Archive for the ‘1967’ Category

A Date Forever Wrapped In Sorrow

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revised slightly from earlier postings.

‘The Room Was Humming Harder . . .’

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Sometime recently – and I cannot provide anything more specific – a television show I was watching with the Texas Gal used for its background music Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” Hearing it reminded me of this piece; it ran here twelve years ago this week. It’s been condensed and revised a little bit.

It was the summer of 1967, and I was doing my normal eight-week stint in summer school, an enrichment program designed to provide kids a chance to learn things they wouldn’t be exposed to during the school year. So, just as I had for the nine months preceding, I spent another two months hauling myself every day to the bus stop a block north of our house and riding the two miles to South Junior High for mornings of enrichment.

On one of my rides home during that summer, someone had a radio on the bus tuned to one of the two Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, almost certainly KDWB. This might have been a regular thing, music in the back of the bus, but I’m not sure. What I am certain of is that I listened with the other kids that day as the radio played the strangest-sounding song any of us had maybe ever heard.

It began with a ponderous and spooky organ solo, with drums and cymbals providing punctuation. And then a reedy voice entered: “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels ’cross the floor . . .” It was, of course, Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

We looked at each other, then back at the radio as the voice went on to tell a surreal tale in a setting that combined the ancient world with the medieval, although I doubt that any of us could place it that accurately back then; we just knew it wasn’t in our time, what with vestal virgins and the miller’s tale.

What did it mean? We had no idea, but it sure was strange . . . and cool. We liked it a lot, even I, who was still a couple of years away from digging very deeply into pop and the Top 40. Over the years, the meaning of the words – written by Keith Reid – has been assessed maybe way too many times. At its website, Procol Harum provides a link to a discussion of the lyrics, where listeners and fans – who seem to call themselves “Palers” – indulge themselves in deep and far-fetched theorizing.

The last word on the lyrics, it would seem, comes from the top of that page of theories, where one finds organist Matthew Fisher’s comment from an interview with the BBC:

“I don’t know what they mean. It’s never bothered me that I don’t know what they mean. This is what I find rather hard, that, especially in America, people are terribly hung up about lyrics and they’ve got to know what they mean, and they say, ‘I know, I’ve figured out what these lyrics mean.’ I don’t give a damn what they mean. You know, they sound great . . . that’s all they have to do.”

The song was so odd, so different from anything on radio at the time, that beyond its lyrics, it spawned another discussion: Where did the music come from? Was it a lift from a classical piece? If so, which one? (Something by Bach was always considered most likely.)

I recall reading a piece about the song that included a quotation from a fellow who at the time was a classical music critic for a London newspaper. He said that he and a colleague spent an entire morning whistling the melody from “A Whiter Shade of Pale” back and forth to each other before deciding that it probably wasn’t Bach but a theme that sounded very much like his work.

And that’s pretty much the case. At the Procol Harum website, there’s an excerpt from a radio interview with Fisher in which he notes that the song certainly refers to two Bach pieces but is nevertheless an original work. Those pieces are “Air for the G String” and the choral piece titled in English “Sleepers, Awake!” (For those so inclined, the Procol Harum website also provides a link to Bach expert Bernard S. Greenberg’s formal analysis of “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and its links to the two Bach pieces.)

Of course, the other bus riders and I didn’t know all that as we listened for the first time to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” on that bus carrying us home from summer school. It was just a cool song. And it still is. It’s also a popular song for cover versions: The website Second Hand Songs lists more than 170 covers by folks ranging from Noel Harrison, Flash Cadillac and R.B. Greaves to Annie Lennox, Bonnie Tyler and the Canadian Brass. (There are also several versions with the lyrics in French, Finnish, German and Swedish that I know I’m going to check out.)

Here’s Greaves’ version. It was released as an Atco single in late 1970 and spent two weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 82. I like it.

Saturday Single No. 661

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

We’re going to get back to the Moody Blues today, taking a listen to a record that stiffed the first time it was released as a single in the U.S., bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 103, and then went to No. 2 after a re-release in 1972: “Nights In White Satin.” That success followed the relative success of three singles in the previous two-plus years: “Question” (No. 21), “The Story In Your Eyes” (No. 23), and “Isn’t Life Strange” (No. 29).

“Nights,” of course, was the closing song on the Moody’s 1967 album with the London Festival Orchestra, Days Of Future Passed. The song was followed by one of the poetic passages that studded the album, some of which worked and some of which did not. The closer was pretty effective.

And I guess it was “Nights In White Satin” that made me a Moody Blues fan back in the late summer and autumn of 1972. I’d liked the three singles mentioned above, and I’d liked the album Question Of Balance when I’d heard it across the street at Rick and Rob’s. I got a couple of their albums in the late months of 1972, with mixed results. But I didn’t hear the full Days Of Future Passed album for some time. (The LP database shows me picking the album up in December 1977, just after I moved from St. Cloud to Monticello.)

Days is perhaps where the Moody Blues become the Moody Blues as we think of them, with orchestral backing and the (sometimes silly) spoken word bits. They’d get a lot more mystical on their next albums, especially 1968’s In Search Of The Lost Chord, but the musical pattern was mostly set in 1967.

“Nights” is a great single (one that somehow managed to not get included in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox), one that summons back my world as it existed in late 1972 and early 1973. That makes it difficult to assess with any objectivity, of course. I also liked “Tuesday Afternoon (Forever Afternoon),” which was released in 1968 (in a horribly truncated single that discogs tells me ran only 2:16) and went to No. 24.

So I was primed to like the Moody Blues when I began to dig into their albums in late 1972. What happened then will begin the major portion of our look at the Moody Blues in the next week, I hope. In the meantime, “Nights In White Satin” is today’s Saturday Single.

Back In ’71, Part 2

Friday, July 12th, 2019

So what was I listening to at home during my summer of lawn-mowing and floor cleaning? Well, the radio, some of the time. But most of my free hours at home found me in the basement rec room, lazing (or reading) on the green couch and listening to albums on the RCA portable stereo.

And here are the albums I’d added to the cardboard box between May 1970, the last month of my junior year of high school, and July 1971:

Let It Be by the Beatles
Chicago (the silver album)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Best Of Bee Gees
Hey Jude by the Beatles
Revolver by the Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles
Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The Band
The Beatles (White Album)
Symphony No. 5 in E Minor by Dvořák/The Moldau by Smetana
Crosby, Stills & Nash
St. Cloud Tech High Choirs 1971
“Yesterday” . . . and Today by the Beatles
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney

Getting the least play, certainly, would have been the choir album. I imagine I listened to it once and then tucked it away. I still have it. And I had to be in the right mood for the Dvořák/Smetana LP, which offered me pieces I’d played in the high school orchestra.

The most played? Well, probably Pearl and Ram, the most recent additions. I know that the first LP of the Chicago album got a lot of play, usually the second side, with the long “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon,” but I also liked the first side. Sides three and four didn’t interest me all that much (and still don’t).

Obviously, the Beatles got a lot of play, and so did the self-titled album by The Band. The Bee Gees collection probably came in last among the pop-rock albums.

So, almost fifty years down the pike, which of those albums matter now? As always, we’ll measure that by seeing how many tracks show up among the 3,900-some on the iPod, which provides my day-to-day listening.

It’s hard to sort the Beatles’ tracks out, as the listings in the iPod show the album titles as they came out in Britain (or U.S. single catalog numbers), not the sliced and diced albums that came out in the U.S. A quick glance shows that all those Beatles albums are represented about equally in the iPod. Their music still matters to me a great deal.

The same is true of The Band, as ten of its twelve tracks are in the iPod. But I’ve trimmed the Chicago album down to “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon,” “25 or 6 to 4” and the single edit of “Make Me Smile.”

About two-thirds of Crosby, Stills & Nash and Déjà Vu are in the device; interestingly, among those absent from the first of those two albums are “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and the two Graham Nash compositions, “Marrakesh Express” and “Lady Of The Island,” and among the absent from the second are the two Nash compositions, “Teach Your Children” and “Our House.” I must not like Nash’s work as much as I like that of the others in that bunch. (And I make a mental note to see if I can find room in the iPod for “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”)

About two-thirds of the Bee Gees’ collection shows up, too. And most of Ram is present, as is about a third of Pearl.

