What Are The Words?

December 6th, 2019

Late last evening, I finished Steven Johnson’s book How We Got To Now: The Innovations That Made The Modern World. (The book was based on a 2014 television series that was, as I understand it, broadcast on both PBS and the BBC).

In the book, Johnson examines the history of six foundations of the modern world: glass, refrigeration, sound technology, sanitation, the measurement of time, and light. Along the way, many of Johnson’s insights and the historical nuggets he mined made me pause in thought, especially the idea that many inventions come along only when there is not only the technological skill to make them but a need for them.

The most interesting of those pairings – ability and need – was the invention of corrective lenses and the widespread demand for eyeglasses, which followed by very few years Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and the proliferation of reading material in Europe. With popular reading material available, more people were reading, and they were discovering that their vision needed correcting. The demand for eyeglasses increased greatly enough to make the manufacturing of lenses a major industry. (And soon enough, there were other uses for those lenses as well, like telescopes and microscopes.)

There are connections like that – sometimes several – in all six of the main sections of the book, juxtapositions that made me stop reading and just think for a few moments. And there was one other moment that gave me pause.

In the chapter on light, Johnson links Georges Claude, the French scientist who discovered the luminescent qualities of isolated neon gas, to the book Learning From Las Vegas, a 1972 work on postmodern art and architecture by Yale professors (and married partners) Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Johnson explores several steps in the link, and acknowledges that none of those steps would have happened without electricity.

Johnson then writes, “but just about everything needed electricity in the 1960s: The moon landing, the Velvet Underground, the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech . . .”

And I put down the book and thought, if I were to use three examples to stand for the technology, the pop culture and the wider zeitgeist of America in the 1960s, could I do better than that? How long, I wondered, did he and perhaps his collaborators on the television series work at getting the right combination of three items?

In the essay on President John Kennedy’s assassination that I recently reposted here, I spent many more words than that to describe the times we now call the Sixties. Then, I called the years before Dallas “a time of Father Knows Best and the New York Yankees,” a description that still pleases me.

After pondering Johnson’s succinct characterization of the 1960s and recalling my description of the era that came before, I began to wonder how one would characterize the other decades, the other eras of American life in three brief examples. I played around with a few, but I’ll let them be today, as they need work. But if readers want to throw out some brief characterizations of any American decade/era, they’re welcome to do so.

And since we’re talking about words, here’s David Crosby’s “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves).” It’s from his 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name.

What’s At No. 100? (December 1969)

December 2nd, 2019

We’re back after a week filled with snow, a holiday and more snow. We probably got eleven or so inches of snow here, though the official count for the city showed less. And the two storms were sandwiched around Thanksgiving; we made our customary trip to Maple Grove, fifty miles away, and celebrated with my sister, her husband and their son.

And all we’re going to accomplish in this corner today is a brief post looking back again at the late autumn of 1969, checking out the Billboard Hot 100 from around this time during that season, looking at the Top Ten and then dropping down to the bottom of the chart.

The Top Ten fifty years ago this week was:

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“Take A Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Wedding Bell Blues” by the 5th Dimension
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Some Day We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes
“Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night

Well, wow. That’s fifty minutes of living in a country long gone but still present. I’ve probably written, sometimes at length, about all twelve of those records singly – certainly about most of them – but seeing them stacked like 45s in sequence leaves me, well, wordless. I remember how I felt back then – the only record from that time that would make this stack more potent would be Lou Christie’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”* – but trying to put that into words this morning is a task I cannot accomplish.

And that’s a reminder that back then – fifty years ago – a lot of my life ran through music, mostly through the radio but increasingly through LPs and cassettes as well: I had the Beatles’ two singles and the Blood, Sweat & Tears record on tapes and the 5th Dimension single on an LP. I was listening to the same music as my peers, and that was new to me. The autumn of my junior year was, in most ways, a fine time.

And as if I need confirmation that those records mattered to me and still do, every one of those twelve singles has a place among the 3,900 or so tracks in the iPod.

But what of our other business today? What do we find lurking on the lowest rung of the Hot 100 from fifty years ago this week? We find a rarity, a record that spent one week at No. 100 and then went away forever: “Camel Back” by a group called A.B. Skhy. And as it happens, we’ve dabbled in this Hot 100 before, about six years ago. Here’s what I wrote about A.B. Skhy and “Camel Back” then:

In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn notes that the group came from San Francisco, but the notes at the video I found this morning indicate a significant Wisconsin background for the group, and Wikipedia in fact says that the group began in Milwaukee during the late 1960s as New Blues. Once in California and playing as A. B. Skhy, the original lineup – along with a seven-piece horn section, according to William Ruhlmann of All Music Guide – recorded one self-titled album for MGM and released the one single, which was written by the group’s keyboard player, Howard Wales. (After some personnel changes, the group recorded and released a second album in 1970.)

That was six years ago, and that’s long enough for the record to have a second listen here. Here’s “Camel Back” by A.B. Skhy:

*It turns out that Christie’s record had left the Hot 100 after the November 8 chart.

The Moody Blues’ Seventies, Part 1

November 26th, 2019

Now we come, in our long-term look at the catalog of the Moody Blues, to the hard part, assessing the three albums the British group released during the first years of the 1970s: A Question Of Balance from 1970, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour from 1971, and Seventh Sojourn from 1972.

Those are the albums that made me a fan of the Moody Blues. I heard the first of the three across the street at Rick’s sometime in late 1970, soon after it came out. During my early college days, I heard bits and pieces of the second in dorm rooms and apartments, enough to know I liked it. The third of those came my way in December 1972 as a Christmas present from Rick.

And there were singles from all three of those albums that got airplay during those years as well.

In other words, enough of my youth is tied up into those three albums to make it difficult to assess them dispassionately. But I’ll give it a try, starting today with A Question Of Balance.

After starting their last three albums with spoken word introductions or sound collages, the group shifted gears and started A Question Of Balance with music, the stand-out track “Question,” written by Justin Hayward. A version of the track was released as a single in late April 1970, a little more than three months before the album came out, and went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. By the time the album came out in early August, the track had undergone some changes, perhaps most notably the addition of orchestral flourishes – courtesy, no doubt, of the Mellotron – in its introduction.

About a decade ago, I included the single version of “Question” in the 228-track Ultimate Jukebox, but I like both versions equally, and I recall the sixteen- and seventeen-year-old me listening especially closely during the spring of 1970 to the words of the single’s slow middle section:

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the love I knew
You’d safely lead me to
The land that I once knew
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our soul

And if I hadn’t ever written anything in this space about my adolescent romanticism, all you’d need to do is read those lines to know a lot about who I was in 1970 (and likely still am).

So I still love the album’s title track. What about the rest of it? How can I separate the music I hear now from how I heard it as a junior in high school (and as a college student and as a young adult and so on)?

Well, first, let’s note that – as was often their habit – the Moodies blended a lot of the tracks into one another, making suites instead of discreet tracks. And that’s how I listen to the album these days: as clusters of tracks. Still, being as discerning as I can, I have noted during my listening over the past few months that some of the songs on the album work less well than others.

The first of those is the one that immediately follows “Question,” Mike Pinder’s “How Is It (We Are Here),” which kind of lumbers along with its commentary about “men’s mighty mine machines” and “concrete caves with iron doors.” The fade-out, repeating the title, works but the stuff that comes before it seems heavy-handed in 2019.

Nothing else on the album is that awkward, but I find two of John Lodge’s compositions a little lacking as well: “Tortoise & The Hare” – appended to Graeme Edge’s “Don’t You Feel Small” – strains lyrically, as does his “Minstrel’s Song,” which one finds between a pair of Hayward tunes: “It’s Up To You” and “Dawning Is The Day.”

And then there’s the final track, “The Balance,” co-written by Edge and Thomas, which starts with a spoken word section that – like those on preceding albums – indulges the worst instincts of the band. Consider this:

And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked,
And he saw the tree above him,
And the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light,
And the balance.
And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.

I’m no cynic, but that doesn’t connect with me nearly as well in 2019 as it did in 1970 (or 1975 or 1980, even). Maybe it should, but . . .

There are, though, some tracks on the album that still work for me after almost fifty years. Ray Thomas’ “And The Tide Rushes In,” the two Hayward tunes – “It’s Up To You” and “Dawning Is The Day” – and especially Mike Pinder’s “Melancholy Man” all still speak to me without irony or eye-rolls.

And back in 1970, the album spoke to a lot of people, rising to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and staying on the chart for seventy-four weeks. From what I can tell, “Question” was the only single released from the album.

So with all that, what letter grade would I give the album, assessing it not as a memory but as I hear it today? Despite the missteps outlined above, it’s got a better selection of songs than most of the group’s albums, and my misgivings with a few of the songs are generally with the lyrics; musically, the album is gorgeous. (Assuming, that is, that the listener likes the wall of sound the Moodies offer; I recall one co-worker years ago at the Monticello Times who refused to listen even once to an album I offered him. The group’s sound was “too busy and heavy” for him.)

