Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

‘The Snow’s Coming Down . . .’

July 5, 2022

Originally posted December 23, 2009

We may be snowed in for Christmas.

For the past few days, the National Weather Service has been warning of a winter storm heading our direction, and this morning’s forecast predicts snow accumulations of fifteen to eighteen inches between tonight and Friday evening, with – says the weather service – accumulations of twenty or more inches becoming likely in some locations.

It seems to me that it’s been a while since we had a good-sized winter storm and blizzard around here. We’ve had a few heavy snows in the past few years, but the one heading our way sounds like the biggest in a while. We’ll see as things develop if it rivals the Super Bowl Blizzard of January 1975 or the series of storms we call the Halloween Storm of 1991.

In any event, if the forecast is correct, we’re likely not going to my sister’s on Friday for Christmas. She’s talked about postponing the family celebration until Saturday, and that might work, if the fellow who plows our driveway – I’m going to guess it’s about two hundred feet long – gets around to our place in time. If he doesn’t, well, we’ll hunker down and make the best of it.

That would make this Christmas a rarity, though. From many annual celebrations down on the farm at Lamberton and then at my grandparents’ new home in town through years of gatherings at the house on Kilian Boulevard in St. Cloud and recently at my sister’s home in Maple Grove, I’ve been away from my family for Christmas only a very few times. One was in 1973, when I celebrated the holiday with my Danish family in Fredericia. Another was in 1999, when I was dealing with an illness and was unable to travel. And then last year, for health reasons, the Texas Gal and I stayed in St. Cloud for the holiday.

It won’t be a tragedy if we’re unable to leave St. Cloud or even leave our home on Friday morning. It will be an unhappy inconvenience. Life intrudes on our plans every once in a while, and as long as we have warm shelter and our health, a snowstorm is a mild intrusion. And just in case it happens, we’re making a few plans: Soon after I finish this post, I’ll head out to the nearby grocery and pick up some treats and the makings of a modest holiday dinner for the two of us.

Those who’ve read this blog for some time know that I’m not big on Christmas music. In fact, there are only three holiday recordings I ever share here, and I do so every year. One of those has been the video of Darlene Love’s annual performance of the Wall of Sound classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” on David Letterman’s television show.

I decided this year to go back to the original. So this morning, I pulled out my copy of the Phil Spector box set, Back to Mono, which includes a copy of his 1963 album, A Christmas Gift For You. Here then, from near-mint vinyl, is the first of three Christmas songs I’ll offer this season: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love from A Christmas Gift For You [1963]

Mystery Delayed

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 13, 2009

Well, I was going to write today about a Minnesota mystery that’s had some national attention in the past few weeks: A slab of old rock, a late Nineteenth Century farmer, eight Swedes and twenty-two Norwegians, a north-central Minnesota town, and a film on the History Channel that somehow managed to bring in the medieval Knights Templar and the Holy Grail.

But today’s plate got filled faster than an empty glass at a local beer joint, so that will all have to wait until tomorrow. That’s okay. This way, I get twenty-four more hours to figure out what I have to say.

“It’s a Mystery” by the Average White Band from Cut the Cake [1975]

‘No Letter Today’

May 18, 2022

Originally posted September 2, 2009

We’ll see you tomorrow.

“No Letter Today” by Ray Charles from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2 [1962]

Where Am I?

May 12, 2022

Originally posted July 24, 2009

Change of plans: We’ll look at a few singles from a single record label next week sometime. (As long as there’s time, any suggestions for which record label?)

I’ve noticed something odd for a couple of weeks now. I thought it would correct itself, but it doesn’t seem so inclined. For some reason, something in my computer thinks I live in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. When I stop here at the blog, the visitor counter tells me someone from Stevens Point is here, not someone from St. Cloud.

If I do a search on one of those pages that provides supplemental local results off to the right, I get offered good deals on real estate, fresh fruit, rocking chairs, bottled water and anything else I might want . . . but in Stevens Point, not in St. Cloud.

I’m not sure how that happens. I recall a visitor to the blog once noting that the visitor log had him misplaced by several hundred miles and one nation.  In my case, Stevens Point is 282 miles and one state away. It’s not a big deal, but it is a little odd.

