Posts Tagged ‘Brownsville Station’

Play Ball!

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 13, 2009

It’s a busy day today, but it’s for a good reason.

Tomorrow, my long-time pals Rick, Rob and Dan come into St. Cloud for our fourth annual Strat-O-Matic baseball tournament. From mid-morning to early evening, we’ll laugh, tell stories, listen to a wide variety of tunes and play a little tabletop baseball along the way.

Once again, Rob is the defending champion. In last year’s tournament, his two-time champ, the 1922 St. Louis Browns, were knocked off in the first round. But he took his second team – the 1995 Colorado Rockies – to the title with a remarkable combination of lots of offense, some good bullpen management and lots of luck. (Even he acknowledges that last part.)

So Rick, Dan and I will try to keep Rob from winning a fourth straight title. For those who are interested, here are the teams that are in this year’s tournament. (For those uninterested, you can skip to the next paragraph.)

Rob: The defending champion 1995 Rockies and the 1922 New York Giants
Rick: The 1976 Phillies and the 1990 Athletics
Dan: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1927 New York Yankees
Me: The 1948 Indians and the 1961 Cincinnati Reds

Whatever happens, the day of the annual tournament is one of the best days of the year for me, a chance to share my home and some very good times with my long-time friends. The Texas Gal puts up with the noise and the disruption with an amazing amount of grace. I imagine that our two annual tournaments (baseball in the autumn and hockey in spring) leave her feeling as if she’s the housemother in a fraternity house for graying sophomores.

Each spring and fall, as we plan our menu and the required grocery and liquor store trips, she’ll remind me of something and say, “That’s for the Saturday the boys are here, so make sure we have enough.”

We’ll have plenty of everything we need tomorrow, when the boys are back in town.

A Six-Pack of Boys
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy from Jailbreak [1976]
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Station from Yeah! [1973]
“Boys in the Band” by Mountain from Climbing! [1970]
“The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley from Building the Perfect Beast [1984]
“One of the Boys” by Mott the Hoople from All The Young Dudes [1972]
“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic from The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys [1971

The most anthemic of these is the Thin Lizzy track (though Don Henley comes close). With its almost relentless guitar riffs, “The Boys Are Back In Town” dares you not to tap your feet or bob your head or pound out a rhythm on the steering wheel. And if you’re in the car, there’s no way you’re not going to turn the radio up all the way. The single was Thin Lizzy’s only hit, peaking at No. 12 during the summer of 1976. Oh, and that line about “drivin’ all the old men crazy”? It’s a little disquieting to realize that if I were anyone in the song these days, I’d be one of those old men.

I always thought Brownsville Station’s “Smoking in the Boys’ Room” was kind of a silly song, but then, it came along a little bit after I left high school and before there were hardly any anti-smoking regulations came to our college campus: Smoking was definitely allowed in school. But it moves along nicely, boogies a little bit, and it does have a hell of a hook. The single went to No. 3 during the winter of 1973-74.

Mountain’s “Boys in the Band” is a subtle track, almost delicate at moments, that seems to belie the band’s reputation for guitar excess. But the elegiac tone fits perfectly for a song that has its protagonist saying goodbye to his band and life on the road:

We play tunes today
Leaving memory of yesterday.
All the circles widen getting in the sun,
All the seasons spinning all the days one by one

The title of Don Henley’s album, Building the Perfect Beast, fits, because Henley darn near built the perfect pop song in “The Boys of Summer.” Backed on that track by a stellar quartet – Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, Steve Porcaro of Toto, studio pro Danny Kortchmar and bassist Larry Klein – Henley melds haunting music and literate and thoughtful lyrics into a cohesive whole. And you can tap your feet to it, too. (Or pound on the steering wheel, if you’re driving behind that Cadillac with the Grateful Dead sticker on it.) The single went to No. 5 during its fourteen weeks on in the Top 40 as 1984 turned into 1985.

Hey kids! Hear that odd sound at the beginning of Mott the Hoople’s “One of the Boys”? When we old farts talk about dialing a telephone, that’s what it sounded like. That’s an honest-to-god dial telephone. There are other positives to the song, too, of course: It’s a crunchy piece of rock, with its chords shimmering in the glam persona of Ian Hunter and his band, and it’s another opportunity to bruise your hands on the steering wheel.

On a Saturday sometime around 1975, I was sitting in the basement rec room, reading and listening to Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. I’d borrowed the album from someone – maybe Rick – and was trying to decide if I should shell out some of my own coin for my own copy. I liked what I heard and was thinking about heading downtown later in the day to buy the record. As the languid title track played, I heard the door at the top of the basement stairs open and I recognized my dad’s tread. Steve Winwood sang:

If you had just a minute to breath
And they granted you one final wish . . .

My dad, coming into the room, sang, “Would you wish for fish?”

And from that moment on, every time I’ve heard the song, I remember my dad being silly. I miss him.

Saturday Single No. 614

October 27, 2018

It’s cool and gray outside. Nevertheless, our plan is to head out this afternoon for a quick trip to the small town of Pierz, where we will stop at our favorite butcher shop to buy some bacon and other meats.

In the meantime, however, we’re going to play a quick game of “What’s At No. 100,” taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from October 27, 1973. That chart may provide surprises, as it came out during my time in Denmark. We’ll see.

We’ll start, as we always do, with the Top Fifteen:

“Midnight Train To Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Angie” by the Rolling Stones
“Half Breed” by Cher
“Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band
“Keep In Truckin’ (Part 1)” by Eddie Kendricks
“Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
“Paper Roses” by Marie Osmond
“Heartbeat – It’s a Love Beat” by the DeFranco Family
“That Lady (Part 1)” by the Isley Brothers
“Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder
“All I Know” by Art Garfunkel
“Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan
“Yes We Can Can” by the Pointer Sisters
“We’re An American Band” by Grand Funk

Obviously, I know all of those now, forty-five years later, and most of them well. At the time, I knew “Angie,” having had help from my Danish brother in working out the chords on the piano and also having heard it live at a Rolling Stones concert a little more than three weeks earlier.

Stones Ticket

And it’s a decent Top Fifteen. I can do without the Marie Osmond and DeFranco family singles, but otherwise, it’s fine. Art Garfunkel’s record is a bit light, but it’s lovely.

What lies below, however? Dropping down to No. 100, we find a nifty piece of boogie new to the Hot 100 and on its way to No. 3: “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” by Brownsville Station.

The band – from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and not from Texas as its name might imply – would never again come close to the Top Ten. The group’s only other Top Forty hit would be “Kings Of The Party,” which went to No. 31 in the autumn of 1974. There were a few other records in the Hot 100 before, after and between the two hits in a time frame that began in late 1972 and ended during the autumn of 1977.

As with most tunes from the 1973-74 academic year, I learned about “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” long after the fact, so there’s no emotional hook here for me. But it’s a fun record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Leo, The Muppets & Brownsville Station

January 4, 2012

Originally posted February 19, 2009

It’s time for a trek through YouTube again.

Looking back to yesterday’s post of Leo Kottke’s Mudlark, I found a clip of Kottke performing a sweet version of “The Arms of Mary” on an episode of Austin City Limits. From what I’ve been able to track down, the show was taped in August 1992 for an airdate in 1993.

And here’s Kottke performing “Deep River Blues” for a taping of Sessions at West 54th in December 1997.

In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned the Muppets as one of the groups credited with covering Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” I found the clip, from an episode of The Muppet Show that was recorded between November 22 and 24, 1977. According to Muppet Wiki: “Two of the verses to ‘For What It’s Worth’ were rewritten in order to transform the popular anti-war song song into an anthem against hunting, but no one has ever been officially credited for these additional lyrics.” Muppet Wiki also notes that the audio of the sketch was included on a Muppets record released in 1978, but that on a 1994 release, the interruptions by the hunters were edited out.

And to close, here’s a clip from the January 29, 1974, episode of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert with Brownsville Station performing “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” and “Barefootin’.”

Tomorrow, I think we’re going to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the middle of February 1977. As I write this, I’m not at all sure what we’ll find, so it could be an adventure.

Savoring The Sunlight

January 4, 2012

Originally posted February 16, 2009

As the sunlight came in the living room windows yesterday morning, I glanced at the date on the Minneapolis newspaper: February 15. And I thought of another February 15, thirty-five years distant now, when sunlight seemed like salvation.

I doubt that I’ve ever lived through a more dreary winter than the one I went through in Fredericia, Denmark in 1973-74. Living there was, of course, a joy and an adventure, but the winter was hard. It’s not that it was cold: The temperatures were generally around freezing, 32 Fahrenheit (0 Celsius), which for someone from Minnesota wasn’t chilly at all. There were a few days when the temperature dipped to -10 or so Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius), levels that our Danish friends said they’d not seen since World War II, but those stretches didn’t last long and weren’t all that cold by the standards of the Minnesota winters to which we were accustomed.

The difficult part was the lack of sunlight. From the middle of November on, for the next three months, it was cloudy and dreary. The sun showed its face from time to time, but only as a brief respite – an hour or two – before the clouds dimmed the light once more. And Denmark is far enough north that the winter sun rises much later and sets much earlier than in Minnesota: In the depth of December, daylight began about nine o’clock in the morning and ended around three o’clock in the afternoon, which – combined with the near constant cloud cover – left us in what seemed like permanent gloom.

And then came February 15. The sky was blue from horizon to horizon, and the air was brisk but not cold. We had no classes that day, and those of us living at the youth hostel headed out into the sunlight, many of us with cameras. I can’t speak for all, but the bunch of kids I wandered around with had no plans, no real destination. We were just wandering in the sunshine, liberated at least for a day.

The stripe of sunlight across our carpet and the date on the newspaper yesterday morning reminded me of that sunny walk through Fredericia, and as I recalled the sunshine, I wondered what our friends at home might have heard on the radio that day.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, February 16, 1974)

“Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” by Brownsville Station, Big Tree 16011 (No. 22)

“Me and Baby Brother” by War, United Artists 350 (No. 53)

“Lookin’ For A Love” by Bobby Womack, United Artists 375 (No. 70)

“Stop To Start” by Blue Magic, Atco 6949 (No. 81)

“Quick, Fast, in a Hurry” by New York City, Chelsea 0150 (No. 88)

“I’ll Be The Other Woman” by the Soul Children, Stax 0182 (No. 94)

Brownsville Station was one of the numerous blues-based boogie bands that arose in the early 1970s, coming out of Detroit to record a clutch of albums between 1970 and 1980 and then fading into obscurity. “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” was the group’s glorious moment, if that’s not too glowing a term for it. The high school references sparked memories for those already older than that and likely rang true for those still playing high school Parcheesi. The record peaked at No. 3. I was surprised to learn this morning that Brownsville Station had more than one hit: “Kings Of The Party” went to No. 31 in the fall of 1974. (The umlaut-obsessed Mötley Crüe covered “Smokin’” in 1985; that version went to No. 16.)

War’s funky and cool “Me and Baby Brother” was on its way down the chart, having peaked at No. 15. I tend to think that War is under-rated and often ignored when talk turns to great bands of the 1970s. In terms of popularity, the group had twelve Top 40 hits, and most of them were pretty good (“Why Can’t We Be Friends” is the exception), and that’s a better record than achieved by a lot of bands that are remembered more frequently. And the group’s albums were good, too, especially Deliver the Word (which was the source for “Me and Baby Brother”) and The World Is A Ghetto.

In two years, I’d not posted a single song by Bobby Womack, and now, in ten days, he’s come up twice. I’m not sure why that is. But “Lookin’ For A Love” is well worth a listen or even three. It was the third and last Top 40 hit for Womack, peaking at No. 10 at the end of April. (The record topped the R&B chart for three weeks.)

The singles by Blue Magic and New York City were nice bits of Philadelphia soul (despite the latter group’s name). “Stop To Start,” from Blue Magic’s first, self-titled album, sounds like something that came from Thom Bell, but it was produced by Steve Bernstein, Norman Harris and Alan Rubens, who – along with the group members – tapped the Philly sound perfectly. “Stop To Start” peaked at No. 74 during a six-week run in the Hot 100, but that summer, Blue Magic’s “Sideshow” went to No. 8 (No. 1 on the R&B chart). New York City had reached No. 17 with “I’m Doin’ Fine Now” – a Thom Bell production – in the spring of 1973, but the Bell-produced “Quick, Fast, in a Hurry” got no further up the chart than No. 79.

The Soul Children, a two-man, two-woman vocal group, recorded several albums for Stax in the late 1960s and early 1970s and had one blindingly good single, “Hearsay,” which went to No. 44 in May of 1972. “I’ll Be The Other Woman,” a slower and more reflective but still good piece of work, went to No. 36, the only Top 40 hit for the group.

Note:
I’m on Facebook! You can find my profile here.

Edited slightly on archival posting.

Chart Digging: August 1974

August 18, 2011

I’m a beer aficionado: I like trying different beers from different parts of the country and the world, and – to a degree – I keep track of which brews I’ve tried and what I’ve liked or not liked about them. And since I’ve begun taking beer seriously – in the last ten years or so – I’ve mostly bought my beer in glass bottles, not in cans. I think it tastes better coming from glass.

But sometimes, you can’t avoid cans. The local liquor store – Westside Liquor here on the East Side – has been promoting for the past few months a brew from the Tallgrass Brewing Company of Manhattan, Kansas, called Buffalo Sweat Stout. It comes in packs of four sixteen-ounce cans.

I’m not fond of the name; I think it’s gross, as does my pal and self-acknowledged beer snob jb from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, who says the brand name falls into a trend: Titling brews with odd or grotesque names that make the brew more notable for its moniker than for its drinkability. (One example of that comes from Wasatch Beers of Park City, Utah, brewers of Polygamy Porter, which is marketed with the slogan, “Why Have Just One!” I have a t-shirt celebrating the brew, a gift from the Texas Gal after a business trip to Utah; I have yet to wear it out in the world.)

Whatever the “ewww” factor of the brand name, Buffalo Sweat is a darned good brew – it carries nice hints of coffee, chocolate and, to my palate, raisins – so it’s become a regular part of the regiment of beers standing at attention in the fridge, waiting for my thirst. I pulled one out for dinner last evening, popped the top on the can and, without thinking about it, turned the metal tab sideways. I paused and chuckled for a moment, and then poured the brew.

That habit – turning sideways the metal tab on the top of a beer (or soda) can – dates from the summer of 1974. I didn’t do much partying the first half of that summer; I was recovering from a mysterious lung ailment. But once I got the go-ahead from my doctors to resume life at full speed, I spent a fair number of evenings tasting the brews available in St. Cloud. I did so carrying nearly nine months’ experience of quaffing European brews, and for a time I left the darker stuff behind. My favored brew for a month or so that summer of 1974 was one new to Minnesota: Olympia.

I think back now, and I shudder. It was a light and clean beer and, as I now recall, almost tasteless. But having been legendary in Minnesota as a great beer that was unavailable – much like Coors was at the time, too – Olympia was the newest fad among young beer drinkers. And I was one of those. So at every party I went to during the last half of the summer of 1974 – maybe a dozen total – there were more than a few folks drinking Olympia beer, with all of us trying to keep track of which can of beer was ours.

Thus, as I arrived at a party one evening, I popped the top on my can of Olympia beer and turned the tab to the right. That, I hoped, would make it a little easier to keep track of my beers as the number of beer cans multiplied and my concentration most likely diminished. That one quirk – turning the tab to the right – soon became a habit that was useful for the remainder of my college days. And it’s a habit that’s stayed with me for thirty-seven years.

So every time I pop a can of Buffalo Sweat and turn the tab to the right, a little bit of the summer of 1974 pops its head into our kitchen in this summer of 2011.

Most of those parties during that summer long ago likely had music supplied by stereos, but I imagine that at least one of those dozen or so gatherings must have relied on the radio for its music. If so, we’d have heard at least some of the Top Ten from the Billboard Hot 100 that was released on August 17, 1974, thirty-seven years ago yesterday:

“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack
“(You’re) Havin’ My Baby” by Paul Anka (with Odia Coates)
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus
“Please Come To Boston” by Dave Loggins
“Call On Me” by Chicago
“Waterloo” by Abba
“Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford
“I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Sideshow” by Blue Magic

Wow. At most parties in that era, at least four records in that list that would have incited jeers from the folks sitting on the couch, followed by calls for the Allman Brothers or Pink Floyd. I know that these days, hearing the opening strains of either the Anka record or the Osmonds record on the oldies station would make me change stations. Then, Jim Stafford’s ode to accidental marijuana cultivation is funny maybe twice (though it would be a kick to hear it on radio these days). And I never liked the Paper Lace record.

On the plus side, “Tell Me Something Good” still pops and slinks along nicely, and Chicago’s “Call On Me” was a good one I’d forgotten about until it showed up on the list today.

As I tend to do, though, I looked further down that Hot 100 to see what might be found there, and there were a few interesting things. The television series Kung Fu – starring David Carradine as a martial arts expert in the American west of the nineteenth century – and the martial art it introduced to pop culture were becoming cultural phenomena that year. In the autumn of 1974, Card Douglas would reach No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts with “Kung Fu Fighting” (a record I still hear as almost a novelty record). But during the summer of 1974, Curtis Mayfield released his own “Kung Fu” and saw it get to No. 40 on the pop chart and to No. 3 on the R&B chart. During this week in 1974, the song was at No. 52, and like much of Mayfield’s work during that time, the record was a statement about social justice:

Our days of comfort, days of night
Don’t put yourself in solitude
Who can I trust with my life
When people tend to be so rude

My mama borned me in a ghetto
There was no mattress for my head
But, no, she couldn’t call me Jesus
I wasn’t white enough, she said

And then she named me Kung Fu
Don’t have to explain it, no, Kung Fu
Don’t know how you’ll take it, Kung Fu
I’m just trying to make it, Kung Fu

I’ve got some babies and some sisters
My brother worked for Uncle Sam
It’s just a shame, ain’t it, Mister
We being brothers of the damned

Keep your head high, Kung Fu
I will ’til I die, yeah, Kung Fu
Don’t be too intense, no, Kung Fu
Keep your common sense, yeah, Kung Fu

Don’t mistake life for a secret
There is no secret part of you
You bet your life if you think wicked
Someone else is thinking wicked too

Betty Wright had hit the Top Ten in early 1972 when “Clean Up Woman” went to No. 6. In mid-1974, she released “Secretary” as an ode to the idea that the woman who takes dictation from her boss can take her boss from his wife. The record – a nice piece of funky R&B – was at No. 66 thirty-seven years ago this week, heading to No. 62 on the pop chart; it went to No. 12 on the R&B chart.

One of the major music events of 1974 was the U.S. tour in January and February by Bob Dylan and The Band. It was Dylan’s first tour in eight years; since then, The Band had stepped out of its role as his back-up band and become a front-line act. The opening track of the eventual double-LP album from the tour – “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” (video deleted) – was released as a single during the summer of 1974. During the third week of August, the single was at No. 75. It would peak at No. 66.

From 1968 through 1985, Bobby Womack had nineteen records reach the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section, and it seems like I run into his records more often than not when I do these Chart Digging posts. This week, “You’re Welcome, Stop On By” is the Womack record that showed up. It was at No. 100 during the week in question, coming down from its peak of No. 59 the week before. A nifty slice of R&B that I unfortunately missed at the time, the record went to No. 5 on the R&B chart.

Sitting at the very bottom of the Bubbling Under section of that August 17, 1974, Hot 100 was Harry Nilsson in his last appearance on the pop chart. Produced by John Lennon, Nilsson’s “Many Rivers To Cross” was a ragged performance, more clearly Lennon than Nilsson. (The backing track’s similarity to that used for Lennon’s “#9 Dream,” which would go to No. 9 later in 1974, is unmistakable.) Nilsson’s single would rise only one more spot, peaking at No. 109. (The video to which the clip links is the album track from Nilsson’s Pussy Cats; there was a shorter edit that was released as the single.)

And to end, we move up a little bit in the Bubbling Under section, to No. 107, where Brownsville Station sat with “Kings of the Party.” The record would peak at No. 31, giving the trio from Ann Arbor, Michigan, its second Top 40 hit; “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” had gone to No. 3 in the first weeks of 1974. While I couldn’t put my hands on the studio version of “Kings of the Party,” that’s all right, because YouTube has a clip of the band hamming things up and then doing a pretty good version of the tune on the television show Midnight Special.

Video deleted.