Archive for the ‘1967’ Category

Looking Back Fifty

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Here’s what the Top Ten in the Billboard 200 looked like fifty years ago this week:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Headquarters by the Monkees
Surrealistic Pillow by the Jefferson Airplane
Flowers by the Rolling Stones
The Doors
Sounds Like by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You by Aretha Franklin
Born Free by Andy Williams
Revenge by Bill Cosby
Dr. Zhivago original soundtrack

The only one of those that might have been in our basement rec room when it opened for business a few months later – if I recall things correctly, Dad was still working on the paneling and the suspended ceiling as the summer of 1967 began to tip towards autumn – would have been the Jefferson Airplane record.

I don’t know if my sister already had the record when the stereo was moved to the basement during the 1967-68 school year or if she got the record after our basement rec room was up and hosting. I do know that I listened to the record many times between early 1968 and the summer of 1972, when my sister took her records with her to her new home in the Twin Cities.

I also know that only one other record in that Top Ten list ever made its way into the Kilian Boulevard rec room. That was Sgt. Pepper, which I bought sometime during July 1970. Most of the others came along later; the albums by the Monkees, the Doors, the Stones, Aretha Franklin and Andy Williams eventually found places on my shelves, as did the Dr. Zhivago soundtrack. And based on a cursory look this morning, the only one of them that survived the Great Vinyl Selloff in the past year was the Beatles’ album.

Looking at the digital shelves, I have two tracks from Sounds Like, one track each from Flowers and the Andy Williams album, and nothing from the Cosby album. The other six are here complete.

As to what shows up from those albums on the iPod, which has about 3,800 tracks on it, well, I’ve included “Within You, Without You” and the ending suite from Sgt. Pepper, “The Crystal Ship” from The Doors, “Respect” and “Dr. Feelgood” from the Aretha album, “Comin’ Back To Me,” “Today,” and “How Do You Feel” from the Jefferson Airplane album (along with single versions of “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love”), “Casino Royale” from the Tijuana Brass album, and nothing from the other five albums in that long-ago Top Ten.

I’m not really sure if all that winnowing proves anything except that I like Surrealistic Pillow more than I do Sgt. Pepper (and as I’ve thought about it over the years, there are a fair number of other albums I also like more than I do Sgt. Pepper) and that I tend to land on singles from the other 1967 albums. So we’ll listen to a track from Surrealistic Pillow this morning. Here’s the pretty (and echo-laden) “Today.”

Saturday Single No. 546

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

Let’s go – and as I write that, my mind automatically fills in “to San Francisco,” channeling the Flower Pot Men’s British hit (No. 4) from 1967 – so what the hell, let’s go there.

It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love, when thousands of real hippies and wannabees and lost children made their ways to San Francisco to hang around the Haight, get groovy, listen to music, and either find or lose themselves.

Okay, that’s kind of cynical. Maybe.

Was the hippie invasion and the Summer of Love a construct of the mass media whose reporters and columnists had no idea what was going on but had to package it somehow? Or was it an organic thing that the media discovered? Or was it something else?

It really doesn’t matter. If it was a construct, the construct became the real thing and the real thing got subsumed into the construct, and we can debate metahistory and microhistory and the McLuhanesque Ideal and the Friedling Fallacy all day (and all of the night) and come to no conclusions.

The Summer of Love, from where I sit in the cheap seats today (and from the Midwestern perch from where I saw the news reports fifty years ago), brought a few things that lasted: Some good music, a case study in Pied Piper media frenzy, and a reaffirmation of San Francisco’s lasting and perhaps pre-eminent place in American culture as a destination where one can alternately find or lose or sell or buy one’s self all with the purpose of being the best self one can be.

That lasting and possibly pre-eminent place in our culture is borne out (from my narrow perspective) by the number of songs from all eras that use San Francisco as either a place or a metaphor or both. Digging just into the digital shelves here (and looking only at titles), the summer of 1967 alone offered us the record by the Flower Pot Men (the single was by British session artists with the omnipresent Tony Burrows on lead vocal; there’s also an album, which I’ve heard but know little about) and the anthemic “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” by Scott McKenzie, penned by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas.

There are also on the 1967 shelves here a few of the no doubt numerous covers of the McKenzie record, a version of Jesse Fuller’s oft-covered “San Francisco Bay Blues” by Richie Havens, and one very odd track that made me stop for a moment.

I have too many tracks on the digital shelves that reference San Francisco in their titles to deal with all of them on a Saturday. So let’s call this the first in a series that I hope we can continue in the week to come. And we’ll start with a track from 1967 that’s utterly out of touch with what we think of when we ponder San Francisco during that year. In other words, it that has nothing to do with flower power (or with blues on the bay, for that matter).

Here’s that surprising nugget from the digital shelves, Nancy Wilson’s “I’m Always Drunk In San Francisco (And I Don’t Drink At All).” It’s from her 1967 album Welcome To My Love, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 540

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

A fresh cup of coffee sits on my right, a bowl of Grape Nuts dusted with brown sugar is soaking up milk on a TV tray to my left, and I’m struggling with writing a piece for tomorrow’s Parents Day program at our UU Fellowship. (We don’t meet during the summer months, when Father’s Day falls, so when Mother’s Day comes around, we celebrate all parents.)

As I deal these days with the issues of an aging mother, I’m learning that the roles of parent and child sometimes shift and, in some ways, reverse. And in thinking about the circles of life, I’m reminded of this bit of verse I wrote while I was in graduate school in 1984, titled, appropriately, “The Circle Always Closes.”

The circle always closes, and time swings on its hinge.
You look ahead, but then you find the past once more in view:
People you’d thought left behind through time or simple chance
Appear again in warning, love and wisdom in each glance.
To know of what they’re warning, you must confront them still,
You must consider what they said and did while forming you.
To forget is to abandon, so you recollect, and then
The circle always closes, and you build anew again.

That put me in mind, of course, of another lyric, a better one that’s been put to melody: Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game,” which Tom Rush recorded as the title tune of his 1968 album, which is where I heard it first. It’s a good song, and I have a few versions of it here. My favorite is the one by Ian & Sylvia; that one was on their 1967 album So Much For Dreaming, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Songwriting credited corrected after first posting.

Saturday Single No. 531

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

We’re gonna do the fifty years ago thing this morning because it’s fun and because the Airheads Radio Survey Archive just happens to have in its files the “The Big 6+30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB from March 11, 1967, fifty years ago today.

And to find our Saturday Single, we’ll play Games With Numbers with today’s date – 3/11/17 – and check out the records that were at No. 11, No. 17 and No. 28 in “The Big 6+30” from that long ago date.

But first, let’s think about March of 1967 from the view of a 13-year-old whiteray. He was making his way through the thickets of eighth grade, dealing well enough with a basic curriculum of geometry, geography, English, Earth science, industrial arts and phy. ed. (Looking back fifty years this morning, I’m surprised that I don’t recall any art classes from that year; perhaps the junior high powers had observed my efforts during seventh grade and had wisely decided there was no point in investing any more tempera paint or India ink into my decidedly mediocre work.)

He’d had his tonsils out in February, and his throat was still a little tender. His heartfelt overtures to a cute blonde contemporary had been rebuffed sometime that winter, and his feelings were still a little tender. And he’d been kept after school sometime over the winter for defacing, literally, a magazine cover.

One thing he wasn’t doing – as I’ve noted here many times over more than ten years – was paying any attention to KDWB and its Top 40 music. He heard the station’s output at home when his sister listened and at friends’ homes, so much of what was on “The Big 6+30” fifty years ago would have been familiar if not favored. Here’s the station’s Top Five from that week:

“Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher
“My Cup Runneth Over With Love” by Ed Ames
“Kind Of A Drag” by the Buckinghams
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by the Electric Prunes

Of those five, the only one I knew well was Ames’ single, and being even then an utter romantic, I adored it. Could I have told you why? Not then. (I could now, I think, but there’s no point in my trying after reading my pal jb’s tender assessment of the record in a post from five years ago at And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.) And I would have heard Ames’ single more frequently on the Twin Cities’ WCCO or St. Cloud’s KFAM, as the record topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart (now called Adult Contemporary) for four weeks that winter.

Three of the other four in that top five are vague portions of the soundtrack of those times. The only one of KDWB’s Top Five that doesn’t ring old bells is the single by the Electric Prunes. But what about our three targets for this morning’s exercise?

Sitting at No. 11 in KDWB-Land was “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group. The No. 17 slot was occupied by “So You Want To Be A Rock ’N’ Roll Star” by the Byrds. And the No. 28 record in “The Big 6+30” was “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by the Casino.”

I don’t recall the Byrds’ single from my life in 1967. The other two records ring those old bells: “Gimme Some Lovin’” because its unmistakable intro would have ingrained itself into the head of any kid whether he liked rock music or not, and the Casinos’ record because it was pretty and romantic, qualities that spoke to the awkward and lonely lad that I was. It was also fairly pragmatic, given the repeated line, “If it don’t work out,” a subtle virtue I did not grasp then and would not grasp in music or romance for many years to come.

By this time fifty years ago, the Casinos’ record had already peaked at No. 14 on KDWB and was on its way down. In the Billboard Hot 100 fifty years ago this week, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” was peaking at No. 6. (Given that the record was so clearly out of step with nearly every trend in pop music at the time, sounding like it belonged to, say, 1961 instead of 1967, I was startled to see this morning that it made no dent in the Easy Listening chart.)

So, it’s pretty, romantic and pragmatic; it’s only been mentioned twice here in more than ten years (once in 2007 and once earlier this winter); and it reminds me of a thirteen-year-old whiteray anxiously awaiting the day when he’d understand both girls and love (and of course, he still doesn’t fully understand either). Because of all that, the Casinos” “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” is today’s Saturday Single.

‘The Survey Says . . .’

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

It’s time to dig into some radio station surveys. We’re going to look at four of them from this week in 1967, fifty years ago, and we’re going to take today’s date – 1/18/17 – to choose our targets. We’ll check out the No. 18 and No. 35 records at each of the four stations and then note as well the No. 1 record at each station.

We’ll start here in the Northland and see what my peers were hearing as we slogged through the middle of eighth grade during the third week of January 1967. On the “Big 6 Plus 30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB, the No. 18 record was “(I Know) I’m Losing You” by the Temptations. Nationally, it would peak at No. 8 in the Billboard Hot 100 and at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

Parked at No. 35 was “Music To Watch Girls By” by the Bob Crewe Generation. Often mistaken then and now as an entry from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the record reached No. 15 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 2 on the chart now called Adult Contemporary.

The No. 1 record at KDWB fifty years ago was “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees.

Out on the West Coast, the Fabulous Forty at KFXM – serving San Bernardino and Riverside – showed “Music To Watch Girls By” at No. 18, up one spot from a week earlier. Sitting at No. 35 fifty years ago this week was the great and foreboding “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” by the Four Tops. It would peak at No. 6 in the Hot 100 and at No. 2 on the R&B chart.

The No. 1 record at KFXM during this week in 1967 was “Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville.

We’ll head toward the East Coast via Texas, where we’ll take a look at the Superhit List at San Antonio’s KBAT. Sitting at No. 18 fifty years ago this week was “Knight in Rusty Armor” by Peter & Gordon. Labeled a novelty record by Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, it went to No. 15 in the Hot 100. The No. 35 record at KBAT during that long-ago week was the lovely “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by the Casinos, which peaked at No. 6 in the Hot 100.

The No. 1 record at KBAT fifty years ago this week was “Tell It Like It Is.”

We end our trip ’round the Lower 48 with a stop at WPOP in Hartford, Connecticut, where the functionally titled “Music List” showed “Mustang Sally” by Wilson Pickett taking the spot at No. 18. It would reach No. 23 in the Billboard Hot 100 and get to No. 6 on the magazine’s R&B chart. Parked at No 35 in Hartford that week was “I Need Somebody” by ? & The Mysterians, a record that would get to No. 22 in the Hot 100.

WPOP’s No. 1 record during the third week of January 1967 was “Good Thing” by Paul Revere & The Raiders

Casting my memory back, I knew (and liked very much) both the Bob Crewe record and the Casinos record, which should surprise nobody, as I was still in easy listening mode. I heard the records by the Temptations, the Four Tops and Wilson Pickett all around me – “Mustang Sally” less frequently than the other two, most likely – but at that time, and for a few years to come, I could not have told you the performers’ names.

As far as I know, I’d never heard either “Knight In Rusty Armor” or “I Need Somebody” until this morning. “Knight . . .” doesn’t do much for me, but I kind of dig “I Need Somebody,” especially the winking organ solo that falls for a few moments into “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

‘I’m Gonna Mess Around . . .’

