Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Saturday Single No. 654

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

So, Woodstock. Fifty years ago. What was I doing?

Well, on at least one of those days, I mowed the lawn. I’m guessing it was Friday or Saturday. I know that I’d seen on the news the evening before a story about the massive traffic jam caused by hippies invading a small town in upstate New York as they headed to a music festival.

I recall thinking about the story as I pushed our orange power mower back and forth across the lawn on the south side of the house. I also seem to recall having one of our transistor radios in my pocket, using an earphone to drown out the roar of the mower. (Actually, probably both of our transistor radios were in use, one in each front pocket, as one radio alone would not insulate me from the mower’s roar.)

And I recall vaguely thinking it would be nice to be in upstate New York among the invading hippies, but then, I would rather have been a lot of places that morning besides mowing the lawn.

Of course, the folks heading to the Woodstock festival weren’t all hippies. Some were, but most, I’d guess, were just college kids out for a weekend of music in the country. But we simplify things, and the news report I’d seen the night before, well, it blamed the traffic jam and resultant gridlock and confusion on the hippies (again, if I recall things correctly).

So what was I listening to that morning? Likely the Twin Cities’ KDWB, but since we took a look at a KDWB survey a little over a week ago, I see no point in going there. Instead, I stopped this morning at Airheads Radio Survey Archive and dug up a survey from fifty years ago from New York’s WABC. I figure that as the invaders in their cars and VW microbuses headed for Bethel, New York, most of them came through the New York City area. And most would have had the radio on, many of them tuned to WABC.

Here’s the top ten from WABC’s unnamed survey from August 16, 1969, fifty years ago yesterday:

“Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & The Shondells
“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones
“Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
“In The Year 2525” by Zager & Evans
“My Cherie Amour” by Stevie Wonder
“Baby I Love You” by Andy Kim
“A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash
“Put A Little Love In Your Heart” by Jackie DeShannon
“What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” by Junior Walker & The All Stars
“My Pledge Of Love” by the Joe Jeffrey Group

That’s a decent forty minutes of listening. Many will complain that it’s ruined by the Zager & Evans single, but I’ve always liked it.

Normally, I’d dive to the bottom of the survey and look at the stuff there. But the information at ARSA about WABC’s Woodstock weekend survey is incomplete; the lower stuff isn’t all there. So we’re going to listen to WABC’s No. 1 record, “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” No doubt the invading hippies heard it plenty as they made their ways as close as they could to Bethel.

And in more than twelve years, it seems it’s never been featured here. So here’s Tommy James & The Shondells’ “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Beatles ’65’ & The Long-Ago Photo

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Here I am in December 1964, sporting my Beatle wig and offering my mock assessment of Beatles ’65, which my sister and I had just received for Christmas. This long-sought photo, with “Christmas 1964” written on the back in my dad’s handwriting, answers a question that had been hanging in the air for more than ten years.

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In October of 2008, I wrote:

One of our family traditions at Christmas during my childhood was that just before we left St. Cloud for the three-hour drive to my grandparents’ home, either my mom or my dad would go back into the house to check on something. While in the house, Mom or Dad would pull from a closet two additional gifts, unwrapped, and place one on my bed and one on my sister’s bed, evidence we’d find when we came home from Grandpa’s that Santa Claus had not overlooked us just because we’d been out of town.

The gifts we found on our beds were generally toys and games, standard 1960s childhood fare. Twice, my sister and I shared gifts: One year, we each found the end of a ribbon on our beds, and found the ribbons attached to the game Geography, a game we enjoyed for many years. In December of 1965, we each found an envelope, containing pieces of a note that had been cut up. We quickly realized we each had only half a note and combined our pieces. The note read:

“We come to thee from across the sea
“With melodies quite rare.
“Which you will find if you look
“There or there.”

We looked at each other, digesting the meaning of Dad’s bit of doggerel.

“It’s a record!” we said, nearly simultaneously, and we ran downstairs to the living room, where the RCA stereo and our household’s few LPs were kept. There, in the front of the stack of records, was a crisp, new copy of Beatles ’65. As soon as we unpacked a little, we were allowed to open the record and play it for the first time.

Beatles ’65 was one of those records that Capitol – which issued Beatles’ recordings in the U.S. – created piecemeal, in this case by pulling some songs from Beatles For Sale, one track from the British version of A Hard Day’s Night and adding the single “I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman,” which was not released on an album in the UK at the time.

I don’t know how well my sister liked the record. She never seemed to be too interested in the Beatles. As for me, I was still a few years from being a rock ’n’ roll boy. But I liked some of it: the opener “No Reply,” the feedback-triggered “I Feel Fine,” the sweet folk rock of “I’ll Be Back” and “I’ll Follow The Sun.” But my favorite track of all – and thus the first rock ’n’ roll cover I loved – was the Beatles’ take on [Chuck] Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.”

Sharp-eyed Beatles fans among my readership noted a potential problem: The album Beatles ’65 had been released in December 1964, with its title anticipating the coming year. I acknowledged that we might have gotten the album in 1964. A year later, in August 2009, after I wrote about the acquisition of the album in the context of my albums database, I wrote about the discrepancy:

Memory is a slippery creature. I read or heard somewhere about recent research into memory, and the theory was – and this is necessarily a paraphrase – that when we remember an event, our brain overlays the original memory with our new memory of that event, so the next time we recall that specific moment, we’re processing a second-generation memory and creating a third-generation memory. (Without any irony, I have to say that I cannot at all remember where I read or heard that bit of information.)

That seems to make some sense, even though it means our memories eventually become thinner and possibly distorted, like a favorite recording that’s seven generations removed from the original tape.

I got to thinking about this after Wednesday’s Vinyl Record Day post about the development of my LP database. Art D., a reader in Michigan, emailed me that afternoon and asked if I had the right date for Beatles ’65, after I said my sister and I received it for Christmas in 1965. He said the record had been released in December 1964. I nodded to myself, having verified that date at All-Music Guide that morning. I emailed back.

I said, in part, about Beatles ’65, that my sister and I got the record in 1965, about a year after it came out. I added:

“That’s what the red ink on it says, and that inscription dates from the day I began marking my LPs in 1970, and I suppose I could have erred then, and we actually got the album in 1964. At this point, we’ll never know for sure. I think, though, that I would have remembered – given the way I recall odd details – the paradox of getting a record titled Beatles ’65 when it was still 1964.”

And writing those words – “I think, though, that I would have remembered . . . the paradox of getting a record titled Beatles ’65 when it was still 1964” – triggered another memory, a recollection of a very young whiteray looking at the record jacket that December night and wondering about that very paradox. It’s not the kind of memory that jumps up and says, “Here I am and here you were!” It’s more like it’s dancing on the edge of clarity, so I’m not sure about trusting it . . .

I imagine that on that summer day in 1970, I looked at the title of the album and just assumed it came out in 1965 and thus showed up in our house that December. I might have been wrong; the record might have been there a year earlier.

But I’m going to be gentle with the kid I was back then. I examined the record and its jacket this morning, and there’s no copyright date on either, no hint of the year of issue. Beyond that, I would have had no idea in 1970 where to go to find out when Beatles ’65 was released. As I think of it today, I probably could have gone out to Musicland at the mall or to the library at St. Cloud State and learned something in either one of those places. Knowing the correct release date might have changed my mind about when we got the record. But at sixteen, I didn’t think of that. I did the best I could.

There is one thing I do know for certain about that December night when we found Beatles ’65 next to the stereo. I’ve seen the photographic evidence: Somewhere among all the slides in Mom’s storage unit is a slide showing me sitting in Dad’s chair, wearing my Beatle wig, holding Beatles ’65 in my lap and quite possibly putting my fingers in my ears as a jest.

I wrote to Art D. that “we’ll never know for sure.” But we might. If I ever find that one slide among the thousands in the storage unit, and if Dad wrote the date on the cardboard, we’ll know. I do have a hunch that, if I ever find that picture of me and it has a date on it, I’ll be changing the acquisition year in my database to 1964. But that’s just a hunch, so I’ll leave it for now.

And yesterday, just more than ten years since I wrote those words, I received a package from my sister, who’s been going through boxes of my parents’ stuff. Among the genealogical folders and assorted school pictures, I found that photo of me from December 1964 shown at the top of this post. It wasn’t a slide; it was a print. My fingers-in-ears assessment of the album was, of course, a joke. As I noted in the first post I quoted above, I liked the album. I still like it. And I uploaded it to YouTube this morning with the audio recorded from my 1964 Christmas gift, but that video was blocked worldwide. So I went and found a playlist of the album.

