Saturday Single No. 524

January 21st, 2017

It’s been a while since we looked at the book that offers the weekly Top Ten album charts from Billboard. So here’s the Top Ten from this week in 1972, forty-five years ago:

American Pie by Don McClean
The Concert for Bangla Desh
Music by Carole King
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
Led Zeppelin IV (untitled)
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
There’s a Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Madman Across The Water by Elton John
Wild Life by Wings

During that distant week, three of those albums would have been in the box next to the stereo in our basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard. The Concert for Bangla Desh was there, as I’d gotten it for Christmas just weeks earlier. And my sister had copies of Tapestry and the Cat Stevens album. She did, however, take them with her when she got married, so by August of that year, the only one of those albums in the house was the massive concert document.

Over the years, all but one of the other nine made their ways to my shelves, but it took some time to get started and to finish:

American Pie, February 1989
Madman Across The Water, February 1989
Chicago at Carnegie Hall, February 1989 & June 1990
Led Zeppelin IV, March 1989
There’s A Riot Goin’ On, September 1989
Teaser & The Firecat, November 1995
Music, November 1998
Tapestry, November 1998

(Two notes: I have never owned a copy of Wild Life, and by the time I got around to the four-LP Chicago album, it was being offered as two sets of two LPs each.)

I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from that timeline, but the question that popped into my head as I pulled that listing together was: Are any of those albums essential listening for me in 2017?

Well, making that question hard to answer is the fact that the way we listen to music in 2017 is far different than the way it was back in 1972. We have playlists in our devices, pulling individual tracks from disparate sources. It’s a rare thing, I think, for us to listen to an album – whether current or from our youths – from start to finish. I try to do that in the car at least once a week, popping a CD in and letting it roll from the first track through the last; since it generally takes several trips to get through a CD, it’s not quite the same, but it’s a close approximation, I think.

As it happens, one of the two albums that I heard in the car this week was The Concert for Bangla Desh. It was as enjoyable this week as it was during January of 1972, and I made a mental note to see how much of its music I have among the 3,700 tracks in the iPod. As it turns out, I had pulled only four tracks from that album into the device: Leon Russell’s medley of “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Young Blood,” Billy Preston’s “That’s The Way God Planned It” and George Harrison’s performances of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Bangla Desh.”

So I guess I could say that those four are the essential tracks from that album, and maybe we should alter our question, asking instead: Which of those albums in that long ago Top Ten have tracks that are, based on the contents of the iPod, still essential to me today?

Well, almost all of them. Tapestry leads the way with six tracks in the iPod, and there are three from Music. The device has four tracks from the Led Zeppelin album, and I’ve pulled two each from the Don McLean, Elton John and Cat Stevens albums. Which leaves unrepresented from that January 1972 Top Ten the albums by Chicago and Sly & The Family Stone, meaning that – approaching our question from the other end – those two albums have for me nothing essential.

None of that accounting is surprising, of course (except maybe that four of the Zep tracks landed in the iPod). But it tells me that there twenty-three tracks that I evidently see as essential from those albums in that January 1972 Top Ten. And here’s the one that back in 1972, I would have deemed least likely to be among my essential listening. It’s “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

“Darkness, Darkness . . .’

January 20th, 2017

I’m not optimistic. I am, frankly, scared.

Here is all I have today: Elliott Murphy & Iain Matthews with their cover of the Youngbloods’ “Darkness, Darkness.” It’s from the 2001 album La Terre Commune.

‘The Survey Says . . .’

January 18th, 2017

It’s time to dig into some radio station surveys. We’re going to look at four of them from this week in 1967, fifty years ago, and we’re going to take today’s date – 1/18/17 – to choose our targets. We’ll check out the No. 18 and No. 35 records at each of the four stations and then note as well the No. 1 record at each station.

We’ll start here in the Northland and see what my peers were hearing as we slogged through the middle of eighth grade during the third week of January 1967. On the “Big 6 Plus 30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB, the No. 18 record was “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations. Nationally, it would peak at No. 8 in the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

Parked at No. 35 was “Music To Watch Girls By” by the Bob Crewe Generation. Often mistaken then and now as an entry from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the record reached No. 15 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 2 on the chart now called Adult Contemporary.

The No. 1 record at KDWB fifty years ago was “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees.

Out on the West Coast, the Fabulous Forty at KFXM – serving San Bernardino and Riverside – showed “Music To Watch Girls By” at No. 18, up one spot from a week earlier. Sitting at No. 35 fifty years ago this week was the great and foreboding “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” by the Four Tops. It would peak at No. 6 in the Hot 100 and at No. 2 on the R&B chart.

The No. 1 record at KFXM during this week in 1967 was “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville.

We’ll head toward the East Coast via Texas, where we’ll take a look at the Superhit List at San Antonio’s KBAT. Sitting at No. 18 fifty years ago this week was “Knight in Rusty Armor” by Peter & Gordon. Labeled a novelty record by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, it went to No. 15 in the Hot 100. The No. 35 record at KBAT during that long-ago week was the lovely “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by the Casinos, which peaked at No. 6 in the Hot 100.

The No. 1 record at KBAT fifty years ago this week was “Tell It Like It Is.”

We end our trip ’round the Lower 48 with a stop at WPOP in Hartford, Connecticut, where the functionally titled “Music List” showed “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett taking the spot at No. 18. It would reach No. 23 in the Billboard Hot 100 and get to No. 6 on the magazine’s R&B chart. Parked at No 35 in Hartford that week was “I Need Somebody” by ? & The Mysterians, a record that would get to No. 22 in the Hot 100.

WPOP’s No. 1 record during the third week of January 1967 was “Good Thing” by Paul Revere & The Raiders

Casting my memory back, I knew (and liked very much) both the Bob Crewe record and the Casinos record, which should surprise nobody, as I was still in easy listening mode. I heard the records by the Temptations, the Four Tops and Wilson Pickett all around me – “Mustang Sally” less frequently than the other two, most likely – but at that time, and for a few years to come, I could not have told you the performers’ names.

As far as I know, I’d never heard either “Knight In Rusty Armor” or “I Need Somebody” until this morning. “Knight . . .” doesn’t do much for me, but I kind of dig “I Need Somebody,” especially the winking organ solo that falls for a few moments into “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

Saturday Single No. 523

January 14th, 2017

Well, the great LP purge is finished. Last Saturday, we took another 800 or so LPs down to Cheapo in Minneapolis, and we should get a decent check in the mail today.

When Tony at Cheapo told me the amount over the phone Sunday, I was a bit surprised. It was more than I expected for this particular batch of records.

“Well, you had some interesting stuff in there,” he said.

“What worried me,” I told him, “was all the K-Tel and Ronco stuff.”

“Yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “You didn’t get much for those.”

Altogether, I estimate that we dropped off about 2,200 LPs in our three trips to Minneapolis. How many of those Cheapo sent to the wastebasket, I don’t know. But we averaged about fifty-six cents per LP, which was nice for our savings account.

I still have about 1,000 LPs, mostly the stuff I love (some of which, like the Beatles and the Dylan collections, would sell well), and about twenty of them are in a basket near my desk where they wait to be ripped on the turntable. And I have a list of stuff I sold that I want to replicate via mp3. I’ve scavenged a few of those out in the wilds of the ’Net in the past weeks, and I’ve got a long list of CDs reserved at the local library.

This week, I was ripping some of the yearly Billboard hits CDs and some of the massive – eight CDs’ worth – history of Atlantic rhythm & blues. That’s meant a few hours each day at the computer, winnowing out old mp3s of lower bitrate or researching catalog numbers and release dates for tunes new to the digital shelves.

With the total of sorted and tagged mp3s loaded into the RealPlayer approaching 90,000, it’s difficult – as I’ve noted here before – to keep track of everything I have. So as I sort things, I’m sometimes surprised. That was the case yesterday as I wandered through my collection of work by the late Ben E. King.

I don’t have a lot of his work – thirteen tracks – but I have the obvious ones – “Stand By Me,” “Spanish Harlem” and the other hits. And I have a track that I tend to forget about that I found on the 1997 anthology One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen.

So here’s Ben E. King’s sweet cover of “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘I’m Gonna Mess Around . . .’

January 11th, 2017

The Texas Gal and I keep trading this funky cold/sinus annoyance back and forth. After a busy weekend that neither of us could avoid – a reserved museum exhibit on Saturday and various obligations at church on Sunday – she spent Monday at home while I did laundry and other essentials.

She was back to work yesterday and I shoveled snow twice. Now it’s Wednesday, there’s more shoveling ahead, and I’m in my chair and not sure I’m moving any further than the medicine cabinet for some pills or the living room to sleep on the couch.

But I dug through the digital stacks and found a tune for the day: “Jackson” by Johnny Cash & June Carter (not yet June Carter Cash), recorded fifty years ago today in Nashville.

And finding the record brought me an extra smile because “Jackson” was one of the tunes we offered in November during Cabaret De Lune, with Heather and I starting it out as a torch song and then shifting to a country dance rhythm toward the end.

