Posts Tagged ‘R.B. Greaves’

‘I Walk Along The City Streets . . .’

May 10, 2022

Originally posted July 21, 2009

Sometime during the early months of 1970, a new record came whispering out of the radio as I listened. It might have been a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but most likely, it was a weekday evening, and the radio was my old RCA, perched on the nightstand in my bedroom, keeping me company as I did homework, read or simply puttered around with the things that were important to a sixteen-year-old boy.

And as I puttered, I heard the singer, with a little bit of a rasp in his voice, tell the object of his devotion, “There’s always something there to remind me . . . You’ll always be a part of me.” And as the sound and the words sunk in, I operated on two levels for an instant. A portion of me recognized the voice as that of R.B. Greaves, who’d had a hit the previous autumn with “Take A Letter Maria.” (That record, the tale of a cuckolded husband who turns around and hits on his secretary, peaked at No. 2 during a thirteen-week run in the Top 40.)

And on the other level, I was thinking, “Always there to remind me: Oh, yes! Always be a part of me. Oh, yes! But how does he know?” How, I wondered, can the people who write and perform popular songs know what it is I’m going through? For there was in fact someone who mattered that much during that winter of 1969-1970, one whom I adored without consequent return. And in the confined environment of even a large high school like St. Cloud Tech, there were many places and people and things and moments that reminded me of her as I made my way through the days. And as I heard “Always Something There To Remind Me” from time to time – it spent only five weeks in the Top 40, reaching just No. 27 – it became one more of a chorus of songs that reminded me almost daily that the one I wanted to hold would remain forever beyond my reach.

So how do I hear the song today when it pops up on the RealPlayer or – infrequently – on the radio? I smile, recalling the absolute devotion of the high school junior I was, and I smile with a shrug of regret as I recall the exasperation on the face of my beloved. As it happens, the song doesn’t come around on the oldies stations very often: Greaves is remembered more for “Take A Letter Maria,” but then, that was the bigger hit. On occasion, though, it makes it way through the speakers here in the study. And almost forty years after that one-sided high school romance, the song – which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David – brings back memories far more sweet than bitter.

Over the years since Greaves’ version of the song was on the charts, I’ve learned, of course, that Greaves was not the first to record the Bacharach-David song, just as I learned that there are at least two ways to present the song’s title. Two versions that reside in my collection came out of 1964: One by British singer Sandie Shaw and the other by Lou Johnson.

Shaw’s version – one I’ve never much cared for – was a hit in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 1. Here in the U.S., it went to only No. 52. At the same time in the U.S., Johnson had been assigned through his record label, Big Top, to work with Bacharach and David. His take on “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” was his second single for them, and it went to No. 49, according to All-Music Guide. (AMG says that Bacharach brought Johnson to London for an appearance on Top of the Pops, but the visit took place right during the time that Shaw’s version of the song was dominating the charts.)

A few years later, in 1968, José Feliciano slid the song onto his record Feliciano as an album track, and in 1972, a couple of years after Greaves recorded his version, Michael McDonald recorded the song for his first album, a little-known artifact called That Was Then. Neither version reached the Top 40, and neither seems to be anything special, though I like the Feliciano version better of the two. (The McDonald album was recently released in a CD package with some extra tracks; I have utterly forgotten who pointed it my way, but they deserve my thanks.)

Finally, the last version in my collection is the one that most recently reached the Top 40 chart: the 1983 cover of the song by Naked Eyes, with the attention-grabbing chiming bells in the introduction. The record, which I quite like – though I was prepared not to when I first heard it – went to No. 8 and spent thirteen weeks in the Top 40, the first – and best-performing – of four Top 40 hits for the English duo.

There are of course, many others who’ve covered “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me.” Some of them are: Affinity, the Drifters, Carol Duboc, the Four Seasons, Aretha Franklin, Jay & The Americans, Larry Knechtel, Patti LaBelle, Brenda Lee, Peggy Lee, Anne Murray, Willie Nelson, the Pozo-Seco Singers, the Stylistics, Stanley Turrentine, Dionne Warwick and Don Williams.

I’ll likely dig a few of those up in the future. (The idea of the Aretha cover of the song intrigues me.) But these six will have to do for now:

A Six-Pack Of Reminders
“Always Something There To Remind Me” by Sandie Shaw, Pye 15704 (UK) [1964]
“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” by Lou Johnson, Big Hill 552 [1964]
“(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me” by José Feliciano from Feliciano! [1968]
“Always Something There To Remind Me” by Michael McDonald from That Was Then [1972]
“Always Something There To Remind Me” by R.B. Greaves, Atco 6726 [1970]
“Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes, EMI America 8155 [1983]

Afternote: I read Oldetymer’s note, and yes, the McDonald track does sound like B.J. Thomas. I admit to wondering about it myself, as it was an extra track in the That Was Then package someone posted for me. So I did some digging, and it turns, according to what I learned at An Overdose of Fingal Cocoa, that McDonald recorded some tracks for Bell Records in 1972 that were eventually released on Arista in 1982 as That Was Then. A later re-release on vinyl included some bonus tracks, one of which was “Always Something There To Remind Me.” So it is in fact a young Michael McDonald.

Saturday Singles Nos. 124, 125 & 126

June 1, 2012

Originally posted April 18, 2009

Last week, as I began to look at the records I’ve purchased in April over the years, we got as far as 1989, when I was beginning to pack up after two years of teaching at Minot State University. A year later, in April of 1990, I moved from Minnesota to a Kansas hamlet, where a lady friend waited. I bought no records in April of 1990, and in July of that year, I moved from that small town in Kansas to Columbia, Missouri, to teach once more.

In the spring of 1991, the staff at the student radio station at Stephens College finished cleaning off its shelves. I’d gotten quite a few records in March; my April haul that month was minimal. I brought home some Jake Holmes, some Ides of March, a couple albums by the Sutherland Brothers and the Balkan Rhythm Band’s album The Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around! I got a Barbra Streisand album at a garage sale and went to one of Columbia’s downtown emporiums to get the new Ryko release – on translucent green vinyl – of Ringo Starr’s first tour in 1989 with his All-Starr Band.

In August of 1991, it was back to Minnesota and to journalism, as I took a job in Eden Prairie, one of the Twin Cities’ southwestern suburbs, and I found an apartment in a northwestern suburb, leaving me with a twenty-mile commute through some of the thickest traffic in the Twin Cities. I liked my job, but I didn’t care for much else that was going on, and – and I find this remarkable – I didn’t buy a record from the end of July 1991, just before I left Columbia, until April of 1992, when I moved to Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis, five blocks from Cheapo’s.

In the first days of that April, a garage sale brought me a local gospel album by the Greater Sabathani Baptist Church Mass Choir, and later that week, on my first visit to Cheapo’s, I picked up Bruce Springsteen’s pair of new releases, Lucky Town and Human Touch. As the month wore on, I found Jesse Winchester, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away and Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s Dancer With Bruised Knees. In retrospect, that month’s purchases seem tentative. By the time April danced around again, I’d added more than a hundred and seven LPs to the stacks. (More likely to the growing collection of crates on the floor of my small apartment, as the big shelves themselves were beginning to be filled.)

Looking at the LP log this morning, I see a pattern I’d never noticed before, one for which I have no explanation. In the early 1990s, I bought lots of records during summer, fall and winter, and then – even living so close to Cheapo’s – my purchases tailed off in spring. The only reason I can think of is that, as a reporter whose work was tied closely to goings-on in the schools, spring was a busier season than the others. But April 1993 found me bringing home only three LPs: one by Billy Ocean, one by Sade and one by James Taylor. In April 1994, it was one album each by the Crystals, Boz Scaggs and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. In April 1995, it was one Eric Clapton album and one by Minnie Riperton. In April 1996, the month when I left journalism and began a two-and-a-half-year period of scuffling, I got LPs by Ringo Starr, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Hurricane Smith.

Cheapo’s moved eight blocks further away. My car died. I used my 1965 Schwinn to get around the neighborhood, and I rode Metro buses to get to my long-term temp jobs downtown. And I began to get real serious about buying records, as music seemed like the only thing at the time that was helping me maintain my equilibrium. Eleven LPs in April of 1997, starting with The Best of Delaney & Bonnie and ending with the O’Jays’ Collectors Items. April of 1998 brought me twenty-five LPs: The first was Muddy Waters’ Rolling Stone collection, the last was Cris Williamson’s Blue Rider, and the most interesting was likely Huey “Piano” Smith & His Clowns: The Imperial Sides 1960-61.

In April 1999, during the last spring I was within biking distance of Cheapo’s, I brought home fifty-seven records. The first was Cold Blood’s Thriller! The last was Jim Horn’s Neon Nights. And the most interesting? Probably Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares, the 1987 LP that followed in the path of the Nonesuch Explorer series, delving – for three more albums on vinyl and CD – into the odd, dissonant and compelling choral music of Bulgaria.

Fifty-seven records in one April. I don’t know if that’s a record for an entire month. I imagine we’ll find out as we go through the log month-by-month. I do know that come the next April, in early 2000, I was no longer in the workforce, I was seven miles further from Cheapo’s (though there were used record stores near where I lived, just none nearly as good), and, having gone online and digital, I was thinking a lot about CDs.

I bought two records in April 2000: the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing (to replace a damaged copy I’d had for years) and an anthology titled Guys With Soul Are The Greatest. In April 2001, I bought a sealed copy of Bruce Springsteen’s Live In New York City. And in 2002, I brought home an anthology of blues artists who recorded for Atlantic Records in the 1950 and 1960s.

By this time, the Texas Gal and I were in the ’burbs, planning our retreat to St. Cloud, and the majority of my record-shopping was done online. In April 2003, I got Eric Burdon Declares “War” and Johnny Jenkins’ marvelous Ton Ton Macoute!, some of which is laid on instrumental tracks that were intended for a Duane Allman solo album. By the time we got to St. Cloud, even online purchases were infrequent, and most of my vinyl hunting came at the occasional garage sale. April 2004 brought me two Steve Forbert LPs at a garage sale, and April 2007 brought me Shawn Phillips’ Collaboration (such a quiet album that I’ve never found a worthwhile vinyl copy although I’ve purchased maybe ten of them) and Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley P.T.A. And last April, in a store I’d not seen before, tucked into a strip mall behind Red Lobster, I found R.B. Greaves and Very Extremely Dangerous by Muscle Shoals guitar stalwart Eddie Hinton.

Given such a mishmash of possibilities, I’ve decided to share three songs this morning. So, from vinyl ranging from near-pristine to well-used, here are your Saturday Singles:

“Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” by R.B. Greaves from R.B. Greaves [1969]

“Karlov’s Gankino” by the Balkan Rhythm Band from The Jazziest Balkan Dance Band Around! [1983]

“Down Along The Cove” by Johnny Jenkins (with Duane Allman et al.) from Ton Ton Macoute! [1970]

A Six-Pack From Three Februarys

February 1, 2012

Originally posted February 20, 2009

In February of 1967, my parents and doctor decided that the only was to halt my series of increasingly frequent sore throats was to take out my tonsils. I remember thinking perversely during the worst of the post-surgical pain, “Yeah, they did a fine job getting rid of my sore throat. I can’t even swallow ice cream!”

Of course, that passed, and sore throats have been a relative rarity in the more than forty years since then. As it’s mid-February and the forty-second anniversary of my tonsils’ liberation, my first thought for today was to dig into the chart from 1967 and see what I wasn’t listening to as I recovered. But I did a post from February 1967 just a week ago. I mean, I know I could find six pretty good additional singles, but I’d rather not double up that quickly.

