‘Sail On, Silver Girl . . .’

October 17th, 2018

We spent a pleasant evening with Rob and his sister Mary Ellen the other Saturday, taking in a show by a local group called the Fabulous Armadillos. The show, titled “What’s Going On – Songs From The Vietnam War Era,” was remarkable, with the very familiar tunes – starting with the Animal’s “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” and ending with Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful” – being performed as closely as possible to the original recordings.

(Interspersed between many of the tunes came memories and commentary from three veterans of the armed forces, two who served in Vietnam and one who served in Iraq, giving the evening a sense of gravitas.)

Performing the songs as closely as possible to the originals means, of course, finding local talent able to perform in a broad range of styles. I would guess the most difficult thing about a band like the Armadillos is finding vocalists. Not to downplay the instrumentalists – especially the guitarist of the group who replicated Jimi Hendrix’ famed Woodstock performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” just before intermission – but somehow vocal matching seems harder.

Which is why I wondered a bit when one of the group’s vocalists took his place in a spotlight during the first half of the show and the keyboard player in the shadows behind him moved into the familiar and beautiful introduction to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It’s one thing for a keyboard player to master Larry Knechtel’s astounding piano arrangement, and it’s quite another to find a singer who can match Art Garfunkel’s range and purity of tone.

Of course (well, perhaps I shouldn’t be so matter of fact about it, but having seen the Armadillos a couple of times, nothing they do really startles me beyond, occasionally, the choice of material), he nailed it, leading to one of several standing ovations the crowd gave the band during the two-and-a-half hour show.

And since then, in odd moments, I’ve found myself thinking about and assessing Paul Simon’s masterpiece, and not for the first time. Nearly ten years ago, when offering the 228 tracks of my Ultimate Jukebox, I thought about “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” writing:

I suppose there’s little argument about which record was the best thing that Simon & Garfunkel ever did. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an extraordinary song and record. But as much as I’ve loved it over the years, I found myself uneasy sliding it in among the other records in this mythical jukebox. As well as looking for good records, I guess I was also looking for flow, for a collection of songs that would make interesting combinations and patterns as the tunes played. And I decided as I considered the work of Simon & Garfunkel that “Bridge” just brings a little too much weight along with it, stopping the show.

Well, it did stop the show the other week, at least for a few moments, and it touched a memory for me of a bicycle ride through the streets of Fredericia, Denmark, a ride that took place forty-five years ago this month. I was falling in love, and after spending an evening with the young lady, I was biking sometime after midnight to the home where I lived with my Danish hosts. As I wrote in a memoir a few years ago:

I was so enthralled, so immersed in the joy of falling in love, and one night, as I rode that big black bicycle home to Vejrøvænget, I sang the third verse of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the verse that goes, “Sail on, silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine – all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine.”

I could not make the young lady in question shine as much as she deserved. And, not quite fifteen years later, when the same verse became a beacon in another chance at love, another woman and I learned that maintaining the luster is hard work, and we failed. Even with all that attached to it, that third verse of the song is still my favorite, and – after truly listening to the song for the first time in a long time – I find myself loving the song again.

Here it is, the title track of Simon & Garfunkel’s brilliant 1970 album:

Saturday Single No. 612

October 13th, 2018

The Texas Gal took this week off work, and while we had made no plans for a major trip, we had hoped to spend a couple of days in the car doing some leaf-peeping, perhaps heading from here to Taylor’s Falls at the Wisconsin border or maybe heading northeast toward Duluth.

Alas, it rained Monday through Thursday – nothing torrential, just slow, steady soakings with one minor storm (although Thursday’s storm in Duluth brought ocean-sized waves crashing in along the Lake Superior shoreline; the photos have been amazing). And Friday, yesterday, was cold. So we stayed in. Probably just as well. We did some binge-watching of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and of the first few episodes of both New Amsterdam and A Million Little Things, ate out a little, ordered in a little, dealt with problems with an overhead fan/light in our entryway (a tale I may tell in full on another day), and got new phones.

