Posts Tagged ‘Waterboys’

Written While The Newspaper Dries

September 26, 2011

Originally posted November 13, 2008

I never had a paper route when I was a kid. I knew a few kids who did, but I was never really attracted by the idea, especially the thought of slogging through the snow in the drifts of a Minnesota winter to deliver the papers or else to collect subscription money.

As I think of it, that must have been a tough part of the job: A kid maybe eleven or twelve years old working his (or sometimes her) way through the neighborhood, collecting money. I imagine there was a lot of “I’ll pay you next time,” and all that. And who among us would these days allow our child to wander through the neighborhood in the evening carrying cash? Maybe mom and dad drove the carriers around when I was a kid, but I kind of doubt it.

Ah well. There is, I guess, a bit of romantic nostalgia in the idea of a bike-riding paperboy, flipping newspapers onto front steps. But these days, it seems, paper routes are the province of adults. I suppose there might be young folk who deliver papers in the neighborhoods; I don’t know. On the edge of the city where we live – a strip of apartments and two houses hemmed in by the railroad tracks, a mobile home park and some commercial establishments – newspaper delivery is auto-based. A vehicle pulls up, the carrier pops out and goes far enough up the sidewalk toward the residence to flip the newspaper onto the front step.

We subscribe to the Minneapolis-based Star-Tribune, and I usually scan the headlines while my coffee is brewing and the Texas Gal is preparing to leave for the day. Up until today, on wet days, the newspaper was in at least one plastic bag, sometimes two, so it’s always been dry. There must have been a substitute carrier today, one who didn’t think too clearly at the moment of delivery: It would seem to be pretty easy to figure out that if one throws a newspaper onto a wet step as a mist is falling, the newspaper is going to get wet.

Again, ah well. The newspaper wasn’t destroyed, although the front section was pretty wet. It’s currently spread out on the dining room table, and I imagine by the time I complete this post, it will be dry enough to read.

A Six-Pack of News
“Good News” by the Waterboys from Dream Harder [1993]

“No News Is Good News” by Tony Joe White from Homemade Ice Cream [1973]

 “Headline News” by Edwin Starr, Ric-Tic 114 [1966]

“Bad News Ain’t No News at All” by Redbone from Potlatch [1970]

“Herbert Harper’s Free Press News” by Muddy Waters from Electric Mud [1968]

“Bad News”  by Stoneground from Stoneground [1971]

A few notes:

I’ve shared a few things from the Waterboys before. No matter what sound the group presents – and its core sound shifted over the years – there was always a bit (sometimes a good bit) of Celtic poetry and mysticism in its music. The group is always worth a listen, from 1983 self-titled debut to 2007’s live-in-the-studio Book of Lightning.

Tony Joe White is best-known, perhaps, for his 1969 single “Polk Salad Annie,” which went to No. 8, or maybe as the writer of the luminous “Rainy Night in Georgia.” On his own, he released a string of albums based securely in the swamps of Louisiana. Homemade Ice Cream isn’t the best of them – that would probably be The Train I’m On from 1972 – but it’s a good one.

The Muddy Waters track is from the odd psychedelic album that Chess Records forced on the blues giant in the late 1960s. (The label did the same thing to Water’s label-mate and rival, Howlin’ Wolf). While the experiment was ultimately judged a failure (for its lack of sales, I imagine), there is something fascinating about the clash of cultures in the tracks on Electric Mud.

Stoneground came out of San Francisco with a large roster of musicians, which – according to All-Music Guide – made its albums varied and fascinating. I only have the first, self-titled effort from 1971, and it’s an album I enjoy a lot. The band, evidently reformed, has a website.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1985, Vol. 2

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 16, 2008

I watched most of the (very long) baseball All-Star Game last night. The most affecting portion of the broadcast, to me, was the introduction of the starters, with each starter joining members of the Baseball Hall of Fame waiting for them at their positions. As the game was in Yankee Stadium, the Yankee Hall of Fame members were introduced last at each position, and the final Hall of Fame member to be introduced was Yogi Berra. That made sense to me. Berra is most likely the greatest living Yankee.

(Joe DiMaggio, who died in 1999, insisted to his last day on being introduced as “the greatest living ballplayer” because he was given that title during a celebration of professional baseball’s centennial in 1969. If one wanted to extend the title to a new claimant, I would imagine that “the greatest living ballplayer” now would be Willie Mays, although one could argue without looking silly for Stan Musial.)

Anyway, as I watched the introductions and then most of the rest of the game – staying up way after midnight to see the American League win – I thought about the two times the All-Star Game took place in Minnesota, in 1965 and in 1985. I was eleven when the 1965 game was played at Metropolitan Stadium, and I paid no attention. I paid little attention to baseball at all in those years, preferring to read and to listen to my James Bond soundtracks.

In 1985, I might have watched some of the game, which took place in the relatively new Metrodome, but I wasn’t all that interested. I was back in Minnesota after finishing my graduate coursework at the University of Missouri. I had a thesis to write, and I poked at that unenthusiastically. I wrote about the Wright County board for a pool of eight newspapers. I played a lot of tabletop baseball. And I kept house and listened to the radio a lot. For many reasons, it was not a happy time.

But I do recall a fair amount of the music that pops up when I run a random selection for 1985:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1985, Vol. 2
“My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Los Angeles Coliseum, Sept. 30

“Children’s Crusade” by Sting from The Dream of the Blue Turtles

“Turn Me Round” by A Drop In The Gray from Certain Sculptures

“Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears for Fears, Mercury single 880659

“This Is The Sea” by the Waterboys from This Is The Sea

“The Sweetest Taboo” by Sade, Portrait single 05713

“Goodbye Lucille #1 (Johnny Johnny)” by Prefab Sprout from Steve McQueen

“Just For You” by Quarterflash from Back Into Blue

“The Moon Is Full” by Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny Copeland from Showdown!

“Indoctrination (A Design For Living)” by Dead Can Dance from Spleen and Ideal

“Tears Are Not Enough” by Northern Lights, CBS single 7073 (Canada)

“One Dream” by the Dream Academy from The Dream Academy

“Money$ Too Tight (To Mention)” by Simply Red, Elektra single 69528

A few comments:

The Springsteen selection is, of course, from the massive (five LPs) box set of live performances that was released in 1986. Considering his accomplishments, I get the sense that Springsteen is a relatively humble man, but Live/1975-85 came across almost like bragging. On the other hand, as All-Music Guide notes, the “box set, including 40 tracks and running over three and a half hours, was about the average length of a [Springsteen] show.”

Certain Sculptures is the only album ever released by A Drop In The Gray, and it’s a pretty good one. I didn’t know about the group twenty-three years ago. In fact, I was only recently introduced to the group at The Vinyl District, one of my regular stops on the blog-reading circuit. I liked what I heard in TVD’s recent post, so I went and got some more from Certain Sculptures. A 1985 review from Trouser Press quoted at the blog notes that A Drop In The Gray had a sound “approximating an updated Moody Blues.”

There are, every year, records that almost no one can avoid hearing. In 1985, two of those were “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “The Sweetest Taboo.” Unless one lived in a remote corner of the universe, it seems, and watched only C-SPAN, you heard them somewhere, and you heard them frequently enough for those hooks to set in permanently. In fact, when someone says “1985” to me in the context of music, the Tears For Fears” record is one of several that come immediately to mind. (The others are “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister, “Centerfield” by John Fogerty and “We Are The World.” I could get along for a long time without hearing that latter song again.)

On the other hand, I could always stand to hear more by the Waterboys. This Is The Sea is one of the great albums of the Eighties: Literate, melancholy, ambitious and maybe just a hair pretentious, but if the group’s ambition – maybe more accurately, leader Mike Scott’s ambition – exceeded its abilities, it wasn’t by much. And in general, I’d rather listen to something ambitious than something routine.

Speaking of “We Are The World,” the song “Tears Are Not Enough” was the Canadian effort on the album USA for Africa: We Are the World. “Tears” was written by Bryan Adams, David Foster, Rachel Paiement and Jim Vallance and was recorded by a large contingent of north-of-the-border musicians who called themselves Northern Lights for the exercise. Music by committee rarely turns out well, no matter how noble the cause, making “Tears Are Not Enough” a period piece at best, albeit one that’s not nearly as familiar as its U.S.-based cousin.

In The Singles Bin

June 1, 2011

Originally posted January 2, 2008

I never bought many singles. By the time I began listening to and buying rock and pop, the era of the album was upon us. Even though singles were routinely issued from most albums – there were some exceptions – the focus of music was on the album and the overall sense (or message or allegory) that the listener could gain from the forty or so minutes of music on the album.

I remember the first time I bought a single. It was during a shopping trip with my family to downtown Minneapolis during what must have been the summer of 1969. I made my way to – I think – the seventh floor of Dayton’s department store and rummaged through the singles until I found the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius//Let the Sunshine In,” which had impressed me enough the spring before on the radio that I wanted the record. (This was still a few months before I began listening regularly to Top 40 radio, so the record must have impressed me a great deal, indeed!)*

As I found my record and made my way to the cash register, I looked at the expanse of records around me, singles and albums alike. I remember feeling as if I’d walked by accident into a clubhouse where I did not belong, one from which I would be ejected without ceremony if the others there realized that I did not know the password or the secret handshake. I don’t recall if I thought then and there about becoming a member of the club, but within a year, I was shopping for records – almost always albums – with a growing assurance that, if so challenged, I would be allowed to stay.

Over the years, a small collection of singles has made its way onto my shelves. A few of them were in the boxes of 45s that I received from Mr. Rau, the man across the alley who owned a string of jukeboxes in the St. Cloud area when I was growing up. Some date from purchases in the late 1980s when I began making mix tapes for friends from my growing record collection and I didn’t want to lay out the money for an album with, say “Oooh Child” on it, so I bought the single instead. And quite a few date from a few garage sales in the early 1990s when I found metal carrying cases for 45s and bought them, gaining the singles inside as an afterthought.

So I probably have about a hundred singles, as opposed to more than 2,900 LPs, and a good number of the singles are quite obscure. I have some set aside as the ones that I enjoy the most, with the rest organized only by grade. Just to give an example of the range of stuff, I’ll list here the sixth record in each section:

“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”/“What You Gonna Do?” by Manfred Mann, Ascot 2157, 1964

“A World of Our Own”/“Sinner Man” by the Seekers, Capitol 5430, 1965

“I’m Gonna Make You Mine”/“She Sold Me Magic” by Lou Christie, Collectibles 3529, 1985

“The Return of the Red Baron”/“Sweetmeats Slide” by the Royal Guardsmen, Laurie 3379, 1967

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”/“Race Among The Ruins” by Gordon Lightfoot, Reprise 0121, date unknown.

“Rock and Roll Rhapsody”/“I Wish I May, I Wish I Might” by the Four Aces, Decca 30575, date unknown.

“Love My Lady”/“Just A Little Lonesome” by Bobby Helms, Decca 30557, date unknown.

The Christie record is a reissue of two of his 1969 hits on the Buddah label. “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” charted in the U.S. and the U.K., but “She Sold Me Magic” charted only in the U.K., according to Wikipedia.

The Lightfoot single collects two tracks from Summertime Dream with the legend “Back to Back Hits.” “Wreck” was released in 1976 as Reprise 1369, and “Race” was released later that year as Reprise 1380, so this is a later reissue, but I’m not sure of the date.

I’ve seen a date of 1958 for the Four Aces record, and that’s likely correct, as their last Top 40 hit, “You Can’t Run Away From It,” was Decca 30041 in 1956. Based on its catalog number, the Helms single likely comes from 1958 as well.

That proves nothing except that the few singles I have in my carrying cases run from the very well known to the very obscure. But the single I remember most clearly is tucked away on another shelf, with a few other singles next to the Beatles’ albums. My dad bought it for my sister and me in February 1964, and it still sits in the original picture sleeve showing the four mop-topped Beatles smiling directly at the camera. I haven’t played it for a long time, but I think it’s still in pretty good shape. And I think we’ll start today’s Baker’s Dozen with the B side, which did pretty well, reaching No. 14 on its own.

A Baker’s Dozen of Capitol singles
“I Saw Her Standing There” by the Beatles, Capitol 5112, 1964

“Little Deuce Coupe” by the Beach Boys, Capitol 5009, 1963

“Sweete Peony” by Bobbie Gentry, Capitol 2295, 1968

“Wildflower” by Skylark, Capitol 3511, 1974

“Galveston” by Glen Campbell, Capitol 2428, 1969

“What About Me?” by Quicksilver Messenger Service, Capitol 3046, 1971

“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes, Capitol 3086, 1971

“I’m Not Lisa” by Jessi Colter, Capitol 4009, 1975

“Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto, Capitol 4945, 1963

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy, Capitol 3350, 1972

“Fisherman’s Blues” by the Waterboys, Capitol 17527, 1988

“Pray for Surf” by the Honeys, Capitol 5034, 1963

“Every Beat Of My Heart” by Josie & The Pussycats, Capitol 2967, 1971

Well, it’s an interesting mix. A couple of No. 1 singles – the Reddy and “Sukiyaki” – and several singles that didn’t hit the Top 40 at all: The Gentry, the Quicksilver, the Honeys and Josie & The Pussycats. (And I don’t recall adding that last to the collection!) I’m not sure if the Waterboys single charted, but I don’t think so. [It did not.]

It’s worth repeating here that in my labeling system, songs for which I have the entire album are labeled with that album title and not as a single. That means that a lot of songs that were released as singles on Capitol over the years do not come up when I sort the collection. Still, it’s an interesting list.

The A side of “I Saw Her Standing There” was, of course, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” which went to No. 1 in the early months of 1964. It continues to amaze me that both songs – like much of the rest of the Beatles’ catalog – remain vital and fresh forty years later.

Despite the Beach Boys’ place as America’s chief proponents of fun in the sun – and despite the admitted brilliance of Brian Wilson as a writer – the group has never meant much to me, either in its cars and surf incarnation in the early to mid-1960s or when the lyrics and music became more adventurous in the later part of that decade. “Little Deuce Coupe” is what popped up randomly; if I were to choose a Beach Boys single to represent the group in an anthology, I’d probably go with “California Girls.”

“Galveston” was the second Top Ten single for Glen Campbell and was his fourth great single in a two-year period, following “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Gentle On My Mind” and “Wichita Lineman.” (He also charted with “I Wanna Live” and “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife” during that time, but those seem like lesser records to me.) Of all Campbell’s hits – and he had nineteen singles reach the Top 40 between 1967 and 1978 – I think “Galveston” is his best. Like many of Campbell’s hits, it was written by Jimmy Webb.

The spare and slightly spooky “I’m Not Lisa” was Jessi Colter’s only Top 40 single. Until the record was released, Colter was better known as the wife of country music outlaw Waylon Jennings.

I know that “I Am Woman” makes many people groan these days, not least the Texas Gal. But there were reasons it was No. 1 for a week, whatever they might have been. (Of course, “Sukiyaki” was No. 1 for three weeks, so I’m not going to go all cosmic here.) Whatever its merits, “I Am Woman” – as I’ve said here before – is one of the prevailing aural memories of my early college years.

As always, bit rates will vary.

Go Take A Look!
My friend caithiseach – who has frequently left comments here – launches his own music blog, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, today. He plans to post twice a week, taking a year to examine his own collection of 45s, most of them – based on our conversations – fairly obscure. Make sure you check it out!

*As it happens, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” turns out not to have been the first single I ever bought. As noted in a later post, my first 45 I purchased was actually Dickie Goodman’s 1966 opus “Batman & His Grandmother.” Still the 5th Dimension single remains the first musical 45 I ever bought. Note added June 1, 2011.