So in yesterday’s post, I said I’d likely be looking at this week in 1977. I haven’t dug deeply into that year since last August. But when I looked at the February 19, 1977, chart, it didn’t seem to have any singles that grabbed me by the ears and said, “Listen to this, Buster!” So, dithering, I looked at the chart from February 21, 1970, a chart that falls right in the middle of the first great season of Top 40 for me. And there were many old friends there. So I continued to dither.

But when I got up this morning, it felt like pre-op 1967: I have a sore throat and don’t wanna decide anything this morning. (The Texas Gal has taken the day off, and I’m hoping to feel well enough this afternoon to take in the movie we’ve been planning to see.)

So here are some singles from 1967, 1970 and 1977:

A Six-Pack From Three February editions of the Billboard Hot 100
“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames, RCA Victor 9002 [No. 24, February 18, 1967]

“With This Ring” by the Platters, Musicor 1229 [No. 126, February 18, 1967]

“Always Something There To Remind Me” by R.B. Greaves, Atco 6726 [No. 33, February 21, 1970]

“Je T’Aime . . . Moi Non Plus” by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, Fontana 1665 [No. 63, February 21, 1970]

“Living Next Door To Alice” by Smokie, RSO 860 [No. 27, February 19, 1977]

“What Can I Say” by Boz Scaggs, Columbia 10440 [No. 98, February 19, 1977]

Ed Ames was better known in 1967 for playing the role of Mingo, a Native American, on the television series Daniel Boone. “My Cup Runneth Over,” from the Broadway musical I Do, I Do, is pure pop, of course, but people liked it: It went to No. 8.

“With This Ring” was the twenty-third – and last – Top 40 hit for the Platters, who first made the chart with “Only You (And You Alone)” in 1955. The group had seven Top Ten hits, and four made it to No. 1: “The Great Pretender,” “My Prayer,” “Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” “With This Ring” – which I’ve always thought was a nice bit of music – went to No. 14 in 1967.

When R.B. Greaves is thought about at all these days, it’s generally for “Take A Letter, Maria,” which went to No. 2 in November of 1969, blocked from the top spot by the 5th Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues.” While I liked “Maria,” I’ve always thought that Greaves did a better job on “Always Something There To Remind Me,” which stalled at No. 27 in the late winter of 1970. Thirteen years later, the English duo Naked Eyes sent their version, titled “(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me,” to No. 8.

“Je T’Aime . . . Moi Non Plus” by Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, was quite the deal in its day. The matter-of-fact yet intimate tone of the melodic conversation (in French, no less) followed by Birkin’s moans of ecstasy kept, I believe, a lot of program directors in the U.S. from putting the single on the air. The single peaked at No. 58 during a ten-week stay in the Hot 100. Wikipedia has a good recap of the hoo-ha that followed the single’s release.

I only vaguely recall hearing “Living Next Door To Alice” when it was on the charts, but it’s a good, if not great single that has always sounded to me a lot like Dr Hook. (In fact, when I was wandering around the ’Net this morning digging up information, I saw that a lot of careless listeners have tagged the song as being Dr. Hook’s work.) The record, which went to No. 25, was the only U.S. hit for Smokie, whose members hailed from Yorkshire, England. The group was far more successful in its native country.

Lastly, I figure a guy can never go wrong when he takes advantage of a chance to post a Boz Scaggs record. “What Can I Say” was the third – I think – single from Scaggs’ marvelous Silk Degrees album, but it didn’t have the success that its predecessors had: “It’s Over” dented the Top 40, reaching No. 38 in the spring of 1976, and “Lowdown” went to No. 3 that summer. “What Can I Say,” which was just as good as those two, was in the Hot 100 for fourteen weeks but got only to No. 58. (Another single from Silk Degrees, “Lido Shuffle,” would follow “What Can I Say” and reach No. 11 in the spring of 1977.

Note:
The version of “With This Ring” I posted was – because of a filing error – the karaoke version. Sorry. I’ve uploaded the correct version.