On Wednesday, while we were waiting for the phone techs at a big box store to solve a problem with our new phones, I wandered over to the clearance CD bin and dug around for a while. I came out with five discs to fill gaps in the collection, compilations of work by Billie Holiday, the Drifters, Wilson Pickett, ABBA, and Buddy Guy.

And here’s a track that came along with one of those five, one whose title, at least, tells how the week felt for us. It’s Buddy Guy – with some help from Bonnie Raitt – with “It Feels Like Rain,” the title track from his 1993 album. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (October 10, 1970)

October 10th, 2018

Time for another episode of What’s At No. 100? Today’s date – 10/10 – pretty much begged for that, and a quick look at my files of the Billboard Hot 100 showed that during the years we’re pretty much interested in around here, only twice did a Hot 100 get published on October 10.

The first was in 1964, and the second was in 1970. Now, the former of those two years would be a fun year to go digging around in, but the latter, well, anyone who knows me is aware that 1970 is a rich vein of gold in the mine of my memory. But before we go deep into the Hot 100 published forty-eight years ago today – and can it really be that long ago? – let’s look at that week’s Top Ten:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free
“Julie Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“(I Know) I’m Losing You” by Rare Earth

Now there’s a fine forty minutes or so of late-night listening, perhaps after minimal attention to the demands of my senior-year classes or maybe after a football game. There’s nothing there that would make me move the tuner dial or hit the button in the car in search of better sounds. I did like the B-side of the CCR record better than that A-side, which has always seemed just a little bit silly.

And, as often happens, I’m a little startled to see Sugarloaf’s “Green-Eyed Lady” in 1970. The record always sounds to me – nearly a half-century distant from those radio waves – as if it should fall in 1976, where it would be, for some reason, a companion piece to Lighthouse’s “One Fine Morning.” (It works the other way, too: When “One Fine Morning” pops up in my listening routine, I always think it belongs in 1970, next to the Sugarloaf single, or the longer album track.)

A thought occurred to me as I write this: As my late-night listening in the autumn of my senior year of high school came from WLS in distant Chicago, what did that station have as its Top Ten as October 10 passed by? The answer comes from Oldiesloon:

“Cracklin’ Rosie”
“All Right Now”
“I’ll Be There”
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Candida”
“Do What You Want To Do” by Five Flights Up
“Out In The Country” by Three Dog Night
“Looking Out My Back Door”
“(I Know) I’m Losing You”
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me”

Not all that different. Two of the three listed in the WLS Top Ten and not in the Billboard Top Ten are familiar. The Three Dog Night single is a favorite, but I can live without R. Dean Taylor’s hit (although I kind of liked it back then). I didn’t recognize by its title the record by Five Flights Up, but as soon as I heard the chorus this morning, it came back to me. I never heard it much – not surprising, as it only got to No. 37 in the Hot 100. And a quick glance at Oldiesloon makes me think that the record never reached the surveys of either of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, KDWB or WDGY.

We’ll end the Chicago digression and get back to our business here, which is heading toward the bottom of that Hot 100 from  October 10, 1970, and seeing what’s at No. 100. And we run into a tuneful, tough and clanking instrumental by Brian Auger & The Trinity: “Listen Here.”

Not long ago, as our pal jb was visiting St. Cloud and we were driving near the St. Cloud State campus, a track by Auger with vocals by Julie Driscoll came on the car radio courtesy of WXGY in nearby Sauk Rapids. It was, I think, “Season Of The Witch.” (It could have been “Road To Cairo” or “This Wheel’s On Fire.”) And jb, who hangs his blogging hat at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, motioned to the speaker and said something like “This stuff is almost forgotten, and I cannot figure out why!”

Nor can I.

“Listen Here” showed up as a nine minute-plus version on Befour, a 1970 album by Auger and his band. I don’t know if the single is an edit, a shortened remix or an entirely different recording, but here it is. It spent two weeks at No. 100, and was the only record Auger ever got into the Hot 100 (although the previously mentioned “This Wheel’s On Fire” – with vocals by Driscoll – Bubbled Under for four weeks and got to No. 106).

Saturday Single 611

October 6th, 2018

Alas, more sleep trouble. I finally nodded off about two this morning, and by the time I awoke, the hour was bending toward noon.

And not long from now, Rob and his sister will be in town for dinner and then a performance at the Paramount theater downtown. We’ll be seeing “What’s Going On: The Music of the Vietnam Era” as performed by our very good local cover/tribute band, the Fabulous Armadillos. We saw them do an Eagles show a few years ago that was truly very good.

So, on short time, then, here’s a video the Armadillos put together a couple of years ago, a pastiche of the Beach Boys’ “California Girls” entitled “Stearns County Girls.”

And since the western portion of St. Cloud is in Stearns County, I now live in the county. So the Fabulous Armadillos’ “Stearns County Girls” is today’s Saturday Single.

Imprinted

October 5th, 2018

So last evening, as the small music group from our Unitarian-Universalist fellowship got some music ready for Sunday, our conversations wandered all over our musical landscapes. Three of us are about the same age, and we know pretty much the same songs (although the other two have a better grasp on folk while I know more pop and rock). Our occasional old fogeyness is leavened by our fourth member, who is a graduate student in her twenties.

Anyway, we were working on a couple of tunes to accompany a program on a local social justice initiative. We settled on Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and “The Hammer Song (If I Had A Hammer),” written, of course, by Pete Seeger although we’re performing it more in the style of Peter, Paul & Mary. And we came to a quandary as we worked on the latter.

I was running through the chords on the keyboard, playing from memory and by ear while Jane was following along with guitar, using the chord sheet she’d found in her binder. And at one point, we were playing different chords. So I pulled out my phone to jump onto YouTube to give a listen to Peter, Paul & Mary.

“It’s going to be in a different key,” said Tom, who was working out a bass line for the song.

“I’ll still be able to tell if they’re going to the tonic or to the dominant,” I said. (I’m kind of the music theory geek among the bunch.) And we soon found that the chords on Jane’s sheet were right and my ears (and memory) had been in error. And along the way we ran across Trini Lopez’ 1963 version of the Seeger song, a very rapid live version that went to No. 3 in the Billboard Hot 100.

I laughed, telling the others that I have the 45, which came to me from my sister. She got it in 1963 from one of those grab bags you could get at record stores, something like twelve records for a buck. And I mentioned that I liked the flip side – Lopez’ take on “Unchain My Heart” a little bit better.

Then we went back to work, getting a handle on the two songs for this coming Sunday. We’re still a little shaky on “Stand By Me,” but we’re okay on “If I Had A Hammer.” As we began to pack away guitars and close up the keyboard, our young friend Cassie headed out for home and sleep – a precious commodity for a grad student.

The rest of us chatted for a few minutes. We talked about our early records: children’s 78s, classical 78s and early 45s. Jane recalled having a copy of Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” (No. 1 for six weeks in 1958), and Tom recalled David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” (No. 1 for three weeks, also in 1958).

And then we three old fogies found ourselves singing “Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang! Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang!”

And we laughed and marveled at how music imprints itself on us, the marvelous, the mundane, and sometimes, the just plain silly.

First Wednesday: October 1968

October 3rd, 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 also update our examination of charts from fifty years ago if necessary 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.

In October of 1968, the world’s focus – or much of it, anyway – shifted to Latin America.

The main event of the month was the 1968 summer Olympic games, which took place in Mexico City, Mexico, from October 12 through October 27. The games provided, in my memory, two iconic moments: The first is U.S. long jumper Bob Beamon collapsing in disbelief after breaking the world record for the long jump by an astounding 21 inches (55 cm). The second, and likely more well known, is the human rights protest by African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their black-gloved hands during the awards ceremony for the 200-meter run.

But several other major events of the month took place in Latin American, the most important of which might have been the Tlatelolco Massacre, as it’s come to be called.

During the night of October 2, military personnel and other men with guns shot at five thousand students and workers who had gathered [to protest] in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City. Ten years ago, Wikipedia noted: “The death toll remains controversial: some estimates place the number of deaths in the thousands, but most sources report between 200 and 300 deaths. The exact number of people who were arrested is also controversial.”

Notes from 2018: The report on the massacre at Wikipedia has changed over the past ten years. Regarding the death toll, the site now says: “According to US national security archives, Kate Doyle, a Senior Analyst of US policy in Latin America, documented the deaths of 44 people; however, estimates of the death toll range the actual number from 300 to 400, with eyewitnesses reporting hundreds dead.”

Beyond that, I am deleting from this post several additional paragraphs about the massacre, as the Wikipedia report has changed substantially in the past ten years, and I cannot be certain of the accuracy of what I wrote a decade ago. That post from ten years ago can be found here, and the current Wikipedia page on the massacre can be found here.

Elsewhere in Latin American that month, Juan Velasco Alverado took power via an October 3 revolution in Peru; in Panama, a military coup d’état led by Col. Boris Martinez and Col. Omar Torrijjos on October 11 overthrew the democratically elected government of President Arnulfo Arias.

There was also unrest in other portions of the world that month: On October 5, police in Derry, Northern Ireland, used batons to subdue civil rights demonstrators, an event often cited as the beginning of that country’s years of violence called The Troubles. In Jamaica, riots broke out on October 16 in response to the government’s banning from the nation the Guyanese author and activist Walter Rodney.

In the U.S., the Defense Department announced on October 14 that the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines planned to send 24,000 soldiers and marines back to Vietnam for involuntary second tours. Also relating to the war in Vietnam, by the end of the month, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that peace talks in Paris had progressed well enough that he was ordering a cessation of air, naval and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam, effective November 1.

(Cynics in the room might note that Johnson’s announcement and action came days before the U.S. presidential election, which was being contested by Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, a Democrat; Richard Nixon, a Republican; and George Wallace of the American Independent Party. The announcement seemed to help Humphrey, as polls in the days before the November 5 election showed him gaining ground on Nixon. Political pundits and writers have theorized for [fifty] years that Humphrey would have won the presidency had the election been a week later or had Johnson announced the bombing halt a week earlier.)

So, in the midst of politics and blood and war, what did we hear that month when we sought solace in music?

Here are the top fifteen records in the Billboard Top 40 for October 5, 1968:

“Hey Jude” by the Beatles
“Harper Valley P.T.A.” by Jeannie C Riley
“Fire” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
“Little Green Apples” by O.C. Smith
“Girl Watcher” by the O’Kaysions
“Slip Away” by Clarence Carter
“People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals
“I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You” by the Bee Gees
“1, 2, 3, Red Light” by the 1910 Fruitgum Company
“I Say A Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin
“Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers
“Revolution” by the Beatles
“The Fool On The Hill” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66
“Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud” by James Brown
“The House That Jack Built” by Aretha Franklin

Boy, that’s about as representative (and maybe as good) as a top fifteen can get, I’d guess. You’ve got the mainstream rock of the Beatles, the country cross-over from Riley (O.C. Smith’s record might have gotten some country play, too, I think), straight R&B from Aretha and Clarence Carter and some psychedelic R&B from the Chambers Brothers. There’s Arthur Brown’s powerful rock. You’ve got some blue-eyed soul from the Rascals, pop from the O’Kaysions and the Bee Gees, and a little bit of bubble-gum from the 1910 Fruitgum Company. And then there’s James Brown’s uncompromising and funky proto-rap. Wow!

A note from 2018: O.C. Smith’s “Little Green Apples” did not make the country Top 40 in Billboard, which I find a little surprising. The record did, however, go to No. 2 on the magazine’s R&B chart and to No. 4 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

For those who bought their music via albums, it was also an interesting month. Here are the Billboard top ten albums for October 5, 1968:

Waiting For The Sun by the Doors
Time Peace/The Rascals’ Greatest Hits by the Rascals
Feliciano! by José Feliciano
Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & The Holding Company
Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
Gentle On My Mind by Glen Campbell
Realization by Johnny Rivers
Wheels Of Fire by Cream
Steppenwolf by Steppenwolf
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly

There are a number of interesting records and names on that list. What might be most interesting, however, are titles and a name that aren’t there. In the previous week’s listing, the soundtrack to the film The Graduate had been in tenth place, featuring songs by Simon & Garfunkel as well as incidental music from the movie. When that album slipped out of tenth place, it marked the first time since March 16, 1968 – six-and-a-half months – that there was no mention of Simon & Garfunkel on the top ten albums list. Between the soundtrack to The Graduate and their own two albums, Bookends and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Simon & Garfunkel had dominated the albums list as much as anybody during 1968.

The records that did make up the top ten as October 1968 started are a pretty good bunch themselves. I would say that the only one that hasn’t aged very well at all is the Iron Butterfly, which to me is pretty much a dead end. (I should admit here that I purchased a copy of the group’s Live when it came out in 1970; the incessant noodling on the side-long live version of the group’s hit was even less accomplished than the side-long studio version, so I sold the album to a used record store within days.)

There might be a few quibbles about the quality of the rest of that albums list: Janis Joplin did far better on her own, with better backing musicians, than she did on the Big Brother album, but the record is still an interesting look at her development, as well as an acid-drenched product of its time. As I’ve noted here before, I always have some reservations about the Doors, but Waiting For The Sun has some good work on it, especially the single “Hello I Love You” and a few other tracks, including “The Unknown Soldier” and the pairing of the bluesy “Summer’s Almost Gone” and the awkward waltz of “Wintertime Love.”

Note from 2018: I’m startled that I didn’t single out the Johnny Rivers album for a comment. Any listing I make of my favorite ten albums of all time will, I think, always include Realization.

With those caveats, that’s a pretty good list of albums. And the album I’m posting today comes from the list: José Feliciano’s Feliciano!

As October 1968 began, Feliciano’s version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” had been in the Billboard Hot 100 for eleven weeks. It had peaked at No. 3, and the album from which it came, Feliciano!, was in its seventh week in the Billboard Top Ten, with seven weeks to come. (It would peak at No. 2 for two weeks in December 1968.) Feliciano, then twenty-three, was a big enough star in October 1968 that he was invited to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Detroit’s Tiger Stadium before a World Series game. The performance – a Latin-tinged interpretation – was loved by some and criticized by many. (A single was issued and went to No. 50 during a five-week stay in the Billboard Hot 100.)

There’s no controversy in Feliciano! It’s a solid set of covers, in a style that All-Music Guide tabs as “soulful easy listening,” with Feliciano – who was blinded since birth by glaucoma – working his way through songs by the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas, Bobby Hebb, Tom Paxton and others, including, of course, the Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

Even with a singer as distinctive as Feliciano, though, performing such well-known songs as “Light My Fire,” “California Dreamin’,” “In My Life,” and “Here, There and Everywhere” can be awkward, if not actually risky. It’s difficult to cover such well-known material and not remind listeners of the originals. Feliciano managed that with “Light My Fire,” I think, and he battles “California Dreamin’” to a draw, but other than those tracks, the best tracks on the album are the lesser-known songs, especially Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind” and Fred Neill’s “Just A Little Bit Of Rain.” (The latter song is likely more familiar in the version recorded in the mid-1970s by the Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys.)

Still, Feliciano! is a good, if not great, album and it’s pleasant listening. It was Feliciano’s commercial peak, as only one other single and two of his succeeding albums – and he’s recorded prolifically – reached the Top 40. He continues to record, frequently in Spanish, and released his most recent album, Con Mexico en el Corazon, earlier this year.

Note from 2018: According to Wikipedia, Feliciano has released seven more albums in the past ten years, one in Spanish and six in English (including two that were offered only as digital downloads). His most recent listed is the 2017 album As You See Me Now, recorded with Jools Holland.

The credits for Feliciano! at All-Music Guide are slender and, I think, are incomplete. They do list Ray Brown on bass, Milt Holland on percussion and Jim Horn on flute, alto flute and recorder.

Tracks:
California Dreamin’
Light My Fire
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying
In My Life
And I Love Her
Nena Na Na
(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me
Just A Little Bit Of Rain
Sunny
Here, There and Everywhere
The Last Thing On My Mind

José Feliciano – Feliciano! [1968]

The link above goes to a playlist of the full album at YouTube.

Saturday Single No. 610

September 29th, 2018

It’s funny how the mind works.

Last evening, just before heading upstairs to take a shower, I watched a few minutes of one sporting event or another. As the camera lingered on the crowd just before I turned the television off, framed in the picture was a pretty young woman with striking red hair.

“Gee,” I thought as I made my way upstairs, “that looked a lot like Anne.” I’ve mentioned her before. Anne was the young woman who was an intern at the Twin Cities television station at the same time I was, the winter of 1975-76. She was in the promotions department and I was in sports.

As I prepared for my shower, I pondered – not for the first time – how completely I’d missed Anne’s signals back then that she wanted to be more than just friends chatting over an occasional cup of coffee in the break room. I should have taken her out for a beer after work and seen where things went from there, I thought.

But no, my train of thought went, that might have been hard to arrange, given that I worked reporter hours several evenings a week and given the not inconsequential distance between the station and her home. And that led me to think of those Saturdays late in my internship when I was responsible for producing the full five-minute sports package for our evening news show, selecting stories, choosing highlights, and all of the other tasks that went into the package.

And I recalled one Saturday when our video highlights included some footage of the hockey game that day in Philadelphia between the National Hockey League’s Flyers and the Soviet Red Army hockey team. The Flyers were then in their Broad Streel Bullies phase, and perhaps the most newsworthy moment was when one of the Flyers laid out one of the Red Army players with a massive check, knocking the Russian groggy if not out cold.

[We move now in these brackets from memory to information from Wikipedia: The great Valeri Kharlamov was the recipient of the check from Ed Van Impe, and the Russian team withdrew from the game in protest. Eventually, the teams resumed the game, but the Russians were obviously cautious the rest of the game and lost 4-1.]

I wrote a bit of copy about the game, using as my lede something like “It wasn’t quite the Eastern Front, but the Russian Army – at least its hockey team – had a rough day today in Philadelphia.” I’m not sure how that reads now, but for a kid of twenty-two who was learning his craft, I think it wasn’t bad. And with that as one of the leading stories, I handed the sports package off that evening to the night’s on-air talent and went home.

But as I showered last evening, I recalled that the following Monday, my boss/adviser ended a meeting with me by telling me the Saturday sports package had been fine, except for one thing: In the story about the hockey game, I had neglected to include the final score. I was startled, and I’ve used that bit of conversation as a guide for every sports story I’ve written since then: Make sure the score is in the story.

The game between the Flyers and the Red Army was one of several exhibitions that winter between NHL teams and top-level teams from the U.S.S.R., and I pondered that for a moment, and then thought about the 1972 series of games between Team Canada and the Soviets, eight games between what were essentially all-star teams. I don’t remember the entire sequence of eight games, but I remember that the Soviets dominated the four games in Canada, and the Canadians did the same in the U.S.S.R., and when the eighth game came around, the series was tied three games apiece with one tie.

But I did remember the outcome of the eighth game, which Canada won after Paul Henderson of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the winning goal with something like thirty-four seconds left in the game.

