Posts Tagged ‘Steve Young’

Saturday Single No. 158

June 1, 2022

Originally posted October 31, 2009

There are once again three bridges funneling traffic across the Mississippi River here in St. Cloud, as there have been for most of my life.

There were, however, only two here when I was born: The bridge connecting St. Germain Street, St. Cloud’s main street, with East St. Germain Street; and the Tenth Street Bridge, which crossed the river near what was then St. Cloud State Teachers College. They were old already, the St. Germain Bridge having been built in 1894 and the Tenth Street Bridge – barely two vehicles wide by the time the larger cars of the 1950s rolled around – having gone up in 1892, connecting Tenth Street on the west bank with the east side’s Michigan Avenue.

I don’t recall that those two bridges had names other than the functional labels of St. Germain Bridge and Tenth Street Bridge. It seems, however, that one of the major concerns of public works in the last half-century has been that those works be named. Thus, the 1970 replacement for the St. Germain Bridge was Veterans Bridge. (To be fair, “St. Germain Bridge” would not have worked for the new span, as the alignment was changed and the bridge connected East St. Germain Street with First Street North.) And when the Tenth Street Bridge was demolished in the mid-1980s, its taller and graceful replacement was reasonably tagged University Bridge.

Neither of those names is awful. It’s just that, as a culture, we seem to invest a great deal more time these days deciding what to call something than seems to really be required. Let’s build it, slap a functional name on it and move to the next thing. But in the mid-twentieth century, the folks responsible for building and naming a new bridge through St. Cloud, well, they got stupid.

The new bridge was part of State Highway 23, which sliced through old neighborhoods in St. Cloud and then headed northeast to Duluth and southwest to the prairie. I don’t remember the old neighborhoods on the west side of town; the project took place between 1957 and 1959, starting when I was three. But the project included a bridge across the river located about a block from the apartment building where we were living as 1957 began, and I vaguely remember Dad going outside and taking pictures. (He evidently returned several times to take pictures of the progress; we’ve found boxes of slides showing the bridge and the project near completion, views that had to be taken after we moved about six blocks to the house on Kilian Boulevard.)

At any rate, when the Highway 23 bridge was completed, it needed – absolutely had to have – a name. I have no idea who came up with the idea, but he (in the late 1950s, it was almost certainly a man) ought to be the charter inductee into the Lame Bridge Name Hall of Fame. The city and state leaders dubbed the new span the DeSoto Bridge, in honor of Hernando DeSoto, supposedly the first European to see the Mississippi River.

It turns out that Ol’ Hernando did in fact see the river in May of 1541. Was he the first European to do so? Wikipedia says, “It is unclear whether he, as it is claimed, was the first European to see the great river. However, his expedition is the first to be documented in official reports as seeing the river.” But there is a problem with commemorating DeSoto’s achievement by naming a St. Cloud bridge for him: DeSoto came upon the Mississippi very near what is now the city of Memphis, Tennessee, about nine hundred miles south of here. Ol’ Hernando had nothing at all to do with the portion of North America that became Minnesota, except for the very thin idea that the water he saw there had once flowed through here (and I doubt that anyone – even the dimwit who proposed the name – offered that as justification).

As stupid as the name was, not a lot of people paid attention. Oh, there was a nice monument on the west side of the bridge, with a carved portrait of what DeSoto might have looked like. And newspapers reporters and various governmental officials had to pay attention, as in: “The parade will cross the DeSoto Bridge and turn south on Wilson Avenue . . .”

But for the most part, through the 1960s, we all simply called it “the new bridge.” When the city’s two older bridges were replaced with the Veterans Bridge and later the University Bridge, “the new bridge” didn’t work so well. So what had been the new bridge was referred to as the Highway 23 Bridge (or the Division Street Bridge, which was not quite accurate, as Highway 23 doesn’t run along Division Street until some distance west of the river).  I honestly don’t recall ever hearing a non-official or non-reporter refer to the 1959 bridge as the DeSoto Bridge.

The DeSoto Bridge is gone now. After the Interstate Highway 35W Bridge in Minneapolis groaned and fell into the river on an August afternoon in 2007, every bridge of similar design in Minnesota – and likely elsewhere – was inspected. And the DeSoto Bridge was discovered to have a structural anomaly – bowing gusset plates – similar to that thought to have been responsible for the failure of the Minneapolis bridge. It was closed (shortly after the Minneapolis disaster, I think, but I can’t find a date for that) and then demolished in March 2008, and highway officials put up a new bridge in what seems a pretty speedy eighteen months.

That new bridge opened two days ago, and motorists through the region no doubt are all pleased, as the city and the area have become way too populous to manage traffic with two bridges, as we’ve done for two years now. So that’s a relief. But what do we call it? Well, the newest bridge has been dubbed, in an excess of excess, the Granite City Crossing. I’m pretty sure that’s another name that will never find its way into the day-to-day language here in Central Minnesota. I’m guessing that for a long, long time, that bridge will be simply “the new bridge.”

So that’s a little more than a century of bridges in St. Cloud, six bridges from 1892 to 2009. But wait! There’s also a railroad trestle in town, built in 1872. There’s little traffic on the trestle, just trains operated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and the occasional fools who cross the tall bridge on a dare or in a drunken state.

But it is a bridge, and that makes seven, so here’s today’s Saturday Single:

“Seven Bridges Road” by Steve Young from Seven Bridges Road [1971]

Saturday Single No. 469

October 31, 2015

We’re off to do errands and tasks this morning, but before we go, I thought I’d offer another version of “Seven Bridges Road.” This is Steve Young covering his own song, which he first recorded in 1969. This version was the title track to a 1972 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Salt

September 25, 2014

As anyone who’s moved from an apartment to a house knows, there’s more do to in a house, including some maintenance tasks that need to be done on a regular basis. We’ve been living in our house for six years now, and even after that amount of time, there are still some regular tasks that don’t get done as regularly as they should.

The duties aren’t onerous. The vast majority of the outside maintenance is taken care of by our landlord or by folks he hires: lawn mowing, snow plowing, cleaning the gutters and gathering the fallen leaves in the autumn. (We have, at times, done those last two anyway, and there is some snow shoveling that falls to us.) And the inside work isn’t hard at all, but it requires attention to the passage of time: We have to change the furnace filter and make sure that the water softener has salt in it.

I get around to the first of those things pretty well, changing the furnace filter on something close to a quarterly basis. But I frequently forget to check the salt level in the water softener. If I were to do so consistently, then I’d regularly haul a forty-pound bag of softener salt home from the nearby grocery store and down to the basement. It’s a little taxing, given some health issues I deal with, but one forty-pound bag is not a major challenge.

If I ignore the softener a little bit longer, then it’s two trips hauling two bags of salt down the stairway. That’s more difficult. And if I wait far too long, then I have to make three salt-laden trips down the stairs, as I did this morning. My back and shoulders hurt. But the softener is filled with salt, and I’m going to go take a couple of aspirin.

First, though, here’s one of the best tracks I know about salt. It’s “Rock Salt and Nails,” the title track to Steve Young’s 1969 debut album.

‘Seven’

February 7, 2013

And the March of the Integers goes on, this morning reaching “Seven.”

Having looked ahead, as all good tour guides do, I see that the march is likely to end after “Ten.” Titles with numbers in them are pretty slender from “Eleven” through “Fifteen.” “Sixteen” would work (I’ll bet readers can think of six songs with “sixteen” in their titles in less than sixteen seconds), but the flow ebbs to a trickle after that.

This morning’s search through the RealPlayer for “seven,” however, turns up more than two hundred records. That total is trimmed a fair amount when we take into account the Allman Brothers Band’s 1990 album Seven Turns, French singer Françoise Hardy’s 1970 album One Nine Seven Zero, Etta James’ 1988 album Seven Year Itch, Bettye LaVette’s 1973 release Child Of The Seventies and a few other albums. We also have to ignore the two songs recorded in March 1930 in Atlanta, Georgia, by A. A. Gray & Seven-Foot Dilly and everything listed by the John Barry Seven, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven, the Society of Seven, Sunlights’ Seven and numerous titles with the words “seventh” and “seventeen” in their titles. (No Willie Mabon, Johnny Rivers or Janis Ian today.) Still, we have enough to play with.

And we start with a Fleetwood Mac record from 1987. “Seven Wonders” was the second single released from the group’s 1987 album, Tango In The Night. It went to No. 19, which was not as high as the two singles from the album that bracket it in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: “Big Love” went to No. 5, and “Little Lies” went to No. 4. Because of that bracketing and because of the massive overall success of that era’s Fleetwood Mac on both the singles and album charts, I think “Seven Wonders” has been a little obscured. I suppose that for some folks, a little of Stevie Nicks’ mysticism can be more than enough, and “Seven Wonders” does follow that path lyrically as well as in Nicks’ vocal delivery. That’s no problem for me, though.

We’ll stay in 1987 for a bit yet, as that was the year that Terence Trent D’Arby released Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent d’Arby, an album on which the precocious D’Arby – as noted by Rob Bowman of All-Music Guide – “wrote virtually every note, played a multitude of instruments, and claimed that this was the most important album since the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.” Now, it’s not that good, though it did spin off a couple of Top Five hits: “Wishing Well” went to No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts, and “Sign Your Name” went to No. 4 pop and No. 2 R&B. Given our focus this morning, “Seven More Days” is our landing spot. It’s an atmospheric track with intelligent lyrics and a good vocal.

When one seeks out songs using the word “seven,” then Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” becomes one of the obvious choices. First released on Young’s 1969 album Rock, Salt & Nails, the song was covered memorably by the Eagles, as well as by groups and performers ranging from Mother Earth and Ian Mathews to Rita Coolidge and Dolly Parton. The song’s genesis is interesting, and in 2007 the now-dormant blog pole hill sanatarium presented Young’s comments on the song, as found at a website that evidently no longer exists:

I lived in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early ’60s and had a group of friends there that showed me the road. It led out of town, and after you had crossed seven bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name “Seven Bridges Road.” I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a hundred years, that people had been struck by the beauty of the road for a long time.

The Bee Gees’ 1969 album Odessa has popped up in this space before, at least once as an album and once as a source for a tune in my Ultimate Jukebox. Sprawling and at times beautiful, Odessa remains a favorite, one that I don’t pull out of the CD shelves and listen to in its entirety nearly often enough. Among its seventeen tracks are three instrumentals, two of which don’t seem to work all that well, as if the Bee Gees’ ambitions were larger than their abilities in 1969 (and if that were the case, well, the Bee Gees weren’t the only performers in that time – or any time – to fall into that category). The instrumental that works for me, however, is “Seven Seas Symphony” with its gentle and lightly accompanied piano figure leading into full-blown orchestration and back to (mostly) piano again and then again.

And we jump to 1990 and the sessions that took place after Bruce Springsteen famously fired the E Street Band. Recorded in Los Angeles during the sessions that resulted in the lightly regarded 1992 albums Human Touch and Lucky Town, “Seven Angels” has Springsteen handling guitars and bass as well as vocals. The only other musicians listed in the credits – “Seven Angels” is found on the 1998 box set Tracks – are Shawn Pelton on drums and E Streeter Roy Bittan on keyboards. Even taking into consideration Springsteen’s propensity for recording tracks and then stashing them in the vault because they don’t fit the vision he has for an album, one wonders how a track as good as “Seven Angels” was passed over for some of the stuff that was used on those two 1992 albums.

For those who were television watchers during the 1960s, Elmer Bernstein’s main theme for the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven does not raise visions of a Western (in both senses of the word) version of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic The Seven Samurai. Rather, we see the Marlboro Man, rugged in his sheepskin coat and cowboy hat, as he herds cattle and rides the mountain ridge before pausing to light up a Marlboro. Sometimes I think that all we need to know about American advertising culture – the joys of Mad Men notwithstanding – is that Bernstein’s sweeping and heroic theme became identified with Marlboro cigarettes and that Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was better known to kids of my age as the Puffed Wheat song. I could, of course, cite many more uses of classical pieces, orchestral movie themes and popular songs for advertising, but I’d rather just sigh and listen to Bernstein’s majestic theme and try to remember John Sturges’ tale of heroism, loyalty and sacrifice.