Archive for the ‘1967’ Category

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:

‘They Won’t Tell Your Secrets . . .’

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Things start with a familiarly slinky piano riff joined by a girl group singing softly in the background. Then, enter Mitch Ryder.

“Sally,” he says, “you know I’m your best friend, right? And four years ago, I told you not to go downtown, ’cause you’re gonna get hurt. Didn’t I tell you you were gonna cry? Mm-hmm. So you kept hangin’ around with him.”

Then, sounding utterly fed up, Ryder hollers, “Here it is, almost 1968, and you still ain’t straight!”

And Ryder rolls into his own version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses,” one that works in the chorus to “Mustang Sally” along the way:

Ryder’s cover of the Jaynetts’ 1963 hit is on his 1967 album What Now My Love, and it’s just one of numerous covers of “Sally” in the more than fifty years since the Jaynetts’ hit went to No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. Twenty-seven of those covers – including two in French – are listed at Second Hand Songs. There are certainly more covers of the song out there, but as usual, that’s a good starting place.

That list of twenty-five covers in English range in time from a 1965 version by Ike Turner’s Ikettes that doesn’t roam very far from the Jaynetts’ original to a 2012 version from the album Moving In Blue by Danny Kalb & Friends – Kalb was a member of Blues Project in the 1960s – that’s instrumentally exotic but vocally drab.

There have been plenty of others along the way. One that I’ve heard touted as worth hearing is a live performance from 1966 by the San Francisco group Great Society with Grace Slick. I found it uninteresting, as I did a 1974 version by the all-woman group Fanny (on the album Rock & Roll Survivors). Yvonne Elliman traded in the Jaynetts’ slinky piano for some weird late Seventies electronica when she covered the song on her 1978 album Night Flight, and that didn’t grab me too hard, either. More interesting was the funky 1971 version by Donna Gaines (later Donna Summer) released on a British single.

At a rough estimate, covers of “Sally” by female performers outnumber those by male singers by about a three-to-one ratio. Joining Ryder with one of the relatively few male covers of the tune was Tim Buckley, whose 1973 cover from his Sefronia album has an interesting folk vibe (though he wanders away from the lyrics and the melody for an odd bit in the middle).

Another folkish version of the tune comes from the British band Pentangle, who included the song on its 1969 album Basket of Light. The group’s version is one of my favorite covers, as is the version by the far more obscure group Queen Anne’s Lace, which put a cover of “Sally” on the group’s only album, a self-titled 1969 release.

But the honors for strangest version of “Sally, Go ’Round The Roses” that I came across go to singer Alannah Myles, who found an utterly weird – but compelling – Scottish vibe for the song on her 1995 album, A-Lan-Nah.

The Day

Friday, October 16th, 2015

In the east, a thin sliver of light – maybe bright, maybe muted through clouds – slides its way above the horizon. As it does, the music begins.

The tune is “Dawn” from a 1973 self-titled album by a group calling itself Glory. It was Glory’s first album, but that’s only a technicality: Since 1968, when two Cleveland groups more or less merged to form what All Music Guide calls an “acid rock combo,” the musicians in Glory had been calling themselves The Damnation Of Adam Blessing and had released three albums on the United Artists label. A dispute with the label brought about the name change.

The first album, a 1969 self-titled work, spent two weeks in the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 181. In 1970, a single titled “Back To The River” – from the album The Second Damnation – bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, peaking at No. 102.

Glory, a good if unspectacular album, was the last word from the group; it and the first two Adam Blessing albums, as well as an anthology, are available on CD.

The music continues as the hands of the clocks turn just a little. It’s not quite raining as we listen to “In A Misty Morning” by the late Gene Clark from his 1973 album, Roadmaster.

At the time, the album was actually released only in the Netherlands, according to Wikipedia, which notes that Clark’s label, A&M, was displeased with the slow pace of his work and created the album by combining eight of Clark’s new tracks with three tracks from other sessions (two tracks from sessions with the Byrds in 1970-71 and one track from sessions with the Flying Burrito Brothers). Whatever the source, Roadmaster is a decent listen.

Clark’s catalog is not easily listed, given his solo work and his work with Doug Dillard, with the Byrds and finally with McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. I’ve seen his 1974 album No Other mentioned as the best of his career, and it’s the only solo album to reach the Billboard 200, peaking at 144 in 1974.

Most of his work, including Roadmaster, seems to be available on CD; I didn’t take the time to do an album by album check.

By late morning, the mist is gone, and as the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, it’s time for a break. Our refreshment is “Red Wine At Noon” by Joy Of Cooking, found on the group’s 1971 self-titled debut.

The Berkeley-based group has been mentioned and featured here frequently enough that I’m not sure there’s a lot left to say. I’ll just note that I wish that the group’s unreleased fourth album, 1973’s Same Old Song And Dance, would somehow find a release. And I’ll add that not long ago, I got hold of a two-CD collection titled “back to your heart” that offers seventeen unreleased studio tracks – some of them polished, some less so – as well as a 1972 concert in Berkeley. If you like what I call “living room music,” it’s sweet stuff.

All three of Joy Of Cooking’s original albums spent some time in the Billboard 200: Joy Of Cooking (1971) went to No. 100, Closer To The Ground (1971) peaked at No. 136, and Castles (1972) got to No. 174. The group’s only charting single in Billboard was “Brownsville,” which went to No. 66 in 1971. All the original albums are available on CD, as is “back to your heart” and a collection titled American Originals, which includes a few tracks from the unreleased Same Old Song And Dance.

The day moves on, and some times of day and some times of year merge nicely for time spent outdoors. That’s evidently what the Stone Poneys thought in 1967 when they released “Autumn Afternoon” on Evergreen Vol. 2.

The Stone Poneys were, of course, Linda Ronstadt, Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards, with Ronstadt handling almost all of the lead vocals on Evergreen Vol. 2, the group’s second album. If the stories at Wikipedia are accurate (and I think they are, given the notes), the group’s label, Capitol, saw Ronstadt as the marketable talent and Kimmel and Edwards as expendable. And the guys were pushed firmly to the side.

Evergreen Vol. 2 went to No. 100 in Billboard upon its release in 1967. The first album, re-released with the title The Stone Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt, went to No. 172 in 1975.

The Stone Poneys’ first two albums are available on a two-fer CD; also available on CD is Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys and Friends, Vol. III, a 1968 release that was, from what I read, more Ronstadt and very little Poneys.

After the sun goes down (and we could easily – and might someday – devote an entire slice of this kind of whimsy to “sundown” alone), and the shadows come from the streetlights and perhaps a full moon, it’s time to get a little slinky. Pat Benatar did it well on “Evening” from her 1991 exploration of jump blues and torch songs, True Love.

Benatar, of course, was a 1980s icon with eleven Top 40 hits from 1979 to 1984; six of her albums made the Top Fifteen during that time as well. True Love did not. It peaked at No. 37. Given my tastes, it’s not surprising that I like it better than the rest of Benatar’s catalog. Like all of her catalog, it’s easily available.

Just past 11:59 p.m., the clock turns over, a new day starts, and we hear “Midnight Wind” by John Stewart from his 1979 album Bombs Away Dream Babies. The album was fortified by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – both contributed backing vocals, and Buckingham added guitar and co-produced – and was the greatest success of Stewart’s long career, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

None of Stewart’s six earlier charting albums had gone higher than No. 126; his 1980 follow-up, Dream Babies Go Hollywood, went to No. 85, and Stewart’s moment was gone.

But the moment was a great one, with a sound evocative of its time: “Midnight Wind” went to No. 28 in the Hot 100; its predecessor, “Gold,” had reached No. 5. A third single from Bombs Away Dream Babies, “Lost Her In The Sun,” went to No. 34.

The album is seemingly out of print; copies are available on CD but at higher prices than I’m willing to pay. The same seems to hold true for most of Stewart’s catalog.

‘Hurry, Tuesday Child . . .’

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

Tuesdays around here are usually pretty quiet: Laundry’s a day in the past, the routine of the week is settling in, and after I throw a post into the blogosphere, I often have a lunch of herring filets – usually in a mustard sauce – with flatbread.

This week, however, Tuesday is Laundry Day. Why?

Well, it has to with the years that the Texas Gal spent working for Creative Memories, a home-sales firm that marketed scrapbooking supplies: Specially designed albums, specially designed pages, and all sorts of accessories and gadgets that could be used to put anyone’s memories into a scrapbook. It’s probably not too fine a point to say that Creative Memories invented the scrapbooking industry. And then, the company faltered and failed for a number of reasons, including the fact that other firms began making and selling similar goods in retail stores for much lower prices.

Anyway, during the years that the Texas Gal worked there, the company would often sell older and discontinued merchandise to its employees at ridiculously low prices: an album that retailed for around $40 would go for $1, and so on. So boxes of scrapbooking supplies gathered first in the closet of the apartment across the way and then in the basement here at the house. And in an effort to declutter a little bit, the Texas Gal – who tried scrapbooking as a hobby but decided to stick with quilting and gardening – decided a few weeks back that it was time to get rid of the sixteen boxes of albums, pages, stickers and whatnot that were gathered in one end of the basement.

So Sunday I started hauling boxes to the living room, and yesterday, instead of doing laundry, I finished that task and then straightened the place up a bit, as one of the Texas Gal’s co-workers was stopping by after work to relieve us of some of the scrapbooking supplies.

That’s why today, a Tuesday, is Laundry Day, and to add to the confusion, I’m waiting for the air conditioner guy to give me a call and come out and fix the AC, which quit working yesterday morning. It’s not supposed to be too warm today, and normally, I’d open the windows, but – according to news reports – the second wave of smoke from Canadian wildfires will blow into the area sometime late this morning or early afternoon. I was out to run an errand in the first wave of smoke yesterday, and it was not pleasant. So we’ll stay closed up here, doing laundry and waiting for the AC guy. I’ll still probably have herring filets and flatbread for lunch, though.

Anyway, here’s a Tuesday song: Bobbie Gentry’s “Hurry, Tuesday Child,” originally found on the 1967 album Ode to Billie Joe.

‘Voodoo’

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Casting about for an idea, as I often do, I took a look this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from July 3, 1965, fifty years ago today. And sitting at No. 31 was a title and an artist’s name that caused more than an instant of cognitive dissonance: “Voodoo Woman” by Bobby Goldsboro:

It doesn’t give me a sense of the jungles of Haiti or the bayous of Louisiana, but it’s not a truly awful record. The drums kind of work and the shrill harmonica gives the record an alien sound. As to the drums, I wondered if the famed Wrecking Crew provided the backing and the drums were Hal Blaine’s, but my copy of the book The Wrecking Crew is at Rick’s house (though the book might not have answered my question anyway), and I didn’t want to spend time googling this morning.

“Voodoo Woman” was Goldsboro’s seventh record in or near the Hot 100, and by the time early July rolled around in 1965, it was coming down from its peak at No. 27. I don’t think I’d ever heard it until this morning, which isn’t surprising, as I wasn’t a listener at the time. And finding it made me wonder how many tracks on the digital shelves also have “voodoo” in their titles (if not in their marrow).

A search for the word brings up 109 mp3s, but a number of the results have to be discarded: All of D’Angelo’s 2000 album Voodoo and all of the Rolling Stones’ 1994 album Voodoo Lounge have to be set aside, and all but the title tracks from Alex Taylor’s 1989 album Voodoo In Me and the 1959 exotica album Voodoo by Robert Drasnin have to be left behind as well. We also lose Rhythm Disease, a 2001 album by the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls, and several tracks each by the Voodoo Dogs and the Mumbo Jumbo Voodoo Combo.

That still leaves plenty of tracks, with perhaps the best-known being “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” from the 1968 album Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Beyond the version that ended up on the album, I’ve somehow managed to get hold of sixteen alternate versions of the Hendrix tune, which is likely overkill even for me, and it’s not what I have in mind this morning anyway.

Of the maybe forty tracks remaining, do any call to mind midnight in the jungles and along the bayous? Taylor’s “Voodoo In You” is decent, but it’s a cover of Johnny Jenkins’ version from the 1970 album, Ton-Ton Macoute! The backing tracks for Jenkins’ album began as tracks for a Duane Allman solo album before he formed the Allman Brothers Band and thus includes work from Allman, some of the future members of the ABB and a few other Muscle Shoals standouts, so Jenkins’ “Voodoo In You” is good. On the other side of the gender divide, I have covers of Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman” from Susan Tedeschi (2004) and Ana Popovic (2011) but oddly, not Taylor’s 1975 original (an omission that will be rectified soon). But none of those quite fill my empty space today, either.

Passing over those tracks seems to leave it up to the Neville Brothers, which feels right. Here’s “Voo Doo” from their 1989 album Yellow Moon. The album went to No. 66 on the Billboard 200.

Assisted Living Music

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

My mom’s been living in her assisted living center for nine years now, which means I’ve dropped by there somewhere around a thousand times. Beyond the fact that some of Mom’s fellow residents don’t seem all that much older than I am, one of the main things I notice about Ridgeview Place over in Sauk Rapids is the background music. (That figures, eh?)

There’s a CD player in a small sitting room adjacent to the foyer, and there’s another one upstairs in what’s called the Great Room, where the folks who live at Ridgeview Place gather for musical performances by community groups and presentations by visitors. (Travel tales with photos and videos are a big hit.) It’s also where the folks gather monthly for a Happy Hour – some wine, crackers and cheese – and where they play bingo twice a week. (Mom told me on the phone yesterday afternoon that she’d just won that day’s blackout game; she netted two dollars.)

When the Great Room isn’t hosting an event, though, music comes quietly from the CD player there, and the CD player in the sitting room seems to be playing tunes through the day.

So what is it the folks at Ridgeview Place are hearing? Well, you’d think it was 1942 or maybe 1948, which makes some sense. On my regular walks through the foyer, I hear a lot of Big Band stuff, recognizing on occasion some Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. I was waiting to talk to the director the other afternoon, and as I sat there, I heard a nice rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” I’m not sure whose version it was, except that it was neither the Bing Crosby version nor the Tommy Dorsey version (with a vocal by Frank Sinatra), both of which were big hits in 1944.

There are moments when the time focus slides a little bit further into the Twentieth Century: I’m pretty sure that the other day I heard Percy Faith’s 1953 hit “The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart),” and there have been a few other moments when I’ve heard something that comes from the easy listening files of the late 1950s or even the early 1960s. And that makes some sense. If we assume that the idea is to present the music of the residents’ youth (when they were, say, fifteen to twenty-two) and the current residents range in age from, oh, seventy-five to ninety-three (my mother’s age), then the years from which the music would be drawn would range from 1936, when my mom was fifteen, to 1962, when a seventy-five year old resident would have been twenty-two.

That ending date – 1962 – might be a bit recent. During my trips through the lobby – and they’re brief though frequent – I’ve not yet heard much from the late 1950s or early 1960s. But I imagine hits from those years are coming: Probably not much Elvis or any Lloyd Price, but certainly the Browns, the McGuire Sisters, some Perez Prado, some Percy Faith and some Floyd Cramer.

The topic came up this morning as I drove the Texas Gal to work. A tune came on WXYG, and she said, “That’s probably what we’ll be hearing when we’re in assisted living.” I laughed and said, “Maybe.” And then I told her that I had not yet heard anything on the Ridgeview Place CD players from the era of the Beach Boys, Lesley Gore and Chubby Checker.

“Well, thank God for that,” she said. “Maybe they’ll skip that era.”

I doubt it. I expect that when folks eight to ten years older than I become the majority of the residents at places like Ridgeview Place, the music in the sitting rooms and activity rooms will include tunes from the Highwaymen, Ferrante & Teicher, the Kingston Trio, Bobby Vee, the Shirelles and other artifacts of the early 1960s.

The more interesting question to me is whether the music in places like Ridgeview Place will follow the shifts in popular music that took place in the 1960s. Will the music by those artists mentioned in the above paragraph be followed in five to ten years by tunes from Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles, Janis Joplin, the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix?

That, too, I doubt. I think any music from our era – and my sweet spot stretches from 1967 to 1975 or so – will draw from the softer side: Simon & Garfunkel, the 5th Dimension, Seals & Crofts, Neil Diamond, Carole King and so on. And some years down the road, as I sit as a resident in one of those foyers, even though it would amuse me, I doubt very much that I’ll hear Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “And When I Die.”

Nor, I would think, will I heard the tune that came on WXYG this morning, the one that got the Texas Gal and me talking: the Doors’ 1967 track, “Break On Through (To The Other Side).”

‘Living On Free Food Tickets . . .’

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

We mentioned briefly last week the minor hit the Winstons had in the fall of 1969 when “Love Of The Common People” went to No. 54 in the Billboard Hot 100 (and to No. 19 on the Easy Listening chart). By then, the song had been around for couple of years. In the autumn of 1967, versions by Wayne Newton (No. 106) and the Everly Brothers (No. 114) had bubbled under the Hot 100.

I’ve never been much of a Newton fan, so his version doesn’t move me much. Nor does the Everlys’ take on the tune grab me. So I dug a little deeper and found the original version of the tune, recorded in October 1966 and released in January 1967 by the Four Preps. That one was okay, and I liked the delivery of lead singer David Somerville (one-time lead singer for the Diamonds). But I kept digging anyway, and I found a countryish version from 1970 by John Hurley, one of the song’s two writers.

That was okay, too, but I’m still liking the Winstons’ version most, and I wonder if that’s because of my vague memories of hearing it in 1969. I’m not sure where that would have been; neither the Twin Cities surveys at Oldiesloon nor the collection of surveys at Airheads Radio Survey Archive show the record on a KDWB survey (and the same is true for the Twin Cities’ WDGY, which I could not get in St. Cloud). Neither of those collections is complete, of course, and it’s quite possible that the record showed up for just one or two weeks on KDWB and I heard it once or twice.

Anyway, beside the Winstons’ take on the song, what versions move me? There are plenty to choose from, based on the list at Second Hand Songs. I liked the 1967 cover from Waylon Jennings, but was even more impressed by the version that Jim Ed Brown released the same year. And there are plenty of covers listed at Second Hand Songs that I didn’t check out. Some of the familiar names there were Sandy Posey, Lynn Anderson, the Gosdin Brothers, John Denver, Wanda Jackson, B.J. Thomas, and Paul Young, whose 1984 take on the tune went to No. 45 on the Hot 100.

But I suppose I should close with the version of the song that reminded me the other week of the Winstons’ charting version. Here’s Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band from the 2007 release Live In Dublin: