Posts Tagged ‘Big Head Todd & The Monsters’

Sorry, Not Today

May 17, 2022

Originally posted August 26, 2009

A Six-Pack of Tomorrows
“Today Was Tomorrow Yesterday” by the Staple Singers from “City in the Sky” [1974]
“Tomorrow’s Going To Be A Brighter Day” by Jim Croce from “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” [1972]
“Getting Ready For Tomorrow” by Johnny Rivers from “Changes” [1966]
“Tomorrow Never Comes” by Big Head Todd & the Monsters from “Sister Sweetly” [1993]
“After Tomorrow” by Darden Smith from “Darden Smith” [1998]
“Beginning Tomorrow” by Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite from “The Joy” [1977]

The Video Standings

April 2, 2021

Over the years, I’ve made more than 370 videos for this blog. My first, slapped together not too carefully ten years ago, back in April 2011, was of Al Hirt’s 1963 track “I Can’t Get Started.” It’s been viewed 154,120 times since then, not bad for a bit of pop jazz.

I don’t often make videos anymore. There are two reasons: First, it’s getting very rare for a record that has even the slightest bit of notoriety to not show up on YouTube. It happens, most often, for records that have a one- or two-week presence in the lower portions of the charts, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to. The main reason I starred putting together videos ten years ago was because I could not find good videos – meaning first, with decent sound, and second, with some pleasing visual aesthetic – of the tunes I was writing about. That’s no longer the major concern it was ten years ago.

The second reason I’ve not messing with videos any more is that the video-making software that came along with my new computer last summer is kind of clunky, not as intuitive as the software I’d used on the previous computer. If making vids were as important to me now as it was, say, five years ago, I’d buy a better program, as I have done for apps to rip and sort CDs and to record musical notation. But it’s not worth it.

Anyway, to get back to what I was doing. I thought, as the ten-year anniversary of my video-making approaches – the actual date will be Monday – that I’d note which of my vids have been the most popular over the years.

The most popular, by far, is the merger of two pieces by Bill Conti from the soundtrack of the original Rocky, from 1976. “Going The Distance” is the music that undergirds most of the championship fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, and “The Final Bell” is the triumphant set of themes that runs under the climactic final scene of the film. Playing them one after another – they’re separated by numerous tracks on the official soundtrack release – only made sense to me. And it seems to make sense to lots of others, too. As of this morning, the video has received 6,445,134 views in not quite three years. Nearly 39,000 folks have liked it, but about 1,500 folks have given it a thumbs-down.

Second place in my video derby goes to “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, the second video I made and uploaded in April 2011. So, longevity no doubt plays a part in the piece having gathered 2,116,503 views as of this morning, with some 602 folks unaccountably not liking the vid. (Maybe my very simple visual style – generally a picture of the album cover, no more – disappoints some folks.) As to the video’s popularity, that, I think, has to be credited to the sweet slow story of the 1993 song. As I wrote almost ten years ago:

Every generation finds its own versions of universal truths and tales, and “Bittersweet” is one generation’s version of the thought that even if you get what you dreamed of, you might find that it wasn’t what you really wanted.

Coming in next in the video derby is Long John Baldy and “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” from 1971’s It Ain’t Easy, with the shaggy dog story of Baldry’s long-ago arrest in London followed by one of my favorite tracks of all time. Altogether, 930,406 folks have viewed it, and somehow, 323 folks didn’t like it. Perhaps those are the same folks who insist in the comments that the rocking piano part on the track is played by Elton John (who produced half of It Ain’t Easy), when the album’s credits make it clear that it was Ian Armitt at the keyboard.

Here’s the rest of the Top Ten:

“Theme From Summer Of ’42” by Michel Legrand (833,375)
“Nantucket Sleighride (Live)” by Mountain (500,398)
“Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne (499,913)
“Tangerine” by Eliane Elias (477,334)
“Misty” by Richard “Groove” Holmes (430,465)
“Wind Up” by Jethro Tull (355,688)
“Ballad Of Easy Rider” by Roger McGuinn (334,010)

On the bottom of the list are two videos that evidently ran into some accessibility issues due to copyright and were unavailable for a while: “The River” by Bruce Springsteen (140 views) and “That’s The Way Of The World” by Earth, Wind & Fire (202 views). Then comes a cover of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” by an obscure band called Home Groan. The cover ended up on an album of tracks played on a Norwegian radio show about American music. As of today, the video had been viewed 298 times.

