Archive for the ‘1973’ Category

Another Departure . . .

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I woke this morning to the news of another musical loss:

Singer/songwriter Michael Johnson, who spent a good share of his performing life in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, died Tuesday at his Minneapolis home. Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offered a look at Johnson’s life and career in today’s paper, and that story is here.

The headline on Bream’s story highlights Johnson’s recording of “Bluer Than Blue,” and it’s true that “Bluer . . .” was Johnson’s greatest chart success, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart during the spring of 1978 while going to No. 12 on the magazine’s Hot 100. And I recall hearing “Bluer Than Blue” on the radio during my days in Monticello, just as I recall hearing Johnson’s 1979 single “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” as it went to No. 5 on what had become the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 19 on the Hot 100.

Both of those were fine singles, and beyond the musical pleasure I got from them, there was a little smidgen of joy as well that the man who made them was based in Minnesota. (Johnson, who was born in Colorado, made his home in Minnesota from 1969 to 1985, then returned here in 2007 after spending the intervening years in Nashville.) But that Minnesota connection is only one of three connections I have to Johnson’s music.

Another connection came through this blog during its early years, when I was exploring the music of Patti Dahlstrom. (Posts about her and her four 1970s albums are here.) During our email exchanges at the time, Patti noted that she and Tom Snow had written “Dialogue,” the title track of Johnson’s 1979 album, and she sent me an mp3 of the demo she and Snow had recorded. Here’s what Johnson did with it:

And then there was the first connection, the most visceral of the three. Johnson’s first album, the 1973 release There Is A Breeze, was one of those that we had on tape at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my 1973-74 college adventure. It probably didn’t get dropped into the tape player as frequently as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers & Sisters, but it was there.

And, as I’ve noted about the other music I heard in the lounge during those Danish days and nights, it only takes a few notes of any of the tunes on There Is A Breeze to remind me how those days and nights felt as well as how important they were in making me who I am today.

Of the seven or so mainstay albums were had on tape during our time in Denmark, Johnson’s There Is A Breeze was probably the last one I looked for, and it was difficult to find, though I admit my searching during the years 1974-77 was sporadic. I had other stuff to do and other music to find. My chance came during the autumn of 1977. I was working as a public relations officer at the St. Cloud CETA Center – CETA was a federal jobs program – and a co-worker brought in a box of records he was going to take across the street to Axis, a store that sold new and used records along with leather coats and hats.

And in the box was a copy of There Is A Breeze, which I gladly took home, listening to it that evening in the lake cabin where the Other Half and I were living for a couple months until we found out where my permanent job search would take me. And the first strains of the first track, “Pilot Me,” whisked me a few years back and four thousand miles away.

As I noted above, I remember hearing Michael Johnson’s two most successful singles in 1978 and 1979, but I have to admit I’ve not followed him closely. I had a vinyl copy of Dialogue, his 1979 album, but it did not survive the Great Vinyl Sell-off of last winter. And rummaging through the ’Net a couple of years ago, I found a two-CD repackaging of Johnson’s first three albums, beginning with There Is A Breeze, so I was also able to let my vinyl copy of that album go, too. (It was worn and a little banged, and no longer sounded very good.)

I suppose that if I were writing for a newspaper, I’d have to take into account – as did Jon Bream for the Minneapolis paper – all of Michael Johnson’s career as I write this morning. But what we do here – what Odd and Pop and I try to do – is to consider the music that’s mattered to me over the years. And with a stop at “Dialogue” to salute a distant friend, and acknowledging as well that Michael Johnson made a lot of very good music in his seventy-two years, I have to say . . .

Well, anyone who reads this space regularly knows where that’s going: There Is A Breeze is one of the treasures of my life, and here’s the opening track, “Pilot Me.”

Saturday Single No. 549

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Well, I slept most of the morning away – rare for me, as I generally am up by 7 a.m. on weekdays and by 9 on Saturdays and Sundays – and time is flibbering away quickly, as it does these days.

We have no plans other than finding somewhere to grab a nibble this afternoon and then making a stop at the nearby grocery store. I think this evening we’ll invest some time in writing thank you notes, a hand-cramping exercise that’s painful in several ways.

So I find myself sleepy and uncertain, and maybe “thank you” is the way to go. Here’s B.B. King showing some gratitude to his audience with “Thank You For Loving The Blues” It’s from his 1973 album To Know You Is To Love You, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Sixty Years On

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

It might have been in March, it might have been in May. It likely was during April, but after sixty years, there’s no way to know.

So I’ve not known when this spring to mark the day in 1957 when two boys – five and three years old – ventured across Kilian Boulevard on their tricycles to meet the three-year-old boy whose family had moved into the white house kiddy-corner from theirs during the winter.

That new boy in the neighborhood was, of course, me, and the boys heading my way across the intersection – and I can still envision them pedaling down the middle of Eighth Street as it crosses Kilian – were Rick and Rob.

Over the years, folks have asked me who in my life have I known longest outside my family – it’s the kind of question you get in parlor games or on long, dull drives – and I’ve never been able to really answer. I don’t truly remember who was in the lead on that tricycle trip from across the street. I think it was Rob, but I’m not certain. If it was, then I’ve known Rob longer than I’ve known anyone except my family. But he holds that spot over Rick by no more than two or three seconds.

Truth be told, they hadn’t set out from their house just to welcome me to the neighborhood; they were off to hit the candy counter at Wyvell’s Store, the little neighborhood grocery another block west and half-a-block north from our place. I remember talking with them for a few moments, and then I watched as they made their way on down Eighth Street, turning their trikes into the alley halfway down the block and then onto the dirt path leading to the next corner, a path on the margin of someone’s lawn that had been worn by years of tricycles, bicycles and feet, all looking for a slight shortcut on the way to the neighborhood store.

(I haven’t purposely looked in years, but I’d bet that if I took a brief excursion from Kilian down Eighth today, I’d see that same dirt path through the edge of that yard. When we were kids, an elderly woman lived there, and a dim memory tells me that she was grandmother to the kids who lived in the next house along the way to the store, but I’m not sure. The lot is empty these days; sometime after I left home, the house there was badly damaged in an explosion, and what was left was torn down. I’m not sure if the lot is unbuildable, but it’s been years and it’s still vacant. As to the store, I’m not sure how long it had been Wyvell’s or who had owned it before then. Sometime around 1960, an older couple bought the store and it became Tuey’s Grocery, and then, right around 1965, it was sold again and became Norb’s Superette. Norb hung in there until sometime in the 1990s, when he retired and the store’s interior was remodeled to make it a house. Its exterior, though, proclaims clearly its origins as a neighborhood store, one of many such that used to be found along the streets of St. Cloud.)

And that was how I entered Rick and Rob’s lives, as a brief delay during a trip for candy. Not too long after that, I would guess, I joined them on a trip to Wyvell’s as well as heading across the street to play at their place, in the best yard for kids in the neighborhood. (Their dad was a manufacturer of fences and playground equipment, and their yard was, in effect, a testing ground for prototypes, with swing sets, teeter-totters, small merry-go-rounds, monkey bars and other climbing stuff.)

As we got older, Rick and I paired off more often and Rob went his own way with other friends. Rick and I were closer in age – five months apart – while Rob was nearly two years older than I. But there were plenty of times over the years when the three of us did things together, and there were times when Rick wasn’t around for some reason, and Rob and I hung out.

In the first couple decades of adulthood, we saw each other rarely. We were busy setting up our lives, I guess. Rick was a member of the wedding party when I married The Other Half in 1978. I was a member of the wedding party and read a portion of Scripture when Rick got married in 1982, and Rob has told me I’d have had the same duties at his wedding in 1983 had I not been living in Missouri. But our contacts during the late 1970s and through the 1980s were limited, although we did have a couple of table-top hockey tournaments during the latter half of the 1980s. (Those tourneys were when Schultz joined us; he and Rick had kept in touch since high school.)

I entered the nomadic phase of my life in the late 1980s, not settling down until 1992, when I began to see the brothers together and separately again, but those meetings were sporadic. It wasn’t until the Texas Gal and I moved to St. Cloud that I began to organize get-togethers twice a year, with table-top hockey and baseball being the ostensible reasons.

And reconnecting with Rick and Rob, and with Schultz, whom I knew during our high school years, is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. I’d hope it’s been that good for them, too.

So what tune is going to match that? Well, nothing precisely, but one that comes close is “My Old Friends” by English singer/songwriter Duncan Browne. It’s from his self-titled 1973 album.

Inner light, inner light, shine brightly on my old friends.
May they go on, never fall, never think that I don’t wish them well.

Saturday Single No. 537

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Today is Earth Day, and – according to the map I saw on the CBS Evening News last night – folks around a large portion of the world will be marching and mobilizing to defend and protect our environment, science, and common sense itself.

We did this almost half-a-century ago, and we made some progress in cleaning up our back yards (literal and metaphoric both), progress that in many cases is distinctly imperiled by the ham-handed actions – some already taken with many others likely yet to come – promised by the science-denying worshippers of Mammon who currently run our federal government. I guess we naively though we’d won.

We were wrong.

I’m not, however, going to turn this space into a screed about all the things that are likely to head in the wrong direction in the next few years. I’m just going to note that – as I have in the past few months – I’m going to continue to regularly call and email Minnesota’s U.S. Senators and our local U.S. Representative about matters that I believe need better thought and attention; I plan to begin doing the same with my state senator and representative on state and local matters.

Forty-seven years ago, I marched, hoping my energy and actions – combined with the energy and actions of like-minded people – would help preserve those things that needed preserving and help change those things that needed changing. Here’s my armband from back then:

Armband

These days, I write emails and make phone calls, still hoping my energy and actions – combined with the energy and actions of like-minded people – can preserve those things that need preserving and can change those things that need changing .

I find comfort in the large numbers of people who, in whatever way they choose, are working harder than ever these days for progressive causes. Turning in another direction, it’s no secret that I find comfort from day to day in music. So here, to keep to the topic at hand, is Tony Joe White’s “Ol’ Mother Earth.” It’s from his 1973 album Homemade Ice Cream, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

A World Diminishing

Friday, April 14th, 2017

About two weeks ago, the folks who run Ridgeview Place, the assisted living center where Mom has lived since the spring of 2006, got in touch with me and my sister: It was time, they said, to talk about Mom’s care. When we met a few days later, my sister and I learned that the staff thought that Mom’s ability to be focused and present had been waning noticeably for a month or so.

That matched what my sister and I had been noticing, and we agreed that Mom would be safer – and, we hope, happier – down the hall at the memory care facility called Prairie Ridge, a secure facility on one floor with rooms that are in effect efficiency apartments. When my sister talked to our mom, Mom agreed that it was time. And we began to plan:

We rented a storage unit for the furniture and other things for which she would no longer have room. We hired a moving company. We filed changes of address for the post office, the newspapers, the telephone company and the cable company (with more, of course, to follow as mail comes in with its yellow forwarding labels). We collected boxes, large and small. We got measurements of the new apartment and began to decide what would fit where. And we began sorting.

Mom had some concerns. What would happen to her grandfather’s small table? As it turned out, my nephew took it, which pleased her. And then, would she be able to keep the writing desk? It had been her father’s, and after my aunt’s death in 1990, the desk had been brought from Lamberton in southwest Minnesota to St. Cloud. Yes, my sister and I determined, there was room for the writing desk and its attendant chair.

But there was no room for the buffet, a massive dining room chest that had been a storage place for china, a silver service, and an odd mix of necessities ever since 1957, when it had been left behind by the previous owners of the house on Kilian Boulevard. We sorted the buffet’s miscellaneous contents, and this week, the movers packed for storage all of its china, as they did the fragile pieces in the glass-fronted china closet.

A few days before the movers came, my sister and my mom were looking at the pieces in the china closet, some of which dated back to before Mom was born in 1921. (The china closet itself is likely that old, but we’re not exactly sure; Mom and Dad got the piece sometime in the 1970s, if I recall things clearly.) And my sister told Mom that if there were a few things she wanted to have with her in her new place, she needed to decide before the movers came. My sister later told me that she tried gently to make it clear to Mom that once the movers packed those things away, Mom would likely never see them again. She said Mom seemed to understand.

I brought a few things home (but just a few, having been reminded by the Texas Gal that our long-term goal is to diminish the amount of stuff in the house, not to augment it): Some household goods that we’ll use, some items that my Dad saved that we’ll likely offer to the St. Cloud State archives, and three pieces that I’ve long known would come to me – a metal candelabra I bought for my parents in Moscow, a pewter plate I bought for Mom in Flensburg, Germany, and a reindeer antler letter opener that I bought for Dad in Kiruna, Sweden.

My sister took boxes of things home to the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove to pass on to a local charity; I hauled boxes of books to the St. Cloud Public Library for the Friends of the Library to sell at its bookstore; more books and a deluxe Scrabble set went to the library at the assisted living center; my nephew took a set of dishes, an antique dresser, the aforementioned antique table and the buffet (which pleased and relieved Mom); and bit by bit, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, a lifetime’s worth of possessions was trimmed down for a third time.

We first down-sized Mom’s belongings in 2004, when she moved from Kilian Boulevard to the patio home in Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. We did so again when she moved from the patio home into Ridgeview Place. This week came the third time. I imagine there might be a fourth, if the time ever comes for full nursing home care.

But we’ll think about that later. For now, she’s safe, and my sister said that yesterday, everything was pretty well in place and that Mom reconnected during snack time with a few other women who have previously moved from the assisted living portion of the center to the memory care unit. She was tired and a little confused, my sister said. We’ll see how she does, but she’s safe, and she’s in an environment where folks know how to take care of her.

When I told my sister two weeks ago that the staff at Ridgeview Place wanted to discuss Mom’s care, my sister was in Chicago, visiting her grandson, who will turn two this summer. The contrast, my sister said, is striking: Every couple of months, she spends time with a little boy whose world is expanding in great chunks day by day, and every three weeks or so, she visits my mother, whose world is diminishing day by day. And my sister and I stand in the middle, connecting generations heading in opposite directions.

Here’s Michael Johnson’s cover of “Old Folks,” a song written by Jacques Brel, Gérard Jouannest and Jean Corti. Mort Shuman wrote English lyrics. Mom’s lived through the first portions of the song, and she’s alone now – as she has been since 2004 – with the clock keeping her company. Johnson’s version was on his 1973 album There Is A Breeze.

The Starship Sampler, Part 2

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

Last week, we took a look at the top singles listed by St. Cloud’s WJON in its Starship Sampler dates February 6, 1976. (The sampler images were, as I noted, a gift from regular reader Yah Shure.) Today, we’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” on the back of the sampler and see what we can glean from that list. (The scan is here).

Here are the top ten albums (with a couple of titles corrected).

Desire by Bob Dylan
Fool For The City by Foghat
Alive by Kiss
History by America
Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates
Captured Angel by Dan Fogelberg
Face The Music by the Electric Light Orchestra
Eric Carmen
Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon
Chicago IX, Chicago’s Greatest Hits

That would be a decent seven hours or so of listening, with a few caveats from my side of the speakers. Seven of those records eventually showed up in the vinyl stacks; the ones that did not were the ones by Foghat, Kiss and the Electric Light Orchestra. (No Foghat or Kiss ever showed up among the vinyl; three other albums by ELO eventually did, and the Foghat album is present on the digital shelves.)

So, are any of those essential as albums in these precincts? As albums, I see only one: Abandoned Luncheonette. It’s a little startling to see a 1973 album on a 1976 survey, given that the entry of the re-release of “She’s Gone” into the Billboard Hot 100 was still five months in the future, but from the sweet “When The Morning Comes” through the funk-to-rock-to-hoedown epic “Everytime I Look At You,” it’s a joy.

Dylan’s Desire comes close, missing the cut because of the eleven-minute tale of gangster Joey Gallo. So does the Paul Simon album, missing the cut for no particular reason.

But perhaps, as we did the other day, it might be instructive to check out the 3,825 tracks in the iPod and see how well these albums are represented. Five tracks show up from the Hall & Oates album: “When The Morning Comes,” “Had I Known You Better Then,” “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song),” “I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man),” and, of course, “She’s Gone.”

I find four tracks from Still Crazy After All These Years: The title track, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” and two duets, “Gone At Last” with Phoebe Snow and “My Little Town” with Art Garfunkel. The only track present from Dylan’s Desire is “Black Diamond Bay,” though I may find room for “Hurricane.” America’s hits album is represented by “A Horse With No Name” and “Don’t Cross The River,” and I could throw “Sandman” in there.

As to the Electric Light Orchestra album, the iPod holds versions that appear to be single edits of “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic,” and the Chicago hits album is sort of represented there: I have the single version of “Make Me Smile” in the iPod, but I got it from the CD release of Chicago, the silver album. (The album offered edits of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” but I go with the full-length versions.)

Shut out on the iPod are the albums by Kiss, Foghat, Carmen and Fogelberg.

I’m not at all sure what that proves, but I find it interesting that the Hall & Oates album pleases me these days more than the Dylan, a judgment that I’m not sure I’d have made twenty or thirty years ago.

Here’s “Had I Known You Better Then” from Abandoned Luncheonette.

Saturday Single No. 526

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

I still feel like crap, so I searched the 90,000-odd mp3s in the RealPlayer for the word “headache,” and I came up with one title: “Willies’ Headache,” a 1973 track by Cymande.

Cymande, according to Wikipedia, is “a British funk group that released several albums throughout the early 1970s and . . . recently reunited in 2014 with a European tour.”

“Willies’ Headache” was a track on the group’s second album, Second Time Round, and it brings with it a conundrum: On the album label as offered at Discogs.com, the title of the track is spelled as I have it above. On the video below, it’s spelled “Willy’s Headache,” which makes more sense.

It doesn’t matter, I guess. What matters is that my own headache is soothed this morning by the mellow and funky sounds, and I like the chorus: “Gotta be aware! Don’t get too lost in your dreams.” And all of that makes “Willies’ Headache” a good choice for this week’s Saturday Single.

Into The Second Decade

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

For a few weeks in January 2007, after I’d gone to Blogspot and reserved a space called Echoes In The Wind, I shared rips of some of my more rare albums and singles, stuff by Bobby Whitlock and Levon Helm, singles and B-sides from the Mystics and Dion, and some other stuff that wasn’t quite as hard to find. And I called it a blog.

Somewhere during the last few days of January and the first few of February – ten years ago this week – I figured out what I did best: Write about music and the way it’s intersected my life. The first time I did that was on Saturday, February 3, when I shared my rip of a Danish single and its effect on me:

“For just a few moments, it is the fall of 1973, and I am walking somewhere inside the old portion of the city of Fredericia, maybe heading to have a beer with a buddy, maybe walking with that long-ago girlfriend, or maybe just walking. It’s a golden day in October, and somewhere, not too far away, Lecia & Lucienne are singing ‘Rør ved mig. Så jeg føler at jeg lever . . .’”

That, to me, was when this blog became what I wanted it to be. And in the past ten years, I’ve generally managed to stay true to that idea. I’ve sometimes sputtered along, throwing out some odd ideas and mediocre posts – almost all with some kind of music – hoping to catch the lightning again if I just kept on writing.

But I’ve hung in there. Two hosting sites evicted me following complaints by artists that I was giving away their music, and I found my own space on the ’Net. Over the past eight years, I’ve been reloading the posts from those first two sites at Echoes In The Wind Archives, and I have about 190 posts left to re-up. Taking those into account, and looking at the totals offered by the dashboards here and at the archives site, in the past ten years, I’ve tossed a few more than 2,000 posts at the EITW studio walls, hoping they would stick.

Even though I’m not unbiased about this, some of them have. I think back to the nearly year-long project of the Ultimate Jukebox, winnowing the (then) 40,000 or so mp3s on the digital shelves to the 228 records that made up, as I said, “the jukebox of the mind, the jukebox that I’d have in my living room if my living room were part malt shop, part beer joint, part crash pad and part heaven.” Having inevitably missed some essential records, I later added about a dozen under the label of Jukebox Regrets, and the project of sorting out those 240 or so tracks still pleases me.

I wrote a few concert reviews, detailing evenings spent in the company (sometimes distant, once in the front row) of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Fleetwood Mac, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan and Peter Yarrow.

My imaginary tunehead buddies Odd and Pop showed up a few times, guiding me through the conflicting desires to offer, say, Bulgarian choral music or records that everyone knows and loves and might be tired of hearing. And I wrote about the small and large bits and pieces of life, from my early days on Kilian Boulevard and the life that followed with the Other Half into the years when I was waiting for my Texas Gal and the sweet days of now.

There were times when I couldn’t find the groove or the heart of the story, and there were times I got it right. I seem to have gotten it right with a pair of consecutive posts in late October 2008 that each generated large numbers of comments, more than almost any other posts here: the first was “An Hour At Tom’s Barbershop” and the second – “A Halloween Tale” – was a tale of young love found and lost.

I’ve made friends here, some of them – Patti Dahlstrom, the late Bobby Jameson (posts here and here) and the late Dave Thomson of Blue Rose – because I shared their music and they got in touch with me. And then there are my fellow bloggers – JB of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, Jeff at AM Then FM, Larry at Funky16Corners, Alex at Clicks and Pops and the Half-Hearted Dude at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart come immediately to mind, and a couple of of those friendships have crossed into the real world with more of that to come, I hope.

I should note as well the friendship of Yah Shure, the occasional contributor, regular reader and frequent commenter who really should have a blog of his own. And in a special place on the list of friends is Jim Kearney, who blogged as Paco Malo at Goldcoast Bluenote. He’s been on the other side for two-and-a-half years now, and I still miss him and his frequent comments and occasional emails.

In other words, the ten years I’ve spent here at Echoes In The Wind have been a lot like life in the real world: I’ve done some things well and some not so well, indulging in some whimsy along the way as I’ve made friends and seen some of them head to the other side.

So on we go into our second decade. And there’s no better time to share once more the track that was Saturday Single No. 1, Cris Williamson’s “Like An Island Rising,” from her 1982 album Blue Rider. As you all might guess, I love the line “Sweet miracles can come between the cradle and the grave.” Because they can.

A December Tale

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

It’s a weekday evening in December 1974, and I’m hanging around in the rec room in the basement at home, waiting to head out on a coffee date that I’m afraid will be at least a little awkward.

The story started during August of 1973, when most of the St. Cloud State students who would spend the next academic year in Fredericia, Denmark, got together for a picnic at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. During that picnic, a young woman and I had a brief but intriguing conversation at the foot of the falls for which the park is named, talking about a very few people we knew in common and about our hopes for the adventure to come.

Our nascent friendship turned into something else about a month into that adventure. We traveled together a little bit, spending a weekend in the German city of Kiel. We put together a Thanksgiving dinner for my Danish family, scavenging substitutes for American dishes not available in Denmark. We hung out in bars, and in our rooms at our host families’ homes. We fell in love.

One evening, we went with her Danish host sister and that young woman’s boyfriend to visit some friends of his in the nearby city of Vejle. On the brief drive back to Fredericia, my girl and I cuddled in the Volkswagen’s back seat to the sound of the Toys’ 1965 hit, “A Lover’s Concerto.” (Was it an oldies station on the radio? A tape? I don’t remember.) My glasses got in the way, and she reached up and gently took them off.

“I won’t be able to see,” I said.

“I’ll be your eyes,” she murmured.

That’s one of the most tender moments I recall from any of the many loves of my life.

And then, over the course of a couple of months, it fell apart, leaving hard questions. Did we want the same things? Probably not. Did I move too fast, ask for too much? Probably. Were we young and not very wise? Without a doubt. By the time we got to the end of our time in Denmark in May 1974, we weren’t speaking to each other.

With some challenges and joys in my life, I healed a great deal that summer, but I knew there were some words – most of them kind and gentle – I wanted to share with her. I saw her at a party early during the new academic year, but her demeanor told me she wasn’t interested in talking. I thought she might never be. My heart went elsewhere that autumn, renewing an interest long denied. Then there was a traffic accident, and I dropped out of school for a month.

One day during that month, when I was physically strong enough to be away from home for a few hours, I went over to the campus. I filled out some paperwork to drop a chemistry course in which I’d been struggling before the accident, and I visited my friends at The Table in the student union. Then it was time to leave. I headed upstairs and turned the corner toward the door, and there she was.

“How are you?” I managed.

“I’m fine,” she said, shaking her head as if that were unimportant. “But how are you?” And I realized that she had heard about the accident, and she cared.

“Oh,” I said. “I’m okay. Getting better.” And we chatted for a few moments until my mom pulled up outside.

I looked at the young woman. “Can we get together sometime to talk?”

She nodded. “Call me in December, when the new quarter starts.”

I did so, and on a December weeknight, I got ready to see her, with the stereo in the rec room playing Jim Croce’s Life & Times album. A year earlier, when I was in Denmark, the album’s last track, “It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way,” had been a very minor hit, going to No. 64 in Billboard. I’d not heard it then, but that’s what I heard just before I left home that evening:

Snowy nights and Christmas lights
Icy window panes
Make me wish that we could be
Together again
And the windy winter avenues
Just don’t seem the same
And the Christmas carols sound like blues
But the choir is not to blame

But it doesn’t have to be that way
What we had should have never have ended
I’ll be dropping by today
’Cause we could easily get it together tonight
It’s only right

Crowded stores, the corner Santa Claus
Tinseled afternoons
And the sidewalk bands play their songs
Slightly out of tune
On the windy winter avenues
There walks a lonely man
And if I told you who he is
Well, I think you’d understand

But it doesn’t have to be that way
What we had should have never have ended
I’ll be dropping by today
’Cause we could easily get it together tonight
It’s only right

But it doesn’t have to be that way
What we had should have never have ended
I’ll be dropping by today
’Cause we could easily get it together tonight
It’s only right

I headed to her dorm, Jim Croce in my head. At the restaurant, we split a piece of strawberry pie and laid some things to rest, offering apologies and soothing – or at least beginning to – some of the hurts. We laughed a little.

Maybe ninety minutes after I picked her up, I dropped her off at her dorm, and as I drove home, I realized Jim Croce was wrong: It did have to be that way.

Saturday Single No. 512

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

As of this morning, the RealPlayer holds 89,711 clips, most of them music. (As I’ve noted before, I do keep about twenty spoken word clips in the player; most of those are dialogue from movies, as it amuses me to have, say, Dean Wormer from Animal House pop up between, oh, Hank Snow and Wishbone Ash to tell me, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”)

Over on the other side of the music systems here, the iPod currently has 3,649 tracks (or about 4 percent of the overall sorted and tagged files), most of those music as well. I added a few things to both players yesterday. When I add music, I add it into the alphabetical file folders that feed the RealPlayer first and then cherry-pick for the iPod, usually just grabbing a few tracks off a new album, but sometimes adding the entire new album.

Yesterday’s additions to the iPod included one new album, And Still I Rise by the Heritage Blues Orchestra, related to the quintet that Rob and I saw a couple of weeks ago at the nearby College of St. Benedict. On the CD, the basic quintet – which has three of the same musicians that we heard – is supplemented by horns, so the sound is not quite as spare, but the repertoire is the same and the music is very, very good. I also brought into the iPod this morning a few tunes by Rita Coolidge. I’d needed to listen to her version of “Fever” for a musical project scheduled for November, and I tossed a couple more tunes by the Delta Lady into the iPod at the same time.

Readers can see where this is going, I’m sure, given that it’s Saturday: I thought I’d see what five random tracks the iPod/iTunes throw to us this morning as a source for a featured single.

First up: “Lorena” by Jimmy LaFave, who’s shown up here a few times. The track came from a 2011 collection titled Dark River: Songs of the Civil War Era. “Lorena,” says Wikpedia, “is an antebellum song with Northern origins. The lyrics were written in 1856 by Rev. Henry D. L. Webster, after a broken engagement. He wrote a long poem about his fiancée but changed her name to ‘Lorena,’ an adaptation of ‘Lenore’ from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem ‘The Raven.’ Henry Webster’s friend Joseph Philbrick Webster wrote the music, and the song was first published in Chicago in 1857.” Here’s the final verse:

It matters little now, Lorena,
The past is in the eternal past;
Our heads will soon lie low, Lorena,
Life’s tide is ebbing out so fast.
There is a Future! O, thank God!
Of life this is so small a part!
’Tis dust to dust beneath the sod;
But there, up there, ’tis heart to heart.

From there, we jump to The Band and “Right As Rain,” a track from the group’s final 1970s studio album, Islands, from 1977. The album was seen as a contract-closer, packaged by the group for Capitol so that the group’s grand finale as envisioned by Robbie Robertson, The Last Waltz, could be released on Warner Bros. Islands isn’t a great album, by any means, landing far away from the quality of The Band’s first two albums. But it’s always going to sit on my shelves as part of the oeuvre of one of my favorite groups, and “Right As Rain” was probably the best track on the album.

The third spot this morning falls to “The Road,” the second track to the second album by the group that started as Chicago Transit Authority. Often called Chicago II, the silver-covered double album is actually just titled Chicago, as the group changed its name when the real Chicago Transit Authority balked at sharing the name. “The Road” is a decent horn-driven track, but it’s one that I have a hard time assessing critically: Chicago was one of the first two rock albums I bought with my own money, yearning for “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon,” the nearly side-long suite I’d heard via a cassette taped from the Twin Cities’ KQRS. When I got the album, I restrained myself from jumping immediately to Side Two and started at the top. Thus, “The Road” was one of the first tracks I heard when the album was mine, and although the suite that begins with “Make Me Smile” will always be my favorite Chicago piece, “The Road” reminds me of those long-ago days when I began to explore rock beyond what I was hearing on Top 40 radio. That means I love the track and am likely deaf to whatever its drawbacks may be.

Speaking of Top 40, we’ll slide back a few years from Chicago to 1967 and one of the singles that even a dorkish ninth-grader who listened to Al Hirt knew about: “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band. The record – with its title gently mocking the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” – popped into the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1967 and spent sixteen weeks in the chart, two of them at No. 1. And this morning, even with the sound turned off for a few moments to focus on writing, I can hear every turn of the record in my head, meaning that I’ve either listened to it too many times over the course of these forty-nine years or it’s a brilliantly constructed and produced pop record. I vote for the latter.

And we close our brief trek with a track from Tower of Power that carries with it potent memories both good and bad. “So Very Hard To Go” by Tower of Power was one of the songs that I played during my days with Jake’s band out in Eden Prairie back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Found on the 1973 Tower of Power album, the classic ToP track – it went to No. 17 on the Hot 100 and to No 11 on the Billboard R&B chart – reminds me of the joy and camaraderie I found playing with Jake and the guys, but it also reminds me of the grief I felt when Jake and the guys decided they could move on without me. As I wrote some years ago, I’ve consciously forgiven Jake and the guys for that rejection, but some days I’m still vulnerable to those memories and the feelings they evoke. This is one of those days.

So. My head says “Lorena,” but my heart, well, it calls for Tower of Power. Both songs, of course, are bittersweet, and it should be no surprise that I love that flavor. “Lorena” is lovely, and maybe we’ll get back to LaFave’s version of it someday, but this morning, it’s Tower of Power that pulls me in, and that’s why – even though it was featured here a few years ago – the 1973 track “So Very Hard To Go” is today’s Saturday Single.