[Hard data intrusion: According to Wikipedia, Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada in the sixth, seventh and eighth games of what was called the Summit Series. I had forgotten that. But the winning goal in game eight was in fact scored with thirty-four seconds left.]

And I started thinking about time zones and another international hockey game, the 1980 Olympic match between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., the famous “Miracle On Ice” game. I recalled it starting at an odd mid-afternoon time here in the U.S. because to start it any later would mean the game would have taken place long after midnight in Soviet Union.

“So,” I wondered as I finished toweling myself off after my shower, “if it’s four o’clock here” – thinking about the mid-afternoon start of the Miracle On Ice game – “then is it midnight in Moscow?”

Well, during Daylight Savings Time, it is. In the winter, when the game was played, that would not hold true. But anybody who’s waded to this point through the swamp with me knows what’s coming next.

Here are Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen with “Midnight in Moscow.” It went to No. 2 in 1962, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Gather Up The Brokenness . . .’

September 28th, 2018

I’m feeling pretty bruised today. Yesterday was a hard day; the events in Washington stirred up a whole lot of stuff that I keep on a back shelf in my emotional closet.

Today is a day for healing.

Here’s “Come Healing” by Leonard Cohen. It’s from his 2012 album Old Ideas.

O gather up the brokenness
Bring it to me now
The fragrance of those promises
You never dared to vow

The splinters that you carry
The cross you left behind
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

Behold the gates of mercy
In arbitrary space
And none of us deserving
The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing
Where love has been confined
Come healing of the body
Come healing of the mind

O see the darkness yielding
That tore the light apart
Come healing of the reason
Come healing of the heart

O troubled dust concealing
An undivided love
The heart beneath is teaching
To the broken heart above

Let the heavens falter
Let the earth proclaim
Come healing of the altar
Come healing of the name

O longing of the branches
To lift the little bud
O longing of the arteries
To purify the blood

And let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

O let the heavens hear it
The penitential hymn
Come healing of the spirit
Come healing of the limb

‘No Knives For You!’

September 25th, 2018

I came into the EITW studios this morning and found Odd and Pop, my imaginary tuneheads, playing mumblety-peg on the carpet with a letter opener. It wasn’t going well.

“Did too!”

“Did not!”

After a few more rounds of that – I didn’t bother to find out what issue was under debate – I confiscated the letter opener, an ornate steel and brass Spanish weapon my sister got for me in Barcelona in 1968. Replacing it in its sheath, I told the two tuneheads that mumblety-peg was a game for outdoors.

They were aghast. “In the dirt?”

Yep, I told them. Outside in the dirt. Not in the carpet.

Both of them wrinkled up their noses and muttered “Ew!” (I didn’t tell them that with that exclamation, they’d successfully used one of the new words that the Hasbro company has authorized for Scrabble.)

Anyway, I said, a letter opener is not a knife. And I reminded them that they were not allowed to play with sharp objects. “No knives for you!”

“Well,” said Pop, “can we play a song about a knife?”

“And I bet I know which one you have in mind,” said Odd, with a sour face.

Pop nodded. “Mack the Knife,” he said.

Odd heaved a major sigh and shook his head wearily. “Go ahead. Tell me,” he said to Pop.

Pop nodded and began reciting: “First of all, Bobby Darin’s version was the top pop record for all of 1959, spending twenty-six weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, nine of them at No. 1, and it also went to No. 6 on the magazine’s R&B chart.”

Pop took a breath and then continued. “Seven other versions have reached the Hot 100.”

Odd shook his head wearily, and then said, “All right. List ’em.”

From somewhere, Pop materialized his perpetual legal pad and its accompanying marker and then wrote for a few minutes. He then handed the list to Odd:

Dick Hyman Trio, No. 8 in 1956
Richard Hayman & Jan August, No. 11 in 1956
Lawrence Welk, No. 17 in 1956
Louis Armstrong, No. 20 in 1956
Billy Vaughn, No. 37 in 1956
Les Paul, No. 49 in 1956
Ella Fitzgerald, No. 27 in 1960 (and No. 6 on the R&B chart)

Odd scanned the list and look at his pal. (They do get along, most of the time. They just have differing tastes in music – and pasta, for that matter.)

“There’s more, I assume,” Odd said.

Pop nodded and told us that the original version of “Mack the Knife” was actually “Moritat von Mackie Messer” from Die Dreigroschenoper (The Three Penny Opera) by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. It was originally performed – according to Second Hand Songs – by Kurt Gerron in 1928. Pop added helpfully that many sources erroneously claim that Lotte Lenya sang the song in her role as Jenny, “but that’s likely because she recorded the song as ‘Moritat’ for her 1955 German album Lotte Lenya singt Kurt Weill.”

“Okay, okay,” said Odd. “So how many recorded versions are there?”

“Well,” Pop said, “at least three hundred and twenty-five. That’s how many Second Hand Songs lists. Lots of them in German, many in English, lots of instrumentals. And some in other languages, too: Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, Greek, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish and Welsh.”

Odd was beginning to smile. “You had me at ‘Croatian’,” he told his pal. And he turned to me. “Have we ever posted a song in Croatian?”

“Well, no,” I said, “but I guess we could.”

Odd beamed. Pop pouted a little, but I reminded him that a huge proportion of what we listen to here is on one chart or another. He nodded, a little grudgingly, then looked at Odd and shrugged his shoulders.

And we turned our attention to the speakers to listen to the vocal group Optimisti, which – according to Second Hand Songs – was based in the city of Ljubljana. During the group’s recording years (1958 to 1963), the city was in Yugoslavia; it is now the capital of Slovenia. The group Optimisti, says the website, sometimes performed and recorded as a quartet and sometimes as a quintet.

Here’s Optimisti’s version in Croatian of “Mornar Mackie,” released in 1962 on the EP Chanson d’amour. The vocal group is backed by the Ljubljanski Jazz Ansambel.

Saturday Single No. 609

September 22nd, 2018

I am, as I wrote the other week, an autumnal man.

I have always been so, even when I was much younger than I am now. Perhaps that is why, as I live in what is clearly the autumn of my time here, I have finally found peace of mind, comfort of soul, and a degree of happiness that just two decades ago I would have assessed as extraordinarily unlikely, if not actually impossible.

Perhaps the seasonal leavening brought to my life by the springtime outlook of the Texas Gal has brought the balance I’ve seemingly always needed. In any case, her presence in my life these past eighteen-plus years is a major part of the reason my life so satisfies me now. (And I know, with an awareness that warms me, that my presence in her life grants her similar satisfaction.)

I shan’t – to use a word my mom’s mother employed often – go beyond those thoughts today; I’ve dabbled in autumnal musings both in the piece I wrote the other week and in a fair number of pieces here over the years. But, moving from soul searching to reporting, I wanted to note that here in the midsection of the U.S., this year’s autumnal equinox takes place at 8:54 p.m. this evening. The southward bound sun will cross the equator at that moment, and for the next three or so months, each day’s hours of daylight will diminish and the hours of darkness will increase.

Around our place, many of the changes that accompany the season are underway: A very few of the leaves on the flowering crab have turned yellow and fallen. Some of the leaves on the adjacent linden are doing the same. Next to the linden, however, the maple tree has given no indication if its leaves will mirror the yellow of the other two or complement them with red or orange. We will know soon which it will be.

The grass beneath them is still green, awaiting the first overnight frost, which cannot be many nights away.

I observe these changes both through the window of my study and via my forays outside for errands or tasks. And, despite the chronic ails brought about by my leg and back problems and despite the – one hopes – more temporary ails of a late summer sinus infection, I observe those changes happily.

And this evening, autumn will arrive.

This calls for an autumnal tune. Here’s one of my favorites: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” by The Band. It’s from the group’s self-titled 1969 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.