What Was I Listening To?

August 27th, 2015

A couple of things this week made me sit back and wonder: What the hell was I listening to in the late summer of 1975?

Numerous news and entertainment outlets made an appropriately big deal Tuesday about the fortieth anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s album Born To Run, with most of those outlets noting that the 1975 album – Springsteen’s third – resuscitated his career, which was in question after the first two albums had been received relatively well by critics but weren’t all that successful at the sales counter. The pieces generally went on to note Springsteen’s appearance during the same week that October on the covers of both Time and Newsweek and to highlight Springsteen’s lengthy and stellar career since then.

And back then, I missed it.

I was aware of the hubbub. We got Time magazine at home, and I read Newsweek at the St. Cloud State library every week. And I imagine I heard “Born To Run” somewhere – in my car, on the jukebox at Atwood Center, in someone’s apartment – after it was released as a single. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 on September 20 and went to No. 23. But if I heard it, it didn’t register. As to the album, it entered the Billboard 200 on September 13 and was on the chart for 110 weeks, peaking at No. 2. I don’t recall hearing it anywhere that autumn (or any other time, as far as that goes, until I got my own copy in 1988).

So it was with a good dose of interest Tuesday that I read “Asbury Park, 854 Miles That Way” at the blog AM, Then FM, where my Green Bay-based friend Jeff has his shop. He notes that Springsteen’s never been a huge part of his listening life, not in 1975 and not now: “Many of my friends are Springsteen fans, and I understand and appreciate their passion for The Boss. I just don’t share it, at least not with that intensity.”

Thinking to myself that I now have that passion – as is obvious, I’m certain, to any regular visitor to this blog – I thought back to the late summer and autumn of 1975 and wondered what I was listening to. As I wondered, I clicked my way to the post “Last Days” at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and read my pal jb’s offering of the highlights of the radio show American Top 40 from August 23, 1975.

Of the twelve records jb highlighted from the lower portion – up to No. 20 – of that long-ago show (he’ll tackle the upper part in a post to come), I remembered hearing seven back in 1975. Of the remaining five, I’ve become acquainted with three over the past forty years. Based on the Billboard Hot 100 in my files, the records from Nos. 1 to 19 will be more familiar, but they’re still not as innately familiar as similarly ranked records from four or five years earlier would have been. Except for brief interludes in my car and the time I spent at The Table in Atwood, I wasn’t listening to Top 40. (And I find myself wondering: Would the jukebox at Atwood have been programmed with something other than a straight Top 40 mix? Dunno.)

So what was I listening to at home? Well, here are the albums I’d added to my box in the basement in the previous twelve months:

Duane Allman: An Anthology
Eat A Peach by the Allman Brothers Band
Life & Times by Jim Croce
Greatest Hits by the Association
2 Years On by the Bee Gees
Odessa by the Bee Gees
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Ndeda by Quincy Jones
Four Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Dreamspeaker by Tim Weisberg
Songs For Beginners by Graham Nash
Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison
Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd
Just An Old Fashioned Love Song by Paul Williams
Ringo by Ringo Starr
Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Joe Cocker

Some of those – from the Association through the CSN&Y album – came from Rick when he was clearing stuff from his shelves and I was homebound in November 1974, and out of those, the only ones that would still have been getting much play in the late summer of 1975 would have been the Bee Gees records. Even accounting for that, it’s an interesting mix.

As far as radio listening at home, I don’t recall at all what I was tuned to, maybe WCCO-FM, which would have been playing a format called Adult Album Alternative, if I read the history correctly. That would have suited me.

So what does all this mean? I’m not entirely sure. When the anniversary of Born To Run was being noted Tuesday, I found myself wishing – not for the first time – that I’d bought the album back in 1975 instead of waiting until the late 1980s to finally listen to and embrace the music of Bruce Springsteen. But we find what we find when we need it, and I think I’m finally learning that holding onto regrets over things undone – whether large or small (and not hearing Born To Run in 1975 is one of the small ones) – is a waste of precious time.

Here’s a track that fits that thought perfectly, and it’s one that I would have heard on my basement stereo during the summer and autumn of 1975: From 1972’s Eat A Peach, here’s the Allman Brothers Band and “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.”

One I’d Like To See

August 25th, 2015

Because I wander around YouTube a lot, looking for things to share here (and looking at college and pro football highlights, too, to be honest), the website always suggests a wide variety of other things I should look at. The other day, one of the suggested videos was titled “Mad Dogs & Englishmen: A Celebration of Joe Cocker hosted by Tedeschi Trucks Band.”

The album Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a document of Joe Cocker’s 1970 tour with Leon Russell and what seemed a cast of thousands, is one of my favorite albums. (My copy was given to me, coincidentally, forty years ago this week by a sweet woman named Laura, which means that I was likely spending a lot of evening time this week in 1975 bobbing my head and playing air piano on the green couch in the basement as Joe worked his way through “Cry Me A River” or “The Letter.”)

And the Tedeschi Trucks Band is one of my new favorites, formed in 2010 when married couple Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks in effect merged their two bands. I’d been following both musicians for a while, and the musical merger intrigued me, so I got hold of the new group’s first album, 2011’s Revelator. It was good. So when I saw the suggested video, I played it:

Wow, I thought. What a great show! And then I thought, too bad I won’t get to see it. It is in Virginia, after all. Even if it were closer, well, the Texas Gal and I rarely even go to the Twin Cities for concerts anymore. Part of that is economic, part of it is that driving in the Cities is less and less easy for both of us; neither of us is comfortable any longer in busy streets or on busy freeways.

So I consoled myself with the thought that the series of concerts is very likely to be recorded for both video and audio release, and I’ll most likely have the chance to see and hear the tribute in my own home. Delayed, yes, and at a technological remove, yes, but still . . .

That made me feel a little better, and I made a mental note to keep an eye on new music releases right around, I would guess, December. Maybe I can put the Mad Dogs celebration on my Christmas list.

So I clicked a few more YouTube links, and I came across a performance by the Tedeschi Trucks Band from this year’s Gathering Of The Vibes music festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Here’s the group’s take on “The Letter.” Add in those guest musicians come September, and it should be a hell of a show.

Saturday Single No. 460

August 22nd, 2015

The blank page mocks me this morning.

I’ve looked at Billboard Hot 100s from this day in 1964, 1970 and 1981, and I’ve found nothing that inspires me. I’ve checked the long list of events from August 22 over the years offered by Wikipedia, and found no joy there, either.

I am, I guess, a little weary from a week-long battle with my computer after I restored it to Windows 7 and lost the ability to send emails from Windows Live.

And I do have a brief list of errands that need to be done today, and it’s likely best that I get to them fairly early.

So without dithering any longer, I’m just going to offer here one of the best new things I’ve heard recently. It’s from Ashes & Dust, the new album by Warren Haynes, featuring, as the cover of the album says, Railroad Earth, a band described at Wikipedia as a “roots and Americana-based newgrass jam band from Stillwater, New Jersey.”

Haynes is likely best known for his work with the Allman Brothers Band and Govt. Mule. I’ve not heard all of Ashes & Dust, but I was struck by the results when Haynes brought Grace Potter into the studio for a duet on Stevie Nicks’ “Gold Dust Woman.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Plugged In For Jackson

August 20th, 2015

I’ve mentioned it before, but I was pretty disappointed during the summer of 1980 when Jackson Browne’s Hold Out was released. The Other Half and I had gone to St. Paul to see Browne in June of that year, just after the album came out, and I’d been underwhelmed by the new stuff I’d heard at the concert. The music was fine but the lyrics had seemed a bit lacking.

(The same was true for Jon Bream, who reviewed the show for the long-departed Minneapolis Star. In a review that I clipped and stuck inside one of my music books, Bream wrote: “Oddly, the tunes from Browne’s new album, Hold Out, were more noteworthy for their musical adventurousness than their meaningful lyrics, something he usually has been self-conscious about in the past.”)

Still, I bought the album and learned to at least like it. Not so the Other Half. She’d rather have had silence. And it wasn’t just Hold Out. That had been the case for some time for Browne’s earlier work as well as work of many other artists and groups I loved. So she bought me a gift, probably in 1979 when I got the first major stereo system ofIn Monticello, ca. 1980
my life, and here I am using it in a photo found in the old scrapbook that I pulled apart recently.

I have no idea what I was listening to when she took that picture. It might have been a record. It could have been the light jazz radio station in Anoka that got my attention for a while around 1980. But let’s assume that I’d just laid Hold Out on the turntable. Here’s the opener, “Disco Apocalypse,” a track that seems better now, thirty-five years on, than it did that summer.

Found In A Scrapbook

August 18th, 2015

One of my minor projects last week was dissecting a scrapbook put together for me in the early 1980s by the Other Half. She meant well, but the scrapbook was one of those with adhesive lines on each page and a clear plastic sheet covering the page. The Texas Gal – citing expertise earned while working for years for Creative Memories, the direct sales scrapbooking firm – told me not long ago that if I wanted to save the photos in the scrapbook, I should take the book apart soon.

So I did that last week. All of the photos save one came out whole; the one that shredded was a picture of my mother’s aunts and uncles, and I have at least one more copy of that somewhere else. Most of the non-photo stuff was stuck too tightly to the adhesive to remove it; I cut and trimmed some of the book’s pages to keep a few things and discarded a lot of stuff that was important at the time and now seems less so. I will likely take one more look through the book to make certain before sending it on its way to the dumpster.

One of the things I found in the book is a list I’ve referred to in this space at least once: On January 1, 1971, I moved my RCA radio to the living room and reclined on the couch while KDWB in the Twin Cities completed its rundown of the top singles of 1970. I don’t know whether the station used a list of 100 singles or perhaps 63 (its frequency was 630), but I got in on the action at No. 30. And I spent, most likely, the better part of two hours listening to the station’s top 30 records of 1970 and making a list of those records on two pieces of note paper using – as I nearly always did at the time – purple ink:

KDWB Top 30, 1970

(I have no idea why I started in the middle of the page on the right and worked upward. I obviously had some arrangement in mind that did not come to fruition. But I got them all. And just in case the pic is faint or my adolescent printing is unclear, here’s the list, from No. 30 to No. 1:

Nos. 30-21
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
“All Right Now” by Free
“Reflections Of My Life” by Marmalade
“Gypsy Woman” by Bryan Hyland
“I Know I’m Losing You” by Rare Earth
“O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps
“Come And Get It” by Badfinger
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
“Walking Through The Country” by the Grass Roots

Nos. 20-11
“Spill The Wine” by Eric Burdon & War
“My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison
“War” by Edwin Starr
“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz
“Green Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“Lay Down” by Melanie
“Make It With You” by Bread
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” by the Poppy Family
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5

Nos. 10-1
“Venus” by the Shocking Blue
“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“Band Of Gold” by Frieda Payne
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Up Around The Bend” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“American Woman/No Sugar Tonight” by the Guess Who
“Spirit In The Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“Let It Be” by the Beatles

That’s a hell of a hundred or so minutes of music. The only record of those thirty that I disliked at the time – and still do – was the Poppy Family’s “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” As I looked over the list at the end of the day, I also thought that “I Think I Love You” was pretty slight for the No. 2 record of the year. Over the years, though, I’ve come to recognize it as a great piece of popcraft, one that spoke to its intended audience as least as clearly as the heavyweights that bracketed it spoke to theirs.

I took a quick look at the 1970 Top 40 from Billboard (as presented in Joel Whitburn’s A Century Of Pop Music), and there were some major national hits in the magazine’s list that were absent from KDWB’s Top 30. The six biggest were B. J. Thomas’ “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” at No. 2; Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ “The Tears Of A Clown” at No. 11; the Jackson 5’s “The Love You Save” at No. 14; Sly & The Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” at No. 15; Ray Stevens’ “Everything Is Beautiful” at No. 16; and the Beatles’ “The Long And Winding Road” at No. 17.

(Since I came in on the middle of KDWB’s list on that long-ago New Year’s Day, I would assume that most, if not all, of those records were in KDWB’s Top 100 or Top 63 or whatever number the station offered.)

I’m not sure any of this proves anything or has any great significance, but as I pulled treasures out of the scrapbook, it was fun to remember that January afternoon so long ago and fun as well to wonder when I quit using purple ink.

And since I like to share at least one tune here most of the time, I wondered if all of those thirty have showed up here at one time or another (with the exception of the Poppy Family). Most have, I’m sure, but I did a little digging, and not once in the more than eight years that I’ve been blogging have I ever mentioned the Grass Roots’ “Walking Through The Country.” The record fell far short of the Billboard Top 40 for the year, having gotten only to No. 44 during its time in the Hot 100 in early 1970. But I thought it was a pretty decent record back then, and I still do today.

Okay, so there were thirty-one records there. KDWB had “Venus” and “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” tied for tenth place, and I failed to read my own long-ago note carefully enough to note that the station did not – as would seem to be customary – jump from 10th place to 12th place. Note added August 22, 2015.

Saturday Single No. 459

August 15th, 2015

While there are no doubt more covers of Tim Drummond’s “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” out there (under that title or the later-applied “Sip The Wine”), I’m going to end our three-post exploration of the song’s evidently tangled history with just one more version of the tune this morning. (The earlier posts are here and here.)

Until this week, I’d never heard of Julie Covington, a English singer and actress who recorded the first version of the song “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” from the 1976 musical Evita (written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice and first released on LP as was the duo’s Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970). She’s taken part in numerous recordings of musicals, and she’s released six solo albums, four of them coming between 1967 and 1978. (All of that courtesy of Wikipedia.)

It was on her fourth album, a self-titled effort released in 1978, that she released her version of Drummond’s “Sip The Wine.” According to both Wikipedia and All Music, the song is now credited to Drummond. I haven’t found an image of the 1978 LP or its jacket to see if that was the case when the record was released. But it’s of little importance now, I guess.

The 1978 album wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2000, when it came out on CD with two bonus tracks. I’m hoping the version of “Sip The Wine” I found at Amazon is the same one that was released in 1978. In any event, I like it (though maybe not as much as the Rick Danko or Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth versions), and given my love for the sound of a saxophone, I did some looking and found out pretty easily that the saxophone work on the track came from Plas Johnson.

With all that said, here’s “Sip The Wine” by Julie Covington, today’s Saturday Single.

Who Sipped Whose Wine?

August 14th, 2015

So what brought to mind Rick Danko’s “Sip The Wine” earlier this week? Well, like many things in life, it was random.

Sometime last week, I was puttering online, checking out my Facebook timeline or maybe reading emails from some of the folks from my Denmark group who were having a fine time at a reunion. (It’s the only reunion I’ve missed since we started having them regularly twenty-some years ago; the logistical challenges of traveling to Montana, where one of our fellows owns a ranch, kept me away.)

Anyway, as I puttered, the RealPlayer bounced around the 84,000 mp3s in its repertoire, and I noticed in the back of my mind as it settled on a track that started with a gentle strummed guitar followed by the voice of a young Tracy Nelson with Mother Earth:

The song was familiar, but I didn’t pay much attention until the 3:44 mark, when Nelson sings, “We must sip the wine . . .” That got my head up, and I wondered how Mother Earth had come to record Danko’s tune. Because Mother Earth was out of business by 1977, when Danko released his self-titled album that offered “Sip The Wine.” That meant this recording pre-dated Danko’s, which puzzled me.

