Saturday Single No. 578

February 17th, 2018

I’ve hated change all my life.

Well, most of the time. When I’ve traveled, I’ve enjoyed seeing, doing, experiencing new things. Traveling was different.

But when I am home, I like my life, my days to be orderly. Even a minor change puts me off-kilter. Case in point: Monday is laundry day. When there’s a Monday holiday, I usually end up doing laundry on Tuesdays, and the whole week feels out of whack.

I know, I know. This is one of those things we call a first-world problem. But it’s true: Even the slightest change in my routines and patterns leaves me feeling out of place.

And here comes a major change as we move from our house on the East Side to the condo on the North Side.

(The truck comes Monday. I think we’ll be ready, although we have two very long days of work ahead of us, work I will get to as soon as I finish here.)

One would think that I’m apprehensive or put off balance by the prospect of moving, of going through one of the major changes we can have in our lives. Well, I was. For the past several years, as the Texas Gal has talked about finding a new place, I’ve been skittish. I’ve loved living here on the East Side, here with the thirty-four oak trees and the garden and the squirrels and the lilacs. Especially the lilacs.

But I’ve come to realize that my skittishness was when we talked about finding an apartment, some place that wasn’t ours. I didn’t want to leave my house, the place where I’d felt at home probably more than any other, for just another place that would feel temporary.

As soon as the Texas Gal brought up the idea of buying a place, there was a shift in me, one I didn’t see coming. Of course, I never saw our owning a place coming, either. And when we decided on the condo on the North Side, there was a major shift. I won’t say I looked forward to the packing, the work of moving, but the move itself, the idea of a place that was ours, felt right.

A little less than ten years ago, when we moved from the adjacent apartments into the house, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing. We were cramped, yes, but . . . well, I was set in a place and I knew where things were and all that. But moving to the house here under the oaks turned out to be the right thing. And I think our move to the North Side will be the right thing.

I think that’s been obvious in some of my work here. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

And it’s taken a couple of weeks since then to realize that for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to a major change, and that’s something new for me, a reflection of a change in me that I never saw coming. And that’s an appropriate place to end this last epistle from the East Side.

Here, with their cover of one of Phil Ochs’ most lovely songs, are Ian & Sylvia with “Changes.” It’s from their 1966 album Ian & Sylvia Play One More, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Listen To The Wolf

February 15th, 2018

Looking for a tune with the word “moving” in its title – trying to match our reality with a post for today – I came across Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moving.” It’s a basic Wolf joint, and I wondered as it played: How many Howlin’ Wolf tracks sit on the digital shelves?

The answer turns out to be 149, ranging temporally from some sides recorded to the RPM label in West Memphis, Tennessee, in 1951 to “Moving,” a track from The Back Door Wolf, which was released in 1973, just three years before the Wolf laid down his harp. The track, like many others on the digital shelves, came from the box set Chess put together in 1991.

And since we are moving, and because I have some duties along that line today – we are making progress, but Monday’s arrival of the moving van looms large – I’ll just offer “Moving” here and get out of the way. I hope to offer a post on Saturday, but we’ll see how things go.

Nervous Cats

February 13th, 2018

The catboys are nervous. Their world is changing every day.

Boxes now block their preferred running paths through the house. The little enclosed cat bed on the sofa, which all three have normally used at one time or another throughout the day, is gone (taken to cushion something fragile when it was packed in a box).

Their world is disrupted, and they are, as I said, nervous. During the evenings, when the Texas Gal and I sit in the living room and watch TV (with me peering at the screen over a pile of boxes that will go to the Friends of the Library bookstore), all three cats come to us for lap time. That’s not new for Little Gus (who long ago gained enough excess weight to make his name ironic instead of cute), and not entirely new for Cubbie Cooper, but it is a new behavior for Oscar Charleston, whose preferred mode of contact with me until recently was “chase me until I fall down as if I’m exhausted, and then you may pet me.”

He hasn’t entirely given up the chase – or his rolling on the laundry rug in the basement until he’s so cute I have to pet him – but more often these days he paws at my leg as I sit in the living room, and once I’ve lifted him to my lap, he settles down quietly, as if seeking reassurance that there are still some certainties in his feline world.

