heard music during summer that I evidently chose to ignore the rest of the year.

Some Summertime Hits From Motown
 “Heat Wave” by Martha & The Vandellas, Gordy 7022 (No. 4, 1963)
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 3, 1971)
“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by the Temptations, Gordy 7054 (No. 13, 1966)
“I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder, Tamla 54151 (No. 2, 1967)
“It’s the Same Old Song” by the Four Tops, Motown 1081 (No. 5, 1965)
 “I’ll Keep Holding On” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54116 (No. 34, 1965)
“You Beat Me To The Punch” by Mary Wells, Motown 1032 (No. 9, 1962)
“The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5, Motown 116 (No. 1, 1970)
“Where Did Our Love Go” by the Supremes, Motown 1051 (No. 1, 1964)
“The Tracks Of My Tears” by the Miracles, Tamla 54118 (No. 16, 1965)

When selecting from the massive Motown/Gordy/Tamla catalog, it’s comforting to have a few rules in place. Given my framework here of choosing only songs that entered the Top 40 in June, July or August, as well as choosing one song per performer/group, I thought I did pretty well.

Many of these, of course, came out in the years before I paid much attention to rock, pop or R&B, but Motown’s best work – like a lot of the great music of the time – was part of the environment. Wherever we went, there were radios, and wherever radios were, you heard the tunes of the time. I’m not saying I heard all of these when they were on the radio regularly, but I know I heard most of them, and for today, that’s close enough.

Looking For Train Wrecks

May 6, 2022

Originally posted July 7, 2009

Last week, as I was digging through my dad’s records, I shared cover versions of three Beatles songs pulled from the 1968 Reader’s Digest box set Popular Music Hit Parade. I was sure that one of the three – versions of “Michelle,” “Yellow Submarine” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” by the Hank Levine Singers and Orchestra – would qualify as the fourth entrant in our Train Wreck Jukebox. (The fifth, if one counts the instrumental B-side of the Swingers’ Bay-Hay Bee Doll.) I invited comments from readers.

As it turned out, only two readers weighed in, but they were long-time visitors Yah Shure and Oldetymer (whose handle I misspelled the other day. Sorry!). And they were in agreement that Levine’s treatment of “Yellow Submarine” was, in fact, a train wreck. I concurred. As I told Yah Shure in a note, not even a dissent written by Antonin Scalia (the best writer on the U.S. Supreme Court, though I rarely agree with his views) would save the track.

I also listed a few of the other covers included in Popular Music Hit Parade, noting that, having never listened to the entire set, I had no idea how difficult they might be to hear. Oldetymer said he wouldn’t mind hearing a few. So we’re going to dig into some 1960s pop hits and the Reader’s Digest covers of them this morning. And we may find a train wreck or two.

The fourth Top 40 hit of Roger Miller’s career was the first one not tabbed a novelty hit by the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Miller’s previous entries in the Top 40 had been “Dang Me” (No. 7) and “Chug-A-Lug (No. 9) in 1964 and “Do-Wacka-Do” (No. 31) in 1965. I’m not entirely sure I’d classify “Dang Me” as a novelty hit; that seems a bit unfair to Miller and the record. In any event, his fourth hit, which reached the Top 40 in February of 1965, was the enduring “King of the Road,” with its wryly happy celebration of the hobo life.

“King of the Road” by Roger Miller, Smash 1965 [1965]

Our Reader’s Digest cover version sounded promising when I cued it up, but I’ll let you decide its fate:

“King of the Road” by Nashville Sounds & Jerry Reed (Guitar) [1968]

Next comes an odd record that was seemingly inescapable for a few weeks. In fact, for one evening, it was literally inescapable. Drawing for some reason on the style of Rudy Vallee’s hits in the 1920s, “Winchester Cathedral” jumped up the charts in November of 1966 and spent three weeks at No. 1. The song was credited to the New Vaudeville Band, which, according to the Billboard Book of Number One Hits, didn’t truly exist until after the record went to No. 1. The record was essentially the creation of British songwriter and producer Geoff Stephens, who – after the record hit – scrambled to put together a group of musicians to be the New Vaudeville Band. It didn’t help. “Winchester Cathedral” was the group’s only hit.

And the evening when the record was inescapable? It was New Year’s Eve 1966. As was our custom at the time, Rick and I spent the evening at his place, playing pool and board games and just hanging around. At the same time, one of Rick’s sisters had friends over, as well, and from the record player in those precincts came the strains, repeatedly, of “Winchester Cathedral.”

“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band, Fontana 1562 [1966]

And here’s the Reader’s Digest cover of the song:

“Winchester Cathedral” by Marty Paitch & His Orchestra & Chorus [1968]

One of the cheeriest-sounding pop hits of the mid-1960s was the Seekers’ “Georgy Girl,” with its whistling introduction. The tune was the title song from a film starring Lynn Redgrave and James Mason, but one wonders from the first line of the film’s description at the Internet Movie Database just how cheery the movie is: “A homely but vivacious young woman dodges the amorous attentions of her father’s middle-aged employer while striving to capture some of the glamorous life of her swinging London roommate.” These days, that sounds like a lawsuit or an addiction – or perhaps both – waiting to happen.

Anyway, the song was quite cheery, and it entered the Top 40 during the last week of 1966, eventually reaching No. 2, the third and final hit for the Seekers. The first two, both in 1965, were “I’ll Never Find Another You,” which went to No. 4, and “A World Of Our Own,” which peaked at No. 19. (Then there was the group called the New Seekers, an offshoot, but that’s a topic for another time.)

“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers, Capitol 5756 [1966]

And here’s the Reader’s Digest cover version with a familiar name in the credits:

“Georgy Girl” by the Hank Levine Singers & Orchestra [1968]

I’m not sure how frequently these things happen these days, but every once a while during the 1960s, a record that was clearly designed for the middle of the road would take off and find itself in the Top 40, or maybe even the Top 10. When it happened with a Frank Sinatra song – “Strangers In The Night” (No. 1, 1966), “That’s Life” (No. 4, 1966) and “Something Stupid” (No. 1, 1967, with his daughter, Nancy) were the biggest – that was understandable. But Ed Ames? He was the lead singer of the Ames Brothers, who had ten Top 40 hits between 1954 and 1960, with the biggest of them being “The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane,” which went to No. 3 in 1954. And in 1967, Ames had an unlikely No. 8 hit with a song from the off-Broadway musical I Do, I Do.

“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames, RCA Victor 9002 [1967]

And here’s the Reader’s Digest cover of Ames’ hit:

“My Cup Runneth Over” by Bill Lee with Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra [1968]

So there we have them. Let me know if you think there are any train wrecks in here.

‘When You’re Lost In The Rain In Juarez . . .’

January 21, 2022

I told most of this story here long ago, and I told it again this week at the Consortium of Seven, where I blog on Mondays about music. I figured a third time would not hurt.

I was reminded the other day that somewhere in my (relatively small) collection of 45 rpm singles is Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” And I was reminded that I found the 45 in a box of records I got from Leo Rau, the man who lived across the alley from us in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was fourteen at the time and pretty pleased with the records – for reasons we’ll get to in a moment – and didn’t quite understand what Mr. Rau did for a living.

My dad said Mr. Rau was a jobber, and then explained to me that Mr. Rau had a chain of vending machines – candy machines, cigarette machines and juke boxes – that he kept stocked with what seemed to me the good stuff of life: Snickers, Nut Rolls and Juicy Fruit Gum among the candy; Camels, Winstons and Herbert Tareytons among the cigarettes (not such a good part of life, as it turned out), and records by performers such as Sandy Posey, Petula Clark and Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass.

As I headed into my teens, being across the alley from the Raus seemed like a pretty good deal. Steve Rau, who was four years or so older than I (and played the drums, which I thought was kind of cool), decided one day to get rid of his comic book collection and gave it to me: Lots of Jughead and Archie, some war comics – stories of World War II, which was just more than twenty years past – and comics based on television shows of the mid-1950s, none of which I recalled. It was a treasure trove.

And several times, Mr. Rau passed on to me a box of 45 rpm records. I don’t recall everything he gave to me; I know one of them was Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” because I still have it. Another was Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.” And there are a few others that Mr. Rau gave me that have survived the fifty-some years since. (A list of those survivors, from what I can remember – I had several sources over the years for mid-1960s 45s – is at the bottom of this piece.)

The Raus were good folks to have as neighbors. When they – Leo and Ilamae – were out in their back yard at the same times as my folks were in ours, the four would often have alley-side conversations that might last an hour or might last as briefly as it took for my folks – or just my dad or mom – to hand over some home-grown rhubarb and accept from one or both of the Raus some cucumbers ready for the table.

And, as I mentioned, several times during the mid-1960s, Leo Rau would hand me a box of records that had outlived their usefulness in the juke boxes he stocked. As I look back at the 12- to 14-year-old boy that I was then, it’s remarkable that any of them survived. At that age, I was distinctly unhip. I did not listen to Top 40 radio. I had only a few LPs and no singles to speak of in my record collection. And I didn’t listen to many of the records Mr. Rau gave me. Instead, I used them for target practice with my BB gun.

So when I say that some of the records survived, I am being literal. I have no idea how many 45s I aimed and shot at, punching neat little holes in the grooves. Maybe a hundred. A lot of the records Mr. Rau gave me were country & western, a genre that was far less cool (and far more real and gritty) than country music is today. I do remember a lot of Sandy Posey, Sonny James and Buck Owens, records that it would be nice to have today.

But I know a good share of the records that met my BBs were pop and rock, simply because of those that survived, including the two I mentioned above: the Procol Harum and the Dylan. And it’s knowing how close I came to destroying the Dylan record that makes me shake my head in something near disbelief, because years later, I learned that the B-side of the Dylan 45 offered listeners a true rarity: the sound of Dylan performing live. The B-side was an incendiary version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” recorded live – the label says – in Liverpool.

It’s a noteworthy record. Here’s what Dave Marsh said about it in his 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, where he ranked the B-side of the record at No. 243.

If you liked the jingly folk-rock of “I Want You” enough to run out and buy the single without waiting for the album (which only turned out to be Blonde on Blonde), you got the surprise of your life: A B side taken from Dylan’s recent European tour on which he and a rock band (which only turned out to be The Band) did things to “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” a song from Highway 61 Revisited, that it’s still risky to talk about in broad daylight.

Rock critics like to make a big deal about B sides but there are only maybe a dozen great ones in the whole history of singles. This one’s rank is indisputable, though, because it offers something that wasn’t legally available until the early Seventies: a recorded glimpse of Dylan’s onstage prowess. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” came out before anybody ever thought of bootlegging rock shows, before anybody this side of Jimi Hendrix quite understood Dylan as a great rock and roll stage performer. And so this vicious, majestic music, hidden away in the most obscure place he could think of putting it, struck with amazing force.

The group behind Dylan wasn’t exactly The Band: The drummer for the European tour was Mickey Jones. Levon Helm had become fed up with performing in front of angry and jeering crowds who wanted to hear Bob Dylan the folksinger and were being presented with Bob Dylan the rock and roll performer. He’d gone back to Arkansas and wouldn’t rejoin the other four members of what became The Band until after the tour, when he joined them and Dylan in Woodstock (where the six of them began recording the music later released as The Basement Tapes and where The Band began work on its debut, Music From Big Pink.)

Now, we come to an oddity. The visual in the video below tells us that this version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” comes from the so-called “Albert Hall” concert, which actually took place May 17, 1966, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and was released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966. According to the label on my 45, the B-side version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” was recorded in Liverpool, England. The concert schedule tells us that would have been on May 14, 1966.

But the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” offered in the video below matches the sound on the B-side of my 45. I think it’s the same as the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from the official release of the Manchester Free Trade Hall Concert. There was a mistake somewhere, and I have no way to sort it out. Maybe what was actually the Manchester performance was mislabeled on the 45 as being recorded in Liverpool. I dunno. In any case, the music in the video below is the version of the tune that Marsh celebrates in his book.

I look at the fragile 45 that survived my BB gun and shake my head. It’s undeniably a treasure, but it didn’t survive because I knew that. It didn’t survive when so many other records were splintered by BBs because it was by Bob Dylan. I was unhip enough at the ages of twelve to fourteen to have no real good idea who Bob Dylan was; that awareness would take at least another four to five years. It was a happy accident, pure and simple, that I never looked past the sights of my BB rifle at the Dylan record.

Dave Marsh sums up his comments about the record: “Today it sounds like the reapings of a whirlwind, Dylan’s voice as draggy, druggy and droogy as the surreal Mexican beatnik escapade he’s recounting, Robbie Robertson carving dense mathematical figures on guitar, Garth Hudson working pure hoodoo on organ. Slurred and obtuse as Little Richard reading Ezra Pound, there’s a magnificence here so great that, if you had to, you could make the case for rock and roll as a species of art using this record and nothing else.”

I probably got more than a hundred records from Leo Rau during those few years in the mid-1960s. These, I think, are the survivors:

“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“I Want You/Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (live)” by Bob Dylan
“Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” by the Fifth Estate
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“Don’t Go Out Into The Rain” by Herman’s Hermits
“No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits
“This Door Swings Both Ways” by Herman’s Hermits
“Look Through My Window” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Monday, Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
“Single Girl” by Sandy Posey
“Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum
“Have You Seen Your Mother. Baby, Standing In The Shadows” by the Rolling Stones
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Lightning’s Girl” by Nancy Sinatra
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher

‘If Tonight Was Not A Crooked Trail . . .’

November 9, 2021

There’s a little note on top of the file in which I write this blog. It’s been there a while, three years maybe. Long enough, anyway, that my eyes tend to slide right past it when I open the file to write a post.

It says, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”

I assume it’s a reminder for me to write about the Bob Dylan song, not just a pithy bit of wisdom meant to help me focus on today’s tasks. I further assume the post I had in mind when I typed that potentially enigmatic title – it’s in quote marks, so it has to be a title – was a brief examination of covers of the Dylan song. If so, it’s an example of poor institutional memory, since I did a post like that in 2013.

But that was eight years ago, and my rereading of the post tells me that the Dylan version I would have liked to share wasn’t available in good form at YouTube. (The audio was fine, but the visuals were portions of a show about zombies, which never made sense to me.) So, let’s just review some of the versions of the song I have here in my files.

We start with four versions by Dylan himself: One from around 1962, maybe 1963, included in the 2010 Bootleg Series release The Witmark Demos; one from a 1963 solo performance at New York City’s Town Hall (that would be the first official release of the song, coming out on Dylan’s second greatest hits collection in 1972); and two versions with a band from the 2021 Bootleg Series release 1970.

Here’s that 1963 performance as released on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, this time without zombies.

Other artists jumped on it right away, of course, with Ian & Sylvia being the first, releasing it in July 1963 on their Four Strong Winds album. That one’s here, as are a few other covers from the Sixties by Odetta (1965), Elvis Presley (1966), the Pozo-Seco Singers (1966), Glenn Yarbrough (the first version I ever heard, from 1967), Dion (in a medley with Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’,” 1968), an obscure group named Street (which included the Dylan song in a medley with a stentorian version of George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone” in 1968), and by the country-rock duo of Levitt & McClure (1969).

My favorite of those is likely the Yarbrough simply because I heard it first, but I’m certain I long ago featured that one here. After that, I like the version by the Pozo-Seco Singers from their 1966 album Time. There are other, later, versions of the song, but we’ll close things today with the Pozo-Seco Singers.