I checked the RealPlayer and saw the track was titled “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” and was included on the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth. I pulled the LP from the stacks and took a quick look: The song was credited to Tim Drummond, a name I knew vaguely and knew I had heard recently. That was likely, Wikipedia informed me, because he passed on in January. He’d been a bass player and a songwriter who played with folks ranking from Mile Davis and B.B. King to Bob Dylan and Conway Twitty (and many others in between). His co-writing credits, in the brief examples listed at Wikipedia, included “Saved” with Bob Dylan and “Saddle Up The Palomino” with Neil Young.

And he’d obviously written the song that Rick Danko offered as “Sip The Wine” on 1977’s Rick Danko, where Danko was credited as the writer. Hmm.

I checked the Rick Danko jacket. Drummond was around for the those sessions, credited as playing bass on “Brainwash” and “Java Blues.” There’s no clue on the jacket as to how “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” became “Sip The Wine” and how the writing credit transformed. It’s obviously Drummond’s song, and I’d like to think that the errant credit was an honest mistake. But I don’t know, and the only place I’ve found that acknowledges the error is the page devoted to “Sip The Wine” at the semi-official website devoted to The Band.

Well, it’s a hell of a song. Danko’s performance of it is lovely. Both Rick Danko and Tim Drummond are gone, and we’ll likely never know what happened. So let’s just sip the wine.

‘We Must Sip The Wine . . .’

August 12th, 2015

When this blog was less than two months old, I wrote about Rick Danko’s self-titled solo album from 1977. Here, revised slightly, is part of what I wrote:

I missed Rick Danko’s solo album when it came out in 1977, although I’m not sure why. I guess I was just too busy, finishing an additional college minor, leaving my hometown for a small town about thirty miles away and diving into the details of writing for a newspaper and the details of living a life in that small town.

One thing that leaving my hometown – the town where I went to college as well – did was separate me from my everyday sources of information. The bull sessions that went on in the student union, in our apartments and in various bars and taverns had provided all of us with a constant stream of information about books, music, drama and current events. Current events, I could still keep up with, but even being only thirty miles away from the friends who helped define the last years of my college life, I was removed enough that I no longer had regular access to their ideas and experiences. And I missed the release of Rick Danko, the first solo album by the bass player and vocalist for The Band . . .

Back then, I was doing what I loved – reporting – and I was learning to live my life. I didn’t notice the album’s release and didn’t get to listen to it for more than ten years. I’m very sure that I also failed to notice many other things taking place at the time, and many of them, I am certain, were no doubt far more important than a record.

But it was bad enough, in retrospect, to not know about Danko’s album. I think it would have helped me as I settled into my life in that small town. We hear on occasion about comfort food – dishes that provide some kind of nostalgic balm as we consume them, dishes that provide nourishment not only for the body but also for the soul. Well, there is also comfort music, records that provides the same internal sustenance. Danko’s album is one of those records, and if I’d had its homey sounds in my apartment during those first months of my so-called adult life, that transition might have been a little less lonely.

I finally got to the album in 1990. I’d been living in the small town of Conway Springs, Kansas, and when the relationship that had brought me there in April wheezed and gave way in just a couple of months, I headed to Columbia, Missouri, three times in less than four weeks: the first time to find a job, the second time to find a place to live, and the third time to stay.

During the second trip, I took ten minutes toward the end of the day to do some digging at a record shop near the University of Missouri, and there I found Rick Danko. If I recall things accurately, I left the record at a friend’s house and then reclaimed it a couple weeks later when I moved to Columbia.

When I wrote about Danko’s album and the idea of “comfort music” back in 2007, I likely had in mind not only my early days in Monticello in 1977 – when Danko’s album might have eased my transition – but also the first weeks in Columbia in July and August of 1990, when I did have the record.

Columbia wasn’t new to me; I’d lived there for eighteen months in 1983-85. But I was tired of moving: My apartment on Ripley Street was my sixth home in just more than three years. And I was no doubt grieving the failed pairing with my ladyfriend in Conway Springs. (It was an odd grief: I’ve had partings that have caused great anguish. This one, though, left me with more of a stunned feeling, something like, “Well, that was quick!”)

And once I settled into my new digs on Ripley Street (and a month later into my even newer digs on Ellis Avenue, and that’s another story to which I may have referred at one time or another), Rick Danko was on the stereo a lot. So were other records; I had about seven hundred LPs to choose from at the time. But I remember Rick Danko’s voice filling some of the empty spaces on both Ripley Street and Ellis Avenue as I settled into Columbia once again.

One of the tracks from Danko’s album that’s most evocative of those evenings is “Sip The Wine.” It’s a love song, and for the most part, it had no bearing on my life at the time, but I remember hearing the closing repetitions of “We must sip the wine” and nodding in agreement. The wine I was sipping wasn’t as sweet as that quaffed by the lovers in the song, but that was okay. I still found comfort in the song.

Before I offer the track, though, I should note that the song’s life began with a different title. And even though Danko is listed on the jacket of his album as the song’s writer, that’s not the case. We’ll dig into all of that later this week. In the meantime, enjoy “Sip The Wine” by Rick Danko.

Saturday Single No. 458

August 8th, 2015

While the Texas Gal is off at a church meeting this morning, one of my tasks is to get the kitchen ready for pickling this afternoon: Our cucumbers are thriving this summer.

Not having much time to dally, I took a quick look at the Billboard Hot 100 from August 8, 1970, forty-five years ago today. And taking into account today’s date – 8/8 – I ran down the list until I hit No. 88.

There I found “Mongoose” by Elephant’s Memory. That’s the band that backed John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the 1972 album Some Time In New York City. The group released several albums and numerous singles on its own, including a few on the Beatles’ Apple label. But in 1970, that was all still to come. And “Mongoose” was in its first of what would turn out to be fourteen weeks on the chart. It would peak at No. 50, the group’s only single in the Hot 100. (“Crossroads Of The Stepping Stones” had bubbled under at No. 120 in 1969.)

It’s an odd song and record about, as one might expect, a confrontation between a mongoose and a cobra. Perhaps there’s a deeper meaning, but I’m not going to dig for it today. I have to get the kitchen ready for pickles.

So here’s “Mongoose” by Elephant’s Memory, today’s Saturday Single:

‘I’ll Be Just As Gone . . .’

August 7th, 2015

In our tour of Texas music the other day, I missed some tunes that we could have included because I forgot about a variant spelling. In the days before, as I pondered the post and the city of San Antonio, I did check on the digital shelves for tunes that called the city “San Antone.” But as I wrote Tuesday, that spelling slipped my mind.

As it slipped, we lost our chances at hearing Emmylou Harris’ “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” from her 1977 album Luxury Liner, and we missed out on two versions of “Home In San Antone,” the first a vocal take by Redd Volkaert from 1998 and the second an instrumental version by the Quebe Sisters Band from 2003.

And we missed out, of course, on one of the classic country songs, “Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone.” The song was written by Glenn Martin and David Kirby, and its most famous iteration is its first, the version recorded in February 1970 by Charlie Pride:

Pride’s version was No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard country chart and made it to No. 70 on the magazine’s Hot 100. (It was one of twenty-nine No. 1 hits for Pride on the country chart between 1969 and 1983.) And covers abound: Second Hand Songs lists twenty-eight of them, from Bake Turner’s version recorded in March 1970 to a version by Buddy Jewell that came out in June of this year (and there are likely others not listed there).

Two of those covers – along with Pride’s original – are on the digital shelves here: There’s a pretty basic country version by Nat Stuckey from his 1971 album Only A Woman Like You, and then there’s a 1973 take on the tune by Doug Sahm with some vocal help – according to both my ears and Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles – from Bob Dylan:

The track was released as a single on Atlantic and bubbled under the Hot 100 for three weeks, peaking at No. 115. It was also released on a 1973 album titled Doug Sahm and Band.