Archive for the ‘1969’ Category

Into A New Year

July 6, 2022

Originally posted January 1, 2010

So it’s the first morning of a new year and of a new decade. (That last is true only in cultural terms; mathematically, the new decade starts a year from now, but I understand the widely felt impulse.) Does that make today a time to reflect? A time to review? A time to quaff a good beer and watch college football? A time to listen to music?

Around here, it’s always a good time for the last two of those choices. And reflection and review seem to be pretty constant in these precincts, too. So any observations I make about life and music or anything else simply because of today’s date would likely be things I’d say on another, less obvious, date as well. Proclamation for the sake of proclamation – though I’ve no doubt been guilty of that at times – is something I’ll avoid today.

But I would like to note that something about this new year resonates here: 2010. It feels like science fiction to me, like a time so far in the future that I’d never get there. Perhaps that’s because Arthur C. Clarke used it for the title of one of his sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nine years ago, the dawn of the year 2001 carried with it that same quality of futuristic resonance, almost certainly because of the 1968 film and story that Clarke wrote with Stanley Kubrick. Another year that had that same sense, though in a far less pleasant context, was 1984. When I read George Orwell’s bleak novel in high school, the titular year of 1984 seemed so far away that it was impossible to comprehend: I was fifteen in 1969, and Orwell’s dystopian universe was set fifteen years in the future, and that was more than a lifetime away for me.

But we went through 1984 and shot past 2001 on our way to this morning and 2010, and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long of a journey. Oh, if I care to catalog the places where I’ve been as each January 1 has dawned and the people with whom I’ve shared my life as those days passed, it’s clear that in some ways – to borrow from Bob Dylan – time passes slowly. But looking back, it’s also just as clear that it’s been – to borrow again, this time from Jackson Browne – the wink of an eye.

There’s a clear contradiction there, of course. Maybe the resolution is something as simple as noting that time ahead seems long while time back seems short. Other than that, the puzzle is not one I’m willing to try to untangle today.

What I am willing to do is to wish all those who stop by here the best of years in 2010. May the next twelve months bring you peace, comfort, joy and lots of good music. (And for those whose tastes bend that way, plenty of good beer, too!)

A Six-Pack of Years
“Year of Decision” by the Three Degrees from Three Degrees [1973]
“This Year” by the Staple Singers from Soul Folk in Action [1968]
“As the Years Go Passin’ By” by the Lamont Cranston Band from Tiger In My Tank [1999]
 “Hard Hard Year” by Growing Concern from Growing Concern [1969]
“Soft Parade of Years” by Dion from Suite For Late Summer [1972]
“Tender Years” by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers [1983]

Just a few notes about the songs:

“Year of Decision” is a sweet piece of Philadelphia soul from the same album that eventually brought the group one of its two biggest hits: “When Will I See You Again,” which went to No. 2 in 1974. (The other of the Three Degrees’ biggest hits was “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was No. 1 for two weeks earlier that same year.)

The Staple Singers have shown up here often enough – and this track itself might have, too, for that matter – that what they provide is no surprise: Tunes that are sometimes melodic, sometimes gritty, sometimes both, but always tunes with at least a little bit of something to think about.

It’s hard to know exactly how well-known the Lamont Cranston Band is/was in other parts of the country or beyond. Here in Minnesota, the band was pretty well-known and generally successful with its beefy bluesy mix. “As The Years Go Passin’ By” – a tune that I think originated with bluesman Fenton Robinson in 1959 – is a pretty good example of how the Cranstons approached their work.

I picked up Growing Concern a while back at the wonderful blog hippy djkit. Here’s what the blog’s dj fanis had to say about the record: “Fantastic ringing acid guitar work with male/female vocal duets that swoop and dive over a strong acid folk/rock backing. Essential for the US ’60s fanatic . . . Featured harmony vocals by Bonnie MacDonald and Mary Garstki, which are an intricate part of the band’s distinctive sound. Great organ and guitar interplay feature on most tracks . . .” (I’ve seen other sources that have 1968 as the release year, but I’ll go with dj fanis’ year of 1969.)

Dion’s “Soft Parade of Years” is maybe a little slight, as is the singer/songwriter-ish album it comes from, Suite For Late Summer. But Dion has worked in so many styles over the years – the most recent being that of solo bluesman – that even his lesser experiments are interesting.

I once read a comment to the effect that “Tender Years” and its companion from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers, “On The Dark Side,” were likely the best non-Springsteen Springsteen records ever made. There’s no doubt that the two records sound like The Boss’ work. But they also sound like the music the movie called for: a mix of the early Eighties and a mythical time in the Sixties. Cafferty and his band were asked for something, and they produced, and “Tender Years” is a track I enjoy every time it pops up.

