Posts Tagged ‘Gary U.S. Bonds’

Peter, Gary, Chubby & Gladys

March 31, 2021

Originally posted July 2, 2009.

Talking a walk around YouTube this morning, I found a few things of interest.

Here’s Peter Kaukonen with a nifty rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” from what looks to be a relatively recent performance at the B.B. King Blues Bar & Grill in New York City.

Here’s Gary U.S. Bonds in what appears to be a 1981 ( not 1989, as in the original post) television performance of the Bruce Springsteen-penned “This Little Girl Is Mine.”

I also found a video, evidently from 1961 (with subtitles added later), of Chubby Checker singing and dancing his way through “Let’s Twist Again.”

And finally, with a performance of “Every Beat Of My Heart” followed by “So Sad The Song,” here are Gladys Knight and the Pips during a 1977 performance at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

I think that tomorrow, we’ll pull one random song from every year of the 1960s, just as we’ve recently done for the 1970s and the 1980s. But we’ll see what might otherwise pop up between now and tomorrow morning.

Lost On Campus

February 11, 2019

Originally posted June 29, 2009

I was seven or eight years old when I had my first great adventure on the campus of St. Cloud State College (as it was titled then). If I were eight at the time, then it took place in mid-summer of 1961, and from this long distance, that’s close enough for our purposes.

I wrote a little earlier this summer about attending summer classes at the Campus Lab School at St. Cloud State, spending mornings there so the college’s education students had someone to teach as they pursued their college degrees. If I recall correctly, on most days, my dad would be waiting when I left the school, and I’d ride home with him in his beloved ’52 Ford. Then came the day of the all-college picnic.

Think about this for a moment, as this is – at least for me – a quintessential 1960s event: A summertime picnic on the lawn, open to all students, all faculty and staff members, and all of their family members. The college was, of course, a much smaller place than is today’s sprawling institution, and then, summertime enrollment is always less than during other quarters. But still, a college-wide picnic! Barbecued chicken and beans and cole slaw for how many? Maybe five hundred people? It was a tradition that wouldn’t last much longer, as I don’t recall such picnics taking place during the summers I was a student on campus.

It was a different era, of course, one of freshman beanies and letter sweaters, with the young men mostly wearing dress slacks or khakis and the young women almost always wearing dresses, kind of like Faber College in Animal House (without the fascists or the slobs). I recall during one of those annual picnics looking across the street at a battered wooden building. It housed the campus bookstore and a student hangout called the Chatterbox.

The Chatterbox, probably ca. 1960. (SCSU Archives)

I asked a family friend, one of my dad’s student workers, what it was like inside, and he said it was crowded and noisy. He said they sold burgers and fries and coffee and malts. It was an honest-to-god malt shop! Except for the coffee, it sounded pretty good to a preteen whiteray, and I asked him if he’d take me in there someday. He shook his head no. A few years later the Chatterbox was gone, razed to make way for the new student center.

Anyway, on the day of the all-college picnic in 1961, I was supposed to meet my mom outside the Campus Lab School and we’d walk the three or so blocks or so to the picnic. I went out the door where I usually found Dad in his car. No Mom. I waited a few minutes, wondering what to do. And when she hadn’t shown up in ten minutes, I set out across campus, heading for Dad’s office. I wasn’t at all sure of the campus’ geography, but I knew Dad’s office was in the basement of the library, and if I could find the library, then I was in good shape.

So every once in a while, I asked a passing student where the library was. The college men chuckled at me, and one asked if I were going to do research for a term paper. The college women told each other I was cute, and a couple of them wanted to know if I wanted them to take me to the library. No, I said, I could find it myself, as long as I had good directions. And I did find it. And I found the stairs down to Dad’s office. The door was locked and the dark basement corridor was a little spooky.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but sitting in a dark basement corridor was kind of scary, and it wasn’t getting me any chicken. I clambered up the stairs, and went to the picnic. And that’s where I found my folks, who were of course, quite worried. (Though perhaps not as worried as parents in similar circumstances might be today; although a good portion of today’s horrors also existed back then, they were not placed nearly so firmly on our minds’ center stage then as they are today.) My mom told me she’d waited at the front door of the lab school for a fair amount of time; I told her dad had been picking me up at the side door.

And after a few minutes more of discussion, we got in line and filled our plates.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, June 26, 1961)
“Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1008 (No. 1)
“Every Beat of My Heart” by the Pips, Vee-Jay 386 (No. 8)
“Peanut Butter” by the Marathons, Arvee 5027 (No. 23)
“Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker, Parkway 824 (No. 62)
“Theme from ‘Goodbye Again’” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 319 (No. 85)
“Rainin’ In My Heart” by Slim Harpo, Excello 2194 (No. 99)

A couple of these are pretty well known: “Quarter to Three” and “Let’s Twist Again” are staples on any self-respecting oldies radio station, and they deserve to be so (although Checker’s original “The Twist” is a better single than “Let’s Twist Again”). Both of them, at the right moments, can get you out on the dance floor, and thus, they remain among the best that not only 1961 had to offer, but the entire era post-Holly and pre-Beatles. “Quarter to Three” spent two weeks at No. 1, and “Let’s Twist Again” peaked at No. 8 later in the summer.

Speaking of that era of American pop, the one that began with the plane crash in Iowa and ended with the Beatles playing on Ed Sullivan’s show: I’ve seen that era written off entirely. Now, it’s true there was a lot of bad pop and faux R&B being played on radio and racked in the stores – Fabian, anyone? – but there was still more good music than a lot of post-Sixties critics have recalled over the years. Some of the other records on that week’s Hot 100, stuff that I could have shared, were: “Tossin’ and Turnin’” by Bobby Lewis, “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Hello Walls” by Faron Young, “Cupid” by San Cooke, “I Like It Like That (Part 1)” by Chris Kenner and “Mama Said” by the Shirelles. And that’s just a quick glance.

Now, there’s no doubt that pop music slumped a little in those years, but my point is that it wasn’t quite the desert that some writers have claimed it to be.

There’s a riddle surrounding “Every Beat of My Heart.” It’s listed twice on the Hot 100 for this week: Vee-Jay has a release credited only to the Pips (before Gladys Knight got top billing) at No. 8, and it’s also listed at No. 60 as a release on Fury Records, credited to Gladys Knight and the Pips. From everything I know, I have the Vee-Jay release here, but if anyone out there knows any better, let me know, please. According to The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, the Vee-Jay version peaked at No. 6, while the Fury version failed to make the Top 40.

Regarding “Peanut Butter,” writer Dave Marsh notes the strange tale: The Olympics and their producers, Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith, sold the single to Argo, a subsidiary of Chicago’s Chess Records. But as the group was still under contract to Los Angeles-based Arvee, the record was credited to the Marathons, a not-too-subtle change from the Olympics. And the song had a strong resemblance to the Olympics’ 1960 hit, “(Baby) Hully Gully.” So, without too much ado, the record wound up on the Arvee label anyway, and went to No. 20. Now, the tale is told quite a bit differently by Joel Whitburn in The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Whitburn says that with the Olympics on tour, Arvee brought in the Vibrations to record “Peanut Butter.” But the Vibrations were under contract to Chess/Checker, which stopped the Arvee release and then had the Vibrations record a version of the song for Argo, the Chess subsidiary. At which point, Arvee brought in another group – evidently neither the Olympics nor the Vibrations – to record “Peanut Butter” yet again. That third release, I guess, is what is offered here. And none of that matters when the lead singer calls out “Scarf now!”

The Ferrante & Teicher record was in its third week in the Hot 100 this week. It would linger in the lower levels one more week before falling off the chart. And in August, the piano duo would have their first Top 40 hit with the “Theme from The Apartment,” which would peak at No. 10.

“Rainin’ In My Heart” would eventually rise from the depths of the Hot 100 to become one of two Top 40 hits by Slim Harpo, whose real name was James Moore. “Rainin’ In My Heart” would rise to No. 34, and five years later, his “Baby Scratch My Back” would go to No. 16. Those were Harpo’s only Top 40 hits, but he may be better known for two songs covered by the Rolling Stones: “I’m A King Bee,” which was on the album The Rolling Stones in 1964 (and was covered by many others as well, including Muddy Waters), and “Shake Your Hips,” which wound up on 1972’s Exile on Main St. (Oddly, the Exile on Main St. jacket listed the song as “Hip Shake,” but the label on the record had the correct title.)

Wandering Around

May 31, 2017

Originally posted June 17, 2009

Wandering the upper levels of the cable offerings last evening, I happened upon a boxing match on one of the premium channels. I’ve never watched a lot of boxing, but when I come across it by accident, I sometimes watch for a few minutes. I did so last evening, and I got to thinking about a time when boxing was on network television on a regular basis.

The program I recall was The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, airing Friday evenings in the late 1950s and early 1960s, or so my memory told me. I didn’t really watch the show, but I sure remembered the theme song. Here’s a long instrumental version of the theme song that’s been used – for some reason – as a background for video of penguins. Here’s the theme – titled “Look Sharp – Be Sharp (Gillette March)” – as recorded in 1954 by the Boston Pops:

So, thinking about The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, I wandered over to Wikipedia, where I read that the show had run on Friday evenings into 1960 on NBC and had then moved to ABC. That made sense: I have vague memories of the show on NBC, but I also remember seeing prime-time boxing on KMSP, which was at the time ABC’s affiliate in the Twin Cities. (Watching shows on KMSP was sometimes an iffy proposition, as the station distinguished itself during the years of roof-top antennas by having the weakest signal of all four commercial stations in the Twin Cities.)

Wandering further into the topic, I checked the 1960-61 prime time TV schedule at Wikipedia and found no listing on ABC for The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports. Digging around a bit, I learned that ABC moved the show to Saturdays and renamed it Fight of the Week. Having resolved that, I spent some time looking at the prime time television schedules for 1959-60 and 1960-61.

And I found that fascinating, a real memory trip: National Velvet, The Red Skelton Show, Sugarfoot, Hong Kong, 77 Sunset Strip, Law of the Plainsman, Hawaiian Eye and on and on. I don’t recall watching them all, but I remember the titles. Of course, I did see some of those shows. One of my favorites was 77 Sunset Strip, a show about two detectives in Los Angeles that starred, among others, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., who went on to star later in the 1960s and 1970s in The F.B.I., and Ed Byrnes, whose hair-combing character, Kookie, inspired the 1959 hit, “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” which Byrnes recorded with Connie Stevens. The record went to No. 4. Here are Byrnes and Stevens during an appearance on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show from April 4, 1959 (not American Bandstand, as I originally guessed).

We’ve wandered a little afield here. I’m sure I didn’t see that particular performance, nor did I hear the record until many years later. My interest at the time was the drama – such as it was – on 77 Sunset Strip, which ran from 1958 into 1964. Here’s a version of the theme from the show (I think it’s the original, but I’m not at all certain):

“77 Sunset Strip” written by Mack David and Jerry Livingston [1958]

And then, here’s a selection from 1960, which is the year that The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports moved from NBC to ABC:

A Six-Pack from 1960
“New Orleans” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1003 [Peak: No. 6]
“Wonderland by Night” by Bert Kaempfert, Decca 31141 [Peak: No. 1 in 1961]
“Walking to New Orleans” by Fats Domino, Imperial 5675 [Peak: No. 6]
“Theme from ‘The Apartment’” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 231 [Peak: No. 10]
“Save the Last Dance For Me” by the Drifters, Atlantic 2071 [Peak: No. 1]
“Last Date” by Floyd Cramer, RCA 7775 [Peak: No. 2]

Bonus Track
“A Fool In Love” by Ike & Tina Turner, Sue 730 [No. 20]

Well, throw in some Everly Brothers, a Johnny Horton tune, a Frankie Avalon tune, some Dion & The Belmonts, then add Elvis, Percy Faith and Connie Francis, and you’d have a pretty good idea of how 1960 sounded.

When I pulled the first six tracks to share today, I didn’t realize that all of them were Top Ten records. That tells me that radio listening might not have been as bad in 1960 as I tend to think it was. (I certainly don’t remember what pop radio sounded like in 1960; I turned seven that year, and I don’t recall listening to much of anything at all. So anything I know about music in 1960 – except for piano exercises by John W. Schaum – comes from learning about it long after the fact.) On the other hand, the year also provided listeners with “Running Bear” by Johnny Preston, “Teen Angel” by Mark Dining and “Mr. Custer” by Larry Verne, all of which went to No. 1. So call it a mixed bag.

Revised slightly on archival posting.

Hoping To Hear One From The List

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 11, 2009

More than a year ago, on the Saturday when I would see Richie Havens in concert, I shared here a list started long ago of specific songs by specific performers that I hoped to see live. While it had never been written down until the day of that post, the list was something I’d started in the spring of 1972. My sister’s 1971 Christmas present to me had been two tickets to any concert I wanted to see in the Twin Cities. Eventually, I chose to go see Joe Cocker at the now-razed Metropolitan Sports Center. (He had two opening acts that evening: Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show and Bobby Whitlock.)

On our drive to the Cities, Rick and I talked, of course, of what we wanted to hear Cocker perform. My main selection was “Delta Lady.” I think he was hoping for “Bird On The Wire.” And we began to talk about what songs we’d like to hear by other performers, were we ever lucky enough to see them in concert. Since then, I’ve kept a list in my memory of such hopes.

As a caveat to the list, I wrote here in January of 2008:

“I should note that there are many other performers I’d like to see, many of them more current than those here on this list. Some that some immediately to mind are Joss Stone, Tift Merritt, Grace Potter & the Nocturals, David Gray, Colin Linden, Ollabelle and the Dixie Chicks. But I have no one song that immediately comes to mind for those acts.”

And then I shared, in no particular order, the song/performer pairings that have been on my list over the years. The notes in parentheses indicate the dates and places where in fact, I heard that entry.

“Honky-Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones (October 4, 1973, Århus, Denmark)
“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan (July 1989, St. Paul, Minnesota)
“Yesterday” by Paul McCartney (September 2002, St. Paul, Minnesota)
“Layla” by Eric Clapton
“American Pie” by Don McLean (Early 1987, St. Cloud, Minnesota)
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
“That’s The Way God Planned It” by Billy Preston (Spring 1973, St. Cloud, Minnesota)
“Imagine” by John Lennnon (No longer possible)
“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison
“Angel of Harlem” by U2
“The Weight” by The Band (Summer 1994, Minneapolis, Minnesota)
“While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood
“Love at the Five and Dime” by Nanci Griffith
“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Summer 1974, St. Paul, Minnesota)
“Delta Lady” by Joe Cocker (April 1972, Bloomington, Minnesota)
“She Was Waiting . . .” by Shawn Phillips (Early 1973, St. Cloud, Minnesota)
“Done Too Soon” by Neil Diamond (September 1971, State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota)
“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King (August 1995, State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota)
“Follow” by Richie Havens

When I shared that list, I was hopeful that I’d be able to enter a date and place for Havens’ “Follow.” But faced with a vast catalog from more than forty years of recording, Havens bypassed “Follow” in the course of a remarkable concert. Was I disappointed? Only a small bit.

Come sometime this evening, I should be able to add a date and place after “Born To Run” in the list above: The Texas Gal and I have tickets to see Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band tonight at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. We’re pretty high up – in the highest section of the arena, I think – but we’re on the side of the stage and in the front row of our section. We’ll be pretty much directly across the arena from where we sat when we saw Paul McCartney, and those were pretty good seats.

So here, in anticipation, is a selection of five covers of Springsteen songs and his own idiosyncratic alternate take on “Born To Run.”

A Six-Pack of Springsteen Covers (Almost)
“Atlantic City” by The Band from Jericho [1993]
“Because The Night” by the Patti Smith Group from Easter [1978]
“4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” by the Hollies from Another Night [1975]
“Love On The Wrong Side Of Town” by Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes from This Time It’s For Real [1977]
“This Little Girl” by Gary U.S. Bonds from Dedication [1981]
“Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen (live) from Chimes of Freedom [1988]

Gary U.S. Bonds: ‘Dedication’

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 15, 2008

I came late to all things Springsteen.

I remember seeing his picture on the covers of Time and Newsweek in late October 1975, when both magazines examined the hoopla surrounding the release of Born to Run. The cover stories were more about the hype than the music, and I didn’t find myself intrigued. I didn’t buy the album or look into Springsteen’s music at all.

I think I was waiting to see what happened with his career, to see what came next. And, as is well known, a conflict with his manager and the resulting legal entanglements kept Springsteen from recording for a couple of years. When Darkness on the Edge of Town came out, I heard “Badlands” on KQRS in the Twin Cities. I thought it was all right, but I wasn’t really in a rock frame of mind, so I let the album slide.

And slide they continued to do: The River, Nebraska, and Born in the U.S.A. came out and were, for the most part, ignored. The last of those could not truly be ignored, of course, what with seven of its twelve tracks being Top Ten hits. I liked what I heard, but still, I didn’t go out and buy it. I wasn’t buying much new music at all in those years. It was an odd time; I was listening but I wasn’t collecting. So it wasn’t until 1988, after I’d started a new chapter of my life in Minot, North Dakota, and had my interest in music and record collecting revived, that I bought my first Springsteen album: Tunnel of Love. And I thought it was great.

By the time I left Minot a little more than a year later, I’d caught up: I had everything from Greetings From Asbury Park through the massive live collection released in 1986. And from then on, I doubt that more than a few weeks have elapsed between the time of a new Springsteen release and its arrival at my home. (Well, it took longer than that for 1993’s In Concert/MTV Plugged to make its way home as I never saw it on vinyl.)

Along the way, especially during the 1990s, I got caught up on the work Springsteen had done for other performers. And I found Gary U.S. Bonds and the two albums that Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt helped produce, Dedication and On the Line. Bonds, of course, had his string of hit singles in the early 1960s, the most famous of which is “Quarter to Three,” which went to No. 1 in 1961. Springsteen has never been coy about his love for Bonds’ music and its influence on his own work, and “Quarter to Three” has been over the years a frequent fixture on Springsteen’s set lists.

So when I found the two albums – Dedication is from 1981 and On the Line came out the next year – I took them home and liked them. Bonds was always a limited vocalist, but he acquits himself pretty well on both records. Having shared On the Line here earlier, today I’m offering Dedication. Springsteen and Van Zandt produced four of the tracks together, and five others are credited to Van Zandt alone. (Bonds, along with Lanny Lambert and Rob Parissi, produced the remaining track, “Way Back When.”)

In addition to producing, Springsteen and Van Zandt brought some along songs and some friends. Although other musicians are credited as well, the bulk of the work on the album, one guesses, comes from Springsteen, Van Zandt and the other members of the E Street Band: Danny Federici, Garry Tallent, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan and Clarence Clemons. Not surprisingly, nine of the record’s ten tracks have a familiar sound, a combination of the E Street Band’s sound with the sound of Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, for whom Springsteen and Van Zandt did a fair amount of production work around the same time. (“Way Back When” isn’t out of place on the record, though, and Clemons has a nice sax solo at the start of the song.)

In addition to all that, Springsteen adds some vocal solos, on “Jolé Blon” and “This Little Girl.” A look at the credits also shows vocal work by legends Ben E. King (“Stand By Me” and many more) and Chuck Jackson (“Any Day Now”) on “Your Love.”

As to the songs, Springsteen contributed “This Little Girl,” “Your Love,” and “Dedication,” while Van Zandt wrote “Daddy’s Come Home.” All four of those songs are on Side One of the record, following the album opener, the Cajun tune, “Jolé Blon.” That give the first side of the record a resonance that maybe the second side can’t sustain.

There are some interesting covers on Side Two, however: Bonds does a pretty decent job on the Lennon-McCartney tune “It’s Only Love,” which was pulled from Rubber Soul, and he also manages a good take on Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender.” But he falls short, it seems to me, on Bob Dylan’s “From A Buick 6.” It’s an interesting choice, but Bonds ends up fighting Van Zandt’s lumbering, echoing production and comes in second. It’s maybe the only real misstep on the album. The record’s closer, “Just Like A Child,” is a nice ballad — Bond’s wife Laurie Anderson is one of its co-writers – that includes large doses of gospel before it ends.

Overall, it’s a good record, though maybe not quite as good as On the Line would be a year later. It did pretty well when it was released, reaching No. 27 during a seven-week stay on the album chart; “This Little Girl,” released as a single, went to No. 11.

Jolé Blon
This Little Girl
Your Love
Daddy’s Come Home
It’s Only Love
The Pretender
Way Back When
From A Buick 6
Just Like A Child

Gary U.S. Bonds – Dedication [1981]

New Years Gone & Remembered

June 1, 2011

Originally posted December 31, 2007

It seems a little bit like a slice of science fiction, that date that will show up on our calendars tomorrow: 2008. But then, on the last day of any year, it seems, we’ve always shaken our heads and muttered to one another or to the walls, “I can’t believe it’s going to be 1967,” or “It’s really going to be 1982?” or something like that. For many of us wandering this globe, our distaste for the passing of time shows itself in mock disbelief as each December wanes.

But the next day, the first of whatever New Year it may be, we lever ourselves out of our beds and move on into the future that waits, having no reasonable choice but to – as I put it the other day – put one foot in front of the other. Tonight will be the fifty-fifth time that a New Year has started with me as part of it, and I admit to some surprise these days that the years have spun by as rapidly as they have. But I’d rather be here than not, so there’s no point in whining about the advance of years or how large the number on the calendar is or, for that matter, how large the number on my waistband is. (Having grown up reading and watching 1950s and 1960s science fiction, however, I do admit to wondering what the heck happened to my flying car!)

I don’t recall all of the fifty-four New Years that have passed in my lifetime, of course, but a few stand out, and those that do tend to be those that had a soundtrack.

In the mid-1960s, I spent my New Year’s Eves across the street at Rick’s, as did many of his siblings’ friends, and the result was often cacophony backed by popular music. Rick’s elder sister and her friends generally selected the tunes that became the soundtracks for those December evenings. One year – it had to be the night 1964 turned into 1965 – Petula Clark encouraged us to go “Downtown” at least ten times between nine o’clock and midnight. A few years later, the theme for New Year’s Eve was the faux-1920s sound of the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” which echoed in my ears for a few days.

In 1973, when I greeted the New Year in Denmark, I was visiting my Danish brother in a little town just outside the university town of Århus. At midnight, he and I and his roommates and their friends all looked down on the harbor town as fireworks arced through the sky all over town. As we stood outside, the radio inside continued to play, making “Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne – the Danish language version of Mocedades’ “Eres Tu” – the music that plays in my head as I recall red and white fireworks over the city.

A year later, a lady friend of mine and I were doing little or nothing to mark the evening, watching television at my home, when we got a call from a friend of ours from out of town. He’d driven into St. Cloud and was downtown at one of the bars, looking in vain for anyone from The Table, the irreverent group of students we hung out with at school. My lady friend and I shrugged, turned off the television and headed out into the cold, joining Larry at one of the popular bars downtown. We sat there until closing time. None of the three of us were then involved with anyone, and all three of us were recuperating from relationships recently gone wrong. So we laughed, long after midnight, as the cover band at the Red Carpet closed the night with its version of a Grand Funk tune. “I must have picked a bad time to be in love,” sang the vocalist, “a bad time to be in love . . .”

Two years later, on a farm in north central Minnesota, my girlfriend and I sat in her parents’ kitchen and listened as a radio station in – I think – the little burg of Wadena, Minnesota, played a syndicated program counting down the year’s hits. The No. 1 song of 1976, at least according to that program, was “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee, which was a tolerable result, we thought.

More than thirty New Year’s Eves have come and gone since then, and music has marked more than a few, although the music hasn’t always been current. One year, in the late 1990s, I played keyboard for a small band hired to bring in the New Year at an American Legion club in a Twin Cities suburb. We were a pretty good band, playing a mix of oldies and a few recent things. We did some Motown, some Doors, some Rolling Stones tunes, some Santana, a few things by Dylan and lots of other stuff. The club had evidently featured country bands other years, so we weren’t all that well received at first by the crowd. But we hung in there, and eventually we had ’em dancing.

We probably won’t be dancing tonight, the Texas Gal and I. We’ll watch some television, probably the festivities in New York, and we’ll most likely put a CD in the player as midnight approaches. And I would guess we’ll greet 2008 to the sounds of a thirty-eight year old recording: Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”

I hope your New Year’s moments will mean as much to all of you.

On the Line – Gary U.S. Bonds
I’ve been planning to rip and share today’s album for some time, but I figured it would have to wait a little longer. With the Texas Gal on vacation for another two days, I’m reluctant to spend any more time on the blog than is utterly necessary, so I figured I’d cobble something together for today from music already ripped. But as I wandered around yesterday, I came across a rip of On the Line, the 1982 album by Gary U.S. Bond at La Columna Flácida, a blog that offers an interesting mix of music.

I shared “Rendezvous,” one of the album’s singles, in a Baker’s Dozen not long ago, and I noted then that if the track sounded at all like Bruce Springsteen, there was a reason. Springsteen and Miami Steve VanZandt co-produced the album for Bonds, whose song “Quarter to Three” had long been a concert staple for Springsteen. And when one listens to On the Line, it does sound very much like a Springsteen work with a guest vocalist. Whether that’s a plus or minus depends very much on how much the listener likes Springsteen’s early 1980s sound.

For me, it’s a plus. Bonds, being a singles artist from the early 1960s – “New Orleans,” his first Top 40 hit, came out in 1960, and “Seven Day Weekend,” his seventh and last 1960s hit, came in 1962 – didn’t have a large body of work on which a listener can hang any hats. The hits all sounded pretty much the same, and the two 1960s albums listed at All-Music Guide were typical albums of the time: hits surrounded by filler tracks recorded in the same style as the hits. There wasn’t a lot to listen to if someone wanted to get an idea of what kind of range Bonds might have.

Bonds get a chance to show that range a bit on 1982’s On the Line (as he had a year earlier on Dedication, an album also produced by Springsteen and VanZandt). The tracks are mostly mid-tempo, but some of them rock along nicely in an early 1960s groove, while others give Bonds a chance to stretch his style.

“On the Line” gives Bonds one of those chances, as does “Club Soul City,” and he does pretty well. “Out of Work” is a track that sounds remarkably like Springsteen’s “Hungy Heart,” though its lyrics are far less cryptic than those of “Hungry Heart,” which, of course, wound up on Springsteen’s 1981 album, The River. It’s a nice track anyway.

Springsteen wrote seven of the eleven songs on the album, and VanZandt wrote one. In addition, the credits are stocked with members of the E Street Band: Danny Federici on accordion and keyboard, Roy Bittan on keyboard, Gary Tallent on bass, Max Weinberg on drums and Clarence Clemons on saxophone. Other musicians are listed on all those instruments, too – well, not on accordion – but the overall sense and sound of the album is that of a Springsteen project, as I wrote earlier.

It’s still fun, though, and Bonds comes off pretty well. He handles the Springsteen/VanZandt material well. But Bonds does just as well with the other three tracks: “Turn The Music Down” and “Bring Her Back,” which he evidently wrote with his wife, Laurie Anderson, and “Soul Deep,” the mid-1960s hit for the Box Tops.

Hold On (To What You Got)
Out Of Work
Club Soul City
Soul Deep
Love’s On The Line
Turn The Music Down
All I Need
Bring Her Back
Last Time

Gary U.S. Bonds – On The Line [1982]

Thank you
A huge and humble “thank you” to Any Major Dude With Half A Heart. In the inaugural Major Dude Awards, Echoes In The Wind was honored as the Best Singles Blog. And once you’ve checked out the awards, bookmark Any Major Dude . . . It’s a great blog itself!

A Baker’s Dozen From 1981

April 30, 2011

Originally posted July 31, 2007

One of the over-used epigrams of the 1960s was the quotation from Plato: “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.” It seemed hip at the time to envision the structure of society crumbling when faced with the works of the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, MC5 and the Rolling Stones (among many, many others). One wonders how the denizens of Woodstock Nation – or Altamont Nation, for those with a darker, more cynical bent – would have fared had the “walls of the city” truly been shaken.

It’s an interesting idea: Had the late 1960s actually been an era of revolution, how would the followers of tie-dyed fashion, the children of the suburbs, have fared in the new society following a true revolution? Probably pretty poorly, I would imagine. The new leaders, those deemed sufficiently pure ideologically, would most likely have found the vast majority of the so-called revolutionaries to be dilettantes at best, bent on changing their personal circumstances rather than the societal structure that gave them generally comfortable lives. I have the mental image of thousands of young people banished to bleak farms in the countryside, undergoing education and orientation to revolutionary ideals as they grow strawberries and potatoes. “This ain’t what I signed up for,” I can hear one or another say. “I just wanted to drop out and find a chick in San Francisco!”

It’s hard to say how close America was to an actual revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One can read the histories and memoirs of the era – Todd Gitlin’s The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage comes to mind – and not get a real sense. Despite the forty-year-old regrets on the far left end of the political spectrum and the still-potent rage that resides on the far right, it seems to me that the political upheaval of the times flared out without having much impact. (The civil rights and women’s movements, on the other hand, changed American life immensely, but those are other topics for perhaps other days.)

The real revolution, when it came along, was cultural, and it was in Plato’s “mode of the music.” I’ve seen a number of reviews, analyses and think-pieces in magazines and newspapers over the past couple of years – sorry, but I don’t have specific citations – that indicate that once more an American music form has become the world’s predominant music. Those pieces note that in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, rock ’n’ roll became the world’s music (though rock was recycled for a time through British sensibilities) and the same thing has happened in the last twenty years with hip-hop.

Now, I’m not anything like an expert on hip-hop and its stylistic cousins. I like some of it, have some in the collection, but it’s not my music. I do note its importance, though. And these thoughts about modes changing and the quaking walls of the city came about today because of the last track that came up while I was compiling my random list of thirteen songs from 1981.

“The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five was one of those tracks that changed the music universe and continue to echo into the world at large. In his 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul, Dave Marsh puts the track at No. 179 and calls it “the Birth of the Nation” of hip-hop. He also notes, “play this first masterpiece of hip-hop at the crushing volume at which it was intended to be heard and s**t will start shakin’ you never imagined had any wobble in it.”

Marsh goes on to say that “hardly anybody outside the New York City area has ever even heard the damn thing.” That may have been true in 1989, when copyright difficulties – arising from the multitude of clips taken from other performers’ tracks – got in the way of Grandmaster Flash and his colleagues. But if nothing else has, the advent of the ’Net in the [eighteen] years since Marsh wrote has spread “The Adventures . . .” and other, similar, compiled tracks worldwide. So, if one accepts the idea that hip-hop has in the last [twenty-six] years become the soundtrack to the world, the last track on today’s Baker’s Dozen is what the real revolution sounded like when it began.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1981
“Old Photographs” by Jim Capaldi from Let The Thunder Cry

“I Can’t Stand It” by Eric Clapton, RSO single 1060

“Fire On The Bayou” by the Neville Brothers from Fiyo On The Bayou

“The Innocent Age” by Dan Fogelberg from The Innocent Age

“Carry On” by J. J. Cale from Shades

“Edge of Seventeen” by Stevie Nicks from Belladonna

“This Little Girl” by Gary U.S. Bonds, EMI America single 8079

“Waiting On A Friend” by the Rolling Stones from Tattoo You

“Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton, Capitol single 4997

“Upper Mississippi Shakedown” by the Lamont Cranston Band from Shakedown

“I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)” by Lulu, Alfa single 7006

“Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind & Fire, ARC single 02536

“The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Sugar Hill single 577

A few comments on some of the other tracks:

Jim Capaldi’s “Old Photographs” is a beautiful song, tinged with regret the way most memoirs should be. But it’s a long way from the sometimes edgy work Capaldi and his mates in Traffic did once upon a time.

Just like Harry Chapin – whose song “Sequel” showed up here the other week – Dan Fogelberg is a polarizing musician: One either finds his work compelling or finds it overblown. In general, I like it, though I did think that his double album The Innocent Age flirted with lyrical pomposity. Even so, it was musically gorgeous.

If the Gary U.S. Bonds track sounds like Bruce Springsteen, well, there’s a reason. Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt produced the track and a good portion of the album it came from, Dedication. Springsteen’s admiration for Bonds, and his love of Bonds’ early 1960s recordings of “Quarter to Three” and “New Orleans,” is no secret, of course.

I was glad to see “Upper Mississippi Shakedown” by the Lamont Cranston Band make the random list. St. Cloud has a baseball team in a regional summer college league, the River Bats, and hearing the Cranston track while sipping a cold beverage and taking in the early evening sights of a small baseball park is a fine experience, indeed!