‘Summer’

August 24th, 2016

There are about 500 tracks in the RealPlayer that have “summer” in their titles, and come next week, I’m going to sort through them for my favorites. This week, however, the Texas Gal and I are preparing for our Biennial End Of Summer Picnic, which takes place this coming Sunday. And I have plenty to do.

So this post will have to suffice for this week, and I’ll be back next week with an account of this year’s festivities and with – as promised above – some tunes about summer. In the meantime, here’s Chris Rea with an appropriately titled – and typically moody – track: “Looking For The Summer.” It’s from his 1991 album Auberge.

Saturday Single No. 507

August 20th, 2016

There’s been some hoopla in recent weeks about the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ Revolver album. (And it’s been deserved hoopla at that: I’d put Revolver second among the Beatles’ oeuvre behind only Abbey Road and somewhere in the top dozen of the greatest albums of all time.) So I thought I’d check a few radio station surveys from August 20, 1966, and see what a few of the hits were fifty years ago today, when kids who bought Revolver the day it came our had been listening to it for a couple weeks.

(Of course, American kids were listening to an abridged and diminished version of the album, as Capitol sliced three tracks from the album and scrambled the original order of the ones remaining, which means that most listeners in the U.S. didn’t hear the album as it was originally envisioned until the group’s catalog was reissued on CD.)

So what was on the radio fifty years ago, based on a limited look? We’ll check out three station surveys and look at No. 8 and No. 20 (based on today’s date) and also take a look at No. 1.

First up is the WCTC Sound Survey out of New Brunswick, New Jersey, not all that far from New York City. The No. 8 record there was Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” which at the time was sitting at No. 10 in the Billboard Hot 100. At No. 20 in New Brunswick was the Mamas & The Papas’ “I Saw Her Again,” which Billboard had at No. 24. The No. 1 record on the Sound Survey fifty years ago today was the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City,” which also topped the Hot 100.

Not far away from me during that week fifty years ago – about 140 miles – WEBC in Duluth, Minnesota, offered “The Northland’s Original and Only Fabulous Forty Survey.” Parked at No. 8 was “Somewhere, My Love” by the Ray Conniff Singers (No. 19 in the Hot 100), while the No. 20 record on WEBC was Bryan Hyland’s “The Joker Went Wild” (No. 21). The top record in the Northland during that long-ago week was “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs (No. 3 in the Hot 100).

In southern California, some listeners were taking their cues from the KIST List sent out by KIST of Santa Barbara. Sitting at No. 8 in the KIST List that week was “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers (No. 27 in the Hot 100), while the No. 20 spot was occupied by “Tar & Cement” by Verdelle Smith (No. 38). The No. 1 record on KIST fifty years ago today was “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five, which would not enter the Hot 100 for another three weeks.

Looking at the three records from those three surveys brings something that’s rare and possibly unique. Usually, when I do these survey digging posts, I have some repeat records listed among the three to five stations I choose pretty much by whim. Today, we have nine different records. I don’t think that’s happened before, but if it has, it’s been rare.

We usually drop the No. 1 records, but I’m pretty impressed with the folks at KIST, who had “Psychotic Reaction” at No. 1 before it entered the Hot 100, so that one will be considered for today’s spotlight. Among the other eight records, most are familiar. I don’t remember hearing Hyland’s “The Joker Went Wild” before today, and I thought it was pretty slight. The rest I know, most of them well. The least-known of those in these precincts is probably “Tar & Cement.”

And there’s something else to consider this morning: In more than ten years of blogging about popular music, I have never once until today mentioned either Verdelle Smith or Count Five. And given that I want something with a little more bite to it this morning, here’s “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five, today’s Saturday Single.

‘Let Me Tell The Story . . .’

August 19th, 2016

I was pondering this morning the transition during the 1960s of the place of record albums: If you look at the weekly Top Ten in the Billboard 200 from 1963 to, oh, 1969, you’ll see the top-selling albums went from being mostly the province of folk, easy listening and soundtracks to the land of pop, rock, R&B and soul.

That in itself is pretty old news, and I was trying to cobble together something interesting by comparing the top ten album charts from mid-August of 1963, 1966 and 1969. But as I examined the top ten albums from this week in 1963, I got sidetracked.

The top album that week was Little Stevie Wonder/The 12 Year Old Genius but as I had expected, most of the albums listed – seven of the ten – were soundtracks, comedy, folk or easy listening. One of the other exceptions was the immortal Live At The Apollo by James Brown.

The third outlier was Shut Down, a collection released by Capitol of tunes mostly about cars and motorcycles by various artists. That album offered two tracks by the Beach Boys, a bunch of tracks by groups with short shelf lives (the best of those might be the “Brontosaurus Stomp” by the Piltdown Men) and one track from actor Robert Mitchum. And it was that last track that grabbed my attention. Here’s “The Ballad of Thunder Road” by Robert Mitchum:

The scenes used in the video are from the 1958 film Thunder Road, which Mitchum co-wrote and produced (and perhaps partly directed, according to Wikipedia). Mitchum also co-wrote – with Don Raye – the song. But Mitchum’s version was not used in the movie. Instead, a folky version of the tune was recorded for the movie by Randy Sparks, who a few years later would be the founder of the New Christy Minstrels. Here’s Sparks’ version of the tune, which was titled “The Whippoorwill.”

As “The Ballad of Thunder Road,” Mitchum’s version of the theme was released as a single in 1958 and went to No. 62 in the Billboard Hot 100. Capitol tried again in early 1962, and the single topped out at No. 65. And then it showed up in 1963 on Shut Down, which was at its peak at No. 7 in that Billboard album chart from this week in 1963. (Mitchum would hit the Hot 100 one more time: “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me” went to No. 96 during the summer of 1967.)

As to the 1958 movie, I’ve read in various places that it’s a cult classic, and beyond Mitchum’s single, it does have a place in music history: During a 1978 concert, Bruce Springsteen said that the poster for the film was the source of the title for his song “Thunder Road” although Springsteen evidently never saw the movie.

And all of that is enough for today.

‘Manifest Destiny’

August 17th, 2016

The current book on the reading table is Measuring America, Andro Linklater’s account of how surveyors, land agents, speculators, squatters and others moved west across North America from the late 1700s onward.

The tale of what Linklater calls “the greatest land sale in history” covers the long development of tools of measurement, looking at how a pound became a pound, an acre became an acre, and so on; the development of the idea of private citizens, rather than the Crown, owning land; the creation, in most of the United States, of the grid system that anchors many states, cities and individual lots of property; and the long sad tale of the dispossession of North America’s native cultures.

It was during Linklater’s discussion of the outcome of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 that I came across the two words that reminded me of sixth grade social studies at Lincoln Elementary School just down a couple streets from here: “manifest destiny.” I learned the words during that sixth grade school year of 1964-65, and we in my class – every one of us Caucasian – learned that those words were somehow tied to the expansion of the United States from an Atlantic seaboard nation to a trans-continental empire.

I don’t know if any of us grasped what the words really meant or what they implied. I was a smart kid, and I think I had a handle on “destiny,” meaning something foreordained, but I don’t think I really knew what the word “manifest” meant, and I don’t recall that our teacher, Miss Hulteen, ever defined it for us. Google tells me this morning that the word means “clear or obvious to the eye or mind.”

In Measuring America, Linklater notes that the two-word phrase came from John L. O’Sullivan, who said that it was the United States’ “manifest destiny to overspread the continent.” As Wikipedia notes, O’Sullivan first used the words in the July-August 1845 edition of his magazine Democratic Review during the discussion over the potential annexation of Texas. The two-word phrase came to wider attention when O’Sullivan used it in a column in the December 27, 1845, edition of the New York Morning News. In that piece, O’Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in what was called the Oregon Country:

And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

Okay, so I didn’t need all of that in sixth grade, but it would have been helpful if our teacher had interpreted the words for us, helping us understand that they reflected the mid-Nineteenth Century belief that the nation was clearly meant to stretch from Atlantic to Pacific. And it would have been even better, of course, had she told us that the implementation of that idea, the expansion of the United States across the continent from the already settled eastern portions, would continue the dispossession and destruction of native cultures that began soon after Caucasians first came ashore.

We didn’t get any of that, not even a clarifying definition. And of course, relatively few people in 1964-65 were thinking about imperialism or the fate of Native American cultures, and certainly none of them were in the classrooms of Lincoln Elementary School. I have a sense that the story of the westward expansion of the United States is told at least a little differently in schools these days. And that’s good.

Here’s “The Indian Prayer” by Richie Havens. Written by Roland Vargas Moussaa and Tom Pacheco, it’s from Havens’ 1974 album Mixed Bag II. Knowing at least a little bit about Havens’ and Pacheco’s world-views, I would guess that the song’s purpose was to offer respect to the Native Americans whose similar prayers in previous centuries were not answered in any affirmative way.

Saturday Single No. 506

August 13th, 2016

The news came in last evening: Glenn Yarbrough, folk singer, member of the folk trio the Limeliters, and featured performer on the turntable in the rec room of my youth, passed on yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 86.

Yarbrough was never a superstar in the world of music. He was, though, a bright light in the folk universe. With the Limeliters from 1959 to 1963 and then on his own, he was a folk singer who became a gentle interpreter of music ranging from Rod McKuen’s sentimental poetry to songs from some of the great popular songwriters of the rock era.

And the glow of Yarbrough’s light mattered to me. As I’ve noted a few times over the years, Yarbrough entered my life when my sister’s Vietnam-bound boyfriend left her two of Yarbrough’s albums in 1968: The Lonely Things, a 1966 collection of McKuen’s sad (and sometimes manipulative) songs, and For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, a 1967 album on which Yarbrough interpreted songs by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, and Phil Ochs, among others. I likely listened to them more than she did, and the two albums became part of who I am to this day; they remain a central portion of my musical universe, a universe that nearly fifty years ago had very little congruence with the musical universes of those with whom I went to school and shared my day-to-day life.

It’s hard to be different, of course, and when I was fifteen, I felt utterly out of place in the world of high school games (not realizing for many years, of course, that nearly every one of the others who crowded the halls of St. Cloud Tech High School felt utterly out of place as well). One of the balms for me in those years was the music on those two Yarbrough albums; as their music filled the basement rec room, it filled as well some of the empty space inside me. From early 1968 to mid-1972 (when my sister got married and moved to the Twin Cities, taking her records with her), those two albums were never far from what these days we would call my playlist.

When I was lovelorn, there was “The Lonely Things,” the title tune of the album of McKuen’s work; the same record at those moments offered sad solace with “People Change” and “So Long, San Francisco.” When I was hopeful, the For Emily . . . album supported my dreams of a special someone with “Gently Here Beside Me” (written by the duo of Marc Fontenoy and Anne Saray), mixed with the romantic but hard-edged realism of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go.” Those left me with a view of romance that was certainly less sappy and also less cynical than McKuen’s view, even with that latter view filtered through Yarbrough’s clear, sweet tenor voice.

After my sister left with her records, it took me some time to find good copies of those two albums (and the rest of her relatively small collection, as well), but fairly clean copies of the two Yarbrough albums of my youth now sit in the LP stacks, joined by about ten more of the singer’s albums (and they will all survive the winnowing process currently underway), and I have CDs of those first two as well.

Individual tracks from those CDs – or from several other Yarbrough albums – pop up occasionally when I have the RealPlayer on random, and all of For Emily . . . and The Lonely Things are among the mix on the iPod, as is Yarbrough’s only Top 40 hit, “Baby The Rain Must Fall,” which went to No. 12 in 1965 (and went to No. 2 on the Billboard chart now called Adult Contemporary). When the tracks slide in at random, they’re a sometimes bittersweet reminder of a time and place that had a great deal to do with forming the person I see in the mirror each morning.

And when on occasion, I put one of the two CDs – For Emily . . . or The Lonely Things – into the bedside player as I retire, I’m almost always transported back nearly fifty years to the times when an uncertain teen found comfort and some counsel in the work of a gentle man who ended a portion of his journey through time yesterday. In those late-night moments, I’m grateful to Yarbrough as I have been for decades, grateful for that comfort and counsel. I’m sure I was not alone in finding those things in Yarbrough’s music over the years, just as I’m sure that many – maybe even millions – share my sorrow this morning.

“All my world, somehow changing,” Yarbrough sang on “Comes and Goes” from For Emily . . . “Could it be all things pass into time?” He knew, of course, the answer to that rhetorical question, for the song (written by Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley) ends, “Helpless but thankful am I, for I know that it’s just one more change when I die.”

To mark, to celebrate, and to grieve that “one more change,” Glenn Yarbrough’s “Comes and Goes” – found on the 1967 album For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her – is today’s Saturday Single.

Laying Low

August 12th, 2016

Well, it’s a third of the way into August, and I have a summer cold. I’ve laid low for a few days, heading out only to take in a St. Cloud Rox baseball game last evening with Rob and his sister Mary Ellen. And I’ll head out in a while to run an errand or two for my mom and to stock up on decongestants.

And tomorrow, I’ll be back with a Saturday Single.

But for now, I’m going to leave you with a catchy tune that I utterly ignored during the summer of 1984 as I wended my way through grad school. Its title expresses how I feel today about this season, and as I listen to it, I find myself wondering once more why so much music from the 1980s now seems so much better than I thought it was at the time. I’ll probably never figure that out.

Anyway, here’s “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama, which went to No. 9 during the late summer of 1984.

‘Thunder’

August 10th, 2016

Well, it’s seven in the morning and the weather forecast calls for a sunny day with no chance of precipitation. But it’s darker than December outside, the thunder is rumbling, and the weather radar shows a green blob with yellow highlights heading this way from the northwest.

But that’s not ruining my day. Instead, it moves me to offer a random selection from the RealPlayer, where the tracks on the digital shelves now total more than 89,000. (I have about the same amount of music from various sources – friends, libraries, dark corners of the ’Net – sitting unsorted in folders on my external hard drive. If I were so inclined, I could work on sorting and tagging that for days.)

Anyway, here are three about thunder:

First up is “Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder)” from the Brian Setzer Orchestra. One of the first CDs I owned – obtained through a record club in 1999 – was the group’s 1998 effort The Dirty Boogie, which featured a cover of Louis Prima’s “Jump Jive an’ Wail” that went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The album itself went to No. 9 on the Billboard 200.) After a while, I tired of the group’s work and traded the CD for something else; Setzer’s approach to the jump blues he so obviously loves didn’t – for some reason – settle into my system well. “Drive Like Lightning” is from the group’s 2000 album Vavoom!, and it’s got a sound more rooted in a mythical late 1950s aesthetic (with some 1960s surf guitar tossed in), and like 1940s jump blues, that’s another interesting place to be. But even though I have a fair amount of music by the former Stray Cat front man and his group on the digital shelves – including another copy of The Dirty Boogie – Setzer’s work remains only of passing interest to me. Whenever I listen to more than one track at a time, I get the sense that Setzer and his mates are more interested in mugging at the audience than focusing on the groove.

From there, we bounce back to the late 1970s and some sessions that Bobbie Gentry did, evidently, for Warner Brothers. “Thunder In The Afternoon” and a few other tracks wound up on an early 1990s best-of release in the United Kingdom and were the subject of some discussion on a music board I stumbled upon about a year ago while putting together a post about Gentry’s version of Patti Dahlstrom’s “He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right.” Likely recorded in 1977, “Thunder In The Afternoon” fits in nicely with the rest of Gentry’s oeuvre, though perhaps with a little less tang than her Delta-tinged early stuff. The question of what happened to Bobbie Gentry is one that music fans and writers return to from time to time. One of the latest writers to take on the topic was Neely Tucker of the Washington Post. Tucker’s piece, from June of this year, includes this teasing passage near the top: “Gentry spoke to a reporter, for this story, apparently for the first time in three decades. We caution you not to get too excited about that. It’s one sentence. Could be two. Then she hung up.”

The track that made me focus on “thunder” in this morning’s exercise instead of “rain” is, happily, our third random track today: “You’ll Love The Thunder” by Jackson Browne. Found on Browne’s 1978 live album Running On Empty, the track has long been one of my favorite Browne tracks, certainly my favorite from the live album. I think I just got tired of hearing “Running On Empty” and “The Load-Out/Stay” when they were overplayed on radio back in 1978. (The title track went to No. 11, and “Stay” – with “The Load-Out” on the B-side – went to No. 20.) The track still seems fresh almost forty years after I first heard it, and – as happens every time one of Jackson Browne’s early pieces pops up – I think briefly that maybe I should dig more deeply into the music he’s done in recent years. But even minor excavations into Browne’s later work always seem to leave me luke-warm. Why? I dunno, and I no longer try to figure out why. I have better ways to spend my time, like cuing up “The Late Show” or “Here Come Those Tears Again” or even “That Girl Could Sing.” Or “You’ll Love The Thunder.”

The Other Ray Charles

August 5th, 2016

As has been noted here several times over the years, my dad wasn’t a big music fan. He’d listen to the radio some – mostly in his old 1952 Ford or when he was puttering at his workbench in the basement – with the dial tuned either to WCCO from the Twin Cities or to the country sounds of WVAL from nearby Sauk Rapids.

And after we got the portable RCA stereo in mid-1964 – it sat awkwardly on the floor in the living room or on a shelf in the dining room until the rec room in the basement was finished in 1967 – Dad bought a few records, but not many. When we cleared stuff out of the house on Kilian in 2004, I brought home fifty-some records, most of them classical recordings Dad got through the Musical Heritage Society, the ones he said that my sister and I would be glad to have someday. (He was right.)

Along with those came a number of easy listening albums, several of which I recalled clearly from the mid-1960s. I even knew where he bought them.

If you were to ask anyone who lived through the 1960s in St. Cloud where the center of downtown was, I’d guess most folks would answer “Dan Marsh Drugs.” Opened in the 1930s at the corner of St. Germain – St. Cloud’s equivalent of Main Street – and Sixth Avenue, Dan MarshDan Marsh Drugs cropped was where we – and a lot of other Cloudians – went for prescriptions and other health aids; for cigarettes and pipe tobacco and smoking accessories, for soap and perfume and similar sundries; for cameras, film and flashbulbs; for school supplies; for gifts for any occasion; and, especially after the store expanded in the mid-1960s, for Hallmark greeting cards and similar ephemera.

When you tired of shopping, you could grab refreshments in the coffee shop. (For decades, until the store closed during the 1980s, the coffee shop was also the place for many students from two nearby high schools – St. Cloud Tech and Cathedral – to gather after school for cherry cokes and French fries.)

And you could buy records there, too.

There weren’t a lot of LPs at Dan Marsh, and they were generally on what I’d consider second-line labels. I wrote long ago about Dad buying an album called Ringo at Dan Marsh, knowing I liked the Lorne Greene single; that album, and a couple others I remember, were on the Wyncote label. Another that I pulled off the shelf this morning – covers of themes from spy movies – was on the Design label.

And one day he brought home an album that sounded promising, titled Young Lovers In Far Away Places by the Ray Charles Singers, this one on the Somerset label. Now, I would have been eleven or twelve at the time, but for as little as I cared about pop music, I knew about Ray Charles. I’d likely seen him on television one time or another, and I although I couldn’t have identified his music as soul or R&B, I knew I liked what he did. So I was prepared to like the record.

(I already liked the jacket, with its minimalist design and the photo of the pretty and clearly sophisticated blonde giving her companion an unmistakably sultry look.)

Dad put the record on the stereo. The first track was “Far Away Places,” and it was soft and sweet with pretty voices and pretty backing and not at all what I would have expected – even with my limited musical awareness – from Ray Charles. And the whole record was like that, soft and pretty. I was confused, but I did nothing to clarify things. I just ignored the record. I doubt that I put it on the turntable again, or even thought much about it until Dad’s records came to me in 2004.

And then, as I went through Dad’s records, I looked at the jacket and the pretty blonde and the name of the group, and I nodded. By then, I’d become aware that there was another Ray Charles, one who wasn’t a soul and R&B singer but who was instead a songwriter, arranger and conductor, mostly for television. His Ray Charles Singers, according to Wikipedia, had performed on Perry Como’s television show (and on Como’s records, too), and began recording their own albums in 1959. “Due to advances in recording technology,” says Wikipedia, “they were able to create a softer sound than had been heard before and this was the birth of what has been called ‘easy listening’.”

Well, I think there were more midwives to the birth of easy listening than the Ray Charles Singers. I think of 101 Strings, formed in 1957, and of the Ray Conniff Singers, which began recording in 1959. Jackie Gleason’s orchestra was releasing records in the mid-1950s, and Mantovani’s recording career began in the late 1940s. And those are just off the top of my head. But there’s no doubt that the work of the other Ray Charles and his singers fit right into the easy listening music that a good chunk of the American public liked to hear at home.

And I like Young Lovers In Far Away Places today far more than I did in 1965. (And, of course, I still like the other Ray Charles, too, the one who sang “I’ve Got A Woman” and all that soul and R&B stuff.)

Here’s “Far Away Places” by the Ray Charles Singers.

‘Kill That Roach . . .’

August 3rd, 2016

I’ve dissected at least a couple of times the changes in my life during the summer of 1976 (here and here), a summer that is somehow now forty years in the past. I’ve written about how odd it felt at the start of that July to be living on the North Side of St. Cloud instead of my native East Side and about the questions and concerns that I carried along with my books and clothing as I moved from one side of the Mississippi River to the other.

And I’ve written about the music that brings back memories of that summer, reminders of that move and of my cramped room in my new home.

But one thing I didn’t really think about until very recently was the change in my music listening habits. When I was living at my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard, my music source was – and this is an estimate – half from my LPs in the basement rec room, not very many of them very recent, and half from radios and/or jukeboxes in various other places: my room, friends’ homes, various restaurants and bars and Atwood Center at St. Cloud State.

But when I moved across town, I left my LPs at Kilian Boulevard. Yeah, there was a turntable in the living room in my new place, and the three guys who were living there had some albums on the bricks and boards nearby. But I’d visited the place enough to know that – like many low-rent residences occupied by students in college towns across the country – our place had pretty much an open door policy. Security had never been a major concern.

Now, I don’t know how many LPs had walked out the door of the place on Seventeenth Avenue under the arms of sticky-fingered visitors over the couple of years I’d been visiting off and on. But until I had a better idea of how widely ajar the place’s open door actually was – I didn’t know how diligently the doors were locked or who else out there might have keys – I wasn’t going to bring my albums over and risk having them wander out the door.

(As the guys I knew moved out, the number of albums on the living room shelves diminished, and it wasn’t until quite late in my tenure on Seventeenth Avenue that I brought over from the East Side maybe ten of my favorite LPs, scrawling my name on the top right corner of the front cover of each of them.)

Until then, I listened to the radio, sometimes when hanging out in the living room with the other guys and with whatever company we had, and sometimes when closeted in my room with my two cats (and on frequent occasion, my girlfriend). The radio in the living room was likely tuned to the FM side of a local Top 40 station or maybe to the Twin Cities’ album rocker KQRS. The radio in my room was generally tuned to WCCO’s FM station, which played a quirky mix of music that’s not easy to describe.

(Regular reader Yah Shure explained it this way a few years ago: “WCCO-FM’s hybrid format was an attempt to create a younger, hipper, more music-intensive version of its full-service-giant parent AM, which wasn’t a bad plan for a market that hadn’t yet fully awakened to the existence of the FM band. It was a current-based blend of soft rock, MOR, pop, singer-songwriter . . . even a touch of jazz lite. The non-rock hits were well represented, but FM 103’s overall musical scope was pretty adventurous, with plenty of album cuts and untested singles that fit a particular ‘sound,’ whether they’d charted or not.”)

So all of that was what I heard during those months on the North Side, a mix of mostly current stuff. And of course, a great deal of music I might not have heard then has come to me since, so most of the records listed in the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1976, are familiar. It’s more fun these days, however, to look for the unfamiliar. So, dropping down to the bottom of the chart, the Bubbling Under section, I find at No. 109, the next-to-last spot on the chart, a record that I’m pretty certain I’d never heard until this morning

That’s not unusual; despite my best efforts, there’s a lot of music out there that’s popped into the charts that’s never reached these ears. But a look at Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles told me that there’s something remarkable about “Kill That Roach” by a Miami-based disco band called simply Miami.

What caught my eye about “Kill That Roach” this morning is that the record bubbled under the Hot 100 for thirteen weeks – all of August, September and October 1976 – and never got any higher than No. 103. Maybe I’m utterly sideways here, but I can’t imagine that too many records in the Hot 100 era bubbled under for that many weeks without breaking into the actual Hot 100.

It’s maybe nothing special, a dance record that’s in the same vein as many others of the time, but I wouldn’t have minded hearing it come out of the speaker late some night as my girlfriend and our cats kept me company on the North Side.

‘Open The Door, Richard . . .’

July 29th, 2016

Just to show that I’m upright – and to celebrate that there’s a working handle on the door of the Versa – I thought we’d consider Bob Dylan’s “Open The Door, Homer” as covered by Thunderclap Newman.

Best known for the No. 37 hit “Something In The Air,” which was used in the 1969 movie The Magic Christian, Thunderclap Newman was a group assembled by the Who’s Pete Townshend in what Wikipedia says was “a bid to showcase the talents of John ‘Speedy’ Keen, Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman and Jimmy McCulloch.” (Townshend played bass for the group under the name of Bijou Drains.)

“Open The Door, Homer” showed up on the group’s 1970 album Hollywood Dream. I love Newman’s herky-jerky piano solo, similar to the one he supplies on “Something In The Air.” And not being interested in digging even lightly into Dylanology today, I’ll just say that I don’t know why the song title is addressed to Homer when the lyrics address Richard.