Archive for the ‘1977’ Category

A Slight Delay

July 8, 2022

Originally posted January 20, 2010

I was going to start the series of posts about the Ultimate Jukebox today, but some overnight events have forced me to delay for a day. But when we get to tomorrow, we’ll talk about the project and share the first tunes from that idea.

In the meantime, I beg your patience, and I’ve decided to share three of the tunes that came close but in the end did not make it in the final list for the Ultimate Jukebox. So these are among the runners-up, if you will. And still great songs and records in their own right.

“Crossroads” by Don McLean from American Pie [1971]
“Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited, Brunswick 55391 [1968]
“Silver Spring” by Fleetwood Mac, Warner Bros. 8034 [1977]

See you tomorrow!

Saturday Singles Nos. 166 & 167

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 19, 2009

Among the first things I did when I moved to Minot, North Dakota, in the late summer of 1987 was to buy three large bookcases for my study. I actually used them for books for a couple of years. By the time I moved to Pleasant Avenue in South Minneapolis in 1992, about one-third of the big cases had been taken over by records. And during my last couple of years there, about once every couple months I’d empty one of the upper compartments of its books or knickknacks and rearrange the vinyl to give it more room.

But there were always more records sitting in crates on the floor, waiting for a place on the shelves. When I moved from Pleasant Avenue to Bossen Terrace, further south in Minneapolis in 1999, I devoted all of the large bookshelf space to LPs. The books and knickknacks went elsewhere in what was a smaller apartment.

This week’s post is the last month-by-month of the exploration of how the records came to take over the bookcases. Last week, I looked at December’s LP acquisitions from 1964 or so through 1989. This week, we carry on.

By December of 1990, I was living in Columbia, Missouri, having spent earlier portions of the year in Anoka, Minnesota, and Conway Springs, Kansas. And only two albums came my way that month, Rescue by Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers and The Legendary Christine Perfect Album, a record of bluesy rock first released in England in 1970 as simply Christine Perfect and then released in 1976 under the longer name in the U.S. after Christine Perfect became Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac.

The following summer, I moved back to Minnesota, and as I settled into my new reporting job, I pretty much took the autumn of 1991 and the winter of 1991-92 off from buying almost anything, including LPs. When the spring came, I’d moved from the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Park to Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis, where there were garage sales, thrift stores and six or seven used record shops, including Cheapo’s. My buying was sporadic for a while, but it began to accelerate.

The seven albums I picked up in December 1992 are an odd lot: A live John Lennon LP, two records of Beethoven compositions, albums by Jonathan Edwards, the Singing Nun and Anne-Charlotte Harvey (the last a collection of Swedish-American folksongs titled Memories of Snoose Boulevard) and the marvelous 1972 three-record celebration of folk and country music by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and friends titled Will The Circle Be Unbroken. (A few of the friends: Mother Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Roy Acuff, Vassar Clements and Norman Blake.)

I took the last months of 1993 off from buying records and resumed as 1994 dawned. In December of 1994, I was digging into the catalogs of singer-songwriters, grabbing albums by Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, Hoyt Axton and Wendy Waldman. I also got a copy of Dobie Gray’s Hey Dixie, which has a country/soul sense to it, making it an interesting listen.

The haul in December of 1995 was slight, only two records. But they were pretty good: George Harrison’s Cloud Nine from a few years earlier and the newly released Bruce Springsteen album, The Ghost of Tom Joad. A year later, in December 1996, I brought home records by Lulu, Tower of Power, Bob Seger, Joe South and Tracy Chapman as well as a compilation of recordings by Gary U.S. Bonds and Chubby Checker, and Anthology 3, the third three-record volume in the Beatles’ massive series.

The rate of purchases was accelerating, as I was devoting more and more free time to record research and to crate-digging at about five or six used record stores. In the last month of 1997, I brought home ten albums, including work by Gypsy, Junior Walker and the All-Stars, Hootie & the Blowfish, Major Harris, Alberta Hunter, Love, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Jackie Wilson and Neil Young. Still, the best album of that month was an anthology, Volume 5 of Atlantic Records’ history of its rhythm & blues efforts, covering the years 1962 to 1966.

In 1998 and 1999, I went mad. During those two years, I brought home a total of 1,056 records, an average of more than ten a week. I was well above average in December of 1998, when I brought home ninety-eight LPs. (Thirty-seven of those came in one morning, when – as I’ve mentioned before – a friendly clerk at a nearby thrift store called me on a Saturday and told me that someone had just dropped off eight boxes of mint-condition LPs, mostly vintage blues and R&B.) Some of the more interesting names on that month’s records: Mavis Staples, Richie Havens, Ike & Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Graham Central Station, Z.Z. Hill, Cold Blood, Lou Ann Barton, B.B. King, Moby Grape, Johnny Ray and Etta James. The best of that month’s huge haul?  Maybe Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, maybe Howlin’ Wolf’s Moanin’ in the Moonlight, maybe Muddy Water’s Hard Again, or maybe any one of ten or so other LPs. It was a great month.

December of 1999 was a little less busy, with thirty-six LPs coming into my new digs on Bossen Terrace in far south Minneapolis. Among the names on the jackets were Leonard Cohen, Bob Seger, Mike Nesmith, Otis Redding, Chicago, the Rascals, Jimmie Spheeris, Robert Cray, the Youngbloods, the Byrds, Mason Profitt, Lou Rawls and Shawn Phillips. The best of the month? Maybe Little Milton’s Moving to the Country or Al Green Explores Your Mind or possibly the Youngbloods’ Elephant Mountain, an album for which I have an odd affection.

That was the peak of my vinyl period, 1999. In December 2000, I brought three records home: El Chicano’s Cinco, Muddy Waters’ King Bee and the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby. In 2001, I collected four LPs: A bootleg of a 1970 performance at the Hollywood Bowl by The Band, a Christmas anthology and albums by the Blasters and Terence Trent D’Arby.

Three years passed. During a holiday visit to Texas in 2004, a friend of the Texas Gal gave us a box of LPs, bringing that December’s total to twenty-five. Among the artists whose work was in the box were: Amy Grant, the English Beat, the 4 Seasons, Madness, Melissa Manchester, Romeo Void, Sting and Carly Simon. The best of that month? Probably Warren Zevon’s Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.

I picked up two records at a thrift store in December 2005, and bought two records – getting Chi Coltrane’s Let It Ride by mail and the Looking Glass’ Subway Serenade at an antique store – in December 2007. And there the tale of Decembers ends.

So what do I share from all of this? I think one song each from two of the giants of Chicago blues is a good direction to go. So here are your Saturday Singles:

“Smokestack Lightnin’” by Howlin’ Wolf from Moanin’ in the Moonlight [1958]

(Likely recorded in 1956; released as Chess 1618)

“I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters with Johnny Winter from Hard Again [1977]

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.

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. 152

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 10, 2009

The sun is shining, and it’s chilly outside, with a thin layer of snow on the ground. That won’t last long. I imagine by noon or thereabouts, the snow will have melted. By that time – long before then, I hope – the Texas Gal and I will have taken the highway north out of town for a brief Saturday excursion.

That’s something we haven’t done for a while: Take off on a Saturday morning, choose a direction and go. Recently, her coursework has taken priority, and I imagine there were weekends when my devotion to this blog has limited our time. But her list of assignments this weekend is short, and I will be brief this morning so we can head out.

This is not a major undertaking, a Saturday excursion, and we will not drive far. Our first planned stop is the small town of Pierz, not quite forty miles from here. The attraction? Well, there are a couple of antique stores/junque shops that are fun to poke around in, but the main draw is a meat market that offers the best bacon either one of us has ever had. Bacon is a Sunday tradition in our home, and the prospect of stocking up on Pierz bacon has us, well, not quite giddy, but very pleased.

After that, we’ll head east toward Mille Lacs Lake, one of Minnesota’s largest, hoping to see some fall foliage along the way. There’s a quilt shop in the small town of Wahkon that the Texas Gal wants to check out, and I imagine we’ll find other diversions along the way to Wahkon and then on our way back to St. Cloud. And there’s the prospect of lunch in a small-town restaurant where the fries are fresh and crisp and the menu holds a surprise or two.

So to get us on our way, here’s a song by a Canadian band named after its founder, Jerry Doucette, and it’s today’s Saturday single.

“Down the Road” by Doucette from Mama Let Him Play [1977]

Doing It Again

May 18, 2022

Originally posted September 8, 2009

I was reminded this weekend of the summer of 1985:

I’d returned that February to Minnesota after eighteen months in graduate school in Missouri. I was doing some free-lance work, and sometime in April, to keep the budget from stretching as thin as tissue paper, I started working weekend overnight shifts at a local convenience store. While that was sometimes interesting, and while it fulfilled its purpose of keeping us from going broke, it wasn’t a lot of fun. But we do what we have to do.

Then, one weekday afternoon around the end of May, I got a call from DQ, the editor and publisher of the Monticello paper, my old boss. He said he’d heard I was working the graveyard shift, and he wondered if I’d like to spend my summer covering sports free-lance for the Times. As one might expect, that was a better prospect than manning the counter at Tom Thumb. So I soon found myself back among familiar faces, covering town team baseball, slow-pitch softball, American Legion and Babe Ruth baseball and all the bits and pieces that make up the summer sports scene in a small town.

I’d covered all of those before, of course, during the nearly six years I’d been a reporter and then the news editor at the paper. But there was something different (different beyond the financial structure, that is). For some reason, in early 1985, baseball – the game and its history – captured my attention. I bought my first tabletop game (after occasionally battling Rob during visits to his house). I bought the first serious bits of a baseball library, with one of the first volumes being The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. And when DQ called and offered me the sports department for the summer, with its emphasis on baseball, I was ready.

I’d reported on baseball before, of course, covering six seasons of high school ball in Monticello and nearby Big Lake, and spending six summers writing accounts of the town team’s efforts. But I’d never really had more than a basic grasp of the game. Now I was digging more deeply, reading about the game’s history, yes, but also learning how to watch baseball more analytically, learning how to see a game as it was played.

The coach of Monti’s American Legion team that summer, though he was not much older than I, was one of the town’s old baseball hands. His history and that of recent baseball in Monticello were intertwined. He’d played high school and Legion ball for Monticello and for years had been the manager, organizer and No. 1 pitcher for the town team. No longer able to play, he was coaching the American Legion squad, and when he noticed how much more I’d learned about baseball and how eager I was to learn more, he invited me – during those evenings I was covering his team – to sit in the dugout and keep the scorebook.

Very soon, I was spending my evenings with the Legion team even when I wasn’t covering the game, per se. I became in some ways part of the team, and my reporting about the team and its games became better for that.

(That’s one of the unique qualities about small-town journalism, that one can sometimes be a part of the community events one reports about. Becoming attached to the local American Legion baseball team provides little chance for conflict of interest, of course, although there are scenarios where such a conflict could arise. [Given that I was covering only sports that summer, the most likely possibility, I would think, would be something regarding broken eligibility rules and forfeits.] But during my earlier years at the Monticello paper, I was a member of the local school district’s community education policy board, and I was active in Democratic politics. That works in a small town – and Monticello at the time was home to a little more than three thousand folks – because people in town know you as more than a byline in the weekly paper, and either trust you a little more or else know where to find you when they want to complain. I’d hazard that the smaller the community, the more frequently one will find folks from the local paper filling other roles in town that seem to bring the possibility of conflict of interest. As one heads up the population ladder, however, the greater distance between a reporter and his or her audience makes such involvement less frequent and less wise.)

It felt good to be accepted in the dugout and on the field that summer. Even opposing coaches of teams we played – and my use of “we” indicates how I still feel about that Monti team – recognized me and nodded at me when our paths crossed before games. The most important thing to me about that summer of American Legion baseball, however, was being a better baseball writer. I’d been okay during the six years that had come earlier. But because of my reading, because of a new-found love of the game, I was better prepared. I had a second chance to something I loved and to do it better than I had before.

I thought of that summer of 1985 and my second chance to write about baseball this weekend because this post – the first real post at my new digs on WordPress – is the start of my second chance at a music blog. I’m not sure how different this version of Echoes In The Wind will be from the one that Blogger deleted last week. Maybe very little. I do have a sense that I won’t be posting six days every week, as I ended up doing there. (The Saturday Single will continue, though, starting with No. 148 four days from now.) There may be great changes beyond the location and the appearance, or the blog may be much the same. I don’t know.

All I really know is that Echoes In The Wind has a home again.

A Six-Pack of Again
“Back On The Street Again” by Swampwater from Swampwater [1971]
“Don’t Let Me Down Again” by Richard Torrance & Eureka from Belle of the Ball [1975]
“Play It Again” by Ray Thomas from From Mighty Oaks [1975]
“Born Again” by Emily Bindiger from Emily [1971]
“Sunshine In My Heart Again” by the Sanford/Townsend Band from Smoke From A Distant Fire [1977]
“Back Here Again” by Cold Blood from Lydia Pense & Cold Blood [1976]

Swampwater, notes All-Music Guide, is better remembered here in the U.S. as Linda Ronstadt’s first backing band after her time with the Stone Poneys. “Back On The Street Again” comes from the group’s second album, the group’s first on RCA. (The group’s debut, on Starday/King, was similarly titled Swampwater; I’ve on occasion seen the second album, the RCA record, titled Swamp Water, but I’ve gone with the more common single-word spelling, confusing though it may be.) The song here may ring a few sonic bells in listener’s heads. The Stone Poneys recorded it for their final album, Evergreen, Vol. 2, and the Sunshine Company had a minor hit with the song, with the record spending three weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 36. Swampwater’s version kind of falls in a niche between the sweet pop of the Sunshine Company and early country rock, tending toward the latter when the steel guitar solo pops up.

“Don’t Let Me Down Again” is a Lindsey Buckingham tune that showed up on Buckingham Nicks in 1973 and has popped up in a few other places, including Belle of the Ball, a 1975 album by Richard Torrance and his band Eureka. Torrance’s version of the tune has some similarities to Fleetwood Mac, which entered its California rock era during the same year, 1975.  Belle of the Ball was one of two albums Torrance released on the Shelter label, started by Leon Russell; three more came on Capitol. I like his stuff; it’s post-hippie California rock, but sometimes it seems just a shade more muscular than that description would lead one to expect. Some more of Torrance’s stuff just might show up here soon.

Ray Thomas is, as All-Music Guide points out, “of a handful of well-known flute players in rock music.” And he’s spent most of his professional life playing that flute for one band: The Moody Blues. From Mighty Oaks was recorded and released during the hiatus the band took between 1972’s Seventh Sojourn and 1978’s Octave. Interestingly, a look at the credits at AMG – assuming they’re complete – shows that no other member of the Moodies was involved in Thomas’ first solo album. (He also released Hopes, Wishes and Dreams in 1976.) Nevertheless, From Mighty Oaks sounds like a Moodies album, as one might expect. And it’s perhaps overdone, at times. But at the very worst, it’s pleasant, and at the time – when listeners and fans had no firm indication if the Moody Blues were going to record again – it was one of several solo projects that helped fill the gap.

Emily Bindiger is an American actress and singer. Her bio at Wikipedia is filled with impressive credits: She’s a member of the a capella group The Accidentals. She’s recorded for soundtracks for movies such as The Stepford Wives, One Life to Live, Bullets Over Broadway, Everyone Says I Love You, Donnie Brasco, The Hudsucker Proxy, Michael Collins and many, many more. And those are just a few highlights from her entry. But Wikipedia doesn’t mention one of the most interesting things about her; nor does her page at The Accidentals website: In 1971, when she was sixteen, Emily Bindiger recorded an album of what the blog Fantasy called “folk psych” with the French band Dynastie Crisis. “Born Again” is from that album, titled simply Emily, and is a pretty good example of what the record offered. The music can be a bit spare, but I like it. (Thanks for Fantasy for the rip.)

“Sunshine In My Heart Again” is a decent track from the second album by Ed Sanford and John Townsend and their band.  There is some confusion in various sources about the album’s title and the band’s name. Most sources call the album Smoke From A Distant Fire, while AMG appends the word The to the beginning. And while the band’s name on the album cover is clearly Sanford and Townsend, the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits calls the group the Sanford/Townsend Band. Of course, that latter might have been the credit on the hit single pulled from the album. The hit, as I’d imagine most of you know, was the title track, ”Smoke From A Distant Fire,” which went to No. 9 during the late summer of 1977.

“Back Here Again” comes from Lydia Pense & Cold Blood, the last album Cold Blood released during its run in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (The group has released two CDs in the past few years; the first is an album of live performances from 1973 and the second is an album of new material, 2005’s Transfusion.) Still funky, with Lydia Pense still singing well, Lydia Pense & Cold Blood – which was released in 1976 on ABC – evidently got little attention. And that was too bad. Cold Blood was one of those groups that, with a little bit of luck, could have reached the top tier. The same can be said for a lot of groups and performers, I know, but not many of them were as tight, as funky or as good as Cold Blood.

Sorry, Not Today

May 17, 2022

Originally posted August 26, 2009

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

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.)

Saturday Single No. 141

May 10, 2022

Originally posted July 18, 2009

I’m a newsman, a reporter. I always have been and always will be. I haven’t made my living in that trade for more than ten years now, but still, I am one. I didn’t have much of an audience for the hand-printed newspapers I put together when I was twelve or so, but even then I was a newsman (or newskid, if you will). As someone whose life is tied to the news – and that will always be the case, even if I never work another minute in the industry – there are those who have influenced me on my path.

Chief among those is DQ, my first real-world editor at the Monticello Times. DQ taught me almost everything I know about newspapering in a small town. Explicitly, through his instruction, and implicitly, through his behavior and demeanor, he showed me how to be what I eventually realized I’d always wanted to be: a reporter.

The fact that I wanted – and had always wanted – to be a reporter surprised me. Writing – one of the essential portions of reporting – had always been a chore: Until I got a typewriter and mastered it, my thoughts moved far too fast for my horrid handwriting to keep pace. And even with more and more modern tools, there still are days when writing is hard work. Add to that the tasks of first, going out and talking to strangers to learn what they know and think and second, finding a way to tell all of that to an audience, and reporting is a craft that can be complex and scary. And I’ve wondered from time to time where that impulse arose: Who or what in my youth made me – despite my dread of writing and my uneasiness as having to face strangers throughout the process – want to be a reporter?

I think I got my answer last evening, and that answer – as delayed as its realization might have been – was ultimately as unsurprising as the sunrise. My inspiration was Walter Cronkite, the grand man of television news who died yesterday at the age of ninety-two. From World War II through the Iranian hostage crisis of the later 1970s and early 1980s, Cronkite was first and foremost a reporter, even during the nineteen years when he was the anchor for the CBS Evening News.

That was evident last evening in many of the clips that CNN showed as it covered Cronkite’s death. Among the many on-air moments of his life that were shown last evening, we saw him discussing Vietnam with President John F. Kennedy in the backyard at (one assumes) the Kennedy retreat at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and talking about the D-Day invasion with retired general and one-time President Dwight D. Eisenhower in a jeep on the beaches of Normandy, France. We saw him at his anchor desk explaining the intricacies of the Watergate affair in late 1973, delving into a story that did not, at that time in its development, lend itself well to the visual medium that is television news. And we saw perhaps the two most famous moments of Cronkite’s long career: his exultation and relief in July 1969 when the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle found a safe landing spot on the moon and his controlled shock and grief in November 1963 as he told his viewers of Kennedy’s death in Dallas.

As I watched those clips – all of which I’d seen before and some of which I’d seen at the moment of broadcast – I realized that from the time I began to watch television news (and that was at a very young age, perhaps when I was ten), I always by choice watched CBS and Cronkite. (Cronkite was followed on CBS, of course, by Dan Rather, who was himself succeeded by Katie Couric. I don’t think much of Couric, but I still watch CBS; brand loyalty dies hard.) I realized as well that it was Cronkite who – without my ever coming close to realizing this before – gave me a model of what a newsman should be: As he reported and presented the news, he was calm, well-spoken (which means he also wrote well), courteous but persistent, interested in just about everything, and a good story-teller.

Cronkite’s passing is truly the end of an era, as has been said many times by many people on CNN and elsewhere in the brief hours since his death. I’ll let others deal with the historical implications and with the contrast of the news environment of, say, 1969 to that of 2009. My reaction is far more personal, and it’s far more intense than I would have expected.

I don’t know that I ever had heroes, even when I was a kid. I don’t think I ever thought of anyone as someone who could do no wrong, which is to me the definition of a hero. Over the years, however, from the time I was very young through my college years (and probably beyond), I did have role models, folks whose best attributes and actions seemed to me worthy of emulation: A couple of them were teachers, for the way they guided me and encouraged me; I’ve written once about Roger Lydeen and I may write about others in the future. Musically, as I’ve also said before, there were Al Hirt, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. As a sports fan, I looked up to Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings. And, as I noted above, I realized last evening – with some surprise and some tears – that Walter Cronkite was on that list as well.

I would imagine that Walter Cronkite shows up on a lot of folks’ similar lists, especially among those of us who consider ourselves newsmen and -women.

And here’s a song whose content has no relation to my topic but whose title fits. “I Got The News” by Steely Dan from Aja, is today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 770

January 22, 2022

It’s time for some Games With Numbers. We’ll take the first two digits from the numeral in the title – 77 – and see what was sitting at No. 77 in the Billboard Hot 100 during this week in 1977, which is a convenient forty-five years ago. We’ll also note the top five records in that chart.

The chart in question actually came out on January 22, so that’s a nice bit of serendipity. I’m reminded as I type that January 1977 came along while I was living in the drafty old house on St. Cloud’s North Side, about ten blocks south of there. Last summer, as I was preparing for my Denmark reunion, I happened to see on a real estate site that the old house – built in 1890 – was for sale for something like $5,000. Given that I’ve seen few signs of upkeep whenever I’ve driven by it since we moved to St. Cloud almost twenty years ago, that didn’t surprise me.

This morning, I took another look. The exterior of the house is the same, except for new windows and a new roof, but the interior has been pretty well gutted and redone, and the listed prices is now $155,000. I can tell which room was mine during my last months there, and I can tell where the living room was. I should wander by there someday soon and see if I can go through it.

Anyway, in the January in question forty-five years ago, here were the five top singles on the Hot 100:

“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder
“Car Wash” by Rose Royce
“You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer
“Dazz” by Brick
“You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

I never much cared for the Sayer or Brick singles. I liked the singles by Wonder and by McCoo and Davis. “Car Wash” wasn’t a big deal to me back then, but I noticed the other day when it came on the Seventies channel on cable that I knew all the words and the instrumental turns. And it’s the only one of the five that’s in the iPod.

But what of our main business here? What was at No. 77 in January 1977? Well, it’s a record I don’t recall ever hearing: “Yesterday’s Heroes” by the Bay City Rollers. From here, it seems like a decent record, tougher than I remember the Rollers’ work being. It didn’t do too well on the chart, peaking at No. 54.