Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Saturday Single No. 705

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

We had a busy day yesterday, the Texas Gal and I: We did a grocery run in the morning, then spent the afternoon preparing the house for company for the first time since March. Tom, a friend from our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, had offered to come over and help us with a household problem, and we in turn had offered him dinner.

The problem was basically pretty simple. The light bulbs in the ceiling fixture over the landing had finally died. The fixture hangs from the main floor ceiling and can only be reached from the landing a story-and-a-half below. Not long after we moved here, we bought a twelve-foot step ladder, but we soon learned we were uncomfortable – both of us being a bit wobbly – near the top of the ladder.

Tom isn’t. Soon after he arrived, he was checking out the light fixture, tightening screws on the fan blades and installing light bulbs. Not long after that, he and I were quaffing Oktoberfest brews while the Texas Gal put finishing touches on dinner, and then all three of us were dining on chicken breasts with an apple-onion-raisin curry sauce and roasted sweet potatoes.

It was good to have company again. And yes, it’s good to have lights over the landing again, but we would have been pleased with the company even without the household assistance. As I’m sure many folks out there agree, the last six months have been fairly isolating, and a taste of safe normality – we’ve known Tom long enough that we trust him and he trusts us in all matters, not just those related to the corona virus – was good for all three of us.

But I’m tired today. So I’m not doing a whole lot here this morning. I just dipped back into the Billboard Hot 100 we looked at yesterday – released on September 19, 1970, fifty years ago today – and looked for something interesting in its lower reaches.

And I found a cover I’d never heard before, a take on Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Fifty years ago today, it was bubbling under at No. 101, and that’s as high as it ever went, although it went to No. 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. I do wonder why Mendes thought 1970 was a good time to cover the tune, which the Buffalo Springfield originally released in 1967. Whatever the reason. it’s today’s Saturday Single.

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago (September 1970)

Friday, September 18th, 2020

As promised earlier this week, we’re playing Symmetry, looking back fifty years to whatever record was sitting at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 at this point in September 1970. First, though, we’re going to take a look at the Top Five released fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light” by CCR
“Patches” by Clarence Carter
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman

This is not a particularly great five (or six) from where I listened long ago. There are some nice moments here, especially the intro to the Diana Ross single (although the spoken word portion of the record tamps that down a bit for me), and “War” is always going to get one’s attention. I like the CCR B-side, and the Bobby Sherman single always reminds me that there was a young lady named Julie during that long-ago season who was – clearly in retrospect but not evident to my seventeen-year-old self – interested in me.

As to the CCR A-side and the Clarence Carter single, I’ve never been interested, though I could no doubt sing along without errors as each of them played.

The four I dealt with two paragraphs above are in fact in the iPod and thus are part of my current listening, but if I were forced to trim, say, a hundred tracks from the device, three of them would likely be among those culled. Julie would stay.

And what do we find when we drop halfway down the Hot 100? We chance on one of the great singer-songwriter singles, one that’s been, I think, devalued and set aside somewhat as a result of its prominence, its ubiquity, and its status as one of the foundations of the decade’s singer-songwriter movement: James Taylor’s “Fire & Rain.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard the record, but I do know that as I heard it frequently during the autumn of 1970, its personal and confessional lyrics touched something in me. I’d guess – not for the first time – that the record was part of what moved me to begin writing my own stuff later that school year. (The other part, of course, was an unrequited affection for a sophomore girl, the tale of which I told in 2009 and revisited some years later in a post found here.)

If one tries to listen to the record with fresh ears – an almost impossible task after so many years and so many hearings – it remains a remarkable piece of work, one that went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Keeping Odd & Pop Happy

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

It’s been a couple of years since we checked in with my imaginary alter egos, tuneheads Odd and Pop. I think they’re happy here in the condo. There are fewer records, of course, about 1,000 LPs instead of the 3,000 or so that were crammed into the EITW studios on the East Side, but there are more CDs and reference books these days, as the passing pandemic seasons here resulted in – as I’m certain is true elsewhere – fairly frequent online shopping sprees.

Anyway, they’re here, Odd and Pop, with their internal radios tuned to different stations.

Pop likes the familiar, the pleasant, the unchallenging. He loves records he’s heard a thousand times, and if he wants variety, he’ll gladly listen to a thousand different records he’s heard a thousand times before. He’s the reason why the digital shelves once held eighty-four different versions of “The Girl From Ipanema.” (The external hard drive crash three years ago eliminated many of them, and he’s been scheming to get them back ever since.)

Odd, however, likes different things. Very different. He’s the one whose eyes widened with joy the other day when the mail carrier dropped off, with its accompanying CD, the book Stomp and Swerve, subtitled “American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924.” He laughed loudly when he learned that the tune “The Smiler,” written by Percy Wenrich and recorded sometime around 1908 by the Zon-O-Phone Concert Band, was craftily subtitled “A Joplin Rag” not because of any connection with ragtime giant Scott Joplin but because Percy Wenrich was born in Joplin, Missouri.

And . . . well, here it is. The date of 1907 on the video may well be correct.

And, of course, Pop says it’s not fair that Odd gets a treat and he does not. So, okay, we’ll check the list of covers of “The Girl From Ipanema” at Second Hand Songs and choose something he’s not heard before. A foreign language, maybe. And that’s fine with him, as long as the melody is familiar.

And here’s Finnish singer Laila Kinnunen with “Ipaneman Tyttö,” recorded on November 10, 1964, and released later that year on the Scandia label. (Odd likes it, too.)

‘Theme From A Dream”

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

A few years ago, when I wrote about an old house I visit in a recurrent dream, I ended the post with a version of Boudleaux Bryant’s haunting “Theme From A Dream” by the Larry Page Orchestra. It’s a tune that I first came across – surprise! – on my first Al Hirt album, Honey In The Horn, released in 1963:

Guitar legend Chet Atkins was the first to record Bryant’s song, releasing it on his 1959 album, Chet Atkins In Hollywood. And the website Second Hand Songs lists only two other artists – beyond Atkins and Hirt – who’ve recorded the tune: Pianist Floyd Cramer has two versions listed, as does Dutch singer Willeke Alberti, who recorded the song as “Jij (Jij Alleen)” on two different occasions. (The Dutch words were written by Dutch producer Pieter Goemans.)

There are other versions of the tune out there, as some wandering through YouTube shows. We might come back to them later. For now, here’s the first of Alberti’s two versions, recorded in 1966 and released as a single.

‘Hoverin’ By My Suitcase . . .’

Friday, August 21st, 2020

Brook Benton’s cover of Tony Joe White’s “Rainy Night In Georgia” popped up on iTunes the other day, but the volume of the song was low compared to the tracks that had come before. I did some checking, and the mp3 of the tune (the source of the iTunes file) also had a lower volume than most of the other mp3s on the digital shelves.

Blame the source, which I think was a borrowed CD.

So I found another source for another mp3 and replaced all the files. Now, when the track pops up on random, the opening guitar figure can grab my attention the way it did back in the early months of 1970, when I heard the record on KDWB, where it peaked at No. 17; WLS, where it peaked at No. 4; and WJON, which, as far as I know, did not offer surveys. (Am I right, Yah Shure?)

Nationally, the record peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also went to No. 2 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart and spent a week at No. 1 on the R&B chart.

I’ve got a few other versions of the song, but Benton’s take on it remains my favorite, partly because it’s the first version I heard but mostly because its hushed sound and that opening guitar riff remind me of evenings in my room with my old RCA radio during my first Top 40 winter.

There are quite a few covers of the song out there; Second Hand Songs lists eighty-five versions, including White’s and Benton’s, and there are likely others not listed. I see versions listed there by Tennessee Ernie Ford, B.J. Thomas, Johnny Rivers, Chuck Jackson, Boz Scaggs, and Ray Charles, a duet by Sam Moore and Conway Twitty (from a 1994 album titled Rhythm Country and Blues), and instrumental takes by Al Hirt, Cornell Dupree, Boots Randolph, and more.

But we’ll close today with the original version of the song by Tony Joe White. It’s from his 1969 album . . . Continued.

Saturday Single No. 701

Saturday, August 15th, 2020

Of all the books about music on my shelves – and there are many, encompassing biographies, histories, chart references and more – the one that’s least used, I would guess, is The Billboard Book Of No. 2 Hits.

Written by Christopher G. Feldman, the book catalogs the records that have peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s main singles chart(s) from 1955 through 1999. (Yeah, it’s more than twenty years out of date now, but since the focus of this blog is generally the years, oh, from 1965 to 1977, that doesn’t matter.) Feldman provides a brief history of the record and notes which record (or records) kept it from reaching the top of the chart.

(The book starts in 1955 because – and I don’t know why I’m explaining this to readers who most likely already know it – that was the year when “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & The Comets became the first rock & roll record to reach No. 1 on any of the magazine’s charts, kind of a Big Bang for chart geeks.)

The first entry in Feldman’s book is for “Melody Of Love” by Billy Vaughan & His Orchestra, which hit No. 2 during the first week of March 1955 on both the Best Seller and Disc Jockey charts. Vaughan’s instrumental version was one of five covers of the 1903 song (some with newly written lyrics) to chart in 1955. It was blocked from the top spot by the McGuire Sisters’ “Sincerely.”

The year with the most records peaking at No. 2 was 1969 with sixteen, three of them – “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Green River” – by Creedence Clearwater Revival. (CCR also peaked at No. 2 twice in 1970 with “Travelin’ Band” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” but remarkably never hit No. 1.)

And because we looked at a chart from 1977 yesterday, I’m just going to list the records that peaked at No. 2 that year and see what we can find for a single this morning. The records from 1977 in Feldman’s book are:

“Fly Like An Eagle” by Steve Miller
“I’m In You” by Peter Frampton
“Your Love Has Lifted Me (Higher & Higher)” by Rita Coolidge
“Float On” by the Floaters
“Keep It Comin’ Love” by KC & The Sunshine Band
“Nobody Does It Better” by Carly Simon
“Boogie Nights” by Heatwave
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle

Two of those – the singles by Frampton and Coolidge – were in the chart we looked at yesterday. A few of the others, I’ve featured before. But it seems I’ve never, in this blog’s thirteen-plus years, featured a record by KC & The Sunshine Band. So, okay. “Keep It Comin’ Love” was at No. 2 for three weeks in October 1977, kept from the top spot by “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco and “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (August 1977)

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Thinking, as we did a week ago, of years that we don’t often dabble in, we’re going to take a look at 1977 today. It’s a year we’ve featured only fifty times since setting up our own website ten years ago.

What was going on in mid-August of 1977? I was renting a small mobile home in the little burg of Sauk Rapids (just north of St. Cloud) finishing a minor in print journalism at St. Cloud State, thinking about newspaper employment, and reconnecting with the young woman who would in a year become the Other Half, as we’d taken an eight-week break from each other that summer.

So where was I getting my music? My bedroom radio was tuned to a Sauk Rapids FM station called WHMH, which I guess was programmed as adult contemporary; the radio in the kitchen was tuned to WJON, which I listened to mostly in the late evenings. I’d brought a few of my albums from Kilian Boulevard and borrowed Mom and Dad’s portable stereo and had it sitting on top of the refrigerator. And in the offices of the University Chronicle, where I was the arts editor, the radio was most often tuned to KCLD, a St. Cloud Top 40 station.

That means the Billboard Top Ten from August 13, 1977, should not be unfamiliar. We’ll start there and then drop down and check out No. 100.

“I Just Want To Be Your Everything” by Andy Gibb
“I’m In You” by Peter Frampton
“Best Of My Love” by the Emotions
“(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher” by Rita Coolidge
“Do You Wanna Make Love” by Peter McCann
“My Heart Belongs To Me” by Barbra Streisand
“Easy” by the Commodores
“Whatcha Gonna Do?” by Pablo Cruise
“You & Me” by Alice Cooper
“You Made Me Believe In Magic” by the Bay City Rollers

I recall, without prompting, hearing seven of those during that distant summer, all except the McCann, Streisand and Bay City Rollers singles. I know I’ve heard the McCann since, and don’t much care for it. For the other two, a trip to YouTube may help. And it took only a few seconds for me to remember the Streisand record, and I think I like it more than I did then. The Bay City Rollers record, well, it’s not bad as I listen forty-three years later, but I don’t remember it.

Of the seven I do recall, the only ones I truly liked in 1977 were “Easy” and “Whatcha Gonna Do?” The Andy Gibb and Emotions records were fine and still are, but the Frampton, the Coolidge and the Cooper didn’t grab me then, and of those, only the Coolidge record, I’d guess, might catch my attention now.

So how many records from that Top Ten are in my current listening? A look at the iPod’s contents finds the tracks by Andy Gibb, the Commodores and Pablo Cruise. The records by the Emotions and Streisand may join them.

And now, on to our other business of the day, checking out the No. 100 record in that Billboard chart from forty-three years ago. And it turns out to be the Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane,” falling fast from No. 60 the previous week. It had peaked at No. 11.

The Eagles, for some reason, have hardly been mentioned in this space. “Tequila Sunrise” showed up in a random game in 2013, and “Take It To The Limit” was included in the Ultimate Jukebox in 2010. Why so little attention? I have no idea. I like the band’s work, for the most part, and there’s nothing in their catalog that makes me skip to the next track. And nine of their records are in the iPod. It’s a mystery, I guess.

And here’s another mystery: The Eagles’ studio version of “Life In The Fast Lane” is not available at YouTube. So here’s Joe Walsh’s performance of it as a member of Ringo Starr’s first All Starr Band in 1989. Joining Ringo and Joe onstage were Levon Helm, Dr. John, Rick Danko, Nils Lofgren, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons and Jim Keltner. (Zak Starr also played in this concert when his dad was at center stage.)

‘Eyesight . . .’

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

I went to a new eye doctor yesterday to get checked out. I brought with me the results of my last exam, in November.

After that November exam, I’d waited – for insurance purposes – until the dawn of 2020 to get new glasses, then dallied my way through January and February, and then . . . well, ya’ll know what happened then. And since that November exam, the blurry spot in my left eye had become a bit more blurry – and the glasses I’m wearing were now somewhere between three and four years old – so I thought I’d have my vision checked again before I got new glasses.

As I expected, the previously discovered cataract in my left eye has gotten a little bit worse since November. One seems to be forming in my right eye as well, although it’s still minimal. I will have to have lens replacement surgery sometime, certainly on the left eye and perhaps on the right.

The doctor said yesterday that if it were 2019, he’d have me get the left eye done now. But it’s 2020, with all that entails, and he said another year will be okay, as my right eye is still fine and the left eye blur – was there ever a band called Left Eye Blur? There should have been – will be no more than an annoyance.

He said that if the left eye gets rapidly worse, I should call him and we’ll get the surgery done. Then he increased the strength of my bifocals a bit and that was that.

I chose a pair of frames roughly the same shape as my current glasses, gunmetal instead of bronze, and we were done. My new specs should be here in two weeks.

Not a lot of tracks on the digital shelves have the word “sight” in their titles. One of them is “Eyesight To The Blind,” written by Sonny Boy Williamson II (according to Second Hand Songs). There are a couple of versions he recorded that are floating around dated as 1951.

The video here is one of them, and it matches one of those in my collection. The notes – from an anthology I borrowed somewhere – say that it was recorded in Jackson, Mississippi, on March 12, 1951, and was released as Trumpet 129. I’m not sure if that’s entirely correct, but it’s nevertheless a fine, raw Sonny Boy track.

Saturday Single No. 700

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s the only logical conclusion that comes when anyone who counts things – in any endeavor – finds the total number of things counted reaching 700.

And it has been a while. It’s taken me thirteen years and six months to reach that Ruthian number one Saturday Single at a time. (Well, there were a few weeks when I had two featured singles; call those doubleheaders.) And in the last year, as that large round number got closer and closer, I began thinking of what kind of post should accompany it.

And after dithering for a while, I decided to repeat the post that accompanied Saturday Single No. 300 in July 2012. It’s still all true, and I recall that one of my readers called it “charming.” On top of that, it’s one of my favorites among the more than 2,600 or so posts I’ve offered since 2007 – not quite 1,600 of them here and about 1,000 of them at this blog’s two previous locations. With a bit of editing, here it is:

The moments, probably from several consecutive years in the early 1960s, remain clear: I’m kneeling on the back seat of our old 1952 Ford, looking out the back window. In the distance, as we drive away on Snelling Avenue, I can see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the State Fairgrounds.

I loved the State Fair, loved its hucksters and mini-doughnuts, its farm animals and tractors, its wandering, sunburned crowds of folks doing nothing more than having fun. And when our visit to the fair was ended and we were heading back to St. Cloud, I’d look back at the blazes of red, blue and green decorating the sky over the grandstand.

And I’d sigh and then murmur, “This has been the best day of my life.”

That was probably true for the seven-year-old whiteray as summer faded in those years. A day at the State Fair was about as good as life could get. As I look back, though, I’m struck by the youthful certainty of the statement and by what seems to me a precocious desire to rank and order the events of one’s life. Did other seven-year-olds think like that? Maybe. I don’t know.

Whether they did or not, I did. And, of course, I still rank things: Favorite singles, favorite movies, best pizza, best vacation, and on and on. But as I think about those lists, the content of those rankings – the best single, the best pizza or what have you – seems to matter less than the actual act of sorting. Putting things, even if those things often seem trivial, into some kind of order allows me to frame and structure my world, I guess, so I can deal with its inconsistencies and ambiguities.

And thinking about the certainty of that seven-year-old, I ponder the seemingly impossible task – nearly sixty years later – of identifying the best day of my life. There are about 24,000 to choose from now.

Some of the best ones, both early and later on, ended with fireworks. One of them ended as I lay in a youth hostel in London, listening to Big Ben toll midnight. Some weren’t so obvious, like a day in mid-February 2000: I was online and checking out a chatroom for social issues, and I struck up a conversation with a chatter going by the name of “rainbow42.” She eventually became the Texas Gal.

There have been many other good days, as well, and if I were foolish enough to try to create a list of twenty or fifty or a thousand of the best days of my life, I know very well that the list would be incomplete. Not because I would forget some good days, although I would.

But that list will always be incomplete because as good as some of my days have been, I have come to a point in my life where I truly believe that each day that comes to me now is the best day of my life. And that holds true whether the day brings fireworks or bells or just the quiet day-to-day moments that make up the greater portion of a life being lived.

I suppose that all of that sounds like some kind of New Age hogwash or mottos from pretty posters sold down at the bookstore. That’s really not so. I am aware that life can be hard. I’ve had more days than I care to count when I awoke to sorrow, and I know that days of grief inevitably lie ahead, as they are part of life.

But grief and sorrow are absent today. I have my small pleasures at hand (coffee chief among them early this morning), and the joy of my life – my Texas Gal – is still sleeping. The cats are scattered and dozing, and my morning newspaper waits for me in the driveway. And I get to write and hope that others read these words and don’t either snicker or roll their eyes. All of that makes this day, once more, the best day of my life.

And music, of course, always makes a good day better. Here’s a tune from Paul Williams that I loved the first time I heard it in 1975, hoping that someday its lyrics would describe my life. It took some time, but thanks to my Texas Gal, that’s been true now for more than twenty years. From Williams’ 1971 album, Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, here’s “I Never Had It So Good,” Saturday Single No. 700.

Saturday Single No. 699

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from forty-five years ago this week, the first week of August 1975:

“One Of These Nights” by the Eagles
“I’m Not In Love” by 10cc
“Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees
“Please Mister Please” by Olivia Newton-John
“The Hustle” by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John
“Midnight Blue” by Melissa Manchester
“Listen To What The Man Said” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Rockin’ Chair” by Gwen McCrae
“Dynomite – Part 1” by Tony Camillo’s Bazuka

I can live without “Dynomite,” although it’s better today that I thought it would be. I remember not being impressed by the TV show Good Times (which makes sense as I was not a member of its target audience), and I found Jimmie Walker’s exclamations of “Dynomite!” tiring as they echoed in the popular culture canyons that season.

The rest of that top ten has worn well, for the most part. If I were to rank those nine, there would be a first tier occupied by the Eagles, the Bee Gees, McCartney & Wings, and Manchester. Any of those are welcome in my ear buds at any time. The other five? Well, I don’t mind hearing them now and then, except for the Newton-John single.

Not all of the eight that I like are in my current listening in the iPod, at least not as I begin writing. I’m still reconstructing the device’s contents after clearing it earlier this summer. But by the time this piece is finished, the only two singles from that top ten not in my current playlist with be “Dynomite” and “Please Mister Please.”

We’re not going to look at No. 100 today. I glanced ahead, and it’s a single by the Mystic Moods (having dropped “Orchestra” from its name) that’s been featured here twice in the life of this blog. Instead, we’ll play Games With Numbers, using today’s date as a guide, and look at No. 81 from that Hot 100 of forty-five years ago.

And we fall onto the next-to-last Hot 100 hit from the long career of Frank Sinatra, “I Believe I’m Gonna Love You.” It was in the first of seven weeks in the chart; it would peak at No. 47. I’ve not heard it before, and as I listen, I note that its lyric is studded with clichés, but hey, it’s Sinatra, And it’s today’s Saturday Single.