Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

‘When You’re Lost In The Rain In Juarez . . .’

January 21, 2022

I told most of this story here long ago, and I told it again this week at the Consortium of Seven, where I blog on Mondays about music. I figured a third time would not hurt.

I was reminded the other day that somewhere in my (relatively small) collection of 45 rpm singles is Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” And I was reminded that I found the 45 in a box of records I got from Leo Rau, the man who lived across the alley from us in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was fourteen at the time and pretty pleased with the records – for reasons we’ll get to in a moment – and didn’t quite understand what Mr. Rau did for a living.

My dad said Mr. Rau was a jobber, and then explained to me that Mr. Rau had a chain of vending machines – candy machines, cigarette machines and juke boxes – that he kept stocked with what seemed to me the good stuff of life: Snickers, Nut Rolls and Juicy Fruit Gum among the candy; Camels, Winstons and Herbert Tareytons among the cigarettes (not such a good part of life, as it turned out), and records by performers such as Sandy Posey, Petula Clark and Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass.

As I headed into my teens, being across the alley from the Raus seemed like a pretty good deal. Steve Rau, who was four years or so older than I (and played the drums, which I thought was kind of cool), decided one day to get rid of his comic book collection and gave it to me: Lots of Jughead and Archie, some war comics – stories of World War II, which was just more than twenty years past – and comics based on television shows of the mid-1950s, none of which I recalled. It was a treasure trove.

And several times, Mr. Rau passed on to me a box of 45 rpm records. I don’t recall everything he gave to me; I know one of them was Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” because I still have it. Another was Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.” And there are a few others that Mr. Rau gave me that have survived the fifty-some years since. (A list of those survivors, from what I can remember – I had several sources over the years for mid-1960s 45s – is at the bottom of this piece.)

The Raus were good folks to have as neighbors. When they – Leo and Ilamae – were out in their back yard at the same times as my folks were in ours, the four would often have alley-side conversations that might last an hour or might last as briefly as it took for my folks – or just my dad or mom – to hand over some home-grown rhubarb and accept from one or both of the Raus some cucumbers ready for the table.

And, as I mentioned, several times during the mid-1960s, Leo Rau would hand me a box of records that had outlived their usefulness in the juke boxes he stocked. As I look back at the 12- to 14-year-old boy that I was then, it’s remarkable that any of them survived. At that age, I was distinctly unhip. I did not listen to Top 40 radio. I had only a few LPs and no singles to speak of in my record collection. And I didn’t listen to many of the records Mr. Rau gave me. Instead, I used them for target practice with my BB gun.

So when I say that some of the records survived, I am being literal. I have no idea how many 45s I aimed and shot at, punching neat little holes in the grooves. Maybe a hundred. A lot of the records Mr. Rau gave me were country & western, a genre that was far less cool (and far more real and gritty) than country music is today. I do remember a lot of Sandy Posey, Sonny James and Buck Owens, records that it would be nice to have today.

But I know a good share of the records that met my BBs were pop and rock, simply because of those that survived, including the two I mentioned above: the Procol Harum and the Dylan. And it’s knowing how close I came to destroying the Dylan record that makes me shake my head in something near disbelief, because years later, I learned that the B-side of the Dylan 45 offered listeners a true rarity: the sound of Dylan performing live. The B-side was an incendiary version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” recorded live – the label says – in Liverpool.

It’s a noteworthy record. Here’s what Dave Marsh said about it in his 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, where he ranked the B-side of the record at No. 243.

If you liked the jingly folk-rock of “I Want You” enough to run out and buy the single without waiting for the album (which only turned out to be Blonde on Blonde), you got the surprise of your life: A B side taken from Dylan’s recent European tour on which he and a rock band (which only turned out to be The Band) did things to “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” a song from Highway 61 Revisited, that it’s still risky to talk about in broad daylight.

Rock critics like to make a big deal about B sides but there are only maybe a dozen great ones in the whole history of singles. This one’s rank is indisputable, though, because it offers something that wasn’t legally available until the early Seventies: a recorded glimpse of Dylan’s onstage prowess. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” came out before anybody ever thought of bootlegging rock shows, before anybody this side of Jimi Hendrix quite understood Dylan as a great rock and roll stage performer. And so this vicious, majestic music, hidden away in the most obscure place he could think of putting it, struck with amazing force.

The group behind Dylan wasn’t exactly The Band: The drummer for the European tour was Mickey Jones. Levon Helm had become fed up with performing in front of angry and jeering crowds who wanted to hear Bob Dylan the folksinger and were being presented with Bob Dylan the rock and roll performer. He’d gone back to Arkansas and wouldn’t rejoin the other four members of what became The Band until after the tour, when he joined them and Dylan in Woodstock (where the six of them began recording the music later released as The Basement Tapes and where The Band began work on its debut, Music From Big Pink.)

Now, we come to an oddity. The visual in the video below tells us that this version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” comes from the so-called “Albert Hall” concert, which actually took place May 17, 1966, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and was released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966. According to the label on my 45, the B-side version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” was recorded in Liverpool, England. The concert schedule tells us that would have been on May 14, 1966.

But the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” offered in the video below matches the sound on the B-side of my 45. I think it’s the same as the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from the official release of the Manchester Free Trade Hall Concert. There was a mistake somewhere, and I have no way to sort it out. Maybe what was actually the Manchester performance was mislabeled on the 45 as being recorded in Liverpool. I dunno. In any case, the music in the video below is the version of the tune that Marsh celebrates in his book.

I look at the fragile 45 that survived my BB gun and shake my head. It’s undeniably a treasure, but it didn’t survive because I knew that. It didn’t survive when so many other records were splintered by BBs because it was by Bob Dylan. I was unhip enough at the ages of twelve to fourteen to have no real good idea who Bob Dylan was; that awareness would take at least another four to five years. It was a happy accident, pure and simple, that I never looked past the sights of my BB rifle at the Dylan record.

Dave Marsh sums up his comments about the record: “Today it sounds like the reapings of a whirlwind, Dylan’s voice as draggy, druggy and droogy as the surreal Mexican beatnik escapade he’s recounting, Robbie Robertson carving dense mathematical figures on guitar, Garth Hudson working pure hoodoo on organ. Slurred and obtuse as Little Richard reading Ezra Pound, there’s a magnificence here so great that, if you had to, you could make the case for rock and roll as a species of art using this record and nothing else.”

I probably got more than a hundred records from Leo Rau during those few years in the mid-1960s. These, I think, are the survivors:

“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“I Want You/Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (live)” by Bob Dylan
“Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” by the Fifth Estate
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“Don’t Go Out Into The Rain” by Herman’s Hermits
“No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits
“This Door Swings Both Ways” by Herman’s Hermits
“Look Through My Window” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Monday, Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
“Single Girl” by Sandy Posey
“Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum
“Have You Seen Your Mother. Baby, Standing In The Shadows” by the Rolling Stones
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Lightning’s Girl” by Nancy Sinatra
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher

One Random Shot

January 19, 2022

For a quick visit this morning – the Texas Gal and I have errands to do and I have things to get to before that – I’m going to look for one track from iTunes. I’m going to sort the tracks by length, set the cursor at the shortest track – Al Shaver, long-time play-by-play guy for the long-gone Minnesota North Stars calling out “He shoots! He scores!” in one second – and click ten times.

We’ll see what we get.

We wander through some Beatles – “Cry, Baby, Cry” and “She Said, She Said” – and some Bread: “Baby, I’m-A Want You.” We get K.C. & The Sunshine Band (“That’s The Way I Like It”) and Eric Bibb (“Diamond Days”). And I click too fast to catch some of them.

But we end up on “South Street” by the Orlons from 1963. From Philadelphia, the group had a pretty good run for about a year in 1962-63 and then hung in there for a couple more years with declining success.

“South Street” was one of their big ones, coming out in early 1963 and going to No. 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the magazine’s R&B chart. The summer before, “The Wah-Watusi” did a little better on the pop chart, getting to No. 2, but it only got to No. 5 on the R&B chart, so it’s hard to say which of the Orlons’ hits was their biggest.

I’d go with “South Street,” if only because, for years, I mis-heard the first line. The line actually goes “Where do all the hippest meet?” But for a long, long time, ending today, I thought the Orlons were popping through a crease in the time/space continuum and singing about hippies.

The Standings & A Ronnie Spector Tune

January 14, 2022

As of this morning, the total number of mp3s in the RealPlayer is 83,985, still about ten thousand fewer than there were when my external hard drive crashed during the summer of 2017. (I’ve replaced most of the important stuff; every once in a while, I recall an obscure album I once had and learn that I’ve never replaced it; most of the time, it’s only available for more cash than I care to invest.)

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to see which artists are most represented among those nearly 84,000 tracks. Here are the current totals. (I’ll miss some; for instance, I’ll easily combine the total of tracks credited only to Bruce Springsteen with those credited to Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Sessions band, but I have some tracks out there with the Boss dueting with others. Those won’t get counted.) Here are the top fifteen.

1,076: Bob Dylan
800: Bruce Springsteen
477: Beatles
342: Sebastian
341: Chris Rea
303: Eric Clapton
290: Nanci Griffith
271: John Barry
270: Jimmy McGriff
256: Rory Block
252: Cowboy Junkies
250: Richie Havens
241: Ferrante & Teicher
234: Frank Sinatra
234: The Band

The next fifteen are Gordon Lightfoot, Joe Cocker, Carole King, Ramin Djawadi (who scored the Game Of Thrones series), Muddy Waters, Trevor Morris (who scored, among other projects, Vikings, The Tudors and The Borgias), Etta James, the Indigo Girls, Fleetwood Mac, Maria Muldaur, the Bee Gees, Clannad, Al Hirt, Paul McCartney, and Darden Smith.

None of that will be a surprise to anyone who’s visited here regularly over the past fifteen years. The Beatles’ total has risen appreciably since the last time I checked the numbers; over the course of the past two years, I’ve added to the CD stacks the three 1990s anthologies and the four volumes of performances live at the BBC, all of which I previously had only as LPs.

The last things I added to the RealPlayer? The 1972 album by Danny O’Keefe titled simply O’Keefe, newly ripped files of Dark Side Of The Moon, a single edit of Carole King’s “Corazon,” the 2000 album Rose by Danish singer Lis Sørensen as a single mp3 (as well as a corresponding single mp3 of the tunes from Rose as originally recorded by Sebastian).

And tucked in among the last things I added to the RealPlayer this week was a single track that came my way via Facebook following the death of Ronnie Spector: A 1977 take on Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” by Spector backed by the E Street Band. It showed up on Spector’s album Unfinished Business, and it’s one of the better things I’ve heard for a long time:

What’s At No. 100? (December 1975)

December 23, 2021

So what do we get when we look at the (no doubt) familiar records that make up the Billboard Top Ten for this week in December 1975?

Well, we get a set of records that I heard while driving around the Twin Cities during my television internship and also, no doubt, heard while enjoying two weeks of holiday break from that internship.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the week ending December 27, 1975:

“Let’s Do It Again” by the Staple Singers
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“That’s The Way (I Like It)” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band
“Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players
“Theme From ‘Mahogany’ (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” by Diana Ross
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“Fox On The Run” by the Sweet
“Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention
“I Love Music (Part 1)” by the O’Jays

I never much cared for the records by the Sweet and the Bay City Rollers. But then, at 22, I was not in the target demographic. The rest of those ten are fine, though I imagine that as “Convoy” rose in the chart – it was up seven spots from No. 14 the week before – folks were getting a little tired of it. And I know there was derision for the Manilow single. The singles from Ross and Silver Convention are fondly remembered artifacts from a fondly remembered season and year.

Before I look, I’m going to guess that no more than four of those singles matter today, as measured by inclusion among the 2,900-some tracks in my iTunes files. That would track with my general thought about the Top 40 as 1975 eased to its ending. The music wasn’t speaking to me the way it had two or three years earlier, and the music then hadn’t seemed as essential as the music from two or three years before that. I was approaching, I now know, the end of my sweet spot.

After checking, I’m a little startled to find that the only two tracks from that Top Ten that are in iTunes – and thus in my day-to-day listening – are the Ross and Silver Convention singles. I would have thought the Staple Singers and perhaps K.C. & The Sunshine Band would have been there. And they likely will by the end of the day. And so, probably, will be “Convoy.”

But what of our other business today, checking out the record at the bottom of that forty-six year old chart?

Well, it turns out to be the very last chart gasp for one of the significant voices of the 1960s who wasn’t all that concerned about the charts anyway: “Breakfast For Two” by Country Joe McDonald wasn’t about anyone like Sweet Martha Lorraine. Nor was it about protesting foreign policy, as McDonald had with his group, the Fish, not that many years before.

We went out to dinner
Boy, what an appetite
We just couldn’t stop eating
We stayed up most of the night

And after three or four hours
Our stomachs began to hurt
But everything tasted so good
We didn’t stop until after dessert

Ooh la la, breakfast for two
Ooh la la, you got me and I got you

I’ve eaten in Italy
Yes, I’ve eaten in Spain
I must admit I’d be licking my lips
If I ever was to eat there again

But last night at dinner
You really, really blew my mind
The way we supped just filled me up
I think about food all of the time

Ooh la la, breakfast for two
Ooh la la, you got me and I got you

People always come up to me
They say, hey, man, how about a little smile
Don’t take life so seriously
Lighten up for a little while

I say that a man’s a fool
If he don’t know how to cry
When I get down, I sure get down
But when I’m up, I know how to fly

Ooh la la, breakfast for two
Ooh la la, you got me and I got you


My first thought is, “That’s got to be a joke.” But I wouldn’t be able to know for sure, I imagine, unless I listen to the rest of the album, Paradise With An Ocean View. Which I might try to do. Anyway, the single was at No. 100 during the last week of 1975 after peaking at No. 92. Three earlier singles with the Fish had bounced around in the same territory; “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” went to No. 95 and the other two – “Who Am I” and “Here I Go Again” bubbled under.

“Breakfast For Two” ended Country Joe McDonald’s tale on the singles chart. The album was the next-to-last of his to chart, reaching No. 124 on the Billboard 200. Love Is A Fire bubbled under at No. 202 a year later.

(McDonald’s early albums with the Fish were, of course, a major part of the music scene of the late 1960s; the best selling of those was 1968’s Together, which went to No. 23. The most important, most likely, was 1967’s Electric Music For The Mind And Body, which went to No. 39.)

Anyway, here’s “Breakfast For Two.”

My Faves From ’71

October 15, 2021

I saw a squib the other day on Facebook for a book titled Never a Dull Moment: 1971, The Year That Rock Exploded by writer and broadcaster David Hepworth, a book I plan to read as soon as the local library sends it my way. The squib was followed by a challenge to list the twenty best albums from that admittedly very rich year, now fifty years in the past.

Well, I love lists, as anyone who comes past here knows. I usually do lists of single tracks, although I recall listing my thirteen favorite albums in a very early post here (the post is here, but I’ll warn you, it wanders around for a while before getting to the list). I revised that list a little later, and I imagine if I took on the topic again, my list would look at least a little different than it did fourteen years ago.

So, I’ve put together – in no particular order – a  list of my twenty favorite albums from 1971, which was, in fact, a great year for music. The greatest? Impossible to say, except to note that it lies right in the middle of my sweet spot. The years of high school and early college – 1968 through 1974 – were the best years for music for me.

I should note that one album that I wrestled with was The Concert For Bangla Desh, but I decided that all-star live albums have an unfair advantage. I’ll just note that Leon Russell’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley at that concert might be the single best thing released in 1971.

Here are my twenty:

Tapestry by Carole King
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
It Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry
Naturally by J.J. Cale
The North Star Grassman and the Ravens by Sandy Denny
Madman Across The Water by Elton John
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney
Mudlark by Leo Kottke
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues
Stargazer by Shelagh McDonald
Leon Russell & The Shelter People
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic
Just An Old Fashioned Love Song by Paul Williams
2 Years On by the Bee Gees
Chase (Self-Titled)
Closer To The Ground by Joy Of Cooking

This was not a deeply researched list. I simply sorted the mp3s in the RealPlayer for 1971 and then sifted through the 300 or so albums that showed up, so I imagine I might have missed one or two that I’ll think about later.

And again, without thinking too hard about it, I’ll choose a track to share here today. It’s the title track to Shelagh McDonald’s Stargazer. Her story, as I’ve said here before, is quite strange; here’s a link to her tale at Wikipedia. And here’s “Stargazer.”

My Eyes

September 21, 2021

This – like so many other posts recently – will be brief for a very practical reason. I can no longer see very well. Even the white of the word processing program’s page has smudges on it that I cannot see through very well, the product of cataracts in both eyes, and that makes writing very much a headache-producing struggle.

That should change this week and the next. Tomorrow I will have the lens in my right eye replaced, and a week later, the same will happen with my left eye. I know the surgeries are now very common: My mom and the Texas Gal both had their lenses replaced during the life of this blog, and there were no complications.

Still, I have some anxieties about the surgeries, which I think is understandable. I’ve been trying in the past weeks simply to acknowledge them and then let them go. That’s not easy, but I think I’m doing all right.

This has been coming for a while, maybe three years for the cataract in my left eye and two for the one in my right eye, but the growth of the two has accelerated greatly in the last year, causing the vision experts to say that it’s time. And in just the month or so that the surgeries have been contemplated and scheduled, I’ve noticed an even more rapid degradation of my vision.

