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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 WindArchives, 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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
It’s Friday the 13th, and what could be more appropriate than a record titled “Black Cat Moan”? Here’s Don Nix:
As the video indicates, the track was on Nix’s 1973 album Hobos, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns, and the sound – especially with the piping harmonica – calls to mind the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., which around here is a very good thing.
Neither “Black Cat Moan” nor the rest of Nix’s work ever got much attention: There was a single release of “Black Cat Moan” that didn’t make the charts in either Billboard or Cashbox. A couple years earlier, Nix did have one single make both charts; “Olena” got to No. 94 in the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 96 in Cashbox in 1971, and two of his albums – In God We Trust and Living By The Days – made the lowest portions of the Billboard 200 that same year. (We wrote about Living By The Days long ago; that post is here.)
I imagine that Nix’s “Black Cat Moan” might be more familiar to folks from the cover included by Jeff Beck, Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice on their self-titled 1973 album:
Of the two, I prefer Nix’s original, but that’s not surprising; it’s got more of the South in it, while the BBA version sounds more like second rate Led Zeppelin. And I need to go back to Hobos, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns, which I’ve not heard for a while, and see what else I’ve forgotten about or missed entirely.
It’s time for a random four-track jaunt through the 1970s. About a quarter of the 86,000-some mp3s stacked into the RealPlayer come from that decade, so it does take a while to search them out and then sort them by running time. But it’s a Saturday in January: There’s no football on television and it’s far too cold to laze outside with a beer, so what else have we got to do with our time?
So once the sorting is done, we’ll place the cursor in about the midpoint of the long list and go through four clicks to find a set of tracks from which to choose a single for the day.
We start with an example of one of my musical quirks: A cover of Paul Simon’s “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” as offered by easy listening master Hugo Montenegro on his 1971 album People . . . One to One. Only a few of Montenegro’s twenty-plus albums made it to the Billboard Hot 200, and only five singles made it to the magazine’s singles charts, either the Hot 100 or the Adult Contemporary chart. The best performing of those singles was “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” from 1968, which went to No. 2 on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks on top of the AC chart. Montenegro’s take on “A Hazy Shade Of Winter” showed up on none of the charts, but it’s got some quirky percussion and sound effects, and I can easily hear it coming out of the speakers on a Saturday morning in 1971 with the radio tuned to the Minneapolis powerhouse WCCO.
Along with writing some of the great records of the 1960s with Jeff Barry and a few others – “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Kentucky Woman” and many more – Ellie Greenwich went the performance route in both 1968 and 1973 and released two albums of some of her most famous songs. She’d released her first album, Ellie Greenwich Composes, Produces and Sings, in 1968, and “I Want You To Be My Baby” went to No. 83 on the pop chart. “Maybe I Know,” a single from the 1973 album Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung, bubbled under at No. 122. In our travels this morning, we come across “Chapel Of Love” from the 1973 album. Greenwich is a good singer, her production is fine, and there’s a nice interlude midway, but the track pales in comparison to the Dixie Cups’ No. 1 hit from 1964.
In the early part of the 1970s, when my pal Rick and I first began to dig into the identities of the musicians who made our favorite acts sound like our favorite acts, we were intrigued any time any of those musicians stepped to the forefront. One of those was Nicky Hopkins, who played piano for the Rolling Stones and many, many other musicians from the late 1960s onward (including sitting in on electric piano for the Beatles’ “Revolution” single, a nugget I came across this morning that answers a question I’d often considered but never bothered to try to resolve). In 1973, Hopkins released an album, The Tin Man Was A Dreamer, something Rick and I talked about getting, though at the time it never went further than talk. The album came my way as mp3s sometime in the past ten years, and this morning, the track “Dolly” popped up for our consideration. It’s a sweet track: Hopkins’ vocals are light (by intention and not from limitations) and the backing is piano- and string-heavy. And midway through, we hear a sweet call and response between the strings and the guitar of Mick Taylor, according to All-Music Guide. The track, AMG notes, was “the closest thing to a potential hit” on the album. And taking that into consideration, we move on.
One of the sounds that drives the Texas Gal up the wall is Minnie Riperton flying into her upper register on her 1975 hit “Lovin’ You,” so when the RealPlayer fell this morning on “Only When I’m Dreaming” from Riperton’s 1970 album Come To My Garden, I wondered if I would have to turn the volume down so Riperton’s higher excursions wouldn’t shatter the peace of a quiet Saturday morning. I needn’t have worried; Riperton flies high in her range only once during the track and does so with subtlety and control, two qualities not evident in her 1975 hit. But that’s making the case for “Only When I’m Dreaming” in negative terms. It’s a decent track from an album that I don’t know particularly well but that I keep thinking I’ll dig into some day instead of letting the bits and pieces come to me randomly. Yeah, you see how that’s working.
So we have four candidates this morning, and it’s an easy choice: Nicky Hopkins has been mentioned in this space only a handful of times over the course of about 1,800 posts, and I’ve never featured his solo work. Even without that, “Dolly” is a lovely track, well worthy of being today’s Saturday Single.
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.