Saturday Single No. 550

July 22nd, 2017

It’s pickling season!

In the past few days, I’ve set up the temporary table in the kitchen. It’s now home to boxes of canning jars with their rings and lids, envelopes of pickling mix, extra kettles, various canning implements, and a stack of fresh kitchen towels. I’ve brought the big canner up from the fruit cellar and wiped it clean of cobwebs and anything else that might have gathered during its off-duty months.

In the past few months, we’ve been giving away the 2016 batches of pickles, clearing the shelf in the fruit cellar as well as we can. There are maybe two pints left of last year’s pickles, as well as the big – two gallons, I think – jar of whole kosher pickles the Texas Gal made for herself last year. She’s still leery of opening it: As big as the cucumbers she chose were, she’s not entirely sure that nearly a year in the jar has pickled them to her taste.

And this morning, the Texas Gal is off to the farmer’s market downtown to bring home a bushel of early cucumbers from a woman who grows them on a farm near Browerville, about seventy miles northwest of here. It looks like our garden will supply plenty of cukes this year, but for the past few years – ever since we had one very poor cucumber season – the Texas Gal has ordered early cucumbers just in case.

So as of today, the Thirteenth Avenue Pickle Factory is open. Varieties this year will be kosher and Polish dill, bread & butter (both regular and zesty), sweet pickle relish, and a new variety of mix the Texas Gal grabbed during one of her preparatory shopping trips, spicy pickles. (I also noted that she’s picked up a mix for pickling okra and other vegetables; we neither grow nor regularly eat okra, so she has something else in mind for that mix, and she also found a package mix for salsa with the spices premeasured, so when we get enough tomatoes, she’ll be doing a couple batches of that.)

As I’ve noted other years, she does most of the work when picking and canning season rolls around, loving it during the early part of the season and maintaining good grace during the later portions of the season when the time spent in the kitchen gets a bit wearisome. I help with chores that require lifting or climbing the stepstool, and I pitch in and slice onions or whatever else needs to be done when required.

And we both get a good measure of satisfaction from all of it, first from the “plink” that each jar of pickles or other canned food makes as its seal sets in and later from the pleasure of giving away (and eating, too) pickles and other delights over the following winter.

To go along with this piece, I looked for a tune with the word “pickles” in its title. I found one, a jaunty little number by Allen Toussaint from 1970 titled simply “Pickles.” It wasn’t quite what I was looking for, so I searched for the word “kitchen” instead, and got back forty-seven results. Most of them, of course, are versions of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen,” a song I love but that isn’t quite what I was looking for today.

So here’s “Mama’s In The Kitchen” by Toni Childs. It’s from Childs’ 2008 album Keep The Faith, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Eddie J No More’

July 20th, 2017

Here’s another piece of fiction from the folder in the file cabinet. This one was written in November 1990 in Columbia, Missouri, so as you read it, put yourself in the early 1990s. I likely got some things wrong about the music business, but so it goes when you’re writing to please yourself. Anyway, I hope you like “Eddie J No More.”

My guitar needs a new E string. I found that out last night. When the urge to play a few tunes hit me and I opened the case, I saw that the string – the high one – was loose and curled up like a nylon snake, right at the top of the neck. In my mind, I could hear the sound it made when it broke, kind of an idiot “ping” followed by the whispery sound of the long portion of the string curling up toward the neck, seeking its old circular shape just like water seeks lower ground.

I never heard it when it happened. No reason I should have. I keep the guitar case in a spare room between the box filled with my old music notebooks and the box that holds my old records. I suppose I hadn’t touched the guitar for, oh, three months. Maybe not that long, but it’s been a while since I had the urge to play.

But I wanted to last night. And when I saw the broken string, all I could do was look across the spare room to where my old Stratocaster sits. All its strings were intact, and all I needed to do was plug that baby into the amplifier of the sound system in the living room. A little bit of tuning and one quick flick across the strings for orientation, and I’d jump back on the rails and make that fucker howl!

But no. I haven’t played the Stratocaster for a long, long while. I haven’t wanted to howl since, well, since maybe ’85 or ’86. All I wanted last night . . . well, it’s kind of like something I saw Bruce Springsteen do in a solo acoustic show a few years ago.

When Bruce is out with the E Street Band and they get to “Born To Run,” it’s all guitars and drums roaring and the saxophone wailing as the road goes by and the lonely rider and Wendy aim their motorcycle toward whatever tomorrow will bring them because they know it has to be better or at least no worse than what they have right now and the roar of the imagined cycle gets mixed in with the roar of the crowd at the Boss’s feet and the music pounds and thunders with a noisy momentum that carries the E Street Band and its Boss and the crowd toward some wonderful place, and baby, we were all born to run.

But when Bruce did some solo gigs a few years ago, toward the end of the night, he’d play it slow, just him and an acoustic guitar. It was almost thoughtful and almost sad, and the crowd was quiet and just about ready to go home. And it was right to do it like that: We have what we have, even if it isn’t everything we dreamed of finding out there. And none of us were running anymore.

And that’s what I wanted to do last night, play the music that comes after the running is over, the quiet stuff that can fill the air when you are where you are and you’re not looking for the next turn. I just wanted to strum my acoustic and maybe hum along a little, then maybe sing out and let my voice carry the weight of the song. I haven’t wanted to make the fuckers howl for years. I don’t think I could anymore. And I don’t think I want to, even if I could.

But my E string was broken and curled up, so I closed the guitar case and found something else to do last night. I read a book. And the Stratocaster stayed in the spare room.

You know, it’s funny that I think of Bruce and the way he changed “Born To Run” on that tour when I think about last night. From what my manager always told me, I was supposed to be where Bruce is, be what Bruce is.

I should introduce myself, I suppose. My name is Eddie Jopp. Never heard of me, right? Or if you did, you’ve pretty much forgotten me. Fair enough. I never really believed you’d remember. Maybe if I had, maybe if I’d believed, then I’d be more than a faint whisper in your memory. My manager believed, or at least that what he said. What he really believed, I think, was that anything or anyone can be packaged and sold, and I know he believed in ten percent. Anyway, I’m Eddie Jopp, also known as Eddie J for a while. No period after the “J,” please. Eddie J was the name.

When I say I keep my old records in a box in the spare room, I’m not talking about my high school copy of Saturday Night Fever or my copy of The Wall. I’ve got those – and Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles and Supertramp and all the others – in the living room. No, the records in the spare room are my records: A Free Man In Greenland, Take The Wheel, my favorite Let The Spring . . . and a few others. Those are my records, the ones that Mick Pelzer produced in Kansas City at the start and then in L.A., the ones that were supposed to be on the list of everyone’s essential sounds of the ’80s. Eddie J on guitar, Eddie J on keyboard, Eddie J on vocals, and then it was Eddie J on the remainder racks and eventually Eddie J on the all-time favorite show, “Whatever the fuck happened to . . . ?”

It’s a good question, really. “Whatever the fuck happened to Eddie J?” I’m not sure I know, and I lived it. Oh, I haven’t forgotten it or lost it in some chemically induced paranoid haze. No, I stayed straight, most of the time anyway, but you can figure out how it is when you’re on tour and you’re only twenty-four. And I never got rid of the people who were there at the start only to find out I needed them later. No, the guys who started with me were there when it ended: Parker Stram on drums, Bobby Lippner on bass, Stu Kelsey on rhythm guitar, Jana Hall and Linda Camino on back-up vocals. They were on the first track we laid down in K.C. (“The Baker’s Dozen,” I think), and the last one in L.A. (“Inside Slide”). That’s when it ended, even though we didn’t know that for a while. But they were there.

So whatever the fuck happened to Eddie J? Life, I guess. The way it’s supposed to. Just because I’m not what I was expected to be doesn’t mean I’m not what I’m supposed to be.

It’s funny. I remember, back in the summer of ’81 when it looked like everything in front of us was gold or platinum, we were all sitting in a huge suite in downtown Milwaukee. We’d played a show at the arena there the night before, and we had two days before we had to be in St. Paul, so we were taking a day off. A show must have been canceled somewhere, I guess, but I don’t remember.

Anyway, Cal Mellon, my manager – our manager, really, because Parker, Bobby, Stu, Jana and Linda were just as much a part of Eddie J as I was; I just gave it my name – Cal was talking about what he saw. He was waving a bottle of Heineken in the air, proclaiming that he saw Eddie J as the latest in the line of what he called “authentic American voices.” He had Elvis, and Buddy, and Bob, and then Bruce, of course. And at the end of the line (for the moment, anyway, because someone always tacks another car onto the Mystery Train, right?) came me. Or us. Eddie J, anyway.

Like I said, it’s funny. It’s the modern nobility, kind of the twentieth century version of white rock ’n’ roll knights: Here’s Elvis of Tupelo with “Love Me Tender,” ‘Jailhouse Rock” and so many more. Here’s Buddy of Lubbock with “Rave On” and “Peggy Sue” and the dreams of would’ve been. Here’s Bob of Hibbing with – oh, shit, which ones? The first time I saw him was in Wichita, and he sang for ninety minutes, and an hour’s worth of stuff he didn’t sing would have made the fucking best greatest hits package anyone would want to hear. But just to keep the monologue moving, let’s say “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Forever Young.” And here’s Bruce of Asbury Park with (same problem here, but what the fuck) “Born To Run” and “The River.”

And then, says Cal, comes Eddie of Olathe with . . . with what? Oh, maybe “Sailor Serenade” and “Let The Real Game Roll.” Never heard of them? Fair enough. Not a lot of people did. Well, more than I figured would on those days back in high school when I started writing songs, but not nearly as many as Cal – and the rest of us, too – had plans for. Never heard of Olathe, either? That’s cool, too. It’s in Kansas, for those who don’t recognize it. But I imagine there are lots of folks who wouldn’t know much about Tupelo or Lubbock or Hibbing or Asbury Park without those other guys being able to connect to some kind of magic that Eddie J never found.

And that’s okay. Even as Cal was waving his beer bottle in the air and declaiming his vision, I didn’t buy it. It was kind of like one of those old intelligence tests. You know, the ones that ask “Which one is different?” Well, when it’s Elvis and Buddy and Bob and Bruce and Eddie, I didn’t have too much trouble figuring it out. Neither, as it turned out, did the people who buy the tunes. And after they figured it out, the folks at Kappa Delta records got the word pretty fast. And by 1985, Eddie J was gone.

Oh, I’m still around, and I’m doing okay. And most of the rest of the gang is okay, too. Bobby’s gone. He had a heart attack on the tennis court a few years ago. But Parker and Stu are still in L.A. doing session work. Jana married a guy who worked at the studio in K.C. where we first recorded, and I hear she’s got a kid now and sings jingles in the studio. Linda went back east and got a job as a deejay, and she’s part of the top morning team in Annapolis, I think.

Me? Oh, I’m going to school here in Wichita. I’ve got a teaching degree in mind. Yeah, I’m lots older than most of the others in my classes, and nobody recognizes me. At least if they do, they’ve never said anything. That’s not surprising – they all listen to CDs and none of my stuff ever got there. They don’t even look in the remaindered record racks, which is the only place you’re going to find Eddie J these days.

And Cal? Well, there’s always someone new to promote, someone else to put into that line of voices. He’s got a kid on the road now, a guy named Custer Barnes. The kid’s good – I’ve heard a few of his tracks – and maybe he’ll make Cal’s dreams come real. I couldn’t do it for Cal, but my dreams became real.

Hey, they really did. All I wanted was a chance to play, to get my stuff down on tape and onto vinyl. Now, I suppose that sounds like the kind of noble bullshit that you hear all the faded stars spout, those that survive, anyway. But it’s not. I got what I wanted. I played my music, and for a while, a lot of people listened. My dreams weren’t Cal’s though. He wants more than that, And like I said, he believes in ten percent. But he’s an okay guy anyway.

He called the other day. Wanted to know if I would come out to L.A. and put some stuff on tape with Parker and Stu, see what came out of the headphones. Well, I’ve got some new things – I may not play a lot, but I’ve never really stopped writing – but it’s my stuff, and I’m not sure anyone would want to listen to it. I said so. He said he was sure it would go, and that he’d already booked the studio time. Had he called Parker and Stu? Not yet, he said.

Something wrong with Custer Barnes? “No,” he said, “I just want to get your stuff out where it belongs, with the listeners.” I thought for a minute, Shit, maybe he was right. Maybe it’s worth another shot. But then I figured that if the listeners really wanted to hear me, I wouldn’t need my old agent to tell me so.

I asked him what date he had the studio time reserved. He told me, and I said, “Sorry, I’ve got a mid-term that day.”

Aced the fucker, too. And tomorrow after class, I’m going to get a new E string. Hell, maybe I’ll get a whole new set of strings. Or I could sell the Strat and get a new electric . . . No, a new set of strings for the acoustic will do just fine. Let the words carry the weight as far as I want it to go.

GPE
November 15, 1990
Columbia, Missouri

The Locked Door

July 19th, 2017

As I’ve dug through boxes of my long-gathered stuff over the past few years, I’ve been finding music notebooks here and there, the kind with staffs in them, some of them dating back to my college days.

There are, I guess, about ten of them, with about half of them half-filled with assignments from five quarters of music theory at St. Cloud State. And in all ten or so are tunes I’ve written over the years, from my earliest efforts during my senior year of high school to my most recent in the mid-1990s.

I wonder sometimes why I haven’t written anything since then, either lyrics or music, and I can come to no conclusion, except that to write the kind of songs I have written over the years, I must open an internal door that has for years been closed and locked. On the other side of that door is my songwriter’s voice.

I have a glimmering this morning of how I might craft a key to that door. In those notebooks, I’ve found a few melodies that have no words. Some of them are lengthy, and some are no more than a few measures. I’m not entirely certain when I wrote them, but I would guess that they’re from the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Now, just finding random melodies wouldn’t encourage me much, but I evidently had some ideas for lyrics as I scribbled down these five tunes (five that I’ve found so far; there very well may be more in the stack of notebooks), because they have titles that give me at least a slight clue as to what I had in mind.

The titles are “Build A House Of Dreams,” “And We Begin Again,” “Catalina, Come Home,” “Anna Lee,” and “Little Darlin’.” My next step is to take those notebooks some afternoon to our church, where I have access to a keyboard, and see if the melodies and their titles say anything to me now.

I’m hoping that one of them might provide the key to that door that’s been locked for so long so that I may find my voice.

Saturday Single No. 549

July 15th, 2017

Well, I slept most of the morning away – rare for me, as I generally am up by 7 a.m. on weekdays and by 9 on Saturdays and Sundays – and time is flibbering away quickly, as it does these days.

We have no plans other than finding somewhere to grab a nibble this afternoon and then making a stop at the nearby grocery store. I think this evening we’ll invest some time in writing thank you notes, a hand-cramping exercise that’s painful in several ways.

So I find myself sleepy and uncertain, and maybe “thank you” is the way to go. Here’s B.B. King showing some gratitude to his audience with “Thank You For Loving The Blues” It’s from his 1973 album To Know You Is To Love You, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Who’

July 13th, 2017

After a couple of previews six months ago, we finally get around to beginning the project called Journalism 101. Today, we’ll be sorting the 95,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for titles that contain the word “who,” the first of the five W’s of reporting. (I doubt this needs stating, but those W’s are who, what, when, where, and why. And we’ll include “how” in the project as well.)

That sorting brings us 740 tracks, twenty-six more than we found when we announced the idea back in February. As is usual when we do these types of searches, many of the tracks aren’t suitable for our purposes. Tracks from the Who, the Guess Who, a late Seventies group called 100% Whole Wheat, the novelty project Dylan Hears A Who, and more go by the wayside, as do some albums, including Kate Rusby’s 2005 effort The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly and the Warner Brothers loss leader from 1972, The Whole Burbank Catalog. We also have to discard eighty-one tracks with the word “who’s” in the title and four tracks with titles that carry the word “whoever” (I thought there’d be more). But we still have enough to find four worthy titles.

Given the alphabetical nature of the player’s search, the first track that shows up is “Who To Believe” by the Allman Brothers Band. It’s from the 2003 album, Hittin’ The Note, which turned out to be the group’s last studio release. It’s also the first album not to include guitarist Dicky Betts (and the first to include guitarist Derek Trucks). I’ve had the CD since not long after it came out, but I’ve not listened to it very often, which is too bad. Many of the pieces I’ve read since the recent death of Gregg Allman said that Hittin’ The Note was good work, and “Who To Believe” sounds very much as if it could have been recorded in 1970.

The digital shelves here hold six versions of “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” ranging from the original 1961 release by Charlie Rich (who wrote the song) to versions from 1975 by the Amazing Rhythm Aces and from 2003 by Janiva Magness. Those are only a taste of the number of times that very good song has been recorded, of course. The website Second Hand Songs lists forty-five versions (though there are likely more), with the most recent being a 2013 take on the song by jazz singer Tina Ferris. And though the bluesy versions by Bland and Magness call to me this morning, I think I’ll stick with the song’s country roots and offer Rich’s original version.

Then we come to the melodramatic “I (Who Have Nothing),” which comes up twice in our listings: the 1963 version by Ben E. King and a 1972 cover by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. King’s release was the first English recording of the song, and it went to No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, to No. 16 in the magazine’s R&B chart, and to No. 10 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart. Based on the information at Second Hand Songs, the tune was first recorded in Italian in 1961 by Joe Sentieri; the English lyrics are credited to songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. I’m a little surprised that I don’t have more versions of the tune in the stacks, especially the 1970 version by Tom Jones, which went to No. 14 on the Hot 100 (as well as to No. 2 on the AC chart). I could go wandering for other versions as well, but we’ll stick with King’s version of “I (Who Have Nothing)” this morning.

And what would a trek through the digital shelves here be without some 1960s easy listening combined with a theme from a spy movie? I have four versions on the shelves of the theme from The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, the 1965 movie based on the novel by John le Carré. I think I saw the movie when it came out. (That would have been on one of those Saturday nights out with my dad that remain a bit puzzling, as I wrote a few years ago.) Oddly, Sol Kaplan’s moody soundtrack is not on the shelves here, an absence that needs to be corrected. But the four versions I have of the disquieting theme are all pretty good (with that assessment coming, of course, from one who loves spy themes and mid-1960s easy listening), with the sources being the well-known trio of Billy Strange, Roland Shaw and Hugo Montenegro as well as the blandly named Jazz All-Stars. That last is a group of what I assume was studio musicians; they’re identified at Discogs as Bobby Crowe, Ernie Royal, J.J. Johnson, Joe Newman, Johnny Knapp, Larry Charles, Milt Hinton, Mundell Lowe and Sy Saltzberg, though I do not think all of those men played on the version of the theme I have. That version was included on Thunderball & Other Secret Agent Themes, a 1965 album on the Design label that came to me during my James Bond obsession.

Saturday Single No. 548

July 8th, 2017

So, San Francisco songs . . .

One that shows up eleven times here on the EITW digital shelves is “San Francisco Bay Blues,” originally recorded in 1954 by Jesse Fuller and released the next year on Working On The Railroad, a 10-inch vinyl release. It doesn’t sound at all like the blues, as you likely know, being much more jaunty with a more complex chordal structure.

I could probably write several posts about Fuller, who was born in Georgia in 1896 and died in Oakland, California, in 1976. After years of working numerous jobs – many of those years spent working for the Southern Pacific Railroad (according to Wikipedia) – he began working as a musician in the early 1950s. Here’s what Wikipedia says about his music:

Starting locally, in clubs and bars in San Francisco and across the bay in Oakland and Berkeley, Fuller became more widely known when he performed on television in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles. In 1958, at the age of 62, he recorded with his first album, released by Good Time Jazz Records. Fuller’s instruments included 6-string guitar (an instrument which he had abandoned before the beginning of his one-man band career), 12-string guitar, harmonica, kazoo, cymbal (high-hat) and fotdella. He could play several instruments simultaneously, particularly with the use of a headpiece to hold a harmonica, kazoo, and microphone. In addition, he would generally include at least one tap dance, soft-shoe, or buck and wing in his sets, accompanying himself on a 12-string guitar as he danced. His style was open and engaging. In typical busker’s fashion he addressed his audiences as “ladies and gentlemen,” told humorous anecdotes, and cracked jokes between songs.

The fotdella mentioned in that passage is what most folks remember about Fuller beyond “San Francisco Bay Blues.” The instrument was basically a foot-operated bass instrument, with bass piano strings struck by the use of pedals. (See photo below.)

Jesse Fuller

As for “San Francisco Bay Blues,” the website Second Hand Songs lists 55 recorded versions. There’s at least one more out there (most likely more than that), but that’s a good place to start. The first cover listed there came from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in 1957. The Journeymen, the Weavers, Tom Rush, the New World Singers, Joe & Eddie, and Burl Bailey & The Six Shooters all followed in 1963. The most recent cover listed there is from Tommy Thomsen in 2015.

The versions here include one by Elliott from 1961, one by Fuller live at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, and versions by Richie Havens, Glenn Yarbrough, Hot Tuna, Phoebe Snow, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Peter, Paul & Mary. I also have a version by a group called the Nomads. That one was released on the Pharos label in 1964 (with “Oh, Jennie” on the flip), and the record label as shown for both tracks at Discogs notes something intriguing: “Produced by Jackie DeShannon.”

That version of the Nomads – one of at least twenty-seven groups with that name whose records are cataloged at Discogs – had already released “Last Summer Day/Icky Poo” on the Prelude label in 1963 (both available on YouTube). And a cursory bit of searching brings nothing more about the group this morning than a mention in a biography of DeShannon of her producing the group, which we already knew.

I might dig for more as time moves on, but what we know – along with the record’s traditional kazoo solo – is good enough for me: “San Francisco Bay Blues” by the Nomads is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Estate’

July 6th, 2017

The week is getting away, what with the holiday Tuesday and a meeting yesterday with Mom’s bank, working through some of the details for settling Mom’s estate. That should all be sorted through in a couple of months, but it’s going to be time-consuming (more for my sister than for me, although she’s asked me to pick up a couple of tasks).

Among my tasks for today is to call the storage place and change the billing for the two units where we have a lot of Mom’s furniture and some other stuff. We’re thinking about an estate sale in October to take care of most of things in the units.

And, since the word “estate” is on my mind, I searched for it among the 95,000-plus mp3s in the RealPlayer this morning, and I came up with eighteen tracks. Ten of them comprise the 1974 album Estate Of Mind by American singer/songwriter Evie Sands. It’s an album that I don’t know well. Perhaps I should give it more attention, since John Bush of AllMusic writes in his review that Estate Of Mind “was one of the better pop/rock albums of the mid-’70s,” adding in a parenthetical note, “It certainly deserved better than its poor sales performance.”

Another seven of the “estate” tracks come from the late Sixties group the Fifth Estate, known solely in most quarters for getting a No. 11 hit in 1967 out of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from The Wizard Of Oz. Those seven tracks also include a couple of similar follow-ups to the hit, covers of “Heigh-Ho” from the 1937 Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and of “The Mickey Mouse Club Mouse March.” Neither of the follow-ups charted. (As to why I have the other four tracks from The Fifth Estate, I’m not at all sure. Things happen.)

The final track with “estate” in its title is “Estate (Summer)” by the Brazilian pianist and singer Eliane Elias, from her 2008 album Bossa Nova Stories. Her take on the Bruno Martino song is lush and languid and perfect for today. Here’s an English translation of the words that I found at the website of jazz pianist Michael Sattler:

Summer
You are as hot as the kisses that I have lost
You are filled with a love that is over
That my heart would like to erase

Summer
The sun that warmed us every day,
That painted beautiful sunsets,
Now only burns with fury

There will come another winter
Thousands of rose petals will fall
The snow will cover all
And perhaps a little peace will return

Summer
That gave its perfume to every flower
The summer that created our love
To let me now die of pain

Summer

Saturday Single No. 547

July 1st, 2017

A week ago, I wrote about San Francisco and its “lasting and perhaps pre-eminent place in American culture as a destination where one can alternately find or lose or sell or buy one’s self all with the purpose of being the best self one can be.”

Okay, so I was being a bit glib by the end of the sentence, perhaps not wanting to get too weighty on a Saturday morning. But it’s true, I think, that San Francisco has long been used by songwriters (and writers of all type, for that matter) as an ideal. And, as I noted last week, songs about San Francisco abound. I’m not sure how many sit on the digital shelves here, because when I sort the RealPlayer for “San Francisco,” I also get tracks recorded there.

But there are lot of them, starting with eleven versions of “San Francisco Bay Blues” and eleven versions as well of the tune that may be the quintessential song about the city, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” Now, eleven versions aren’t very many, and I was surprised that there weren’t more versions of the latter tune. After all, Second Hand Songs list 135 versions of the tune, and I’m sure there are some that are unaccounted for there. But eleven is what we have.

The first release is probably, to re-use a word, the quintessential version of the song: Tony Bennet’s 1962 release, which went to No. 19 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. Elegant and controlled, Bennet’s vocal glides above an understated accompaniment, and as I listen to it this morning, I marvel – not for the first time – at Bennet’s voice and delivery.

We’ll take a look at some of the covers of the tune in the near future, but the only thing we need to listen to this morning is Tony Bennett’s 1962 version of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Oh, Ain’t You Glad . . .’

June 30th, 2017

It’s time to revive the project we called “Covering Cocker” after a long time away from it. So we resume pulling together covers of the ten tracks on the 1969 album that’s long been one of my favorites, Joe Cocker!

When I started digging around on the Intertubes for covers, the vast majority of the songs on the record provided riches: Most had been covered many, many times, often leaving me with difficult decisions (some of which I have still put off). I was, however, concerned about one of the tracks on the album: “That’s Your Business,” written by Cocker and keyboard player Chris Stainton. How many covers of that tune would I find? Would I find any?

Well, I found one, a single by an Australian group called Hot Rocket released on the Festival Label in 1971. There’s not a lot of information out there about the group, a fact that also hampered the writer of the blog Ozzie Music Man during the writing of a post eight years ago. I’ve done some editing, but here’s what the blog reported:

Hot Rocket is a Sydney honky-tonk rock band who only released one single . . . “That’s Your Business.” They are another one of those bands that are hard to find any info about. But who knows? Maybe one day a producer, band member or even the tea lady might stumble over this blog and leave me some more details . . . you never know. The band members were Paul Coates (vocals), Jan Dezwaan (keyboards) Dave Gibbons (vocals & [producer of] this single) Phil Layton (sax, flute) John Swanton (drums) John Taylor & Rod Webster.

In the comments section below that 2009 post, a reader tells Ozzie Music Man that Hot Rocket actually released another single, “Bottle Of Red Wine b/w Rock And Roll Hootchie Koo.” And a few comments down, as the writer anticipated might happen, a member of Hot Rocket – Dave Gibbons – chimes in with some comments about the band’s line-up.

Beyond that, I know nothing about Hot Rocket except that the band’s cover of “That’s Your Business” made it possible for me to cover Joe Cocker! Here’s the single:

The earlier installments of “Covering Cocker” can be found here.

‘Like A Summer Thursday’

June 29th, 2017

Grasping at straws this morning and trying to right my ship, I checked the tracks in the RealPlayer that had the word “Thursday” in their titles. There were three:

“Thursday” by Country Joe & The Fish, from their 1969 album I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die.

“Thursday” by Jim Croce, from his 1973 album I Got A Name.

And “Like A Summer Thursday” by Townes Van Zandt, from his 1969 album Our Mother The Mountain.

I knew the first two well. The Van Zandt, I’d no doubt heard but did not know well, so I let it play. And I was a little startled. From where I listen, much of the late singer/songwriter’s work has melancholy undercurrents. “Like A Summer Thursday,” however, has the melancholy right on the surface:

Her face was crystal
Fair and fine
Her breath was morning
Her lips were wine
Her eyes were laughter
Her touch divine
Her face was crystal
And she was mine

If only she
Could feel my pain
But feelin’ is a burden
She can’t sustain
So like a summer Thursday
I cry for rain
To come and turn
The ground to green again

If only she
Could hear my songs
’Bout the empty difference
’Tween the rights and wrongs
Then I know that I
Could stand alone
As well as they
Now that she’s gone

Her face was crystal
Fair and fine
Her breath was morning
Her lips were wine
Her eyes were laughter
Her touch divine
Her face was crystal
And she was mine

It’s a lovely track: