Archive for the ‘1967’ Category

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:

Exploring The Date

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

So, what do we know about August 22?

Well, the basics, first: It’s the 234th day of the year, with 131 remaining.

And just as it does with every other day of the year, Wikipedia offers a list of events that have occurred over the years on August 22. Here are a few:

The Battle of Bosworth Field in England in 1485, which marked, with the death of Richard III, the end of the House of York and of the Plantagenet dynasty and, with the claiming of the crown by Henry Tudor, the beginnings of the House of Tudor. Richard’s famous (if likely fictional) cry “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” comes from William Shakespeare’s account of the battle in his play Richard III. According to Wikipedia, British scholars have likely found – finally – the true site of the battle, located near the town of Market Bosworth in the county of Leicestershire. The newly researched site was found as a result of a 2005-2009 project and is actually not far from the previously assumed site of the battle. The battle most recently popped into the news in 2012, when historians discovered the grave of Richard III under a parking lot in the city of Leicester. His body was reburied in March 2015 in Leicester Cathedral.

Jacob Barsimson arrived in 1654 at New Amsterdam, the Dutch colony now known as New York City. He was the first known Jewish immigrant to American. He’d been sent there by leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to determine if Jewish immigration to North America was feasible. Following the fall of a Dutch colony in Brazil, twenty-three Dutch Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in September 1654 and established the first Jewish settlement in what would become the United States.

Automobiles made the news twice on August 22, 1902. The Cadillac Motor Company was formed out of the remains of the Henry Ford Company. (That company was Ford’s second short-lived firm; his third attempt, the Ford Motor Company, was formed in June 1903 and exists today.) And President Theodore Roosevelt became the first president of the United States to make a public appearance in an automobile. Sadly, Wikipedia does not identify which brand of auto Roosevelt rode in.

In 1941, German troops began the Siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). Wikipedia says that the siege, which lasted nearly 900 days, “caused extreme famine in the Leningrad region through disruption of utilities, water, energy and food supplies. This resulted in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 soldiers and civilians and the evacuation of 1,400,000 more (mainly women and children), many of whom died during evacuation due to starvation and bombardment. Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery alone in Leningrad holds half a million civilian victims of the siege.” It was, says Wikipedia, the most lethal siege in history.

Let’s lighten it up a bit. On this date in 1989, Nolan Ryan struck out Rickey Henderson to become the first major league pitcher to record 5,000 strikeouts.

Sticking with baseball, on this date in 2007, the Texas Rangers set a one-game major league scoring record when they defeated the Baltimore Orioles 30 to 3.

And finally, let’s talk about music. Among tracks recorded on August 22 over the years, we find “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” by Count Basie & His Orchestra in 1938, “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” by the King Cole Trio in 1946, “The $64,000 Question” by Bobby Tuggle in 1955, and in 1967, Etta James laid down three tracks in Muscle Shoals, Alabama: “Steal Away,” “Don’t Lose Your Good Thing,” and “Just A Little Bit.”

All three tracks would be released on James’ 1968 album Tell Mama. Here’s “Just A Little Bit.”

Saturday Singles Nos. 596 & 597

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Sometime in the late summer of 1969, my sister came home from a shift of waitressing in the Woolworth’s restaurant at the Crossroads mall on the west end of St. Cloud, and she brought me a gift: Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 self-titled album on cassette.

I’d recently spent the money I’d earned working at the state trapshoot – a three-time experience I’ve written about numerous times here – for a Panasonic cassette tape recorder, but I had yet to get myself anything to listen to. Rick and I had spent some time and giggles recording things around our two households and the neighborhood, but that was it. And then my sister spotted Blood, Sweat & Tears on sale at the mall, possibly at J.C. Penney but more likely at Musicland.

I knew the group, sort of. I think I’d heard “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” the previous spring, when it went to No. 2, and I know I’d heard “Spinning Wheel” during the early summer, when it also went to No. 2, but that was about it. So with a fair amount of curiosity, and grateful to have something to listen to in my tape recorder that didn’t feature my own voice, I popped the cassette in and hit “Play.”

I liked what I heard (and still do; seven of the album’s ten tracks are on the iPod). And I listened to the album enough in those long-ago days that its sequence and solos and turns are still ingrained in my head. When “Smiling Phases,” the album’s real opener (I tend to discount the Erik Satie pieces as filigree) fades out on the iPod, I expect to hear “Sometimes In Winter.” And when that one fades out, I expect to hear this:

And so on through “Blues – Part II” (followed by a reprise of Erik Satie and the sound of footsteps and a slamming door – more filigree). I’ve liked the album enough over the years that it’s one of two that I’ve owned as cassette, LP and CD. (The Beatles’ Abbey Road is the other.)

Fast-forward to this morning: I was heading downtown for a stop at the bank and then a haircut. Little Milton’s Greatest Hits – a 1997 Chess/MCA release – was in the CD player. And along came this, originally released in 1967 as Checker single 1189:

I’ve listened to it several times since then: on the way home from the barbershop and then a couple times as I’ve written this post. I have to admit that – even though I frequently dig into covers and their origins, I’ve never spent any time wondering where Blood, Sweat & Tears found the song. And that’s okay. There are a lot of tunes and covers to write about. This morning, it’s enough to say that Little Milton’s original “More and More” and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ 1968 cover of the tune are today’s Saturday Singles.

Some Friday Songs

Friday, June 8th, 2018

When I sort the 72,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for “Friday,” the returns are not encouraging: I get twenty-two tracks. Two of them are set aside immediately: They’re performances of “Remedy” and “Willie McTell” by The Band during 1994 on the NBC show Friday Night Videos.

The other twenty tracks, however, provide an interesting mix, though I think we’ll pass by the theme from the television show Friday Night Lights by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden. So what we’ll do is sort the other nineteen tracks by their running time, set the cursor in the middle of the stack and find four tracks.

And we start with a churning, loping and somewhat dissonant boogie decorated by one of those odd lyrical excursions typical of Steely Dan: “Black Friday” from the 1975 album Katy Lied:

When Black Friday comes
I fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book

Gonna do just what I please
Gonna wear no socks and shoes
With nothing to do but feed
All the kangaroos

When Black Friday comes I’ll be on that hill
You know I will

I’m not an expert on Steely Dan, though I enjoy the group’s music almost any time I hear it and recognize the skill and talent on display. But the artistic visions of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen almost always leave me a little off-kilter, as if – to use an idea I think I’ve expressed at other times describing other artists – I’m suddenly living in a world of eighty-nine degree angles.

The first moments of the next track are oddly similar to “Black Friday,” but then the tune slides into the familiar jangly sound of “Friday On My Mind” by the Easybeats, a 1967 hit that peaked at No. 16 in the Billboard Hot 100. The tune has its own moments of dissonance as it tell the tale of a fellow enduring another week of work or school, looking for the weekend so he can get to the city and spend time with his gal: “She’s so pretty!”

So were the Easybeats a one-hit wonder? It depends on how you define the term. I’ve seen some chartheads define a one-hit wonder as a group that had only one record reach the Hot 100. I tend to think that’s a bit stringent, and use the qualifier of only one hit in the Top 40. Why discuss that here? Because the Easybeats had one other record in the Hot 100: a 1969 release titled “St. Louis” that spent one week at No. 100 and then dropped off the chart.

By my terms, then, the Easybeats – who hailed from Sydney, Australia – are definitely a one-hit wonder. Their hit is a record I’m not particularly fond of, but there it was at No. 16 during the spring of 1967.

Larry Jon Wilson, who died in 2010, was a Southern storyteller whose songs never seemed to hurry, even when they clipped right along. “Friday Night Fight At Al’s” fits into that style very well. I found it on an album titled Testifying: The Country Soul Revue, a 2004 sampler put out in the United Kingdom by the Casual Records label. (Among the other artists on the album were Tony Joe White, Bonnie Bramlett and Dan Penn.)

The track starts with Wilson’s laconic explanation that Al’s Beer Depot was a bar out near the bomb factory, a place where he went for a banquet one Friday when things went as they normally did at Al’s:

The Friday night fights at Al’s place: The situation was grim and I was forced to face
The extreme possibility of no one ever seein’ me alive again
When the night was over, chairs are busted, tables are flyin’
Get me out of here, Jesus, I’m afraid of dyin’
It’s the Friday night fights at Al’s place . . . We didn’t have no referee

Wilson’s body of work is a little thin: Four albums between 1975 and 1979, another in 2008, and a few other things here and there, two of which are included on Testifying. I like his stuff a lot.

Our fourth stop today brings us the Tulsa sound of the late J.J. Cale, a shuffling tune titled simply “Friday,” a track from a 1979 album titled, with equal simplicity, 5. I’ve loved Cale’s work since I came across his first album, Naturally, back in 1972, a year after it came out. There is a sameness to his work, yes, but it’s a comfortable sameness, if that makes any sense.

In any case, just lean back and listen to “Friday.”

Saturday Single No. 572

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Having set myself a year-long project of looking back at 1968 earlier this week, I thought I’d end this first week of the year by looking at the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from January 6, 1968, fifty years ago today:

Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. by the Monkees
Diana Ross & The Supremes Greatest Hits
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Dr. Zhivago soundtrack
The Sound Of Music soundtrack
Farewell To The First Golden Era by the Mamas & the Papas
Strange Days by the Doors
Love, Andy by Andy Williams

That’s kind of a mixed bag for me, and that’s borne out by checking for those albums in the vinyl database. I’ve owned six of them: The two Beatles albums, the Supremes’ hits album, the Doors’ album, the Mamas & the Papas’ album and the soundtrack to Dr. Zhivago. The database also shows a copy of the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music, but that one belongs to the Texas Gal and moved onto the shelves only after she brought it back from Texas in 2004.

I had one Andy Williams album on the vinyl shelves, Born Free, because I love the title track. Given my penchant for 1960s easy listening, I likely would have liked Love, Andy, but it never made its way home with me.

The more interesting absences are those of the Stones and Monkees albums. I’ve heard Their Satanic Majesties Request several times over the years, and once was enough. I found it silly and overbaked, so I never bothered to acquire it. As to the Monkees’ album, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it, and that’s because I’ve never paid much attention to the group. I had Headquarters and a greatest hits album on the vinyl shelves, and neither one of those survived the sell-off a year ago.

Moving forward to the CD racks, only four of those albums show up: The two Beatles albums and the two soundtracks, although I do have a more extensive collection of hits by the Supremes, with and without Diana Ross. The digital shelves have most of that stuff – again, The Sound Of Music is the Texas Gal’s deal – as well as the Doors’ album, the Monkees’ album and the albums by the Mamas & the Papas that were the sources of the hits on Golden Era. Still absent are the albums by the Rolling Stones and Andy Williams.

Trying to sort out which of those albums matters most by looking at what shows up on the iPod, as I’ve done here before, is uninformative. About half of Sgt. Pepper shows up, as does about half of Magical Mystery Tour. There are four tracks from Strange Days, seven hits by the Mamas & the Papas, twelve hits from the Supremes, and one hit – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” – from Aquarius et al. I find nothing from either of the soundtracks, although versions of “Somewhere, My Love” pop up from Ray Conniff and Roger Williams.

So which of the albums in that Billboard Top Ten matters most to me? Probably Sgt. Pepper, but there’s no point in posting anything from it here. So I turn to a track from the Doors that I first ran across in late 1971, when I bought their hits collection, 13, after hearing The Soft Parade every time I visited my friend Dave in his St. Cloud State dorm room. “Moonlight Drive” from Strange Days – released in September 1967 – became one of my favorites on that compilation, and it turns out that I’ve never mentioned the track even once here in nearly eleven years of blogging.

That’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.