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The Texas Gal and I keep trading this funky cold/sinus annoyance back and forth. After a busy weekend that neither of us could avoid – a reserved museum exhibit on Saturday and various obligations at church on Sunday – she spent Monday at home while I did laundry and other essentials.

She was back to work yesterday and I shoveled snow twice. Now it’s Wednesday, there’s more shoveling ahead, and I’m in my chair and not sure I’m moving any further than the medicine cabinet for some pills or the living room to sleep on the couch.

But I dug through the digital stacks and found a tune for the day: “Jackson” by Johnny Cash & June Carter (not yet June Carter Cash), recorded fifty years ago today in Nashville.

And finding the record brought me an extra smile because “Jackson” was one of the tunes we offered in November during Cabaret De Lune, with Heather and I starting it out as a torch song and then shifting to a country dance rhythm toward the end.

Anyway, I’m heading for the medicine cabinet, and here’s “Jackson.”

Saturday Single No. 522

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 7, 1967, fifty years ago today:

“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

Still deeply into soundtracks and trumpet music at the time, about the only one of those I paid any attention to in early 1967 was “Winchester Cathedral,” and that was for two reasons: First, Rick’s older sister – or maybe one of her friends – had the record, and we’d heard it multiple times on New Year’s Eve as we whiled away the last hours of 1966. And then, being a fan of distinctive (read “odd”) music even then, I liked the faux 1920s vibe of the record.

The other nine records in that list, however, were unimportant to me although I’m sure I heard all of them as I made my way through the middle of eighth grade. From the vantage point of a half-century down the road, it’s a decent Top Ten. None of them would make me punch the button on the radio to change the station in irritation, but then, neither would any of them call me to sit in the car to hear the end of the record once I’d pulled into, say, the hardware store lot.

But then, I’m no longer dependent on the radio to hear any of those records; they’re all at my fingertips when I’m home, and I can add any of them to the iPod any time I want. In fact, that might be a better measurement of whether any of those records matter to me these days: Are they among the 3,751 tracks currently in the iPod?

As it turns out, six of them are. The four that are absent are the records by the Royal Guardsmen, Aaron Neville, the Mamas & the Papas and Donovan. That’s not a particularly surprising split, and of those four, I’m most likely to add “Mellow Yellow” to the mix, as I’ve neglected to place any Donovan at all onto the iPod.

There are others from that long-ago Hot 100 that are in the iPod, and there are likely others on the list that I’ve neglected to pull into the little appliance but should have. As I head down the list from No. 10, the first one I notice that fits into either of those categories is a record that was featured here as part of a Baker’s Dozen almost ten years ago, which is a long, long time in blog years. It was probably my favorite pop record in the first months of 1967.

So here’s “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers. Fifty years ago today, it was sitting at No. 20, having leaped up from No. 37 the week before. It would eventually spend two weeks at No. 2 (and get to No. 7 on the chart that today is called Adult Contemporary), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

First Days On The Job

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Even after more than forty years pondering memory and time as an adult and almost ten years writing here about the two (along with music), sometimes the blurring and blending of my days, months and years holds me still for a moment or two. This week, it was this photo.

edit-for-echoes

That, of course, is me, in a photo taken thirty-nine years ago this week during my first day of work at the Monticello Times. I started there on Monday, November 28, 1977, and the first edition with my byline in it was dated Thursday, December 1. And I remember a few things about that first day:

I rode with our photographer, a fellow named Bruce, to the crossroads hamlet of Hasty – about nine miles up Interstate 94 from Monti – to interview the owners of a newly opened cheese shop based in an old creamery. The Milky Whey, as they called it, was in a decent location on a county road that intersected the freeway, not far from from the exit. I’m not sure when the shop closed, but by the time I left Monticello for grad school not quite six years later, the creamery was once again boarded and shuttered.

My boss, DQ, took me over to the high school, where a lot of my newsgathering would take place over those nearly six years. He introduced me to some of the administration and then we ate lunch in the faculty lounge, which had long been his habit on Mondays. I did the same for several of the following Mondays, but I felt like an interloper. Those folks didn’t know me, and I didn’t know them (although I would get to know some of them well as the years went by). So by February of 1978 or so, I had developed my own schedule for getting news at the high school on Mondays, and my lunch hour found me in another place.

That afternoon, Bruce took the photo above and another one, more of a portrait shot, for use in that week’s paper. It was the portrait that ran, along with a brief bit of copy I wrote, introducing our readers to the new guy at the paper.

And that evening, I think I covered a girls basketball game at Monticello; if I did, it was the first time I’d covered girls athletics. This was only a few years after girls began to play interscholastic sports, and the game was a bit ragged, not the fluid, well-played game that one saw on occasion then and sees these days from high school on up.

And after that day – a long one that was capped, no doubt, with some television and a frozen dinner – the rest of the first publication week moved rapidly. Tuesday, I wrote most of the day, learning more and more about my slate of responsibilities, and that evening, I covered a wrestling match, writing the story early on Wednesday, just hours before the paper went to press.

That evening, I looked at the paper’s front page and my first professional byline. I remember staring at it, wondering if I would be able to stick, to do the job well enough. And, with a few missteps here and there, I did stick, and that byline – one I can still see in my head – turned out to be the first of probably a few thousand over the years.

So, is there any music attached to those first few days? Not really. I can’t think of anything that I heard either driving from place to place or at home in the evenings. But on Thursday that week – technically our publication day, but a light day at the office – I drove the thirty miles to St. Cloud and had dinner with my girlfriend and my parents (it was Mom’s birthday) and took time out to do some record shopping downtown, buying one album, Jefferson Starship’s Red Octopus.

After dinner, I headed back to Monti, and before driving to the mobile home park just south of town, I stopped at one of the few places in that small town that sold LPs and bought two more records, Boz Scaggs’ Silk Degrees and the Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed.

I remember playing the Moody Blues’ 1967 album that evening in my half of a mobile home duplex. I’d had a busy few days: the rush of moving during the weekend before, my first days at the paper, my first byline, my excursion to St. Cloud. I recall sitting there as the music played, thinking that my job was in Monticello, but my girlfriend and my family and all the rest of my life, all of that was still in St. Cloud.

And I don’t know if I felt as melancholy as the album’s last track sounds (even though the song proclaims love, it always has and always will sound more like a plaint to me), but looking back at those combined feelings of accomplishment and dislocation, it seems somehow appropriate that the last music I likely heard on that first publication day was the Moodys’ “Nights In White Satin” and the album’s closing bit of verse.

7

Saturday Single No. 506

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

The news came in last evening: Glenn Yarbrough, folk singer, member of the folk trio the Limeliters, and featured performer on the turntable in the rec room of my youth, passed on yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 86.

Yarbrough was never a superstar in the world of music. He was, though, a bright light in the folk universe. With the Limeliters from 1959 to 1963 and then on his own, he was a folk singer who became a gentle interpreter of music ranging from Rod McKuen’s sentimental poetry to songs from some of the great popular songwriters of the rock era.

And the glow of Yarbrough’s light mattered to me. As I’ve noted a few times over the years, Yarbrough entered my life when my sister’s Vietnam-bound boyfriend left her two of Yarbrough’s albums in 1968: The Lonely Things, a 1966 collection of McKuen’s sad (and sometimes manipulative) songs, and For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, a 1967 album on which Yarbrough interpreted songs by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Stephen Stills, and Phil Ochs, among others. I likely listened to them more than she did, and the two albums became part of who I am to this day; they remain a central portion of my musical universe, a universe that nearly fifty years ago had very little congruence with the musical universes of those with whom I went to school and shared my day-to-day life.

It’s hard to be different, of course, and when I was fifteen, I felt utterly out of place in the world of high school games (not realizing for many years, of course, that nearly every one of the others who crowded the halls of St. Cloud Tech High School felt utterly out of place as well). One of the balms for me in those years was the music on those two Yarbrough albums; as their music filled the basement rec room, it filled as well some of the empty space inside me. From early 1968 to mid-1972 (when my sister got married and moved to the Twin Cities, taking her records with her), those two albums were never far from what these days we would call my playlist.

When I was lovelorn, there was “The Lonely Things,” the title tune of the album of McKuen’s work; the same record at those moments offered sad solace with “People Change” and “So Long, San Francisco.” When I was hopeful, the For Emily . . . album supported my dreams of a special someone with “Gently Here Beside Me” (written by the duo of Marc Fontenoy and Anne Saray), mixed with the romantic but hard-edged realism of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go.” Those left me with a view of romance that was certainly less sappy and also less cynical than McKuen’s view, even with that latter view filtered through Yarbrough’s clear, sweet tenor voice.

After my sister left with her records, it took me some time to find good copies of those two albums (and the rest of her relatively small collection, as well), but fairly clean copies of the two Yarbrough albums of my youth now sit in the LP stacks, joined by about ten more of the singer’s albums (and they will all survive the winnowing process currently underway), and I have CDs of those first two as well.

Individual tracks from those CDs – or from several other Yarbrough albums – pop up occasionally when I have the RealPlayer on random, and all of For Emily . . . and The Lonely Things are among the mix on the iPod, as is Yarbrough’s only Top 40 hit, “Baby The Rain Must Fall,” which went to No. 12 in 1965 (and went to No. 2 on the Billboard chart now called Adult Contemporary). When the tracks slide in at random, they’re a sometimes bittersweet reminder of a time and place that had a great deal to do with forming the person I see in the mirror each morning.

And when on occasion, I put one of the two CDs – For Emily . . . or The Lonely Things – into the bedside player as I retire, I’m almost always transported back nearly fifty years to the times when an uncertain teen found comfort and some counsel in the work of a gentle man who ended a portion of his journey through time yesterday. In those late-night moments, I’m grateful to Yarbrough as I have been for decades, grateful for that comfort and counsel. I’m sure I was not alone in finding those things in Yarbrough’s music over the years, just as I’m sure that many – maybe even millions – share my sorrow this morning.

“All my world, somehow changing,” Yarbrough sang on “Comes and Goes” from For Emily . . . “Could it be all things pass into time?” He knew, of course, the answer to that rhetorical question, for the song (written by Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley) ends, “Helpless but thankful am I, for I know that it’s just one more change when I die.”

To mark, to celebrate, and to grieve that “one more change,” Glenn Yarbrough’s “Comes and Goes” – found on the 1967 album For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her – is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Strange’

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

For two days now, the Texas Gal has been out of commission with a head cold, and my internal monitors tell me I’m soon to join her. I have a meeting early this afternoon for which I need to be cogent, but I can tell that the rest of the day – before and after the meeting – I’ll be lucky if I’ve got the sense to pour a bowl of cereal.

So I’m turning things over to my little tuneheads Odd and Pop, and they’ve flipped a coin and decided that Odd gets to choose today’s featured tune. Pop laid one condition on the selection: “As long as you’re going to choose something strange, make sure that ‘strange’ is in the title.” Odd nodded as he happily wandered off to play in the digital shelves.

And he came back with a single from San Francisco, recorded in 1966 and released in 1967: “Stranger In A Strange Land” by the duo of Blackburn & Snow. I did just a little digging. Richie Unterberger of All Music writes:

One of the most interesting folk-rock acts of the 1960s to totally miss out on meaningful national exposure, the male-female duo of Jeff Blackburn and Sherry Snow had a lot going for them. Their male-female harmonies were nearly on par with those of the early Jefferson Airplane, and they boasted a wealth of fine original material by Blackburn that deftly combined folk, rock, country, and light psychedelic influences into a melodic blend that was both commercial and creatively idiosyncratic. What they didn’t have was a regular release schedule. Indeed, there were only two poorly distributed singles on Verve, including the classic “Stranger in a Strange Land,” before they split up in the late ’60s.

Unterberger notes that the duo did record an album’s worth of unreleased material, and that material, along with the tracks from the two singles, was released on CD in 1999 with the title Something Good For Your Head. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled across that CD release, and then I came across a slightly different version of “Stranger In A Strange Land” in the box set Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970. It was the box set version of the tune that Odd came across this morning.

A little more digging told me that, notwithstanding Unterberger’s praise for Blackburn’s writing, “Stranger In A Strange Land” was not Blackburn’s work. The writer was Samuel F. Omar, which was evidently a pseudonym for David Crosby. And that makes things even more strange, which is just fine this morning.

Strange or not, even Pop was pleased. “This coulda made the charts,” he said as he listened. Here’s what he heard: