Posts Tagged ‘Hollies’

Chart Digging, December 1969

December 18, 2020

Having played around the other day with the albums from this week in 1969, I thought we should look at the Hot 100 for that week as well. Here are the Top 10 records from the third week in December 1969:

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Take A Letter, Maria” by R.B. Greaves
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears

Wow. There’s not a one of those I wouldn’t welcome anytime. If forced to trim two records from those twelve, I’d likely take out “Down On The Corner” and “Take A Letter, Maria,” but only because I had to.

Maybe I love those records in large part because they were among the first batches of records I ever heard rise to the top in the Top 40. I started listening sometime in August 1969 and by December, I had gotten used to the cycle: New record shows up and catches my ear, so I wait for the next time I hear it, and it gets the same reaction from lots of other listeners and climbs up the ladder.

I dunno. But it seems that the records from, oh, the first year-plus of Top 40 listening – August 1969 to December 1970 – belong to me more than records from any other time of my life. There would be a few exceptions, sure, for stuff that came along later during the years I call my sweet spot, but after 1970, I’m not sure I could find a Top Ten in which every record was something I liked.

Has that appreciation for those twelve records lasted for fifty-one years? Let’s look at the iPod and see. Well, ten of the twelve are there. Missing are the B.J. Thomas and Blood, Sweat & Tears records. They should have been there.

Let’s take a look now at the bottom of the chart, at No. 100, and see what we find. It’s a record in its first week on the chart that would enter the Top 40 in early February 1970 and eventually peak at No. 7.

And even my mother liked it. Sometime in February or March 1970, she’d hear it coming from my radio as she came upstairs and stop and listen in the doorway for a moment. Then, as she headed to do whatever it was she was doing, she said something like “Why can’t more of your music be like that?”

Here are the Hollies and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Saturday Single No. 587

April 21, 2018

Set off kilter with an incipient cold – I can feel it coming on, like a weather system a few days out – and tasked later this morning with recording music at a friend’s home for a dance performance for another friend, I’m sort of punting today.

I’m going to head to the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1968 – fifty years ago – and play some quick games with numbers, adding today’s date – 4/21/18 – together to get 43. Then, whatever was No. 43 in that long-ago chart will be today’s feature.

And we run into a record that not only has never been mentioned in this space in more than eleven years of blogging but a record that I only vaguely remember hearing: “Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies. It’s kind of frothy but that’s okay:

White chalk, written on red brick
Our love, told in a heart
It’s there, drawn in the playground
Love, kiss, hate or adore

I love Jennifer Eccles
I know that she loves me
I love Jennifer Eccles
I know that she loves me

La la la la la la la
La la la la la la
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la

I used to carry her satchels
She used to walk by my side
But when we got to her doorstep
Her dad wouldn’t let me inside

One Monday morning,
Found out I’d made the grade
Started me thinking,
Had she done the same?

La la la la la la la
La la la la la la
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la

One Monday morning,
Found out I’d made the grade
Started me thinking,
Had she done the same?

I hope Jennifer Eccles
Is going to follow me there
Our love is bound to continue
Love, kiss, hate or adore
Singing

I love Jennifer Eccles
I know that she loves me
I love Jennifer Eccles
I know that she loves me

La la la la la la la
La la la la la la
La la la la la la la

“Jennifer Eccles” didn’t do much more on the charts, edging up three more places to reach No. 40, becoming the seventh Top 40 hit of an eventual twelve for the Mancunian group. And all that makes it today’s Saturday Single.

Six at Random

April 18, 2018

My iPod currently holds a total of 3,930 tracks, which – as iTunes helpfully tells me – is enough for ten days of listening. We’ll not run that type of marathon here; instead, we’re going to let iTunes supply us with six random tracks of music this morning, and we’ll see what we know and think about those six tracks.

First up is a lilting clarinet tune by Mr. Acker Bilk that went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1962. “Stranger on the Shore” was originally titled “Jenny” but was renamed for the BBC television show that used it as a theme. I have vague memories of hearing the tune in 1962: I would have been eight, and it’s the type of record that would have found a good home on the Twin Cities’ WCCO as well as on St. Cloud’s local stations. I’ve heard it (and liked it) so many times over the years since that it’s impossible to say if I heard it back then, but I do know that when I started during the late 1980s to dig into the music of the early 1960s, “Stranger on the Shore” was familiar.

Our second stop is a track I first heard across the street at Rick’s house in early 1971. “Two Years On” by the Bee Gees was the title track to the album that was home to their No. 3 hit “Lonely Days.” The album was also the first since Robin Gibb had reunited with his brothers after a spat of two or so years, and we speculated that the title track was a reference to that time. It’s a good track, one that reminds me of the pleasant hours I spent across the street listening to albums, playing pool and pinball, and generally cementing a friendship that remains a vital part of my life after more than sixty years. (I also recall the bemused smile I got from Rick maybe a dozen years ago when he discovered Two Years On among my CDs.)

And we stay in that era, listening to a record that puts me in my own room with the sound of the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” coming from my old RCA radio. It’s probably an evening in early 1970 – the record went to No. 7 that March – and I’m holed up in my room after surviving another day of my junior year of high school. It’s a good record (despite the mournful intro) and not a bad memory, and I know it instantly, as I do most Top 40 hits from that season. But the record wasn’t a big deal to me then and it’s not now. Having come across it this morning, I’m likely going to pull it from iTunes and the iPod and replace it with a record that means something to me.

While restocking the iPod after last autumn’s external drive crash, I tried to include records from a wider time frame than I previously had. Since I’ve tended to slight the 1980s over the years, I consciously dropped more tracks from that decade into the playlist this time around. And this morning we fall on “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, a one-hit wonder* that went to No. 8 in 1982. So I look at the other tracks in the iPod from 1982 and think that including the mechanical-sounding cover of Sharon Jones’ 1964 record was a mistake. And I realize that having to stop and think about the tracks as they come up, rather than just letting them roll by in the background as I cook dinner or do some other task, makes me a great deal more critical. There might have been a time when I liked the Soft Cell track, but that time is past.

And iTunes offers us the sharp and somewhat dissonant intro to “Home At Last” from Steely Dan’s 1977 album, Aja. Last September, noting the death of the Dan’s Walter Becker, I selected “Home At Last” as my salute to his passing: “I know that Steely Dan and a romantic notion seem as odd a pairing as cognac and Cheez Whiz, but it would be nice to think that Becker is – in whatever way he might have wished – home at last.” And my friend jb – who blogs at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and understands more about Steely Dan than I ever will – left a trenchant comment:

“Home at Last” seems like a good choice for him, as it’s not so much about finding an idealized home with Mom and chocolate chip cookies as it is getting past the place with the monsters that want to kill you and into a somewhat safer harbor. And if you’re not as free as you’d like to be (“still I remain tied to the mast”), who is?

And we end with one of the records of my life, one of those whose introductions make me take a sharp, short breath as memories instantly cascade. With some of those – and there may be hundreds in that category of “Records of My Life” – it’s the record alone; there is no tale from my years attached to them. Most, though, have a connection with my times, with my joys or sorrows, my roads and my homes. Jackson Browne’s “Late For The Sky” is one of the latter. The title track of his 1974 album, the song depicts a pairing once filled with hope gone hopelessly awry, a scene sadly familiar to me (as it no doubt has been to most of the folks who’ve listened to that tune and the other sad songs the album offers). Even as I live now in a better and sweeter time, the memories of those other times are potent, and I sometimes need those memories to remind myself how far the grace of my life has brought me.

Baby Grand? ‘Lucy Cain’?

December 7, 2017

Looking for a radio survey from today’s date in 1972 – forty-five years ago – I came upon only two such surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive: one from WMEX in Boston and another from WISM in Madison, Wisconsin. And the latter result amused me, as I’m pretty sure that one of WISM’s listeners in those days – at times, anyway – was my pal jb, who grew up on a farm not far away from Wisconsin’s capital and lives now in a small city adjacent to Madison.

So I took a look at the top ten records listed there:

“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Something’s Wrong With Me” by Austin Roberts
“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“Summer Breeze” by Seals & Crofts
“Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Ventura Highway” by America
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green

The top five has a couple of misses, at least to my ears – the records by Roberts and O’Sullivan never hit my sweet spot – but the other eight would make for a very nice half-hour of listening. The one I know the least is the Al Green tune, but listening to it this morning I’d be willing to put it in second place among those ten. (It would take a hell of a record to push “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” from the top of this heap.)

Even though – as I’ve noted before – my listening at the time was becoming more album-oriented as time went on, I still heard enough Top 40 around me that almost all of the records in the lower spots on the WISM survey were familiar as well. To be precise, as I scan the titles and artists listed in the thirty spots on the survey and the three hit-bound entries, there’s only one pairing that’s a mystery to me: “Lucy Cain” by Baby Grand, sitting at No. 23, up three spots from the week before.

I would guess that “Lucy Cain” would be a mystery to many: Out of the thousands of radio surveys cataloged at ARSA, WISM’s Music Guide from December 7, 1972, is the only one that lists the record. And it seems to have not yet been shared by any of the millions of folks who put tunes up at YouTube. (Although there are evidently three women with YouTube accounts by the name of Lucy Cain.)

So I googled. A copy of the record, which came out on the Hemisphere label, is available at Ebay, and a website titled That 70s Wisconsin Beat informs me that Baby Grand – as I suspected – was a local act. And the next entry in the googled results takes me to the lengthy comment section on a piece about the Wisconsin band Clicker by my pal Jeff at his blog AM, Then FM. A few commenters mention Baby Grand and “Lucy Cain,” but unless I missed something in the more than fifty comments, there’s no real info there.

Perhaps jb or Jeff can clue us in, or maybe our pal Yah Shure. Or someone.

Regrouping, I dropped to the bottom of the WISM survey and picked out the third listed of the three hit-bound singles. I remember hearing and liking the Hollies’ “Long Dark Road,” but I haven’t heard it for years. It’s not on the digital shelves here now, and I doubt that it was there before the recent hard drive crash.

It wasn’t one of the Hollies’ biggest hits, reaching No. 26 in the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s worth a listen today:

‘Stewball Was A Race Horse . . .’

December 27, 2013

Now, about the song “Stewball.” We offered in this spot yesterday the version of the song recorded in 1940 by Lead Belly and the Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet for the Victor label. Pretty much a work song, that was the second of several iterations of the folk song that arose in England in the late Eighteenth Century.

Second Hand Songs notes: “Skewball, born in 1741, was a racehorse bred by Francis, Second Earl of Goldolphin. The horse, a gelding, was purportedly the top earning racer in Ireland in 1752, when he was 11. The song apparently originated as a ballad about a high stakes race occurring in the Curragh in Kildare, Ireland, in March 1752, which Skewball won.” The website gives a date of 1784 for the song, noting that the date “is for the oldest broadside identified of the ballad . . . held by the Harding Collection of the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford.”

The webpage continues, “According to John and Alan Lomax in American Ballads and Folk Songs, the ballad was converted into a work song by slaves – which is supported by the version of the lyrics published in their book. ‘Skewball’ apparently became ‘Stewball’ after the song migrated to the United States.”

Beyond the work song version of “Stewball,” the original story-song continued to be recorded. A 1953 recording by Cisco Houston is the earliest listed in the on-going project at Second Hand Songs, but Woody Guthrie recorded the tale of the horse race in 1944 or 1945. His version was released in 1999 on Buffalo Skinners: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 4 on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

Then came along the Greenbriar Boys. A trio made up by 1960 of John Herald, Ralph Rinzler, and Bob Yellin, the group, says All Music Guide, was “[o]ne of the first urban bands to play bluegrass” and was “instrumental in transforming the sounds of the hill country from a Southern music to an international phenomenon.” The Greenbriar Boys released their first two albums of bluegrass tunes in 1962 and 1964, but of more import for us today is a tune that showed up on New Folks, a 1961 sampler on the Vanguard label. Herald, Rinzler and Yellin set the words of “Stewball” to a simple, folkish tune (written by Yellin, according to website Beatles Songwriting Academy) and recorded the song as their contribution to the album:

After that, covers of the new version followed: From Peter, Paul & Mary in 1963 (a single release went to No. 35 and is the only version to chart), from Joan Baez in 1964 and from the Hollies in 1966, according to Second Hand Songs. And I know there are many other covers. Most of those take on the Greenbriar’s Boys’ version (including one by Mason Proffit on its 1969 album Wanted), but there are other covers of the early folk version and the work song version as well. I didn’t go digging too deeply, though, because something else about the song grabbed my attention this week.

Now, I’ve heard the version of “Stewball” using the Greenbriar Boys’ melody several times over the years, notably the versions by Mason Proffit and Peter, Paul & Mary. Heck, I even sang it along with Peter Yarrow at a concert a year-and-a-half ago. But I’d never noticed or thought about the tune’s similarity to another famous song until this week.

Last Tuesday, I ran past Second Hand Songs while looking for an interesting cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1971 single “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, and when the results came up that put the Lennon/Ono tune in the adaptation tree for “Stewball,” I did a mild double-take. And then I thought about it, running the two tunes through my head. And yeah, John (and Yoko, to whatever degree she was involved in the writing, listed as she is as a composer) lifted the melody and chord structure from the Greenbriar Boys’ version of “Stewball.” There were a few changes, notably a key change and the addition of the “War is over if you want it” chorus, but it was essentially the same song.

And I’m not at all sure why Herald, Rinzler and Yellin didn’t complain. Does anybody know?

Saturday Single No. 360

October 5, 2013

We’re going to stay in 1975 again this morning, but rather than just dabble with October, we’ll open up the whole year – singles and album tracks, hits and obscurities – and take a six-step random walk in search of a single for a Saturday morning. We’ll skip something only if it’s been featured here recently. Weirdness, if it rears its head, will be embraced.

So, let’s go . . .

Siren was the fourth charting album for Roxy Music, and while it didn’t do quite as well as its 1974 predecessor, Country Life (No. 37), it still went to No. 50. The track that pops up for us this morning is “End of the Line,” the album’s second track. Sounding far less sleek than the rest of the album, the track kind of thumps along with a well-defined piano part and rhythm section and a wandering fiddle part sliding around Bryan Ferry’s vocal. I like it much better than I like a lot of the Roxy Music catalog.

I’m not sure if the Hollies were the first to cover a Bruce Springsteen song, but they certainly were near the head of the line when they recorded “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” from Springsteen’s 1973 album, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. The Hollies’ version – titled simply “Sandy” – was released as a single on Epic and was included on their 1975 album, Another Night. The single went to No. 85 in the U.S. and to No. 12 in the United Kingdom New Zealand. The album got to No. 123 in the U.S.

From 1963 and I’ve Got A Woman through 2002’s McGriff Avenue, the late Jimmy McGriff – he passed on in 2008 – kept his Hammond B-3 busy. How many albums? I’m not going to count the list at All Music Guide right now, but a friend passed on a partial collection of McGriff’s works not long ago, and that totaled forty-five albums. We land this morning on “Stretch Me Out” from 1975’s Stump Juice, an album that AMG’s Jason Ankeny says “forgoes warhorse pop and soul covers in favor of original tunes – these tabulas rasa are the ideal canvas for [Sonny] Lester’s bare-essentials production and McGriff’s sinuous grooves.” And “Stretch Me Out” does indeed stretch.

The French group Folkdove released a couple of mid-1970s album in a sparse sound reminiscent – to my ears, anyway – of earlier work by the Incredible String Band (minus some weirdness) and a few other British folk ensembles. The track “Sylvie” comes from the group’s self-titled 1975 album, a work that I must have found at the blog Mutant Sounds, which calls Folkdove a “legendary French acid folk album . . . Simple in its form but yet great” in its simplicity. “Sylvie” is fine on its own, but there is a droning quality to it – and to the rest of the album – that makes more than one track at a time from Folkdove a bit of a listening chore.

Next up, we get Petula Clark and “I’m the Woman You Need” from her album of the same name. By 1975, Clark’s presence in the U.S. charts had dwindled – her 1960s hits included, of course, “Downtown” and “My Love,” both of which spent two weeks at No. 1 – and her records, if I read the data at Wikipedia correctly, were being released only in her native Britain. I picked up I’m The Woman You Need to get Clark’s version of “Eres Tu,” and that cover, like the title song that popped up this morning, was tasteful and professional but a little less than thrilling.

When the progressive band Crack The Sky released its self-titled debut in 1975, Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed it the “debut album of the year,” says Wikipedia, and the 1978 Rolling Stone Record Guide compared the group to Steely Dan. Listening this morning to “A Sea Epic” from the group’s debut, I hear more Strawbs and Humble Pie than Becker and Fagen. The track is not bad, but I find more interesting this morning the question of the band’s home town. Wikipedia says it’s Weirton, West Virginia, and Joel Whitburn, in Top Pop Singles, says Steubenville, Ohio (which has become well-known in the past year or so for something far less pleasant than a rock group). Since the two cities are separated only by the Ohio River, it really makes no difference, I guess. Nor, finally, does the band.

Well, those are our six options this morning, and this one’s easy. The Hollies’ record showed up here in 2009 as part of a selection of Springsteen covers, but that’s a long time ago in Blogworld, so here’s “Sandy” by the Hollies, today’s Saturday Single.

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]

Still Mastering New Skills

November 9, 2011

Originally posted January 5, 2009

Another new skill! We hung curtains in the bedroom yesterday. Actually, I hung the curtains while the Texas Gal oversaw the operation, making certain that I got the curtain rod as high on the wall as it needed to be.

We’d had the curtains – washed, ironed and hanging in the closet – since mid-December, and had planned to hang them in the days before Christmas. But we kept putting the chore off. Okay, I kept putting it off, being worried about mis-measuring and drilling errant holes in the wall. But that part went okay. One of the three sets of holes is, I think, just a little higher than the other two, maybe by an eighth of an inch, meaning that to my critical eye, the curtain rod is slightly aslant.

But still, the curtains – striped in blues and beiges – look very good in the bedroom. They match the royal blue on the walls (a color we inherited from the house’s previous tenant but one we like, thankfully) and the blue and beige backing of the new quilt that the Texas Gal made for the room. (The front of the quilt is panels of blue, maroon and gold, some of which show logos of railroads, many of them long gone. It’s quite likely that we’ll be looking for other art based on railroads for the room.)

The Texas Gal says that besides looking nice, the curtains will also cut down drafts in the room. They seemed to do so last night, which was a good thing. The outside temperature dropped to –21 F (-29 C) during the night.

So I’m pleased. I’ll no doubt have more curtain rods to hang in the future and will likely do so capably. I have a sense, though, that whenever I think about it, I’ll wonder about that eight of an inch. The Texas Gal says no one will know if I don’t mention it. Well, it’s too late for that, so if you ever see our blue curtains, pretend you don’t notice that the rod slants just a tiny bit.

(I checked for songs about curtains and found only two, so here’s an acceptable substitute.)

A Six-Pack of Windows
“Rain on the Window” by the Hollies from Evolution, 1967

“Come To My Window” by Melissa Etheridge from Yes I Am, 1993

“Sign on the Window” by Melanie from Good Book, 1971

“Steamy Windows” by Tony Joe White from Closer to the Truth, 1991

“She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” by Joe Cocker from Joe Cocker!, 1969

“Cars Hiss By My Window” by the Doors from L.A. Woman, 1971

A few notes:

Evolution was likely the Hollies’ most adventurous album, a blend of pop and psychedelia that fit neatly into the year of 1967. ”Rain on my Window” was typical of the record in that it tells a tale more complex than the Hollies’ music had dealt with up to that time, and it does so with some adventurous instrumentation, especially the horn interludes. “Carrie-Anne,” supposedly written for Marianne Faithful, was the hit off the album (No. 9). The rest of the album was a bit more challenging.

“Come To My Window” was one of several striking songs from Melissa Etheridge’s Yes I Am, an album about which All-Music Guide says: “Melissa Etheridge wasn’t out of the closet when she released Yes I Am in 1993, yet it’s hard not to notice the defiant acclamation in the album’s title. This barely concealed sense of sexual identity seeps out from the lyrics, and it informs the music as well, which is perhaps the most confident she has ever been. It’s also the most professional she’s ever been (perhaps not a coincidence) . . .” “Come To My Window” went to No. 25 in the spring of 1994; “I’m The Only One,” also from Yes I Am, reached No. 8 that autumn.

“Sign On The Window” has showed up here in two other versions: Bob Dylan’s original from New Morning and Jennifer Warnes’ cover version from 1979. Melanie’s version takes off at times in a hoedown, maybe finding in the fiddle a different center to the song than did Dylan and Warnes. It’s always seemed to me as if both Dylan and Warnes, as they sing wearily about finding a cabin in Utah and all the rest, were singing about things that they should have done in a distant past. Melanie’s country-style exuberance brings the song into the present.

Tony Joe White’s “Steamy Windows” fits right into the swamp groove that brought White some renown as a songwriter (“Rainy Night In Georgia”) and one hit (“Polk Salad Annie,” No. 8 in 1969). Actually, the entire Closer to the Truth album sits pretty much in the middle of the swamp, which in this case is a good place to be. Nevertheless, like most everything White has done since the early 1970s, it was ignored by most folks. I imagine White just shrugged. He’s released a cluster of worthwhile albums since then, a good share of them from live performances.

It continues to amaze me that Joe Cocker found as much of a song as he did in “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” a Paul McCartney tune that was first paired with John Lennon’s “Polythene Pam” on the Beatles’ Abbey Road. As much as I like the song and its place in the mini-suite on Abbey Road, when I first got the Cocker album, I had doubts that the song could stand on its own. But Cocker – with the help, no doubt, of producer Denny Cordell – made it work. (Leon Russell is also credited as a producer on Joe Cocker!, but I’m assuming that “Bathroom Window” came from Cordell; it doesn’t sound like a Leon Russell track. I could be wrong.) In his book Beatlesongs, William J. Dowlding notes that McCartney originally wanted Cocker to record the song before the Beatles did. I love the zig-zaggy ascending introduction.

The Doors’ track is a grim and spooky blues number done well. I’d say that the gloomy mien of the song might have presaged Morrison’s exit from the world in just a couple of months, but I think gloom, dread and weariness had been the Doors’ watchwords for quite some time beforehand.

A Baker’s Dozen Under No. 1 From 1970

June 15, 2011

Originally posted March 5, 2008

As I’ve mentioned a fair number of times, it was in late 1969 and early 1970 that I began to listen regularly to Top 40 radio. Every once in a while, I wander over to one of the sites that catalog local radio charts from those years. I choose a station and a weekly chart almost at random and let my eyes wander up and down the list, with my internal radio playing snippets of songs first heard long ago.

I did that this morning, casting about for a theme for a Baker’s Dozen. I had at first thought about a list of songs with “Road” in their titles, as I’ve long wanted to share Elvis Presley’s version of “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.” But I ran part of a random search and then thought to myself, well, maybe another day. So I looked at the charts for March of 1970, thinking I might just present the top thirteen songs of one week. But during that month, one of the top records everywhere I looked was Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that record at all. It’s a truly great record (as is the album from which it came). But I shared it here last August, and – besides that – it’s one of those omnipresent records. I don’t think anyone ever hears it and thinks, “Wow, when was the last time I heard that?” And that reaction is one I hope that at least some of the things I share here will generate.

So I looked at 1969, and I looked at 1971 and 1973 and 1975. And I was dissatisfied by what I saw. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood today, I thought. Then I had the thought that maybe I should go ahead and pretend that the Simon & Garfunkel record wasn’t there, present records Nos. 2 through 14 as a Baker’s Dozen Under No. 1 or something like that. So I went back to the WDGY (Twin Cities) chart for March 6, 1970, and looked at those records. Not a bad batch, but I’d have to go find two of them, Frijid Pink’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman. (Now that I have the external hard drive, I can afford to use storage space for frivolities like songs by Bobby Sherman.)

And I got sidetracked. I not only found those two songs, but also found – and saved to the hard drive – Sherman’s “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” and “Seattle.” Being at least a little bit of an archivist, I wanted to find the catalog numbers for those. “Julie” was easy, but it’s a bit harder to track down the genesis of “Seattle,” which was Sherman’s version of the theme song for the 1968 TV show Here Come the Brides. (Sherman was one of the stars of the show.) Wikipedia says that Sherman’s version of the song reached the Cash Box Top 100 in 1969, but twenty minutes combing through the online charts cast doubt on that; I found Perry Como’s version of the song listed, but not Sherman’s. Another search left me looking at a picture of a record cut from the back of a cereal box. I doubt that was the only way “Seattle” was released, but by that time, I’d already spent thirty minutes on a record that’s not in my plans for today. So I’ll get back to it later and go ahead and present my rather odd idea.

A Baker’s Dozen Under No. 1, March 6, 1970

“Ma Belle Amie” by the Tee Set, Colossus single 107

“Who’ll Stop The Rain”/“Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy single 637

“Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus single 9074

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies, Epic single 10532

“Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman, Metromedia single 177

“Thank You”/“Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic single 10555

“No Time” by the Guess Who, RCA single 0300

“House of the Rising Sun” by Frijid Pink, Parrot single 341

“Rainy Night In Georgia” by Brook Benton, Cotillion single 44057

“Oh Me, Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” by Lulu, Atco single 6722

“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz, Kama Sutra single 502

“Hey There, Lonely Girl” by Eddie Holman, ABC single 11240

“Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley, RCA single 9791

A few notes:

One of the quandaries facing me here is one that I think almost any radio lover encounters when trying to assess a cluster of songs from the past. Most of these songs are old friends, and it’s hard to look at them, to listen to them, objectively.

I think the best of this list are the Creedence sides along with “A Rainy Night In Georgia,” “Kentucky Rain.” and “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby).” (That last should not be a surprise to regular readers.)

Of the rest of them, some have aged well, some haven’t, and some never had a chance.

“Give Me Just A Little More Time” and the two Sly & the Family Stone records still sound pretty good, although “Everybody Is A Star” sounds to me a little bit better than its A side, the full title of which is “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” The Hollies, the Guess Who and Eddie Holman are still good listening, too, though maybe a notch lower.

Frijid Pink’s “House of the Rising Sun” sounded better this morning – hearing it for the first time in years – than I expected it to, but my expectations were, I admit, low. I guess I won’t hit the skip button when it comes up again, though. The same holds true for “Ma Belle Amie,” which I kind of like, as clunky as it may be.

As for “The Rapper” and the Bobby Sherman record, well, if I had to trim these thirteen down to ten, they’d be the first ones cut. After that, well, I suppose the Frijid Pink song would fall, if only because I like to sing along during the French lines in “Ma Belle Amie.”

I’ve presented the B sides of the two double-sided singles because I think they’re less likely to be heard on the radio.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1967, Vol. 2

June 6, 2011

Originally posted January 23, 2008

Some quotations from 1967:

“There [in Haight-Ashbury], in a daily street-fair atmosphere, upwards of 15,000 unbonded girls and boys interact in a tribal love-seeking, free-winging, acid-based society, where if you are a hippie and you have a dime, you can put it in a parking meter and lie down in the street for an hour’s sunshine.” – Warren Hinckle, Social History of the Hippies

“‘An investigation into Sex’ is now offered at Dartmouth. ‘Analogues to the LSD Experience’ can now be studied at Penn. ‘Guerilla Warfare’ is being examined by DePauw students. Stanford undergraduates are studying ‘American Youth in Revolt,’ and ‘The Origins and Meaning of Black Power’ is a course at Brooklyn College. Has higher education finally caught up with the times?” – Ralph Keyes, “The Free Universities”

“Victory is just around the corner [in Vietnam].” – National Security Adviser Walt Rostow

“I don’t have no personal quarrel with those Viet Congs” – Muhammad Ali

“I have tried to show that contemporary society is a repressive society in all its aspects, that even the comfort and the prosperity, the alleged political and moral freedom, are utilized for repressive ends.” – Herbert Marcuse

I turned fourteen that year. I wasn’t reading Marcuse nor was I worrying one way or another about the current courses in college catalogs. I was aware of the war in Vietnam, but only as something far away that was on the news more nights than not and in the papers almost every day. I knew that the war was out there, like thunder beyond the horizon, and I thought that maybe it was wrong, but it hadn’t touched me yet.

I did think about the hippies, having seen some coverage on the television news and having read about them in the daily papers and in Time magazine. It looked like they were having fun, I thought. I would not have minded running through the grass with some sweet flower child. Small chance of that, though: I was horribly awkward in my dealings with that strange tribe called girls.

Let’s see . . . I went to band camp that summer at Bemidji State College, in the northern part of the state. My dad let my hair grow out a little, and I grew a few inches and slimmed down some, changing enough that at least a couple people didn’t recognize me when ninth grade started in the fall. The most painful episode of the year was having my tonsils out after a long series of sore throats, the last of which came in late January.

When I stayed home ill, I would take the brown radio from the kitchen and put it on my bedside table. I’d listen to news and such on WCCO and occasionally tune the radio to KDWB and listen to that for a while, even though Top 40 radio was not yet the place where my soul lived. So what did I hear that January during that final bout of tonsilitis?

Here are a few listings pulled from the KDWB “Big 6 Plus 30” for the week of January 21, 1967. The top five was:

“I’m A Believer” by the Monkees
“Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Words of Love” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Coming Home Soldier” by Bobby Vinton
“Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville

A few other stops along the way were:

No. 10: “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” by the Blues Magoos
No. 15: “Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra
No. 20: “Tell It To The Rain” by the Four Seasons
No. 25: “Whispers” by Jackie Wilson
No. 30: “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops
No. 36: “Ballad of Water Wart” by Thorndike Pickledish Choir

I’d never seen this list before, and my jaw remains agape as I write this, looking at that No. 36 song. I’d never heard of it before. Whatever it is, it was in its fifth week on the KDWB survey, having gone as high as No. 21. It might have been a regional hit, as it’s not listed in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits.

A quick Googling finds that KDWB’s list has the title misspelled; it should be “The Ballad of Walter Wart,” although a 2006 posting on the website of WFMU, the free-form station in New Jersey, notes that the label on its copy of the 45 is misspelled, too. From what I can tell it was a novelty record that didn’t quite make the Top 100 nationally. I wonder why it did so well on KDWB? It never showed up on the weekly surveys at WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station.

Well, let’s Google on: It turns out that the creator of the record, whose real name is Robert O. Smith, has a blog of his own: All Hail Thorndike Pickledish !! There’s an mp3 of the two sides of the single there. Odd, indeed.*

Anyway, that’s what radio sounded like, for the most part, as I sat in bed with a sore throat forty-one years ago. And here’s what 1967 sounds like when I start the RealPlayer these days:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1967, Vol. 2
“Eight Men, Four Women” by O. V. Wright, Backbeat single 580

“Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles from Magical Mystery Tour

“Ups & Downs” by Paul Revere & the Raiders, Columbia single 44018

“Landslide” by Tony Clark, Chess single 1979

“Everybody’s Wrong” by Buffalo Springfield from Buffalo Springfield

“Ye Old Toffee Shop” by the Hollies from Evolution

“I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Tamla single 54159

“Bessie Smith” by The Band from The Basement Tapes

“Blue Condition” by Cream from Disraeli Gears

“Hip Hug-Her” by Booker T & the MG’s, Stax single 211

“Twentieth Century Fox” by the Doors from The Doors

“San Francisco Bay Blues” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag

“Break It Up” by Julie Driscoll & Brian Auger from Open

A few notes:

O.V. Wright came out of the gospel music circuit before going secular in the mid-1960s, eventually ending up in the 1970s with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. That’s probably where Wright did his best work, but his mid-1960s singles for Backbeat – “Eight Men, Four Women” is the most atmospheric – are worth seeking out.

I’ve seen numerous comments from historians and critics and others of similar background who state that the Beatles’ single “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane” is the best double-sided single in the history of rock. It’s a good one, no doubt, but the best? The record was a harbinger of what was to come that summer when Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, and it sounded unlike anything we’d ever heard before. With the passage of time, however, the two singles suffer at least a little from the “throw in everything including the kitchen sink” production style that seemed so novel and revolutionary in 1967. And I can think of four other double-sided singles the Beatles themselves released that have more staying power than “Strawberry Fields Forever”/“Penny Lane.” Those would be “Come Together”/“Something,” “Hey Jude”/“Revolution,” “Paperback Writer”/“Rain” and – way back near the start – “I Want To Hold Your Hand”/“I Saw Her Standing There.”

The Hollies track is the most frothy and least consequential song from the Evolution album, which I think was the Hollies’ attempt to make something significant out of their version of psychedelic folk-pop. It’s not an awful album, and it has one good single (“Carrie-Anne”), but it’s not nearly as important as it is odd. The Hollies, in one critical way, remind me of the Grass Roots and Neil Diamond, among many others, in that they recorded good singles – sometimes even verging on great – but got lost when they tried to be significant. The middle section of “Ye Old Toffee Shop” reminds me of the single from the year before: “Pied Piper” by Crispian St. Peters.

On the other hand, great singles were Smokey Robinson’s business, and he knew it and stayed with it. “I Second That Emotion” might be his masterpiece – “Maybe you wanna give me kisses sweet, but only for one night with no repeat,” indeed! – but even if it’s not (I do lean toward “Tears of a Clown”), it’s a great single from the writing all the way through the production and the performance.

Most performers, when taking on Jesse Fuller’s “San Francisco Bay Blues” keep it up-tempo, an approach that likely started with Fuller himself (based on a listen to his performance of the song at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964). But Havens – as he often does – goes against type here, making the song more contemplative and measured, allowing the listener to take in the tale.

*Sadly, a check on the first page of All Hail Thorndike Pickledish !! reveals that Robert O. Smith, creator of Walter Wart, crossed over in 2010. The blog is still there, but the link to the Walter Wart mp3s no longer works. Note added June 6, 2011.