Posts Tagged ‘Lighthouse’

Errors Found

May 6, 2022

Originally posted July 8, 2009

A few years ago, I was reading a novel – not a very good one, but the book came recommended by a friend and I persevered – about five or so young women and their lives in the 1970s and beyond. The group of women had a secret, and it had to do with something that took place the night of their graduation from high school in the spring of 1970.

And in one of the early scenes in that book, on that graduation night, two or more of the women heard the sounds of a song from a nearby radio. They heard Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee.”

I damn near threw the book across the room. Instead, I just shook my head and read on.

Why was I annoyed? Because “Me and Bobby McGee” – along with the rest of Pearl, the album from which it came – wasn’t recorded until the summer and autumn of 1970. I knew that at the time, but this morning, just to make sure, I went to All-Music Guide. The album, says AMG, was recorded between July and October of 1970 and was released in February of 1971. There’s no date for the single at AMG. Another source, a book called The Great Rock Discography, has both the album and the single being released in January 1971. I’m not sure whether January or February is correct, but either way, it’s 1971, not 1970.

Now, I make mistakes, some of them doozies. But I try my best to nail down historical details when I write, here and elsewhere. And I think any writer dealing at all with historical material – whether it’s five hundred years ago or five years ago – owes it to his or her readers to get it as accurate as possible. I grant you, it’s easier these days to verify when an album was recorded and released than it used to be; a few clicks of the mouse to AMG (which does have some errors but is generally reliable), and there you go. Those types of tools weren’t available when the book in question was written, which I would guess was in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

But even if the author of the book in question were writing twenty years ago, in 1989, all he or she – I long ago forgot the author’s name and even the title of the book – would have to do is jot down a note: “Bobby McGee release date?” and head down to the local library to find a copy of the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. My first copy, which was published in 1987, was the third edition. And there we’d learn that “Me and Bobby McGee” first reached the Top 40 on February 20, 1971. And that should be enough to tell a writer that hearing “Me and Bobby McGee” coming from a radio in the spring of 1970 would be extremely unlikely. And that, I would think, would be enough for the writer to choose another song.

My point is: Even twenty years ago, it would only have taken a little bit of effort to make that small detail correct, to find a song that would have been likely to be heard on the radio on a graduation night in the spring of 1970. The fact that the writer (and the editors who worked on the book, too; they should not be excused, either!) did not take that effort to check on an easily verifiable historical fact always makes me wonder what other corners the writer cut.

(That’s a far more grievous error to make in non-fiction, of course, and I have seen a few books over the years that have erred in writing about things I know about, generally  records, movies and sports events. I usually just grunt in annoyance and read on, wondering what other facts are wrong.)

The long-ago book that misplaced Janis Joplin’s great single came to mind last evening because of a similar error I found, this time by an author who is generally pretty good at such stuff: I was reading the first novella in Dean Koontz’ collection Strange Highways, in which a man gets a second chance at a crucial night in his youth, somehow shifting from 1995 to 1975.  As he marvels that Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run is new that year, he also notes that Jim Croce is still alive. Oops. Croce died in the autumn of 1973. Again, I shook my head and moved on, disappointed that a simple detail evidently wasn’t checked.

Maybe I seem old, out-of-date, out of style and crotchety. But details matter. Accuracy matters. So, for that matter, does spelling. And so does grammar. I may someday come back to those latter two things as a topic for a post, but for now, the lecture is over.

In an attempt to connect to the music I’ve selected for today, however, I’m going to touch on one grammatical error that’s horribly common and that makes my ears hurt as much as does the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard (a reference that likely dates me, too). I mentioned it the other day in connection with the Doors’ song “Touch Me.” In that song’s chorus, Jim Morrison sings, in part, “I’m gonna love you till the stars fall from the sky for you and I.” That should be “you and me.” How do we know that? Well, pull out the words “you and” and then see what kind of sentence you have: “I’m gonna love you till the stars fall from the sky for I.” Oops again.

The BoDeans’ songwriters, Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann, do the same thing in another song I like, “Good Things,” when they wrote “good things for you and I.”

I know that in both of those cases, using “me” would have messed up the rhyme. Too bad, but both choruses needed more work. I also know that there are times when I screw up grammatically. (I still wonder about a sentence the other day when I couldn’t decide whether to use past tense or the subjunctive. [And I can see eyes rolling all over blogword.]) I think I generally do pretty well, though, and I also think that I almost always get “you and me” correct, as do these six songs:

That last statement was one of the more egregious errors I made in more than fifteen years of blogging. As a fellow blogger pointed out, almost all of the titles that follow use “you and me” incorrectly. I should simply have said that the use of “you and me” in these tracks did not bother me. Note added May 6, 2022.

A Six-Pack of You and Me
“You and Me (Babe)” by Ringo Starr from Ringo [1973]
“You and Me” by Neil Young from Harvest Moon [1992]
“You and Me” by the Moody Blues from Seventh Sojourn [1972]
“You and Me” by Lighthouse from Thoughts of Movin’ On [1972]
“You and Me” by Aretha Franklin from Spirit In The Dark [1970]
“You and Me Of The 10,000 Wars” by the Indigo Girls from Nomads, Indians, Saints [1990]

I don’t have a lot to say about any of these. The Ringo Starr track was the last track on Ringo and caps off that very good album pretty well. The Moody Blues’ track is pretty strong musically and has one of the better lines from all the Moodies’ songs of cosmic consciousness: “All we are trying to say is we are all we’ve got.” Neil Young’s “You and Me” is a sweet song that comes from his revisitation of the style and themes of 1972’s Harvest.

The Indigo Girls’ track is, as might be expected, a literate exploration of a relationship’s struggles. Aretha Franklin’s “You and Me” was actually billed as by “Aretha Franklin With The Dixie Flyers.” (Listen for the swooping French horns at the 2:30 mark.) And the Lighthouse selection was on a pretty good record that was a few albums removed from One Fine Morning, which sparked the great single of the same title.

Saturday Single No. 768

January 8, 2022

I went back to Tucson this morning, checking out some more info on the playlist survey from KWFM that brought us Brewer & Shipley yesterday. One portion of the survey I’d not mentioned yesterday was the list of new albums and featured cuts, which included work by artists such as Lighthouse, Repairs, Steve Kuhn, Ron Cornelius, Taj Mahal, Colonel Bagshot, Pendulum & Co., and a few others, not all of whom I know.

I checked out “Sleep My Lady,” one of the featured cuts on the self-titled Pendulum & Co. album. It was folky and pretty and, yeah, it would put the targeted lady asleep pretty damned quickly. If you’re gonna do lutes and flutes, you gotta make it interesting, not somnolent.

I sampled a few more of the featured cuts and then went back to a band I know, though I did not know the track: Here’s “Rockin’ Chair.” It’s from Lighthouse’s 1971 album Thoughts Of Movin’ On, and it was a featured track at KWFM fifty years ago. It’s also today’s Saturday Single.

‘Eight’

March 21, 2013

The integers march again . . .

Sorting the 67,000-some mp3s on the digital shelves for the word “eight” brings up 194 titles, most of which we cannot use. Anything about a freight train goes by the wayside, as does Nanci Griffith’s “White Freight Liner.” The entire output of a 1970s band named Jackson Heights is crossed off our list, as is Michel Legrand’s soundtrack to the 1970 film Wuthering Heights.

And we also have to discard twenty-nine versions of the Robbie Robertson song, “The Weight.”

Still, we’re left with enough tunes to be able to pick and choose a little bit, starting with one of eight versions – how appropriate! – of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” The one I settled on is a 1969 cover of the tune from the Canadian band Lighthouse. Still two years away from having a hit with “One Fine Morning” – it went to No. 24 in 1971 – the band covered the Roger McGuinn song on its first, self-titled album, and an edit was released as a single. As far as I can tell, Lighthouse’s take on “Eight Miles High” never showed up on any chart anywhere although I’m not sure about Canada. Nor am I certain the video to which I’ve linked is the single. I think it is. In any case, it’s a decent enough cover but nothing amazing.

The Walkabouts’ “Train Leaves at Eight” is the title track of an album released in 2000 by the sometimes dark but always intriguing Seattle band. The album serves as a tour of European music, and “Train Leaves at Eight” takes the listener to Greece: The song was written by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis and came from Ta Laika, or The Popular Songs, a project Theodorakis and Greek poet Manos Eleftheriou completed in 1967 but which went unreleased after a military coup in Greece that year. The work was released in 1975 after the military government fell.

David Castle’s 1977 single “Ten to Eight” was the first single released on the Parachute label and went to No. 68 (No. 45 on the AC chart). That was the first of two times Castle broke into the Billboard Hot 100: “The Loneliest Man on the Moon” went to No. 89 in early 1978. Both singles were pulled from Castle’s 1977 album Castle in the Sky. Castle’s website says a third single, “All I Ever Wanna Be Is Yours,” made the Easy Listening chart, but I can find nothing about the record in Joel Whitburn’s Top Adult Songs. “Ten to Eight” was originally recorded by Helen Reddy and released on her 1975 album No Way to Treat a Lady, leaving Castle in the well-populated but nevertheless interesting position of covering his own song.

Steve Goodman’s “Eight Ball Blues,” is not a blues at all, at least in its musical construction. Pulled from his self-titled 1971 album, it’s nevertheless the plaint of a man who wishes he and life were different and does so with regret: “I wish I had the common sense to be satisfied with me.” And the chorus tells us a bit more:

Is this the part where I came in?
I’ve heard this song before.
Had a couple too many
But I think I can find the door.
And I do not know your name, my friend
But I’ve seen that face before.
Well, I saw it in the jail house
And I saw in the war,
And I saw it my mirror,
Well, just a couple of times before.

This was 1971, and the war was in a place called Vietnam, but it could just as well be 2013 and places called Iraq and Afghanistan.

O.V. Wright came out of the gospel music circuit before going secular in the mid-1960s, eventually ending up in the 1970s with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. That’s maybe where Wright did his best work, but his mid-1960s singles for Backbeat are superb. “Eight Men, Four Women” from 1967 is likely the most atmospheric. It went to No. 4 on the R&B chart – one of eight singles Wright placed in the R&B Top 40 between 1965 and 1974 – and to No. 80 on the pop chart.

On its third album, 1990’s A Different Kind of Weather, the English trio Dream Academy included a tune called “Twelve Eight Angel.” A year later, the group released its final single before disbanding. That single was “Angel of Mercy,” and from what I can tell, the single was simply “Twelve Eight Angel” renamed. The single failed to chart, and the band called it quits. Dream Academy is best-known, of course, for the shimmering “Life in a Northern Town,” which went to No. 7 in 1986. (Those sharp of ear might notice the voice of the single’s producer, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, in the background during the instrumental break.)

Keeping It A Mystery

October 12, 2011

Originally posted December 12, 2008

One of the sheer delights of this time of year for me is giving the Texas Gal gifts she truly wants, whether from a brief list, from remembering comments she’s made throughout the year or simply from seeing something somewhere I know she’d like. I much prefer the latter two sources, because then she can truly be surprised.

Sometimes she prods me, asking for hints as to what I’ve found for her. I’m not all that subtle at that; any hints I give will either be too easy to figure out or too opaque to be helpful, so in order to maintain the surprise, I go with opaque:

“Is it bigger than a breadbox?”

“That depends on how large a loaf you have.”

Or, “What color is it?”

“Light brown, green and red, partly.”

All of which is true, and all of which leaves the Texas Gal less than enlightened about what she’ll find in her packages, which is my goal. You see, to me, the surprise is the one of the main pleasures of gift-giving, for both the giver and the recipient. That’s a lesson I learned through accidental experience.

It was December of 1971, and Christmas was not far off. I’d done my shopping for my family, for Rick and for a gal from school I’d been dating. The evening in question, in fact, might have been the evening when Jeannie and I exchanged gifts, just before she headed home to a small town south of St. Cloud for a couple of weeks. I remember that I’d gone outside to go somewhere, and then turned around and went back into the house to get something I’d forgotten.

And I walked past a doorway and saw my parents busily wrapping Christmas presents in the room. I tried not to look, but the item in Mom’s hands was unmistakable: It was the size of an LP, and it was dull orange. I knew immediately what it was: The Concert for Bangla Desh, the box set of George Harrison’s epic concert of the previous August, released only a week or so earlier. And I think my parents knew that I knew.

And as pleased as I was to receive the box set a couple weeks later on Christmas Eve, I think that my knowing what was in the package somehow diminished the joy of the gift for me and – more importantly – for my parents. The surprise heightens the joy in both directions, I learned that year.

So I think I’ll stick with opaque hints and keep a little mystery in the season.

