Posts Tagged ‘Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’

Keeping Track: The LP Log

May 14, 2022

Originally posted August 12, 2009

Some time during the past year, I mentioned for the first time that I’ve kept track of when I’ve acquired my LPs and that I have a log for them that goes back to 1964. A few people asked me to write about the log, and I don’t think there’s a better time to do so than on Vinyl Record Day.

I remember when I thought for the first time that I should keep track of when I got my records: It was during the summer of 1970, when I bought my copy of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. After I played the record, I thought to myself that I needed to find a way to keep track. So I pulled the out the plain white sleeve and wrote in pen at the very top (on the side margin actually, which is at the top when the sleeve is turned sideways) “June 1970.”

Then I went to the box where my sister and I kept our rock and pop records and did the same for the six of those records that were mine: Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us; Beatles ’65; Herman’s Hermits’ On Tour; the 5th Dimension’s Age of Aquarius; the Beatles’ Let It Be; and Chicago’s silver album from 1970.

Details stick with me: To mark my records on that first day, I used a red pen that happened to be sitting near the stereo in the basement rec room. It was a pen labeled “Property of the State of Minnesota” and no doubt came home from the college in my dad’s pocket one day. I used that same pen for about three years, I think, then switched to blue or black ink, whatever was handy.

For some reason, I only jotted down the month and year I’d gotten the records. And I only marked the rock, pop and soul records. I owned others, kept in a separate cabinet: Records by Al Hirt and the Tijuana Brass, some soundtracks and similar music, and some odd things. I didn’t pull those out and write months and years on them. It didn’t seem important at the time.

“Stardust” by Al Hirt from That Honey Horn Sound [1965]

“Carmen” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass from Herb Alpert’s Ninth [1967]

If I’d wanted to record the actual dates when I’d acquired those first six rock, pop and R&B records, I could have dated four of them with precision. The only two albums for which I would not have known a date were those by the 5th Dimension and by Chicago. But those acquisitions were recent enough on that summer day that I knew the months. As to the others: I knew for certain that Beatles ’65 came to my sister and me for Christmas 1965. [Actually, it was most likely Christmas 1964, just about the time the record was released. Note added January 23, 2014.]  I bought Let It Be on the day it was released, May 18, 1970. I got the Herman’s Hermits and Sonny & Cher albums from my sister for my birthday and for Christmas in 1965; I liked the records okay, but Sonny & Cher and Herman’s Hermits weren’t, you know, Al Hirt and Herb Alpert.

“It’s Gonna Rain” by Sonny & Cher from Look At Us [1965]

“Don’t Try To Hurt Me” by Herman’s Hermits from On Tour [1965]

As it turned out, marking those seven records with that red pen on that afternoon began a journey that finds me today with a database that has information about 2,893 LPs. Like all things concerning my record collection, it’s not something I planned to do. I just kept on keeping track when I purchased or received records, from that summer afternoon in 1970 onward.

I look back now at my early acquisitions and I’m reminded of my own case of Beatlemania, a malady that came upon me in 1970. (That was six years later than the rest of America, and I’ve been running behind ever since. Well, not really, but it sometimes feels like that.) I decided sometime during the summer of 1970 that I was going to acquire all eighteen Beatles albums on Capitol and Apple by the time my pal Rick started his senior year of high school in September 1972. (I didn’t know that I’d set myself an impossible task: There were only seventeen Beatles albums on Capitol and Apple at the time; A Hard Day’s Night was released on United Artists, but never mind.)

So I look at the log for 1970, 1971 and 1972, and I see many Beatles albums: In the last few months of 1970, I bought Hey Jude on a shopping trip to the Twin Cities, I got Revolver for my birthday and a buddy in school gave me his slightly used copy of Magical Mystery Tour, and on and on. By the time Rick and I – with our friend, Gary – headed to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in August 1972, I had one Beatles record to go to complete the collection. I bought A Hard Day’s Night in Winnipeg, less than a month before Rick began his senior year.