We think they’ll like the new place. It will take some getting used to, and there will be some new – and thus unfamiliar – things. (Case in point: The makings of three beds – frames, box springs and mattresses – were delivered yesterday.) But many of the things that made up their home here on the East Side will be in their new place on the North Side.

And they’ll get their new home in one swoop: Early on February 19, moving day, we’ll be taking the three catboys to a pet spa just east of St. Cloud. Once the move is done – and Connor the mover estimates that it will take four to six hours to get everything moved and then unloaded at the new place – we’ll retrieve the cats.

Cats are notorious for being set in their ways. (I am the same, so I understand their anxiety.) Any change in their routine or their surroundings can distress them; the degree of distress depends entirely on the personality of the cat. We’re not too concerned about Oscar or Cubbie; they’re generally pretty mellow. Gus, on the other hand, is pretty insecure, and we expect that he may find a hidey-hole in the new place for a few days, coming out only when necessary. We’re pretty sure that when he learns that there are no monsters in the new place, he’ll settle in like the other two and once more be a happy cat.

And for a tune
today, we’re going to dip into the massive rockabilly/country compilation titled “That’ll Flat Git It,” where we find the McCoys’ “Full-Grown Cat” from 1958. The McCoys were Ronnie and Peggy McCoy, evidently brother and sister, and they recorded at least two singles for RCA Victor. The site Rockin’ Country Style notes that the McCoys were regular performers on Dallas’ KSKY in 1956 and regulars during 1959 on the Cowtown Hoedown that was broadcast on Fort Worth’s KCUL.

Saturday Single No. 577

February 10th, 2018

I was messing around yesterday with a bundle of mp3s I gained access to, mostly easy listening stuff from the Sixties and Seventies (a sweet spot for me, as readers might know), and I started work tagging the mp3s from an album titled Peter Nero Plays Born Free and Other Movie Themes, slapped with a date of 1966, which was when the film Born Free was released.

It didn’t take long to determine that the CD from which the mp3s came had seen tracks added as bonuses, as among the tracks were “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’,” which came out in 1971 and which I already had. It was Nero’s sole Top 40 hit, going to No. 21 in Billboard. (The record was once the subject here of a piece that spurred Nero to leave a comment, which – along with my love for easy listening – might easily be the reason I tend to collect his music.)

I compared the list of the original 1966 release that I found at Discogs – it then had the title Peter Nero Plays Born Free And Others – with the mp3s I was studying, and I found three others that didn’t belong, “Theme from ‘Love Story’,” ‘Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’,” and “Mack the Knife.” I dug a little further, and found that I already had “Mack the Knife” from a 1963 album titled Hail the Conquering Nero. “Love Story,” which was new to my collection, was released as a single in 1971 (and showed up on a couple of LPs as well).

Which left the track “Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’.” (Never mind that the original rock opera did not use the unnecessary comma.) I dug through the content listings of a few of Nero’s albums from around 1970, when the rock opera came out, preferring not to use the sometimes balky search function at Discogs. No joy, so I used the search and learned that “Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’” seems to have been issued on vinyl only as the B-side of “Theme from ‘Summer of ’42’.”

I wrote the other week of my renewed affection for the original release of Jesus Christ Superstar. Finding an unknown version of the rock opera’s main theme by one of my favorite easy listening performers is reason enough for a small celebration, so Peter Nero’s 1971 take on “Theme from ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’” is today’s Saturday Single.

Four At Random From ’68

February 9th, 2018

Since we’re in a 1968 mood around here these days (and will be for the remainder of the year), I thought we’d let the RealPlayer give us four at random from that long-ago year this morning. I might not have much to say about them, though, as the vast majority of my reference library is currently in boxes, waiting for the move to the North Side.

But we’ll pull four titles from the 2,800-or-so that pop up. (I’m imprecise here because some of the tracks in the RealPlayer come from albums like The History Of U.K. Underground Folk Rock 1968-1978, which puts them into the results of a search for “1968” even though the tracks aren’t from that year.) So let’s see what pops up and then we’ll see how much we have to say.

“I Think Of You” by James Hendricks
“Indian Lake” by the Cowsills
“Take A Look” by Gary Walker & The Rain
“Meadowland Of Love” by Afterglow

James Hendricks’ name is found these days on the margins of the pop side of Sixties folk-rock: He was a member, with Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty and Sal Zanovsky, of the Mugwumps, and was married to Elliot for a time (although AllMusic Guide says the marriage was designed to allow Hendricks to avoid the Vietnam-era draft). Elliot and Doherty went on to become half of The Mamas & The Papas, Zanovsky went on to join the Lovin’ Spoonful, and Hendricks went on to a pretty quiet solo career. “I Think Of You” is from his album Songs Of James Hendricks, released on Johnny River’s Soul City label. Like the album it comes from, the track is pretty bland country rock. The album itself – in these precincts, anyway – is memorable only because Rivers recorded two of the tunes – “The Way We Live” and the brilliant “Summer Rain” for his own 1968 album, Realization.

The Cowsills’ record could not, of course, be released today, what with the war whoops and all. But during the summer of 1968, the idea of cultural sensitivity and appropriation wasn’t on many folks’ minds, and the record went to No. 10. I remember the single well, as it was one of those I heard during my four days of working that summer at the trapshoot, with the radio keeping me company as I placed clay targets on the whirring trap machine for eight to ten hours a day. So even recognizing the record’s failings when measured by today’s cultural standards, I still give a nod of pleased recognition and have relatively pleasant memories when “Indian Lake” pops up anywhere. (“Relatively pleasant” because working in the trap bunker was a little scary, what with the throwing arm of the trap machine occasionally releasing while the clay target was barely out of my hand, and because four days of sitting in the tar dust created by the targets would make the skin on my face basically burn and peel off in the week after the trapshoot.)

Before forming his own group, Gary Walker was the drummer and sang for both the Standells and the Walker Brothers. “Take A Look,” from Album No. 1 by Gary Walker & The Rain, owes a little bit more to the Standells’ garage rock than to the Walker Brothers’ lush pop, but it’s still pretty undistinguished to these ears. I’m not at all sure how Gary Walker & The Rain came into the vaults here – probably from one blog or another ten years ago or so – but I think the tracks stay there through inertia and my tendency not to throw things out. (Remember the post a little bit ago about finding the darts I got when I was maybe 10?) Not that there’s anything wrong with Walker and his group, but from the few listens I’ve given their work, there’s not all that much that’s notable, either. Dissenting opinions, of course, are welcome.

The Oregon-based group Afterglow released one album, a self-titled piece. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AMG writes: “Each song on Afterglow sounds as if it could have been written by different bands . . . It’s not particularly coherent, and it isn’t particularly good – the group isn’t just derivative, but also doesn’t have a sharp sense of melody – but its sampler nature makes Afterglow a charming psychedelic relic.” So that’s the album, but what about the track “Meadowland Of Love”? Well, it’s pleasant Farfisa-laced pop with garage overtones and a slight aftertaste of the Swingle Singers. And I have no idea how Afterglow landed in the digital stacks.

First Wednesday: February 1968

February 7th, 2018

In this space ten years ago, I put up a series of monthly posts looking at the year of 1968, then forty years gone. I thought it would be interesting to rerun those posts this year as we mark the fiftieth anniversary of that remarkable and often horrifying year. We’ll correct errors or update information as necessary, but the historic portion of the posts will otherwise be unchanged. As to music, we’ll update our examination of charts from fifty years ago and then, when possible, share the same full albums from 1968 as we did ten years ago, but this time – as is our habit now – as YouTube videos. The posts will appear on the first Wednesday of each month.

One of the most indelible images of the Vietnam War was captured forty years ago this month. Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams was working in the streets of Saigon during the Tet Offensive when, on February 1, he came upon South Vietnamese police and soldiers detaining a man named Nguyễn Văn Lém, who has most often been described over the years as a member of the Viet Cong guerillas. Whatever he was, Nguyễn was executed in the street by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, the chief of the national police. Adams was there, as was NBC television cameraman Vo Suu. Adam’s photo of the execution won a Pulitzer Prize, but his photo and Suu’s footage earned world-wide criticism for the executioner and the South Vietnamese forces and government.