One Of Those Days

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 18, 2009

It’s one of those days. I got the kitten – our newest, Little Gus – to the vet for his last round of shots this morning, and that’s about all that’s gonna happen.

But I mentioned Wednesday that Duane Allman was one of the guitarists who played on Barry Goldberg’s 1969 album, Two Blues Jews, noting further that an Allman discography says that Duane played on the track “Twice A Man.”

So, here’s a treat to get us all through the day:

“Twice A Man” by Barry Goldberg with Duane Allman on guitar.
From Two Blues Jews [1969]

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

Defaulting To Random

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 16, 2009

Today’s post was going to be a look at December 1971. Not that I had any great tale to tell, but I’d recalled a brief anecdote onto which to hang a musical hat.

And the chart – from December 18, 1971 – looked good. I was particularly happy with the presence of “You Are Everything” by the Stylistics and “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)” by the Temptations. I pulled the vinyl anthologies for both groups and got to work. Regrettably, both pieces of vinyl have skips. At least, I think so. I’m certain the Stylistics track does. Then there’s an odd rhythm at the beginning of the Temptations piece, and I think it’s a skip. I need to dig a little further.

But messing around with those two rips – the two tracks would have been great to share – has taxed my patience, and the brief tale I’m going to resurrect from the last month of 1971 will have to wait. I’m just going to cue up the third track I’d already selected from that week in December 1971 and go more or less random from there. By “more or less,” I mean that there’ll be nothing pre-1950, nothing post-1999, nothing I recall sharing recently, and nothing that might yet end up in the listing for my Ultimate Jukebox.

An update on that project, since it came up: It was relatively easy to find enough records to consider. It’s become quite difficult to pare them down to two hundred. The list right now numbers two hundred and thirty-five, and I hope to get down to two hundred within a week.

A Mostly Random Six-Pack
“So Many People” by Chase, Epic 10806 [1971]
“Maxwell Street Shuffle” by Barry Goldberg from Two Blues Jews [1969]
“Hobo Jungle” by The Band from Northern Lights/Southern Cross [1975]
“Sisters of Mercy” by Judy Collins from Wildflowers [1967]
“In The Light Of Day” by Steve Winwood from Refugees of the Heart [1990]
“Weather With You” by Crowded House from Woodface [1991]

Listening to it today, I’m startled that “So Many People” was essentially unsuccessful. Chase’s “Get It On” went to No. 24 during the summer of 1971, but “So Many People” peaked at No. 81 during the first week of 1972 and then took a week or so to tumble out of sight. And that’s too bad, because from here and now, it was a great horn-band single. But maybe the era of the horn band was ending. A note: I once was silly enough to write that Chase was a group without a guitar player because the review I was looking at mentioned everyone in the group but the lead guitarist. Of course, the group had a guitar player. On this track, it’s Angel South. Others here are Bill Chase, Ted Piercefield, Alan Ware and Jerry Van Blair on trumpets; Phil Porter on organ, Dennis Johnson on bass, Jay Burrid on drums and G.G. Shinn on vocals.

As All-Music Guide notes, Barry Goldberg “was a regular fixture in the white blues firmament of the mid-’60s that seemed to stretch from Chicago to New York.” His name popped up in album credits everywhere, as he played with Harvey Mandel, Mother Earth, the Electric Flag, Jimmy Witherspoon, B.J. Thomas, Maggie Bell, Stephen Stills, Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and many more. Two Jews Blues was his own album, and it comes off pretty well, given that he got a lot of his friends to show up and help out. I’m not sure who does the guitar solo on “Maxwell Street Shuffle,” but the guitarists credited at AMG are Mandel, Bloomfield, Duane Allman and Eddie Hinton. (It’s not Allman, according to a Duane Allman discography that’s pretty reliable; the site says that Allman played on one track on the album, “Twice A Man.”)

As much as I love The Band, I’ve never quite figured out how I feel about the album Northern Lights/Southern Cross. Two of the songs on the album – “Acadian Driftwood” and “It Makes No Difference” – are among the group’s best and are so good that the rest of the album seems somehow wanting when taken as a unit. But when other tracks pop up individually – as “Hobo Jungle” did today – they seem better than I remember them being. Which might put The Band in a rare category as a group whose own lesser work still shines when placed next to the best work of a lot of other performers.

I wrote the other week about the albums my sister owned when she was in college, the albums she took with her when she left home. Judy Collins’ Wildflowers was one of them. Collins’ cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Sisters of Mercy” is one of the most evocative tracks on the record; hearing it puts me back into late 1971, the period of time I was going to write about today. It’s evening, and I’m in the rec room in the basement, maybe playing tabletop hockey with Rick and Rob, maybe reading, maybe talking quietly with my first college girlfriend. Collins’ soprano and Cohen’s lyric – enigmatic as it may be – blended so well that “Sisters of Mercy” became one of the songs that made that rec room my refuge.

“In The Light Of Day” was the closing track to Steve Winwood’s Refugees of the Heart, an album that hasn’t been too well-respected over the years: AMG’s William Ruhlmann says, “The key to Steve Winwood’s solo career is inconsistency; Refugees of the Heart was a letdown. The distinction between a great Winwood album and one that’s only okay is dangerously small – it has more to do with performance than composition . . .” I admit to not being blown away when I got the album in 1990 and then again when I found the CD in a budget bin two years ago. But this morning “In The Light Of Day” – essentially a lengthy, grooved prayer – seemed pretty good. The saxophone solo is by Randall Bramblett.

“Weather With You” is one of my favorite Crowded House tunes, but then, CH was a group that rarely did anything I truly dislike. During their heyday – the late 1980s and early 1990s – I heard and read the term “Beatlesque” applied to the New Zealanders so often that it became a cliché instead of meaningful commentary. But “Weather With You” is bright, concise, melodic and infectious, and those are virtues no matter who you’re being compared to.

Remembering Rick Danko

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 10, 2009

Ten years ago this week, I was poking my way through the Minneapolis paper. I’d lost the habit of reading the obituaries – I wasn’t working in news anymore – but for some reason, my eyes settled on the section of the page that the Star-Tribune sets aside for newsworthy deaths.

And there I saw Rick Danko’s name. A member of The Band – he played bass, guitar and more and added his distinctive voice to the group’s vocal mix – his heart had given out and he’d died December 10, 1999, in his sleep at his home near Woodstock, New York. He was fifty-six.

It had been a long road for The Band. The group had played from the 1950s through The Last Waltz in 1976, when things were called to a halt by guitarist and composer Robbie Robertson. Along the way, the five musicians – Robertson, Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel – had first been the Hawks, backing Ronnie Hawkins. The group backed Bob Dylan on some crucial tours and acclaimed recordings in the 1960s and again during the 1970s. A few years after The Last Waltz, the group reconvened without Robertson and played gigs until Manuel’s suicide in 1986.

In the early 1990s, Danko, Helm and Hudson brought in three new players for a new version of The Band. That version released three CDs and toured frequently. Danko also played during the 1990s with Eric Andersen and Norwegian musician Jonas Fjeld, and that trio released three CDs.

I saw the 1990s version of The Band twice at the Cabooze, a bar not far from the West Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. For one of the shows, in 1994, I had a seat and stayed put. For the other show two years later, I wandered and found myself for a while in the front row of the crowd standing near the stage. As we in the crowd sang along with Danko on the chorus of “It Makes No Difference” – “And the sun don’t shine anymore; and the rains fall down on my door” – my gaze and Danko’s caught. He returned my smile and gave me a quick wink, a moment I treasure.

And ten years ago this week, with Danko gone, the story of The Band ended. Here are a few of the memories he and his friends left behind.

A Six-Pack of Rick Danko
“New Mexicoe” by Rick Danko from Rick Danko [1977]
“Raining In My Heart” by Rick Danko from Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band [1989]
“Blue River” by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen from Danko/Fjeld/Andersen [1991]
“It Makes No Difference” by The Band from Northern Lights/Southern Cross [1976]
“The Unfaithful Servant” by The Band from The Band [1969]
“Too Soon Gone” by The Band from Jericho [1993]

Note: One of the places that keep Rick Danko’s memory alive is a very good blog operated by his friend Carol Caffin at http://www.sipthewine.blogspot.com/. This week, she collected memories from an incredibly wide swath of folks who knew Danko. Check it out.

Thanksgiving Tales

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 25, 2009

Well, tomorrow morning, like millions of others here in the U.S., the Texas Gal and I – joined by my mother – will head off for Thanksgiving. In our case, we’ll be going to my sister’s home in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove for turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Our contribution will be a plate of deviled eggs, a dish that’s become a holiday tradition for us since the Texas Gal first brought them along in 2000.

We missed Thanksgiving at my sister’s last year due to some health issues. And the plan to return there got me thinking about the various places I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving over the years.

For years – until I was out of  college, I think – we gathered at my grandparents’ home, first on their farm outside the small town of Lamberton, Minnesota, and then at their home in Lamberton itself. Sometime in the mid-1970s, after Grandma passed on, the Thanksgiving celebration shifted to my parents’ home here in St. Cloud. And after about twenty years there, the annual feast shifted venues again, and my sister and brother-in-law have hosted Thanksgiving since then.

Besides last year’s celebration, I can recall two other Thanksgivings that have found me in different places. In 1980, I think it was, the woman who was then my wife had the idea of hosting Thanksgiving in a restored 1860s cabin owned by friends of hers. We prepared the food in our own home and then moved the entire feast about two miles to the cabin. The food was fine, but the cabin was uncomfortably cold despite the presence of a fireplace. It was an interesting experiment, but I’d rather flip it: I’d be interested in using Nineteenth Century recipes and work from a modern kitchen.

The other Thanksgiving that found me in another place was during the time I spent in Denmark. The Danes don’t celebrate the holiday, of course, but my ladyfriend – another American – and I decided to cook a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for my Danish family and a few other students, both American and Danish.

There was no turkey for sale in Fredericia, so we made do with a couple of chickens. Potatoes were easy enough, as was flour for the gravy. Green beans amandine went well enough after a tussle with the Danish language. Not knowing where the nutcracker was, I looked up the word in my Danish/English dictionary and called my Danish mother at her office. Danish uses some sounds that are, well, foreign to English, so it took some time before she understood that I was trying to say nøddeknækker.

Beyond the linguistic difficulties, the main challenge of the day was the pumpkin pie. We could find neither canned pumpkin nor a fresh pumpkin in Fredericia. Luckily, my ladyfriend had made pumpkin pie from scratch with her mother, and she assured me that an orange winter squash would meet our needs. We cleaned it, cut it up and cooked it with the appropriate seasonings and then baked it in a homemade shell. As dinner came to a close that evening, our Danish guests were a bit puzzled by the pie, but our American guests marveled at how close we’d come to the Thanksgiving dessert they’d all had for years.

That may have been my most memorable Thanksgiving ever. Does that mean it was the best? Well, no. As the fourth Thursday of November comes along year after year, each Thanksgiving somehow seems better than the one before it . . . as long as I share that table with my loved ones, especially the Texas Gal.

A Six-Pack of Thanks
“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP 6089 [1970]
“Thank You” by Led Zeppelin from Led Zeppelin II [1969]
“I Thank You” by Mongo Santamaria from All Strung Out [1969]
“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows [1982]
‘Thanks to You” by Jesse Winchester from Humour Me [1988]
“Be Thankful for What You Got (Pt. 1)” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury 0236 [1974]

Of these six, only the Fairport Convention tune really seems to fully address the sentiments of the holiday. The others generally work with only their titles; their content has at best only a glancing connection to the day. But that’s good enough for me.

The Texas Gal and I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving. May you all have many reasons to be thankful.

Plenty Of Nothing

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 19, 2009

Casting about for a topic for this post, I thought about famous birthdays. Gordon Lightfoot’s birthday was Tuesday, and I have plenty of Lightfoot tunes in the stacks and in the folders. But another day would be better for that, as there is a tale connected that I’m not yet prepared to tell.

I thought about writing about the books on my reading table, as I do occasionally. But I started a book yesterday that’s fascinating, and I want to finish it before I write about it. So that will have to wait.

We’ve had an odd November: sunny and warmer than one would expect. But I wrote about my fascination with autumn not that many days ago, and a post about the weather itself should wait until we have some truly remarkable meteorological happening.

I glanced at the front page of the Minneapolis paper: Budget cuts, a fatal bus crash, health care advisories and so on. Nothing there I care to write about.

It’s just one of those days. So here’s an appropriate selection of titles.

A Six-Pack of Nothing
“There’s Nothing Between Us Now” by Grady Tate from After the Long Drive Home [1970]
“Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me” by Betty LaVette from Child of the Seventies [1973]
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 [1969]
“Nothing Against You” by the Robert Cray Band from Sweet Potato Pie [1997]
“Nothing But Time” by Jackson Browne from Running On Empty [1977]
“Nothing Will Take Your Place” by Boz Scaggs from Boz Scaggs & Band [1971]

One of the things I love about the world of music blogs is finding great tunes by folks who I’ve never heard about before. It turns out that Grady Tate, according to All-Music Guide, is a well-regarded session drummer who’s done some good vocal work as well. I’d never heard of the man until I somehow found myself exploring the very nice blog, My Jazz World. The brief description of Tate’s album After the Long Drive Home and the accompanying scan of the album cover drew me in, and I’ve spent quite a few quiet moments since then digging into Tate’s reflective and sometimes stoic album.

I’ve tagged Betty LaVette’s gritty piece of southern soul, “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me,” as coming from 1973, as that’s when it was recorded. But the story is more complex than that. LaVette recorded the album, Child of the Seventies, for Atco in Muscle Shoals. But AMG notes that after a single from the sessions, “Your Turn to Cry” didn’t do well, the label shelved the entire project. It took until 2006 and a release on the Rhino Handmade label for the album itself to hit the shelves. The CD comes with bonus tracks that include LaVette’s cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” which was also released as a single. (My thanks to Caesar Tjalbo.)

A listener without the record label to examine would be excused from thinking that the Flirtation’s driving “Nothing But A Heartache” came from Detroit. The bass line, the drums and the punchy horns all proclaim “Motown,” but this nifty piece of R&B came out of England on the Deram label. The Flirtations, however, had their roots elsewhere: Sisters Shirley and Earnestine Pearce came from South Carolina and Viola Billups hailed from Alabama, so the record’s soul sound is legit, and it sounded pretty good coming out of a little radio speaker, too. The record spent two weeks in the Top 40 during the late spring of 1969, peaking at No. 34.

For Sweet Potato Pie, Robert Cray and his band made their way to Memphis and pulled together an album of blues-based soul. The combination of the Memphis Horns, Cray’s always-sharp guitar work and a good set of songs made the album, to my ears, one of Cray’s best. “Nothing Against You” is a good example of the album’s attractions.

“Nothing But Time” comes from Running On Empty,one of the more interesting live albums of the 1970s: All of the songs were new material, with some of them being recorded backstage, in hotel rooms or on the tour bus instead of in concert. As it happened, the album’s hits – “Running On Empty” and “Stay” – were concert recordings. But I’ve thought for a while that the recordings from the more intimate spaces – “Nothing But Time” was recorded on the tour bus as it rolled through New Jersey (you can hear the hum of the engine in the background) – might have aged a little better. That thought could stem from weariness after hearing the two hits over and over on the radio over the years; I do still like some of the other concert recordings from the album.

To my ears, Boz Scaggs’ slow-building and echoey “Nothing Will Take Your Place,” carries hints of the sound that would propel him to the top of the charts in 1976 with Silk Degrees. I guess it just took the mass audience – including me – a while to catch up with him.

Saturday Single No. 159

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 7, 2009

I wrote earlier this week about my Ultimate Jukebox project, a series of posts that will list and comment on the two hundred songs I’d want in such a machine. Well, the research has begun, and I can already tell that trimming the list of records to that count of two hundred is going to be difficult.

As a result, I’ve been preoccupied this week. And in the absence of something more compelling to write about, I thought I’d limp on one of my favorite crutches of this past year and see what records I’ve acquired in November over the years. As is usual with this topic, I’ll look at the years from 1964 through 1989 this week and the succeeding years on another Saturday in November. (The calendar for the month’s weekends is already crowded; I have no doubt that I will find a Saturday that requires a quick and easy topic.)

Early on, as I’ve noted along the way, I wasn’t always keeping track of when I got what records, and I had to estimate the months of some acquisitions. I’m pretty sure that November of 1964 brought me the soundtrack to the Disney movie Mary Poppins, home of the silly and utterly infectious “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and the exquisite “Feed the Birds.” That’s the only November acquisition on which I have to guess; I know that I got my second Al Hirt album, That Honey Horn Sound, on a trip to Minneapolis in November 1965.

After that, I got a few years older and broadened my musical tastes before getting any records in November. In 1971, I got my copies of 13, the Doors’ greatest hits album, and Jethro Tull’s Aqualung. The former is still a decent hits album, though my taste for the Doors has waned over the years. The Tull album – one I honestly haven’t heard very much for a long time – is one I enjoyed immensely at the time. I should cue it up someday and see how it holds up.

Sometime in the next year, I joined a record club, and on a November day in 1972, I opened a package that had a pretty good duo: Buffalo Springfield’s Retrospective and the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. I also picked up a copy of John Lennon’s Imagine that month, but I find that one to be another record that’s lost its luster over time; I only have a few tracks from it in my digital files.

After another blank November in 1973 – there were better things to do in Denmark than to buy records – I found myself mostly home-bound in November of 1974. Rick came over one day with a few records to divert me: Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album, the Association’s Greatest Hits, the Bee Gees’ 2 Years On and Odessa, and Quincy Jones’ Ndeda. The best of those? Odessa is a great, if sprawling album. On the other hand, I never quite got into Ndeda although it still has its place on the shelves.

Bob Dylan’s New Morning came home with me in November of 1975. And then there’s another gap, this one a long one. I didn’t acquire another November record until 1982, when my haul was the odd pairing of The Richard Harris Love Album and Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy A Thrill. The Harris album was an anthology that I bought because it included both “MacArthur Park” and “Didn’t We,” the only two performances by Harris I really like.

In the eleventh month of 1983, I got as a gift the Motown-studded soundtrack to the film The Big Chill. I’m not sure what it is about November, but there was then another gap of several years before the month brought me new music again.

That happened in 1987, and I brought home fifteen LPs that month. In no particular order, there was music from Willie Nelson, ABBA, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel, the Alan Parsons Project, Crosby Stills & Nash, the Sanford/Townsend Band, Bob Dylan, The Band, Joe Cocker, Gordon Lightfoot and Paul McCartney. There were also two soundtracks: The Big Easy and Dirty Dancing. The best album of the bunch remains The Band’s Music From Big Pink. At the other end of the spectrum, Allies by Crosby, Stills & Nash is a pretty weak effort.

I continued to haunt garage sales, used record shops and the few places that sold new vinyl in Minot, North Dakota, and in November of 1988, I found LPs by the Eagles, Aretha Franklin, Jigsaw, the Rolling Stones and England Dan & John Ford Coley. Go ahead and blink. I also grabbed a K-Tel compilation titled Superstars Greatest Hits, which lost its apostrophe somewhere.

In 1989, as the first half of the November chronicles come to an end, I was in Anoka, Minnesota, and a lady friend brought me some albums from her collection as gifts: John Denver’s Poems, Prayers & Promises, Loggins & Messina’s self-titled album, an album by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap and an anthology of well-known hits from the 1950s and 1960s.

So what to share from this mélange of November acquisitions? Well, the best album out of all of these might be Willie Nelson’s Stardust or maybe The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan and The Band. But Odessa, from 1969, remains a favorite. At least one of its tracks will show up down the road, but for now, here’s the opening track of Side Three, the lush “Lamplight,” as your Saturday Single.

The Ultimate Jukebox?

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 5, 2009

When I wrote about the autumn of 1975 ten days ago, I posted six songs I recalled from that autumn. I said two of them – Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” and Orleans’ “Dance With Me” – might end up in my ultimate jukebox, a project that was then only the seed of an idea.

Well, the seed has sprouted. I exchanged a couple of emails about the idea with reader Yah Shure, and he told me his Seeburg jukebox holds eighty 45s or EPs, giving it one hundred and sixty selections. That seemed like a good number to use: One hundred and sixty. He further advised me that yes, all 7:11 of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” was on one side of a 45, giving me a ballpark for a time limit for the tunes I’ll put into my hypothetical jukebox. And so I began thinking of records.

I opened a Word file and began listing songs. I realized after about twenty songs that the work would be more usable if it were in an Excel database. So I transferred the first listed songs into a database and began again. This time, I decided to do things somewhat systematically. Starting with the 1990s – as with most music I post here, my end point for this project is 1999 – I began to go through the years, counting backwards. (Note to self: Add Prince’s “1999” to jukebox database.)

I spent a few hours on the database last evening while the Texas Gal had dinner with a girlfriend, and I’ve gotten back as far as the middle of 1972. I know I’ve missed some, and I further know that I will face a difficult task of trimming down my first list to one hundred and sixty selections. I still need to go through the first years of the 1970s and all of the 1960s and 1950s, and I already have one hundred and forty-four songs listed. I’ve decided as I write this to expand my jukebox to two hundred songs, but even then, I think I will agonize over a quite a few choices.

I haven’t yet decided how I am going to present the results of this work here. If I rank them, I could do a count-down from two hundred to one, but that would be boring and – despite the likely idiosyncracy of some of the selections – somewhat predictable. The thought occurred to me to present ten records at a time in what would be mixed batches. The first batch would be Nos. 200, 190, 180, 170, 160, 150, 140, 130, 120 and 110, and the second batch would include Nos. 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, and 10. That way the twentieth and final segment would include Nos. 91, 81, 71, 61, 51, 41, 31, 21, 11 and 1.

That would be, I think, interesting, if I rank them. If I don’t rank them at all, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Nor do I have any idea when these posts will actually start. I hope to be done with the gathering and weeding out by the end of next week. Then will come the process of making sure I have good quality mp3s of the records involved. (I have noticed that I gathered mp3s of some of these songs in the days before I paid any attention to bitrate; I have many mp3s with bitrates of 128 kbps and some with bitrates of 96 kbps or lower. Those will be replaced.)

A few previews are in order: These are my eleven selections from my first look – there will be at least one more – at the 1990s:

“Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters [1993]
“Woke Up This Morning” by A3 [1997]
“A Long December” by Counting Crows [1996]
“Dreams” by the Cranberries [1993]
“Closing Time” by Leonard Cohen [1992]
“Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn [1991]
“Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan [1999]
“Kiss This Thing Goodbye” by Del Amitri [1990]
“Come To My Window” by Melissa Etheridge [1993]
“In A Daydream” by the Freddy Jones Band [1993]
“Southside” by Moby with Gwen Stefani [1999]

I should note that the lists of songs that results from this will not be a “best” list of any sort. These will be the two hundred songs I’d want in a jukebox if I ran a bar or coffeehouse or something like that, the music I love.

Casting about for a song to illustrate this post, I settled on one of the first songs I thought of when I conceived the project. It’s the first record I ripped to mp3 when I got my turntable in December of 2006 and one of the first I posted online after beginning my blog in early 2007.

So here’s one of my favorites from the late summer of 1969, a record by a Twin Cities group that sat at No. 116 on the Billboard chart for two weeks that August and was the No. 1 single for the week of August 15, 1969, on Twin Cities station WDGY. After school started – I was a junior – the band played for one of our Friday night dances, and I hung around on the edge of the gym long enough to hear the Mystics play their hit live.

“Pain” by the Mystics, Metromedia 130 [1969]

Time Is Tight

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 16, 2009

Whew! A chance to sit down. I’ve been running most days this week, taking care of various obligations and appointments, and time has been scarce. Instead of trying to squeeze in a post with any substance today, I’m going to beg your indulgence and start regular posts again tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

In the meantime, here are some songs that deal with this week’s rarest commodity. Though I like all of these, the Whitfield and Williams tracks really kick. But I’d urge you to try all of them.

A Six-Pack Of Time
“Time Lonesome” by Zephyr from Sunset Ride [1972]
“Tell Me Just One More Time” by Jennifer Warnes from Shot Through The Heart [1979]
“Pony Time” by Barrence Whitfield from Back To The Streets–Celebrating the Music of Don Covay [1993]
“Pearl Time” by Andre Williams, Sport 105 [1967]
“The Time Will Come” by the Whispers, Soul Clock 107 [1969]
“Good Time Living” by Three Dog Night from It Ain’t Easy [1970]

Bonus Track
“Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9074 [1970]

See you tomorrow!

Authors On The Cards

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 9, 2009

While waiting for the Texas Gal to get home yesterday afternoon, I was wandering around the Web and found myself at one of my favorite sites, Find A Grave, a site that catalogs the resting places of people both famous and not. I can spend hours there, wandering through lists of folks buried in Massachusetts or in Hungary or anywhere else on the planet. I’ve seen in person a few of the graves of famous folk listed at the site. I hope to see a few more someday, and I have a few regrets that years ago, I was near several famous cemeteries and did not visit them.

Anyway, I somehow wound up looking at the entry for the tomb of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson on the island of Samoa. (You can read the epitaph carved on his tomb – a favorite of mine – here.) I glanced at the picture of Stevenson at Find A Grave (a cropped version is shown here) and I thought to myself, “Yes, that’s about what his picture looked like on the playing cards.”

The card game was Authors, and my sister and I played it frequently when we were kids. The deck was made up of forty-four fifty-two cards, with each card representing a work by one of thirteen famous authors. The game had the players collect complete sets of four cards for each author, and the player who collected the most sets – called “books” – was the winner. Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the eleven thirteen authors in the game, and his portrait on the cards did in fact look a lot like the picture at Find A Grave and other portraits of him that can be found online.

I once had two copies of the Authors card game, the slightly battered copy my sister and I played with for years and another copy that had never been used, but I don’t think I have them anymore. I believe they were included when I took five or six boxes of my childhood toys to an antique dealer about five years ago. (If my childhood toys are antiques, what does that make me?) And if I still have one of those copies of Authors, it’s somewhere in a box on the basement shelves, and I have no idea which box.

But I wondered, as I looked at Stevenson’s picture, if I could remember the thirteen authors whose works were used as cards in the game. I began a list:

William Shakespeare
Charles Dickens
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sir Walter Scott
Louisa May Alcott
Robert Louis Stevenson
James Fenimore Cooper
Washington Irving
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Mark Twain

And there I stopped. Ten down, three to go. As we ate dinner and watched an hour or so of television, I let the question lie, knowing that sometimes information rises when it’s not being tugged at. I went back to my list later in the evening and got no further. Hoping to jog my memory, I went to a list of those buried or commemorated in the Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey in London. And I found one name, an American poet memorialized there.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There my list stops. I cannot recall the names of the last two authors from the card game. And I cannot find a list of the thirteen online. Does anyone out there know? [See Afternote below.]

I have only one song with the word “author” in the title, so I skipped past it and went to the word that describes what authors do:

A Six-Pack of Write
“Nothing to Write Home About” by Colin Hare from March Hare [1972]
“Paper to Write On” by Crabby Appleton from Rotten to the Core [1971]
“Write Me A Few Of Your Lines/Kokomo Blues” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time [1973]
“Why Don’t You Write Me” by Punch from Punch [1969]
“Write A Song A Song/Angeline” by Mickey Newbury from Looks Like Rain [1969]
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” by Frank Sinatra and Count Basie from Sinatra-Basie [1962]

I found Colin Hare’s March Hare at Time Has Told Me, which notes that the album “is a UK troubadour classic which still sounds fresh and innovative today.” Hare – little known in the U.S. even at the time – was a member of Honeybus, handling rhythm guitar and vocals. (All-Music Guide says of Honeybus: “[T]hey came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records’ answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles,” an astounding statement that tells me that perhaps I should dig into the Honeybus catalog.) Hare’s own discography at AMG lists March Hare and two albums from 2008 that I know nothing about. March Hare is decent listening, and “Nothing to Write Home About” is quirky enough that it stands out when it pops up from time to time.

Most folks recall Crabby Appleton from the group’s very good single, “Go Back,” which slid into the Top 40 and came to rest at No. 36 in the summer of 1971. That was the group’s only hit, and in search of another, says AMG, the group tried on a harder sound for its second album, Rotten to the Core, “veering off into boogie rock and heavier Zeppelin-esque romps, twice removed from the plaintive power pop and conga-driven rock of their debut.” That makes “Paper to Write On,” with its plaintive country sound, an even more odd choice for the Crabbies. I like it, but it reminds me (and AMG agrees) of the Flying Burrito Brothers. That’s not a bad thing, but for a group like Crabby Appleton trying to cement an identity, it seems strange.

I don’t have to say a lot about Bonnie Raitt except that she’s one of my favorites. Takin’ My Time was her third album (and the track “Guilty” was the first Bonnie Raitt tune I ever heard). Both “Write Me A Few Of Your Lines” and “Kokomo Blues” were credited to Mississippi Fred McDowell, although “Kokomo Blues” has also been credited in other places to Kokomo Arnold and Scrapper Blackwell.

I found Punch’s delightful cover of Paul Simon’s “Why Don’t You Write Me” at Redtelephone66, where I’ve found gem after gem in the past few years. (Thanks, Leonard!) I find it interesting that Punch released the song on its self-titled album in 1969 while the Simon & Garfunkel version didn’t come out until 1970 with the release of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Technically, that means that Simon & Garfunkel’s version is a cover.

The haunting “Write A Song A Song/Angeline” is the opening track to Mickey Newbury’s equally haunting album Looks Like Rain, which is one of those records that you wonder how the world missed when it came out. But then, I’m tempted to say the same thing about a lot of Newbury’s work. He wasn’t exactly unknown, but . . .

The awkwardly titled “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter)” comes from one of several projects that Frank Sinatra did with Count Basie and his orchestra. As time moves on, I find myself more and more appreciating the Sinatra catalog, listening more and more to the work he did in the 1950s and early 1960s. I imagine that any list ever compiled of the essential entertainers in American music history would have Frank Sinatra’s name at or very close to the top. (I’m not even going to try – writing as I am on the fly – to figure out who else would be in the Top Ten.)

Afternote
Based on a post with two accompanying pictures that I found at another blog, I have to assume that our game only had eleven authors in it, as opposed to the thirteen authors I’ve seen mentioned other places. The game we played came in the blue box with Shakespeare’s picture on it, just as pictured at Bachelor at Wellington. In other words, I remembered ten of the eleven on my own, and needed a reminder only for Longfellow.

Note from 2022: The photo and website referenced above are no longer available. Below is a similar photo of the author cards and a photo of the blue box.