Here are the tracks and their origins:

“No Reply” (From Beatles For Sale)
“I’m A Loser” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Baby’s In Black” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Rock & Roll Music” (From Beatles For Sale)
“I’ll Follow The Sun” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Mr. Moonlight” (From Beatles For Sale)
“Honey Don’t” (From Beatles For Sale)
“I’ll Be Back” (From A Hard Day’s Night)
“She’s A Woman” (British single)
“I Feel Fine” (British single)
“Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby” (From Beatles For Sale)

Saturday Single No. 650

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

I’m here briefly and woozily, following a night of poor sleep and heading into a day of a few unavoidable tasks. So this is a place-holder, just to show people that I was here today.

And since it is July 20, the fiftieth anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s “One small step,” I’m going with a moon song. I could have dressed it up with memories of that remarkable evening half a century ago, but you know, I have no great insights about that evening, at least on this rainy, blurry morning.

We sat in the living room – Mom, Dad, my sister and I – and, like everyone else, watched those ghostly figures move around on the moondust. I knew I was watching a miracle of science and courage, but beyond that, I got nothing this morning.

So here’s a somewhat moon-related tune I’ve been hearing a lot lately, as I listen to my new Jimmie Spheeris CD – it offers his first two albums, 1971’s Isle Of View and 1973’s The Original Tap Dancing Kid – as I wander through my errands. This is “Moon On The Water” from the 1973 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Friday Update

Friday, July 19th, 2019

A couple of medical notes: It’s been six months since my back surgery, and I saw the surgeon yesterday. The new hardware in my back is perfectly in place, and I’m moving with only a little bit of residual pain. I’m still a little limited – I cannot walk very far without having to sit for a bit – but the surgeon and his assistant both said that was normal. They added that full recovery from spinal fusion generally takes about a year.

And they both said that I will nevertheless have back pain simply because I’m on the high side of sixty. The years do their work.

And then, there’s my annual summer sinus infection. I’m on meds, but I’m moving slowly. So I’m going to go sit and read for most of the rest of the day.

Here’s a Friday song: It’s “Friday Street” from Paul Weller’s 1997 album Heavy Soul. I’ll be back tomorrow.

Back In ’73

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been looking at my radio listening and then my LP listening from first 1972 and then 1971, then ending the week with a Saturday Single from that year. It occurred to me sometime in the dreamy hours last night that some weeks ago, I addressed my radio listening during the summer of 1973 but I didn’t think to look at the LPs I’d added to the cardboard box in the basement in the year prior.

Never one to let an easy idea go unused, here’s a look at how my LP collection had grown between midsummer 1972 and the same time of year in 1973, and an assessment of how much those LPs matter to me now:

As the summer of 1973 passed by, I bought no new music. Even though my ideas of what I would find when I went to Denmark in September were very unclear, I was certain that saving five dollars to spend on a beer or three in Denmark in the autumn was a better choice than picking up something by Steely Dan at Axis on St. Germain Street downtown.

So once the calendar hit February 1973 and I knew I’d be going away in September, I spent almost no money on music. The two late winter exceptions, according to the LP database, were a used copy of J.J. Cale’s Naturally that I actually bought at Axis, and a double album of Fats Domino’s 1950s and early 1960s hits that I bought used from a co-worker at St. Cloud State Learning Resources. I think I paid a buck for the Cale and fifty cents for the Domino.

Here are the albums I added to the cardboard box in the rec room from mid-1972 to September 1973:

Beatles VI
A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles
Live: The Road Goes Ever On by Mountain
In Search Of The Lost Chord by the Moody Blues
Stage Fright by The Band
Retrospective by Buffalo Springfield
Imagine by John Lennon
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
To Bonnie From Delaney by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Seventh Sojourn by the Moody Blues
Naturally by J.J. Cale
Legendary Masters Series by Fats Domino
Exile on Main St. by the Rolling Stones
John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic

The last two were gifts from a friend at The Table at St. Cloud State. He’d found them underwhelming and handed them to me one evening in June. And that was the last new music I got until May of the following year, 1974, when I spent about fifty Danish kroner – garnered from ten bucks Rick had sent me from home – to buy Sebastian’s Den Store Flugt, the first of what is now a substantial collection of Danish folk-rock and pop on my various shelves.

But back to the 1972-73 acquisitions: The first two entries completed my Beatles collection, giving me all eighteen of the American releases on Capitol/Apple and United Artists. I finished it, as I’d told Rick I would, just weeks before he began his senior year of high school. In the rankings of Beatles’ albums, A Hard Day’s Night was pretty good, but Beatles VI was a little blah. Some of the tracks from the first of those two are in the iPod, but few, if any, from the second are among my day to day listening; the CD shelves do hold everything from those two albums in the British configurations.

Again, I’m struck by how much of this music seems to be formative. Aside from the Beatles’ albums, eight of the twelve LPs listed there are on the CD shelves today, and I have two differently titled Fats Domino collections. The only albums listed there that are not replicated on the CD stacks are those by Mountain, Buffalo Springfield and John Lennon.

So how many tracks from those albums show up in the iPod?

There’s just one – the long version of “Nantucket Sleighride” – from the Mountain album, and none from In Search Of The Lost Chord, which to me has always been the least interesting of the Moody Blues’ 1960s and 1970s albums (though perhaps I should find room for “Legend Of A Mind” with its lilting chorus of “Timothy Leary’s dead . . .”).

The iPod offers eleven of the twelve tracks from the Buffalo Springfield compilation (excluding “Rock & Roll Woman” for some reason). Conversely, only the title track from Imagine is in my day-to-day listening, and that seems to be enough.

Elsewhere in the iPod, we find five tracks each from Sticky Fingers and Seventh Sojourn, four from To Bonnie From Delaney, all twelve tracks from Naturally, nine from Exile On Main St., four from John Barleycorn Must Die, and three from Stage Fright.

So, as I’ve concluded from earlier posts looking at the music acquired in 1970-71 and 1971-72, this stuff still matters greatly to me. Interspersed among the 3,900-some total tracks in the iPod, the tunes from those first three years of serious listening and collecting don’t pop up often, but when they do, they remind me of the foundations of my listening habits.

Here’s one of those foundational tracks: “Living On The Open Road” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from 1970. (One of those friends is Duane Allman, who adds slide guitar here.)

Back In ’71, Part 2

Friday, July 12th, 2019

So what was I listening to at home during my summer of lawn-mowing and floor cleaning? Well, the radio, some of the time. But most of my free hours at home found me in the basement rec room, lazing (or reading) on the green couch and listening to albums on the RCA portable stereo.

And here are the albums I’d added to the cardboard box between May 1970, the last month of my junior year of high school, and July 1971:

Let It Be by the Beatles
Chicago (the silver album)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Best Of Bee Gees
Hey Jude by the Beatles
Revolver by the Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles
Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The Band
The Beatles (White Album)
Symphony No. 5 in E Minor by Dvořák/The Moldau by Smetana
Crosby, Stills & Nash
St. Cloud Tech High Choirs 1971
“Yesterday” . . . and Today by the Beatles
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney

Getting the least play, certainly, would have been the choir album. I imagine I listened to it once and then tucked it away. I still have it. And I had to be in the right mood for the Dvořák/Smetana LP, which offered me pieces I’d played in the high school orchestra.

The most played? Well, probably Pearl and Ram, the most recent additions. I know that the first LP of the Chicago album got a lot of play, usually the second side, with the long “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon,” but I also liked the first side. Sides three and four didn’t interest me all that much (and still don’t).

Obviously, the Beatles got a lot of play, and so did the self-titled album by The Band. The Bee Gees collection probably came in last among the pop-rock albums.

So, almost fifty years down the pike, which of those albums matter now? As always, we’ll measure that by seeing how many tracks show up among the 3,900-some on the iPod, which provides my day-to-day listening.

It’s hard to sort the Beatles’ tracks out, as the listings in the iPod show the album titles as they came out in Britain (or U.S. single catalog numbers), not the sliced and diced albums that came out in the U.S. A quick glance shows that all those Beatles albums are represented about equally in the iPod. Their music still matters to me a great deal.

The same is true of The Band, as ten of its twelve tracks are in the iPod. But I’ve trimmed the Chicago album down to “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon,” “25 or 6 to 4” and the single edit of “Make Me Smile.”

About two-thirds of Crosby, Stills & Nash and Déjà Vu are in the device; interestingly, among those absent from the first of those two albums are “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and the two Graham Nash compositions, “Marrakesh Express” and “Lady Of The Island,” and among the absent from the second are the two Nash compositions, “Teach Your Children” and “Our House.” I must not like Nash’s work as much as I like that of the others in that bunch. (And I make a mental note to see if I can find room in the iPod for “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”)

About two-thirds of the Bee Gees’ collection shows up, too. And most of Ram is present, as is about a third of Pearl.

And all of that leaves me wondering: Are these albums over-represented in my day-to-day listening because they were among the first LPs I got when I became vitally interested in pop and rock? Or are they that good? I don’t know the answers to those questions.

So what do I feature from these albums that still matter to me almost fifty years after they came into my life? Well, here’s one of the strangest tracks from among those albums, the Bee Gees’ “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You.” It came originally from the 1967 album The Bee Gees 1st.

Back In ’71

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Having messed around in 1972 last week and finding not many ideas percolating in my brain this week, we’re going to basically do the same thing this week with 1971: A post looking at radio listening followed by one looking at LP listening, capped by a Saturday random post from the 1971 tracks on the digital shelves. (There are about 3,900 such tracks.)

So we’ll start with a stop at Oldiesloon and the KDWB 6+30 from July 12, 1971, forty-eight years ago tomorrow. Here’s the top ten at the Twin Cities station:

“Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
“It’s Too Late” by Carole King
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor
“Never Ending Song Of Love” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
“That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be” by Carly Simon
“Sooner Or Later” by the Grass Roots
“Get It On” by Chase
“When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” by Jerry Reed
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes

That’s a great stretch of music right there. I’d even be happy hearing the Jerry Reed single again. (It was not one of my faves back in ’71.) And I’m reminded of a comment that came from my pal jb some years ago when I wrote about “It’s Too Late” and its opening piano figure. That intro, he said was “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.”

Along with “It’s Too Late,” I’d note a few other records from those ten as major pleasures: The records by Chase, Carly Simon, the Grass Roots, and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.

I was likely not listening to KDWB as much that summer as I had been other summers. This was the summer I spent working maintenance at St. Cloud State, mowing lawn for about six weeks and then working as a custodian for another six (with the last four of those spent roaming the campus with my new pal Mike as a two-man floor cleaning crew). A couple of days during the first six weeks, inclement weather kept the mowers inside doing odd jobs, and we could have a radio then, and I think Mike and I had a radio we moved from room to room as we scrubbed, waxed and polished floors. So there was music during working hours maybe a third of the time.

And in the evenings at home, I listened to WJON across the tracks, and my bedtime listening came courtesy of WLS in Chicago.

Still, most of the 6+30 from this week in 1971 is familiar. I had to look up “Double Barrel” by Dave & Ansel Collins, which was sitting at No. 15. It’s a decent reggae record that got to No. 7 at KDWB and to No. 22 in the Billboard Hot 100.

And at No. 33 on KDWB was Tom Clay’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin And John.” It’s an audio collage that opens and closes with conversations with children and includes sounds associated with the upheavals of the 1960s, especially the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. It’s all backed with music from the two songs in the title (with vocals by the Blackberries, according to Joel Whitburn).

Clay was a disc jockey at KGBS in Los Angeles when he put the record together. It spent the first two weeks of August at the top of KDWB’s 6+30; it peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100.An album featuring the single went to No. 92 on the Billboard 200.

It’s an interesting artifact of the times, and it makes me a little melancholy.

Saturday Single No. 647

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

The last days of June and the first days of July often put me in mind of the state trap shoot, the event that used to take place at the gun club just southeast of St. Cloud every year, the place where I first earned what felt like real money during the summers of 1968, 1969 and 1970. Here, slightly edited, is a piece I wrote in the spring of 2007:

There weren’t a lot of ways for a kid to make money in St. Cloud when the 1960s were turning into the 1970s. Supposedly, you could work when you turned sixteen, but with a state college in the city and two small private colleges within twelve miles, there were plenty of college-age kids available for employers; younger kids didn’t get many of the jobs.

I suppose there were paper routes, and one always saw ads in the back of comic books for stuff that could be sold door-to-door, but I never tried any of those. My first crack at any kind of employment was a hot, dirty, somewhat dangerous job that I got through my pal Rick.

