Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

Deleted & Starting Over

May 18, 2022

This is not an Echoes In The Wind Post. Instead, it’s a post I put together for the blog The Vinyl District after Blogger deleted the first iteration of EITW and I moved on to WordPress. It was written September 8, 2009.

It was kind of like turning on the television news and seeing a three-headed alien behind the desk saying “Good evening! I’m Gnirt Tkalch, and here’s the news tonight on Planet Zamzam.”

I’d clicked the link for my blog, Echoes In The Wind, and I got a page with the familiar orange Blogger logo and a message that said something like: No such blog exists. Of course it exists, I thought to myself; I just put a post up this morning! I clicked the link again and got the same thing.

After a moment of thought – during which I wondered if I’d actually ended up on Planet Zamzam – I went to my dashboard and found a notice from Blogger that said, “We’ve received another complaint on your blog(s), (Echoes In The Wind). Given that we’ve provided you with several warnings of these violations and advised you of our policy towards repeat infringers, we’ve been forced to remove your blog.”

I reviewed in my head: Let’s see, there were three notices last autumn, all in the same week. Then there was one in August. So, four warnings – I guess four is “several” – and now one more complaint that tipped the balance. There were also some posts during the past year – four or five – that disappeared from the blog without any explanation or notification. So call it nine complaints. Over a period of two years and eight months and a total of almost eight hundred posts.

I understand, in a way, the positions of Blogger and its parent company, Google. A complaint requires a response. What I don’t get is the unwillingness of much of the music industry to deal with individual bloggers (as well as the seeming point of view that it’s somehow bad to draw attention to performers and their music). I’d put a notice on the blog asking copyright holders to contact me if they objected; a couple did, and I happily removed those links and deleted the uploads within hours. Others, however, evidently complained. I say “evidently” because of the four emails I received specifying an offending post, three gave no information about the source of the complaint; I’m not sure in those cases whether the complaint came from someone with a genuine stake in the matter or from someone having malicious fun. (There are times I lean strongly toward the latter.) The source of the fourth complaint – the one I got in August – was identified: It was a singer-songwriter who had one Top 40 hit, in 1982, and has released one album since 1988. One would think any attention would be beneficial, but I guess not.

On top of all that, my blog was an odd target, as there are a thousand, maybe ten thousand blogs out there whose operators are sharing music that was released last week, last month, maybe yesterday. A good portion of what I shared is out of print, much of it was obscure, and the vast majority of it was at least thirty years old. As I wrote above, one would think any attention would be beneficial . . .

Well, I’ve moved on, and I’ve moved. You can find my new location in the links here at TVD.

Someone asked me how it felt. As usual, the best way to answer that is with music, and these titles tell the tale:

“Angry Eyes” by Loggins & Messina from Best of Friends [1976]
“Lost” by the Church from Starfish [1988]
“Sad Eyes” by Maria Muldaur from Sweet Harmony [1976]
“Feelin’ Alright” by Lulu from New Routes [1970]
“Starting All Over Again” by Johnny Taylor from Taylored in Silk [1973]

Idle Hands & A Green Mini-bat

May 17, 2022

Originally posted August 28, 2009

As I’ve noted before, we have numerous oak trees on our lot. Which means, come this time of the summer, we have acorns. Lots of acorns. Almost every time the Texas Gal and I are outside for more than a moment – tending the garden, lugging in groceries or even sitting in the lawn chairs – we’re likely these days to be clonked on the head by a falling acorn. The lawn is covered with the nuts. If we’d intended to raise acorns, we’d have a bumper crop.

We had four oak trees in the backyard at Kilian Boulevard when I was a kid, and acorns were frequently thick on the lawn there. They’d start falling in mid-August, and we’d wait until late September before we spent a Saturday raking and bagging them. So they were thick on the ground during one August that I recall.

Sometime earlier that month – I think it was 1970, when I was sixteen – Dad had seen a green stick at the base of the driveway one evening. After parking, he investigated and found one of those foot-long baseball bats given away as souvenirs: A miniature Louisville Slugger. For some reason, it was green.

He figured a kid lost it somehow, perhaps having it fall out of a bicycle basket.  But which kid? No way to know. So he dropped it on the small table in our back porch and thought no more of it.

During one of the next few early evenings, I found myself with an empty hour or two. I sat on the lawn near one of the oaks, watching whatever traffic there was on Eighth Street or Kilian. Bored, I picked up a stick that had fallen from one of the oaks and swung it like a bat. Then I picked up an acorn, tossed it into the air and flailed at it with the stick. The acorn flew into the street. I thought for a moment, then went inside and grabbed the green Louisville Slugger. Back at my place on the lawn, I began flipping acorns in the air and whacking them with the bat.

As with anything, practice improved my performance: I fouled off a few, hit some grounders and easy pop-ups, and then began reaching the street regularly. Then, using an uppercut, I began to launch acorns across the street and into the yard of August and Rose, an older couple. (It was Rose who had started me collecting coins a few years earlier.) I sat there for an hour or so, happily whacking acorns, and did the same during a couple of other slow evenings during the rest of that summer. It filled some time, and it also got some acorns off the lawn, meaning there would be – by a small degree, to be sure – fewer acorns to rake when the time for that chore arrived.

September came, and school started. We spent a couple of Saturdays raking and bagging acorns and leaves. Sometime during that winter, the green minibat was tossed into a box in the closet and forgotten.

One afternoon during the following spring, August was out watering his garden when Dad drove up and parked. Dad walked across the street and spent a few minutes chatting with August, as neighbors do. Sometime during dinner, Dad mentioned August and his garden and lawn. It was all good, Dad said, “but he said, ‘You know, I don’t have any oak trees in my yard, and I can’t figure out how come I have so many oak seedlings over by the street.’” Looking at me, my dad added, “I just told him that seeds can travel in a lot of different ways.”

