Archive for the ‘1982’ Category

Thanksgiving Tales

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disconnected

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 22, 2009

I arose a little later than usual yesterday, as I’ve been battling a stubborn cold, and came into the study to check a few blogs and prepare a post. As the computer booted, I picked up the phone to tell the Texas Gal – already at work – that I was breathing and upright.

No dial tone.

I went to the front rooms and tried that phone. No dial tone there. So I went back to the study, planning on sending an instant message or an email. We had no ’Net access, either. I clicked on the TV, got a picture and sound and assumed that was okay. (That was an error: It turned out that most of our cable channels were down, too.) Now I really needed to talk to the Texas Gal as well as the cable company.

We gave up our cell phones a while back, so I drove down to the neighborhood convenience store. There, hunching my shoulders against a light rain, I dropped a couple of quarters into the pay phone. The Texas Gal said she’d call the cable company and told me to go home and get in out of the rain. An hour or so later, she came home for a few moments and said that a service tech would stop by during the early afternoon.

And actually, two of them did, with the second of them bearing the unwelcome news that our services would not be restored until sometime around two in the morning. He said that we were one of nine customers affected by an equipment failure, but making the ten-minute repair would require disconnecting about three hundred customers. So his bosses, he said, had told him not to repair the fault; instead, a truck would come out sometime after midnight and take care of the problem.

It was a perfectly sound business decision, but it was still annoying and a little worrying. Missing the high end cable channels for a day was no big deal. Nor was being offline, I thought. But being without a phone in case of emergency? That wasn’t good, and I told the fellow that. He nodded. “I understand,” he said. “And I’ll pass the word on. But I can’t do anything about it.”

I nodded back, and after he left, I went and found my deactivated cell phone. I think – though I’m not certain – that even deactivated phones can call 911. So I charged the phone and put it on the dining room table just in case the worst occurred. It didn’t. We had a pleasant evening: some television, some reading and, for me, a little bit of tabletop baseball.

As pleasant as the evening turned out to be though, not having ’Net access was a major annoyance: Both of us missed our normal online activities. No email or Facebook, no new blog posts to read, no way to check my fantasy football teams or the Texas Gal’s quilting group. And that pointed out to us how large a part of our lives the online world has become. It’s amazing how, in a relatively brief bit of time, we’re living so much of our lives online.

Is that worrisome? Not so long as we can do without if we have to. The things that the ’Net brings to our lives are worthwhile, fun and maybe even important. But they’re not essential. (That holds true, too, for the high-end cable channels. The telephone is another story, I think.) Still, even though I was out of touch for only a day, it’s good to be back.

A Six-Pack of Communications
“Telephone Line” by the Electric Light Orchestra, United Artists 1000 [1976]
“57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” by Bruce Springsteen from Human Touch [1992]
“(I’m A) TV Savage” by Bow Wow Wow from I Want Candy [1982]
“Race of the Computers” by Pete Carr from Not A Word On It [1976]
“TV Mama” by Big Joe Turner, Atlantic 1016 [1953]
“Pick Up The Phone” by Lesley Duncan from Moonbathing [1975]

The first two of these are pretty well-known, I think, and Bow Wow Wow is, too, though maybe this track is less well-known than some of that odd band’s other music. (Sorry for the low bitrate on that one, but it’s all I had.)

Pete Carr’s name is more familiar as a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals than as a solo artist, but Not A Word On It is a pretty good solo album. All-Music Guide has a date of 1975 for the record, but I’ve seen 1976 in other places I trust, so I’m going with that. (Thanks to walknthabass at Gooder’n Bad Vinyl.)

Big Joe Turner, one of the premier blues shouters, recorded from the 1930s into the 1980s, but seems almost forgotten today. “TV Mama,” recorded when television was still very new, is an example of using the most recent fad or craze as a framework for a salacious bit of music. (I ripped this from a library collection long before I ever thought about bitrates, so this track, too, is at a lower bitrate than I normally share.)

Lesley Duncan was a top session vocalist in England during the 1970s and released a few solo albums that were critically praised but didn’t sell all that well, from what I can tell. “Pick Up The Phone” is a nice piece of mid-1970s pop; if you like it, you’ll like the rest of Moonbathing as well as Duncan’s other work, I think.

Saturday Single No. 148

May 18, 2022

Originally posted September 12, 2009.

I never did get to looking at August LP acquisitions in the years after 1989; time and circumstance have made that idea bit outdated. Perhaps when August turns our way again, I’ll recall and then remedy that omission. On the other hand, there may be more vibrant things about which to write when the eighth month comes to call next summer.

And the first September Saturday has slid past without my marking it here. I was – as regulars know – taking a few days off to move my figurative stuff here to WordPress. So I thought we’d just jump over August and see what records came my way in September, starting this week with the years from 1964 through 1989. (Some of these will be among the most enduring records in my collection, as my birthday falls in this month, and my family and friends have generally had a good idea of what I’d like.)

My first album, as I’ve noted here more than once, was Al Hirt’s Honey In The Horn, which showed up on the turntable early one morning in 1964. A year later, Sonny and Cher’s Look At Us occupied the same space. During the summer of 1967, I spent a week at a band camp on the campus of what was then Bemidji State College, nestled among the pines of Northern Minnesota; in September, I received in the mail an LP made up of the various bands’ performances during that week’s culminating concert.

The Beatles’ Revolver, an album I consider either the best or second-best that group ever recorded (it changes places with Abbey Road in my internal rankings), came my way in September 1970. And then we jump to 1974, when I picked up on a September evening the first of the two Duane Allman anthologies.

In 1977, having tentatively entered the workforce, I found a used copy of the Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, and later that month, I bought from a co-worker three albums: Seals & Crofts’ Greatest Hits, Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits and Michael Johnson There is a Breeze. (The latter was quite possibly the final step toward collecting all the music we had listened to in the lounge during my stay in Denmark four years earlier.)

I found myself from time to time dipping into classical music, sometimes purchasing recordings of pieces I played as part of the St. Cloud Tech High School Orchestra, other times just trying something new. During a shopping trip to the Twin Cities in September 1978, I found a sale on classical recordings; I bought two records, one of Ludwig van Beethoven’s famed Symphony No. 5, and one of Wolfgang Mozart’s Symphonies No. 40 and No. 41. Three years later, in September 1981, I added a collection of George Gershwin pieces to the classical shelf, and then put a copy of the Moody Blues’ Long Distance Voyager on the main shelf.

For some reason, September in the earlier years isn’t a month jammed with lots of record acquisitions. An accident of timing, I guess. We move forward several years – and several life changes – to 1987, when my birthday brought me Dan Fogelberg’s Nether Lands and the soundtrack to the movie Stand By Me (a record packed with fine music from the latter years of the 1950s). Later that month, I’d add John Wesley Harding, a great album, and Real Live, an okay album, to my growing collection of the works of Bob Dylan.

September of 1988 was a different story. I added thirty-eight LPs to the shelves that month, with the most interesting of them being maybe a clutch of records by the Grateful Dead: Aoxomoxoa, The Grateful Dead and Workingman’s Dead. The least of those September records? Well, there were a couple of anthologies that might have been half-good, but I’d say that chief among the records that didn’t age well were Luna Sea by Firefall and Bonnie Tyler’s Faster Than The Speed Of Night.

A year later, I bought only a few records in September (having binged in July and August). During a trip to visit a lady friend in Kansas, I spent some money in Wichita on a few Gordon Lightfoot albums, one Gram Parsons, a copy of the early Beatles album, Introducing the Beatles on Vee-Jay (an album that’s almost certainly a fake printed long after the fact, as are most supposed copies of the Vee-Jay record these days), a Sly & the Family Stone album and the charity extravaganza, We Are The World. Back in Minnesota, I found the History of Eric Clapton, every track of which I had on other Clapton albums, and Roxy Music’s brilliant Avalon, introducing myself finally to the British band.

And that’s a nice place to stop for a Saturday Single.

“More Than This” by Roxy Music from Avalon [1982]

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.)

‘Things’

May 13, 2022

Originally posted August 5, 2009

A long-time friend stopped by for dinner the other evening. We talked about our cats (five between the two households) and about K’s work in online education – she teaches students all over the world from her home in Nevada. We talked about our families and about the Texas Gal’s current college coursework. We talked a bit about books, and we shared the nuggets of news that folks do when they’re catching up.

As we were dipping into dessert, K began to look around the dining room/library, then craned her neck to peer into the living room. “Where are they?” she asked.

I was puzzled. “Where are what?”

“The penguins.”

I laughed. For years, I collected penguins, mostly ceramic, and at one point – when I lived in Minot, North Dakota – had a collection of about twenty-five, maybe thirty. I also had penguin bathroom accessories – wastebasket, shower curtain and soap dish – and there were other penguin things around my home.

It was an accidental collection. In 1976 or so, I was sharing pictures from my time in Denmark with my then-fiancée’s family. One of the pictures was of a fountain on the pedestrian mall in downtown Fredericia, a fountain decorated with statues of penguins. My future mother-in-law thought it was odd that I’d take a picture of something so prosaic; from then on, during nearly every visit to her home before and during my marriage to her daughter, she gave me a ceramic penguin figurine or something with penguins on it. The collection grew, and other folks – family and friends – gave me occasional gifts of penguin stuff.

I liked my penguins, and I happily displayed them in two homes in Monticello and then in my apartment in Minot, after the marriage had ended with a sigh of exhaustion. I think that’s where K saw them, during one of her visits to Minot. I might also have had them on display in my next place, in Anoka, Minnesota, where she was a regular dinner guest.

But the penguins are no longer on display. I’m not even sure where the collection is, whether it’s in a box nested in another box on the shelves in the basement or whether I gave them away sometime in the past twenty years. I still have a few penguinish things: A stapler, four newer figurines on the mantel, a sweet powder blue Pittsburgh Penguins cap and a few other items here and there. But my days of collecting all things penguin are gone. I do wonder a little bit about the whereabouts of the ceramic penguins. Some of them were quite nice, and I imagine some had some value as collectibles. But I honestly don’t remember what I did with them.

They were, after all, just things. Nice things, yes, but just things. And as I thought about my penguins this week, I also thought – and not for the first time – about how we here in the U.S. have let our things become so important to us. We collect, accumulate and want more things, whether they’re automobiles, backyard decks, bracelets, books, cookware sets, CDs, sweaters, power boats, coffee-makers or any of the other desirable bits and pieces with which we seem to clutter our lives.

Clutter? Yeah, sometimes – a lot of the time – I think so. We’re not rich, the Texas Gal and I. But we sometimes look around our home and realize how much stuff we have, stuff that decorates our lives and makes them more pleasant. It’s nice to have those things, but in the end, they’re not essential. They’re things. I sometimes think that we can examine our priorities by thinking about what we would make sure to take out of our homes if they were on fire.

Even during the times I had them on display, my penguin figurines would have been far down that list. What’s at the top of the list? Obviously, the Texas Gal and the three cats come first. Then the box that contains documents like our birth certificates, marriage license and so on. Then would come our financial records, which we’ve made easily accessible and portable. Then, if there were time, the Texas Gal would probably grab as many of our photos as she could, and I’d grab my journal from my year in Denmark and my external hard drive, where I keep my writing projects (as well as my mp3s). In a fire, I think we’d be lucky to get that much. And if all we got out was ourselves and the cats, well, the rest of it – all of it, no matter how dear some of it may be to us – is just things.

Are those things irreplaceable? Some of them truly are, and we would grieve those losses. But in the end, we’d be safe and whole and they’re just things.

A Six-Pack Of Things
“A Thing Going On” by J.J. Cale from Grasshopper [1982]
“You’re The Best Thing” by the Style Council from Cafe Bleu [1984]
“All These Things We Dream” by the Living Daylights from The Living Daylights [1996]
“Bags and Things” by Dennis Lambert from Bags and Things [1972]
“Things Yet To Come” by Sweathog from Sweathog [1971]
“If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another” by the Staple Singers from City in the Sky [1974]

All I’m going to say about these songs today is that, even though a couple of them are by lesser-known artists, they’re all worth hearing.

It’s Video Thursday!

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 25, 2009

As long as I mentioned Modern English and “I Melt With You” yesterday, I thought I’d look for the original video. I think this is it.

Here’s a live performance of “None But The Brave” by Bruce Springsteen with the Max Weinberg 7. It took place at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on December 7, 2003.

And continuing to be fortunate, I found a live performance of “I’ve Been Working Too Hard” – with side excursions into “Little Queenie” and “Can I Get A Witness” – by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes from a 1992 concert at the Music Hall in Cologne, Germany.

And here’s a Farm Aid ’86 performance of “Comes A Time” by Neil Young with harmony vocals from – I believe – the late Nicolette Larson.

As for tomorrow, I’ve got a couple of Jim Horn albums in the pile to rip, and a few other things that might be interesting. I’ve also got a little bit of an itch to see what was going on in, oh, 1961 or 1962 around this time of year. I’ll figure it out tomorrow morning.

Into The Eighties

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 24, 2009

I generally don’t spend a lot of time contemplating the 1980s. The years of big hair, thirtysomething and “Greed is good” don’t attract me much. I find myself, as regular readers no doubt figured out early on, much more interested in the 1960s and the 1970s, the years when I did the bulk of my growing up.

I do tend to subscribe to the theory that we never cease growing up. There is always work to be done, and there always will be. For me, some difficult parts of that work came in the 1980s, making some of those years hard. On the other hand, some of the finest years of my life – professionally and personally – came during that decade, so on the plus-minus scale, it’s mostly, I would guess, a wash.

But according to the numbers I shared here a few weeks ago, I’m not all that much interested in the 1980s, as least as far as the music of the decade goes. Here are the numbers of mp3s, sorted by decade since 1950, as I reported a few weeks ago:

1950s: 1,152
1960s: 8,820
1970s: 13,445
1980s: 3,327
1990s: 4,525
2000s: 5,319

There are fewer songs from the 1950s than from any other decade because, turning six just before the decade ended, I remember so little of those years, both in a large sense and musically.

If I were asked what song from the Fifties I remember most from hearing at the time, it would be a tie between Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” (No. 1 for six weeks in 1958) and David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” (No. 1 on three different charts in 1958 as well). Those are fun, which has its place, but not exactly the kind of artistry I like to recognize here.

Leaving the 1950s, then, as something incomplete, the numbers above show an interesting tale: I clearly have much less interest in the 1980s than I do in any of the other decades I remember. And I’m not sure I know why.

I used to think it was the music: arena rock and synthpop and drum machines and dancepop are what come to mind. I know I wasn’t listening to much pop music when the decade started. As I spent time on various college campuses through the decade, as a grad student, a writer and a teacher, I heard more current music than I had in a while. I liked some of it, and as I dig further into that lost decade these days, I find I like more of the music than I would have expected. (That means that on another day down the road, when I run the numbers, that imbalance may have diminished a bit.) So it might not have been the synthpop and the drum machines and the dance pop. (Arena rock remains less than attractive.)

I called the 1980s a lost decade just above. That might be a bit harsh, but it’s not far from the truth. I didn’t care for a lot of what I saw happening in public affairs or in popular culture, so I think that for chunks of the decade, I just checked out – from music, from most television, from film, from current fiction and nonfiction and from current events (with the exception of those that immediately affected how I was earning my living at the time as a reporter, a public relations writer or a teacher). And at the same time, I was looking for a place to roost, moving from Monticello, Minnesota, to Columbia, Missouri, and back to Monticello. From there, I spent a summer in St. Cloud, then moved to Minot, North Dakota, for two years, and finally ended the decade in Anoka, Minnesota, just north of Minneapolis.

And here’s a random selection from each year of that decade of drifting:

1980: “One Love” by Sniff ’N’ The Tears from The Game’s Up
1981: “The Innocent Age” by Dan Fogelberg from The Innocent Age
1982: “Tables Turning” by Modern English from After the Snow
1983: “Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” by Bob Dylan, New York City, April 23
1984: “None But The Brave” by Bruce Springsteen, Born In The U.S.A. sessions, New York City
1985: “Minutes to Memories” by John Cougar Mellencamp from Scarecrow
1986: “Love You ’til The Day I Die” by Crowded House from Crowded House
1987: “Isolation” by Joe Cocker from Unchain My Heart
1988: “Let The Rain Come Down On Me” by Toni Childs from Union
1989: “The Last Worthless Evening” by Don Henley from The End of the Innocence

That’s kind of an interesting mix. I do have a few thoughts:

As much as I like most of Fogelberg’s work, and as beautiful as I thought The Innocent Age was when it came out, its lush orchestration is sounding more and more overblown as the years pass.

The Dylan track is an early version of “Tight Connection To My Heart,” which showed up on Empire Burlesque in 1985; you can find this version on The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3. It’s interesting to compare the two and get a look at Dylan’s creative process, looking at what he retained and what he changed. The Springsteen track is from the third CD of The Essential Bruce Springsteen. It sounds more relaxed – but no less muscular – than the songs that made it on to Born In The U.S.A., if that makes any sense.

The Crowded House tune is a lot more, well, angular than the stuff I know best by the band. I have a soft spot for “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” but the lushness of that ballad wasn’t a fully accurate picture of the band, either. The truth was, I guess, in the middle.

I’ve never known Sniff ’N’ The Tears’ work well, so we’ll let “One Love” pass. As to the Modern English track, “Table Turning” is kind of just there, with nothing – to my ears – that differentiates it from a thousand other songs from the same period. It certainly pales next to the same album’s gorgeous “I Melt With You.”

The Toni Childs’ track is from a cryptic album I’ve loved since 1988. The Mellencamp and Cocker can go without any comment. I do wish that a different Henley tune from The End of the Innocence had popped up. From the first time I heard “Heart of the Matter,” I’ve thought that Henley asked the key question about the 1980s:

“How can love survive in such a graceless age?”

Well, love did survive, of course, as did I and most of us who were around for those years. But they truly were, in so many ways, graceless. As do most years, however, they at least left some good music behind.

R&B In The Fog

May 16, 2012

Originally posted April 10, 2009

After a few days of relative clarity – with the medication dosages for my ailing leg diminishing – I am once again in a fog this morning.

Yesterday afternoon, when the Texas Gal came home from work, we stood in the driveway and watched a squirrel dig in the ground, seeking some sort of treat. We routinely toss bread crusts out for the little guys, and I laughed as the Texas Gal told me about one she’d seen that morning, carrying a whole slice of bread in his mouth as he leaped from tree to tree.

Then we went to the back door and found all three cats waiting for us and hoping for a chance to slip outside. The Texas Gal blocked Oscar’s path, and I held off Cubbie Cooper. As we were distracted by the other two catboys, Clarence bolted between my ankles and out the door. I reacted instinctively, pushing Cubbie into the kitchen, then pivoting on my right foot and starting to run, pushing off with my right leg.

Not a good idea. My right leg is, of course, the leg that I hurt a week ago.

I managed to corral Clarence, and we got all three cats inside. But my leg was throbbing as it hadn’t for about three days, and twenty minutes later, I had to take a muscle relaxant and a pain-killer. And this morning it’s taking more effort to focus than I can spare for very long.

So I’m going to suggest that you folks do exactly what I did last evening and will do again today: just listen to some good music. Not long ago, a track popped up here from Dreams Come True, the R&B supersession album by singers Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli and Lou Ann Barton. (All of those links are to corresponding pages at All-Music Guide.) Last evening, I listened to more of the album, and I liked it even more than I did the first time I heard it. So here’s Dreams Come True.

Track list
A Fool In Love
Good Rockin’ Daddy
It Hurts To Be In Love
Love, Sweet Love
Gonna Make It
You Can If You Think You Can
I Idolize You
Dreams Come True
Bad Thing
Turn The Lock On Love
Something’s Got A Hold On Me
Snake Dance

Dreams Come True by Marcia Ball, Angela Strehli & Lou Ann Barton [1990]

My thanks go to azzul, as I found Dreams Come True at his excellent blog, nongseynyo. Sadly, azzul has quit posting new material; the blog now offers its archives without download links and lists current posts at a few other bluesy blogs. I – along with many others, I’m sure – miss the original nongseynyo. Thanks for everything, azzul!

And I thought that as long as I was sharing Dreams Come True in the middle of my repost festival, I’d make today “Lou Ann Barton Day”!

Reposted:
Old Enough by Lou Ann Barton [1982]
Original post here.

Forbidden Tones by Lou Ann Barton [1986]
Original post here.

Read My Lips by Lou Ann Barton [1989]
[With bonus tracks]
Original post here.

The Music Behind The Movies

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 11, 2009

My long-time fascination with film soundtracks began – as I shared here in the first few months of this blog – with Goldfinger, the third of the James Bond films. As I wrote, my parents were reluctant at the time – I was eleven – to let me either see the movie or read Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. But the soundtrack to Goldfinger was available through our record club, and I spent hours listening to it.

By the time I saw the film, maybe a year later, I practically had the score memorized, and I was fascinated with the way the music enhanced the movie, highlighting passages and underlining transitions. I began to pay close attention to the music whenever I went to a movie.

And I have done so ever since. Sometimes I felt like the only one. “Did you notice the music during the scene when they’re taking the car to Syracuse?” I’d ask my friends over a post-film drink.

“What about it?” one might reply.

“It echoed the main theme and also brought in the theme the composer created for the girl from Jersey.”

“Oh. No, I didn’t really notice.”

I kept listening and buying the occasional soundtrack LP (and later on, CD). My library of them isn’t large – I’ve focused far more over the years on rock, pop and soul – but generally, it’s music I still find interesting. Some of the soundtracks haven’t aged well. I bought the soundtrack to Country, the 1984 film that starred Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard and Wilford Brimley, just days after I saw the film. But the New Age music – the musicians on it recorded frequently for the Windham Hill label – hasn’t worn well, I don’t think. Some others have lasted. And I think those include the three soundtracks that I absolutely love.

The first of those is the first soundtrack I owned: Goldfinger. Written by John Barry, the score for the third of the James Bond films provides a lesson in contrasts, from the blare and rumble of the main title to the insistent music that accompanied the film’s dawn raid on Fort Knox, followed by the hushed background to the arrival of a nuclear weapon before the pounding countdown begins. Matching the music, which I knew well, to the action on the screen was like reading a primer in film-scoring.

(I dabbled with the idea of scoring and soundtrack work as a career, but nothing came of it except a deeper love for the craft.)

The second of my three favorite soundtracks is Bill Conti’s work for Rocky, the first in what became a ridiculous series of films. Conti’s use of repeated motifs, often identified with one character, remains astounding, as does the variety of moods and arrangements he finds for each motif. How much of my affection for the score is a result of the film’s ultra-romantic story of the man who was almost destined to be “just another bum from the neighborhood”? I don’t know. I have a suspicion that it might be just as accurate to say that my affection for the movie is the result of the score. Rocky might have the prefect symbiosis between story and score: Each enhances the other.

The last of the three scores that sit atop my list is Randy Newman’s work for the 1984 film, The Natural. It’s true that the film’s story – especially its ending – bears only a passing resemblance to the Bernard Malamud novel from which it was adapted. (In the novel, given a chance at redemption, Malamud’s Roy Hobbs strikes out at the critical moment and his life and career unravel.) But given the producers’ decision to make Malamud’s cautionary tale into the Great American Fable, Newman came up with a score that was tragic, triumphant and Coplandesque.

So here is one selection from each of those soundtracks and four more from soundtracks that I enjoy, if not to the degree I love the first three:

A Six-Pack of Soundtrack Selections
“Dawn Raid on Fort Knox” by John Barry from Goldfinger [1964]
“Lara’s Theme” by Maurice Jarre from Dr. Zhivago [1965]
 “No Name Bar” by Isaac Hayes from Shaft [1971]
“Going The Distance” by Bill Conti from Rocky [1976]
“Blade Runner [End Titles]” by Vangelis from Blade Runner [1982]
“The Natural” by Randy Newman from The Natural [1984]
Bonus Track
“Hymn to Red October (Main Title)” by Basil Poledouris from The Hunt For Red October [1990]

The Wail Of The Who Mouse

November 9, 2011

Originally posted December 29, 2008

As I sit in my study this morning, the wind is whipping around the northeast corner of the house, triggering a memory that’s not that old.

Before we moved last summer, we lived in an apartment on the southeast corner of the building. During the cold months, the northwest wind would come around the outside corner with a moaning sound, wailing into the night. One evening a few years ago, I made up a tall tale for the Texas Gal about a little mouse who sits on the roof on cold nights and calls out “Whoooo?” No one ever answers, I said, and he spends his winter nights calling out that one forlorn word.

Every couple has its tales, the small stories and inside jokes, the shared catch phrases and taglines, all of which are the common currency of any pairing. The Who Mouse and his plaint has become one of ours. On some chill mornings in other winters, the Texas Gal – who sleeps more lightly than I do – would tell me, “The Who Mouse was out last night.” She’d shake her head, shivering, and murmur, “I don’t like that sound.”

Neither do I. The wail of the wind makes a chilly evening seem colder, and it heightens the desolation that northern winter nights bring with them. But cold and desolation are relative things. Every once in a while during the winter, I think about the people who settled this land a century and a half ago: How did they survive the brutal cold? I shudder at the thought of a winter with no heat except that from a fireplace, and realize once more how fortunate we are.

The new place has a garage on the northwest corner, and the Who Mouse isn’t noticeable on the main floor. But the Texas Gal says he visits the loft, where she does her quilting and other crafts. “I heard him this morning,” she told me a few moments ago. “He was out there.”

A Six-Pack of Who
“Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” by the Main Ingredient from Bitter Sweet, 1972

“Know Who You Are” by Supertramp from Famous Last Words, 1982

“Who’s Gonna Stop Me” by the Delilahs from Delilahs, 1994

“Who Can I Be Now” by David Bowie, unreleased from Young Americans sessions, ca. 1974

“Who’s Making Love” by Mongo Santamaria from Stone Soul, 1969

“Who Will Be The Fool Tonight” by the Larsen-Feiten Band, Warner Bros. 49282, 1980

A few notes:

The Main Ingredient’s Bitter Sweet album was the source for “Everybody Plays The Fool,” the great single that went to No. 3 in the autumn of 1972. The rest of the album, including “Who Can I Turn To,” is pretty good, if not quite as good as the hit. (The inverse was true two years later; Euphrates was a good album, much better to my ears than its hit, “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely.”)

The Delilahs came out of Minnesota at about the same time as the Jayhawks did, offering a similar mix of rock, country and folk. The group was named the Best New Band at the 1994 Minnesota Music Awards and released Delilahs shortly after that. Two more albums followed in 1995, and the group evidently called it a day.

The David Bowie track was included in 1991 on a CD reissue of his Young Americans album and evidently came from the same sessions. I think it’s better than almost anything that was included on the album.

Mongo Santamaria was a Cuban percussionist and bandleader who covered pop, rock and soul songs on a series of fairly popular albums in the late 1960s and on into the 1970s. Those albums were fun, but his earlier, less pop-based, work is maybe a little more challenging but not quite as much fun.

The Larsen-Feiten Band – formed by session musicians Neil Larsen and Buzz Feiten – is a true one-hit wonder. “Who Will Be The Fool Tonight” went to No. 29 during the autumn of 1980 and was the group’s only chart entry. I don’t recall it from the time, but as it played out this morning, I heard echoes of Boz Scaggs’ late 1970s and early 1980s work. All-Music Guide has impressive lists of credits for both Larsen and Feiten as studio musicians. (Thanks to the Dude for this one.)