Posts Tagged ‘B.T. Express’

A Baker’s Dozen From 1974, Vol. 3

June 20, 2011

Originally posted March 24, 2008

I tend to read more than one book at a time. No, I don’t have two books in two hands and flip my head back and forth from volume to volume. I mean that I almost always have more than one book in progress and move back and forth between those books, depending on mood and circumstance. Along with The Shield of Time (mentioned the other day), I’m currently reading biographies of Roberto Clemente and Richie Havens and a book titled The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder, an account of how a New York murder in 1841 became a public sensation from which – evidently – follow all of the public sensations created by the crimes that fascinate us. Daniel Stashower’s thesis seems to be – I’ve not read far into the book – that the furor and frenzy in Manhattan following the murder of Mary Rogers is the civic predecessor of modern-day public reaction to all the so-called “crimes of the century,” over which our culture hovers like some bloated, moralizing and baleful vulture (my words, not Stashower’s).

As fascinating as that is, the book I’m moving through quicker than any other right now is Boom!, the look back at the Sixties written by former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw. Somewhere along the line, I said that the cultural whirlwind that we call the Sixties began with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Brokaw considers the Sixties closed with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, which is a reasonable stopping place. And his thesis, like that of many who have written before him, is that the Sixties are not really finished; they echo in today’s events and attitudes. (Though Brokaw’s thesis is not new, his book shines as a result of his clear and concise prose as well as the access he had to so many of the participants in the events under consideration.)

Indeed, if one wanted a confirmation that the events of the cultural era we call the Sixties have not gone away, all one needed to do was look at the front page of the Minneapolis StarTribune Saturday and today. The first of those stories noted that Sara Jane Olson of St. Paul had been released from a California prison after serving about six years for crimes committed in 1975 – a bank robbery that included a murder, and an attempt to bomb two police cars. The second story – today’s – reported that California authorities discovered that they had calculated Olson’s sentence incorrectly and she still has about a year to serve.

The link back to the Sixties, of course, is that in those days, Sara Jane Olson was known as Kathleen Soliah and was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical group that abducted heiress Patty Hearst in February of 1974 and committed other crimes both before and after most of its membership was killed when the house in which they took refuge burned down during a shoot-out with the Los Angeles Police Department in May 1974.

After the shootout/fire, Soliah, like Hearst and other members of the group, went back to the San Francisco area for some time. Soliah eventually moved to Minnesota, changed her name, married a doctor and raised a family under the name Sara Jane Olson.

When her identity was discovered as a result of a television show in 1999, I was working for a collection agency and was three years removed from reporting. Still, I was fascinated as I saw television coverage and read newspaper reports about the one-time radical turned doctor’s wife who’d hidden in St. Paul – right across the Mississippi River from my Minneapolis neighborhood – for more than twenty years. The reaction then to her arrest and now to her evidently mistaken and brief release make it clear that the Sixties – at least the Sixties of the SLA – are still with us, proving Brokaw’s thesis to be true in this case and, I am certain, in many more.

When the Symbionese Liberation Army brought itself into the news with its abduction of Patty Hearst, I was in Denmark. As with almost all things that took place in the U.S. during those nine months, it seemed as if I were seeing the kidnapping and all the rest of the news about the SLA through the wrong end of a telescope. Those of us in Fredericia knew things were happening – from the International Herald Tribune, from shared copies of the slender and expensive European editions of Time and Newsweek, and from conversation with our Danish friends, who translated coverage of events from Danish media. But out information was frequently old and sketchy.

By the time we students left Denmark on May 21, we knew there had been a shootout four days earlier but nothing more than that. I don’t think it was one of my first questions, but sometime during the forty-minute drive from the airport to my sister’s home the day I came home, I asked if Patty Hearst had been killed in the shootout. No, I was told. I nodded and went on to think of other things.

And as we think of other things, every once in a while the Sixties pop out of the box in which we try to store them neatly, and we’re reminded that the past is never really gone.

Here are some songs from the year the SLA burst into the headlines for the first time.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1974, Vol. 3
“It’s Out Of My Hands” by the Soul Children from Friction

“Willie & The Hand Jive” by Eric Clapton from 461 Ocean Boulevard

“Another Park, Another Sunday” by the Doobie Brothers, Warner Bros. single 7795

“When It’s Over” by Cold Blood from Lydia

“I’d Be So Happy” by Three Dog Night from Hard Labor

“Even A Fool Would Let Go” by Gayle McCormick from One More Hour

“Just Like This Train” by Joni Mitchell from Court & Spark

“Everything Good To Ya (Ain’t Always Good For Ya)” by B.T. Express from Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied)

“Lady Marmalade” by Labelle from Nightbirds

“Keep the Faith” by Mel & Tim from Mel & Tim

“Take Me To The River” by Al Green from Al Green Explores Your Mind

“Faithless Love” by Linda Ronstadt from Heart Like A Wheel

“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan & The Band from Before the Flood

A few notes:

461 Ocean Boulevard is regarded, I think, as one of Clapton’s great albums, coming after his drug-wracked retreat following 1970’s Layla. It’s a good album, but I hesitate to say it’s a great album, as there are just a few too many hollow spots. I love “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Please Be With Me” and “Let It Grow,” to name three. Unfortunately, the randomizer selected “Willie & The Hand Jive,” which to me is one of the album’s hollow spots.

Cold Blood, a great late Sixties group from the San Francisco area, was struggling by 1974 – as many acts were – to hold its audience, which to be unhappily honest, had never been that large to begin with. It titled its 1974 album after its lead singer, the attractive Lydia Pense, and then changed its name to Lydia Pense & Cold Blood by 1976. The move didn’t work, and the group faded into obscurity, remembered only by fans and collectors of Bay Area groups until the CD boom in the 1990s. The music’s still good.

Hard Labor was the last Three Dog Night album to reach the Top 20, and is better remembered as the source of two pretty good singles “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here” and “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)”. Overall, the band – especially the singers who had given Three Dog Night its character and identity – sounded tired.

Gayle McCormick had been the lead singer for Smith, the band that reached No. 5 in 1970 with an incendiary version of Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You.” When Smith didn’t reach the charts again, McCormick recorded two pretty good solo albums right away: her self-titled debut in 1971 and Flesh & Blood in 1972. One More Hour came in 1974, and wasn’t quite to the level of the earlier records. This may be the first version of “Even A Fool Would Let Go,” a tune written by Kerry Chater and Tom Snow. All-Music Guide lists McCormick’s version as being the earliest in its database, but that’s not entirely persuasive. Even if it is first, it’s far from the best – I’d put my vote to Levon Helm’s 1982 version. Still, McCormick had a good voice, and at least battled the song to a draw, I think.

“Lady Marmalade” is an Allen Toussaint song that Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink brought back to life in the film Moulin Rogue and on the charts, reaching No. 1 for five weeks in 2001. The original version by LaBelle – Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash – came out on Nightbirds in 1974, and a single edit went to No. 1 for a week in 1975. It was so much more fun learning French from the jukebox than it had been in a third-floor classroom.

This was pretty much a random selection – I skipped stuff that had been previously posted – until the last song, when I decided to take over the universe’s work. I think I mentioned this version of “Like A Rolling Stone” when I wrote about stellar pop-rock introductions. This opener isn’t the best – I’d likely give that nod to the original “Layla” still – but it’s one of the few beginnings to a rock performance that left my jaw hanging the first time I heard it. Recorded, I believe, in Los Angeles, the performance provides an extraordinary capstone to the document of Bob Dylan and The Band on stage together.

Thoughts On Soccer & A Long-Ago Look At Pelé

June 11, 2010

It’s one of the world’s great sporting events: Starting this morning and lasting through the final game July 11 at Soccer City in Johannesburg, South Africa, the quadrennial competition of the World Cup will take over much of the world’s attention.

In most of the world, of course, the sport is called “football.” We have our own version of football here, thanks, and when we think of it, we call the world’s beautiful game “soccer.” And we do think of it more and more these days with burgeoning youth and school programs, and a growing interest in professional soccer. There are many here who love the game, many more than there used to be, oh, thirty-some years ago.

Still, the predictions of some folks from thirty-some years ago have not come true. We were told that soccer would become the sport of all sports for us here in the United States, that our interest in baseball and our silly version of football would fade away and we could join the rest of the world at the grown-ups’ table.

It hasn’t quite worked that way, and I don’t think it ever will. As I noted above, however, there’s far more interest in soccer here than there used to be. There are, I suppose, many reasons, and a few – by no means all of them – come to mind:

First, we have the changing demographics of the United States, with more and more residents over the past thirty years coming to this country from the rest of the world – especially, I think, Latin America and Africa – and bringing their soccer balls with them.

Second, I see the search by parents for an autumnal athletic activity for their children that is less brutal than American football.

Third – and this one may be sketchy – in the past thirty years, there’s been a greater interest among Americans in genealogy, in knowing who our ancestors were and where they came from; along with that has come an interest in the cultures our ancestors left behind, and in almost all of those cultures, soccer is the major sport. I think that’s piqued our interests.

Fourth, the Internet has made it far easier than ever before for folks here in America to learn about the game, its history and its current state. It’s easy enough now for me to be a casual follower of the German Bundesliga, where I track the fortunes of the team called Werder Bremen, chosen because the city of Bremen lies within a hundred miles or so of Ostfriesland, the area that was home to two of my German ancestors who left there for the United States during the Nineteenth Century.

So the pundits of thirty years ago were partly right: Soccer here in the U.S. is a far more popular sport now than it was then. And coincidentally, considering the events taking place half a world away beginning today, it was thirty-four years ago this week that I saw Brazilian legend Pelé play a North American Soccer League (NASL) game at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium. Pelé was a member of the league’s New York Cosmos – later known simply as Cosmos – and led his team against the Minnesota Kicks on the sun-drenched evening of June 9, 1976.

The story – literally – began for me about six months earlier, when I was in the middle of my internship for the sports department of WTCN, an independent television station in the Twin Cities. One morning, my boss called me into his office and we had a long discussion about soccer. A NASL team in Denver – the Dynamos – had been bought by some Twin Cities businessmen and was coming to Minnesota. Why didn’t I get in touch with the team’s president and see if he could come in for an interview, and while I was at it, why not finds some members of the Twin Cities soccer community and get some reactions? There might even, he said, be a multi-part series in it.

A digression: There have been, in the thirty-four years since 1976, many lame nicknames bestowed on professional athletic teams in the U.S. None, not even the Orlando Magic or the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, have been as lame as the Minnesota Kicks. (Well, the Minnesota Fighting Pike of the Arena Football League come close.) And the team’s colors of orange and light blue? Well, it was the 1970s. (I believe that’s the Kicks’ Ace Ntsoelengoe in the orange and blue to the right.)

As I worked on my assignment, I never did find much of a soccer community in the Twin Cities. It was there, no doubt, but my reporting skills and contacts in the Twin Cities were both lacking at the time. I did, however, beat the rest of the Twin Cities sports media on one part of the story. Jack Crocker, the president of the Minnesota Kicks, agreed to meet me at the TV station for an interview. We talked for about twenty minutes – this was a few years before the days of reliable video tape, so it was recorded on 16mm film by one of the station’s cinematographers – about all aspects of the Kicks’ arrival in Minnesota, from the chances to have a competitive team to the prospects of the franchise succeeding as a business.

One of the larger news stories during the NASL off-season had been that of Pelé agreeing to play for the Cosmos. And as my conversation with Jack Crocker neared its end, I asked if the team’s schedule had been set yet. It had, he said, and it would be released in the next month or so. So I asked if by chance, the Cosmos was coming to Minnesota to give us a chance to see Pelé. He grinned. And he said, “I can’t say anything, but I think the smile on my face gives you your answer.”

My interview with Jack Crocker – including that disarming and revealing ending – got into the six-minute sports segment on our news show that evening. It might have even been the lead sports story, but after thirty-four years, I’m not entirely sure. But I am pretty certain that I was the first sports reporter in the Twin Cities to learn – even if it was implicitly – that Pelé and the Cosmos would play the Kicks that summer.

As it happened, for that summer and a few summers to come, Minnesota Kicks games were the cool place to be. The parking lot at the Met was huge, and tailgating was encouraged. The partying crowds were enormous. Still, I was able to get tickets for the Kicks’ game against the Cosmos, and three friends and I took our places among more than 50,000 others folks at the game that evening thirty-four years ago this week; it was the largest crowd to that point in the history of the NASL. I don’t recall the score of the game or even who won. I remember seeing Pelé run up the field, but I don’t know if he scored. But I was there, among a sea of fans wearing orange and light blue.

(The Kicks had a five-year run as a viable franchise, winning some division titles and playing once – that first season of 1976 – in the league’s championship game, where they lost 2-0 to Toronto Metros-Croatia. Starting in the fall of 1979, the team also played as an indoor team for two seasons. After the summer season in 1981, the franchise folded.)

And now, to bring some music into this, here are a few tunes pulled from the deeper portions of the Hot 100 for the week ending June 12, 1976, the week I saw Pelé play football.

Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free” was at No. 50 and would eventually get to No. 20, as well as to No. 1 on the R&B chart.

Here’s the album single version of the B.T. Express’ “Can’t Stop Groovin’ Now, Wanna Do It Some More.” The single edit was at No. 59 that week and peaked a week later at No. 52.

Crown Heights Affair’s “Foxy Lady” was sitting at No. 70 as of June 12, 1976. The record peaked at No. 49 six weeks later.

Finally, there’s a group listed Fool’s Rain on the Billboard list I have; the group was actually Fool’s Gold, which was Dan Fogelberg’s backing band. The record was “Rain, Oh, Rain,” and it was at No. 80 as of June 12, 1976. It peaked at No. 76 for two weeks as June turned into July.

We’ll see you tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

(Error in history of Minnesota Kicks corrected since first posting; B.T. Express video changed March 28, 2014.)