Saturday Single No. 678

February 22nd, 2020

Here’s a piece I ran in this space ten years ago today. It’s been edited slightly.

One of the classic small-town fund-raisers is the fish fry. During the years I lived in Monticello, the Other Half and I would occasionally make our way to the American Legion club at the west edge of town and join our friends and neighbors at long tables. The menu was always deep-fried fish – probably haddock, maybe cod – with french fries and cole slaw.

We’d nibble on our dinners, sip coffee and chat with whoever ended up sitting nearby. Occasionally, I’d field questions or complaints about something the newspaper had published that week. Otherwise, we’d maybe talk about the city’s plans to redevelop downtown, the upcoming school board election or the prospects for the high school’s teams – still called, amazingly enough, the Redmen – in the coming winter tournaments.

But as we sat at the tables for the Rotary Club’s annual fish fry forty years ago this evening, we talked about none of that. All anybody wanted to talk about was a bunch of college kids, kids with names like Broten, Johnson and Eruzione; Callahan, Craig and Pavelich; Morrow, Verchota and Suter and eleven more. And we talked about Herb Brooks, the hockey coach who’d molded those twenty American college kids into a hockey team that had defeated the legendary team from the Soviet Union 4 to 3 in an Olympic medal-round game late that afternoon.

I’ve never asked anyone, but I’ve always wondered how sparse the crowd was for the first hour or so of the fish fry that evening. The hockey game began at four o’clock Central Time – officials for the ABC network, which was broadcasting the Olympics from Lake Placid, N.Y., tried to have the game switched to seven o’clock, but Soviet officials refused – and was likely over a little after six o’clock. That’s when we made our way to the Legion club for dinner, as I’d been listening to the game on a distant radio station, struggling to make sense of the play-by-play through a forest of static.

I imagine that many others had done the same, as it seems in memory that we were among a large group of diners who showed up about the same time. Those already dining were already talking about hockey or related topics, like why ABC – which planned to air a tape of the game that evening – didn’t show the game live at four o’clock. And there were grumbles at the Soviet officials who refused to allow the game to be moved from late afternoon to the evening. (Wikipedia notes that such a shift would have meant a four a.m. start for the game in Moscow.)

But most of the time, it seems – in the soft light of a memory now forty years old – we were shaking our heads and marveling at what those twenty American kids and their coaches had done that afternoon. After all, the Soviet team had won five of the six gold medals in hockey since 1956 (with the U.S. winning in 1960 in Squaw Valley, Calif.). Since those 1960 games, the Soviets had gone 32-1-1 over the next four Olympic tournaments and the preliminary round at Lake Placid. Games between the Soviet teams and the professionals of the National Hockey League had started in 1972, and during the two most recent series, the Soviets were 7-4-1 against the NHL’s best. In addition, in the last exhibition game for the U.S. Olympic team before the competition at Lake Placid, the Soviets had defeated the U.S. team in New York City by a 10-3 score.

So I don’t recall talking to anyone during the preceding days who thought that the U.S. boys – who’d won four and tied one of their preliminary round games – could beat the Soviets. Watching the five earlier games had cued us – hockey fans and those who were only vaguely familiar with the sport alike – that the U.S. team might be something special. And it was, advancing to the medal round with what seemed like a good chance for silver or at least bronze.

But those American kids surprised everyone: the experts in the sporting world who’d conceded the gold medal to the Soviet team from the start; the delirious crowd in the Lake Placid arena that afternoon; and those of us all across the country who would sit in their living rooms and watch the taped game that evening. The kids probably even surprised their own coach, Herb Brooks. And there’s no doubt that they surprised the supremely talented members of the Soviet Union’s Olympic hockey team.

There were overtones to the hockey game, of course: The general sense of unease in the U.S. at the time and the international rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union – heightened by the Soviets’ 1979 invasion of Afghanistan – all made the U.S team’s victory a template for something more than a hockey game. But even as only a hockey game, it was enough. And that’s what we chewed on that evening at the Rotary fish fry, forty years ago tonight.

And here’s a video of the last minute of the game and the celebration that followed.

Survey Digging (February 1970)

February 21st, 2020

We’re going to knock around in 1970 again this morning, as it’s been about seven weeks since we looked at a KDWB survey from that year, now a half-century in the past. Here’s the top twelve from the station’s “6+30” survey from February 23, 1970:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies
“No Time” by the Guess Who
“Ma Belle Amie” by the Tee Set
“Travelin’ Band/Who’ll Stop The Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again)/Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & TheFamily Stone
“Venus” by the Shocking Blue
‘Honey Come Back” by Glen Campbell
“Walk A Mile In My Shoes” by Joe South
“Walkin’ In The Rain” by Jay & The Americans
“Arizona” by Mark Lindsay
“Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You)” by Lulu

There are a few memories there. The Lulu record is, as readers might recall, tied to my romantic ambitions of the time, and the Guess Who record – as I noted here about three weeks ago – is tied to a trip to see a Minnesota North Stars hockey game.

The thing that comes back when I ponder “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is my purchasing in early February the sheet music for the Paul Simon-penned song and working to master Larry Knechtel’s brilliant piano arrangement. (I became fairly proficient at it, a proficiency I am attempting to resurrect fifty years later, so my young vocalist friend from church and I can perform it some Sunday. It goes slowly.)

Then, there was a classmate named Jill, who sat near me in French class. In the fall, she would be heading off to St. Cloud Apollo, the city’s new high school, while I would remain at St. Cloud Tech. That spring, she signed my yearbook by quoting the Tee Set’s record: “Ma belle amie! Apres tous les beaux jours je te dis ‘merci, merci!’” (I next saw her twenty years later when she played the role of waitress Trudy Chelgren on the television series Twin Peaks.)

The other eleven entries from the top of KDWB’s “6+30” for that week are just records I heard on the radio. Some I liked a great deal – the records by the Hollies and by Mark Lindsay fall there – and others were just okay, like the A-side of the Sly & The Family Stone record (I did love the B-side) and the Glen Campbell record.

In other words, that was a good hour’s worth of listening. So I ask, as I tend to do, how many of those seventeen records matter fifty years later?

Well, fourteen of those seventeen records are in the iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening. The absentees? “Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” “Honey Come Back,” and “Walkin’ In The Rain.” And I see no need to add them.

So what was at the bottom of that long-ago survey? At No. 36, we find “Take A Look Around” by the group Smith, the follow-up to the hit “Baby It’s You,” which went to No. 1 on KDWB in November 1969. “Take A Look Around” didn’t fare as well, peaking at No. 22 on KDWB’s last survey of March 1970.

(Nationally, the pattern followed: “Baby It’s You” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Take A Look Around” got to No. 43.)

Here’s “Take A Look Around.” It’s a decent record.

A Long-Ago Life

February 18th, 2020

Sometimes, in digging into my family tree at Ancestry.com, I find something so mind-boggling that I can’t imagine anyone living the life I am researching.

Over the weekend, I was looking into the life of one Magdalena (possibly Magnolda) Wachtler (1818-1885), who was born in an independent Hungary and died a subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She was born in a village called St. Johann, a German-speaking village. Adjacent to St. Johann was the German-speaking village of St. Peter.

The villages were located in far northwest Hungary, about sixty miles from Vienna, Austria, in an area that was ethnically German until after World War II, when they were renamed as Szentjános and Szentpéter (later combined into one city named Jánossomorja) and were populated, one assumes, with ethnic Hungarians.

The history of the area fascinates me, as does the history of any of the areas of Germanic and Nordic Europe where my ancestors lived. But as I noted above, I was looking specifically into the life of Magdalena Wachtler, who was the sister of my great-great-grandfather, Paul Wachtler, and thus my great-great-great-aunt. The bare bones of Magdalena’s story sadden me.

In November of 1838, when she was twenty, Magdalena married Martinus Natz from the nearby city of Lébény, where she lived the rest of her life. Over the years, they had twelve childen:

Katherina No. 1, 1839-1850
Anna, 1842-1921
Stefan, 1844-1920
Janos, 1846-1847
Mathias, 1847-1854
Theresa, 1849-1854
Katherina No. 2. 1850-1852
Josephus, 1851-?
Marton, 1854-1854
Martinus (twin), 1855-?
Elizabeth (twin), 1855-1855
Johann, 1858-1905

I can find no death dates (so far) for Josephus or Martinus, although I know that Martinus survived into adulthood, as I’ve found records for his marriage and the names of his children. I’ve found no such records for Josephus, and I almost have to assume that he died in childhood.

So Magdalena and Martinus had twelve children, and likely only four who lived to adulthood. I know that childhood was full of many more perils in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, perhaps especially in rural Central Europe, but still . . .

And what happened in 1854? Was there an accident of some sort that took three of the children? A fire? An epidemic? I dug a little more, and the death dates for the three children who died that year are different, so I lean toward the latter (and that might also account for Elizabeth’s death in 1855). I’ve found a list of epidemics in Eastern Europe online, and there was a major cholera outbreak in portions of what is now Poland in 1854. It’s not unreasonable to think that the outbreak extended into Central Europe, including Hungary. That calls for more research.

Anyway, maybe all of that was seen as normal, but looking back from more than 150 years later, Magdalena Wachtler Natz’s life seems to have been one of nearly unmitigated sorrow. I hope I’m wrong.

Saturday Single No. 677

February 15th, 2020

Searching for inspiration this morning, I went to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, thinking vaguely of checking some surveys from this date in 1980. I wasn’t truly sold on the idea, as 1980 was about when I’d lost interest in most current music. Still, a dull idea is better than no idea, so I pulled up the page where the website lists its collected surveys and clicked the link that puts them in historical order.

And near the bottom of the page, I saw a familiar set of call letters: KFAM.

KFAM was one of the two AM stations serving St. Cloud in the 1960s. Located on the southwestern edge of town, it offered pretty much what WJON did: News and sports, some talk, and some middle-of-the-road music. (I wrote briefly once about my acquaintance with Peter Jay, the man who did play-by-play in the 1960s for the St. Cloud State basketball team; his work went out over the air on KFAM.)

KFAM is long gone. The AM side of the station is now KNSI (for New, Sports, Information), although I do not know when the call letters changed. The FM side, which offered beautiful music during the late 1960s and early 1970s, went Top 40 right around 1975 and changed to KCLD.

It turns out that there are six KFAM surveys at the ARSA site: Four consecutive from 1948, one from 1949, and one from 1954. So let’s look at that first survey, dated October 23, 1948, a survey that the website says was compiled by KFAM disc jockey Dudley Dane.

None of the names in the survey are at all familiar to me:

“I’m Gonna Tear Down The Mailbox” by Montana Slim
“Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue” by Art Lund
“Chime Bells” by Elton Britt
“A Tree In The Meadow” by John Laurenz
“Twelfth Street Rag” by Pee Wee Hunt
“You Call Everybody Darlin’” by Anne Vincent
“Buttons & Bows” by Betty Rhodes
“When I Was Young And Handsome” by Texas Jim Robertson
“Ev’ry Day I Love You (Just A Little Bit More)” by Blue Barron
“Underneath The Arches” by Andy Russell

Some of those names and records show up in Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Pop Hits, which covers the pop charts from 1940 to 1954, and some don’t.

There’s no sign of Montana Slim, and Texas Jim Robertson is listed only as working with the Fontane Sisters. (He has his own listing, with the Panhandle Punchers, in Whitburn’s Top Country Hits, but “When I Was Young And Handsome” is not among the records there.)

Elton Britt’s “Chime Bells” went to No. 6 on the country charts but is not listed in the pop hits book. Britt also had several other hits on the country charts.

And Blue Barron & His Orchestra have ten records listed in the pop hits, but “Ev’ry Day I Love You (Just A Little Bit More)” is not among them.

That leaves six records from that long-ago survey that are listed in the Whitburn book as having reached the Billboard charts:

Lund’s “Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue” went to No. 20. Laurenz’s “A Tree In The Meadow” went to No. 18. Russell’s “Underneath The Arches” went to No. 13. Rhodes’ “Buttons & Bows” went to No. 9. Vincent’s “You Call Everybody Darlin’” went to No. 6. And Hunt’s “Twelfth Street Rag” was No. 1 for eight weeks.

So, Pee Wee Hunt. He was born in Ohio in 1907 and died in Massachusetts in 1979. Wikipedia says he was “the co-founder and featured trombonist with the Casa Loma Orchestra, but he left the group in 1943 to work as a Hollywood radio disc jockey before joining the Merchant Marine near the end of World War II. He returned to the West Coast music scene in 1946. His “Twelfth Street Rag” was a three million-selling, number one hit in September 1948.”

And all of that means that “Twelfth Street Rag” by Pee Wee Hunt & His Orchestra is today’s Saturday Single.

The Moody Blues: 1972

February 13th, 2020

As Christmas approached in 1972, I had no idea that the Moody Blues had recently released an album. I knew that in the spring, as I was finishing my first year of college, the group had released a single, “Isn’t Life Strange,” which I’d heard a fair amount and liked a bit.

During that autumn, spurred by my having heard the group’s A Question Of Balance across the street at Rick’s – and also likely spurred by having liked “Isn’t Life Strange” coming out of the radio in the spring – I acquired the four-year-old In Search Of The Lost Chord through a record club and was, as I’ve noted here before, pretty well disappointed and baffled.

So I didn’t quite know what I had in my hands when, a couple of days before Christmas, Rick gave me the group’s new album, Seventh Sojourn, as a Christmas present. Now, nearly fifty years later, I know it’s my favorite album by the group, the one I’ve no doubt listened to more than any other. For a couple of years not quite a decade ago, it was one of three or four albums that I played softly at my bedside as I went to sleep.

Now, is it my favorite because I’ve had it longer than almost any other album by the group? Entirely possible, perhaps even likely. And if it’s my favorite, does that mean it’s the group’s best album? I don’t know, but it may be the best, for a couple of reasons.

First, the sound was richer. The five members of the group began putting the album together in the studio (a converted garage) at Mike Pinder’s home, Beckthorns, in early 1972, and as they did, they began using a new instrument called the Chamberlain, which replaced the Mellotron. “It worked on the same principle as the Mellotron , but had much better quality sounds – great brass, strings and cello and so on” said Justin Hayward, as quoted in the notes to the 2008 CD release of Seventh Sojourn.

Second, the group had left behind much of the mysticism that had permeated its earlier albums. There were no spoken word interludes on the album, and the album had no introductory segment; it just took off into the first track, “Lost In A Lost World,” and headed on from there. The music is as accomplished as ever, and the lyrics are more down to earth, if sometimes a hair preachy as in the ecological plaints of “Lost In A Lost World” and “You & Me.”

Otherwise, there are love songs – “New Horizons,” “For My Lady” are fairly traditional love songs, and even “Isn’t Life Strange” and “The Land Of Make Believe” work on the topic of love in one way or another. There’s the open letter to academic and hallucinogenic drug advocate Timothy Leary, who spent 1972 in exile in – according to Wikipedia – Switzerland, Austria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. And there’s the closer, with the band proclaiming “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).”

Some of the tracks are a little self-conscious and perhaps overbearing, I’ll acknowledge, giving the group a sense of self-importance that could be off-putting. But when I was nineteen, that slid right past me, and besides, it’s a flaw that runs through almost all of the Moody Blues’ catalog, something you know you’re gonna get when you cue up the record.

I don’t recall a lot of folks around me talking about the album, as had been the case with the release of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour a year previously. But that was probably because I was generally hanging around with fewer and different people than I had been a year earlier, and I spent a lot more time than I had the year before down in the rec room listening to my albums, with Seventh Sojourn near the top of the playlist.

So how good is it and how well was it received? As for the latter, the album was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, starting in the second week of December 1972 and continuing on into January 1973. The previous spring, “Isn’t Life Strange” had reached No. 29 during a ten-week run on the magazine’s Hot 100, and in February 1973, “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)” began its own ten-week run on the Hot 100 that peaked at No. 12.

As to how good the album is, it’s more difficult to separate my affection for the album from its quality than it has been or will be for any of the other albums by the Moody Blues. I have to give it an A-.

Here’s the album’s opening track, “Lost In A Lost World.”

‘As Time Goes On . . .’

February 11th, 2020

Every year, as the middle of February comes by, we musicians at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship put together a Sunday program to celebrate Valentine’s Day, about forty-five minutes filled with love songs, poems and readings.

As we plan, the four of us run through our memories and songbooks, looking for tunes that would fit the day. And when I packed up some of my songbooks in preparation for a planning session the other week, I noticed the book for Chicago’s second album, the silver one called just Chicago when it came out and now called Chicago II. And I thought, “Why not?”

So during the meeting, I offered the idea of including the brief and beautiful “Colour My World” for the program. Two of the three others in the group are about my age, and even though they were (and still are) more attuned to folk music than to pop/rock, they both knew the song and rapidly agreed.

Our fourth member, the owner of an astounding soprano voice, is twenty-seven, and she’d never heard the song. The other three of us gave it a quick run-through, and the other two folks decided that she’d handle the vocals on her own, with me on the piano. The next day, I emailed her a lyric sheet and an mp3 of the original version of the tune.

We got together last evening to practice, and after struggling a bit with the start of the vocals after the long piano introduction – we adjusted the vocal entry place from where the transcription showed it (and I have a suspicion that the transcription might have been wrong, which I may or may not check out) – we worked through it enough to feel comfortable performing it this coming Sunday. Sadly, we know no one who plays the flute, or we’d have the flute solo following the vocal, as the original recording does.

As we took a brief break, I told my young colleague that in 1970, “Colour My World” was pretty much inescapable. “It’s the sound of probably a million weddings during the early Seventies,” I said. And then I told her of my connection to the song from back then.

I got the album – with the song tucked into the middle of the long suite “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” – in 1970, and a year later, as my piano-playing ambitions grew, I bought the songbook for the album and learned to play most of that long suite pretty well. “Colour My World,” I could nail.

Then, in the autumn of 1971, during my freshman year at St. Cloud State, the guys I knew who lived in Stearns Hall – a men’s dorm – would on occasion walk over to nearby Holes Hall and hang out in the first floor lounge, hoping of course to connect with some of the young women who lived there. There was a piano in the lounge, and on those occasions when I was with the guys and the piano bench was open, I’d sit down and play.

And, I said last night to my young friend’s chuckles, of all the pieces I played during that long-ago autumn, “There was no better chick magnet than ‘Colour My World’.”

Saturday Single No. 676

February 8th, 2020

It’s not a nice round number, but we’re going to back fifty-three years today, to February of 1967. I was thirteen, and it was about this time that I had my tonsils out and spent about a week home from school. I remember eating a fair amount of ice cream and sipping a good quantity of broth, sometimes beef, sometimes chicken.

And I recall lugging our brown and gold AM radio from the kitchen up to my room every morning after Dad had headed off to work. I’d park it on my bedside table and read while Minneapolis’ WCCO offered its combination of talk and middle-of-the-road music. When Arthur Godfrey’s show came on at 10 a.m., I’d retune the radio to KDWB, one of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, and listen to records that I didn’t really know or appreciate yet. When I knew Godfrey was done for the day, I’d head back to WCCO where the middle of the road welcomed me again.