There was – still is, for that matter – a gun club southeast of the city that hosted the state trap shooting championships every year in early to mid-July. Rick went to school with one of the club owner’s sons and worked at the gun club for various events. By the summer of 1968, he managed to get me a job at the gun club for the four days of the state trap shoot. I was what they called a “setter.”

Trap shooting, as you might know, involves contestants with shotguns trying to shoot clay targets that fly through the air, propelled there by a machine located in a small structure dug into the earth. It was my job to sit in one of those little structures for about ten to twelve hours a day. After the whirring machine threw each target out into the open for the contestants to aim at, I took another clay target – called a “bird” – from the stack in front of me and placed it on the machine’s arm, which oscillated slightly from right to left to provide differing angles for the bird’s trajectory.

The small pit was filled with boxes full of birds, and along with making sure to place a new bird on the machine every fifteen seconds or so, I had to open the cardboard boxes and make certain I had access to more birds when the stack from which I was currently working ran out.

Every once in a while, I’d be a little slow getting the bird onto the machine, and the throwing arm would hit the bird as I was lowering it in place, shattering it and leaving me worrying about the safety of my hand. If that happened too many times, the gun club manager would mention it, not out of concern for my hand but out of concern for the convenience of the shooters, who were annoyed when their call for a target brought no target. It was even worse during the doubles competition, when a setter had to get two birds onto the machine, first with one hand, then with the other.

A sonic digression: The traditional call for a target is for the shooter to shout out the word “pull,” probably from the time when targets – live birds at one time – were released by the pull of a rope. Shooters tend to develop their own versions of that traditional call, much in the same way umpires develop their own calls for strikes and balls. It’s hard to guess how to spell some of the sounds I heard shooters use as they called for a target, but this is what some of them sounded like: “Wheeeeeeeeeent!” “Poooooooooooowell!” “Hrant!” “Houp!” “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” And so on. Some of them, of course, just said, “Pull!”

I only got to hear the shooters for a limited time, during my three or four breaks a day. The vast majority of the time, I was down in the pit, unpacking boxes of birds and setting them on the machine arm. I did that for, as I said, ten to twelve hours a day for the four-day run of the trap shoot. It was boring, and it was dirty, as the targets were made out of what I would guess was some kind of petrochemical mix that resulted in a substance very much like hard tar. I’d come out of the pit at night with my face and hands covered with the thick black dust the birds gave off. There was something toxic in the dust, so that about a week after the trap shoot, the skin on my face would turn dark and brittle and then peel off in wide strips. I doubt if it did much good for my long-term health.

So why do it? Well, as I said, there weren’t a lot of ways for kids to make money back then. And I got $40 for my first state shoot in 1968, $50 in 1969 and $60 in 1970, pretty good money for four days back then, when the minimum wage was less than $1.50 an hour. I don’t recall what I did with the cash from the other two years, but in 1969, I used my money to buy a cassette tape recorder.

So why am I writing about the state trap shoot and toxic clay birds? Because one of the ways in which we setters – those of us consigned to the pits with their oscillating machines – kept our sanity was by bringing radios. Tuned for the most part to KBWB, one of the two Top 40 stations in the Twin Cities, our radios gave us at least something to listen to above the whirr of the machine and the sound of shotguns going of along the line all day long.

As a result, there are songs that I call “trap shoot songs.” Those are songs that I either heard for the first time or else heard so frequently during a trap shoot, that when I hear them now, fifty years later, I am for an instant back down in that dusty pit, keeping a stack of birds in front of me, taking advantage of a lull to open a new box of birds and doing my best to make sure that the whirling arm of the trap machine does not have a chance to whack at my fingers as I place another bird.

Some of those songs are: “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams, “Hello, I Love You” by the Doors, “People Got To Be Free” by the Rascals, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & the Shondells, “Make It With You” by Bread, “Spill the Wine” by Eric Burdon & War, and “Are You Ready?” by Pacific Gas & Electric.

And with that, I posted a rip of the Pacific Gas & Electric album Are You Ready. But the list of trap shoot songs could have gone on longer. A quick look at the Billboard Hot 100s and some KDWB surveys from the first weeks of July in 1968, 1969 and 1970 yield a quick list of some of the other records that remind me of my time in the pits.

