Archive for the ‘2009/01 (January)’ Category

Saturday Single No. 112

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 31, 2009

I got to thinking this week about the folks who work in the so-called service industry. It’s got to be a tough sector to work in, and generally, I think, they do pretty well. The dry cleaning is usually done on time, and all of our shirts and sport coats come back to us; we generally don’t end up with a necktie that someone across town owns and wants back. Far more often than not, the bottle we get at the pharmacy actually contains the antibiotics we need, not the antidepressants ordered by the unhappy woman who lives two houses down. For the most part, things go well.

But we remember more clearly, of course, those times when things go less well. And the real test for folks who work in customer service is how they respond to the mischances or errors that foul things up. A shrug and a “Sorry!” are not nearly enough.

The Texas Gal and I got an opportunity last weekend to see how things should be handled. We’d each spent some time that Saturday afternoon on projects – she on a paper for school, I on combing through some music history – and we’d neglected to thaw anything for dinner. So we headed out into the chill air and decided on Old Chicago, a place we’d gone only once or twice before.

We ordered – rigatoni for her, a Cajun steak for me – and sat chatting as she sipped her Dr. Pepper and I tried a Finnegan’s Irish Amber, an ale from St. Paul’s Summit Brewing. Time slid past as we chatted about – among other things – how bad we think the economy will get and for how long. I finished the Finnegan’s, not all that impressed, and the waitress asked what I wanted to try next.

The beer list at Old Chicago is extensive, but the waitress – her name was Kate – warned me that the restaurant was revamping its list and some of the beers and ales listed might not be available. I nodded and ordered a Polish beer. Moments later, Kate came back and said it was no longer in stock. I ordered an English beer. Kate came back empty-handed again, almost embarrassed.

So I said, “Tell you what. Go to your bartender and ask him to send me the best obscure dark beer he’s got.” She grinned and headed off, and a few minutes later, she brought me a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout (from North Coast Brewing of California). And she said, “The bartender said that because your first two choices weren’t there, this one’s on the house.”

I was impressed. Not being able to fill orders for two relatively obscure beers from an extensive beer list is not a major failing. For me, the customer, it’s an “Oh, well, that’s too bad” moment. So getting the third order free was a pleasant surprise, and it told us a little bit about how that particular restaurant does business.

The Old Rasputin poured thick and dark, with a creamy brown head. And it might be the best beer I have ever had. If I were truly a beer reviewer, I’d say something like “It carries a dark chocolaty taste with sweet overtones and a hint of coffee, and an echo of that something sweet – cherries and plums? – lingers afterward.” I know, that sounds pretentious and all that. But it was that complex and, yes, that good. (The folks who frequent RateBeer.com certainly think it’s a fine beer.)

We were about to learn more about how Old Chicago does business. It was crowded and busy there that evening, but it began to seem – as we sat and talked – that it was taking quite some time for our food to arrive. And then, Kate came to our booth again, visibly unhappy. For some reason, she told us, the kitchen had set our orders aside and had just now gotten around to them. Because of the delay, she said, our meals were on the house.

We had nowhere else to be, so the delay didn’t disturb us. And as we ate our meals, the restaurant’s manager came over to make sure everything was okay. It was an object lesson in how – at a time when every customer is important – to keep customers wanting to return to your place of business.

So for Kate, the bartender, their manager and all the folks at St. Cloud’s Old Chicago, here’s Joe Cocker’s “Satisfied,” today’s Saturday Single.

“Satisfied” by Joe Cocker from Unchain My Heart [1987]

Edited slightly on archival posting.

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Deconstructing ‘American Pie’

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 30, 2009

It was late January 1972, and I was killing time in the little room we used as a lounge at KVSC, the St. Cloud State radio station. In the main studio, a deejay was dutifully playing the noontime classical program and preparing for the afternoon’s offering of symphonies, sonatas and concertos; we played rock music in the evenings, but wouldn’t switch to rock fulltime until May. The other studio, however, was used to play the music we listened to in the lounge, with jocks honing their skills with the wide-ranging mix of rock and pop records that either arrived in the mail or were brought in by station staffers from their own collections.

And as I sat there, listening to the music and the idle chatter, the jock in the practice studio put on Don McLean’s “American Pie,” which was then in its third week at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. A couple of people groaned, likely because the record was already so familiar. But then, as happened every time the song was played, the speculation began as to what it was all about.

McLean’s main inspiration for the song was, of course, the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper, in an Iowa plane crash during the first week of February 1959. But the lyrics of the record can also be deciphered as being a plaint of how far from the basics of rock ’n’ roll the popular music and the music business had gotten since 1959. And as we sat in the lounge and the record – already familiar but nowhere near as iconic as it would become – rolled past, we discussed the levee and the fallout shelter, the jester and his cast, the fiery devil, the last train for the coast and the girl who sang the blues.

Next week, it will be fifty years since the Beechcraft Bonanza carrying the three musicians – and pilot Roger Peterson – crashed on the Albert Juhl farm just north of Clear Lake, Iowa. What startles me when I stop to think about it is that McLean’s song was released thirty-seven years ago, meaning that the song’s creation is roughly three times more distant now than the events of 1959 were when McLean wrote about them in 1970.

Back then, as we tried to deconstruct McLean’s tightly coded history of rock ’n’ roll, we were joining in a pastime shared by, I imagine, millions. As Wikipedia notes:

“The song’s lyrics are the subject of much curiosity. Although McLean dedicated the American Pie album to Buddy Holly, none of the singers in the airplane crash are identified by name in the song itself. When asked what ‘American Pie’ meant, McLean replied, ‘It means I never have to work again.’ Later, he more seriously stated ‘You will find many “interpretations” of my lyrics but none of them by me… sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.’ McLean has generally avoided responding to direct questions about the song, except to acknowledge that he did first learn about Buddy Holly’s death while folding newspapers for his paper route on the morning of February 4th, 1959 (referenced in the song with the line ‘with every paper I deliver’). Despite this, many fans of McLean, amongst others, have attempted an interpretation; at the time of the song’s original release in late 1971, many American AM & FM rock radio stations released printed interpretations and some devoted entire shows discussing and debating the song’s lyrics, resulting in both controversy and intense listener interest in the song.”

As to McLean never having to work again, that’s likely true. But it’s also true that he’s kept on writing, recording and performing. He’s continued to release music, with new releases and retrospectives listed through 2008 at All-Music Guide. It’s true that he’s never quite commanded the attention of the listening public the way he did in the early months of 1972, but really, who could have expected it to happen twice?

(Websites with interpretations of McLean’s lyrics are easy to find; just Google. There are, I guess, some references in the song whose meanings are generally agreed upon, such as “the jester” being a reference to Bob Dylan. But there are interpretations that one should take with a large seasoning of salt. One such example is the inference that “American Pie” refers either to McLean’s dating a Miss America candidate in 1959 or to the name of the plane that crashed. In 1959, McLean would have turned fourteen, a trifle young to have dated a beauty queen. As to the airplane’s name, a few years ago, I called the current incarnation of the Dwyer Flying Service, now based in the Twin Cities, and asked about the plane’s name. The woman I spoke to – unfortunately, I did not record her name – told me that the company had never named its planes, and the tale of the plane’s being called “American Pie” came from the imagination of one or more interpreters of the song’s lyrics.)

Despite writing about it, I won’t post “American Pie” today. Here’s a look elsewhere in that week’s chart:

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, January 29, 1972)

“Never Been To Spain” by Three Dog Night, Dunhill/ABC4299 (No. 8 )

“Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers, Scepter 12315 (No. 33)

“Son of Shaft” by the Bar-Kays, Volt 4073 (No. 55)

“Softly Whispering I Love You” by the English Congregation, Atco 6865 (No. 61)

“Move ’Em Out” by Delaney & Bonnie, Atco 6866 (No. 70)

“Standing In For Jody” by Johnnie Taylor, Stax 0114 (No. 94)

The Three Dog Night tune isn’t necessarily one of my favorites, though it’s not bad. And I generally don’t post in these selections records that were as high in the charts as “Never Been To Spain” was during this week in 1972. (It peaked at No. 5 for two weeks in early February.) But I couldn’t help it. A little more than two years after this chart came out, during a month-long spring break spent wandering Western Europe, I spent part of an afternoon on a train just south of the French-Spanish border. Now, for whatever reason, the Spanish rail system at the time was abysmally slow. The train crawled along, taking almost three hours to cover the hundred or so miles to Barcelona, where I could have a shower and a hot meal, both of which I needed badly. And as the train crawled, I shared the small compartment with three college girls from somewhere else – I have forgotten exactly where – in the American Midwest. That would have been fine, actually delightful, had the three of them not been inspired by our crossing the border from France to sing a twenty-minute rendition of “Never Been To Spain.”

“Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” is one of those ready-made bits of romantic regret that pop up from time to time on the charts and on the radio. A sweet slice of pop, the record has a killer hook in the title phrase and some nicely done horn accents throughout. The record was still on its way up at the end of January, reaching No. 15 during the last week of February.

The Bar-Kays of “Son of Shaft” were the rebuilt group put together by original members Ben Cauley and James Alexander after four members of the group were killed in December 1967 in the Madison, Wisconsin, plane crash that also killed Otis Redding. “Son of Shaft” – which All-Music Guide calls “a good-humored goof” on Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” – reached the Top Ten on the R&B chart, the first Bar-Kays single to do so since “Soul Finger” in 1967. On the pop chart, the single peaked at No. 53 three weeks into February.

Here’s what All-Music Guide has to say about the English Congregation and “Softly Whispering I Love You,” which peaked at No. 29 in early March:

“The English Congregation was a short-lived outfit that achieved one-hit wonder status in the United States. Formed in Britain as simply the Congregation, they amended their name in early 1972 for U.S. releases, presumably to avoid confusion with the then-popular Mike Curb Congregation. Their sole moment in the sun came in early spring 1972 with ‘Softly Whispering I Love You,’ a track written by noted songwriting team Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway (who originally recorded it in 1967 under their David and Jonathan moniker). The merging of sweeping orchestration and choir with lead singer Brian Keith’s Levi Stubbs-like declamatory vocal produced a memorable number 29 hit, but no subsequent hit singles or albums followed. Keith went on to provide studio vocals on numerous projects, none of which sold in significant amounts.”

“Move ’Em Out” might very well have been the last single released by Delaney & Bonnie. (Does anyone know?) In the autumn of 1971, “Only You Know And I Know” had reached No. 20. “Move ‘Em Out,” also pulled from the couple’s final album, D&B Together, peaked at No. 59 two weeks in February.

Johnnie Taylor’s “Standing In For Jody” is a nice piece of Stax R&B in which Taylor bemoans his status as his woman’s second man. It’s a follow-up to Taylor’s 1971 single, “Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone,” which went to No. 26. But the character of Jody as a woman-stealer pre-dated Taylor’s hit by many years. The Urban Dictionary notes:

“In the Marines, a ‘Jody’ is a generalized term meaning: any man who stays home while everyone else goes to war. He gets to enjoy all the things the Marines are missing, more specifically the Marine’s girlfriend back at home while the Marine is away on active duty. The reason that they’re called Jody specifically dates back to black soldiers in WWII. They took a character from old blues songs named Joe the Grinder (or Joe D. Grinder) who would steal the ladies of inmates and soldiers, and clipped his name to Jody.”

In a second citation, the Urban Dictionary cites a marching cadence used in military training:

Ain’t no use in goin’ home,
Jody’s got your girl and gone.
Ain’t no use in goin’ back,
Jody’s got your Cadillac,
Ain’t no use in feeling blue,
Jody’s took your checkbook too.

(A third citation at the Urban Dictionary lays the origin of the term “Jody” on Taylor’s 1971 song, but clearly the usage predates the song by many years.)

Edited slightly on archival posting.

Some More Of Jim’s Horn

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 29, 2009

Went wandering on YouTube as usual and found a fascinating video posted by a performer who goes by the name of Junizon. She shared three videos – I think; I may have missed some – from a performance that took place last March at what seems to be some sort of community center or something similar. I don’t know where it was. But what caught my eye and ear was that sitting in on the performance was Jim Horn. Junizon has posted a couple of tunes – Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and a song called “Ponies” – with Horn playing flute. This one, Hoyt Axton’s “Sweet Misery,” has a fellow named Guido Bos at the keyboard and Horn on saxophone:

Video set to “private.”

Here’s a YouTube posting from someone who goes by the handle of gizzymanisla, evidently a producer. The clip, which I find fascinating, shows Horn at work in the studio:

And finally, here’s a concert clip of Duane Eddy and Jim Horn putting out a pretty good version of “Rebel Rouser.”

Video deleted.

Tomorrow, I think, we’ll be heading back, digging into the Billboard Hot 100 for the last week in January of 1972.

Some Thoughts On Jim Horn

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 28, 2009

The first time I ever heard of Jim Horn was when I was listening for the first time to The Concert for Bangla Desh and heard George Harrison introduce the players behind him. Jim Horn and the Hollywood Horns were among the performers on stage that day in 1971, and I guess I mentally shrugged and halfway put Horn’s name on a mental list of people to someday learn more about.

And his name popped up on occasion as I began to read the fine print on record jackets and inserts. I didn’t see his name as frequently as I saw the name of Bobby Keys, who along with trumpet player Jim Price played on the recently mentioned stretch of albums influenced by the late Delaney Bramlett. Still, Horn’s name popped up often enough that when I began to seriously collect vinyl in the 1990s, a record with his name in its credits would more often than not find a place on my shelves.

I have no idea how many of my LPs include Jim Horn’s saxophone work. I took a look at his list of credits at All-Music Guide and started counting LPs I own. Of the nearly one hundred albums listed on just the first page of Horn’s credits there – covering the years from 1958 into 1974 – I have at least thirty, maybe more. (I did not count those LP’s that I have only as files of mp3s; there were at least ten to fifteen of those.) And that was only on the first of ten pages of credits for Horn.

I thought of Jim Horn recently for two reasons. First, I was rummaging through a box of LPs I’ve set aside to rip to mp3s. Three of them were Horn’s albums – Through the Eyes of a Horn from 1972, Jim’s Horn from 1973, and the 1988 album, Neon Nights. (He also released Work It Out in 1990, which I have on CD. And AMG lists four other albums: Christmas with Jim Horn, released in August 2001; and A Beatles Tribute, Tribute to John Denver and The Hit List, all of which are listed as having been released on March 2, 2001, which seems a little improbable.) So Horn’s work was on my mind as I pondered which albums I should rip both for sharing here and for my own files.

Then came the announcement of the most recent selections for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I find myself not caring much these days about the groups and individuals elected to the Hall of Fame, but that’s another post for another day. (When the list was announced, my pal JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ shared a few thoughts about this year’s crop; his comments are near the bottom of the linked post, and they’re worth a read.) But I do take a look each year to see who’s been selected as a sideman.

It’s a relatively new category, with the first inductees being named in 2000. Here’s the list so far, chronologically:

2000: Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, James Jamerson, King Curtis, Scotty Moore.

2001: James Burton, Johnnie Johnson

2002: Chet Atkins

2003: Benny Benjamin, Floyd Cramer, Steve Douglas

2008: Little Walter

And this year’s inductees will be Bill Black, D.J, Fontana and Spooner Oldham.

Two things come to mind: Why was there a five-year gap between 2003 and 2008? Is the list of sidemen who are eligible and worthy so short that the electors had to work hard to come up with Little Walter and this year’s three inductees? I kind of doubt that, and I find that gap odd. And as I pondered the list of inductees – all greatly deserving of the honor – I began to wonder if Jim Horn belongs there. And I wondered the same thing about Bobby Keys, Jim Price and – though I’ve not mentioned them in this piece so far – the Memphis Horns.

My thoughts? Horn, Keys and the Memphis Horns likely belong. Sax players King Curtis and Steve Douglas are already in, but – unless the Hall is working under some kind of quote system – that shouldn’t matter. Jim Price? As good as he was, I don’t see him in the Hall; his list of credits, compared to the others mentioned here, is brief.

Whether he belongs in the Hall or not – and I can listen to arguments either way – Horn is one of those musicians I look for. And I thought I’d go ahead and rip Through the Eyes of a Horn for today. It was released on Leon Russell’s Shelter label, and it’s a pretty good album, very much of its time, with production credits going to Horn, Russell, Denny Cordell and Larry Knechtel.

Highlights? I think the best track is the opener, Horn’s take on Canned Heat’s “Going Up The Country.” Two others that stood out were “Which Way Does The Wind Blow,” and “Sweet Motor City,” the album’s closers. Overall, it’s a good album. (There are more pops on this rip than there usually are on albums I share here. The worst noise, however, is limited to just a few tracks: The opening section of “Along Came Linda,” which happens to be the quietest song on the record, and “Rollin’ Along” and “Jennifer Juniper.” This is, after all, thirty-seven-year-old vinyl.)

Musicians on the record were: Ron Tutt, Chuck Blackwell, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon, Earl Palmer, John Guerin and, Paul Humphreys on drums; Gary Coleman on steel drums; Jerry Scheff, Carl Radle and Max Bennett on bass; Mike Deasy, Louie Shelton, Leon Russell, Al Casey on guitar; Louis Shelton on dobro; Larry Knechtel on keyboards and mouth harp; Bobby Bruce on fiddle; Chuck Finley, Jackie Kelso, George Bohanon, Paul Hubinon, Jack Redmond and Dalton Smith on horns; and Rita Coolidge, Priscilla Jones, Kathie Deasy, Booker T. Jones, Maxine Willard and Julia Tillman on background vocals. Johnnie Horn, who I assume is Jim Horn’s son, takes a vocal turn on “Nice To Make A Friend.”

Tracks
Going Up The Country
Caravan
Along Came Linda
Shake N’ Bake
Brain Dance
Lulu Belle
Guerilla Love In
Nice To Make A Friend
Rollin’ Along
Jennifer Juniper
Which Way Does The Wind Blow
Sweet Motor City

Jim Horn – Through the Eyes of a Horn [1972]

See You Tomorrow

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 27, 2009

I had planned to resurrect the “Tuesday Cover” for today, but that’s going to have to wait. I had a minor medical test done today, and along the way, the technician injected me with something that’s made me very woozy and wobbly.

Unhappily, I have no song with “woozy” in its title, and while “wobbly” brings up “Little Bear/Wobbly Cat Upton Stick Dance” by Eliza Carthy & The Kings of Calicutt, I think I’ll pass.

So we’ll give Bettye LaVette another chance to shine and see you tomorrow.

“Waiting For Tomorrow” by Bettye LaVette
From the Child Of The Seventies sessions, ca. 1973

One More Trip Across ‘The Atsville Bridge’

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 26, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, when I posted versions by Crow and Gator Creek of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll,” I mentioned that as far as I knew, I’d never heard the Crow version, even though the band was from Minnesota and the record had made a small dent in the chart, reaching No. 52 in late 1970.

The post drew a comment from regular visitor Yah Shure, who said, in part:

“So, what rock was whiteray hiding under in 1970? 🙂 I heard the Crow version a lot on KRSI, and probably KQRS in the Twin Cities and bought the 45. But it didn’t fare well at the local top-40s. While KDWB aired it for a few weeks, WDGY, not surprisingly, shunned it altogether.”

And in the listing of radio stations lay the answer of why I had no recollection of the Crow version of the song. Yah Shure grew up in the western ’burbs of the Twin Cities, while I was in St. Cloud, seventy miles or so distant. At that time, up here in the hinters, we couldn’t get KQRS without connecting our radios to our television antennas. And KRSI, well, I’d never heard of it.

My Top 40 listening in those days – my senior year of high school – was KDWB from the Twin Cities during the day and then either WJON just across the railroad tracks or WLS from Chicago in the evening. So my only chance of hearing the Crow single was on KBWD, and I evidently didn’t.

Or maybe I did, once or twice. I don’t know. I obviously didn’t hear the song frequently enough for it to make an impression. But then, I’m sure I heard a lot of stuff one or two times over the years without really being impressed. And I cannot think of any song that I heard just once or twice and still remember.

So I’m not sure which rock it was that sheltered me from a pretty good single in the fall of 1970.

Anyway, as I also mentioned during that Saturday post two weeks ago, I found online and purchased a 45 of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll” as recorded by the song’s composer, Jeff Thomas. (All four versions of the song – by Thomas, Crow, Gator Creek and Long John Baldry – use different punctuation, which I find odd and a little frustrating.) That record arrived last week, and I thought I’d go ahead and share it, along with a somewhat random sample of five other songs from 1970. (In other words, if a random selection doesn’t please me, I reserve the right to skip to another random choice.)

A Six-Pack from 1970

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll” by Jeff Thomas, Bell 941

“Piece Of My Heart” by Bettye LaVette, SSS International 839

“A Woman Left Lonely” by Janis Joplin from Pearl

“Temma Harbour” by Mary Hopkin, Apple 1816

“Lousiana Woman” by Swampwater from Swampwater

“You’re The Last Love” by Petula Clark from Blue Lady: The Nashville Sessions

Thomas does pretty well with his own composition, growling gruffly in front of an arrangement that was pretty standard for the time. I don’t think he quite nails the song as well as did Long John Baldry, but that’s not a disgrace. Thomas had a few other singles released on Bell, but none of them became hits.

Once Janis Joplin got hold of “Piece of My Heart” when she was with Big Brother & the Holding Company, she made it risky, at best, for anyone else to give a shot at recording the Bert Berns/Jerry Ragovoy song. Erma Franklin had recorded it before Joplin did and did it well, but Joplin’s 1968 performance in front of the ragged and acid-drenched backing of BB&HC made the songs hers. Nevertheless, two years later, Bettye LaVette gave it a shot. Her version is certainly less urgent than Joplin’s, and it’s not bad, but I’m not sure LaVette brings anything new to the song.

Speaking of Janis Joplin, I think her performance on “A Woman Left Lonely” is closer to the heart of Pearl, the album released after her death, than anything else. “Me and Bobby McGee” was the single, but I’ve thought since the first time I heard the album – I got it for graduation in the spring of 1971 – that “A Woman Left Lonely” was the best thing on the record. It still gives me chills.

Mary Hopkin – after being discovered by the Beatles and recorded for their Apple label – was prone to light, frothy and nostalgic singles: “Goodbye” and “Those Were The Days” were the hits. “Temma Harbour” is not quite so frothy and has a tropical lilt to it that I like, so it’s not nearly as wearisome as the other stuff. (Temma Harbour is located on the north coast of the Australian island of Tasmania.)

I don’t know a lot about Swampwater, but ­All-Music Guide notes that the group is better known as Linda Ronstadt’s backing group from the late 1960s. “Louisiana Woman” comes from the group’s 1970 album that was recorded for Starday/King but was unreleased at the time. It finally came out in 1995, making Swampwater another beneficiary of the mid-1990s rush to release stuff from the vaults. In this case, it’s worth it.

I first came across Petula Clark’s Blue Lady: The Nashville Sessions in a small suburban library during the brief time that the Texas Gal and I lived in the Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth. Intrigued, I took it home. As one might surmise, Clark went to Nashville in 1970 hoping to revitalize her career. I don’t think that any of the resulting tracks were released as singles; I know that the full package was finally released in 1995. It’s not rock, of course. It’s not even really country, despite the Nashville location. It’s pop, but it’s beautiful work, and it probably sounds better now that it would have then. “You’re The Last Love” has become a favorite of mine.

Saturday Single No. 111

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 24, 2009

So I sat here in the study, fresh coffee at hand, digging through a few 45s and a batch of newly ripped mp3s, looking for something compelling for a Saturday morning.

In the stack of 45s in good shape that I pulled aside some years ago – leaving others in the mystery box, the source these days of my Grab Bag records – I found a 1967 Young Rascals single, “A Girl Like You,” and I dropped it on the turntable. It played well enough to rip an mp3, as did a 1967 Sammy Davis, Jr., spoken-word record. I spent fifteen minutes recording those and appending tags to them. The Young Rascals single may show up here in the future; it’s a nice tune. The Sammy Davis single – fascinatingly unique – will certainly show up in this space, but only after I’ve had the chance to do some research. And I wasn’t in the mood to do research today.

So I ate a whole-grain toaster pastry – how about that for a product that’s healthy for you and likely not so healthy at the same time? – and dithered. I pulled a Jim Horn album – 1972’s Through The Eyes Of A Horn – from a box and thought about posting his version of “Going Up The Country” along with a meditation of some sort about finding records by folks who spend most of their time as studio musicians. I decided that if I were going to do that, I’d share the entire album. So look for that in the future.

And then, as the Texas Gal rose and got herself ready for the day – the most exciting portion of our day is likely to be a trip to a major discount store to purchase furnace filters – I had company here in the study. Our newest cat – and I may not have mentioned him here previously – jumped into my lap and demanded attention. He’s an orange tabby with a white muzzle, and his name is Cubbie Cooper. (The Texas Gal said it just sounded right, and she’s correct.) The Coop, as he’s also known, settled himself on my lap, purring loudly.

A few moments later, the Texas Gal came in to say good morning. “You’ve been Cooperized, I see,” she said.

I nodded. “And it’s hard to concentrate” I said.

“He does have a loud purr.”

She asked what I was going to post this morning, and I said, “I have absolutely no idea.”

She thought for a moment. “How about . . . ‘Amanda’?”

By Boston?

“Yeah, that’s the one. When it came out, I wished my name were Amanda. I’ve always liked it.”

So with that, here – courtesy of the Texas Gal – is today’s Saturday Single.

“Amanda” by Boston, MCA 52756 [1986]

Grab Bag No. 3

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 23, 2009

Getting around at last to digging into Grab Bag No. 3, I find that the Texas Gal and I pulled some fairly interesting records out of the box. And happily, they’re all in pretty good shape. We’ve got some late 1960s country, an early 1960s movie theme and a little bit of late 1980s anger.

First up, the country record: It’s by one of the true giants of country music, Eddy Arnold, who crossed over last May at the age of eighty-nine. In his long career, Arnold had a total of 147 songs on the charts, including twenty-eight No. 1 hits on the Billboard country chart. Today’s record wasn’t one of those No. 1 hits, but it didn’t miss by much.

“Misty Blue,” which went to No. 3, was pulled from Arnold’s 1966 album, The Last Word in Lonesome. It’s a sweet and simple love song by Bob Montgomery that Arnold sings with his customary assurance. The B-Side is Wayne Thompson’s “Calling Mary Names,” one of those songs that take the narrator from childhood to adulthood; as a kid, he calls Mary names that are never specified, but they got him in trouble in school. Along the way, Mary changes, and now he calls her names like “sweetheart.”

Both sides of the single were arranged and conducted by Bill Walker, and Nashville standout Chet Atkins produced both.

“Misty Blue” by Eddy Arnold, RCA Victor 9182 (1967)

“Calling Mary Names” by Eddy Arnold, RCA Victor 9182 (1967)

The Texas Gal actually pulled five 45s from the box of unsorted records the other day, and my plan was to offer here the three that played best. One of the three I’d settled on was an EP titled Ray Anthony Plays For Star Dancing, four sweet performances from 1957 by Ray Anthony and his orchestra. (The EP was one of three in a series; all twelve performances were issued on an LP, too.) Sadly, there was just too much surface noise for me to be happy with the record. Maybe another Ray Anthony record waits in the box.

But that left me a record short, so I reached into the box this morning and pulled out a relative rarity: a record in its original sleeve, or at least in the record label’s standard sleeve. And the 1961 Pat Boone record in that sleeve is a movie theme whose words proclaim thoughts that echo in today’s headlines.

The film was Exodus, a screen adaptation of the Leon Uris novel of the same name. The book and the film were about (choose your viewpoint) either the settling and creation of the land of Israel as a Jewish homeland after the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, or the theft of Palestine from its original inhabitants.

“The Exodus Song” makes it clear which side Uris, the movie-makers and Boone were on, as it proclaims in the opening words: “This land is mine. God gave this land to me.” Why are we sure Boone is on that side and not just singing? Well, actually, we can’t be entirely sure, but Boone wrote the lyric to the song (Ernest Gold wrote the music), and one can only assume. I may be wrong.

I saw the movie with my folks when it came out in 1961, and I recall being moved by – among other things – Gold’s soundtrack, but based on the LP of the soundtrack, it doesn’t appear that Boone’s performance was used in the film. At least it didn’t make it to the record. And Boone’s performance of the song isn’t all that great, anyway. The song – whatever one makes of the viewpoint of its lyrics – is too big for Boone.

Boone does better on the B-Side, at least as far as performance goes. The flip side of the single is a recording of “There’s A Moon Out Tonight,” a cover of the Capri’s No. 3 hit from the early months of 1961. Boone does an okay job with the song – he doesn’t seem utterly lost as he did during some of his covers, most notably “Long Tall Sally” from 1956 – but he’s still far shy of the luminous quality of the Capri’s performance.

“The Exodus Song” by Pat Boone, Dot 16176, 1961

“There’s A Moon Out Tonight” by Pat Boone, Dot 16176, 1961

I’m not sure where I got the above two records. I think the Eddy Arnold was a Leo Rau record, and I’m pretty sure that the Pat Boone was in one of the boxes I got during the early 1990s from my friend Fran at Bridging Inc.

But I have absolutely no idea how I ended up with today’s third record, a single from an Austin, Texas, group called the Pocket FishRmen. Maybe in a box at a garage sale. I tagged the record – which was recorded in 1989 – as punk, because it’s angry and ragged. Maybe it should be called something else. Anyone out there have any ideas?

The group has a MySpace page with some of its stuff available there, and there’s a piece here from the Austin Chronicle about the group’s final gig. Members of the group at the time the single was recorded were Brant Bingamon, Chris Burns, Marcus Trejo and Ron Williams.

The A-Side of the record is “The Leader Is Burning,” written by Bingamon, and the B-Side is “Yr Story,” written by Williams. The single was on Noiseville Records of Yonkers, New York, but there’s no catalog number. Burns produced both songs on the single.

“The Leader Is Burning” by the Pocket FishRmen, Noiseville Records, 1989

“Yr Story” by the Pocket FishRmen, Noiseville Records, 1989

Long John, The Mamas & The Papas & Bruce

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 22, 2009

It’s Video Thursday!

Here’s an appearance by Long John Baldry on Britain’s Top of the Pops on November 23, 1967, with “Let The Heartaches Begin.” References say that other performers that evening were the Dave Clark Five and Traffic, with something called “repeat” performances – video from earlier shows, perhaps? – coming from Des O’Connor, Gene Pitney and the Who. The show also included promo videos from the Beatles of “Hello Goodbye” and from Donovan of “There Is A Mountain.”

After not having listened much to it before – and I’ve only had forty-some years to do so, you know – I’ve run through the Mamas & the Papas’ “Dancing Bear” a few times since yesterday and I’m finding it more and more charming – though no less quirky – with every listen. Here’s a September 17, 1966, clip from the The Hollywood Palace, a variety show that ran on ABC television from 1964 into 1970. The Mamas & the Papas lip-synch to “Dancing Bear” and then about halfway through “Dancing In The Streets” before being cut off by applause. As the clip ends, look at the audience: The politely applauding folks in those chairs look pretty well set in middle age or more, which explains why the host was Bing Crosby (or vice-versa). The Mamas & the Papas were a pretty safe choice for an establishment crowd, visually and musically: The guys’ hair wasn’t all that long, and the gals wore hip – but not at all daring – clothes. And the music fell somewhere in a safe part of the continuum between rock, pop rock and folk rock.

And then, here’s a gorgeous performance of “We Shall Overcome” by Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. It took place in May 2006 at – if I translated and Googled correctly – at LSO St. Luke’s in London. (LSO St. Luke’s – a restored eighteenth-century church previously called St. Luke Old Street – is the home of the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and educational programs as well as a rehearsal and performance venue.)

As I wrote here about a week ago, before events both minor and major rearranged my plans, I’m hoping to present Grab Bag No. 3 – three records pulled randomly from my stash of old and often odd 45s – for tomorrow’s post.

Sitting Out The Dance On The Stairway

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 21, 2009

I heard a snippet of “Judy In Disguise” on the radio the other day, and just that little bit – no more than ten seconds’ worth – of that hit from John Fred & His Playboy Band triggered one of those memories that slide past us now and then:

It’s lunchtime at South Junior High School. We’re allowed, after we’ve eaten, to head down to the gym, where we can play records and dance. Of course, I don’t dance. None of the guys do. But we hang around the edges of the gym, listening to the tunes and watching groups of girls dance. It’s not a bad way to spend the second half of a very short lunch period, better than sitting in the cafeteria.

And one day, for certain, one of the records that someone brought for lunchtime listening and dancing was “Judy In Disguise.” Because whenever I hear it, I’m in that gymnasium, hanging back on the edge with the other guys.

Based on the charts, that would have been late 1967 or early 1968. It was January 20, 1968, when “Judy In Disguise” reached No. 1, where it would stay for two weeks. And that memory of watching the girls dance in the gym also triggered another recollection, this one coming from a little bit later in the school year.

This time, it was an after-school dance in the cafeteria. All the long tables had been folded up and moved to a side room, giving us plenty of room to dance or to mill around on the edges. Some of the guys danced; most of us didn’t. But we gabbed as we stood along the walls and watched.

Then, I heard the teacher who was operating the record player announce a “snowball,” one of those dances that starts with one couple. After a short time, the music would pause, and each of those two dancers would select a new partner from the watching crowd. That would continue for some time, maybe two or even three records. On this day, when the teacher announced the dance, she also – only God knows why – announced my name and that of a young lady whom I didn’t know well, calling us to come start the dance.

I was in the back of the lunchroom, and there was a door. I bailed. And I sat on a nearby flight of stairs until the snowball was over.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (January 20, 1968)
“Next Plane To London” by the Rose Garden, Atco 6510 (No. 35)

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra, Philips 40495 (No. 47)

“Back Up Train” by Al Green & the Soul Mates, Hot Line 1188 (No. 58)

“Carmen” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, A&M 890 (No. 69)

“Dancing Bear” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill 4113 (No. 72)

“Let the Heartaches Begin” by Long John Baldry, Warner Bros. 7098 (No. 88)

There is an earnest clunkiness – or perhaps clunky earnestness – to “Next Plane To London” that makes the record endearing. I don’t know if I ever heard it when it was out. This was before I really listened to Top 40, and the record was on the charts for only seven weeks and peaked at No. 17. But I like it a great deal when it pops up on the player these days. The Rose Garden was from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and this was the group’s only hit.

“Love Is Blue” was on its way up the chart, having jumped to No. 47 from No. 84 in one week. In three weeks more, the record would reach No. 1 and stay there for five weeks. At the time, according to my aging edition of the Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits (1988), Mauriat’s single was the only U.S. No. 1 hit to have been recorded in France. I don’t know if that’s still true. I do know that the record was Mauriat’s only Top 40 hit, and it was the first instrumental to reach No. 1 since the Tornadoes’ “Telstar” in 1963. (Thanks go, I believe, to JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.)

“Back Up Train” was the title track to Al Green’s debut album. The single – like the album overall – carries hints of what was to come in a few years when he’d team up with Willie Mitchell. The record just barely missed the Top 40, spending three weeks at No. 41 before falling back.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had a remarkable run in the mid-1960s. From “The Lonely Bull” in 1962 through “A Banda” in 1967, the group had thirteen Top 40 hits. “Carmen” was the second single – I believe – from A Banda, but failed to reach the Top 40, peaking at No. 51 in February 1968.

“Dancing Bear” is an odd record, with its woodwind introduction. (It puts me in mind a little bit of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”) By the time “Dancing Bear” was released, the Mamas & the Papas’ time in the Top 40 was about done. The single peaked at No. 51 during the first half of January 1968, and the group’s last Top 40 hit – “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” actually credited to “Mama Cass with the Mamas & the Papas” – would go to No. 12 during the summer of 1968.

“Let the Heartaches Begin,”which went to No. 1 in the U.K., was one of several ballads that brought Long John Baldry some chart success in Britain in the mid-1960s. Those ballads were anomalies in a career based first in folk and blues and later in bluesy rock, as was noted here recently with “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King of Rock & Roll.” The single’s British success didn’t translate on this side of the Atlantic; “Heartaches” spent two weeks in Hot 100, peaking at No. 88.