Posts Tagged ‘Three Dog Night’

A Quick Stop In 1972

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 22, 2009

I said we’d visit 1972 today, and so we will. But it’s one of those days, so I’m going to toss up a mostly random selection and then move off to the easy chair or someplace else more comfy.

A Six-Pack from 1972
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics, Avco 4603
“Brand New Start” by Jackie DeShannon from Jackie
“City, Country, City” by War from The World Is A Ghetto
“Pieces of April” by Three Dog Night, Dunhill/ABC 4331
“Blue River” by Eric Andersen from Blue River
“Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Atlantic 2897

I think that the entire Jackie album might show up here soon, as might Eric Andersen’s Blue River (depending on their availability elsewhere). Both are superb records, and “Blue River” might be the best thing Andersen has ever recorded. The War track is a long one that gives the guys a chance to stretch out. The other three tracks offered here all got plenty of airplay: The Stylistics’ record went to No. 10, the Three Dog Night record went to No. 19, and the Flack/Hathaway record went to No. 5. Beyond that, there are very few records that say “Summer of 1972” as clearly to me as does “Where Is The Love.”

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‘I Think I Will Travel To Rio . . .’

June 28, 2013

Originally posted May 21, 2009

Well, I found something pretty interesting at YouTube this morning: Here’s a video that Mike Nesmith put together for his single “Rio” in 1977, when the song went to No. 1 in Australia. This was, as the YouTube poster points out in his comments, four years before MTV went on the air. It’s a witty video, as is the song.

And that’s so good – and I have such a long list of things to do today – that we’ll leave it right there. I think we’ll visit 1972 tomorrow.

A Note
Blogger tells me as I get ready to post this that Echoes In The Wind has 699 posts and this will be No. 700. There have actually been a few more than that, but some have disappeared over these two-plus years. Either way, the only thing to do is . . . celebrate!

“Celebrate” by Three Dog Night, ABC/Dunhill 4229 [1969]

Note: Because some of the first posts on this archives site were created by combining some of the very early posts on the original Blogger site, this is not the 700th post on this site. It’s not far off, though.

A ‘What If . . . ?’ From 1975

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 13, 2009

I won’t spend much time here today: I’m worn out. And I have things to get done and an appointment this afternoon.

But I had one more thought to share in connection with Monday evening’s Springsteen show. As we were driving home, while Monday turned into Tuesday, the Texas Gal and I were reviewing our favorite parts of the show.

I’ve mentioned in this space at least once that I came late to all things Springsteen. I was aware of him in 1975, when Born To Run garnered an incredible amount of publicity and attention, but I didn’t really dig into his work until Tunnel of Love came out in 1987.

And the thought occurred to me as we rode through the Central Minnesota darkness: If I had bought Born To Run when it came out, as I was tempted to do, my life would have been much richer. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it was an interesting idea to chew on as we drove through the dark toward home.

And here’s a generally random selection from 1975, the year I didn’t buy Born To Run.

A Six-Pack From 1975
“Song For The Fire Maiden” by Hot Tuna from Yellow Fever
“Don’t It Feel Like Heaven” by Brewer & Shipley from Welcome to Riddle Bridge
“Big Mac” by the Staple Singers from Let’s Do It Again
“Midnight Flyer” by Three Dog Night from Coming Down Your Way
“(To Say The Least) You’re The Most” by Tower of Power from Urban Renewal
“Primavera” by El Chicano from The Best of Everything

Hot Tuna began in 1969 as an offshoot of Jefferson Airplane, a place for Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassady to explore their acoustic and blues inclinations. But by the time of Yellow Fever, acoustic blues were a small portion of the group’s work. “Song For The Fire Maiden” is a relatively soulless piece of mid-Seventies boogie and not the best place to go looking for the original spirit of Hot Tuna.

By 1975, Brewer & Shipley were polishing the country-rock hybrid they’d been exploring for more than five years, the same inclinations that brought them a hit in 1970 with “One Toke Over The Line,” a No. 10 hit that’s often dismissed – inaccurately – as a novelty record. “Don’t It Feel Like Heaven” is a sweet tune, and the album it comes from, Welcome to Riddle Bridge, is pretty nice, as well.

Let’s Do It Again was a Curtis Mayfield-penned soundtrack that the Staples Singers took on. It brought them their last hit in the title tune (No. 1 for one week) and an album that’s a good audio postcard from the time when funk/R&B was still a vital genre, even though alert listeners could hear the beginnings of its mutation into disco.

“Midnight Flyer” is a pleasant if inconsequential album track from a group that was finding itself irrelevant. From 1969 into 1975, Three Dog Night had been a hit machine, putting twenty-one records into the Top 40, eleven of them in the Top Ten. The last of those, “’Til The World Ends,” had come from Coming Down Your Way, but had gone no higher than No. 32. And while the group’s first nine albums had all made the Top 40, Coming Down Your Way was the second Three Dog Night album in two years to fall short.

Urban Renewal might be the best album that Tower of Power ever put together (although I imagine some folks might put their money on Back to Oakland). And “(To Say The Least) You’re The Most” shows off singer Lenny Williams and one of the tightest and funkiest horn sections to ever record a tune. Just nice stuff.

By 1975, El Chicano was another group that was past its peak, and The Best of Everything (not a hits album despite the title) was a little limp. Still, “Primavera” is a nice tune with a little bit of that Latin tinge that made El Chicano memorable.

The Turntable In My Head

March 21, 2012

Originally posted March 16, 2009

Something reminded me today of the 1970 rock opera – as it was called – Jesus Christ Superstar. I bought my copy soon after it was released and listened to it frequently. It was one of those albums, in fact, that I listened to enough that I in effect memorized it.

That came in handy a summer later, when I spend a brief part of 1971 mowing lawns at St. Cloud State. We weren’t allowed to bring our transistor radios and earphones to work with us, for safety reasons, I assume. So there we were, those five or six of us on the mowing crew, spending our days on riding mowers or following behind the riding mowers with push mowers to trim around buildings.

The roar of the mowers made conversation impossible. I’m not sure what the other guys did to occupy their minds while riding in the roar, but I “listened” to albums. I’d mentally drop the needle at the start of a record and run through the album in my head, a side at a time.

Among the records I “listened” to as I rode the lawnmower were the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Hey Jude; Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album; Janis Joplin’s Pearl; the second side of Chicago’s second album, the side with the long suite titled “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” and Jesus Christ Superstar. As long as I kept the mower moving and didn’t run into any trees or buildings, my supervisors didn’t seem to care that I was riding along in my own musical world.

As I’ve never posted anything from Jesus Christ Superstar, I thought I’d start a selection of stuff from 1970 with the title track, performed by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers.

A Six-Pack From 1970
“Superstar” by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers, Decca 32603
“(You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String” by the Chairmen of the Board, Invictus 9078
“Tarkio Road” by Brewer & Shipley from Tarkio
“MacArthur Park” by Maynard Ferguson from M.F. Horn
“The Road” by Chicago from Chicago
“I Can Hear You Calling” by Three Dog Night from Naturally

“Superstar” went to No. 14 in the late spring and summer of 1971. Fourteen years later, Head removed his name from the list of One-Hit Wonders when “One Night In Bangkok,” from the musical Chess went to No. 3.

“(You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String” was a minor hit for the Chairmen of the Board, going to No. 38 in the summer of 1970. The group’s bigger hit was, of course, the chirping and warbling and absolutely wonderful “Give Me Just A Little More Time,” which went to No. 3 in early 1970.

Brewer and Shipley – and I may have said something like this before – are often regarded lightly because of the less-serious nature of their hit, “One Toke Over The Line.” But the duo put together a series of pretty good country rock albums. The best is likely Tarkio, from which the hit single was pulled, and “Tarkio Road” is a great song and was itself released as a single, though it did not reach the Top 40.

The other three songs are album tracks, although the Chicago and Three Dog Night tracks could easily have been singles and, I think, could have done pretty well. There was, to me, a little bit of filler on Chicago (now generally called Chicago II), but that didn’t include “The Road.” And Three Dog Night’s album tracks generally hold up pretty well against the singles; the singles from Naturally were “One Man Band,” “Liar” and “Joy to the World.”

Man, could Maynard Ferguson blow!

Note
Zshare has become increasingly unfriendly as a host, so I’m now hosting all files on Mediafire. That means, unfortunately, that visitors can no longer hear singles before downloading.

Deconstructing ‘American Pie’

December 16, 2011

Originally posted January 30, 2009

It was late January 1972, and I was killing time in the little room we used as a lounge at KVSC, the St. Cloud State radio station. In the main studio, a deejay was dutifully playing the noontime classical program and preparing for the afternoon’s offering of symphonies, sonatas and concertos; we played rock music in the evenings, but wouldn’t switch to rock fulltime until May. The other studio, however, was used to play the music we listened to in the lounge, with jocks honing their skills with the wide-ranging mix of rock and pop records that either arrived in the mail or were brought in by station staffers from their own collections.

And as I sat there, listening to the music and the idle chatter, the jock in the practice studio put on Don McLean’s “American Pie,” which was then in its third week at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. A couple of people groaned, likely because the record was already so familiar. But then, as happened every time the song was played, the speculation began as to what it was all about.

McLean’s main inspiration for the song was, of course, the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper, in an Iowa plane crash during the first week of February 1959. But the lyrics of the record can also be deciphered as being a plaint of how far from the basics of rock ’n’ roll the popular music and the music business had gotten since 1959. And as we sat in the lounge and the record – already familiar but nowhere near as iconic as it would become – rolled past, we discussed the levee and the fallout shelter, the jester and his cast, the fiery devil, the last train for the coast and the girl who sang the blues.

Next week, it will be fifty years since the Beechcraft Bonanza carrying the three musicians – and pilot Roger Peterson – crashed on the Albert Juhl farm just north of Clear Lake, Iowa. What startles me when I stop to think about it is that McLean’s song was released thirty-seven years ago, meaning that the song’s creation is roughly three times more distant now than the events of 1959 were when McLean wrote about them in 1970.

Back then, as we tried to deconstruct McLean’s tightly coded history of rock ’n’ roll, we were joining in a pastime shared by, I imagine, millions. As Wikipedia notes:

“The song’s lyrics are the subject of much curiosity. Although McLean dedicated the American Pie album to Buddy Holly, none of the singers in the airplane crash are identified by name in the song itself. When asked what ‘American Pie’ meant, McLean replied, ‘It means I never have to work again.’ Later, he more seriously stated ‘You will find many “interpretations” of my lyrics but none of them by me… sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.’ McLean has generally avoided responding to direct questions about the song, except to acknowledge that he did first learn about Buddy Holly’s death while folding newspapers for his paper route on the morning of February 4th, 1959 (referenced in the song with the line ‘with every paper I deliver’). Despite this, many fans of McLean, amongst others, have attempted an interpretation; at the time of the song’s original release in late 1971, many American AM & FM rock radio stations released printed interpretations and some devoted entire shows discussing and debating the song’s lyrics, resulting in both controversy and intense listener interest in the song.”

As to McLean never having to work again, that’s likely true. But it’s also true that he’s kept on writing, recording and performing. He’s continued to release music, with new releases and retrospectives listed through 2008 at All-Music Guide. It’s true that he’s never quite commanded the attention of the listening public the way he did in the early months of 1972, but really, who could have expected it to happen twice?

(Websites with interpretations of McLean’s lyrics are easy to find; just Google. There are, I guess, some references in the song whose meanings are generally agreed upon, such as “the jester” being a reference to Bob Dylan. But there are interpretations that one should take with a large seasoning of salt. One such example is the inference that “American Pie” refers either to McLean’s dating a Miss America candidate in 1959 or to the name of the plane that crashed. In 1959, McLean would have turned fourteen, a trifle young to have dated a beauty queen. As to the airplane’s name, a few years ago, I called the current incarnation of the Dwyer Flying Service, now based in the Twin Cities, and asked about the plane’s name. The woman I spoke to – unfortunately, I did not record her name – told me that the company had never named its planes, and the tale of the plane’s being called “American Pie” came from the imagination of one or more interpreters of the song’s lyrics.)

Despite writing about it, I won’t post “American Pie” today. Here’s a look elsewhere in that week’s chart:

A Six-Pack From The Charts (Billboard Hot 100, January 29, 1972)

“Never Been To Spain” by Three Dog Night, Dunhill/ABC4299 (No. 8 )

“Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers, Scepter 12315 (No. 33)

“Son of Shaft” by the Bar-Kays, Volt 4073 (No. 55)

“Softly Whispering I Love You” by the English Congregation, Atco 6865 (No. 61)

“Move ’Em Out” by Delaney & Bonnie, Atco 6866 (No. 70)

“Standing In For Jody” by Johnnie Taylor, Stax 0114 (No. 94)

The Three Dog Night tune isn’t necessarily one of my favorites, though it’s not bad. And I generally don’t post in these selections records that were as high in the charts as “Never Been To Spain” was during this week in 1972. (It peaked at No. 5 for two weeks in early February.) But I couldn’t help it. A little more than two years after this chart came out, during a month-long spring break spent wandering Western Europe, I spent part of an afternoon on a train just south of the French-Spanish border. Now, for whatever reason, the Spanish rail system at the time was abysmally slow. The train crawled along, taking almost three hours to cover the hundred or so miles to Barcelona, where I could have a shower and a hot meal, both of which I needed badly. And as the train crawled, I shared the small compartment with three college girls from somewhere else – I have forgotten exactly where – in the American Midwest. That would have been fine, actually delightful, had the three of them not been inspired by our crossing the border from France to sing a twenty-minute rendition of “Never Been To Spain.”

“Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” is one of those ready-made bits of romantic regret that pop up from time to time on the charts and on the radio. A sweet slice of pop, the record has a killer hook in the title phrase and some nicely done horn accents throughout. The record was still on its way up at the end of January, reaching No. 15 during the last week of February.

The Bar-Kays of “Son of Shaft” were the rebuilt group put together by original members Ben Cauley and James Alexander after four members of the group were killed in December 1967 in the Madison, Wisconsin, plane crash that also killed Otis Redding. “Son of Shaft” – which All-Music Guide calls “a good-humored goof” on Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” – reached the Top Ten on the R&B chart, the first Bar-Kays single to do so since “Soul Finger” in 1967. On the pop chart, the single peaked at No. 53 three weeks into February.

Here’s what All-Music Guide has to say about the English Congregation and “Softly Whispering I Love You,” which peaked at No. 29 in early March:

“The English Congregation was a short-lived outfit that achieved one-hit wonder status in the United States. Formed in Britain as simply the Congregation, they amended their name in early 1972 for U.S. releases, presumably to avoid confusion with the then-popular Mike Curb Congregation. Their sole moment in the sun came in early spring 1972 with ‘Softly Whispering I Love You,’ a track written by noted songwriting team Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway (who originally recorded it in 1967 under their David and Jonathan moniker). The merging of sweeping orchestration and choir with lead singer Brian Keith’s Levi Stubbs-like declamatory vocal produced a memorable number 29 hit, but no subsequent hit singles or albums followed. Keith went on to provide studio vocals on numerous projects, none of which sold in significant amounts.”

“Move ’Em Out” might very well have been the last single released by Delaney & Bonnie. (Does anyone know?) In the autumn of 1971, “Only You Know And I Know” had reached No. 20. “Move ‘Em Out,” also pulled from the couple’s final album, D&B Together, peaked at No. 59 two weeks in February.

Johnnie Taylor’s “Standing In For Jody” is a nice piece of Stax R&B in which Taylor bemoans his status as his woman’s second man. It’s a follow-up to Taylor’s 1971 single, “Jody’s Got Your Girl And Gone,” which went to No. 26. But the character of Jody as a woman-stealer pre-dated Taylor’s hit by many years. The Urban Dictionary notes:

“In the Marines, a ‘Jody’ is a generalized term meaning: any man who stays home while everyone else goes to war. He gets to enjoy all the things the Marines are missing, more specifically the Marine’s girlfriend back at home while the Marine is away on active duty. The reason that they’re called Jody specifically dates back to black soldiers in WWII. They took a character from old blues songs named Joe the Grinder (or Joe D. Grinder) who would steal the ladies of inmates and soldiers, and clipped his name to Jody.”

In a second citation, the Urban Dictionary cites a marching cadence used in military training:

Ain’t no use in goin’ home,
Jody’s got your girl and gone.
Ain’t no use in goin’ back,
Jody’s got your Cadillac,
Ain’t no use in feeling blue,
Jody’s took your checkbook too.

(A third citation at the Urban Dictionary lays the origin of the term “Jody” on Taylor’s 1971 song, but clearly the usage predates the song by many years.)

Edited slightly on archival posting.

Friends, Joe South, Nilsson & More

August 5, 2011

Originally posted August 28, 2008

This will be my last post for about week, as it’s time to focus on packing and moving. The movers come Tuesday, and we’re hoping – as I’ve said before – to have the lighter and smaller stuff already carried across to the new place when the truck gets here. So it’s time to take some time. If all goes as planned, I’ll be back September 5 with a First Friday post looking at September 1968.

I did my usual wandering through YouTube this morning. Here’s the Friends of Distinction lip-synching “Love or Let Me Be Lonely” on television sometime around 1970. (The ending is chopped, unfortunately.)

Video deleted.

I also found what appears to be a television performance by Joe South as he sings “The Games People Play,” which was released on his Introspect album in 1968:

Here’s a video from Beat Club – a German show originating in Bremen that ran from 1965 through 1972, according to Wikipedia – with Harry Nilsson performing “Everybody’s Talkin’.” I don’t think Harry did a lot of television, so this could be fairly rare.

And I’ll close for the time being with an actual live performance from right around 1969, with Chuck Negron leading Three Dog Night through a pretty good rendition of “Easy To Be Hard.”

Video deleted

See you in a little more than a week!

As The End Of The Year Draws Near

August 5, 2011

Originally posted August 27, 2008

As August enters its last days, we’re coming to the end of another year.

Forget that December 31/January 1 stuff. That’s bookkeeping. For me – and for many, I think – the years turn over sometime during the first weeks of September.

During my school days, for thirteen years, the new year began on the day after Labor Day with the first day of school. For another six years – I went to college on the extended plan – the year began sometime in September when the fall quarter started. If I’d pondered that sense of timing at all in those days, I would have expected it to change when I went into the adult world. But it didn’t. Years still turned as August ended and September began.

Part of that was because of my work: Small town newspapers find so much of their content in the local schools that their calendars are tied to the schools’ calendars. In between my newspaper years, I went to graduate school and then taught and worked at several colleges and universities, so my life continued to be tied to a literal calendar that ran from September onward.

But it’s been more than ten years since I was a reporter. My day-to-day life has no connection with the schools, with colleges and universities, with the regular events that command the attention of reporters and editors. And still, it feels to me as if a year is ending in these few days. And it feels as if a new year is about to begin.

Maybe it’s conditioning from all those early years in school. Maybe it’s something so instinctive in the human mind, perhaps something tied to the harvest-time, that we’ve lost track of where it comes from. (It occurs to me that, if the perception of years turning at this time of year is innately tied to the harvest, folks whose forbears were native to the Southern Hemisphere would have a different perception. Anyone from those precincts have a thought?)

Whatever the reason, this time of year has always felt like a time of renewal and change. One such time, an August/September that stands out clearly (I know I’ve mentioned it before), came in 1969, when I spent daytimes of the last weeks of summer at football practice, lugging equipment and supplies around for the Tech Tigers and then hanging around the locker room, sharing ribald stories and the music that came from the training room radio.

In a way that very little else does, music marks our years. And here are some tunes that are markers for me from late August and early September of that year.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1969, Vol. 3
“Goodbye Columbus” by the Association, Warner Bros. 7265 (No. 95 on the Billboard Hot 100, August 23, 1969)

“Going In Circles” by the Friends of Distinction, RCA 0204 (No. 90)

“Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” by Joe South, Capitol 2592 (No. 84)

“I’m Gonna Make You Mine” by Lou Christie, Buddah 116 (No. 66)

“Everybody’s Talkin’” by Nilsson, RCA Victor 0161 (No. 49)

“Keem-O-Sabe” by the Electric Indian, United Artists 50563 (No. 39)

“Share Your Love With Me” by Aretha Franklin, Atlantic 2650 (No. 31)

“Marrakesh Express” by Crosby, Stills & Nash, Atlantic 2652 (No. 28)

“Soul Deep” by the Box Tops, Mala 12040 (No. 24)

“Easy To Be Hard” by Three Dog Night, Dunhill/ABC 4203 (No. 18)

“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” by Kenny Rogers & the First Edition, Reprise 0829 (No. 11)

“Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fantasy 625 (No. 7)

“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon, Imperial 66385 (No. 6)

A few notes:

I’ve always been surprised that “Goodbye Columbus” – the theme from the film of the same name – didn’t do better. The record peaked at No. 88 on September 6 and then fell off the chart.

“Everybody’s Talkin’” is one of those tunes that has a few different versions out there. It was used in the film Midnight Cowboy, and two different versions of it are on the official soundtrack. Neither of them sounds like the one I remember coming from my radio. The version here is from Nilsson’s 1968 album Aerial Ballet, and I think this was the version that got airplay as the single, which reached No. 6. I could be wrong. Anyone know?

“Keem-O-Sabe” was one of those instrumentals that occasionally popped up in the Top 40, and the thought occurs that it likely wouldn’t have a chance of doing so today, given changes in attitudes. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits notes that Electric Indian was actually a group of studio musicians from Philadelphia; some of them later were members of MFSB. The record peaked at No. 16.

I liked Kenny Rogers when he was with the First Edition; the group had four more Top 40 hits after “Ruby” peaked at No. 6. They were “Ruben James” and “Something’s Burning,” which I recall, and “Tell It All Brother” and “Heed The Call,” which I don’t. (I have “Heed The Call” but I don’t remember hearing it in 1970.) After those four, Rogers was absent from the Top 40 for seven years, until “Lucille” began his remarkable run of success as a country crossover artist, a string of tunes that didn’t interest me much.

I imagine that, if asked to pick the perfect CCR record, lots of folks would go with “Proud Mary.” Nothing wrong with that one, but something about “Green River” grabbed me the first time I heard that opening guitar riff, and it’s never let me go.

I Got The Earth Day Blues

June 24, 2011

Originally posted April 22, 2008

Well, it’s Earth Day.

I would guess, without really digging too deeply into it, that most of us are more environmentally aware in 2008 than we were in 1970, when the first Earth Day was observed. It seems to me that we did a decent job for a while cleaning things up, being better stewards of this place where we live. And then, I think, a lot of people, many of them in the United States – especially those who make the rules or know those who make the rules – decided that taking care of the planet we live on wasn’t as important as using the planet to make money. And we’ve got a lot of work to do, again.

That’s a very simplistic exposition, I know. But I think in broad strokes, it’s accurate. I’m not really concerned with details this morning – an oddity for me. I’ve never been too deeply involved in the environmental movement, but I’ve tried to do my part on the small scale of everyday living: recycling; driving smaller, more fuel-efficient cars; riding my bike or taking the bus instead of driving when I lived in areas where that worked. On the other hand, I look around my study as I write this blog and I see so much plastic, so much stuff that – when I someday dispose of it – will linger for years and decades, maybe centuries, without breaking down back into its constituent parts. How does riding a bicycle or a bus with any regularity balance off all that? And I am only one of billions.

I know. This is supposed to be a blog about music. Well, I guess I’m singing the Earth Day Blues.

Being aware of the damage we’re doing to our planet is fine. Awareness can be the first step to change. But in my scrapbook – somewhere in my closet – is the armband I wore on the first Earth Day thirty-eight years ago. We’ve been aware for a long time. Has that done any good? Being glum this morning, I’m inclined to answer, “Very little.”

I can’t help but chuckle mordantly when someone who means well tells me – on television or radio or wherever – that we have to save the planet. You know what? The planet will be just fine. The Earth will continue to revolve around the sun and rotate once every twenty-four hours. But unless we take better care of it, we won’t be here to see the sunrise. It’s not the Earth that’s in peril; it’s us.

As I think about that gloomy prospect, I turn to music, as I generally do. And I hear in my head: “Before the breathing air is gone; before the sun is just a bright spot in the nighttime . . .” The song is “Out In The Country,” written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams and recorded by Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends in 1968.

Others who recorded the song included the 5th Dimension, someone named Brian Gari, R.E.M., Paul Williams himself, and, of course, Three Dog Night, who included it on It Ain’t Easy in 1970 and released the song as a single, which went to No. 15 that autumn. Here’s the original version and Three Dog Night’s cover.

Roger Nichols & The Small Circle of Friends – “Out In The Country” [1968]

Three Dog Night – “Out In The Country” [1970]

A Baker’s Dozen From 1974, Vol. 3

June 20, 2011

Originally posted March 24, 2008

I tend to read more than one book at a time. No, I don’t have two books in two hands and flip my head back and forth from volume to volume. I mean that I almost always have more than one book in progress and move back and forth between those books, depending on mood and circumstance. Along with The Shield of Time (mentioned the other day), I’m currently reading biographies of Roberto Clemente and Richie Havens and a book titled The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe and the Invention of Murder, an account of how a New York murder in 1841 became a public sensation from which – evidently – follow all of the public sensations created by the crimes that fascinate us. Daniel Stashower’s thesis seems to be – I’ve not read far into the book – that the furor and frenzy in Manhattan following the murder of Mary Rogers is the civic predecessor of modern-day public reaction to all the so-called “crimes of the century,” over which our culture hovers like some bloated, moralizing and baleful vulture (my words, not Stashower’s).

As fascinating as that is, the book I’m moving through quicker than any other right now is Boom!, the look back at the Sixties written by former NBC newsman Tom Brokaw. Somewhere along the line, I said that the cultural whirlwind that we call the Sixties began with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and ended with the fall of Saigon in 1975. Brokaw considers the Sixties closed with the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, which is a reasonable stopping place. And his thesis, like that of many who have written before him, is that the Sixties are not really finished; they echo in today’s events and attitudes. (Though Brokaw’s thesis is not new, his book shines as a result of his clear and concise prose as well as the access he had to so many of the participants in the events under consideration.)

Indeed, if one wanted a confirmation that the events of the cultural era we call the Sixties have not gone away, all one needed to do was look at the front page of the Minneapolis StarTribune Saturday and today. The first of those stories noted that Sara Jane Olson of St. Paul had been released from a California prison after serving about six years for crimes committed in 1975 – a bank robbery that included a murder, and an attempt to bomb two police cars. The second story – today’s – reported that California authorities discovered that they had calculated Olson’s sentence incorrectly and she still has about a year to serve.

The link back to the Sixties, of course, is that in those days, Sara Jane Olson was known as Kathleen Soliah and was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical group that abducted heiress Patty Hearst in February of 1974 and committed other crimes both before and after most of its membership was killed when the house in which they took refuge burned down during a shoot-out with the Los Angeles Police Department in May 1974.

After the shootout/fire, Soliah, like Hearst and other members of the group, went back to the San Francisco area for some time. Soliah eventually moved to Minnesota, changed her name, married a doctor and raised a family under the name Sara Jane Olson.

When her identity was discovered as a result of a television show in 1999, I was working for a collection agency and was three years removed from reporting. Still, I was fascinated as I saw television coverage and read newspaper reports about the one-time radical turned doctor’s wife who’d hidden in St. Paul – right across the Mississippi River from my Minneapolis neighborhood – for more than twenty years. The reaction then to her arrest and now to her evidently mistaken and brief release make it clear that the Sixties – at least the Sixties of the SLA – are still with us, proving Brokaw’s thesis to be true in this case and, I am certain, in many more.

When the Symbionese Liberation Army brought itself into the news with its abduction of Patty Hearst, I was in Denmark. As with almost all things that took place in the U.S. during those nine months, it seemed as if I were seeing the kidnapping and all the rest of the news about the SLA through the wrong end of a telescope. Those of us in Fredericia knew things were happening – from the International Herald Tribune, from shared copies of the slender and expensive European editions of Time and Newsweek, and from conversation with our Danish friends, who translated coverage of events from Danish media. But out information was frequently old and sketchy.

By the time we students left Denmark on May 21, we knew there had been a shootout four days earlier but nothing more than that. I don’t think it was one of my first questions, but sometime during the forty-minute drive from the airport to my sister’s home the day I came home, I asked if Patty Hearst had been killed in the shootout. No, I was told. I nodded and went on to think of other things.

And as we think of other things, every once in a while the Sixties pop out of the box in which we try to store them neatly, and we’re reminded that the past is never really gone.

Here are some songs from the year the SLA burst into the headlines for the first time.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1974, Vol. 3
“It’s Out Of My Hands” by the Soul Children from Friction

“Willie & The Hand Jive” by Eric Clapton from 461 Ocean Boulevard

“Another Park, Another Sunday” by the Doobie Brothers, Warner Bros. single 7795

“When It’s Over” by Cold Blood from Lydia

“I’d Be So Happy” by Three Dog Night from Hard Labor

“Even A Fool Would Let Go” by Gayle McCormick from One More Hour

“Just Like This Train” by Joni Mitchell from Court & Spark

“Everything Good To Ya (Ain’t Always Good For Ya)” by B.T. Express from Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied)

“Lady Marmalade” by Labelle from Nightbirds

“Keep the Faith” by Mel & Tim from Mel & Tim

“Take Me To The River” by Al Green from Al Green Explores Your Mind

“Faithless Love” by Linda Ronstadt from Heart Like A Wheel

“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan & The Band from Before the Flood

A few notes:

461 Ocean Boulevard is regarded, I think, as one of Clapton’s great albums, coming after his drug-wracked retreat following 1970’s Layla. It’s a good album, but I hesitate to say it’s a great album, as there are just a few too many hollow spots. I love “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Please Be With Me” and “Let It Grow,” to name three. Unfortunately, the randomizer selected “Willie & The Hand Jive,” which to me is one of the album’s hollow spots.

Cold Blood, a great late Sixties group from the San Francisco area, was struggling by 1974 – as many acts were – to hold its audience, which to be unhappily honest, had never been that large to begin with. It titled its 1974 album after its lead singer, the attractive Lydia Pense, and then changed its name to Lydia Pense & Cold Blood by 1976. The move didn’t work, and the group faded into obscurity, remembered only by fans and collectors of Bay Area groups until the CD boom in the 1990s. The music’s still good.

Hard Labor was the last Three Dog Night album to reach the Top 20, and is better remembered as the source of two pretty good singles “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here” and “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)”. Overall, the band – especially the singers who had given Three Dog Night its character and identity – sounded tired.

Gayle McCormick had been the lead singer for Smith, the band that reached No. 5 in 1970 with an incendiary version of Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You.” When Smith didn’t reach the charts again, McCormick recorded two pretty good solo albums right away: her self-titled debut in 1971 and Flesh & Blood in 1972. One More Hour came in 1974, and wasn’t quite to the level of the earlier records. This may be the first version of “Even A Fool Would Let Go,” a tune written by Kerry Chater and Tom Snow. All-Music Guide lists McCormick’s version as being the earliest in its database, but that’s not entirely persuasive. Even if it is first, it’s far from the best – I’d put my vote to Levon Helm’s 1982 version. Still, McCormick had a good voice, and at least battled the song to a draw, I think.

“Lady Marmalade” is an Allen Toussaint song that Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink brought back to life in the film Moulin Rogue and on the charts, reaching No. 1 for five weeks in 2001. The original version by LaBelle – Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash – came out on Nightbirds in 1974, and a single edit went to No. 1 for a week in 1975. It was so much more fun learning French from the jukebox than it had been in a third-floor classroom.

This was pretty much a random selection – I skipped stuff that had been previously posted – until the last song, when I decided to take over the universe’s work. I think I mentioned this version of “Like A Rolling Stone” when I wrote about stellar pop-rock introductions. This opener isn’t the best – I’d likely give that nod to the original “Layla” still – but it’s one of the few beginnings to a rock performance that left my jaw hanging the first time I heard it. Recorded, I believe, in Los Angeles, the performance provides an extraordinary capstone to the document of Bob Dylan and The Band on stage together.

A Friday Walk Through The Junkyard

June 18, 2011

Originally posted March 14, 2008

My to-do list has gotten longer as the week has progressed. Tomorrow is the annual tabletop hockey competition here, and I have much left to accomplish. I do have some interesting albums to rip: I’ve gotten five fairly rare albums in the mail in recent weeks, with another – the Blue Rose album I mentioned Wednesday – on the way.

But time is short today, so instead of trying to rush one of those albums along and botching it, I thought I’d take one of my regular random walks through the junkyard and see what we find from the years 1951-2000.

“Fridgidaire Woman” by Son Seals from Living In The Danger Zone, 1991

“Screamer for Phlyses” by Shawn Phillips from Contribution, 1970

“Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, Atco single 6147, 1959

“Sad, Sad Day” by Muddy Waters from King Bee, 1981

“Corrina” by King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar from Official Music, 1970

“Wild Horses” by Leon Russell from Stop All That Jazz, 1974

“Little Girl” by Redbone from Redbone, 1970

“Pleasure” by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy from The Great Conspiracy, 1968

“Make Love To You” by the Stills-Young Band from Long May You Run, 1976

“The Working Man” by Creedence Clearwater Revival from Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1968

“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” by the Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin, RCA single 14214, 1985

“Let Your Lovelight Shine” by the Buddy Miles Express from Expressway To Your Skull, 1968

“Don’t Make Promises” by the Beau Brummels, Warner Bros. single 7014, 1967

“Heavy Church” by Three Dog Night from Naturally, 1970

“Feels So Good” by Chuck Mangione from Feels So Good, 1977

A few notes:

Every three years or so from 1973 through 2000, blues fans could count on a release from Son Seals, an Arkansas-born blues guitarist discovered in a Chicago nightspot by Alligator Records owner Bruce Iglauer. “Frigidaire Woman” comes from Living In The Danger Zone, which, in terms of quality, falls right in the middle of Seals’ nine-album series of works. Seals – who died in 2003 – never made a bad album; his best was most likely Midnight Son from 1976.

I heard “Mack the Knife” the other day as I pulled into the supermarket a parking lot. I waited to leave the car until the song ended, thinking, “I need to get that song into the blog,” and now, the universe has done that for me. The song originated in The Threepenny Opera, a 1928 piece of musical theater by writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill. The story of Macheath and his murderous ways was eventually translated to film in the 1950s and continues to be presented on occasion as live theater. Darin’s swinging version of the show’s opening number contrasts greatly with the staid and stiff version I heard when I listened to a recording of the opera. Louis Armstrong recorded a similar version of the tune, but it was Darin’s version that was the hit, going to No. 1 for nine weeks in the autumn of 1959. (Darin’s version – as did Armstrong’s before it – name-checks “Miss Lotte Lenya” during the final verses. In the mid- to late Sixties, when I heard the song, I was confused, as I knew Lotte Lenya only as the haggard and unappealing actress who’d played Soviet agent Rosa Klebb in the James Bond film, From Russia With Love. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that Lotte Lenya had been Kurt Weill’s wife, had acted in various stagings of The Threepenny Opera and had earned a Tony award for one of them, in the mid-1950s.)

King Bee, produced by Johnny Winter, was – from what I can tell – the last album in the long career of Muddy Waters. For the most part, the album is new versions of Waters’ work on the Chess label (including “Sad, Sad Day”), but the album is still a pretty good way to spend some time.

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was a Los Angeles-based psychedelic band, and The Great Conspiracy was the group’s second album. Some of the songs on the record stretch out a little into some trippy mid-Sixties noodling and jamming. “Pleasure” isn’t one of those; it’s a fairly concise song that’s typical of second-level psychedelic pop rock. Good for what it is.

Pretty much right from the start, Creedence Clearwater Revival was a great band. The misfortune that John Fogerty and his bandmates had to face was that, at the time, bands that recorded long, trippy songs full of obscure allusions sold lots of records and were taken seriously, while bands that recorded good three-minute singles were relegated to a less-serious room, kind of like eating at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving. But listening to CCR’s records today, even the stuff that wasn’t released as singles has aged an awful lot better than the work of a lot of those groups that were taken so seriously four decades ago. (Yeah, CCR stretched out sometimes, as on its version of “Suzy Q.” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” But those are the group’s less successful efforts, I think; the group’s strength was the three-minute single, and CCR did that about as well as anyone ever has. My favorite happens to be “Green River.”)

I think the 1985 collaboration between the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin tends to get lost in the memory of the Eighties as a decade of synths, drum machines and big hair (and the Eighties were all that). But “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” truly cooks. And it’s probably Aretha’s last great record.

I mentioned the other day the breadth of writers from which Three Dog Night got its material. “Heavy Church,” a record I’ve always liked a lot, ever since I got Naturally as a Christmas gift in 1971, was written by Alan O’Day, with whom I had a brief correspondence about “Rock & Roll Heaven” a while back. O’Day’s own version showed up on his 1973 album, Caress Me Pretty Music.

Chuck Mangione had a No. 4 hit in early 1978 with a single edit of “Feels So Good.” This is the nine-minute album version.