Posts Tagged ‘Grass Roots’

The Joy of Yellow Pea Soup

May 27, 2022

Originally posted September 30, 2009

During my childhood and youth, one thing that was sure to bring a smile when I came home from a hard day at school was seeing the pressure cooker on the stove. While that might mean vegetable soup – which was a fine meal itself – more often than not the sight of the pressure cooker mean that we were having yellow pea soup for supper. (For folks like my parents and their forbears out on the farms, “supper” was the evening meal; “dinner” was what you had at noon and “lunch” was a snack at mid-afternoon.)

I loved pea soup, and in our house, it was always made with whole yellow peas, just as it had been by generations of my Swedish ancestors in Minnesota and in the Swedish province of Småland for years before that. It’s a simple dish – a large pot of yellow peas, an onion and some pork hocks – cooked for hours and then enjoyed for days, with the soup becoming thicker and thicker each day. The only other thing on our table on those evenings was saltine crackers, though I imagine my ancestors likely had brown bread of some sort.

For years after I left home, Mom and Dad made the occasional large kettle of pea soup, freezing much of it for later meals. During the time I lived away from St. Cloud, nearly every visit to Kilian Boulevard would end with Dad pulling containers of food out of the freezer for me to take home, and several of those containers would hold a good-sized serving of pea soup. I’d ration them carefully, trying to make them last until close to my next trip to St. Cloud. In their later years together, Dad did most of the cooking. He passed on six years ago, and since then, Mom’s moved into an assisted living center and doesn’t do much cooking at all. So there’s been no home-made pea soup for me or for Mom for at least six years.

On occasion, I’ve made soup with split peas, but it just wasn’t the same. I’ve intended for a while to try my hand at the real thing, so for some time, there’s been a pound of whole yellow peas in our pantry, waiting for me to get organized. I did so about ten days ago, first soaking the peas overnight and pouring off that water. Then I sliced a large onion and cut the slices into eighths. I took a pound of ham and cut it into cubes that were roughly a third of an inch square. (I prefer the flavor of pork hocks, but they’re quite fatty, so I deferred to a healthier choice.) I put the peas, the ham and the onion in a five-and-a-half quart crockpot, filled the pot with water and added two teaspoons of celery seed, and then set it to cook on “high” for about six hours.

It turned out pretty well. The Texas Gal and I had a meal from the pot, and there was still more than enough left to provide lunches for me for a few days. As good as those meals were, however, there were two things that I enjoyed above all: First, I’d forgotten how pleasing it is to walk into a kitchen filled with the aroma of cooking pea soup. And second, after years of getting my home-made pea soup from Mom, I set aside a container of soup for her and was finally able to return the favor.

And here are a few songs from one of the years when the aroma of pea soup in the kitchen would have brightened the end of a rough junior high day:

A Random Six-Pack from 1966
“Somebody To Love” by The Great! Society, recorded live in San Francisco.
“Ribbon of Darkness” by Pozo-Seco Singers from I Can Make It With You.
“Where Were You When I Needed You” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4029.
“Down In The Alley” by Elvis Presley from the soundtrack to Spinout.
“At The River’s Edge” by the New Colony Six, Centaur 1202.
“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing In The Shadow?” by the Rolling Stones, London 903

Bonus Track
“Who’s Driving My Plane” by the Rolling Stones, London 903

The Great! Society was the band Grace Slick was in before she joined the Jefferson Airplane, and it was during her time with the Great! Society that she penned her two most famous songs, “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit.” According to the notes from the Love Is The Song We Sing collection, the Great! Society released a 45 version of “Somebody To Love” on the Northbeach label in 1966, but it got little attention. The version offered here is a live performance during the summer of 1966 at the Matrix club in San Francisco’s Marina district. After Slick moved to the Airplane and she and her two best songs became famous in 1967, Columbia Records released the Great! Society album, Only In Its Absence, and included the live performance of “Somebody To Love.”

The Pozo-Seco Singers were a trio that came out of Texas and had a couple of Top 40 hits in the mid-1960s. (“I Can Make It With You” went to No. 32 in 1966, and “Look What You’ve Done” went to No. 32 as well in 1967.) Better known, perhaps, for being a starting place for country singer and songwriter Don Williams (“I Believe In You” was a No. 1 hit on the country charts in 1980) than for anything else, the Pozo-Seco Singers – Lofton Kline and Susan Taylor being the other two members – nevertheless are worth a listen for finding a middle ground in the folk/folk-pop spectrum that was evolving in the mid-1960s. As All-Music Guide notes, the Pozo-Seco Singers were “[n]ot as hip as Ian & Sylvia or Peter, Paul & Mary,” but “not as blatantly commercial as, say, the Seekers.” That’s not a bad place to find yourself as a musical group, and I’ve often wondered why the Pozo-Seco Singers didn’t have more success as they did.

There’s nothing too mysterious about the Grass Roots: Fourteen Top 40 hits between 1966 and 1972, starting with today’s choice, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” which went to No. 28 during the summer of 1966. Nevertheless, the group was – and remains – kind of faceless; and the group’s history frustrates anyone trying to sort out the discography, as there were – according to AMG – “at least three different groups involved in the making of the songs” credited to the Grass Roots. AMG continues:

The Grass Roots was originated by the writer/producer team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri as a pseudonym under which they would release a body of Byrds/Beau Brummels-style folk-rock. Sloan and Barri were contracted songwriters for Trousdale Music, the publishing arm of Dunhill Records, which wanted to cash in on the folk-rock boom of 1965. Dunhill asked Sloan and Barri to come up with this material, and a group alias under which they would release it. The resulting “Grass Roots” debut song, “Where Were You When I Needed You,” sung by Sloan, was sent to a Los Angeles radio station, which began playing it.

After that, Sloan and Barri went out to find a group that could be the Grass Roots and go on tour, and – with several groups playing the part of the band – the hits kept happening for about six years.

I always kind of liked the Grass Roots’ singles, and it didn’t matter to me, really, who was in the studio on the other end. The songs were good radio pop-rock, and some days, that’s more than good enough.

I may have posted Elvis Presley’s version of “Down In The Alley” before, but it’s good enough to get an encore. The song was originally an R&B tune written by Jesse Stone and the Clovers and released in 1956, and Presley – during a time when his recordings missed the mark as frequently as they hit it – found the groove in the song. I don’t have enough Elvis information in my library to find out, but I’d sure like to know who’s backing Elvis here.

One evening in Denmark, a bunch of us were trading music trivia back and forth. A fellow known as Banger asked me to name the two hits by the New Colony Six. I’d never heard of the group, so I just shrugged my shoulders. Turns out the group was from the Chicago area – and reached the Top 40 twice: “I Will Always Think About You” went to No. 22 in the spring of 1968, and “Things I’d Like To Say” reached No. 16 in the late winter and early spring of 1969. I’m not sure how much airplay either of the two records got in the Twin Cities; when I finally heard the records years later, they weren’t at all familiar. In any case, what I’m offering today is the third recording in my collection by the New Colony Six, “At The River’s Edge,” released on Centaur before the group was signed by Mercury. I like it better than I like the other two: It’s got much more of a garage band feel to it, while the two hits – though nice – are a little too buffed and polished.

“Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing In The Shadow?” might be the loudest record the Rolling Stones ever made. When I ripped the 45 this morning – an earlier rip I offered here was one of the first rips from vinyl I ever made and had, to my ears, some flaws – it red-lined for nearly the entire song. I backed that off a bit, but still, the single has a loud and thick sound. This was the first Rolling Stones record I ever owned, but it’s not like I was savvy enough in 1966 to go out and get it: I got the record from Leo Rau, the guy across the alley who owned a series of jukeboxes in St. Cloud. As an extra, because I don’t see it around very often, I’m offering the flip side, “Who’s Driving My Plane,” as a bonus track.

Saturday Single No. 745

July 17, 2021

So, what was I listening to forty-one years ago this week when I had the radio tuned to KDWB? Here’s the station’s Top Ten from the survey released on July 20, 1970:

“Band of Gold” by Freda Payne
“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night
“Question” by the Moody Blues
“Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton
“Ride Captain Ride” by the Blues Image
“Lay Down” by Melanie
“Teach Your Children” by CSN&Y
“The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5
“Tighter, Tighter” by Alive & Kicking

As I look at those ten titles, I conclude that either that 1970 weekend or one of the two bracketing it was the weekend I spent at the Del-Tone Gun Club southeast of the city, working in the trap pits as the Minnesota State Trap Shoot ended its four-day run.

During the trap shoot, as I spent nine to ten hours of each day in the trap pits loading clay targets onto a whirring and scary machine, each of those ten records came and went numerous times on my old RCA radio perched near me on a table. So those records – and most of the rest of that week’s “6+30” survey from the station – are deeply embedded.

And eight of those – all but the singles from CSN&Y and the Jackson 5 – are in the iPod and thus are a part of my day-to-day listening. Why not those? Well, “Teach Your Children” carries with it some memories that were attached to it some years later, so that makes sense, but I have no idea why “The Love You Save” is excluded. I’ll likely add it this week.

The over-familiarity of those ten records makes it difficult to sort them out (and also means they’ve likely been mentioned and featured here more than once over the years). So we’re going to play Games With Numbers by taking today’s date of 7-17 and making that into 24 and then go see what No. 24 was on that long-ago KDWB survey.

And we find a listing for a record that, it seems, has never been mentioned in this space: “Baby Hold On” by the Grass Roots. I’ve written about the band only a little, most notably when lead singer Rob Grill died in 2011. And that’s a little surprising, given that I almost always liked the band’s stuff when it showed up on the radio during my Top 40 years.

I seem to have ignored “Baby Hold On” as well. There are ten tracks by the band in the iPod, but “Baby Hold On” is not one of them. That will be corrected soon. In the meantime, it’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Survey Dig: February 1972

February 17, 2016

For the past couple years, I’ve been deeply involved in the music program at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship here in St. Cloud. Along with joining the other musicians in leading the weekly congregants in music from our service book and in performing popular music, I’ve offered quite a few of my own compositions.

Almost all of my work that I’ve sung at the fellowship has been quite old, most from the late 1980s and early 1990s, things I wrote and then tucked away for whatever use I might find for them someday. That was the case this week, as I performed a tune of mine titled “Come To Me” for our annual Valentine’s Day program. It’s a song I wrote in Columbia, Missouri, in December 1990 and never performed anywhere until this week. And thinking about that performance in the past few days, I’ve come to two conclusions:

First, if I want to keep performing original work that my audience at the fellowship has never heard before, I’ll need to resume writing songs; I’m rapidly running through my catalog.

Second: I’ve realized that one of the turning points of my life came in early 1972, when I took my first course in music theory at St. Cloud State.

By that time, I’d been playing piano (on my second go-round) for a couple of years and had been writing poetry/lyrics for about the same amount of time. I’d also been playing guitar for about a year, and I’d tried to use my nascent skills there to write music for my lyrics, but all I’d really been doing was stringing together generally random chords. That hadn’t worked well, and the theory I was learning taught me why, as I began to understand how chordal patterns helped song structures work. That understanding grew as I took four more classes in music theory, exhausting St. Cloud State’s offerings.

Now, not much of what I wrote during the next couple of years has aged well (and that includes pieces, generally singer-songwriter stuff, written for the last week of each theory class), but the stuff I wrote after I started my theory courses at least had coherent musical structures. And that change began in the early months of 1972.

So in the spirit of learning about something new, I thought I’d see if there were any records I’d either never heard or didn’t recall hearing on the record survey from the Twin Cities’ KDWB during this week in 1972.

Here’s the top five, all of which – as you might guess – are very familiar:

“Joy” by Apollo 100
“Without You” by Nilsson
“Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers
“Hurting Each Other” by the Carpenters
“Precious and Few” by Climax

All of those are decent records fondly recalled, but as we head down to the lower portions of the survey – thirty-six records long, in a reversed representation of the station’s frequency of 630 – there are good records that are less familiar. And sitting in spot No. 33, new to the survey during this week in 1972, was a Grass Roots record that I likely heard somewhere, sometime, but one that I do not recall hearing until this morning: “Glory Bound.”

