Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Saturday Single No. 605

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Well, as I opened my Word file this morning and typed in today’s date, I noticed that August 18, 2018 scans out to 8-18-18, and if there were ever a date begging for Games With Numbers, today’s is one of them.

So we’re going to take those numbers and turn them into Nos. 8, 18, 26, 36 and 44 and then visit a Billboard Hot 100 to see what treasures or dross we might find. The question is, what year? I think we’ll take the largest of those numbers and head back forty-four years to August of 1974. I spent that month working halftime in the cataloging department of the St. Cloud State Learning Resources Center and killing time, hanging around with my friends at The Table and waiting for school to resume and for my friends from the Denmark program to come back to St. Cloud. So what do we find as we dip into the Hot 100 from the third week of August 1974?

Heading to our lowest searching point first, we find Mac Davis singing about “One Hell Of A Woman.” The record, heading to a peak at No. 11, would be Davis’ first Top 40 hit since 1972, when “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” spent three weeks at No. 1. I’ve evidently not thought much about “One Hell Of A Woman,” as it’s not on the digital shelves (though couple of other Davis tracks are), but listening to it this morning, it’s a decent piece of Seventies pop, better musically than lyrically. As I look at that Hot 100 from August of 1974, I notice that by the time Davis’ record got to No. 44, it had already been in the chart for twenty-two weeks. That seems like a long time to get to that point. (The only other record that had been in the Hot 100 longer that week was the Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” which, in its twenty-three weeks on the chart, had spent two weeks at No. 2 and was at No. 93, slowly making its way out of the chart.)

We move up eight spots to No. 36, where we find Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” making its way to a peak of No. 8. Some years ago, I wrote:

I don’t have a lot to say about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” except to note two things about the record that went to No. 8 in 1974: First, the ambiguous second verse that seems to have defended Alabama Governor George Wallace doesn’t actually do so, according to a 1975 interview with the late Ronnie Van Zant, co-writer of the song. Second, I think the current Alabama license plate is just perfect:


I’m not entirely certain, but it appears, sadly, as if that plate is no longer available.

We jump ten spots to No. 26, where Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” buoyed by doo-wop vocals from the Jackson 5, is heading toward No. 1. The record, says Wikipedia, “was one of [Wonder’s] angriest political statements and was aimed squarely at President Richard Nixon, who resigned two days after the record’s release.” Although there were numerous criminal and political reasons for Nixon’s resignation, it’s fun to indulge in a revisionist fantasy that has Nixon combing the AM band late at night, hearing Wonder’s thumping and funky put-down coming through the ether, and realizing, “Damn, if I’ve lost Stevie Wonder, I’ve lost the nation. I’d better call it quits.”

Speaking of thumping, moving up to No. 18, we find “Wild Thing” as offered by the English group Fancy. The record wasn’t a major departure from the Troggs’ original version, which went to No. 1 in 1966. Well, the breathy vocals of Helen Caunt and that twee little synth solo were different. Otherwise, the record plodded along as it headed toward a peak at No. 14. It was one of two U.S. hits for Fancy; “Touch Me” went to No. 19 during the first week of December 1974. (As I dug into Fancy’s work at YouTube, I noticed with some amusement that one video poster called Fancy a “[b]argain bin band that still had some talent on board.”)

Our last stop as we climb up the Hot 100 from August 24, 1974, is No. 8, where we find Donny and Marie Osmond covering Dale and Grace’s No. 1 hit from 1963, “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” though the Osmonds adjusted the title, making it “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You.” The record, inoffensive and bland, was heading to a peak at No. 4. It was the first of six Top 40 hits for the brother-and-sister duo; Donny, of course, had a bushel of hits on his own and with his brothers, some of which were pretty decent.

Just because we do this, I should note that the No. 1 record in that August 24, 1974, Hot 100 was the execrable “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates.

So we’ve listened to a wide range of stuff this morning, but only one record really grabs me. From its funk and its “Doo-da-wop!” chant to its message, Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin” resonates, and that’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Queen Of Soul

Friday, August 17th, 2018

I should have more to say about Aretha Franklin, who died yesterday at her home in Detroit, than it seems that I do.

