Posts Tagged ‘Paul McCartney’

Back In December ’82

July 6, 2022

Originally posted December 30, 2008

I spent much of my time during the last week of 1982 riding on buses, and it was one of more fun weeks of my life. I was accompanying – and covering for the Monticello newspaper – the Monticello High School marching band as it toured Southern California and prepared to march in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day, 1983.

During that week, we did a lot of the standard Southern California things: Universal Studios, a Hollywood bus tour, the Farmers’ Market, Sea World in San Diego and Disneyland. The band marched during the daily parade during our day at Walt Disney’s brainchild, and the band also performed during a men’s basketball game between the University of Southern California and Georgetown University. (That Georgetown team was led by Patrick Ewing, who would lead the Hoyas to the NCAA championship during the following season, 1983-84.)

And the band marched the long Tournament of Roses parade on New Year’s Day, bringing to its small-town high school in Minnesota one of the most sparkling accolades a marching band can ever earn. That meant, of course, that I got to see the parade from a front-row seat set aside for photographers. I had to work – getting as many shots as I could – during the forty-five or so seconds it took the Monticello band to march past my position. Other than that, I could sit back and enjoy the parade.

(About six of the men on the trip – me, my editor and four high school faculty members – ended the trip’s activities by taking in Rose Bowl game between Michigan and UCLA. As was its habit in those days, Michigan lost the game. But the highlight of the afternoon for me was seeing the Wolverine band march across the field in its big block M, playing the best college fight song in the land, “The Victors.”)

All of those activities meant a lot of time on the bus, heading from our hotel in Newport Beach to those various points. And where teens go, of course, goes music, and in those days before iPods allowed each person his or her own personal playlist, that meant a radio. So as we meandered along Hollywood Boulevard, as we found our way to Disneyland, as we headed south along the freeway to San Diego, and everywhere we went, the bus I was on had a radio playing the current hits of the day.

That’s why hearing almost any tune that was on the radio during the last week of 1982 triggers memories: The kids stepping into footprints left in cement by movie stars at Mann’s Chinese Theatre. The view from the stage at the Hollywood Bowl. Dolphins posing for a picture at Sea World. Fireworks over the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. And, too, the gasps of shock from a cluster of Midwestern boys when they realized that the cute Hollywood Boulevard gal they’d been waving to from the bus wasn’t really a gal at all.

Here are five tunes that can trigger some of those memories and one that’s just too good to pass up.

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, December 25, 1982)
“The Girl Is Mine” by Michael Jackson & Paul McCartney (No. 3)
“Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye (No. 8)
“Africa” by Toto (No. 14)
“Rock the Casbah” by the Clash (No. 15)
“Love In Store” by Fleetwood Mac (No. 27)
“Forever” by Little Steven & The Disciples of Soul (No. 81)

I know I heard the first four of these as I rode that bus around Southern California during that last week of 1982. And I think we heard the Fleetwood Mac single, maybe on our longest ride of that week, from Newport Beach to San Diego. I’m certain, however, that we didn’t hear “Forever” by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul.

“The Girl Is Mine” was in its eighth week in the Hot 100, and it would peak at No. 2 on the chart from January 8, 1983. (That was the next chart issued, as Billboard decided not to issue a chart on January 1, 1983.) The record did hit No. 1 on the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, though. As for me, I thought the record was pleasant; it was sweet and melodic, and Jackson’s and McCartney’s voices blended well. But it was also lightweight enough that I doubt that it would end up ranked among the best bits of work in the career of either man.

“Sexual Healing” was Marvin Gaye’s last hit, pulled from Midnight Love, the last album Gaye recorded before his death in 1984. The record went to No. 3, and on the R&B chart it held the No. 1 spot for ten weeks. The record’s success, says Jason Elias of All-Music Guide, was understandable: “It was the perfect time . . .  Al Green had gone to church, Prince was too weird, and Teddy Pendergrass was still recovering from his near-fatal crash. Music had been missing this kind of mix of sex, humor, and romance.”

My sense of Toto at the time – and for years to come, as it happens – was that the band didn’t get much respect. Made up of studio pros, Toto ended up with ten Top 40 hits from 1978 through 1988, and if some of them were carefully crafted to climb the charts, well, so they were. And so they did. I confess to not having any Toto in my collection during the early 1980s, but then, I wasn’t buying stuff by other new bands, either. But I liked “Africa” right from the start, and I still do. The single spent sixteen weeks in the Top 40, one of them at No. 1.  And I have a sense that Toto sounds a lot better these days than a lot of things that were coming out of the speakers in 1982.

I didn’t get the Clash at the time or for a long time after. Among the excess records I got during the early 1990s from my friend Fran at Bridging Inc. were near-mint copies of London Calling, Sandinista! and Combat Rock. I sold ’em all, not yet plugged into the group’s aesthetic (and not yet committed to creating a rock archive in my living room). I still don’t listen often to the group’s work, but I now understand the historical and musical trends that brought the Clash its attitude and sound. All of that means that I quite like “Rock the Casbah” and a few of the group’s other efforts. “Casbah” was the group’s second hit – after “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” went to No. 23 in 1980 – and peaked at No. 8 during a fifteen-week stay in the Top 40.

“Love In Store” came from Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage album, its studio follow-up to the idiosyncratic Tusk. (A live album was released and went to No. 14 on the album chart between the two studio efforts). Had Tusk scared off the less-committed listeners who’d bought the group’s mid-1970s chart-topping albums as if they’d held the secrets to perpetual bliss? Not at all. Mirage went to No. 1 as well and stayed there for five weeks. “Love In Store” peaked at No. 22, the third single from Mirage (after “Hold Me” and “Gypsy”) to hit the Top 40.

The Little Steven who fronted the Disciples of Soul was, of course, Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. All-Music Guide notes that while Springsteen was working on Born in the U.S.A., Van Zandt gathered in a group of like-minded musicians and put together Men Without Women, which Mark Deming of AMG calls “the finest album the Asbury Jukes never made.” Deming continues: “Like the Jukes [sic] best work, Men Without Women blends the muscle and swagger of Jersey shore rock & roll with the horn-fueled heart and soul of classic R&B, and here Van Zandt was willing to push himself further in both directions at once.” As a single, “Forever” got to No. 63 and stayed there for two weeks during an eight-week stay in the Hot 100.

Four of these are album tracks and thus may differ from the singles that were getting airplay. “Africa” as presented here is shorter than the album track, and I think it’s the single mix, but as I no longer recall where I got it, I cannot say for certain. Nor do I recall where I got the Marvin Gaye track, but based on running time, I’m guessing without certainty that it’s the track from the album Midnight Love and not the single edit.

My thanks to the proprietor of Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas for his own post about riding a bus during school days that accompanied some tunes from late 1982. His memories triggered my own, and I’m grateful for that.

Tracing The Past

June 3, 2022

Originally posted November 3, 2009

Rob stopped by as Sunday afternoon slid toward Sunday evening; he’d been raking leaves at the house where he grew up, a house now on the market. We sipped a few beers and watched the end of the Vikings game, then retired to the study to dig lightly into the history of African American music.

At his exurban high school this semester, he’s teaching an American Literature course that includes the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. That’s a book that is, of course, revered by many as a legitimate candidate for the accolade of The Great American Novel and reviled by maybe just as many for its non-standard English, its Nineteenth Century stereotypes and its frequent use of a word I won’t use here. These days, we call it the N-word, and it’s one of the two most incendiary words in the English language. (You likely know the other: It starts with a “c” and in an Old English spelling, it was used by Chaucer.)

Rob thought his students might be interested in the development of African American music from the time of the story into the late Twentieth Century, so we dug around in my audio files. Among the goodies we found were a work gang chant from a Texas prison farm, probably recorded around 1939 but most likely hearkening back in origin to the late 1800s and possibly as far back as the days of slavery. We also found “Linin’ Track,” an adaptation of a railroad work call that blues musician Taj Mahal included on his album De Ole Folks At Home in 1969.

He’d listened at home to the spiritually based blues of Son House (who sang and recorded plenty of earthy music, too) and Blind Willie Johnson, and he knew that, in a general sense, Robert Johnson came next. I cued up Sippie Wallace’s “Mighty Tight Woman,” a jazz-blues piece from 1929, illustrating what many urban African-Americans were listening to at about the same time as House and the two Johnsons were performing and recording their rural blues.

That’s a vast simplification, of course, but we were talking about squeezing more than a century of musical development into a brief class hour. I pointed out that, like many things that we try to analyze, the history of African American music turns back on itself over and over again, and the twists and turns are difficult to trace. I further pointed out that I am a fan, not a historian, so he – like my readers – needed to use my ramblings as a starting point, not a finishing point.

Rob’s head was spinning as we sampled a bit of post-World War II jump blues and R&B and then some of the Chicago blues developed by Delta refugees Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and others. We talked of Ray Charles and the development of soul music. Eventually, we got from the 1950s into the 1960s, stopping off at Fats Domino and Little Richard, looking at how they influenced the musicians who came along in the 1960s, using the Beatles as one of the main examples.

And then we doubled back to Elvis Presley, recalling the (possibly apocryphal) statement ascribed to producer Sam Phillips about hitting it big if he could find a white singer who sang black. And I played Elvis’ version of “That’s All Right,” released in 1954. To our ears these days, it’s a rockabilly sound, distant from blues and from rock ’n’ roll. I cued up the original version of “That’s All Right,” recorded in 1946 by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. Much different than the blues that Crudup frequently recorded, the song contains vocal inflections that Presley had to have heard, as they show up eight years later in his recording of the classic tune.

Then, just for fun, I jumped ahead more than forty years, to a recording of “That’s All Right, Mama,” released by Paul McCartney on his 1988 album released in the Soviet Union, Снова в СССР. The echoes of Elvis and Arthur Crudup were clear. And echoes were what were listening for.

“That’s All Right” by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, Victor 20-2205 [1946]

“That’s All Right” by Elvis Presley, Sun 209 [1954]

“That’s All Right, Mama” by Paul McCartney from Снова в СССР [1988]

Note:
I’ve also seen the title of Crudup’s version of the song listed as “That’s All Right, Mama,” and I’ve seen the catalog number listed as RCA Victor 20-2205. My source for the title and catalog number is the notes to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup: Rock Me Mamma, the seventh volume in a thirteen-volume collection issued between 2002 and 2004 by BMG on its RCA Victor and Bluebird labels. The CD series – released under the general title When The Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll – is a treasure trove of vintage recordings that paved the way to rock ’n’ roll. I got my set one at a time four years ago and had to scramble to find a couple of them. Anyone interested in the origins of the music we listen to and love would enjoy the set.

How Many Junks?

May 29, 2019

Summer – in a cultural sense – starts this week, the last days of May. (In a meterological sense, summer starts with the solstice, which will take place here in the American Midwest at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, June 21.) But these days of dwindling May have been disappointing, with too many clouds and too much rain and very few sunny days.

And that’s been a problem, as the Texas Gal has taken this week off from work, and we’d like to play in the sunshine. (Well, it was just as well that yesterday was kind of ooky, as we both had dental appointments and neither of us – especially she – wants to waste a nice day with the mundane unpleasantness of that.) Today, however, promises better times with a high temperature of about 75 (Fahrenheit) and – if I am reading the forecast on my phone correctly – at least dappled sunshine for the day.

So we’re going to go play in a few hours, starting with a lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Then we’re going to wander a little ways from St. Cloud, looking for antique stores or junk shoppes that we have not visited recently. How many junks we buy depends on both our moods and our assessments of our wallets.

I had thought about dropping in here a song with “summer” found somewhere in its title, but the last sentence of that last paragraph pushed me in a different direction. Here’s Paul McCartney’s lovely brief ballad “Junk.” It was written in India in 1968 and was passed over for inclusion on the White Album and Abbey Road, finally seeing release on the solo album McCartney in 1970.

Mary, Paul & Grace

December 21, 2011

Originally posted February 5, 2009

I found an interesting video of Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were The Days” at YouTube this morning. The person who posted it, richpat, writes:

The opening black and white film is from 1968 and the remaining film is from around 1982.

This song sung by Mary Hopkin called ‘Those Were The Days’ is not translated from the song ‘Дорогой длинною’ [or] ‘Dorogo Dlinnoyu.’

The song ‘Dorogoy Dlinnoyu (Along a long road)’ was written in the 1920’s by ‘Boris Fomin’ (music) and ‘Konstantin Podrevsky’ (lyrics). An American called Gene Raskin in the early 60’s wrote the lyrics ‘Those Were The Days’ and put them to Fomin’s music. The words have no similarity whatsoever with Podrevsky’s.
“For more info on Mary and this song visit my website at http://www.maryhopkin.net .

Note: Embedding has been disabled on richpat’s video since the original blog post, so I’ve found another video of the tune to place here. Note added December 21, 2011.

Here’s a video put together by YouTube user macca09 that combines Paul McCartney’s original demo of “Goodbye” (a 1968 recording that I don’t know that I’ve ever heard before) with footage of McCartney and of McCartney working with Hopkin in the studio:

Video deleted.

I couldn’t find a performance video of “Mastermind” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, but I did find an acoustic performance from June 14, 2007, of “Stop The Bus.” The performance took place in Studio M at WMMM (105.5) in Madison, Wisconsin.

Tomorrow, I think we’ll dig back in to the charts for this week in 1971, see what gems we can find in the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1973, Vol. 2

May 27, 2011

Originally posted December 19, 2007

In my first visit to the year of 1973, I wrote about my internal world, about the changes I could catalog in myself from my academic year in Denmark.

This time, I’m going to take a look at the larger world in which those changes took place: What was happening in 1973? Two events that dominated the news come to mind: Watergate and war.

Watergate: In the U.S., Americans were beginning to learn for the first time about the venality and utter rot at the center of the administration of President Richard Nixon. Week after week of testimony before a Senate select committee and day after day of headlines transfixed most Americans. Those hearings were followed in the autumn by the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew – the result of corruption charges dating to his time as governor of Maryland – and the Saturday Night Massacre, during which Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckleshaus resigned rather than fire special prosecutor Archibald Cox, whose office was investigating the events that stemmed from the original Watergate break-in in 1972.

(Solicitor General Robert Bork, the third in command in the Justice Department, fired Cox at Nixon’s behest; the resignations and the firing were key moments in the trail of events that led to Nixon’s resignation during the summer of 1974.)

War: On October 6, on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the armed forces of Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. For the first week, the Arab armies advanced, but by October 26, when a United Nations-sponsored truce went into effect, Israeli forces had regained territory and gained control of the battlefield.

From the distance of thirty-some years, one can see numerous effects of the war, but perhaps the most visible effect comes when we go to the service station to pump gasoline into our vehicles. During and after the war, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries – OPEC – decided to stop shipment of oil to those nations that were supporting Israel: The U.S., the Netherlands (the source for much of Western Europe’s oil) and several other nations. At the same time, OPEC raised the price for oil going elsewhere in the world. The embargo caused, among other things, long lines at service stations in the U.S. and government-mandated bans on driving on Sundays in Europe. The embargo was the first step among many in the long and steady increase in the cost of oil, resulting in the prices we pay for all petroleum products today.

Enough of the serious stuff (although there were plenty more serious things going on during 1973) – what were we doing for fun that year?

The Top Ten television shows were: All in the Family, The Waltons, Sanford and Son, M*A*S*H, Hawaii Five-O, Maude, Kojak, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Cannon.

At the movies theaters, we saw, among others, The Sting, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Mean Streets, Sleeper, The Way We Were, The Last Detail and Blume in Love.

In the U.S., the top ten singles of the year, according to Billboard, were:

“Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando and Dawn
“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” by Jim Croce
“Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack
“Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
“My Love” by Paul McCartney and Wings
“Why Me” by Kris Kristofferson
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
“Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston
“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
“Touch Me In The Morning” by Diana Ross

Most of those are pretty obvious (and only a few are depressing), when one thinks about 1973. On the other hand, I’ve never heard the Kristofferson, which hit the Top 40 in early July and reached No. 16 in a nineteen-week stay on the chart.

The top five albums of the year, listed at the Billboard web site, were:

The World Is A Ghetto by War
Summer Breeze by Seals & Crofts
Talking Book by Stevie Wonder
No Secrets by Carly Simon
Lady Sings the Blues by Diana Ross

Oddly enough, that list is at odds with some other lists I’ve looked at. Even The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums lists a different No. 1 album of the year: Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. The Carly Simon and War albums listed above are included in the alphabetical list of 1973’s Top Ten albums in Norm N. Nite’s Rock On Almanac. The rest of Nite’s list is:

Aloha from Hawaii via Satellite by Elvis Presley
Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper
Brothers and Sisters by the Allman Brothers Band
Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player by Elton John
Goats Head Soup by the Rolling Stones
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon

Nine of the albums on Nite’s list went to No. 1 during 1973. The only one that didn’t was Paul Simon’s, which went to No. 2

As confusing as that may be, however, it gives a pretty good look at what was popular during 1973. But when I crank up my RealPlayer, what does 1973 sound like? Here’s one possibility, random after the first tune:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1973, Vol. 2

“Hallelujah” by Chi Coltrane from Let It Ride

“So Many Times” by Manassas from Down The Road

“Lay Me Down Easy” by Three Dog Night from Cyan

“Good Vibrations” by Bonnie Bramlett from Sweet Bonnie Bramlett

“The City” by Fleetwood Mac from Mystery to Me

“Ship Ahoy” by the O’Jays from Ship Ahoy

“Desperado” by the Eagles from Desperado

“All My Friends” by Gregg Allman from Laid Back

“Mrs. Vanderbilt” by Paul McCartney & Wings from Band On The Run

“Call Me (Come Back Home)” by Al Green from Call Me

“Cam Ye O’er Frae France” by Steeleye Span from Parcel of Rogues

“Sunset Woman” by B.W. Stevenson from My Maria

“Qualified” by Dr. John from In The Right Place

A few notes on some of the songs and performers:

The Chi Coltrane track is the opener to the Wisconsin-born singer’s second album, which went nowhere on its release in 1973. The track, many will note, is a cover of the song originally recorded by Sweathog, which went to No. 33 on the Billboard chart in late 1971. (I just got the Coltrane album in the mail yesterday, and ripped this track as an appetizer, as I’ll be posting the entire album within a week or so.)*

“Ship Ahoy” is a remarkable track by the O’Jays. Here’s what the website Pop Matters had to say about it: “The song ‘Ship Ahoy’ examines what scholars and activist have referred to as the ‘middle passage’ – the literal voyage that enslaved Africans made across the Atlantic Ocean in slave ships destined for the Americas and the Caribbean. The song brilliantly personalizes the ‘voyage’ in ways that few black popular artifacts had previously done so – some three years before the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots. The fact that [producers Kenny] Gamble and [Leon] Huff were comfortable enough to use the tragedy of the middle passage and the subsequent enslavement of people of African descent in the West to frame a pop recording speaks to how seriously the duo viewed popular music as a vehicle to ‘teach and preach’ and a sense of the autonomy that they perceived as the heads” of Philadelphia International Records.

“Call Me (Come Back Home)” was the fifth of six straight Top Ten hits for Al Green (based on records entering the Top 40) and is an example of what Willie Mitchell accomplished during his years at Hi Records in Memphis. The sound is immediately identifiable but – to my ears – never seems repetitive, whether the singer is Al Green or any of the other singers who recorded at Hi but didn’t have anything near the success that Green had. The Hi sound is to me a good part of what the early 1970s sounded like; nevertheless, it still sounds fresh to me today.

Steeleye Span was one of the British groups that formed after the early success of Fairport Convention in recording traditional British folk and eventually presenting those early folk songs with modern instruments. Parcel of Rogues, which was Steeleye Span’s fifth album, marked the first time that the group used rock instrumentation prominently. All Music Guide notes: “[T]he ominous and dazzling ‘Cam Ye O’er Frae France’ would not have succeeded half as well without amplification, and every fan of the group should hear this track at least once.”

The lyric to B. W. Stevenson’s “Sunset Woman” are unsettling, at first dismissive and bitter and then – at least a little – gentle and hopeful. But the music – melody and arrangement both – is country-ish and better than pleasant and is indicative of Stevenson’s all too slender output. Better known for his single hit, 1973’s “My Maria” and for writing “Shambala,” which Three Dog Night took to No. 3 the same year, Stevenson released eight albums between 1970 and 1980. He died after heart surgery in 1988 at the age of 38.

*As it happens, Sweathog’s version of “Hallelujah” was not the original. The original version of the tune was done in 1969 by the Clique. Note added May 27, 2011.

Saturday Single No. 45

May 25, 2011

Originally posted December 8, 2007

Well, today is the twenty-seventh anniversary of the death of John Lennon, something that’s being noted on more blogs than I care to number this morning.