A Six-Pack from the Billboard Hot 100, December 11, 1971
“Can I Get A Witness” by Lee Michaels (A&M 1303, No. 43)

“White Lies, Blue Eyes” by Bullet (Big Tree 123, No. 49)

“George Jackson” by Bob Dylan (Columbia 45516, No. 56)

“Witch Queen of New Orleans” by Redbone (Epic 10746, No. 60)

“Get Down” by Curtis Mayfield (Curtom 1966, No. 74)

“Take It Slow (Out In The Country)” by Lighthouse (Evolution 1052, No. 89)

A few notes:

Regarding Lee Michaels, I can’t really say it any better than does All Music Guide:

“One of the most interesting second-division California psychedelic musicians, keyboardist Lee Michaels was one of the most soulful white vocalists of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Between 1968 and 1972, he released half a dozen accomplished albums on A&M that encompassed Baroque psychedelic pop and gritty white, sometimes gospel-ish R&B with equal facility. A capable songwriter, Michaels was blessed with an astonishing upper range, occasionally letting loose some thrilling funky wails. In 1971, he landed a surprise Top Ten single with ‘Do You Know What I Mean,’ one of the best and funkiest AM hits of the early ’70s.”

As much as I liked “Do You Know What I Mean,” I always thought it was a little bit clunky, which was one of its charms. “Can I Get A Witness,” which hit the Top 40 for one week, reaching No. 39, falls for me into the same clunk-funk genre.

Bullet was a duo from England: John Cann handled the vocals and Paul Hammond played the drums. “White Lies, Blue Eyes,” which went as high as No. 28, was their only hit. The record has a pretty cool sound during the verses, but the lightness of the choruses for most of the record seems to me to presage the sound of groups like Pablo Cruise and the Little River Band a few years down the pike. I mean, that’s okay, but it’s not what it could have been; the later choruses, with some pretty good guitar and drum fills, sound a lot better to my ears.

George Jackson, the subject of the Dylan single, was an inmate in a California state prison who became a self-educated leader and political figure during his incarceration. He wound up dead in prison during the summer of 1971 in what some called an assassination, while others seemed to think that his death was simply the unsurprising end of a life of violence and crime. Folk hero or thug? I don’t know, and the page on Jackson at Wikipedia doesn’t really resolve anything. I recall the first time I heard the record: I was sitting at a picnic table somewhere with Rick and a radio one day, and we listened intently, as we did in those days to anything Dylan did. I don’t know if the deejay was asleep at the switch or making a statement, but the radio station didn’t bleep the line, “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” and Rick and I looked at each other, startled. “Bob Dylan lays it on the line,” said Rick, laughing. In any case, the record – which never made it to an LP back then and, as far as I know, has since been included only on three relatively obscure Dylan CD anthologies – is an audio artifact of the tail end of the odd and bitter time we now call the Sixties. I sometimes wonder if Dylan ever regrets recording and releasing the song, but I figure not: I don’t think – at least as far as his music goes – Dylan has much time for regrets. The version here is called the “Big Band” version; the flipside of the single, which peaked at No. 33 – has a shorter, acoustic version.

Redbone, as I wrote here at least once before, was formed and led by Native American brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas, who, before they formed the group, were the writers of the song “Nicky Hoeky.” With its swampy feel, “The Witch Queen of New Orleans” reached No. 21 in early 1972. A couple of years later, Redbone’s brilliant “Come And Get Your Love” went to No. 5, and, as far as oldies radio is concerned, that’s the only Redbone single that seems to matter. It would be a kick to hear “Witch Queen” coming out of the radio speaker some day, but I suppose someone might complain about evil influences.

Curtis Mayfield’s “Get Down” has to be one of the great lost singles. The marketplace has its oddities, I know, but it baffles me how a single could be this good and not reach the Top Ten, much less the Top 40. “Get Down” peaked at No. 69 on the December 18 chart and then fell out of the Hot 100 before 1972 rolled around.

While not nearly as good as the Mayfield single, Lighthouse’s “Take It Slow (Out In The Country)” is a pretty good listen, too. The follow-up to Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning,” which reached No. 24 earlier in the autumn of 1971, “Take It Slow (Out In The Country)” got as high as No. 64 in January of 1972 and was certainly better than a lot of singles that had more success. I know, I know: It’s the marketplace, but sometimes the listener is wrong.

Farewell To Seven-Toed Henri

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 17, 2008

I was going to write about the autumn of 1971 today, a time that was unexceptional for the most part. It did mark my first quarter of college, and I guess that made it a time of major adjustments. But I’ll write about that some other day.

We lost another cat yesterday.

This summer, shortly after we had to let go of the Texas Gal’s beloved Smudge, one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers said a kitten had found its way to her mother’s place. The kitten ended up with the Texas Gal’s co-worker, who then learned that her husband and son were allergic to cats. For two days, the kitten was alone in their basement while they figured out what to do, and there was talk of letting it loose in a field to fend for itself.

Given that we were in the middle of the difficult (and expensive) process of moving, I was reluctant to bring in a kitten, but I’ll never let a little one be let loose in a field; I can’t imagine anything more terrifying – or more practically lethal – for a small animal. So one evening, the Texas Gal brought home our new little guy, black with some white trim . . . and seven toes on each front foot.

I’m not sure where the name came from, but after some hesitation, the Texas Gal named him Henri Matisse, after the artist. But we pronounced his name “Henry” instead of the French “Ehn-ree.” And we took him to Dr. Tess for his standard kitten care. He had worms, which we expected, and we treated him for that. A few months later, not long after we moved, we had him neutered and had his front claws removed.

Even after treatment for worms, Henri’s digestive problems continued. When we organized the empty boxes we’d thrown off to the side of the basement during the move, we discovered that he hadn’t been using his cat box regularly. We thought his continued digestive problems might be the reason, so we changed his diet, kept an eye on his trips to the basement and gave him a supplement for two weeks.

Nothing really helped his digestion, and once the two-week regimen of the supplement was over, he began to lose weight and he didn’t always seem comfortable. And one evening this week, we discovered that his cat box behavior in the basement hadn’t changed. In some ways, it’s no big deal. We’ve cleaned up worse messes over the years. But the vet said yesterday morning that it was unlikely Henri’s behavior would change, even if we could correct the problem with his digestion. And we knew we couldn’t continue.

Henri went peacefully. And we have another cat-shaped hole in the house. The Texas Gal and I both spent a little bit more time than usual last evening playing with Oscar and talking to Clarence, our two remaining catboys. That helped, at least a little.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 4
“Tell Me Why” by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, Decca 32874 (No. 99 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 16, 1971)

“Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’” by Peter Nero, Columbia 45399 (No. 91)

“Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers, Stax 0104 (No. 82)

“It’s a Cryin’ Shame” by Gayle McCormick, Dunhill 4288 (No. 60)

“Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill 4289 (No. 55)

“Women’s Love Rights” by Laura Lee, Hot Wax 7105 (No. 37)

“You’ve Got To Crawl (Before You Walk)” by 8th Day, Invictus 9098 (No. 36)

“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 (No. 32)

“Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” by Kris Kristofferson, Monument 8525 (No. 27)

“Stick-Up” by Honey Cone, Hot Wax 7106 (No. 19)

“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement, Decca 32818 (No. 15)

“So Far Away” by Carole King, Ode 66019 (No. 14)

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 12)

A few notes:

The Matthews’ Southern Comfort track is a cover of the Neil Young tune from After the Goldrush album, which came out in 1970. Southern Comfort was headed by Ian Matthews, who had been a founding member of Britain’s Fairport Convention. Matthews’ career is a fascinating series of stops, starts and sudden left turns, but his music has always been listenable and sometimes inspired.

One evening during the summer of 1971, after a day of unpacking file cabinets in the new Education Building at St. Cloud State, I wandered off to the theater and took in The Summer of ’42. The movie touched me, with its tale of a young man’s beginning to grow up, of his crush on the older woman played by the luminescent Jennifer O’Neill (looking impossibly young from where I sit now) and of the tragedy and confusion of wartime. I was also blown away by Michel Legrand’s Academy Award-winning score, which was sweet and sad and over-the-top – all of the things that we are at sixteen. I never looked for the soundtrack LP; I’m not sure why. But when Peter Nero had a hit with the main theme later in the year (the single went to No. 22), I was pleased to hear the song coming out of my radio.

Gayle McCormick was the lead singer for Smith, the group that had a No. 5 hit in the autumn of 1969 with a cover of “Baby It’s You.” “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” was a pretty good single from her first solo album – she recorded two others in the early 1970s, and after that, I lose track of her – but it didn’t do very well. Nor did her follow-ups. She never cracked the Top 40 as a solo artist.

This selection includes three more good singles (several showed up in previous Baker’s Dozen selections) from Hot Wax and Invictus, the labels launched by Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland after they left Motown. The singles weren’t as successful on the pop chart as they were good. “Women’s Love Rights” peaked at No. 36, and “You’ve Got To Crawl” topped out at No. 28, but the Honey Cone single nearly got into the Top Ten, stalling at No. 11. (It spent two weeks at No. 1 on the R&B chart.)

This version of Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” originally linked with this post was from the album. Since then, I was able to find a video with the fairly rare single edit. Either way, once I saw the title in the Hot 100 for this week in 1971, I had to post the song, even in the wrong version. It’s just too good to ignore.

The Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a pretty grim and tough song, talking about the perfidy surrounding all of us, wherever we go. Some folks saw it as a political allegory, and the theme of betrayal makes that at least a little bit plausible, given the realities of 1971. Whatever the message, the record had a great groove.

Edited and rewritten slightly on August 6, 2013.

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.

The Baton Twirler & The Red Army

June 9, 2010

One of the things about music that fascinates me is my reactions to pieces I’ve long loved. When one of those songs cycles randomly through the mp3 player in the kitchen or shows up on the radio while I’m driving down St. Germain, what are the first thoughts, the first images that come to mind?

Mostly, those long-loved songs bring back people, times and places that are also cherished. Sometimes, the connections between the record and the memory images are harder to figure out. I wrote a while back about “Desiderata,” the spoken-word record that was a hit for Les Crane in 1971 and how its strains take me back to a corridor as it existed in 1971 just outside the bookstore at St. Cloud State. Ever since I wrote about that, I’ve pondered at odd moments why that is, what – if anything – that juxtaposition means. And I still sit clueless.

Another record, one I like much more than I like “Desiderata,” presents me with an odd collage of images. Whenever I hear its percussive introduction and its swelling harmonies, I see in my mind – jarringly – Soviet tanks and troops entering Prague, Czechoslovakia, in August 1968, crushing the liberalization of government and life there, a period now known as the Prague Spring.

And after a split-second of that, the strains of “Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues bring to mind something far more normal: the image in memory of a young woman, one who was a baton twirler for the marching band and so much more, walking between classes at South Junior High, looking for something she’s unable to find in front of her. If only she’d turn around, I often thought during that summer of 1968, the summer between freshman and sophomore years, the summer when “Turn Around, Look At Me” went to No. 7.

With its strings piled on top of horns and its lush vocals (ending with what a musician friend of mine used to call “an MGM climax”), “Turn Around, Look At Me” is a beautiful record that is not at all of its time, 1968. Listening to it this morning, I pegged it as being far more appropriate for the years 1957-62, perhaps recorded by one of those male vocal groups with a number in its name: the Four Freshmen, the Four Lads, the Four Dorks. But that displacement in style and time probably worked for the record among the listening public. The week “Turn Around, Look At Me” reached its peak at No. 7, the other songs in the Top Ten were:

“People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals
“Hello, I Love You” by the Doors
“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams
“Born to Be Wild” by Steppenwolf
“Light My Fire” by José Feliciano
“Stoned Soul Picnic” by the 5th Dimension
“Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream
“Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela
“Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan

That’s a great bunch of songs, but the nearest things to the lush pop of the Vogues there are the Latin-tinged cover of “Light My Fire” and Mason Williams’ instrumental, and neither of those are really in the same block. I don’t have any idea how “Turn Around, Look At Me” did on the chart that’s now called Adult Contemporary, but while the record was still in the Top 40, Reprise released another Vogues’ single, “My Special Angel,” and that one spent one week two weeks atop the AC chart (and peaked, like its predecessor, at No. 7 in the Top 40). So I’m guessing that “Turn Around, Look At Me” did pretty well on the AC chart, as lush as it was.

And for me, the lushness of the Vogues’ pop was certainly one of the attractions of “Turn Around, Look At Me.” Rock music was not yet my thing, and it was nice to hear something easy to listen to coming from the radio, and it was even nicer that the record spoke to my life. As the summer faded and the school year began, I still hoped that the baton twirler might figuratively turn around. She didn’t. The time wasn’t right (although it never would be in her case), and I knew that even as I hoped for a different outcome.

So the song slid from the charts and quit coming out of the radio, but sometime during August, I must have heard the song at least once very close to the time when international news reporters were giving us the lowdown on what was happening in Prague and elsewhere in Czechoslovakia. Because for some forty-two years, when the first strains of that lovely song reach my ears, it seems as if I have to fight my way through the Red Army to get to the sweet object of my hope. And how’s that for a romantic notion?

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Juke Box, No. 20
“Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds, Legrand 1008 [1961]
“Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers, Columbia 44414 [1968]
‘Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues, Reprise 0686 [1968]
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, United Artists 50721
[1971]
“One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse, Evolution 1048 [1971]
“Galileo” by the Indigo Girls from Rites of Passage [1992]

Because of – as I understand it – a record label’s promotional hi-jinks, “Quarter to Three” and the hit that preceded it, “New Orleans,” were credited to one U.S. Bonds rather than to Gary Bonds, which is the singer’s real name. Although the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits lists him as “Gary Bonds (U.S.),” over the years, it’s become commonplace to simply call the performer, as I have, “Gary U.S. Bonds.” Whatever name you call him, his body of work is a good one, and “Quarter to Three,” especially, is a great and infectious party song, one that spent two weeks at No. 1 during the summer of 1961.

With “Time Has Come Today,” the Chambers Brothers added psychedelia to their menu of blues, gospel and R&B. This was one of those records that could not be ignored as it came out of the radio, even if the listener were more attuned to other styles. In other words, as “Time Has Come Today” entered the room, it demanded attention, right from the “tick-tock” of the percussion and the lightly spoken “cuckoo!” On the album – The Time Has Come, released in 1967 – the track ran a little longer than eleven minutes; the single edit released in the autumn of 1968 spent nine weeks in the Top 40 and peaked at No. 11.

I wrote a brief bit about the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose about a year ago, and those words still hold true: “The Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose had two Top Ten hits, and what great records they were! ‘Treat Her Like A Lady’ was the first of them, riding that chugging guitar, superb hook and gospelish call-and-response all the way to No. 3. ‘Too Late To Turn Back Now,’ which went to No. 2 during the summer of 1972, was also a good record, but it was smoother and somehow less demanding. If forced to choose, I’d give the decision to ‘Treat Her Like A Lady’ on points, but both sounded great coming out of the car radio. (The group had two other Top 40 hits, ‘Don’t Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Little Fool Like Me)’ and ‘I’m Never Gonna Be Alone Anymore,’ neither of which reached the Top Twenty.)” “Treat Her Like A Lady” peaked at No. 3 in July of 1971.

Percussive and jazzy, with a great horn chart, Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning” probably should have done better than No. 24, which is where the single spent two weeks during November of 1971. But better singles have performed less well, and the charts – and record bins – were crowded with horn bands in those days: Chicago, BST, Mom’s Apple Pie, Chase, the Ides of March and more. And Lighthouse was from Canada, which might have limited the group’s appeal here in the U.S. But it’s still a great tune: “We’ll fly to the east! We’ll fly to the west! There’s no place we can’t call our own.”

“Galileo,” the Indigo Girls’ meditation on reincarnation, came along at an awkward time for me as a collector. By 1992, when the Indigo Girls released Rites of Passage, I was happily using my growing LP collection to make about one mix-tape a week for friends. But almost no new music was being released on vinyl, and I was still a few years away from having a CD player. So when I heard “Galileo” on the radio, I knew, first, that it was a song I wanted to include on mixes, and second, unless I bought a CD player or ran into some sort of miracle, I’d have to live without it. And I went without for a few years. I eventually got a CD player, and began collecting lots of new music I’d gone without, but at the same time, I kept on buying vinyl. And in late 1999, I found a white-labeled promo album in one of the bins at Cheapo’s. The label was blank and the white jacket had only a sticker that asked three questions, the first of which was: “What artist has been nominated for 4 Grammy awards, won 2, sold over 3 million records and doesn’t get played on very many commercial radio stations?” There was a toll-free phone number listed for those who wanted answers. But what interested me more than the sticker with the questions was the little scrawl on the other side of the front cover: “Indigo Girls, Rites of Passage.” So I bought it, and after I figured out which track was “Galileo,” the song began to show up on my mix-tapes. Eleven years later, and eighteen years after I first heard the song, it remains a favorite of mine, partly for the thoughtful and sometimes witty lyric, partly for the guest spot on the chorus from Jackson Browne and partly because miracles – even small ones – should be embraced.