Posts Tagged ‘Who [The]’

Spiders

May 27, 2022

Originally posted September 15, 2009

Living in an older home, as we’ve done for a year now – ours was built sometime between 1940 and 1948, but we’re not sure of the exact date – there are some things that one has to take as givens. Among those things are bugs and spiders.

Most crawly things don’t bother me too much. Over the years, in Minnesota, I’ve seen crickets inside as well as some beetles, ladybugs and so on. During my years further south, in Missouri, the two older homes I lived in had some roaches in the basement, but that’s almost a given in older homes in that area (as well as in parts further south). I kept each kitchen clean (and a light on overnight where the cat food was), and that pretty well controlled things.

Larger insects can un-nerve me, though. The other week, the Texas Gal and I saw Cubbie Cooper, our youngest cat, tracking something by the dining room wall. It turned out to be a two-inch long beetle with an ugly set of pincers. With a little bit of the “ewwww” factor in play, we dispatched it and then spent a few minutes scoping out corners, looking for more. We saw none.

A bug has to be pretty large to flip my ick switch. Spiders, on the other hand, need do nothing more than exist for me to be unhappy. From the itty-bitty ones that we sometimes scooting across the floor and down the cracks to the two-inch wide creatures that look like a miniature Shelob (I saw one of those in the garage this summer and none, thankfully, in the house), spiders trigger an almost atavistic fear in me.

It’s pretty much the same for the Texas Gal, though, so when an eight-legged creature needs dispatching around here, I’m the one that does it. Now, we’re not infested or anything like that; it’s just that an older home will have its share of uninvited guests. And every so often, I’ll spot a spider making his way across the counter or up a wall. Or the Texas Gal will find one migrating across the floor of the loft while she’s working on a quilt. And the trespasser finds rough justice.

I know, I know. Spiders eat other insects. They’re an important part of the continuum of life. They’re beneficial.

They also give me the creeps. Always have. As I was rinsing a mug the other evening, there was a spider the size of a nickel in the sink. A good-looking one, black with some bright yellow trim on its back. But fashionable or not, it didn’t belong in the sink. The sink is ours. So I got a paper towel, wadded it up, and got rid of the spider. And then I trembled for about five seconds.

A Six-Pack of Spiders
“Spider In My Stew” by Buster Benton, Jewell 842 [1971]
“Black Widow Spider” by Dr. John from Babylon [1969]
“Black Spider Blues” by Johnny Shines from Chicago/The Blues/Today! [1965]
“My Crystal Spider” by Sweetwater from Sweetwater [1968]
“Boris the Spider” by the Who from Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy [1971]
“Mean Red Spider” by Muddy Waters, Aristocrat 1307 [[1948]

This mix is a bit blusier than most of my offerings get. That’s not a problem for me, but I think that some of my readers shy away from the blues for one reason or another. Nevertheless, three of the songs here are rooted deeply in the blues: “Spider In My Stew,” “Black Spider Blues” and “Mean Red Spider.”

The last of those three was one of Muddy Waters’ earlier recordings after he came to Chicago from the Clarksville area of Mississippi. His catalog with Aristocrat starts, as far as I can tell, with No. 1302, a September 1947 recording of “Gypsy Woman” (not the song that the Impressions and Brian Hyland took to the Top 40 in 1961 and 1970, respectively), and Waters’ first real hit was “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” the result of a December 1947 session that became a hit in 1948. “Mean Red Spider” came out of a session that took place nearly a year later, in either October or November 1948, according to the notes in the Muddy Waters Chess box set.

The Johnny Shines track comes from one of the true landmark sets recorded in the mid-1960s, when the first blues boom was beginning to draw a wider audience to the form. Blues historian Sam Charters brought nine different Chicago-based performers or groups into a studio and had each one record four or five tracks. The results were released on a series of LPs titled Chicago/The Blues/Today! The three resulting albums were released on CD in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but All-Music Guide notes that a 1999 box set containing all three albums is sonically superior. As to Johnny Shines, the late performer – he died in 1992 – was known to have been a frequent traveling companion of Robert Johnson, and he continued performing and recording to the end of his life. If one were looking for an introduction to Johnny Shines beyond the tracks on the Charter project, I’d suggest the albums Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop from 1978 or 1969’s Johnny Shines with Big Walter Horton.

Beyond having one of his singles in my collection, I know little about Buster Benton. All-Music Guide tells us that “[d]espite the amputation of parts of both his legs during the course of his career, Chicago guitarist Buster Benton never gave up playing his music — an infectious hybrid of blues and soul that he dubbed at one point ‘disco blues’ (an unfortunate appellation in retrospect, but useful in describing its danceability). In the late ’70s, when blues was at low ebb, Benton’s waxings for Ronn Records were a breath of fresh air.” AMG goes on to note that Benton connected with blues legend Willie Dixon in 1971, and the result was the Dixon-penned hit “Spider In My Stew.” (I’ve seen a date of 1970 for this track, but I’m following AMG’s lead and going with 1971.)

Dr. John’s “Black Widow Spider” comes from Babylon, his second solo album, an effort that I’ve long thought was a little wan when compared to the voodoo-meets-psychedelia whirlwhind that was 1968’s Gris-Gris. Still, the good doctor gets into a groove on “Black Widow Spider” that pulls you through the track, even if the vocals and guitar above the groove aren’t nearly as compelling as anything from the earlier record.

Psychedelia without the voodoo was Sweetwater’s stock in trade, at least on the group’s first album. “My Crystal Spider” fits snugly into that niche, right down to the electronic effects solo in the middle of the track. “My Crystal Spider” isn’t poorly done, but it seems to me that the track – and actually, the entire self-titled album from which it comes – sounds so much like stuff that other San Francisco bands were doing just a little bit better at the time. That doesn’t mean there’s not a place for Sweetwater in 2009’s random rotations; it’s just that the band was not as good as its neighbors were.

AMG says that, according to Pete Townshend, “Boris the Spider” – a John Entwistle tune – was one of the most frequently requested songs at the Who’s concerts. I’m not sure I get the song’s popularity, but that’s okay. I pulled the track from my vinyl of the group’s Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy collection. The song originally came out on the 1966 album A Quick One (titled Happy Jack in the U.S.).

Survey Digging: May 31, 1969

May 31, 2019

It’s time for a visit to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive to check out what folks were listening to around the country fifty years ago, as May 1969 drew to a close. We’ll check out the No. 31 record at four stations and note the No. 1 and No. 2 records as well.

We’ll start in New York City with the Music Power Survey at WABC. Parked in the No. 31 slot in the survey was “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & The Aces. The first portion of the second sentence of the Wikipedia entry on the record sums up my memory of the single: “Although few could understand all the lyrics . . .” I recall straining my ears to figure out what the song was about and not really succeeding for years. Wikipedia goes on to note, “the single was the first UK reggae number one and among the first to reach the US top ten (peaking at number 9). It combined the Rastafarian religion with rude boy concerns, to make what has been described as a ‘timeless masterpiece that knew no boundaries’.”

(The “rude boy” culture in Jamaica, another Wikipedia entry points out, correlates roughly with what’s called “gangsta” culture in the U.S.)

Sitting at No. 2 at WABC fifty years ago was “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, while the No. 1 record was the Beatles’ “Get Back.”

We’ll head south along the East Coast and make a stop in Miami, where we’ll take a look at the Fabulous 56 Survey from WQAM. The No. 31 record there as May 1969 came to a close was “Goodbye” by Mary Hopkin. The song was written by Paul McCartney (though credited, as was the arrangement at the time, to John Lennon as well). McCartney also produced the recording, adding bass, an acoustic guitar solo and the somewhat odd acoustic guitar introduction. I recall liking the record, which makes sense as it’s kind of a sappy and sad love song, and anyone who’s read this blog more than once knows that’s one of my soft spots. The record peaked at No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 6 on the magazine’s easy listening chart.

The No. 2 record on the Fabulous 56 was the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” and the Beatles’ “Get Back” and its flip, “Don’t Let Me Down,” were listed as a double No. 1.

Our next stop is in Tucson, Arizona, home of KTKT and its mundanely named “Top Forty.” The No. 31 record in that part of the southwest on May 31, 1969, was “Pinball Wizard” by the Who. The centerpiece in the group’s rock opera Tommy, the record – full of slashing acoustic guitars and suspended chords (among my favorite sounds) – doesn’t sound nearly as loud or disruptive to me now as it did fifty years ago. I know I didn’t hear it a lot back then, but I sought it out about a year later when I came across the piano arrangement for the song and began to work on it at the keyboard. I got pretty good at it, but it never sounded as cool on the piano as it does on the Who’s guitars, so I let it go. The record went to 19 on the Hot 100.

Sitting at No. 2 on KTKT fifty years ago was, again, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, and the station’s No. 1 record was “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” by Henry Mancini.

I was going to end this trip in the Twin Cities, but WDGY’s survey only goes to No. 30, and KDWB didn’t release a 6+30 Survey until June 2. So we’ll finish our excursion with the Entertainment Survey from WLTH in Gary, Indiana. The No. 31 record there fifty years ago today was a favorite of mine: “Where’s The Playground Susie” by Glen Campbell. I wrote some years ago about discovering the song on a live Campbell recording given to me in a box of cassettes: “[W]hen I heard Campbell’s live performance of what was another [Jimmy] Webb gem, the sweep of its melody, the sadness and confusion in its words and the playground metaphor all made me sit up and take notice.” The record went to No. 26 on the Hot 100, to No. 10 on the easy listening chart and to No. 28 on the country chart.

The No. 2 record at WLTH fifty years ago was, as in New York and Tucson, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, and – as in Miami – the No. 1 spot was the double-sided “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles.

(As it happens, I could not have pulled any information from a June 2, 1969, edition of KDWB’s 6+30. The station did not begin calling its survey the 6+30 until the end of June in 1969. Before then, the station’s survey was called the Heavy Hit List. It had other names earlier than that, I know. Perhaps someday I will sort them all out. Note added June 1, 2019.)

A Baker’s Dozen From 1971, Vol. 2

May 5, 2011

Originally posted August 15, 2007

In the later months of 1971, during my freshman year at St. Cloud State, I began spending a lot of my time hanging around the studios of KVSC, the campus radio station, then only about four years old. I did odd jobs at the station and put together a five-minute sportscast three or four days a week.

At the time, the station’s programming was still classical music for much of the day, with only the evenings given up to a very loose rock format. That changed sometime in the spring of 1972, when we staff members voted overwhelmingly to rock full-time. The only impact that had on me was that I no longer had to spend three hours a week thumbing through the classical records to find pieces of the right length to fit into an afternoon’s format. (The first format I put together was one that I built around Antonín Dvorák’s “New World” symphony, one of my favorite classical pieces. The program director said okay, but pointed out to me a schedule of symphonies set to be the centerpieces of each day’s afternoon programming. I think my insertion of Antonín’s work into the schedule bumped something by Mozart off the list, but I figured Wolfgang didn’t need the exposure anyway.)

So after the revolution – our vote to move to full-time rock saddened our faculty adviser, who then left that position – I spent less time down in the programming office and more time in the studios, cataloging new records and shelving stuff that came out of the studio after being played. I still did my sportscasts. As the academic year went on, I also did some late-night newscasts and some remote broadcasts, adding my analysis to play-by-play broadcasts of Huskies’ basketball and hockey games.

But as much as I learned about news and sports operation, I learned more about music. I spent most of my free time in the studio, even when I had no tasks there, sitting with other staffers on the tattered couches in the room that passed as our lounge, listening on the monitor to the magic happening in the control room. We spent hours dissecting and passing judgment on music new and old, drawing a somewhat flexible line between what was popular and what was serious rock. There were things, we decided with our accumulated wisdom, that could be both. And even before we went to rock fulltime, we listened to rock fulltime, playing it on the turntable in Studio B and ignoring the classical music we were putting on the air from Studio A.

One afternoon, probably sometime early in 1972, I was working on my sportscast for the five o’clock news program. As Long John Baldry’s voice came from the speaker in the lounge, telling us all not to lay no boogie-woogie on the king of rock and roll, the station manager came in, visibly anxious.

“Does anybody know anything about this concert tonight in the auditorium?” she asked.

I’d seen the posters. “I think it’s a group from South Africa that uses its music to protest the apartheid system in their home country,” I said. At the time, “apartheid” was not nearly as well known – as a word or a system – as it would become. Given that, the others in the station offices stared at me, as did the manager. She asked me, “Have you ever heard their music?”

I shook my head. No, I hadn’t.

She said, “Well, don’t worry about that. After you get done with your sports at 5:30, would you hang around and interview them on the air?”

Interview? Live? My stomach clenched. “I don’t know that much about them,” I said.

“You know more than the rest of us,” she replied.

So at 5:30, when I normally would have made my way out of Stewart Hall toward my ride home, I sat nervously at a table with four members of the African musical group (I have long since forgotten the group’s name) and talked with them about their music and its origins and what they hoped to accomplish with it through their performances. If I remember accurately, the fifteen minutes ended with a brief live performance of one of their songs.

Whoever had the next shift took over after that, and the musicians left, smiling, heading for their nearby dressing room. I sat in the chair and trembled for a few minutes. The station manager told me I’d done a good job and offered a few pointers for next time. The idea that there would be a next time was reassuring.

That evening, Rick and Rob came over to play some table-top hockey, and I had the radio tuned to KVSC, as I almost always did that winter. We were between games when the program director – manning the booth that evening – ended one long set of music and prepared to begin another.

“This next one,” he said, “is for one of our staffers who did a good job in a tight spot this afternoon.” He mentioned my name and then said, “Here’s Leon Russell from The Concert for Bangladesh, ’cause I know he digs it!”

Rick and Rob stared at me, and I grinned as Leon began to pound the piano.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 2

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” by Leon Russell from The Concert for Bangladesh

“Stealin’” by Taj Mahal from Happy Just To Be Like I Am

“Future Games” by Fleetwood Mac from Future Games

“Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones from Sticky Fingers

“Rock Me On The Water” by Johnny Rivers from Home Grown

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by Undisputed Truth, Gordy single 7108

“Behind Blue Eyes” by the Who, Decca single 32888

“Out In The Cold” by Carole King from the Tapestry sessions

“Love Has Fallen On Me” by Rotary Connection from Hey Love

“Ha Ha Ha” by Sisters Love, A&M single 1325

“Gone Dead Train” by Crazy Horse from Crazy Horse

“Sing Me A Song” by Rick Nelson from Rudy the Fifth

“Watching The River Flow” by Bob Dylan, Columbia single 45409

Some notes on a few of the songs:

Leon Russell not only starts this selection – which was random after the opening tune – but he ends it as well, as he produced, and played piano on, Bob Dylan’s single “Watching The River Flow.” At the time, Leon was about as big as one could get in rock, having pretty much run Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour the year before and than getting a star turn at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in August of 1971. One of the best moments for me of the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley is the wordless call and response duet Leon gets into with, I believe, Claudia Lennear (misspelled Linnear in the album notes).

“Wild Horses” might be the prettiest song the Rolling Stones ever recorded. Being the contrarians that they are, however, it’s also one of the saddest and most desolate songs they ever put on an album.

Speaking of pretty, sad and desolate, all three adjectives apply as well to the Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes.” Was there something in the water in 1971? More likely, there was something in the air. (With apologies to Thunderclap Newman and its 1969 hit.)

Happy Just To Be Like I Am, the album from which Taj Mahal’s “Stealin’” comes from, was one of his better explorations in roots music, as it included some forays into Caribbean rhythms as well as some of Taj’s idiosyncratic takes on the blues.

Going Random Through The Eighties

April 21, 2011

Last week, I took a six-tune random walk through the Seventies. Today, with my creativity evidently in a waning rather than a waxing phase, it seems like a good idea to do the same with a decade I tend to ignore: the Eighties. There are about 4,500 tunes from that decade in the RealPlayer, so let’s see where we end up.

Our first stop is a track from Showdown!, an album released in 1985 by blues veterans Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins and the newcomer (at the time) Robert Cray. Trading guitar solos and vocal takes throughout the album, the three bluesmen put together a set that All-Music Guide calls “scorching.” This morning’s track – “The Dream” – finds Cray taking care of the vocal and Collins adding the solo guitar work.

Then it’s onto a Duke Ellington/Bob Russell tune as interpreted by a Sixties icon for an album that originally wasn’t available in much of the world: “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” was recorded by Paul McCartney for his album Снова в СССP, which was issued in 1988 only in the Soviet Union. According to Wikipedia, McCartney “intended Снова в СССР as present for Soviet fans who were generally unable to obtain his legitimate recordings, often having to make do with copies; they would, for a change, have an album that people in other countries would be unable to obtain.” The Soviet release contained eleven songs at first, with two tracks added for later pressings. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the album was released world-wide in 1991 with one more additional track.

One of the mainstays of my music collection – and this will likely be no surprise – is Gordon Lightfoot. While he didn’t issue albums in the 1980s with the frequency that he did in the previous two decades, his Eighties work includes some of my favorites, especially the1986  album East of Midnight. While the track “Anything For Love” doesn’t top the list of my favorites from that effort – the title track does – it’s still a good effort worth a listen, and it’s our third stop this morning.

Hailing from near Liverpool, China Crisis started as a duo, according to AMG. But when Virgin Records picked up the single “African and White” in 1982, Gary Daly and Eddie Lundon put together a full band. The group never made much headway in the U.S., with only two of their eight albums even making it into the lower half of the Billboard 200 and one single – “Working With Fire and Steel” – reaching No. 27on the Dance Music/Club Play list. But somehow, I came up with a copy of the group’s 1985 album, Flaunt the Imperfection, and “Bigger the Punch I’m Feeling” from that album is where today’s journey finds its fourth stop.

It’s Hard, the 1982 album by the Who, contains one tune that truly grabs me: “Eminence Front.” Other than that, the album – billed as the last by the group at the time and released in conjunction with what was called a final tour – is kind of blah. That album’s “Why Did I Fall for That” is the RealPlayer’s fifth stop this morning. It’s a tune that has always come off to me as an inferior remake of the brilliant “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from the similarly brilliant Who’s Next.

And we come at last to a track from one of the albums I had long included on what I call my hopeless list: Albums I wanted to hear but that I thought were lost for one reason or another. In early 2007, during the first incarnation of this blog, I wrote a bit about the late Tom Jans, mentioning his final album Champion, which was released only in Japan in 1982. Having cobbled together a collection of the rest of Jans’ brief oeuvre, I dug a bit for the album without result and then gave up the quest. But during 2009, fellow blogger Chun Tao at Rare MP3 came up with a copy of Champion, which was as good as I’d hoped it would be. Here’s the magnificently sorrowful “Mother’s Eyes,” the final track on the album.

A Note:
A little more than a year ago, after I landed here at my own place, I began to set up an archive of the posts from Echoes In The Wind during its Blogger and WordPress days. That effort flagged for several reasons, and when I returned to it over the weekend, I decided to start over again. So at Echoes In The Wind Archives, I’m working on reposting material – without any active music links – from early 2007 through January 2010. As I said once before, I’m not sure how much interest there might be in my archives, but the site will eventually allow me to see what I might previously have written (as it did today in the case of Tom Jans).

A Baker’s Dozen From 1978

April 20, 2011

Originally posted May 16, 2007

After I settled on the Moody Blues’ ballad “Driftwood” to kick off this week’s Baker’s Dozen, I was thinking in about four different directions.

I was pondering 1978, which is the year from which this week’s songs come. I thought about the first time I heard the Moody Blues. I thought about belonging to various music clubs over the years, as I believe that’s how I got Octave, the album from which “Driftwood” comes. And I was wondering how many songs in the major rock canon feature French horn.

I’m pretty sure I heard the Moody Blues for the first time at Rick and Rob’s along about 1970, after Rob borrowed a copy of Question of Balance from a friend. I’ve belonged to music clubs about six times over the years and currently subscribe to Yourmusic.com, which is the best – for value provided – service of that type I’ve ever belonged to, if you can do without the absolute latest up-to-the-minute hits. (That’s an utterly unsolicited testimonial, of course.) And I thought instantly of two other songs that, like “Driftwood,” feature a French horn prominently: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles’ “For No One.” (Anybody have any others?)

But what struck me was pondering 1978. I’ve got a pretty good memory, and many of the things I remember, I recall vividly. And there’s not much about 1978 that stands out. All right, I got married, a union that was later dissolved, and I haven’t forgotten that. But beyond that – and those who have lived through the slow death of a union that was expected to be permanent will understand the ambiguity with which I recall that event – it was a quiet year, at least in my memory.

The interesting thing about that is that it was my first full calendar year in the so-called adult world. I left St. Cloud in December of 1977 for my first newspapering job, in the small town of Monticello about thirty miles away. After some growing pains, I settled into the routine of a weekly newspaper, a routine I stayed with for almost six years. I enjoyed my work there, and did well with it, and I liked living in a small town (about 3,000 people at the time), for the most part.

But it was a quiet time in my life, not as unsettled as the college years that preceded it, nor, come to think of it, as vibrant as the years in graduate school that followed it. And as I gathered this Baker’s Dozen, I pondered the ancient Chinese curse (or so I have been told it is): May you live in interesting times.

Consider that, along with trying to think of songs with French horn in them.

“Driftwood” by the Moody Blues from Octave

“Doubleback Alley” by the Rutles from The Rutles

“Easy From Now On” by Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

“Before My Heart Finds Out” by Gene Cotton, Ariola single 7675

“Field Of Opportunity” by Neil Young from Comes A Time

“Twins Theme” by Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg from Twin Sons Of Different Mothers

“Let’s All Chant” by Michael Zager Band, Private Stock single 45184

“Miss You” by the Rolling Stones from Some Girls

“Who Are You” by the Who from Who Are You

“’Till You Come Back” by Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz from Craig Fuller & Eric Kaz

“Song On The Radio” by Al Stewart from Time Passages

“Who Do You Love” by Townes Van Zandt from Flyin’ Shoes

“Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” by Kenny Loggins, Columbia single 10794

A few notes on the songs:

“Doubleback Alley” by the Rutles is, of course, part of one of the great musical spoofs of the rock era. The record The Rutles is the soundtrack to a mock documentary satirizing the rise and fall of the Beatles, of course, done by a troupe that included members of the Monty Python group. The film was at time hilarious, but the music was dead-on, matching the sounds of the Beatles through the years. (The same was true of Archaeology, released at the time Apple released the three mammoth Beatles anthologies.)

“Field Of Opportunity” is from Comes A Time, Neil Young’s return to the countrified roots that he first presented on Harvest in 1972 and would return to from time to time. The record was a major success for Young, but I’ve always gotten the feeling that he was a little bored with it once he released it. I recall reading a comment from him to the effect that he could have stayed in the middle of the road for his career but that the view from the ditch was more interesting.

“Let’s All Chant” by the Michael Zager Band is one of those things that come up in anybody’s player from time to time, I imagine. You know, a song that brings the reaction “Where the hell did I find that and why did I keep it?” Zager’s only Top 40 hit, was featured in the Faye Dunaway film The Eyes of Laura Mars and reached No. 36. I’m still debating whether it stays, although it did turn out to be kind of catchy.

I think, without checking, that this is the first appearance of the Rolling Stones in a Baker’s Dozen, which is interesting, as almost all of their work from, say 1966 through the Seventies is in my RealPlayer. And I think this list has the first appearance by the Who, as well.

The late Townes Van Zandt, despite being little known by the general public, was one of the greatest country and folk writers and performers of his generation, from the start of his career in the mid-1960s up to his death in 1997. Flyin’ Shoes, which included his take on Bo Diddley’s classic, “Who Do You Love,” has just been remastered and re-released.

The female vocal on “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’” is by Stevie Nicks.

Saturday Single No. 205

October 9, 2010

Back in grade school – probably in fifth grade at Lincoln Elementary – we had a discussion one day on how newspapers work and how reporters do their jobs. It was pretty basic, focusing on the W’s: who, what, when, where and why. As basic as that is, it’s pretty accurate; focus on those five things, with an occasional excursion to look at “how,” and you’ll find your news story on just about anything you run into.

Being a news junkie already at the age of ten – if it was fifth grade, which I think it was – I found the discussion fascinating. I certainly didn’t realize at the time that the five W’s were going to be the foundation of a great deal of my life. But I had a glimmering idea that out of those five questions, the one that would interest me most was “why?”

Frankly, it’s not a question that’s easily answered by basic and immediate reporting. Knowing why something happens usually takes a bit longer to sort out. Sometimes it’s a question never answered. I think of the major news story of that year in fifth grade, maybe the major news story of my childhood. The lead paragraphs of the stories in every newspaper around the U.S. were pretty much the same, something like: “President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed today as he rode in a motorcade through downtown Dallas, Texas.” You’ve got your who, what, when and where right there. There was another “who” to come, as in who did it?  The answer to that, we’ve been told, is Lee Harvey Oswald. (I have my doubts.) But we’re almost forty-seven years gone from that day, and we still don’t know why. Think about that: Nearly a half-century after John Kennedy was killed, we still have no answer for one of the five most basic questions about the event.

Maybe it was that juxtaposition – the assassination of JFK with the classroom discussion of the basic functions of reporting – that shaped me. I don’t know. I’d never put the two together until this morning. But it could very well be that it was those two events that put me on the track of those five basic questions, especially “why?” Once I got into weekly newspapering, it was pleasing to realize that weekly publications can look more closely at the why and how of things than can dailies, which are swept along by immediate happenings.

That’s not to say that dailies don’t do analysis nor that weeklies don’t every once in a while cover a story that requires speed and limits reflection, but the general trend is there. And that suited me, for if one can have a favorite question in life, then I guess my favorite question is “Why?”

That extends to things beyond newspapering and beyond the regular chatter of day-to-day life. I occasionally had colleagues at the various newspapers where I worked who liked the same sort of thought. Late one Thursday afternoon during my years in Monticello, my colleague Bruce and I were sitting at the coffee table, and somehow the conversation wandered to the purpose of life, probably an outgrowth of something less than pleasant that had happened that week. I said something like, “So what’s the use? What is our purpose?”

“I don’t know,” Bruce said. Then he turned to a high school gal who did cleaning and other odd jobs at the paper. “What do you think, Steph? Why are we here?”

“Well,” she said as she dusted off a nearby counter, “I don’t know about you guys, but I work on Thursdays. That’s why I’m here.”

That might be the best answer I’ll ever get. So here’s a six-song trail of “Why,” with the final song in the trail being this morning’s destination:

First comes “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love” by Veronica, a 1963 tune produced by Phil Spector. Also recorded by Sonny & Cher and a garage-rockabilly called the A-Bones that was active in the 1990s, the song gets the full Wall of Sound production for Veronica, who was better known as Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes and later as Ronnie Spector. I have, appropriately, questions for which I cannot quickly find answers this morning: Is this the same recording that has in later years been identified as a Ronettes’ performance? Or were there two recordings of the song? I don’t know. Either way, the record does not seem to have charted.

Moving on, we run into “Why Can’t You Love Me,” a 1965 Atlantic release from Barbara Lynn. Three years earlier, her “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” went to No. 8 and was No. 1 on the R&B charts for three weeks. Though I can’t be sure, “Why Can’t You Love Me,” a nice slice of mellow R&B on Atlantic, doesn’t seem to have dented the pop chart.

Third in line is “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me” by Bullmoose Jackson & His Buffalo Bearcats, a piece of jump blues/early R&B that was recorded in New York City and released on the King label in 1949. The record, says Wikipedia, was a cover of a tune “that had been successful for Wayne Raney as well as several country and western performers.” It’s a fun track, clearly a relic of a musical era that was vital before I was born.

And we stay in that era but switch genres, with Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me,” an MGM release recorded during January 1950 at the Tulane Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The somewhat silly but still plaintive song – “Why don’t you love me like you used to do” – likely made the country chart of the time, but the notes for the CD where I found it are horribly insufficient. All-Music Guide says that the record went to No. 61 on the country chart in 1976, long after Williams’ death; I’m guessing the song was released as a single in connection with the release of a greatest hits album.

We move on to Mickey Newbury and his 1973 performance of “Why You Been Gone So Long” from the album Heaven Help the Child. I’ve written about Newbury at least once, noting his status as a country writer and performer who could easily have crossed over and who also could have been far more famous with a little more luck. On the other hand, I’ve gotten the sense that Newbury preferred a little anonymity, so who knows? From what I can tell, neither “Why You Been Gone So Long” nor Heaven Help the Child made the charts.

And our sixth stop this morning on the chain of whys is the Who’s “Why Did I Fall For That,” a track from the group’s 1982 album It’s Hard. The album made it to No. 8 on the Billboard chart, and five different singles from the record made it to one chart or another. “Why Did I Fall For That” was not among them. Nevertheless, it’s today’s Saturday Single:

The Who – “Why Did I Fall For That” from It’s Hard [1982]

Afternote
Reader and pal Yah Shure passed on some chart information after I posted this. He noted that, as I suspected, Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me” did make the country chart upon its original release in 1950, and that’s an understatement: The MGM release was No. 1 on the country chart for ten weeks. As to Mickey Newbury’s Heaven Help the Child LP, it made it to No. 173 on the Billboard 200. There was, however, no single release of “Why You Been Gone So Long,” as I suspected.