Posts Tagged ‘Mott the Hoople’

Play Ball!

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 13, 2009

It’s a busy day today, but it’s for a good reason.

Tomorrow, my long-time pals Rick, Rob and Dan come into St. Cloud for our fourth annual Strat-O-Matic baseball tournament. From mid-morning to early evening, we’ll laugh, tell stories, listen to a wide variety of tunes and play a little tabletop baseball along the way.

Once again, Rob is the defending champion. In last year’s tournament, his two-time champ, the 1922 St. Louis Browns, were knocked off in the first round. But he took his second team – the 1995 Colorado Rockies – to the title with a remarkable combination of lots of offense, some good bullpen management and lots of luck. (Even he acknowledges that last part.)

So Rick, Dan and I will try to keep Rob from winning a fourth straight title. For those who are interested, here are the teams that are in this year’s tournament. (For those uninterested, you can skip to the next paragraph.)

Rob: The defending champion 1995 Rockies and the 1922 New York Giants
Rick: The 1976 Phillies and the 1990 Athletics
Dan: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1927 New York Yankees
Me: The 1948 Indians and the 1961 Cincinnati Reds

Whatever happens, the day of the annual tournament is one of the best days of the year for me, a chance to share my home and some very good times with my long-time friends. The Texas Gal puts up with the noise and the disruption with an amazing amount of grace. I imagine that our two annual tournaments (baseball in the autumn and hockey in spring) leave her feeling as if she’s the housemother in a fraternity house for graying sophomores.

Each spring and fall, as we plan our menu and the required grocery and liquor store trips, she’ll remind me of something and say, “That’s for the Saturday the boys are here, so make sure we have enough.”

We’ll have plenty of everything we need tomorrow, when the boys are back in town.

A Six-Pack of Boys
“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy from Jailbreak [1976]
“Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Station from Yeah! [1973]
“Boys in the Band” by Mountain from Climbing! [1970]
“The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley from Building the Perfect Beast [1984]
“One of the Boys” by Mott the Hoople from All The Young Dudes [1972]
“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic from The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys [1971

The most anthemic of these is the Thin Lizzy track (though Don Henley comes close). With its almost relentless guitar riffs, “The Boys Are Back In Town” dares you not to tap your feet or bob your head or pound out a rhythm on the steering wheel. And if you’re in the car, there’s no way you’re not going to turn the radio up all the way. The single was Thin Lizzy’s only hit, peaking at No. 12 during the summer of 1976. Oh, and that line about “drivin’ all the old men crazy”? It’s a little disquieting to realize that if I were anyone in the song these days, I’d be one of those old men.

I always thought Brownsville Station’s “Smoking in the Boys’ Room” was kind of a silly song, but then, it came along a little bit after I left high school and before there were hardly any anti-smoking regulations came to our college campus: Smoking was definitely allowed in school. But it moves along nicely, boogies a little bit, and it does have a hell of a hook. The single went to No. 3 during the winter of 1973-74.

Mountain’s “Boys in the Band” is a subtle track, almost delicate at moments, that seems to belie the band’s reputation for guitar excess. But the elegiac tone fits perfectly for a song that has its protagonist saying goodbye to his band and life on the road:

We play tunes today
Leaving memory of yesterday.
All the circles widen getting in the sun,
All the seasons spinning all the days one by one

The title of Don Henley’s album, Building the Perfect Beast, fits, because Henley darn near built the perfect pop song in “The Boys of Summer.” Backed on that track by a stellar quartet – Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers, Steve Porcaro of Toto, studio pro Danny Kortchmar and bassist Larry Klein – Henley melds haunting music and literate and thoughtful lyrics into a cohesive whole. And you can tap your feet to it, too. (Or pound on the steering wheel, if you’re driving behind that Cadillac with the Grateful Dead sticker on it.) The single went to No. 5 during its fourteen weeks on in the Top 40 as 1984 turned into 1985.

Hey kids! Hear that odd sound at the beginning of Mott the Hoople’s “One of the Boys”? When we old farts talk about dialing a telephone, that’s what it sounded like. That’s an honest-to-god dial telephone. There are other positives to the song, too, of course: It’s a crunchy piece of rock, with its chords shimmering in the glam persona of Ian Hunter and his band, and it’s another opportunity to bruise your hands on the steering wheel.

On a Saturday sometime around 1975, I was sitting in the basement rec room, reading and listening to Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. I’d borrowed the album from someone – maybe Rick – and was trying to decide if I should shell out some of my own coin for my own copy. I liked what I heard and was thinking about heading downtown later in the day to buy the record. As the languid title track played, I heard the door at the top of the basement stairs open and I recognized my dad’s tread. Steve Winwood sang:

If you had just a minute to breath
And they granted you one final wish . . .