The record has all the merits of the Grass Roots’ peak stuff from earlier years, including the 1970-71 trio of “Temptation Eyes,” “Sooner Or Later” and “Two Divided By Love,” but the band’s moment was pretty much over. The record peaked on KDWB three weeks later at No. 11; in the Billboard Hot 100, it got up to No. 34.

Found In A Scrapbook

August 18, 2015

One of my minor projects last week was dissecting a scrapbook put together for me in the early 1980s by the Other Half. She meant well, but the scrapbook was one of those with adhesive lines on each page and a clear plastic sheet covering the page. The Texas Gal – citing expertise earned while working for years for Creative Memories, the direct sales scrapbooking firm – told me not long ago that if I wanted to save the photos in the scrapbook, I should take the book apart soon.

So I did that last week. All of the photos save one came out whole; the one that shredded was a picture of my mother’s aunts and uncles, and I have at least one more copy of that somewhere else. Most of the non-photo stuff was stuck too tightly to the adhesive to remove it; I cut and trimmed some of the book’s pages to keep a few things and discarded a lot of stuff that was important at the time and now seems less so. I will likely take one more look through the book to make certain before sending it on its way to the dumpster.

One of the things I found in the book is a list I’ve referred to in this space at least once: On January 1, 1971, I moved my RCA radio to the living room and reclined on the couch while KDWB in the Twin Cities completed its rundown of the top singles of 1970. I don’t know whether the station used a list of 100 singles or perhaps 63 (its frequency was 630), but I got in on the action at No. 30. And I spent, most likely, the better part of two hours listening to the station’s top 30 records of 1970 and making a list of those records on two pieces of note paper using – as I nearly always did at the time – purple ink:

KDWB Top 30, 1970

(I have no idea why I started in the middle of the page on the right and worked upward. I obviously had some arrangement in mind that did not come to fruition. But I got them all. And just in case the pic is faint or my adolescent printing is unclear, here’s the list, from No. 30 to No. 1:

Nos. 30-21
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
“All Right Now” by Free
“Reflections Of My Life” by Marmalade
“Gypsy Woman” by Bryan Hyland
“I Know I’m Losing You” by Rare Earth
“O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps
“Come And Get It” by Badfinger
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
“Walking Through The Country” by the Grass Roots

Nos. 20-11
“Spill The Wine” by Eric Burdon & War
“My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison
“War” by Edwin Starr
“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz
“Green Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“Lay Down” by Melanie
“Make It With You” by Bread
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” by the Poppy Family
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5

Nos. 10-1
“Venus” by the Shocking Blue
“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“Band Of Gold” by Frieda Payne
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Up Around The Bend” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“Let It Be” by the Beatles

That’s a hell of a hundred or so minutes of music. The only record of those thirty that I disliked at the time – and still do – was the Poppy Family’s “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” As I looked over the list at the end of the day, I also thought that “I Think I Love You” was pretty slight for the No. 2 record of the year. Over the years, though, I’ve come to recognize it as a great piece of popcraft, one that spoke to its intended audience as least as clearly as the heavyweights that bracketed it spoke to theirs.

I took a quick look at the 1970 Top 40 from Billboard (as presented in Joel Whitburn’s A Century Of Pop Music), and there were some major national hits in the magazine’s list that were absent from KDWB’s Top 30. The six biggest were B. J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” at No. 2; Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “The Tears Of A Clown” at No. 11; the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” at No. 14; Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” at No. 15; Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful” at No. 16; and the Beatles’ “The Long And Winding Road” at No. 17.

(Since I came in on the middle of KDWB’s list on that long-ago New Year’s Day, I would assume that most, if not all, of those records were in KDWB’s Top 100 or Top 63 or whatever number the station offered.)

I’m not sure any of this proves anything or has any great significance, but as I pulled treasures out of the scrapbook, it was fun to remember that January afternoon so long ago and fun as well to wonder when I quit using purple ink.

And since I like to share at least one tune here most of the time, I wondered if all of those thirty have showed up here at one time or another (with the exception of the Poppy Family). Most have, I’m sure, but I did a little digging, and not once in the more than eight years that I’ve been blogging have I ever mentioned the Grass Roots’ “Walking Through The Country.” The record fell far short of the Billboard Top 40 for the year, having gotten only to No. 44 during its time in the Hot 100 in early 1970. But I thought it was a pretty decent record back then, and I still do today.

Afternote
Okay, so there were thirty-one records there. KDWB had “Venus” and “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” tied for tenth place, and I failed to read my own long-ago note carefully enough to note that the station did not – as would seem to be customary – jump from 10th place to 12th place. Note added August 22, 2015.

Waiting In The Training Room

June 20, 2012

Originally posted April 27, 2009

Come the spring of 1969, I was in demand as an athletic manager at St. Cloud Tech. The baseball coach asked if I was interested in helping out his team, and the track manager wondered if I wanted to work with his distance runners.

I was years away from becoming truly interested in baseball, and my sister’s high school boyfriend had run track. I’d enjoyed watching the meets, so I went with track as a manager for the distance runners.

It was a choice I regretted almost immediately. The coaches decided my role as manager that spring was to wait in the training room – tucked to the side of the varsity locker room – and maintain the primitive whirlpool tub for those runners who thought they needed it after finishing their distance runs. Every afternoon during what I remember as a beautiful spring, I sat in the training room and – most of the time – waited.

As the runners came back in, some would settle themselves in the whirlpool tub and others would gather in the training room, and they’d share jest and japes and ribald jokes. Sometimes they included me; sometimes not. I was, after all, only a sophomore.

I didn’t even get to go the meets, as there were always distance runners who were not varsity-level, and they did their practice runs around town as the meets went on. And I was required to have the whirlpool available for them when they finished their practice runs.

As I waited, I read. But sometimes, I’d tire of even that, and I’d sit there in the otherwise empty locker room and training room, wishing I were sitting in a dugout on a ball field somewhere. And I didn’t even have a radio.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, April 26, 1969)
“Do Your Thing” by the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Warner Bros. 7250 (No. 11)
“Hot Smoke and Sassafras” by the Bubble Puppy, Int’l. Artists 128 (No. 28)
“Grazing in the Grass” by the Friends of Distinction, RCA Victor 0107 (No. 36)
“Wishful, Sinful” by the Doors, Elektra 45656 (No. 44)
“The River Is Wide” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill/ABC 4187 (No. 66)
“You Came, You Saw, You Conquered!” by the Ronettes, A&M 1040 (No. 108)

The only one of these I recall hearing at the time is the Friends of Distinction record. Having posted Hugh Masekela’s instrumental version of “Grazing In The Grass” a little more than a week ago, I couldn’t pass up the chance to offer the Friends’ vocal cover of the tune, which flies off into a much more rapid tempo. I still love the “I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it” bridge. I wonder how many takes it took to nail that? The record was on its way up the chart on April 26, having jumped to No. 36 from No. 65 the week before. It would peak at No. 3.

“Do Your Thing,” which hit its peak in the April 26 chart, is about as funky as Top 40 ever got, I think. Well, maybe Parliament/Funkadelic and James Brown, but “Do Your Thing” is certainly in the conversation. The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band was an eight-man group from the Watts section of Los Angeles brought together by Charles Wright, who hailed from Clarksdale, Mississippi. This was the first of three Top 40 singles for the group; the others – “Love Land” and “Express Yourself,” which went to No. 16 and No. 12, respectively, in 1970 – were credited to Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band.

Bubble Puppy was a quartet from Houston, Texas, whose psychedelic garage-rocker “Hot Smoke and Sassafras” had peaked at No. 14 in March and was sliding its way back down the chart. Latter-day explorers into the music of 1969 might expect to find the record to be a slice of sunshine pop based on the group’s cutesy name. Nah. “Hot Smoke and Sassafras” rocks pretty well.

The Doors’ “Wishful, Sinful” is an intriguing listen from this distance, maybe better today than I recall it being. The follow-up to “Touch Me,” which had reached No. 3 in February 1969, “Wishful, Sinful” just missed the Top 40, sitting at No. 44 for two weeks. The next week it was at No. 45 and then it tumbled out of sight. I don’t know that I heard it during the spring of 1969; I recall it more clearly from my first year of college, when one of my friends played the Doors’ The Soft Parade at least daily in his dorm room.

Every once in a while, as the Grass Roots’ songs came out of the radio speakers, I’d wonder: Who are those guys? Even if I’d had the resources – and the inclination – to dig, it would have been hard to know, says All-Music Guide, “because there were at least three different groups involved in the making of the songs identified as being by ‘the Grass Roots.’” You can read at AMG the tangled history of P.F. Sloan, Steve Barri, the Bedouins, the 13th Floor and other musicians that fell in and out of the tale of the Grass Roots. What’s left behind is some of the best pop-rock of the Top 40 era, fourteen Top 40 hits from “Where Were You When I Needed You” (No. 28 in 1966) to “The Runaway” (No. 39 in 1972). The highest charting Grass Roots’ single was “Midnight Confession,” which went to No. 5 in 1968. “The River Is Wide,” which is one of my favorites, was one of the less-successful singles, only reaching No. 31.

I don’t know a lot about “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered!” by the Ronettes. In the notes to Back to Mono, the 1991 Phil Spector box set, the single is listed as being recorded in February 1969. That’s the last mention of the Ronettes and the last month covered by the box set. (Two singles come after “You Came . . .” in the set: “Black Pearl” and “Love Is All I Have To Give” by Sonny Charles & the Checkmates, but they, too, are listed only as being recorded in February.) The April 26 chart was the fourth and final time that the record was listed in the “Bubbling Under the Hot 100,” and I’m wondering two things: Were the sessions that created the record the last time that Spector worked with the Ronettes? And was this the last appearance of the Ronettes on a Billboard chart? (I would guess caithiseach has the answers, if he’ll be kind enough to share.)*

*I still do not know if this was the last time the Ronettes worked with Phil Spector, but I do know that, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “You Came, You Saw, You Conquered!” was in fact the final chart appearance for the Ronettes. Note added June 20, 2012.

Here’s To The Kiddie Corner Kid

December 21, 2011

Originally posted February 6, 2009

Well, it’s Babe Ruth’s birthday today. The Sultan of Swat was born in Baltimore on February 6, 1895.

That also means that it’s Rick’s birthday. Coming from a family that cared a great deal about baseball, the Kiddie Corner Kid never let me forget that he shared a birthday with Ruth. It doesn’t matter that, later in life, I discovered I have my own Hall of Fame member with whom I share a birthday: Napoleon Lajoie. In the famous ballplayer game, Babe Ruth trumps ’em all.

So the Kid turns another year older today, following the numerical path I trod back in September. I recall one afternoon when we were about ten, and one of Rick’s family members insisted that he had to be older than I was because he was born in February and I was born in September. The concept of September of one year coming earlier than February of the next was elusive, and at the time, it seemed important to be able to claim to be older than the other person.

These days, the only advantage I can find to being older than Rick or anyone else is that I get to claim a senior discount earlier. (I routinely get such discounts without asking these days; such is the power of a gray beard.)

Anyway, having remembered Babe Ruth’s birthday, I went back to the files to find a Billboard Hot 100 from February 6. That turned out to come from 1971, when we were both still in high school. As I’ve related here other times, that was when we were taking an astronomy class together at St. Cloud Tech, playing a lot of tabletop hockey and writing the occasional song lyric together. We also listened to a lot of music, whether on the record player or the radio. Our favorite album in those days was either The Band, which Rick had given me for Christmas just more than a month earlier, or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu.

When it was radio, it was either KDWB in the Twin Cities or WJON over across the tracks. I’ve pulled five records from the Hot 100 that I know we heard around the time of Babe Ruth’s birthday in 1971 and one that I doubt that we ever heard. So these are for the Kiddie Corner Kid as his odometer rolls another digit. May there be miles to go for both of us.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, February 6, 1971)

“Born to Wander” by Rare Earth, Rare Earth 5021 (No. 17)

“1900 Yesterday” by Liz Damon’s Orient Express, White Whale 368 (No. 35)

“Temptation Eyes” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4263 (No. 41)

“Whole Lotta Love” by Collective Consciousness Society, RAK 4501 (No. 64)

“Country Road” by James Taylor, Warner Bros. 7460 (No. 81)

“Timothy” by the Buoys, Scepter 12275 (No. 100)

Rare Earth, one of the first white acts signed by Motown, put together a nice string of singles in 1970-71, three of them in the Top Ten: “Get Ready” hit No. 4, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” went to No. 7, and “I Just Want To Celebrate” reached No. 7 as well. In between the latter two came “Born To Wander,” which I think is at least as good a record as the other three. For one reason or another, though, it went only as high as No. 17, and so it generally gets ignored when the programmers for the oldies stations read their charts and their tea leaves. Rare Earth added two more hits: “Hey Big Brother” went to No. 19 as 1971 turned into 1972, and “Warm Ride” – written by the Bee Gees – went to No. 39 in mid-1978. I’m not aware of ever having heard “Warm Ride,” but given its time period and its Bee Gees’ provenance, I would think it has to be Rare Earth’s version of disco, an idea almost as contrary and dismaying as that of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious touring with Up With People.

Speaking of Up With People and things of that ilk (I never pass up an opportunity to use the word “ilk”), Liz Damon’s Orient Express might not have been rooted in nostalgia all the time, but the group’s one hit certainly was. Damon’s nine-person group was based in Hawaii – there’s a slight but certain tropical lilt in the background of “1900 Yesterday” – and managed to turn a very pretty song into a minor hit: The record peaked at No. 33 and spent a total of twelve weeks in the Hot 100.

During my first quarter of college, in the autumn of 1971, one of the guys I hung around with would wince whenever he heard “Temptation Eyes.” That song, he said, was the story of his senior year of high school. We never got details, but then, I’d expect that almost any American schoolboy could find a bit of himself in almost any song the Grass Roots did during those years. And that sparks a thought that I should possibly explore: Is one of the things that makes a record a great record the possibility that the listener can see him- or herself inside the tale the record tells? Whatever the answer, “Temptation Eyes” eventually got as high as No. 15.

I don’t remember Collective Consciousness Society (CCS) at all. I was first tipped to the British group in a post last summer by Jeff at AM, Then FM, who then pointed me in the direction of Flea Market Funk, where DJ Prestige had posted the mp3 of the group’s instrumental version of “Whole Lotta Love.” And then this winter, while digging in my box of unsorted 45s, I found a copy of CCS’ “Tap Turns On The Water,” released later in 1971. Despite the prominence in the UK of some of the group’s members – see Wikipedia – there’s something not very serious about the group’s sound, almost like a low-level British Traveling Wilburys way ahead of its time. “Whole Lotta Love” peaked at No. 58 during a four-week stay in the Hot 100.

“Country Road” was the second – I think – single pulled from James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James album; “Fire And Rain” had gone to No. 3 in the autumn of 1970. And I think that the direct contrast may have hampered “Country Road,” which was a good record but one not nearly as good as its predecessor: “Fire And Rain” is one of the iconic records in the oldies playlist. “Country Road” has the added misfortune of being easily confused with John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which came along in June of 1971. Whatever the reasons, Taylor’s “Country Road” seems to get a little bit lost, and that’s too bad. This week was its first appearance in the Hot 100; it took six weeks for “Country Road” to climb from No. 81 to No. 37, and two weeks later, it was gone from the charts.

I asked the question above: Is one of the things that makes a record a great record the possibility that the listener can see him- or herself inside the tale the record tells? Well, in the case of the Buoys’ “Timothy,” I would hope not. The tale of a cave-in, implied cannibalism and amnesia is not a place any sane listener would want to be. It’s a catchy record, what with its persistent guitar strum and horn accents, but I doubt that it’s a song that inspires many sing-alongs. I seem to remember a bit of hoo-ha among our elders because of its story, a hoo-ha that would likely be much larger if the song were released today. Or maybe not; I’m not at all sure sometimes how jaded we have become. Anyway, “Timothy” spent seventeen weeks in the Hot 100, peaking at No. 17.

Farewell To Seven-Toed Henri

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 17, 2008

I was going to write about the autumn of 1971 today, a time that was unexceptional for the most part. It did mark my first quarter of college, and I guess that made it a time of major adjustments. But I’ll write about that some other day.

We lost another cat yesterday.

This summer, shortly after we had to let go of the Texas Gal’s beloved Smudge, one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers said a kitten had found its way to her mother’s place. The kitten ended up with the Texas Gal’s co-worker, who then learned that her husband and son were allergic to cats. For two days, the kitten was alone in their basement while they figured out what to do, and there was talk of letting it loose in a field to fend for itself.

Given that we were in the middle of the difficult (and expensive) process of moving, I was reluctant to bring in a kitten, but I’ll never let a little one be let loose in a field; I can’t imagine anything more terrifying – or more practically lethal – for a small animal. So one evening, the Texas Gal brought home our new little guy, black with some white trim . . . and seven toes on each front foot.

I’m not sure where the name came from, but after some hesitation, the Texas Gal named him Henri Matisse, after the artist. But we pronounced his name “Henry” instead of the French “Ehn-ree.” And we took him to Dr. Tess for his standard kitten care. He had worms, which we expected, and we treated him for that. A few months later, not long after we moved, we had him neutered and had his front claws removed.

Even after treatment for worms, Henri’s digestive problems continued. When we organized the empty boxes we’d thrown off to the side of the basement during the move, we discovered that he hadn’t been using his cat box regularly. We thought his continued digestive problems might be the reason, so we changed his diet, kept an eye on his trips to the basement and gave him a supplement for two weeks.

Nothing really helped his digestion, and once the two-week regimen of the supplement was over, he began to lose weight and he didn’t always seem comfortable. And one evening this week, we discovered that his cat box behavior in the basement hadn’t changed. In some ways, it’s no big deal. We’ve cleaned up worse messes over the years. But the vet said yesterday morning that it was unlikely Henri’s behavior would change, even if we could correct the problem with his digestion. And we knew we couldn’t continue.

Henri went peacefully. And we have another cat-shaped hole in the house. The Texas Gal and I both spent a little bit more time than usual last evening playing with Oscar and talking to Clarence, our two remaining catboys. That helped, at least a little.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 4
“Tell Me Why” by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, Decca 32874 (No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 16, 1971)

“Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’” by Peter Nero, Columbia 45399 (No. 91)

“Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers, Stax 0104 (No. 82)

“It’s a Cryin’ Shame” by Gayle McCormick, Dunhill 4288 (No. 60)

“Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4289 (No. 55)

“Women’s Love Rights” by Laura Lee, Hot Wax 7105 (No. 37)

“You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)” by 8th Day, Invictus 9098 (No. 36)

“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 (No. 32)

“Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” by Kris Kristofferson, Monument 8525 (No. 27)

“Stick-Up” by Honey Cone, Hot Wax 7106 (No. 19)

“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement, Decca 32818 (No. 15)

“So Far Away” by Carole King, Ode 66019 (No. 14)

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 12)

A few notes:

The Matthews’ Southern Comfort track is a cover of the Neil Young tune from After the Goldrush album, which came out in 1970. Southern Comfort was headed by Ian Matthews, who had been a founding member of Britain’s Fairport Convention. Matthews’ career is a fascinating series of stops, starts and sudden left turns, but his music has always been listenable and sometimes inspired.

One evening during the summer of 1971, after a day of unpacking file cabinets in the new Education Building at St. Cloud State, I wandered off to the theater and took in The Summer of ’42. The movie touched me, with its tale of a young man’s beginning to grow up, of his crush on the older woman played by the luminescent Jennifer O’Neill (looking impossibly young from where I sit now) and of the tragedy and confusion of wartime. I was also blown away by Michel Legrand’s Academy Award-winning score, which was sweet and sad and over-the-top – all of the things that we are at sixteen. I never looked for the soundtrack LP; I’m not sure why. But when Peter Nero had a hit with the main theme later in the year (the single went to No. 22), I was pleased to hear the song coming out of my radio.

Gayle McCormick was the lead singer for Smith, the group that had a No. 5 hit in the autumn of 1969 with a cover of “Baby It’s You.” “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” was a pretty good single from her first solo album – she recorded two others in the early 1970s, and after that, I lose track of her – but it didn’t do very well. Nor did her follow-ups. She never cracked the Top 40 as a solo artist.

This selection includes three more good singles (several showed up in previous Baker’s Dozen selections) from Hot Wax and Invictus, the labels launched by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland after they left Motown. The singles weren’t as successful on the pop chart as they were good. “Women’s Love Rights” peaked at No. 36, and “You’ve Got To Crawl” topped out at No. 28, but the Honey Cone single nearly got into the Top Ten, stalling at No. 11. (It spent two weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

This version of Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” originally linked with this post was from the album. Since then, I was able to find a video with the fairly rare single edit. Either way, once I saw the title in the Hot 100 for this week in 1971, I had to post the song, even in the wrong version. It’s just too good to ignore.

The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a pretty grim and tough song, talking about the perfidy surrounding all of us, wherever we go. Some folks saw it as a political allegory, and the theme of betrayal makes that at least a little bit plausible, given the realities of 1971. Whatever the message, the record had a great groove.

Edited and rewritten slightly on August 6, 2013.

The Voice Of The Grass Roots

July 12, 2011

If you regularly listened to Top 40 radio anytime during the late 1960s and early 1970s, you heard Rob Grill sing. Frequently.

Grill, who crossed over yesterday morning at the age of 67, was the lead singer for the Grass Roots for most of their history, taking the mike in 1967, a couple of years after the band had first been formed as a studio group. (The tangled tale of producers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri and the string of musicians they recruited to become the Grass Roots is told in brief at All-Music Guide.)

The first track cut by Grill and his new bandmates, AMG notes, was “Let’s Live For Today,” which promptly went to No. 8. From then into 1975, the group had eighteen more records reach the Billboard Hot 100, with two more – “Midnight Confessions” and “Sooner or Later” – reaching the Top Ten. When the hits dried up after 1975’s “Mamacita” topped out at No. 71, Grill recorded a solo album and stayed in what AMG calls “the organizing side” of the music business until 1982, when, AMG says, “amid the burgeoning oldies concert circuit and the respect beginning to be accorded the Grass Roots, Grill formed a new  Grass Roots – sometimes billed as Rob Grill and the Grass Roots – and began performing as many as 100 shows a year.”

One of those shows took place Monday evening in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, when the surviving members of the Grass Roots took the stage and informed their audience of Grill’s death that morning. At the website of the Allentown Morning Call, the blog Lehigh Valley Music quotes bassist Mark Dawson as telling the audience, “We may have lost one great friend, but heaven gained an exceptional singer. . . . We say God bless you, and Rob says the show must go on.”

The blog also reported: “Dawson said Grill died in the arms of his wife, Nancy, as he listened to ‘Live For Today,’ which Dawson said was his favorite Grass Roots song.”

I wasn’t certain as I sat down to research and write this morning if I were going to write anything about Grill and the Grass Roots. Their records were great radio fare, and I enjoyed them from 1969, when I began listening to Top 40, until their string ran out in 1975. I especially liked “Temptation Eyes” and “Sooner or Later.” I also liked very much “I’d Wait A Million Years,” which spoke loudly to the love-struck adolescent I frequently was. And when I saw that last title sitting among the records listed in the Billboard Hot 100 from July 12, 1969, I figured the universe was telling me something.

So here it is. It was sitting at No. 59 forty-two years ago today, on its way to No. 15.

It’s Time For A New Barbershop

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 11, 2009

I need a haircut this morning. Generally, the Texas Gal takes care of that over the weekends, but for some reason – simple inattention comes to mind – we didn’t get it done. So this morning, after I finish posting I’ll head out to the barbershop.

The barbershop won’t – it appears – be the one I used to go to when I was a kid. Last time I went past the old bank building across the street from the Lutheran church, the sign was still hanging there: “Laumeyer’s Barber Shop.” That was maybe a month ago, so I assume the shop was still operating. But when I called the number I found online this morning, the phone was disconnected. I checked the phone book and got the same number, and then called directory assistance. There’s no current listing.

It’s been a little more than thirty years since I last got my hair cut at Laumeyer’s, just before I left St. Cloud for Monticello. And Laumeyer’s was the location for my first professional haircut, when I was thirteen, just before entering ninth grade.

Up to then, my dad had cut my hair. I’d sit on a metal stool in the back porch/sewing room, and he’d use the black electric clippers that he’d had since before my memories began. He’d try gamely not to dig the clippers’ corners into my scalp, but it would happen. As years went on and boys’ hair became longer, he tried to adapt. I no longer wore my hair trimmed down to a basic-training-worthy quarter-inch. It was a bit longer, especially in the front, where my natural widow’s peak resulted in a three-inch long wave of hair poking its way forward, like the prow of a ship sailing through my forehead, or else, when my hair got longer, like a brown wave breaking over the prow of that very same ship.

That wasn’t very stylish, a fact that even Dad realized as the summer of 1967, the one between eighth and ninth grades, approached its end. One Saturday he pulled me aside shortly after I got up and told me I had an appointment for a haircut at Laumeyer’s that afternoon. He gave me, oh, maybe $1 or $1.50 to cover the cost. That afternoon, I rode my 1965 Schwinn Typhoon – the very same one that still resides in my garage – down Wilson Avenue and across East St. Germain to a small building not far from the railroad tracks. With my bike locked to a sign in front of the building, I walked into a barbershop for the first time.

I walked out an hour later with my hair trimmed almost all around, except in front where Duane had managed to fashion the summer’s growth into what looked like Beatle bangs across my forehead. Never mind that the Beatles by this time had moved on to far more hirsute appearances; it was better than my hair being a living sculpture of “The Voyage of the S.S. Dork.”

My hair’s style continued to evolve over the next ten years, as I made Laumeyer’s a regular stop. My hair got longer, and as it did, Jim and Duane and Ron – I didn’t see the need to cleave to just one barber – trimmed it and advised me on where to part it and how to take care of it.

As I sat in the barber’s chair for brief times through high school and into college, I heard conversations with other customers that implied years of acquaintance, an awareness that all of the three barbers had about their clients that included not just preferred hairstyle but also a small town knowledge of other preferences and of their lives:

“How’s your boy like the Army?”

“You still drivin’ that Chevy, then?”

“That first year of college, that first year away, yeah, that can be tough for them.”

“My wife’s aunt had that last year, but the docs say they got all of it.”

“He had Budweiser and Old Style on ice, an’ I walk up to him and says, ‘Where’s the Cold Spring?’ An’ he laughed and laughed.”

“I heard from one of the guys over there that they may cut back to two shifts. That’s gonna be tough for a lotta fellas.”

The guys cutting my hair asked about school, and what my college plans were, but no matter how important those things were to me, they didn’t seem to fit into the adult universe of conversation. I was sitting in the big barber chair, but it still felt as if I were dining at the kids’ table.

I was gone the one year during college and came back with hair longer than ever and with a beard and mustache as well, and they laughed at my stories as I laughed at theirs. As myth tells us and as most men learn, there is more to a barbershop than haircuts. They are home to, among other things, tales of other places, whether those other places be offices, factory floors, far-off jungles of war, or similarly distant taverns and museums. I’d had a glimpse of that before I left, and now that I had tales to tell of life elsewhere, I felt more a part of the brotherhood of the barbershop than I ever had before.

I remained in that brotherhood for the remaining few years I had left in St. Cloud. While I was gone, from 1977 into 2002, I had numerous barbers care for my hair, shaved and regrew the beard several times (not the mustache; that’s been a permanent part of my look since December 1973). At times my hair was fairly short, and other times, it wasn’t: For about four years, I had a ponytail that reached to the middle of my back. And I was never really in one place long enough to find that barbershop camaraderie again.

These days, I have my hair trimmed to the scalp, but I still have a beard and mustache that need trimming. After I finish here, I guess I’ll drive by Laumeyer’s just to make sure it’s closed, and then drive around the corner to Tom’s, a barbershop on Wilson that’s been there since I was a little stomper. Tom doesn’t take appointments; He said I’d get in pretty quick “as long as there isn’t six guys waitin’.”

Going to a new barbershop at the age of fifty-four feels oddly like going to a new school at the age of fourteen. So we’ll start with an appropriate tune and take a walk through the junkyard from there.

A Monday Walk Through The Junkyard
“Hair” by the Cowsills, MGM single 14026, 1969

“Let Me In” by Bonnie Raitt from Takin’ My Time, 1973

“Wait A Million Years” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill single 4198, 1969

“Someday Baby” by Muddy Waters with the Rolling Stones, Checkerboard, Chicago, November 1981

“Trains Don’t Run From Nashville” by Kate Campbell from Songs from the Levee, 1995

“Miracle” by the Moody Blues from Sur La Mer, 1988

“Country Pie” by Bob Dylan from Nashville Skyline, 1969

“Polk Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White, Monument single 1104, 1969

“The Assassination” by the Dixie Nightingales, Chalice single 102, 1965

“Monument” by Gene Parsons from Kindling, 1973

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by Jeff Healey from Hell To Pay, 1990

“Candy Man Blues” by Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan from Construction No. 1, 1969

“Not Another Night” by the Sapphire Thinkers from From Within, 1969

“Fragile” by Nanci Griffith from Flyer, 1994

“Cloud 9” by George Harrison from Cloud Nine, 1988

A few notes:

“Hair” is of course the title song from the musical that so scandalized folks starting with its premiere in 1967 and then its move to Broadway a year later. Drugs, sex, profanity, irreverence and naked people on stage! Nevertheless, the composers and writers – James Rado, Gerome Ragni and Galt MacDermot – came up with numerous songs that became anthems for the age (as well as hits for various performers). “Hair” is the most humorous and even perhaps vaudevillian; other songs that became hits, all in 1969, were “Easy To Be Hard” (Three Dog Night), “Good Morning, Starshine” (Oliver), and most notably, I guess, “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” (5th Dimension).

The Bonnie Raitt track comes from the album of hers that is likely my favorite. With notables like Lowell George of Litte Feat, Taj Mahal, Milt Holland, Earl Palmer and others taking part, the record continues to be a great listen and was likely the high point of Raitt’s career until Nick of Time in 1989.

I’m not sure where I got the soundboard recording of Muddy Waters with the Stones. The sound is a little thick at times, but it’s a pretty good performance, especially considering that Muddy was ailing at the time; he would be dead in less than two years.

“Polk Salad Annie” was no doubt among the first deep southern numbers I ever heard coming out of my radio speaker in 1969. I loved it then and I love it today: “Chomp, chomp-chomp!”

“The Assassination” is a harrowing and pretty take on the killing of President John Kennedy in Dallas in November 1963. As it played, I wondered – as I did the first time I heard it – who had the guts to create it and who would listen to it more than once, anyway? The Dixie Nightingales were a long-time Southern Gospel group that in the early 1960s signed with Memphis’ Stax Records. Chalice was evidently a Stax subsidiary label.

Sapphire Thinkers was a California band that recorded the one album, From Within. Chocoreve, where I evidently found the rip, is a blog that’s a great source for late 1960s obscurities, among other things. The writer there noted that the album is “likable and strong enough to hold your attention for repeat plays. Elements from disparate sources are brought in – Curt Boettcher sunshine pop, Bay Area teen [T]op 40 psych like Neighb’rhood Childr’n, Sunset Strip organ/fuzz/flute a la Strawberry Alarm Clock – yet the end result is consistent and convincing, with plenty of strength in the songwriting and arrangements, and no major weaknesses.” Thanks, Chocoreve.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1969

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 18, 2007

As I began to write this morning, I started the file with the date, as I always do, and as I typed “April 18,” I was sorely tempted to revisit 1975 for this week’s Baker’s Dozen.

Why? Because of this:

“Listen my children and you shall hear
“Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
“On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
“Hardly a man is now alive
“Who remembers that famous day and year.”

Of course, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was referring to a different “Seventy-five” – 1775 – when he wrote “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” And because I ran a Baker’s Dozen from 1975 just a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d hit a few other years before I begin repeating, as I am sure I will do at some point. So with the Texas Gal already off to work before providing any guidance, I’m going to choose 1969 and start with one of my favorite recordings of all time. 

There was an old hotel not far from the Mississippi River in downtown St. Cloud when I was growing up, the Grand Central. Historical rumor had it that it had been a stopping place for numerous famous people over the years, including Buffalo Bill Cody (a rumor that I believe was verified by a guest register discovered during the building’s demolition). It may have been a truly grand establishment at one time, but by my first year of college, it was pretty much a flophouse, and its first floor retail spaces were filled with small and generally short-lived shops that sold used records, posters, and equipment and accessories for pharmaceutical recreation.

It was in one of those shops in the spring of 1972, just a few months before the hotel came down and the lot was paved over for a lot for city bus service, that I pawed through a stack of records and found Joe Cocker’s self-titled 1969 album, in decent shape for a reasonable price. I grabbed it and went off to one of the college dorms, where I dropped in on some friends to share my find.

It’s a good record, with several songs that have become Cocker standards: “Delta Lady,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “Dear Landlord” come quickly to mind. But the best cut on the album – I thought on first hearing and still think today, more than thirty years later – is Cocker’s take on John Sebastian’s “Darling, Be Home Soon.” With a feel of gospel-powered celebration, Cocker gives the song a joy that neither Sebastian nor anyone else has ever found in it. It thrilled me, even though I have to confess that at 18, I did not grasp the entire meaning of “the great relief of having you to talk to.”

I do now, and the song remains a favorite of mine and is the starting point for this random Baker’s Dozen from 1969:

“Darling, Be Home Soon” by Joe Cocker from Joe Cocker!

“Wild Child” by the Doors from The Soft Parade

“Songs To Aging Children Come” by Joni Mitchell from Clouds

“That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)” by Dusty Springfield, Atlantic single 2637

“Will You Be Staying After Sunday” by the Peppermint Rainbow, Decca single 32410

“Gentle On My Mind” by Elvis Presley from From Elvis In Memphis

“The River Is Wide” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill single 4187

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by Linda Ronstadt from Hand Sown . . . Home Grown

“Goodbye” by Frank Sinatra from Watertown

“I’m Easy” by Boz Scaggs from Boz Scaggs

 “Hey Joe” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic single 2648

“What Are You Trying To Do” by Mother Earth from Make A Joyful Noise

“Dirty Old Man” by Delaney & Bonnie from Accept No Substitutes

I chuckled when the Doors’ “Wild Child” popped up right after “Darling, Be Home Soon.” It’s quite likely that when I took my Joe Cocker album to the dorm that long-ago Friday evening, “Wild Child” – or at least The Soft Parade – was playing on the stereo in my friend’s room; it was one of his favorite albums, and that specific song was to some extent an anthem for our freshman year.

Despite that, I also cringed a little at “Wild Child.” For some time, I’ve believed that the Doors were the most over-rated of all the well-known bands of their time, and much of The Soft Parade, in particular, is difficult to listen to with much pleasure these days.

There are two versions I like of Joni Mitchell’s “Songs to Aging Children Come” – this one, and the one by Tigger Outlaw in the 1969 film Alice’s Restaurant. Mitchell’s version – the original – is probably more accomplished, but there is an awkward earnestness in Outlaw’s version that is somehow endearing. Check it out if you get the chance.

The Sinatra tune, “Goodbye,” is from Watertown, a song cycle that’s one of the more idiosyncratic recordings of Sinatra’s long career. The songs on Watertown came from Bob Gaudio – writer of many of the Four Seasons’ hits – and Jake Holmes, the singer-songwriter/folk-rocker who was also the composer of “Dazed & Confused,” which Led Zeppelin appropriated as its own work. The album is, as All-Music Guide notes, Sinatra’s “most explicit attempt at rock-oriented pop.” It’s also a rather depressing piece of work, as the mood throughout is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.

Elvis Presley’s version of “Gentle On My Mind” comes from his sessions in Memphis in 1969, which were regarded at the time as some of the best work he’d done in years. That was likely true, but, to me, “Gentle On My Mind” was one of the lesser efforts from those sessions. The best-known songs from those sessions, of course, are the three hits: “In The Ghetto,” “Kentucky Rain” and “Suspicious Minds.” For my part, the best performance from those sessions is the King’s take on “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.”

“I’m Easy,” the Boz Scaggs tune, comes from his self-titled solo debut, which was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Probably the best-known cut on the album is “Loan Me A Dime,” which features – as do a few other cuts – Duane Allman.

“Dirty Old Man” features the classic line-up behind Delaney and Bonnie: Leon Russell, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Jim Keltner, Rita Coolidge and a few others.