Saturday Single No. 514

October 22nd, 2016

The top ten records in the Billboard Hot 100 that was released fifty years ago today – October 22, 1966 – make, with one exception, a great stretch of listening:

“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“96 Tears” by ? & The Mysterians
“Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Cherish” by the Association
“Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers
“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“See See Rider” by Eric Burdon & The Animals

Even though I was about three years away from rescuing my grandpa’s old RCA radio from the basement and listening to Top 40 every night, I knew most of those during my second month of eighth grade. I probably would not have recognized the Count Five record nor perhaps “See See Rider,” but I heard the others all around me and liked most of them although even then I thought that “Dandy” was pretty slight.

But as I often do when looking at a long-ago Hot 100, I’m going to head toward the bottom of the chart in search of something new or different (or at least forgotten). Way down at the bottom, bubbling under at No. 135, is “Clock” by Eddie Rambeau. When I saw that it was produced by Bob Crewe, I had hopes for it, but it’s pretty bland. It turns out that “Clock” was the last of five records that Rambeau got into or near the Hot 100; four of them did no more than bubble under, but his cover of “Concrete and Clay” went to No. 35 in the spring of 1965. (The original, by Unit Four plus Two, went to No. 28 the same week.)

Still in the Bubbling Under section, I see records by Don Covay, the Baja Marimba Band, Laura Nyro, Del Shannon, Bert Kaempfert, the Shirelles and the Chiffons. And I see two versions of “Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad),” one by Jerry Vale, whose name I recognize, and one by Paul Vance, whose name is new to me, as is the tune. As I expected, it’s a slow sad ballad; I might have found it moving when I was thirteen (and vainly besotted with a sweet blonde who sat near me in science class), but it’s not what I’m looking for today. Vale’s version peaked at No. 93 and Vance’s at No. 97; Vale’s version went to No. 5 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary.

In the records ranked from No. 80 to No. 99, I see a lot of familiar names – B.B. King, Brian Hyland, Lee Dorsey, Percy Sledge, the Standells, Bobby Bland, the O’Jays, James Carr and more – but not a lot of familiar records. Still, nothing much catches my attention, so we climb upward.

At No. 77, we find one of two versions in this chart of “The Wheel of Hurt,” this one by Al Martino, a regular in the charts from 1959 to 1977. I remember him best for his 1967 record “Mary in the Morning.” The other version of “The Wheel of Hurt” in the Hot 100 fifty years ago today was Margaret Whiting’s version at No. 68. I know Margaret Whiting’s name as one of the most successful female vocalists of the 1940s. “The Wheel of Hurt” was her most successful offering of ten charting or near-charting records in the Hot 100 era, going to No. 26 in the Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the AC chart. Martino’s version got to only No. 59 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 12 on the AC chart. Still I’m not pulled in, and we go up to the records ranking from Nos. 50 to 59.

Back in the Bubbling Under section, we passed Patti Page’s cover of “Almost Persuaded” sitting at No. 113. It would go no higher, but it’s worth noting because David Houston’s original version of the song was still in the Hot 100, sitting at No. 43 after peaking at No. 24. (Thinking about Houston’s record always reminds me of Leo Rau, the record and candy jobber who lived across the alley; in one of the boxes of records he passed on to me in the mid-1960s were several sleeves for the Houston single although I’m not sure I ever got a copy of the record.)

Also in the Hot 100 fifty years ago today was “Almost Persuaded No. 2,” a drunken-sounding satire of Houston’s record recorded by Sheb Wooley of “Purple People Eater” fame and released under the name of Ben Colder. It was one of five novelty sequels to popular country tunes credited to Colder; none did very well, with “Almost Persuaded No. 2” doing the best by reaching No. 58.

Then we reach No. 42, and we find a record that’s new to me and that I’m a little reluctant to write about. That’s not because it’s not a good one, but because seeing it in the chart makes me feel a little stupid. It’s a record I should have known about a long time ago, and my only defense is that I was thirteen when it was in the charts. Anyway, from what I see at oldiesloon, Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong” did not make the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB, which was the main St. Cloud source of Top 40 tunes in 1966, so I’m not sure where I could have heard it.

Lee’s record was heading up to No. 11, and, as I said, I should have known about it a long time ago, and not just because it’s a good record. I should have known about it because I should have tried to figure out years ago exactly what Golden Earring meant with the line “Brenda Lee is comin’ on strong” in the 1974 hit “Radar Love.” Well, confession is supposed to be good for the soul, and I’ll confess here that sometimes I’m an idiot.

And with that, here’s Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong,” today’s Saturday Single.

Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate

October 19th, 2016

So, last week Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And when the Swedish Academy made its announcement from Stockholm, Sweden, there was a wide range of reaction.

Lots of folks liked the idea. A bunch of folks didn’t, some saying that giving the Minnesota-born Dylan the honor stretched the definition of literature to something evidently unrecognizable and others saying that the award cheapened the integrity of rock as an art form. Or something like that.

And in probably the most Dylanesque act in nearly sixty years of being Bob Dylan, the singer-songwriter (or song-and-dance man, teller of wild tales or lots of others things as well) has so far – not quite a week after the honor was announced – made no public mention of the Nobel. In fact, according to a piece on the CNN website, the Academy said Dylan has not returned their calls.

Odd Zschiedrich, the administrative director of the Swedish Academy, talked to the news network on Tuesday, and said, “We have stopped trying – we said everything we needed to his manager and friend, he knows about us being eager having confirmation from him, but we haven’t heard anything back.”

Zschiedrich also told CNN: “We will have the ceremony as usual, he will have the prize even if he is not there. Now we are just waiting for information.”

My reaction? I was surprised by the award (but not by Dylan’s non-response). I’d read over the past several years that Dylan had been considered – or at least nominated – for the Nobel, but I’d also read that he was, in effect, a fringe candidate whose odds were not great. I was also delighted, as Dylan’s work – from the epics like “Desolation Row” and “Highlands” to even trifles like “Wiggle Wiggle” – has been a major portion of the soundtrack of my life and a sizeable influence on my writing and music.

I imagine there’s more I could say, but a look at the nearly 2,000 posts I’ve offered at this blog over the years probably says enough. I’ve written more frequently about Bob Dylan than about any other artist (with Bruce Springsteen, unsurprisingly, being a close second). And I’ll no doubt do so again as memories and music merge here.

The next-to-last thing I want to offer here today is a picture I scavenged from Facebook showing the utterly perfect message presented this week outside Hibbing High School on Minnesota’s Iron Range:


The last thing here today, of course, is music. For the last few days, I’ve been playing Dylan in the car as I make my way around town. Here’s one I heard yesterday: “Not Dark Yet” from the 1997 album Time Out of Mind.

Saturday Single No. 513

October 15th, 2016

Some of my favorite posts from nearly ten years of blogging here are meditations on autumn. Rather than try this morning to do what I’ve already done, I’m offering a post I wrote on the second day of October in 2010. Some of the things mentioned no longer apply: I am now sixty-three, this year’s mix of annuals was different, and neither the red nancy nor the bronze bugleweed we planted along the sidewalk ever flourished. Still, much of this piece applies yet:

Autumn is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end – the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-seven autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms.

Yesterday, October 1, marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I made my walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the way; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles and ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

And here is an early version of one of my favorite autumnal songs: Fairport Convention’s take on “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” written by its own Sandy Denny and included on Fairport’s 1969 album Unhalfbricking. I imagine this version has been posted here before, but it’s always worthy of a listen, so it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: October 12

October 12th, 2016

It’s time for some Games With Numbers. We’re going to take today’s date – 10-12-16 – and turn it into 38, and then we’ve going to see what was at No. 38 on some Billboard Hot 100 charts on October 12 from the years we like best around here, the 1960s and 1970s.

Because of the way the calendar works, we have only three charts to work with, those from 1963, 1968 and 1974. But that’s okay, because those three years are parked in very clear and different eras. Along the way, as well as listening to No. 38 from those three specific charts, we’ll check out the No. 1 singles from those weeks.

First up: October 12, 1963, a little less than four months before Beatlemania and the first British Invasion. So what was at No. 38 in that long-ago week? We find “The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” by the Raindrops. And it turns out that the Raindrops were only the song-writing team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (who were married at the time). Their credits include “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Chapel of Love,” “River Deep-Mountain High” and many, many more as a team and as individuals. Sadly, “The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” isn’t a classic. It was, however, the best-performing of the six records the Raindrops got into or near the Hot 100, peaking at No. 17. (Oddly, the record covers shown on the official videos for the Raindrops at YouTube show three members; I don’t know who the second woman is, and she’s not mentioned at Wikipedia or in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles.)

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 for October 12, 1963, was “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs.

Moving ahead to 1968, we find “Hold Me Tight” by Johnny Nash parked at No. 38. And that’s coincidental, as last evening, I was reviewing some long-ago posts and came across the 2008 post titled “First Friday: November 1968,” looking at the news and music of that month. The post had included a look at the Top 15 as the month began, and I had noted that Nash’s single – sitting at No. 8 by that time – was one I did not remember ever hearing. It’s still not all that familiar; it doesn’t say “1968” to me. But it’s a sweet reggae-influenced record, and it peaked at No. 5, making it the second-most successful single of Nash’s long career. (He placed twenty-three records in or near the Hot 100 over a span of nearly twenty years, from 1957 to 1976.) His most successful record, of course, was “I Can See Clearly Now,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 in November 1972.

Topping the Hot 100 during the second week of October 1968 was the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” in the third of its eventual nine weeks at No. 1.

Lastly, we look at the Hot 100 from October 12, 1974. The No. 38 record that week was one of my favorites from the year, “Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton. The Detroit native had first reached the charts in 1968 when he was 15 and “Competition Ain’t Nothin’” went to No. 75 (No. 36 on the R&B chart). “Everlasting Love” was by far the best-performing of Carlton’s singles, peaking at No. 6 (No. 11, R&B), and it’s one of those records that say “1974” to me, bringing back a welter of memories from that tumultuous autumn. I like it so much, in fact, that I’m tempted to resurrect the category of Jukebox Regrets and stuff it into the overcrowded Ultimate Jukebox I constructed back in 2010. But no; I’ll just make sure it’s in the iPod so it can show up sometime during one of my Dishwashing Music posts on Facebook.

The No. 1 record during this week in 1974 was Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You.”

Saturday Single No. 512

October 8th, 2016

As of this morning, the RealPlayer holds 89,711 clips, most of them music. (As I’ve noted before, I do keep about twenty spoken word clips in the player; most of those are dialogue from movies, as it amuses me to have, say, Dean Wormer from Animal House pop up between, oh, Hank Snow and Wishbone Ash to tell me, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”)

Over on the other side of the music systems here, the iPod currently has 3,649 tracks (or about 4 percent of the overall sorted and tagged files), most of those music as well. I added a few things to both players yesterday. When I add music, I add it into the alphabetical file folders that feed the RealPlayer first and then cherry-pick for the iPod, usually just grabbing a few tracks off a new album, but sometimes adding the entire new album.

Yesterday’s additions to the iPod included one new album, And Still I Rise by the Heritage Blues Orchestra, related to the quintet that Rob and I saw a couple of weeks ago at the nearby College of St. Benedict. On the CD, the basic quintet – which has three of the same musicians that we heard – is supplemented by horns, so the sound is not quite as spare, but the repertoire is the same and the music is very, very good. I also brought into the iPod this morning a few tunes by Rita Coolidge. I’d needed to listen to her version of “Fever” for a musical project scheduled for November, and I tossed a couple more tunes by the Delta Lady into the iPod at the same time.

Readers can see where this is going, I’m sure, given that it’s Saturday: I thought I’d see what five random tracks the iPod/iTunes throw to us this morning as a source for a featured single.

First up: “Lorena” by Jimmy LaFave, who’s shown up here a few times. The track came from a 2011 collection titled Dark River: Songs of the Civil War Era. “Lorena,” says Wikpedia, “is an antebellum song with Northern origins. The lyrics were written in 1856 by Rev. Henry D. L. Webster, after a broken engagement. He wrote a long poem about his fiancée but changed her name to ‘Lorena,’ an adaptation of ‘Lenore’ from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Raven.’ Henry Webster’s friend Joseph Philbrick Webster wrote the music, and the song was first published in Chicago in 1857.” Here’s the final verse:

It matters little now, Lorena,
The past is in the eternal past;
Our heads will soon lie low, Lorena,
Life’s tide is ebbing out so fast.
There is a Future! O, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part!
’Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;
But there, up there, ’tis heart to heart.

From there, we jump to The Band and “Right As Rain,” a track from the group’s final 1970s studio album, Islands, from 1977. The album was seen as a contract-closer, packaged by the group for Capitol so that the group’s grand finale as envisioned by Robbie Robertson, The Last Waltz, could be released on Warner Bros. Islands isn’t a great album, by any means, landing far away from the quality of The Band’s first two albums. But it’s always going to sit on my shelves as part of the oeuvre of one of my favorite groups, and “Right As Rain” was probably the best track on the album.

The third spot this morning falls to “The Road,” the second track to the second album by the group that started as Chicago Transit Authority. Often called Chicago II, the silver-covered double album is actually just titled Chicago, as the group changed its name when the real Chicago Transit Authority balked at sharing the name. “The Road” is a decent horn-driven track, but it’s one that I have a hard time assessing critically: Chicago was one of the first two rock albums I bought with my own money, yearning for “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon,” the nearly side-long suite I’d heard via a cassette taped from the Twin Cities’ KQRS. When I got the album, I restrained myself from jumping immediately to Side Two and started at the top. Thus, “The Road” was one of the first tracks I heard when the album was mine, and although the suite that begins with “Make Me Smile” will always be my favorite Chicago piece, “The Road” reminds me of those long-ago days when I began to explore rock beyond what I was hearing on Top 40 radio. That means I love the track and am likely deaf to whatever its drawbacks may be.

Speaking of Top 40, we’ll slide back a few years from Chicago to 1967 and one of the singles that even a dorkish ninth-grader who listened to Al Hirt knew about: “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band. The record – with its title gently mocking the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” – popped into the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1967 and spent sixteen weeks in the chart, two of them at No. 1. And this morning, even with the sound turned off for a few moments to focus on writing, I can hear every turn of the record in my head, meaning that I’ve either listened to it too many times over the course of these forty-nine years or it’s a brilliantly constructed and produced pop record. I vote for the latter.

And we close our brief trek with a track from Tower of Power that carries with it potent memories both good and bad. “So Very Hard To Go” by Tower of Power was one of the songs that I played during my days with Jake’s band out in Eden Prairie back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Found on the 1973 Tower of Power album, the classic ToP track – it went to No. 17 on the Hot 100 and to No 11 on the Billboard R&B chart – reminds me of the joy and camaraderie I found playing with Jake and the guys, but it also reminds me of the grief I felt when Jake and the guys decided they could move on without me. As I wrote some years ago, I’ve consciously forgiven Jake and the guys for that rejection, but some days I’m still vulnerable to those memories and the feelings they evoke. This is one of those days.

So. My head says “Lorena,” but my heart, well, it calls for Tower of Power. Both songs, of course, are bittersweet, and it should be no surprise that I love that flavor. “Lorena” is lovely, and maybe we’ll get back to LaFave’s version of it someday, but this morning, it’s Tower of Power that pulls me in, and that’s why – even though it was featured here a few years ago – the 1973 track “So Very Hard To Go” is today’s Saturday Single.

Back To Sipping Wine

October 5th, 2016

A couple of interesting comments showed up on older posts here late last month. We’ll look at one today and the other later this week. The first was from Shane Valcich, adding a thought or two to a couple of posts from a little more than a year ago

In those posts – they’re here and here – I looked at a seeming contradiction – or mistake – in the titling and crediting one of my favorite tunes from the 1970s. I first knew the tune as “Sip The Wine,” written by Rick Danko and included on his self-titled 1977 album, and I wrote about how that tune and that album had provided some evening comfort and a sense of home for me as I settled into a couple of new apartments in Columbia, Missouri, in the late summer of 1990:

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

A couple of days later, after the random function on the RealPlayer alerted me, I wrote about the same song being released in 1972 – five years earlier than Danko’s release – by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth under the title “I Want To Lay Down Beside You.” Credited to musician and songwriter Tim Drummond, the track was on the album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth:

Digging into the contradiction, I made the assumption that Drummond was the songwriter and some type of error resulted in its being credited to Danko in 1977. But in the comment Shane left at the second post, he noted that it might have been the other way around. Here’s his comment, edited slightly.

Just a theory but I wonder if the error isn’t on the 1972 album.

Seems more likely that Rick wasn’t paying attention, didn’t care or gave away the song credits to Tim Drummond for the 1972 release. Rick was busy and highly successful in the early 70s with the Band and touring with Bob Dylan in 1974.

Seems less likely that Tim Drummond would get credit for playing bass on two tracks on Rick’s [1977] album while losing out on the higher paying writing credits for “Sip the Wine” on the same album, all while in a far less hectic time period when these musicians were all starting to decline in popularity and were looking for credit and royalties. Also he is properly credited for tons of writing and performing.

But inversely, maybe Tim’s success resulted in him giving the credit to Rick for his debut album seeing that Rick’s popularity may have been in more jeopardy than Tim’s. Or he was so busy he didn’t care or notice.

I will just have to head down to visit Rick’s grave in Woodstock and ask him while I smoke a joint with his spirit.

If Danko has any guidance for Shane from beyond the veil, I hope Shane shares it here.

Saturday Single No. 511

October 1st, 2016

I’ve dithered long enough this morning, sitting here at the computer, looking vainly through Billboard charts and glaring at white space on the screen. Ideas come and go, none of them growing into fruit.

So I’m turning this morning’s exercise over to Odd and Pop. Odd’s instructions are to look at the Hot 100 (and its Bubbling Under section) from this week in 1970, our favorite radio year, and find the strangest title he can.

Pop’s job at that point is to tell us what he knows about the record.

And my job is to put it up on the website. So here we go.

Odd reports that he started at the bottom of the Bubbling Under section, thinking that less familiar titles might sound stranger than familiar ones. After all, he notes, “Many strange titles, like ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ for instance, no longer seem strange because we’ve known them for years.” (Pop interrupts, as he tends to do, to say that even though the Iron Butterfly single is clumsily edited, it works much better than the sleep-inducing album track.)

Odd pulls us back on track. Three titles stand out for weirdness from this week in 1970: “Money Music” by the Boys in the Band at No. 104; “Gas Lamps and Clay” by Blues Image at No. 95; and “Screaming Night Hog” by Steppenwolf at No. 72. “That last,” he says, “is of course about a motorcycle, but the words are a strange combination.” He shrugs. “Still, I think the strangest title is the Blues Image record: ‘Gas Lamps and Clay.’ So there you go.”

I turn to Pop, eyebrows raised.

“Well,” he says, “it was the second record in the charts for Blues Image, after they hit No. 4 with ‘Ride Captain Ride’ in the spring of 1970.” Pop pauses for a second. “Oddly enough,” he adds distractedly, “one of the members of Blues Image, Mike Pinera, had been in Iron Butterfly and bears some responsibility for ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’.”

“Focus!” says Odd.

Pop nods. “Okay,” he says. “Well, ‘Gas Lamps and Clay’ was around for just four weeks in September and October of 1970. It peaked at No. 81. And no one ever heard about Blues Image ever again.”

Odd asks “What’s it about?”

Pop shrugs. “The chorus is about being who you are, but how it gets to that, I have no idea. But face it, it was 1970. You can take a look at the lyrics. I think they’re right.”

I was out at the old mill pond
A week ago today
What I saw was a small gas lamp
And pots made out of clay

When I wiped off a little dust
Smoke began to rise
Out of a cloud came a frightful sight
Of people running, child

And they sang, la la la la . . .

When I sat down beside the lamp
I couldn’t believe my eyes
They were blowing a bubble pipe
About two times the size

As they sang, la la la la . . .

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

“I love it!” Odd says.

Pop nods a little glumly. “I knew you would.”

And that’s how “Gas Lamps and Clay” by Blues Image came to be today’s Saturday Single.

A Hard September

September 30th, 2016

Boy, as much as I generally love September – and those who know me know I do – I will not be unhappy to see this particular September end. Laden with my depression, Mom’s pneumonia and my sinus infection, this month has been rough.

There have been some good times, certainly, and I’ve mentioned a few of them here, but for the most part, it’s been hard times. So to close the month and put forward the hope that October is better, here’s a track whose title echoes the month’s feel but whose energy gets me up and moving.

“Hard Times” is a track from a 1971 album titled Jellyroll, recorded by a group led by Roger “Jellyroll” Troy. The late bassist, singer and producer – he died in 1991 – was also a member of the Electric Flag, and worked over the years with artists like Mike Bloomfield, Maria Muldaur, Mick Taylor, Lonnie Mack, Nick Gravenites, and Jerry Garcia.

I’m not at all sure where I got the album, but pretty much everything I know about it came from a piece by Dave Widow offered about a year ago at the blog Rockasteria. (Here’s a link to the post about Roger Troy and Jellyroll.)

See you tomorrow as October starts.

‘These Precious Days . . .’

September 27th, 2016

(Life is getting back to what passes for normal around here, and while that process goes on, I decided to take a look in the EITW archives. As I did, I came across a piece written eight years ago today, during our first autumn in our little house just off Lincoln Avenue. I’ve made a few revisions and selected a different version of the song.)

Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December,
But the days grow short when you reach September.

No, I’m not channeling intimations of mortality this morning as I ponder Willie Nelson’s melancholy version of “September Song.” But it is late September, and it is autumn, my favorite of seasons.

I often wonder if there’s some sliver of my being that lingers from the long-ago days of my Swedish and German ancestors, some bit of soul memory that recalls the Septembers and Octobers of Northern Europe. For I connect with that distant past as the leaves turn their browns, golds and reds and then release themselves from their trees. It pleases me on some level to hear talk of first frost, and I noted the passing of last week’s equinox, when the nighttime begins to fill more of our hours than does the daylight, with the quiet satisfaction of a man who feels his best time is come again.

This is my season. Were I a vintner, my wines would be autumnal and bittersweet.

In all those things mentioned above – the chilling of the weather, the fading of the leaves, the fading of the light – there lies the metaphor of our of own chilling and fading. And simple time sometimes reminds us, too. My father had his first heart attack forty-two years ago this week, just before he turned fifty-five. I’m eight years older than that now, and thankfully, show no indications of any heart ailments. I think about that as I look out my study window and watch the oaks trees just this week beginning to surrender their first leaves, one by one.

My father survived that trial and lived through another twenty-eight autumns before leaving on a late springtime day in 2003. I don’t foresee an early exit for me, either, no matter the twinge of melancholy found in both autumn’s winds and Nelson’s version of the song, written long ago by Maxwell Anderson and Kurt Weill. And it’s worth noting that, as drear as “September Song” might seem, it centers on a promise.

Now, promises can be cruel things, and – knowing that – I once told my loved one that I could not promise forever. But, I said, I would promise tomorrow. Come tomorrow, I would promise another tomorrow. And then another and another, until all the tomorrows were done. That’s a promise I will keep.

And here’s what Nelson – and all who’ve offered us “September Song” over the years – promises as the ending nears:

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few.
September. November.
And these few precious days, I’ll spend with you.
These precious days I’ll spend with you.

So, for my Texas Gal, and for all those anywhere who hold to love while the leaves fall and the days dwindle, here’s Willie Nelson’s version of “September Song.” It’s from his 1978 album Stardust.

‘Put The Load Right On Me . . .’

September 21st, 2016

Well, the signs were there: On Friday evening, when my pal Rob and I headed out to the College of St. Benedict in nearby St. Joseph for a performance by the Blues Heritage Orchestra Quintet (an excellent choice for a good evening; I’ll perhaps write about the group in the future), I had a sore throat, which I ignored. Not a good decision, as it turned out.

The next morning – when I wrote about our busy Saturday – I had a few body aches, which I generally ignored. Again, not a good decision.

When I awoke Sunday, I had no energy, my head felt like concrete, my throat was raw, and I was coughing. I canceled plans and stayed home. And here I am three days later, still at home. I’ve talked to Mom several times, but I’m not visiting right now. And the doctor says I should be fine by Friday, as long as I continue to lay low until then.

So I’ll lay low. But with Mom in rehab for at least another two weeks, and now me unable to do much this week, I swear it feels as if someone put the load right on me.

That’s a quote from “The Weight,” of course, so here’s Jackie DeShannon’s version of the tune. It’s from her great 1968 album, Laurel Canyon. I’ll be back when I’m back.