Posts Tagged ‘Flirtations’

Plenty Of Nothing

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 19, 2009

Casting about for a topic for this post, I thought about famous birthdays. Gordon Lightfoot’s birthday was Tuesday, and I have plenty of Lightfoot tunes in the stacks and in the folders. But another day would be better for that, as there is a tale connected that I’m not yet prepared to tell.

I thought about writing about the books on my reading table, as I do occasionally. But I started a book yesterday that’s fascinating, and I want to finish it before I write about it. So that will have to wait.

We’ve had an odd November: sunny and warmer than one would expect. But I wrote about my fascination with autumn not that many days ago, and a post about the weather itself should wait until we have some truly remarkable meteorological happening.

I glanced at the front page of the Minneapolis paper: Budget cuts, a fatal bus crash, health care advisories and so on. Nothing there I care to write about.

It’s just one of those days. So here’s an appropriate selection of titles.

A Six-Pack of Nothing
“There’s Nothing Between Us Now” by Grady Tate from After the Long Drive Home [1970]
“Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me” by Betty LaVette from Child of the Seventies [1973]
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 [1969]
“Nothing Against You” by the Robert Cray Band from Sweet Potato Pie [1997]
“Nothing But Time” by Jackson Browne from Running On Empty [1977]
“Nothing Will Take Your Place” by Boz Scaggs from Boz Scaggs & Band [1971]

One of the things I love about the world of music blogs is finding great tunes by folks who I’ve never heard about before. It turns out that Grady Tate, according to All-Music Guide, is a well-regarded session drummer who’s done some good vocal work as well. I’d never heard of the man until I somehow found myself exploring the very nice blog, My Jazz World. The brief description of Tate’s album After the Long Drive Home and the accompanying scan of the album cover drew me in, and I’ve spent quite a few quiet moments since then digging into Tate’s reflective and sometimes stoic album.

I’ve tagged Betty LaVette’s gritty piece of southern soul, “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Change Me,” as coming from 1973, as that’s when it was recorded. But the story is more complex than that. LaVette recorded the album, Child of the Seventies, for Atco in Muscle Shoals. But AMG notes that after a single from the sessions, “Your Turn to Cry” didn’t do well, the label shelved the entire project. It took until 2006 and a release on the Rhino Handmade label for the album itself to hit the shelves. The CD comes with bonus tracks that include LaVette’s cover of Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” which was also released as a single. (My thanks to Caesar Tjalbo.)

A listener without the record label to examine would be excused from thinking that the Flirtation’s driving “Nothing But A Heartache” came from Detroit. The bass line, the drums and the punchy horns all proclaim “Motown,” but this nifty piece of R&B came out of England on the Deram label. The Flirtations, however, had their roots elsewhere: Sisters Shirley and Earnestine Pearce came from South Carolina and Viola Billups hailed from Alabama, so the record’s soul sound is legit, and it sounded pretty good coming out of a little radio speaker, too. The record spent two weeks in the Top 40 during the late spring of 1969, peaking at No. 34.

For Sweet Potato Pie, Robert Cray and his band made their way to Memphis and pulled together an album of blues-based soul. The combination of the Memphis Horns, Cray’s always-sharp guitar work and a good set of songs made the album, to my ears, one of Cray’s best. “Nothing Against You” is a good example of the album’s attractions.

“Nothing But Time” comes from Running On Empty,one of the more interesting live albums of the 1970s: All of the songs were new material, with some of them being recorded backstage, in hotel rooms or on the tour bus instead of in concert. As it happened, the album’s hits – “Running On Empty” and “Stay” – were concert recordings. But I’ve thought for a while that the recordings from the more intimate spaces – “Nothing But Time” was recorded on the tour bus as it rolled through New Jersey (you can hear the hum of the engine in the background) – might have aged a little better. That thought could stem from weariness after hearing the two hits over and over on the radio over the years; I do still like some of the other concert recordings from the album.

To my ears, Boz Scaggs’ slow-building and echoey “Nothing Will Take Your Place,” carries hints of the sound that would propel him to the top of the charts in 1976 with Silk Degrees. I guess it just took the mass audience – including me – a while to catch up with him.

A Little Light In The Night

February 22, 2013

It was a simple purchase. While wandering the aisles of one discount store or another on our way to the cat food aisle, I saw a display of nightlights. I took a quick look and grabbed the cheapest one. It was a couple of bucks, I think.

And that evening, before the Texas Gal and I retired for the evening, I opened the package, shifted the swiveling shade a quarter-turn and plugged the light into the spare outlet in the bathroom. It cast enough light into the room to accomplish any necessary nocturnal business, and I nodded, pleased. That was far better, I thought, than our practice of keeping on all night one of the fluorescent bulbs that flank the mirror.

And then I considered the yellowish light that the nightlight cast on the walls. Where had I seen that light before? I didn’t know right away, but the answer came to me sometime over the next few days: It was, unsurprisingly, another nightlight, this one in my room in the house on Kilian Boulevard.

When we moved into the house on Kilian in 1957, I think it was the first time I had my own room. My memories of our apartment on Riverside Drive are dim, but I believe that nighttimes on Kilian found me alone in the dark for the first time in my life. Except it wasn’t truly dark. The lights of cars driving south on Kilian Boulevard would shine through my windows, making blocks of light chase each other across my walls. And the trees between me and those headlights cast shadows on my walls that twisted menacingly as they danced around the room.

Eventually, a set of dark brown curtains blocked the scary nighttime lights, but before they went up, my folks got me a nightlight. Plugged into the outlet near the head of my bed, its bulb cast a reassuring glow, made into an odd yellow color by the plastic shade.

I no longer fear the grasping shadows of the trees. But the subtle glow of our new nightlight provides less interruption of sleep mode during a necessary nocturnal trip to the bathroom than did the bright glare of the fluorescent bulb. So it’s been a small but useful addition to the furnishings here. And its glow links it with the long ago nightlight that comforted the very small whiteray when the nighttime shadows of the trees danced on the walls. Those shadows turned out, of course, to be much less dangerous than they seemed at the time, which is something I think we eventually find to be true of many of our fears.

And here’s an entirely appropriate tune for the day: The Flirtations, with “Change My Darkness Into Light” from 1966. It never made the charts, which is a shame.

Sir Douglas, Johnny, Flirtations & Waldo

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 5, 2009

I found some interesting stuff at YouTube this morning:

Here’s a video of a live performance of “Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet. The viewer who posted it simply said it was from 1970. That’s close, but it’s actually from an episode of Playboy After Dark that was taped January 25, 1969. I had an inkling that it was from PAD just from the visual style, but a few glimpses of Barbi Benton throughout the video and the sight of Hugh Hefner dancing with Barbi in the last seconds clinched it.

(The Quintet also performed “She’s About A Mover” on the show. The rest of the show had Dr. George R. Bach, a psychologist who in 1969 published the book Intimate Enemy: How to Fight Fair In Love and Marriage; actor Michael Caine; actress and singer Meredith MacRae, who would perform “Goin’ Out Of My Head;” actor Greg Mullavey, who was in the 1969 film Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; comedian Mort Sahl; comedian Sammy Shore; and the Clara Ward Singers, who would perform “Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”)

I couldn’t find any video of Johnny Rivers performing “These Are Not My People,” but here’s Rivers doing a pretty decent version of “Secret Agent Man” on a David Letterman episode that looks to have taken place while Letterman was at NBC years ago. (One note at YouTube says this performance was part of the July 19, 1989 episode on NBC. In the absence of anything else, I’ll accept that.)

Although I can’t post it here, I found an interesting video put together for the Flirtations and their hit, “Nothing But A Heartache.”

And I found a video with a very limited visual but an audio track that has Waldo de los Ríos doing for the Fourth Movement of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” that he did for Mozart in the single I posted Tuesday. It comes from de los Ríos’ 1970 album, Sinfonias.*

Tomorrow, we’ll either dig into the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1977 or else take a look at another album by Jim Horn. In addition, I’m planning to repost a number of albums, based on some request I’ve gotten. If you have any requests, go ahead and leave them, and I’ll put them on the list. This is something I hope to do periodically. (Due to requests from some performers and/or copyright holders, there are some albums I will not repost.)

*The Waldo de los Ríos video posted here is different from the video originally posted. The visuals are less limited but nevertheless are rather odd. Note added March 16, 2012.

Some Tunes From Forty Years Ago

March 16, 2012

Originally posted March 4, 20009

It’s one of those days.

I’ll be back with some videos tomorrow, and Friday, we’ll see what the sunrise brings. There will be words and music, I promise.

In the meantime, here’s some tunes – some certainly familiar, some likely not – from this week in 1969.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, March 8, 1969)
“The Worst That Could Happen” by the Brooklyn Bridge, Buddah 75 (No. 22)
“Cloud Nine” by Mongo Santamaria, Columbia 44740 (No. 32)
“Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet, Smash 2191 (No. 45)
“These Are Not My People” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial 66360 (No. 64)
“Nothing But A Heartache” by the Flirtations, Deram 85038 (No. 93)
“As The Years Go Passing By” by Albert King, Atlantic 2604 (No. 137)

The Brooklyn Bridge was an eleven-member group that I’ve seen called a “horn band.” There were saxophones and a trumpet in the group, but to me the sound isn’t quite what I’d call a horn band. Maybe I need to listen to the group’s entire first album again, see what I hear. Anyway, lead singer Johnny Maestro had found some earlier success with the Crests (seven Top 40 hits including “Sixteen Candles,” which went to No. 2) before fronting the Brooklyn Bridge. “The Worst That Could Happen” went to No. 3.

I’ve posted a couple of Mongo Santamaria tracks before; I find his combination of hit songs – in this case, from the Temptations – and Latin rhythms fascinating. “Cloud Nine” was his second and – as it turned out – last Top 40 hit; it peaked at No. 32. His earlier hit was a cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” which had gone to No. 10 in 1963.

“Mendocino” was the third and last Top 40 hit for the Sir Douglas Quintet. It peaked at No. 27, not as good as the group’s first hit, “She’s About A Mover,” which had gone to No. 13 in 1965, but better than second, “The Rains Came,” which stalled at No. 31 in 1966. The quintet’s moving force, Doug Sahm, went on to a long career as a guitarist, composer, arranger, performer and music historian before passing on in 1999.

As far as I can tell, the Johnny Rivers track never appeared on an album, but I could be wrong. Written by Joe South (and included on his great 1968 album, Introspect), the song sounds almost Dylan-esque in its lyric and arrangement. I keep hearing echoes of “Positively Fourth Street” and “Like A Rolling Stone” as I listen, and the arrangement owes a little bit, in spots at least, to Blonde on Blonde. Wherever the inspiration came from, it’s a great song and a great single. Few others heard it that way, and the record peaked at No. 55.

The Flirtations had a fairly long and active recording career in the 1960s and 1970s, according to All-Music Guide. A good deal of their success evidently came in England, where I think they were well-favored (or “well-favoured,” as it would have been) among devotees of the genre tagged Northern Soul and wound up on the Deram label. “Nothing But A Heartache” had some success on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at No. 34 in the U.S. and giving the Flirtations their only Top 40 hit.

“As The Years Go Passing By” is a classic blues song, and Albert King – about as good a bluesman as you could find, especially on guitar – does it well. The song is sometimes credited to King, but its listed composer is Deadric Malone. That turns out to be a pseudonym for blues and R&B producer and writer Don Robey, who founded the Peacock record label in Houston, Texas, and later merged it with Memphis-based Duke Records. King’s version of “As The Years Go Passing By” was pulled from his 1967 album Born Under A Bad Sign, which came from various sessions at Stax with Booker T & the MG’s and the Memphis Horns. The single stayed at No. 132 for two weeks, never even cracking the Hot 100.