Posts Tagged ‘John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band’

Into A New Year

July 6, 2022

Originally posted January 1, 2010

So it’s the first morning of a new year and of a new decade. (That last is true only in cultural terms; mathematically, the new decade starts a year from now, but I understand the widely felt impulse.) Does that make today a time to reflect? A time to review? A time to quaff a good beer and watch college football? A time to listen to music?

Around here, it’s always a good time for the last two of those choices. And reflection and review seem to be pretty constant in these precincts, too. So any observations I make about life and music or anything else simply because of today’s date would likely be things I’d say on another, less obvious, date as well. Proclamation for the sake of proclamation – though I’ve no doubt been guilty of that at times – is something I’ll avoid today.

But I would like to note that something about this new year resonates here: 2010. It feels like science fiction to me, like a time so far in the future that I’d never get there. Perhaps that’s because Arthur C. Clarke used it for the title of one of his sequels to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nine years ago, the dawn of the year 2001 carried with it that same quality of futuristic resonance, almost certainly because of the 1968 film and story that Clarke wrote with Stanley Kubrick. Another year that had that same sense, though in a far less pleasant context, was 1984. When I read George Orwell’s bleak novel in high school, the titular year of 1984 seemed so far away that it was impossible to comprehend: I was fifteen in 1969, and Orwell’s dystopian universe was set fifteen years in the future, and that was more than a lifetime away for me.

But we went through 1984 and shot past 2001 on our way to this morning and 2010, and it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long of a journey. Oh, if I care to catalog the places where I’ve been as each January 1 has dawned and the people with whom I’ve shared my life as those days passed, it’s clear that in some ways – to borrow from Bob Dylan – time passes slowly. But looking back, it’s also just as clear that it’s been – to borrow again, this time from Jackson Browne – the wink of an eye.

There’s a clear contradiction there, of course. Maybe the resolution is something as simple as noting that time ahead seems long while time back seems short. Other than that, the puzzle is not one I’m willing to try to untangle today.

What I am willing to do is to wish all those who stop by here the best of years in 2010. May the next twelve months bring you peace, comfort, joy and lots of good music. (And for those whose tastes bend that way, plenty of good beer, too!)

A Six-Pack of Years
“Year of Decision” by the Three Degrees from Three Degrees [1973]
“This Year” by the Staple Singers from Soul Folk in Action [1968]
“As the Years Go Passin’ By” by the Lamont Cranston Band from Tiger In My Tank [1999]
 “Hard Hard Year” by Growing Concern from Growing Concern [1969]
“Soft Parade of Years” by Dion from Suite For Late Summer [1972]
“Tender Years” by John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers [1983]

Just a few notes about the songs:

“Year of Decision” is a sweet piece of Philadelphia soul from the same album that eventually brought the group one of its two biggest hits: “When Will I See You Again,” which went to No. 2 in 1974. (The other of the Three Degrees’ biggest hits was “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was No. 1 for two weeks earlier that same year.)

The Staple Singers have shown up here often enough – and this track itself might have, too, for that matter – that what they provide is no surprise: Tunes that are sometimes melodic, sometimes gritty, sometimes both, but always tunes with at least a little bit of something to think about.

It’s hard to know exactly how well-known the Lamont Cranston Band is/was in other parts of the country or beyond. Here in Minnesota, the band was pretty well-known and generally successful with its beefy bluesy mix. “As The Years Go Passin’ By” – a tune that I think originated with bluesman Fenton Robinson in 1959 – is a pretty good example of how the Cranstons approached their work.

I picked up Growing Concern a while back at the wonderful blog hippy djkit. Here’s what the blog’s dj fanis had to say about the record: “Fantastic ringing acid guitar work with male/female vocal duets that swoop and dive over a strong acid folk/rock backing. Essential for the US ’60s fanatic . . . Featured harmony vocals by Bonnie MacDonald and Mary Garstki, which are an intricate part of the band’s distinctive sound. Great organ and guitar interplay feature on most tracks . . .” (I’ve seen other sources that have 1968 as the release year, but I’ll go with dj fanis’ year of 1969.)

Dion’s “Soft Parade of Years” is maybe a little slight, as is the singer/songwriter-ish album it comes from, Suite For Late Summer. But Dion has worked in so many styles over the years – the most recent being that of solo bluesman – that even his lesser experiments are interesting.

I once read a comment to the effect that “Tender Years” and its companion from the soundtrack to Eddie & The Cruisers, “On The Dark Side,” were likely the best non-Springsteen Springsteen records ever made. There’s no doubt that the two records sound like The Boss’ work. But they also sound like the music the movie called for: a mix of the early Eighties and a mythical time in the Sixties. Cafferty and his band were asked for something, and they produced, and “Tender Years” is a track I enjoy every time it pops up.

Cafferty Twice & Dexys Midnight Runners

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 10, 2008

There’s absolutely no problem finding videos for songs that came out in 1983, of course. With MTV having started up in 1981, every performer and group had learned or was learning that video production was one more tool in the promotion of songs and self.

I got cable television for the first time in late 1983, and I spent some time watching MTV. The two videos I remember most clearly are the Cars’ “You Might Think” and Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” with Christie Brinkley dancing in front of the auto shop. I don’t recall seeing the three videos I’m presenting here today.

First, here’s John Cafferty and the Brown Beaver Band, with “Dark Side” from the movie Eddie and the Cruisers.

And since it was on the same page and so easy to find – as well as a decent song – here’s Cafferty and the boys doing “Tender Years,” also from Eddie and the Cruisers.

After that, I looked at a couple of things: videos for “Love is the Law” by the Suburbs and for “Poison Arrow” by ABC. I found some concert videos of Leo Kottke that were interesting. Finally, I decided to search for Dexys Midnight Runners. Here’s the video for “Come On, Eileen.”

A Baker’s Dozen from 1983, Vol. 2

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 9, 2008

A year or so back, I wrote about my first working summer, the summer I ended up cleaning and waxing floors with Mike and learning, along the way, to use one of those rotary floor scrubbers and polishers.

I saw a fellow using one of them somewhere the other day – I’ve wracked my brain and cannot remember where – and it brought me back to that summer. It also reminded me of a day in the autumn of 1983, not long after I’d started graduate school.

At the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, there is a covered walkway between Neff Hall and the building that houses the Columbia Missourian, the newspaper written by students and edited by teachers and graduate students. As I came through the walkway one autumn morning, I saw one of the maintenance men, an older fellow whose name I sadly do not recall, using a floor polisher with streams of students walking past him.

Sympathizing, I said to him, as the flow of students clogged, “Kind of hard to hit all the spots with all this traffic, isn’t it?”

He thought I was being critical. He stopped the machine and spun the handles toward me. “You wanna give it a try?”

I thought about trying to explain what I had meant and decided that wouldn’t work. So I shrugged and handed him my briefcase. I grabbed the handles, reminded myself – after twelve years – what it would feel like. I glanced over at the janitor, who was looking at me with a gleam of anticipation in his eye.

I squeezed the handles, and the polisher pulled me slightly to the right. I adjusted the weight, and – it came back to me in an instant – began polishing the floor right next to where he’d been working. Push forward slightly and go one way, pull back a little and go the other way.

The janitor smiled wryly and chewed his cheek. “You’ve done that before,” he said.

I nodded. “That’s one of the ways I got through my undergraduate years,” I told him.

I stopped the machine and took my briefcase, and he resumed polishing the floor. I spent another fifteen months taking classes at Mizzou, and every time I saw him from then on, he shot me a wink and a smile.

And here’s some of the music that I might have heard that evening when I was doing janitorial duties in my own home.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1983, Vol. 2
“Love Is The Law” by the Suburbs from Love Is The Law

“Easy Money” by Billy Joel from An Innocent Man

“Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran, Harvest single 5195

“The Sign of Fire” by the Fixx, MCA single 52316

“Rings” by Leo Kottke from Time Step

“Murder By Numbers” by the Police from Synchronicity

“Oh, What A Night” by Tracey Ullman from You Broke My Heart in 17 Places

“Finally Found A Home” by Huey Lewis & The News from Sports

“Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners from Too-Rye-Ay

“On the Dark Side” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, Scotti Bros. single 04594, from the film, Eddie And The Cruisers

“Man of Peace” by Bob Dylan from Infidels

“Poison Arrow” by ABC, Mercury single 810340

“True” by Spandau Ballet, Chrysalis single 42720

I’ll admit to not knowing a lot of these at the time they came out. I retreated from pop and rock as the Seventies moved into the Eighties, bored for the most part with what I was hearing and thus not keeping up with things as New Wave and Punk wandered into the room. In many ways, I’m in the same circumstance with a lot of the music from that time as I was in 1969, when I began to catch up with the years previous to then. But I have a few thoughts:

I’m still not impressed with Duran Duran. I wasn’t back then, when they were on MTV a lot (those were the years when MTV played music videos almost all the time), and I’m not now. They’re an inescapable part of the Eighties, though, in the same way that, oh, Alice Cooper was in the Seventies. (And I know I’ve offended two sets of fans there. Sorry.)

I’m not sure if one can lump the Suburbs and ABC into the same category, but the songs by those groups here are propulsive and fun (and that last adjective is odd when one considers the topic of ABC’s “Poison Arrow”). Another one of these songs that can be described the same way but is less consciously “New Wave” – if that really means anything – is “Come On, Eileen,” which in its single edit went to No. 1 in early 1983.

I guess “Easy Money” is the place on An Innocent Man where Billy Joel makes his nod toward Stax/Volt or something similar. I don’t know if it works in the context of the album, but hearing the song on its own, well, it just sounds like a mismatch. (The review of the album by Steven Thomas Erlewine at All-Music Guide also gauges the song as a Stax/Volt tribute. Erlewine makes the point that although the bulk of the album is an homage to pre-Beatles pop, Stax/Volt showed up after that time, putting “Easy Money” out of place on the album.)

“Rings” by Leo Kottke is a remake of the 1971 hit by Cymarron, and Kottke comes off pretty well. I almost lost my coffee laughing when I heard Leo sing, “Got Mel Blanc on the radio” instead of “Got James Taylor on the stereo.”

“On The Dark Side” by John Cafferty & the Brown Beaver Band is the best non-Springsteen Springsteen ever.

Another List From Your Host

May 26, 2010

This is most likely a fool’s errand, but, being a lover of lists, I got to wondering the other evening about what names would show up on a list of the most influential musicians, performers and/or songwriters in American popular music. I’ve done a fair amount of thinking about this, but no real research, so this is a first draft, if you will. I know I’ll likely miss some, and suggestions will be gladly accepted in the comments.

I’ll start with one Nineteenth Century figure and two whose careers span the divide between the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, and after that, we’ll stay in the last century.

Stephen Foster

John Philip Sousa

Ma Rainey

Louis Armstrong

The Carter Family

Duke Ellington

Muddy Waters

Cole Porter

Frank Sinatra

Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

Chuck Berry

Elvis Presley

Phil Spector

Berry Gordy

Bob Dylan

Prince

And there we’ll stop. I know, only one woman. I considered several others: Jenny Lind, Bessie Smith, Julie London, Carole King and Madonna among them, and of those names, I think Bessie Smith’s would have been the next to be listed. But I wanted to keep the list to a manageable length.

And I also wanted to stop, essentially, twenty-five years ago, which is why the list stops with Prince. There no doubt have been writers and performers in these past twenty-five years who will belong on such a list someday, but I think we need to let the dust settle a little. If I were forced to guess right now, two names that I think will belong on that list would be those of Kurt Cobain and Will.I.Am.

There are, of course, plenty of folks from the years I’m considering who came close but didn’t seem to me to have as much influence on American pop music as the sixteen listed above. The next two likely would have been Buddy Holly and Michael Jackson. There’s no doubt that they changed American music, as did those listed above. But then, so did others not listed, like Scott Joplin, Hank Williams, Fats Domino, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Stephen Sondheim, Brian Wilson, Frank Zappa, Bruce Springsteen and on and on.

So why this list today? Well, I was looking at how the Ultimate Jukebox would play out from here on, and I noticed that several of the chapters had multiple entries for which I hadn’t yet been able to find clips on YouTube. I did some shifting of those entries so that no more than one of those would show up in each segment, without paying attention to which songs they were. After I did that, I noticed that this week’s random list of songs ranged from the 1940s to the 1990s, beginning with Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied.”

That got me thinking about Waters’ place in that hypothetical list of American music, and I took a closer look at this week’s entries and saw that two more of those whom I’d place on such a list would also show up this week: Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan. And I began to think about who else would be on that list. So there you go.

(I do have to acknowledge one thing: After my initial round of tinkering with the upcoming segments of the Ultimate Jukebox, I noticed that this week’s entry had songs from the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1990s. [I think; see the final paragraph.] I looked ahead and switched the next song from the 1980s into this week, replacing a second song from the 1970s. This will be the only time I switch a song for any reason other than balancing the non-YouTube entries.)

And here’s the video for the most recent song on this week’s list. (You may have to sit through a brief advertisement.)

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 18
“I Can’t Be Satisfied” by Muddy Waters, Aristocrat1305, 1948
“Carol” by Chuck Berry, Chess 1700, 1958
“Daddy (Rollin’ In Your Arms)” by Dion, Laurie 3464, 1968
“Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knight & The Pips, Buddah 383, 1973
“On The Dark Side” by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, Scotti Bros. 04594, 1983
“Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan from the soundtrack to Wonder Boys, 1999

“I Can’t Be Satisfied” was Muddy Waters’ first hit after moving permanently to Chicago from Mississippi in 1943, and it followed five years of scuffling in Chicago’s clubs while working day jobs. The Aristocrat label was run by Leonard and Phil Chess, who soon changed the label name to Chess, and Waters recorded for the label into the 1970s. Because of reissues, his discography is difficult to follow, but during his lifetime, he released about sixty singles and thirty albums, including compilations, says Wikipedia. It’s probably impossible to overstate his influence on blues and rock and American pop culture. Want one small reminder? Listen to “I Can’t Be Satisfied” in the player below and note the introduction. Then go listen to the Allman Brothers Band’s “Pony Boy” and pay close attention at the forty-second mark.

Muddy Waters – “I Can’t Be Satisfied”

Just as with Waters, Chuck Berry’s influence on the music we listen to is vast and incalculable. From “Maybellene” in 1955 through a live version of “Reelin’ & Rockin’” in 1973, Berry got fourteen singles into the Top 40 (and more than that on the R&B chart). And according to a piece I read recently – though I cannot for the life of me remember where it was – Berry, now 83, still shows up once a month at a St. Louis club to play a set. He was (justifiably) among the first members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and his riffs have influenced – directly or indirectly – anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar with rock music on his or her mind. I won’t say “Carol” is my favorite Berry tune, but it’s not heard as often as, say, “Johnny B. Goode” or “Sweet Little Sixteen” or a few others. Given that, its relative lack of familiarity makes me listen a little bit closer, which is a good thing.

Dion’s “Daddy (Rollin’ In Your Arms)” was the B Side to his 1968 hit “Abraham, Martin and John” and had to be a stunning surprise to anyone who ever flipped the 45 over. Dave Marsh called it “a surging, churning, angry, anguished version of Robert Johnson’s country blues,” adding, “Haunted electric guitars clang and clash against one another, drums pound in from another room, uniting in a wad of noise symbolizing nothing but spelling out pain and fear.” Yeah, it’s all of that, and it’s a compelling record, one that Marsh placed at No. 452 in his 1989 ranking of the top 1,001 singles

Gladys Knight – with and without the Pips – had twenty-seven Top 40 singles between 1961 and 1996, and “Midnight Train to Georgia” is likely the best of all of them. The tale of a man’s retreat from California to his home in Georgia – and the willingness of his (one assumes) California lady to go with him – was No. 1 for two weeks on the pop chart and for four weeks on the R&B chart in late 1973. Unlike a lot of stuff that topped the pop charts even in 1973, this was an adult record telling an adult tale of displacement, failure, loyalty and finally, a different type of success in the wake of that failure. And it had a compelling mid-tempo groove, too.

I’ve written a little bit previously about “On The Dark Side” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, noting that it’s the best non-Springsteen Springsteen record I know of, so we’ll pretty much leave it at that. The record is from the 1983 movie Eddie & The Cruisers, and in the fall of 1984, it spent eleven weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 7; it was also No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock chart for five weeks.

 I confess to a quandary. I have a date of 1999 on my mp3 of Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed,” but everything I see this morning dates the release as 2000. I’m certain I have a reason for dating it 1999 – perhaps a recording date listed somewhere in the notes to some anthology – but I can’t lay my hands on that information this morning. If I’m wrong, then this week’s chapter misses the 1990s and there goes that nifty little bit of programming. Ah, well. It’s still a great piece of music.