Posts Tagged ‘Neil Diamond’

Spring ’68: School Bus Serenade

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 6, 2009

On a cool, rainy day in the spring of 1968, the fifty or so students in the two ninth-grade biology classes from St. Cloud’s South Junior High scrambled onto a bus. Joined by a few teachers – I’ve never for one moment envied teachers who have to supervise field trips – we headed out of St. Cloud.

I’m no longer entirely clear on our destinations that day. I think we drove through the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, parts of which are about thirty miles from St. Cloud. I recall getting out of the bus every now and then to look at trees and underbrush and look for evidence of small animals. We had a picnic lunch, if my memory is right, served by class moms in the yard of a classmate’s farm home. And we visited a tree farm near the end of the day.

It was at the tree farm that someone took pictures of the group, which was large enough that it took three shots to get us all. The photographer overlapped the three shots, so if one wanted to, one could overlap the three prints and have a wide-screen image, as it were, showing all of us at once. (These days, that could be done with digital tools and only a little bit of effort. Forty-one years ago, it would have required a bit of darkroom legerdemain.) The best thing I remember about the picture, though, was that one of our teachers, Mr. Lemke, hoisted one of the girls, Patty, onto his shoulders for the picture. They stood at the back of the group on the left, and when the photographer had finished with that side of the group, Mr. Lemke walked behind the group and stood with Patty on his shoulders on the right side of the group. That bit of mischief allowed Mr. Lemke and Patty to seemingly be in two places at once.

On the way back to St. Cloud, one of our classmates astounded all of us by sliding his arm around the girl he’d evidently been dating for a while. Back then, at the ages of fourteen and fifteen, that was an amazingly bold public display of affection. The girls sitting around the couple spent the last five or so minutes of the ride back to school serenading the two of them and the rest of us with a lively version of “Somebody To Love,” the Jefferson Airplane hit from the year before.

The girls might have been singing just because there was no radio playing, but I don’t think so. Had there been a radio on the bus, though, here’s some of what we might have heard.

A Six-Pack From the Charts (Billboard Hot 100, May 4, 1968)
“Sweet Inspiration” by the Sweet Inspirations, Atlantic 2476 (No. 18)
“Soul Serenade” by Willie Mitchell, Hi 2140 (No. 30)
“I Will Always Think About You” by the New Colony Six, Mercury 72775 (No. 44)
“I’m Sorry” by the Delfonics, Philly Groove 151 (No. 77)
“I Love You” by People, Capitol 2708 (No. 85)
“Brooklyn Roads” by Neil Diamond, Uni 55065 (No. 124)

Even though they recorded a series of solid soul/R&B albums on their own – seven between 1967 and 1979 for the CCM, Atlantic, Stax and RSO labels – the Sweet Inspirations were likely better known as one of the top groups of background vocalists in the mid- to late 1960s. According to All-Music Guide: “The group evolved from the ’50s gospel group the Drinkard Singers. At various points soul singers Doris Troy, Judy Clay, Dionne Warwick, and sister Dee Dee Warwick were members. By the time they began to record on their own in 1967, their leader was Cissy Houston (mother of Whitney), and the women were renamed the Sweet Inspirations.” Singing along with Houston on “Sweet Inspiration” – taken from the group’s first album – are Estelle Brown, Sylvia Shemwell and Myrna Smith. This week marked the record’s peak position, No. 18, nine weeks after the record first entered the Hot 100. Over the next three weeks, the record would slide to No. 32 and then drop out of the Hot 100 entirely. “Sweet Inspiration” would be the group’s only Top 40 hit.

“Soul Serenade,” which peaked at No. 23 the week after this chart came out, was Willie Mitchell’s second Top 40 hit; “20-75” had gone to No. 31 in 1964. Mitchell’s finest time was still to come, as he spent the last years of the 1960s building a stable of performers, the greatest of whom was Al Green, and refining a sound as recognizable as any in pop music. That Hi Sound, behind O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay and especially Al Green, became an inescapable part of the soundtrack of the Seventies.

The New Colony Six was a soft-rock sextet from Chicago that had two Top 40 hits in 1968 and 1969. “I Will Always Think About You” peaked at No. 22 in the first week of June 1968, and “Things I’d Like To Say” went to No. 16 not quite a year later. The group, as a couple of college friends always told me, was much more popular in its home territory: “I Will Always Think About You” was No. 1 at Chicago’s WLS for one week in March of 1968 and ranked No. 31 in the station’s ranking of the year’s top singles.

“I’m Sorry” was the immediate follow-up to the Delfonics’ “La-La- (Means I Love You),” which had gone to No. 4 and was ranked at No. 26 when “I’m Sorry” entered the Hot 100. It strikes me that issuing a follow-up single – even a single as good as “I’m Sorry” – while the group’s first single is still ranked that highly is being a little hasty. Maybe not; I’ve never been an A&R guy. At any rate, “I’m Sorry” didn’t have the impact “La-La” did: It got as high as No. 42, where it stayed for three weeks before tumbling out of the Hot 100. The Delfonics would reach the Top 40 three more times in 1968 and 1969 before getting back to the Top 10 in 1970 with the luminous “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).”

“I Love You” was the second Capitol single by People, a sextet from San Jose, California. According to the notes to the four-CD set Love Is The Song We Sing, after the group’s first single went nowhere, “the band took an obscure Zombies flipside and smothered it in Vanilla Fudge.” The single – one of my favorites from that era – went to No. 14 in June 1968 and was the group’s only Top 40 single.

Here’s what Neil Diamond says about “Brooklyn Roads” in the notes to his In My Lifetime box set: “I had just signed with MCA Records and wanted to stretch my creative wings. This is the most literal and personal story I had written up to that point. ‘Brooklyn Roads’ told of my youth and my aspirations. I loved the freedom of being able to write something without the charts in mind.” A week after “bubbling under” at No. 124, “Brooklyn Roads” slid into the Hot 100, eventually making it to No. 58.

A Memory From The Sledding Hill

November 9, 2011

Originally posted January 2, 2009

There are, as I’ve discussed before, many songs that take me back to a specific time and place, or remind me of a specific person, or both. That’s true, I’d guess, for anyone who loves music: some records trigger memories. Among such recordings for me are Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them,” which sets me down in the lounge of a youth hostel in Denmark; Orleans’ “Dance With Me,” which puts me in the 1975 version of Atwood Center at St. Cloud State; and Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” which tugs me back to my duplex in Minot, North Dakota, on a winter’s night.

There are, I’m certain, hundreds of such songs, and every once in a while, one of them pops up on the radio, the stereo or the RealPlayer and triggers one of those long-ago association for a moment or two. Sometimes, those associations are a little puzzling, as was the case when I was driving to the grocery store the other day.

I was listening, once again, to Kool 108 in the Twin Cities. The station, as it does every year, had played holiday music from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Even if one loves holiday music – and as I’ve noted here, I generally don’t – that’s way too much of a good thing. So I was hungry for oldies on the car radio this week, hungry enough that I even listened to “Help Me, Rhonda” all the way through instead of pushing the button for another station. And I’m glad I hung in there with the Beach Boys, for the following song took me back:

It was early 1970, and Rick and I were at the sledding hill at Riverside Park, no more than a mile from our homes. We had a couple of new saucer sleds and were testing them out on the long hill, enjoying the times we wiped out as much as we enjoyed those times we made it upright to the bottom of the hill. It was a cloudy Sunday, and the light that penetrated the cloud cover was fading; evening was approaching as we hauled ourselves up the hill for the last time that day. And as we got to the top of the hill, from somewhere came the sound of a radio for just a few seconds: Neil Diamond’s “Holly Holy.”

I’m not sure where the sound came from. In the parking lot at the top of the hill, a car with its radio on might have had a door open for just a moment, perhaps to admit tired sledders about to head home. That seems likely. But however it happened, we both heard the song as we went up the hill. “Good song,” I said. It was okay, said Rick, not one of his favorites.

And almost thirty-nine years later, as I drove to the store, the strains of “Holly Holy” put me back there again: On that long hill in Riverside Park, cheeks red, glasses splashed with snowflakes, feet cold inside my boots, taking the first steps on the way to home and hot chocolate.

A Six-Pack from January 1970
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond (Uni 55175, No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 of January 3, 1970)

“Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games With Me” by Crow (Amaret 112, No. 22)

“Let’s Work Together” by Wilbert Harrison (Sue 11, No. 50)

“I’ll Hold Out My Hand” by the Clique (White Whale 333, No. 60)

“Jennifer Tomkins” (sic) by the Street People (Musicor 1365, No. 87)

“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by the Delfonics, (Philly Groove 161, No. 122)

A few notes:

“Holly Holy” had just peaked the week before at No. 6, Diamond’s fourth Top Ten hit. I think “Holly Holy” tends to get lost among Diamond’s other hits of the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially falling into the shadow of “Sweet Caroline,” which had gone to No. 4 in the summer and autumn of 1969. But it’s one of my favorites; beyond the memories it spurs, it has a good melody and a great, haunting hook. And the slightly cryptic words sustain the haunted mood.

As I understand it, the Twin Cities group Crow was unhappy with its hit, which had peaked at No. 19. The group’s sound was much more straight-ahead guitar rock, not the horn-band sound one would assume from the single. Lore has it that the group was plenty annoyed with the folks at Amaret for adding the horns to the record. That may be, but I like the single.

Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” was an edit of a longer version that showed up on his 1969 album of the same name. For some reason, the Hot 100 didn’t identify the charting single as Part 1 (Part 2 was on the B-Side), but it’s listed that way in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. The single – the second Top 40 hit in Harrison’s career (“Kansas City” went to No. 1 in 1959) – went to No. 32. Canned Heat’s cover of “Let’s Work Together” went to No. 26 later in 1970.

“I’ll Hold Out My Hand” was one of the Clique’s follow-ups to “Sugar On Sunday,” which had reached No. 22 in 1969. “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” peaked at No. 45 in late December 1969 and then began to slide, leaving the Texas group a one-hit wonder. More interesting to me than either of those records was the group’s version of “Hallelujah,” the song that Sweathog beefed up and took into the charts in 1971. I’ll try to remember to post that sometime soon.

“Jennifer Tomkins” (the title was misspelled “Jennifer Tompkins” in the Hot 100, at least in the online copy I have) edged into the lower levels of the Top 40 in the last half of February 1970, peaking at No. 36. It was only hit for the Street People, which was a studio group that featured Rupert Holmes, who reached the Top 40 with three singles in 1979-80; the best known of those is likely “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” “Jennifer Tomkins” is a pretty slight record, but there’s something about the chorus – “I swear, just ain’t fair. Trouble, trouble everywhere. Oh, Lord, come on down. Got to spread some love around” – that I find sweetly appealing.

The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” had a long climb ahead. From No. 122 (“Bubbling Under The Hot 100,” as it says), the record made its way to No. 10, the second Top Ten hit for the Philly trio. (“La – La – Means I Love You” had gone to No. 4 in 1968.) The record was one of the most luscious confections put together by Thom Bell – Stan Watson was his co-producer – in a long, long career.

A Baker’s Dozen of caithiseach’s Favorites

August 3, 2011

Originally posted August 24, 2008

(Our guest poster today is caithiseach, who generally hangs his hat at The Great Vinyl Meltdown.)

It must have been the frozen custard cake. We were eating it when whiteray asked me what my favorite single was. I thought for far too long, then I gave him an answer. A day later, with the custard still in his system, he invited me to guest-blog this Baker’s Dozen of my favorite singles. I could not pass up the opportunity to write in this blog, the first music blog I ever read, and the inspiration for my own blog, which deals with quirky old 45s I collected when I was a kid.

Today I have been set a different task: to write about songs that you probably know. I had made my job somewhat easier by adding a marker to the digital filenames of my favorite Hot 100 hits. So I sorted out the favorites, some 400 of them. Then, in order not to think too much or too long, I culled any song I thought might be one of my thirteen favorites. I may have missed some really good songs that I didn’t mark, and surely I am skipping some superb singles that I don’t own or have not digitized, but I used the Force and let it tell me what to do with the material at hand.

One thing I looked for was songs that truly were singles. Crisp story lines, nicely rounded finishes, no sense that the song was hacked out of a larger work, the way a Pink Floyd single would be. I see an artistry in a perfect single that matches the magic of an excellent short story. It’s satisfying in itself, not incomplete and co-dependent like a chapter in a novel. As Oliver Wendell Holmes might have said, I know a real single when I hear one.

By accident I pulled out exactly forty finalists, which suits my way of thinking about music – in terms of countdowns. When I was ten, I started counting down my ten favorite hits, playing them in my mind when I mowed the lawn each Saturday. That short music chart had as much fluidity as a Billboard chart, but it also had a consistency that reflected the amount of thought I put into it. I remember such momentous decisions as replacing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at No.1 with “The Love You Save.”

Today’s Top Thirteen doesn’t have a lot in common with my final lawn-mowing Top Ten, because I stopped mowing the family lawn around 1982, when I graduated from college. But several songs from that era slipped into the forty candidates for this Baker’s Dozen, and I’m pleased that I still like the songs I enjoyed in my teen years. It would be awful to have outgrown myself completely.

I also started doing the DJ countdown thing on my record player when I was about eight. With just one turntable, that made for a lot of chatter between songs. That’s what you’ll get here; I’m going to explain my choices, rather than give valuable information about the artists, as whiteray does. And I’ll go bottom to top, so here goes:

13. “Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond [Bang 578, 1970]

As much as I like other early Diamond hits, this song about betrayal and the response to it stuck with me as a clean discussion of the topic, with no self-pity to muck it up. The delicious Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich production, with the acoustic guitar accented by somber horns, meshed perfectly with the message.

12. “Shattered Glass” by Laura Branigan [Atlantic 89245, 1987]

This cut climbed only to No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100. What puts it here is ninety percent appreciation and ten percent desire to share a song you probably have never heard. I was rolling into Bloomington, Indiana after a very long drive, and I got stuck at a very long light at two a.m. This song, new to me then, came on the radio, and I cranked it to stay awake. My car was rocking on its springs already when Laura hit the climax notes of the chorus. The tsunami of sound left my brain unable to process all of the sound in real time. If you play this song loudly enough, her voice at that point will leave an impression on you that will never fade.

11. “No Matter What” by Badfinger [Apple 1822, 1970]

The story of Pete Ham and Tom Evans is tragic, and their band’s output was inconsistent, but they worked magic several times, most notably here. I am a sucker for songs that go silent abruptly and use a drumbeat to pull the music back in. I love the guitar work. I don’t tire of listening to Pete Ham singing. It’s a song about hanging in there. I wish people had hounded these two guys less relentlessly.

10. “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” by the 4 Seasons [Warner/Curb 8168, 1976]

Three of my forty finalists were on the same chart in March-April 1976, and two of them are in the final thirteen. This song’s bass line has whiteray’s blessing as perhaps the best bass line ever, and that is what drew me to the song in the first place. An amazing piano part carries the song into the second vocal phrase, where the bass kicks in, and Gerri Polci’s turn as lead vocalist gives welcome respite from Frankie Valli. Apart from the message that not learning a lover’s name is an okay thing, the song chronicles a wondrous event without getting tacky. And you should fiddle with your graphic equalizer and isolate that bass line. Mmmmm.

9. “Lucky Lips” by Ruth Brown [Atlantic 1125, 1957]

The year of 1957 was very good for me, musically. I wasn’t born yet, but Pérez Prado recorded “Why Wait” then (had it been an A side, it would be No. 2 here), and Ruth Brown gave us this bright shuffle that rolls along like a diesel engine with a hundred cars behind it. Any song that starts with a long, growly sax note gets my vote, and this one boasts the “No Matter What” silence as well. It would be a good song with anyone else singing it, but no one could put joy into a vocal the way Ruth Brown did.

8. “No One Is to Blame” by Howard Jones [Elektra 69549, 1986]

Almost an answer to No. 4 below, now that I think about it, I found this song heartbreaking at a time when I was heartbroken. Singing about the unattainable, Jones doesn’t get all of the words right, says I, but the melody, his soulful delivery, the percussion – it works for me in inexplicable ways.

7. “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies [Calendar 1008, 1969]

We’re getting to writhe-on-the-floor-in-ecstasy territory now, at least in the case of the upbeat songs. I blogged about this song, which was my one source of joy in 1969, a year that beat me to a pulp. I admire Jeff Barry beyond words, and if you forget the reasons why this song is so gentle, you’ll be able to appreciate the genius he injected into every beat.

6. “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones [London 910, 1969]

Charting simultaneously with “Sugar, Sugar,” this song gave my appreciation of music new range. Until then, I was too young for the Stones, but I figured them out here. The recurrent caithiseach theme of a horn section helps to reel me in, but I also love suspended fourths in any song, and the unified vision the guitars give to the subject matter round it all out. I always think about this being Brian Jones’ last work, and it tears me up.

5. “Misty” by Johnny Mathis [Columbia 41483, 1959]

The song is amazingly evocative poetry, and this arrangement, with artfully understated vocals, is the only version anyone needs to hear. Even so, I didn’t become familiar with “Misty” until 1984, when I waited table at the Raging Bull, a fine-dining establishment in Merrillville, Indiana, that provided music by pianist-singer Tony Liggins. He turned me on to the song, then I found the Mathis version on a Time-Life CD of 1959 hits. From there, the recording crept into my mind to the point that, after a bit of meditation, it wound up at No. 5 here.

4. “Diamonds and Rust” by Joan Baez [A&M 1737, 1975]

As much as I enjoy her singing tunes by The Band, and as much as I could enjoy her singing almost any song, Joan accomplished something here that almost defies description, so forgive me if I fail you: She should be as bitter as Alanis Morrissette in these lyrics, but she is so graceful with her condemnation of Dylan that she soars above the situation and avoids sounding like a bitch. Start there, and add a chord progression that is as memorable (and inspired) as what Hoagy Carmichael came up with for “Stardust.” But “Stardust” does not have the eerie, haunting resonance of this song, of course. I don’t know how she could use any major chords in this song, but she chose exactly the right ones, at the right moments. I would crawl to where she is to thank her for the song, if I thought I could get past her bodyguards.

3. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen [Elektra 45297, 1976]

I can explain this one. Freddie Mercury trusted his audience to be able to handle big words and big sounds. I enjoyed his work when he was alive, and I ache to have him back now that he’s gone. As a polar opposite to its fellow 1976 chart hit “December, 1963,” this song provided gravity without being maudlin or unlistenable in its pomposity. I think the song must have been a lot of fun to write and record, and I have always found it fun to listen to. My big problem with it came when my sister borrowed my single and scratched it in such a way that you could hear the entire song except for the gong, which is where it skipped. Thanks, Lisa.

2. “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA [Atlantic 3457, 1978]

In 1977-78, on Friday nights I watched Midnight Special. About two a.m., a truck would drop off Saturday newspapers for me to deliver. If I felt like it, I delivered the papers after the show rather than get up four hours later to do my job. Apart from almost getting shot once, it worked out fine. And one morning, I delivered my seventy-five papers with one song stuck in my head. Wolfman Jack had just played a string of ABBA promo clips, and he ended with their “new single,” which was three months away from its U.S. release. I had never heard an intro like the one to “Take a Chance on Me”: an a cappella female lead with male chant underpinning? Then the synth comes in, and finally the song explodes. A sweet message of at-some-point-to-be-requited love, the song is boundlessly cheery but not cloying. Another time, I was sitting in a disco in Salzburg, Austria, drinking expensive imported beer (Budweiser, their only beverage). The dance floor was empty. The DJ tossed on this song, the locals screamed, and before the chant started, there were a hundred couples grinding away. As they say, two hundred Austrians can’t be wrong.

1. “He’s a Rebel” by the Crystals [Philles 106, 1962]

The vocalists are actually Darlene Love and the Blossoms. Phil Spector needed a Crystals record, and they weren’t available, and a voice is just a musical instrument, right? Well, I don’t think so. Gene Pitney’s composition captured the tug-of-war between leather-clad surly teens and frightened parents, with a girl’s arms as the rope, as succinctly as could be done. The girl’s choice is clear, which makes the song scarier for “adults” and an anthem for teens who want to push the envelope. Spector recorded some of his other songs very well, but this one includes a wistful piano, hot horns, a tasteful sax solo – and Darlene Love. She appeals to me more than any other Spector girl singer, and she took control of this song to a degree the actual Crystals might not have attained. From the time I became well-aware of this song, around 1970, it has ranged from first to third on my list of favorites. It’s time I admitted to myself that I don’t think any juxtaposition of lyrics, melody, vocals and arrangement tops this one.

Thanks, whiteray, for giving me this chance to think about the concept, and for the space to publish it. Thanks to you for reading what I wrote.

Some of the other songs I considered were:

“Theme from A Summer Place” by Percy Faith

“What’s a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” by Timi Yuro

“Yakety Sax” by Boots Randolph

“Washington Square” by the Village Stompers

“Java” by Al Hirt

“Downtown” by Petula Clark

“Bus Stop” by the Hollies

“Brown-Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat

“Cecelia” by Simon & Garfunkel

“The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5

“Be My Baby” by Andy Kim

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon

“The World Is a Ghetto” by War

“ I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do” by ABBA

“ Just Between You and Me” by April Wine

“Rosanna” by Toto

“Hello” by Lionel Richie

“Cherry Bomb” by John Cougar Mellencamp

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966, Vol. 3

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 21, 2008

One of the joys of music blogging is the occasional discussion that rises up, either here or at other blogs I visit. One of the questions that almost always sparks discussion is an attempt to identify the perfect single. I’ve joined in that conversation at several blogs over the past eighteen months, and my candidate for the perfect pop-rock single is always the same: “Cherish” by the Association.

It’s got a gorgeous melody, wonderfully glistening production (by Curt Boettcher, if I’m not mistaken), and its lyric tells a tale of unrequited love accepted sadly and with grace, probably far more grace than almost any of us could muster when faced with the reality that our beloved will never stand next to us.

I came to know the song in the autumn of 1966, when it was No. 1 for three weeks. It was a record that could not be avoided, even by those who were not particularly enamored of pop and rock. I liked it even though I had no real understanding of its lyric. That came three years later during my junior year. The young lady was kind but made it very clear that her interests were not congruent with mine. The next time I heard “Cherish,” I understood it much better.

It’s one of those songs perfectly crafted to provide teen-age solace: While so many songs about love embraced can be tabbed by happy young couples as “their” song, “Cherish” is one of very few records that a loving yet solitary young person could hold as his own, with the substance and eloquence of the lyric providing both consolation and the awareness – maybe for the first time – that love unreturned is not love in vain.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1966, Vol. 3
“Cherish” by the Association, Valiant single 747

“Loving You Takes All Of My Time” by the Debonaires, Solid Hit single 102

“Can’t You See” by the Countdowns, N-Joy single 1015

“Hey Joe” by the Leaves, Mira single 222

“Sweet Wine” by Cream from Fresh Cream

“Must I Holler” by Jamo Thomas, Chess single 1971

“Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing” by Lou Rawls, Capitol single 5709

“At the River’s Edge” by the New Colony Six, Centaur single 1202

“Searching For My Love” by Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces, Checker single 1129

“Stanyan Street, Revisited” by Glenn Yarbrough from The Lonely Things

“Cherry, Cherry” by Neil Diamond, Bang single 528

“Happenings Times Ten Years Ago” by the Yardbirds, Epic single 10094

“Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds, GNP Crescendo single 372

A few notes:

The Debonaires – mistakenly listed as the “Debonairs” when “Loving You Takes All Of My Time” was originally released – were Joyce Vincent Wilson and Telma Hopkins, two Detroit-area cousins, and a few other people who, according to All-Music Guide, have never been identified. The group released a number of records on a number of Detroit-area labels in the early to mid-1960s, but never had a single reach the Top 40. Wilson and Hopkins ended up performing with Tony Orlando as Dawn, beginning with Dawn’s second hit, “Knock Three Times” in 1970.

The Leaves’ version of “Hey Joe” may not be the first recording of the song – the song’s lineage is one of those difficult to trace – but it was the first version to chart, reaching No. 31 during the summer of 1966.

The New Colony Six was from Chicago, a decent group that ended up putting two records into the Top 40: “I Will Always Think About You” in 1968 and “Things I’d Like To Say” in 1969. A college friend of mine was from the Windy City and took every opportunity he could during beer-fueled evenings in Denmark to let us know how good the New Colony Six was.

I’ve written here a few times about my affection for two of Glenn Yarbrough’s mid-1960s albums: For Emily Whenever I May Find Her and The Lonely Things. I acquired the first of those on CD some time ago and found the latter online recently. “Stanyan Street, Revisited” is sentimental – with Rod McKuen providing the lyric, how could it not be? – and its production values are clearly more in line with traditional pop than with rock. But set aside irony and give it a listen.

This set ended up with some good garage-y sounds: the Countdowns, the Leaves, the post-Clapton Yardbirds and the Seeds. The Countdowns’ single didn’t chart, and – as noted above – “Hey Joe” went to No. 31. The Yardbirds’ single went to No. 30, and “Pushin’ Too Hard” reached No. 36.

Corrections and clarifications:
I got a note this morning from Patti Dahlstrom, who gently corrected a few errors in my piece on her fourth album, Livin’ It Thru, which I posted here a week ago. She wrote: “Though I did play piano on stage for a song or two, I never played on my records.” The keyboard parts on Livin’ It Thru, she said, came from Larry Knechtel, Michael Omartian, Craig Doerge and Jerry Peters. The credits listed at West Coast Music, which I used as a jumping-off point, are incorrect in listing Daryl Dragon as playing keyboards on the record; Patti said he arranged the background vocals.

She also answered two questions I had: First, the astounding harp solo on the track “Lookin’ For Love” was by Knechtel. And second, Jay Cooper, who was listed in the credits on the record jacket, is Patti’s attorney and has been since 1967, “a powerful man with great heart and integrity . . . quite an unusual combination.”

Edited slightly from original posting.

CCR, Neil Diamond & Bobby Sherman

June 15, 2011

Originally posted March 6, 2008

There’s an absurdity of riches on YouTube connected to yesterday’s post. Some Thursday mornings, I have to scramble to find something to post here, but today, I had to decide what not to present.

So I’m presenting three videos today, and even with that, it was hard to choose. But it’s a nice problem to have; leaving some behind means I have some backup, a surplus of material if I come to a Thursday when absolutely nothing is available that ties into recent posts.

First, from sometime in the early 1970s – the group disbanded in October 1972, according to the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits – here’s a concert performance of “Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The start is a bit abrupt, but that minor flaw is redeemed by the great performance and by the great shots of the audience chooglin’ to the music.

I looked for a video of the Hollies doing “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” but I found something that might be better. It’s Neil Diamond, who wrote the song, performing at a small venue.* Based on the haircut, it’s sometime around 1970, when the Hollies’ version went to No. 7 early in the year and Diamond’s version – from his album Tap Root Manuscript – went to No. 20 in the autumn. Neil gets a little melodramatic here, but it’s a pretty good performance.

And last, well, once I found a video of Bobby Sherman performing “Easy Come, Easy Go,” how could I resist? The video was obviously taken from one of the retrospectives on VH1, and there might be a clue somewhere as to its original source. But I’m not worried about it, as it’s too much fun! The classically horrible shirt, the hair, the ladies behind him who come to life only during the instrumental – this isn’t just cheese, it’s Gorgonzola! (A question for the women who were teens back then: Did anyone really think this guy was good-looking? Because I don’t see it. Enlighten me, please.)

*As readers quickly pointed out when this entry was first posted, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell, giving me another lesson in checking the fine print on LP jackets. Note added June 15, 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

Celebrating Vinyl At 2,906 And Counting!

May 4, 2011

Originally posted August 10, 2007

As mentioned here earlier, it’s time to celebrate Vinyl Record Day at Echoes In The Wind this weekend with a blogswarm. Organized by the DJ at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, the weekend swarm will feature posts here and at these other fine music blogs:

AM Then FM
Bloggerhythms
Davewillieradio
Flea Market Funk
Fufu Stew
Funky16Corners
Good Rockin’ Tonight
Got the Fever
Ickmusic
Jefitoblog
Lost in the 80s
Py Korry
Retro Remixes
The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
The Stepfather of Soul

The actual day selected as VR Day is Sunday, Aug. 12, which turns out to be the 130th anniversary of the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison.

Now, old Tom didn’t invent the vinyl record. That came quite a bit later. Edison used wax cylinders to record sound, and around 1900 came the invention of the 78 rpm record made out of shellac. Both had obvious drawbacks. The wax cylinders were soft and could melt too easily, and 78s were heavy and more fragile than china. The dual problems of durability and weight were solved in 1948 when engineers at Columbia and at RCA invented the LP and the 45, respectively. But celebrating vinyl on the anniversary of old Tom’s breakthrough in recording sound just feels right.

So how should the vinyl record be celebrated? Well, by talking about record collecting.

But instead of talking in generalities, I thought I’d look at my collection and the milestone records. Which record was the 100th? Which was the 2,500th? And how about the numbers in between? I should note that having many times bought multiple LPs on the same day made it difficult to specify in some cases exactly which record was, say, the 500th I ever bought. I decided that any record bought the day I reached a milestone number was eligible, and I selected the record I thought most interesting.

I should also note that every mp3 shared in this post is a rip from the vinyl being discussed. There are a few pops here and there, as a result.

A third note: This will be a very long post.

No. 1: Honey In The Horn by Al Hirt, Sept. 5, 1964, St. Cloud, Minnesota. This 1963 release was the first record I can recall that was specifically mine. It was a present from my sister for my eleventh birthday. I’d been playing cornet for about three months, and after hearing “Java,” which reached No. 4 on the pop chart that year, I’d begun to look at Big Al as my model. “Java” is no longer my favorite song on the record. More than any other track, I love Al’s incredible work on “I Can’t Get Started,” a song that most horn players have left alone since Bunny Berigan’s definitive version in 1937. But the track I’ve decided to share is “Malibu” because, well, it just sounds like 1963 to me: There’s a couple in a car. It’s night, and they’re heading out of the city on the Pacific Coast Highway, maybe actually heading toward the beaches of Malibu. They’re in a convertible, maybe a Thunderbird, and its headlights slice through the post-midnight darkness. He’s probably something in show biz, maybe beginning a career in the business side of television, and she, well, she might work for the same network or studio. And life is good, with the soft sounds of the horn and the choir providing the soundtrack as they glide north through the night into the future.

No. 100: Mancini’s Angels by Henry Mancini, May 15, 1977, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was just finishing college at St. Cloud State, and one day, down by the television studio, there was a box of records the radio station didn’t want. I grabbed a bunch, and this was one of them, a 1977 release that had Mancini and his pals performing not only the “Theme from Charlie’s Angels” but such classics as “Evergreen,” “Car Wash” and “Silver Streak.” (Just from this entry alone, it becomes obvious that I rarely throw anything out of the collection.)

No. 200: Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan, June 19, 1987, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got this 1965 release as a gift from a lady friend with whom I was trying to acquire a complete collection of Dylan’s works. We succeeded at that, at least, and when we split up, I got the records. The track I’ve ripped is “She Belongs To Me.” I first heard the song when Rick Nelson took his version to No. 33 in early 1970. Although I like Nelson’s version, there’s nothing like the original.

No. 300: Cruisin’ 1967 by various artists, June 8, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. This is one of a series of LPs put out in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Increase Records. Each album centers on one year and packages hits from that year in the context of a Top 40 station, featuring a different announcer from a major market in the U.S., complete with jingles and commercials. The 1967 album, released in 1984, features Dr. Don Rose of WQXI in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s an interesting curio, but this one is the only one in the series I ever bought.

No. 400: Gaucho by Steely Dan, December 10, 1988, Minot, North Dakota. I likely got this 1980 album from the bin at the Minot Public Library, as December is not a month for garage sales, and there’s no price tag on the jacket, as there would be if I bought it retail, even second-hand. Library records are usually in bad condition, and I tend to avoid them. If that’s where I got this, then I did well, as it’s in pretty good shape. It’s an okay album, but it’s not my favorite Steely Dan album; I prefer Pretzel Logic.

No. 500: Chicago VI by Chicago, February 17, 1989, Minot, North Dakota. This 1973 album came from a pawnshop in downtown Minot, where every record was $2.50 or something like that. I didn’t get there a lot during my two years on the North Dakota prairie. These days, I imagine I’d be checking the new arrivals every couple of weeks, at least. I decided to share “What’s This World Comin’ To?” because, to my ears, it’s one of the last times Chicago really rocked.

No. 600: Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, July 11, 1989, Edina, Minnesota. I went on a binge in the Minneapolis suburbs after I moved back from the prairies in mid-1989, buying something more than thirty records my first month back in Minnesota. As to this 1967 album, well, it’s essential for any serious attempt at a good collection. I love “The Wind Cries Mary.”

No. 700: Tap Root Manuscript by Neil Diamond, June 2, 1990, Conway Springs, Kansas. This album came out in 1970, and I always meant to buy it but for some reason never looked for it. I ran across it and finally bought it on a Saturday morning of garage sale stops during a three-month stay in Kansas. I’m sharing “Done Too Soon,” which after thirty-seven years remains one of my favorite songs.

No. 800: Wet by Barbra Streisand, April 3, 1991, Columbia, Missouri. I’ve never been a big Babs fan, so I must have grabbed this 1979 release for something less than a dollar at a garage sale. I was teaching at a women’s college and beginning my final project for a master’s degree at the University of Missouri at the time. College towns are always good used music locales: I got some very nice albums during my two stays in Columbia.

No. 900: Wild Things Run Free by Joni Mitchell, Sept. 5, 1992, Minneapolis. I must have been spending birthday money when I picked this 1982 release up. I think I bought it new, and it fits in with the other Joni releases on the shelf even though it’s not a favorite of mine. I think this is one of Joni’s experiments that wasn’t real accessible.

No. 1000: Great Hits by Eddie Cochran, May 5, 1993, Minneapolis. The pace of buying is accelerating here, and so is the scope of my purchases. This is a collection put together in 1983, and it’s not bad, considering that Cochran had only three singles reach the Top 40 before he died in a car crash in 1960. I’ve ripped “Pink Peg Slacks” a 1956 recording that was released as Liberty single 10204.

No. 1100: My Baby Loves Lovin’ by White Plains, October 15, 1993, Richfield, Minnesota. This 1970 bit of studio Bazooka is pretty hacked up, but I only spent fifty cents for it as I made my way home through the suburbs one day. I got a good Al Stewart and a few other things at the same stop, so it wasn’t a total loss.

No. 1200: Burgers by Hot Tuna, August 4, 1995, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I’d left the newspaper in Eden Prairie for a job in downtown Minneapolis in July, and one Sunday morning I got a call from the woman who’d coached gymnastics at Eden Prairie High: She and her husband were clearing out their old vinyl. Did I want it? I headed out to the southwest suburb pretty quickly and got this little gem from 1972 and another forty or so records. Best find of the batch? Probably two albums by Bonnie Koloc, a little-known singer/songwriter whose stuff I intend to post here soon.

No. 1300: History of Hi Records, Vol. Two by various artists, October 8, 1996, Minneapolis. I got this 1988 release and its companion first volume on a very odd Saturday morning. Unattached at the time, I went on a blind date, meeting a woman of similar age at a farmer’s market in Richfield, a suburb just south of Minneapolis. After wandering around the small market in a chill wind, we made our way to a record store in Minneapolis, one new to me. We browsed for a while, and when I went to the register to pay for the two Hi LPs and a book, she laid her two records on top of mine at the counter. The clerk rang them up on my tab as I stood there stunned. I paid and didn’t say anything, but I never called her for another date. I’ve ripped “You Made Me What I Am” by Erma Coffee, one of the lesser-known artists for Hi, the home of Al Green and Ann Peebles, among others. It was released in 1973 as Hi single 2253.

No. 1400: Beaucoups of Blues by Ringo Starr, July 26, 1997, Minneapolis. This is perhaps the most odd record of Ringo Starr’s career. A straight country, featuring some of the best sessions players in Nashville at the time, this 1970 release was Ringo’s second solo album following the break-up of the Beatles. It’s not something I listen to very often, but I’m glad it’s on the shelves.

No. 1500: Lady Day Blues by Billie Holiday, February 14, 1998, Minneapolis. By this time, I was stopping by Cheapo’s several times a week, checking the new arrivals every few days and keeping a bag full of holds behind the counter. I’d either buy the records or put them back in the bins each Saturday. This 1972 release on the AJ label is a goulash of performances from throughout Holiday’s career. Its only real attraction is the first release of a 1939 recording of “Don’t Be Late” with saxophonist Lester Young.

No. 1600: Gerry Rafferty by Gerry Rafferty, June 6, 1998, Minneapolis. This 1978 release – following Rafferty’s No. 2 hit “Baker Street” and the album City to City, which reached No. 1 – is a compilation of work from earlier in Rafferty’s career. Taken from two albums recorded in the early 1970s when he was part of a duo called the Humblebums, the record gives a look at Rafferty in the days before Stealer’s Wheel. I’ve ripped the track “Steamboat Row,” which appears to be an edit of the version the Humblebums recorded in 1970.

No. 1700: Faragher Brothers by the Faragher Brothers, August 4, 1998, Minneapolis. When I pulled this 1976 release from the stacks, I didn’t remember a thing about it, so I dropped it on the turntable as I was writing. It’s inoffensive pop rock with mellow vocals and a few horn flourishes, kind of a Pablo Cruise meets James Pankow of Chicago. The only name in the credits that rings any bells is that of producer Vini Poncia, who played numerous parts on Ringo Starr’s 1973 album Ringo and co-wrote “Devil Woman” for that album with Ringo. A year from now, I imagine I’ll have forgotten all about the Faragher Brothers again.

No. 1800: Caribou by Elton John, October 24, 1998, Minneapolis. I picked up this 1974 LP to help fill a gap. About this time, I realized I was low on stuff by Elton John and began looking for some. This release from 1974, a time when Elton was nearly king of the musical universe, fit nicely on the shelves.

No. 1900: Sonny Terry by Sonny Terry, December 5, 1998, Minneapolis. This was part of the Great Blues Grab at the local Salvation Army store. As I wrote once before, the manager of the store called me when someone dropped off about twenty boxes of nearly mint condition rock and blues albums. This 1965 release of archival performances on the Everest label is one of the relatively few records released during Terry’s lifetime – he died in 1986 – that did not also include his long-time partner, Brownie McGhee.

No. 2000: Dinner With Raoul by the Bliss Band, January 30, 1999, Minneapolis. I think this came in a box of records I bought at a church rummage sale. I’d often buy entire boxes of records – if most of them appeared to be in good shape – at rummage sales and garage sales, then sort through them, keep the ones that intrigued me and then sell the rest at Cheapo’s and a couple other places. I’d generally do no worse than break even, and I’d still have the records that interested me. I’ve ripped the track “Rio” from this 1978 album, which was produced by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter. Like the Faragher Brothers above, the Bliss Band sounds to me a bit like Pablo Cruise or the Little River Band, both of which were hitting the charts about the time Dinner With Raoul was recorded.

No. 2100: The Babys: Anthology by the Babys, March 19, 1999, Minneapolis. A decent greatest hits album from 1981, this was another attempt to fill a (small) gap in the collection. I still do like “Isn’t It Time?”

No. 2200: Copeland Special by Johnny Copeland, May 10, 1999, Minneapolis. I was pretty much grabbing any blues LPs I found in good shape at Cheapo’s around this time, adding to the collection that started in earnest the previous December at the Salvation Army store. Copeland – who died in 1997 – was a pretty decent blues guitarist and singer who hailed from Houston, and this 1981 album was his first. I’ve ripped the title track, “Copeland Special,” which features the wonderfully named Brooklyn Slim on harmonica.

No. 2300: James Cleveland and introducing the Gospel Girls, by Rev. James Cleveland, June 13, 1999, Minneapolis. This LP, which was released on Savoy around 1960, as far as I could ever find out, is one of several gospel albums by African-American artists that I bought around this time. I’d seen the Twin Cities Community Gospel Chorus perform at a street fair, and as I was digging into the blues roots of rock, I decided to dig into the gospel roots of soul. On the back of the jacket, Savoy offers a copy of the label’s entire catalog for ten cents. I wonder if the offer’s still good.

No. 2400: Enigma by P. J. Proby, October 1, 1999, Minneapolis. Albums at Cheapo’s were priced according to quality and rarity. Most LPs in fine condition would cost you $3.60. Every once in a while, you’d find one that was a bit rare and that would run you $4.20. (The store’s owner siphoned off the truly rare LPs the store received; I wish I could have seen his collection.) This 1966 LP by folkie/rocker/singer-songwriter Proby – who was a star in England but never too prominent here – was priced at $5.30, which meant it was rare. I didn’t know much about it, but I grabbed it. It turned out to be kind of a chunky mix of roots and rock and folk, and I like it. I’ve ripped the track “Niki Hoeky,” which was also recorded by artists as diverse as Redbone, Aretha Franklin and the Ventures.

No. 2500: Still ’Round by Michael Gately, December 7, 1999, Richfield, Minnesota. Like the Faragher Brothers and Bliss Band records above, when I pulled this from the stacks, I looked at it and had no idea what it sounded like. So I dropped the needle on it. First came a somewhat funky introductory track with a saxophone solo. But the first vocal track put me in mind of England Dan & John Ford Coley, and then came a country rock thing, followed by more mellowness. After that, it was early 1970s singer-songwriter stuff. All I could ever find out about this record was that it came out in 1972 on the Janus label. By the price tag – sixty-nine cents – I can tell it came from a thrift store on Penn Avenue where I could occasionally find some treasures. This isn’t one of them.

No. 2600: We Got A Party by various artists, October 13, 2000, Minneapolis. Subtitled “The Best of Ron Records, Volume 1,” this turned out to be a nice little gem. I’m not sure where I got it – no price tag – so I’m guessing a garage sale. A 1988 release on the Rounder label, the LP collects fourteen tracks released as singles on the New Orleans-based Ron label from 1958 through 1962. Some of the familiar names are here – Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker – along with some less prominent folks, including a performer named Paul Marvin. According to the notes, Marvin started life as Marvin Geatreaux and also went by the moniker Little Mummy. That was too odd to ignore, so I ripped Marvin’s 1959 single “Hurry Up,” which was released as Ron 322.

No. 2700: Typical American Boys by the Chad Mitchell Trio, June 22, 2002, St. Cloud, Minnesota. Still living in the Twin Cities at the time, the Texas Gal and I drove up to my hometown of St. Cloud on a June Saturday. We saw a parade, visited my folks and went to a few garage sales, one of which provided this 1965 release of super-bland folk. It’s a reminder of what college campuses sounded like in the years before Bob Dylan went electric and rock became something to think about. I’m reminded of the scene in the movie Animal House when John Belushi’s Bluto smashes the folk singer’s guitar.

No. 2800: Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey by various artists, May 20, 2004, St. Cloud, Minnesota. I got almost fifty albums that day. And I wish I didn’t own any of them. They were my dad’s, and I brought them home when Mom was getting ready to move after Dad died. Well, I guess I always knew I would end up with the records, and cataloging them when I brought them home was an afternoon of memories: Among them were Pearl Bailey, the Ray Charles Singers, Guy Lombardo, and about twenty excellent classical records from the Music Heritage Society. (My sister and I used to tease Dad when he was buying the Heritage Society records during the 1960s, and all he said was, “You’ll be glad to have them someday.” He was right.) There was a five-record set by the Mystic Moods Orchestra. And four Reader’s Digest boxed sets, one of which was Let’s Take A Sentimental Journey, which came out in 1970. From that box, I’ve selected a 1961 live performance by Benny Goodman & His Orchestra of “Sugar Foot Stomp.” The song was originally known as “Dippermouth Blues” and was first performed in the 1920s by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band; the high point of the song each night was a two-chorus solo by King Oliver himself on cornet. When the great Louis Armstrong moved from second chair in King Oliver’s band to first chair in Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra in 1924, he brought the song, now known as “Sugar Foot Stomp,” with him, and he brought King Oliver’s solo, too, note for note. In 1934, Henderson broke up his band and became an arranger for Benny Goodman, and he brought “Sugar Foot Stomp” and its cornet/trumpet solo, still played – note for note – as King Oliver first played it. And in this 1961 performance, following the first, brief solo by Goodman on clarinet, the horn player follows with King Oliver’s solo, played just as the King had done about forty years earlier, now about eighty years ago.

No. 2900: Harper Valley P.T.A. by Jeannie C. Riley, April 24, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. There are very few places that sell any vinyl in St. Cloud these days. There are a few thrift stores, but I’ve rarely found anything in them worth bringing home. The only other place is the Electric Fetus downtown, with a small selection of new records and a slightly larger offering of used records. I stop in there about once a month, see what’s new in the used CD bins and take a look at the vinyl. Every once in a while, I find a record I’d forgotten about entirely. That was the case with this one. I don’t know that I ever aspired to have Harper Valley P.T.A, but I do recall when the title track was on the radio. (It was No. 1 for a week in the fall of 1968, and the LP went to No. 12, which has to make it one of the more successful crossovers from the country charts to the pop charts.) Along with the tale of the widowed mother calling out the hypocrites – with that sweet twanging guitar or dobro – the LP was almost a concept album, with its other vignettes of late 1960s life in a small southern town. Since I don’t hear it often on the oldies stations, I’ve ripped the title track, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” to share here.

No. 2906: Another Day in Paradise by Bertie Higgins, August 1, 2007, St. Cloud, Minnesota. My most recent acquisition. A while back, I wrote about how I was certain I had a copy of this album somewhere and then learned to my surprise that I was wrong. Well, I saw it on my latest trip downtown, and laughing, I couldn’t resist. (The fact that it was priced at seventy-eight cents with thirty percent off helped.) And of course, I have to share “Key Largo,” which went to No. 8 in the summer of 1982. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

A Baker’s Dozen For Stu

April 17, 2011

Originally posted March 14, 2007

In my comments about debb johnson and its self-titled album Monday, I mentioned my college friend Stu. Over the years, I’d lost track of him, having last seen him in 1989 and otherwise not having spoken to him since, oh, 1976. I was teaching at a university in North Dakota in 1989, and I visited him and his wife, Nancy, while back in Minnesota during a quarter break.

Last week, when I found the album debb johnson in the stacks, I Googled him and found what looked like a good email address. I shot off a short note and got busy with preparing the album for posting, as well as preparing for my annual hockey day with my trio of friends. (A short note about that: Schultz won for the third year in a row, although I did get one of my teams into the semifinals!) And when I finished posting the album yesterday, I thought about Stu and the email, and I realized that with the generic subject heading of “Hello,” it likely had been caught by his Spam filter.

So I Googled again and came up with a phone number for his office. And he and I spent a delightful twenty minutes or so on the phone, catching up a little bit with news of children, parents and of thirty-one years of living. I explained how he’d come to mind, and he was pleased that his brother-in-law’s music is available again (as limited as the venue might be). I asked if he knew when the album was recorded. He wasn’t sure, but he agreed that my estimate of 1970 was probably pretty accurate. We promised to stay in touch, a promise I intend to keep.

It was wonderful to talk to him. There was no awkwardness, as there sometimes can be when old friends talk for the first time in years. And I thought that to mark that conversation – and what I hope will be a true renewal of a friendship that mattered a great deal to me when I was a much younger man and still does so today – I’d pull this week’s baker’s dozen from the year of 1976, when both of us graduated from St. Cloud State University:

“Beautiful Noise” by Neil Diamond from Beautiful Noise.

“The Final Bell” by Bill Conti from the soundtrack to Rocky.

“Homeward Bound” by Paul Simon & George Harrison on Saturday Night Live, November 20.

“Northbound Bus” by the Flying Burrito Brothers from Airborne.

“The Woman That Got Away” by J.J. Cale from Troubadour.

“Satisfied ’N’ Tickled Too” by Taj Mahal from Satisfied ’N’ Tickled Too.

“12/8 Blues (All The Same)” by the Stills/Young Band from Long May You Run.

“Sand In Your Shoes” by Al Stewart from Year Of The Cat.

“How Deep It Goes” by Heart from Dreamboat Annie.

“Forever Young” by Joan Baez from From Every Stage.

“Come On In My Kitchen” by David Bromberg from How Late’ll Ya Play ‘Til?

“You Can Have My Soul” by Carolyn Franklin from If You Want Me.

“Right Before Your Eyes” by Ian Thomas from Goodnight Mrs. Calabash.