My dad, coming into the room, sang, “Would you wish for fish?”

And from that moment on, every time I’ve heard the song, I remember my dad being silly. I miss him.

Just Some Stuff

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 21, 2009

Some this and that for a Friday morning:

After I wrote about Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut album and its song “Wooden Ships” the other day, frequent commenter Robert noted that I hadn’t answered my own question of how well the album held together as a unit these days.

Well, I did say that the album “still ranks pretty high on my all-time list,” but maybe I should have said more than that. It holds together well, with a laid-back vibe that was echoed, I think, by a lot of the work being done by the musicians who were part of the Lauren Canyon scene in the last years of the 1960s. (That vibe, in my view, laid down a framework for at least one generation of California rock that may have found its most clear expression, if not its peak, with the mid-1970s work of Fleetwood Mac.)

But beyond providing a template for future work, how does Crosby, Stills & Nash work today? I still think it’s one of the great albums, setting out a view of how life felt – at least for a portion of American youth – as the end of the 1960s was coming into view. Beyond the allegories of “Wooden Ships” and “Guinnevere” and the grief/hope duality of “Long Time Gone” (all three of which, interestingly enough, were written or co-written by David Crosby), the songs on Crosby, Stills & Nash are mostly concerned with the personal, not the political. The fences that need mending in “49 Bye-Byes” are on the singer’s own back porch. And, with one exception, the songs – including the three Crosby-penned songs mentioned above – work with each other and fit well against each other. My only quibble, forty years down the road, is the travelogue of “Marrakesh Express,” which doesn’t seem to match the quality or the themes of the other songs.

When one tries to listen with fresh ears, there’s always the chance that something that seemed excellent thirty or forty years ago will seem much less than that now. I’ve had that happen with other albums. But not with this one.

The Texas Gal pointed me to a fascinating website this week that has nothing to do with music. The operator of Forgotten Bookmarks explains:

“I work at a used and rare bookstore, and I buy books from people everyday. These are the personal, funny, heartbreaking and weird things I find in those books.”

The bookmarks he or she finds – I can’t find a name on the blog and so have no idea of the gender of the blogger – are pieces of paper with notes on them, old photographs, tickets to events, postcards, actual bookmarks, even – in one case I saw – a letter ending a romance, and on and on. The blogger posts pictures of each bookmark and the book in which it was found, and transcribes any notes or writing from the bookmark. In some cases, the blogger provides some context, as in identifying more completely a politician whose campaign advertisement ended up in a book.

I found it a fascinating site, but then, I like to look at old photos in antique shops, wondering “Who are these people and what were their stories?” I get the same sense at Forgotten Bookmarks, a sense of random bits of life coming to the surface, the mundane becoming mysterious.

[Note from 2022: The website, though still on line, seems to have quit posting new material in September 2020. Note added May 15, 2022.]

I got a note from Blogger yesterday. There was a complaint about one of the songs I shared in my Vinyl Record Day post about my LP log, and the post was removed. I imagine anyone who wanted to read it has already done so, but just to get the post into the blog archives, I’m going to repost it Sunday, without linking to the twelve songs.

I thought about looking at the Billboard Hot 100 for this week in 1970 for today’s music, but I wanted to get the three items above into the blog, so I decided on something else instead. As happens to many folks, I’m certain, every so often I’ll realize that a song is running through my head for no apparent reason. I haven’t heard it on the radio, haven’t looked at the record jacket or the CD case, and haven’t read its title somewhere; it just popped up. When one of those stealth earworms – as I call them – popped up the other week, I jotted the title down, and I continue to do so as they show up. I haven’t caught them all over the past two weeks, but here’s a little bit of what I’ve been hearing in my head lately. (And no, there have been no voices telling me to do things.)

A Six-Pack Running Through My Head
“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists 431 [1962]
“All the Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople from All the Young Dudes [1972]
“Hallelujah” by the Clique from The Clique [1969]
“It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” by Jim Croce from Life and Times [1973]
“Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara from Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me [1970]
“Buckets of Rain” by Bette Midler with Bob Dylan from Songs For the New Depression [1976]

The version of “Smile” I heard in my head wasn’t necessarily Ferrante & Teicher’s version, but that’s the best one I happen to have available. The song was written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film, Modern Times. Ferrante and Teicher recorded it in December 1961; in early 1962, the single went to No. 18 on the Easy Listening chart and to No. 91 on the pop chart.

“All the Young Dudes,” written and produced by David Bowie, gave the British glitter-rocking Mott the Hoople its only Top 40 hit. The single – which may have been different than the album version offered here – went to No. 37 in late 1972. In the U.K., the single went to No. 3.

The Clique had recorded and released a number of singles (“Sugar on Sunday” went to No. 22 in the autumn of 1969) before the time came to put an album together, but All-Music Guide notes that the only member of the group to actually be on the album was singer Randy Shaw; producer Gary Zekley brought in studio musicians for everything else. The most interesting track on the album to me is “Hallelujah,” which AMG reviewer Stewart Mason dismisses as a “blatant Blood, Sweat & Tears rip-off.” That’s an apt comparison, I guess, especially as concerns the lead vocal, but the song gets my attention as the source for Sweathog’s 1971 cover, which went to No. 33. (Another cover of the song, which I’ve also posted here in the past, came from Chi Coltrane in 1973.)

Life and Times was Jim Croce’s second major label album, coming out on ABC in January 1973. “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” is the album’s closer, a December-themed song about wanting to give things another try. I’m not sure why the song popped into my head the other day; the earworm was more understandable in December 1974, shortly after I got the album, when I was headed to have a cup of coffee and conversation with a young woman I’d once known well. As it turned out, it did have to be that way, but I still like the song anyway.

The Robin McNamara track is the title track of what seems to be his only album. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” was released as a single on Steed, the label owned by legendary songwriter and producer Jeff Barry, who co-wrote the song with McNamara and Jim Cretecos. The single went to No. 11 during the summer of 1970 and was the only hit for McNamara, who was a member of the original cast of the musical Hair. (His fellow cast members helped out, says AMG, evidently providing backing vocals.)

I imagine that the version of “Buckets of Rain” that ran through my head was based on the original, from Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. But I recently came across Midler’s version of the song, after looking for it sporadically for a few years – my thanks to Willard at Never Get Out Of The Boat – and its rarity seemed to make it a good choice for this slot. As is most often the case when Mr. Dylan shows up to sing along, it’s very apparent he’s in the room.

A Room That Feels Like Mine

August 24, 2011

Originally posted October 13, 2008

Not many days after we got all the furniture settled in the house, as I sat puttering idly at the computer and keeping half an eye on a football game – it must have been a Saturday – I began to hear repeated thumps and bangs coming from the loft. As the noise began, Clarence and Oscar fled down the stairs from the loft as rapidly as cat legs could carry them.

I left the study and went up to investigate: I found the Texas Gal wielding a hammer, attempting to put nails and hangers into the sturdy wallboard that lines the loft. Success was hard to come by. I asked if she needed help, and she declined. By the end of the afternoon, she had on the walls of the loft the things she felt most important to hang, some functional, some purely decorative. Among the decorative items were the Texas license plates she removed from her car when she first registered it in Minnesota.

I returned to my study and looked at the walls, still empty, and looked at the wide range of items waiting to find their places on the walls. Still not certain where they should all go – I tend to be a bit glacial about such decisions, a fact that sometimes perturbs the Texas Gal – I settled back into my chair and resumed my puttering and game-watching.

Last Saturday, I was finally ready. I’d gotten weary of moving framed things around whenever I wanted to pull a record from the stacks or a book from the shelves. The Texas Gal was away, heading with a friend to the city of Mankato – about a hundred and thirty miles away – on a quest for quilt and scrapbook shops. So after watching the University of Minnesota’s Golden Gophers win a football game at Illinois, I got out my hammer and some hangers and nails.

An hour later, I sat in my chair and surveyed the room. To the left of the north window was my framed poster of the cover to the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. In the small space above the window: a plaque given me twenty-some years ago by the National Newspaper Association for feature writing.

From the window, heading to the corner, we find: The picture of my dad and his 1952 Ford; and a framed collection of pictures from 2002-2003, a chronicle of our move to St. Cloud and our first year here put together for me by the Texas Gal (one of those pictures is the last taken of me and my dad together, quite possibly the last picture he was ever in).

On the east wall are a cartoon poster of St. Cloud; a clock with its numbers ringing a drawing of an anonymous early 20th century baseball player; and a framed replica of the February 5, 1959, front page of the Clear Lake (Iowa) Mirror-Reporter, on which the lead story is the deaths in a plane crash two days earlier of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, the Big Boppper and pilot Roger Peterson.

Above a bookcase is an autographed picture of baseball player Joe Morgan, from the time he was with the Cincinnati Reds; and, above the door, a large replica of a Carlsberg HOF Pilsner bottle cap, a fixture that I brought home from Denmark thirty-five years ago, one that has had a place on the wall everywhere I have lived since.

I was pleased. Sixty minutes of work had turned the room from a place where I spent a lot of time into a room that felt like mine. A few things that I’ve had on the walls in other places will be packed away, and I’m not certain where the map of Middle Earth will go when its frame has been repaired. But it will find a place, as it has ever since my dad framed it for me in 1972.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1972, Vol. 4
“Dinah Flo” by Boz Scaggs, Columbia 45670 (No. 88 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of October 7, 1972)

“Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins, People 608 (No. 66)

“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Philadelphia International 3520 (No. 61)

“All The Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople, Columbia 45673 (No. 60)

“Easy Livin’” by Uriah Heep, Mercury 73307 (No. 49)

“I’ll Be Around” by the Spinners, Atlantic 2904 (No. 40)

“Midnight Rider” by Joe Cocker & the Chris Stainton Band, A&M 1370 (No. 36)

“Starting All Over Again” by Mel & Tim, Stax 0127 (No. 25)

“Beautiful Sunday” by Daniel Boone, Mercury 73281 (No. 22)

“Garden Party” by Rick Nelson & the Stone Canyon Band, Decca 32980 (No. 15)

“Popcorn” by Hot Butter, Musicor 1458 (No. 10)

“Everybody Plays The Fool” by the Main Ingredient, RCA Victor 0731 (No. 4)

“Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” by Mac Davis, Columbia 45618 (No. 1)

A few notes:

The funkiest thing here, without a doubt, is Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It),” which was produced by James Brown. Collins sang background on many of Brown’s recordings and was for a time in the 1970s a member of Brown’s traveling band. People Records was Brown’s label, evidently an offshoot of Polydor.

There are four other superb soul/r&b singles on this list, making it better than I thought it would be when I first dug the week’s Hot 100 out of the files. The singles by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, the Spinners and the Main Ingredient are smooth and still go down so easy, even after more than thirty-five years. All of them, oddly, peaked at No. 3. The Mel & Tim single starts with a conversation between the two singers before sliding into another smooth groove. I’m not sure the conversation works; it’s a short recording anyway, and I generally conclude that I’d rather have more singing and less talk from Mel & Tim.

Mott the Hoople and Uriah Heep, two British groups, had far more success on the Billboard albums chart than on the Hot 100. (Uriah Heep got five albums into the Top 40 between 1972 and 1974; Mott the Hoople had three albums in the Top 40 between 1973 and 1975.) The tracks here, “All the Young Dudes” and “Easy Livin’,” were the two groups’ only Top 40 hits, with “Dudes” (produced by David Bowie) peaking at No. 37 and “Easy Livin’” getting only to No. 39. Still both fun, though.

Joe Cocker’s version of Gregg Allman’s “Midnight Rider” starts a little sluggishly but when it kicks in, it cooks pretty well. In fact, there might be too much going on, what with the horns and the gospel chorus. I don’t know who produced the record, as the album from which it came, 1972’s Joe Cocker, is one I don’t have. I may have to remedy that although I seem to recall the album getting pretty spotty reviews when it came out.

I think Mac Davis told the tale behind his No. 1 hit on every talk show on television in 1972: His publisher or producer or manager (I don’t recall which it was, and it doesn’t really matter) told him that, in order to be a hit, a song had to have a hook. So he wrote “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me,” which stayed at No. 1 for three weeks in the autumn of 1972.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1973

April 21, 2011

Originally posted May 23, 2007

Well, with today’s Baker’s Dozen, we plug a hole in the trail of years that’s been sitting there for a while. We’ve been back as far as 1967 and forward as far as 1979. (We’ll head further yet in either direction, and I imagine we’ll also begin repeating some years; there are plenty of tunes yet to hear.) The entire time, however, I was aware that I hadn’t touched on one of my favorite years: 1973.

Looking back, some years just stand out, poking their heads high above the others in the field of memory. For me, one of the tallest years in that field is 1973. It started during my second year of college, an academic year in which I began to find myself academically, to understand how to study and how to learn in college, skills that, quite honestly, I’d not needed to be able to succeed in high school. Along about the same time, I began to find friends, kindred spirits gathered around a long table at the student union. And I began to prepare myself for an academic year overseas, my junior year in Fredericia, Denmark, beginning that autumn.

My going to Denmark was almost an accident. A friend had seen an announcement in the college newspaper about an informational meeting concerning the planned year in Denmark. She had a commitment that evening and asked me to go and take notes. I went to the meeting and went to Denmark; she didn’t. I say “almost an accident” because there really are no accidents in our lives. We end up where we are supposed to end up, no matter how crooked the path may have been.

I’d never been away from home before, and I spent many nighttime hours that spring and summer sitting at the window of my room, looking out at the empty intersection below, wondering what I would find. And I was still wondering on the eve of my twentieth birthday as I walked away from Rick and my family and boarded a Finnair jet for Copenhagen with more than a hundred others from St. Cloud State.

So what did I find? Well, that’s a book in itself. In fact, one of the projects that captivates me these days is based on my journal of that academic year. I’m transcribing the daily entries and then writing anything else I recall about the day, and much more happened than I wrote down, both small events and large. (I have many of the letters that I wrote home to my family, and those, too, will become part of the project.) As clichéd as it sounds, I began to find myself, began to figure out how I fit into my skin and how I fit into the universe. And as I learned those things, I changed.

We’re all in the process of changing, in tiny increments from day to day. It’s not often any of us get a chance to assess in one moment the change that has accumulated over a longer period of time. So it turned out that one of the most fascinating moments of the entire eight-and-a-half months I was gone took place at the very end, in May 1974, the day I came home. Back in St. Cloud, looking forward to a home-cooked steak dinner (I don’t believe I’d had a beef steak during the entire time I was gone; horse, yes, I think, but no beef), I lugged my two suitcases upstairs, heading to my room.

I stopped in the doorway. There, on the door and the closet door, were my NFL pennants. The walls were decorated with Sports Illustrated covers featuring the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota North Stars and with sports logos of my own design, for teams that existed only in my imagination. And above the bulletin board, in a place of honor, was a large picture of Secretariat blowing the field away in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

I stared at the room, mine for seventeen years. And the thought that came to mind as I set the suitcases down in the doorway, looking at the things that had been so dear to me less than a year earlier, was “That kid didn’t come home.”

And here are some songs from the year that kid left:

“Prairie Lullaby” by Michael Nesmith from Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash

“All The Way From Memphis” by Mott the Hoople from Mott

“Your Turn To Cry” by Bettye LaVette from Child of the Seventies

“Six O’Clock” by Ringo Starr from Ringo

“Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings from Band on the Run

“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder from Innervisions

“California On My Mind” by Tony Joe White from Home Made Ice Cream

“We Are People” by Oasis from Oasis

“The Wall Song” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby

“Better Find Jesus” by Mason Proffit from Rockfish Crossing

“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road, Kama Sutra single 569

“Junkman” by Danny O’Keefe from Breezy Stories

“The Hard Way Every Time” by Jim Croce from I Got A Name

Some notes about some of the songs:

“Prairie Lullaby” was the closer to Mike Nesmith’s Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash, a stellar country-rock album that’s largely forgotten these days. Nesmith, of course, was one of the Monkees, no doubt the most talented of the four, and the country-rock tone of this 1973 record fits in nicely with most of the work he did after leaving the TV-inspired group.

“All The Way From Memphis” was the crunchy and soaring opener to Mott, Mott the Hoople’s follow-up to All The Young Dudes the year before. As All-Music Guide notes, glam never sounded as much like rock as it did on Mott.

The juxtaposition of two songs by ex-Beatles amused me. The albums they came from, arguably two of the three or four best post-breakup albums by any of the Beatles, were released in December. “Six O’Clock,” from Ringo’s best solo album, was written by McCartney, who plays piano and synthesizer on the song – and adds backing vocals with his wife, Linda – while long-time Beatle pal Klaus Voorman plays bass.

The Oasis of “We Are People” is a one-shot project by Detroit-area musicians Joel Siegel and Sherry Fox, who – along with Richard Hovey – went to San Francisco and managed to talk their ways into the studio where David Crosby was recording his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. Stunned and intrigued by the trio’s music, the amused Crosby helped the trio land a contract with Atlantic, but the resulting album never got released. Siegel and Fox recorded Oasis in 1973, but that went nowhere, if it even was released. I’m not certain, as one has to read between the lines in the various accounts of the trio’s experiences. (The trio’s entire output – the Atlantic album, Oasis and various other projects, were finally released in 1993 on Retrospective Dreams, a two-CD set that was, for some reason, limited to only a thousand copies.)

Danny O’Keefe is better known for his 1972 hit “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” but his Breezy Stories album benefited from assistance from such luminaries as Dr. John, Donny Hathaway, David Bromberg and Cissy Houston, to name the best-known. It was a pretty good piece of pop rock/singer-songwriter work, pretty representative of its time.