Posts Tagged ‘Stevie Wonder’

Into Early 1970 Again

July 8, 2022

Originally posted January 16, 2010

Well, we’re going to talk about the second week in January 1970 again, if you don’t mind.

Yesterday, when I looked at the January 16, 1970, survey from San Diego’s KCBQ, I mentioned that the surveys from the Twin Cities’ KDWB that I used to examine at The Oldies Loon were no longer available.

Well, that’s not precisely true. Jeff, our pal at AM then FM, emailed me last evening, telling me he was getting to the surveys just fine. I tried again, and I can get to the KDWB page there that lists the years. From then on, it’s iffy; no page that has in its URL a tilde – the little mark that looks like this: “~” – will come up in my browser, and most of the annual pages for KDWB’s surveys fall there (as do many other pages on the website). I use IE Explorer, but I tried Firefox, too, with no joy. And it’s not just my computer; we tried to get to those pages using the Texas Gal’s laptop, and all Vista would tell us is that there might be a firewall in the way.

I emailed the folks at The Oldies Loon, and we’ll see if they have anything to say. If any readers have any ideas as to what’s going on, suggestions for solutions would be helpful. Come Monday, if I haven’t figured anything out, I might give a call to Dale the Computer Guy down on Wilson Avenue and see if he knows anything.

In the meantime, however, Jeff was kind enough to send along, as part of our Friday evening email exchange, the KDWB “6+30” for the week of January 12, 1970. The top fifteen on KDWB was significantly different than the top fifteen from KCBQ that I looked at yesterday. Here’s what we were listening to most frequently in the Upper Midwest that week:

“La La If I Had You” by Bobby Sherman
“Venus” by the Shocking Blue
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“Leavin’ On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Jam Up, Jelly Tight” by Tommy Roe
“Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes
“Midnight Cowboy” by Ferrante & Teicher
“Don’t Cry Daddy” by Elvis Presley
“Early In The Morning” by Vanity Fare
“Jingle Jangle” by the Archies
“Brand New Me” by Dusty Springfield

More than half of the records in the top fifteen of KDWB’s survey were absent from the San Diego list I posted yesterday: Those are the records by Bobby Sherman, Neil Diamond, Steam, Tommy Roe, Stevie Wonder, Ferrante & Teicher, Vanity Fare and the Archies.

(The artists in KCQB’s top fifteen who were absent from KDWB’s top fifteen were: The Jackson 5, R.B. Greaves, the Plastic Ono Band, the Originals, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Tee Set, Jay & the Americans and The Band. The Jackson 5, Greaves, CCR and The Band show up lower down on the KDWB survey; the others are completely absent.)

To be honest, the KCBQ top fifteen is a more listenable set of songs than the stuff I was hearing most frequently on KDWB. Along with the continued presence of the Elvis tune and “Raindrops,” there are three major ouches in KDWB’s top fifteen: First of all, Bobby Sherman at No. 1 is a concept that stretches my mind a great deal. Secondly, I’ve never been quite as tickled as other folks by the winking naughtiness of “Jam Up, Jelly Tight.” Third, anything beyond “Sugar, Sugar” is just a little too much of the Archies for me.

Nevertheless, there are some treasures in KDWB’s top fifteen that weren’t getting the same kind of airplay in San Diego. (I know, the dates aren’t quite the same, but they’re close enough for anything that’s not rocket science or accounting.) Those treasures – and here we come to the sticky matter of individual taste or lack of the same – are “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” “Holly Holy,” “Midnight Cowboy” and the utterly luminous “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday”

It seems that for most folks, the Stevie Wonder songs that stand out in this time period are “For Once In My Life” and “My Cherie Amour,” and those are both beautiful songs that made for beautiful records. But neither of them ever touched me the way “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday” did at the time. I’ve never quite understood why, and I’m not sure I could, or even want to, figure it out now. Whatever the reasons were, I imagine they’re lost in time, but it was the song that was piercing my heart forty years ago, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

“Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder [1969]

On Summers Gone

May 13, 2022

Originally posted July 31, 2009

I’ve been trying for an hour now to write something meaningful about how it felt to be a kid in summertime. And I’m not sure that what I remember is really how it felt. There is a tendency, a temptation, to put a nostalgic and meaningful glaze on all the memories and perceptions of childhood and youth (a temptation I frequently find difficult to resist), as if the only purpose of being a child in the 1960s was to provide memories for us in later life.

That’s not how it was, of course. We didn’t run through our summer days constantly thinking how fine our memories of those days would someday be. Oh, there were times, special days, when the thought came: I hope I remember this forever. And I do remember thinking that at times, but sadly and ironically, I don’t recall in any of those cases what it was that I hoped to remember.

I do remember games: We boys – with a few girls, now and then – would play workup baseball in the street during the day and into the late afternoon. After dinner, as the evening approached, all of us – boys and girls alike – would play games like “Kick the Can,” a hide-and-seek type game. We played across a territory that ranged widely around the neighborhood, with some yards in play and others – generally those of folks who had no kids – not in play. That would go on until the very last light of the day was fading and the streetlights came on. Then, in ones and twos, kids would make their ways home.

At other times, we – generally Rick and I – might make our way to the grocery store half a block away on Fifth Avenue. We’d dither over the best investment for our pennies and nickels, maybe buy some Dubble Bubble or Sour Grapes bubble gum. Or maybe we’d buy one of those balsa wood gliders that – with luck – flew loops in the backyard air without getting stuck in the trees.

We were unconcerned, for the most part, with the events and realities of life beyond Kilian Boulevard and the southeast side. I, being who I’ve always been, followed the news at least a little, but the accounts I read of the civil rights movement, and of war and unrest in a place called Vietnam, didn’t touch us. Not then, in the first half of the 1960s.

We got older, and one by one, the older kids quit playing the summer games we’d always played. And one summer, sometime in the latter half of the 1960s, Rick and I were the older kids, and the younger kids were playing their own games. With a figurative shrug, we went off and did something else.

Many things about those summertimes are hazy, with specific memories replaced by generalities. But one thing I know: As I made my way from being one of the little kids to being one of the older kids, I was aware of summertime music. I remember how it seemed like the volume was turned up during those three months. Even in the very early years, I heard music during summer that I evidently chose to ignore the rest of the year.

Some Summertime Hits From Motown
 “Heat Wave” by Martha & The Vandellas, Gordy 7022 (No. 4, 1963)
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth, Gordy 7108 (No. 3, 1971)
“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by the Temptations, Gordy 7054 (No. 13, 1966)
“I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder, Tamla 54151 (No. 2, 1967)
“It’s the Same Old Song” by the Four Tops, Motown 1081 (No. 5, 1965)
 “I’ll Keep Holding On” by the Marvelettes, Tamla 54116 (No. 34, 1965)
“You Beat Me To The Punch” by Mary Wells, Motown 1032 (No. 9, 1962)
“The Love You Save” by the Jackson 5, Motown 116 (No. 1, 1970)
“Where Did Our Love Go” by the Supremes, Motown 1051 (No. 1, 1964)
“The Tracks Of My Tears” by the Miracles, Tamla 54118 (No. 16, 1965)

When selecting from the massive Motown/Gordy/Tamla catalog, it’s comforting to have a few rules in place. Given my framework here of choosing only songs that entered the Top 40 in June, July or August, as well as choosing one song per performer/group, I thought I did pretty well.

Many of these, of course, came out in the years before I paid much attention to rock, pop or R&B, but Motown’s best work – like a lot of the great music of the time – was part of the environment. Wherever we went, there were radios, and wherever radios were, you heard the tunes of the time. I’m not saying I heard all of these when they were on the radio regularly, but I know I heard most of them, and for today, that’s close enough.

Saturday Single No. 605

August 18, 2018

Well, as I opened my Word file this morning and typed in today’s date, I noticed that August 18, 2018 scans out to 8-18-18, and if there were ever a date begging for Games With Numbers, today’s is one of them.

So we’re going to take those numbers and turn them into Nos. 8, 18, 26, 36 and 44 and then visit a Billboard Hot 100 to see what treasures or dross we might find. The question is, what year? I think we’ll take the largest of those numbers and head back forty-four years to August of 1974. I spent that month working halftime in the cataloging department of the St. Cloud State Learning Resources Center and killing time, hanging around with my friends at The Table and waiting for school to resume and for my friends from the Denmark program to come back to St. Cloud. So what do we find as we dip into the Hot 100 from the third week of August 1974?

Heading to our lowest searching point first, we find Mac Davis singing about “One Hell Of A Woman.” The record, heading to a peak at No. 11, would be Davis’ first Top 40 hit since 1972, when “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” spent three weeks at No. 1. I’ve evidently not thought much about “One Hell Of A Woman,” as it’s not on the digital shelves (though couple of other Davis tracks are), but listening to it this morning, it’s a decent piece of Seventies pop, better musically than lyrically. As I look at that Hot 100 from August of 1974, I notice that by the time Davis’ record got to No. 44, it had already been in the chart for twenty-two weeks. That seems like a long time to get to that point. (The only other record that had been in the Hot 100 longer that week was the Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” which, in its twenty-three weeks on the chart, had spent two weeks at No. 2 and was at No. 93, slowly making its way out of the chart.)

We move up eight spots to No. 36, where we find Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” making its way to a peak of No. 8. Some years ago, I wrote:

I don’t have a lot to say about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” except to note two things about the record that went to No. 8 in 1974: First, the ambiguous second verse that seems to have defended Alabama Governor George Wallace doesn’t actually do so, according to a 1975 interview with the late Ronnie Van Zant, co-writer of the song. Second, I think the current Alabama license plate is just perfect:


I’m not entirely certain, but it appears, sadly, as if that plate is no longer available.

We jump ten spots to No. 26, where Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” buoyed by doo-wop vocals from the Jackson 5, is heading toward No. 1. The record, says Wikipedia, “was one of [Wonder’s] angriest political statements and was aimed squarely at President Richard Nixon, who resigned two days after the record’s release.” Although there were numerous criminal and political reasons for Nixon’s resignation, it’s fun to indulge in a revisionist fantasy that has Nixon combing the AM band late at night, hearing Wonder’s thumping and funky put-down coming through the ether, and realizing, “Damn, if I’ve lost Stevie Wonder, I’ve lost the nation. I’d better call it quits.”

Speaking of thumping, moving up to No. 18, we find “Wild Thing” as offered by the English group Fancy. The record wasn’t a major departure from the Troggs’ original version, which went to No. 1 in 1966. Well, the breathy vocals of Helen Caunt and that twee little synth solo were different. Otherwise, the record plodded along as it headed toward a peak at No. 14. It was one of two U.S. hits for Fancy; “Touch Me” went to No. 19 during the first week of December 1974. (As I dug into Fancy’s work at YouTube, I noticed with some amusement that one video poster called Fancy a “[b]argain bin band that still had some talent on board.”)

Our last stop as we climb up the Hot 100 from August 24, 1974, is No. 8, where we find Donny and Marie Osmond covering Dale and Grace’s No. 1 hit from 1963, “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” though the Osmonds adjusted the title, making it “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You.” The record, inoffensive and bland, was heading to a peak at No. 4. It was the first of six Top 40 hits for the brother-and-sister duo; Donny, of course, had a bushel of hits on his own and with his brothers, some of which were pretty decent.

Just because we do this, I should note that the No. 1 record in that August 24, 1974, Hot 100 was the execrable “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates.

So we’ve listened to a wide range of stuff this morning, but only one record really grabs me. From its funk and its “Doo-da-wop!” chant to its message, Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin” resonates, and that’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Out From The Sun, Part 2

June 6, 2014

Having safely crossed the Asteroid Belt beyond Mars, we continue our trek outward from the Sun and approach Jupiter, the largest of the planets. Fittingly, our tune here is one that is related to spaceflight: A search for information about the 1958 instrumental “Jupiter-C” by Pat & The Satellites brings us, among others, a link to Wikipedia, where we learn that Jupiter-C was an American rocket used to test re-entry nosecones during three sub-orbital spaceflights in 1956 and 1957. The rocket, Wikipedia says, was one of those designed by the U.S. Army under the direction of Wernher Von Braun (whom I once met). The record spent four weeks in the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 81, and as I check that out in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I learn that the studio musicians who recorded “Jupiter-C” included the great King Curtis, whose sax is front and center for much of the record.

From Jupiter, we head on toward the beautiful rings of Saturn, and our tune is a Stevie Wonder track titled “Saturn” and found on Wonder’s 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life. The track was never used as even the B-side of a single, but the album was No. 1 for fourteen weeks, beginning in the middle of October 1976. And even though it’s an album that I heard frequently if not constantly in the spring of 1977 as I hung out with friends from the St. Cloud State student newspaper, I’m sad to say don’t recall “Saturn” and its message:

There’s no principles in what you say
No direction in the things you do
For your world is soon to come to a close
Through the ages all great men have taught
Truth and happiness just can’t be bought – or sold
Tell me why are you people so cold?


We’ll hang around
Saturn for a while yet and make a stop at Titan, the largest of Saturn’s many, many moons. And as we gaze at – as Wikipedia says – “the only object other than Earth for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found,” we listen to “Sirens of Titan” by Al Stewart, a track from his 1975 album Modern Times. The album sold decently, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard 200, but that pales, of course, compared to the reception received by Stewart’s next two albums, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages, which went to No. 5 and No. 10, respectively. Sonically, Modern Times is similar to the next two albums – all three were produced by Alan Parsons – but it sounds to me just a shade thinner than Cat and Passages. Stewart’s voice is, of course, unmistakable.

And we find ourselves approaching Uranus, the planet whose name is the source of thousands of schoolboy giggles, some of which have found themselves attached to some sophomoric song titles. But we don’t need to go there. Digging through the mp3 files and related tunes this morning, we find “Uranus” by the Brunning/Hall Sunflower Blues Band. According to All Music Guide, Bob Brunning was the bassist for the band that became Fleetwood Mac, but was let go by Peter Green once John McVie had left John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers to join Green’s band. Brunning went on to teach and continue recording part-time, and he and pianist Bob Hall formed the Sunflower Blues Band. In 1969, the band, with some participation from Green, recorded the album Trackside Blues, which included the track “Uranus.” It’s a decent blues track, but its primary appeal this morning is its title.

Heading on, we stay in the realm of the gas giants and find ourselves at Neptune, with the music provided by Nicole Atkins, herself a native of Neptune, albeit the city in New Jersey instead of the distant planet. “Neptune City” was the title track to her 2007 solo debut album. As I wrote in 2010, the album is “lushly produced pop with some tricks and warbles that made it clear how much Atkins listened to – among other things – the Brill Building sounds of the early 1960s.” And it’s an album that I like very much, one that stays pretty close to the CD player that I use for late-night listening.

Pluto is either a planet or a dwarf planet, depending on which cadre of astronomers you talk to, but all I know is that it’s out there and we need to stop by on our way toward the edge of the Solar System. Music was hard to come by here, and we had to dig deep into the digital shelves before finding a song that originally came from a Dutch pop duo called Het Goede Doel. In 1982, the duo’s single “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)” – which translates to “Belgium (Is There Life On Pluto?)” – went to No. 4 in the Netherlands. According to Wikipedia, the duo also recorded a version of the song in English. I didn’t look for that, though, because I have a cover of the tune in its original Dutch by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, the Belgian girls choir that has popped up here at least once before. From a bonus disc included with the 2010 album Circle, here’s “België (Is er leven op Pluto?)”

‘Cast Your Dancing Spell My Way . . .’

October 10, 2013

So how many covers are out there of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”? Who knows?

There are sixty versions – including Dylan’s – listed at Second Hand Songs. There are more than 500 mp3s – with much duplication – offered at Amazon. Beyond that, I’ve found covers at YouTube not listed in either place.

(I checked at both BMI and ASCAP, as I’m not sure which organization administers Dylan’s songs. I found no listings for Dylan at either place, which eithers means I’m doing something wrong while searching or his compositions are administered elsewhere. Either way, it’s no help.)

The listing at Second Hand Songs starts with Dylan’s original and the Byrds’ ground-breaking cover in 1965 and goes on to the 2012 version by Jack’s Mannequin, which was included in the four-CD set Chimes of Freedom – The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. The first cover listed after the Byrds’ cover is a 1965 misspelled offering of “Mr. Tambourin Man” from a group called the Finnish Beatmakers. Except for the Finnish accent – which I kind of like – it’s a copy of the Byrds’ version, starting right from the guitar introduction.

And that’s the case for many of the covers I’ve listened to this week: they’re warmed-over fowl. One of the few with an original sound came, interestingly, from Gene Clark, one of the members of the Byrds when they recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man.” His version of the Dylan tune – with a reimagined (and very nice, to my ears) introduction – was included on his 1984 album, Firebyrd.

The originator of the Byrds’ classic guitar lick, Roger McGuinn, shows up on a 1989 version of the tune recorded live in Los Angeles with Crowded House. As might be expected in that circumstance, it’s pretty much a copy of the Byrds’ version, with the Finn brothers et al. backing McGuinn.

Other early versions of note came from the Brothers Four and Johnny Rivers in 1965, from a young Stevie Wonder (with, one assumes, the Funk Brothers behind him), the Lettermen, the Beau Brummels and Noel Harrison in 1966, and from the Leathercoated Minds and Kenny Rankin in 1967. Versions from 1966 that I’d like to hear came from Billy Lee Riley and Duane Eddy. Odetta, as might be expected, offered an idiosyncratic and austere take on the tune in 1965.

Easy listening folks got hold of the tune, too. Billy Strange is listed at Second Hand Songs as having recorded a cover in 1965; I haven’t found that one (though my digging is not yet done), but I did find an easy listening version – with banjo, no less – recorded in 1965 by the Golden Gate Strings. And Johnny Harris & His Orchestra recorded the tune for the Reader’s Digest’s Up, Up & Away collection, which seems to have been released in 1970.

Speaking of banjo, the bluegrass/country duo of Flatt & Scruggs took on the song for their 1968 album, Changin’ Times. It’s nicely arranged with some nice harmonica in the background, but they’re too, well, square for the song, and that’s true right from the start, when they drop the “ain’t” and sing “there is no place I’m goin’ to.”

We’ll look at a few more versions of the tune – some of them quite nice – next week, but we’ll close today with a foreign language version of the tune. (Did you honestly think I would not drop one of those in?) Titled “Hra tampuurimies,” it’s a 1990 version from the irresistibly named Finnish group Freud, Marx, Engels & Jung.

I Wish I’d Chosen Differently

May 11, 2011

Originally posted September 26, 2007

I’m a story-teller, a writer, and my best gigs over the years – the ones that brought me the most satisfaction – are those that allowed me to focus on the writing, the story-telling that to me is the foundation of reporting.

It took me a long time to come to that realization, and along the way, I spent time teaching and time working as an editor and administrator. I also spent some time doing research in the banking and collections industries before health concerns pulled me from the workforce. I did most of those things well – I was not that good an administrator – but I never got from any of them the satisfaction I got from being a reporter, a story-teller.

When I was a kid, I used to go out to the golf course with my dad, walk around with him as he played nine holes. Every once in a while, his tee shot on the first hole would be a fair amount less than perfect, and if there was no one waiting behind us, he’d tee up another ball and take what he called a “mulligan.” I’m not sure where the term comes from – Wikipedia, as one might expect, offers several theories – but I do know that it’s not really consonant with the rules of golf. But every once in a while, Dad – and other golfers, too, of course – would give themselves a do-over, another chance.

If there were one decision in my life for which I wish I could take a mulligan, it would be one I made in early 1985. I’d finished my graduate school coursework and passed my comprehensive exams [at the University of Missouri], and I was a general assignment reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune, one of the better small daily newspapers in the country (being located in the same city as one of the best journalism schools in the country provided the newspaper with a steady stream of good talent). And even though my editors worked hard to persuade me to do otherwise, I left Columbia to go back to Minnesota, planning on working on my master’s thesis from there and hoping to get a teaching job at St. Cloud State.

From the advantage of hindsight, I’d make a different decision. I never did finish my thesis; when I completed work for my master’s degree during another sojourn in Columbia six years later, I did so by way of a reporting project. In the interim, for not quite two years, I taught one course a quarter at St. Cloud State but never came close to a permanent faculty position there.

And knowing now that I always got more satisfaction out of reporting than I did out of teaching or anything else, I realize that I should have stayed in Missouri. My professional life would have been a lot smoother had I done so. My personal life? Well, I believe – and have done so for years – that we find those things we are meant to find, no matter how crooked the path might be. So, had I stayed in Missouri, perhaps the Texas Gal and I would have found each other sooner and would now be living in Columbia, or Dallas, or somewhere in Mississippi, or maybe even in St. Cloud. Who knows? But we would have been together eventually, no matter where our separate paths and preparatory lessons took us in the time before we met.

I don’t brood on that misstep from 1985. It does cross my mind on occasion, and it came to mind today because that was the year that I chose for this week’s Baker’s Dozen:

A Baker’s Dozen From 1985
“Trust Yourself” by Bob Dylan from Empire Burlesque

“Cover Me” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, L.A. Coliseum, Sept. 30

“Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds, A&M single 2703

“Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister, RCA single 14136

“She’s Into Something” by Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny Copeland from Showdown!

“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion)” by John Parr from St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack

“Rumbleseat” by John Mellencamp from Scarecrow

“Talking Like A Man” by Linda Thompson, Warner Bros. single 28996

“She’s Waiting” by Eric Clapton, Warner Bros. single 28986

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, MCA single 52496

“Caislean Oir” by Clannad from Macalla

“You’re A Friend Of Mine” by Clarence Clemons with Jackson Browne, Columbia single 05660

“Overjoyed” by Stevie Wonder, Tamla single 1832

A few notes on some of the songs:

The Springsteen track is one of those collected on Live/1975-85, the massive album that came out in 1986.

The Showdown! Album released on Alligator Records by Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland was one of the better blues albums released in the years just before the blues boom that started just a few years later. Cray handles the vocal on “She’s Into Something,” and the first solo is his, while Collins provides the second solo.

There seem to be more singles in this batch of thirteen songs than usually pop up. Some of them – the Simple Minds and Mr. Mister tracks, especially – seem more to me like period pieces than things that stand very well on their own twenty-some years later. The Clapton, Petty and Clemons/Browne tracks have aged a little bit better than that but maybe only a little. The Stevie Wonder track, even as familiar as it is, still sounds fresh.

This was one of those years when I wasn’t listening too closely and have had to learn about in retrospect, but my sense is that it wasn’t all that great a year for music.

Afternote:
One of the things I noted as I was writing about my search through the files for a one-hit wonder last weekend was that I need to update my reference library. I got most of my reference books during the period 1988-1990. Now, most of the music I write about was issued before then, so there are not a lot of times when the lack of current information trips me up.

Saturday was one of them, as I failed to qualify my comment about the Bangles’ chart success and thus shorted them of five Top 40 records. I’m sure a number of people noticed; my friend Sean took the time to drop a note, which I appreciated. If I don’t soon get updated editions of my references, at least I’ll be a bit more careful to qualify my statements.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1973

April 21, 2011

Originally posted May 23, 2007

Well, with today’s Baker’s Dozen, we plug a hole in the trail of years that’s been sitting there for a while. We’ve been back as far as 1967 and forward as far as 1979. (We’ll head further yet in either direction, and I imagine we’ll also begin repeating some years; there are plenty of tunes yet to hear.) The entire time, however, I was aware that I hadn’t touched on one of my favorite years: 1973.

Looking back, some years just stand out, poking their heads high above the others in the field of memory. For me, one of the tallest years in that field is 1973. It started during my second year of college, an academic year in which I began to find myself academically, to understand how to study and how to learn in college, skills that, quite honestly, I’d not needed to be able to succeed in high school. Along about the same time, I began to find friends, kindred spirits gathered around a long table at the student union. And I began to prepare myself for an academic year overseas, my junior year in Fredericia, Denmark, beginning that autumn.

My going to Denmark was almost an accident. A friend had seen an announcement in the college newspaper about an informational meeting concerning the planned year in Denmark. She had a commitment that evening and asked me to go and take notes. I went to the meeting and went to Denmark; she didn’t. I say “almost an accident” because there really are no accidents in our lives. We end up where we are supposed to end up, no matter how crooked the path may have been.

I’d never been away from home before, and I spent many nighttime hours that spring and summer sitting at the window of my room, looking out at the empty intersection below, wondering what I would find. And I was still wondering on the eve of my twentieth birthday as I walked away from Rick and my family and boarded a Finnair jet for Copenhagen with more than a hundred others from St. Cloud State.

So what did I find? Well, that’s a book in itself. In fact, one of the projects that captivates me these days is based on my journal of that academic year. I’m transcribing the daily entries and then writing anything else I recall about the day, and much more happened than I wrote down, both small events and large. (I have many of the letters that I wrote home to my family, and those, too, will become part of the project.) As clichéd as it sounds, I began to find myself, began to figure out how I fit into my skin and how I fit into the universe. And as I learned those things, I changed.

We’re all in the process of changing, in tiny increments from day to day. It’s not often any of us get a chance to assess in one moment the change that has accumulated over a longer period of time. So it turned out that one of the most fascinating moments of the entire eight-and-a-half months I was gone took place at the very end, in May 1974, the day I came home. Back in St. Cloud, looking forward to a home-cooked steak dinner (I don’t believe I’d had a beef steak during the entire time I was gone; horse, yes, I think, but no beef), I lugged my two suitcases upstairs, heading to my room.

I stopped in the doorway. There, on the door and the closet door, were my NFL pennants. The walls were decorated with Sports Illustrated covers featuring the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota North Stars and with sports logos of my own design, for teams that existed only in my imagination. And above the bulletin board, in a place of honor, was a large picture of Secretariat blowing the field away in the 1973 Belmont Stakes.

I stared at the room, mine for seventeen years. And the thought that came to mind as I set the suitcases down in the doorway, looking at the things that had been so dear to me less than a year earlier, was “That kid didn’t come home.”

And here are some songs from the year that kid left:

“Prairie Lullaby” by Michael Nesmith from Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash

“All The Way From Memphis” by Mott the Hoople from Mott

“Your Turn To Cry” by Bettye LaVette from Child of the Seventies

“Six O’Clock” by Ringo Starr from Ringo

“Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings from Band on the Run

“Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by Stevie Wonder from Innervisions

“California On My Mind” by Tony Joe White from Home Made Ice Cream

“We Are People” by Oasis from Oasis

“The Wall Song” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby

“Better Find Jesus” by Mason Proffit from Rockfish Crossing

“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road, Kama Sutra single 569

“Junkman” by Danny O’Keefe from Breezy Stories

“The Hard Way Every Time” by Jim Croce from I Got A Name

Some notes about some of the songs:

“Prairie Lullaby” was the closer to Mike Nesmith’s Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash, a stellar country-rock album that’s largely forgotten these days. Nesmith, of course, was one of the Monkees, no doubt the most talented of the four, and the country-rock tone of this 1973 record fits in nicely with most of the work he did after leaving the TV-inspired group.

“All The Way From Memphis” was the crunchy and soaring opener to Mott, Mott the Hoople’s follow-up to All The Young Dudes the year before. As All-Music Guide notes, glam never sounded as much like rock as it did on Mott.

The juxtaposition of two songs by ex-Beatles amused me. The albums they came from, arguably two of the three or four best post-breakup albums by any of the Beatles, were released in December. “Six O’Clock,” from Ringo’s best solo album, was written by McCartney, who plays piano and synthesizer on the song – and adds backing vocals with his wife, Linda – while long-time Beatle pal Klaus Voorman plays bass.

The Oasis of “We Are People” is a one-shot project by Detroit-area musicians Joel Siegel and Sherry Fox, who – along with Richard Hovey – went to San Francisco and managed to talk their ways into the studio where David Crosby was recording his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. Stunned and intrigued by the trio’s music, the amused Crosby helped the trio land a contract with Atlantic, but the resulting album never got released. Siegel and Fox recorded Oasis in 1973, but that went nowhere, if it even was released. I’m not certain, as one has to read between the lines in the various accounts of the trio’s experiences. (The trio’s entire output – the Atlantic album, Oasis and various other projects, were finally released in 1993 on Retrospective Dreams, a two-CD set that was, for some reason, limited to only a thousand copies.)

Danny O’Keefe is better known for his 1972 hit “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” but his Breezy Stories album benefited from assistance from such luminaries as Dr. John, Donny Hathaway, David Bromberg and Cissy Houston, to name the best-known. It was a pretty good piece of pop rock/singer-songwriter work, pretty representative of its time.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1974

April 18, 2011

Originally posted May 7, 2007

Well, we’re back from a long road trip, some 3,200 miles from Minnesota to Texas and back (with a side trip into the Ozarks along the way home).

The Texas Gal and I both love to travel, but it can get exhausting. For health reasons, I have to supply my own towels and bedding when I travel, so we have to carry more luggage than most folks would. And we’re both in our fifties and are slowing down just a little, so it takes a little longer to settle down for the nights and to pack up in the mornings than it used to. We got home exhausted on Saturday and spent most of Sunday doing laundry and putting things away.

But it was a good trip, and the Texas Gal is a good traveling partner. Our senses of humor are pretty congruent, so we find the same things funny. On the way to Texas, we took an ill-advised alternate route that likely added a hundred miles to our trek to Garland, the suburb outside Dallas where the Texas Gal’s family lives. That lengthened the second day of the trip, which was an annoyance, but it also brought us through Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

As we headed south on the town’s main drag, I glanced to the side and saw the marvelously named breakfast place: “Wonder Waffles.” We were laughing about that as I jotted it into our travel journal, and we passed the “Bel-Air Motel,” which looked like it hadn’t been upgraded since, oh, 1972. We wondered who would go to meet whom at the Bel-Air?

And then a car zipped by on our right with the vanity plate KIMMISU. We puzzled over it for a moment. Kimm is u? We shook our heads. Then the Texas Gal said “Kimmi Su! It’s her name!”

We never got a look at her. She stayed a car length or two ahead of us for a mile or so, and then turned off into a Wal-Mart parking lot. But we created Kimmi Su’s story as we followed.

We could see her in our minds: short, lithe and blonde, heading across town after a long syrupy shift at Wonder Waffles. Maybe there’s a husband, maybe there’s a boyfriend, but neither of them is the fellow she’s planning to meet at the Bel-Air Motel. His name is Billy Joe or Jimmy Bob or something that sounds just right for Okmulgee, Oklahoma. He has plans to leave town, and she needs to persuade him to take her with. And as she turns off the highway, Kimmi Su sighs and shakes her head, wishing for about the hundredth time that Okmulgee had a Victoria’s Secret instead of a Wal-Mart to make easier her task of persuading Billy Joe/Jimmy Bob to take her with him when he goes.

I swear there’s a country song in there.

There’s no country song in today’s Baker’s Dozen, but the first song could easily be one that Kimmi Su and Billy Joe/Jimmy Bob sing to each other during their good times. It’s also the one that Kimmi Su would no doubt hum quietly on rare occasions after Billy Joe/Jimmy Bob is gone, with a distant look and just the hint of a tear and a smile at the same time.

“A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day)” by Nilsson & Cher, Warner-Spector single 0402

“Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur from Maria Muldaur

“Light Shine” by Jesse Colin Young from Light Shine

“Boogie On, Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder from Fulfillingness’ First Finale

“(It’s All Da-Da-Down To) Goodnight Vienna” by Ringo Starr from Goodnight Vienna

“I’ve Been Searching” by O. V. Wright, Back Beat single 631

“Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)” by Tower of Power from Back to Oakland

“East St. Louis Toodle-oo” by Steely Dan from Pretzel Logic

“Please Be With Me” by Eric Clapton from 461 Ocean Boulevard

“Bad Loser” by Fleetwood Mac from Heroes Are Hard To Find

“Song For All Seasons” by Just Others from Amalgam

“What Comes Around (Goes Around)” by Dr. John from Desitively Bonnaroo

“Rock & Roll Heaven” by the Righteous Brothers, Haven single 7002

A few notes about today’s Baker’s Dozen:

The first song was a happy surprise to me when I came across it a month or so ago. Despite his perpetual weirdness, Spector’s genius produced classic record after classic record. But I was unaware of this collaboration between Nilsson and Cher, never having seen it on a compilation. The Back to Mono box set has Ike and Tina Turner performing the same song. But Nilsson and Cher do the song justice, too.

“Light Shine” from Jesse Colin Young is a delicious piece of California sugar. Young, the founder of the Youngbloods, seemed to view life in the mid- to late-1970s from a groovy hilltop just outside San Francisco (or maybe from a hot tub in Marin County), and his albums became a little repetitious. But taken piece by piece, his salutes to post-hippie bliss are quite enjoyable, and this may be the best of them.

The source of O.V. Wright’s “I’ve Been Searching” is clear from the first note: the studios of Hi Records in Memphis. With the same sweaty groove and popping horns as the best work of Al Green, the listener hears Willie Mitchell’s fingerprints all over this song. And if Wright never became as famous as his label-mate, well, that won’t keep us from hearing the pain in Wright’s tale and feeling the groove as he and the choir mourn his isolation.

“Please Be With Me,” off Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard is a sweet tune, nicely done with a backing vocal by Yvonne Elliman. It’s more notable, I think, for its source: A group called Cowboy recorded the song – its composer, Scott Boyer, was a member of Cowboy – in August 1971 at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with Duane Allman playing dobro.

Just Others’ album, Amalgam, was a delightful piece of British folk that had a very limited release in 1974. From what I’ve read, it’s possible that only one copy of the original 250 has ever turned up, but one was enough to be a source for a limited CD release.  It’s a fascinating story and a lovely piece of work.

As always, bit rates will vary. Enjoy!

(I’ve inverted my normal week’s postings by putting the Baker’s Dozen at the start of the week. Being just back from vacation, I didn’t have an album ripped for today and have too many post-vacation tasks on my agenda today. I hope to have a newly ripped album for Wednesday.)

‘You Ain’t Never Caught A Rabbit . . .’

October 13, 2010

At last, we come to the end of this particular line: Today, we look at the final six selections in my Ultimate Jukebox, the last six of the 228 records I’d have set to play in my living room, if – as I wrote much earlier this year – my living room were part malt shop, part beer joint, part crash pad and part heaven.

If I were fool enough to start this project all over again, I’m sure that the list of songs would be very different. I imagine that about half of the records that showed up here would show up here again. The others? Well, over the past nine months, I’ve frequently heard a record on the radio or during random play on the RealPlayer and wondered why I didn’t choose it for the UJ. I didn’t keep track of those moments, but had I done so, I estimate that they were frequent enough to replace half of the tunes I put into the UJ.

One constraint I might ignore on a second go-round is length. I set a limit of 7:30 for a record, knowing that a 45 could handle that much, and I hit that limit with Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park.” (I came close, relatively, with Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” and Buddy Miles “Down by the River” and maybe a few others that don’t come to mind right now.) If I were to do the project over, I’d ignore that limit and include longer pieces.

Some of the worthy longer pieces that come immediately to mind are the Side One suite on Shawn Phillips’ Second Contribution, the Allman Brothers Band’s performance of “Whipping Post” from At Fillmore East, Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind” from Blood on the Tracks, “Beginnings” by Chicago from Chicago Transit Authority, Don McLean’s “American Pie,” Leon Russell’s take on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” from The Concert for Bangla Desh and Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime” from his self-titled album. I suppose those and a few others might show up in a complementary project. We’ll see.

When I wrote the second installment of this project, I mentioned Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” and Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” as the final two records trimmed to get to 228. And I said that one of the selections set for this final installment was there on probation, as it were: If something else along the way seemed more compelling or more deserving, there was one record that I would pull out of the list to make room.

Well, as good as a lot of the records I thought about along the way might have been – and “Baker Street” came to mind several times – that final record has come off probation and remains in the Ultimate Jukebox:

While Willie Mae Thornton’s version of “Hound Dog” – written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller – was recorded in 1952, it was the next year when the record did its damage on the air and in the charts: “Hound Dog,” according to All-Music Guide, held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart for seven weeks in 1953.

Thornton’s version was the first recorded of the oft-covered song, with the session taking place at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles on August 13, 1952, according to Wikipedia. The session was in fact produced by Leiber and Stoller themselves “because their work had sometimes been misrepresented, and on this one they knew how they wanted the drums to sound.”

Wikipedia notes that Johnny Otis was supposed to produce the session, but Leiber and Stoller wanted Otis on drums. Evidently in exchange, Otis received a writing credit on all six of the 1953 pressings, Wikipedia says. The first release was on a 10-inch 78 rpm record, according to Wikipedia, but there’s no indication when the 45 rpm releases first came out.

And although I’ve included a player for the song above, I could not resist offering this video – I think it’s from 1965 – of Big Mama Thornton performing “Hound Dog” with a band that includes guitar legend Buddy Guy.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 38
“Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton, Peacock 1612 [1952]
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder, Tamla 54188 [1969]
“Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” by Elton John from Honky Château [1972]
“I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan & John Ford Coley, Big Tree 16069 [1976]
“Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” by Fire Inc. from the soundtrack to Streets of Fire [1984]
“Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge, Island 858028 [1994]

In one of the last posts before I decided to put together the Ultimate Jukebox, I wrote about the mournful and beautiful “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” and its impact on me no matter when or where I hear it. It’s an exercise in nostalgia, not only in its lyrics but in its arrangement, with its decidedly old-school chorus in the introduction and choruses (a description borrowed from a comment left by jb, the proprietor of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’). Wonder makes the unlikely combination work, as he has done so many times through his career. And whenever it comes on the radio or the player, if there’s not a twinge of regret for all the things left behind, well, you’re at the wrong blog.

One of the amazing things to me about the early Elton John – from say 1970 through 1976 – was his ability to take the frequently opaque lyrics of Bernie Taupin and craft songs around them that made them sound cryptically wise or at least reasonable. I mean, after hundreds of listenings, I’m still not sure what the lyrics to “Mona Lisas & Mad Hatters” mean:

And now I know
Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say
I thought I knew
But now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City

Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge while people run you through
And I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you
I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you

While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light

Wikipedia says that the lyrics were inspired partly by Ben E. King’s recording of “Spanish Harlem” and partly by Taupin’s having heard a gun go off near his hotel during his first visit to New York City. Okay. In any case, they sound good, and John crafted around them one of his better melodies. Add the production of Gus Dudgeon, and you have an album track that hangs around, sounding better every time it pops up in the player.

Paul Evans of the 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Album Guide didn’t much care for England Dan & John Ford Coley. He called “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” “ingratiating, smug and coy” and labeled the duo’s body of work as “truly repellent,” capping his review off by saying that they “sound like oafish bores [not “boars,” sorry] breaking their backs to be ‘sensitive.’” Well, okay. I’ll acknowledge that “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” isn’t going to be on everyone’s good list. But I don’t hear those flaws when I hear “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” which was the duo’s biggest hit (two weeks at No. 2 and one week atop the Adult Contemporary chart). I hear the summer of 1976, which was a reasonably good season. I was taking some post-graduate courses at St. Cloud State, I had a steady girlfriend whom I saw most weekends, I had friends for evenings downtown or at one of our homes: Life was good. Along the way, I occasionally heard “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” coming through the speakers at home, in the car and – early in the morning before the place got too noisy – in the snack bar at Atwood Center. And the record has become a reminder of a pretty good summer, and that’s good enough for me.

A while back, I came across the movie Streets of Fire as I walked the remote up the channels. As I almost always do when that happens, I watched the rest of the movie. And I made a note at Facebook about it, calling it a bad movie. I was corrected by my blogging pal Jeff, who keeps house at AM, then FM. He called it a guilty pleasure, and I guess that’s a better label. Either way, I do like the movie, and I still love the soundtrack, especially the two Jim Steinman epics that open and close the movie. “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” is the closer, with the studio group Fire Inc. providing the backing and lead vocals coming from Holly Sherwood with other vocals from Laurie Sargent, Rory Dodd and Eric Troyer, according to Wikipedia. One notable name on the roster of Fire Inc. is that of Roy Bittan, piano player for the E Street Band. “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” spent five weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 80.

When I started this project, I devised a way to split the 228 records I had selected into random groups of six, and each week, I listed that week’s six songs chronologically. Back in Week One, the first song listed was The Mamas & The Papas’ “Look Through My Window.” This week, the last song listed – the last entry in this project – is Melissa Etheridge’s “Come To My Window,” a record that went to No. 25 in 1994. I guess that confluence is fitting, as what I’ve tried to do in these thirty-eight weeks is provide a window into the music that moves me and in doing so, a window into me as I’ve been shaped by music over the years. As I thought might happen, I’ve probably learned as much about myself as has anyone else who’s read my words and listened to the tunes offered here over the past eight-plus months. The mystery of how some songs attach themselves to our lives is one I’ll be exploring for the rest of my days. I doubt I’ll ever completely know how some songs – “Cherish” and “We” come to mind in my case – become major pillars of our internal lives and how others like “Come To My Window” – a good record to me, but nothing more than that – are perhaps the equivalent of artwork hung on the internal walls supported by those other, more vital records. In the end, I doubt I’ll find a perfect answer, and I suppose it might be better if all that remains a mystery. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop listening.