It’s not that I don’t value or love her music. I have plenty of it – more than 130 tracks – on the digital shelves; I have several of her CDs; and a few LPs survived the Great Vinyl Sell-off the other year. And her music provided a lot of the soundtrack of my early teen years, years when I wasn’t listening to pop, rock and soul, but years when she was one of those artists – like the Beatles – whose music nevertheless seeped inside me without any effort on my part.

So why do I feel I have I so little to say?

Because Aretha Franklin as a subject for eulogy, memoir or memorial is too damned big. She towers over the music world in a way that few artists do. So I don’t know where to start or to end or even what to put in or leave out. And knowing that stuff is a huge part what I’m supposed to do as a writer, so that’s a little deflating.*

So what did Aretha mean to me? I was a little too young and a lot too white to grasp her impact when she came to Atlantic in 1966 and, well, I’m tempted to say she destroyed the existing order, but that’s a little too sweeping. Nevertheless, her 1967 album I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You knocked a lot of listeners back in their chairs or wherever they were sitting. And Aretha continued to do that, single after single, album after album, year after year.

But y’all know that. Ain’t nothin’ new there.

So, my favorite Aretha? Well, I put “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” in the Ultimate Jukebox almost ten years ago, saying:

I don’t have much to say about Aretha Franklin and “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” I mean, she’s Aretha, and the record was one of her forty-five Top 40 hits (covering a span of years from 1961 to 1998). Add that “Since You’ve Been Gone” went to No. 5 in the early spring of 1968 (and was No. 1 for three weeks on the R&B chart), and all you need to do after that is listen.

See, even back then, Aretha was too big for me. There are, however, other Aretha records I like more than “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone.” I love her take on “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” from 1972. And I love her sinuous cover of “Spanish Harlem” from 1971.

(So why, you might ask, did those two recordings not make it into the Ultimate Jukebox? Well, Lulu’s version of “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” showed up on my radio during my junior year of high school and attached itself forever to the memory of one whose attentions seemed unattainable, and I did not want two versions of the song in the project. And on the day I was choosing between Aretha’s version of “Spanish Harlem” and Ben E. King’s, I made the wrong choice.)

But that’s about me, and this is supposed to be about Aretha Franklin. So the least I can do is point you at the very good obituary and appreciation of her work written by Jon Bream that ran on the front page of this morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And maybe the best I can do this morning is to repeat what I posted at Facebook yesterday morning when I heard news of Aretha’s death:

There are plenty of reasons to grieve the loss of Aretha Franklin, but there are just as many reasons to celebrate our having had her here for so many years. So, by way of tribute, here’s her exultant “Freeway of Love” from 1985. (Saxophone courtesy of the Big Man, Clarence Clemons.)

R.I.P., Miss Franklin.

*As I think about that this morning, my mind looks to the future, and I know I’m going to feel the same way on the mornings after Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen leave this world. And that terrifies me and saddens me.

What’s At No. 100? (August 1965)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We’re going to play one of our favorite – and relatively new – games here today: What’s At No. 100? My imaginary tuneheads, Odd and Pop, and I have done this four times previously, but we’ve been headlining those excursions as Chart Digging. That was Pop’s idea.

“Well,” he said during the meeting when the new game was approved, “we don’t want to scare off readers who look for the comfortable and expected.”

“Pshhht!” said Odd. “If they want comfortable and unsurprising, let ’em buy a chair! We need to offer readers stuff they rarely hear anywhere else, stuff that expands their horizons, stuff that makes their musical worlds grow!”

“Really?” asked Pop. “Like ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richards?”

“Oh, yeah,” said Odd, shifting uncomfortably in his imaginary chair. “That was unfortunate.” He sighed, then perked up. “But the next time we played the game, we found something by Travis Wammack!”

Pop nodded. “And we’ve heard stuff from the Dells and from Stephen Stills.”

“So you’re both happy as we head into 1965?” I asked.

Pop nodded. Odd chewed his lip. “Well, ‘happy’ is a relative term. Sometimes, I can’t be satisfied.” He paused and then added, “And yes, that’s a Muddy Waters reference.”

With that, we turned to the Billboard Hot 100 from August 21, 1965, and its Top Ten:

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher
“Save Your Heart For Me” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Help!” by the Beatles
“California Girls” by the Beach Boys
“Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones
“It’s The Same Old Song” by the Four Tops
“Don’t Just Stand There” by Patty Duke
“I’m Henry The VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits
“Down In The Boondocks” by Billy Joe Royal

The three of us looked at that Top Ten with generally differing thoughts, although none of us were impressed by the Patty Duke single as we listened. I thought it sounded like mediocre Lesley Gore. The two of them agreed.

As to the rest of that Top Ten, Pop was pleased with the remaining nine and giggled happily as he thought about the record by Herman’s Hermits. As I expected, Odd dismissed that single as piffle but acknowledged most of the rest as decent listening. He was a little disturbed by the thought of the record from Gary Lewis & The Playboys, but he was pleased with the presence of the Billy Joe Royal record. “I know it was a pretty good hit back in the day,” he said. “And that was way back in the day,” he added, looking at me. “Even you were young then!”

And he and Pop – whippersnappers that they are – giggled as I gave them my best eye-roll.

“But,” Odd went on, “I can get into a No. 9 hit when it seems to be lost, and ‘Down In The Boondocks’ seems to be very much lost these days.”

Then I asked, “And how about the top of the list, Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’?”

“No. 1 for three weeks!” Pop said happily.

“Hal Blaine!” Odd added, just as pleased.

Then we were off for our business at the bottom of the Hot 100.

And we found a master of soul who’s been mentioned only rarely here during these eleven-plus years and who’s been featured only two times: Solomon Burke, whose “Someone Is Watching” was sitting at No. 100 fifty-three years ago this week.

Every time his name pops up in my reading or on the charts I scan, I think to myself that, yes, I need to know more about Solomon Burke, and I definitely need to know his music better. Those are goals that both Odd and Pop agree with, as there’s very little by the man on the physical or digital shelves here. That needs to be remedied.

But for now, here’s “Someone Is Watching,” a nice slice of Atlantic soul. It stalled at No. 89 on the Hot 100 and went to No. 24 on the Billboard R&B chart. Unsurprisingly, it’s nice stuff, with a sax solo that I’d think came from King Curtis.

Survey Digging, California Style

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Sometime after World War II, one of my dad’s five sisters – Evelyn – moved to California, where her husband – my Uncle Bill – got into some kind of advertising or promotion business in Los Angeles. They had two kids, a girl and a boy, each about a year older than my sister and me.

Sometime in the late 1950s, another aunt and uncle – Dad’s sister Francis and her husband – headed to California, too. They settled in Oxnard, where my Uncle Newell was a dentist. They, too, had a pair of kids, a girl and a boy, a bit closer in age to me and my sister but still a bit older than we were.

I used to daydream about a California vacation, about visiting those distant relatives in that golden state, about getting to know my cousins better, and about seeing all the things in California that I saw on television and in the magazines and movies. But a California vacation was out of the reach of a state college teacher’s salary in the 1960s and early 1970s, and anyway, Dad’s sisters and their husbands and their kids made their ways back to Minnesota every couple of years, so we didn’t really have to go all the way west to see our relatives.

Digression: As did many kids I knew, I dreamed of going to Disneyland. Every week as we watched the Disney television show – always in black and white on Kilian Boulevard – I’d see the shots of people having an incredibly fun time at the park in Anaheim. For whatever reason, the attraction at Disneyland that grabbed my attention the most was the Mad Hatter’s teacup ride.

Finally, when I was twenty-nine, I got to Southern California covering the Monticello High School Marching Band’s participation in Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses Parade. One of the band’s activities during the week we spent out west was marching in one of the daily parades at Disneyland, with pretty much an entire day of free time wrapped around that half-hour long parade. I headed to Fantasyland, home of the Mad Hatter’s teacups . . . and learned that Fantasyland was closed for a year-long renovation. I enjoyed the rest of the attractions at Disneyland. It was a fun day. But even now, thirty-some years later, when I see a picture of the Mad Hatter’s teacups, there’s a little twinge inside. End digression

Having taken a look earlier this week at what I was hearing on KDWB as the last weeks of summer 1970 played out (not all of which I remembered), I thought today, I would dig into the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and find a survey from this week from either Los Angeles or Oxnard and see what my California cousins heard coming from their radios.

I couldn’t find anything fitting the time frame from Oxnard, but I found the Boss 30 from Los Angeles’ KHJ for August 12, 1970. I don’t expect huge differences from what we were hearing back in the Midwest, but there might be one or two unexpected gems.

Here’s the top half of that week’s Boss 30:

“Make It With You” by Bread
“In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder
“Everybody’s Got The Right To Love” by the Supremes
“The Sly, Slick And The Wicked” by the Lost Generation
“Long Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt
“Westbound #9” by the Flaming Ember
“Tell It All, Brother” by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
“Looking Out My Back Door” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Soul Shake” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“Tighter, Tighter” by Alive & Kicking
“Only You Know And I Know” by Dave Mason

No real surprises there, except maybe the records by Dave Mason and by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, both of which missed – by two or three places – the Top 40 in Billboard. Some of the other records that hit the Top 40 rank a fair amount higher here than they ever did in Billboard, most notably the records by the Supremes, the Flaming Ember, and the Lost Generation. But nothing looks horribly out of place.

Of the eight records that KHJ tagged as “hitbound,” three of them were new to the survey: “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman (which I mentioned the other day and was pleased the next day or so to hear coming at random from the iPod), “Look What They’ve Done To My Song” by the New Seekers, and “Candida” by Dawn.

Entering the Boss 30 the previous week and tagged as hitbound were: “Joanne” by Mike Nesmith & The First National Band, “Hand Me Down World” by the Guess Who, ‘Summertime Blues” by the Who, “I (Who Have Nothing)” by Tom Jones, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond.

So there’s nothing real surprising there. What does surprise me – having dug into the blog archives as I’ve written – is that in more than eleven years and some 2,200 posts, it seems that I’ve only mentioned the tune “Only You Know And I Know” two or three times, and always in the context of the cover version released by Delaney & Bonnie in 1971. I’ve entirely ignored Mason’s original, which showed up on his 1970 album Alone Together. It went to No. 42 in Billboard and was obviously more popular than that at KHJ. So here it is:

‘Never Goin’ Home’

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

Having messed up bigly in tracing Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” at KDWB the other week (and I still can’t figure out how my search went so awry), I thought I’d dive into the data at oldiesloon again this morning and take a look at the KDWB 6+30 from August 10, 1970.

As the second week of that August rolled in, most scheduled summer activities – enrichment classes, music programs, the state trap shoot – would have been over.

But the three weeks of summer football practice for the Tech Tigers had most likely just started, with me tending to boxes of footballs, bins of scrimmage jerseys, a primitive medical kit, and more. And before and after practice, the radio in the locker room’s small training room was almost always tuned to KDWB. I heard a lot of KDWB at home, too, but there, evenings belonged to WJON across the tracks and late evenings belonged to Chicago’s WLS.

Anyway, here are the Top Fifteen from that KDWB 6+30, records I would have heard nearly every day:

“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Make It With You” by Bread
“Ball Of Confusion” by the Temptations
“O-o-h Child” by the Five Stairsteps
“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
“Tighter, Tighter” by Alive & Kicking
“Spill The Wine” by Eric Burdon & War
“Song Of Joy” by Miguel Rios
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne
“I Just Can’t Help Believing” by B.J. Thomas
“Big Yellow Taxi” by Neighborhood
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton
“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“Are You Ready?” by Pacific Gas & Electric

That’s a pure hour of bliss for me. At least today it would be, forty-eight years after the fact. At the time, I might not have been too thrilled by “Song Of Joy” and I vaguely recall that I tired rapidly of “Spill The Wine.”

Looking further down the survey, “In The Summertime” (the record that started this) was at No. 18, up from No. 27 the week before. Gene Chandler’s “Groovy Situation,” a record that popped up on my iTunes yesterday, was sitting at No. 27, up three spots from the previous week. And there were three new records in the 6+30: “Overture From Tommy (A Rock Opera)” by the Assembled Multitude was at No. 31, “Never Goin’ Home” by Owen B. was at No. 34, and Bobby Sherman’s “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” was at No. 36.

I’ve written about two of those three newcomers seemingly many times. The Assembled Multitude record was one of my favorites that season, and the Bobby Sherman record stays in my memory banks because years after the fact, I realized that there was a Julie who, if she didn’t truly love me, at least liked me a lot, and I never noticed.

I don’t remember the record by Owen B. and searching it out on YouTube this morning sparked no recognition. It turns out that Owen B. was a band from Mansfield, Ohio, that had one record reach the Billboard Hot 100: “Mississippi Mama” went to No. 97 over a two-week period in March 1970. “Never Goin’ Home” never made the Hot 100, and it didn’t stay on KDWB very long. The following week, the record had fallen to No. 35, and a week later, it was gone.

Among the surveys collected at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, only one other station gave “Never Goin’ Home” any attention. That was WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, where the record went to No. 1 during the first week of July. And that’s not surprising, as Columbus is just sixty miles from Owen B.’s home of Mansfield.

(If you’re interested in learning more about Owen B., there’s a brief history of the band in a 2013 post – seemingly written by band member Tom Zinser – at the blog Rockasteria.)

What interests me this morning is how – and why – “Never Goin’ Home” got any attention at all at KDWB. From what I can tell, the record never got into the 30 Star Survey at WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station. And from listening to the record several times this morning, that was a good decision. I mean, it’s not a bad record, but nothing much separates it from a thousand other records of the time.

I’ll let you make up your mind:

Saturday Single No. 601

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

I was rummaging around this morning at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, looking at surveys from the Twin Cities’ KDWB and trying to figure out as well as I could when it was in 1969 that I really started paying attention to the station and thus, to the Top 40.

Well, it wasn’t this week. The station’s 6+30 survey for July 21, 1969, has too many records tucked into it that were not familiar to me at the time and even a few that weren’t immediately familiar to me this morning, forty-nine years after the fact. So I made a few stops at YouTube.

I cued up “Medicine Man” by the Buchanan Brothers, and when the group – which was actually Terry Cashman, Gene Pistilli and Tommy West – got to the chorus, I recognized the record, which was pretty darn catchy, if unmarketable today. It was sitting at No. 36, the very bottom of the station’s survey, having peaked at No. 14 a few weeks earlier. That was better than the record did nationally, as Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows it as peaking at No. 22.

Next, I went in search of the Rascals’ “See,” which was sitting at No. 33 at KDWB that week. I have no recollection of the record at all. From what I can tell, the record peaked at No. 8 at the station a few weeks earlier, which meant some pretty hefty airplay, and that tells me that I hadn’t yet moved the radio by mid-July. “See” went to No. 27 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Then I moved to the third of the unremembered records on that long-ago 6+30. Bobby Vinton’s “The Days of Sand and Shovels” was sitting at No. 13, up two spots from the week before. Having listened to it, I can say without reservation that I’ve never heard the record before, nor have I ever heard the song before. I can also say it’s pretty dreadful. KDWB’s listeners must have caught on to that, as the record dropped out of the 6+30 the next week. Nationally, it peaked at No. 34, the only version of the song – which I think was first recorded in 1968 by Carl Dobkins, Jr. – to hit the Billboard Hot 100. (Vinton’s version went to No. 11 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.)

Just to round things out, two versions of the tune have shown up on the magazine’s country chart. Waylon Jennings’ cover went to No. 20 in 1969, and Ned Stuckey took the tune to No. 26 in 1978. There are other covers out there, but none that charted.

How bad was the song? Check out the lyrics:

When I noticed her the first time
I was outside running barefoot in the rain
She lived in the house next door
Her nose was pressed against the window pane
When I looked at her, she smiled
And showed a place where two teeth used to be
And I heard her ask her mom if she
Could come outside and play with me

But soon the days of sand and shovels
Gave way to the mysteries of life
And I noticed she was changing and I
Looked at her through different eyes
We became as one and knew a love
Without beginning or an end
And every day I lived with her
Was like a new day dawning once again

And I’ve loved her since every doll was Shirley Temple
Soda pop was still a nickel
Jam was on her fingertips
Milk was circled on her lips

After many years our love fell silent
And at night I heard her cry
And when she left me in the fall, I knew
That it would be our last goodbye
I was man enough to give her
Everything she needed for a while
But searching for a perfect love
I found that I could not give her a child

Now she lives a quiet life
And is the mother of a little girl
Every time I pass her house
My thoughts go back into another world
Because I see her little girl
Her nose is pressed against the window pane
She thinks I’m a lonely man
Who wants to come inside out of the rain

And I’ve loved her since every doll was Shirley Temple
Soda pop was still a nickel
Jam was on her fingertips
Milk was circled on her lips

Boy, that’s not quite to the level of Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey,” but it’s damn close. And the anachronistic reference to Shirley Temple dolls bothers me. Shirley Temple and the dolls modeled after her were part of the 1930s and maybe, 1940s. Same with soda pop being a nickel. I don’t get what era this is supposed to be.

Anyway, sometimes you have to share the cheese. So here’s Bobby Vinton’s “The Days of Sand and Shovels” from 1969, today’s Saturday Single.

Lookin’ At July 20

Friday, July 20th, 2018

So what do we have on the digital shelves that was recorded on July 20?

The three members of the Mississippi Jook Band had a busy day eighty-two years ago in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The band – made up of Blind Roosevelt Graves on guitar, his brother Uaroy Graves (who was almost blind himself) on tambourine, and Cooney Vaughn on piano – recorded four tracks that day. All of them were released on the Melotone label, and three of the four are on my digital shelves. All three came to me via the four-CD box set When The Levee Breaks, issued in 2000 by the British label JSP; one of the three was also released on the fourth volume of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, released in 2013.

The three tracks here are “Barbeque Bust,” “Hittin’ The Bottle Stomp,” and “Skippy Whippy.” The fourth track the trio recorded on that long-ago July 20 was “Dangerous Woman.”

Heading onward, we drop into a session in 1949, with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers – augmented by guitarist Oscar Moore – recording “How Blue Can You Get (Downhearted)” in New York City. Fans of B.B. King or of the blues in general will recognize the song; this – according to the album notes – is the original version. The track was evidently not released until 1960, when it showed up on an RCA Camden compilation called Singin’ the Blues. I found the track on Volume 4, “That’s All Right,” of the thirteen-CD series When The Sun Goes Down, an extensive look at the deep roots of rock ’n’ roll.

Regular visitors here are no doubt aware of my fondness for the work of Big Maybelle, born Mabel Louise Smith in Jackson, Tennessee, in 1924. She pops up today because of her session in New York City on July 20, 1956, sixty years ago today. Among the tracks recorded that day was “Mean To Me,” which was released on the Savoy label. It came to me on the two-LP collection The Roots of Rock ’n Roll: The Savoy Sessions, which I bought for $1.25 during a record-digging session in Golden Valley, Minnesota, in April 1999. A CD version of the set arrived here in 2012 as a gift from friend and regular reader Yah Shure.

The traditional British folk song “Blackwaterside” shows up next, telling the tale of a woman seduced and then spurned. The song and several variants, including “Down by Blackwaterside” among others, are thought to have originated near the River Blackwater in Ulster. (One of those variants is the instrumental “Black Mountain Side” on Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut album.) Here, it’s a live 1983 performance by Linda Thompson for the (presumably British) television show Music On The Move. The track was included on the 1996 Hannibal compilation Dreams Fly Away (A History Of Linda Thompson).

Then we come to an entire CD recorded on July 20, 1991, when the trio of Rick Danko, Eric Andersen and Jonas Fjeld played a gig at the Molde Jazz Festival. The trio’s music is certainly not jazz and might be more accurately described as folk rock or roots or Americana with a slight Norwegian twist. However you describe it, their music is a delight. The live performance was released in 2002 on the Appleseed label as part of a two-CD package; the other CD was a remastered version of the trio’s 1991 release Danko/Fjeld/Andersen.

So now we sort these out. For all my historical interest in groups like the Mississippi Jook Band, I don’t listen much to those box sets. When the tunes come up when the RealPlayer is set on random, that’s fine, but I don’t often seek them out. So we’ll pass the Jook Band by. We’ll do the same, with some regrets, with Big Maybelle and Linda Thompson. And our regrets are greater when we pass on Danko/Fjeld/Andersen; their slender catalog has been among my favorites ever since I found their second album, Ridin’ On The Blinds. It was among the first CDs I ever bought.

But the work of Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers, augmented by the guitar work of his brother Oscar, is too good to pass up, especially since the track is the original version of one of the classic blues songs. So here’s “How Blue Can You Get (Downhearted).”

One Chart Dig: July 1970

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Here’s what the top of the Billboard Hot 100 looked like in mid-July 1970, as I wandered through the last months before my senior year of high school:

“Mama Told Me (Not To Come)” by Three Dog Night
“The Love You Save/I Found That Girl” by the Jackson 5
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne
“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today)” by the Temptations
“Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image
“Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” by Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers
“O-o-o Child/Dear Prudence” by the Five Stairsteps
“Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pipkins
“Make It With You” by Bread

I don’t recall ever hearing the B-sides of the Jackson 5 and Five Stairsteps singles. Otherwise, every one of these records echoes in my head today, forty-eight years after their time. Did I like them all? Actually, yes, even the juvenile silliness of “Gimme Dat Ding.”

My pal Mike – whose mother was soon to banish me from their home because of my approval of the Beatles – brought the Pipkins single over one Saturday morning. We headed to the rec room in the basement, and I tried to tape the single, but without suitable equipment, every take was ruined by household noise. Finally, we were seconds away from getting the job done when Rick – coming over from across the street – gave me his regular signal of his arrival by tapping three times on the basement window. In exasperation and amusement, we gave up.

With that, we’re going to leave that Top Ten behind and dive deep, checking out – as we’ve been doing recently – the very bottom of the Hot 100, the record parked this week in 1970 at No. 100. And there we find “Long Lonely Nights” by the Dells.

I expected a sad tune, but the hard hitting “Lonely nights!” intro – which seemed to promise something up-tempo – threw me. And after that bit of oddness, the record settled into a standard Dells joint: Harmonies and sad sounds, swirling strings and punchy horns, a little bit of spoken word melancholy. Then, at the end, we get an unsettling reprise of the up-tempo “Lonely nights!” It’s as if the Dells and producer Bobby Miller weren’t sure what kind of record they wanted to make.

And whether it was the odd mix of up-tempo and slow sounds or something else, the record didn’t do very well. It peaked at No. 74 in the Hot 100 and at No. 27 in the magazine’s R&B chart. Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 600

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

So, what do we know about No. 600? Well, let’s head to the reference books.

Our first stop is The Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh’s 1989 listing of the 1,001 greatest singles, where No. 600 is “If It Ain’t One Thing . . . It’s Another,” a 1982 release by Richard “Dimples” Fields. Marsh notes that the single “uses Fields’s sweet gospel falsetto and a groove that owes a lot to Superfly-era Curtis Mayfield to salvage a lyric that’s as detailed and pained (though not nearly as poetic) as ‘What’s Going On.’ It’s as if,” Marsh goes on “the Stylistics’ Russell Thompkins had awakened from his romantic reveries and decided to take a hard look at real life.” The single, released on the Boardwalk label, went to No. 47 in the Billboard Hot 100 and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart. Listening to it for the first time this morning, I’m left pretty much unmoved.

Flipping the pages of the 2005 tome 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, edited by Robert Dimery, we find Page 600 occupied by Sonic Youth’s 1988 release Daydream Nation. Ignacio Julià – the author, with Jaime Gonzalo Julià, of the 1994 book about the group I Dreamed Of Noise – writes that the album “refined a quest that had started in the New York underground of the early 1980s and had experimented along the way with minimalisation and hardcore.” Like much music from the early 1980s, Daydream Nation had never reached my ears until this morning. I obviously don’t have time while writing to even listen to the entire album (much less absorb it), but a quick listen to a few tracks tells me that Sonic Youth’s music is not my deal.

Taking up another tome, I flip the 2001 edition of The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll to page 600. The first full listing on the page is Malo, the band formed in San Francisco in 1971 by Jorge Santana, Carlos’ brother. I am reassured. I have heard a great deal of Malo, with all four of the band’s early 1970s albums on the digital shelves. The encyclopedia’s entry, of course, is little more than a bland recapping of when albums and singles were released and who came and went from the band’s personnel at those times. So I quickly check the band’s entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles (a volume we’ll revisit in a moment) and verify that the band’s “Suavecito” was Malo’s lone Top 40 hit, reaching No. 18 in early May of 1972. The rest of Malo’s four 1970s albums are well-worth hearing, but “Suavecito” – good in its long form and sublime as a single – towers above all. And as my pal Yah Shure said here almost eight years ago, “One spin of the ‘Suavecito’ 45 and it’s like late spring-early summer, no matter what the time of year.”

The first entry on Page 600 of {The New} Rolling Stone Album Guide, released in 2004, is for Offspring, described as “one of the biggest bands to emerge from the pop-punk explosion of the mid-’90s, boasting hook-filled, frat-friendly anthems and a metallic gleam that referred back to the old-school sludge that L.A. punks fell for when they burned out on adrenaline.” And I thought I wrote twisty run-on sentences that leave readers going “Huh?” Based on just that little bit of work from writer Keith Harris, some quick listening to a few Offspring tracks, and my sense of my own tastes, I’ll walk on.

Reopening the Whitburn book, we find on the top of Page 600 the slender entry for Art Lund, a Salt Lake City native who sang baritone with Benny Goodman’s band during the 1940s, billed as both Art Lund and Art London. In 1947, Lund had a No. 1 hit with “Mam’selle,” a tune originally found in the movie The Razor’s Edge. His entry in Top Pop Singles, which compiles chart data beginning in 1955, lists only his 1958 single “Philadelphia U.S.A.,” a bland piece of pop that peaked in Billboard at No. 89.

And that’s enough of that. I had hoped that Saturday Single No. 600 would be something new and exciting, but maybe that’s too much to hope for after more than 2,100 posts. We’re going to pass on Sonic Youth, the Offspring, Richard “Dimples” Fields and Art Lund (though “Mam’selle” is a sweet song, I don’t care for Lund’s vocal). That leaves us with Malo, and it’s been almost eight years since “Suavecito” showed up here. That’s an eternity in blogtime, so with no regret, Saturday Single No. 600 is Malo’s 1972 single “Suavecito.”

Saturday Single No. 599

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

From the time I was seven – when I started taking piano lessons – to the time I moved from my folks’ house on Kilian Boulevard when I was twenty-two, I had access to a piano almost every day. There was a period of about four years, ending when I was sixteen, when I played rarely, but other than that, I played the piano at home in the evening and – during my college years – in the practice rooms at St. Cloud State’s Performing Arts Center during the day.

Even when I was in Denmark, I could play. My Danish family had a piano, and there was a piano in the lounge at the Pro Pace youth hostel where I lived for most of the last four months of that adventure. (I have vague memories of playing at several youth hostels during my major travels around Western Europe as well.)

Then during the summer of 1976, I moved to the drafty house on the North Side and, nine months later, to the mobile home I rented from Murl. I was still in school most of that time, so I could still play piano on campus, but it wasn’t nearly as convenient as walking into the dining room.

In late 1977, I moved to Monticello and then to other places and I didn’t get to play very often at all. In Monticello, I occasionally went to the Lutheran church the Other Half and I attended and played there. In Columbia, Missouri, I sometimes walked across campus to the University of Missouri’s performing arts building, and I made similar walks when I taught at Minot State in North Dakota and at Stephens College during a later stop in Columbia.

When I was in Jacques’ band during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I got to play a very good electronic keyboard every week. After a while the guys in the band pitched in and bought me a keyboard and sound module for my home, but then I was asked to leave the band, and over time, the touch of the keyboard they gave me deteriorated as did the quality of the module’s sound.

And then we moved to St. Cloud and I hardly ever played. The night before the closing of the sale of the house on Kilian in late 2004, I went over and said goodbye to the old Wegman upright, and from that night until the time I began playing at our church almost five years ago, I didn’t play at all.

I’ve played a lot since then, but it’s still required heading over to our church and making sure that nothing’s been scheduled for the meeting rooms there that my playing either the grand piano in the sanctuary or the Yamaha Clavinova in the office would disturb. So my playing has required scheduling.

That won’t be true any longer. Just this morning, one of these was assembled and installed in my half of the family room:

Korg LP-180

It’s a Korg LP-180, with a full 88 keys and about ten voices. My external speakers will be in on Monday, but even so, its own speakers sounded wonderful when I gave the keys their first whirl about twenty minutes ago. So what did I play?

Well, after noodling a bit to hear the various voices and to get a sense of the keys’ feel, I launched into the first piece of music I was able to pull from the radio and replicate on the Wegman without resorting to sheet music. That happened in the spring of 1972, and it was a major advance in my growth as a musician.

The piece? Jim Gordon’s lovely coda to Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” (I learned to play the first portion of the piece from sheet music shortly thereafter.) And though it’s nowhere near rare, and it’s no doubt been featured in this space more than once, Derek & The Dominos “Layla” from 1970 is today’s Saturday Single.