Posts Tagged ‘Bettye LaVette’

See You Tomorrow

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 27, 2009

I had planned to resurrect the “Tuesday Cover” for today, but that’s going to have to wait. I had a minor medical test done today, and along the way, the technician injected me with something that’s made me very woozy and wobbly.

Unhappily, I have no song with “woozy” in its title, and while “wobbly” brings up “Little Bear/Wobbly Cat Upton Stick Dance” by Eliza Carthy & The Kings of Calicutt, I think I’ll pass.

So we’ll give Bettye LaVette another chance to shine and see you tomorrow.

“Waiting For Tomorrow” by Bettye LaVette
From the Child Of The Seventies sessions, ca. 1973

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One More Trip Across ‘The Atsville Bridge’

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 26, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, when I posted versions by Crow and Gator Creek of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll,” I mentioned that as far as I knew, I’d never heard the Crow version, even though the band was from Minnesota and the record had made a small dent in the chart, reaching No. 52 in late 1970.

The post drew a comment from regular visitor Yah Shure, who said, in part:

“So, what rock was whiteray hiding under in 1970? 🙂 I heard the Crow version a lot on KRSI, and probably KQRS in the Twin Cities and bought the 45. But it didn’t fare well at the local top-40s. While KDWB aired it for a few weeks, WDGY, not surprisingly, shunned it altogether.”

And in the listing of radio stations lay the answer of why I had no recollection of the Crow version of the song. Yah Shure grew up in the western ’burbs of the Twin Cities, while I was in St. Cloud, seventy miles or so distant. At that time, up here in the hinters, we couldn’t get KQRS without connecting our radios to our television antennas. And KRSI, well, I’d never heard of it.

My Top 40 listening in those days – my senior year of high school – was KDWB from the Twin Cities during the day and then either WJON just across the railroad tracks or WLS from Chicago in the evening. So my only chance of hearing the Crow single was on KBWD, and I evidently didn’t.

Or maybe I did, once or twice. I don’t know. I obviously didn’t hear the song frequently enough for it to make an impression. But then, I’m sure I heard a lot of stuff one or two times over the years without really being impressed. And I cannot think of any song that I heard just once or twice and still remember.

So I’m not sure which rock it was that sheltered me from a pretty good single in the fall of 1970.

Anyway, as I also mentioned during that Saturday post two weeks ago, I found online and purchased a 45 of “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll” as recorded by the song’s composer, Jeff Thomas. (All four versions of the song – by Thomas, Crow, Gator Creek and Long John Baldry – use different punctuation, which I find odd and a little frustrating.) That record arrived last week, and I thought I’d go ahead and share it, along with a somewhat random sample of five other songs from 1970. (In other words, if a random selection doesn’t please me, I reserve the right to skip to another random choice.)

A Six-Pack from 1970

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll” by Jeff Thomas, Bell 941

“Piece Of My Heart” by Bettye LaVette, SSS International 839

“A Woman Left Lonely” by Janis Joplin from Pearl

“Temma Harbour” by Mary Hopkin, Apple 1816

“Lousiana Woman” by Swampwater from Swampwater

“You’re The Last Love” by Petula Clark from Blue Lady: The Nashville Sessions

Thomas does pretty well with his own composition, growling gruffly in front of an arrangement that was pretty standard for the time. I don’t think he quite nails the song as well as did Long John Baldry, but that’s not a disgrace. Thomas had a few other singles released on Bell, but none of them became hits.

Once Janis Joplin got hold of “Piece of My Heart” when she was with Big Brother & the Holding Company, she made it risky, at best, for anyone else to give a shot at recording the Bert Berns/Jerry Ragovoy song. Erma Franklin had recorded it before Joplin did and did it well, but Joplin’s 1968 performance in front of the ragged and acid-drenched backing of BB&HC made the songs hers. Nevertheless, two years later, Bettye LaVette gave it a shot. Her version is certainly less urgent than Joplin’s, and it’s not bad, but I’m not sure LaVette brings anything new to the song.

Speaking of Janis Joplin, I think her performance on “A Woman Left Lonely” is closer to the heart of Pearl, the album released after her death, than anything else. “Me and Bobby McGee” was the single, but I’ve thought since the first time I heard the album – I got it for graduation in the spring of 1971 – that “A Woman Left Lonely” was the best thing on the record. It still gives me chills.

Mary Hopkin – after being discovered by the Beatles and recorded for their Apple label – was prone to light, frothy and nostalgic singles: “Goodbye” and “Those Were The Days” were the hits. “Temma Harbour” is not quite so frothy and has a tropical lilt to it that I like, so it’s not nearly as wearisome as the other stuff. (Temma Harbour is located on the north coast of the Australian island of Tasmania.)

I don’t know a lot about Swampwater, but ­All-Music Guide notes that the group is better known as Linda Ronstadt’s backing group from the late 1960s. “Louisiana Woman” comes from the group’s 1970 album that was recorded for Starday/King but was unreleased at the time. It finally came out in 1995, making Swampwater another beneficiary of the mid-1990s rush to release stuff from the vaults. In this case, it’s worth it.

I first came across Petula Clark’s Blue Lady: The Nashville Sessions in a small suburban library during the brief time that the Texas Gal and I lived in the Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth. Intrigued, I took it home. As one might surmise, Clark went to Nashville in 1970 hoping to revitalize her career. I don’t think that any of the resulting tracks were released as singles; I know that the full package was finally released in 1995. It’s not rock, of course. It’s not even really country, despite the Nashville location. It’s pop, but it’s beautiful work, and it probably sounds better now that it would have then. “You’re The Last Love” has become a favorite of mine.

A Baker’s Dozen of Tomorrows

May 25, 2011

Originally posted December 14, 2007

I remember reading a piece – likely in the newspaper – about a linguistics professor who had taken it upon himself to determine the most beautiful word in the English language. I don’t recall when I read that, nor do I remember which university was involved, but I do recall that the professor concluded that the most beautiful word in the language was “cellar door.”

First of all, that’s two words. (It could be that the professor was considering sets of words.) Second, although the two words together do have a nice sound, words are more than sounds. Maybe as a linguist, one can separate the sound of the word from the meaning of the word, but as a writer, I can’t. And “cellar door” isn’t going to make the cut.

So what are the most beautiful words in the language? After all, if I’m going to quibble about someone else’s judgment, I’d better have some idea of my own, right? Well, I don’t have a Top Ten list, but I do have a couple of words. I think “home” and “tomorrow” top the ranks of English words.

Home, as poet Robert Frost noted, is our last refuge: the place where, when you go there, they have to let you in. We all need such a place. In fact, I don’t think it’s at all far-fetched to say that, whatever else we do with our lives, our main business here is seeking and creating a better refuge, a better place, a better home. In terms of pure sound, it’s a rather plain word, but its meaning makes “home” the sound of belonging somewhere. When we don’t have that, we ache, and when we find it, we are healed. How much better can one word be?

“Tomorrow” comes close. For someone as attuned to the past and as intrigued by memoir and memory as I am, it’s odd in a way that I didn’t select “yesterday” as one of my top two words. But as much as any of us might ponder yesterday and its lessons, we know all about it. And “tomorrow” brings the promise that things can change, that we can use yesterday’s lessons to make things better as they come to us. (Writing that sentence made me realize that there are two other very nice words to consider: “promise” and “change.” Well, another day, I guess.) Thinking about tomorrow is an act of optimism, it seems, maybe even an act of courage, even if all one is doing is putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

I had planned to rip and post an album today, but the Texas Gal is taking a day off from work and we have holiday preparations to make, so I will invest my time there. In the meantime, I got a note from a reader who asked for a specific song with the word “tomorrow” in its title, and that got me thinking. I’ll get back to “home” and “hope” and “promise” down the road, but for now, we’ll start with the requested song and go randomly from there.

A Baker’s Dozen of Tomorrows

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Glenn Yarbrough from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, 1967

“Tomorrow” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Uni single 55046, 1967

“Tomorrow and Me” by Mike Nesmith from And the Hits Just Keep on Comin’, 1972

“Till Tomorrow” by Don McLean from American Pie, 1971

“Tomorrow” by Fanny from the Fanny Hill sessions, 1972

“You’re My Tomorrow” by Richie Havens from Now, 1991

“All Our Tomorrows” by Joe Cocker from Unchain My Heart, 1987

“Love Me Tomorrow” by Boz Scaggs from Silk Degrees, 1976

“Goin’ Home Tomorrow” by Dr. John from Goin’ Back to New Orleans, 1992

“Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles from Revolver, 1966

“Waiting For Tomorrow” by Bettye LaVette from the Child Of The Seventies sessions, 1973

“Beginning Tomorrow” by Joy of Cooking from Castles, 1972

“This Time Tomorrow” by Sisters Love, Manchild single 5001, 1968

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

The Glenn Yarbrough track is a Bob Dylan song, one that Dylan wrote in 1962 or so but left unreleased until his second greatest hits album came out in 1971. Yarbrough’s was the first version I heard, and I like it pretty well, but over the years, I’ve come to value the version Dylan released in 1971, which came from a 1963 concert in New York.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock track has its place in history. It reached No. 23 in early 1968 and thus kept the West Coast group from being a One-Hit Wonder. The group’s only other chart entry was, of course, “Incense & Peppermints,” which reached No 1 for one week in 1967.

Once his time in the Monkees ended, Michael Nesmith put together a string of generally very good and sometimes great country rock albums, starting in the late 1960s and continuing through much of the 1970s. His 1972 release, And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, is likely the best of those.

Not long ago, I shared Fanny’s version of the Beatles’ “Hey Bulldog.” The track “Tomorrow” comes from the same sessions.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” was one of John Lennon’s first excursions into tape-loop and odd sound psychedelic experimentation, a track that startled first-time listeners to Revolver when it came on after the Motown-influenced horns of “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

As regular readers might know, Joy of Cooking is one of my favorite relatively obscure bands of the 1970s. “Maybe Tomorrow” is one of the best tracks from Castles, the Berkeley-based band’s third and final release.

I’ve written about Sisters Love before, when I posted their cover of “Blackbird.” “This Time Tomorrow” is a sweet piece of pop soul.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 28, 2007

I’ve been staring at the songs included in today’s Baker’s Dozen for a few minutes now, trying to think of what to say about 1962. I have a few vague memories of the year, but the only thing I clearly remember was that President John Kennedy was scheduled to visit St. Cloud that October. His visit was planned in support of a local Democrat who was running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The president canceled. I recall being disappointed, but I don’t remember what forced the cancellation (although I do have vague memories of snow on the ground that day). I found an answer this morning. According to a page at the American Presidency Project, an archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara that has a seemingly extensive online presence, Kennedy’s October 7 trip to St. Cloud was canceled due to inclement weather. Instead, the president spoke by telephone from Minneapolis to a Democratic rally in St. Cloud.

As that’s not a lot to support any kind of discussion of 1962, let’s go the library and find out what people were listening to that year. Here’s a list of the No. 1 hits from the year:

“Peppermint Twist – Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters
“Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler
“Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel
“Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” by Connie Francis
“Johnny Angel” by Shelley Fabares
“Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley
“Soldier Boy” by the Shirelles
“Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles
“The Stripper” by David Rose from the film The Stripper
“Roses Are Red (My Love)” by Bobby Vinton
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva
“Sheila” by Tommy Roe
“Sherry” by the Four Seasons
“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers
“He’s A Rebel” by the Crystals
“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Four Seasons
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes

That’s not an entirely awful list. In fact, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be when I began paging through the year’s entries in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Still, any year in which Shelly Fabares, Connie Francis and Bobby Vinton can all reach the top of the chart . . . well, that’s not a very good year.

Leaving aside the novelty of “Monster Mash,” the oddest entry on the list has to be “Stranger on the Shore,” the lilting clarinet instrumental by Britain’s Mr. Acker Bilk. But then, the occasional odd instrumental – “The Stripper” falls there, too – is almost a tradition on the Top 40 chart. I think of 1972’s “Popcorn” by Hot Butter (No. 9), “Keem-O-Sabe” by the Electric Indian in 1969 (No. 16), 1962’s own “Midnight In Moscow” by Kenny Ball (No. 2) and Ferrante & Teicher’s 1969 release of the theme to the film Midnight Cowboy (No. 10). And those are just the ones that came quickly to mind.

That list of No. 1 songs make it very clear that 1962 was a far different musical world. But, even when keeping in mind that pop and rock music was still clearly a singles medium, the list of 1962’s top albums gives one pause:

Holiday Sing Along With Mitch by Mitch Miller & the Gang
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Henry Mancini
West Side Story soundtrack
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles
Peter, Paul & Mary by Peter, Paul & Mary
My Son, The Folksinger by Allan Sherman
The First Family by Vaughn Meader

If the singles from 1962 show a different world, then the albums – with the exception of the Ray Charles and, I guess, the Peter, Paul & Mary – show an entirely different universe. But two events that took place on September 15, 1962, however, showed that the universe was about to change:

On that day, the Billboard chart showed the first appearance on the Top 40 of the Beach Boys, with “Surfin’ Safari,” a single that peaked at No. 14. On the same day, the British label Parlophone signed to a recording contract a Liverpool quartet called the Beatles.

As to the world at large, there were also hints of changes to come. On July 10, AT&T’s Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite, went into orbit, and thirteen days later, it relayed the first live trans-Atlantic television signal.

And that’s where we’ll begin our songs from 1962, with “Telstar,” which turned out to be the last No. 1 single of the year.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1962
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes, London single 9561

“House of the Risin’ Sun” by Bob Dylan from Bob Dylan

“Oh, Lonesome Me” by Ray Charles from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (Vol. Two)

“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” by Bobby Vee, Liberty single 55521

“The One Who Really Loves You” by Mary Wells, Motown single 1024

“Stone Crazy” by Buddy Guy, Chess single 1812

“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists single 431

“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic single 2198

“Blue Guitar” by Earl Hooker, Age single 29106

“That’s No Way To Do” by Pink Anderson, from Carolina Medicine Show Hokum and Blues with Baby Tate

“What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” by Timi Yuro, Liberty single 55469

“I Found A Love” by the Falcons, LuPine single 1003

“The Stripper” by David Rose, MGM 13064, from the soundtrack to The Stripper

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

“Oh Lonesome Me” comes from the second of Ray Charles’ two volumes of country and western music. Backing country songs with horns, strings and a background choir that sounds pretty saccharine today was revolutionary in 1962, and – I think – was the beginning of a trend that today finds the difference between country and pop pretty well gone except for the occasional insertion of a fiddle break. Even without their historical significance, the two Modern Sounds . . . albums are worth finding simply for Brother Ray’s extraordinary vocals.

“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” which went to No. 3, is one of the better records by Bobby Vee, who reached the Top 40 fourteen times between 1960 and 1968. Vee’s career is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, he got his first big break in February of 1959, after Buddy Holly’s plane crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly’s place on the tour’s next stop – Fargo, North Dakota – was filled by what Wikipedia terms “a hastily-assembled band” called Bobby Vee and the Shadows. The other intriguing thing to me is Vee’s 1972 album, a pretty good singer-songwriter/folky release called Nothing Like A Sunny Day that he released under his birth name of Robert Velline. (As he lives in the St. Cloud area, I’ve been tempted for a while to look Vee up and see if he’ll autograph my copy for me.)

Ferrante & Teicher’s version of “Smile” barely reached the charts, hitting No. 93 in a two-week stay on the Cash Box charts. The song’s melody was written by Charlie Chaplin and used as the romance theme for his film Modern Times in 1936. (The film marked the last appearance of Chaplin’s Little Tramp character.) In 1954, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to Chaplin’s composition and gave the song its title.

Earl Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1929 and was a cousin of blues legend John Lee Hooker. After “Blue Guitar” was released as a single by Age records in 1962, Muddy Waters used it as the backing for his recording of “You Shook Me,” making Earl Hooker the only slide guitarist besides Waters to ever appear on a Muddy Waters record. (Water’s record was released as Chess 1827.)

Carolina blues performer Pink Anderson is one-half of the answer to one of rock’s great trivia questions: How did Pink Floyd get its name? According to several sources, Syd Barrett noticed the names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council in the liner notes of a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller album.

When you listen to “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You),” pay attention to the drums. When the producer for Yuro’s session bailed for some reason, Phil Spector was brought in. And the drums sound like the work of Hal Blaine to me.

Bettye LaVette Covers Dolly Parton

May 17, 2011

Originally posted October 18, 2007

It seemed like a good idea to look at some Bettye LaVette today, so I wandered around YouTube this morning, getting sidetracked occasionally, finding stuff by Stephen Stills and Manassas and a great live performance of “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane.

Eventually, I got myself focused and found a performance LaVette did for a Belgian television network in November of 2005. It’s a firey performance of “Little Sparrow,” a Dolly Parton tune that LaVette included on her 2005 album, I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise.

[The video I originally posted has been deleted. This appears to be the same performance; if not, it’s just as good.]

A Baker’s Dozen from 1972, Vol. 2

May 17, 2011

Originally posted October 17, 2007

It was in early 1972 that I began my slide into an addiction that persists to this day. Just like in the songs and the movies, it was because of a woman. And an older woman, at that.

I was a college freshman. She was a sophomore. And the addiction was coffee.

It was about midway through my first year of college, and I stopped one Friday morning to say hi to the secretaries in Headley Hall, the building where I’d worked briefly as a janitor the summer before. As I chatted with Ginny – who wasn’t all that much older than I was – her new part-time assistant, a student, came to her desk with a question. Ginny introduced me to Char, a sophomore. She smiled, I smiled, she went back to work and I said goodbye to Ginny and went off to class.

My plans for that weekend were more elaborate than usual. I still lived at home, but two or three times during that first year of college I spent a weekend staying with friends in one of the dorms on campus. We’d hang around the dorm or hit some parties Friday night, recuperate on Saturday, and do the same thing Saturday night and generally act like college kids. The weekend would start as soon as I finished my two-hour stint as a janitor in the Business Building that afternoon. I’d head from there to my dad’s office in the library, grab the overnight bag I’d left there that morning, and then walk to the dorm where Rick and Dave lived.

As I headed down a staircase in Stewart Hall toward the tunnel to the Business Building, I heard a voice greet me. It was Char, the young lady I’d met that morning. We talked for a few minutes and then she asked what my plans were for the weekend. I told her I was staying on campus, and then – emboldened by who knows what – asked if she wanted to hang around with me and with my friends that evening. She agreed. So we spent a good chunk of time with each other that evening, and we spent an hour or so talking and cuddling in a little lounge in her dorm Sunday afternoon. I called her Monday evening, and for the next few months, we saw each other frequently.

One evening after a movie, we stopped to have something to eat. I ordered a soda to go with my food, and Char ordered coffee. Looking back, we were both kids, of course, but to me, as we sat there, she seemed so much more adult sipping her coffee than I did slurping Coke through a straw. That thought stayed with me, and the following Monday, when I had an hour to kill at the student union before heading off to sweep floors at the Business Building, I took a cup of coffee to my table.

About two months later, Char and I went different directions, which saddened me. But I was young, and after some grieving, there was always the prospect of someone new on the next stairway. So I walked on.

And more than thirty-five years later, I’m still drinking coffee.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1972, Vol. 2

“Heart of Gold” by Bettye LaVette, Atco single 6891

“Soft Parade of Years” by Dion from Suite For Late Summer

“Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul, Philadelphia Int. single 3521

“All Down The Line” by the Rolling Stones from Exile On Main Street

“Woman’s Gotta Have It” by Bobby Womack, United Artists single 50902

“Gypsy” by Van Morrison from Saint Dominic’s Preview

“(I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes” by The Band from Rock of Ages

“Nobody Like You” by Bread from Baby I’m-A Want You

“Harvest” by Neil Young from Harvest

“Hold On This Time” by Fontella Bass from Free

“Both Of Us (Bound To Lose)” by Manassas from Manassas

“Cry Like a Rainstorm” by Eric Justin Kaz from If You’re Lonely

“Hearsay” by the Soul Children, Stax single 119

A few notes on some of the songs:

Bettye LaVette’s standout cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” was part of Atlantic Records’ attempt to make LaVette the star she likely should have been. Recorded in Detroit, where she’d recorded earlier in her career, the record tanked, as did a single recorded in Muscle Shoals later that year. After that, Atlantic pulled the plug on LaVette’s album Child of the ’70s, which was finally released – with extra tracks – not all that long ago by Rhino. It’s worth finding. (Thanks to Red Kelly at The A Side for the info and the tip.)

I do recall hearing Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” at least once while sipping a cup of coffee in the student union. It would have been in the fall of the year, though, when Paul’s record was No 1 for three weeks and was almost inescapable. It’s still a great record. (Billy Paul isn’t quite a One-Hit Wonder, as he reached No. 37 with “Thanks For Saving My Life” in the spring of 1974. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one.)

The more I listen to “All Down The Line” and the tracks that surround it, the more certain I am that Exile On Main Street is the best album the Rolling Stones ever recorded and almost certainly one of the best five albums of all time.

“(I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes,” which Chuck Willis wrote and took to No. 24 in 1958, was one of The Band’s perennial concert favorites. This version comes from Rock of Ages, the live recording of a New Year’s Eve performance at the end of 1971, with horn charts put together for the event by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint. The album is a great one, and it’s available in an expanded version that includes ten bonus tracks, including three tracks with Bob Dylan.

“Cry Like A Rainstorm,” done here by its writer, Eric Kaz, is more familiar in versions by Bonnie Raitt on Takin’ My Time from 1973 and by Linda Ronstadt on Cry Like a Rainstorm – Howl Like the Wind in 1989.

The Soul Children’s “Hearsay” is just a great piece of Stax music.

A Baker’s Dozen On Atlantic

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 25, 2007

I had an album ripped and ready to go this morning, but as I was researching it, I learned that it is no longer out of print; it’s been re-released on CD. That’s a boundary I try to keep, not posting entire albums that are in print, so I ditched the rip I had planned.

Then I sat there and looked at the pile of albums I have in my “To Rip” pile. I sneezed a few times, as there is some kind of pollen roaming around right now that does not like me. I looked at my list of household chores waiting for me. And I decided I’d move my Baker’s Dozen from Wednesday to today and let Wednesday worry about itself when we get there.

So, without any back story or anything else, here’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while: A random Baker’s Dozen of singles on the Atlantic label. If I had more energy, I’d write about the Atlantic label, but I really don’t think I need to go into detail about the influence and importance of the label to American popular music. If you’re unfamiliar with the label and its history, there are any number of useful anthologies available with pretty good liner notes. (A note: In my filing system, if I have an entire album in the RealPlayer, then all songs from that album are listed under the album name, even those that were released as singles. So some favorites won’t have a chance to pop up.)

So let’s see what we get:

“It Tears Me Up” by Percy Sledge, Atlantic 2358, 1966

“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic 2909, 1972

“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by Robert John, Atlantic 2846, 1972

“Since I Met You, Baby” by Ivory Joe Hunter, Atlantic 1111, 1956

“Whatcha Gonna Do” by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, Atlantic 1055, 1955

“I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, Atlantic 89877, 1983

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait” by Major Harris, Atlantic 3248, 1975

“Too Weak To Fight” by Clarence Carter, Atlantic 2569, 1969

“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic 2198, 1962

“Drown In My Own Tears” by Ray Charles, Atlantic 1085, 1956

“A Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals, Atlantic 2493, 1968

“Dancing Queen” by ABBA, Atlantic 3372, 1977

“See Saw” by Aretha Frankilin, Atlantic 2574, 1968

A few notes on the songs:

One surprise here is Wilson Pickett’s version of “Mama Told Me Not To Come,” the Randy Newman tune that Three Dog Night took to No. 1 in 1970, two years before Pickett recorded it. It seems an odd choice for Pickett, but keep in mind that he also recorded “Hey Jude” not long after the Beatles released it and nailed it.

Robert John’s version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” pales when compared to the Tokens’ 1961 version, which was itself a revision of a recording by the early folk group the Weavers. The Weavers, in turn, had gotten the song from a recording by African Artist Miriam Makeba. The song’s origins, according to Dave Marsh in The Heart of Rock and Soul, date to the 1930s, and the chain from Makeba to Robert John is a modern version of the way folk music used to evolve from region to region and from era to era.

“Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” the Major Harris tune with its racy-for-the-times cooing and moaning ran here a while back in a Baker’s Dozen from 1975. But it’s too much fun not to run it again.

I won’t say it was the first time I ever heard the recording, but the first time I really paid any attention to Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You, Baby” was when I heard it in the soundtrack to the 1987 movie The Big Town. Set in a mythical late 1950s, the movie – starring Matt Dillon and Diane Lane – is a noir-ish tale of a young gambler come to the big city with all its perils. The soundtrack, which featured Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash, the Drifters, Little Willie John and a few others Fifties artists, was superb.

ABBA’s music is often derided as “just pop.” Well, it may be pop, but it’s great pop, and there are few moments in 1970s music as recognizable as the gorgeous piano glissando that kicks off “Dancing Queen”!

A Baker’s Dozen From 1973

April 21, 2011

Originally posted May 23, 2007

Well, with today’s Baker’s Dozen, we plug a hole in the trail of years that’s been sitting there for a while. We’ve been back as far as 1967 and forward as far as 1979. (We’ll head further yet in either direction, and I imagine we’ll also begin repeating some years; there are plenty of tunes yet to hear.) The entire time, however, I was aware that I hadn’t touched on one of my favorite years: 1973.

Looking back, some years just stand out, poking their heads high above the others in the field of memory. For me, one of the tallest years in that field is 1973. It started during my second year of college, an academic year in which I began to find myself academically, to understand how to study and how to learn in college, skills that, quite honestly, I’d not needed to be able to succeed in high school. Along about the same time, I began to find friends, kindred spirits gathered around a long table at the student union. And I began to prepare myself for an academic year overseas, my junior year in Fredericia, Denmark, beginning that autumn.

My going to Denmark was almost an accident. A friend had seen an announcement in the college newspaper about an informational meeting concerning the planned year in Denmark. She had a commitment that evening and asked me to go and take notes. I went to the meeting and went to Denmark; she didn’t. I say “almost an accident” because there really are no accidents in our lives. We end up where we are supposed to end up, no matter how crooked the path may have been.

I’d never been away from home before, and I spent many nighttime hours that spring and summer sitting at the window of my room, looking out at the empty intersection below, wondering what I would find. And I was still wondering on the eve of my twentieth birthday as I walked away from Rick and my family and boarded a Finnair jet for Copenhagen with more than a hundred others from St. Cloud State.

So what did I find? Well, that’s a book in itself. In fact, one of the projects that captivates me these days is based on my journal of that academic year. I’m transcribing the daily entries and then writing anything else I recall about the day, and much more happened than I wrote down, both small events and large. (I have many of the letters that I wrote home to my family, and those, too, will become part of the project.) As clichéd as it sounds, I began to find myself, began to figure out how I fit into my skin and how I fit into the universe. And as I learned those things, I changed.

We’re all in the process of changing, in tiny increments from day to day. It’s not often any of us get a chance to assess in one moment the change that has accumulated over a longer period of time. So it turned out that one of the most fascinating moments of the entire eight-and-a-half months I was gone took place at the very end, in May 1974, the day I came home. Back in St. Cloud, looking forward to a home-cooked steak dinner (I don’t believe I’d had a beef steak during the entire time I was gone; horse, yes, I think, but no beef), I lugged my two suitcases upstairs, heading to my room.

I stopped in the doorway. There, on the door and the closet door, were my NFL pennants. The walls were decorated with Sports Illustrated covers featuring the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota North Stars and with sports logos of my own design, for teams that existed only in my imagination. And above the bulletin board, in a place of honor, was a large picture of Secretariat blowing the field away in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

I stared at the room, mine for seventeen years. And the thought that came to mind as I set the suitcases down in the doorway, looking at the things that had been so dear to me less than a year earlier, was “That kid didn’t come home.”

And here are some songs from the year that kid left:

“Prairie Lullaby” by Michael Nesmith from Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash

“All The Way From Memphis” by Mott the Hoople from Mott

“Your Turn To Cry” by Bettye LaVette from Child of the Seventies

“Six O’Clock” by Ringo Starr from Ringo

“Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings from Band on the Run

“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder from Innervisions

“California On My Mind” by Tony Joe White from Home Made Ice Cream

“We Are People” by Oasis from Oasis

“The Wall Song” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby

“Better Find Jesus” by Mason Proffit from Rockfish Crossing

“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road, Kama Sutra single 569

“Junkman” by Danny O’Keefe from Breezy Stories

“The Hard Way Every Time” by Jim Croce from I Got A Name

Some notes about some of the songs:

“Prairie Lullaby” was the closer to Mike Nesmith’s Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash, a stellar country-rock album that’s largely forgotten these days. Nesmith, of course, was one of the Monkees, no doubt the most talented of the four, and the country-rock tone of this 1973 record fits in nicely with most of the work he did after leaving the TV-inspired group.

“All The Way From Memphis” was the crunchy and soaring opener to Mott, Mott the Hoople’s follow-up to All The Young Dudes the year before. As All-Music Guide notes, glam never sounded as much like rock as it did on Mott.

The juxtaposition of two songs by ex-Beatles amused me. The albums they came from, arguably two of the three or four best post-breakup albums by any of the Beatles, were released in December. “Six O’Clock,” from Ringo’s best solo album, was written by McCartney, who plays piano and synthesizer on the song – and adds backing vocals with his wife, Linda – while long-time Beatle pal Klaus Voorman plays bass.

The Oasis of “We Are People” is a one-shot project by Detroit-area musicians Joel Siegel and Sherry Fox, who – along with Richard Hovey – went to San Francisco and managed to talk their ways into the studio where David Crosby was recording his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. Stunned and intrigued by the trio’s music, the amused Crosby helped the trio land a contract with Atlantic, but the resulting album never got released. Siegel and Fox recorded Oasis in 1973, but that went nowhere, if it even was released. I’m not certain, as one has to read between the lines in the various accounts of the trio’s experiences. (The trio’s entire output – the Atlantic album, Oasis and various other projects, were finally released in 1993 on Retrospective Dreams, a two-CD set that was, for some reason, limited to only a thousand copies.)

Danny O’Keefe is better known for his 1972 hit “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” but his Breezy Stories album benefited from assistance from such luminaries as Dr. John, Donny Hathaway, David Bromberg and Cissy Houston, to name the best-known. It was a pretty good piece of pop rock/singer-songwriter work, pretty representative of its time.