I assume things will go well tomorrow and the following Wednesday. I’m not sure how awkward things will be during the week between the two surgeries, with one eye corrected and the other still impaired. So, I do not know how often I will be posting here. A one-week absence is possible. So I’ll (metaphorically) see you – more clearly, I assume – on the far side.

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite tunes with “eyes” in the title: “Dark Eyes” by Bob Dylan. It’s from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque. The notes to the recently released Bootleg Series No. 16 – titled Springtime in New York, 1980-85 – say that the album’s co-producer, Arthur Baker, one day suggested adding an acoustic song to the album, and the next day, Dylan brought in “Dark Eyes,” written the night before:

Oh, the gentlemen are talking, and the midnight moon is on the riverside,
They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide.
I live in another world where life and death are memorized,
Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls and all I see are dark eyes.

A cock is crowing far away and another soldier’s deep in prayer,
Some mother’s child has gone astray, she can’t find him anywhere.
But I can hear another drum beating for the dead that rise,
Whom nature’s beast fears as they come and all I see are dark eyes.

They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes,
They tell me revenge is sweet and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.
But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel is heat and flame and all I see are dark eyes.

Oh, the French girl, she’s in paradise and a drunken man is at the wheel,
Hunger pays a heavy price to the falling gods of speed and steel.
Oh, time is short, and the days are sweet, and passion rules the arrow that flies,
A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes.

‘What Good’s A Metronome . . .?’

July 30, 2021

I’ve been thinking about my high school pal Mike recently. He’s living in Arizona now – he moved there from Northern Minnesota a few years ago – and he’s been dealing with extremely high temperatures, drought and the impact of flash flooding in his area (though thankfully the floods seem not to have come too close to Casa Mike.) And he’s said that he’ll be unable to get back to Minnesota for the fifty-year reunion of the St. Cloud Tech and Apollo high school classes of 1971 this autumn. So he, and this piece from 2008 came to mind this week. I’ve altered it just a bit.

One of my companions as I began my exploration of the world of Top 40 during the 1969-70 school year was a fellow named Mike, someone who’s shown up in this space rarely. (He’s not to be confused with Janitor Mike, with whom I scrubbed floors at St. Cloud State during the summer of 1971.) Mike lived on the north side of St. Cloud – within a few blocks of where the Texas Gal and I now live – and had gone to a different junior high school; we met when we were sophomores at St. Cloud Tech, and for two years were pretty good friends, sharing our love of music and working together as managers for the football team as juniors.

One Saturday in 1970, Mike made his way from the north side over to our place with a bunch of singles he’d found in one of his recent excursions to Musicland. I’m not sure there was anything new there, nothing I hadn’t heard on the radio, but of course, the sound quality of the stereo was better, and yakking while listening to music was a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. And then Mike put on a novelty record.

It was funny and raucous, and we laughed as only high school juniors can as it spun on the stereo. I’d heard it before, on the radio, but it never failed to amuse me. So I grabbed my cassette recorder and a new tape. My taping method back in 1970 was crude. There was no output plug on the stereo, so I’d lay my recorder on the carpet on the middle of the basement floor, aim the microphone as well as I could toward the stereo and tape the sound coming from the speakers. Our first attempt was interrupted by the sound of my father whistling as he came downstairs to get something from the storage room. The second ended when I sneezed. On our third take, we were barely seconds from the end when someone outside pounded twice on the basement window. That was Rick, coming from across the street, giving me his usual signal that he was heading to the back door. With Rick joining us, we got the song recorded on the fourth take. (By that time, my mother, upstairs in the kitchen, was heartily tired of the song.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten tired of the record, though I no longer listen to it more than once at a time. It turns out, though, that I’d heard the main performer’s voice many times. His name was Tony Burrows, and during the early 1970s, he was one of the more active and successful studio singers in Britain. He might, in fact, qualify for the title of King of the One-Hit Wonders, having sung lead on Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” “Beach Baby” by First Class, the Brotherhood of Man’s “United We Stand” and the record I’m pondering today (on which Burrows partnered with Roger Greenaway). I’d heard and liked the Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and Brotherhood of Man singles (“Beach Baby” was still four years in the future), but I had no clue that Saturday morning that the same voice had sung on all of them. Nor did I imagine that the single Mike and I were laughing at that morning featured the same person as well.

The record in question made it into the Top Ten that summer, peaking at No. 9 on the July 18, 1970, Billboard Hot 100. And it’s not entirely forgotten; it gets a bit of airplay on the oldies stations, though not nearly as much play as Tony Burrows’ other singles have gotten over the years.

Mike and I didn’t see each other much after that summer. The St. Cloud school district opened Apollo High School in the autumn of 1970: Mike went there while I stayed at Tech. And I was not welcome at his home; during the summer of 1970, I brought a Beatles album over one evening and learned that Mike’s mom had never gotten past John Lennon’s 1966 comment that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. After high school, I headed to college while Mike went into the Army and then went to St. Cloud State for a brief time in the middle of my years there. We’ve seen each other a couple of times in the last ten years – once, sadly, at a memorial service for a college friend and then one Saturday when he stopped by the house for a couple of hours – and we keep up on Facebook.

I long ago lost the tape we made that Saturday morning. But when I got my computer in early 2000 and began creating a collection of mp3s, I imagine that the novelty record Mike brought over that long-ago morning was one of the first couple hundred songs I secured. And I imagine that as I heard the record in 2000 for the first time in years, I laughed again, though probably not as hard as a high school junior might have.

Here’s “Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pipkins.

‘You Just Can’t Win . . .’

April 15, 2021

This will be brief because the upcoming work by GoDaddy may mean that this post gets left behind, but I feel a need to post something.

I was poking through the Billboard 200 from mid-April 1971, looking at which albums eventually showed up on the shelves here, when I noticed the album parked at No. 144: One & One by Gene & Jerry, who only turn out to be Gene Chandler and Jerry Butler.

The album, released in 1970, was in its fourth week on the chart, down one spot from its peak at No. 143 the previous week. After another week, the album would fall off the chart.

I found the album in July 1998, most likely at a neighborhood garage sale in south Minneapolis. And it turned out to be the first LP I ripped to mp3s when we moved to the condo three years ago. It’s decent R&B/soul.

Here’s the opening track, “You Just Can’t Win (By Making The Same Mistake).” Released as a single, the track spent three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1971, peaking at No. 94.

Two Headaches

April 8, 2021

I have two concurrent headaches. One of them is literal, the product of a sinus infection.

The other is metaphorical, the product of waiting for the GoDaddy folks to finish “migrating” this blog to a new server. The process, when it starts, will take some time, and anything I post here might or might not be migrated. When will that process start? They can’t seem to tell me.

Additionally, until that process is finished, folks aren’t able to leave comments here.

It’s a headache. So, here’s “Willies’ Headache” from Cymande. Here’s what discogs has to say about the band:

Formed [in] 1971 in London, England featuring musicians from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent. The name Cymande is based on a calypso word for dove, symbolising peace and love. They play a style of music that they call Nyah-Rock: a mixture of funk, soul, reggae and African rhythms. The band achieved their greatest initial success in America and were actively recording and performing until 1975.

“Willies’ Headache” is on the band’s second album, Second Time Around, released in 1973.

‘The Ship That Sailed The Moon . . .’

March 17, 2021

I woke this morning (earlier than I’d have liked, due to feline interference) with “An American Tune” – the Paul Simon song – running through my head:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a fried who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s gonna be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest

Taken from the album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, the track was released as a single in November 1973 and went to No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’ve read over the years that the song’s stately, elegant music reflected America’s Shaker tradition, but now I notice that in Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn says Simon based the tune on the German classical piece “Oh Sacred Heart” (originally “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”), credited to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Wikipedia, however, notes that “Oh Sacred Heart” was actually the text of the German hymn, which was later paired with the melody that Simon uses. That melody, “Passion Chorale,” was written by German composer Hans Leo Hassler and was later harmonized by Bach (who used the resulting composition in several of his works, including his St Matthew Passion).

So, Hassler and Bach get credit for the melody, but the words are all Simon’s. Here’s how it sounded on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon:

After I woke with “Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower/We come on the ship that sailed the moon” running through my head,” I did two things: As I fed the cats, I tried to remember any dream I might have been having that could have brought that lyric into my head, but I failed.

And then I checked to see how long it had been since I’d mentioned the song here. It turns out that in more than fourteen years, “An American Tune” has never been mentioned here. Not once. I know I thought about writing about the song at various times in the four years just past and then decided against it; the words were cutting too closely to my heart. But today it seemed to be about time the song got some attention.

So, there it is, and it might be useful to remember that when Simon released the song as a single, in November 1973, the U.S. was hip-deep in Watergate and heading into a recession that would last a year-and-a-half. An uncertain hour, indeed.