With a storm moving in for Christmas Day itself, we’ve advanced our plans by one day, making today one of preparation and tomorrow the day that the Texas Gal, my mother and I will go to celebrate the holiday at my sister’s home in the northwestern suburb of Maple Grove.
But before I head out for some final shopping, I wanted to stop by here. As long-time readers know, I don’t really do much Christmas music. But this season, we’ll expand this blog’s Christmas music playlist by one song and then wish all of you and all of yours a joyful and peaceful holiday tomorrow, however you mark the day.
Here’s “Christmas Dinner” by Peter, Paul & Mary. Written by Noel Paul Stookey, it was released on the 1969 album Peter, Paul & Mommy.
And it came to pass on a Christmas evening
While all the doors were shuttered tight
Outside standing, a lonely boy-child
Cold and shivering in the night
On the street every window
Save but one was gleaming bright
And to this window walked the boy-child
Peeking in, saw candlelight
Through other windows he had looked at turkeys
And ducks and geese and cherry pies
But through this window saw a gray-haired lady
Table bare and tears in her eyes
Into his coat reached the boy-child
Knowing well there was little there
He took from his pocket his own Christmas dinner
A bit of cheese, some bread to share
His outstretched hands held the food
And they trembled, as the door it opened wide
Said he “Would you share with me Christmas Dinner?”
And gently said she, “Come inside”
The gray-haired lady brought forth to the table
Glasses to their last drop of wine
Said she, “Here’s a toast to everyone’s Christmas
And especially yours and mine”
And it came to pass on that Christmas evening
While all the doors were shuttered tight
That in that town, the happiest Christmas
Was shared by candlelight
For the past couple of years, Mom and I – and other customers, too, I assume – have known that the Ace Bar & Grill was in a precarious position.
It’s been about two years since Janice, one of our regular servers there, told us that the restaurant was up for sale. The owner was retiring, she said, and was hoping to sell the property as a restaurant, trying to keep intact the business that’s occupied the corner at Wilson Avenue and East Saint Germain since 1932.
Every once in a while, during our weekly or so stops at the Ace, we’d ask Janice or one of the other servers if there were any news. No matter who it was, she’d shake her head. “Haven’t heard a thing” is something we heard a lot.
Last week, the news came down. The Texas Gal spotted it first from the St. Cloud Times via Facebook. The Ace was closing on October 31. The property had been sold, but there was no indication of what would come next. I mentioned it to Mom Monday. She’d missed the story in the Times. “Oh, no,” she said. We agreed that we’d get there Tuesday after running a few errands.
As I’ve noted here before, since Mom moved into her assisted living center ten years ago, we’ve been regular lunch customers at the Ace. And for years before that, going back into the early 1960s, the Ace was a regular stop for our family after movies and basketball games or sometimes just for a meal out, and on a memorable evening in 1978, the Ace hosted the groom’s dinner for my first marriage. (The eventual failure of that pairing doesn’t negate the good memories that came along the way, and that dinner is one of those memories.)
And I’ve written here several times about the place, called the Ace Bar & Cafe back then and styled as the Ace Bar & Grill in recent years, most likely since the place was rebuilt after a fire in the 1990s. I’ve told how, when I was twelve or so, I got lost in the warren of corridors in the old building and ended up in the smoky bar, surrounded by loud and tall people. I’ve mentioned how I always notice the music coming from the ceiling speakers, chronicling the changes in recent years from a mid-1960s soft sound (think Ferrante & Teicher and Ed Ames) to a mid-1990s sound (think Gin Blossoms and Corrs) and then back to an adult contemporary mix of the late 1960s and early 1970s (think B.J. Thomas and Cat Stevens).
It had been a while since Mom and I had made it to the Ace, given her travails and mine this autumn, but we got there Tuesday and were greeted warmly. “One last time, eh?” our server asked as she led us to our table. I nodded sadly and asked if there were any clues as to what would follow.
“Not a thing,” she said.
I’ve seen rumors online of a Kwik-Trip convenience store, and it’s true that the neighborhood could use a convenience store/gas station, though I think the better site for that would be at the west end of the same block, where a Holiday stationstore recently closed (and where the building that Holiday occupied is the same one that housed Carl’s Market – the source of the best potato sausage I’ve ever had – from before I can remember to sometime in the 1990s). The corner property on which the Ace stands seems too small to accommodate a Kwik-Trip, several of which have opened in the St. Cloud area this year.
So we had our regular lunches: Hash browns with two eggs over easy for Mom and a burger with smoked Gouda cheese, fried onions and bacon – no bun, no pickle – for me, with tater tots and ranch dressing on the side. She had a chardonnay and I had an amber ale, and when we finished, we wished the servers well and made our ways out of the Ace Bar & Grill for likely the last time.*
And as I think about the Ace this morning, I can forget that it’s 2016 and that I’m 63. I can forget that Mom is in her nineties and that Dad has been gone for thirteen years. I can forget that the Ace as it is today was built in the 1990s after the fire that destroyed the old Ace with its warren of corridors that had to confuse more people than just one twelve-year-old boy. In my mind, the Ace Bar & Cafe will forever be somewhere in the years between 1965 and, oh, 1978, with the noise from the bar at the front of the building almost, but not quite, drowning out the easy listening soundtrack coming from the dining room’s overhead speakers.
Again, think Ferrante & Teicher. And the song that starts with the line “Once upon a time there was a tavern . . .”
Here are Ferrante & Teicher with their take on “Those Were The Days.” It’s from their 1969 album Midnight Cowboy.
*The place is open through Monday, and it’s possible the Texas Gal and I might get there over the weekend, but given our weekend busyness, that seems unlikely.
Some of my favorite posts from nearly ten years of blogging here are meditations on autumn. Rather than try this morning to do what I’ve already done, I’m offering a post I wrote on the second day of October in 2010. Some of the things mentioned no longer apply: I am now sixty-three, this year’s mix of annuals was different, and neither the red nancy nor the bronze bugleweed we planted along the sidewalk ever flourished. Still, much of this piece applies yet:
Autumn is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end – the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.
Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-seven autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.
When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.
Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.
Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms.
Yesterday, October 1, marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I made my walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the way; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.
And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles and ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.
That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.
But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.
And here is an early version of one of my favorite autumnal songs: Fairport Convention’s take on “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” written by its own Sandy Denny and included on Fairport’s 1969 album Unhalfbricking. I imagine this version has been posted here before, but it’s always worthy of a listen, so it’s today’s Saturday Single.
After a season of uncertainty, we seem to be settling into more predictable circumstances here along Lincoln Avenue. We’ll know a bit more in a month or two, but things look good for now, better than they have for some time.
That uncertainty has definitely been reflected here, as posts – once regular on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday – have been sporadic. I hope to resume that regular schedule, starting with this post, as brief as it may be. Other things do demand my time today, but I will be back Thursday, and perhaps we’ll get back to Follow The Directions or maybe Covering Cocker. I don’t know. But we’ll be here.
In the meantime, it’s a good day for a smile. And here’s Poco from its 1969 album Pickin’ Up The Pieces with a song about a smile. The video below lists it as “Make Me Smile,” but at the official Poco website, it’s called “Make Me A Smile.” Either way, it’s a fine track.
The Texas Gal and I spent a little less than an hour last evening playing our small part in this nation’s political process: We attended our precinct caucus at a nearby elementary school, meeting with other members of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party from our neighborhood.
(The party’s name – Democratic-Farmer-Labor – is a holdover from the 1944 merger of the Minnesota Democratic Party and the social democratic Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party in 1944. I learned at Wikipedia this morning, that Minnesota’s DFL is one of only two state parties affiliated with the national party that has a different name; the other odd party out is neighboring North Dakota’s Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.)
Parties caucus every two years; the Texas Gal and I missed the 2014 meeting, but I think we’ve been at every other local caucus since we moved to St. Cloud in late 2002. Turnout last night was high; our precinct, which is not densely populated, had forty-two people cast votes in the presidential straw poll, substantially more than the last time we had a straw poll, which was 2008. Last night, we filled a classroom at the school, which we hadn’t done before. Other precincts that are more densely populated filled the school’s cafeteria and media center.
(The evening has Minnesota’s DFL clearly showing its populist roots: The straw poll results in our precinct had Bernie Sanders with 29 votes and Hillary Clinton with 13, which was a little bigger spread than in the state-wide results reported this morning: With 86 percent of Minnesota precincts reporting, Sanders leads Clinton by a 62 percent to 38 percent margin.)
A lot of Sanders’ support in our precinct came from young folks: I’d guess that about half of the forty-two people who voted were twenty-five or younger. My major disappointment of the evening was that about half of those young folks left right after the straw poll (which is used to apportion delegates to the local district convention, where delegates to the state convention will be selected, and so on up the ladder) and thus they did not take part in the other portions of the caucus, which included selecting those delegates, selecting precinct officers and debating resolutions offered by those at the caucus.
I offered two resolutions: One advocating a national health care system based on the Medicare model, and one advocating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that bars capital punishment. Both passed, the first unanimously and the second with one dissenting vote. That latter result, to be honest, surprised me. The same resolution was rejected at our precinct caucus eight years ago.
The Texas Gal and I will continue our involvement at least one more step: We volunteered to be among our precinct’s delegates to our State Senate District convention in a couple of weeks. It will be the first time for her to move beyond precinct activities, I think. For me, it’s a resumption of my involvement in DFL politics; during my years in Monticello, I was active in the Wright County DFL, attending several county conventions. I doubt I’ll be that active again, but I’ll probably end up doing more in the precinct; our precinct chair is also a member of our Unitarian Universalist fellowship (and a fellow musician there), so I’ll likely pitch in down the road if he needs some help.
As to appropriate music this morning, I searched the 87,000 tunes in the RealPlayer for the word “vote.” I found the album Devoted by one-time American Idol contestant Kristy Lee Cook and a few tracks that actually deal with voting. The best of them comes from 1969, when voting in the U.S. was still limited to those 21 and older. The duo of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were among those wanting the voting age lowered (which happened in 1971, when those 18 and older were granted the vote), and the pair released a single titled “L.U.V. (Let Us Vote).”
The record was pretty much ignored: It bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, never getting any higher than No. 111. But it’s an interesting artifact of the times.
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.
As the RealPlayer settled the other night on Joe Cocker’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Dear Landlord,” I wondered, as I regularly do with so many tracks, about other covers of the tune. So I headed off to Second Hand Songs and a few other places.
Dylan’s original was on his 1968 album John Wesley Harding, and Cocker covered it in 1969 on Joe Cocker! And I came up with several other versions, including one that was a real surprise to me. We’ll get to that one in a bit, because as I looked, I had an idea. Cocker’s album, his second, has long been one of my favorites, and I wondered about putting together kind of an alternate version of the Joe Cocker! album, seeking out other versions of the ten tunes, some of them perhaps the originals but most of them other covers.
And I headed out into the wilds of the ’Net to see if that were possible. And yes, it is. So this is the first in a series of posts offering those tunes. We might at times do two or more tracks in a post as we make our way down this road, but today, we’ll satisfy ourselves with one.
During the 1969 sessions for the album Unhalfbricking, the British folk-rock group Fairport Convention took a stab at “Dear Landlord.” The track didn’t make the album, but it showed up years later as a bonus track when Unhalfbricking was released on CD. (If I’d ever replicated my Fairport Convention collection on CD, I would have known about the track long ago; there’s only so much money and so much shelf space, you know.)
The YouTube poster who uploaded Fairport’s “Dear Landlord” offered a quote from an unidentified member of the group, a comment that I would guess was taken from the notes that accompanied the CD release: “An out-take from the Unhalfbricking sessions. We would have added more instruments to this Bob Dylan-composed track had it been chosen to be on the album. As it is, its simplicity is one of the strongest points.”
I thought we’d dig into one radio survey this morning, so I went to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and sorted out all the surveys from July 11 over the years, a trove of surveys stretching from 1958 to 1998 and from radio stations in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to York, Pennsylvania, alphabetically and to Burbank, California, geographically.
My plan was to find a survey that was issued by a station in an intriguing city during a year I like, but after nosing around, I thought that the first city in the list might be what I needed. A quick check of the files told me that I’ve never looked at a survey from Atlantic City, and the survey in question is from 1969, so there you go! The station was WMID, and it didn’t have a nifty name for its survey as many stations do, but at the bottom of the thirty-record survey, a note said that among the sources for the rankings were “WMID Boss Line requests.”
We’ll consider six records as candidates for this morning’s feature, based on combining the integers in today’s date: 7-11-15, and we’ll look, too, just for fun at the top and bottom records in the survey.
Anchoring the thirty records in the WMID survey forty-six years ago was Jerry Butler’s “Moody Woman,” while parked in the top spot was “My Pledge Of Love” by the Joe Jeffrey Group, both decent bits of R&B, but our business is with some of the records in the survey’s interior:
No. 26: “In The Ghetto” by Elvis Presley
No. 22: “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & The Aces
No. 18: “See” by the Rascals
No. 15: “Grazing In The Grass” by the Friends of Distinction
No. 11: “Color Him Father” by the Winstons
No. 7: “Let Me” by Paul Revere & The Raiders
Without listening this morning, I recall only three of those records from my high school days, and only one of them fondly: I’m still weary of “In The Ghetto,” and “Israelites” never grabbed me, even though the two records ended up at Nos. 3 and 9 respectively in the Billboard Hot 100. I do still like the Friends of Distinction’s “Grazing,” which peaked at No. 3 in the Hot 100.
“Color Him Father” (which we touched on briefly when we discussed the Winstons’ “Love Of The Common People” a few months ago) is not a record I remember at all from that time, even though surveys from KDWB in the Twin Cities show it ranking at least as high as No. 5 and it went to No. 7 in the Hot 100. It’s a fine record, but it doesn’t grab me.
What about “Let Me” by Paul Revere & The Raiders and “See” by the Rascals? Well, having found and listened to “Let Me” this morning, I remember hearing it the radio, though not often, and I recall the screamed “Na-na! Na-na! Na-na! Na-na!” after the fake-out fade, which kind of ruined the record for me back then (and still does).
As for “See,” well, I imagine I heard it on the radio, as KDWB’s surveys online show it ranking as high as No. 8. And since it went to No. 27 in the Hot 100, I imagine I heard it live a little more than a year later when the Rascals played at St. Cloud State. But I don’t remember it at all. I dig it this morning, though, as much for the Dylanisms (intentional or not) of the lead vocal (Felix Cavaliere, I assume) as for the driving raucousness that makes it sound very much like 1969 sounded in some corners.
And that’s all enough to make “See” by the Rascals today’s Saturday Single.
As I’ve noted many times in this space, one of the major influences on my listening life was the tape player in the lounge at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my junior year of college.
I moved to the hostel in late January 1974, after spending about four-and-half-months living with a Danish couple about my folks’ age on the other end of the city of 32,000. There were about fifty college kids still living at the hostel by the time I moved to Pro Pace. (The hostel’s name meant “For Peace” in Latin, and it was pulled from the motto of the city of Fredericia, Armatus Pro Pace, which means “Armed For Peace. It’s a long story.) And with that many kids crowded into sixteen small rooms, it’s no wonder that the lounge became the center of activity.
And, as I’ve also said before, it was in that lounge that I first heard Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and first knowingly heard the Allman Brothers Band and the first Duane Allman anthology, with its riches of Southern music as recorded by both the Allmans and by the artists on whose work Duane Allman played during his short life. The tapes we played were dubbed from vinyl, so we didn’t have the jacket notes. That meant that every once in a while, as something came from the speakers that caught my ear, I’d ask the fellow who brought the tape to Fredericia (or one of his pals) who was performing a particular piece of music.
I don’t know if I ever specifically asked anyone about Boz Scaggs’ take on “Loan Me A Dime,” one of the pieces included on the Duane Allman anthology, but nearly every time the tape rolled past John Hammond’s take on Willie Dixon’s “Shake For Me,” I’d be deeply interested in the song that followed. I’d listen closely as “Loan Me A Dime” moved with its descending bass pattern – a pattern that’s always grabbed me – through its slow section in 6/8 time, into its moderate jam in 4/4 and then its maelstrom of a closing jam in 2/2, with the piano runs whirling in between the fiery guitar runs and above the punching horns.
Winter in Denmark wasn’t cold – temperatures stayed above freezing most of the time – but it was dark: It was almost always cloudy from November into February, and the sun rose late and set early, even in late January. Add to that gloomy prospect the utter failure of a romantic pairing and add as well many hours spent in the lounge reading, studying, writing letters or simply being, and the words and music of “Loan Me A Dime” insinuated themselves deep into me:
I know she’s a good girl, but at that time, I just didn’t understand. I know she’s a good girl, but at that time, I just could not understand. Somebody better loan me that dime, to ease my worried mind.
Now I cry, just cry, just like a baby all night long You know I cry, just cry, just like a baby all night long. Somebody better loan me that dime. I need my baby, I need my baby here at home.
The Danish nights got shorter, and the days got brighter through February. I spent March and most of April riding the trains of Western Europe, and all the things I saw, added to time and to distance from the lost young lady, helped my heart begin to heal by the time I came home in May.
Once home, I reacquainted myself with the life I’d left behind almost nine months earlier, from my friends and family to the forty or so rock/pop/R&B LPs in a crate in the basement on Kilian Boulevard. I also began slowly – the pace dictated both by a lack of cash and by other things requiring my attention during that late spring and summer – adding to my collection the music I’d learned to love while I was away. My first addition was the Allmans’ Brothers and Sisters, in the first few days I was home. My second, in early September – I said it was a slow process – was the first Duane Allman anthology, with “Loan Me A Dime” as its centerpiece.
I’d probably been told in Denmark that the singer was Boz Scaggs, but I don’t know if I’d recalled that. I knew that the guitar work came from Allman, of course. But as I took in the thirteen minutes of “Loan Me A Dime” in our rec room for the first time, I no doubt looked at the jacket notes and learned the names of drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, pianist Barry Beckett, guitarist Johnny Johnson and horn players Joe Arnold, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller and James Mitchell. I learned as well that the track came from Scaggs’ self-titled debut album from 1969.
More than forty years later, there are still a few tracks that in my memory belong more to the lounge in Fredericia than anywhere else: Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” is one of them. Most of the music I first heard there, however, has traveled with me well and now belongs to me everywhere. It’s no longer limited to that distant and long-ago and cherished room.
“Loan Me A Dime” has traveled with me the best of all of them, perhaps. In the mid-1990s, I taught the song to Jake’s band during one of our weekly jams, and for the next few years, for twenty minutes a week, I got to be Barry Beckett (and for a couple of those years, in one of those marvelous and unlikely gifts that life can bring us, the fellow who brought the Allman anthology to Denmark would stand next to my keyboard and be Duane Allman).
And all of that is why Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime” is Long Form No. 4.
During her college days (and my high school days) my sister acquired one album by the Lettermen: Hurt So Bad, a 1969 release. As is the case with most of my sister’s LPs from the late 1960s and early 1970s, I have that one, too. My copy is tucked away on the easy listening shelf, which is not well organized, so I can’t easily put my hands on it to see what kind of shape it’s in.
I know I’ve played the LP at least once, but I also know, from glancing at the track listing for the album at discogs.com, that back in 1969, I paid attention only to the title track. And that’s held true to this day: The only track from the album that I have on the digital shelves is “Hurt So Bad.”
“Hurt So Bad” was the last of six Top 40 hits for the Lettermen, peaking at No. 12 in the third week of September 1969, as my junior year of high school was taking off and as I was in my second month of listening purposefully to Top 40 radio. In other words, among my first Top 40 memories is a sweet, mellow and haunting song about the agony of losing a love and the corresponding agony of the slender hope that she might come back.
Never mind that at the time – just barely sixteen – I’d never really had a love to lose, much less to beg to return to me. I’d had crushes, sure, and one of the major crushes of my life was beginning to form right at that time, but I’d never lost a love. Nevertheless, I was already a romantic, and the lyrics of “Hurt So Bad” whispered their sad story to me whenever I heard the record. And I was ready to listen.
The single – and the album that both my sister and I own – came to mind this morning as I looked at the Billboard Hot 100 from this date in 1969, when “Hurt So Bad” was at No. 92, in the third week of its long climb to the Top Twenty. Seeing it there reminded me of evenings in my room as August and September rolled by, listening to the Lettermen’s harmonies, mouthing the words as I tried to imagine what it would be like to love someone so deeply and then lose her. Like most people, I’d find out eventually, several times over, and it was never as pretty as the song.