A Six-Pack From the Charts (Billboard Hot 100, Aug. 29, 1970)
“Hand Me Down World” by the Guess Who, RCA Victor 0367 [No. 19]
“Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” by the Temptations, Gordy 7099 [No. 30]
“The Sly, Slick, and the Wicked” by the Lost Generation, Brunswick 55436 [No. 37]
“Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt, Capitol 4826 (The mp3 is from the CD rerelease of Silk Purse.) [No. 61]
“Funk #49” by the James Gang, ABC11272 [No. 79]
“As the Years Go By” by Mashmakan, Epic10634 [No. 97]

“Hand Me Down World” was the Guess Who’s first chart hit after Randy Bachman left the group, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, and to my ears, Bachman’s departure marked the end of the classic Guess Who era. From April of 1969 through April 1970, the group had five records in the Top 40, with four of those reaching the Top Ten and one spending three weeks at No. 1. Those five were “These Eyes,” “Laughing,” “Undun,” “No Time” and “American Woman/No Sugar Tonight.” (“American Woman” is listed as having reached No. 1, while “No Sugar Tonight” is not given an individual rank. It is, however, listed as having been in the Top 40 for thirteen weeks. Confusing.) Then Bachman left and – although the band had seven more Top 40 hits, with “Share the Land” and “Clap for the Wolfman” reaching the Top Ten – the stew just wasn’t as tasty. Still, “Hand Me Down World” is a pretty good single if not up to the quality of the string that came during that one year. It peaked at No. 17, but given the richness of the band’s catalog, it seems to be a bit forgotten by the programmers of the oldies stations.

About “Ball of Confusion,” All-Music Guide says: “Another excellent track in a brilliant run of Norman Whitfield-produced and -written, Sly Stone-inspired Temptations records from the late ’60s/early ’70s, ‘Ball of Confusion’ was one of the only Motown ‘protest’ records. The beguiling lyrics illustrate a tense America at the dawn of the 1970s, and include attacks on the Vietnam War, a corrupt government, drug addiction, and spirituality. It hit the nail on the head, much like P.F. Sloan’s excellent ‘Eve of Destruction’ in 1965. Musically, it’s an excellent funk record of the period, with some fabulous bass playing and a blaring horn arrangement. Of course, the Temptations’ gospel-inspired vocal trade-offs make the overall record even more powerful, and it has dated extremely well.” The record spent thirteen weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 3.

I don’t recall hearing the Lost Generation’s “The Sly, Slick And The Wicked” during the summer of 1970, but it might have been one of those records that did very well in other places – I would guess that Chicago, the Lost Generation’s hometown, would have been one of those – and not so well in the Minnesota market. Or maybe I just missed it. The record sounds very much like the Chi-Lites (with the exception of a few production tricks, like the echo), and that’s not at all surprising, considering that both groups recorded for Brunswick. “The Sly, Slick And The Wicked” was the Lost Generation’s only appearance in the Top 40. The record peaked at No. 30.

The first three chords of “Long Long Time” still, after thirty-nine years, make me draw a sharp breath of hurt. They always have, since long before I knew the sad tale told by the song’s words. Once I knew the words, I suppose I might have assigned their meaning to a young woman of my acquaintance. Whoever she was, she’s long gone from my life, but the emotional wallop of the song – especially those first three chords – has stayed with me. Meaning that Ronstadt’s performance of Gary White’s song is about as good as it gets. The record spent seven weeks in the Top 40 and peaked at No. 25.

I have a suspicion that the James Gang’s “Funk #49” found airplay in 1970 based on some other chart than the Hot 100, because it remains one of the most identifiable tunes of that time with some unforgettable riffs. The single spent ten weeks in the Hot 100, peaking at No. 59.

I know very little about Mashmakan, a group from Quebec, Canada, except for this record. Even that knowledge is lately found: When I saw the group’s name in a Hot 100 chart a while back, I noted my lack of knowledge about the record and the group, and one of my blogging friends sent me the mp3. It’s an odd, clunky record with an over-earnest lyric, and I am pretty sure I never heard it back when it was on the charts. It was in the Top 40 for four weeks and peaked at No. 31.

Afternote:
Despite my efforts, these may not be the versions of these records that went out on 45s. Take “Long Long Time” as an example. I don’t have the 45, but I’ve seen a fuzzy picture of the label and know that the record lasted just less than three minutes. The version on the album Silk Purse, as listed at AMG, runs 4:18. The version on the Silk Purse portion of the two-CD set The Best of Linda Ronstadt: The Capitol Years, runs 4:22, and my only vinyl version, from Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits [1976], runs 4:21. That’s also the length – 4:21 – of the track as included on Different Drum, a 1974 anthology of previously released work. I know that the version of “Long Long Time” here is from the Capitol Years CD, and not knowing what else to do, I’ve tagged it as coming from Silk Purse, as it’s included in the version of Silk Purse in that two-CD package.

Just Some Stuff

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 21, 2009

Some this and that for a Friday morning:

After I wrote about Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album and its song “Wooden Ships” the other day, frequent commenter Robert noted that I hadn’t answered my own question of how well the album held together as a unit these days.

Well, I did say that the album “still ranks pretty high on my all-time list,” but maybe I should have said more than that. It holds together well, with a laid-back vibe that was echoed, I think, by a lot of the work being done by the musicians who were part of the Lauren Canyon scene in the last years of the 1960s. (That vibe, in my view, laid down a framework for at least one generation of California rock that may have found its most clear expression, if not its peak, with the mid-1970s work of Fleetwood Mac.)