That’s where it becomes important to know exactly who Nguyễn Văn Lém was. Wikipedia says that Nguyễn Văn Lém, according to South Vietnamese sources, “commanded a Viet Cong insurgent team, which, on February 1, 1968, the second day of the Tet Offensive, had targeted South Vietnamese National Police officers, or in their place, the police officers’ families. Corroborating this, Lém was captured at the site of a mass grave that included the bodies of at least seven police family members. Photographer Adams confirmed the South Vietnamese account, although he was only present for the execution.”

Wikipedia also says that “[t]he execution was explained at the time as being the consequence of Lém’s admitted guerrilla activity and war crimes, and otherwise due to a general ‘wartime mentality’.”

(I have read a few times over the years that Nguyễn Văn Lém was a member of the North Vietnamese army operating in Saigon in civilian clothes; in that case, the Geneva Conventions allow for summary execution. From what I can tell, that claim is historical revisionism intended to justify Nguyễn Ngọc Loan’s administration of summary justice.)

It should also be noted that Wikipedia states that some of its sources for its entry on Lém “may not be reliable.” Whatever the truth fifty years later, I remember the revulsion the photograph and the film footage caused at the time. There was the usual yipping of approval from some quarters, but I think that even most of those still supporting the U.S. efforts in Vietnam were sickened by the brutality of this one incident.

Elsewhere in February 1968:

The Winter Olympics took place from February 6 through 18 at Grenoble, France. With loads of coverage on ABC – though not nearly as much coverage as the Olympics get these days – we were able to watch a fair amount of the action. The two leading personalities of the Games – as defined, I suppose, by ABC and other media – were ice skater Peggy Fleming, who won the only gold medal for the U.S., and French skier Jean-Claude Killy, who won all three men’s downhill events. A side note: The Grenoble games marked the first time that ABC used the now-familiar tympani- and brass-laden musical theme for its production; the work’s title is actually “Bugler’s Dream,” and it was composed by Frenchman Léo Arnaud.

Here in the U.S., there was a civil rights protest at a bowling alley in Orangeburg, South Carolina, with officers of the state Highway Patrol firing into the crowd of protestors, killing three and wounding twenty-seven. Civil rights protests also took place that month at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And the month ended on a tragic note in the music world, as Frankie Lymon of Frankie & the Teenagers was found dead of a heroin overdose February 27 in Harlem. He had been scheduled to begin recording for Big Apple records the next day.

The top ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 during the first week of February 1968 were:

“Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers
“Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band
“Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
“Spooky” by the Classics IV
“Bend Me, Shape Me” by the American Breed
“Woman, Woman” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat
“Nobody But Me” by the Human Beinz
“Goin’ Out Of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by the Lettermen
“I Wish It Would Rain” by the Temptations

And the top ten albums that week were:

Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones
Greatest Hits by Diana Ross & The Supremes
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. by the Monkees
Herb Alpert’s Ninth by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Golden Hits by the Turtles
Disraeli Gears by Cream
Farewell to the First Golden Era by The Mamas & the Papas
The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck

Today’s featured album came from much later in 1968. (As I said in January, it would be nice if I could share one album from each month as the year goes along, but I’m not that organized.) The hit single that came from the album actually didn’t chart until 1969. The record is Introspect by Joe South. (I called the album little-known ten years ago; in the era of reissues, I’m not sure that’s the case now.)

It’s an odd record, in that it didn’t exist long in its original form. A long-time writer and session guitarist in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, South wrote “Hush” for Deep Purple and several songs for Billy Joe Royal, including “Down in the Boondocks.” And in 1968, South went into the studios and came out with Introspect, arranging and producing the album himself. (Some sources say the album was released in 1969, but the Rolling Stone Record Guide and All-Music Guide say it was 1968, so I’m going with that.)

When Introspect was released in November 1968, the album track “Games People Play” began to get some air play, if I’m reading between the lines correctly. Capitol released “Games People Play” as a single, and the record entered the Top 40 in February of 1969, going as high as No. 12 during a nine-week chart run. And at that point, Capitol pulled Introspect from the shelves. Three songs from the record were included on a new album, Games People Play, with the rest of the new record made up of South’s versions of songs he’d written for others and a few new things.

Capitol’s quick yank of Introspect made it a little bit of a collector’s item over the years. Amazon currently lists a U.S. CD set for release at the end of March 2018, with the pre-order price set at $38.99. The website also offers a Japanese issue on CD and vinyl, with streaming and mp3s available as well (prices vary). And a two-fer CD of Introspect paired with Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home, South’s 1969 album, is available new for the tidy price of $245.22, with used copies starting around $35 and going up from there.

So what do you get for your money? Well, the eleven songs on Introspect kind of collide together with a mixture of country, pop, soul, a touch of gospel and even a little bit of Indian raga. It’s an odd mixture, an idiosyncratic blend that fits perfectly with South’s maverick persona. (AMG calls him a “prickly character” and relates that, after his brother’s suicide in 1971, South moved to Maui, Hawaii, and lived in the jungle.) The hit, as mentioned above, was “The Games People Play,” and “Rose Garden” was a hit in 1971 for Lynn Anderson.

Along with those tracks, I hear the album’s high points as its opener, “All My Hard Times,” the biting “These Are Not My People” and the closer “Gabriel.” But the entire album is well worth hearing (as is almost any of South’s work).

Track list
All My Hard Times
Rose Garden
Mirror of Your Mind
Redneck
Don’t Throw Your Love to the Wind
The Greatest Love
Games People Play
These Are Not My People
Don’t You Be Ashamed
Birds of a Feather
Gabriel

Saturday Single No. 576

February 3rd, 2018

Let’s go back to 2007: After flailing around for a couple weeks in January and a couple of days in February – ripping LPs and a few singles to mp3s and then trying to figure out what to say about them – I stumbled across what I really wanted to do with this blog eleven years ago today.

We’d had a difficult night, the Texas Gal and I. An ailment of some sort – and I do not recall what it was, whether she’d been ill or if it had been something wrong with Mom – brought us to the emergency room after midnight and kept us there for a couple of hours. As morning came, I felt compelled to post something here, even if it could not be an album, as I had planned.

And after a paragraph of explanation, I wrote:

But I thought I’d at least show that I was still alive and still blogging by tossing a single out into the ether.

So as I was wandering through my music files, I came upon a single that was – for a few weeks, at least – omnipresent in Denmark during the nine months I spent there many years ago. No matter where my girlfriend of the time and I went that autumn, we heard – sometimes just off in the distance – Lecia & Lucienne singing “Rør Ved Mig” (which translates roughly, I think, into “Stay With Me”).

When I got back to the U.S. in the spring of 1974, I was startled to hear coming from my radio the same tune and nearly the same arrangement, but this time with the words in Spanish. I’ve never been able to determine whether Mocedades’ “Eres Tu,” was the original song and “Rør Ved Mig” was the second-language copycat, or the other way around. And it could be, I suppose, that there are other versions of the song out there in other languages, although in the more-than-thirty-years since I spent my time in Denmark, I’ve heard none.

A couple years after I came back to the U.S., my Danish brother visited, and during his visit, I mentioned “Rør Ved Mig” to him. After he got home, he mailed me a copy of the single. I don’t suppose I’ve played it often, but I did every once in a while. And then I got online about seven years ago and found an MP3 copy out there on the web. It pops up on the RealPlayer now and then.*

And whenever I hear “Rør Ved Mig,” it has the same effect: For just a few moments, it is the fall of 1973, and I am walking somewhere inside the old portion of the city of Fredericia, maybe heading to have a beer with a buddy, maybe walking with that long-ago girlfriend, or maybe just walking. It’s a golden day in October, and somewhere, not too far away, Lecia & Lucienne are singing “Rør ved mig. Så jeg føler at jeg lever . . .”

I headlined the post “Taking Me Somewhere Else,” and the following Saturday, I wrote about Cris Williamson’s “Like An Island Rising” and titled that “Saturday Single No. 1.” I’ve wished for a long time that I’d thought to call “Rør Ved Mig” the first in this long-running list of Saturday Singles, because it was with that post on February 3, 2007, that I found what I wanted to do with this blog: tell how music and my life have been viscerally intertwined, probably since the first time either Mom or Dad sang me to sleep in September 1953.

As is my habit, I’ve since found several other versions of “Rør Ved Mig” or “Eres Tu” or whatever you want to call it, in several different languages. I’ve not indexed them well, which puts another item on my list of tasks for after our move. But even if those versions were easily accessible, this eleventh anniversary spot belongs to Lecia & Lucienne, and “Rør Ved Mig” is today’s Saturday Single.

*I should note that the mp3 I found online did not stay long in my files after I got my turntable. The mp3 shared with that post eleven years ago and that I used to make the video above was recorded from the single that my Danish brother sent to me in 1975.

Another Step

February 2nd, 2018

Well, it’s getting busy around here, what with packed boxes piling up in the spare bedroom and in the living room. The two piles have different destinations: Those in the living room are filled with books headed for the Friends of the Library bookstore downtown.

Those in the spare bedroom are filled with books, LPs, clothing, living room knick-knacks, and a lot of other bits and pieces of life. There will be more boxes there yet, and all of them will be moving with us to the North Side in a little more than two weeks.

For the first time in our lives, the Texas Gal and I are homeowners; we closed on our condo Wednesday morning, signing paper after paper and form after form and finally being handed keys and garage door openers. On our way to a celebratory lunch, we stopped at our new place and continued our frequent discussions about where things will go and what we want to replace.

And we looked around the condo with a little bit of disbelief hanging in the air. “We really did this,” I was thinking. “This place is ours. Wow!”

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

All of that is yet to come, of course, and we have much work left to do. As I look around, I see what seems like so much more than two weeks’ worth of packing left, and I despair, especially because my back and leg difficulties have not been resolved by the cortisone shot I got three weeks ago, and I’m heading back to the doctor on Monday. And I do not dare lift anything very heavy (which means we’ll likely have to find some folks to help us pack).

However we do it, though, the work will get done. And the movers will arrive February 19 and take the furniture and the boxes of stuff that make up a lot of our lives across town. We’ll settle in and after a while, it will feel as if we’ve always belonged there.

And here’s another
one of my favorite tunes with “home” in the title: John Denver’s “Sail Away Home.” It’s from his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This.

Saturday Single No. 575

January 27th, 2018

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 27, 1968, a date that’s somehow managed to slip fifty years into the past:

“Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band
“Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
“Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers
“Woman, Woman” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“Bend Me, Shape Me” by the American Breed
“Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles
“Spooky” by the Classics IV
“Daydream Believer” by the Monkees
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Did I know those at the time? Most of them, probably. Maybe not the two bits of R&B at the bottom of that Top Ten. Did I know the artists? Probably not, except in the case of the Beatles, inescapable as they were.

And just for the fun of it, I head to the very bottom of the Hot 100 from that date fifty years ago, and I find an artist with whose work I was very familiar: Al Hirt. But I don’t recall the single, a cover of Jay & The Techniques’ “Keep The Ball Rollin’.”

I have to acknowledge that by the time 1968 rolled around, I wasn’t buying any more of Hirt’s albums, though I still listened to the three I already had. But with the stereo still in the living room – Dad’s work on the basement rec room wasn’t quite finished in January 1968, if my memory serves me – listening to records wasn’t the daily occurrence it would soon be.

And it wouldn’t have mattered if I had been buying Hirt’s albums: From anything I can find on the ’Net this morning, Big Al’s version of “Keep The Ball Rollin’” didn’t show up on an LP until 1970, when Al’s Place came out on the RCA/Camden label.

Additionally, had I heard Hirt’s new single on the radio, I likely would not have been impressed: My love for his music came from his work on the standards of what we now call the Great American Songbook and his work on show tunes and movie themes. (There were a few exceptions to those sources on the three albums of Hirt’s I had at the time, and those were my least favorite tracks. Even “Java,” Hirt’s biggest hit, and the track that had led me to Hirt’s music in 1964, was to me one of the lesser tunes on Honey In The Horn, the first Hirt album I owned.) And to hear Hirt cover a pop single from the previous year – a tune I would have recognized – would have made me think that Al was pandering to the masses (though I would not have had those words in 1968).

As it turned out, the masses didn’t notice. Hirt’s music no longer had much popular appeal. His take on “Keep The Ball Rollin’” is one of those Hot 100 rarities: It spent one week at No. 100 and then disappeared. It was his last Hot 100 hit, although two later releases bubbled under.

The record still seems slight, fifty years later. Nevertheless, Al Hirt’s cover of “Keep The Ball Rollin’” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘When’

January 25th, 2018

So we return after a long break to Journalism 101, our exploration of tunes that include in their titles the five W’s and one H of reporting: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Today’s subject is “when,” and the RealPlayer brings us an initial harvest of 761 tracks.

We’ll winnow that down, of course. We lose a few tracks with “whenever” in their titles, and a 1998 track from the band When In Rome goes by the wayside. So do several albums (except for some title tracks) including Glenn Yarbrough’s For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, Trisha Yearwood’s The Song Remembers When, Rory Block’s When A Woman Gets The Blues, Snow Patrol’s When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up, Traffic’s When The Eagle Flies, the Sutherland Brothers’ When The Night Comes Down, Carolina Story’s When The River Met The Sea, John Mellencamp’s Whenever We Wanted, and When Harry Met Sally by Harry Connick, Jr.

There’s plenty left, of course, and we’re going to do things a little differently today, picking one track from each of four decades of the 1900s, starting with the 1940s. (Just for the record, the earliest recorded track that popped up was “When a ’Gator Holler, Folks Say It’s A Sign Of Rain” recorded by Margaret Johnson with the Black & Blue Trio in 1926, while the most recent track offered by the RealPlayer was “When I Saw Your Face” from Soul Of A Woman, Sharon Jones’ final album with the Dap-Kings.

The mystically romantic “Where Or When” was introduced in the 1937 musical Babes In Arms, created by the team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenzo Hart and quickly became a popular standard. The website Second Hand Songs lists 225 versions of the tune, and it’s apparent that there are more versions uncounted, as we’re listening today to the 1942 cover of the song by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, which SHS does not cite. Lombardo’s version of “Where Or When” is a little stiff, perhaps, but the buttery smooth reeds still sound nice, as does the similarly smooth trombone solo. The Decca release went to No. 19 in 1943, according to David A. Jasen’s book A Century Of American Popular Music.

So we move into the 1950s and find a charming gem: “When You Dance” by the Turbans, a black doo-wop group from Philadelphia. Released on the Herald label in 1955, the record went to No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s R&B chart. Six years later, the Turbans re-recorded the song for a release on the Parkway label, but the record only bubbled under at No. 114. The original version showed up in 2005 on the stellar two-CD set The Only Doo-Wop Collection You’ll Ever Need on the Shout Factory label.

If ever a No. 18 hit can be called a forgotten record, it might be “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)” by the Four Tops. The 1966 single has everything you might want in a Four Tops joint, from an arresting tale and a strong lead vocal to the work of Motown’s Funk Brothers. But I think it tends to get lost among the stellar singles the group released on either side: “I Can’t Help Myself” and “It’s The Same Old Song” charted in 1965, “Reach Out I’ll Be There” hit later in 1966, and 1967 brought “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” and “Bernadette.” Small wonder that “Shake Me, Wake Me,” as good as it is, stands in shadows itself. As I noted, it peaked in the Hot 100 at No. 18, and it went to No. 5 on the R&B chart.

The short-lived British band McGuinness Flint managed one appearance in the Billboard Hot 100 when “When I’m Dead And Gone” went to No. 47 in early 1971, and as I listen today to that track and to “Malt and Barley Blues,” a 1971 Capitol promo single, I wish I had a lot more from the band on the digital shelves. I have Lo and Behold, a 1972 album by the group’s successor band, Coulson, Dean, McGuinness and Flint, and that’s fine, but I suppose I’m going to have to shell out some cash for the original group’s 1970 album. The group’s tangled history is best left to Wikipedia. (Oddly enough, I also have on the digital shelves a cover of “When I’m Dead And Gone” by an American artist named Bob Summers that pretty much copies the original arrangement, slows the song down just a titch, and misses the magic entirely.)