Posts Tagged ‘Association [The]’

Memorial Day, 2009

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 25, 2009

It’s another Memorial Day, another day to reflect. We’ve been told that some of our soldiers will this year begin to come home. Let’s hope that’s true. We’ve also been told that more of our soldiers are required to fight elsewhere. Let’s hope that’s for a brief time. These are the same songs as last year and the year before; if that’s a disappointment, I’m sorry. These are the songs that remind me of those whom we are supposed to remember today.

“Requiem for the Masses” by the Association, Warner Bros. single 7074 [1967]

“I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” by Phil Ochs from Rehearsals For Retirement [1969]

“War” by Edwin Starr, Gordy single 7101 [1970]

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone” by Peter, Paul & Mary from Peter, Paul & Mary [1962]

“One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack)” by Coven, Warner Bros. single 7509 [1971]

“Universal Soldier” by Buffy Sainte-Marie from It’s My Way! [1964]

“Masters of War” by Bob Dylan from Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan [1962]

“Give Peace A Chance” by the Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon), Apple single 1809 [1969]

“2+2=?” by the Bob Seger System from Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man [1968]

“Handsome Johnny” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag [1967]

“Bring The Boys Home” by Freda Payne, Invictus single 909 [1971]

“All The Young Women” by the Cuff Links from Tracy [1970]

“Bring ’Em Home” by Bruce Springsteen from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (American Land Edition) [live, most likely in Detroit, 2006]

As I’ve noted the past two years, times have changed enough since Freda Payne, the Cuff Links and Peter, Paul & Mary recorded their songs that we now need to also bring the girls home, and we need to grieve as well with all the young men who have lost loved ones.

‘Six’

January 11, 2013

And so we come to “Six” as the March of the Integers goes on. The RealPlayer sifts through more than 66,000 mp3s and brings back 176 of them, leaving us the task of sorting out the chaff from those results.

All the songs with “sixteen” in their titles have to go, including Joe Clay’s 1956 rockabilly romp, “Sixteen Chicks,” country singer Lacy J. Dalton’s 1982 tribute to perseverance, “Sixteenth Avenue” and several versions of “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The same holds true for songs with “sixty” in their titles, including two versions of Elton John’s “Sixty Years On” – one from the studio and one from his live 11-17-70 set – as well as Billy Ward & The Dominoes’ “Sixty Minute Man” from 1951.

A cluster of tracks by some groups have to be set aside as well: That includes single tracks by the Deep Six, the Electric Six, the Six Mile Chase, the Soul Brothers Six, the Sound of Six as well as the gloriously titled “Rub A Little Boogie” by Duke Bayou & His Mystic Six. We also have to set aside a couple of albums each by Sixpence None the Richer and the New Colony Six. And then, everything but the title tune from B.B. King’s 1985 album Six Silver Strings goes by the wayside, as does all of Steeleye Span’s 1974 album Now We Are Six and the 1973 opus by Rick Wakeman, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. But we’re still left with enough titles to put together a nice six-record set.

The most successful, and maybe the best of the bunch, is one I’ve written about before: “Six Days on the Road” by Dave Dudley. Recorded in Minneapolis’ Kay Bank Studios in March 1963, “Six Days” spent two weeks at No. 2 on the country chart and went to No. 32 on the pop chart. The record, wrote Dave Marsh in 1989, had “about as much impact as any hit of the early sixties – it spawned a whole genre of truck driving songs that are not only the closest contemporary equivalent of the cowboy ballads of yore but have produced some of the best country records of the past thirty years.”

[Wikipedia notes: According to country music historian Bill Malone, “Six Days on the Road” was not the first truck driving song; Malone credits “Truck Driver’s Blues” by Cliff Bruner, released in 1940, with that distinction. “Nor is it necessarily the best,” said Malone, citing songs such as “Truck Drivin’ Man” by Terry Fell and “White Line Fever” by Merle Haggard and the Strangers as songs that “would certainly rival it.” However, “Six Days,” Malone continued, “set off a vogue for such songs” that continued for many years. “The trucking songs coincided with country music’s growing identification as working man’s music in the 1960s,” he said. Dudley “strikingly captures the sense of boredom, danger and swaggering masculinity that often accompanies long-distance truck driving. His macho interpretation, with its rock-and-roll overtones, is perfect for the song.”]

When Ringo Starr and producer Richard Perry put together the ex-Beatle’s 1973 release Ringo, the other three ex-Beatles stopped by at various times to offer songs and some help in the studio. Paul and Linda McCartney offered the song “Six O’Clock” and hung around to record background vocals, while Paul wrote the arrangement for the strings and flutes and then sat down at both the piano and the synthesizer, adding a solo on the latter that hangs around in one’s ears long after the very catchy track is over.

The Association was a pretty mellow group (occasionally moving, as Bruce Eder of All-Music Guide notes, “into psychedelia and, much more rarely, into a harder, almost garage-punk vein”), so when “Six Man Band” starts coming out of the speakers, those few bars of growling guitars that follow the light percussion opening make one take note. Soon enough, the record mellows, but those guitars keep popping up, alternating with the stacked vocal harmonies. The record label credits the group as producers, but that only shows how much the Association learned from Curt Boettcher. The record, detailing in vague allusions the joys and hassles of being on the road, hit the Billboard Hot 100 in late August 1968 but only got as high as No. 47.

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart are perhaps better known as songwriters – their credits include “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” “Come A Little Bit Closer” and much of the Monkees’ catalog – than as performers. But between 1962 and 1969, they put ten singles in or near the Hot 100 (and Hart had a solo single bubble under at No. 110 in 1980). The best-known of the duo’s records is no doubt “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite,” which went to No. 8 in February 1968. They’re of interest today because the romantic lament “Six + Six” showed up as the B-side to “We’re All Going To The Same Place,” which bubbled under the chart for one week at No. 123 in November 1968.

All I know about the Apostles, I learned at the blog Funky Sixteen Corners, which is where my pal Larry spins his records. Back in 2006, Larry noted that all he knew about the superb instrumental “Six Pack” was that it was from 1969 (and he could have added that it was released on Kapp, a fact made obvious by the label scan). He said, “Despite any religious connotations of the name Apostles, I’m betting that they weren’t following anyone spiritually besides the Meters. It starts out with a funky – but not overly exciting – bass line, so as the record begins you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, ‘I expect this 45 to provide an acceptable level of funk, but little else.’ Then, a few short seconds later, the guitar player drops in with some of the wildest, bell-bottomed, crazy-legged fatback guitar and knocks the whole thing for a loop.” Not quite a year later, a reader by the name of John Rogger left Larry a note: “[I]’m glad to see that someone other than myself likes the records my father produced! ‘Six Pack’ was a great hit for him, but the bigger hit was ‘Soulful’ on the first album he released with the band. . . . If you’re able to find it, listen to it. It’s a great song. It actually sold more than “Six Pack” did. . . .Thanks for finding stuff on my dad. It makes me happy since he wasn’t able to continue his dream and legacy due to the war. I still play his songs on the radio station I work at. It’s fun times for me. . . . The Apostles was a rock and roll band formed from the Renegades that my dad was in charge of in the ’60s in St. Louis. He did a lot back then for music. Now he does real estate. Go figure!”

Candi Staton has showed up here a few times, most recently in September, when her “Never In Public” caught my ear. This morning, it was her “Six Nights and a Day” that got my attention. The track showed up in 1974 on the album Candi, Staton’s first release on Warner Brothers after leaving the Muscle Shoals-based Fame label. Warner Brothers released “Six Days and a Night” as a single (Warner Bros. 8112 b/w “We Can Work It Out”) in 1975, but it didn’t show up in either the Hot 100 or the R&B Top 40. I seem to say this every time I run across one of Staton’s R&B sides, but it’s true: The record deserved better.

Preparing For The Storm

February 28, 2012

Here comes the snow!

Sometime this afternoon – around three o’clock, if the weather warnings are accurate – the snow will begin, and it’s not likely to end until sometime late Wednesday afternoon. After having only about eighteen inches of snow fall all winter, we’re about to get hit. The forecasters say that we’re likely to get between ten and thirteen inches here in St. Cloud.

Well, bring it on! We haven’t had a good snowstorm since, I think, the week of Christmas in 2009, when we were socked in for a couple of days. In any case, whether we have a legendary blizzard or just a big end-of-February snow, there were a few things that had to get done in preparation this morning. So I ran a few errands for my mom and then stopped at the nearby supermarket for some necessities and some extras for the Texas Gal and me.

I expect the Texas Gal to be home a little early today, and no doubt she’ll bring some work for tomorrow and maybe the next day, as I doubt we’re going anywhere until the driveway gets plowed. The earliest I’d expect that to happen would be mid-morning Thursday.

So, I’m thinking that it’s a good day for a song with “snow” in its title. I’d hoped to share Carole King’s “Snow Queen” as performed by her late 1960s group The City, but embedding of that tune seems to be disabled. (The tune and the rest of the City’s single album, Now That Everything’s Been Said, are worth checking out although the album’s availability as a new CD is spotty, and the CD can be expensive. The album is available as a download at Amazon.)

So I looked for other versions of the tune. The Roger Nichols Trio released a version of the tune as a single in 1968, but the track is pretty light-weight. (Confusingly, the same group is called Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends on its single album from 1968.) And I don’t much care for the version that King did on her 1980 album Pearl – The Songs of Goffin & King. Moving on, once I corrected a spelling error in the title, I found in my files the typically jazzy version by Blood, Sweat & Tears that showed up on 1972’s New Blood, but I was underwhelmed once again.

So I dug deeper and found that the Association recorded the tune for its 1972 album, Waterbeds in Trinidad, an effort that turned out to be the group’s last album, according to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. And that version of “Snow Queen” turns out to be pretty good. (With the vocals stacked Curt Boettcher-style and laid atop what sounded to me like an adventurous backing track, I heard echoes, actually, of Gypsy.)

Since we’ll be snowed in tomorrow, I think I’ll finally get around to writing about Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. Honest. As long as the storm doesn’t take down the cable and Internet.

As The End Of The Year Draws Near

August 5, 2011

Originally posted August 27, 2008

As August enters its last days, we’re coming to the end of another year.

Forget that December 31/January 1 stuff. That’s bookkeeping. For me – and for many, I think – the years turn over sometime during the first weeks of September.

During my school days, for thirteen years, the new year began on the day after Labor Day with the first day of school. For another six years – I went to college on the extended plan – the year began sometime in September when the fall quarter started. If I’d pondered that sense of timing at all in those days, I would have expected it to change when I went into the adult world. But it didn’t. Years still turned as August ended and September began.

Part of that was because of my work: Small town newspapers find so much of their content in the local schools that their calendars are tied to the schools’ calendars. In between my newspaper years, I went to graduate school and then taught and worked at several colleges and universities, so my life continued to be tied to a literal calendar that ran from September onward.

But it’s been more than ten years since I was a reporter. My day-to-day life has no connection with the schools, with colleges and universities, with the regular events that command the attention of reporters and editors. And still, it feels to me as if a year is ending in these few days. And it feels as if a new year is about to begin.

Maybe it’s conditioning from all those early years in school. Maybe it’s something so instinctive in the human mind, perhaps something tied to the harvest-time, that we’ve lost track of where it comes from. (It occurs to me that, if the perception of years turning at this time of year is innately tied to the harvest, folks whose forbears were native to the Southern Hemisphere would have a different perception. Anyone from those precincts have a thought?)

Whatever the reason, this time of year has always felt like a time of renewal and change. One such time, an August/September that stands out clearly (I know I’ve mentioned it before), came in 1969, when I spent daytimes of the last weeks of summer at football practice, lugging equipment and supplies around for the Tech Tigers and then hanging around the locker room, sharing ribald stories and the music that came from the training room radio.

In a way that very little else does, music marks our years. And here are some tunes that are markers for me from late August and early September of that year.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1969, Vol. 3
“Goodbye Columbus” by the Association, Warner Bros. 7265 (No. 95 on the Billboard Hot 100, August 23, 1969)

“Going In Circles” by the Friends of Distinction, RCA 0204 (No. 90)

“Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South, Capitol 2592 (No. 84)

“I’m Gonna Make You Mine” by Lou Christie, Buddah 116 (No. 66)

“Everybody’s Talkin’” by Nilsson, RCA Victor 0161 (No. 49)

“Keem-O-Sabe” by the Electric Indian, United Artists 50563 (No. 39)

“Share Your Love With Me” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic 2650 (No. 31)

“Marrakesh Express” by Crosby, Stills & Nash, Atlantic 2652 (No. 28)

“Soul Deep” by the Box Tops, Mala 12040 (No. 24)

“Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night, Dunhill/ABC 4203 (No. 18)

“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, Reprise 0829 (No. 11)

“Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy 625 (No. 7)

“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon, Imperial 66385 (No. 6)

A few notes:

I’ve always been surprised that “Goodbye Columbus” – the theme from the film of the same name – didn’t do better. The record peaked at No. 88 on September 6 and then fell off the chart.

“Everybody’s Talkin’” is one of those tunes that has a few different versions out there. It was used in the film Midnight Cowboy, and two different versions of it are on the official soundtrack. Neither of them sounds like the one I remember coming from my radio. The version here is from Nilsson’s 1968 album Aerial Ballet, and I think this was the version that got airplay as the single, which reached No. 6. I could be wrong. Anyone know?

“Keem-O-Sabe” was one of those instrumentals that occasionally popped up in the Top 40, and the thought occurs that it likely wouldn’t have a chance of doing so today, given changes in attitudes. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits notes that Electric Indian was actually a group of studio musicians from Philadelphia; some of them later were members of MFSB. The record peaked at No. 16.

I liked Kenny Rogers when he was with the First Edition; the group had four more Top 40 hits after “Ruby” peaked at No. 6. They were “Ruben James” and “Something’s Burning,” which I recall, and “Tell It All Brother” and “Heed The Call,” which I don’t. (I have “Heed The Call” but I don’t remember hearing it in 1970.) After those four, Rogers was absent from the Top 40 for seven years, until “Lucille” began his remarkable run of success as a country crossover artist, a string of tunes that didn’t interest me much.

I imagine that, if asked to pick the perfect CCR record, lots of folks would go with “Proud Mary.” Nothing wrong with that one, but something about “Green River” grabbed me the first time I heard that opening guitar riff, and it’s never let me go.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966, Vol. 3

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 21, 2008

One of the joys of music blogging is the occasional discussion that rises up, either here or at other blogs I visit. One of the questions that almost always sparks discussion is an attempt to identify the perfect single. I’ve joined in that conversation at several blogs over the past eighteen months, and my candidate for the perfect pop-rock single is always the same: “Cherish” by the Association.

It’s got a gorgeous melody, wonderfully glistening production (by Curt Boettcher, if I’m not mistaken), and its lyric tells a tale of unrequited love accepted sadly and with grace, probably far more grace than almost any of us could muster when faced with the reality that our beloved will never stand next to us.

I came to know the song in the autumn of 1966, when it was No. 1 for three weeks. It was a record that could not be avoided, even by those who were not particularly enamored of pop and rock. I liked it even though I had no real understanding of its lyric. That came three years later during my junior year. The young lady was kind but made it very clear that her interests were not congruent with mine. The next time I heard “Cherish,” I understood it much better.

It’s one of those songs perfectly crafted to provide teen-age solace: While so many songs about love embraced can be tabbed by happy young couples as “their” song, “Cherish” is one of very few records that a loving yet solitary young person could hold as his own, with the substance and eloquence of the lyric providing both consolation and the awareness – maybe for the first time – that love unreturned is not love in vain.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966, Vol. 3
“Cherish” by the Association, Valiant single 747

“Loving You Takes All Of My Time” by the Debonaires, Solid Hit single 102

“Can’t You See” by the Countdowns, N-Joy single 1015

“Hey Joe” by the Leaves, Mira single 222

“Sweet Wine” by Cream from Fresh Cream

“Must I Holler” by Jamo Thomas, Chess single 1971

“Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” by Lou Rawls, Capitol single 5709

“At the River’s Edge” by the New Colony Six, Centaur single 1202

“Searching For My Love” by Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces, Checker single 1129

“Stanyan Street, Revisited” by Glenn Yarbrough from The Lonely Things

“Cherry, Cherry” by Neil Diamond, Bang single 528

“Happenings Times Ten Years Ago” by the Yardbirds, Epic single 10094

“Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds, GNP Crescendo single 372

A few notes:

The Debonaires – mistakenly listed as the “Debonairs” when “Loving You Takes All Of My Time” was originally released – were Joyce Vincent Wilson and Telma Hopkins, two Detroit-area cousins, and a few other people who, according to All-Music Guide, have never been identified. The group released a number of records on a number of Detroit-area labels in the early to mid-1960s, but never had a single reach the Top 40. Wilson and Hopkins ended up performing with Tony Orlando as Dawn, beginning with Dawn’s second hit, “Knock Three Times” in 1970.

The Leaves’ version of “Hey Joe” may not be the first recording of the song – the song’s lineage is one of those difficult to trace – but it was the first version to chart, reaching No. 31 during the summer of 1966.

The New Colony Six was from Chicago, a decent group that ended up putting two records into the Top 40: “I Will Always Think About You” in 1968 and “Things I’d Like To Say” in 1969. A college friend of mine was from the Windy City and took every opportunity he could during beer-fueled evenings in Denmark to let us know how good the New Colony Six was.

I’ve written here a few times about my affection for two of Glenn Yarbrough’s mid-1960s albums: For Emily Whenever I May Find Her and The Lonely Things. I acquired the first of those on CD some time ago and found the latter online recently. “Stanyan Street, Revisited” is sentimental – with Rod McKuen providing the lyric, how could it not be? – and its production values are clearly more in line with traditional pop than with rock. But set aside irony and give it a listen.

This set ended up with some good garage-y sounds: the Countdowns, the Leaves, the post-Clapton Yardbirds and the Seeds. The Countdowns’ single didn’t chart, and – as noted above – “Hey Joe” went to No. 31. The Yardbirds’ single went to No. 30, and “Pushin’ Too Hard” reached No. 36.

Corrections and clarifications:
I got a note this morning from Patti Dahlstrom, who gently corrected a few errors in my piece on her fourth album, Livin’ It Thru, which I posted here a week ago. She wrote: “Though I did play piano on stage for a song or two, I never played on my records.” The keyboard parts on Livin’ It Thru, she said, came from Larry Knechtel, Michael Omartian, Craig Doerge and Jerry Peters. The credits listed at West Coast Music, which I used as a jumping-off point, are incorrect in listing Daryl Dragon as playing keyboards on the record; Patti said he arranged the background vocals.

She also answered two questions I had: First, the astounding harp solo on the track “Lookin’ For Love” was by Knechtel. And second, Jay Cooper, who was listed in the credits on the record jacket, is Patti’s attorney and has been since 1967, “a powerful man with great heart and integrity . . . quite an unusual combination.”

Edited slightly from original posting.

A Baker’s Dozen For Memorial Day 2008

June 29, 2011

Originally posted May 26, 2008

As I keep reading the same things in the newspapers and magazine and on the ’Net, and as I keep hearing and seeing the same things on television and radio as I did a year ago, it seems fitting to present here today the same things I did a year ago.

Maybe next year can be different.

“Requiem for the Masses” by the Association, Warner Bros. single 7074, 1967

“I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” by Phil Ochs from Rehearsals For Retirement, 1969

“War” by Edwin Starr, Gordy single 7101, 1970

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone” by Peter, Paul & Mary from Peter, Paul & Mary, 1962

“One Tin Soldier (Legend of Billy Jack)” by Coven, Warner Bros. single 7509, 1971

“Universal Soldier” by Buffy Sainte-Marie from It’s My Way!, 1964

”Masters of War” by Bob Dylan from Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1962

“Give Peace A Chance” by the Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon), Apple single 1809, 1969

“2+2=” by the Bob Seger System from Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, 1968

“Handsome Johnny” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag, 1967

“Bring The Boys Home” by Freda Payne, Invictus single 9092, 1971

“All The Young Women” by the Cuff Links from Tracy, 1970

“Bring ’Em Home” by Bruce Springsteen from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (American Land Edition) [live in Detroit, most likely], 2006

As I noted a year ago, times have changed enough since Freda Payne, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the Cuff Links recorded their songs that we now need to bring the girls home, and we need to grieve with all the young men who have lost loved ones. The Springsteen track is a different version than a year ago.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1966, Vol. 2

June 11, 2011

Originally posted January 30, 2008

Every once in a while, it seems, we go through a spasm of interest in UFOs in this country, and maybe throughout the world. I have a suspicion that with the wide reach of the Internet, those with an intense interest in UFOs gather together electronically – as do other groups of people with intense special interests – and so perhaps the general public no longer is as aware of those cyclical spasms of interest and/or activity. I know I don’t see or hear much about UFOs and their supposed occupants in the mainstream media but the few times I’ve dug into websites about the phenomenon, there are plenty of things reported as having happened, some of them quite recent.

I do think it’s cyclical, though. And I recall a local outburst of activity and/or interest in UFOs during the mid-Sixties. About sixty miles west of here is a little town called Long Prairie, a city of about 3,000 people. In 1965, something happened near there that made local radio news, and it might have been reported in the St. Cloud Daily Times although I don’t remember reading about it.

Here’s a summary from one of those UFO websites:

“From several ufological sources, more or less fragmentary, the case of Long Prairie, Minnesota, USA, on October 23, 1965, reportedly occurred as follow.

“The witness was James ‘Jerry’ F. Townsend, a 19 years old devout Christian and debutant radio host on KEYL of Long Prairie, and he was apparently a resident of that town.

“In that evening of October 23, 1965, he was driving in his model 1956 car, on Minnesota State Highway 27, from Little Falls to Long Prairie. He was 4 miles East of Long Prairie, going West, in the hilly landscape and had just looked at his watch and noted it was approximately 07:15 p.m.

“At that moment he arrived in a curve in the road, he said, when he saw an upright rocket-like object, silver colored, metallic looking, about 30 or 40 feet high and about 10 feet in diameter, blocking on the road, resting on the tips of three legs or fins.

“At that moment, his car engine stalled, the lights and radio went out, and he slammed on the brakes and the car skidded to a stop at only 20 feet in front of the object.

“His first thought was then to knock the object over with the car so he could have some evidence, but the engine was stalled. He tried to make it start again, but the choke did not respond. So he got out of the car with the idea of trying to push the object over by hand.

“He walked just past the level of the hood of the car, but did not go further, stopped short, fascinated by a quite stunning sight: he saw three small ‘creatures’ emerge from behind the object and line up at the front.

“Those creatures were in the shape of beer cans. They measured 6 inches tall, were of dark or brownish color, and were ‘walking’ awkardly on two ‘legs’ or ‘fins’. Whenever they stopped, a third ‘leg’ came down from their back and provided stability. They looked like tin cans on tripods. They also had three arms, ‘matchstick like’.

“Townsend saw no eyes, but he stood there staring at them and was convinced that they were watching him too. He did not [want] to approach more, and gave up the idea of rocking the ship down as something quite risky. There was no sound, just dead silence, and it seemed like ages to him, although he later evaluated the duration as some 3 minutes.

“Eventually, the little creature [sic] went up into the bright, ‘colorless’ light glowing out of the bottom of the ‘rocket’, and possibly up into the craft. A few seconds later, there was a loud hum, and the craft took off, reached a height he cautiously estimated as 400 meters up, where the light on the bottom went out, while his car radio, headlights and engine started without him touching the starter.

“He checked the ground where the craft had been, found no trace, and, his hearts [sic] pounding and his legs ‘like rubber’, he drove fast to the Todd County Sherif’s [sic] office, where he reported the events.

“Townsend said the Sheriff checked the site and found no trace. However, some sort of trace was reported, maybe found at a later check in daylight. From ufology sources, it appeared that Sheriff Bain and police officer Lavern Lubitz found three parallel strips of an oil-like substance, about four inches apart and a yard long, on the surface of the road. Sheriff Bain told reporters later: ‘I don’t know what they were, but I’ve looked at a lot of roads and never saw anything like them before.’

“Ufologist Coral Lorenzen heard by phone that Townsend had a good reputation, was not a drinker, and that he had been visibly frightened when he reported his experience. Reportedly, teachers and friends of Townsend were interrogated, and said he has a reputation for honesty.”

That’s a longer quote than I had planned to use, but I find the report fascinating (although I have no idea what a “debutant radio host” is). Maybe I’m fascinated because I remember the ruckus the account created back in 1965. I don’t know how adults reacted to it, but opinion was mixed among the kids. Many of my contemporaries said flat out – without knowing much more than bare bones – that the fellow had to have been drunk and seeing things. Me? I wondered. Even at the age of twelve, I knew that there were lots of things we did not know. Aliens from another planet, another dimension? Maybe.

It was about that time – maybe a year later, but in autumn – that St. Cloud residents for a few nights in a row called the local police and reported odd lights in the sky, moving in clusters but in no specific pattern. This one did make the local paper. And a few days later, a local teen explained.

He’d taken drinking straws, he said, and constructed a framework – a rough wheel with spokes – the same diameter as a dry cleaner’s plastic bag. He’d put the framework into the opening of the bag and secured it, then secured candles onto the straws that served as spokes. He’d light the candles and hold the bag up so it would not burn, and eventually, the hot air from the candles would lift the bag off the ground and send it on its way through the evening sky.

How cool was that! For the next two weeks or so, St. Cloud was home to many odd wandering lights every night as multitudes of kids went out and bought plastic straws and candles and cadged dry cleaner’s bags somewhere. Eventually, the fascination faded as the weather got cooler, and any wandering lights in the St. Cloud sky came from something other than juveniles and their evening science projects.

Not all that long after those events, most likely in the spring of 1968 (it could have been the previous autumn, but the trees were green and I seem to recall that they were budding), I got a ride to school from my mom one morning. As she turned off of what was then Tenth Street South (now University Drive) to head to South Junior High School, I saw something through the windshield as it passed over us and continued to go south, the direction we were heading. I saw it for maybe five seconds, and all I can say is I don’t know what it was. It was silver, and it had the classic saucer shape with a dome on it. In those brief seconds, it flashed toward the school and over it, low enough that the school building blocked it from my sight in, as I said, maybe five seconds.

Troubled, I got out of the car and headed into the school. One of my friends, Jerry, was at his locker, two down from mine. I opened my locker and put my books inside, then turned to Jerry. “Have you ever seen a UFO?” I asked him.

He turned to me, and the look on his face echoed how I felt. “Yeah,” he said. “About five minutes ago. It was over the Dairy Queen, heading this direction.”

There was never anything in the paper about it, and I still wonder what it was that Jerry and I saw.

And this all came to mind this morning when the first song of today’s Baker’s Dozen popped up.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966
“Mr. Spaceman” by the Byrds, Columbia single 43766

“You Ain’t Tuff” by the Uniques, Paula single 2315

“Strange Young Girls” by the Mamas & the Papas from The Mamas & the Papas

“Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo, Excello single 2278

“Big Mama’s Bumble Bee Blues” by Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band, unreleased until 1986

“Run For Cover” by the Dells, Cadet single 5551

“Love Attack” by James Carr, Goldwax single 309

“One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” by Bob Dylan from Blonde On Blonde

“Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, Capitol single 5676

“.44 Blues” by the Rising Sons, unreleased until 1992

“Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra, Reprise single 0470

“Along Comes Mary” by the Association, Valiant single 741

“Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond, Bang single 519

A few notes:

The Uniques were fronted by country star-to-be Joe Stampley, and, according to All-Music Guide, recorded some nice blue-eyed soul and Southern pop-rock, which makes “You Ain’t Tuff” – a garage-rocker – an anomaly in the group’s catalog. I found “You Ain’t Tuff” on one of the Nuggets compilations, where it fits quite nicely.

“Strange Young Girls” has intrigued me since I first heard it long ago. Among other things, it provides clear evidence that John Phillips and producer Lou Adler weren’t in the habit of working hard on the singles and giving less attention to the album tracks. It’s a beautiful yet haunting meditation on, as AMG says, “Sunset Strip street life, teenyboppers, and LSD.”

When you listen to “Shake Your Hips” – or any Slim Harpo record, for that matter – you hear one of the many influences that wound up making the Rolling Stones who they are. In this case, it’s more direct, as the Stones would up covering “Shake Your Hips” on 1972’s Exile on Main Street.

I mentioned the Bob Dylan recording, “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later),” in my comments some time back on songs with indelible introductions. More than thirty years after first hearing the song – I came to it late, in 1973 – I still get a little bit of that charge every time I hear it start. The credits at AMG for the album, Blonde on Blonde, list several more people than do the minimal liner notes on the CD I have. Based on the AMG list of keyboard players, I’d guess that the organist is The Band’s Garth Hudson. The piano? I’d guess Richard Manuel, also from The Band, but that’s iffier. Neither one is mentioned in the sketchy notes that accompany the CD, and based on those notes, I’d say it’s Al Kooper on organ and Pig Robbins on piano. Does anyone know for sure?

I guess “Good Vibrations” is an accurate representation of the Beach Boys circa 1966. It’s a nice piece of studio craft, but for some reason, I’ve never liked it very much. I would much rather have seen “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” pop up as the Beach Boys’ entry on this list.

The Rising Sons was an example of a great group in the wrong place at the wrong time. Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, the group had a single released – it went nowhere – before breaking up in 1966. But the group did manage to record more than an album’s worth of material, twenty-two tracks that were finally released in 1992. It’s fun stuff and great music.

Graffiti supposedly seen in the London Underground:

“To do is to be” – Descartes

“To be is to do” – Voltaire

“Do be do be do” – Frank Sinatra

A Baker’s Dozen For Memorial Day

April 22, 2011

Originally posted May 28, 2007

There’s not a lot to say today. I think these songs speak for themselves.

“Requiem for the Masses” by the Association, Warner Bros. single 7074, 1967

“I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore” by Phil Ochs from Rehearsals For Retirement, 1969

“War” by Edwin Starr, Gordy single 7101, 1970

“Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” by Peter, Paul & Mary from Peter, Paul & Mary, 1962

“One Tin Soldier” by Coven, Warner Bros. single 7509, 1971

“Universal Soldier” by Buffy Sainte-Marie from It’s My Way!, 1964

“Masters of War” by Bob Dylan from Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1962

“Give Peace A Chance” by John Lennon, Apple single 1809, 1970

“2+2=” by the Bob Seger System from Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, 1968

“Handsome Johnny” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag, 1967

“Bring The Boys Home” by Freda Payne, Invictus single 9092, 1971

“All The Young Women” by the Cuff Links from Tracy, 1970

“Bring ’Em Home” by Bruce Springsteen & the Seeger Sessions Band, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, June 23, 2006

(I should note that times have changed enough since Freda Payne, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the Cuff Links recorded their songs that we now need to bring the girls home, and we need to grieve with all the young men who have lost loved ones.)

One Part Bliss, Two Parts Agony

June 16, 2010

What is it that qualifies a record for my Ultimate Jukebox?

Well, it’s not universal acclaim, for there are few records that would qualify under so stringent a rule. I’d hazard that a few Beatles records might. (The 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Album Guide noted that “not liking the Beatles is as perverse as not liking the sun.”) I do have two records by the Beatles among the songs I’ll be featuring here, but they are, I guess, quirky picks and thus might not find unanimous support. And if Beatles records aren’t unanimous choices, I don’t know what records might be.

Obviously, the records highlighted here are songs that move me one way or another: Some of them make me want to dance (a sight not often granted to non-family members, which is good for the welfare of all). Some of them astound me musically. Some take me to other places and times, both good and ill, and some remind me that there were times when folks were making great music in many places before I was aware of it or even before I was born. And some of them tug on my emotions, bitter and sweet alike.

“Cherish” by the Association is one of the latter. It’s also a record that I once acclaimed as the perfect single or as near as one can get to a perfect single or something like that. And I still think it’s that good. So did a lot of people: Written by Association member Terry Kirkman and produced by the legendary Curt Boettcher, the record spent three weeks at No. 1 during the early autumn of 1966.

And “Cherish” is one of those relatively rare pre-1969 pop/rock records that broke through to me at the time of its release, during the years before I became an active Top 40 listener. Romantic that I was even at the age of thirteen, I’d had crushes, but I recall thinking as I sorted out the record’s lyrics that “Cherish” was describing something several magnitudes greater, a kind of worshipful enchantment that I thought – admittedly vaguely; I was thirteen – must be one part bliss and two parts agony at the same time.

When I finally got my own futile chance to truly cherish someone a few years later, I learned I was right. Even so, or maybe because of the formative memory, “Cherish” remains atop my all-time list:

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 21
“Yakety Yak” by the Coasters, Atco 6116 [1958]
“Cherish” by the Association, Valiant 747 [1966]
“Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin/Big Brother & The Holding Company, Columbia 44626 [1968]
“Going Up The Country” by Canned Heat, Liberty 56077 [1968]
“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, Reprise 0885 [1970]
“Dreams” by the Cranberries from Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? [1993]

“Yakety Yak” was one of the little playlets that writers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller put together for the Coasters and other R&B groups during the mid- to late 1950s. The genius of the song is having the tale told almost entirely from the father’s perspective; as I hear it, “Yakety Yak” is the only thing the kid gets to say. And that’s trumped every time by Dad’s “Don’t talk back!” Add to that a stellar saxophone solo by the great King Curtis, and it’s no wonder that “Yakety Yak” was a No. 1 hit, reaching that spot for a week on the Top 100 chart of the time, and topping that era’s R&B chart for seven weeks.

“Piece of My Heart,” which is almost entirely linked to Janis Joplin these days, was originally recorded by Erma Franklin, Aretha’s sister. Franklin’s R&B/soul version of the song did fairly well, making it to the Top Ten of the R&B chart and to No. 62 on the pop chart. Then Joplin and her backing band of the time, Big Brother & The Holding Company, got hold of the song and drenched it in acid. By the time Joplin and her band were done, the song was hers, though I think one can hear echoes of Franklin’s performance in Joplin’s work. The record was released as a single and went to No. 12 during the autumn of 1968.

When those of us of a certain age hear the opening riff to Canned Heat’s “Going Up The Country,” most of us, I’d wager, see the opening sequence to the 1970 documentary Woodstock, which tells the tale of the legendary three-day music festival of the previous summer. The use of the blues ’n’ boogie band’s anthem for the film was a brilliant idea, benefitting both film and band. Now, Canned Heat was hardly unknown at the time, as “On The Road Again” had gone to No. 16 in the autumn of 1968 and “Going Up The Country” had reached No. 11 as 1968 turned into 1969, but I’m sure that the group became far more visible as a result. In another vein, I still have fun demonstrating to music-attuned visitors the opening riff on the quills from Henry Thomas’ 1928 recording of “Bull Doze Blues,” clearly the source of the opening flute riff of “Going Up The Country.”

When my mind wanders to the topic of my favorite one-hit wonders, Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky” usually floats to the top of the pool fairly quickly. I like too many one-hit wonders to be able to sort out an utter favorite, but Greenbaum’s fuzz-drenched single – which went to No. 3 in the spring of 1970 – would certainly be one of the finalists. I’ve seen it lumped in at times with other hit songs of its era that actively promoted religion (see “Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean, as an example), but I don’t think “Spirit In The Sky” is quite as clear in its theology. Not that it matters when the guitar solo hits.

The shimmering and jangly “Dreams” remains an enigma to me. It’s not the lyrics, which tell a pretty straight-forward tale. Nor is it the music, per se. What still puzzles me is Dolores Riordan’s odd keening. Don’t get me wrong, I like it. But it’s such an odd sound – I like odd sounds, sometimes – that I sometimes wonder at the popularity of the Cranberries during the 1990s.  When I first heard the Cranberries sometime around 1993 – almost certainly on Minneapolis’ Cities 97 – I was intrigued but I figured I’d be part of a minority. If so, it was a substantial minority, as the Cranberries did quite well: The group’s debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, was a Top 20 album and “Dreams” made it to No. 42 in the Billboard Hot 100. After that, the three succeeding albums went to No. 6, No. 4 and No. 13 before 2001’s Wake Up And Smell The Coffee reached only No. 46. That’s a pretty good run; I won’t say “Dreams” is the best the group did in that run, but it is the track I like the best.