Posts Tagged ‘Mamas & The Papas [The]’

Long John, The Mamas & The Papas & Bruce

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 22, 2009

It’s Video Thursday!

Here’s an appearance by Long John Baldry on Britain’s Top of the Pops on November 23, 1967, with “Let The Heartaches Begin.” References say that other performers that evening were the Dave Clark Five and Traffic, with something called “repeat” performances – video from earlier shows, perhaps? – coming from Des O’Connor, Gene Pitney and the Who. The show also included promo videos from the Beatles of “Hello Goodbye” and from Donovan of “There Is A Mountain.”

After not having listened much to it before – and I’ve only had forty-some years to do so, you know – I’ve run through the Mamas & the Papas’ “Dancing Bear” a few times since yesterday and I’m finding it more and more charming – though no less quirky – with every listen. Here’s a September 17, 1966, clip from the The Hollywood Palace, a variety show that ran on ABC television from 1964 into 1970. The Mamas & the Papas lip-synch to “Dancing Bear” and then about halfway through “Dancing In The Streets” before being cut off by applause. As the clip ends, look at the audience: The politely applauding folks in those chairs look pretty well set in middle age or more, which explains why the host was Bing Crosby (or vice-versa). The Mamas & the Papas were a pretty safe choice for an establishment crowd, visually and musically: The guys’ hair wasn’t all that long, and the gals wore hip – but not at all daring – clothes. And the music fell somewhere in a safe part of the continuum between rock, pop rock and folk rock.

And then, here’s a gorgeous performance of “We Shall Overcome” by Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. It took place in May 2006 at – if I translated and Googled correctly – at LSO St. Luke’s in London. (LSO St. Luke’s – a restored eighteenth-century church previously called St. Luke Old Street – is the home of the London Symphony Orchestra’s community and educational programs as well as a rehearsal and performance venue.)

As I wrote here about a week ago, before events both minor and major rearranged my plans, I’m hoping to present Grab Bag No. 3 – three records pulled randomly from my stash of old and often odd 45s – for tomorrow’s post.

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Sitting Out The Dance On The Stairway

November 30, 2011

Originally posted January 21, 2009

I heard a snippet of “Judy In Disguise” on the radio the other day, and just that little bit – no more than ten seconds’ worth – of that hit from John Fred & His Playboy Band triggered one of those memories that slide past us now and then:

It’s lunchtime at South Junior High School. We’re allowed, after we’ve eaten, to head down to the gym, where we can play records and dance. Of course, I don’t dance. None of the guys do. But we hang around the edges of the gym, listening to the tunes and watching groups of girls dance. It’s not a bad way to spend the second half of a very short lunch period, better than sitting in the cafeteria.

And one day, for certain, one of the records that someone brought for lunchtime listening and dancing was “Judy In Disguise.” Because whenever I hear it, I’m in that gymnasium, hanging back on the edge with the other guys.

Based on the charts, that would have been late 1967 or early 1968. It was January 20, 1968, when “Judy In Disguise” reached No. 1, where it would stay for two weeks. And that memory of watching the girls dance in the gym also triggered another recollection, this one coming from a little bit later in the school year.

This time, it was an after-school dance in the cafeteria. All the long tables had been folded up and moved to a side room, giving us plenty of room to dance or to mill around on the edges. Some of the guys danced; most of us didn’t. But we gabbed as we stood along the walls and watched.

Then, I heard the teacher who was operating the record player announce a “snowball,” one of those dances that starts with one couple. After a short time, the music would pause, and each of those two dancers would select a new partner from the watching crowd. That would continue for some time, maybe two or even three records. On this day, when the teacher announced the dance, she also – only God knows why – announced my name and that of a young lady whom I didn’t know well, calling us to come start the dance.

I was in the back of the lunchroom, and there was a door. I bailed. And I sat on a nearby flight of stairs until the snowball was over.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (January 20, 1968)
“Next Plane To London” by the Rose Garden, Atco 6510 (No. 35)

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra, Philips 40495 (No. 47)

“Back Up Train” by Al Green & the Soul Mates, Hot Line 1188 (No. 58)

“Carmen” by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, A&M 890 (No. 69)

“Dancing Bear” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill 4113 (No. 72)

“Let the Heartaches Begin” by Long John Baldry, Warner Bros. 7098 (No. 88)

There is an earnest clunkiness – or perhaps clunky earnestness – to “Next Plane To London” that makes the record endearing. I don’t know if I ever heard it when it was out. This was before I really listened to Top 40, and the record was on the charts for only seven weeks and peaked at No. 17. But I like it a great deal when it pops up on the player these days. The Rose Garden was from Parkersburg, West Virginia, and this was the group’s only hit.

“Love Is Blue” was on its way up the chart, having jumped to No. 47 from No. 84 in one week. In three weeks more, the record would reach No. 1 and stay there for five weeks. At the time, according to my aging edition of the Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits (1988), Mauriat’s single was the only U.S. No. 1 hit to have been recorded in France. I don’t know if that’s still true. I do know that the record was Mauriat’s only Top 40 hit, and it was the first instrumental to reach No. 1 since the Tornadoes’ “Telstar” in 1963. (Thanks go, I believe, to JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.)

“Back Up Train” was the title track to Al Green’s debut album. The single – like the album overall – carries hints of what was to come in a few years when he’d team up with Willie Mitchell. The record just barely missed the Top 40, spending three weeks at No. 41 before falling back.

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass had a remarkable run in the mid-1960s. From “The Lonely Bull” in 1962 through “A Banda” in 1967, the group had thirteen Top 40 hits. “Carmen” was the second single – I believe – from A Banda, but failed to reach the Top 40, peaking at No. 51 in February 1968.

“Dancing Bear” is an odd record, with its woodwind introduction. (It puts me in mind a little bit of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair.”) By the time “Dancing Bear” was released, the Mamas & the Papas’ time in the Top 40 was about done. The single peaked at No. 51 during the first half of January 1968, and the group’s last Top 40 hit – “Dream A Little Dream Of Me,” actually credited to “Mama Cass with the Mamas & the Papas” – would go to No. 12 during the summer of 1968.

“Let the Heartaches Begin,”which went to No. 1 in the U.K., was one of several ballads that brought Long John Baldry some chart success in Britain in the mid-1960s. Those ballads were anomalies in a career based first in folk and blues and later in bluesy rock, as was noted here recently with “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King of Rock & Roll.” The single’s British success didn’t translate on this side of the Atlantic; “Heartaches” spent two weeks in Hot 100, peaking at No. 88.

A Tale Of Shelves And A Saw

August 5, 2011

Originally posted September 12, 2008

My dad, along with being an educator, was a craftsman. His undergraduate degree was in industrial arts, which he’d hoped to teach in a high school. Biding his time until there was a teaching position open somewhere near St. Cloud, he returned to the campus of St. Cloud Teachers College – now St. Cloud State University – after he graduated. (Family lore says it was the next day, but I’m not certain.) He took what was expected to be a temporary position and wound up retiring thirty-three years later from St. Cloud State as an assistant professor of learning resources. He never taught industrial arts.

But he put his industrial arts training and experience to good use, doing a lot of the maintenance on our home – painting, minor electrical work, some carpentry and more – when I was a kid and in the years after I was grown. One of his major projects was turning half the basement into a rec room when I was in junior high. Local contractors installed wall studs, electrical outlets and carpet, and Dad took it from there, wrestling paneling into place and nailing it to the studs, measuring and installing a hanging ceiling with its tiles, and all the rest, creating a room that was a haven for my sister and me and our friends during our teen years and later.

Along the way, Dad gathered together an immense collection of tools and equipment, and when we cleared out the place on Kilian after he died, some of it came my way: his Montgomery Wards tool chest – much larger and better stocked than the rudimentary toolbox with which I’ve been making do over the years – and some additional tools, including a power drill, a power sander and an electric sabre saw.

Power tools, for some reason, have always scared me – a lot. I’m not sure why. The only one I’d ever used was a borrowed power drill to install a set of mini-blinds about ten years ago, and even that small drill made me uneasy. I’ve never done a lot of carpentry or other work requiring tools, anyway. During the mid-1980s, I did design and build some simple bookcases, but that’s been about the limit of my work. And I did those jobs with handsaws and hand tools.

This week, as I was installing my well-traveled brick and board bookcase in the study, I realized I was going to put more records on it than ever before, so it would need more support, a column of bricks in the center of the shelves to match the columns at the ends of the shelves. I wandered around town yesterday and managed to find three additional large patio blocks that matched the ones I’d bought almost twenty years ago. (The sales agent at the masonry yard was disappointed I didn’t need more of them; he wanted to clear as many of the antiquated blocks from his storage as he could.) And the guys at the lumberyard gladly cut the additional pieces of wood plank I needed to put on my shelves under the new blocks to extend the blocks’ height so the shelves would accommodate LPs.

But I could not find one piece I required, another foot, as it were: a masonry piece to put on the floor, centered under the first shelf, that would match the height of the two thick masonry pieces that held up the ends of that first shelf. As I left the masonry yard and headed home with three bricks, six wood pieces to put under the bricks and more than six feet of extra wood, I realized that three thicknesses of that extra wood plank would equal the thickness of the two masonry pieces already serving as feet. All I had to do was saw off three pieces of the extra board I got at the lumberyard, and I could stack those pieces for the missing foot.

So after hauling everything inside, I took the extra board down to the rudimentary workbench left by earlier residents of the house, where I’d installed Dad’s toolbox and the other things that had been his. With the measuring tape, I marked off three lengths of five inches, and then I grabbed a saw and got to work. It went slowly, of course. And a third of the way into the first cut, I stopped. In a box on the shelf, I realized, was the sabre saw.

I shuddered a little, thinking of the mayhem a potential mishap could cause. Once I shooed the cats upstairs and closed the door, I got out the sabre saw and plugged it in. Wanting to get a sense of how it felt before I applied it to wood, I tentatively turned it on, then off. And then I got busy. A few minutes later, I had the three pieces of board I needed. I put the saw back in its box and the box back on the shelf, and I swept up the sawdust, honestly trembling a little.

A few hours later, the revamped shelves were up and loaded: three shelves of records topped by a shelf of books. The three inexpertly cut pieces of wood are hidden under the first shelf. I don’t know when I might next have an occasion to use the sabre saw. But now I know I can if I have to.

A Baker’s Dozen of Saws
“The Last Time I Saw Richard” by Joni Mitchell from Blue, 1971

“When I Saw You” by the Ronettes, Philles single 133, 1964

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, Atlantic single 2864, 1972

“I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill single 4031, 1966

“I Saw The Light” by Mason Proffit from Bare Back Rider, 1972

“Ride My See-Saw” by the Moody Blues from In Search of the Lost Chord, 1968

“The Last Time I Saw Jacqueline” by the Neon Philharmonic from The Moth Confesses, 1969

“See Saw” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic single 2574, 1968

“Jigsaw Puzzle of Life” by Kate & Anna McGarrigle from Kate & Anna McGarrigle, 1975

“Junior Saw It Happen” by the Steve Miller Band from Children of the Future, 1968

“You Came, You Saw, You Conquered” by the Pearls, Bell single 1254 (UK?), 1972

“I Saw It On T.V.” by John Fogerty from Centerfield, 1985

“Crosscut Saw” by Albert King from Born Under A Bad Sign, 1967

A few notes:

This is mostly a random selection. The only song I chose was the closer, Albert King’s “Crosscut Saw,” because it seemed appropriate.

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was omnipresent during early 1972. Originally recorded for Flack’s First Take album in 1969, the song – written by British folksinger Ewan MacColl – was used as background music in Clint Eastwood’s film Play Misty For Me, which came out in late 1971. After that, Atlantic trimmed about a minute from the track and issued it as a single. The record entered the Top 40 in March and spent six weeks at No. 1, eventually earning Flack and MacColl Grammy awards for, respectively, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Bare Back Rider was the second and final major label release from Mason Proffit, one of the best bands never to make it big. In its review of Bare Back Rider, All-Music Guide notes: “You’d have thought that music this impressive could get a hearing, but Mason Proffit appeared at a time when music fans were more polarized than musicians, not only by music but by politics and culture. Despite the band’s evident affection for traditional country music, their left-wing political stance and status as hippie rock musicians meant they could never be accepted in Nashville. And their music was too overtly country for them to score a pop hit. Thus, they were doomed to appeal only on the country-rock-oriented Los Angeles club scene and to some music critics.”

“The Last Time I Saw Jacqueline” is a nice bit of trippy pop from the Neon Philharmonic, better known for the same album’s “Morning Girl,” a sweet coming-of-age single that went to No. 17 in the spring and summer of 1969. The Neon Philharmonic, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, was a chamber-sized orchestra of Nashville City Orchestra musicians. Tupper Saussy did the writing and Don Gant handled the vocals. Bonus points for rhyming “restaurant” and “debutante.”

The McGarrigle sisters show up here now and then, and every time they do, especially when it’s a track from 1975’s Kate & Anna McGarrigle, I think back to the first time I read or heard about them, in the 1979 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide: “Two sisters from Montreal make music that’s crisp, nonelectric and utterly magical. Singing now in English, now in French, they suffuse their records with brightness and wit, proving that the inspired amateurism of the mid-Seventies can be dazzling.” Were/are they that good? Yes.

“You Came, You Saw, You Conquered” by the Pearls is a cover (from the United Kingdom, I believe; anyone know?) of the Ronettes’ version, which was released as a single on A&M in 1969. The Pearls’ version is not bad, but the echo on the record is a faint whisper of the echo in the Ronettes’ single, which itself was a faint whisper of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound that made them famous.

Of Heartsfield & Sneezes

June 27, 2011

Originally posted May 12, 2008

Last November, I posted a Saturday Single from The Wonder Of It All, a 1974 album by a Midwest band called Heartsfield, a group I’d run across more or less by accident. (I have a sneaking suspicion that we find most of the musicians and groups we listen in that way: pure happenstance.) And I received a few notes from fans of the group, some of them offering assistance in helping me find the rest of Heartsfield’s oeuvre.

I took one of those readers up on that offer this weekend. Mark of St. Louis posted links for me of Heartsfield from 1973, Foolish Pleasures from 1975 and Rescue the Dog, a 2005 album by a band newly organized by one of Heartsfield’s co-founders. (Thanks much, Mark!) That brings me close to a complete Heartsfield collection. A 1977 album, Heartsfield Collectors Item, appears to be an album of new material rather than the compilation the title might imply.

Normally, on Monday, I’d post an album or some kind of themed collection as a Baker’s Dozen. But the pollen has attacked – I read in the Twin Cities newspaper last week that this is the worst year for spring allergies in some time. Well, I already knew that. And I spent much of the weekend wheezing and sniffling and not putting much time at all into thinking about what I would offer this morning. I have some interesting albums in the stack of things to rip, and I will get to one or two of them this week, as well as offer the rest of the week’s regular features.

For now, however, I’m going to let the universe do my work for me this morning. We’ll start with a song from one of the Heartsfield albums Mark provided for me, and from there, we’ll take a fifteen-song walk through the 1950-1999 junkyard.

A Walk Through The Junkyard
“I’m Coming Home” by Heartsfield from Heartsfield, 1973

“Kaval Sviri (The Flute Plays)” by Ensemble Trakia from Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, Vol. 2, recorded at Plodiv, Bulgaria, 1982

“Naturally” by Fat Mattress from Fat Mattress 2, 1970

“By Today” by Batdorf & Rodney from Batdorf & Rodney, 1972

“Redneck Rhythm and Blues” by Brooks & Dunn from Borderline, 1996

“Abraham, Martin & John” by Boo Hewerdine & Darden Smith from Interchords radio show, live, 1991.

“Pacific Coast Highway” by the Mamas & the Papas from People Like Us, 1971

“I’m A Woman” by Maria Muldaur from Waitress In A Donut Shop, 1974

“Ain’t It Hell Up In Harlem” by Edwin Starr from Hell Up In Harlem soundtrack, 1974

“Spinning Wheel” by Blood, Sweat & Tears from Blood, Sweat & Tears, 1969

“Changes” by Gordon Lightfoot from Lightfoot!, 1966

“I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)” by Stevie Nicks from The Other Side of the Mirror, 1989

“Back Stabbers” by the O’Jays, Philadelphia International single 3517, 1972

“The Moon Struck One” by The Band from Cahoots, 1971

“Lullaby” by Wishbone Ash from Pilgrimage, 1971

A few notes:

Visitors sometimes snort when I tell them I listen at times to Bulgarian choral music. But should one of the tracks pop up from one of the several such albums I have ripped to mp3s, well, my visitors’ eyes widen and their mouths open as they hear the odd intervals and impossibly close harmonies. The sound is alien to Western ears, and I don’t listen to a lot of it at one time, but it never hurts to know what other places sound like, and the musicianship on all of the Mystère Des Voix Bulgares albums – and on the Nonesuch label albums that preceded them – is impeccable.

Fat Mattress is where Noel Redding went in the late 1960s after his time as bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience was over. The group’s music was different from that of the Experience: far more based on the British folk-rock tradition and the psychedelic and progressive rock sounds that stemmed from that tradition. The two albums the group did are well worth hearing, if those sounds intrigue you. The group’s second album – from which “Naturally” comes – was slightly inferior to the first album, says All-Music Guide, but from a distance of more than thirty-five years, the differences don’t seem that significant.

John Batdorf and Mark Rodney made three albums in the early 1970s in a singer-songwriter/soft rock vein. The albums are pleasant but not very consequential. One of the joys of having a 500-gig external hard drive is that there is room to keep bits and pieces of pleasant marginalia if one so desires. The duo is similar to, but not quite as good as, Seals & Crofts.

The Boo Hewerdine/Darden Smith performance of Dick Holler’s wondrous “Abraham, Martin & John” is, to me, a highlight of both singers’ careers. The Interchords appearance had Hewerdine interviewing Smith along with performances by both. I’d love to hear the entire show. And I’d love to know who Stephen (Steven?) was. Listen to the song, and you’ll know what I mean.

The Mamas & the Papas, who had broken up in 1968, reunited in 1971 to record the album, People Like Us, simply to fulfill a contractual obligation. The album is better than one might expect of such an effort, but the group’s time had passed and the product sounded out of date and went nowhere.

Wishbone Ash is one of those bands I knew about in my youth but never listened to (given the vast number of groups at the time and since then, there are many such, I am certain). I ran across a track by Wishbone Ash at The College Crowd Digs Me about seven months ago and since then have slowly been taking in the group’s body of work. “Lullaby,” along with the album it comes from, is far more mellow than the sounds I’d expected when I began digging into the group’s work.

Edited slightly during reposting June 27, 2011.

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 1966

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 6, 2007

As 1966 rolled around, I was in the second half of seventh grade. I’d become adept at working the combination on my hallway locker, I hated P.E. and loved band, and I enjoyed social studies with Mr. Sales. We talked a lot about current events in social studies, and even then, I was a news junkie, looking through the newspapers – the Minneapolis Star and the St. Cloud Daily Times – almost as soon as they were delivered every afternoon. I also saw some news on television, and although I didn’t grasp the meaning of all of that I saw, I understood enough to begin to ask questions. I was, at the age of twelve, a reporter in training.

In mid-February, the Twin Cities Top 40 radio stations began playing a song that made news itself: “Ballad of the Green Berets,” a tribute to the men in his unit, written and recorded by Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler. The song moved up the charts and was No. 1 for five weeks in March and April. For a brief time, to a public increasingly wary of bad war news coming from a small country in Southeast Asia, the Green Berets were heroes. Exactly what they did and whom they were fighting when they dropped into the jungle, we didn’t know. But we were glad they were doing it. After all, the government said that the Green Berets – and the rest of our boys who were in Vietnam – were fighting the Communists there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here.

Robin Moore, a writer with connections, trained with the Green Berets and wrote a laudatory book about them that hit the best-seller lists. He also turned out to have helped – to what degree, who knows? – Barry Sadler with the lyrics to his No. 1 song. (Out in Hollywood, John Wayne got hold of the rights to the book and – with his son producing – made the film The Green Berets, which came out in 1968 and had little resemblance to the book beyond the title and a fawning admiration for the soldiers of the special forces.)

It was likely in the spring of 1966 that my social studies class broke up into groups to do reports on issues in current events. Topics included civil rights, Indonesia, the USSR and more, including, of course, Vietnam. When Mr. Sales told us to find a group we were interested in, I gravitated to the cluster of desks labeled “Vietnam.” I wasn’t all that interested in the topic, but a girl whose name began with K had headed for those desks, too, and she was the current object of my unrequited affection.

Mr. Sales had said we should start by asking questions that needed to be answered about our topics. K had her notebook ready. “Any questions?” she asked, looking around the group. No one said anything for a moment.

I said, “How about, ‘Why did we send our military to Vietnam in the first place?’”

She looked at me and nodded, and wrote the question down in her notebook, neither of us realizing that answering that question accurately and completely would likely be enough to earn a doctoral degree someday. A couple other members of the group offered questions, and K wrote them down. Mr. Sales stopped by to see how we were doing, and K showed him the list of questions.

“Who asked that first one?” Four fingers pointed at me. He nodded and chewed his cheek and then told me, “The folks over in Poverty could use some help. You’ve got five people here and there are only three there. Why don’t you go and give them a hand?”

I grabbed my books and, with a last quick look at K (who either didn’t notice or chose not to), went to the other cluster of desks with Mr. Sales. He told them I was there to make the groups more equal, and I pulled a desk up and sat down. I don’t recall who had the notebook in which they would write their questions, but the page was blank. So were the looks on their faces as they turned to me.

“Well,” I said, “do we know what ‘poverty’ really means?” They all shook their heads from side to side. “Okay,” I said. “First question: What is poverty?” The recorder wrote the question down, and someone else asked the next question, which I think was “Where do poor people live?” We had no clue that the answer was “All around us.” And the discussion went on for a few more moments, and then Mr. Sales came along to see how we were doing.

He looked at our list of questions and asked, “Who asked that first question?” Three fingers pointed at me again. Mr. Sales nodded and then said to me, “Why don’t you just wander from group to group and look at their lists of questions and see if you can think of any for them?”

Oh, my god, I thought. Why don’t you just make me wear a shirt that says “Dork” on it?

But I spent the rest of the hour wandering from group to group, looking at questions and maybe even offering a question or two myself. The result of my being made a roving whatever resulted in my being a group of one, assigned the task of enlightening my classmates about Indonesia.

I frittered my time away, and on the day of my presentation, I taped an annotated map of Indonesia to the blackboard and dove in. What looked like hesitation due to stage fright was really me giving myself moments to scan the information in the little boxes on the map before relaying that information to my audience. I got a B on the presentation.

Even after the years for dating came along, I never did have a date with K. But we were friendly. In high school, she was a cheerleader and I was a manager, and, in the dark and quiet of school buses coming back from athletic events late at night, we did have some intense discussions about issues all of us were facing. I remember them vividly; I hope she does, too.

And here’s a Baker’s Dozen from 1966, the year Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler topped the charts for five weeks:

“Bleak City Woman” by Donovan from Mellow Yellow

“Great Airplane Strike” by Paul Revere & The Raiders from sessions for The Spirit of ‘67

“Journey To Time” by Kenny & The Kasuals, Mark Ltd. single 1006

“I Saw Her Again” by the Mamas & the Papas, Dunhill single 4031

“Muddy Water” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial single 66175

“So Long Babe” by Nancy Sinatra from Boots

“Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles from Revolver

“If Your Monkey Can’t Get It” by David Blue from David Blue

“Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Elvis Presley from the Spinout soundtrack

“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers, Capitol single 5756

“Looking the World Over” by Big Mama Thornton from Big Mama Thornton with the Muddy Waters Blues Band

“Double Crossing Time” by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers from Bluesbreakers With Eric Clapton

“Don’t Bring Me Down” by the Animals, MGM single 13514

Some notes on a few of the songs:

I found Kenny & the Kasuals’ recording on Nuggets, Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, Volume 2, one of the great box sets from Rhino of mid-1960s recordings. The record didn’t make the charts, so Kenny & the Kasuals aren’t even one-hit wonders, but music like theirs was busting out of garages and basements all over the country.

“I Saw Her Again” is one my favorite songs by the Mamas & the Papas, who delivered a string of strong, melodic singles in 1966 and 1967 – and a series of albums that had better non-single material than most albums did at the time. When the song comes out of the instrumental bridge at about the 2:43 mark, Denny Dohety delivers one of the classic moments in pop history with his “I saw her,” an instant before the other vocalists come in. It sounds perfectly arranged, but from what I’ve read, Doherty miscounted and came in too early. The rest of the group liked the way it sounded and kept it in. (Also, listen for the drum rolls far under the rest of the sound; it sure sounds like Hal Blaine to me!)

The cut by David Blue came from his self-titled debut, issued by Elektra in August, less than a month after Bob Dylan had his famous motorcycle accident that left his career – and life, for all anyone not connected with Dylan knew – in doubt. Blue was a friend of Dylan’s and their music sounds similar, notes All-Music Guide. AMG also notes that by the time Blue’s debut came out, he was already behind the tight curve of pop history, as the Beatles’ Revolver had upped the ante.

The Nancy Sinatra cut is pretty lame, a Lee Hazlewood-penned artifact recorded with crack musicians for the album that supported her No. 1 single, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” Not quite as lame, but still gimpy, was Elvis’ take on the Dylan song, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” which the King recorded for one of his mediocre movies. Elvis was still two years away from returning to musical relevance with his return to Memphis in 1968.

Big Mama Thornton was an elemental force of nature, bold, brash, supremely confident and extraordinarily talented. The first to record “Hound Dog,” in 1953, she faded from general view for most of that decade and came back to some extent with Ball ’n’ Chain in 1968, after Janis Joplin recorded and popularized the title cut. The recording here, with the Muddy Waters Blues Band, was recorded in 1966 but not released until 2004, twenty years after Thornton’s death.

A Third Time Through the Junkyard

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 4, 2007

As I didn’t get an album ripped yesterday, and Monday morning brings with it a longer list of things to do than I’d normally see – and longer than I’d like to see, certainly – I decided to go back to something I did a couple of times during the early days of this blog (that is, if a blog less than five months old can be considered to have early days).

I thought we’d take a fifteen-song walk through the entire junkyard and see where we end up. But, I considered as I made up my mind, do I make it a random start, or select something? And if I select something, how do I do so?

Well, I watched the first three games of the Stanley Cup finals this past week, and was pleasantly surprised Saturday evening when the Ottawa Senators managed to take a game from the Anaheim Goons –oh, sorry, they’re called the Ducks – in Ottawa. The Senators’ victory left them still trailing the Goons by a two games to one margin, but it appeared for the first time as if the Senators could have a chance in the series. The first two games out in Anaheim were close but the Senators didn’t look like the team I’d seen during the first three rounds of the playoffs. The turnaround the Senators showed on their home ice pleased me because there is no way in the name of Lord Stanley that I want to see the Goons win his cup.

I can see the looks on readers’ faces: This is a music blog, ain’t it? Why’s he talkin’ hockey? Relax. There’s a point to this.

I’ve written briefly at least one other time about the annual tabletop hockey tournaments we have at my place – my friends Rick, Rob and Schultz and I. They’re a one-day continuation of the competitions we used to have when we were in high school, after I got the tabletop game for Christmas 1967. We’d have regular seasons that lasted anywhere from twenty games to fifty-two games, followed by playoffs.

These days, Schultz dominates the competition. Back then, before he joined us, Rick was the best player of the three of us, but he wasn’t quite as dominant as Schultz is now. From time to time, Rob or I could slide a team past him in the playoffs. And in our fourth season, which ended in the spring of 1971, Rob took the title with his New York Rangers. All through that season, when he had the Rangers on the ice and felt momentum turning his way, Rob would begin to hum a song under his breath. I’m not sure why he chose the particular song that he did, but it was a song that seemed to work for him.

And Saturday evening, as I watched the Senators fall behind three times and return to tie the game three times and finally take the lead and the game with a gutsy performance, I found myself humming under my breath. When I realized I was doing so, I chuckled, and then nodded. It was Rob’s old fight song I was humming.

And so, I’ve decided – in honor of the Ottawa Senators and their chances of winning the Stanley Cup – to begin this random fifteen-song walk through the junkyard with Richard Hunter’s solo harmonica version of Rob’s old fight song.

“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” by Richard Hunter from The Act of Being Free in One Act, 1995

“Here Today” by Paul McCartney from Here Today, 1982

“Standing at the Crossroads” by Elmore James, probably Enjoy single 2020, 1961 or 1962

“Rocky’s Reward” by Bill Conti from the Rocky soundtrack, 1976

“Dr. Dancer” by Sutherland Brothers & Quiver from Reach For The Sky, 1975

“Waiting” by Daniel Lanois from For The Beauty Of Wynona, 1993

“Endless Summer” by the Sandals from Endless Summer soundtrack, 1966

“Silent Eyes” by Paul Simon from Still Crazy After All These Years, 1975

“My Time After A While” by John Hammond from Southern Fried, 1970

“Precious Time” by Darden Smith from Little Victories, 1993

“Disco Inferno” by the Trammps from Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, 1977

“Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, Sundi single 6811, 1969

“Bermuda Triangle” by Fleetwood Mac from Heroes Are Hard To Find, 1974

“String Man” by the Mamas & the Papas from Deliver, 1967

“Hell to Pay” by Bonnie Raitt from Longing In Their Hearts, 1994

A few notes on some of the songs:

The loudest ovation I’ve ever heard at a concert came at the best concert I ever attended, when I saw Paul McCartney at the Xcel Center in St. Paul in September of 2002. About nine songs into the show, as the applause for “And I Love Her” faded away, McCartney began to introduce “Here Today” by saying, “I’d like to do a song now that I wrote for my dear friend John.” Applause burst out, and Paul beckoned to the crowd and said, “Yeah, let’s hear it for John.” And the arena filled with a sustained roar like nothing I’d heard before. From that moment, the concert – which up to then had been good – became magical for me.

“Rocky’s Reward” is the faux-classical string piece – motet? fugue? my bits of classical music awareness fail me – that is used under the final credits for the 1976 film Rocky. I’ve always thought that Bill Conti’s score for the film, the first in what became a series, was a brilliant piece of work, primarily for his imaginative use of recurring themes in a wide variety of settings and arrangements. It was an injustice that Conti was not nominated for an Academy Award for the score (the award went to Jerry Goldsmith for his work on The Omen). And don’t get me started about the award for Best Original Song going to Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams for “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)” instead of Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now.”

John Hammond’s “My Time After A While” comes from his Southern Fried album, recorded at Muscle Shoals with its legendary rhythm section. Duane Allman stopped by to add his slide guitar to four of the cuts on the album, but not, sadly, on “My Time After A While.” That’s Eddie Hinton playing that sweet lead part.

“Precious Time” comes from my favorite album by one of my favorite unknown performers. Well, Darden Smith isn’t entirely unknown; he sells enough CD to be able to keep recording. But as I noted when I posted one of his songs as a Saturday Single in February, if there were any justice in the world, Darden Smith would be a household name. The song sounds as if it’s written about a military draft: “They’re calling up numbers now,” and “How many men and boys will it take to win?” That was odd enough for something written in the 1990s, but it’s chilling now. No, there’s not a military draft right now, but, well, I won’t be surprised if there is one soon.

Heroes Are Hard To Find is a Fleetwood Mac album that I don’t know very well. The Mac was in a transitional state in 1974, just about finishing its shift from a blues band to the powerhouse of smooth California rock it became when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined up. “Bermuda Triangle,” melodically and thematically, sounds an awful lot like “Hypnotized” off the Mystery to Me album from the year before.