Posts Tagged ‘Sweathog’

‘Things’

May 13, 2022

Originally posted August 5, 2009

A long-time friend stopped by for dinner the other evening. We talked about our cats (five between the two households) and about K’s work in online education – she teaches students all over the world from her home in Nevada. We talked about our families and about the Texas Gal’s current college coursework. We talked a bit about books, and we shared the nuggets of news that folks do when they’re catching up.

As we were dipping into dessert, K began to look around the dining room/library, then craned her neck to peer into the living room. “Where are they?” she asked.

I was puzzled. “Where are what?”

“The penguins.”

I laughed. For years, I collected penguins, mostly ceramic, and at one point – when I lived in Minot, North Dakota – had a collection of about twenty-five, maybe thirty. I also had penguin bathroom accessories – wastebasket, shower curtain and soap dish – and there were other penguin things around my home.

It was an accidental collection. In 1976 or so, I was sharing pictures from my time in Denmark with my then-fiancée’s family. One of the pictures was of a fountain on the pedestrian mall in downtown Fredericia, a fountain decorated with statues of penguins. My future mother-in-law thought it was odd that I’d take a picture of something so prosaic; from then on, during nearly every visit to her home before and during my marriage to her daughter, she gave me a ceramic penguin figurine or something with penguins on it. The collection grew, and other folks – family and friends – gave me occasional gifts of penguin stuff.

I liked my penguins, and I happily displayed them in two homes in Monticello and then in my apartment in Minot, after the marriage had ended with a sigh of exhaustion. I think that’s where K saw them, during one of her visits to Minot. I might also have had them on display in my next place, in Anoka, Minnesota, where she was a regular dinner guest.

But the penguins are no longer on display. I’m not even sure where the collection is, whether it’s in a box nested in another box on the shelves in the basement or whether I gave them away sometime in the past twenty years. I still have a few penguinish things: A stapler, four newer figurines on the mantel, a sweet powder blue Pittsburgh Penguins cap and a few other items here and there. But my days of collecting all things penguin are gone. I do wonder a little bit about the whereabouts of the ceramic penguins. Some of them were quite nice, and I imagine some had some value as collectibles. But I honestly don’t remember what I did with them.

They were, after all, just things. Nice things, yes, but just things. And as I thought about my penguins this week, I also thought – and not for the first time – about how we here in the U.S. have let our things become so important to us. We collect, accumulate and want more things, whether they’re automobiles, backyard decks, bracelets, books, cookware sets, CDs, sweaters, power boats, coffee-makers or any of the other desirable bits and pieces with which we seem to clutter our lives.

Clutter? Yeah, sometimes – a lot of the time – I think so. We’re not rich, the Texas Gal and I. But we sometimes look around our home and realize how much stuff we have, stuff that decorates our lives and makes them more pleasant. It’s nice to have those things, but in the end, they’re not essential. They’re things. I sometimes think that we can examine our priorities by thinking about what we would make sure to take out of our homes if they were on fire.

Even during the times I had them on display, my penguin figurines would have been far down that list. What’s at the top of the list? Obviously, the Texas Gal and the three cats come first. Then the box that contains documents like our birth certificates, marriage license and so on. Then would come our financial records, which we’ve made easily accessible and portable. Then, if there were time, the Texas Gal would probably grab as many of our photos as she could, and I’d grab my journal from my year in Denmark and my external hard drive, where I keep my writing projects (as well as my mp3s). In a fire, I think we’d be lucky to get that much. And if all we got out was ourselves and the cats, well, the rest of it – all of it, no matter how dear some of it may be to us – is just things.

Are those things irreplaceable? Some of them truly are, and we would grieve those losses. But in the end, we’d be safe and whole and they’re just things.

A Six-Pack Of Things
“A Thing Going On” by J.J. Cale from Grasshopper [1982]
“You’re The Best Thing” by the Style Council from Cafe Bleu [1984]
“All These Things We Dream” by the Living Daylights from The Living Daylights [1996]
“Bags and Things” by Dennis Lambert from Bags and Things [1972]
“Things Yet To Come” by Sweathog from Sweathog [1971]
“If It Ain’t One Thing It’s Another” by the Staple Singers from City in the Sky [1974]

All I’m going to say about these songs today is that, even though a couple of them are by lesser-known artists, they’re all worth hearing.

A Garden Report

February 21, 2019

Originally posted July 1, 2009

The weather has been cloudy and damp and generally cool.

This is not good for our garden, and the Texas Gal and I are concerned. Like obsessive parents overseeing a child’s progress through third grade, we tend, we cultivate, we encourage and we worry. There are a few other gardens in the area that our landlord sets aside for us and for the tenants of the adjacent apartment building. The other gardeners started their plants about ten days to two weeks earlier than we did. I think they were lucky to avoid a late frost, but there’s no doubt that the tomato plants in the other plots are far bushier than ours.

Some of the twenty or so tomato plants we put in around Memorial Day seem to be thriving, sprouting more branches and leaves as well as incipient fruit. Others seem to be marking time, nurturing one tomato while not growing at all. And there are a few who – if the garden were a classroom – would already be certain to repeat the grade. We have several, I think, failed tomatoes.

The Texas Gal isn’t as ready to give up on the lagging plants as am I. She says they may surprise me yet. And they may. The odds are, however, that we will get no fruit from about half of the tomato plants that we carefully set in and then staked or put into cages.

Elsewhere in the garden, things are greener. We’re going to have more zucchini and yellow squash than we know what to do with. Yah Shure, a prolific gardener himself in St. Paul, said that we will likely have so much zucchini that we’ll be reduced to leaving bags of the vegetables on our neighbors’ doorsteps in the middle of the night, all the time prepared to run. It may come to that. Or we may find a worthy charity that can use our excess vegetables.

That excess could also include – based on the state of the garden this morning – broccoli, white and red cabbage, red leaf lettuce, beets, cucumbers and various peppers, both sweet and hot. The eggplant in the corner, however, seems to have joined about half of the tomatoes on the horticultural critical list.

“Do you think we’re watering the tomatoes too much?” the Texas Gal asked as we made our way back to the house last evening. “Or maybe not enough?” I said I didn’t know; this is my first garden just as it is hers. “Did we plant them in too much shade? Or put too much mulch on them?”

“I don’t know,” I repeated. “For everything I know about gardening, the problem could be aliens coming down at night and sucking the life out of the plants.”

She laughed, which was my hope, as we went inside the house. Still, we have no answers for our impending tomato failure. All we have is questions.

A Six-Pack of Questions
“Questions and Conclusions” by Sweathog from Hallelujah [1971]
“Ask Me No Questions” by B.B. King from Indianola Mississippi Seeds [1970]
“That’s A Good Question” by Peter Kaukonen from Black Kangaroo [1972]
“Questions” by Buffalo Springfield from Last Time Around [1968]
“A Question of Temperature” by the Balloon Farm, Laurie 3405 [1967]
“Questions 67 and 68” by Chicago Transit Authority from Chicago Transit Authority [1969]

After listening twice to “Questions and Conclusions” this morning, I still think Sweathog sounds like a more subtle version of Steppenwolf. It still baffles me that a group with that cool a sound for the times – the late 1960s and early 1970s – had just one hit (“Hallelujah,” which went to only No 33 in December 1971). Lots of competition, I guess. And – as is true for a lot of groups – history is just sometimes asleep at the switch.

“Ask Me No Questions,” like the album it comes from, Indianola Mississippi Seeds, is a relaxed bit of blues, a chance to B.B. King just to do what he does best. The album is also notable for the presence of Carole King on keyboards, Joe Walsh on guitar, Leon Russell on piano (King takes on Leon’s “Hummingbird” to close the album) and back-up singers extraordinaire Clydie King, Merry Clayton and Venetta Fields. It’s worth checking out.

Peter Kaukonen is brother to Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane, and when the Airplane formed its Grunt label, Peter was one of the artists signed. Black Kangaroo is pretty good, very similar to the solo albums brother Jorma would release down the road. “That’s A Good Question” is one of the better tracks, I think, even if the strings do overwhelm the guitar for a few moments.

Buffalo Springfield’s “Questions” sounded fresh when the group’s last album was released. A couple of years later, it sounded like a dress rehearsal. Writer Stephen Stills took much of the song and combined with another, briefer, tune to produce ”Carry On,” the opening track to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Déjà Vu.

All-Music Guide calls the Balloon Farm a “psych-punk quartet,” and that’s sort of what the group’s only hit sounds like. There are a couple of interesting things about the group and the record: First, on the early pressings, evidently, “temperature” was misspelled “tempature.” In the listing here, I’ve gone with the correct spelling, as that’s how the record – which went to No. 37 in the spring of 1968 – is listed in the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. (I think the tag on the mp3 might show the original, incorrect spelling, in which case, listeners can make their own choices. I got the song from the four-CD box set Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Then, one of the members of the Balloon Farm – and the writer of “A Question of Temperature” – was Mike Appel, who wound up being Bruce Springsteen’s first manager. (He also wrote the Partridge Family hit, “Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted.”)

I’m not sure how much there is to say about “Question 67 and 68,” pulled from the first album by the group that would end up being called simply Chicago. It’s a great piece of horn-driven rock. My only problem with the song is that in the 1970s, one of the Twin Cities television stations used almost fifty seconds of the song – from the 2:46 mark to the 3:34 mark – as the theme for one of its locally produced television shows. Thus, every time I hear that portion of the song, I’m taken back to late Sunday evenings and the analysis of the most recent Minnesota Vikings game on The Bud Grant Show.

What’s At No. 100? (11/13/71)

November 13, 2018

I’m in the mood to play a round of What’s At No. 100, so I searched the Billboard Hot 100 files for charts released on November 13 over the years we generally cover here, and I ended up getting my choice of 1961, 1965, 1971, 1976 and 1982.

I know that my pal and blogging brother jb – who spins his tales at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – would jump at the 1976 chart, as that is his year beyond all years. I’m going to pass on it, although I will satisfy some of his itch and tell him that the No. 100 record on this day in 1976 was “Daylight” by Vickie Sue Robinson, which had peaked the week before at No. 63.

But we’re going to head to November 1971, when I was nearing the end of my first quarter at St. Cloud State and struggling with the realities of maybe having a girlfriend (a story – one I do not believe I’ve told entire – for another time). Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen for November 13, 1971:

“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Imagine” by John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“Have You Seen Her” by the Chi-Lites
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler)” by Marvin Gaye
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts And Children” by the Carpenters
“Baby, I’m-a Want You” by Bread
“Never My Love” by the 5th Dimension
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“Desiderata” by Les Crane

I know well all of those except for the 5th Dimension single, which was a live performance. It’s not on the digital shelves here, and a quick check at Oldiesloon tells me that it never made the 6+30 at KDWB in the Twin Cities, which is where I still did most of my Top 40 listening. I still tuned my RCA radio to Chicago’s WLS as I went to sleep, and the 5th Dimension record went to No. 10 there, so I likely heard it, but do not remember it.

And knowing the other fourteen well, hearing them in a cluster like this would be a time trip: Hanging with the guys in Stearns Hall, playing table-top hockey with Rick and Rob, enjoying a surprise evening visit from my maybe girlfriend, listening to the radio in the lounge at Carol Hall with a bunch of guys as we waited to learn our draft lottery numbers, failing basic chemistry and African history because I’d never learned how to study in high school, and a whole lot of other memories.

Do I really like all those records? Most of them. I can do without the Osmonds, and the Michael Jackson record has never meant much to me. Many of the others, as it turns out, are on my iPod: Cher, Isaac Hayes, Bread, Rod Stewart, the Free Movement, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, the Chi-Lites, Lee Michaels, and the Carpenters’ A-side. So it was a good month for me to listen to the radio.

But what lies below? What do we find when we head down the chart to No. 100? Well, we find a record that’s been featured here a number of times, “Hallelujah” by Sweathog, in its first week in the Hot 100. By the end of the year, the group’s cover of the Clique’s 1969 recording would peak at No. 33. Almost ten years ago, when I included Sweathog’s record in my Ultimate Jukebox, I wrote:

From the clanking introduction with its gospel piano and percussion through the workmanlike vocal and jubilant choruses, Sweathog’s single hit is fun. It doesn’t tap any major memories; it’s more of a dimly recalled artifact that it would have been nice to hear more often long ago.

Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 393

May 17, 2014

No time to dally today! A full day of tasks lies ahead, followed this evening by the annual meeting of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Shortly after I finish here, I’ll be picking up two newly hemmed tablecloths downtown and delivering them to the fellowship building across town.

Then I’ll make a quick run to the hardware store and pick up a few corner brackets, and I’ll come back home and once again try my hand at simple construction. Last year, my project was a frame on which to grow cucumbers. This year, I’m building two planter boxes – four feet square – in which the Texas Gal is going to grow strawberries.

And once those boxes are finished, I’m sure there will be things for me to do. After all, the month of May is unreeling, and the gardens are calling the Texas Gal. When the gardens call her, she often calls me. And I don’t mind one bit.

So as I prepare for tablecloth delivery and all the rest, I have sorted the mp3s for the word “work.” And even though the track is focused on a different type of working, Sweathog’s “Working My Way Back Home” from its 1972 album Hallelujah sounded very good this morning. And that’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Hallelujah! It’s A Car From Idaho!’

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 25, 2008

Sometime this weekend, I’m going to have dig out the largest screwdriver I own and change the license plates on the Sentra. Its registration runs out at the end of April and – just as it does for every car in the state every seven years – the state of Minnesota sent us not only those little adhesive tabs but also new license plates.

That means a new plate number, too, one more number to memorize or at least recognize for those occasions when I’ve forgotten where I’ve parked the car and the lot is full of small blue vehicles. I’m not sure why we can’t keep the same number when we change plates. Drivers in other states do, I think.

We ordered the new plates online, and we thought for about three seconds about getting one of the special plates that the state offers. There are two versions of the plates that promote preservation of natural resources – one with a deer on it and one showing a loon (which is the one I would have selected) – and one plate designed to support the troops. A greater number of specialty plates are available for those who go to the various offices around the state: Among them are license plates showing the logos of more than twenty different colleges and universities in Minnesota.

If we’d bought our new plates in an office instead of online, I might have considered the St. Cloud State plate. The logo on the plate, however – showing the letters SCS inside a larger U – is the old logo. About twenty years ago, famed hockey coach Herb Brooks headed the Huskies’ program for a year, and he brought with him a logo that – as I understand it – had been used by an amateur hockey team in St. Cloud. Not long after the SCS hockey team began using it on its sweaters, all of the university’s athletic teams adopted it. Eventually, it became the official logo for the entire university; owing a great deal to the Montreal Canadiens, it’s the ST inside the C shown here.*

The thought of license plates reminded me today of a pastime I had when I was in my middle teens. Every January 1st, I’d pull out from a folder a blank map showing the continental United States with all the states outlined. Below the map, in what would have been the Gulf of Mexico, I’d carefully inscribe the names of Alaska and Hawaii and draw small boxes next to those names. And on an upper corner I’d write the new year, 1968 or whatever. And I’d be ready to look for out-of-state license plates.

As I saw plates from each state, I’d take colored markers and fill in that state on the map. Things were generally pretty slow for the first four months of the year, but Minnesota is a pretty good vacation state, so as the weather heated up, I’d be able to fill in more and more states. My rules were simple but firm: It had to be an out-of-state plate. So I could not fill in Minnesota unless I’d traveled out of the state and seen a Minnesota plate there. Most years I’d get out of the state at least once, usually to Wisconsin, twice in those years to Canada, so I think there was only one year out of those four or five years when I had to leave my home state blank.

Most of the map was filled every year. A couple of states were pretty rare to see: I was able to mark off the box for Hawaii only once, and I only saw two cars from Idaho, ever. My memory tells me that Delaware was also a pretty rare sight. If nothing else, the hobby kept me alert as we drove, whether it was the relatively brief trips we occasionally took to the Twin Cities or the one long vacation trip we took from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and back in 1968. (I didn’t keep track of Canadian provinces, but I generally saw most of those during a year; Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were toughies.)

Why would I bother? Well, I’m one of those folks who have a strong impulse to collect and catalog information, whatever information that might be. Back then, it was license plates on a map. (And Cadillacs; for some reason, there was a four-year period when I counted every Cadillac I saw during the year, too. This was when Cadillacs had a distinctive design and were clearly different from every other car on the American road. One year I saw more 2,500 of them, and a year later, I quit counting. ) I’m what one might call a record-keeper, I guess. I have boxes of notebooks containing the results of thousands of table-top baseball and hockey games. I have large computer files detailing the records and CDs that I’ve bought over the years.

So for a few years, I kept track of license plates. I never saw the plates of all fifty states in one year. The year I saw the Hawaii plate was one of those years when I did not see a car from Idaho. I imagine – being the packrat that I am – that those four or five maps are packed away in one of the boxes in my closet. I got rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff a couple of years ago, but I would imagine I kept the maps, as they take up little space.

I recall one of my better years was 1971. I’m not sure why, as I took no major trips. I do remember one trip toward the end of the year. My fellow college freshmen Dave and Rick (not the one from across the street) had stayed in town during quarter break, and the three of us took off one late afternoon for one of the Twin Cities suburbs, one that was home to the gal with whom Dave had been spending a lot of time.

The only thing that makes the trip notable was that it was the first time I’d driven to the Twin Cities. We got there safely, spent some time driving around, Rick and I in the front seat yakking about sports and music while the happy couple sat in the back seat. An hour or two later, we dropped the young lady at her home, and headed back to St. Cloud, grabbing a burger on the way and arriving sometime near midnight. And I remember that during that drive home, we heard Sweathog’s “Hallelujah” come from the radio. It had just begun to get airplay, and the three of us liked what we heard.

The song would climb only to No. 33 in a four-week stay in the Top 40 and quickly passed from our memories. I never went out and looked for Hallelujah, the group’s 1972 album, or for the 1970 self-titled release. To be honest, I forgot about Sweathog for a good, long while. Then, about a year ago, when I was poking through my records for things to rip, I came across the Columbia sampler The Music People, one of the samplers in my collection about which I wrote not long ago.

And there was Sweathog and “Hallelujah,” a song I’d not heard for years, although I’ve thought since then that it would be a great addition to the playlist of any oldies station. So I ripped the song and dropped it into the mp3 collection, and a week or so later, having actually looked for it, I found a rip of the entire Hallelujah album, which has never been released on CD. (My thanks for Bob H. at GF.)

I should note an error I made along the way when discussing “Hallelujah.” When I posted Chi Coltrane’s cover of the song a while back, I said that Sweathog’s recording was the original. I’ve since learned that the song was originally recorded by the Sixties sunshine pop group The Clique, which included the song on its only album, a self-titled 1969 release.

Also a while back, I made a reference to Sweathog as kind of a Steppenwolf Lite. As I listen to Hallelujah, I’m thinking that might not be quite right. The group rocks, certainly, and the sound is very clearly that of the late 1960s and early 1970s with some highly charged guitar. But on a number of tracks, piano and organ are very prominent in the mix, and there are a lot of horns in the background throughout. The sound is a little more complex than a Steppenwolf clone would present.

My favorites? The title track, of course, remains a good piece of radio rock. (I’ve included the single edit in the zip file.) The group’s cover of the Joe Cocker-Chris Stainton tune “Change In Louise” (titled “Ride Louise Ride” for some reason) has a kind of gospel groove to it and moves along well. “Questions and Conclusions” shows that two-keyboard effect nicely. “Working My Way Back Home” is one of those back-to-the-land songs that were seemingly required during those times, but it’s a pretty good song.

What doesn’t work? Well, “Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice” sounds like a Led Zeppelin outtake, only with vocals by Styx. “In the Wee Wee Hours of the Night” is a pedestrian blues that has an odd horn part popping in (as well as the vinyl rip’s only skip, which – unavoidable as these things can be – doesn’t help). And even though Sweathog covers “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo,” the group doesn’t perform the song nearly as well as did Johnny Winter in 1970 nor as well as the song’s writer, Rick Derringer, would in another couple of years.

So it’s not great art, but it’s fun music, for the most part. I should note that I’ve seen both 1971 and 1972 as the release date for the album. I used 1971 when I tagged the mp3s, but I think now that 1972 is accurate. Sorry.

Tracks:
Road to Mexico
Ride Louise Ride
Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo
Questions and Conclusions
Things Yet to Come
Rejoice Rejoice Rejoice
Hallelujah
Darker Side
Working My Way Back Home
In the Wee Wee Hours of the Night
Rock and Roll Revival
Hallelujah (single edit)

Sweathog – Hallelujah [1972]

*Had I purchased a St. Cloud State University plate at the time this post was originally written, it likely would have displayed the current logo shown above. I believe now that the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website was out of date and was showing the older version of the SCSU plate. Note added June 24, 2011.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1971, Vol. 3

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 6, 2008

I know some bloggers plan and write ahead. My friend caithiseach, over at The Great Vinyl Meltdown, has his posts planned for the entire year, if I’m not mistaken, and he likely writes months ahead. I’m sure many other bloggers also have their post topics planned and thus know what they are going to comment on ahead of time. Well, that’s not I.

Given the general structure of the blog, I know what types of posts I’m going to make: albums, generally, on Mondays and Fridays, a cover song on Tuesdays, a Baker’s Dozen (focusing on either a year or a topic) on Wednesdays, a video on Thursdays and a single of interest on Saturdays. If I’m stuck for an album on either Monday or Friday, I’ll substitute with a Baker’s Dozen or a Walk Through the Junkyard (which is a random draw from all my music from the years 1950-2000). So there is that much structure, at least.

But I never know what I am going to write, and most of the time I have no idea of the topic until I put my fingers on the keyboard sometime after the Texas Gal heads off to work, between seven-thirty and eight o’clock. Then I let my fingers loose and see what I think that morning. It has always been thus.

During my best years in newspapering, when I was at Monticello in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then when I was at Eden Prairie during the 1990s, I frequently wrote a column, with the topic ranging from sports to social commentary to politics to life in a small town or an urban area to memoir to whimsy. Both papers were printed on Wednesdays, with the last writing generally needing to be completed around nine o’clock that morning. For most of my time at both papers, I’d sit down to write my column at, oh, eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. And there were times when I had no idea what my column would be about when I put my fingers on the keyboard.

My boss at Monticello didn’t seem perturbed by that, but I think that kind of high-wire writing is something I developed there, and he saw it grow, just as he saw the rest of my skill set grow during my first years as a reporter and writer. By the time I got to Eden Prairie, I was confident in my ability to come up with a readable column pretty much on demand, but I think it took some time for my editor there to trust that. By the time I’d been there a year or so, however, he would often come into my office on Tuesday after looking at the space available in the paper and at the amount of copy we needed to fill that space.

He’d ask, “Got time for a column tomorrow?”

I’d nod. “About 650 words?” I’d ask, that being the length he usually counted on when he did his planning.

He’d nod, and I’d go back to writing, beginning the internal – and generally subconscious – process that would bring me a column topic by the next day. And in the morning, I’d get to the office before seven, finish my late sports writing and then start my column and learn what it was I wanted to say that day.

I generally approach this blog that way, too. Of course, the stakes were higher in the world of weekly newspapers than they are here. If I failed to come up with something at least readable – good storytelling was my aim and eloquence and insight were frosting – then there was a space that would end up being filled with an ad for our own newspaper or something like that. I think that happened once during the nearly ten years I was at those two newspapers.

The consequences of not finding anything to write about here are much less. So, if I fail to come up with something that I think is readable – again, I hope to tell a good story and if I find eloquence and insight, that’s a bonus – I will simply make my excuses and post the music and some commentary about it. (If I’m not writing because of my health – and that has happened and will happen at times – I will simply say so; if I’ve found nothing to say, well, I’ll say that too.)

Now, on to the music:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 3
“You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King from Tapestry

“Questions and Conclusions” by Sweathog from Hallelujah

“Dust Filled Room” by Bill Fay from Time of the Last Persecution

“Let Me Go” by Batdorf & Rodney from Off the Shelf

“Lonesome Mary” by Chilliwack, A&M single 1310

“The Road Shines Bright” by John Stewart from Lonesome Picker Strikes Again

“On The Last Ride” by Tripsichord Music Box from Tripsichord Music Box

“Anytime” by It’s A Beautiful Day from Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime

“Too Late, But Not Forgotten” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking

“Eugene Pratt” by Mason Proffit from Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

“Let Your Love Go” by Bread, Elektra single 45711

“Beware of Darkness” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

“1975” by Gene Clark from White Light

A few notes:

Carole King’s Tapestry was, of course, inescapable during the warm months of 1971. It reached No. 1 in the middle of June and stayed there until October. Its songs remain fresh and vital to this day, which is remarkable, considering how familiar even the album tracks have become over the years. It’s one of the truly great albums, and almost certainly in my Top 30 of all time, if I ever take the time to put together a comprehensive list.

“Questions and Conclusions” from Sweathog has the punchy, vibrant sound that made the group’s only hit – the title track from Hallelujah – reach No. 33 in December. The whole album is similar and a pretty good listen, and the sound was a good one for the times – maybe kind of a Steppenwolf Light –and I wonder why Sweathog never had any greater success. The horns at the end of the song work nicely, but are uncredited, as far as I can tell.

The enigmatic “Dust Filled Room” by Bill Fay is of a piece with the bulk of the album it comes from, Time of the Last Persecution. While maybe more of a period piece than something one might listen to often these days, the British folk-rocker’s second album is noteworthy for its brooding tone and apocalyptic stance and for the effective guitar work – sometimes bluesy, sometimes just suitably noisy – by Ray Russell.

By the time Tripsichord Music Box – don’t you just know it was a San Francisco group from the name alone? – released its only album, the group was calling itself simply Tripsichord. But the copy I got used the group’s original name as its title, and I’ve kept the tags that way. It’s not a badly done album. If you’re into the late ’60s hippie vibe, you’ll like it, as I do, at least one track at a time. The whole album at once, well . . . The best summation of the music comes from All-Music Guide: “It isn’t bad, and not too indulgent. It’s just pretty derivative, with the characteristically angular S.F. guitar lines, folk-influenced harmonies, and lyrics hopefully anticipating a new order of sunshine and possibility.”

The Mason Proffit track, “Eugene Pratt,” is an over-earnest anti-war, anti-draft song that nevertheless sounds good. Better known for “Two Hangmen” from the Wanted! album, Mason Proffit is often cited as one of the best bands of its time never to make it big. Any of the five country-rock albums the group released between 1969 and 1973 is a good listen, although the earlier ones are perhaps a shade more inventive.

Gene Clark was the lead vocalist and one of the chief songwriters for the Byrds from 1964 to 1966 and again briefly in 1967, but his greatest contribution to pop music came after that, as one of the founders of country rock. His work with the Gosdin Brothers and with Doug Dillard provides some of the foundations of that branch of rock, and his solo work often followed in that vein. White Light is an album that finds Clark presenting a set of songs that are intense and sometimes surprisingly intimate.

‘I’m Shinin’ Like A New Dime’

July 14, 2010

By the time 1989 rolled around, a casual fan might have thought – hell, I did think – that even though he was still recording, the creative portion of Rod Stewart’s career was done, leaving behind four superb albums and a lot of work that was both difficult and painful to listen to. As brilliant as his work with Faces had been, his early solo work was better, with The Rod Stewart Album, Gasoline Alley, Every Picture Tells A Story and Never A Dull Moment following one after the other during the years from 1969 through 1972.

And there were some hits in those albums: “Maggie May” was inescapable during the autumn of 1971, perching at No. 1 for five weeks. That was undoubtedly Stewart’s biggest hit, but there were others, as measured by making the Billboard Hot 100: “(I Know) I’m Losing You” (credited to Rod Stewart & Faces), “You Wear It Well,” a cover of Jimi Hendrix’ “Angel,” “Cut Across Shorty,” “Reason To Believe” and “Twisting the Night Away.” And all of them were good listening.

And then, for me, Rod Stewart disappeared and some artless lookalike with a similar voice and horrible taste took his place. There are those who will argue the merits of the Tom Dowd-produced pair of Atlantic Crossing and Night on the Town, but I found both albums too slick by far, and with the puzzling success of the latter’s hit single, “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” – it spent the last seven weeks of 1976 and the first week of 1977 at No. 1 – I bailed on Rod Stewart for the rest of the 1970s and nearly all of the 1980s, never seeking out his music, wincing when I saw him perform on television and hitting the buttons on the car radio to change stations whenever I heard his voice coming from the speakers.

And then, one evening in late 1989, as I sat reading with the radio in the corner playing low, I heard an immediately haunting introduction of woodwinds and strings over piano. I stopped reading, and then Rod Stewart sang: “Outside, another yellow moon has punched a hole in the night time mist. I climb through the window and down to the street. I’m shinin’ like a new dime.”

The record blew me away, and I spent several fruitless weeks trying to find it on vinyl. It was, of course, a cover of Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train,” and Stewart’s savvy reading of the tune was the best thing he’d done in about seventeen years. (He’d had nineteen Top 40 hits in the intervening years, when I was paying no attention.) Others seemed to like the record as well: It reached No. 3 in the Top 40, and went to No. 1 for one week on the Adult Contemporary chart and for two weeks on the Mainstream Rock chart. And in doing so, it fulfilled its commercial purpose, which was to draw attention to the release of Stewart’s sixty-four song Storyteller anthology, released in December of 1989.

From there, of course, Stewart continued to release albums and have hits, none of which grabbed me too much, and after the turn of the century, he devoted much of his effort to four albums of songs from what he calls “The Great American Songbook,” covering tunes like “Someone To Watch Over Me” and “Thanks for the Memory.” He’s also released one album covering classic rock songs. For my purposes, he’s become irrelevant again. But I can still listen to those four great albums from long ago and to that one incandescent single from 1989 that reminded me how great Rod Stewart could be.

A note: My pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ recommended in a post this week the 1985 collaboration between Stewart and Jeff Beck on the Impressions’ 1965 hit “People Get Ready.” The track, from Beck’s album, Flash, reached No. 48 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Being disconnected from a lot of stuff – including music – in 1985, I missed it. Go watch the video at jb’s place and you’ll know why I wish I hadn’t. Great find, jb!

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 25
“Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic 2365 [1966]
“Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy 625 [1969]
“Hallelujah” by Sweathog, Columbia 45492 [1971]
“La Grange” by ZZ Top, London 203 [1974]
“Take It To The Limit” by the Eagles, Asylum 45293 [1976]
“Downtown Train” by Rod Stewart, Warner Bros. 22685 [1988]

Is “Mustang Sally” the quintessential Wilson Pickett hit? It’s a tough question to ask about a performer who had thirty-two records in the Billboard Hot 100 – sixteen of them in the Top 40 – between 1965 and 1972, as well as thirty-six hits on the R&B chart, a run that ended in 1987. I suppose one could choose between the two Top Ten hits – “Land Of 1000 Dances” went to No. 6 in 1966 and “Funky Broadway went to No. 8 a year later – but there’s something about the insistent beat underneath “Mustang Sally” that continues to pull me in, almost forty-four years after Pickett covered Sir Mac Rice’s 1965 hit. (Rice’s version went to No. 15 on the R&B chart.) And once the beat pulls me in, the rest of it – the sax honking underneath, the organ dancing above, the horn accents, Pickett’s gritty vocal, and above all the story of Sally who just wants to ride – gets me bobbing my head for a good chunk of the day.

“Green River” wasn’t the first Top Ten hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising” predated “Green River by six and three months, respectively – but it should have been. I’ve always heard “Green River” as the band’s statement of purpose, telling its listeners that even in the confused and shattered times of 1969, there was a place where things remained as they should:

Old Cody Junior took me over,
Said, “You’re gonna find the world is smold’rin’.
And if you get lost, come on home to Green River.

John Fogerty’s memories of bullfrogs, dragonflies and a barefoot girl dancin’ in the moonlight went to No. 2 for one week in September 1969.

I’ve written about Sweathog and “Hallelujah” a couple of times before, once calling the band kind of a Steppenwolf Light, and then wondering later if that was fair. I’m still not sure if that assessment is fair or not, but I can say this, for whatever conclusions it might inspire: There are no records by Steppenwolf in the Ultimate Jukebox, and Sweathog’s lone hit – it topped out at No. 33 during the last week of 1971 – is here. From the clanking introduction with its gospel piano and percussion through the workmanlike vocal and jubilant choruses, Sweathog’s single hit is fun. It doesn’t tap any major memories; it’s more of a dimly recalled artifact that it would have been nice to hear more often long ago. And that’s reason enough for it to be here.

La Grange, Texas, is a burg of less than five thousand folks lying about midway between Austin and Houston, and I would imagine that, like its not-too-distant cousin of China Grove, La Grange has had its share of visitors coming to town over the past thirty-some years with their car stereos blasting as they cross the city limits. The song, of course, would be ZZ Top’s superb boogie with indistinct lyrics, “La Grange.” Since I’ve never understood the lyrics to the song, and the LP The Best of ZZ Top doesn’t have a lyric sheet, I thought I’d clarify things for myself and perhaps provide a public service for others by putting the lyrics in this post. I found the lyrics at sing365.com, and I’ve made a revision or three based on my own listening this morning:

Rumor spreadin’ ’round in that Texas town
’Bout that shack outside La Grange.
(And you know what I’m talkin’ about.)
Just let me know if you wanna go
To that home out on the range.
They gotta lotta nice girls, ah!

Have mercy.
A-heh, how, how, how. A-heh!
A-how, how, how.

Well, I hear it’s fine if you got the time
And the ten to get yourself in.
A-hmm, hmm.
And I hear it’s tight most ev’ry night,
But now I might be mistaken.
Hmm, hmm, hmm.

“La Grange” just missed being ZZ Top’s first Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 41 during the last week of June 1974; the band’s string of eight Top 40 hits began during the summer of 1975 with “Tush,” which went to No. 20.

“Take It To The Limit” is the only record by the Eagles to make my final two-hundred and twenty-eight. Now, I enjoy the Eagles’ music just fine when it pops up on random. But back then, during the years from 1972 through 1981 when the band had sixteen Top 40 singles, I could take the Eagles or leave them. And although I enjoyed most of the singles when they came my way, I never sought the group’s music out. I didn’t add any Eagles LPs to the shelves until 1988, when I picked up Their Greatest Hits; I’ve added a few others since then. This is not to knock the group, but the music of Glenn Frey, Don Henley et al. almost never grabbed me. So why “Take It To The Limit,” which went to No. 4 in early 1976? Because more than a decade later, the song surfaced in my life as a talisman, encouraging me do everything I could to make some major and necessary changes. And that makes the song good for a smile: