Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

‘You May Be High . . .’

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

When the Rolling Stones recorded “You Got To Move” and released it on Sticky Fingers in 1971 (with the title offered as “You Gotta Move”), they credited the song to Fred McDowell, a Tennessee-based farmer and blues singer who’d somehow been given the name of Mississippi Fred McDowell. It was not an unreasonable decision, as McDowell had recorded the tune in 1965 for his second album on the Arhoolie label, which was released a year later and listed him as the song’s writer.

Here’s that version by McDowell:

(It’s worth noting that McDowell was an anomaly in the blues revival of the late 1950s and the 1960s: He’d never recorded before, while many of the blues artists celebrated during that revival had recorded in the 1920s and 1930s. Whether that made McDowell’s previously unrecorded music more “authentic” – as I’ve seen written in at least a couple of places – is for others to judge. It was certainly new to listeners, and, despite McDowell’s frequent use of an electric guitar, clearly linked to the Delta tradition.)

But McDowell did not write the song. Second Hand Songs lists the song as “traditional,” noting four recordings that predate McDowell’s 1965 recording. (McDowell’s 1965 recording is not listed at all; his 1969 live version with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers is listed, another reminder that as useful as the website is, it’s not complete.)

Those four earlier listed recordings came from the Willing Four in 1944, the Two Gospel Keys (Emma Daniels and Mother Sally Jones) in 1947, Elder Charles Beck & His Religion In Rhythm in 1949, and Blind Gary Davis with Sonny Terry in 1953. One can assume two things, I think: There were other recordings as well before McDowell recorded his 1965 version, and the song no doubt predates the Willing Four’s version. By how much, who knows?

And I’m going to make a third assumption: That crediting the song’s creation to McDowell on his 1966 album was an error by someone at Arhoolie. McDowell would certainly have known that he’d learned the song elsewhere, and everything I’ve read about McDowell tells me that he was an unassuming, almost humble man. I have my doubts that he’d have claimed the song as his.

(At Second Hand Songs, “You Got To Move” is called “traditional,” and on the CD version I have of Sticky Fingers, it’s credited to McDowell and Davis. I don’t know what credits there are on more recent versions of the CD or the LP.)

McDowell recorded the song at least a couple more times: The previously mentioned 1969 recording with the Hunter’s Chapel Singers for an album titled Amazing Grace, and in a 1971 performance in New York City that was released as a live album two years later.

There are, of course, other covers out there, some by artists I know and others by artists unfamiliar to me: The Party Boys, Mike Cooper & Ian A. Anderson, Mick Taylor, Herman Alexander, the Radiators, Corey Harris, Jorma Kaukonen, Townes Van Zandt, Cassandra Wilson, Aerosmith, and Koerner, Ray & Glover are just some of them.

Most of those are faithful to the Delta sound of McDowell’s version; some of them reach back to what I assume are the song’s Gospel origins; and some are hybrids. Here’s one of the latter, the version offered by Sista Monica Parker on her 2008 album Sweet Inspirations.

Saturday Single No. 641

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

I used to collect letter openers. Not in any organized sense, like collecting promotional letter openers or state souvenir letter openers. I just bought or accepted letter openers wherever they caught my eye.

I had a couple nice ones. One was made from some kind of stone and came, I think, from Mexico. I don’t remember where I got it. I only know that I dropped it and it broke. Or maybe it broke the day I moved from Monticello to St. Cloud for the summer of 1987. Some college kids were helping with the move, and one of them made his stack one box too tall.

The box on top was the one with the letter openers, and that might have been when the stone one broke. I know it was when another one broke. That was the letter opener I’d bought for my grandfather in Barcelona in 1974. I got it back after he died in 1981, and on a June day in 1987, it got dropped and broke into three pieces.

I imagine the box with letter openers is in another box somewhere in the garage or maybe somewhere among the clutter on my side of the family room. And I don’t really collect letter openers any more, but I do have five of them in the brass jar on the table less than a foot from me as I write:

One of them celebrates the University of Virginia; I got it from the Other Half in 1987 when she returned from an archeological dig at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Another celebrates Boston; I think that came from my parents in 1999 after they toured New England. A third is hand-made, a green and white plastic artifact crafted in seventh-grade shop class at South Junior High and given to my grandfather for Christmas 1965. Another is made of iron; it’s an eight-inch replica of a Civil War musket that I got at Gettysburg during a 1968 vacation.

opener

The fifth is more ornate: It’s essentially an eleven-inch dagger with a scabbard that my sister bought for me in Barcelona during the summer of 1968. It’s what prompted me to buy a letter opener there for my grandfather six years later (though the one I bought for him was smaller and less ornate).

I rarely use any of them for opening mail. We generally do that upstairs, and there’s a utilitarian silver opener in the coffee mug on the kitchen cart.

I have no tracks on the digital shelves about letter openers, but there are plenty about letters. Here’s one from 1967 I found in the massive Lost Jukebox collection, “Today (I Got A Letter)” by the Fifth Order, a garage rock band that hailed from Columbus, Ohio. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Stop In 1975

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

We’re going to scan the digital shelves here today and play around in 1975, checking out five tracks from that long-gone but fondly remembered year. We’ve got a little more than 1,800 tracks to play with, so we’ll sort them by time, put the cursor in the middle of the column, and go.

Our first stop is a track titled “Thirty-Piece Band” by guitarist and singer Ellen McIlwaine from her third album, The Real Ellen McIlwaine. Recorded in Montreal and released on the Canadian Kot’ai label – after her first two albums came out on Polydor – the album is generally a decent mix of covers and originals. She’s not well-known – never having hit any chart that I’ve ever seen – but her records from the 1960s and 1970s were nice additions to a collection. According to Wikipedia, she released a couple albums in Japan in the early 2000s. “Thirty-Piece Band” is two-and-a-half minutes of churning solo guitar work topped off in the middle by some vamping and less than coherent lyrics. It’s not one of McIlwaine’s best moments.

On we go, landing on Linda Ronstadt’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox” from Prisoner In Disguise, an album that went to No. 4 in the Billboard 200 after being released in September 1975. Ronstadt’s cover of James Taylor’s 1971 album track has always been my favorite track from Prisoner; her restrained vocal and the light steel guitar are far more effective than anything else on the album, including the hits (“Love Is A Rose,” “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “Heat Wave”). From this point on (with just a few exceptions), Ronstadt seemed a lot more vehement and got a lot less interesting.

The late Larry Jon Wilson pops up here from time to time with his southern wit. This time, it’s “The Truth Ain’t In You” from his debut album New Beginnings. A mostly spoken tale of an early 1960s college-age pursuit of a young woman, the track rambles on nicely, winding around three times to the chorus: “You don’t love Jesus and the truth ain’t in you.” Fun, like much of Wilson’s work was.

In 1975, Gordon Lightfoot followed up the mega-success of 1974’s Sundown – buoyed by two Top Ten singles (“Sundown” and “Carefree Highway”), the album was No. 1 for two weeks during the summer of 1974 – with Cold On The Shoulder, an album similar in approach but, to my ears, less distinctive. Part of that judgment, certainly might be that I know Sundown better, having listened to it more frequently. The tune we fall on today is “Now & Then” from Cold On The Shoulder. It’s your basic softer Lightfoot song, a tuneful reverie of love now gone that slips on occasion into cliché, backed with chiming guitars and perhaps a few too many strings. Pleasant listening, but not as satisfying as his best work.

Albert Hammond has popped up here from time to time, at least once for his hit “It Never Rains In Southern California” and one other time for his “99 Miles From L.A.” Today, we get “Lay The Music Down” from the 99 Miles From L.A. album. A song of lost love told in the context of musicians and their songs, “Lay The Music Down” is backed, says Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, by “mild disco rhythms.” I don’t get that, but okay. It’s a decent track but no more than that.

Time

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

A Facebook friend of mine posted this morning a photo of herself and her daughter from some decades ago, noting that, “Lately, the years of my life seem to be flying by so much faster. Telephone poles whizzing by my train window, the scenery just a blur.”

I understand, though I did not always. I’ve told the story before, back in 2007:

During my college days – it must have been in 1975 – Mom was away for a few days, and Dad and I were batching it. One evening, we headed downtown to the House of Pizza – without question my all-time favorite pizza place – for dinner and a couple of beers. As we sipped our beers after dinner, the conversation turned to the passage of time.

“You know,” he said, “for someone your age” – I was twenty-one – “time seems to go slowly. As you go on, you’ll see that it begins to speed up. And by the time you get to be my age” – he was fifty-five – “it begins to move so rapidly that the years just fly, and it’s hard to keep track of it.”