I wrote not long ago about my memories of that Monday evening and the day that followed, so I won’t repeat that. As a reporter, I look back and nod, seeing the confluence of talent, fame, death at a young age and violence that made the story of Lennon’s death so huge, and I wonder: If the same thing were to happen today, how much more of a media frenzy would we see, and would that frenzy make the central event – the death of a famous and relatively young father, husband and musician – seem larger or smaller?

I don’t know the answer to that with any certainty, but I fear that the central fact – the story of the death – would become smaller than the story of the story. That’s something to chew on some other time, though.

When I take off my reporter costume, the events of December 8, 1980, just become sad. I, like all other Beatles fans, especially those of my generation, lost part of my youth that night. And I think it took some time – more than days, more than weeks, maybe more than months – for that to sink in.

Paul McCartney, confronted in the early morning with the news of Lennon’s death as he emerged, tired, from a recording session, could muster no more than, “It’s a drag, innit?” His seeming callousness brought bitter criticism. But think of this: How would any one of us react when told, at the end of a long workday and in the view of a phalanx of cameras, of the death of our childhood friend and long-time business partner?* Would we have the words? Most likely not. It takes some time for the import of any life-changing event to sink in.*

And when it sank in, over months, Paul did for his friend the best he could. I saw McCartney in concert in St. Paul in 2002, and maybe midway through the show, he said he was going to perform a song he wrote “for my dear friend, John.” There was applause, and McCartney said, “Yeah, let’s hear it for John!” and the Xcel Energy Center erupted with one of the loudest and longest ovations I have ever heard.

And then McCartney took up his guitar and performed the song he wrote for his dear friend, John: “Here Today,” today’s Saturday Single.

Paul McCartney – “Here Today” [1982]

*Looking back, I understand that McCartney had learned earlier of Lennon’s death and the confrontation with reporters served as reminder, not revelation. Still, the point remains: How many of us would have the right words were we confronted with glaring cameras and shouted demands for comment shortly after such horrible news? Note added May 25, 2011.

A Place With Bread & Cheese & Cookies

May 11, 2011

Originally posted October 2, 2007

Well, the rat cage is empty this morning.

Sometime today, I’ll give it a good cleaning and put it out on the balcony, where it can stay until we donate it to the local Humane Society. We won’t be using it again.

We took Wilbur to the vet yesterday and sent him home to wherever it is pets go when they are done here. Unlike in July, when Wilbur’s pal Darwin left us, this departure wasn’t a surprise. We’d scheduled our visit to the vet about ten days ago.

Wilbur – whom we’d had since Thanksgiving 2005 – didn’t do all that well after Darwin died. He missed his pal. We tried to pay more attention to him, but we’re not sure we succeeded. Rats are incredibly social animals. They bond with their cagemates – and with their people – more than I would have thought possible. With Darwin gone, I’m afraid Wilbur needed more attention than he got from us in his last three months.

And in the last month, his health had started to fail. Rats are prone to tumors, and Wilbur had a small one on his back for more than a year. References we consulted basically told us to keep an eye on it and his behavior, so we did, especially after we lost Darwin. And for the last month, we could see that Wilby wasn’t always comfortable even though he never lost his appetite for bread and cheese and cookies. Some days, he’d huddle up and not engage with us much. Other days, however, he’d perk up at the sound of our voices and want to be held in our laps, where he’d lie down and close his eyes with his jaws grinding in contentment.

As we told our vet in mid-September, a week or so before we set the appointment, Wilbur probably was having two good days to one bad day. For the last week, well, it was maybe one-to-one. It was time.

As I wrote when Darwin died, I had never figured that rats would be good pets. But the little fellows drew me in and captured me. Their antics were funny, they had sweet dispositions and they were far more engaged with us than I could ever have imagined. Wilbur was the clown, always playing, always in motion when we brought them out onto the couch for company. At least he was until the last few months, when he preferred to snuggle up with either one of us and be quiet.

Because we were able to plan for Wilbur’s exit, there isn’t the shock today that there was in July when Darwin died. But there is grief. That’s eased by the vision of Wilbur being reunited with his pals Darwin and Orville in some distant place, a place where there’s always lots of bread and cheese and cookies.

I’m not trying to make this bigger than it is. Wilbur was a rat – a funny, friendly rat – and no more than that. There are millions in the world with griefs greater than ours this morning. But our grief is enough for us today. Those who share their lives with pets will understand while those who don’t might not.

It was difficult to find an appropriate song for today’s cover version. Everything I considered seemed either too cutesy or too grand. So I decided to go with grandness and a track from the star-studded Concert For George. After all, Wilbur was a pretty grand rat.


Paul McCartney – “All Things Must Pass” [2002]

Saturday Singles No. 30 & 31

May 10, 2011

Originally posted September 15, 2007

People – well, most people, I think – tend to accumulate stuff. Some do so more than others, I guess.

I’m a packrat. To a little lesser extent, so is the Texas Gal. As I mentioned a little more than a week ago, one of the projects we had in mind for her week off was to clear our closets and the garage of things that we no longer need. Well, we got a good start on it, anyway. The closets in the apartment are a little less full and a whole lot neater than they were at the beginning of that week.

There are still a few boxes in the large bedroom closet that we look at, wondering, “What the heck is in those: videotapes or cookbooks? Or maybe more photo albums?” But at least they’re stacked neatly, not shoved into the closet higgledy-piggledy.

The garage is still to be finished. We spent last Saturday morning pulling boxes down from the pile on the back wall and sorting through them. Whatever we found, it went into one of three piles, depending on its destination: Back into a box, off to the Goodwill store or across the parking lot to the dumpster. We got about halfway done last week and the Goodwill and dumpster piles were about equal, and it seemed as if we were keeping about the same amount as was leaving the garage. Not bad.

And today, pretty much as soon as I post this, we’re heading out to the garage to finish. This week’s work on the back wall should go more rapidly, as we know pretty much what’s in the boxes that are left: A couple of them are Christmas decorations; there are several boxes filled with my tabletop baseball league notebooks; at the bottom of the pile reside a couple of toolboxes filled with things that came from my father’s workbench; and four or five of the boxes are filled with my parents’ collection of National Geographic magazine, from the 1950s up into the 1990s, I would guess.

I imagine that such a collection is extraordinarily common, certainly among the parents of our generation. When I was a kid, when the next month’s National Geographic came, the preceding month’s edition went onto the shelf, next to the others. And when the shelf got full, the oldest year’s worth on the shelf was boxed and stored. The magazines were just too good – doorways to distant places and fascinating information, with some of the best photography one could find anywhere – to just throw them out! So year after year, the magazines went onto the shelf and from the shelf into the box, until the first box was joined by a second, then a third and on and on.

So what to do with them, with maybe six boxes of the magazines, dating back to 1950 or so? (I think the first few years’ worth were salvaged by my father from the library at what was then St. Cloud Teachers College during the early years of his employment there; following those 1950s magazines, there is a gap of about ten years, and then the collection picks up again in the mid-1960s, when I recall my father beginning a subscription for my sister and me.) There is no market to sell them: They are too readily available. The public library has no need of them. (I checked about four years ago, when we were cleaning out Mom and Dad’s place after he died.) They are too old to be of any real use for an assisted living facility or a veterans’ home, some place that otherwise might welcome new reading material.

We could, I suppose, just verify what’s in the boxes and put them back into the stack against the wall, deferring a sad decision for another time. I don’t think we’ll do that, though. But I keep thinking about how much I learned from those magazines; they took me places I’d never been and taught me things about our world and how we fit into it. The prospect of putting them into the pile for the dumpster saddens me.

One of the boxes from Mom and Dad’s house that I went through about four years ago was filled with my schoolwork from over the years: art projects, book reports, tests and classroom exercises dating from kindergarten through senior year. Even as I marveled at my parents’ desire to save so much of my life, I determined that I needed to keep very little of it. I wasn’t nearly as unhappy about throwing away, say, my fifth-grade report on cats as I am about the likely fate of the National Geographic magazines.

I imagine that if we had the prospect of grandchildren who would someday page through those magazines, our decision might be different. But there will be no grandchildren to do that. So I know where those National Geographic magazines will go.

As a result, I have two Saturday singles today. The first is “Midnight in Moscow” by Bert Kaempfert, in honor of all the places that those magazines took me, a few of which I was lucky enough to see in person but most of which I will only ever see vicariously through the pages of those yellow-bound volumes. It comes from Kaempfert’s 1965 album, The Magic Music of Far Away Places. The second single, which should need no explanation, is “Junk” from Paul McCartney’s 1970 solo album, McCartney.

Bert Kaempfert – “Midnight in Moscow” [1965]

Paul McCartney – “Junk” [1970]

A Third Time Through the Junkyard

April 22, 2011

Originally posted June 4, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few notes on some of the songs:

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

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

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

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

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

Going Random Through The Eighties

April 21, 2011

Last week, I took a six-tune random walk through the Seventies. Today, with my creativity evidently in a waning rather than a waxing phase, it seems like a good idea to do the same with a decade I tend to ignore: the Eighties. There are about 4,500 tunes from that decade in the RealPlayer, so let’s see where we end up.

Our first stop is a track from Showdown!, an album released in 1985 by blues veterans Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins and the newcomer (at the time) Robert Cray. Trading guitar solos and vocal takes throughout the album, the three bluesmen put together a set that All-Music Guide calls “scorching.” This morning’s track – “The Dream” – finds Cray taking care of the vocal and Collins adding the solo guitar work.

Then it’s onto a Duke Ellington/Bob Russell tune as interpreted by a Sixties icon for an album that originally wasn’t available in much of the world: “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” was recorded by Paul McCartney for his album Снова в СССP, which was issued in 1988 only in the Soviet Union. According to Wikipedia, McCartney “intended Снова в СССР as present for Soviet fans who were generally unable to obtain his legitimate recordings, often having to make do with copies; they would, for a change, have an album that people in other countries would be unable to obtain.” The Soviet release contained eleven songs at first, with two tracks added for later pressings. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the album was released world-wide in 1991 with one more additional track.

One of the mainstays of my music collection – and this will likely be no surprise – is Gordon Lightfoot. While he didn’t issue albums in the 1980s with the frequency that he did in the previous two decades, his Eighties work includes some of my favorites, especially the1986  album East of Midnight. While the track “Anything For Love” doesn’t top the list of my favorites from that effort – the title track does – it’s still a good effort worth a listen, and it’s our third stop this morning.

Hailing from near Liverpool, China Crisis started as a duo, according to AMG. But when Virgin Records picked up the single “African and White” in 1982, Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon put together a full band. The group never made much headway in the U.S., with only two of their eight albums even making it into the lower half of the Billboard 200 and one single – “Working With Fire and Steel” – reaching No. 27on the Dance Music/Club Play list. But somehow, I came up with a copy of the group’s 1985 album, Flaunt the Imperfection, and “Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling” from that album is where today’s journey finds its fourth stop.

It’s Hard, the 1982 album by the Who, contains one tune that truly grabs me: “Eminence Front.” Other than that, the album – billed as the last by the group at the time and released in conjunction with what was called a final tour – is kind of blah. That album’s “Why Did I Fall for That” is the RealPlayer’s fifth stop this morning. It’s a tune that has always come off to me as an inferior remake of the brilliant “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from the similarly brilliant Who’s Next.

And we come at last to a track from one of the albums I had long included on what I call my hopeless list: Albums I wanted to hear but that I thought were lost for one reason or another. In early 2007, during the first incarnation of this blog, I wrote a bit about the late Tom Jans, mentioning his final album Champion, which was released only in Japan in 1982. Having cobbled together a collection of the rest of Jans’ brief oeuvre, I dug a bit for the album without result and then gave up the quest. But during 2009, fellow blogger Chun Tao at Rare MP3 came up with a copy of Champion, which was as good as I’d hoped it would be. Here’s the magnificently sorrowful “Mother’s Eyes,” the final track on the album.

A Note:
A little more than a year ago, after I landed here at my own place, I began to set up an archive of the posts from Echoes In The Wind during its Blogger and WordPress days. That effort flagged for several reasons, and when I returned to it over the weekend, I decided to start over again. So at Echoes In The Wind Archives, I’m working on reposting material – without any active music links – from early 2007 through January 2010. As I said once before, I’m not sure how much interest there might be in my archives, but the site will eventually allow me to see what I might previously have written (as it did today in the case of Tom Jans).