Posts Tagged ‘Iron Butterfly’

‘At Manager, No. 14 . . .’

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 6, 2009

Despite my love of sports, I’ve never been an athlete. But thirty-nine years ago today, I wore a jersey as a member of a team for the only time in my life.

It was the last week of the football season at St. Cloud Tech. I was a manager, and I think we were all glad the season was coming to a close. It hadn’t been a good year: We were 2-6 heading into our final game. That was quite a come-down from 1969, when we were 6-3 and ended up ranked No. 9 in the state. (A three-loss team in the Top Ten? That was because we played a tough independent schedule, and our losses were to the top three teams in the state.)

There was a good reason that we’d not had a good season, though. That fall, St. Cloud had opened its second high school, Apollo High School, over on the north side. And when the kids from the north side went off to become the Eagles, about half of the underclassmen from the previous year’s team were among them. There was no way we were going to be as good as we had been or as good as we could have been, had we stayed one school. Things were no better across town at Apollo; the Eagles were 2-5 as the end of the season approached.

The Eagles’ difficulties, though, weren’t our concern. As the season had progressed, we’d kept up with our former teammates and their performances, and I assume that they kept an eye on how we were doing. We weren’t happy with their poor season, but we were pleased that they were doing no better than we were. And during that final week, we cared not one bit about their difficulties because our final game was against those same Eagles. It would be the first football game ever between St. Cloud’s two public high schools.

(One of the oddities of the split between the two high schools was where the boundary line between the two schools was drawn. On the East Side, the line was drawn at the north end of Kilian Boulevard, a block away from our house. It happened to fall right in the middle of the attendance area for Lincoln Elementary, and that meant that a number of kids I’d been in school with since first grade went to Apollo. Had the line been drawn only a little further south, I’d have gone to Apollo; I was relieved to stay at Tech.)

One of the long-standing traditions at Tech was that, on the day of a game or a meet, varsity athletes wore dress shirts, ties and sport coats to school. As a manager of the football team for two years and the wrestling team for three years, I did the same. But as our final week of practice came to a close and we gathered for a meeting Thursday afternoon, the captains had a question for the coaches: Since it’s our last game, and the first ever against Apollo, can we wear our jerseys during the school day on Friday instead of coats and ties?

The coaches looked at each other and thought for a second, then nodded. We left the meeting room, and as we headed for the locker room, I wondered how out of place I was going to look in school the next day. I didn’t have a jersey.

I pondered that as I went over our supplies in the training room, making sure everything was packed into the kits we’d haul to Clark Field, a block away, the next evening:  Bandages, various sprays, a couple of cleat cleaners and cleat wrenches, lots of tape and all the other things that we managers were responsible for. Well, I thought, as I packed the tape, I’ll just wear a coat and tie.

As I finished packing and was about to head out of the training room, certain that Dad was already waiting in the parking lot, one of the other seniors on the team, Scott, poked his head into the room. “So what are you gonna wear tomorrow?”

I shrugged. “A coat and tie, I guess.”

He shook his head. “C’mon,” he said, motioning with his hand as he walked through the locker room. I followed him to the equipment room, where Scott addressed the equipment manager, Mr. Kerr. “We need a jersey here,” Scott told him. “What can you do?”

Mr. Kerr pulled a jersey from the shelf and tossed it to me. Number 14. I pulled it on. I was of slight build, and the jersey was cut for shoulder pads, of course, so it hung on me like a large orange, black and white curtain. But it was, right then, my jersey. “There you go,” Scott said, as we walked back toward the training room.

I wore the jersey to school the next day, of course, and on the sidelines during the game that Friday evening. We beat Apollo fairly handily (a score of 26-14 pops into my memory, but I’m not certain) and crowded back into our locker room, happy to have ended the season with a victory. The next Monday, I handed the jersey to Mr. Kerr. I learned later that many of my fellow seniors had neglected to return their jerseys, eventually paying something like $25 for their “lost” jerseys. I wish I’d done the same.

A Six-Pack From Late Autumn 1970
“Let’s Work Together” by Canned Heat from Future Blues
“When You Get Right Down To It” by the Delfonics, Philly Groove 163
“Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way)” by Iron Butterfly from Metamorphosis
“Games” by Redeye from Redeye
“Too Many People” by Cold Blood from Sisyphus
“Who Needs Ya” by Steppenwolf from Seven

Bonus Track
“St. Cloud Tech School Song” by the Tech High School Band

During the week that we kicked off the Tech-Apollo football rivalry, six of the titles above were listed in the Billboard Hot 100. (See the note below regarding singles vs. album tracks.) There was one nice slice of Philly soul, one light rocker with some nice vocal harmony (Redeye’s “Games”) and four bits of fairly tough bluesy rock. I recall hearing “Let’s Work Together” once or twice and being intrigued, but I doubt that I heard the other five. Why not?

Well, only two of these six titles made it into the Top 40, which was guiding my listening: “Let’s Work Together” went to No. 26, and “Games” reached No. 27. During the week in question, the one that ended Saturday, November 7, 1970, these titles were strewn mostly in the lower levels of the Hot 100:

“Let’s Work Together” was already in the Top 40, sitting at No. 33. The Delfonics tune was at No. 56 after peaking at No. 53 two weeks earlier. Iron Butterfly’s “Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way)” would peak at No. 66 two weeks later. (I never paid much attention to Iron Butterfly after buying and quickly selling the group’s live album way back when, but I have to note that “Easy Rider” is a better and more interesting record than I expected it to be; it had been languishing, ignored, in my files with the rest of the Metamorphosis album for a while.) Redeye’s “Games,” on its way to its peak of No. 27, was in the Hot 100 for the first time and was sitting at No. 90.

Cold Blood’s “Too Many People” was in the “Bubbling Under the Top 100” section and had moved up one slot from No. 108 to No. 107. It would be gone when the next chart came out a week later. And Steppenwolf’s “Who Needs Ya” – a typical but fun Steppenwolf boogiefest – was in its first week in the “Bubbling Under” section, sitting at No. 119.  It would peak at No. 54 five weeks later.

As I was planning this post – I do plan sometimes – I called Gary Zwack, the current band director at St. Cloud Tech, and asked about a copy of the school song. He emailed it to me, and as I heard the song for the first time in what must be thirty-five years, I remembered all the words:

March straight on, Old Tech High
To fame and honor great.
The glory of our colors
We’ll never let abate.
We’re with you!
March straight on, Old Tech High!
Be loyal to her name.
Fight gallantly for dear old Tech
And all her worthy fame.

Gary added a note, telling me that the music for the song was written in 1931 by Erwin Hertz, who was Tech’s band director at the time. I wrote back, telling Gary that in 1964, I took my first lessons on cornet from Erwin Hertz, who was very close to retiring. Thanks for the help, Gary.

Note:
In five of the six cases, I’ve tagged the mp3s as coming from the various albums, as I’m uncertain whether the mp3 offered here is the single version. The only one I am sure of is the Delfonics’ tune.

I am nearly certain that the single that Cold Blood released was edited significantly, as the running times – 4:05 on the album version I have and 2:52 on photos I’ve seen of the single (San Francisco 62) – are so far apart. Redeye’s “Games” is not (as I erroneously reported originally) the same length on the single (Pentagram 204) as it is on the album, and Iron Butterfly’s 45 (Atco 6782) is timed at 3:05 while the mp3 runs 3:06, so I think those were the same, but I’m not sure.

As to the Steppenwolf and Canned Heat tracks: The running times I’ve seen on photos of those singles – Dunhill 4261 and Liberty 56151, respectively – are relatively close to those of these album tracks. That leaves me wondering if the singles and the album tracks were the same but the times were listed differently, as was often the case. But I don’t know.

Back To 1970 Once Again

October 19, 2010

A lot of records from 1970 have been explored in this space in the past few months, but it’s been a while – going back to July, actually – since we looked at a chart from that year, which I noted some time ago was my first great music year and the first full year I spent digging into Top 40.

So what was I doing forty years ago as October entered its final fortnight? Well, I finally got my driver’s license, passing the behind-the-wheel test on my fifth try. Nerves had been my nemesis, but knowing that another failure meant retaking driver’s training focused my attention, even if it didn’t really settle my nerves, and I squeaked through.

My afternoons and Friday evenings were spent as head manager for the St. Cloud Tech high school football team, which was struggling through the first season of two high schools in St. Cloud. We had kids on the team who’d never gone out for football before in their lives, and although some of them did quite well, our inexperience showed on the field and in our won-lost record.

Other than that, I filled my time with a number of hobbies: I was deep into making model rockets, shooting them off in the empty field just down the alley from Rick’s house. I was expanding my collection of LPs, still catching up on the Beatles; but I was also savvy enough to be one of the first people among my small group of friends to get a copy of Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And along with rockets and records, I spent a good deal of my free time pondering a group of sophomore girls, one of whom became, as I told some months ago, the recipient of song lyrics – original and otherwise – printed in purple ink.

Much of that pondering came as I listened to my old RCA radio in my room. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the week ending October 24, 1970, forty years ago this week:

“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“All Right Now” by Free
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Candida” by Dawn
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Lola” by the Kinks
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross

The first seven of those are stellar. The final three, not so much. I liked “Indiana Wants Me” a lot at the time, and I still like it as an artifact of its time, but it’s aged much less well than the others on that list, with its sirens and police bullhorns. But it was fun at the time. I’ve never much cared for “Lola” or for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” though.

But there were plenty of records further down the chart that I liked a lot. And looking at the chart this morning, there were plenty of them that I didn’t know all that well.

Mark Lindsay, previously with Paul Revere & The Raiders, had scored two hits earlier in the year: “Arizona” went to No. 10 in the early months of 1970, and “Silver Bird” had reached No. 25 during the summer. During this fourth week of October, his current single, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” was sitting at No. 53. The record, which is a sweet ballad, got as high as No. 44, where it spent two weeks in mid-November, but it got no higher.

Sitting at No. 70 during this week in 1970 is a record I know I heard at least once, though I swear I also heard a cover version of the song as well. Jake Holmes released a few well-regarded albums in the 1960s: The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, A Letter to Katherine December and a self-titled effort. The best known of those is probably the first, as it includes the song “Dazed and Confused,” which was later seemingly appropriated without credit by Led Zeppelin. But the song I remember was from Holmes’ lesser known fourth album, So Close, So Very Far To Go. Forty years ago, “So Close” was at No. 70, and it peaked at No. 49 during the last week of November. Since I found the record at YouTube a couple of weeks ago, I’ve listened to it several times, and although I recall Holmes’ version, I swear I remember another performer singing it, and no, it wasn’t Robert Plant. Is anyone out there aware of who might have covered Jake Holmes’ “So Close”?

It was likely during the autumn of 1970 that I made one of my worst LP purchases of all time, spending five or six bucks for Iron Butterfly Live. The review of the album at All-Music Guide nails it, noting that the album “is noteworthy for its second side, which contains a 20-minute version of ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.’ Even though it’s only three minutes longer than the original version, it’s three times as tedious.” I would have done far better to get a copy of the group’s new album, Metamorphosis, which included a pretty good single. “Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way)” was at No. 82 during this week in 1970; it peaked at No. 66 during the third week of November.

Just a little further down, we find the first record to reach the Billboard charts from one of the first country rock bands. Poco, the foundations of which had emerged from the wreckage of Buffalo Springfield, would have four Top 40 hits from 1979 through 1990, but the group’s best music, most fans would say, came in the first half of the 1970s. “You Better Think Twice,” which was at No. 88 during the week of October 24, 1970, peaked at No. 72 during the third week of November. It should have done far better.

Dipping into the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100, we find a great slice of southern soul sitting at No. 105: “Ace of Spades” by O.V. Wright. While he never had a record reach the Top 40, Wright – according to the listings at All-Music Guide, which are sometimes incomplete – had three records reach the Hot 100 and twelve records in the R&B chart between 1965 and 1978. His highest-charting single was “Eight Men, Four Women” – a song about the jury that convicted the narrator of a crime – which went to No. 4 on the R&B chart in 1967. “Ace of Spades” didn’t do quite that well, but it did all right: No. 11 on the R&B chart and No. 54 in the Hot 100.

And closing our search this morning is a one-hit wonder by a group from Los Angeles: “Games” by Redeye. The record was sitting at No. 116 during the fourth week of October 1970; by the fourth week of January 1971, “Games” was at its peak of No. 27. The record was Redeye’s only Top 40 single, though the group did see “Red Eye Blues” get to No. 78 in the Hot 100 later in 1971.

Now that we’re facing our first week since February without an installment of the Ultimate Jukebox, Odd, Pop and I are dealing with the task of finding something else to fill our time and our posting space here. Stop by Thursday and see what we come up with. (We have no clue at the moment what that will be.)

Baseball Report
For those who are interested, this year’s Strat-O-Matic tournament, about which I wrote briefly on Saturday, went to Dan, whose 1998 Atlanta Braves defeated Rick’s 1961 New York Yankees two games to none in the finals. My 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates and 2006 Minnesota Twins both went down in the semifinals.