I’m sure I nodded, not comprehending. He’d had a heart attack the previous autumn, and it could be that he was feeling that first chill of mortality. Maybe not. But something spurred him to talk for one of the few times I recall about how he felt about at least a part of his life. And I guess that’s why it’s such a clear memory.

As it turned out, Dad had another twenty-eight years left. I’ll turn fifty-four next week, just one year younger than Dad was that evening when we had pizza and beer. . . . I have no conclusions to draw, just the observation that my father was right, and the days and months and years seem to be accelerating, carrying me and those I love along.

I’m sixty-five now, and each of the eleven years since I wrote that has flown more rapidly yet, sweet years flitting past. I never got the chance to tell Dad he was right.

A search for “time” among the 77,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer pulls up more than 2,800 results. That includes artists’ names and album titles, of course, so some of those go away. But there are plenty of tracks still from which to choose.

Having waded through about half of the options, I came across a song called “Of Time And Rivers Flowing” that showed up in 1998 on the album Where Have All The Flowers Gone – The Songs Of Pete Seeger. I’ve never mentioned it, which I find a little odd, as the performance on the tribute album came from Richie Havens.

Of time and rivers flowing
The seasons make a song
And we who live beside her
Still try to sing along
Of rivers, and fish, and men
And the season still a-comin’
When she’ll run clear again.

So many homeless sailors
So many winds that blow
I asked the half-blind scholars
Which way the currents go
So cast your nets below
And the gods of the moving waters
Will tell us all they know.

The circles of the planets
The circles of the moon
The circles of the atoms
All play a marching tune
And we who would join in
Stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.

We can stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.

Saturday Single No. 640

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

Here are the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 released fifty years ago yesterday, May 10, 1969:

Hair by the original cast
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Galveston by Glenn Campbell
Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan
Donovan’s Greatest Hits
Cloud Nine by the Temptations
In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Bayou Country by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Help Yourself by Tom Jones
Led Zeppelin

Four of those ten, the LP database tells me, never showed up in the vinyl stacks: the records by the Temptations, Iron Butterfly, Tom Jones and Led Zeppelin. I had some other Zep and a Temptations anthology, and I once made the misguided decision to buy Iron Butterfly’s live album. (The live version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was even more aimless than was the studio version.) No albums by Tom Jones ever showed up in the vinyl stacks.

A few of those – the BST, the Campbell, the CCR – are great albums. Nashville Skyline is enjoyable, but somehow seems slight; if we’re listening to Dylan from 1970, I prefer New Morning. And the Donovan album is pleasant, but my judgment on his work has been the same since it first came out of the radio speakers in the mid- to late 1960s: It’s for the most part a series of trifles with little substance.

The most interesting of those ten might be Hair. I think the cast album was more a marker of a social moment than a record one listened to (unless one had seen the musical, I suppose), but what I noticed about the music was the number of cover hits it inspired: “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” went to No. 1 for the 5th Dimension, “Hair” went to No. 2 for the Cowsills, “Good Morning Starshine” went to No. 3 for Oliver, and “Easy To Be Hard” went to No. 4 for Three Dog Night. The Happenings tried to get in on the trend, too, but their medley of “Where Do I Go/Be-In/Hare Krishna” stalled at No. 69. And there may be other covers I’m not aware of.

As to current listening, a fair number of tracks from those albums are among the 3,900-plus tracks on the iPod: a couple from Nashville Skyline, a couple from Galveston, and seven each from Blood, Sweat & Tears and Donovan’s Greatest Hits. (Yes, I said Donovan’s works are basically trifles; that doesn’t mean they’re not fun to listen to.)

As it happens, I drove to the train station in Big Lake the other day to head to a Twins game with Rob, and I let the Blood, Sweat & Tears album keep me company. Even with David Clayton-Thomas’ tendency to over-sing, the album is pretty high on my list. (How high? In my top fifty, maybe.) I had kind of forgotten how jazzy things get during the instrumental breaks.

And I was also reminded as I listened that Blood, Sweat & Tears was the first album I got after I got my tape player during the summer of 1969. I’ve long since added it on vinyl and CD, which puts it pretty close to the front of the line in terms of music I’ve listened to the longest.

So here’s “Smiling Phases” from Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1969 self-titled album. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Taking Time

Friday, May 10th, 2019

I haven’t been entirely lazy during the last week. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been scanning old family pictures that my sister and I have found in various boxes, spending a couple hours each day at the desk sorting out the in-focus shots from those more fuzzy.

Along with that, I’ve been attaching the occasional scanned photo to the pages of appropriate relatives at my family tree at Ancestry.com, where I’ve been digging for a while.

The one thing I have not done this week is anything regarding blogging, whether about music or anything else. I general write early in the morning, but this week I’ve been sleeping in, perhaps because I still need down time. After all, the doctors did say when I had my surgery in January that, although I could resume normal activities in April, it would be about a year before I’d be fully recovered. And I do tire easily.

So I took a week for me. And in the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what I might write about when I come back to this space. I’ve got no major plans for today. I have an idea for tomorrow’s Saturday Single. And I think that next week, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny and Richard and Linda Thompson will be featured here at least once, as I don’t think I’ve ever written much about them.

But for today, I’m just happy to open the file and put down some words. As for music, I took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago today – May 10, 1969 – and found at No. 100 a record I featured here a little more than eight years ago, which is an eternity in blog time. Here’s Wilson Pickett’s not-entirely-successful cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” which peaked at No. 64.

Forty-Nine Years

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Here’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with the version of “Ohio” that was included on the live album 4 Way Street, assembled from 1970 performances in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and released in 1971.

‘And they’re off!’

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

DerbyI’m not sure when I got the game. I might have been twelve. But at some store – Woolworth’s? Kresge’s? I don’t remember – I saw the Kentucky Derby Racing Game and wanted it enough to either wheedle its price out of one of my parents or pay for it with my own limited funds. (More likely the former.)

It really wasn’t much of a game, as a glance at the photo above reveals. The winner was the horse whose number came up on the spinner fifteen times. No favorites, no dark horses, no upsets. Just spins of a plastic arrow. I played it frequently for a while, then sporadically for a longer while, then not at all.

Eventually, it sat in a closet at the house on Kilian Boulevard waiting for its now-adult owner to deal with it. I think it was among the toys I took to a dealer at an antique mall out by the freeway a year or so after Dad died.

What did intrigue me about the game were the names of the seven horses: Swaps, Needles, Iron Liege, Tim Tam, Tomy Lee, Venetian Way, and Carry Back. Those, I learned after some time playing the game, were the winners of the Kentucky Derby from 1955 through 1961. Earlier versions of the game – and it seems to date back at least to the 1930s – seem to have had only five horses (based on listings at Ebay) and, of course, differing rosters of horses, including Citation, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Gallant Fox and likely more.

And I became fascinated for a time with the act of naming thoroughbred horses. The names seemed so odd and random. And since I was also deeply into naming sports teams (and designing their logos) in those days – a hobby I’ve mentioned before – I began compiling a short list of horse names. That list is long gone, and I recall only one of the names: Walter’s Warrior. (Even at 14 or so, I was a major fan of alliteration.)

I still find the breeding and naming of thoroughbreds interesting. I spent some time the other evening digging into the breeding line of this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite, Omaha Beach. (The horse was scratched from the race – and the other two Triple Crown races – yesterday because of a throat ailment.)

And I’m currently reading Christopher McGrath’s book Mr. Darley’s Arabian, which details the long lineage of a horse brought to England from Aleppo (in today’s Syria) in the early 1700s, a horse that McGrath says is the ancestor of nearly every thoroughbred raced today in England, North American and Australia. (Two other Arabians were also in the genetic mix early, but those lines, McGrath says, have nearly faded away.)

Beyond my general curiosity about a wide range of things, I know that one of the things that got me interested in thoroughbred racing, lineage and names was discovering the names of those seven horses in my Kentucky Derby Racing Game years ago. (The saga of Secretariat when I was nineteen did not hurt, either.) I don’t know if newer versions exist of the game (either as a board game or digital doodad), but it’s nice to think that some urchin somewhere will someday open a racing game that features Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, Always Dreaming, and Justify along with the winner of tomorrow’s 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Keeping to the topic (in terms of the title, at least), here’s Little Richard with “Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Run In This Year’s Race).” It was originally intended for the unreleased 1972 album Southern Child and showed up on the 2005 release King of Rock & Roll: Complete Reprise Recordings.

Memphis, 50 Years Ago

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Okay, so what were they listening to in Memphis fifty years ago today? Let’s take a look at the “Now 30” offered by WHBQ on April 23, 1969. Here’s the Top Ten:

“Sweet Cherry Wine” by Tommy James & The Shondells
“It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers
“Mama Soul” by the Soul Survivors
“Hawaii Five-O” by the Ventures
“Chokin’ Kind” by Joe Simon
“Time Is Tight” by Booker T & The MG’s
“These Eyes” by the Guess Who
“Will You Be Staying After Sunday” by the Peppermint Rainbow
“Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy
“It’s Only Love” by B.J. Thomas

That’s not entirely familiar to me, which is rare for a 1969 chart. I don’t recall ever hearing “Mama Soul” or “Chokin’ Kind” until today. In the case of “Mama Soul,” that’s maybe not surprising, as it only bubbled under at No. 115 in Billboard, and the odds of hearing it on the northern end of the Mississippi River were likely slender; at the time, I was not a committed listener.

I’m a little more startled at not recalling the Joe Simon record. It went to No. 13 in the Hot 100 (and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart). If I’d heard it back then, I think I would have liked it. (The same holds true for “Mama Soul.”) But I took a look at Oldiesloon, and “Chokin’ Kind” doesn’t seem to have made it into any of the surveys from KDWB out of the Twin Cities, so my chances weren’t good there, either.

The third record of those ten that didn’t spark any memories as I scanned the list was the B.J. Thomas. I listened to it, and I vaguely remember hearing it but not being impressed.

Otherwise, heading down the “Now 30,” I noticed with some interest three covers: “The Letter” by the Arbors at No. 13, “I Shall Be Released” by the Box Tops at No. 25, and “She’s Not There” by the Road at No. 26. I think I’ve talked about the first two over the years, so let’s take a look at the third of those.

The Road was a quintet from Buffalo, New York, and the group’s cover of the Zombies’ 1964 record was its only charting hit, bubbling under the Hot 100 for three weeks and peaking at No. 114. The record made the Top Ten in a number of cities, peaking at No. 3 at WRKO in Boston and CJKL in Kirkland Lake, Ontario (about 350 miles north of Toronto) and going to No. 2 at KYNO in Fresno, KTIL in Tillamook, Oregon, and – unsurprisingly – WNIA in Buffalo.

It’s got a trippy, very ’69-ish, introduction, but once the record gets going, it’s not all that different from the Zombies’ version. But it’s a decent listen, and it’s likely the only thing the Road ever did that got attention in Kirkland Lake.

Saturday Single No. 638

Saturday, April 20th, 2019

As I’ve mentioned before, my sister and I have many boxes of stuff taken from the house at Kilian Boulevard to sort through. Most of those are at my sister’s home: In the months after Dad died and before she moved out to a patio home in Waite Park, Mom would send box after box with my sister to the Twin Cities’ suburb of Maple Grove to sort through someday.

Once the Texas Gal and I were living in the house on the East Side and Mom was in assisted living, she and I would go out to her storage units and she’d send boxes with me. By the time Mom was gone there was a pile of about fifteen boxes – mostly full of photos and genealogical materials – in my storage spaces, as well.

For numerous reasons, my sister and I hadn’t done much sorting over the winter. But the other day, she came up from Maple Grove, and we went through a couple of boxes. We found lots of photos, some shot by my dad, and others mailed over the years to Mom and Dad. We kept those of people we know, and I’m scanning them, with plans to make CD’s for our cousins.

We found some interesting things that might matter to the right audience. For instance, we found a high school annual-sized book detailing the history of the small town of Lamberton, Minnesota, where my grandparents lived – first on a farm and then in town – for forty years. I made a call this week to the Redwood County Historical Society, and the fellow I talked to said he knows about the book, but the only copy the group has is kind of beaten up. I told him I had a near-mint copy for him. He said that when I send it, I should include a page or two detailing my connection to the book and to Lamberton and include as detailed a list of ancestors as I can.

And then there was Dad’s stuff related to his college career, both as a student and a faculty member: his diplomas for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, several of his annual contracts, magazines with pieces he’d written about audio-visual education. I took it over to St. Cloud State’s archivist and spent most of an hour going through it. A lot of it will go into the file they keep there for Dad; some of it will go elsewhere in the archives as appropriate, and some, he said, they might not need.

And come Monday, after a week that didn’t quite go as expected. I’ll get back to sorting and scanning photos and then tying those photos to the appropriate pages at Ancestry.com as I dig further and further into my history (and that of the Texas Gal, too).

So I’ve been dealing – and will continue to do to box-by-box for some time – with history. That’s one of musician Al Stewart’s favorite topics, too, and he approaches it in a different way in his song “Tasting History.” It’s from his 2000 album Down In The Cellar, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.