Archive for the ‘1969’ Category

Saturday Single No. 604

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

We’ve spent some time this week considering what I was hearing on the radio as I prepared for my senior year of high school in August 1970, and we’ve theorized about what my cousins in California were hearing on the radio at the same time.

So I wondered this morning as the Texas Gal and I ran a brief errand: What was I listening to in the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard at that summer played out? Well, the playlist was pretty slender as far a pop and rock went. As August 1970 hit its mid-point, these were the pop, rock and R&B albums I had available:

The Age Of Aquarius by the 5th Dimension
Let It Be by the Beatles
Chicago by Chicago
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Best Of Bee Gees
Hey Jude by the Beatles

For more pop/rock, I could, if I wanted to, dig deeper into the crate where I kept my albums and supplement those six with Herman’s Hermits On Tour and Look At Us by Sonny and Cher, albums my sister had given me as gifts for birthdays in 1965 and 1966, and Beatles ’65, which we had received for Christmas in 1964. And for some changes of pace, there were always my Al Hirt and Herb Alpert records and my John Barry soundtracks.

(Then, too, there were my sister’s LPs, which ran a wide gamut: Jefferson Airplane, Judy Collins, John Denver, Glenn Yarbrough, some classical LPs and Traditional Jewish Memories, the tale of which I’ve told here before.)

Those all were in the mix as I lazed on the green couch during that summer of 1970, with the more recent pop and rock certainly getting more frequent play. And as I think about that list, I single out the album by the 5th Dimension, which I bought through our record club during the autumn of 1969, my first full season of listening to Top 40. And I wonder, not for the first time: What moved me to select it?

As I ponder the question, I come up with several reasons: I was hearing “Wedding Bell Blues” (No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in November 1969) with increasing frequency on the radio; during the summer of 1969, I bought the single “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” after it spent six weeks at No. 1 in April and May 1969; and most importantly, in October of 1969, I spent a couple hours in the fifth row or so for a concert by the 5th Dimension at St. Cloud State.

For as long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been dating the start of my pop/rock/soul LP collecting to May of 1970, when I brought home Let It Be and Chicago. I think the dividing line I drew was that I purchased those records with my own money. The 5th Dimension album, on the other hand, was one of the six each year that Dad bought for me from the record club.

On one side, the fact of laying out my own cash for records makes a difference: Those records were my investment. On the flip side, just selecting from the club an LP by the 5th Dimension shows that my tastes were changing, my ears bending toward new sounds.

So what does all that mean to a reader? Probably not much. But I use this place to not only share the music I love and the story of my life but to sort out that story. And this wandering post is going to conclude that I should date my pop/rock/soul LP collecting from the autumn of 1969 with The Age Of Aquarius.

The medley that includes the title track was one of the selections in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, so we’ll look elsewhere on the album this morning, finding one of my favorite deep tracks, making “The Winds Of Heaven” today’s Saturday Single.

Four At Random

Friday, July 27th, 2018

We’re going to let iTunes do the work today, pulling four tunes at random from the 3,900-some I keep in the program. (I only pull as many tunes into the program as it takes to fill my iPod Nano; I’m pondering increasing the memory in the iPod, but for now, the 3,900-odd tunes – ten days’ worth of music, says iTunes – do me fine.)

The tunes in the program run alphabetically from 1970’s “ABC” by the Jackson 5 to “Zou Bisou Bisou,” a French release by Gillian Hills from 1962. There are nearly forty tracks loaded into the program with titles that start with numerals, and iTunes sorts those tracks at the end of its listings, which seems odd. Those tracks start with three different versions of “007,” the James Bond action theme that John Barry wrote for the 1962 Bond film From Russia With Love, and end with “99 Red Balloons,” the English language version of Nena’s 1984 hit.

Traced in history, the 3,900-some tracks in iTunes span 229 years. They start with the First Movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor (K. 550), which the intemperate genius (if one is inclined to believe Peter Shaffer’s play and the ensuing film Amadeus) composed in 1788, and end with “The Observatory,” a track from Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, a 2017 album from the White Buffalo.

In terms of length, the tracks run from two seconds – Roy Scheider’s utterance, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from the 1975 movie Jaws – to the thirty-three-plus minutes the Allman Brothers Band invested in “Mountain Jam” during a concert at the Fillmore East in March of 1971.

So here are four from iTunes (excluding tunes we’ve written about during, oh, the last year):

During the first month or so of this blog’s existence – in February 2007 – I described the music of Jimmie Spheeris as having a “California post-hippie singer-songwriter vibe.” Nothing I’ve heard from the late singer-songwriter – he was killed in a 1984 traffic accident – has changed that view. On all four albums he released during his lifetime, and on the tracks I’ve heard from the posthumous Spheeris (recorded in 1984 and released in 2000), we get wandering, mellow tracks, leavened by the occasional tune that’s (a little) more up-tempo.

This morning, we hear “Long Way From China” from Jimmie’s 1973 album The Original Tap Dancing Kid. And, as always happens, Spheeris’ music reminds me at least a little of some of Shawn Phillips’ stuff. Spheeris, as I wrote in 2007, offers “odd misty melodies topped with poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics adding up to a lush romanticism that one almost never hears anymore.” It’s a fine way to start the day.

“Starin’ at the sun. Been stoned since half-past none,” sings Bob Darin to start out our second track. The tune is “Jive” from Darin’s 1969 album Commitment.

How many versions were there of the man we know most often as Bobby Darin? There was the novelty singer who took “Splish Splash” to No. 3 in 1958, and the Rat Pack-ish singer who topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks in 1959 with “Mack the Knife.” There was the folkie whose version of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” went to No. 8 in 1966.

And this morning’s Darin calls himself “Bob,” as if to say, “Serious artist at work here, folks,” or perhaps to distance himself from his other work and fit into the ethos of 1969. And “Jive” certainly fits into those hippie-ish times in both its attitude and its vagueness:

I got a cloudy-day woman to make my bed and cook for me
When I’m gone a year too long she knows not to look for me
Coz I’ll be back when evenin’ comes
Sleepin’ through them crashin’ drums
Jive’s alive from nine to five my main man.

My favorite Darin track is “Mack the Knife,” but I do truly love “Jive” and the other stuff on Commitment.

And here comes some mid-Seventies sadness, courtesy of Dorothy Moore and her 1976 hit “Misty Blue.” The record went to No. 3 for four weeks on the Hot 100, No. 2 for two weeks on the magazine’s R&B chart and to No. 14 on the Easy Listening chart. (I honestly thought it would be much higher on that last chart.) But chart performance isn’t why “Misty Blue” matters around here. I mean, we’ve all been where Moore is here:

Ooh baby, I should forget you
Heaven knows I tried

Baby, when I say that I’m glad we’re through
Deep in my heart I know I’ve lied I’ve lied, I’ve lied

From the opening piano cascades and Moore’s first “Ooooooooh” through the last “My whole world turns misty blue” three-and-a-half minutes later, this record reminds anyone who hears it exactly how it was, at least once, maybe twice, maybe three times in a lifetime. Anyone who’s truly lived has been in that misty blue world. And it’s a good thing to be reminded of that once in a while.

Our last stop today kicks off with a buoyant banjo riff, joined after a moment by bass and percussion, and then by the vocals:

Well, I’m on my way
To the city lights,
To the pretty face
That shines her light on the city nights
And I gotta catch a noon train, I gotta be there on time.
Oh, it feels so good to know she waits at the end of the line.

The record is, of course, “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, and for three-and-a-half minutes, we’re just fine, hearing the tale of a man whose woman can “make a man feel shiny and new” as she feeds him “love and tenderness and macaroons.”

The Stampeders were from Calgary, Alberta, and their 1971 hit went to No. 8 on the Hot 100 and to No. 5 on the Easy Listening chart. And even after forty-seven years, it’s a record that can still make me smile.

Saturday Single No. 601

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

I was rummaging around this morning at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, looking at surveys from the Twin Cities’ KDWB and trying to figure out as well as I could when it was in 1969 that I really started paying attention to the station and thus, to the Top 40.

Well, it wasn’t this week. The station’s 6+30 survey for July 21, 1969, has too many records tucked into it that were not familiar to me at the time and even a few that weren’t immediately familiar to me this morning, forty-nine years after the fact. So I made a few stops at YouTube.

I cued up “Medicine Man” by the Buchanan Brothers, and when the group – which was actually Terry Cashman, Gene Pistilli and Tommy West – got to the chorus, I recognized the record, which was pretty darn catchy, if unmarketable today. It was sitting at No. 36, the very bottom of the station’s survey, having peaked at No. 14 a few weeks earlier. That was better than the record did nationally, as Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows it as peaking at No. 22.

Next, I went in search of the Rascals’ “See,” which was sitting at No. 33 at KDWB that week. I have no recollection of the record at all. From what I can tell, the record peaked at No. 8 at the station a few weeks earlier, which meant some pretty hefty airplay, and that tells me that I hadn’t yet moved the radio by mid-July. “See” went to No. 27 in the Billboard Hot 100.

Then I moved to the third of the unremembered records on that long-ago 6+30. Bobby Vinton’s “The Days of Sand and Shovels” was sitting at No. 13, up two spots from the week before. Having listened to it, I can say without reservation that I’ve never heard the record before, nor have I ever heard the song before. I can also say it’s pretty dreadful. KDWB’s listeners must have caught on to that, as the record dropped out of the 6+30 the next week. Nationally, it peaked at No. 34, the only version of the song – which I think was first recorded in 1968 by Carl Dobkins, Jr. – to hit the Billboard Hot 100. (Vinton’s version went to No. 11 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.)

Just to round things out, two versions of the tune have shown up on the magazine’s country chart. Waylon Jennings’ cover went to No. 20 in 1969, and Ned Stuckey took the tune to No. 26 in 1978. There are other covers out there, but none that charted.

How bad was the song? Check out the lyrics:

When I noticed her the first time
I was outside running barefoot in the rain
She lived in the house next door
Her nose was pressed against the window pane
When I looked at her, she smiled
And showed a place where two teeth used to be
And I heard her ask her mom if she
Could come outside and play with me

But soon the days of sand and shovels
Gave way to the mysteries of life
And I noticed she was changing and I
Looked at her through different eyes
We became as one and knew a love
Without beginning or an end
And every day I lived with her
Was like a new day dawning once again

And I’ve loved her since every doll was Shirley Temple
Soda pop was still a nickel
Jam was on her fingertips
Milk was circled on her lips

After many years our love fell silent
And at night I heard her cry
And when she left me in the fall, I knew
That it would be our last goodbye
I was man enough to give her
Everything she needed for a while
But searching for a perfect love
I found that I could not give her a child

Now she lives a quiet life
And is the mother of a little girl
Every time I pass her house
My thoughts go back into another world
Because I see her little girl
Her nose is pressed against the window pane
She thinks I’m a lonely man
Who wants to come inside out of the rain

And I’ve loved her since every doll was Shirley Temple
Soda pop was still a nickel
Jam was on her fingertips
Milk was circled on her lips

Boy, that’s not quite to the level of Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey,” but it’s damn close. And the anachronistic reference to Shirley Temple dolls bothers me. Shirley Temple and the dolls modeled after her were part of the 1930s and maybe, 1940s. Same with soda pop being a nickel. I don’t get what era this is supposed to be.

Anyway, sometimes you have to share the cheese. So here’s Bobby Vinton’s “The Days of Sand and Shovels” from 1969, today’s Saturday Single.

More ‘More and More’

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

We dallied here Saturday with the original version of “More and More” by Little Milton and the 1968 cover of the tune by Blood, Sweat & Tears. I thought that today, I’d wander to Second Hand Songs and see what other covers are listed there.

The harvest is slender: The website lists two other covers of the tune, written by Don Juan Mancha and Vee Pea Smith. I had assumed when I saw those names that both were pseudonyms, but I may be only half right. Vee Pea Smith was actually Virginia P. Bland, whose list of credits at discogs is extensive, with her songs listed as being recorded by Monk Higgins (her husband), Etta James, Tyrone Davis, Junior Wells, Bobbie Womack, Clydie King, and among others, of course, Little Milton and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

As to Don Juan Mancha, that seems to be his real name, and it may be a name I should have run into long ago. His list of credits as a songwriter and producer shows work with the Falcons, Wilson Pickett, Edwin Starr, Bettye Lavette, Ike Turner, Barrett Strong, Tyrone Davis, and many more, including, like Bland’s list, Little Milton and Blood, Sweat & Tears.

And there are two more listings for the duo’s “More and More,” both recorded not long after Little Milton’s original was recorded and released. Jazz/R&B guitarist Phil Upchurch recorded an instrumental version of the tune for his 1969 album Upchurch, which was released on Chess Record’s Cadet label:

And four years later, in 1973, the song showed up in a version by the Sir Echoes on an album titled Super Hits, released on the Music Trends label. The album was no doubt one of those hastily recorded and packaged sound-alike pieces by a group of studio musicians, as most of the other tracks on the album were recent popular singles or album tracks by very famous acts: “You’re So Vain,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “The World Is A Ghetto,” and more.

That suspicion is confirmed by a Google image search for the terms “super hits” and “Music Trends,” which brings up covers of other albums of songs – country and pop alike – covered by bands with names like the Country Busters, the Gallant Men, the Full House, the Now Sounds, the Sweet Nickels, the Royal Notes (who covered in its entirety Mike Oldfield’s album Tubular Bells), the Night Raiders, the Kings High and many, many more.

I’m sure that somewhere there’s a copy remaining of the right volume of Super Hits, but for now, we’ll just have to imagine what the Sir Echoes might have sounded like as they covered “More and More.”

‘Summer Sunshine’

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Well, I missed the solstice today. According to Wikipedia and Time.Untarium.com, the summer solstice took place at 5:07 this morning, with the sun’s northward trek for this year coming to its peak. So I missed the actual moment, and – with the skies here in St. Cloud expected to be cloudy all day – I won’t benefit greatly from sunshine during the so-called longest day of the year.

St. Cloud will have about fifteen hours and forty minutes of daylight today, according to Time.Unitarium, with the sun having risen at 5:29 this morning (right about the time Oscar the cat roused me from sleep, asking for his breakfast) and setting this evening at 9:09.

So we’ll have little summer sunshine outside today, but here inside, we’ve got that covered. A search through the digital files brought us “Summer Sunshine” from a group called Misty Morn. I know nothing about the group, and a cursory search this morning told me not much more than that the record was released on Epic as a promo in 1969. (I do not know if there was a regular release.)

I did find a link to what seems to be text from the August 16, 1969, edition of Cashbox, noting that the record was a “[s]low, softly building ballad with the stylish appeal to attract notice on MOR and teen circuits.” But the record never hit the charts in either Cashbox or Billboard.

I evidently found the record on a 2010 compilation on the Pet label titled Soft Sounds For Gentle People 5 (Far-Out Treasures From California And Beyond, 1966-1969). And it’s a pleasant diversion for a day that somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere will be filled with “Summer Sunshine.”

Saturday Single No. 590

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

It started as one of those Facebook queries/challenges. A friend asked me to take ten days and display the jackets of ten favorite albums. I bit. And most of those ten would be familiar to anyone who’s read this blog regularly:

Honey In The Horn by Al Hirt (1963)
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her by Glenn Yarbrough (1967)
Abbey Road by the Beatles (1969)
The Band by The Band (1969)
Second Contribution by Shawn Phillips (1970)
Den Store Flugt by Sebastian (1972)
Comes A Time by Neil Young (1978)
Tunnel Of Love by Bruce Springsteen (1987)
Evidence by Boo Hewerdine & Darden Smith (1989)
Riding On The Blinds by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen (1994)

Now, that’s not necessarily my list of the best ten albums; those are favorites, and I made sure that the list of ten included albums from the Eighties and Nineties. And then, just for fun, I kept going, up to twenty, then thirty, and then beyond. This morning, I put up a posting of a favorite album for the forty-eighth time: Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970).

Is it my forty-eighth favorite album? Probably not. I think it likely would rank higher if I were actually trying to rank them. But all I’m doing is trying to share with my friends at Facebook albums that I love, offered in no particular order. So once in a while I throw in a curveball, just to remind folks that my musical universe is vast and strange. That’s how The Best of the Red Army Choir (2002) came to be listed on Day 31. (None of my 316 Facebook friends gave it a “like.”)

And I took a look this morning at the growing list – forty-eight albums long now – and wondered if I’d written about all of them. Most of them, I could say “yes” without digging into the blog’s archives. But I wondered about one of them: Mississippi Fred McDowell’s 1969 album, I Do No Play No Rock ’n’ Roll. It turns out I’ve mentioned McDowell and the album three or four times, but pretty much always in passing (though I have featured a track or two).

McDowell was found and first recorded in 1959 by Alan Lomax and Shirley Collins. He was living and working as a farmer near Como, Mississippi (though he still called Rossville, Tennessee, his home). He’s been styled as a Delta blues musician, but Wikipedia notes that “McDowell may be considered the first north hill country blues artist to achieve widespread recognition for his work. Musicians from the hill country – an area parallel to and east of the Delta region – produced a version of the blues somewhat closer in structure to its African roots. It often eschews chord change for the hypnotic effect of the droning single-chord vamp. McDowell’s records offer glimpses of the style’s origins.”

McDowell began recording commercially (though he continued farming), and in 1969, recorded I Do Not Play No Rock ’n’ Roll for the Capitol label, using electric guitar on a record for the first time. (Wikipedia notes that along the way, McDowell gave tips on slide guitar to Bonnie Raitt and notes as well that McDowell was pretty pleased with what the Rolling Stones did with his song “You Got To Move” on their Sticky Fingers album.)

My introduction to Mississippi Fred McDowell probably came in the studios of KVSC-FM at St. Cloud State sometime during my freshman year, almost certainly early in 1972. I seem to remember being in the tiny room that served as our lounge with music coming in from Studio B, but I suppose could have been at home, whiling time away in my room with my new clock radio tuned to KVSC. Wherever it was, the first sounds of the first track on I Do Not Play No Rock ’n’ Roll caught my attention: a few plucks on a guitar string and then a weathered voice saying, “My name is Fred McDowell. They call me Mississippi Fred McDowell . . .”

And after a little bit of talk, which includes the line that became the title of the album, McDowell moves into Big Joe Williams’ “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” I’d never heard anything like it before. And it would be nice if I could say I immediately became a blues fan, buying and listening to McDowell’s records and those of his contemporaries and predecessors and followers.

I didn’t, of course. I was still learning about rock and its various branches and styles. I began to catch up to the blues during the late 1980s and 1990s. Mississippi Fred McDowell popped up on a few anthologies, and in 2002, as I was creating my LP database, I noticed his name again and remembered that moment in early 1972. The Texas Gal and I were living in the Twin Cities suburb of Plymouth, with no easy day-to-day access to a decent record shop, so I went online, and in a few days the mail carrier brought me my vinyl copy of I Do Not Play No Rock ’n’ Roll.

I don’t listen to it often, but it is a favorite (if that makes sense), and when I was pondering the other morning which album cover to post at Facebook, McDowell’s album came to mind, and I thought I should follow up here. So here’s some talk from Mississippi Fred McDowell and his take on “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” all of it the first track of I Do Not Play No Rock ’n’ Roll, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 582

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

We’re going to double-dip here today for a couple of reasons: First, we have a friend coming over for dinner this evening, and we need to head out for comestibles. It will be the first entertainment-style visit to our new digs, and we’re excited.

(We’ve had a couple of friends pop by and take a quick look, and my sister and her family did the same last weekend after having attended another event in town, but that’s a little different than having dinner company.)

Second, I had a difficult night, dealing with the residue of a perfume insert in the copy of Rolling Stone I was reading just before bedtime. The residue made my throat start to swell shut, which called for: more medication than I usually take, rinsing my head in the kitchen sink, a nearly entire rebooting of my sleep clothes and a 1 a.m. session at the computer to unwind and encourage my sleep meds to kick in.

I know, TMI.

Anyway, along with popping for a Saturday Single today, we’re going to slot that single into a preview of an upcoming post, one we hope will show up this next week. In our series Journalism 101, our looks at tunes featuring in their titles the key words of reporting – who, what, when, where, why, and how – we’re up to “why,” and a quick look at the candidates on the digital shelves here showed riches beyond what could be offered in a four- or even five-song post.

So we’re going to give a quick preview of ‘Why” this morning, and to do so, we’re heading back to 1969. (We could have pushed it back to 1941-42 and a very early Muddy Waters recording, but we’ll see if we land on that one when we get to the main post.) That was the year that Eddie Floyd and the folks at Stax released “Why Is The Wine Sweeter (On The Other Side).”

It didn’t do much, getting to No. 30 on the Billboard R&B chart and struggling to No. 98 on the magazine’s Hot 100. But, man, it should have done better. Starting with what can only be a Duck Dunn bass groove, the record finds Floyd laying out his worries that his woman is going to sample some of the other side’s sweet wine, worries that only make sense if Floyd himself has at one time or another imbibed some of that sweet iniquity. Add horns and keys, and it’s as sweet as that wine.

All of that is why Eddie Floyd’s “Why Is The Wine Sweeter (On The Other Side)” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 574

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

Another question popped up on Facebook this week: My college friend Laura – with whom I’m in contact nearly every day but haven’t seen in the flesh for more than forty years (ain’t modern life marvelous?) – asked folks about their favorite toys as kids.

Not a lot of stuff came to mind from my younger years – I had a fair number of toys but no real favorites, I guess – but when I thought about my tween and teen years, I had a quick response. So I wrote briefly about my tabletop hockey game and posted a picture I found online of metal players from Toronto and Montreal. And I started thinking about my other diversions from those years.

And it didn’t take long before I thought about the dart board. I was maybe ten when I got it for Christmas. This was before the rec room went into half of the basement, so Dad found an empty spot on the basement wall with about ten feet of open space in front of it. On the wall, he installed a large piece of plywood with a hook in the middle from which to hang the actual dartboard.

And I was off and darting.

It was fun just throwing the darts, for a while. I learned how to keep score, finding out that the scoring in an actual match starts with 300 points (if I recall things correctly) and counts down from there. But I wanted to have some kind of competition that I could keep track of myself. So I took the four sets of three darts each that came with the board and made them into imaginary teams, kind of a National Dart League.

I thought about cities where I would base each team, and then I pondered nicknames. (I’d learned recently that Rob, across the street, was doing the same thing, creating imaginary teams for imaginary Dart2leagues – in his case, for a baseball game he had.) The orange darts became the Seattle Ravens. The green ones were the Trenton Cougars. The yellow darts were based in Portland, Oregon, and at first were the Yellow Jackets and later, one supposes under new imaginary ownership, the Lumberjacks (often shortened, as I did my sotto voce play-by-play, to ’Jacks). The blue darts were peripatetic, beginning as the Akron Hubs (a city/name combination I borrowed from Rob). Then I wanted something from my own imagination, and they moved to Texas and became the Austin Bullets, though I was not entirely satisfied with that. Finally, I decided to bring them home to Minnesota, though not in the Twin Cities. I parked them in Duluth, and in a nod to the history of French exploration and fur-trading in Lake Superior and the rest of the Northland, I named them the Voyageurs.

I don’t remember how I structured the matches or the schedule. But I spent many happy hours pairing the four teams against each other and keeping tracks of scores and matches won and lost. A few years later, when Dad built the rec room in the basement, the space configuration was changed, and the plywood sheet had to be moved. I wasn’t playing much by that time, anyway, and that Christmas, my Royal Canadian hockey game became my favorite winter pastime.

As you can see from the picture above, I still have the darts. They’ve traveled with me over the years in a greeting card box, and for the last nine years have been on a shelf in the room that serves as the EITW studios. I’ve been pondering what to do with them. I doubt that Goodwill or other places that seek donations would want them; they could easily be dangerous. And I see no point in packing them away in a box, as I’ll never use them again. But when I think about discarding them, it feels as if I’m about to throw away part of my childhood.

I’ll have to think about it.

So musically, where does that leave us? Well, I thought about offering something from the long-gone Dart label, the one-time home of Lightnin’ Hopkins, but then I thought about the word “games.” It shows up in a lot of record titles, of course, and I’ve decided to go with the Joe South tune “Games People Play,” as offered by King Curtis (with guitar work by Duane Allman). It’s from Curtis’ 1969 album Instant Groove, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

An Unexpected Direction

Friday, December 29th, 2017

I’ve noted here several times that the Texas Gal and I have been thinking about finding another place to live. The house – where we’ve lived for nine years – is getting a bit too hard to take care of, and the stairs are becoming less easy to navigate as we get older. The Texas Gal has already fallen down the stairs from the second floor once, and that’s more than enough.

So we’ve been looking. In the past few months, we’ve scanned the ads for apartments and spent portions of a couple of Saturdays looking at a few places. We didn’t find anything we really liked, and we came face-to-face with the reality of renting in St. Cloud, which has one of the tightest rental markets in the state: We can’t afford an apartment.

Well, we probably could right now, but in a few years, when the Texas Gal retires, it would be tight. So we’ve been pondering that for a few weeks. And about ten days ago, the Texas Gal suggested we think about buying a place, maybe a patio home or a town home. We checked out some possibilities on line, and a week ago today, we spent an hour with a mortgage specialist at an area bank who’d been recommended by friends.

We came away discouraged. While we would likely qualify for a mortgage, the banker said, the cost of the patio and town homes we were thinking about would put the monthly mortgage payment right about where we’d found rents for apartments: within reach now but . . .

All the while, I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of buying a home. I’ve been a renter most of my adult life. I’ve owned a mobile home, but that’s not quite the same. Owning a place, well, that would feel different. I wasn’t quite sure how, but it would.

That evening, the Texas Gal poked around real estate listings on her laptop as we watched television. “How about a condo?” she asked me. There were some listed that were about two-thirds the price of the patio home and town home we’d talked about with the banker. It was worth a shot, I said, and she emailed a friend of ours who’s a realtor, and very quickly, he had arranged a tour of four places for Tuesday, three condos and a house that was included in the tour for its price and its location on a favorite East Side street.

We dismissed the house pretty quickly. We saw some things that needed attention, and the stairs were as steep as the ones we deal with now. We looked at two condos on the North Side, liked the first and weren’t crazy about the second, which was missing some appliances. Then we went to a place in the smaller city of Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. We’d been very interested in that one, given the photos we’d seen online and its location not far from the Texas Gal’s office. But we saw some major flaws, and it just felt somehow not right.

More and more, we liked the first of the two condos on the North Side. It has stairs, but it’s a split entry, just six up to the main floor and six down to the lower level. It has a deck and a patio, two bedrooms upstairs and a large den/family room downstairs that could easily host a sewing area on one end and a music area on the other.

We talked about the first North Side condo with our realtor as we were about to leave the Waite Park place. He could easily put in an offer and reach out to the banker, he said, and we talked about things like closing costs, association fees and other pre-paid items. We told him to get back to us after he’d talked to the banker.

We heard from him Wednesday evening. The banker approved the mortgage. Our realtor put in an offer, and after a little bit of back-and-forth, we signed a purchase agreement yesterday. We’ll close at the end of January, and of course, something might yet go awry, but that’s unlikely. So we’re a little giddy and a little baffled at this rapid left turn. And we’re looking at our stuff and beginning to figure out where it’s going to fit in our new home.

And the most astounding thing? Our monthly payment will be only three dollars more than we’re paying now for rent.

I have many tracks with the word “home” in their titles. One of my favorites – and one that seems to have never been mentioned in nearly eleven years of blogging – is “Comin’ Home” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Recorded in 1969, it was released as an Atco single that year and stalled at No. 84 in the Billboard Hot 100. It was also released in 1972 as a track on the Atco album Country Life and later that year on Columbia’s album D&B Together, which offered the same tracks as Country Life but with a different order. That album was the last work Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett would release together.

Saturday Single No. 563

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Remembered moments and places sometimes swirl and connect in odd ways, filling in a picture of something I hadn’t thought about for years.

I was pondering the autumn of 1969, when the St. Cloud Tech Tigers football team – I was one of the managers – went 6-3 and finished at No. 9 in the state rankings released at season’s end by the Minneapolis Tribune. (A lofty ranking for a team with three losses? Maybe, but the Tigers’ three losses came at the hands of the Minneapolis Washburn Millers, the Austin Packers and the Moorhead Spuds, all undefeated and ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 by the Tribune. Tech played a tough schedule.)

By the first Saturday in November, the high school season was over. There were no playoffs. So, I wondered, what did go on during the first weekend of November. Locked into football at the moment, I checked at Pro Football Reference to see what the Minnesota Vikings had done. (Besides win, that is: The Vikings that year lost the first and last games of the season, winning twelve in a row in between.) It turned out that was the week that the Vikings hosted the Cleveland Browns and won 51-3.

I didn’t watch the game. This was the era when pro football games were not telecast in the home markets. Did I listen to it? I don’t think so. I do recall learning the final score while at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. My folks and I were waiting for a flight bringing my sister back from Alabama, where she’d been visiting a friend. I remember being in the airport, being annoyed about something. What it was that annoyed me, I’m not sure. Maybe her flight was late.

Having remembered my sister’s trip to Alabama, I recalled that my folks and I had brought her to the airport on Friday evening. In the midst of what was rush hour traffic back then, we made our way south along Highway 100, which was then the main north-south route on the Twin Cities’ western edge. And here’s where the memories get a little fuzzy.

On the western side of Highway 100 in the suburb of Robbinsdale, there was a restaurant called Vanni’s. Its menu was mostly Italian. I think we’d stopped there once before because I remember looking for it as we made our way south. And if I recall correctly, I thought that there might be a good chance of eating at Vanni’s as we made our way home from the airport that evening.

And so we did. I think. I know we made an evening stop at Vanni’s right about this time during the late autumn of 1969. Maybe it was on the way home after taking my sister to the airport that Friday. It might have been the following Sunday, on the way home after my sister’s return from Alabama. I’m not sure of which evening it was, but it was one of the two.

How am I sure? Because I remember what I had for dinner. On our first visit to Vanni’s sometime in the preceding two or three years, I was puzzled by an item on the menu: chili mac. Having learned that it was chili ladled onto spaghetti – two of my favorites in one dish! – I went for it and enjoyed it greatly. So, on our second visit on this November evening, I didn’t bother to look at the menu. I had chili mac and enjoyed it again.

And as we dined, someone went to the jukebox against the wall not far from where we sat. I recognized the record the instant it began. As I sat in Vanni’s and listened, the record – according to research from this morning – was at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 (having moved up smartly from the previous week’s spot at No. 42). On the KDWB survey that week, it was at No. 31, right where it had been the week before. I may have only heard the record once or twice before, but I recognized it.

Why? Because during the introduction, I heard the unmistakable sound of a football game, and the record’s lyrics played on football lingo. It was, of course, “Backfield In Motion” by Mel & Time. It peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100 and at No. 3 on the R&B chart, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.