(That was not quite so, as I misread lines in the database, an error that I noted in a later post; I bought Beatles VI in Winnipeg and completed my collection with the purchase not long afterward of A Hard Day’s Night.)

If I got records as gifts, I also jotted on the sleeve or on the jacket (oh, the record jackets I’ve written on over the years!) the name of the person who gave me the record. That’s why, when it actually came time to create a database of my records, I could include a “From” column. Probably the oddest notation in that column is my note for Rubber Soul. One morning in January 1972, I got to talking about music with the guy next to me in Math 121. I mentioned my Beatles quest, and he asked if I had Rubber Soul. I didn’t. The next day, he brought me his slightly used copy of Rubber Soul. The day after that, evidently, he dropped Math 121, because I never saw him again. I think his name was Jerry, so on the record and in the database, the notation reads “Jerry in math class (?)”

Another album that I had to guess about came from a discard pile at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student-run radio station. I took it home and I played it once, I know, and I must not have been impressed, for I put it in the cabinet with my soundtracks and other non-rock stuff. That’s where I found it sometime during the 1990s, when I cleaned out the last of my records and junk from the house on Kilian Boulevard. While I was compiling the database, I came to that one record, Mark Turnbull’s Portrait of the Young Artist, and found that there was no date written on it. I do, however, remember claiming it from the discard pile. And I know that once the 1971-72 academic year ended, I spent almost no time at the radio station. So I got the record sometime between December 1971 and May 1972. I called it February 1972.

Around the same time, in early 1972, I happened upon two albums that led me down roads of exploration, and by looking at the entries in the log, one can see the number of artists and types of music I was listening to grow and grow. One of those albums was the compilation Eric Clapton At His Best, and the other was an album titled Joe Cocker!

“Family Circles (Portrait of the Young Artist)” by Mark Turnbull from Portrait of the Young Artist [1968]

“Darling Be Home Soon” by Joe Cocker from Joe Cocker! [1969]

With Mr. Turnbull’s album being one of the rare exceptions, I continued to record the month of acquisition for my records. When it came time years later to enter their dates into the database, all I had to work with was the month. So I used the first of the month, called it an estimated date and put the entry in italics: August 1, 1972. If I knew the exact date because of Christmas or a birthday or some other reason, I used regular type. That vagueness became unnecessary for records I got after September 13, 1974. Before heading out to a party that evening (who knows why I remember some of this stuff!), I went downtown, most likely to the shop called Axis, and bought a new copy of Duane Allman: An Anthology, and for some reason, I wrote down the exact date, as I would do from then on.

Sometimes I’ve missed. When I was entering all of this data into the computer in early 2002 – a task that took me about ten days, working on it about six hours a day – I found a few other records besides the Mark Turnbull album for which I had no date. Those I had to estimate, looking for a price tag if I bought it used (which would tell me where I bought it, and thus give me a timeframe based on when I frequented that store) or relying on my memory if I bought it new. I may be in error on some of those.

And remember the Al Hirt and Tijuana Brass records, along with the other stuff that predated my rock and pop days? When it came time to enter those, I had to do some estimating, too. One of them, I could date exactly: I got Hirt’s Honey in the Horn for my eleventh birthday. The others, well, I did the best I could.

And I would guess, looking at the database today, that I have exact dates for at least ninety percent of the records in the collection. And when I run through the database chronologically, the dates in italics become more and more rare and begin to stand out in that column as the years roll by. One of those later dates is for a copy – still sealed – of Harry Chapin’s last album, Sequel, purchased sometime during the autumn of 1990 at a record store in a mall on the west edge of Columbia, Missouri. (I kid you not; I remember this stuff.) I won’t open the record, but the songs on Sequel were re-released in 1987 on an album called Remember When the Music. I gave Sequel an estimated date of October 1, 1990.

Not far from Sequel in the log is the self-titled 1977 album by singer-songwriter Karla Bonoff, which I bought a few weeks later at that same store in the west side mall.

“I Miss America” by Harry Chapin from Remember When the Music [1987]
(Originally released on Sequel [1980])

“Someone To Lay Down Beside Me” by Karla Bonoff from Karla Bonoff [1977]

One of the things I did when I compiled the database in 2002 was to look at information in the albums’ notes. I made a note when the album included guest performances or other stars joining in. When I made an entry for a compilation, I put the names of the most prominent artists in the notes column. I also kept track of some sidemen and studio musicians, like the folks who played with Delaney & Bonnie (and Joe Cocker and Eric Clapton and George Harrison) and the Swampers from Muscle Shoals. As I’ve mentioned before, when I shop, I look for those names and a few others in album credits, and when I find those names, I generally take the album home.

One of those albums, one that I found at Cheapo’s in Minneapolis in 2003, raises a question: Who is Lori Jacobs? The liner notes to her 1973 album, Free, tell us that she “lives in Michigan and performs nightly at the Ann Arbor Road House. She used to be a teacher and she used to be married.” And then the notes talk about how her songs “tell the story of a newly-awakened [sic] lady, her loves and sorrows.”

What the notes don’t tell us is how a woman whose credits seem to be that she performs nightly in a lounge in Ann Arbor, Michigan, managed to record her album with the Swampers at Muscle Shoals. They’re all there: Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Pete Carr and Jimmy Johnson. Joining in the fun were Clayton Ivey, Harrison Calloway and Harvey Thompson, who worked at Rick Hall’s FAME studios after Beckett et al. went on their own. Rick Ruskin, a pretty well-known guitarist from Michigan, joins in. And among the folks who came out to sing background on one of Jacobs’ songs were Clydie King and Venetta Fields. Who is this woman?

Jacobs, of course, was one only one of the many musicians who made pilgrimages to the studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in Muscle Shoals. Not many were as seemingly obscure as Jacobs, but my notes point out another singer-songwriter who worked with the Swampers but who’s also spent some time in the shadows.

“Free” by Lori Jacobs from Free [1973]

“Come On Down” by Wendy Waldman from Gypsy Symphony [1974]

(I have a sealed copy of Free which I plan to break open and rip to mp3s one of these days. When I do, I’ll share the entire album here. This mp3 came from the copy I bought in 2003, which has some severe scratches.)

I spend more time these days wandering through the database looking for errors than I do keeping the log up to date. I just don’t buy a lot of LPs anymore. There are only two places to get good-quality records in St. Cloud, and the stock in those stores doesn’t turn over often enough for me to spend much time digging through the records. When I do go through the bins, I’ll grab something if I recognize it from my want list and it’s fairly rare. I also go to garage sales on a regular basis; that’s how I found Chipmunk Rock, from which I shared “Whip It” a while back.

And of course, I use the database frequently for posts here, running through each month’s acquisitions down the years. Once I do that for all twelve months, I’ll have to be a lot more creative when it comes to finding posts for Saturdays.

Digging through the database for this post has reminded me of records I have that I’ve not listened to for a while. Like the Sonny & Cher album, which likely hasn’t been played since, oh, 1968. And Mark Turnbull’s album, which probably hasn’t been played since 1972.

And there are treasures in even the most recent entries. One of the few records I acquired during 2008 was Leo Kottke’s Circle ’Round the Sun, a gift from Mitch Lopate, whose name has popped up here occasionally. There are also treasures less sublime.

“Long Way Up The River” by Leo Kottke from Circle ’Round the Sun [1970]

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by the Chipmunks from Chipmunk Rock [1982]

(All mp3s for this post were ripped from vinyl, so there are some bits of noise now and then.)

Sitting Out The Dance On The Stairway

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 21, 2009

I heard a snippet of “Judy In Disguise” on the radio the other day, and just that little bit – no more than ten seconds’ worth – of that hit from John Fred & His Playboy Band triggered one of those memories that slide past us now and then:

It’s lunchtime at South Junior High School. We’re allowed, after we’ve eaten, to head down to the gym, where we can play records and dance. Of course, I don’t dance. None of the guys do. But we hang around the edges of the gym, listening to the tunes and watching groups of girls dance. It’s not a bad way to spend the second half of a very short lunch period, better than sitting in the cafeteria.

And one day, for certain, one of the records that someone brought for lunchtime listening and dancing was “Judy In Disguise.” Because whenever I hear it, I’m in that gymnasium, hanging back on the edge with the other guys.

Based on the charts, that would have been late 1967 or early 1968. It was January 20, 1968, when “Judy In Disguise” reached No. 1, where it would stay for two weeks. And that memory of watching the girls dance in the gym also triggered another recollection, this one coming from a little bit later in the school year.

This time, it was an after-school dance in the cafeteria. All the long tables had been folded up and moved to a side room, giving us plenty of room to dance or to mill around on the edges. Some of the guys danced; most of us didn’t. But we gabbed as we stood along the walls and watched.

Then, I heard the teacher who was operating the record player announce a “snowball,” one of those dances that starts with one couple. After a short time, the music would pause, and each of those two dancers would select a new partner from the watching crowd. That would continue for some time, maybe two or even three records. On this day, when the teacher announced the dance, she also – only God knows why – announced my name and that of a young lady whom I didn’t know well, calling us to come start the dance.

I was in the back of the lunchroom, and there was a door. I bailed. And I sat on a nearby flight of stairs until the snowball was over.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (January 20, 1968)
“Next Plane To London” by the Rose Garden, Atco 6510 (No. 35)

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra, Philips 40495 (No. 47)

“Back Up Train” by Al Green & the Soul Mates, Hot Line 1188 (No. 58)

“Carmen” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, A&M 890 (No. 69)

“Dancing Bear” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill 4113 (No. 72)

“Let the Heartaches Begin” by Long John Baldry, Warner Bros. 7098 (No. 88)

There is an earnest clunkiness – or perhaps clunky earnestness – to “Next Plane To London” that makes the record endearing. I don’t know if I ever heard it when it was out. This was before I really listened to Top 40, and the record was on the charts for only seven weeks and peaked at No. 17. But I like it a great deal when it pops up on the player these days. The Rose Garden was from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and this was the group’s only hit.

“Love Is Blue” was on its way up the chart, having jumped to No. 47 from No. 84 in one week. In three weeks more, the record would reach No. 1 and stay there for five weeks. At the time, according to my aging edition of the Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits (1988), Mauriat’s single was the only U.S. No. 1 hit to have been recorded in France. I don’t know if that’s still true. I do know that the record was Mauriat’s only Top 40 hit, and it was the first instrumental to reach No. 1 since the Tornadoes’ “Telstar” in 1963. (Thanks go, I believe, to JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.)

“Back Up Train” was the title track to Al Green’s debut album. The single – like the album overall – carries hints of what was to come in a few years when he’d team up with Willie Mitchell. The record just barely missed the Top 40, spending three weeks at No. 41 before falling back.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had a remarkable run in the mid-1960s. From “The Lonely Bull” in 1962 through “A Banda” in 1967, the group had thirteen Top 40 hits. “Carmen” was the second single – I believe – from A Banda, but failed to reach the Top 40, peaking at No. 51 in February 1968.

“Dancing Bear” is an odd record, with its woodwind introduction. (It puts me in mind a little bit of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”) By the time “Dancing Bear” was released, the Mamas & the Papas’ time in the Top 40 was about done. The single peaked at No. 51 during the first half of January 1968, and the group’s last Top 40 hit – “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” actually credited to “Mama Cass with the Mamas & the Papas” – would go to No. 12 during the summer of 1968.

“Let the Heartaches Begin,”which went to No. 1 in the U.K., was one of several ballads that brought Long John Baldry some chart success in Britain in the mid-1960s. Those ballads were anomalies in a career based first in folk and blues and later in bluesy rock, as was noted here recently with “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King of Rock & Roll.” The single’s British success didn’t translate on this side of the Atlantic; “Heartaches” spent two weeks in Hot 100, peaking at No. 88.