Anyway, I’m heading for the medicine cabinet, and here’s “Jackson.”

Saturday Single No. 522

January 7th, 2017

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 7, 1967, fifty years ago today:

“I’m A Believer” by the Monkees
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
“Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra
“That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
“Good Thing” by Paul Revere & The Raiders
“Words of Love” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Standing In The Shadows Of Love” by the Four Tops
“Mellow Yellow” by Donovan

Still deeply into soundtracks and trumpet music at the time, about the only one of those I paid any attention to in early 1967 was “Winchester Cathedral,” and that was for two reasons: First, Rick’s older sister – or maybe one of her friends – had the record, and we’d heard it multiple times on New Year’s Eve as we whiled away the last hours of 1966. And then, being a fan of distinctive (read “odd”) music even then, I liked the faux 1920s vibe of the record.

The other nine records in that list, however, were unimportant to me although I’m sure I heard all of them as I made my way through the middle of eighth grade. From the vantage point of a half-century down the road, it’s a decent Top Ten. None of them would make me punch the button on the radio to change the station in irritation, but then, neither would any of them call me to sit in the car to hear the end of the record once I’d pulled into, say, the hardware store lot.

But then, I’m no longer dependent on the radio to hear any of those records; they’re all at my fingertips when I’m home, and I can add any of them to the iPod any time I want. In fact, that might be a better measurement of whether any of those records matter to me these days: Are they among the 3,751 tracks currently in the iPod?

As it turns out, six of them are. The four that are absent are the records by the Royal Guardsmen, Aaron Neville, the Mamas & the Papas and Donovan. That’s not a particularly surprising split, and of those four, I’m most likely to add “Mellow Yellow” to the mix, as I’ve neglected to place any Donovan at all onto the iPod.

There are others from that long-ago Hot 100 that are in the iPod, and there are likely others on the list that I’ve neglected to pull into the little appliance but should have. As I head down the list from No. 10, the first one I notice that fits into either of those categories is a record that was featured here as part of a Baker’s Dozen almost ten years ago, which is a long, long time in blog years. It was probably my favorite pop record in the first months of 1967.

So here’s “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers. Fifty years ago today, it was sitting at No. 20, having leaped up from No. 37 the week before. It would eventually spend two weeks at No. 2 (and get to No. 7 on the chart that today is called Adult Contemporary), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Cold But Cozy

January 5th, 2017

As it does nearly every January, the cold has settled in for a bit: Tuesday’s high was 5 degrees above zero (-15 for those keeping score in Celsius), yesterday’s high was zero (-18), and today, we’re supposed to top out at -4 (-20). It would be nice if I could stay in today, but I’ll have to head out at least twice: this morning to the liquor store for a few more boxes to pack LPs and this afternoon to the drug store for some prescriptions for the Texas Gal.

Okay, so it’s cold. That’s winter in Minnesota. (According to a ranking cited yesterday by WCCO in the Twin Cities, Minnesota ranks No. 1 on a Most Miserable Winter list.) And having spent fifty-eight of my previous sixty-three winters here (and two in equally cold North Dakota), I can deal with it: Dress in layers, watch the thermostat settings, make sure there’s plenty of windshield washer fluid – “blue juice” in day-to-day terms – in the car, wear a hat, and turn into the skid when the car starts to slide on the ice.

(After years of driving in potentially slick conditions, and after countless instances of my various cars fishtailing on icy roads, that last winter necessity has become an instinctive reaction. The day after Christmas – which was a day of freezing rain and snow – I was heading down Lincoln Avenue when I hit a very slick patch. The rear end of the car headed right, and I twitched the steering wheel to the right and straightened out so quickly that the little episode was over before I really had time to think about it. I found that a little spooky.)

I’ve seen predictions that this will be a colder than average winter. That’s going to place some stress on the Texas Gal, whose job requires her to be out of the office moving from place to place at least two days a week (and some stress on the utility bill). Beyond my concerns about both of those stressors, though, I’m fine with a cold winter. I survived the winter of 1976-77 in a house on St. Cloud’s North Side that did not have central heat, so assuming the furnace doesn’t give out, I can survive a colder-than-average winter here.

That winter of 1976-77 was a memorable one. I was out of college and out of work, paying something less than $40 a month to share a shabby four-bedroom house with two other guys. As I’ve noted here before, we had a large oil-burning stove in the living room and a smaller one in the kitchen, and that was it for heat. My room was above the living room, and was the warmest one in the house, and there were mornings when the temperature outside was -30 and the inside temperature huddled around 40. (Among my Christmas presents from my folks that winter was a small space heater for my room; the cats and I were grateful.)

I survived, getting through the winter, re-enrolling in school in February to add a minor in print journalism, and in April, moving to the adjacent small town of Sauk Rapids to rent a mobile home from my friend Murl.

Beyond being cold, the house on the North Side was ill-maintained, cramped and not very clean. I would not wish to live in those conditions again. And yet, I have mostly pleasant memories of the place. One of them finds me in my room on a chilly January evening, with the cats dozing on the bed. I’m seated at the table that served as a desk, clicking away at my Olivetti portable typewriter (with its Pica typeface instead of the more common Elite).

I have no idea what I was writing. Maybe an application for a job, perhaps a letter, or I might have been typing up my latest set of lyrics. Whatever it was, I was doing so with the radio on, tuned to WCCO-FM in the Twin Cities. And sometime during that evening, the radio offered me the faux swing/jazz sound of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band.

“Whispering/Cherchez la Femme/Se Si Bon” peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the end of January 1977 and was the only Top 40 hit for the group that eventually evolved into Kid Creole & The Coconuts. (The record went to No. 1 on the magazine’s disco/dance chart, to No. 31 on the R&B chart and to No. 22 on the adult contemporary chart.) And though I don’t hear it often, when I do, it brings back memories of my cozy domesticity circa 1977: me and my cats, a typewriter, a space heater, and a radio.

Busy

January 4th, 2017

I’m still around, getting through the first week of the new year: Sorting records, coping with some business for Mom and keeping the house livable.

I will be back. In the meantime, speaking of “busy,” here’s “Busy Line” by the Pipkins. From the 1970 album Gimme Dat Ding.

Saturday Single No. 521

December 31st, 2016

There is a temptation as we get to the end of a calendar year to offer something here to sum up the twelve months ending today and then offer good cheer as we head into another trip around the Sun. That’s not an attractive idea this morning.

Why? Well, things are unsettled both here along Lincoln Avenue and in the world at large, and I wouldn’t know what to say about any of that right now. Resolution of our local concerns may come in the first few months of the coming year, and that would be welcome. Resolution of my concerns about the world at large will take longer, and I’m not particularly hopeful.

So we’re going to leave all that alone. Instead, I’m going to carry on today on the path I’ve taken here for the last three days: Offering a tune original to the date, and today that means finding a track recorded on December 31. There are a few candidates on our digital shelves:

On this date in 1973, the Allman Brothers Band played the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and I have recordings of the entire concert, which went on for nearly four hours. I also have one track – “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” – from the Allmans’ gig a year earlier in New Orleans.

In 1963, a girl group called the Gems gathered at the Chess studios in Chicago and laid down a peppy version of a near-novelty tune: “That’s What They Put Erasers on Pencils For.” It was released as Chess 1882. The record didn’t chart, nor did it make it onto any of the 1964 surveys collected at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive.

We find two tracks recorded on this date in 1955 by Marty Robbins: “Mean Mama Blues” and “Tennessee Toddy.” They’re decent country tunes, and they were released on Columbia 21477 but did not chart.

The last of the December 31 recordings in the digital stacks (and recording date information is attached to maybe 10 percent of the nearly 90,000 mp3s in the RealPlayer) comes from a familiar source. On New Year’s Eve 1980, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band played Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Two of that evening’s performances showed up not quite five years later as tracks on the massive Live/1975–85 box set: “Held Up Without A Gun” and “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Regular readers, I’m sure, already know where things are headed here. Here, recorded thirty-six years ago this evening and offered as both our year-end marker and our regular Saturday Single, is “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

One From 12-30

December 30th, 2016

As has been our wont these past few days, we’re going to look through the digital shelves today for something that was recorded on today’s date, December 30. Long ago? In recent years? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the tune in question was waxed, taped or digitized on the next to last day of the year.

And we come to the King Porter Orchestra and “Chitlin’ Ball” (sometimes spelled “Chittlin’ Ball”). There’s not a lot out there about the group, just four tracks listed at a YouTube topic page and a lot of playlist references, seemingly mentioning the same four tracks. And since I scavenged the track after borrowing a 1997 Capitol collection called Jumpin’ Like Mad: Cool Cats & Hip Chicks, I have no liner notes to turn to.

All I do know is that the King Porter Orchestra recorded the track in Detroit on December 30, 1947, and it was released as a 78 on Imperial 5039. And it’s a fine piece of R&B for a cold day in December.