Posts Tagged ‘Sly & The Family Stone’

Dee Dee & Sly

November 16, 2011

Originally posted January 8, 2009

Just a couple things from YouTube today.

Here’s Dee Dee Sharp in a lip-synch performance from about 1962, when “Mashed Potato Time” was on the charts:

Here’s an early video of Sly & the Family Stone performing live on television. How do I know it’s early? Sly doesn’t have a huge Afro, and he’s not wearing a big funky hat. The vide at YouTube is labeled “Dance To The Music/Music Lover,” But I’m pretty sure that what the group is performing is the track titled “Dance to the Medley: Music Is Alive/Dance In/Music Lover,” from the group’s first album. And that likely puts the television appearance into 1968.

Video deleted.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to revive the old Junkyard idea and present a random selection of stuff from 1950-1999, but I think – in keeping with the recent Six-Pack packaging, we’ll call it a Twelve-Pack. Let’s hope we get some good stuff!

Enjoying A Mystery Gift

November 16, 2011

Originally posted January 7, 2009

It’s not often that I can go to a music store and rummage around without having to think about a budget. But two days after Christmas I went to St. Cloud’s branch of the Electric Fetus, armed with the $100 gift card I’d received in the mail from someone who is both anonymous and generous.

I still have no idea who sent me the gift card. It arrived December 20, and I wrote about it a week later, having waited to see if someone would write or call to explain the gift or – and I wondered about this – to tell me it was all a mistake. By the time I wrote about the gift card, I was ready to shop, and I headed downtown that afternoon.

I first rummaged through the used CDs (habits of frugality are hard to break) and then headed to the new R&B. I found two of the three CDs I had in mind, both by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Dap-Dippin’ With . . . and 100 Days, 100 Nights. I’d been introduced to the group via another music blog and immediately loved the music, which sounds to me as if it were recorded in Memphis in 1967. If you like classic R&B and you’ve not heard the group before, you really should. (If you’ve heard Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, you’ve heard some of the Dap-Kings; several of them were among the backing musicians for the 2006 album.)

And then I wandered for a while, seeing a lot of stuff that would be fine to have but not, somehow, grand enough for the opportunity to buy almost anything I wanted. So I started to look at the box sets. The first one I pulled down was called Love Is The Song We Sing, subtitled San Francisco Nuggets, 1965-1970. Four discs covering pre-Summer of Love music, recordings from the San Francisco-area suburbs, music from the summer of 1967 itself and then recordings from later years. The four CDs came packaged in a book, with several essays, lots of photographs and a track-by-track commentary.

I tucked it under my arm and went to the box sets displayed on the far wall.

And there, I spotted Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia, another four-CD set chronicling the incredibly successful (and incredibly good) cluster of musicians, producers and songwriters that worked in Philadelphia from the late 1960s into the 1980s. The music starts with the Soul Survivors’ “Expressway (To Your Heart)” from 1967 and ends with Patti LaBelle’s “If Only You Knew” from 1983.

I grabbed that one, too.

I didn’t budget perfectly. But when all was done, I ended up paying less than ten dollars out of my pocket for the two box sets and the two Sharon Jones CDs. Ten days later, I’m still listening my way through all of the music, track by track.

Of the two box sets, it’s hard to say which is the better: I tend to like the music on Love Train a little better, maybe because the time frame covers more years when I was listening to radio. But the Philadelphia set doesn’t offer nearly as much information about the music and the artists as does Love Is The Song We Sing. The San Francisco book has, as I indicated above, brief comments about every track to go along with the expected basic credits, recording and chart history and discography. The Love Train set offers that same basic data about each of its tracks, but there’s no other information specific to the recordings. The Love Train book does have some interesting essays: The best of them is an account by historian Gerald Early of what it was like to grow up in Philadelphia during the years when producers like Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, Thom Bell and all the others were making Philadelphia one of the central sources of the nation’s musical heart.

Here are three from Love Is The Song We Sing and three from Love Train. (I’ll likely offer a track or two by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings later this week.)

A Six-Pack From An Anonymous Friend
“Underdog” by Sly & the Family Stone from A Whole New Thing, 1967

“Rubiyat” by the Immediate Family, unreleased recording, 1967

“Why Did You Put Me On” by Notes From The Underground from Notes From The Underground, 1968

“You’re The Reason Why” by the Ebonys, Philadelphia International 3503, 1971

“T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” by MFSB with the Three Degrees, Philadelphia International 3540, 1974

“I’m Not In Love” by Dee Dee Sharp, TSOP 4778, 1976

A few notes:

When I was rifling through the Love Is The Song We Sing book on the phone with Rick the other evening, he was startled to hear me mention Sylvester Stewart as the producer of some of the earlier singles included from areas east of San Francisco Bay. “Man, I always thought he was from Detroit or maybe someplace in the east,” Rick said. “The music isn’t the sound I think of when I think of San Francisco music!” I mentioned to him a comment by Dave Marsh in The Heart of Rock and Soul: “After two hundred takes failed to get an acceptable ‘White Rabbit’ from a pre-Jefferson Airplane group featuring Grace Slick, disk jockey/record producer Sly Stewart vowed to forget that acid-rock shit. So he renamed himself Sly Stone and formed his own band to play ‘the first fusion of psychedelia and rhythm and blues.’” Maybe the main thing that a boxset like Love Is The Song We Sing underlines is that there were many sounds in San Francisco during those years, and we tend to focus on too few of them.

The Immediate Family came from the East Bay city of Concord, but Love Is The Song We Sing notes that the group practiced at the home of organist Kriss Kovacs, whose mother was a singing coach, with her clientele including names like Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Johnny Mathis and other San Francisco luminaries. After gigging and sending out demos, the group was signed to record at Golden State Recorders in San Francisco. “Rubiyat” was one of the products of those sessions, taking verses from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and setting them in a “swirling, dreamy soundscape.”

Notes From The Underground was a Berkeley group. After recording an EP on the Changes label in 1968, the group was signed by blues scholar Sam Charters to a recording contract with Vanguard records. Notes From The Underground was asked to go to New York to record its first album; it did so, but the label – according to Love Is The Song We Sing – didn’t promote the album strongly enough, and the group fell apart. “Why Did You Put Me On,” says the book, is from that album but is “atypically edgy.”

The Ebonys, says All-Music Guide, were a mixed gender group that came out of New Jersey in 1968 and were discovered by producer Leon Huff. “You’re The Reason Why” made it to No. 10 on the R&B chart in 1971 (No. 51 on the pop chart). It should have done lots better than that, to my ears. After another hit – “It’s Forever” – in 1973, the Ebonys kept recording but with little success.

I know “T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia)” is one of those tracks that everyone knows. But it’s so damned good, I had to post it. Dave Marsh wrote about the song: “[W]hen the Three Degrees show up, midway through, to chant ‘People all over the world!’ they did nothing more than state plain fact. In 1974, this is what the world sounded like. In another six months or so, they’d convert the beat and strings into a rigid formula called disco. ‘TSOP’ is what the ingredients sounded like in the test tube.”

Dee Dee Sharp had six Top 40 hits in the 1960s, with the most successful of them being “Mashed Potato Time,” which went to No. 2 for two weeks in 1962. (It was No. 1 for four weeks on the R&B chart.) In 1967, four years after her last hit, she married Kenny Gamble, whose music – as the Love Train set underlines – was a key ingredient (if that’s not understating it) in what we call the Philadelphia sound. Nine years later, in 1976, Sharp recorded her first album for Philadelphia International: Her cover of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” was released as a single and went to No. 62 on the R&B chart. The 10cc version, with its air of emotional disguise and reserve, had gone to No. 2 in the summer of 1975. Sharp’s version should have done at least that well.

On Time Spent Scanning The Skies

October 12, 2011

Originally posted December 10, 2008

I glanced out the kitchen window last evening right around sunset and saw what must have been Jupiter in the southern sky. It might have been Venus, I suppose, but I think it was too far from the horizon and the sunset for that. I didn’t think much about it, just noticed the intense point of white light in the sky and wondered for a moment: Jupiter or Venus? And then I poured myself another cup of coffee and went back to the study.

But it got me thinking about the night sky in winter. If I’d poked my head out into the chill last evening, I would have had a good view of Orion, the huge – and most easily identifiable – constellation that dominates our sky in winter evenings. And I thought of the winter of the telescope and of star names and of fledgling astronomy.

I got the telescope for Christmas in 1970, my senior year of high school. It was a Tasco, and I used it many evenings that winter, lugging it out into the cold back yard, scanning the craters and plains of the moon and straining to see detail in the fuzzy and distant nebula just below Orion’s belt. I focused on Jupiter and saw as well the large planet’s four largest moons, the moons first seen by Galileo in 1609: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. (How amazing it is that those names remain in my memory!)

And I learned the stars, through my telescope, my own reading, and through an astronomy course offered at St. Cloud Tech during the second semester of that school year. Along the way, I became fascinated by the names of stars and by being able to tie those names to what I saw: Betelgeuse, with its dull red glow at the upper left corner of Orion, and diagonally across, in the lower right, Rigel with its sapphire gleam. Vega, glowing like an emerald in the constellation Altair, and Arcturus, another reddish star in the otherwise faint kite-shape of Boötes.

I read about stars and planets, looked nearly every night at one or more of them in the sky and listened in class as we talked about them and about the physics and math that lie behind the science of astronomy. I imagine it was my study of astronomy that led me to my years-long passion for science fiction. And – as I demonstrated above with the names of the four largest moons of Jupiter – much of that has stayed with me for nearly forty years.

I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. But it did last evening as I thought about Orion. In my head I named the stars of the constellation: Betelgeuse, Rigel, Bellatrix and Saiph in the main rectangle, and in the belt, the three stars with names bestowed on them long ago – as were many other stars’ names – by Arabian astronomers wandering the desert: Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka. Strange-sounding names for something we can see every night, if we only tilt our heads to the sky.

I know where my telescope is. It’s in the basement, in its original box. Something broke on the tripod a few years ago, and I’d have to have it repaired to be able to scan the skies again. I might do that.

A Six-Pack of Stars
“Stars in Heaven” by Comfortable Chair from Comfortable Chair, 1968

“Song of the Stars” by Dead Can Dance from Spiritchaser, 1996

“Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic 10555, 1970

“I Found Her In A Star” by the Guess Who from Wheatfield Soul, 1969

“I’m In Love With A German Film Star” by the Passions, Polydor POSP 222 (UK), 1981

“Good Morning, Starshine” by Oliver, Jubilee 5659, 1969

A few notes:

I don’t know much about Comfortable Chair. The group was a so-called psychedelic group from California, according to All-Music Guide and recorded only one album for Lou Adler’s Ode label, which – reading between the lines at AMG – wasn’t much of a label. The most significant thing about the album, AMG notes, is that its producers were Robbie Krieger and John Densmore of the Doors.

“Song of the Stars” is one of those long trance-like pieces mixing world music influences with what comes off – from a distance of twelve years – as sophomore year philosophy. Like most of the long pieces Dead Can Dance came up with, it can be interesting listening, but in the end, it seems a little hollow. As it played this morning, I was reminded of how some friends and I listened intently during our freshman year of college, trying hard to catch every nuance of the Doors’ long track, “The Soft Parade.” I think “Song of the Stars” should age better than “The Soft Parade” has.

As happens so often with songs from the winter of 1969-70, the first strains this morning of “Everybody is a Star” resurrected in my mind the old RCA radio that sat on my nightstand long ago. It offered through music the comfort and reassurance that I could endure junior year and that I really wasn’t any more of a dork than anyone else. “Everybody is a Star,” – the flipside of the No. 1 single “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” – might be the sweetest tune that Sly Stone and his pals ever offered up, and it’s a favorite of mine.

The Passions “I’m In Love With A German Film Star” didn’t make the Top 40 on this side of the Atlantic, but I assume it did so in Britain. Its production flourishes, coupled with an archly offered lyric, make it a track that screams “Eighties!” And that’s okay – that oft-maligned decade provided worse.

“Good Morning Starshine” originally came from the musical Hair, one of four cover versions from the musical that made the Top 40. (The Cowsills’ “Hair,” the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” and “Easy to Be Hard” by Three Dog Night were the others.) “Good Morning Starshine” went to No. 3 during the summer of 1969.

A Baker’s Dozen Under No. 1 From 1970

June 15, 2011

Originally posted March 5, 2008

As I’ve mentioned a fair number of times, it was in late 1969 and early 1970 that I began to listen regularly to Top 40 radio. Every once in a while, I wander over to one of the sites that catalog local radio charts from those years. I choose a station and a weekly chart almost at random and let my eyes wander up and down the list, with my internal radio playing snippets of songs first heard long ago.

I did that this morning, casting about for a theme for a Baker’s Dozen. I had at first thought about a list of songs with “Road” in their titles, as I’ve long wanted to share Elvis Presley’s version of “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.” But I ran part of a random search and then thought to myself, well, maybe another day. So I looked at the charts for March of 1970, thinking I might just present the top thirteen songs of one week. But during that month, one of the top records everywhere I looked was Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that record at all. It’s a truly great record (as is the album from which it came). But I shared it here last August, and – besides that – it’s one of those omnipresent records. I don’t think anyone ever hears it and thinks, “Wow, when was the last time I heard that?” And that reaction is one I hope that at least some of the things I share here will generate.

So I looked at 1969, and I looked at 1971 and 1973 and 1975. And I was dissatisfied by what I saw. Maybe I’m just in a bad mood today, I thought. Then I had the thought that maybe I should go ahead and pretend that the Simon & Garfunkel record wasn’t there, present records Nos. 2 through 14 as a Baker’s Dozen Under No. 1 or something like that. So I went back to the WDGY (Twin Cities) chart for March 6, 1970, and looked at those records. Not a bad batch, but I’d have to go find two of them, Frijid Pink’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman. (Now that I have the external hard drive, I can afford to use storage space for frivolities like songs by Bobby Sherman.)

And I got sidetracked. I not only found those two songs, but also found – and saved to the hard drive – Sherman’s “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” and “Seattle.” Being at least a little bit of an archivist, I wanted to find the catalog numbers for those. “Julie” was easy, but it’s a bit harder to track down the genesis of “Seattle,” which was Sherman’s version of the theme song for the 1968 TV show Here Come the Brides. (Sherman was one of the stars of the show.) Wikipedia says that Sherman’s version of the song reached the Cash Box Top 100 in 1969, but twenty minutes combing through the online charts cast doubt on that; I found Perry Como’s version of the song listed, but not Sherman’s. Another search left me looking at a picture of a record cut from the back of a cereal box. I doubt that was the only way “Seattle” was released, but by that time, I’d already spent thirty minutes on a record that’s not in my plans for today. So I’ll get back to it later and go ahead and present my rather odd idea.

A Baker’s Dozen Under No. 1, March 6, 1970

“Ma Belle Amie” by the Tee Set, Colossus single 107

“Who’ll Stop The Rain”/“Travelin’ Band” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy single 637

“Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus single 9074

“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies, Epic single 10532

“Easy Come, Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman, Metromedia single 177

“Thank You”/“Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic single 10555

“No Time” by the Guess Who, RCA single 0300

“House of the Rising Sun” by Frijid Pink, Parrot single 341

“Rainy Night In Georgia” by Brook Benton, Cotillion single 44057

“Oh Me, Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” by Lulu, Atco single 6722

“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz, Kama Sutra single 502

“Hey There, Lonely Girl” by Eddie Holman, ABC single 11240

“Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley, RCA single 9791

A few notes:

One of the quandaries facing me here is one that I think almost any radio lover encounters when trying to assess a cluster of songs from the past. Most of these songs are old friends, and it’s hard to look at them, to listen to them, objectively.

I think the best of this list are the Creedence sides along with “A Rainy Night In Georgia,” “Kentucky Rain.” and “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby).” (That last should not be a surprise to regular readers.)

Of the rest of them, some have aged well, some haven’t, and some never had a chance.

“Give Me Just A Little More Time” and the two Sly & the Family Stone records still sound pretty good, although “Everybody Is A Star” sounds to me a little bit better than its A side, the full title of which is “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” The Hollies, the Guess Who and Eddie Holman are still good listening, too, though maybe a notch lower.

Frijid Pink’s “House of the Rising Sun” sounded better this morning – hearing it for the first time in years – than I expected it to, but my expectations were, I admit, low. I guess I won’t hit the skip button when it comes up again, though. The same holds true for “Ma Belle Amie,” which I kind of like, as clunky as it may be.

As for “The Rapper” and the Bobby Sherman record, well, if I had to trim these thirteen down to ten, they’d be the first ones cut. After that, well, I suppose the Frijid Pink song would fall, if only because I like to sing along during the French lines in “Ma Belle Amie.”

I’ve presented the B sides of the two double-sided singles because I think they’re less likely to be heard on the radio.

A Baker’s Dozen Of Thanks

May 22, 2011

Originally posted November 23, 2007

It’s quiet here this morning.

There’s no noise from the parking lot outside, where most morning, the college kids and younger adults who make up a good portion of the folks in our apartment complex start the public portions of their days with laughter, the sounds of auto engines rumbling and the more frequent sounds of the heavy low bass of rap or hip-hop. In fact, more than half of the parking spaces are empty, evidence of Thanksgivings spent elsewhere.

The Texas Gal is taking advantage of the opportunity a rare vacation day presents: She’s sleeping in past her normal rising time of 6:30. It’s 7:47, and I’ve shut the bedroom door so that our two rampaging catboys – Clarence and Oscar – leave her alone. They’ll no doubt come through here, demanding attention, while I write.

We had a pleasant day yesterday: dinner with my family at my sister’s home in a Twin Cities suburb, and then we spent the evening with friends Sean and Stephanie at their new apartment on the west end of St. Cloud.

I had planned to rip an album this morning, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away from 1973, but I think I will leave that for Monday and move Monday’s planned share – Color Him In, a 1967 album by Bobby Jameson – for a week from today. Instead, though, I thought I’d offer a Baker’s Dozen in the spirit of yesterday’s holiday.

And no, I’m not going to go all rhapsodic about Thanksgiving and the things I am grateful for. Just let it suffice to say that I have a great deal for which to be grateful, starting, of course, with the Texas Gal and her love for me and extending throughout the various aspects of my life – my friends, my critters and all the rest – to those folks who stop by Echoes In The Wind to listen to the music that moves me.

A Baker’s Dozen of Thanks
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic single 10555, 1970

“Thanks for the Pepperoni” by George Harrison and friends from Apple Jam, All Things Must Pass, 1970

“Thank You Lord” by Rick Nelson from Rudy the Fifth, 1971

“Now Be Thankful” by Fairport Convention, Island WIP single 6809, 1970

“I Wanna Thank You Baby” by Delbert McClinton from Plain From The Heart, 1981

“Thanks To You” by Emmylou Harris from Cowgirl’s Prayer, 1993

“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn, Roxbury single 0236, 1974

“Thank You” by King Floyd from Think About It, 1973

“Thank You Mr. Poobah” by the Butterfield Blues Band from Paul Butterfield Blues Band, 1965

“I Want To Thank You” by Billy Preston from That’s The Way God Planned It, 1969

“Thanks For Saving My Life” by Billy Paul, Philadelphia International 3538, 1974

“Thank You Girl” by the Beatles, Vee-Jay single 587, 1964

“Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot from Shadows, 1982

A few notes on some of the songs:

“Thanks For The Pepperoni” was one of the five tracks on the third LP of All Things Must Pass, George Harrison’s first solo album. That LP, titled Apple Jam, was made up of five long jam sessions recorded by Harrison and his friends during the recording of the album. Listened to as a whole, the jams could become tedious. Taken one at a time, they’re fun to listen to, for the most part. There are no specific credits for tracks, so one has to listen and guess. Guitarists on the album sessions were Harrison, Clapton and Dave Mason; bass players were Klaus Voorman and Carl Radle; on drums were Ringo Starr, Jim Gordon and Alan White; and playing keyboards were Gary Wright, Bobby Whitlock, Billy Preston and Gary Brooker. Which of those actually played on “Thanks For The Pepperoni” is left to speculation, informed supposition and wild guesses.

Rudy the Fifth was a pretty good country rock album from Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. Made up for the most part of originals – “Thank You Lord” is one of them – the album also featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” and “Just Like A Woman” and of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” Although fairly obscure today, it’s an album worth seeking out. (It’s available from various on-line retailers at a two-few with the album Rick Sings Nelson.)

William DeVaughn was a one-hit wonder who, according to All-Music Guide, “was working for the government when he paid $900 for a recording session at Philadelphia’s Omega Sound Inc. (basically a ‘vanity record’ operation).” The session, which was backed by MFSB’s main rhythm section, so impressed Omega’s vice-president Frank Fioravanti, that he shopped “Be Thankful For What You Got” to various labels, finally getting it released on Roxbury. The song went to No. 1 on the R&B charts and to No. 4 on the Billboard Top 40. (DeVaughn had R&B hits with “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” and “Figures Can’t Calculate” but never hit the Top 40 pop chart again.)

I’ve listed “Thank You For The Promises” by Gordon Lightfoot here before but it’s too lovely a song to leave out of this selection.

A Baker’s Dozen for Summer

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 20, 2007

The solstice is upon us tomorrow, the longest day of the year – as measured by sunlight – in the Northern Hemisphere. That means those poor sods in Australia and Argentina and other southern places will stumble around in the dark for a longer period than normal, of course. It also means that the Druids – as I mentioned in Monday’s post – will gather at Stonehenge to see the sun rise over the stone called the Heel Stone as part of their annual ceremonies.

We don’t have any hoopla to mark the beginning of meteorological summer here, as far as I know. There’s no ceremonial dipping of the season’s first ice cream cone or anything like that. The fact that summer as a state of mind has already started likely has something to do with the absence of such things. Summer’s been here for a while, no matter what the calendar says.

Maybe it’s not the same now, but thirty-some years ago, for me and the kids I knew, summer – specifically the summer after high school graduation – marked our first real entry into the workforce. I imagine some kids had worked earlier, but I think that most of us in the Class of 1971 got our first real taste of the so-called adult world very shortly after we took off our caps and gowns. For me, that meant spending forty hours a week doing whatever it was the maintenance department at St. Cloud State wanted me to do. And I got the remarkable sum of $2.10 an hour for doing it.

I spent the first half of that summer mowing lawns, riding a huge roaring machine across the green expanses of lawn on campus. Quite honestly, the mowers were a little scary, requiring a fair amount of strength in order to mow anything but a straight line. As there weren’t any areas of lawn that didn’t require a turn now and then, I did not do well mowing lawn, and by mid-summer, I was transferred indoors to the janitorial corps.

And in the building that housed the art and industrial arts departments, I met Mike. A few years older than I was, Mike was loud, profane and funny. For a week or so, he and I filled in for the vacationing regular janitors in Headley Hall, and then maintenance management assigned me to Mike and we became a roving floor cleaning crew, moving from building to building with our mops and buckets and detergents and electric floor scrubber. The first time Mike turned the operation of the scrubber over to me, the machine – which glides along the floor atop a whirling scrubbing pad – deposited me on my rump on a slippery wet floor. Mike laughed, and all I could do was join in. By the end of the summer, though, I could scrub and polish a floor with the best of them, which pleased me a lot. (At the age of seventeen, one takes one’s accomplishments when and where they surface.)

In August, we switched to an evening schedule, 4 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., to clean the floors in Whitney House, the luxurious one-time private home that then housed the offices of the college president and several vice presidents. We were only allotted thirty minutes for lunch, but given that we had to spend a fair amount of time waiting for mopped floors and newly waxed floors to dry, that was okay.

One evening in Whitney House, Mike and I were lounging in the lower-level office of one of the vice presidents, sipping cola and waiting for the floor in an adjacent office to dry so we could wax it. As we waited, we amused ourselves by browsing through the vice-president’s collection of Playboy magazines (a collection that I imagine would get the vice-president disciplined for harassment these days). As we paged through the most recent editions – which were fairly innocent by today’s standards – we heard a scream upstairs. It was Betty, the nighttime matron!

We ran upstairs, and as we did, we heard a door slam. We saw that the closet where our supplies were kept was closed, and the knob was turning. “Betty, are you okay?” Mike asked through the closet door.

“No,” said Betty. She was a sweet lady, but she was, in today’s terms, developmentally challenged. “There’s a bat, and I don’t want him to get me!”

Mike and I looked around. There, flying up and down the grand staircase of Whitney House, was a small brown bat. “I’ll get him with a broom,” Mike said. But the brooms were in the closet with Betty. It took Mike a few minutes to persuade her to unlock the closet so he could get one. At length, the door opened, and Betty’s hand offered Mike a broom. He took it, and Betty pulled her hand back in and locked the door again.

Mike headed for the stairway with me in tow. The bat came toward him, its course parallel to the stairs, and Mike took aim. Three or four times, he flailed at the flying mammal. Every time, the bat wheeled in its flight and the broom went past harmlessly. We began to laugh, mostly at Mike’s futility but also at the moans and cries still coming from Betty in the closet. On his fourth try, Mike swung harder. The broom again missed the bat and then continued on toward me. I turned my back. The head of the broom struck me between my shoulder blades, and the broomstick broke neatly in two.

We laughed harder.

Mike slumped against the wall near the closet, laughing, and said to me, “You try it.”

I looked for a weapon. The broomstick was useless. I looked in my right hand, where I still carried the vice-president’s most recent edition of Playboy. As the bat flew away from me, up the staircase, I rolled the magazine into a cylinder. At the landing where the staircase turned, the bat reversed its course and headed toward me. I waited at the bottom of the stairs, and as the bat neared me, I rose on my tiptoes and delivered an overhead smash that Bjorn Borg would have envied, catching the bat from behind, where his sonar did no good, and driving him into the carpet.

Mike took a broom and dustpan from Betty’s cart, scooped up the creature and placed him under a tree outside. Evidently, I had only stunned him, for when we checked, half an hour later, the bat was gone. It took us about that long to persuade Betty it was safe to leave the closet.

And then we went back downstairs. I put the magazine back into the vice-president’s desk, and Mike and I waxed the floor of the adjacent office and then moved on to the next office, still laughing.

A couple of years later, when I was working for the library at a job that took me all over campus, I ran into Mike. He told me Betty had retired but that every time he saw her, she talked about the bat in Whitney House. Mike was still floating, filling in for janitors on vacation, but he no longer worked the floor cleaning crew or worked nights. And he missed that.

“We had a good summer that year, didn’t we?” he said to me. “That was a good one.” And he was right.

So, to celebrate the summer that technically starts tomorrow, and to celebrate as well all the good summers of the past – including the summer I spent scrubbing floors – here’s a Baker’s Dozen of songs with the word “summer” in their titles:

“Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers, Imperial single 66267, 1967

“The Boys Of Summer” by Don Henley, Geffen single 29141, 1984

“Summertime” by Scarlett Johansson from Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars, 2006

“Summer Breeze” by the Isley Brothers from 3+3, 1973

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

“Summer Wages” by Ian & Sylvia from Ian & Sylvia, 1971

“Summer’s Almost Gone” by the Doors from Waiting For The Sun, 1968

“Hot Fun In The Summertime” by Sly & The Family Stone, Epic single 10497, 1969

“Suddenly Last Summer” by the Motels, Capitol single 5271, 1983

“Fifteen Summers” by Gallagher & Lyle from Breakaway, 1976

“Summertime Dream” by Gordon Lightfoot from Summertime Dream, 1976

“Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer” by Joan Baez from Diamonds & Rust, 1975

“Summer Wine” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood from Nancy & Lee, 1968

A few notes about the songs:

This is a random selection. I sorted all the songs with “summer” in their titles or album titles, selected “Summer Rain” as the first, and then let the RealPlayer go. I then decided that the word “summer” had to be in the song title, not the album title. And I rejected Brewer & Shipley’s “Indian Summer” as not being quite in the spirit of things. So this is what we got.

A few songs missed the cut that would have been nice. Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” comes to mind, as does Frank Sinatra’s melancholy “Summer Wind.” I love Seals & Crofts’ version of “Summer Breeze,” but it’s so well known that I was glad to see the Isley Brothers’ long version show up instead.

Johnny Rivers’ “Summer Rain” is one of my all-time favorite songs (it would make my Top Twenty for certain), and I was a little surprised to see that the single was not released in summer, that it was released late in the autumn, first making the charts in December of 1967. But then I thought about the last verse of the song, and that made sense. The song is from Rivers’ Realization, which was on my recent list of my favorite albums.

The album Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars, from which the Scarlett Johansson performance comes, was a benefit record for “Music Matters,” an educational program of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I thought that, for an actress not known for singing, Johansson pulled it off pretty well.

I wrote a while back about working at the state trap shoot for three summers when I was in high school and about how I heard some songs so frequently down in the trap pit that they became what I call “trap shoot songs.” “Hot Fun In The Summertime” is one of those songs, redolent of black dust and the smell of gunpowder and the sound of shotguns.

“Summer Wine,” as over-written as it might be – a condition not rare among songs penned by Lee Hazlewood – is nevertheless one of my favorite songs, no matter who sings it. The Nancy & Lee version is not the original – that showed up on a Hazlewood album a year or two earlier than this, I believe – but it is, I think, the best.