Archive for the ‘2009/02 (February)’ Category

Saturday Single No. 116

February 15, 2012

Originally posted February 28, 2009

As February prepares to make its exit, today is my last chance (last chance when it makes any sense, that is) to take a look at songs recorded during our shortest month. A reminder: I have detailed discographical information for maybe five percent of the 34,000 mp3s in my collection, so this isn’t by any means a comprehensive look. But it should be fun.

The earliest identified February recording here is the “Four O’Clock Blues” by the Original Memphis Five, recorded for the Vocalion label in 1923. In February 1925, Trixie Smith, one of the great early blues singers, recorded “You’ve Got To Beat Me To Keep Me” for the Paramount label. Other February recordings in the 1920s include songs by the country-ish Earl Johnson and blues from Blind Lemon Jefferson. The busiest person, according to the evidence I have, was folk singer Bascom Lamar Lunsford, who, in Ashland, Kentucky, in February of 1928 (most likely on the same day or at least consecutive days) recorded “Dry Bones,” “Little Turtle Dove” and “Lost John Dean.”

The 1930s begin here with Robert Wilkins’ “I’ll Go With Her Blues,” recorded for the Brunswick label in 1930, possibly in Memphis. Other artists that show up in the decade in my list are Blind Joe Reynolds, the Kentucky Girls, the Dixon Brothers, Charlie Monroe’s Boys and the Holy Ghost Sanctified Singers, with their performance of “Jesus Throwed Up A Highway For Me,” recorded in Memphis for the Brunswick label in 1930.

I don’t find a lot from the 1940s, but there are records by Joe Turner with the Pete Johnson Allstars, Cousin Joe with Pete Brown’s Brooklyn Blowers, and the Ravens. On February 13, 1947, Hank Williams recorded “Honky Tonkin’” for MGM in radio station WSM’s Studio D in Nashville.

The 1950s bring recordings by Muddy Waters, Little Esther & Mel Walker with the Johnny Otis Orchestra, Nappy Brown, the Cochran Brothers, Little Terry, a work gang from a Texas prison, and “Bad Times” recorded for the Savoy label in February 1958 by Billy Hope & The Bad Men.

In February 1964, Mississippi Fred McDowell recorded fifteen songs near Como, Mississippi, fourteen of them solo and one with his wife, Annie. (These recordings were released with a few from another session as Mississippi Delta Blues on the Arhoolie label.) Other recordings I have from the 1960s include “Soldier Baby of Mine” by the Ronettes, also from 1964; “Who’ll Be The Man” by Tim Hardin (1966); “Two Days ’Til Tomorrow” by the Beau Brummels (1967); four 1968 tracks from the group called the 31st of February, a group that included Duane and Gregg Allman; and some Duane Allman solo tracks from 1969.

In the 1970s, we find a live 1970 performance of “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” by Elvis Presley, a 1970 outtake of “Jesus Is Just Alright” by Shelagh McDonald, and a 1974 performance of “Tutu Jara” by the Mandingo Griots in the African nation of Gambia. But we also have eleven tracks of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends performing on February 22, 1970, at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. (I found those recently on a forum I frequent.)

The 1980s bring recordings by Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Linda Thompson and Miriam Makeba. I have nothing from the 1990s, and only two known February recordings in the years since. Both are from Bob Dylan, released on his recent Tell Tale Signs collection.

Many of those tracks are intriguing, but the most interesting of the bunch, I think, is the live 1970 performance of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, especially since one of the friends on stage that evening was Eric Clapton. Here’s that night’s version of “Crossroads,” today’s Saturday Single.

“Crossroads” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends at the Fillmore West, February 22, 1970

(Thanks go to KKS at Groovy Fab)

A Long Overdue Thank You

February 15, 2012

Originally posted February 27, 2009

I don’t really remember much about the day I graduated from St. Cloud State, thirty-three years ago tomorrow. There are pictures in boxes somewhere, showing me in my cap and gown, some taken with my folks and some taken with my girlfriend of the time, but I don’t recall walking across the stage to get my diploma.

I know we went to lunch at a restaurant called The Griffin Room in the Germain Hotel. The building still stands, but it’s condos or apartments now, and the restaurant closed long ago. Beyond that, the day is a blank spot. I imagine I was just relieved to be done with college and done with my internship at a Twin Cities television station. I was ready to get started on my career in television sports.

And a funny thing happened on the way to that career. I never got there. Oh, I tried: I sat at the table in the basement rec room three or four evenings a week, typing letters to television stations in smaller markets in the Upper Midwest, expressing my interest in working for them, should they have any openings in their sports or news departments. (This was, of course, in the days before computers, when every letter had to be typed individually; the letters also had to be error-free and without many erasures and corrections, in order to make the best impression. It was slow work.)

I got a few courteous letters back from news and sports directors. But there was a little something called a recession going on: In the late winter and spring that year, the economy was stalled and advertising revenues at television stations were flat. So hiring an inexperienced kid right out of college wasn’t an attractive way for a news or sports director to use his resources. I did get four interviews that spring: I drove to television stations in Fargo, Duluth, Rochester and the Twin Cities suburbs. I got no offers, but in Fargo, Rochester and Duluth, the news directors told me that I needed to go back to school and learn how to operate a sixteen-millimeter camera.

These were the days before portable video cameras were widespread; the technology was becoming available, and in a few years, it would become affordable for even stations in small markets. But for the time being, stations used film, and in those small markets, reporters were expected to shoot their own film. I’d focused so much on my writing during college that I’d missed that.

The last of the four interviews was at the Twin Cities station that at the time was an ABC affiliate. I drove into the Minneapolis suburb of Edina very early one day. The sports director was a fellow named George McKenzie (it could have been “Mackenzie,” but I don’t think so). He interviewed me briefly and then handed me a pile of wire stories. He told me to sit down at the typewriter and put together a five-minute sportscast and then go down the hall to the studio, where the cameraman and director were waiting to tape me. I did all that, and then sat in a small room with a cup of coffee, waiting.

George McKenzie came in and sat. “You,” he said, “are a terrific writer, and you have a good memory. You hardly ever looked at your script. Your eyes were on the camera, and that’s good.” He paused, looked at the table and nodded, and then he looked at me. Then he changed my life.

“This is going to be hard for you to hear,” he said “but you’re not going to make it in television. Some people have the ability to come through the camera and be alive on the screen, and some people don’t. You are one of those who don’t. I’d suggest you focus on your writing. You’ll do fine with that. You have a bright future, but I’m afraid it’s not going to be in television.”

I went back to St. Cloud, sad and uncertain. I took a few graduate courses and a year later – after some thinking and some scuffling – I began taking the courses that would add a minor in print journalism to my degree. In time, I realized that George McKenzie had been right. I may have been too stunned at the moment to thank him. I do so now.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, February 28, 1976)
“Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees, RSO 519 (No. 18)
“Love Is The Drug” by Roxy Music, Atco 7042 (No. 35)
“In France They Kiss On Main Street” by Joni Mitchell, Asylum 45298 (No. 66)
“Union Man” by the Cate Brothers, Asylum 45294 (No. 74)
“New Orleans” by the Staple Singers, Curtom 0113 (No. 88)
“Train Called Freedom” by the South Shore Commission, Wand 11294 (No. 98)

I was surprised to learn that I’d not posted “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love),” as it’s one of my favorite singles from the winter of 1975-76. In the years just before, the Bee Gees had re-emerged: With “Fanny” and the rest of the Main Course album, they were heading toward the falsetto plus disco sound that they used to rule a good portion of the world in 1977-78 with “Stayin’ Alive” and the other tunes from Saturday Night Fever. That said, “Fanny” – which peaked at No. 12 – is nowhere near disco; it’s just a sweet slice of pop that still brings a smile to my face.

I do not recall the Roxy Music single from the time. If I’d ever heard it, I think I would have shaken my head and passed the dish on down the table. It wasn’t until sometime in the 1980s, when I picked up Avalon more or less by accident, that I gave Roxy Music more than a glance. I still find the band’s music cold and fussy, but in small doses, it can be compelling. And “Love Is The Drug” is, come to think of it, the perfect song for the seeming lack of emotional commitment that the band brought to its music. It peaked at No. 30 and was the band’s only Top 40 hit.

“In France They Kiss On Main Street” is – if there is such a thing – a typical Joni Mitchell 1970s single: Light and airy, with a delicate melody and sometimes cryptic lyrics that meander a little bit before getting to the point. That might sound like I don’t care for it, but that’s not the case. I like both the single and the album it came from, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns. But, as is the case with a lot of music, I like Mitchell’s stuff mixed in with other tunes rather than heard as an entire album on its own. The single spent four weeks in the Hot 100, three of them at No. 66, before falling out of the chart. Best word combination: “Rock ’n’ roll choirboys.”

I’ve posted a couple of albums by the Cate Brothers here, and I’ve posted “Union Man” separately, too, but that was almost two years ago, which is something like a couple thousand blogyears. The music business is littered with the hopes of those performers and groups that should have made it big; the Cate Brothers are pretty high on my list of shouldas. “Union Man” got up to No. 24 but was the brothers’ only Top 40 hit. They kept on playing, though, touring the American South through the 1980s, and in the 1990s, they released a couple of CDs, followed by 2004’s Play by the Rules, which the folks at All-Music Guide like pretty well.

The Staple Singers’ “New Orleans” is a nice piece of funky R&B that got only as high as No. 70. Its failure to do better is another one of those mysteries in life, because it surely deserved more attention. The single comes from Let’s Do It Again, a movie soundtrack written and produced by Curtis Mayfield. It’s an album that’s well worth finding, as is the case with most anything done by the Staples.

All I really know about the South Shore Commission is what I’ve found at AMG. The group’s self-titled 1976 album and the single edit of “Train Called Freedom” were produced by Philadelphia’s Bunny Sigler, and the group’s sound fits in well with what’s come to be called the Philly Sound. “Train Called Freedom” is a pretty good track, but its lyrics beg for comparison with the O’Jays’ 1972 hit, “Love Train,” a competition that the earlier single, unsurprisingly, wins. That said, the South Shore Commission record is still fun. It peaked at No. 86.

Bob Kuban, Knickerbockers & Blues

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 26, 2009

Well, what do we find in videoworld this morning?

First, here’s a longish piece by Anne-Marie Berger of St. Louis television station KETC, a look at the life and times of Bob Kuban – of Bob Kuban and the In-Men and “The Cheater” – for the station’s Living St. Louis feature. The piece originally aired April 10, 2006, and it’s pretty well done:

Here’s a grainy video of the Knickerbockers surrounding by dancing teens as they lip-synch their way through “Lies.” The YouTube information dates this one in November 1965, just before “Lies” entered the Billboard Hot 100 in the first week of December. One of the guys even fake-plays a saxophone, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard sax in the mix. Maybe that was the group’s way of pointing out to viewers that they weren’t really playing their instruments?

Then, here’s a live performance of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” by the late Robert Lockwood, Jr. The 2004 performance took place at the Palace Theatre in Grapevine, Texas. Others on the bill that evening included Pinetop Perkins, Henry James Townsend and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. A CD of the night’s performances, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas, went on to win a 2007 Grammy Award for best traditional blues album.

Tomorrow, I think I’ll find one reason or another to take a look at what we were listening to as February turned into March in 1976 and I walked across a stage to receive my college diploma.

Now, By Request, ‘Born Free’

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 25, 2009

It might have been for her birthday, or it might have been for Christmas, but sometime around 1963 or 64, when she was in her early teens, my sister got a transistor radio. It was, I think, a Zenith, Dreamsicle orange with a silver speaker, tucked inside a black leather carrying case.

I don’t think she used it much. Somehow, it ended up on my father’s nightstand, and there it stayed for as long as I can remember, turned on only in the late minutes of every evening, as we prepared to retire for the night.

There were, as I’ve mentioned, two radio stations in St. Cloud at the time. Well, two on the AM band. There was an FM station that played what was termed “beautiful music,” lot of Mantovani and Leroy Anderson, and that might have suited Dad. He might also have liked to tune the radio to WVAL out of Sauk Rapids, the small town on the northeast edge of St. Cloud, but WVAL’s signal – and its traditional country music – went off the air at sunset. And the transistor radio only got the AM band, so that left Dad with two choices for evening listening: WJON and KFAM.

I’ve written about WJON several times here. It was the station located in a small building just down the block and across the railroad tracks from our house. KFAM was across town on the south side, in another small building that was home to its studios and those of its FM sister station, the home of the beautiful music. Both stations offered the usual mid-1960s mix of community service radio chatter and – for most of the broadcast day – traditional pop. In the evenings, the two stations switched to Top 40 for a couple of hours. At nine o’clock, KFAM went back to its standards. (WJON did so, too, for a while, but then in the late 1960s began to explore rock more deeply in the later hours, which was pretty adventurous for St. Cloud.)

Anyway, as things closed down for the evening at our home on Kilian Boulevard, Dad would flip on the radio and then pick up his book or his magazine and read for a few minutes. If it were a few minutes before nine, he’d have to put up with some Top 40 for a while before KFAM rejoined the adult world at nine o’clock. And in the mid-1960s, nine o’clock during the school year meant lights out for my sister and me. That might stretch some in the summertime, during vacations and on weekends, but something had to be pretty special for a school night exception.

One of those came sometime in 1966. I can’t say that it happened in February, but I know it was in 1966, not long after the film Born Free was released. Being a soundtrack fan, I was thrilled when I learned that the film’s score was by John Barry, who also scored the early James Bond films (and many other films as well, in a long and lustrous career). And two or three times, as we prepared to retire, I heard the vocal version of “Born Free” – by British singer Matt Monro – come from the radio on Dad’s nightstand. I wanted, however, to hear the instrumental version.

So one evening, I called KFAM and asked the DJ there to play “Born Free” for me. He said he would, but it would have to wait until after nine o’clock. “We’re playing rock ’n’ roll right now,” he said. “But as soon as we’re done with that,” he promised.

And I sat on my bed in my pajamas, the transistor radio in my hands. Mom and Dad and my sister gathered round, and at nine, after the top of the hour station identification, I heard John Barry’s instrumental version of “Born Free,” my first radio request.

As I said, I don’t know that this happened in February. It seems in memory that it was cold outside, and it also seems in memory that the “Born Free” evening took place while I was in seventh grade, during the 1965-66 school year. So it very well might have been February.

A Six-Pack From the Charts (Billboard Hot 100, February 26, 1966

“The Cheater” by Bob Kuban and the In-Men, Musicland 20,001 (No. 20)
“Lies” by the Knickerbockers, Challenge 59321 (No. 34)
“Baby Scratch My Back” by Slim Harpo, Excello 2273 (No. 41)
“One More Heartache” by Marvin Gaye, Tamla 54129 (No. 69)
“Moulty” by the Barbarians, Laurie 3326 (No. 100)
“A Public Execution” by Mouse, Fraternity 956 (No. 132)

Bonus Track
“Born Free (Main Title)” by John Barry from the Born Free soundtrack (1966)

I was still a few years away from listening to Top 40, but for those who were fans, early 1966 was a pretty rich time. Flip the switch on your transistor and tune in your local Top 40 station, and you were likely to hear something you liked pretty quickly.

Here’s the Top 15 for the last week in February 1966:

“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra
“Lightnin’ Strikes” by Lou Christie
“The Ballad of the Green Berets” by S/Sgt. Barry Sadler
“Up Tight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder
“My World Is Empty Without You” by the Supremes
“My Love” by Petula Clark
“Don’t Mess With Bill” by the Marvellettes
“California Dreamin’” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Elusive Butterfly” by Bob Lind
“Working My Way Back To You” by the Four Seasons
“Zorba the Greek” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
“Crying Time” by Ray Charles (with the Raeletts)
“Listen People” by Herman’s Hermits
“I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four
“Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys

That’s a pretty good hour or so of radio: Some Motown, including some girl group sounds along with one British single, some folk-rock, some traditional pop, a patriotic ballad and an instrumental. I could do without the Bob Lind, and “Barbara Ann” has always struck me as more of a joke than a single, but still, that would be a good chunk of listening.

Further down the list we find our six selections. “The Cheater” is a nice piece of brassy pop from a band based in St. Louis, Missouri. The odd thing about the song – which peaked at No. 12 – is its “life imitates art” denouement, as chronicled by writer Dave Marsh: In 1983, Walter Scott, the In-Men’s lead singer, disappeared. His body was found in 1987; he’d been murdered by his wife and her boyfriend (who’d also evidently killed his own wife in 1983). Investigation revealed that Scott’s wife had been cheating on him for a year or so before he was murdered. “Look out for the cheater!” indeed.

Even forty-three years down the road, I still think the Knickerbockers’ “Lies” is the all-time best Beatles sound-alike. But the guys weren’t even from England. The four Knickerbockers hailed from Bergen, New Jersey. “Lies,” the group’s only Top 40 hit, peaked at No. 20.

Blues tunes popped up every once in a while in the charts, but rarely were they as slinky and sly as Slim Harpo’s “Baby Scratch My Back.” The record was Harpo’s second Top 40 hit, following “Rainin’ In My Heart,” which went to No. 34 in 1961. “Baby Scratch My Back” went to No. 16, and it also spent two weeks at No. 2 on the R&B chart. It’s been covered a fair number of times; the best of those might be by swamp rocker Tony Joe White on his 1969 album, Black & White.

“One More Heartache” was the thirteenth in the long line of forty-one Top 40 hits by Marvin Gaye. A Smokey Robinson production, the single went to No. 29. Writing in the late 1980s, when Gaye’s death was still fresh, Dave Marsh heard something under the surface: “You wanna think this is just a love song, that’s just fine with [Gaye]. But listen deeper and you’ll know better,” Marsh wrote in The Heart of Rock & Soul, where he ranked the single at No. 186 of all time. “It’s a spiritual suicide note from a man who, in a merely halfway sane world, would have had everything to live for and known it.”

Like many listeners, no doubt, I first came across the last two songs in today’s Six-Pack via Nuggets, the 1972 anthology of garage rock and psychedelia from the mid-1960s lovingly put together by Lenny Kaye. Since then, multitudes of albums and CD box sets have replicated and expanded the idea, but the original package – from the sleeve through the liner notes to the music – is one of the best anthologies ever put together. The full title was Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968, and current versions include the music from that double LP set as the first CD of a four-disc set. Other sets using the Nuggets title and art style have followed, but – as is true in many disciplines – they’d be hard-pressed to be as good as the original.

As to “Moulty” by the Barbarians, Kaye writes in the Nuggets liner notes: “Regulars on Shindig, stars of the T.A.M.I. Show, the Barbarians came out of New England with “Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl” in the fall of 1965. Moulty was their drummer, and the story of how he lost his hand is the story of this record, which only goes to prove the old adage about truth being stranger than fiction. Though I don’t want to start things, there does exist a rumor that Levon and the Hawks (also known as the Band) are backing Mr. M on this cut. At this late date, however, I don’t suppose anybody’s talking.” The single was in the Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at No. 90, before falling into the obscurity from which Mr. Kaye rescued it.

Even more obscure was “A Public Execution” by Mouse. This time, Kaye writes: “There are some who say that this early 1966 masterpiece does Dylan’s Highway 61 period better than the master himself, and while I wouldn’t want to go that far, it can be admitted that Ronny Weiss, who was Mouse, certainly didn’t miss a trick. From Austin, Texas, he would also lead a group called Mouse and the Traps, that had several singles on Fraternity as well as Bell Records before dissolving away. Recently, Weiss has shown up with fellow Trap Dave Stanley in a lovely soft-country band on RCA named Rio Grande.” “A Public Execution” spent four weeks bubbling under the Hot 100, peaking at No. 121.

‘The Lamp Posts Call Your Name . . .’

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 24, 2009

I spent eight winters living in Minneapolis, three of them working downtown amid the unsurprising mix of a few skyscrapers, some other modern glass and steel buildings, and the older brick and stone buildings that had to that point survived the city’s occasional efforts at urban renewal.

While the canyons of downtown Minneapolis are slight shadows of those in the major cities – I think of Chicago and New York, obviously – there still was a wintertime melancholy there that one doesn’t find in smaller cities. Even away from downtown – in the blocks around the trendy Uptown area at the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue, say, or in the far southern reaches of Minneapolis, where I lived during my last urban winter – the city can be a dreary place in the later afternoon of a winter day.

It was downtown Minneapolis on a wet winter day that popped into my head this morning. The RealPlayer was on random as I read the newspaper. One song ended and the next began: a familiar woodwind riff over a bed of muted brass and then some subdued percussion. It was Steve Katz’ evocative song, “Sometimes In Winter,” from Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album. And I sang along softly:

Sometimes in winter,
I gaze into the streets
And walk through snow and city sleet
Behind your room.
Sometimes in winter,
Forgotten memories
Remember you behind the trees
With leaves that cried.

By the window once I waited for you;
Laughing slightly you would run.
Trees alone would shield us in the meadow,
Makin’ love in the evening sun.

Now you’re gone, girl,
And the lamp posts call your name.
I can hear them
In the spring of frozen rain.
Now you’re gone, girl,
And the time’s slowed down till dawn.
It’s a cold room, and the walls ask
Where you’ve gone.

Sometimes in winter,
I love you when the good times
Seem like mem’ries in the spring
That never came.

Sometimes in winter,
I wish the empty streets
Would fill with laughter from the tears
That ease my pain.

As I sang, I could see the cold afternoon streets, the lights of the stores and the bars reflecting off the damp pavement. I could see the downtown workers huddled and hunched against the wind and the snow, seeking the shelter of those stores and bars or of busses to take them home, away from the gray. And some of those who fled, just like some of those who stayed behind, would know well about Katz’ cold room with its questioning walls.

I first heard the song in 1969, when Blood, Sweat & Tears was the first cassette I got for my new tape player, and the song’s gentle grief has always felt right to me. For years, I envisioned Katz – or his alter ego – wandering the chill streets of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Today’s vision of Minneapolis doesn’t negate that; it adds to it. For I think all of us – even those in warmer climes – carry our own winter cities with us.

It’s evidently a song that’s not been covered much. All-Music Guide lists only two other versions. One is by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and the other is credited by AMG to German keyboard player Dieter Reith. After a little digging, I learned that Reith was the organist, arranger and conductor for a 1970 album called Stop! Watch! And Listen! by a group called the Knut Kiesewetter Train. The song is collected on an anthology of Reith’s work, Reith On! The Legendary MPS Sessions.

The Mendes version isn’t quite as gloomy as the original, but it’s not the cheery Latin popfest that I expected. It’s moody at points, and that fits the song well. The Knut Kiesewetter Train version, on the other hand . . . Well, it comes from an aesthetic direction that I clearly don’t grasp. And, no disrespect intended, but it makes me feel as if I’m listening to a performance in the lounge of a third-line hotel for English-speaking travelers somewhere in Essen or Dortmund.

“Sometimes In Winter” by Blood, Sweat & Tears from Blood, Sweat & Tears [1969]

“Sometimes In Winter” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 from Stillness [1971]

“Sometimes In Winter” by the Knut Kiesewetter Train from Stop! Watch! And Listen! [1970]

A Landmark In Peril

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 23, 2009

Twice during trips to visit the Texas Gal’s family in the Dallas area, she and I have driven into the heart of downtown Dallas, to a portion of the city whose good days are long gone. There, we’ve visited Park Avenue and the building at 508, where Robert Johnson recorded thirteen tracks over a two-day period in 1937. As well as taking pictures, I’ve stood on the front step, sharing the same space once occupied by both Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton.

The other week, the Texas Gal’s mom and sister sent me a clipping of a story from the Dallas Morning News, detailing the uncertain future of the building at 508 Park Avenue.

(It seems that the links to the images that ran with the story are no longer working. [Nor, for that matter, is the link to the story.] Here’s a photo of the front door of the building that I took on one of our two visits to Park Avenue.)

It would be nice to have the building saved, of course, both for its exterior architecture and for its place in music history. But I’m guessing that won’t happen. In the meantime, here are cover versions of some of the songs Robert Johnson recorded during his two days in Dallas in July of 1937.*

A Six-Pack of 508 Park Avenue
“Stop Breakin’ Down” by the Jeff Healey Band from Cover To Cover [1995]
“Malted Milk” by Eric Clapton from Unplugged [1992]
“Traveling Riverside Blues” by John Hammond from Country Blues [1964]
“Love In Vain” by the Rolling Stones from ‘Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out!’ [1970]
“Stones In My Passway” by Chris Thomas King from Me, My Guitar and the Blues [1992]
“I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man” by Robert Lockwood, Jr. & Carey Bell from Hellhound on My Trail: Songs of Robert Johnson [2000]

*I was too pessimistic, it seems: According to this piece in the January 26, 2012, edition of the Dallas Observer, the building at 508 Park Avenue will be restored and become the site of the Museum of Street Culture. That will include a recording studio on the floor of the building where Robert Johnson and others played, and – according to the January 26, 2012 piece – a memorial of some sort in the corner of that floor where Johnson and other musicians actually sat or stood to record. Note added February 1, 2012

This Time With The Vocals

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 22, 2009

Oops!

In Friday’s post, I shared what I thought was my regular copy of the Platters’ “With This Ring.” It turns out I had mislabeled and misfiled what seems to be a karaoke version of the song: No vocals.

I have a few karaoke versions like that, and I keep them in another file. This one – through my carelessness – escaped and was mislabeled. I’m sorry.

Thanks to reader Magkfingrs for pointing out the problem. I’m uploading the correct song to that post, and to this brief Sunday post. (Sorry about the lower bitrate; I’m in the process of upgrading as many of the 128 kbps mp3s – ripped from CDs or vinyl long before I thought about blogging – as I can to 192 kbps, and I haven’t gotten to the Platters yet.)

“With This Ring” by the Platters [Musicor 1229, 1967]

Saturday Single No. 115

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 21, 2009

The 45 rpm single I’m sharing today is one of the oldest records I own, marking forty-five years sometime this month, perhaps even this week. As I think about it, it may, in fact, be my longest-owned record. In February of 1964, I hadn’t yet begun to play the cornet, so I wasn’t yet enamored of Al Hirt’s music; I got my first Hirt album in the autumn of that year. And two other albums I got as gifts during the mid-1960s actually came out later: Herman’s Hermits On Tour and Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us were both released in 1965.

So the record I’m listening to this morning is likely the record I’ve had longer than any other. Of course, had it been up to me on that Saturday in February 1964, it likely wouldn’t be here. It was my sister who persuaded my dad to take her downtown, probably to Woolworth’s, so she could buy the record. It wasn’t until they were home and all four of us clustered around the old RCA record player to listen that Dad told her that the record was half-mine.

I don’t think that mattered to her then, nor did it in years to come. As I’ve written other times, when she left home to set up housekeeping with her new husband in 1972, she took her LPs with her. But she left the single behind, so it’s been in my custody – if not my entire ownership – for more than thirty years.

There are a couple of amazing things about the record: For one, it’s still in its original picture sleeve.

I have about two hundred 45s, some of them in carrying cases and others jumbled into the cardboard box in which I first got them second-hand. I think that maybe ten of them are still in their original sleeves. Most of those are records I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox owner who lived across the alley. But there’s a catch there: One of the Leo Rau records is a copy of the Rolling Stones’ “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow” in its corresponding picture sleeve. But he had multiple jukeboxes in the St. Cloud area, so he had multiple copies of the record and of the jacket. This may seem picky, but there’s no guarantee that the Stones record he gave me is in the picture sleeve it started out in.

I know, however, that the record my dad and sister brought home in February 1964 is still in the same picture sleeve and has been for forty-five years.

The other amazing thing that comes to mind about the record this morning is how the music in its grooves has aged, or rather, not aged. So many folks at the time said that all fads end and that the record my sister and dad brought home that day was part of just another fad, another shiny bright toy that would end up discarded and forgotten.

But that hasn’t happened. The four young men from Liverpool who still smile from that single’s sleeve surprised and confounded everyone. To paraphrase from one of the Rolling Stone album guides, they not only became the world’s best pop group, they invented the idea that there could be such a thing as the world’s best pop group. And the music they made along the way still sounds vital and fresh. That might be the most amazing thing of all.

So here are the Beatles, from my forty-five year old copy of the song that was No. 1 on this day in 1964 (including the wavery noise right at the end), with today’s Saturday Single:

“I Want To Hold Your Hand” – The Beatles [Capitol 5112, 1964]

Note
Somehow, I trimmed off the beginning of the record while ripping it this morning. I’ve re-ripped and reposted the record, so that’s taken care of. Sorry!

Edited slightly on archival posting.

A Six-Pack From Three Februarys

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 20, 2009

In February of 1967, my parents and doctor decided that the only was to halt my series of increasingly frequent sore throats was to take out my tonsils. I remember thinking perversely during the worst of the post-surgical pain, “Yeah, they did a fine job getting rid of my sore throat. I can’t even swallow ice cream!”

Of course, that passed, and sore throats have been a relative rarity in the more than forty years since then. As it’s mid-February and the forty-second anniversary of my tonsils’ liberation, my first thought for today was to dig into the chart from 1967 and see what I wasn’t listening to as I recovered. But I did a post from February 1967 just a week ago. I mean, I know I could find six pretty good additional singles, but I’d rather not double up that quickly.

So in yesterday’s post, I said I’d likely be looking at this week in 1977. I haven’t dug deeply into that year since last August. But when I looked at the February 19, 1977, chart, it didn’t seem to have any singles that grabbed me by the ears and said, “Listen to this, Buster!” So, dithering, I looked at the chart from February 21, 1970, a chart that falls right in the middle of the first great season of Top 40 for me. And there were many old friends there. So I continued to dither.

But when I got up this morning, it felt like pre-op 1967: I have a sore throat and don’t wanna decide anything this morning. (The Texas Gal has taken the day off, and I’m hoping to feel well enough this afternoon to take in the movie we’ve been planning to see.)

So here are some singles from 1967, 1970 and 1977:

A Six-Pack From Three February editions of the Billboard Hot 100
“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames, RCA Victor 9002 [No. 24, February 18, 1967]

“With This Ring” by the Platters, Musicor 1229 [No. 126, February 18, 1967]

“Always Something There To Remind Me” by R.B. Greaves, Atco 6726 [No. 33, February 21, 1970]

“Je T’Aime . . . Moi Non Plus” by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, Fontana 1665 [No. 63, February 21, 1970]

“Living Next Door To Alice” by Smokie, RSO 860 [No. 27, February 19, 1977]

“What Can I Say” by Boz Scaggs, Columbia 10440 [No. 98, February 19, 1977]

Ed Ames was better known in 1967 for playing the role of Mingo, a Native American, on the television series Daniel Boone. “My Cup Runneth Over,” from the Broadway musical I Do, I Do, is pure pop, of course, but people liked it: It went to No. 8.

“With This Ring” was the twenty-third – and last – Top 40 hit for the Platters, who first made the chart with “Only You (And You Alone)” in 1955. The group had seven Top Ten hits, and four made it to No. 1: “The Great Pretender,” “My Prayer,” “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” “With This Ring” – which I’ve always thought was a nice bit of music – went to No. 14 in 1967.

When R.B. Greaves is thought about at all these days, it’s generally for “Take A Letter, Maria,” which went to No. 2 in November of 1969, blocked from the top spot by the 5th Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues.” While I liked “Maria,” I’ve always thought that Greaves did a better job on “Always Something There To Remind Me,” which stalled at No. 27 in the late winter of 1970. Thirteen years later, the English duo Naked Eyes sent their version, titled “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” to No. 8.

“Je T’Aime . . . Moi Non Plus” by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, was quite the deal in its day. The matter-of-fact yet intimate tone of the melodic conversation (in French, no less) followed by Birkin’s moans of ecstasy kept, I believe, a lot of program directors in the U.S. from putting the single on the air. The single peaked at No. 58 during a ten-week stay in the Hot 100. Wikipedia has a good recap of the hoo-ha that followed the single’s release.

I only vaguely recall hearing “Living Next Door To Alice” when it was on the charts, but it’s a good, if not great single that has always sounded to me a lot like Dr Hook. (In fact, when I was wandering around the ’Net this morning digging up information, I saw that a lot of careless listeners have tagged the song as being Dr. Hook’s work.) The record, which went to No. 25, was the only U.S. hit for Smokie, whose members hailed from Yorkshire, England. The group was far more successful in its native country.

Lastly, I figure a guy can never go wrong when he takes advantage of a chance to post a Boz Scaggs record. “What Can I Say” was the third – I think – single from Scaggs’ marvelous Silk Degrees album, but it didn’t have the success that its predecessors had: “It’s Over” dented the Top 40, reaching No. 38 in the spring of 1976, and “Lowdown” went to No. 3 that summer. “What Can I Say,” which was just as good as those two, was in the Hot 100 for fourteen weeks but got only to No. 58. (Another single from Silk Degrees, “Lido Shuffle,” would follow “What Can I Say” and reach No. 11 in the spring of 1977.

Note:
The version of “With This Ring” I posted was – because of a filing error – the karaoke version. Sorry. I’ve uploaded the correct version.

Leo, The Muppets & Brownsville Station

January 4, 2012

Originally posted February 19, 2009

It’s time for a trek through YouTube again.

Looking back to yesterday’s post of Leo Kottke’s Mudlark, I found a clip of Kottke performing a sweet version of “The Arms of Mary” on an episode of Austin City Limits. From what I’ve been able to track down, the show was taped in August 1992 for an airdate in 1993.

And here’s Kottke performing “Deep River Blues” for a taping of Sessions at West 54th in December 1997.

In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned the Muppets as one of the groups credited with covering Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” I found the clip, from an episode of The Muppet Show that was recorded between November 22 and 24, 1977. According to Muppet Wiki: “Two of the verses to ‘For What It’s Worth’ were rewritten in order to transform the popular anti-war song song into an anthem against hunting, but no one has ever been officially credited for these additional lyrics.” Muppet Wiki also notes that the audio of the sketch was included on a Muppets record released in 1978, but that on a 1994 release, the interruptions by the hunters were edited out.

And to close, here’s a clip from the January 29, 1974, episode of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert with Brownsville Station performing “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” and “Barefootin’.”

Tomorrow, I think we’re going to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the middle of February 1977. As I write this, I’m not at all sure what we’ll find, so it could be an adventure.