Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Stills’

From The Kiddie Corner Kid

November 9, 2011

Originally posted January 6, 2009

It’s a compound word and can be either an adjective or an adverb. But the actual set of words itself comes in several variations: A quick search this morning at Dictionary.com brought me a number of those variations:

Kitty-corner.
Cater-cornered.
Catty-cornered.
Kitty-cornered.

I suppose there are some variations I’ve missed, but they all mean the same, referring to two things placed diagonally. In our neighborhood on Kilian Boulevard thirty-five or more years ago, it was Rick and I who lived kitty-corner to each other. I’ve written frequently of our escapades and our explorations of music, and he’s stopped by on occasion to comment. When he does so, he calls himself the “kiddie corner kid.”

He stopped by and left a note on my New Year’s Eve post, which included my New Year’s Eve lyric, “Twelve O’Clock High.”

The kiddie corner kid wrote:

“I always thought 12 o’clock high was a Gregory Peck WWII airforce movie. Or was it Gregory Peck in that western where the train comes in at 12 o’clock high? I can’t remember, BUT Gregory seems to be intertwined in all.

“Also I have a friend that could put your words to music, he uses this old pump organ in his basement and has a great way with putting musical notes with musical words. (I just can’t make up my mind.)”

I laughed until my eyes watered, but I imagine others read the note and went “Wha?” So a brief explanation might be in order, even though explanations can water down punch lines.

As to the first paragraph, although I’ve used it sparingly in the blog – maybe twice in two years – my first name is in fact Gregory. And yeah, Twelve O’Clock High was a 1949 Air Force film starring Gregory Peck. It also was a television series that ran for three seasons on the American network ABC in the 1960s. And the western Rick referred to was in fact High Noon, but that starred Gary Cooper, not Gregory Peck. I think Rick knew that.

The first paragraph made me smile. The second dissolved me in laughter. The basement in question was at my house, and there was an old pump organ – one my father had bought from his sister – in the corner. The pedals were a little stiff and the bellows a bit wheezy, but they worked. The labels on the stop knobs were printed in a confusing font that I’d call Olde English if the words had been English. The words were Swedish, I think, although they could have been Latin. Either way, they were unintelligible for kids of fifteen. But it didn’t matter; we’d pull out a few of the stops and noodle around on the organ. And one day, we wrote a song: “Can’t Make Up My Mind.”

The music is a pretty standard three-chord romp with a few dips and stops. The lyric, well, we were fifteen, maybe sixteen. “Can’t Make Up My Mind” is the first lyric I’d ever committed to paper. It’s pretty bad.

“Hey, it wasn’t that bad,” Rick told me last night. “It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful.”

Well, we can disagree on that. I told him we did better on our next effort, a little Lightfootesque ditty called “Sunday Afternoon.”

“Yeah,” he said. “That was all right.”

But with either of those songs – and the few other bits and pieces of songs we put together in those years – the product matters little. It was the process, the time spent together in common effort, that was the seed of the memories that we both cherish. “It’s funny,” he said, “the things that stick with you. I must have gone upstairs at your place for something, because I remember being on the landing, coming down the basement stairs, and hearing you in the basement, working on the song on that old organ.”

It was a good time, even if it wasn’t good music . . . yet.

A Six-Pack of Good Times
“Let The Good Times Roll” by Ray Charles, Atlantic 2047, 1960

“Old Times, Good Times” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills, 1970

“Good Times” by Shelagh McDonald from Stargazer, 1971

“For The Good Times” by Al Green from I’m Still In Love With You, 1972

“A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ The Blues)” by Jim Croce from Life & Times, 1973

“Good Times” by Chic from Risqué, 1979

A few notes:

Based solely on the catalog, “Let The Good Times Roll” was one of Ray Charles’ last singles for Atlantic before he moved to ABC-Paramount. The record didn’t make the Top 40, and it might not be in the top ten percent of Charles’ records, but a performance from Charles that’s less than stellar is, of course, better than a hell of a lot of music.

I’ve posted the Stephen Stills track at least once before, but it’s so good and happens to fit so well into today’s theme. The hit from Stephen Stills was, of course, “Love The One You’re With,” which went to No. 14 as 1970 slid into 1971. I’ve long thought that Stills should have released “Old Times Good Times,” which has Jimi Hendrix playing lead guitar, as a single. Hendrix had died only months before the album and its first single were released, and the single would have been a fitting memorial. But maybe it was too soon.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never before posted anything from Shelagh McDonald, whose story is one of the most fascinating in rock history. The owner of an achingly lovely voice, McDonald, a Scottish folk singer, songwriter and guitarist, had released two albums and was on the edge of stardom in Britain when she simply disappeared in 1971. When her music was released on CD in 2005, piquing interest in her tale, she showed up one day in the offices of the Scottish Daily Mail and told her story. That story and her music – collected on Sanctuary Music’s 2005 complilation, Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – are both well worth checking out.*

Al Green and Willie Mitchell in the 1970s: One sound, millions of hearts moved.

Chic’s “Good Times” was one of two things: It could have been a call to party now and forever because the world is going to hell and we’re all gonna die. Or it might have been irony, because the times – when it came out – were lots less than good. I don’t know. I likely could dig through some research and make a judgment, but that would be work. So what the hell, let’s dance as the lights fade!

*As it turns out, I had previously posted a track from Shelagh McDonald, but no more than that. I had not previously written about her fascinating story. Note added November 9, 2011.

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Saturday Single No. 69

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 26, 2008

It snowed last night, or rather, early this morning. On April 26, for Odin’s sake!

Well, I’m aware that April snows are not unheard of here in the Northland. Cold and wet weather is a specialty of Mother Nature in these parts. And it didn’t snow all that much, an inch at the most, if that. But we might get more: There’s a 20 percent chance of more snow today and a thirty percent chance for tomorrow, and on neither day will the temperature reach fifty degrees (about 10 degrees Celsius).

If readers have thought, “Geez, he obsesses about the weather,” well, they’re right. Almost all of us in Minnesota do. We talk about the weather when it’s bad, which covers everything from a cloudy day with a light drizzle to a two-foot snowfall with sixty-mile-an-hour winds. On days when the weather is ok but nothing spectacular – maybe a little cloudy and/or maybe a little cool, we talk about bad we think it’s going to get. And on those gorgeous summer days that we get now and then – brilliant blue sky, about 75 degrees (24 C.) with just the hint of a breeze – we talk about how it won’t last. So we’re not only obsessive about the weather, we’re obsessively gloomy about it. I think it’s a genetic aberration present in Nordic peoples, and the other folks who live here have picked it up by osmosis.

But I for one am tired of April feeling like March. So last night, as I sat thinking about this post, I wondered what songs I had about April. If I posted one of them, maybe the weather imps would notice what month it is and start behaving themselves. So I sorted the tunes in the RealPlayer for April.

And I got 243 responses. Turns out that I have a few songs with “April” in the title, and I have a lot of songs that my notes say were recorded in April. (I also have several albums of folkish material that I found at the now-deleted – and superlative – blog 8 Days In April and the comment tags reflect that.)

So what are the songs about April? We start with “April Anne” by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, released on his first solo album, the self-titled album that has become better known as John, The Wolf King of L.A. It’s a sweet song, but it’s about a girl and not the month. I thought about Simon & Garfunkel’s “April, Come She Will,” but I’d like something a little more assertive, something like “April, Get In Here And Clean Up This Mess.”

There’s “April Fool” by the all-woman Seventies funk-rock group Isis (kind of a distaff Earth, Wind & Fire), and “April Fools” by Aretha from her Young, Gifted and Black album. Better, but still not quite what I’m looking for (although I mentally tag both the Aretha track and the group Isis as candidates to show up here sometime soon).

Three Dog Night, of course, recorded “Pieces of April,” which went to No. 19 in 1972, but I don’t want pieces; I want a full April. And Danish songstress Sanne Salomonsen recorded “Sometimes It Snows In April” for her New York Minute album in 1998. Of course, it sometimes snows in April! That’s the problem! (Salomonsen’s song turns out to be a pretty piano-driven ballad with a really cool and emphatic key change during the chorus and words that are so intensely personal that listening to it made me feel as if I were reading her journal.)

So instead of a song about April, let’s take a look at a few songs recorded in April, starting many years ago.

Samantha Bumgarner, whose name pops up frequently if one digs into early recorded popular music, recorded mountain music in the 1920s. She sang and played banjo and fiddle. And according to my notes, she recorded “Big-Eyed Rabbit” and “Worried Blues” in April 1924. My musical interests, as I’ve said earlier, range widely, and this is one of those times when one thinks of the audience and says, “No, I think not.”

The same hold true for most of the songs that I have noted as having been recorded in April (I have session date information for only a fraction of the music I have, and I note it only if the information is easily accessible, so I know there have to be thousands more songs in the RealPlayer recorded in this cruel month – a nod to T.S. Eliot – than I can find this morning.) I don’t think there’s a real yearning to listen to “Pass Around The Bottle And We’ll All Take A Drink,” recorded in 1926 by Gid Tanner’s Skillet Lickers. And I think I can safely pass by Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s “I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground” from 1928.

Blind Willie Johnson had one of the greatest days in blues history in April of 1930, recording all in one day “John the Revelator,” “Soul of a Man” and “Trouble Will Soon Be Over,” but as astounding as those performances are – and they are astounding to blues aficionados – they’re probably of limited interest to my audience.

A couple more blind folks recorded blues in April in the 1930s: Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Willie McTell. Heading into the 1940s, we find Sonny Boy Williamson No. 1, Lil Green, Big Boy Crudup, Hank Williams (a little country to lay on what’s been a load of the blues) and then Edith Piaf, with “La Vie En Rose.” It’s a lovely song, but I think it translates to “Life In Pink,” which is not really what I want for April.

For some reason in the months immediately after World War II, the word “voot” became part of the vernacular among swing musicians and those in the developing style that would become known as rhythm & blues. The word shows up in, oh, maybe fifty, maybe a hundred or more, titles recorded in California (and perhaps elsewhere). I have six examples in the collection, thanks to Tuwa’s Shanty and The Roots Canal, another fine blog that’s gone out of business. And one of those songs was recorded in April, 1948: “Rock That Voot” by the Nelson Alexander Trio,” which tells the listener, “I wanna rock that voot, baby just for you. I wanna rock that voot, baby, all night long,” over a bed of piano, bass and guitar in which one can hear the promise of rock ’n’ roll.

As I look through the Fifties, I see April blues and R&B from Howlin’ Wolf, Big Joe Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson II and others, and I find rockabilly from Wanda Jackson and others. Bob Dylan performed in the Town Hall in New York City in April 1963, and Mississippi John Hurt’s April 15, 1964, concert at Oberlin College in Ohio is a gem. But not right for today.

I scan the list of April-recorded songs all the way through an April 18, 2003, performance of “Terrorized” by Willie King and the Liberators, recorded in Prairie Point, Mississippi. And I move the cursor back to the Sixties for a nice piece of synchronicity.

On April 26, 1968, Stephen Stills was part of what was likely a recording session for Judy Collins’ album Who Knows Where the Time Goes and, after the session, evidently slipped the recording engineer some cash to sit with his guitar and record a batch of songs he’d been working on. Somehow, that tape has surfaced and is now making its way through the blogworld. It provides a chance to listen to early forms of songs that ended up on albums by Crosby, Stills & Nash, CSN&Y, Stills’ own solo work and his work with Manassas, as well as providing four songs (I think) that were never released at all.

The collection was posted at a forum I frequent (thanks, Old Hippie!), and I find it fascinating. Maybe by posting a song recorded exactly forty years ago today, I can find in the music some kind of April mojo.

So here’s a very early version of Stephen Stills’ “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” today’s Saturday Single.

Stephen Stills – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” [1968]

A Baker’s Dozen From 1970, Vol. 3

June 18, 2011

Originally posted March 19, 2008

As books go, they weren’t very impressive. The first, A Sea of Space, was an anthology of fourteen science fiction stories. The authors whose works were included ranged from Ray Bradbury – whom I knew at the time – to William F. Nolan – about whom I learned a little bit later – to Kris Neville, about whom I still know nothing. I bought it some time during 1970 for sixty cents. That was the cover price.

The other book, 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction, was one I got during my first summer in the work force. I wrote here once about spending a portion of the summer of 1971 as a janitor at St. Cloud State. During that time, I spent about two weeks working in the building called Riverview, where the English department had its offices. One day, one of the literature professors put a box of paperback books in the hallway; professors, as I learned later, get free books from publishers all the time. I dug in. And somewhere in the middle of the box I found 13 Great Stories, which turned out to be a reprint of a book originally published in 1960.

I’d been reading science fiction for a little more than a year. And some of the names on the cover of 13 Great Stories were familiar to me: Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Damon Knight, Poul Anderson and Algis Budrys.

As I said, as books go, they weren’t very impressive: A recent anthology of mostly lesser-known writers and an older anthology of more impressive authors’ possibly lesser works. (I’d read much of Arthur C. Clarke’s work by then, and considered the Clarke story included in 13 Great Stories – “Silence, Please!” – to be one of his minor pieces.

But those may have been the most important books I’ve ever owned.

When I was in school – late elementary and junior high – teachers and my parents despaired at my ever learning to write. Oh, I had the vocabulary and knew the English language. It was the mechanics that got to me. Handwriting baffled and frustrated me. I tried and tried to make my letters come out looking like the examples posted above the bulletin boards, but I could never get the shapes right. Add to that the fact that – for some reason – from fourth grade on, we used fountain pens in school, meaning that any hesitation with the pen touching the paper resulted in a blot. My work often resembled a piece of abstract art titled “Study in Black Ink on White.”

And even when using a ballpoint pen, the demands of forming the letter-shapes defeated me before I could even begin to think about content. How could I think about what I was writing when I was unable to master the mechanics of the craft? (My fifth-grade teacher, Roger Lydeen – about whom I will write more on another day – saw the problem and tried to teach me to type, but I was unable to master that at the age of ten.)

So through maybe my sophomore year of high school, I dreaded any assignment that included writing, simply because I could not write cursive script. When I made notes at home – for any purpose, from telling my folks I was over at Rick’s to writing out a hockey schedule for the winter – I printed. And when I was a junior, I believe, I went to my teachers and asked for permission use printing for my work instead of cursive. All of them – having no doubt struggled with reading my work – agreed.

That summer, I bought A Sea of Space, and reading it, I began for the first time to think about writing as something I might want to do. During the first half of my senior year – 1970-71, I began to seriously explore the world of science fiction, reading for content but also looking at least a little bit at technique: How did Clarke structure his stories? What were the constants in the works of Robert Heinlein? How does a writer like Isaac Asimov plan and structure a multi-volume series like his Foundation works? I don’t know if I truly formulated those questions, but those are the things I began to think about at least a little as I read my way through the major works of science fiction from the 1950s and 1960s.

Also that year, I took a class in mass media, and one of our assignments was to write something for the media. Most students wrote stories for newspapers or magazines. As I thought about the assignment, I realized that for the first time in my life, I wanted to write. And I took one of the stories from A Sea of Space, a romantic tale by Robert F. Young titled “One Love Have I,” and I wrote a screenplay.

It wasn’t very good, as I look back, but for a first try, it was okay. I think I got an A. More importantly, I learned I could write. It took me years afterward to figure out that the barrier had been the mechanics and not my brain, but for the first time, I’d thought about writing something and had done it! Poems and lyrics and a few short stories followed over the next few years, and in college, I began to learn to write for a living.

In that summer before I began college, however, I came across 13 Great Stories and learned something else. As soon as I got home that day, after finding the book in the box, I sat down and dug in, reading the first story, “The War Is Over” by Algis Budrys. It was okay, and I moved on to the second story, “The Light” by Poul Anderson. It’s not long, about twelve pages.

And I got to the end of the story and put the book down. I sat there, on the couch in the basement rec room, stunned. I looked back through the story, looking for clues that Anderson had laid down to support his magnificent surprise ending. They were there. I re-read the story, and still I marveled at the ending, which even years later I think is one of the greatest endings to a short story ever.

I’m not going to relate the ending here. I don’t know if the story is still in print or not. If I learn that it’s not, I may open a separate blog and post the entire story there. I will say that I’ve read a lot of fiction since then – this was almost thirty-seven years ago – and I have yet to read another work of fiction that left me so stunned and amazed, or so eager to try to make my own way through the thickets of writing and lay a strong ending into the hands of another reader. And the slender volume, 13 Great Stories went onto my shelf in my early science fiction collection, next to A Sea of Space.

When I moved from my parents’ home to the cold house on the North Side, my father asked me if I was certain I wanted to move all my books. “Your books are your friends,” he said to me. “You care for them and keep them safe. But not everyone feels that way about books. It’s something you need to think about.”

As it turned out, I took most of my books with me, and no harm came to them. My library – science fiction, history, film studies and more – grew and moved with me for years. Then, in the mid- to late 1990s, things got tough. I had some bad luck and I made some poor decisions, and I spent a few years scuffling to get by. And one Saturday, I took several boxes of books – including all of my science fiction collection – to a shop I knew, and I sold them in order to get enough money to pay rent. I didn’t weep as I sold my old friends, but I came close.

I’ve made no attempt to rebuild the collection in the years since, though I likely could. Most of the works are readily available, and I think occasionally about finding them. But about a year ago, I guess, those two volumes of short stories came to mind, and I began to dig online. It took a while to find them, but now they sit here on my table, A Sea of Space and 13 Great Stories of Science Fiction, friends come home at last.

And here’s some music from the year I met the first of those friends.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1970, Vol. 3
“Power to Love” by Jimi Hendrix from Band of Gypsys

“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” by the Allman Brothers Band from Idlewild South

“Poor Elijah/Tribute to Robert Johnson” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from On Tour With Eric Clapton

“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago, Columbia single 45194

“All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison from All Things Must Pass

“Groupy Girl” by Tony Joe White from Tony Joe

“For Yasgur’s Farm” by Mountain from Climbing!

“I Looked Away” by Derek & the Dominoes from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

“Ship of Fools” by the Doors from Morrison Hotel

“Spindrifter” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from What About Me?

“Sittin’ On Top of the World” by Howlin’ Wolf from The London Sessions

“Go Back Home” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills

“Sign on the Window” by Bob Dylan from New Morning

A few notes:

The Band of Gypsys album is one I mentioned the other day when writing about Buddy Miles. It was recorded, as I said then, “at the Fillmore East in New York on the night 1969 turned into 1970.” Jimi Hendrix’ catalog of projects completed during his lifetime is so slender – given that he died young – that all of it might be considered essential. But if I were limited to one record, Band of Gypsys is the one I’d choose.

The Delaney & Bonnie & Friends album from which “Poor Elijah/Tribute to Robert Johnson” comes is a great record. Without actually making a list, I’d guess that it would rank as one of the ten greatest live albums in rock. The “Friends” for that tour, along with Eric Clapton, were Dave Mason, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, percussionist Tex Johnson and Rita Coolidge.

I never listened to a lot of Mountain back then, through I liked the long version of “Nantucket Sleighride” on the live album. I pulled “For Yasgur’s Farm” from a best-of CD, and it’s a pretty good tune. (Not to insult anyone, but I suppose some readers might not know that Max Yasgur’s farm near Bethel, N.Y., was the site of the Woodstock festival.)

I go back and forth on the Doors. Some of their singles still sound good, but others sound, well, dismal. And the same holds true for their albums, both track-by-track and record-by-record. Of all their albums, I think Morrison Hotel holds up best these days. And if “Ship of Fools” isn’t the best track on the record – I think “Roadhouse Blues” or “Indian Summer” gets that nod – it’s at least a good one.

“Spindrifter” a sweet piece, is basically the work of the late Nicky Hopkins, a highly regarded keyboard player who joined Quicksilver in the studio for a good portion of What About Me? As All-Music Guide notes: “For almost two decades, [Hopkins] was the most in-demand session pianist in rock,” working for, among many others, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks, the Jeff Beck Group, the Jefferson Airplane and the Steve Miller Band.

A Baker’s Dozen For Minneapolis

April 30, 2011

Originally posted August 3, 2007

Things like this aren’t supposed to happen. Bridges aren’t supposed to fall down.

No, we didn’t lose anyone. No relatives or friends were on the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis Wednesday evening when it groaned and tumbled into the Mississippi River. But in the larger sense that I think everyone out there understands, those were our friends and neighbors: those who stood dazed on a section of highway sitting on the water, those who helped get the crying children out of that precariously perched school bus, those who crawled up the steep remnants of the bridge and helped others do the same, and yes, those – evidently and thankfully few – who remain lost and in the water still.

The Texas Gal’s sister called us about 6:30 Wednesday evening, asking if we were okay, adding that she knew that sometimes the Texas Gal has to go to Minneapolis for her work. I was confused by her question. We were watching the news, but we were running about fifteen minutes behind, as I’d put the television on pause while we got dinner together. When she told me what had happened, all I could say was “What?” The words made no sense.

Listening, I carried the phone into the living room. The Texas Gal said later that from the look on my face, she thought that someone in one of our families had died. We changed the channel to bring the television up to current time, said goodbye and hung up. Then the Texas Gal and I sat there, stunned, and watched the news for more than three hours.

I called my sister’s house and talked to my brother-in-law. Everyone was safe. We got a couple more calls from Texas, friends seeing if we were okay. And we were, of course. Except that we weren’t. From time to time, things happen that shred the verities in our lives: The doctor has bad news. Someone swallows something the wrong way. A summer storm spawns tornadoes. A car runs a red light into another car’s path. And a bridge falls into the river.

We live less than a mile from the Mississippi River and cross it frequently – the Texas Gal does so everyday and I do a couple times a week. When I lived in Minneapolis eight years ago, I drove on the I-35W bridge every day on my way to work. Crossing the river safely is something we’ve taken for granted, just like those folks who were driving on Interstate 35W Wednesday night took it for granted. We might not for a while. So we – like most Minnesotans and like our friends all around the country – weren’t entirely okay. We were better off than those souls caught in the horror and better off than their families and friends, certainly, but we were shaken.

Now, all the various agencies will go about their jobs. In not that long a time, the last unfortunates will be found and identified. The shattered and twisted bridge will be removed and studied. A new one will be designed and begin to rise. People will point fingers in blame, some in honest outrage and some, sadly, for political gain.

And as all of those things happen, shock and grief will eventually wane – not for some time yet, but eventually – and the wounded will heal. We’ll move forward, having been reminded that every day, we are all no more than one instant from disaster. We always have been and we always will be. It sometimes takes something like a bridge falling into a river to remind us of that and thus to remind us to take nothing for granted, ever.

So if you have children, if you have parents, if you have brothers and sisters, if you have friends, then let them know how much they matter to you. Today.

A Baker’s Dozen for Minneapolis:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel from Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)

“Follow” by Richie Havens from Mixed Bag (1968)

“East of Ginger Trees” by Seals & Crofts from Summer Breeze (1972)

“Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan from Shot of Love (1981)

“The Circle Game” by Tom Rush from The Circle Game (1968)

“Whispering Pines” by The Band from The Band (1969)

“Get It While You Can” by Janis Joplin from Pearl (1970)

“Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy single 645 (1970)

“Page 43” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby (1973)

“We Are Not Helpless” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills (1970)

“Seems Like A Long Time” by Rod Stewart from Every Picture Tells A Story (1971)

“I Shall Be Released” by Joe Cocker from With A Little Help From My Friends (1969)

“Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight, The End” by the Beatles from Abbey Road (1969)

A Baker’s Dozen from 1970, Vol. 2

April 22, 2011

Originally posted May 30, 2007

Every once in a while during the years this blog generally deals with – and I haven’t bothered to sit down and calculate how frequently this actually happened, so that generality will have to do – a song/record came along with an opening that was utterly electric.

I’m sure others had the experience, too: The first time you heard it, you stopped whatever it was you were doing and stared, thinking to yourself, “What in the world is that and how did they do that?” Then, if you’re like me, you went to the turntable and lifted the needle and started the song over again. Or, in at least one case long ago, I rewound the tape and started it again (the awkwardness of which taught me why tape was never going to replace vinyl; it was too painstaking to cue up one specific song). These days, of course, you don’t have to do anything but push the “back” button on the CD or mp3 player.

But no matter how you get back to them, there are songs that announce themselves with such force and vitality that they bring a moment of stunned silence and require a second playing immediately.

That experience came to mind this morning because of the presence on today’s Baker’s Dozen of “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?” from Derek & the Dominos’ classic album Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs. The first time I heard the Eric Clapton-Bobby Whitlock tune was not, for good or ill, in its original context. I wrote in an earlier post about buying the 1972 compilation Eric Clapton At His Best, a compilation that led me to some of my favorite musicians. “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?” leads off the last side of that two-record set, and I recall jerking my head up as I heard the churning A-minor to G-major riff, followed by the surge of Whitlock’s organ and the wailing guitar lead.

That certainly wasn’t the first time a song announced itself with such power, but it’s a first listening I recall more clearly than most, and the song and the recording remain a favorite of mine to this day.

There is, of course, another song on Layla that announces itself with anthemic ferocity, but I don’t recall the first time I heard the album’s title song. Most likely it was soon after the album’s release in 1970, when “Layla,” the song, was released as a single but went nowhere. Certainly by the time the single was re-released two years later, it was a familiar piece of music, but familiarity didn’t – and still doesn’t – make the opening any less gripping.

A few others come to mind as well. Not all of them are on the same level as “Layla” or “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?” but then, very few songs are. But some of the songs with, to me, memorable introductions are:

“One Of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” the Bob Dylan tune that comes from his classic Blonde on Blonde album. For some reason, the European edition of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits included this wonderful cut (I never did bother to figure out what recording from the American edition was left off the European version), and when it rolled around on my tape player one evening in Denmark, I sat straight up at the harmonica announcing itself over a rolling accompaniment.

“Question” by the Moody Blues. I love the madly strummed guitars, punctuated as they are by the thrusts of mellotron (I assume) and horns.*

“She Was Waiting For Her Mother At The Station In Torino And You Know I Love You Baby But It’s Getting Too Heavy To Laugh” by Shawn Phillips. Unlike its title, this song – which opens Phillips’ 1970 album Second Contribution – proves that less is more. Phillips opens the song almost a capella, with only the distant rumble of (I think) tympani providing an accent. The sound of his voice is so distant as he begins to sing that the ear strains to hear and at the same time, the listener – this listener, anyway – marvels at his audacity in opening an album so quietly. (The song is, I imagine, colloquially known as “Woman.”)

“Photograph” by Ringo Starr has an opening figure that would sound like a fanfare – and almost a clichéd one at that – if it were performed by horns of any sort. On piano, it’s an effective and ear-catching entry to a nicely written and produced piece of popcraft (and it has one hell of a saxophone solo, too, performed by Bobby Keys, who at times seems to spell his last name “Keyes”).

I would guess that at least twenty songs by the Rolling Stones belong in this list. “Satisfaction” would likely be the earliest, although it’s never really grabbed me the way other songs listed here do. “Brown Sugar” starts with a bang, as does (appropriately) “Start Me Up.” For my nickel, though, the most gripping introduction to a Stones’ song comes from the chiming guitar that starts “Gimme Shelter.” Sly, spooky and from another world, the slowly layered introduction is perfect for a song about how the world has begun to fall apart around us and we’ve noticed it far too late.

Well, that’s five in addition to the two from Layla, and that’s likely enough for the day. I imagine that as soon as I post this, I’ll think of two or three others I should have listed instead. But that’s one of the joys of writing about music: Two lists on the same topic compiled at separate moments can be utterly different.

And I’d like to know, what are the intros that grab you? Leave a comment, if you would. And enjoy today’s Baker’s Dozen, our second exploration of the year 1970.

“Old Times, Good Times,” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills

“Factory Band” by Ides of March from Vehicle

“Poor Boy” by Nick Drake from Bryter Later

“Feelin’ Alright” by Lulu from New Routes

“Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” by Derek & the Dominos from Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs

“Delta Lady” by Joe Cocker from Mad Dogs & Englishmen

“You and Me” by Aretha Franklin from Spirit In The Dark

“If You Gotta Go, Go Now” by Rick Nelson from Rick Nelson In Concert (The Troubadour 1969)

“Sweet Peace Within” by Mylon Lefvre and Broken Heart from Mylon

“That’s A Touch I Like” by Jesse Winchester from Jesse Winchester

“Gypsy Queen, Part Two” by Gypsy from Gypsy

“Baby, Take Me In Your Arms” by Jefferson, Janus single 106

“Country Road” by Merry Clayton from Gimme Shelter

Some notes on some of the songs:

“Old Times Good Times” might have showed up on an earlier Baker’s Dozen, but it’s too good a song to click past. It’s from Stills’ first – and best – solo album, and Jimi Hendrix provided the guitar part.

According to All But Forgotten Oldies, Jefferson was the pseudonym for British-born pop star Geoff Turton. Prior to going solo, Turton had been the lead singer for the Rocking Berries, a 1960s British pop group. “Baby Take Me In Your Arms” reached No. 23 in the U.S.

Mylon Lefevre, whose “Sweet Peace Within” shows up here, began his musical career with his family’s Southern Gospel group at the age of 12. His work on Mylon with Broken Heart is among the best of his career although one can make an argument that 1973’s On The Road To Freedom – with British rocker Alvin Lee and a supporting cast of stellar sidemen – was better. Nevertheless, “Sweet Peace Within” is a very nice listen from a performer whose work seems to be forgotten these days.

Merry Clayton’s Gimme Shelter album is legendary, as is her scarifying background vocal on the Rolling Stones’ single of the same name. “Country Road,” written by James Taylor, is the album’s opening song and sets the stage for a spectacular solo debut.

*The mellontron/horns are only on the album version of “Question.” The single version, which I almost certainly heard first, has only strummed guitars and a bit of percussion leading to the vocal.  Note added April 22, 2011.

A Double Baker’s Dozen From 1971

April 17, 2011

Originally posted March 6, 2007

There’s a new fellow in Texas Gal’s office, and as kind of a “Welcome to the Funny Patch” gift, she asked me to put together a CD of songs that originated during the 1971-72 academic year, which was his senior year of high school. So I did, and I was pretty amazed at the quality of the music available from the period. Of course, since that time frame was my first year of college, and I seem to have focused a lot of my collecting – many people do likewise, I am sure – on the years of my youth, the sheer volume of stuff available should not have surprised me.

(A quick check on RealPlayer shows that there are 856 songs from 1971 and 720 songs from 1972 in the collection here.)

And Steve’s CD ended up with a pretty good list of songs from those months:

1. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
2. “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse
3. “Imagine” by John Lennon
4. “Life Is A Carnival” by The Band
5. “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes
6. “Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots
7. “Clean-Up Woman” by Betty Wright
8. “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
9. “Levon” by Elton John
10. “Precious and Few” by Climax
11. “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young
12. “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne
13. “Taxi” by Harry Chapin
14. “Suavecito” by Malo
15. “Diary” by Bread
16. “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
17. “Conquistador” by Procol Harum
18. “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
19. “Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones

Texas Gal said he liked it a lot and that he was amused and pleased by the ringer I hid at the end: “Geek in the Pink,” by Jason Mraz, hidden there because he said he’d liked the song when he heard a contestant perform it on American Idol last week.

And I thought, as I am fighting a cold and don’t have the energy to rip an LP today, I’d present a random double baker’s dozen from 1971. (The only rule was to have no more than one cut from any one album, and I did skip one cut from the Mimi Farina-Tom Jans album I posted Monday.) It was a fun year musically for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes!

“Volcano” by The Band from Cahoots.

“Lullaby” by Leo Kottke from Mudlark.

“Down My Dream” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking.

“Ecology Song” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills 2.

“It Ain’t Easy” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy.

“A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell from Blue.

“Don’t Cry My Lady Love” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from Quicksilver.

“Nobody” by the Doobie Brothers from The Doobie Brothers.

“Rock Me On The Water” by Brewer & Shipley from Shake Off The Demon.

“Sweet Emily” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

“Vigilante Man” by Ry Cooder from Into The Purple Valley

“I Saw Her Standing There” by Little Richard fromThe Rill Thing.

“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King from Live In Cook County Jail.

“January Song” by Lindisfarne from Fog On The Tyne.

“Hats Off (To The Stranger)” by Lighthouse from One Fine Morning.

“Levon” by Elton John from Madman Across The Water.

“Let Me Be The One” by Paul Williams from Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.

“Down In The Flood” by Bob Dylan from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

“Soul of Sadness” by Mother Earth from Bring Me Home.

“Pick Up A Gun” by Ralph McTell from You Well Meaning Brought Me Here.

“A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway from Donny Hathaway.

“That’s All Right” by Lightnin’ Slim from High & Low Down.

“Let Your Love Go” by Bread from Manna.

“Freedom Is Beyond The Door” by Candi Staton from Stand By Your Man.

“Younger Men Grow Older” by Richie Havens from Alarm Clock.