Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Time Is Tight

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 16, 2009

Whew! A chance to sit down. I’ve been running most days this week, taking care of various obligations and appointments, and time has been scarce. Instead of trying to squeeze in a post with any substance today, I’m going to beg your indulgence and start regular posts again tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

In the meantime, here are some songs that deal with this week’s rarest commodity. Though I like all of these, the Whitfield and Williams tracks really kick. But I’d urge you to try all of them.

A Six-Pack Of Time
“Time Lonesome” by Zephyr from Sunset Ride [1972]
“Tell Me Just One More Time” by Jennifer Warnes from Shot Through The Heart [1979]
“Pony Time” by Barrence Whitfield from Back To The Streets–Celebrating the Music of Don Covay [1993]
“Pearl Time” by Andre Williams, Sport 105 [1967]
“The Time Will Come” by the Whispers, Soul Clock 107 [1969]
“Good Time Living” by Three Dog Night from It Ain’t Easy [1970]

Bonus Track
“Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9074 [1970]

See you tomorrow!

Carved In Stone

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 14, 2009

It’s a tale that I think every Minnesota kid of Swedish descent knew when I was young: In 1898 in west-central Minnesota, Olof Öhman was clearing his land when he found a slab of stone tangled in the roots of a tree. The stone – about thirty inches by sixteen inches, and six inches thick – had carving on one face and one edge.

Wikipedia says:

“Soon after it was found, the stone was displayed at a local bank. There is no evidence Öhman tried to make money from his find. An error-ridden copy of the inscription made its way to the Greek language department at the University of Minnesota, then to Olaus J. Breda, a professor of Scandinavian languages and literature there from 1884 to 1899, who showed little interest in the find. His runic knowledge was later questioned by some researchers. Breda made a translation, declared it to be a forgery and forwarded copies to linguists in Scandinavia. Norwegian archaeologist Oluf Rygh also concluded the stone was a fraud, as did several other linguists.”

But what did the stone say? Here’s a fairly common translation from the runes:

Eight Goths and 22 Norwegians on a journey of exploration from Vinland very far west. We had camp by two rocky islands one day’s journey north from this stone. We were out fishing one day. After we came home we found ten men red with blood and dead. AVM save from evil. Have ten men by the sea to look after our ships fourteen days’ journey from this island. Year 1362

(“Goths” has generally been interpreted to mean Swedes, and “AVM” is an abbreviation for “Ave Virgo Maria,” a supplication to the Virgin Mary.)

At the time, there was no proof for the supposition that the Viking explorers had ever reached North America, much less traveled as far inland as the area that would become Minnesota. The discoveries of Viking settlement ruins in Newfoundland were about sixty years in the future. The idea that Scandinavians had reached the American Midwest seemed ludicrous. But was it?

Well, I don’t know. I’ve known about the runestone for most of my life, and from time to time, it makes the news when some scholar or another brings new eyes, new historical context and new technology to bear on the runestone, providing another piece to a puzzle that will likely never be solved. (The Wikipedia page on the runestone, a generally skeptical account, reviews the century of research in detail that can become mind-numbing, especially during its review of the actual runes found on the stone.)

The most interesting bit of recent geologic research that I’d been aware of compared the weathering on the stone and its runes to the weathering on gravestones of similar rock in the eastern United States. The conclusion was that the Kensington stone was likely underground between fifty to two-hundred years before it was unearthed in 1898, which means the stone was buried sometime between 1698 and 1848. I’m not certain when the area was settled, but there would have been few, if any, settlers in the area by 1848, which almost certainly would mean that whoever carved it and left it there did so while the land was wild.

Is the stone authentic? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else knows, either. There are some indications that it’s a hoax, and some – like the geological analysis mentioned above – that raise more questions. As a good Minnesotan, and half Swedish at that, I’d like the runestone to be authentic. If it’s a hoax, okay, but what was the point? No one’s ever provided what seems to me to be a persuasive answer.

The Kensington Runestone in its display case in Alexandria, Minnesota.

I hadn’t thought about the runestone for years, but a couple weeks ago, I saw a promotion for a film on the History Channel titled The Holy Grail in Minnesota, which had as its starting point the Kensington Runestone. I set the film to record, and I finally got back to it the other evening.

The film, produced by Minnesotans Andy and Maria Awes, begins with a pretty good look at the runestone’s known history, though it does tend to skim over some of the skepticism. And then it looks at the history of the Knights Templar and the order’s dissolution by the Vatican in the early fourteenth century. So far, so good. But then the hints began: The Knights Templar had searched for something precious on the site of the ruins under Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and a fleet of ships later sent out from France by the Templars was never seen again.

In a segment filled with the words “might,” “maybe,” “could” and “possibly,” I saw the film’s destination: It was the Knights Templar who carved the Kensington stone when they brought the Holy Grail to America in 1362. I wasn’t in the mood for that much historical theorizing, so I quit watching. I imagine I’ll look at the film again someday, and until I do, I’ll reserve judgment. I suppose that the idea of the Knights Templar in Minnesota is no more unlikely than the idea that Vikings got here. (A little digging turned up a link to a book that seems to look at the same idea; I’ll likely see if it’s in the library.)

These days, the Kensington Runestone is displayed in a museum in Alexandria, Minnesota, a town of about twelve thousand people that’s about seventy miles northwest of St. Cloud. The city is also home to Big Ole, a twenty-eight foot statue of a Viking whose shield proclaims Alexandria as the “Birthplace of America,” a claim based on the ownership of the runestone. Never mind that the stone was found near Kensington, the town where it was displayed in the bank window, about twenty miles west of Alexandria. Near there, Öhman’s homestead, the site of the stone’s discovery, has been turned into a park, with, I believe, a replica of the runestone. There’s also a replica of the stone in a park on the east end of Alexandria, where the main U.S. highway used to come into town before the opening of Interstate Highway 94.

I’ve seen the stone once, in 1975, when my Danish brother and a friend of his were traveling the U.S. and stopped in St. Cloud for a few days. And I’ll likely see it again soon; the Texas Gal has said she’d like to see it. Maybe next spring, we’ll take a Saturday and head off to see the evidence of those eight Goths and twenty-two Norwegians.

A Six-Pack of Stone
“Murdering Stone” by the Walkabouts from New West Motel [1993]
“Dr. Stone” by the Leaves from Hey Joe [1966]
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics, Avco 4603 [1972]
“Rollin’ Stone” by Johnny Rivers from Last Train To Memphis [1998]
“Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, Columbia 45236 [1970]
“Tombstone Shadow” by Creedence Clearwater Revival from Green River [1969]

On first listen, the Walkabouts’ “Murdering Stone” lies on the ears as a discomfiting bit of recent Americana: Not being sure what a murdering stone is, the listener might shrug, thinking it all sounds all right, but what does it mean? But I get the sense that meaning isn’t important here; what matters is connection. And “Murdering Stone,” with its fiddle and its piano and with its unsettling narrative, pulls me back to an early 1970s classic of country rock, Mason Proffit’s “Two Hangmen.” From there, it seemed to me that “Murdering Stone” also links to the country tale of “The Long Black Veil.” Numerous great versions of that classic of Americana are easy to find; the first that come to my mind are those by The Band on Music From Big Pink and Johnny Cash’s version on his 1965 album Orange Blossom Special. Wikipedia notes that Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin wrote the song for Lefty Frizzell, whose 1959 recording of it went to No. 6 on the Billboard country chart. (JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ noted this week that Rosanne Cash’s new album, The List, includes a performance of the song by Cash and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco; he also found a video of a television performance of the song by Johnny Cash and Joni Mitchell.) I’m not sure that “Murdering Stone” is quite on the level of “The Long Black Veil,” but it certainly sent a chill or two up my spine – and not for the first time – when I listened to it this morning.

So what type of medicine does one get while visiting the Leaves’ “good friend” Dr. Stone? Well, in the Los Angeles of 1966, one can make a few guesses. But more important than pharmaceutical guessing games is the intoxicating rhythm track and the garage band sound that “Dr. Stone” celebrates

“I’m Stone In Love With You” was just one of the seemingly uncountable hits that came from the songwriting team of Thom Bell and Linda Creed during the early 1970s. In the wrong production hands, Creed’s lyrics might have been unbearably sappy, gooey to the point of parody, but Bell’s production and the talent of the vocal groups he was recording made the listener believe Creed’s insistently romantic words. And the pairing of the Stylistics’ talents and those of Bell and Creed on “I’m Stone In Love With You” worked exceedingly well, despite some risks. Using “stone” as an adjective was probably risky in 1972 for two reasons: First, because of the word’s drug connotations, and second, because its meaning in what was at first a jarring phrase had to be inferred and then accepted by the listener. But it sounded good as a lyric, and the Stylistics and Bell pulled it off in the studio; the record went to No. 10 in the autumn and early winter of 1972-73.

I have a number of versions of “Rollin’ Stone” I could have put on this list, from the 1950 original by Muddy Waters onward. (I have shared at least once the version by Johnny Jenkins from his Ton-Ton Macoute! album with Duane Allman as part of the backing band.) Johnny Rivers’ cover from Last Train To Memphis is the most recent I have of the song, which is one of the sturdiest in the history of the blues. Rivers’ performance isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s solid, like the rest of the album, on which Rivers pays tribute to the music he grew up with. The album is worth a listen or two.

There are times when I admire Barbra Streisand for her vocal abilities, her range of talents, her ambition and her success. And there are times when I cannot stand the woman. And that’s all me and has nothing, really, to do with her. But whether I wake on the pro-Babs or anti-Babs side of the bed, I’ll always enjoy hearing “Stoney End,” the Richard Perry-produced title tune to Streisand’s 1971 album and a No. 6 single during the winter of 1970-71.

As for “Tombstone Shadow,” all I really need to say is that it’s a slice of tight, brooding and slightly spooky rock ’n’ roll from one of the best American bands ever to strap on guitars and set up a drum kit.

Dudes, Buckets & The River

May 17, 2022

Originally posted August 27, 2009

First stop at YouTube this morning finds us revisiting the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness that took place at London’s Wembley Stadium on April 20, 1992. Joining Queen for a superb version of “All the Young Dudes” were Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople; David Bowie, who wrote the song; guitarist Mick Ronson; and Joe Elliott and Phil Collen of Def Leppard.

The Bette Midler/Bob Dylan version of Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain” was one of the more popular mp3s ever posted here. I couldn’t find a video of it – I’d hoped for some television performances – but I did find a decent live performance of the song by Neko Case in Seattle, Washington, on August 30, 2008.

Here’s Talking Heads with a kickass version of “Take Me to the River.” The original poster at YouTube noted this was a “clip from the movie.”  I’d assume that “the movie” was Stop Making Sense, except that the soundtrack for the film lists a running time for “Take Me to the River” at about six minutes and this clip last for more than eight minutes. All-Music Guide lists only one Talking Heads version of “Take Me to the River” that runs eight or more minutes, and that’s on an album entitled The Complete Gig, about which I can find little information. Answers, anyone?

[Note from 2022: The Complete Gig was a live album released unofficially on CD in Italy in 1991. This clip is likely from the concert that was recorded for that album. Note added May 17, 2022.]

Tomorrow, I may dig into some music by one of my favorite bands from the 1990s, or I might go back to the box of unsorted 45s. We’ll see.

Learning To Drive

May 6, 2022

Originally posted July 6, 2009

I’ve written a bit about cars here: the 1961 Falcon I called Farley, the first car I owned part of and the one that took Rick, Gary and me to Winnipeg in 1972; my dad’s 1952 Ford, and a few others. (I have yet to tell the tale of Toby the Toyota; someday, perhaps.)

Something this weekend reminded me, however, not so much of cars but of driver’s education, that horrible process required before I could sit behind the wheel of any car on my own. I took the course forty years ago this summer, in 1969.

I was not a good driving student. I got flustered easily. That made my behind-the-wheel training – driving around St. Cloud in an auto owned by the school district and very clearly marked “Student Driver” – a less-than-pleasant experience (for me and, I assume, for my instructor as well). Every Wednesday evening, for five or so weeks, two other students and I would take turns driving around the city, turning, merging, driving down ramps and trying to master parallel parking. I was expert at none of those things.

I did get practice between those weekly sessions. On weekends and during other evenings, my dad would get in the passenger seat beside me in our 1964 Ford, and we’d head out across the railroad tracks to a triangular course he’d determined a few years earlier when my sister was learning to drive. I’d drive along the roads, practicing accelerating and braking – I can still hear Dad holler “brake-brake-brake-brake-brake!” – and turning. After a few times around the triangle, he’d have me turn into a driveway and back out the other way, so I could practice left turns instead of right turns.

It’s funny: I hadn’t thought for years of the triangle route we drove during those evenings. But the lot on which we now live borders two of those three streets. I can see one of them from my study window. And I marvel, forty years later, at my dad’s ability to ride along as I slowly learned to drive and to be comfortable doing so. His patience was, I now know, remarkable. Around the triangle we went, time and time again, and he may have been as frustrated as I was, but he was always willing.

I passed the driver’s education course that summer, the summer before I turned sixteen. Shortly after my birthday, I went downtown, not far from the courthouse, and took my driver’s test. I passed the written test but failed the road test – mostly, I think, because I was nervous. I finally passed on the fifth try, just after I turned seventeen. And a little more than a year later, my long procession of cars began with Farley, that 1961 Falcon.

A Six-Pack of Cars

“Back Seat of My Car” by Percy Thrillington from Thrillington [1977]
“Stolen Car” by Bruce Springsteen from The River [1980]
“Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” by Billy Ocean, Jive 9678 [1988]
“Car On A Hill” by Joni Mitchell from Court and Spark [1974]
“She Has Funny Cars” by Jefferson Airplane from Surrealistic Pillow [1967]
“Strangers In A Car” by Marc Cohn from Marc Cohn [1991]

Some folks who stop by here will recognize the name of Percy Thrillington. I think his self-titled 1977 album was the only one he released under that name. It’s an instrumental version of Ram, the 1971 album by Paul and Linda McCartney. Now, why the world needed an instrumental version of Ram is an open question. The answer resides in mind of Mr. Thrillington, who is far better known around the world as Paul McCartney himself. Released with little note six years after it was recorded, the album is quite valuable in the collector’s market; the CD, released and then deleted shortly afterward, is also a collector’s item.

“Stolen Car” is another one of Springsteen’s tales of regular folks caught in lives gone off-track. I wonder sometimes if all those tales in song – “Hungry Heart” comes to mind soonest, but there are many of them in Springsteen’s catalog – are metaphors for a culture that lost its way some years ago and continues to wander astray, or are they just story songs. I’m sure Springsteen’s been asked, and I don’t know what his answer has been or would be. I’d say they’re both metaphor and story, but that’s just me.

I still like the Billy Ocean single, but not nearly as much as I did twenty years ago. Its production sounds dated and over-bearing. But it’s still catchy, with a still-great hook. The record was the last of Ocean’s six Top Ten hits, spending two weeks at No. 1.

“Car On A Hill” is one of those songscapes that Joni Mitchell has put together so expertly during her career, but especially during the early 1970s. With a swooping and slightly cluttered instrumental break, the song sets a mood more than tells a story. As I listened to it again this morning, the words “watercolor landscape” kept coming back to me, and that’s as good a description as any today. The only other thing I can say is that this morning, “Car On A Hill” sounds like 1974 felt.

The drumbeats and then the guitar figure that open Jefferson Airplane’s “She Has Funny Cars” put me squarely in the basement rec room in the house I grew up in. Surrealistic Pillow was one of the few albums my sister owned during those years, and I have no idea how often she played it. I played the record a lot, however, and it became one of my favorites. I’m a little amused by how mellow the entire album seems now; at the time, it seemed like a sonic explosion.

“Strangers In A Car” has one of the more disconcerting opening verses I can remember. I know the song is a commentary on isolation, but this morning, at least, I was unable to pay much attention to the rest of the song after listening closely to the first verse:

There’s a stranger in a car
Driving down your street,
Acts like he knows who you are.
Slaps his hand on the empty seat and says,
“Are you gonna get in
Or are you gonna stay out?”
Just a stranger in a car.
Might be the one they told you about.

It had been a while since I’d thought much about it, and it left me shaking my head. Are the times that different? Or would the song have been that disconcerting in 1991? I don’t know.

A New Year’s Lyric & Wish

December 31, 2021

I’ve shared this here before, but I thought it could stand another look, especially as we close out – for the second December 31 in a row – am awful, awful year. I wrote this in 1991.

                        Twelve O’Clock High

Headlights on the avenue; footprints in the snow;
“Auld Lang Syne” is written on the wall.
Cards from distant strangers who were friends not long ago
Are standing on the bookcase in the hall.
The stereo plays Motown as our conversation wanes.
We calculate our losses and consolidate our gains.
The year is quickly passing on; not much of it remains,
And much of it we’d rather not recall.

Dancers in the living room are fragments of the past;
The twist is resurrected for the night.
Remember when they told us that our music wouldn’t last?
It’s sad to say, but maybe they were right.
We can’t be sure we’re living in the present when we dance.
We leave behind maturity and seek a second chance
At all the sophomore dreams we left behind without a glance.
The record ends, and dreams can’t stand the light.

So the old year departs by the window
As the new one comes in by the door.
We hide from our failures with wine and with masks.
We season our lives with endurable tasks,
And we can’t tell the truth so we hope no one asks
If we know what we’ve been living for,
And it’s twelve o’clock high once more.

Every year, the party seems to feel more like a wake,
With party streamers trying to conceal
Our weariness and wariness at what we couldn’t make;
We act like what we’ve made is how we feel.
But celebrating Janus means we have to look ahead;
We’d like to do the things undone and say the things unsaid,
To give our dreams some nourishment and put our fears to bed,
And leave the artificial for the real.

So the old year departs by the window
As the new one comes in by the door.
May directions in living come thankfully clear;
May all of us find we have nothing to fear.
May peace be upon us.  May this be the year
That we know what we’ve been living for
When it’s twelve o’clock high once more.

And the Texas Gal and I would like to pass on our hopes that somehow, 2022 will be one of those years that shines while you’re living it and shines even more brightly as it recedes in the past.

‘If You Read The Papers . . .’

November 17, 2021

One of the new arrivals on the CD shelves here is a minimalist box set collecting five of Carole King’s first six albums, a set I wandered upon by accident as I browsed at Amazon. The set includes Writer (1970), Music (1971), Rhymes & Reasons (1972), Fantasy (1973), and Wrap Around Joy (1974). It skips, as you can see, 1971’s Tapestry, perhaps because Epic figured anyone interested in King’s work already had it, or perhaps the label thought they might spur sales of that masterpiece by leaving it out of the box set.

It’s pretty basic: A slipcase and the five CDs in reproductions of the five original jackets (sans any gatefolds). But the music is all there, and I have a good magnifying glass for the fine print on the back. (Not all the jacket backs listed the session musicians, but I have some online sources for that info.)

Anyway, as I was ripping and tagging the CDs this week, something about the set kept nagging me. I’d read something about it a while back, and this morning, as I was sorting through posts here about King, I remembered: Back in the spring of 2011, when I added King’s “It’s Too Late” to my list of Jukebox Regrets – the brief list of records that should have been in my Ultimate Jukebox project of 2010 but were somehow missed – reader and friend Yah Shure mentioned the box set:

I recently obtained the collection of Carole’s first five albums (sans Tapestry) and had one “Oh, I remember this!” moment after another. Carole seems to be one of those artists who we take for granted, hovering below our everyday radar until the next refresher course beckons. One of her deeper cuts I’ve always liked is “Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone,” from Rhymes & Reasons.

“Goodbye Don’t Mean I’m Gone” is a good track, one I’d not heard before this week. Having listened, I looked again at the comments on that ten-year-old post and found my pal jb’s pithy (and accurate) assertion that the piano figure that opens “It’s Too Late” is “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.” And I looked once more at the comments and found one by the regular reader who calls himself porky:

Like jb, the Tapestry singles instantly capture that era when I hear them . . . But give “Believe In Humanity” a spin, and it also captures that eerie early-to-mid ’70’s sense of doom that hovered over lots of records back then. Hearing them in the dark via a transistor radio only added to those vibes.

With the track now at hand, I followed porky’s advice, and he’s absolutely right: Despite the hopeful couplet at the end of each verse and despite the coda, that sense of doom in the two verses prevails (and could easily be applied to this era’s arc as well). The track – which went to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the summer of 1973 – is at the bottom of the post. Here are the lyrics:

If you read the papers you may see
History in the making
You’ll read what they say life is all about
They say it’s there for the taking
Yeah, but you should really check it out
If you want to know what’s shaking
But don’t tell me about the things you’ve heard
Maybe I’m wrong, but I want to believe in humanity

I know it’s often true – sad to say
We have been unkind to one another
Tell me how many times has the golden rule
Been applied by man to his brother
I believe if I really looked at what’s going on
I would lose faith I never could recover
So don’t tell me about the things you’ve heard
Maybe I’m wrong, but I want to believe in humanity

Maybe I’m living with my head in the sand
I just want to see people giving
I want to believe in my fellow man
Yes, I want to believe

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

October 20, 2021

We’re going to indulge in a game of Symmetry in a moment, looking at the No. 50 record from the fourth week of October 1971, but first, we’re going to take a look at the top five from that week in the Billboard Hot 100:

“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts & Children” by the Carpenters
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez

“Maggie May” still works for me as a record, especially the long mandolin solo before the final choruses, but it also serves as a reminder of that long-ago season, the first autumn of my college days. It brings up memories of wandering down dorm hallways and across campus and into pizza joints with my first set of college friends, the folks I’d met at the summertime orientation. It’s always welcome here.

So, too, is “Superstar,” chiefly for the purity of Karen Carpenter’s voice (and the tasteful arrangement by her brother Richard). Bowdlerizing a bit the original lyric by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, the record still works.

We looked at Baez’ cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” the other week. As for “Yo-Yo” and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” well, “Yo-Yo” is a pleasant memory, and the Cher single is one of the 2,900-some in the iPod, so I must like it.

But what do we find when we go the halfway point of that week’s Hot 100? Well, we find a record I’m pretty certain I’ve never heard before: “She’s All I Got” by Freddie North, during which North pleads with a rival: “Please don’t take. She’s all I got . . .”

It’s an okay record, I guess, but nothing special. It made it to No. 39 on the Hot 100 and to No. 10 on the magazine’s R&B chart. North was a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Nashville, and the only other record of his that made the two charts was “You And Me Together Forever,” which bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 116 and went to No. 26 on the R&B chart in early 1972.

Oddly, I have North’s 1975 album, Cuss the Wind, in the digital stacks. How it got there, I have no idea. I may have grabbed it somewhere because it contains North’s cover of “A Rainy Night In Georgia.”

Here’s “She’s All I Got.”

Depression, Take 2

September 15, 2021

I’ve written before about the deep ditch of depression I sometimes fall into, finding myself there for no particular reason except my own biochemistry (and sometimes – but only sometimes – my having neglected to take my meds).

I’m there again, and I have been for a few days. I’m not looking for sympathy, just letting those of you who still do show up here why this place might look a little ragged around the edges, needing a little attention.

I’ll be back Friday, and we’ll see how things are then. In the meantime, I sorted among 83,000-some mp3s for things related to “September,” and I found Richie Havens’ cover of David Blue’s song “23 Days in September. (Blue actually titled it “These 23 Days in September; for some reason, the word “These” was trimmed from the title when Havens released it.)

Havens’ version of the song is on his 1973 album Portfolio.

On The Nines

September 9, 2021

Well, it’s September 9, or 9/9, and the part of me that loves Games With Numbers can’t possibly ignore that. So we’re going to look at three near bottom-dwellers in three Billboard Hot 100s released on or near today’s date, each separated by nine years.

We’ll start in my lodestone year of 1970, the one year of my life when I listened, delighted and dutifully, to Top 40 music all year long, and then go back to 1961, when I had no idea that anything as cool at the Hot 100 existed. And we’ll complete our excursion with a look at 1979, a year when the Hot 100’s coolness quotient was – in my life, anyway – rapidly fading.

Along the way, as we customarily do with these follies, we’ll check out each chart’s top two records.

First, to 1970. Sitting at No. 99 in the Hot 100 released on September 12, 1970, is a record regarded by many as a classic and one that I’m sure has left many a listener baffled, perhaps, with its cryptic message and stunned with its beauty: “Alone Again Or” by the psychedelic group Love.

The version we find there – and it went no higher – is one we’ve tangled with a few times before. It’s longer than the single version that was released in 1968 after the album Forever Changes came out in 1967. (Both versions are shorter than the version on the album.) Yah Shure, my friend and patient guide to all things chart-related, wrote to me a few years ago, saying, “In my [Joel] Whitburn Pop Annual, the time listed for the 1970 re-do is 2:50. Under the ’68 single’s entry in my Whitburn Bubbling Under chart book, Joel refers to the 1970 #99 release as ‘an enhanced version,’ and that’s what it really is: embellished with additional instrumentation to pack more of a wallop over the airwaves. The difference between it and the original mix is quite apparent.”

Here is a version of the tune that has been labeled “mono single remix” with a seemingly appropriate running time. At discogs, the 1967 original release is said to have a running time of 2:49, while the 1970 rerelease – as Yah Shure noted – runs 2:50. (The 1967 album track runs 3:15.) Is this the right one? I dunno.

Sitting at Nos. 1 and 2 during the second week of September 1970 were, respectively, “War” by Edwin Starr and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross.

Hoping to leave bafflement behind, we head to 1961 and the Hot 100 that was released on September 11 of that year, There, parked at No. 99, we find “Signed, Sealed And Delivered” by Rusty Draper, a countryish waltz that has utterly nothing to do with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” from 1970.

Draper was a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Kirksville, Missouri (a burg where I’d often stop for a burger or gas during the 1980s as I made my way between Columbia, Missouri, and Monticello or St. Cloud in Minnesota). He had one country hit – “Gambler’s Guitar” went to No. 6 in 1953 – and eleven records that reached the Hot 100 (with another bubbling under). Best-performing of the bunch was “The Shifting, Whispering Sands,” which went to No. 3 in 1955.

The maudlin “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” went to No. 91 and was his next to last entry on the chart.

The records at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, during the second week of September 1961 were “Michael” by the Highwaymen and “Take Good Care Of My Baby” by Bobby Vee.

And now to 1979, and the No. 99 record from the chart released on September 15 of that year: “Baby I Want You,” a piece of light R&B that was the only chart entry from the Funky Communication Committee, a short-lived group that managed to release two albums and three singles in 1979 and 1980.

“Baby I Want You” climbed the chart to No. 47 and did not get into the R&B Top 40. And that’s all I know.

Sitting at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, during the third week of September 1979, were “My Sharona” by the Knack and “After The Love Has Gone” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

Peter, Gary, Chubby & Gladys

March 31, 2021

Originally posted July 2, 2009.

Talking a walk around YouTube this morning, I found a few things of interest.

Here’s Peter Kaukonen with a nifty rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” from what looks to be a relatively recent performance at the B.B. King Blues Bar & Grill in New York City.

Here’s Gary U.S. Bonds in what appears to be a 1981 ( not 1989, as in the original post) television performance of the Bruce Springsteen-penned “This Little Girl Is Mine.”

I also found a video, evidently from 1961 (with subtitles added later), of Chubby Checker singing and dancing his way through “Let’s Twist Again.”

And finally, with a performance of “Every Beat Of My Heart” followed by “So Sad The Song,” here are Gladys Knight and the Pips during a 1977 performance at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

I think that tomorrow, we’ll pull one random song from every year of the 1960s, just as we’ve recently done for the 1970s and the 1980s. But we’ll see what might otherwise pop up between now and tomorrow morning.