And all of that leaves me wondering: Are these albums over-represented in my day-to-day listening because they were among the first LPs I got when I became vitally interested in pop and rock? Or are they that good? I don’t know the answers to those questions.

So what do I feature from these albums that still matter to me almost fifty years after they came into my life? Well, here’s one of the strangest tracks from among those albums, the Bee Gees’ “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You.” It came originally from the 1967 album The Bee Gees 1st.

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.

‘Dance Into May!’

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Here’s a piece that ran here ten years ago. I’ve edited it just a bit. Happy May Day!*

It’s May Day again

No one has left a May Basket at my door this morning. I’m not surprised: How long has it been since anyone actually left a May Basket anywhere? I suppose there might be places where that sweet custom lingers, but that’s not here.

I do recall spending hours with construction paper, blunt scissors and schoolroom glue at Lincoln Elementary School, painstakingly putting together May Baskets with my classmates. I was not an artistic child. My skills were such that my baskets – year after year – were lopsided creatures with little gaps and clots of dried white glue all over. And the May Baskets I made over the years never got left on anyone’s doorstep.

May Day has long been marked as International Workers Day, but on this May Day I do not know of any workers who will march in solidarity today. In Europe, certainly (and perhaps in other places as well), there will be such marches. I do wonder how relevant those marches and those marchers are in these times. How lively is the international labor movement these days? Probably not all that lively, and these may be days when a more vital labor movement would be useful, as societies and priorities are being reordered.

As to specifically celebrating May Day, though, I recall the days of the Soviet Union: May Day was one of the two days a year when there were massive parades across the expanse of Moscow’s Red Square, past the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb. It would have been a spectacle to see, of course. One thing the Soviet Union could do well was put on a parade.

Looking further back into May Day history, Wikipedia tells me that the “earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian [times], with the festival of Flora the Roman Goddess of flowers, [and] the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane.” May Day, in pagan times, the account continues, marked the beginning of summer.

Current celebrations still abound in the land of about half of my ancestors, according to Wikipedia: “In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of Pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of maypoles, and young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: ‘Tanz in den Mai!’ (‘Dance into May!’). In the Rhineland, a region in the western part of Germany, May 1 is also celebrated by the delivery of a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike. On leap years, it is the responsibility of the females to place the maypole, though the males are still allowed and encouraged to do so.”

Well, there is no dancing here today, at least not around maypoles (possibly around the kitchen if I am bored while waiting for the toaster). If I look real hard in the refrigerator, I might find a bottle of Mai Bock from one of the area’s breweries. That would be cause enough to celebrate.

Happy May Day!

A Six-Pack For May Day
“First of May” by the Bee Gees, Atco 5567 (1969)
“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” by Glenn Yarbrough, from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (1967)
“May Be A Price To Pay” by the Alan Parsons Project from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)
“Mayfly” by Jade from Fly on Strangewings (1970)
“Hills of May” by Julie Felix from Clotho’s Web (1972)
“King of May” by Natalie Merchant from Ophelia (1998)

I imagine I’m cheating a little bit with two of those. But to be honest, I thought I’d have to cut more corners than I did. I was surprised to find four songs in my files with the name of the month in their titles.

How could I not play the Bee Gees’ track? It was, I think, the only single pulled from the Gibb brothers’ sprawling album Odessa, but it didn’t do so well on the chart: It spent three weeks in the Top 40, rising only to No. 37. Clearly out of style in its own time, what with the simple and nostalgic lyrics, the sweet, ornate production and the voice of a singer seemingly struggling not to weep, it’s a song that has, I think, aged better than a lot of the singles that surrounded it at the time. Still, I think “First of May” is better heard as a part of Odessa than as a single.

Speaking of out of style at the time, in 1967 Glenn Yarbrough’s honeyed voice was clearly not what record buyers were listening for. His For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her was a brave (some might say desperate, but I wouldn’t agree) attempt to update his sources of material, if not his vocal and background approaches: Writers whose songs appear on the album include Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, Buffy Ste. Marie, Phil Ochs, the team of Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley and, of course, Paul Simon, who wrote the enigmatic and beautiful title track. I don’t think the new approach boosted Yarbrough’s sales much – at least one single was released to little effect in Canada and the UK; I don’t know about the U.S. – but the record enchanted at least one young listener in the Midwest. The album remains a favorite of mine, and Yarbrough’s delicate reading of the title song is one of the highlights.

The Alan Parsons Project track “May Be A Price To Pay” is the opener to The Turn Of A Friendly Card, the symphonic (and occasionally overbearing) art-rock project released in 1980. Most folks, I think, would only recognize it as the home of two singles: “Games People Play” went to No. 16 in early 1981, and the lush “Time” went to No. 15 later that year. The album itself was in the Top 40 for about five months beginning in November 1980 and peaked at No. 13. That success paved the way for the group’s 1982 album, Eye In The Sky, which peaked at No. 7 in 1982, with its title track becoming a No. 3 hit. As overwhelming as The Turn Of A Friendly Card can be, I think it’s Parsons’ best work.

I don’t know a lot about Jade; I came across the trio’s only album – rereleased on CD with a couple of bonus tracks in 2003 – in my early adventures in the world of music blogs. All-Music Guide points out the obvious: Jade sounded – right down to singer Marian Segal’s work – very much like early Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny. That’s a niche that a lot of British groups were trying to fill at the time, and Jade filled it long enough to release one album. “Mayfly” had more of a countryish feel than does the album as a whole.

According to AMG, “Julie Felix isn’t too well-known in her native United States, but since 1964 she’s been a major British folk music star and has been compared over there with Joan Baez.” Well, that seems a stretch to me, based on Clotho’s Web, the album from which “Hills of May” comes. The album is pleasant but has never blown me away.

One album that did blow me away when I first heard it in, oh, 1999, was Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia. Supposedly a song cycle that traces the character of Ophelia through the ages, the CD was filled with lush and melancholy songs, some of which were almost eerie. Repeated listening only made the CD seem better, if a bit more depressing. It’s a haunting piece of work, and “King of May” is pretty typical of the entire CD.

*The information at Wikipedia may have altered over these past ten years. If this were a newspaper piece, I’d check. But it’s a blog post and not a very important one, either, so I’m leaving that stuff as it was ten years ago.

No. 52 Fifty-Two Years Ago

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

As expected, we got about six inches of snow, making this the snowiest recorded February in St. Cloud ever. The streets are slowly being cleared a little better each day, according to the Texas Gal. (Being pretty much housebound yet, I cannot say for myself.) The next time I’ll be out will be next Wednesday, when I see my surgeon for what will be a seven-week check-up.

And it seemed like a good day to check in with one of our recent gimmicks: We’re going to look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty-two years ago and check out the No. 52 record.

At the top of that chart, released February 25, 1967, was the Buckinghams’ “Kind Of A Drag,” in its second week at No. 1. I know the record, of course, and I think I likely knew it back then, as I was in eighth grade and the music my peers listened to was all around me.

And the sense is the same when we drop down the chart to No. 52, where we find “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James & The Shondells. Like the Buckinghams’ record, the Tommy James record feels like something I’ve always known, something that was just in the air when I was in eighth grade whether I paid attention or not.

“I Think We’re Alone Now” was on its way up the chart fifty-two years ago this week, and the story of young lovers escaping disapproval – parental and/or societal – eventually peaked at No. 4. I still like the beating hearts.

What’s At No. 100? (January 1967)

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the first week of 1967, released on January 7 of that year:

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

That’s an okay thirty minutes or so of listening, sort of, but some of it would not stand up under the frequent repetition of Top 40 radio. The novelty of the Snoopy record would wear off real quickly, I think. And the novelty of “Winchester Cathedral,” did wear off rapidly on New Year’s Eve 1966, when one of Rick’s sisters and her friends played the record over and over and over as the girls celebrated the New Year just down the hall from Rick and me.

Back then, being an MOR kid, I liked the Frank Sinatra record more than the others, although the angst in the Four Tops’ record – carried by not only the vocal but by the foreboding backing provided by the Funk Brothers – got through to me even at the age of thirteen. I don’t think any of the others really mattered to me back then.

Now? Well, let’s look at the iPod. The records by the Monkees, the New Vaudeville Band, Nancy Sinatra, Paul Revere & The Raiders (with the addendum “featuring Mark Lindsay”), the Four Tops, and Donovan are among the 3,900 or so that make up my current favorite listening.

The most surprising inclusion there is “Mellow Yellow.” During my college days, I spent a quarter working two hours a day in the old library, where the art department would move in a few years. The weavers had set up temporary quarters there, and my job was to sweep yarn from the floors once a day and clean the bathrooms once a week. One of the weavers had brought a record player, and her favorite album was Donovan’s Mellow Yellow. By the end of spring quarter 1972, when that assignment ended, I was very weary of the song. But I guess that after more than forty years, if it only comes around once every 3,900 tracks, I’m okay with it.

Should any of the other four from that Top Ten be added to my current listening? Well, I’m thinking about “That’s Life.” (And since the iPod is charging, I added the track as I wrote.) As to the other three, the Snoopy record can be ignored, there are better versions of “Words Of Love” out there, and the Neville record was never one of my favorites.

And now to our other business of the day: diving to the bottom of that long-ago Hot 100. And at No. 100 we find one of the huge country hits of 1967, perhaps the biggest. Jack Greene’s “There Goes My Everything” got to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart on December 24, 1966, and stayed there through January 1967. On the pop side, it entered the Hot 100 during the week we’re examining and stayed in the chart for six weeks, peaking at No. 65.

Greene wasn’t the first to record the song; Ferlin Husky had recorded it in 1965 and released it as a track on his 1966 album I Could Sing All Night Long. Greene came next, and according to Second Hand Songs, more than one hundred versions have followed (including at least one in Estonian). The most memorable of those is likely Engelbert Humperdinck’s, which went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 during the summer of 1967. And looking at the country charts, Elvis Presley’s cover went to No. 9 in 1971. But Greene’s cover was the first to hit either of the charts, and here it is:

One Survey Dig: 12-7-67

Friday, December 7th, 2018

My plans for playing “What’s At No. 100?” fell through today, as both December 7 charts I looked at came from years that we’ve recently examined: 1968 (earlier this week) and 1974 (a week ago). So I regrouped and asked the search function at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive to give me surveys from December 7, 1967, from which I’d choose one to examine.

I got surveys from Los Angeles, Peterborough (Ontario), New York City, Boston, Orlando, Detroit/Dearborn, St. Louis, Chicago, and Phoenix. So . . . let’s see what shows up among the forty records in the Super Hits at WHOO in Orlando. The top five were:

“(The Lights Went Out In) Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees
“Hello, Goodbye” by the Beatles
“Daydream Believer” by the Monkees
“Snoopy’s Christmas” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Woman, Woman” by Union Gap feat. Gary Puckett

Not bad, except for the novelty of “Snoopy’s Christmas.” I enjoyed the earlier “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron,” and in fact had a copy of it that I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley (and the record itself might be in the various boxes where I keep about a hundred 45s). But on an artistic level, I always thought (even from the age of fourteen) that the Royal Guardsmen should have let the matter lie there. But the Royal Guardsmen, along with the writers – George David Weiss and Hugo & Luigi – and the producers at Gernhard Enterprises were, of course, thinking commercially. And they did well with the sequel, spending – if I’m reading the data in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles correctly – five weeks atop the Christmas singles chart.

(Yah Shure, if I’ve got that wrong, please enlighten me.)

Anyway, back to Orlando: The first thing of interest that I note is a record titled “Paper Man” by a group called Noah’s Ark. There’s no information about the group in the Whitburn book. The notes at YouTube tell us that Noah’s Ark hailed from Tampa, Florida, and had three singles released. At Discogs.com, we learn that the first two were on Decca and the final one was on Liberty. “Paper Man” isn’t bad, but its Beatlesque sound is something that thousands of other bands were doing at the time.

One notch down from “Paper Man” we find Wilson Pickett’s two-sided single, “Stag-O-Lee/I’m In Love.” The A-side rocks a little and the B-side sways on the dance floor, but they’re just okay. Unlike the Noah’s Ark single, Pickett’s B-side did make the Billboard charts: “Stag-O-Lee” went to No. 22 (and to No. 13 on the magazine’s R&B chart) and “I’m In Love” reached No. 45 (and No. 4 R&B).

Heading further down on the WHOO Super Hits, we find Ray Charles’ cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” at No. 21. It’s good (and I’m tempted to add “of course” to that assessment; I mean, we’re talking ’bout Ray Charles here). Charles’ cover went to No. 25 in the Hot 100 and to No. 9 on the R&B chart.

I’m not sure how often we’ve talked about Dean Martin during these eleven-plus years, but it’s not been often. But there, at No. 36 on the Super Hits survey is Deano with “In The Misty Moonlight.” It sways nicely and gently, rhyming “moonlight” with “firelight,” and Martin’s smooth tones make it work. I likely have heard “In The Misty Moonlight” before, because it went to No. 2 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart (No. 46 on the Hot 100), and easy listening sounds were what I gravitated to back in 1967.

One final thing I’ll note from the WHOO Super Hits from fifty-one years ago today: The Super Hit Album of the Week was listed at “Ravi Shankar at Monterey.” The album’s full title was actually Ravi Shankar At The Monterey International Pop Festival; it went to No. 43 on the Billboard 200. Here’s a clip showing some of Shankar’s performance at the festival, starting with a few scenes away from the stage. I do not know if this performance is on the album.

‘Do I Still Figure . . .’

Friday, September 14th, 2018

So, following up on last Saturday’s post, we’ve been checking out various versions of the tune we know now as “Do I Still Figure In Your Life.” We start with the original by the Honeybus, titled at the time “(Do I Figure) In Your Life.” Written by Pete Dello of the Honeybus, the tune was released on Deram in 1967:

I notice a couple of things right off the top: The strings – both in the introduction and behind the vocals – remind me strongly of the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” and of some of the things that George Martin was doing with the Beatles. And the diction carries a hint of Bob Dylan. Still, the record sounds very much of its time and is a pleasant listen. And according to the author of a website about the band “(Do I Figure) In Your Life” deserved better than it got in 1967 Britain and “should have been a huge hit but inexplicably missed the charts despite heavy airplay and good reviews.”

(Given that the preceding assessment comes from a fan page, some skepticism is likely in order. But it is a pretty good record and would not have sounded out of place on a U.S. station in, say, October 1967.)

The first to cover the tune, as we learned last Saturday, was British pop singer Dave Berry, whose version, as I noted last week, “was released in 1968 on Decca in the U.K. and on a London promo in the U.S., according to Discogs.” Taking the slightly baroque approach of the Honeybus a little further, Berry started his take on “Do I Still Figure In Your Life” with a harpsichord solo and returned to the instrument in between verses. It’s a sweet version of the tune but – beyond the harpsichord – unremarkable.

Then, as noted last Saturday, came Joe Cocker, whose version was no doubt the first I ever heard of the song. (I was digging into memories in the past few days, and I think I heard Cocker’s version in a dorm room at St. Cloud State sometime during the autumn of 1971, a couple of years after the track came out on Cocker’s 1969 album, With A Little Help From My Friends.)

Picking around in the listing at Second Hand Songs, we’ll dig into the shambling version released by an artist who styled himself Creepy John Thomas. An Aussie, he also called himself Johnny Driver and played with the Edgar Broughton Band, according to Discogs. His take on Pete Dello’s song reverted to the original title, “(Do I Figure) In Your Life” and was included on his 1969 album, Creepy John Thomas:

Then came – as noted last Saturday – Kate Taylor, followed by the occasional revisiting of the song over the years, more frequently in the 1970s and sporadically since then. I ran across a few versions at YouTube that weren’t listed at Second Hand Songs, including a bland version from Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze, Mike & The Mechanics) and a sterile version from Norwegian singer Karoline Krüger.

And maybe it’s because it was the first version I ever heard, but I come to the conclusion – having listened to about twenty takes on the song in the last week – that no one does it like Joe Cocker: