Posts Tagged ‘James Carr’

A Baker’s Dozen From 1966, Vol. 2

June 11, 2011

Originally posted January 30, 2008

Every once in a while, it seems, we go through a spasm of interest in UFOs in this country, and maybe throughout the world. I have a suspicion that with the wide reach of the Internet, those with an intense interest in UFOs gather together electronically – as do other groups of people with intense special interests – and so perhaps the general public no longer is as aware of those cyclical spasms of interest and/or activity. I know I don’t see or hear much about UFOs and their supposed occupants in the mainstream media but the few times I’ve dug into websites about the phenomenon, there are plenty of things reported as having happened, some of them quite recent.

I do think it’s cyclical, though. And I recall a local outburst of activity and/or interest in UFOs during the mid-Sixties. About sixty miles west of here is a little town called Long Prairie, a city of about 3,000 people. In 1965, something happened near there that made local radio news, and it might have been reported in the St. Cloud Daily Times although I don’t remember reading about it.

Here’s a summary from one of those UFO websites:

“From several ufological sources, more or less fragmentary, the case of Long Prairie, Minnesota, USA, on October 23, 1965, reportedly occurred as follow.

“The witness was James ‘Jerry’ F. Townsend, a 19 years old devout Christian and debutant radio host on KEYL of Long Prairie, and he was apparently a resident of that town.

“In that evening of October 23, 1965, he was driving in his model 1956 car, on Minnesota State Highway 27, from Little Falls to Long Prairie. He was 4 miles East of Long Prairie, going West, in the hilly landscape and had just looked at his watch and noted it was approximately 07:15 p.m.

“At that moment he arrived in a curve in the road, he said, when he saw an upright rocket-like object, silver colored, metallic looking, about 30 or 40 feet high and about 10 feet in diameter, blocking on the road, resting on the tips of three legs or fins.

“At that moment, his car engine stalled, the lights and radio went out, and he slammed on the brakes and the car skidded to a stop at only 20 feet in front of the object.

“His first thought was then to knock the object over with the car so he could have some evidence, but the engine was stalled. He tried to make it start again, but the choke did not respond. So he got out of the car with the idea of trying to push the object over by hand.

“He walked just past the level of the hood of the car, but did not go further, stopped short, fascinated by a quite stunning sight: he saw three small ‘creatures’ emerge from behind the object and line up at the front.

“Those creatures were in the shape of beer cans. They measured 6 inches tall, were of dark or brownish color, and were ‘walking’ awkardly on two ‘legs’ or ‘fins’. Whenever they stopped, a third ‘leg’ came down from their back and provided stability. They looked like tin cans on tripods. They also had three arms, ‘matchstick like’.

“Townsend saw no eyes, but he stood there staring at them and was convinced that they were watching him too. He did not [want] to approach more, and gave up the idea of rocking the ship down as something quite risky. There was no sound, just dead silence, and it seemed like ages to him, although he later evaluated the duration as some 3 minutes.

“Eventually, the little creature [sic] went up into the bright, ‘colorless’ light glowing out of the bottom of the ‘rocket’, and possibly up into the craft. A few seconds later, there was a loud hum, and the craft took off, reached a height he cautiously estimated as 400 meters up, where the light on the bottom went out, while his car radio, headlights and engine started without him touching the starter.

“He checked the ground where the craft had been, found no trace, and, his hearts [sic] pounding and his legs ‘like rubber’, he drove fast to the Todd County Sherif’s [sic] office, where he reported the events.

“Townsend said the Sheriff checked the site and found no trace. However, some sort of trace was reported, maybe found at a later check in daylight. From ufology sources, it appeared that Sheriff Bain and police officer Lavern Lubitz found three parallel strips of an oil-like substance, about four inches apart and a yard long, on the surface of the road. Sheriff Bain told reporters later: ‘I don’t know what they were, but I’ve looked at a lot of roads and never saw anything like them before.’

“Ufologist Coral Lorenzen heard by phone that Townsend had a good reputation, was not a drinker, and that he had been visibly frightened when he reported his experience. Reportedly, teachers and friends of Townsend were interrogated, and said he has a reputation for honesty.”

That’s a longer quote than I had planned to use, but I find the report fascinating (although I have no idea what a “debutant radio host” is). Maybe I’m fascinated because I remember the ruckus the account created back in 1965. I don’t know how adults reacted to it, but opinion was mixed among the kids. Many of my contemporaries said flat out – without knowing much more than bare bones – that the fellow had to have been drunk and seeing things. Me? I wondered. Even at the age of twelve, I knew that there were lots of things we did not know. Aliens from another planet, another dimension? Maybe.

It was about that time – maybe a year later, but in autumn – that St. Cloud residents for a few nights in a row called the local police and reported odd lights in the sky, moving in clusters but in no specific pattern. This one did make the local paper. And a few days later, a local teen explained.

He’d taken drinking straws, he said, and constructed a framework – a rough wheel with spokes – the same diameter as a dry cleaner’s plastic bag. He’d put the framework into the opening of the bag and secured it, then secured candles onto the straws that served as spokes. He’d light the candles and hold the bag up so it would not burn, and eventually, the hot air from the candles would lift the bag off the ground and send it on its way through the evening sky.

How cool was that! For the next two weeks or so, St. Cloud was home to many odd wandering lights every night as multitudes of kids went out and bought plastic straws and candles and cadged dry cleaner’s bags somewhere. Eventually, the fascination faded as the weather got cooler, and any wandering lights in the St. Cloud sky came from something other than juveniles and their evening science projects.

Not all that long after those events, most likely in the spring of 1968 (it could have been the previous autumn, but the trees were green and I seem to recall that they were budding), I got a ride to school from my mom one morning. As she turned off of what was then Tenth Street South (now University Drive) to head to South Junior High School, I saw something through the windshield as it passed over us and continued to go south, the direction we were heading. I saw it for maybe five seconds, and all I can say is I don’t know what it was. It was silver, and it had the classic saucer shape with a dome on it. In those brief seconds, it flashed toward the school and over it, low enough that the school building blocked it from my sight in, as I said, maybe five seconds.

Troubled, I got out of the car and headed into the school. One of my friends, Jerry, was at his locker, two down from mine. I opened my locker and put my books inside, then turned to Jerry. “Have you ever seen a UFO?” I asked him.

He turned to me, and the look on his face echoed how I felt. “Yeah,” he said. “About five minutes ago. It was over the Dairy Queen, heading this direction.”

There was never anything in the paper about it, and I still wonder what it was that Jerry and I saw.

And this all came to mind this morning when the first song of today’s Baker’s Dozen popped up.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966
“Mr. Spaceman” by the Byrds, Columbia single 43766

“You Ain’t Tuff” by the Uniques, Paula single 2315

“Strange Young Girls” by the Mamas & the Papas from The Mamas & the Papas

“Shake Your Hips” by Slim Harpo, Excello single 2278

“Big Mama’s Bumble Bee Blues” by Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band, unreleased until 1986

“Run For Cover” by the Dells, Cadet single 5551

“Love Attack” by James Carr, Goldwax single 309

“One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” by Bob Dylan from Blonde On Blonde

“Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, Capitol single 5676

“.44 Blues” by the Rising Sons, unreleased until 1992

“Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra, Reprise single 0470

“Along Comes Mary” by the Association, Valiant single 741

“Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond, Bang single 519

A few notes:

The Uniques were fronted by country star-to-be Joe Stampley, and, according to All-Music Guide, recorded some nice blue-eyed soul and Southern pop-rock, which makes “You Ain’t Tuff” – a garage-rocker – an anomaly in the group’s catalog. I found “You Ain’t Tuff” on one of the Nuggets compilations, where it fits quite nicely.

“Strange Young Girls” has intrigued me since I first heard it long ago. Among other things, it provides clear evidence that John Phillips and producer Lou Adler weren’t in the habit of working hard on the singles and giving less attention to the album tracks. It’s a beautiful yet haunting meditation on, as AMG says, “Sunset Strip street life, teenyboppers, and LSD.”

When you listen to “Shake Your Hips” – or any Slim Harpo record, for that matter – you hear one of the many influences that wound up making the Rolling Stones who they are. In this case, it’s more direct, as the Stones would up covering “Shake Your Hips” on 1972’s Exile on Main Street.

I mentioned the Bob Dylan recording, “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later),” in my comments some time back on songs with indelible introductions. More than thirty years after first hearing the song – I came to it late, in 1973 – I still get a little bit of that charge every time I hear it start. The credits at AMG for the album, Blonde on Blonde, list several more people than do the minimal liner notes on the CD I have. Based on the AMG list of keyboard players, I’d guess that the organist is The Band’s Garth Hudson. The piano? I’d guess Richard Manuel, also from The Band, but that’s iffier. Neither one is mentioned in the sketchy notes that accompany the CD, and based on those notes, I’d say it’s Al Kooper on organ and Pig Robbins on piano. Does anyone know for sure?

I guess “Good Vibrations” is an accurate representation of the Beach Boys circa 1966. It’s a nice piece of studio craft, but for some reason, I’ve never liked it very much. I would much rather have seen “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” pop up as the Beach Boys’ entry on this list.

The Rising Sons was an example of a great group in the wrong place at the wrong time. Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder, the group had a single released – it went nowhere – before breaking up in 1966. But the group did manage to record more than an album’s worth of material, twenty-two tracks that were finally released in 1992. It’s fun stuff and great music.

Graffiti supposedly seen in the London Underground:

“To do is to be” – Descartes

“To be is to do” – Voltaire

“Do be do be do” – Frank Sinatra

A Baker’s Dozen from 1965

April 25, 2011

Originally posted July 11, 2007

A quick look at the list of songs from 1965 that are on the RealPlayer puts me back in seventh grade art class at South Junior High. It was, I think, the first hour of the school day, and our teacher, Mrs. Villalta, allowed us to play the radio quietly on those days when we were actually working on art projects.

I sat at the table in the very front of the room, reserved for the folks whose last names begin with letters from the start of the alphabet. My table companions were Mark and Bernie on my right – strangers who had attended elementary school elsewhere in the city – and Brad on my left, another stranger, as he was a newcomer to town. But at least Brad rode the same bus as I did; he and his mom and brother lived in the mobile home park up the street from where I lived. It was Brad who would be my companion for the rest of the year in my pursuit of all things related to James Bond.

So we sat there at the front table, the four of us, none particularly gifted in art although Brad’s papier-mâché kangaroo was pretty good; it was one of the art works selected for display on a night when parents visited. But we were lucky in that we were closest to the radio and could thus hear everything, even the softer songs.

One of those was Gerry & the Pacemakers’ “Ferry ’Cross the Mersey,” a record that my sister happened to own and that I thus knew. Otherwise, on those days the radio played, I was in mostly foreign territory, at least until repetition made even previously unknown music incredibly familiar. Among the songs we heard were the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full Of Soul,” the Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud,” the Beatles’ “Michelle,” the Beau Brummels’ “Laugh Laugh,” and two songs by Roger Miller: “King of the Road” and “England Swings.”

Very little of it was stuff I listened to at home. Oh, I owned the Sonny & Cher album with “I Got You Babe” on it, and I had a Herman’s Hermits album that I’d gotten for my birthday. In addition, my sister and I shared custody of Beatles ’65, one of those albums that Capitol Records assembled by slicing a few tracks off of the group’s albums as they were released in the United Kingdom and then adding some EP and 45 tracks, creating a mish-mash of songs. My sister owned a few albums that I heard on occasion, as well.

So I was hearing a small amount pop and rock music at home, along with the Al Hirt and Herb Alpert instrumentals and the John Barry film scores I routinely listened to. I’m not sure I was all that fond of the rock and pop I heard as I fumbled my way through my art projects, but I do recall a moment one day when the four of us at the front table were concentrating on our art but also happened to hear Roger Miller’s whistling introduction to one of his hits. And we all sang along with Roger under our breath: “England swings like a pendulum do, bobbies on bicycles two by two . . .”

We all stopped – our singing and our work on our projects both – and stared at each other for a moment. Our laughter was loud enough to draw a look from Mrs. Villalta. And then we turned back to our art projects, our heads bobbing in time to Roger Miller’s music.

I was disappointed that “England Swings” didn’t come up on today’s random Baker’s Dozen from 1965.

“Paradise” by the Ronettes, unreleased, Gold Star Studios, Los Angeles, October

“She Belongs To Me” by Bob Dylan from Bringing It All Back Home

“Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” by the Seeds, GNP Crescendo single 354

“I’ll Be Satisfied” by Don Covay from Mercy!

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher, Atco single 6359

“I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits, MGM single 13367

“Midnight Special” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial special 66087

“She’s Better Than You” by James Carr, Goldwax single 119

“Stop! In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes, Motown single 1074

“It Only Costs A Dime” by the Everly Brothers, Warner Bros. single 5628

“See See Rider” by the Chambers Brothers at the Newport Folk Festival

“Mountain of Love” by Billy Stewart, Chess single 1948

“Sweet Mama” by Fred Neil, unreleased alternate take (Bleecker & MacDougal sessions)

Some notes on some of the songs:

I’m not sure why the Ronettes’ “Paradise” went unreleased. It’s a classic of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound genre. Perhaps with the advent of the Beatles and other bands of the various waves of the British Invasion, Spector decided to cut his losses. He did release the Ronettes’ “Is This What I Get For Loving You?” as a single in 1965, but it failed to make the Top 40. To my ears, “Paradise” is a better song and record.

“Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” was evidently the first single released by the Los Angeles band the Seeds. Listed in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits as a “psychedelic” band, the group’s sound here is more that of the garage than of an expanding cosmic consciousness. The Seeds would hit the lower level of the charts – No. 36 – with “Pushin’ Too Hard” in 1966.

Mercy!, the source of the Don Covay track “I’ll Be Satisfied,” was Covay’s first album, pushed out rapidly by Atlantic Records after the success of the single “Mercy, Mercy” on the charts. Credited to Don Covay & the Goodtimers, the single reached No. 35 on the pop chart. Even though the rest of the album was at least as good as the single had been, nothing else clicked, and Covay’s next pop chart success wouldn’t come until 1973, when “I Was Checkin’ Out, She Was Checkin’ In” reached No. 29. (Lack of pop chart success, of course, does not necessarily correlate with lack of quality; those in search of some good 1960s R&B could do lots worse than to check out Covay’s body of work.)

The late Sonny Bono learned his studio craft, of course, assisting Phil Spector, and when it came time for him to put what he’d learned to use on the records he made with Cher, Bono showed that he’d learned well. It’s not quite the Wall of Sound, but the production behind the vocals fills the empty spaces nicely. And Bono (as did Spector) had great taste in drummers: Listen to the fills throughout the record but especially near the end. According to the album credits, that’s either Frank Capp, Earl Palmer or Hal Blaine. But my money’s on Blaine.

Fred Neil is better known as the composer of “Everybody’s Talkin’,” which was recorded by Harry Nilsson for his 1968 album Aerial Ballet. Nilsson then re-recorded the song for the 1969 film, Midnight Cowboy.

Chart Digging: January 27, 1968

January 27, 2011

So what was your faithful narrator doing as January rolled toward its ending in 1968? Well, besides playing my very first tabletop hockey season with Rick and Rob – I’d gotten my game for Christmas the month before – I was heading into the second semester of ninth grade. And one of the classes I recall best from that time is Dick Wilger’s social studies class.

On a regular basis, the students in Mr. Wilger’s class were required to give brief reports on current events, basically reviews of newspaper or magazine pieces. It seems, thinking back, that I gave about four such reports during the school year, all of them based on stories pulled from Sports Illustrated. (I’d begun subscribing to the magazine earlier in the school year, my passion for spectator sports having just started to flower.) I recall that one of the reports I presented was about the early days of the American Basketball Association, then in the first year of its brief life (1967-76). Another was likely about the death in January 1968 of hockey player Bill Masterson of the Minnesota North Stars, which remains the only fatality from a game injury in the history of the National Hockey League.

But I recall Dick Wilger’s ninth-grade social studies class even more because of the career aptitude test we took one day. The results said the communications field would likely suit me; among the careers listed there were disk jockey and sports play-by-play announcer. I imagine newspaper reporter was also listed there, but I didn’t notice anything once I saw those first two jobs listed. I pretty much decided right then that I was going to get a degree in radio, and I was going to earn my living as a sports reporter and play-by-play announcer, probably covering hockey.

That’s not quite how it worked out, of course. I got my degree in radio-TV, yes, but I ended up in newspapering for a number of reasons, the largest one being my ability to imitate a wooden statue when confronted with camera or microphone. But being a newspaper reporter instead of broadcasting Minnesota North Stars games was really only a shift inside the larger world of mass communications; the path to the Monticello Times and all the other newspapers where I left my byline over the years began with the results of that aptitude test in Mr. Wilger’s classroom sometime in early 1968.

The idea of following the other path mentioned – being a disk jockey – did have some appeal. But I didn’t know Top 40 music well enough yet for that idea to grab hold of me and shake me all over. That music was all around me, of course, but I had yet to embrace it the way most of my peers had. Here’s what they – and I, by default – were listening to that week in the Billboard Top Ten for January 27, 1968:

“Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band
“Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
“Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers
“Woman, Woman” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“Bend Me, Shape Me” by the American Breed
“Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles
“Spooky” by the Classics IV
“Daydream Believer” by the Monkees
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Gladys Knight & the Pips
“If I Could Build My Whole Word Around You”
                      by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

That’s a great Top Ten. Puckett could be a little overblown, I guess, but other than that, there’s not a thing wrong with that bunch. And, as usual, there were some interesting things further down in the Billboard Hot 100.

Henson Cargill’s “Skip A Rope,” a laconic cataloging of social ills, was sitting at No. 35 on its way to No. 25. If that description – an accurate one – makes the record sound unappealing, think again. Cargill’s only Hot 100 hit is a compelling listen, and it was No. 1 on the country chart for five weeks. Cargill – who died in 2007 at the age of sixty-six – later had two other singles reach the country chart, one in 1973 and one in 1974, but neither went higher than No. 28.

One of the joys of digging into various weeks’ worth of the Billboard Hot 100 is finding records I’ve never heard before. And when one of those records comes from someone with a hit catalog as deep as Neil Diamond’s, the joy is increased. (And along with the joy comes the thought of “Why the hell haven’t I ever heard this before?”) In the January 27, 1968, Hot 100, my newly discovered Diamond is “New Orleans,” which was sitting at No. 52. A week later, it would peak at No. 51. It was Diamond’s tenth record in the Hot 100; he’d add forty-six more before the string ran out in 1986.

I shared a Jerry Butler album – The Ice Man Cometh – in this space about three years ago, and I think I’ve written briefly about him a couple of other times. I really don’t know the man’s career well, except that I can say that I like everything of his I’ve ever heard. And that includes “Lost,” which was on that album and which I’d probably not thought about during the last three years. The record was sitting at No. 62 in the Hot 100 forty-three year ago today, and it would go no higher there, though it went to No. 15 on the R&B chart. It was Butler’s twenty-fourth record in the Hot 100; he’d end with up with forty-six, the last coming in 1977. (According to the list at All-Music Guide, which may or may not be complete, he had a few more records than that reach the R&B chart.) As the video poster’s introduction notes, “Lost” was produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, who – in the 1970s – were among the chief architects of what was called the Philadelphia Sound.

From Chicago/Philadelphia soul, we shift to deep Southern Soul, as we find James Carr and “A Man Needs A Woman” at No. 80. Despite critical accolades, Carr’s imprint on the charts was relatively slight: six singles in the Hot 100 and nine on the R&B chart. Steve Huey of All-Music Guide notes: “Carr never achieved the pop crossover success that could have made him a household name, and his material wasn’t always as distinctive as that of Stax artists like [Otis] Redding or Sam & Dave. Ultimately, though, Carr’s greatest obstacle was himself: he was plagued for much of his life by severe depression that made pursuit of a career – or, for that matter, even single recording sessions – extraordinarily difficult, and derailed his occasional comeback attempts.” “A Man Needs A Woman” peaked at No. 63, where it spent the last week of February and the first two weeks of March. That equaled Carr’s best performance in the Hot 100; “You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up” had reached No. 63 in 1966. On the R&B chart, “A Man Needs A Woman” peaked at No. 16.

From soul and soul to sunshine pop: At No. 87 during the week of January 27, 1968, sat the Epic Splendor and its one Hot 100 hit, “A Little Rain Must Fall.” The Epic Splendor – what a great name for a band! – was made up of five guys from Long Island who recorded this and at least one other single – based on a brief online search – for the also wonderfully named Hot Biscuit Disc Company. The record spent seven weeks in the Hot 100 and got no higher than No. 87.

The Mills Brothers’ career doesn’t look very impressive from the first glance at the group’s entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: Nine records in the Hot 100 between 1955 and 1968. But a look at the fine print at the top of the entry shows another story: Between 1931 and 1954, the legendary vocal group had sixty-one hits, including five that went to No. 1. The record that caught my eye today was “Cab Driver,” the seventh of the Mills Brothers’ modern-era hits, sitting at No. 92 forty-three years ago today, en route to No. 23. The record also went to No. 3 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary, and that explains why I know the record as well as I do: I’m absolutely certain I heard it more than once from Dad’s bedside transistor radio – tuned as always to St. Cloud’s middle of the road station, KFAM – as we all prepared to retire.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings, but I’ll certainly be back in two days with a Saturday Single.