Look To Tomorrow

June 20, 2012

Originally posted April 21, 2009

I’m a little subpar this morning, so there won’t be a post today, folks. I will be back tomorrow, when I think we’ll dip into the unplayed LP stacks and see what treasures (or dross) linger there. (In doing so, we’ll satisfy our curiosity and the request of the Kiddie Corner Kid for some music by the Willmar Boys’ Chorus.)

Until then, here’s another tune I like from a CD I recently featured. And no, the title is not prophetic, one hopes.

“Tomorrow Never Comes” by Big Head Todd & the Monsters from Sister Sweetly [1993]

About Heartsfield
I got a pleasant note the other day from Heartsfield, the country-rock band whose 1970s music I featured a while back. The band is still going strong and all of its early CDs are in print and available, as are newer albums and some other treasures. You can stop by the band’s website or go see the group’s MySpace page.

John & George, Big Head Todd & Freddy

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 16, 2009

Adventures at YouTube:

Looking for a version of George Harrison’s “Taxman,” I clicked a few links and found a fascinating 1971 video of John Lennon and Harrison working on Lennon’s song “Oh My Love,” which wound up on Lennon’s Imagine. The original video-poster noted that the session was at Ascott studio in June 1971, adding that Klaus Voorman was on bass and Nicky Hopkins was on second piano. Viewers will also see a bit of Phil Spector, the little man in sunglasses with dark hair, and, of course, a bit of Yoko Ono. (In the piece, Lennon and Ono evidently take part in an interview with a young woman; does anyone know who that was?)

Note: The original video with the identification of the location and of Klaus Voorman and Nicky Hopkins had been deleted by the time I placed this post in these archives, but I found another posting of the same video. Note added June 1, 2012.

I found a pretty good performance of “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters. It took place September 10, 2005, at Redhook Brewery, evidently in Seattle, Washington.

Here’s the Freddy Jones Band doing an acoustic version of “In A Daydream” during a promotional appearance at the Star 102.5 radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2006.

Lastly, I found an arresting – and frankly unsettling – video that October Project released in 1994 to accompany the single release of “Bury My Lovely.” I’ve always thought the song was just a little off-kilter; this does nothing more than comfirm that, and in fact makes the song more off-kilter than ever. But it is fascinating. I can’t embed the video, but you can see it here.

Note: At the time of the original post, I was unable to embed October Project’s video for “Bury My Lovely,” but embedding was allowed when I placed the post in these archives. So here it is. Note added June 1, 2012.

Sixteen Years Gone

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 13, 2009

I was puttering with some mp3 tags this morning while the Texas Gal was getting ready for her day, the radio tuned to public radio as it almost always is during those morning preparations. And I heard the radio host mention that it was sixteen years ago today that the Minnesota North Stars of the National Hockey League played their final home game. After the season’s final game in Chicago, and before the start of the next hockey season, the team’s then-owner – may he learn that Hell is playing goalie without pads and a mask! – moved the team to Texas, creating the Dallas Stars.

The North Stars’ first year of existence was the 1967-68 season. And it was in the autumn of 1967 that I became a sports fan. Why then? I don’t know, but I imagine that the birth of the North Stars had something to do with it. And while the Minnesota Vikings have probably always been my favorite of all the professional teams I’ve followed over the years, the North Stars were always a close second.

I went to one or two games a season during high school and my early college years. After I was out in the workforce, I saw maybe one every couple of years, although those outings became more rare when the price of tickets rose at a rate faster than my income grew. But I still watched games on television. I also spent many evenings listening to the radio as Al Shaver – the only play-by-play announcer the North Stars ever had – brought the action into my home. And I hoped for the best for the team through times of good fortune and bad, through seasons of mediocrity and through a good number of playoff seasons, two of which ended with losses in the Stanley Cup finals.

Once the North Stars were gone, I understood at least a little how baseball fans in Brooklyn felt when the Dodgers left for Los Angeles and how football fans in Baltimore felt when the Colts moved to Indianapolis. In addition, I felt as if a portion of my youth had been taken from me. And I think that youthful connection is the key to the grief I felt when the North Stars left town.

Whatever the source, the grief was real. And it wasn’t limited just to fans. I was working for the Eden Prairie newspaper at the time the North Stars left town, and a number of the North Stars lived in that suburb. One afternoon shortly after the hockey season ended, I was at one of the city’s elementary schools for a photo assignment, and I saw one of the North Stars in the school corridor, about to pick up one of his children. He recognized me, as he and I had spent a few hours talking not long before when I was doing research for a feature story about youth hockey. I asked him if he was going to go south with the team, and he smiled and said he’d be announcing his decision soon. (He in fact retired instead.) And then I asked what the players thought of the move. He shook his head sadly and then said, “I really shouldn’t say much.” But his face gave his feelings away.

The sorrow and anger faded at least a little, as it always does. The National Hockey League eventually placed another team in Minnesota, the Wild. I regret that the NHL did not do for Minnesota fans what the National Football League did for fans of the Cleveland Browns when the team left town after the 1995 season. The NFL allowed owner Art Model to move the team, but reserved the Browns’ nickname, colors and records for a new franchise in Cleveland. The NHL should have done the same for Minnesota.

But that didn’t happen, and I follow the Wild, though the team is not nearly as important to me as were the North Stars. (And I happen to think the Wild’s nickname is one of the silliest in professional athletics!) The Dallas Stars went on to win the Stanley Cup in the spring of 1999.

May they never win another.

A Six-Pack From 1993
“Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd and the Monsters from Sister Sweetly
“One World” by the Freddy Jones Band from Waiting for the Night
“Handbags & Gladrags” by Rod Stewart from Unplugged . . . and Seated
“Bury My Lovely” by October Project from October Project
“’74-’75” by the Connells from Ring
“I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” by the Indigo Girls from the soundtrack to Philadelphia

I was startled the first time I heard “Bittersweet,” most likely on Cities 97. I thought at the time – and still do – that the song is an almost perfect melding of music and lyric as it tells its sad tale. It’s a lovely song, but there are most likely times in everyone’s life when it wouldn’t be advisable to listen too acutely to the words of the third and final verse:

I know we don’t talk about it.
We don’t tell each other all the little things that we need.
We work our way around each other as we tremble and we bleed.

I’ve got a couple of CDs by the Freddy Jones Band, but I don’t listen to them too often, and I’m not sure why. I dropped Waiting for the Night into the player the other day and – as has been the case since I first heard the group, also most likely on Cities 97 – liked what I heard. Waiting for the Night was the first of four albums the group did for Capricorn in the 1990s; there was one CD on Polydor, as well. A sixth CD followed in 2001 on Sony Special Products. And a new CD, Time Well Wasted, is currently available through the band’s website; on Out The Box Records, the new CD has ten new live versions of songs from earlier releases and two new studio tracks recorded in 2008. (One page on the website indicates that the CD went on sale in December; another page says that the CD will be available tomorrow, April 14. I don’t know which is correct.)

When Rod Stewart – with the help of long-time pal and bandmate Ron Wood – did the unplugged thing for MTV, I wasn’t particularly blown away by what I heard. As I may have mentioned here earlier, Stewart had lost my attention with “Tonight’s The Night” back in late 1976. Beyond that date, the only thing I’d heard from Stewart that I liked was his version of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train.” But combing through his Unplugged . . . and Seated release, I liked the CD’s version of “Handbags & Gladrags.”

October Project wasn’t around for long – three years and two CDs in its original configuration – but the group somehow managed to sneak into my awareness. And I love lead singer Mary Fahl’s voice, but the group’s ornate songs seems to work better one song at a time than heard as entire albums. I have a version of “Bury My Lovely” performed live on Cities 97 (and released on one of the station’s annual samplers) that I prefer by just a little to the original version, but it was recorded in 1994. Perhaps another time.

I know very little about the Connells. I came across Ring at a blog I frequent and like it a lot. According to All-Music Guide, “’74-’75” was released as a single to alternative radio stations and did fairly well. (My thanks to Yonnor at Jajaah.)

It’s a little baffling to realize that it’s been sixteen years since the release of the film Philadelphia. It doesn’t seem nearly that long. In any case, the soundtrack for the film has aged gracefully, at least in these precincts, with nine original songs from a wide range of artists. The soundtrack is most likely remembered as the source of Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” and Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” (Springsteen’s song won an Academy Award for Best Song; Young’s song was nominated), But the Indigo Girls’ “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” (written by the late Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse) is fresh as well, maybe even fresher than the two previously mentioned songs.

Reposts
Glory Road by Maggie’s Farm, 1992
Original post here.

Can’t Stop The Madness by Birtha, 1973
Original post here.

Ronnie Hawkins – Ronnie Hawkins (1970)
Original post here.

Saturday Single No. 228

March 5, 2011

On a Sunday sometime just after Thanksgiving, I was paging through that day’s edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune as a football game played itself out on the television. When I got to the arts section, I was moving pretty quickly, scanning and turning pages in rhythmic progress, when I stopped.

What was it on that last page? What had I seen?

I turned back, and there, in an ad near the bottom right corner of the right-hand page, was the smiling face of Robert Johnson, the image known as the studio portrait. The ad was for a concert some months away at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall, a gathering celebrating the centennial of the influential bluesman’s birth in 1911. (He was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, most likely on May 8.) Intrigued, I looked closer.

Leading off the list of performers was Big Head Todd & the Monsters. I blinked, not ever having thought of that band as one steeped in blues, and then I read on: Cedric Burnside, Lightnin’ Malcolm, David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Hubert Sumlin.

I didn’t – and still don’t – know much about either Cedric Burnside or Lightnin’ Malcolm. The only information All-Music Guide has about Malcolm is that he’s a guitar player who’s released two albums, one in 2005, the other this year. And I assumed – correctly, as it happens – that Cedric Burnside was related to R.L. Burnside, a north Mississippi blues guitarist who passed on in 2005. It turns out that Cedric is his grandson and has released a couple of albums in the past ten years working as a duo with Malcolm.

I didn’t go dig at that information as soon as I saw the ad. That came later. Because as soon as I saw the names David “Honeyboy” Edwards and Hubert Sumlin, I stopped breathing for just a moment. Sumlin was the long-time guitarist for Howlin’ Wolf, complementing the Wolf’s force-of-nature vocals with sometimes stinging and sometimes supple leads and backing.

As for Honeyboy Edwards, who’s now ninety-five, well, he’s played blues for longer than most of us have been alive. His recorded catalog is slender, but it includes a 2008 album – Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas – that won a Grammy for best traditional blues album. But what made my breath catch as I saw the ad was the knowledge that Edwards traveled and played with Robert Johnson in 1930s Mississippi.

I got up and took the ad into the living room, where the Texas Gal was working on a quilt. I showed it to her. She read it and said something like “It looks like a good one, but, it’s on a Sunday night, and that makes it a long night getting home, what with work and school on Monday. We could look at the budget, but . . .”

And she was right. It was impractical. I nodded, looked once more at the ad, then folded up the paper and went back to the study, where I most likely picked up the metro news section. And I didn’t think any more about the concert.

Until Christmas Day. That’s when I opened a shoe-box size gift from my sister and her family and found inside an envelope from Orchestra Hall containing two tickets to “Blues at the Crossroads,” the very same concert about which I’d asked the Texas Gal a few weeks earlier.

It turns out that a few weeks before I did, my sister had seen an ad for the show, and – to make sure there was no gift duplication and that we kept the date of the concert open – she’d clued in the Texas Gal on Thanksgiving Day that I’d find the tickets under the tree Christmas morning.

Looking at the tickets, I stammered my thanks, and then tucked them safely away. At home that evening, the Texas Gal told me that when I’d shown her the ad for the concert, she’d had a difficult time. “I wanted to discourage you without being too over the top,” she said. “I already knew you were going to get the tickets and that I was going to take Monday off so we don’t have to worry about work and school that day.”

I was impressed. And more than pleased. And tomorrow evening, we’ll be in Orchestra Hall for the musical celebration, one of a series of such concerts around the country this year. I’ll likely report on the concert come Tuesday, but in the meantime, from a performance at the Riley Center in Meridian, Mississippi, here’s a look at Big Head Blues Club featuring Big Head Todd & the Monsters and a performance of  “Come On In My Kitchen.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

In addition to the concert series, an album titled 100 Years of Robert Johnson has just been released; credited to the Big Head Blues Club featuring Big Head Todd & the Monsters, it features the same musicians as will be on the Orchestra Hall stage Sunday as well as B.B. King, Charlie Musselwhite and Ruthie Foster.

‘With A Blue Moon In Your Eyes . . .’

September 2, 2010

I wonder how huge the eureka moment was when the producers of the television series The Sopranos came across the song “Woke Up This Morning” by the English group Alabama 3.

I can only imagine that the producers, trying to find a theme song that summed up mob boss Tony Soprano and his messy, conflicted, ordinary and brutal life, just stared at the speakers the first time they heard the track, with its odd and compelling mix of hip-hop, electronica and Americana. I’m sure those producers felt that the Alabama 3 song had just been waiting for them to discover it and provide it with a home.

And that’s what happened. For six seasons, stretching between January 1999 and June of 2007, an edit of the song led off each of the eighty-six episodes of one of television’s greatest dramas. Viewers would have been forgiven for thinking that that song was written for The Sopranos when it was actually released in 1997 on Alabama 3’s first album, Exile On Coldharbour Lane.

And viewers would also have been forgiven for thinking that Alabama 3 was an American group, when it was actually a product of England. To be honest, the band’s history is strange enough that I’m just going to turn to the account by Garth Cartwright at All-Music Guide:

“Alabama 3 was one of the oddest musical outfits to arise from late-’90s London, but also one of the most original. The band’s origins are shrouded in urban myth — the band likes to claim that the three core members met in rehab, while their Southern accents have many believing they are from the U.S. state of Alabama, although it appears vocalists Rob Spragg and Jake Black met at a London rave when Spragg heard Black singing Hank Williams’ ‘Lost Highway.’ Bonding, they set out about creating an agenda of Americana, electronica, leftist politics, and laughter. Joined by DJ Piers Marsh, the trio issued two 12” dance singles that combined their interest in gospel and country music, yet these went over the heads of the London dance scene. In Italy, where Spragg and Black began singing Howlin’ Wolf songs over Marsh mixes, the idea of the band began to take shape and back in Brixton, South London, they recruited a crew of musicians to shape their vision. This, combined with brilliantly theatrical live shows, meant the band attracted a huge South London following long before they had a record deal.”

Cartwright calls Exile On Coldharbour Lane “a groundbreaking work that effortlessly fused gospel, country, blues, and house music,” a style dubbed “chemical country.” While the British press – then caught up in what Cartwright calls its “infatuation with Britpop” – tended to ignore the group, the use of “Woke Up This Morning” in The Sopranos brought some popularity in the U.S. Unfortunately, that popularity brought legal action as well, says Cartwright, as the country group Alabama sued over the group’s name, which means that in the U.S., Alabama 3 is now known as A3.

Since its odd beginnings, Alabama 3 has continued to record and release albums, the most recent being Revolver Soul, which came out last May. I’ve not listened to much of their catalog, but the group’s approach is still novel, based on both the quotes from followers cited at the group’s website and on the tag line on the ad there for Revolver Soul: “Soul Music With A Gun Against Your Head.”

Sounds like something Tony Soprano would listen to.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 32
“Follow” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag [1967]
“Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays, Philadelphia International 3517 [1972]
“Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple, Warner Bros. 7710 [1973]
“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell, Asylum 11034 [1974]
“Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & the Monsters from Sister Sweetly [1993]
“Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3, Geffen International 22302 [1997]

Television brought me another great recording a few years before I first heard “Woke Up This Morning.” One Sunday evening in May 1998, the law drama The Practice closed its season-ending episode with Richie Havens’ sublime “Follow” as the backing track. I recognized the voice but not the song, and as the last scenes played out, I went to the record stacks – the total number of records was then about 1,600 – and was stunned to find no Richie Havens. I grabbed a pen and piece of paper and jotted down “Follow” – that had to be the title of the song, I assumed – and over the next few weeks, I sought out and bought several of Havens’ albums, finally finding “Follow” on Mixed Bag at the end of July. Since then, I’ve continued to buy Havens’ albums on LP and on CD, but nothing I’ve ever heard from him – and he’s one of my favorites – is as good as “Follow.”

“They smile in your face; all the time they wanna take your place: The back-stabbers!” That warning couplet, following a lush and haunting string introduction laid on a bed of spooky percussion, brought the O’Jays to the attention of the world, or at least the portion of the world that listened to Top 40 radio in 1972.  Those who listened to R&B, however, had known the group since at least 1967, when “I’ll Be Sweeter Tomorrow (Than I Was Today)” went to No. 8 on the R&B Singles chart, the first of eight O’Jays records to reach that chart before “Back Stabbers” was released. Seven of those early R&B charting singles – and one that did not make the R&B chart – had also reached the Billboard Hot 100, but until “Back Stabbers” came along, none had pushed into the Top 40. From 1972 through 1980, however, the O’Jays saw nine singles reach the Top 40, while even more reached the R&B, Disco, Dance and related charts from 1972 into 2004. There’s a lot of good work in that catalog – I particularly like the gospel version of the Bob Dylan title song on 1991’s Emotionally Yours – but not many of the O’Jays records sound better than that first major hit: “What can I do to get on the right track? I wish they’d take some of these knives off my back!”

I’ve never been much of a Deep Purple fan, but there was no escaping “Smoke On The Water” during the summer of 1973, when it went to No. 4. And the record, with its iconic opening riff, is here in my Ultimate Jukebox for a time and place moment: Sometime during late July or early August of that summer, many of us who would spend the next school year in Denmark through St. Cloud State got together for a picnic at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. At one point during that evening, I was standing at the base of Minnehaha Falls – the waterfall that gives the large park its name – talking for the first time with a young woman who would turn out to be a very important part of my next nine months. Some distance away, another group of picnickers had a music source of some kind, and in that moment, those distant picnickers were listening to “Smoke On The Water.” Ever since, that opening riff puts me back at the base of Minnehaha Falls during the first tentative moments of a friendship that for a while became something else.

I wrote a while back that I thought that “Help Me” was Joni Mitchell’s best work, noting that I found much of her post-Seventies records difficult to listen to. Some readers encouraged me to try those works again, suggesting specific albums. I’ve done some of that listening, and although much of that later work is still challenging, it’s not as entirely drear as I had thought. But I still think “Help Me,” which went to No. 7 in June of 1974 (No. 1 for a week on the Adult Contemporary chart), is the best thing she ever did.

I imagine I first heard the long strummed groove of “Bittersweet” on the radio, likely Cities 97, but wherever I heard it, I liked the song by Big Head Todd & the Monsters enough that – in a time when vinyl releases were rare and I had no CD player – I went out and bought the album on cassette, a format I tended to avoid. I think it was the long slow groove of the song that pulled me in, but it’s the story in the lyrics that keeps the track – which went to No. 14 on the Mainstream Rock chart – near the top of my list of favorites. Every generation finds its own versions of universal truths and tales, and “Bittersweet” is one generation’s version of the thought that even if you get what you dreamed of, you might find that it wasn’t what you really wanted.