Posts Tagged ‘Knut Kiesewetter Train’

‘The Lamp Posts Call Your Name . . .’

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 24, 2009

I spent eight winters living in Minneapolis, three of them working downtown amid the unsurprising mix of a few skyscrapers, some other modern glass and steel buildings, and the older brick and stone buildings that had to that point survived the city’s occasional efforts at urban renewal.

While the canyons of downtown Minneapolis are slight shadows of those in the major cities – I think of Chicago and New York, obviously – there still was a wintertime melancholy there that one doesn’t find in smaller cities. Even away from downtown – in the blocks around the trendy Uptown area at the intersection of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue, say, or in the far southern reaches of Minneapolis, where I lived during my last urban winter – the city can be a dreary place in the later afternoon of a winter day.

It was downtown Minneapolis on a wet winter day that popped into my head this morning. The RealPlayer was on random as I read the newspaper. One song ended and the next began: a familiar woodwind riff over a bed of muted brass and then some subdued percussion. It was Steve Katz’ evocative song, “Sometimes In Winter,” from Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album. And I sang along softly:

Sometimes in winter,
I gaze into the streets
And walk through snow and city sleet
Behind your room.
Sometimes in winter,
Forgotten memories
Remember you behind the trees
With leaves that cried.

By the window once I waited for you;
Laughing slightly you would run.
Trees alone would shield us in the meadow,
Makin’ love in the evening sun.

Now you’re gone, girl,
And the lamp posts call your name.
I can hear them
In the spring of frozen rain.
Now you’re gone, girl,
And the time’s slowed down till dawn.
It’s a cold room, and the walls ask
Where you’ve gone.

Sometimes in winter,
I love you when the good times
Seem like mem’ries in the spring
That never came.

Sometimes in winter,
I wish the empty streets
Would fill with laughter from the tears
That ease my pain.

As I sang, I could see the cold afternoon streets, the lights of the stores and the bars reflecting off the damp pavement. I could see the downtown workers huddled and hunched against the wind and the snow, seeking the shelter of those stores and bars or of busses to take them home, away from the gray. And some of those who fled, just like some of those who stayed behind, would know well about Katz’ cold room with its questioning walls.

I first heard the song in 1969, when Blood, Sweat & Tears was the first cassette I got for my new tape player, and the song’s gentle grief has always felt right to me. For years, I envisioned Katz – or his alter ego – wandering the chill streets of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Today’s vision of Minneapolis doesn’t negate that; it adds to it. For I think all of us – even those in warmer climes – carry our own winter cities with us.

It’s evidently a song that’s not been covered much. All-Music Guide lists only two other versions. One is by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and the other is credited by AMG to German keyboard player Dieter Reith. After a little digging, I learned that Reith was the organist, arranger and conductor for a 1970 album called Stop! Watch! And Listen! by a group called the Knut Kiesewetter Train. The song is collected on an anthology of Reith’s work, Reith On! The Legendary MPS Sessions.

The Mendes version isn’t quite as gloomy as the original, but it’s not the cheery Latin popfest that I expected. It’s moody at points, and that fits the song well. The Knut Kiesewetter Train version, on the other hand . . . Well, it comes from an aesthetic direction that I clearly don’t grasp. And, no disrespect intended, but it makes me feel as if I’m listening to a performance in the lounge of a third-line hotel for English-speaking travelers somewhere in Essen or Dortmund.

“Sometimes In Winter” by Blood, Sweat & Tears from Blood, Sweat & Tears [1969]

“Sometimes In Winter” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 from Stillness [1971]

“Sometimes In Winter” by the Knut Kiesewetter Train from Stop! Watch! And Listen! [1970]