But beyond providing a template for future work, how does Crosby, Stills & Nash work today? I still think it’s one of the great albums, setting out a view of how life felt – at least for a portion of American youth – as the end of the 1960s was coming into view. Beyond the allegories of “Wooden Ships” and “Guinnevere” and the grief/hope duality of “Long Time Gone” (all three of which, interestingly enough, were written or co-written by David Crosby), the songs on Crosby, Stills & Nash are mostly concerned with the personal, not the political. The fences that need mending in “49 Bye-Byes” are on the singer’s own back porch. And, with one exception, the songs – including the three Crosby-penned songs mentioned above – work with each other and fit well against each other. My only quibble, forty years down the road, is the travelogue of “Marrakesh Express,” which doesn’t seem to match the quality or the themes of the other songs.

When one tries to listen with fresh ears, there’s always the chance that something that seemed excellent thirty or forty years ago will seem much less than that now. I’ve had that happen with other albums. But not with this one.

The Texas Gal pointed me to a fascinating website this week that has nothing to do with music. The operator of Forgotten Bookmarks explains:

“I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.”

The bookmarks he or she finds – I can’t find a name on the blog and so have no idea of the gender of the blogger – are pieces of paper with notes on them, old photographs, tickets to events, postcards, actual bookmarks, even – in one case I saw – a letter ending a romance, and on and on. The blogger posts pictures of each bookmark and the book in which it was found, and transcribes any notes or writing from the bookmark. In some cases, the blogger provides some context, as in identifying more completely a politician whose campaign advertisement ended up in a book.

I found it a fascinating site, but then, I like to look at old photos in antique shops, wondering “Who are these people and what were their stories?” I get the same sense at Forgotten Bookmarks, a sense of random bits of life coming to the surface, the mundane becoming mysterious.

[Note from 2022: The website, though still on line, seems to have quit posting new material in September 2020. Note added May 15, 2022.]

I got a note from Blogger yesterday. There was a complaint about one of the songs I shared in my Vinyl Record Day post about my LP log, and the post was removed. I imagine anyone who wanted to read it has already done so, but just to get the post into the blog archives, I’m going to repost it Sunday, without linking to the twelve songs.

I thought about looking at the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1970 for today’s music, but I wanted to get the three items above into the blog, so I decided on something else instead. As happens to many folks, I’m certain, every so often I’ll realize that a song is running through my head for no apparent reason. I haven’t heard it on the radio, haven’t looked at the record jacket or the CD case, and haven’t read its title somewhere; it just popped up. When one of those stealth earworms – as I call them – popped up the other week, I jotted the title down, and I continue to do so as they show up. I haven’t caught them all over the past two weeks, but here’s a little bit of what I’ve been hearing in my head lately. (And no, there have been no voices telling me to do things.)

A Six-Pack Running Through My Head
“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 431 [1962]
“All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople from All the Young Dudes [1972]
“Hallelujah” by the Clique from The Clique [1969]
“It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” by Jim Croce from Life and Times [1973]
“Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara from Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me [1970]
“Buckets of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan from Songs For the New Depression [1976]

The version of “Smile” I heard in my head wasn’t necessarily Ferrante & Teicher’s version, but that’s the best one I happen to have available. The song was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film, Modern Times. Ferrante and Teicher recorded it in December 1961; in early 1962, the single went to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart and to No. 91 on the pop chart.

“All the Young Dudes,” written and produced by David Bowie, gave the British glitter-rocking Mott the Hoople its only Top 40 hit. The single – which may have been different than the album version offered here – went to No. 37 in late 1972. In the U.K., the single went to No. 3.

The Clique had recorded and released a number of singles (“Sugar on Sunday” went to No. 22 in the autumn of 1969) before the time came to put an album together, but All-Music Guide notes that the only member of the group to actually be on the album was singer Randy Shaw; producer Gary Zekley brought in studio musicians for everything else. The most interesting track on the album to me is “Hallelujah,” which AMG reviewer Stewart Mason dismisses as a “blatant Blood, Sweat & Tears rip-off.” That’s an apt comparison, I guess, especially as concerns the lead vocal, but the song gets my attention as the source for Sweathog’s 1971 cover, which went to No. 33. (Another cover of the song, which I’ve also posted here in the past, came from Chi Coltrane in 1973.)

Life and Times was Jim Croce’s second major label album, coming out on ABC in January 1973. “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” is the album’s closer, a December-themed song about wanting to give things another try. I’m not sure why the song popped into my head the other day; the earworm was more understandable in December 1974, shortly after I got the album, when I was headed to have a cup of coffee and conversation with a young woman I’d once known well. As it turned out, it did have to be that way, but I still like the song anyway.

The Robin McNamara track is the title track of what seems to be his only album. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” was released as a single on Steed, the label owned by legendary songwriter and producer Jeff Barry, who co-wrote the song with McNamara and Jim Cretecos. The single went to No. 11 during the summer of 1970 and was the only hit for McNamara, who was a member of the original cast of the musical Hair. (His fellow cast members helped out, says AMG, evidently providing backing vocals.)

I imagine that the version of “Buckets of Rain” that ran through my head was based on the original, from Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. But I recently came across Midler’s version of the song, after looking for it sporadically for a few years – my thanks to Willard at Never Get Out Of The Boat – and its rarity seemed to make it a good choice for this slot. As is most often the case when Mr. Dylan shows up to sing along, it’s very apparent he’s in the room.

‘If You Smile At Me . . .’

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 18, 2009

While driving across town on an errand last week, I heard the oldies station play “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” from Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first, self-titled album. As I listened, I realized that I hadn’t heard the song for a while. After a few moments, I realized as well that it had been even longer – much longer – since I’d listened to the entire album. I’ve written here before about forgetting about albums as meaningful collections of songs because I so often run the RealPlayer on random, and thus get only one piece of an album at a time. And I wondered to myself how well Crosby, Stills & Nash holds up as an album.

So that evening, I listened to Crosby, Stills & Nash from beginning to end, just to see how it sounds as a united piece of work these days. It still ranks pretty high on my all-time list, but I was chagrined to realize that I’d forgotten the running order of the album. As David Crosby’s “Guinnevere” faded away, I couldn’t recall what came next, and hearing “You Don’t Have To Cry” startled me; it sounded somehow wrong. The surprise pointed out to me how much my listening has shifted away from albums to random single tracks over the past ten years.

As I have for years, I found the album’s most interesting song to be “Wooden Ships.”  It’s not the best song on the album; I’d have to give that nod to either “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” or “Long Time Gone.” But it’s always fascinated me with its post-apocalyptic vision of survivors fleeing in the wooden ships on the water.

Beyond the recording itself, there are a couple of interesting things about “Wooden Ships.” The writing credit on the CSN album lists Crosby and Stills, but there was a third writer. Crosby himself tells the tale, as All-Music Guide relates:

“According to Crosby’s liner notes in the four-disc career retrospective Crosby, Stills & Nash [Box Set] (1991), the song was ‘written in the main cabin of my boat, the Mayan. I had the music already [and] Paul Kanter [sic] wrote two verses, Stephen wrote one and I added the bits at both ends.’ He also explains the cryptic lyrics such as ‘silver people on the shoreline’ – which are those left behind in their nuclear radiation suits. Crosby concludes that the authors ‘imagined ourselves as the few survivors, escaping on a boat to create a new civilization.’”

I’m not sure who’s responsible for the spelling error in that paragraph, but the third writer was Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane. And “Wooden Ships” was included on the Airplane’s 1969 release Volunteers. (The writing credit there is “Crosby-Kantner-Stills.”)

Wikipedia helps clarify things: “Kantner could not be credited as one of the joint authors-composers on the original release of Crosby, Stills & Nash due to legal issues, but he is thus credited on the 2006 re-release. The song was also released by Jefferson Airplane the same year on the album Volunteers. Both versions are considered to be original versions of the song, although they differ slightly in wording and melody.”

(Wikipedia also notes that co-writer Stills’ interpretation of the song differs from Crosby’s, saying “Stills has stated at music festivals that the song is in fact about the Holocaust in Europe during World War II. Though the obscure lyrics do not refer specifically to the events of the war, the story of the song can be interpreted as the meeting of two deserters or non-Jewish individuals who are fleeing Europe to avoid starvation or participation in anti-Semitic violence. In this context, the ‘silver people on the shoreline’ may refer to Nazi soldiers. The lyrics ‘Horror grips us as we watch you die / All we can do is echo your anguished cries, / Stare as all human feelings die’ could indicate that the characters in the song are observing a horrific slaughter yet can do nothing to prevent it.”)

Anyway, if both versions are considered original, then neither is a cover? Well, okay. But one of them was released first. Which one was it?

Crosby, Stills & Nash was released on May 29, 1969, according to AMG. Finding a release date for Volunteers is a bit murkier. The album’s page at AMG has a release date of November 1969, but the AMG page about the song “Wooden Ships” says the two albums were “issued within months of each other in the spring of ’69.” I’d lean toward a November release for Volunteers, as the Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums has the album hitting the chart in late November. (The album spent thirteen weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 13. Crosby, Stills & Nash reached the album chart in the first week of July 1969 and spent forty weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 6.)

[Note from 2022: Wikipedia has a U.S. release date of November 2, 1969, for Volunteers.]

There aren’t a lot of covers of the song; AMG lists a total of ninety-three CDs that contain a version of the song, and the vast majority of those are by CSN or Jefferson Airplane or combinations of members of those groups. Others listed as having recorded the song are: Animal Bag, The Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh, Matthew Cook, the De Capo Players, the Future Sound of London, Andy Guzie, Chris Harwood, Lana Lane, Jennifer Matthews, the Rochford Jazz Ensemble, Son of Adam, II Big and Zion I.

Of all the covers of “Wooden Ships,” only two of them are listed from the years before 2000: Animal Bag’s cover, which was on a 1994 release titled Offering and about which I otherwise know nothing, and Chris Harwood’s version, which was on her 1970 album, Nice to Meet Miss Christine. Reviews of Harwood’s album – and of her version of “Wooden Ships” – are spotty. But it’s always interesting to hear another singer’s take on a song. (My thanks to Lizardson at Time Has Told Me.)

[Note from 2022: The website Second Hand Songs lists seventeen covers of “Wooden Ships,” though few of the artists listed in the preceding paragraph are mentioned there. Seven of those covers are dated before the year 2000. Artists mentioned at SHS include Christine Harwood, Lana Lane and the Ides of March. Notes added May 15, 2022.]

So here are the two original versions of “Wooden Ships” (that still sounds odd to me) along with Harwood’s cover from 1970 and, as a bonus, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s performance of the song at Woodstock in the early morning hours forty years ago today.

“Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash from Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969

“Wooden Ships” by Jefferson Airplane from Volunteers, 1969

“Wooden Ships” by Chris Harwood from Nice to Meet Miss Christine, 1970

“Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at Woodstock, August 18, 1969

The Great Covers List
There was quite a nice response to my post a week ago when I asked which recordings would wind up in a list of best cover versions of all time. We got a couple of fifteen-song lists and a few other comments; the resulting collection of songs would make up a couple of very good CDs. And I’m going to add five recordings to the list as my nominees:

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Helpless” from She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina, 1971
Johnny Winters’ “Highway 61” from Second Winter, 1969.
Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” Liberty 56216, 1971
Joe Cocker’s “Cry Me A River” from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, 1970
The Band’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” from Cahoots, 1971

What cover versions grab you? Leave a note, and in a few weeks, I’ll likely start digging into them.

Saturday Single No. 145

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 15, 2009

Fifteen years ago, I was covering sports and human interest stories in the affluent Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. From that vantage point, I watched the national media and concert goers descending on upstate New York for Woodstock ’94, a music festival celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original Woodstock festival in 1969. That original festival, as we’ve had slathered on us increasingly thickly during the last week or so, took place forty years ago this weekend (not at Woodstock itself, but on Max Yasgur’s farm outside the small town of Bethel, N.Y.)

During that summer of 1994, always looking for a hook for a story, I asked around among my friends and contacts in the Eden Prairie schools and learned that one of the guidance counselors at the high school had been at the original Woodstock. He told some good tales, many of them familiar: the crowded roads; he and his friends abandoning their car somewhere short of Yasgur’s farm and walking on; the camaraderie among the multitudes at the festival; bathing in a lake; going hungry; his distance from the mammoth stage (which nevertheless didn’t keep him from hearing at least some of the music fairly well); and the utter and absolute mess left behind by the estimated 4000,000 people who were at the festival.

As familiar as they were, they were good tales, and what made them more interesting for my readers in Eden Prairie is that they were told by someone they knew. Connecting my readers to the people around them and to the events in the larger world is, to me, the goal of a community newspaper, whether it’s a weekly or a small daily. If just one reader looked at that story that week and was, first, intrigued by the fact that someone from their community had been at Woodstock and, second, came away from the story knowing a little more about either that community member or what it was like to be at Woodstock, then I did my job.

That’s the only time in my life, I think, I’ve ever written about Woodstock. I suppose I might have crafted a column about the festival in 1979, ten years after, but I don’t think I did. And I guess I’ve not written about it because I don’t have much to say unless I have a hook to hang it on, which is what the Eden Prairie guidance counselor provided in 1994. Over the years, I’ve read a few books about the original 1969 festival, I’ve seen the 1970 documentary film several times (and written about it at least once), and as each anniversary passes, I’ve seen and read memoirs and commentaries about what Woodstock meant to those who were there, about Woodstock as a cultural milestone and all that.

But as aware as I am of what happened on Yasgur’s farm forty years ago, and as intriguing as some of those memoirs and analyses sometimes are, I find myself not particularly interested in writing about those things. And I imagine that might seem odd. Readers might expect that to be an attractive pool for me to wade into. Why won’t I? Because Woodstock – and I mean all things Woodstock: the festival, the music, the generation, the myth – is like a cultural Rorschach test. Each of us will see something different in the happenings forty years ago this weekend, especially those of us who weren’t there.

Me? I see the lawnmower I was pushing around the side yard on the morning of August 18, 1969, the morning that Jimi Hendrix closed the festival. I’d seen news coverage of Woodstock on television over the weekend, and I was pondering what I’d seen, wondering what it had really been like, and wishing I could have been there to find out.

But I was fifteen, and wanting to be somewhere other than mowing the lawn was a pretty frequent state. The fact that it was Woodstock that I had in my mind as my alternate location is the only thing that’s kept that particular August morning present in my memory. So the only thing I truly know about Woodstock is that I thought it would have been more fun than mowing the lawn.

Here’s John Denver with “I Wish I Could Have Been There (Woodstock),” the best song I’ve ever heard about wanting to have been at Woodstock. It’s from his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This, and it’s your Saturday Single.

Keeping Track: The LP Log

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 12, 2009

Some time during the past year, I mentioned for the first time that I’ve kept track of when I’ve acquired my LPs and that I have a log for them that goes back to 1964. A few people asked me to write about the log, and I don’t think there’s a better time to do so than on Vinyl Record Day.

I remember when I thought for the first time that I should keep track of when I got my records: It was during the summer of 1970, when I bought my copy of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. After I played the record, I thought to myself that I needed to find a way to keep track. So I pulled the out the plain white sleeve and wrote in pen at the very top (on the side margin actually, which is at the top when the sleeve is turned sideways) “June 1970.”

Then I went to the box where my sister and I kept our rock and pop records and did the same for the six of those records that were mine: Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us; Beatles ’65; Herman’s Hermits’ On Tour; the 5th Dimension’s Age of Aquarius; the Beatles’ Let It Be; and Chicago’s silver album from 1970.

Details stick with me: To mark my records on that first day, I used a red pen that happened to be sitting near the stereo in the basement rec room. It was a pen labeled “Property of the State of Minnesota” and no doubt came home from the college in my dad’s pocket one day. I used that same pen for about three years, I think, then switched to blue or black ink, whatever was handy.

For some reason, I only jotted down the month and year I’d gotten the records. And I only marked the rock, pop and soul records. I owned others, kept in a separate cabinet: Records by Al Hirt and the Tijuana Brass, some soundtracks and similar music, and some odd things. I didn’t pull those out and write months and years on them. It didn’t seem important at the time.

“Stardust” by Al Hirt from That Honey Horn Sound [1965]

“Carmen” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass from Herb Alpert’s Ninth [1967]

If I’d wanted to record the actual dates when I’d acquired those first six rock, pop and R&B records, I could have dated four of them with precision. The only two albums for which I would not have known a date were those by the 5th Dimension and by Chicago. But those acquisitions were recent enough on that summer day that I knew the months. As to the others: I knew for certain that Beatles ’65 came to my sister and me for Christmas 1965. [Actually, it was most likely Christmas 1964, just about the time the record was released. Note added January 23, 2014.]  I bought Let It Be on the day it was released, May 18, 1970. I got the Herman’s Hermits and Sonny & Cher albums from my sister for my birthday and for Christmas in 1965; I liked the records okay, but Sonny & Cher and Herman’s Hermits weren’t, you know, Al Hirt and Herb Alpert.

“It’s Gonna Rain” by Sonny & Cher from Look At Us [1965]

“Don’t Try To Hurt Me” by Herman’s Hermits from On Tour [1965]

As it turned out, marking those seven records with that red pen on that afternoon began a journey that finds me today with a database that has information about 2,893 LPs. Like all things concerning my record collection, it’s not something I planned to do. I just kept on keeping track when I purchased or received records, from that summer afternoon in 1970 onward.

I look back now at my early acquisitions and I’m reminded of my own case of Beatlemania, a malady that came upon me in 1970. (That was six years later than the rest of America, and I’ve been running behind ever since. Well, not really, but it sometimes feels like that.) I decided sometime during the summer of 1970 that I was going to acquire all eighteen Beatles albums on Capitol and Apple by the time my pal Rick started his senior year of high school in September 1972. (I didn’t know that I’d set myself an impossible task: There were only seventeen Beatles albums on Capitol and Apple at the time; A Hard Day’s Night was released on United Artists, but never mind.)

So I look at the log for 1970, 1971 and 1972, and I see many Beatles albums: In the last few months of 1970, I bought Hey Jude on a shopping trip to the Twin Cities, I got Revolver for my birthday and a buddy in school gave me his slightly used copy of Magical Mystery Tour, and on and on. By the time Rick and I – with our friend, Gary – headed to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in August 1972, I had one Beatles record to go to complete the collection. I bought A Hard Day’s Night in Winnipeg, less than a month before Rick began his senior year.

(That was not quite so, as I misread lines in the database, an error that I noted in a later post; I bought Beatles VI in Winnipeg and completed my collection with the purchase not long afterward of A Hard Day’s Night.)

If I got records as gifts, I also jotted on the sleeve or on the jacket (oh, the record jackets I’ve written on over the years!) the name of the person who gave me the record. That’s why, when it actually came time to create a database of my records, I could include a “From” column. Probably the oddest notation in that column is my note for Rubber Soul. One morning in January 1972, I got to talking about music with the guy next to me in Math 121. I mentioned my Beatles quest, and he asked if I had Rubber Soul. I didn’t. The next day, he brought me his slightly used copy of Rubber Soul. The day after that, evidently, he dropped Math 121, because I never saw him again. I think his name was Jerry, so on the record and in the database, the notation reads “Jerry in math class (?)”

Another album that I had to guess about came from a discard pile at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student-run radio station. I took it home and I played it once, I know, and I must not have been impressed, for I put it in the cabinet with my soundtracks and other non-rock stuff. That’s where I found it sometime during the 1990s, when I cleaned out the last of my records and junk from the house on Kilian Boulevard. While I was compiling the database, I came to that one record, Mark Turnbull’s Portrait of the Young Artist, and found that there was no date written on it. I do, however, remember claiming it from the discard pile. And I know that once the 1971-72 academic year ended, I spent almost no time at the radio station. So I got the record sometime between December 1971 and May 1972. I called it February 1972.

Around the same time, in early 1972, I happened upon two albums that led me down roads of exploration, and by looking at the entries in the log, one can see the number of artists and types of music I was listening to grow and grow. One of those albums was the compilation Eric Clapton At His Best, and the other was an album titled Joe Cocker!

“Family Circles (Portrait of the Young Artist)” by Mark Turnbull from Portrait of the Young Artist [1968]

“Darling Be Home Soon” by Joe Cocker from Joe Cocker! [1969]

With Mr. Turnbull’s album being one of the rare exceptions, I continued to record the month of acquisition for my records. When it came time years later to enter their dates into the database, all I had to work with was the month. So I used the first of the month, called it an estimated date and put the entry in italics: August 1, 1972. If I knew the exact date because of Christmas or a birthday or some other reason, I used regular type. That vagueness became unnecessary for records I got after September 13, 1974. Before heading out to a party that evening (who knows why I remember some of this stuff!), I went downtown, most likely to the shop called Axis, and bought a new copy of Duane Allman: An Anthology, and for some reason, I wrote down the exact date, as I would do from then on.

Sometimes I’ve missed. When I was entering all of this data into the computer in early 2002 – a task that took me about ten days, working on it about six hours a day – I found a few other records besides the Mark Turnbull album for which I had no date. Those I had to estimate, looking for a price tag if I bought it used (which would tell me where I bought it, and thus give me a timeframe based on when I frequented that store) or relying on my memory if I bought it new. I may be in error on some of those.

And remember the Al Hirt and Tijuana Brass records, along with the other stuff that predated my rock and pop days? When it came time to enter those, I had to do some estimating, too. One of them, I could date exactly: I got Hirt’s Honey in the Horn for my eleventh birthday. The others, well, I did the best I could.

And I would guess, looking at the database today, that I have exact dates for at least ninety percent of the records in the collection. And when I run through the database chronologically, the dates in italics become more and more rare and begin to stand out in that column as the years roll by. One of those later dates is for a copy – still sealed – of Harry Chapin’s last album, Sequel, purchased sometime during the autumn of 1990 at a record store in a mall on the west edge of Columbia, Missouri. (I kid you not; I remember this stuff.) I won’t open the record, but the songs on Sequel were re-released in 1987 on an album called Remember When the Music. I gave Sequel an estimated date of October 1, 1990.

Not far from Sequel in the log is the self-titled 1977 album by singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff, which I bought a few weeks later at that same store in the west side mall.

“I Miss America” by Harry Chapin from Remember When the Music [1987]
(Originally released on Sequel [1980])

“Someone To Lay Down Beside Me” by Karla Bonoff from Karla Bonoff [1977]

One of the things I did when I compiled the database in 2002 was to look at information in the albums’ notes. I made a note when the album included guest performances or other stars joining in. When I made an entry for a compilation, I put the names of the most prominent artists in the notes column. I also kept track of some sidemen and studio musicians, like the folks who played with Delaney & Bonnie (and Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton and George Harrison) and the Swampers from Muscle Shoals. As I’ve mentioned before, when I shop, I look for those names and a few others in album credits, and when I find those names, I generally take the album home.

One of those albums, one that I found at Cheapo’s in Minneapolis in 2003, raises a question: Who is Lori Jacobs? The liner notes to her 1973 album, Free, tell us that she “lives in Michigan and performs nightly at the Ann Arbor Road House. She used to be a teacher and she used to be married.” And then the notes talk about how her songs “tell the story of a newly-awakened [sic] lady, her loves and sorrows.”

What the notes don’t tell us is how a woman whose credits seem to be that she performs nightly in a lounge in Ann Arbor, Michigan, managed to record her album with the Swampers at Muscle Shoals. They’re all there: Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Pete Carr and Jimmy Johnson. Joining in the fun were Clayton Ivey, Harrison Calloway and Harvey Thompson, who worked at Rick Hall’s FAME studios after Beckett et al. went on their own. Rick Ruskin, a pretty well-known guitarist from Michigan, joins in. And among the folks who came out to sing background on one of Jacobs’ songs were Clydie King and Venetta Fields. Who is this woman?

Jacobs, of course, was one only one of the many musicians who made pilgrimages to the studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in Muscle Shoals. Not many were as seemingly obscure as Jacobs, but my notes point out another singer-songwriter who worked with the Swampers but who’s also spent some time in the shadows.

“Free” by Lori Jacobs from Free [1973]

“Come On Down” by Wendy Waldman from Gypsy Symphony [1974]

(I have a sealed copy of Free which I plan to break open and rip to mp3s one of these days. When I do, I’ll share the entire album here. This mp3 came from the copy I bought in 2003, which has some severe scratches.)

I spend more time these days wandering through the database looking for errors than I do keeping the log up to date. I just don’t buy a lot of LPs anymore. There are only two places to get good-quality records in St. Cloud, and the stock in those stores doesn’t turn over often enough for me to spend much time digging through the records. When I do go through the bins, I’ll grab something if I recognize it from my want list and it’s fairly rare. I also go to garage sales on a regular basis; that’s how I found Chipmunk Rock, from which I shared “Whip It” a while back.

And of course, I use the database frequently for posts here, running through each month’s acquisitions down the years. Once I do that for all twelve months, I’ll have to be a lot more creative when it comes to finding posts for Saturdays.

Digging through the database for this post has reminded me of records I have that I’ve not listened to for a while. Like the Sonny & Cher album, which likely hasn’t been played since, oh, 1968. And Mark Turnbull’s album, which probably hasn’t been played since 1972.

And there are treasures in even the most recent entries. One of the few records I acquired during 2008 was Leo Kottke’s Circle ’Round the Sun, a gift from Mitch Lopate, whose name has popped up here occasionally. There are also treasures less sublime.

“Long Way Up The River” by Leo Kottke from Circle ’Round the Sun [1970]

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by the Chipmunks from Chipmunk Rock [1982]

(All mp3s for this post were ripped from vinyl, so there are some bits of noise now and then.)

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.

Echoes Of History

May 13, 2022

Originally posted August 4, 2009

Just as one song leads to another, so does one book pull a reader to another. About three weeks ago, I saw a reference to 1942 by Winston Groom, a history of that one year, looking at how it shaped the history of World War II. (The name of the author might be familiar; he wrote Forrest Gump, the novel that was turned into the Academy Award-winning film.) When I went to the website of my local library to reserve a copy of 1942, I saw that Groom has also written a series of books about the U.S. Civil War.

So, after reading 1942, I worked my way through Vicksburg 1863, an account of the Union campaign to take control of the Mississippi River, a campaign that ended with the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi. From there, I moved on to Shrouds of Glory, an account of an 1864 campaign into Tennessee by a Confederate army. All three of the books read quickly, and Groom tells the tales well. But what made the books pertinent to this space was something I ran across on Page 17 of Shrouds of Glory:

“In addition, [Union General William Tecumseh] Sherman had at his disposal some three divisions of cavalry commanded by Generals Edward M. McCook, Kenner Garrard, and George Stoneman . . .”

I stopped reading, knowing I’d just read something that was familiar to me. I looked again. And I saw it. “George Stoneman.” And I heard Levon Helm’s voice in my head:

“Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train

“Till Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again . . .”

The song, of course, is “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which was included on The Band, the second album by the group that I’ve long called my favorite rock group of all time. I read long ago that Robbie Robertson, who composed the song, wrote it as a salute to the southern heritage of Arkansas-born Helm, who was the only non-Canadian in The Band. And I pondered the confluence of Groom’s book, Robertson’s song and Helm’s heritage at odd times for a few days.

And, as I almost always do, I thought about cover versions. I have covers of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Johnny Cash, John Denver and Richie Havens, but none of them really grab me (which, as regards the Havens version, is a surprise to me). I also have a version by the Allman Brothers Band that was included on the 2007 release Endless Highway – The Music of The Band, but I don’t post a lot of things released after 1999, and I didn’t hear anything in the ABB version that made me want to change my mind. 

One version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” that I do not have in my mp3 collection is the bastard cover by Joan Baez. Taking ludicrous liberties with Robertson’s lyrics – including turning Robert E. Lee into a steamboat – Baez got herself a No. 3 hit in 1971. But I won’t listen to it and won’t recommend that others do, either.

There certainly, are, no doubt, other covers of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” but instead of wandering off and making a list of other performers who’ve done the song – as I frequently do – I decided on a different route this morning: I’d look in my collection for cover versions of other songs by The Band. And here are four:

“The Weight” by Joe Cocker from Mad Dogs & Englishmen [Fillmore East, New York, March 28, 1970]

“Upp Till Ragvaldsträsk!” by Lalla Hanson from Upp Till Ragvaldsträsk! [1971]

“The Shape I’m In” by Bo Diddley from Another Dimension [1971]

“Twilight” by Danko-Fjeld-Andersen from Ridin’ On The Blinds [1994]

The Joe Cocker version of “The Weight” wasn’t included in the original LP release when the live album came out in 1970. The track was one of those added to the two-CD “Deluxe Edition” that was released in 2005. I have eighteen cover versions of “The Weight,” and probably the best-known versions are those by Aretha Franklin and King Curtis, both of which were included on anthologies of Duane Allman’s work. I decided to bypass those and share the Cocker version, as it’s pretty good and I’m not sure it’s all that well-known.

“Upp till Ragvaldsträsk!”  is a Swedish-language version of “Up On Cripple Creek.” I know very little about Lalla Hanson. He’s a Swedish performer who was a contemporary of the members of The Band, and “Upp till Ragvaldsträsk!” (which translates loosely to “Up To Ragvald’s Swamp,” I think) was the title track of his first album. If you’re interested, you can Google his name and click the link to translate the Swedish Wikipedia page, which will offer a link to a translation of his home page; or you can jump into the Swedish and see what you can glean. (I think I found the mp3 of “Upp till Ragvaldsträsk!” at The Band, a website that’s no longer very active. The mp3 is at a lower bitrate than I would usually share, but the unique quality of the track makes it worth hearing anyway.)

I got the Bo Diddley album, Another Dimension, from another blogger about the time Diddley died (June 2008). As usually happens with these things, I don’t recall where I found it, and backtracking from indices doesn’t provide me with any clues. Diddley does a pretty nice job on “The Shape I’m In.”

I’ve posted the Danko-Fjeld-Andersen album Ridin’ On The Blinds a couple of times (along with its predecessor, Danko Fjeld Andersen), but I can’t put up a list of covers of The Band’s songs without including the DFA version of “Twilight.” I never thought much of any of the versions The Band did of the song, but Danko’s reading on this version never fails to thrill me.

[Note from 2022: Given the greater awareness of historical and racial issues in the past few years, I admit to having some misgivings about “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” I haven’t yet decided what – if anything – to do about those misgivings. Note added May 13, 2022.]

Saturday Single No. 143

May 13, 2022

Originally posted August 1, 2009

As it happened, I never found a Saturday during July to explore the record log, to see what LPs have made their ways to my shelves in Julys past. There was a perfectly good reason for that: There were more immediate, and perhaps more interesting, things to write about on Saturdays in July. So we’ll celebrate August’s start with a look at July records. (Long-term readers with good memories may recall that I once shared a First Friday post on a Saturday, so this type of temporal dislocation is nothing new. We’re all lost in time, anyway.)

My first July records came in 1972, when I picked up a copy of The Beatles’ Second Album and an album titled A Special Path, recorded and released by Becky Severson, a high school classmate of mine. The Beatles album was the next-to-last step in my quest to own all of the Fab Four’s Capitol and Apple albums; all that remained was A Hard Day’s Night. (I misremembered; I had yet to pick up Beatles VI as well. Note added February 21, 2019.) The Becky Severson album was a simple, folkish work, testifying to her Christian faith. Its title song surfaced years later, a tale that I told here in 2007.

It was another three years before July found a new record on my shelves. I’ve told the story before about how Paul William’s Just An Old Fashioned Love Song came to my attention in 1975. And I’ve also told – obliquely – the story about a friend giving me Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly in July of 1976. (I often wonder how many tales about music I have left to tell; if I have one for every four of the albums on my shelves, I’m good for a few years yet.) And in July of 1977, as I was finishing up my time at St. Cloud State, KVSC was giving away promotional albums the staff had decided against: I got the Bee Gees’ Children of the World and Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise.

I moved to Monticello, and in July of 1978, my fiancée of the time gave me Jackson Browne’s Late For The Sky (a superlative album, and I wonder as I type its name why I’ve never written about it).  The next July albums came in 1982, flea market captures of America’s Homecoming and Carly Simon’s No Secrets. A year later, I received as a gift a big band anthology, Big Band Collector’s Guild Premiere Showcase, which I enjoyed a fair amount.

I went to Missouri to go to grad school. I bought no records during the one July I was there, and I went back to Monticello and bought no records during the two Julys I was there that second time. I moved, for the summer of 1987, to St. Cloud. It was there that the Bob Dylan project started, with a lady friend of mine and I determined to get all of Dylan’s existing work on vinyl before CD’s overtook the world. In July of that year, we picked up Infidels and Another Side of Bob Dylan. They went with me to Minot in August of 1987.

In Minot during July of 1988, I bought five LPs. The best of those was likely Paul Simon’s Graceland and the most interesting was probably Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing. Elton John, Creedence Clearwater Revival and the New Riders of the Purple Sage rounded things out.

By the time the spring of 1989 came sneaking into the northern plains, new LPs were becoming very difficult to find in Minot, as I’ve mentioned before. CDs had taken over, and I was forced to find my vinyl at garage sales and at the one pawnshop in town. So when I moved back to Minnesota in July 1989, living on the northern edge of the Twin Cities metro area, I celebrated by picking up thirty-four albums in that first month.

The log shows some very nice records: Shoot Out The Lights by Richard and Linda Thompson, as well as their I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight; the Indigo Girls’ self-titled album; Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking and Full House as well as the anthology, Fairport Chronicles; Maria McKee’s self-titled album; four Van Morrison albums as well as an anthology of Them, his early band; What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye; Joy of Cooking’s self-titled debut; and albums by Mott the Hoople, Kate and Anna McGarrigle and on and on. It was a great month, except that I kept pulling books off the big shelves to make room for LPs. And I had nowhere else to put the books.

I learned that month that I love Joy of Cooking’s work; despite that, the group has shown up here sparingly. So here’s the opening track from that debut album, today’s Saturday Single.

“Hush” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking [1970]