And here’s a song whose title seems to fit.

“I’m Not There” by Bob Dylan and The Band, probaby from sessions for The Basement Tapes, ca. 1967

Taking Some Time

May 10, 2022

Originally posted July 14, 2009

The Texas Gal is taking a few days off, so I’m going to do the same. See you Saturday, maybe Friday.

Here’s “Take the Time” by the Freddy Jones Band from the 1993 album Waiting for the Night.

The Final Curtain

March 2, 2022

Fifteen years is a long time, whether we’re talking about the real world or the lifespan of a blog.

When I began this adventure – first on Blogger, then on WordPress, and for the last twelve years on my own website – I had, I thought, an inexhaustible supply of tales and topics to share about the music I love and how it’s intersected my life.

Well, it wasn’t inexhaustible. But that stock of tales and topics has lasted fifteen years (and one month, to be precise). Echoes In The Wind has outlasted a lot of the blogs I glanced over or read closely back in early 2007, when I tentatively began to offer my thoughts to the world.

When I put the first post up, I had no idea that I’d follow it with about 2,700 more. Those posts told the tales of my life and commented on the wider world around us and the inner world I found in music, books and many other forms of media, all supported by music that connected – at least vaguely – to those topics.

Along the way, I made friends, all of them musically knowledgeable to a degree that’s sometimes scary, like JB of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, Jeff of AM, Then FM, Larry at Funky 16 Corners, Günther at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, Alex at Click and Pops, and Yah Shure, who doesn’t have a blog, which is good, because his chops would put all the rest of us to shame.

I also got to know, at least a little bit, a couple of musicians whose work I wrote about: The late Bobby Jameson, quirky and acerbic, shared with me and my readers a previously unreleased late 1960s cover of Bob Dylan’s “To Ramona” and sniped at me frequently for my perceived inadequacies. Patti Dahlstrom gladly offered commentary and clarification when I wrote about her four albums from the 1970s, sent me a couple of fascinating books, and asked my opinion about which tracks should be on a 2010 anthology of her work.

It’s been a fun ride.

After I decided to end things here, the Texas Gal asked if I had anything special in mind. I told her I was thinking about a series of posts about my favorite albums. She said she knew which album would end up as my all-time favorite: Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run. Maybe, I said, nodding. Either Born To Run or perhaps the Beatles’ Abbey Road, I said. Or maybe Bruce’s Tunnel Of Love.

And I realized that anyone who’s invested any time at all reading my stuff over the last fifteen years – if given ten tries, or maybe even just five – would likely guess that those three albums top my list. Those readers could likely name just as easily my three or four favorite artists and four or five favorite individual tracks. I doubt there are any mysteries left.

I’m not entirely done with music blogging: I’ll be posting about music once a week for the Consortium Of Seven. (That means that the music library I’ve acquired over the past fifteen years will still be useful.) And the time I’ve devoted to the blog will be given over to a long-abandoned project about my long-ago academic year in Denmark.

The blog will likely be up for another three weeks or so, and then it will be gone. So, to close up Echoes In The Wind, here’s one of the most graceful album closers I’ve ever heard, “You and Me (Babe)” from Ringo Starr’s 1973 album Ringo. Thanks, everyone.

The Least Of The Best: 1975

February 25, 2022

Here’s the end of the line for our game, The Least Of The Best, as we hit 1975, the last year in what I call my sweet spot. It was the last year during which I liked most of what I heard on AM radio and on jukeboxes in bars, restaurants and down in the snack bar at St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center.

It was also the year when I started taking college seriously, when I realized that the classes I was taking in Mass Communication were actually intended to give me skills I would need when I got my degree and had to go out into the real world and make a living. Along the way, I learned that I liked to write and was pretty good at it.

Add some good friends, a fun part-time job, and 1975 was year during which most things went well. Even forty-seven years later, 1975 is still among the best three or four years of my life.

So, what was at the top of the Billboard year-end chart, as offered by Joel Whitburn in his book, A Century Of Pop Music? Take a look:

“Love Will Keep Us Together” by the Captain & Tennille
“Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention
“Island Girl” by Elton John
“He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” by Tony Orlando & Dawn
“Bad Blood” by Neil Sedaka

Three of those – the records by Silver Convention, Elton John and Neil Sedaka – peaked in the autumn, which was one of the ten or so best seasons of my life, so they’re hard to assess. “Fly, Robin, Fly” is probably the least of those three with its throbbing bass, keening strings and the nearly chanted vocals. I may be wrong here, but it’s not quite disco; call it proto-disco, and I’m not sure what leads me to that conclusion.

Nor do I think that “Island Girl” and “Bad Blood” are great records. At least, I’m not sure that they are. (And I’m not sure the first could be released today.) But they’re parked right in one of the sweetest spots of my sweet spot, and I can’t sort out quality from memory; all I can say – and this holds true for “Fly, Robin, Fly” as well – is that every time I’m at leisure and hear any of those three, I’m lost in them and their time for at least a few seconds.

As to No. 1 from that distant year, I got tired of it at the time. It sat at No. 1 for four weeks during the early part of the summer, and I thought I’d be glad to never hear it again. Then, maybe about eight to ten years ago, “Love Will Keep Us Together” popped up on a random game here, forcing me to reassess it. And I decided that it’s a marvelous piece of popcraft.

That leaves Tony Orlando & Dawn. The record peaked in early May, spending three weeks atop the Hot 100 (as did the records by Sedaka, John and Silver Convention). But I don’t recall hearing it nearly as often as I did the other four. Maybe “He Don’t Love You . . .” wasn’t in the Atwood Center jukebox. It could be as simple as that. But it doesn’t move me one way or the other.

So, how about now? Do any of those five matter now (as measured by their presence in my day-to-day listening in my iPod)? Well, Silver Convention is there (as is a cover of “Fly, Robin, Fly” by the string quartet Bond). “Island Girl” is there, and so is “Love Will Keep Us Together.” The other two singles aren’t likely to be added.

What record, then, sits at the bottom of 1975’s Top 40? Well, it’s a record that I know I heard a lot and liked okay, but if you’d asked me a couple of hours ago what year it came out, I’d have had to stop and think a bit. “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles peaked at No. 2 in early November of 1975, but it’s not instantly connected to that season. And it’s not one of the nine Eagles’ singles in the iPod. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t matter much to me, either.

Waiting For Information

February 18, 2022

I’m pretty distracted today, and I’m late getting to this. Cubbie Cooper, our big orange cat, is at the vet’s today for some tests.

About a week ago, I found a small lump in his abdomen, high up on his side, where there should be no such lump. Now, he’ll be fourteen sometime this spring (we’re not sure exactly when), and things happen to cats as they age. We know that, both of us having been owned by cats for nearly fifty years.

So, we’re worried. We’ll find out more this afternoon when we pick Cubbie up at the vet’s. In the meantime, I’m not going to be able to do here what I had planned. So, here’s “Swamp Cat Rag” by the Swamp Rooters for Cubbie Cooper (who was probably not a swamp cat before we got him but never mind). It’s a 1930 recording that I found on the sixth volume, released in 2002, of the Yazoo Record series “Times Ain’t Like They Used To Be.”

The Least Of The Best: 1974

February 16, 2022

We’re back with the next-to-last game of The Least Of The Best, playing this time in 1974. We’ll look at the top five records of the year – as offered by Joel Whitburn in his book A Century Of Pop Music – and then check out the record that finished No. 40 for the year.,

And 1974 is one of those years that might bring me a surprise, as I was out of the country and not very clued into Top 40 for the first five-plus months of the year. I heard bits and pieces of what was popular in the States as I visited Danish friends and then backpacked around Western Europe, but even now, almost fifty years later, records from that time sometimes surprise me.

We’ll start with the year’s top five records:

“The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand
“Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks
“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas

Oh, my. When “Kung Fu Fighting” is the second-best of a bunch of records . . .

I was out of the country when the Streisand and Jacks records peaked, but I’d somehow managed to hear “Seasons In The Sun” on – I think – a British radio station in January 1974. I was appalled the first time I heard it, as I have been ever since.

I missed the Streisand single – and the movie it came from – and by the time I got back to the States, it wasn’t getting airplay. I had to catch up with it later. It’s a fine record, by far the best of the five in that list.

And I missed, mostly, “The Streak.” It peaked a few days before I returned to Minnesota. As I’ve noted here over the years, very few novelty records rank very highly with me.

As to the singles by Anka/Coates and Douglas: I’ve always thought that “(You’re) Having My Baby” was clumsy social pandering, and I’m not sure which annoyed me more, the pandering or the clumsiness, and “Kung Fu Fighting” was just silly (though I wonder now, in a different age, how its use of ethnic stereotypes and its cultural appropriations might be viewed).

I’m certain that the only one of those five records that might be in the iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening is the Streisand. And it’s not even there (though I’ll likely add it today). The only one of the other four that’s even in the 84,000 tracks in the RealPlayer is “Kung Fu Fighting.” Even in a wide-ranging archive, the singles by Anka/Coates, Stevens, and especially Jacks are not welcome.

And now we head to the bottom of 1974’s Top 40, where we find Elton John’s “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” a record that’s – in my mind, anyway – a middling sort in John’s catalog but vastly superior to anything we found in the top five of the year. It peaked at No. 2 in July of 1974.

The Least Of The Best, 1973

February 9, 2022

The game, by now, should be a familiar one: Look at the top five records from Billboard for any one year – as compiled by chart guru Joel Whitburn – and then check out the bottom of that annual Top 40 chart. So, with the year of 1973 in our sights, let’s play The Least Of The Best.

Here are the top five records for the chart year of 1973:

“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
“Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Dawn/Tony Orlando
“My Love” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John

Hmmm. That No. 2 record is now a cliché, the climactic act in its story resurrected seemingly every time someone goes somehow missing. It was a cute story song the first time I heard it, and I never needed to hear it again. But of course, I did. Over and over and over.

Some records bear repeated playings well. The Roberta Flack record that finished No. 1 for the year did, spending five weeks at No. 1 in February and March. “Yellow Ribbon” was No. 1 for four weeks in April and May of 1973 and after the second hearing, I wanted to never hear it again.

And I imagine I have an extra dose of scorn for the record as it was the spark for the whole “If we put up ribbons, the whole world will know we want so-and-so home.” In the catalog of Great American Schlock, that one must rank very near the top, and I wonder what it is about it that sets me off so. If I think about it, the habit of putting up ribbons for the lost is not nearly as prevalent as it once was. But it lingers in memory, taking the song and record with it.

The rest of that top five for 1973 is fine. I have no specific memories tied to the Flack record, but I recall moments with three of the others: “Crocodile Rock,” with its simple chord structure, was one of the stepping stones in my five quarters of music theory, as I trained myself to not only recognize chord patterns but discern the keys that songs were in. “You’re So Vain” sparked conversation about its subject in many places, but the one that comes to mind is in the television studio at St. Cloud State, as the cast and crew of a forgotten production filled time during a delay. And “My Love” will always take me to a summer evening and place me in line with Rick and our pal Gary, waiting for a treat at the Dairy Queen on St. Cloud’s East Side.

But only two of the five show up in the iPod to be part of my current day-to-day listening: “My Love” and “You’re So Vain.” Will the Elton John and Roberta Flack singles join them? I don’t know.

Now, on to our other business. The No. 40 record for 1973 turns out to be one I disliked at the time and don’t care about one way or another now. It came along early in the year and spent three weeks at No. 1 in early May: “Little Willy” by the Sweet.

I heard it on the radio now and then in the car, I imagine, where Top 40 was all I had. At home, I was more likely to listen to my own records or to the album rock on St. Cloud State’s KVSC-FM. The only other place I might have heard it was the jukebox at the student union, but I’m not sure. I don’t remember where I heard it, but wherever it was, I had no time for it. Why? I don’t know. It just annoyed me.

Of course, it’s not in the iPod. In fact, it’s not even among the 84,000 tracks in the RealPlayer. I did find it in a 1973 collection in a folder I use to store a few thousand mp3s I’ve somehow gained and never sorted. Maybe I’ll pull it in out of the cold.

Nearly fifty years later, it’s not nearly as annoying as it was then, still, it’s an earworm, and once I finish this piece – unless I go listen purposefully to something else – I know I’m gonna hear “Little Willy (Willy) won’t . . . go home!” in my head.