I was an easy listening kid.

So what was in the Billboard Easy Listening top ten during the second week of February 1967? Take a look:

“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames
“Music To Watch Girls By” by the Bob Crewe Generation
“Wish Me A Rainbow” by the Gunter Kallmann Chorus
“Lady” by Jack Jones
“All” by James Darren
“Sweet Maria” by the Billy Vaughn Singers
“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers
“I’ll Take Care Of Your Cares” by Frankie Laine
“Sunrise, Sunset” by Roger Williams
“What Makes It Happen” by Tony Bennett

I recall without prompting the records by Ames, the Bob Crewe Generation, the Seekers and Williams. (I’ll note here that seeing the Ames single listed here reminds me of a piece by my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. It remains the best thing I’ve ever read about “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

The others? Well, we’re going to make a visit to YouTube to see if some melodies jog my memory.

I don’t recall and truly do not like “Wish Me A Rainbow,” which came from the film This Property Is Condemned, the title of which is only vaguely familiar to me. Nor does the Jack Jones record click for me (though I like it a little).

The James Darren record, though, sounds familiar, and it’s something that I would have liked as a thirteen-year-old: romantic with a pretty instrumental arrangement and lush voices in the background. (The video I checked out shows the cover of the LP from which “All” came, and I’m amused to see from the cover that Darren also recorded “Georgy Girl,” “Lady,” and “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

I have about sixty tracks by Vaughn on the digital shelves, but “Sweet Maria” is not one of them, but it sounds familiar, so who knows? And I have no memory of the records by Laine or Bennett, although I do like them, along with most of this top ten. Taken together, they sound exactly like what my 1967 sounded like.

But let’s play some Games With Numbers, taking today’s date 2-8-20 and making that into 30, and then look at the No. 30 record on that long-ago Easy Listening chart. And we find “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by Jane Morgan, who was an occasional presence on both the Easy Listening chart (from 1965 to 1968) and the Hot 100 (from 1956 to 1967).

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” would go no higher on the Easy Listening chart during a nine-week stay, and it was the last record Morgan placed in or near the Hot 100, as it bubbled under at No. 121. It’s an okay record, but it’s not at all familiar and I doubt I’d have liked it in 1967, but that’s the way things go. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Delia’s Gone . . .’

February 4th, 2020

Who was Delia?

Her name was Delia Green. Here’s part of what Wikipedia has to say about her:

Delia Green (1886 – December 25, 1900) was a 14-year-old African-American murder victim who has been identified as the likely inspiration for several well-known traditional American songs, usually known by the titles “Delia” and “Delia’s Gone.”

According to contemporaneous reports published in Georgia newspapers, Green was shot by 15-year-old Mose (or Moses) Houston late on Christmas Eve, 1900, in the Yamacraw neighborhood of Savannah, Georgia, and died at 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Day. Houston, the newspapers implied, had been involved in a sexual relationship with Green for several months. The shooting took place at the home of Willie West, who chased down Houston after the shooting and turned him over to the city police.

Green’s murder and Houston’s trial in the spring of 1901 were reported in the Savannah Morning News and the Savannah Evening Press. Although Houston reportedly had confessed to the murder at the time of his arrest, at his trial he claimed the shooting was accidental. Other witnesses, however, testified that Houston had become angry after Green called him ‘a son of a bitch.”

Green was buried in an unmarked grave in Laurel Grove Cemetery South in Savannah.

The earliest recorded version of any of the songs inspired by Green’s fate is listed at Second Hand Songs as “Delhia,” a 1939 Decca recording by Jimmie Gordon and His Vip Vop Band. I wouldn’t be startled if there were earlier recordings. (Wikipedia notes that in 1928, folklorist Robert Winslow Gordon reported to the Library of Congress that he had traced the songs back to a murder in Savannah and that he had interviewed both Green’s mother and the police officer who took Houston into custody.)

Johnny Cash recorded “Delia’s Gone” in 1962 for the album The Sound Of Johnny Cash and re-recorded the song in 1993 for the album American Recordings. Here’s how he told the tale the second time:

Delia, oh, Delia
Delia all my life
If I hadn’t shot poor Delia
I’d have had her for my wife
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

I went up to Memphis
And I met Delia there
Found her in her parlor
And I tied her to her chair
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

She was low-down and trifling
And she was cold and mean
Kind of evil make me want to
Grab my sub-machine
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

First time I shot her
I shot her in the side
Hard to watch her suffer
But with the second shot she died
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

But jailer, oh, jailer
Jailer, I can’t sleep
’Cause all around my bedside
I hear the patter of Delia’s feet
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

So if your woman’s devilish
You can let her run
Or you can bring her down and do her
Like Delia got done
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone
Delia’s gone, one more round
Delia’s gone

Saturday Single No. 675

February 1st, 2020

It was about this time thirteen years ago that I figured out what I wanted to do with this blog. I’d spent about a month ripping records from my collection to mp3s, then posting them at the blog’s first location, first without much commentary at all, and then, pulling comments from places like All-Music Guide.

After a few weeks, I began writing my own commentary, but it was limited. And then, right around February 1, 2007, I began to write about how I got my records over the years, how it felt when listening to them, and also about the life I’d lived while hearing the music and how the music had affected that life.

And I was off, doing finally what I’d hoped to do when I set up housekeeping on the Web. Over these thirteen years, the tales have dwindled and become generally less interesting (one runs out of tales eventually and does not want to be Old Uncle Walter, who tells the same war stories every time you see him at a family reunion). Thus, my posts have become more reliant than I might like on record charts and radio station surveys and the shelves full of books that this hobby has led me to collect.

I’m sure there are more stories inside that will interest me if no one else, and there’s always the music, so this blog – to quote Bob Dylan – ain’t goin’ nowhere. I just hope that the folks who stop by here for whatever entertainment they may gain continue to do so.

So another year starts. Thanks for stopping by through the years gone by.

With that, I offer (with some minor revisions) a piece I first posted here almost thirteen years ago as Saturday Single No. 1, accompanied by a video of one of the first tracks I ripped from vinyl:

All Music Guide makes a trenchant observation in its overview of Cris Williamson and her music: It notes that trying to assess Williamson and her place in popular music is like trying to assess those athletes who played Negro League baseball before Jackie Robinson began the integration of major league baseball in 1947: We can never really know what might have been.

That’s because Williamson was one of the first – possibly the first – musician to state clearly that she was gay. And she did it in the early 1970s, when doing so scared away major labels that otherwise would likely have scooped her up in the hubbub of the singer-songwriter boom and happily mass-marketed her literate, thoughtful and often lovely music.

Even as her music has never reached as wide an audience as it deserves, Williamson – born in Deadwood, S.D., in, oddly enough, the Jackie Robinson year of 1947 – has made the proverbial lemonade: She, along with a few other pioneers like Meg Christian and Margie Adam (and Holly Near, who should have been mentioned in the original post), created through their recordings and performances the genre of music that became known as Women’s Music (which, if it originated today, would likely be clustered in with folk music, which is the category in record stores where I’ve found the Williamson albums I own). Recording on Olivia Records – which released thirteen of her albums, including The Changer and the Changed, quite likely her best and most influential record – and then on her own Wolf Moon label, Williamson has been a consistently good, sometimes great and always listenable musician.

AMG wonders, and I do too: What would her career have been like had she come along twenty years later, at a time when top-rank performers like the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge could openly proclaim their orientations without losing their mass audiences? We can’t answer that, of course. As a friend of mine once told me during a conversation about roads not taken, we’ll never know what didn’t happen.

But there is the music, a body of excellent work (on nearly thirty albums) that deserves more notice than it gets. In that body of work is today’s Saturday Single, the song “Like An Island Rising” from Williamson’s 1982 release, Blue Rider.

Like any listener, I have songs that move me in various ways, including a whole box-set’s-worth of tunes that move me to tears. Some of those are linked to people and times now gone; others touch me simply because they do. “Like An Island Rising” is one of the latter. Whenever I hear it, from the first time after a garage sale purchase in 1998 through my listening to it again this morning, it dives deeply into me. And I find myself pondering once more the line that seems to me to be at the song’s heart:

“Sweet miracles can come between the cradle and the grave.”

Yes, they can. Just listen.

‘There’s Really Nothing To It . . .’

January 30th, 2020

We started the month (and new year) digging into some charts from 1970, and I have a sense that for the next 336 days, we’ll be in that year a lot, first because it’s a nice round fifty years ago, and second, because it was – as ya’ll know if you’ve been taking notes – one of my favorite years for music.

This morning, we’re going to look at what was hot on the Twin Cities’ KDWB as January turned the corner into February that year. Here’s the top ten from the station’s “6+30” survey that was released on February 2, 1970:

“Venus” by the Shocking Blue
“Arizona” by Mark Lindsay
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” by Dionne Warwick
“Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin
“Jam Up, Jelly Tight” by Tommy Roe
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” by Sly & The Family Stone
“Don’t Cry, Daddy” by Elvis Presley
“No Time” by the Guess Who
“Early In The Morning” by Vanity Fare

That’s a decent forty or so minutes of listening. I truly like eight of those ten, having always had some mild dislike for the Tommy Roe and Elvis records. If I were hearing them in my room at home, they’d give me a good opportunity to wander downstairs and get another glass of juice or something. But the other eight were fine.

(And as I look at those ten, I see a heck of a segue, if one were counting up, from “Whole Lotta Love” to “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again.”)

Back then, my favorites from this bunch were probably “Arizona” and “No Time.” Thoughts of the Mark Lindsay record don’t put me in any specific place, but I always perked up a bit when it came on the radio.

As to “No Time,” my clearest memory of the record comes from a drive back to St. Cloud from the Cities after watching the Minnesota North Stars play the Montreal Canadiens to a 1-1 tie. I was with Rick and Rob and a friend of Rob’s, and we had just left what was then the northwestern limits of urban growth and were driving through farmland that in the next twenty years would become suburban subdivisions. “No Time” came on KDWB, and I recall letting the sound of the introductory guitar riff wash over me as I looked out and saw the moon high over the barren wintertime fields.

(I’ve always put that memory into early February, and a quick bit of digging at the Hockey Reference site verifies that: The Stars and the Habs played to a 1-1 tie on February 7, 1970, just a day after Rick turned sixteen.)

Just because we regularly check, we’re going to see how many of those records are in the iPod and thus still a part of my day-to-day listening. It turns out that the only tracks missing are those by Tommy Roe, Sly & The Family Stone and Elvis, just as I likely would have guessed. (So will “Thank You [Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again]” find its way into the iPod? Maybe.)

And from here, we’ll play some Games With Numbers, taking today’s date – 1/30/20 – and take a look at the No. 20 and No. 30 records in that long-ago 6+30. Sitting at No. 20 is a double-sided single by Creedence Clearwater Revival that I liked fairly well, depending on my mood at the moment. If I felt like bopping, I’d want to hear “Traveling Band.” If I were being reflective, the flip side, “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” would do well. I liked both records fifty years ago and still do. (Both are in the iPod.)

And at No. 30, we find another record I like, one that I recall hearing on KDWB but not very often. It must have made an impression, though, because when I ran across it years later – either during the vinyl madness of the 1990s or during my time in the early 2000s digging through blogs and boards – it was happily familiar. It’s Jefferson’s “Baby, Take Me In Your Arms,” and it, too, has a place in the iPod. And I still love the tympani introduction.