So I’ll give it a B.

Here’s a 2017 remastered version of my favorite track (save perhaps “Question”) from the album, “Melancholy Man.”

Saturday Single No. 667

November 23rd, 2019

Let’s take a look at the top ten LPs in the Billboard 200 during this week in 1969, fifty years ago:

Abbey Road by the Beatles
Led Zeppelin II
Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas
Puzzle People by the Temptations
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Johnny Cash at San Quentin
Santana
I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! by Janis Joplin

At the time the chart came out – on November 29, 1969 – three of those albums were in the house on Kilian Boulevard. I had the Beatles and BST on cassette and the Johnny Cash album on LP. I was far more in tune with current trends than I had ever been (even though that didn’t take much movement).

These days, I can do without the Tom Jones, I never really liked the Kozmic Blues album, and I never had the Temptations’ album (getting along with anthologies of their singles instead). The other seven, I like just fine, and they all showed up eventually – along with the Joplin – in the vinyl stacks and on the digital shelves. Four of them – the Beatles, CSN, BST and Cash – are also on the CD shelves here.

Singles from at least eight of those albums – all except the Jones and the Joplin – were coming out of my radio speakers that autumn, and I liked most of them. (I still care very little for CCR’s “Down On The Corner.”) Still new to Top 40 listening, one of the singles from that group of albums startled me the first time I heard it, and I was also startled on second and third hearings to realize that I liked it.

And just that little bit of memory is enough this morning to make Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” today’s Saturday Single.

A Date Forever Wrapped In Sorrow

November 22nd, 2019

As I wrote eight years ago when I ran this piece for the second time, just seeing today’s date has made me feel old and weary and sad. Here’s a piece I wrote this week in 2007:

Blank stares. That’s the thing I remember most about November 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was killed.

I was ten and in fifth grade that November, and for some reason, I’d had lunch at school that Friday. I usually walked the five blocks home for lunch, but Mom must have been away from home that day for some reason, a church women’s event or something like that. So I was in the classroom during the brief after-lunch free time when Mr. Lydeen came into the room with an odd look on his face.

He told us the news from Dallas, and we stared at him. I think some of the girls cried. And we spent the rest of the day milling around the room, gathering in small groups, the ten or so fifth-graders and ten or so sixth-graders of our combination classroom. We boys talked darkly of what should be done to the culprit, were he found. We were angry. And sad. And confused.

At recess, we bundled up and went out onto the asphalt and concrete playground, but all we did was huddle around Mr. Lydeen, our backs to the northwest wind. I don’t recall what we said, but I think we were all looking for reassurance, for explanation. Mr. Lydeen had neither for us; I remember seeing him stare across the playground and past the railroad tracks, looking at something beyond the reach of his gaze. The blank look on his face made me – and the other kids, too, I think – uneasy.

Mom was listening to the old brown radio on the kitchen counter when I got home from school that day – a rarity, as the radio was generally on only in the morning as we prepared for the day. And it stayed on through dinnertime, bringing us news bulletins from Dallas and Washington and long lists of weekend events cancelled or postponed. Not much was said at the table, as I recall, and I saw that same blank look on my parents’ faces that I had seen on Mr. Lydeen’s face that afternoon.

That evening, I sought solace in my box of comic books and MAD magazines. By chance, the first magazine I pulled out of the box had a parody of a musical film, one of MAD’s specialties. But the parody poked gentle fun at the president and his cabinet, and if it seemed wrong to laugh that evening – as it did – it seemed especially wrong to laugh at that. I threw the magazine back into the box and went in search of my dad, who was doing something at his workbench in the basement.

I watched him for a few minutes as he worked on something he had clamped in the vise, and then I just asked, “Why?”

He turned to me and shook his head and said he didn’t know. And I realized for the first time that the people I looked to for explanations – my parents and my teacher – were unable to understand and explain everything. That was a scary thought, and – being slightly precocious – I pondered its implications for a few days as we watched the unfolding events on television with the rest of the nation.

Sometime in the late 1990s, about five years before Dad died, I was up in St. Cloud for a weekend, and he and I were drinking beers on the back porch. For some reason, I asked him what he remembered of that day. He’d been at work at the college (not yet a university), and he remembered young women crying and young men talking intensely in small groups. And, he said, he remembered not being able to give them any answers at a time when they so needed them.

I nodded and sipped my beer. I thought of the cascade of events that followed John Kennedy’s death, the twelve or so years that we now call the Sixties: The civil rights movement and the concurrent violence, the long anguish in Vietnam, the deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, race riots and police riots, the National Guard and the police opening fire and killing students at Kent State and Jackson State. I thought about draft cards, protest marches and paranoia and about the distrust and anger between black and white, between young and old, between government and governed.

And I looked at my dad and said, “Yeah, John Kennedy’s death is when it all started.”

Dad was a veteran of World War II, part of the generation that came to adulthood during the Great Depression. His generation, after it won its war, came home and lived through a hard-earned era of prosperity that will likely never be matched anywhere in the world ever again, a time of Father Knows Best and the New York Yankees. From that perspective, my father looked back at November of 1963 and then he looked at me.

“No,” he said, “that’s when it all ended.”

“Crucifixion” by Glenn Yarbrough.
From For Emily Whenever I May Find Her (1967).

Revised slightly from earlier postings.

What’s At No. 100? (November 19, 1977)

November 19th, 2019

Of all the Billboard pop charts released on November 19 over the years – based on a quick glance this morning (meaning I might have missed something) – none falls into my sweet spot, into the time between the summer of 1969 and the beginning of 1976. The closest are the Hot 100s that were released in 1966 and 1977.

I was thirteen and in eighth grade at the time the first one of those came out and twenty-four, living in the little burg of Sauk Rapids and working for a government agency in St. Cloud at the time of the second. And the data tell me that we’ve dabbled in 1966 eighty-five times since February 2010 and in 1977 only forty-eight times. So we’ll look at the Hot 100 from November 19, 1977, forty-two years ago today, and play our game of “What’s At No. 100?”

First of all, here’s the Top Ten:

“You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone
“Boogie Nights” by Heatwave
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle
“It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Beside Me” by Barry White
“Baby, What A Big Surprise” by Chicago
“How Deep Is Your Love” by the Bee Gees
“Heaven On The 7th Floor” by Paul Davis
“We’re All Alone” by Rita Coolidge
“Blue Bayou” by Linda Ronstadt
“Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon

Listening this morning, I don’t recall the Barry White record at all, and the only reason I recognize “Boogie Nights” is because I sought out the Heatwave album Too Hot To Handle in the late 1990s when Chazz Nelson – Prince’s cousin – recommended it to me. (Most of Chazz’s tips were on target; that one wasn’t.) The rest of those, I remember well. Too well, in a few cases.

I liked five from that list mid-November 1977, when my radio listening was pretty much limited to drive time to and from work and a little bit of time in the evening puttering in my rented room in Sauk Rapids (unless I joined the other guys in the house in the living room for an evening of television). No doubt, I heard all of them except the White and the Heatwave more often after I moved to Monticello in just a week and spent more time in the car driving from one reporting assignment to another.

Anyway, the five records I liked were those by Crystal Gayle, the Bee Gees, Rita Coolidge, Linda Ronstadt and Carly Simon. The Paul Davis and Chicago records I can take or leave these days, and I heard “You Light Up My Life” often enough back then to never need to hear it again. (It shows up on the digital shelves only as a cover by Ferrante & Teicher.)

How many of those records matter today? Well, of the five I liked back in the late 1970s, four show up in my current listening on the iPod. The one that’s missing is Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.” I think it will stay that way.

So let’s look at our other business today and check out the record at No. 100 in that Hot 100 from forty-two years ago today. Well, it’s a record I’ve almost certainly never heard from a group that’s only been mentioned twice here in the more than twelve years I’ve been throwing stuff at the walls: “Georgia Rhythm” by the Atlanta Rhythm Section.

ARS was, of course, a group that evolved from a cluster of Georgia studio musicians. Their biggest hits were “So Into You” (No. 7 in 1977) and “Imaginary Lover” (No. 7 in 1978). Three of their albums came home with me during my vinyl madness period in 1999 and 2000, but the only thing that’s ever made its way to the digital shelves is the 1974 single “Angel.” I’m not at all sure how it got there.

So here’s “Georgia Rhythm.” It’s not bad, kind of reminds me of a smoother Larry Jon Wilson, which I guess makes some sense. It didn’t do well on the chart, peaking at No. 68.

Saturday Single No. 666

November 16th, 2019

Well, look at that number! Just as some builders skip the thirteenth floor when they plan their buildings, I imagine some folks might just skip by that unsettling integer when it comes to them. License plates in Minnesota have three letters and three digits, and I wonder if there are drivers who ask for a different plate number if the one they’re issued carries 666. I imagine so.

It is, of course, “the number of the beast” as told in the book of Revelation of the Christian Bible. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

In the Textus Receptus manuscripts of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation (13:17–18) cryptically asserts 666 to be “man’s number” or “the number of a man” (depending on how the text is translated) associated with the Beast, an antagonistic creature that appears briefly about two-thirds into the apocalyptic vision. Some manuscripts of the original Greek use the symbols χξϛ chi xi stigma (or χξϝ with a digamma), while other manuscripts spell out the number in words.

In modern popular culture, 666 has become one of the most widely recognized symbols for the Antichrist or, alternatively, the devil. The number 666 is purportedly used to invoke Satan. Earnest references to the number occur both among apocalypticist Christian groups and in explicitly anti-Christian subcultures. References in contemporary Western art or literature are, more likely than not, intentional references to the Beast symbolism. Such popular references are therefore too numerous to list.

It is common to see the symbolic role of the integer 666 transferred to the digit sequence 6-6-6. Some people take the Satanic associations of 666 so seriously that they actively avoid things related to 666 or the digits 6-6-6. This is known as hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

We’re not skipping past the number today. And there are plenty of tunes about the devil to choose from. (We’re going to ignore 666, the 1971 album by the Greek progressive rock group Aphrodite’s Child.) A RealPlayer search for “devil” brings us 286 tracks, and after the usual winnowing – ignoring, for instance, everything here by the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils and most of the 1988 album Devil’s Slide by Bob Brozman – there are plenty of tracks to work with.

Some come in multiples, of course: Four versions of “Devil & My Brown Blues,” six of “Devil Got My Woman” (plus a gender-flipped version, “Devil Got My Man” by Rory Block), four of “Friend Of The Devil,” nine of “Me & The Devil” or “Me & The Devil Blues,” four of “Sympathy For The Devil” (with one of them, a 1971 take by Blood, Sweat & Tears, appending an opening instrumental called “Symphony For The Devil”), three of “Preachin’ Blues (Up Jumped The Devil),” plus a few other titles that show up more than once.

So we’re going to pull up one of the versions of “Me & The Devil Blues,” and if we’re going to do that, we may as well as go straight to the source of the song, Robert Johnson. He recorded two takes of the tune during a June 20, 1937, session in Dallas. The first take, offered here, was released as Vocalion 4108.

Oh, Well

November 14th, 2019

We didn’t have a spectacular autumn this year. September was rainy, keeping us mostly indoors. Early October brought a few household challenges – the main one being a leak under the kitchen sink that was poorly repaired and required a second visit from a plumber – taking from us a couple of Fridays when we might have gone adventuring.

That all meant that by the time we went for a Friday drive, October was more than half-way over, and about half of the trees near Lake Mille Lacs – one of Minnesota’s largest, about forty miles away – were already bare. It was a sunny day, there was some color, but it was hardly the autumn drive I’d hoped for in late August when the first signs of the season came my way.

And based on November’s results so far, autumn’s “four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind” that I’ve mentioned here over the years will this year be a little longer and much colder – if a little sunnier – than it has been in past years.

But it goes as it goes, and sometimes you get half a serving. So here’s a “half” song: “Halfway Down The Road” by Robert Thomas Velline (better known as Bobby Vee). It’s from his 1972 singer-songwriter album, Nothin’ Like A Sunny Day.

Saturday Single No. 665

November 9th, 2019

We’re going to pick up where we left off yesterday, scanning the list of about 350 tracks with the word “midnight” in their titles. We’ll take a look at three of them randomly and then choose one to be our featured single of the day. So let’s see what happens as take what we’re calling a Midnight Cruise.

And we start with “Way After Midnight” by Billy “Red” Love, an unissued track recorded for Sun Records in Memphis in 1954. According to the website Black Cat Rockabilly, Love’s career began when he recorded his composition “Juiced” only to see Sam Phillips release the track on the Chess label under the name of Jackie Brenston as a follow-up to “Rocket 88.” A couple of Love’s recordings were released on Chess, but – the website says – got little promotion and had little success. “Way After Midnight” and “Hey Now” came out of a January 1954 session at Sun, but were never released. The former of those two came my way in the JSP box set Memphis Blues: Important Postwar Blues. Love, who was born in Memphis in 1929, died in 1975 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. As to the track, it’s a reed-heavy moaner with a decent vocal and a nice sax solo.

Next up is “Midnight In Memphis,” an instrumental track by J. J. Cale. It’s an outtake from some 1972 sessions in Muscle Shoals when Cale was working on his second album, Really. It’s a nice mid-tempo shuffle that features some nice solos, especially Cale’s laconic guitar work. It was included on the 1997 release Anyway The Wind Blows: The Anthology. I’m not sure how it came my way.

And we come to “Midnight Train” by a group called Brethren, an early-1970s country-rock band. The track was the leadoff to the group’s self-titled 1970 debut, and it sounds a lot like that year, with the caveat that the intro sounds a lot like “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band, which came out three years later. There doesn’t seem to be a lot out there about Brethren; even the page at discogs is pretty light on facts beyond the band members’ names, although it does tell us that “Midnight Train” was released as a promo single that evidently went nowhere. The group released a second album, Moment Of Truth, in 1971. I’m not sure how the group’s first album showed up on the shelves here, probably from some blog looking at out-of-print stuff from the Seventies.

So, where do we go? Well, I think we’ll head to Memphis and Billy “Red” Love’s unreleased session. “Way After Midnight” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Midnight’

November 8th, 2019

I was puttering online last evening with iTunes keeping me company, and the strains of “Midnight In Harlem” by the Tedeschi Trucks Band came from the speakers. As it played, I wondered how many tracks on the digital shelves have the word “midnight” in their titles.

So I started a search on the RealPlayer. And the answer is: I don’t know.

As with all such searches, the software showed me every mp3 that has “midnight” in its title, in the album title or in the performers’ names (and for that matter, in any notes appended to the mp3). That total was 511.

But I have to winnow out a lot of stuff to get to the number I want, removing several albums by Dexy Midnight Runners as well as albums like Midnight Radio by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Across From Midnight by Joe Cocker, Midnight At The Movies by Justin Townes Earl, Giorgio Moroder’s soundtrack to Midnight Express, all three editions of Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles, most of the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy (with tracks by John Barry and Elephant’s Memory*) as well as Peter Nero’s similarly titled album, and on and on.

When all the weeding is done, I would guess we lose about a third of the mp3s in the search results, so we have about 340 or so to play with.

There are, of course, multiple versions of some songs. There are sixteen versions of “The Midnight Special,” thirteen versions of “Midnight Rider,” seven takes on “After Midnight,” seven as well of “In The Midnight Hour,” five of the theme from Midnight Cowboy, four versions of “Midnight In Moscow,” and on and on again.

I’ll only pull one track today, though, and we’ll pull it at random. I’ll order the tracks by running time, set the cursor at the midpoint and click until we have a track with “midnight” in its title.

And we land on a generally recent tune, “Midnight Bottle” by singer Colbie Caillat. It’s from her 2007 album Coco. It’s a decent piece of pop.

Midnight bottle take me, come with few of my memories
Everything will come back to me
Midnight bottle, make it real what feels like make believe
So I can see a little more clearly
Every single move you make
Kissing me so carefully
On the corners of my dreaming eyes

I’ve got a midnight bottle, gonna drink it down
A one-way ticket takes me to the times we had before
When everything felt so right
If only for tonight

A midnight bottle gonna ease my pain
From all these feelings driving me insane
I think of you and everything’s all right
If only for tonight

Got a midnight bottle, drifting off into the candlelight
Where I can find you in your time

Midnight bottle, I forgot how good it felt to be in a dream
Just like you had me
’Cuz lately, I’ve been stumbling
Feels like I’m recovering
But I think it’s only for tonight

I’ve got a midnight bottle, gonna drink it down
A one-way ticket takes me to the times we had before
When everything felt so right
If only for tonight

A midnight bottle, gonna ease my pain
From all these feelings driving me insane
I think of you and everything’s all right If only for tonight
If only for tonight, oh, if only for tonight
If only for tonight

I’ve got a midnight bottle, gonna drink it down
A one-way ticket takes me to the times we had before
When everything felt so right
If only for tonight

A midnight bottle, gonna ease my pain
From all these feelings driving me insane
I think of you and everything’s all right
If only for tonight, yeah

Midnight bottle, take the time away From where we are

*The group Elephant’s Memory is likely best remembered among my generation for backing John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the studio portions of their 1972 album Some Time In New York City.