Posts Tagged ‘Leo Kottke’

Leo, The Muppets & Brownsville Station

January 4, 2012

Originally posted February 19, 2009

It’s time for a trek through YouTube again.

Looking back to yesterday’s post of Leo Kottke’s Mudlark, I found a clip of Kottke performing a sweet version of “The Arms of Mary” on an episode of Austin City Limits. From what I’ve been able to track down, the show was taped in August 1992 for an airdate in 1993.

And here’s Kottke performing “Deep River Blues” for a taping of Sessions at West 54th in December 1997.

In Tuesday’s post, I mentioned the Muppets as one of the groups credited with covering Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.” I found the clip, from an episode of The Muppet Show that was recorded between November 22 and 24, 1977. According to Muppet Wiki: “Two of the verses to ‘For What It’s Worth’ were rewritten in order to transform the popular anti-war song song into an anthem against hunting, but no one has ever been officially credited for these additional lyrics.” Muppet Wiki also notes that the audio of the sketch was included on a Muppets record released in 1978, but that on a 1994 release, the interruptions by the hunters were edited out.

And to close, here’s a clip from the January 29, 1974, episode of Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert with Brownsville Station performing “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” and “Barefootin’.”

Tomorrow, I think we’re going to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from the middle of February 1977. As I write this, I’m not at all sure what we’ll find, so it could be an adventure.

Tapping The Green Couch Memories

January 4, 2012

Originally posted February 18, 2009

I’ve mentioned at odd times here some of the records that my older sister owned during the late 1960s and early 1970s, records that I think I played at least as frequently as she did on the stereo in the basement rec room.

As I’ve noted, her small collection shaped at least a portion of my listening habits: Call it an anteroom to the auditorium, a small place that contained artists and records that weren’t – at the time – among things I would have bought for myself. But as I played those records during the four or so years between the time the rec room was completed and the time my sister got married and moved away, my tastes were stretched, and I began to view the entire spectrum of music as a buffet table from which I could pick and choose.

I’d always been a little idiosyncratic in my tastes, at least as far as my peers were concerned. From my collection of Al Hirt records and soundtracks in the middle of the 1960s to my utter loyalty to the Beatles during the time at the end of that decade when they fell apart as a group, I’d always been marching on the offbeat. And my sister’s records offered me another set of performers and styles to explore.

One of those performers was Leo Kottke. I think my sister saw him in concert sometime in 1971, the year when I finished high school and started college. Within a week or so, she’d bought two Leo Kottke albums, Mudlark and Circle ’Round The Sun. Both of those albums became part of the soundtrack to my first year in college, as I spent numerous evenings lounging on the green couch on one side of the rec room, listening to music unlike anything I was hearing on any radio station. When my sister took her small stash of records with her en route to married life, she left small but significant gaps in my listening. Over the years, I’ve found many of those records on LP and, in the past few years, a few on CD.

My thought here is to post and share over the next few months most of those albums that my sister owned, albums that helped shape my listening habits. Call them Green Couch Memories. (I’ve already shared one of those albums, John Denver’s Whose Garden Was This? I may share that again as this no doubt sporadic series moves along.) Some of the music in these forthcoming posts will be ripped from CDs; others will be from vinyl. Some of the rips will be files I’ve gotten from friends, while others will be my rips.

We’ll start with the first Leo Kottke record I remember hearing: Mudlark, released in 1971. This was the Kottke’s fourth release and his first on a major label, Capitol. (The earlier releases were 12-String Blues in 1969, Circle ’Round the Sun in 1970 and 6 and 12 String Guitar in 1971.) It’s also, I believe, the first to have bass and drums on some of the tracks.

(When I wrote about Kottke and my search for Mudlark and Circle ’Round The Sun last summer, within days, two regular readers of my blog emailed me and offered copies of the two albums. So my thanks to Mitch and Bob. In a world where I planned and scheduled things better, today’s rip of Mudlark would come from the copy Bob sent me, but that’s one of those things I’ve not gotten around to, so I’m sharing a copy of the record that I found at a forum. I may make time in the next few days to rip the LP, which would result in a slightly higher bitrate for the mp3s, but we’ll see.)

Musicians on the record are:

Kottke on guitars and vocals; Wayne Moss, Roy Estrada, Larry Taylor and Pat Smith on bass; Kenneth Buttrey and Paul Lagos on drums, and John Harris and Jeffrey Kaplan on piano. On “Monkey Lust,” the Juke Box Phantom is listed as “guest vocalist extraordinare.” The album was recorded at Cinderella Studio in Nashville, Tennessee, and was produced by Denny Bruce and Michael Sunday.

Cripple Creek
Eight Miles High
June Bug
The Ice Miner
Monkey Lust
Poor Boy
Machine #2
Hear The Wind Howl
Room 8
Standing In My Shoes

Leo Kottke – Mudlark [1971]

Kottke, Goodman, Buchanan & Goodman

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 21, 2008

After Tuesday’s post of Leo Kottke’s two versions of “Eight Miles High,” my friend Mitch in Alabama let loose the hounds of email, shipping me a couple of Kottke albums and a link to a video. The albums will likely show up here in the future, but here’s the video of Leo Kottke, probably in 1974, performing “Last Steam Engine Train” and “Stealing.” (The video unhappily ends in mid-song, but still, the finger-picking is incredible.)

After that, I decided the world could always use more Dickie Goodman, so I dug around YouTube myself. Goodman’s silliness doesn’t lend itself to videos, so there’s nothing to see, but no matter. Here’s “Mr. Jaws” from 1975, when the record went to No. 4. (There’s a little noise in the recording, but it’s still listenable.)*

And here’s the record that started it all, “Flying Saucer, Parts 1 & 2,” from 1956. Buchanan and Goodman were working out the kinks with this one; the references to the records themselves are awkward. But it was a start. The record went to No. 3.

*The “Mr. Jaws” video originally posted had no visuals; the replacement video found during archival posting obviously does. Video replaced and note added August 3, 2011.

‘Stranger Than Known . . .’

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 19, 2008

Considering the Byrds’ great anthem, “Eight Miles High,” takes one in a number of directions.

The song was written by Byrds Gene Clark, David Crosby and Jim (now Roger) McGuinn, with credit at the time – 1965 – going to Clark for the lyrics and Crosby and McGuinn for the music (with Crosby taking credit for one line of the lyrics). That’s according to Wikipedia, which notes that since Clark’s death, McGuinn has claimed credit for the song’s concept as well as some of the lyrics.

Authorship aside, when the song was recorded and released, the Byrds insisted that it was about the group’s trip to England in 1965. And the surreal lyrics were an approximation of a travelogue from a strange and distant land. Clark said the title was a reference to the altitude of the airplane that brought the Byrds to England.

But as has been noted many times in many places, including Wikipedia, commercial air traffic flies at about 35,000 feet, or closer to seven miles high. To which Clark retorted, as I read somewhere long ago: “Eight Miles High” sounded better.

Well, it does. But even if the reference to literal altitude was a starting point, Clark and the rest of the Byrds cannot have been unaware of the winking reference to a different type of high. It may not have been the original source of the phrase, but the drug reference was almost certainly one of the reasons the song was written, recorded and loved. It’s pretty tame stuff as we sit here in the first decade of the next century, but forty years ago, even a winking reference like “Eight Miles High” was enough to get one’s record banned from airplay, and there were some stations that did not air the record for just that reason.

And the record only went to No. 14. Two of the group’s singles to that point had reached No. 1: “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season).” Sandwiched between those two on the group’s Top 40 chart is “All I Really Want To Do,” which barely made the chart, edging to No. 40 for one week. And after “Eight Miles High,” the group got only three more singles into the Top 40: “Mr. Spaceman” at No. 36, “So You Want To Be A Rock ’N’ Roll Star” at No. 29 and “My Back Pages” at No. 30.

So one can read – based simply on the charts – that “Eight Miles High” was the end of the Byrds as a strong chart presence. Now, there were personality conflicts and personnel changes galore in the group, and those were no doubt part of the reason the group’s presence in the Top 40 changed. How much influence should be laid to each bit of truth is one of the unknowns forty years later. I’m sure the surviving Byrds have something to say about it, and maybe I’ll read their accounts of those times eventually.

One other connection popped into my head as I listened to “Eight Miles High” last evening: Just as Muddy Waters’ “Rolling Stone” provided the name for a group of scuffling London-based blues players, so did “Eight Miles High” – in legend, at least—provide inspiration for another collection of musicians. I’ve read a number of times that the phrase “In places small faces unbound” inspired Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Jimmy Winston and Kenney Jones to name their group Small Faces.*

Wikipedia, on the other hand, says, “the group took their name from a remark by a female friend of Marriot’s, who noted that the band members all had ‘small faces’. The name stuck in part because of the mod slang usage of the word ‘face’ to mean a popular, trendsetting individual.” If that’s the case, then we have here another instance of the truth being decidedly less intesting than the legend. In matters of rock & roll, I guess it’s entirely up to each individual to decide whether to hold to the truth or embrace the legend.

(The mention of the Small Faces almost always cues in my brain their hit, “Itchykoo Park,” which went to No. 16 in the U.S. in early 1968. The record contains one of the more insistent earworms in my life: “It’s all too beautiful” repeated again and again. Then, of course, there’s the “What did you do there?” followed by the exultant “I got high!” And we’re back to pharmaceutical references again.)

Whether “Eight Miles High” was originally meant to refer to drugs or to travel is a question that likely will no longer be answered; again, legend will trump fact no matter what anyone says. It’s an odd song in its construction, of course, with the Byrds’ version being influenced by the music of India as well as – according to McGuinn – by John Coltrane’s saxophone work. Those unique qualities may be why there aren’t a lot of cover versions of the song.

According to All-Music Guide, there are currently eighty-seven CDs available that have a recording of “Eight Miles High.” More than half of those recordings are by the Byrds, usually the original version but sometimes the much longer (16:07) version that showed up on the 1970 album Untitled.

Among those who’ve covered “Eight Miles High,” there are some interesting names: Crowded House, the Folkswingers (whose album was posted here recently), the Floorjivers, Les Fradkin, Golden Earring, Joe Goldmark, Rufus Harley, Hüsker Dü, Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, R.E.M., Roxy Music, the Leathercoated Minds, the Magic Mushroom Band, Shockabilly, Dave Stewart, the Ventures, and various individual members of the Byrds.

I’ve heard a few of those versions, and – as is par for this course – have never heard at all of some of the performers and groups in that list. The first cover I heard of “Eight Miles High,” however, remains one of my favorites. It was on one of the few albums my sister owned that I have not yet been able to replace on either LP or CD: Leo Kottke’s Mudlark, released in 1971. (In the past twenty years, I’ve never seen a copy of the LP in any used record store; the CD is available online fairly easily, and I’ll no doubt go that route soon.) The rip of the song I’m offering here is one I found at the Groovy Fab forum about a year ago.

I’m also providing a rip of Kottke performing “Eight Miles High” live in December 1968 at the No Exit coffeehouse, which was located in the basement of the student union of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The performance was recorded by Alan Peterman, who offers “Eight Miles High” and six other songs from the performance at his own website. (Despite the low bitrate, it’s worth a listen.)

Leo Kottke – “Eight Miles High” [Mudlark, 1971)

Leo Kottke – “Eight Miles High” [Live at the No Exit, 1968)

*I may have read that tale about the Small Faces’ moniker somewhere, but it’s demonstrably false, and I should have known that, as the Small Faces predate the Byrds’ tune. The “small faces” reference was instead a nod to the British group. Note added August 3, 2011.

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.

On The Oblivion Label . . .

May 23, 2011

Originally posted December 3, 2007

In the early 1970s, one of the verities of an academic year at St. Cloud State was a concert by Leo Kottke.

The guitar virtuoso had spent some time as a student in St. Cloud – according to local lore, lore confirmed by the liner notes to his 1971 album, Mudlark – and returned to the St. Cloud campus regularly for several years after his recording career got underway.

There are few guitarists, I would guess, who have a sound as distinctive as Kottke’s, and it’s a sound that’s remained consistent for more than thirty years. Cue up one of his albums – whether on LP or on CD – and the sound of Kottke and his twelve-string guitar is instantly recognizable. The first time I heard it was, I think, on Mudlark, Kottke’s major label debut, an album that my sister owned and took with her when she left home. In the years since I’ve been collecting vinyl seriously, I’ve never seen another copy. (The album is out on CD, remastered in 2005, I believe, and I may have to go that route.)

At about the same time as I was listening to Mudlark, Kottke played St. Cloud State in early 1972 as half of one of the more odd double-bills I’ve ever seen. Kottke was the second act of the night, following an hour-long performance by comic George Carlin, whose act climaxed with his current “hit” from his Class Clown album, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” (For some reason, I can still recite those seven words in order, even not having heard the routine for years. By my count, two of them are no strangers to broadcast these days, leaving five still verboten.)

Following the rowdiness of Carlin’s act with an hour of acoustic music was a tough job, but Kottke quieted the crowd and pulled us in. Much of the performance was pulled from Mudlark and from the 1972 release Greenhouse. Some of the songs, however, came from Kottke’s earlier recordings: 1969’s mostly live 12 String Blues; his first studio album, Circle ’Round The Sun, a 1970 recording which had for the most part the same songs; and 6- and 12-String Guitar, released in 1971 on fellow virtuoso John Fahey’s Takoma label.

The Takoma album – which I have on vinyl – is available on CD, but the first two are not. Of the two, the more rare is the first, 12 String Blues, which was released on the Oblivion label, a label name that’s evidently Kottke’s witticism, according to a piece by Bruce Muckala at a Kottke fan site. I have neither of the first two in my vinyl collection (along with Mudlark, my sister took away her copy of Circle ’Round The Sun, and I assume she still has it) but I was pleased to run across a rip of 12 String Blues not all that long ago at Grown So Ugly, a blog well worth visiting regularly.*

Except for three instrumentals, as Muckala notes, the album was recorded live at the Scholar Coffeehouse, a well-known locale for folk musicians near the University of Minnesota. At the time Kottke performed there, the coffeehouse was located on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. During one of its earlier incarnations, the Scholar had been located in the Dinkytown section of Minneapolis on the East Bank and was the site of some of the earliest performances by a young Bob Dylan.

If Momma Knew
So Cold In China
Furry Jane
Circle ’Round The Sun
Sweet Louise
The Prodigal Grave
Easter And The Sargasso Sea
Living In The Country
Sail Away Ladies
The Last Steam Engine Train
You Left Me Standing
Mary Mary

Leo Kottke – 12 String Blues [1969]

*Happily, in the years since this was posted, friends have presented me with vinyl copies of both Circle ’Round The Sun and Mudlark. [Note added May 23, 2011.]

A Double Baker’s Dozen From 1971

April 17, 2011

Originally posted March 6, 2007

There’s a new fellow in Texas Gal’s office, and as kind of a “Welcome to the Funny Patch” gift, she asked me to put together a CD of songs that originated during the 1971-72 academic year, which was his senior year of high school. So I did, and I was pretty amazed at the quality of the music available from the period. Of course, since that time frame was my first year of college, and I seem to have focused a lot of my collecting – many people do likewise, I am sure – on the years of my youth, the sheer volume of stuff available should not have surprised me.

(A quick check on RealPlayer shows that there are 856 songs from 1971 and 720 songs from 1972 in the collection here.)

And Steve’s CD ended up with a pretty good list of songs from those months:

1. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
2. “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse
3. “Imagine” by John Lennon
4. “Life Is A Carnival” by The Band
5. “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes
6. “Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots
7. “Clean-Up Woman” by Betty Wright
8. “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
9. “Levon” by Elton John
10. “Precious and Few” by Climax
11. “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young
12. “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne
13. “Taxi” by Harry Chapin
14. “Suavecito” by Malo
15. “Diary” by Bread
16. “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
17. “Conquistador” by Procol Harum
18. “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
19. “Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones

Texas Gal said he liked it a lot and that he was amused and pleased by the ringer I hid at the end: “Geek in the Pink,” by Jason Mraz, hidden there because he said he’d liked the song when he heard a contestant perform it on American Idol last week.

And I thought, as I am fighting a cold and don’t have the energy to rip an LP today, I’d present a random double baker’s dozen from 1971. (The only rule was to have no more than one cut from any one album, and I did skip one cut from the Mimi Farina-Tom Jans album I posted Monday.) It was a fun year musically for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes!

“Volcano” by The Band from Cahoots.

“Lullaby” by Leo Kottke from Mudlark.

“Down My Dream” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking.

“Ecology Song” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills 2.

“It Ain’t Easy” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy.

“A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell from Blue.

“Don’t Cry My Lady Love” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from Quicksilver.

“Nobody” by the Doobie Brothers from The Doobie Brothers.

“Rock Me On The Water” by Brewer & Shipley from Shake Off The Demon.

“Sweet Emily” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

“Vigilante Man” by Ry Cooder from Into The Purple Valley

“I Saw Her Standing There” by Little Richard fromThe Rill Thing.

“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King from Live In Cook County Jail.

“January Song” by Lindisfarne from Fog On The Tyne.

“Hats Off (To The Stranger)” by Lighthouse from One Fine Morning.

“Levon” by Elton John from Madman Across The Water.

“Let Me Be The One” by Paul Williams from Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.

“Down In The Flood” by Bob Dylan from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

“Soul of Sadness” by Mother Earth from Bring Me Home.

“Pick Up A Gun” by Ralph McTell from You Well Meaning Brought Me Here.

“A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway from Donny Hathaway.

“That’s All Right” by Lightnin’ Slim from High & Low Down.

“Let Your Love Go” by Bread from Manna.

“Freedom Is Beyond The Door” by Candi Staton from Stand By Your Man.

“Younger Men Grow Older” by Richie Havens from Alarm Clock.