From 1968:
“Sky Pilot (Part 1)” by Eric Burdon & The Animals
“Indian Lake” by the Cowsills
“Lady Willpower” by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
“Angel Of The Morning” by Merilee Rush & The Turnabouts

From 1969:
“In The Year 2525” by Zager & Evans
“Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & The Aces
“Grazing In The Grass” by the Friends Of Distinction
“Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy

From 1970:
“Ride, Captain, Ride” by Blues Image
“Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night
“Hitchin’ A Ride” by Vanity Fare
“Go Back” by Crabby Appleton

Well, if we consider all the singles listed here as candidates for today’s listening, we have riches. After a little bit of research, I’ve figured out that the Merilee Rush single has been mentioned in this space four times and offered here once, back in early 2007. It deserves better.

So here’s “Angel Of The Morning” by Merilee Rush & The Turnabouts from 1968. It peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100 and went to No. 37 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (June 1974)

Friday, June 21st, 2019

So we’re going to look today at the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 that came out as June 1974 hit the three-quarter mark and see what there is to listen to. But first, as we do with these exercises, we’re going to look at the Top Ten from that time and see if any of those records still have a shelf life around here.

Here’s the Top Ten from the Hot 100 released June 22, 1974, forty-five years ago tomorrow:

“Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” by Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics
“Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot
“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn
“Band On The Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” by Olivia Newton-John
“Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5
“Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & The Gang
“The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch

Well, seven out of those ten would make some good listening, back then and even today. Two of them I’ll dismiss from class early: The story-song of “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” didn’t do much for me in 1974 and still doesn’t today. It’s benign, though, unlike the Ray Stevens record, which I dislike greatly.

Then there’s “Hollywood Swinging,” a title I do not recognize. And listening to the track this morning rings only very faint bells. My Top 40 listening at the time would have come from the Twin Cities’ KDWB in the daytime (though that was limited), from St. Cloud’s WJON in the early evening and from, well, who knows what later in the evening. I could not find a KDWB survey from the week in question, but one released ten days later, on July 1, 1974, finds the single absent. So I might have heard it in 1974, but if I did, it obviously didn’t matter to me.

The other seven, though, I liked. How much? Well, four of them – those by Lightfoot, McCartney & Wings, Newton-John, and the Stylistics – are among the 3,900 tracks in the iPod, which gives them some kind of stature around here. The other three? Well, I’ve featured the DeVaughn single here at least once, and I don’t wince when the other two show up.

Actually, at the time this Hot 100 came out, I wasn’t listening to a lot of Top 40, except maybe in the evening. I was pretty much confined to home, recovering from a mysterious lung ailment that set in a week after I got home from Denmark, and my days were spent mostly on the green couch in the basement rec room, getting reacquainted with my album collection and going through the piles of Time and Sports Illustrated that my dad had set aside for me while I was gone. So the fact that four of those ten are still in my queue is pretty good, I think.

But what of our other business with the Hot 100 from June 22, 1974? What lies at the very bottom of that list?

Well, it’s a piece of funk from Smokey Robinson titled “It’s Her Turn To Live,” on its way off the chart after peaking at No. 82 and reaching No. 29 on the Billboard R&B chart. I doubt I’ve ever heard it until this morning, but it’s pretty good. Here it is:

I Knew The Singer & The Song

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

As I wandered through the archives today, I ran across this piece that was originally posted in May 2007, when this blog was about four months old. I’m not sure why it caught my attention, but I realized that, like me, Becky would now be in her mid-sixties. I’ve never tried to find her on the ’Net, and I don’t know if I will, but wherever she is, I hope she still sings.

I was wandering around the blog Lost-In-Tyme, reading about a CD anthology called Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From The Canyon, a collection of mostly self-released recordings by women from the early 1970s. The folks at Chicago’s Numero Group label, which released the collection in March 2006, heard the influence of Joni Mitchell in those long-ago recordings and named the collection in tribute to Mitchell’s 1970 album, Ladies Of The Canyon.

It sounded like the kind of thing I’d like, so I read the review and looked at the track list. And I looked again.

There, listed as the first track, was “A Special Path” by Becky Severson. I knew the song. I knew the self-released album from which it came.

I knew the singer.

Becky Severson was in my graduating class at St. Cloud Technical High School in 1971. She and I had been the trumpet section in our orchestra when we were sophomores, sharing chuckles through the year. Sometime during that year, we were playing with words, and I’d switched the syllables in her names. She blushed, but she evidently liked her new moniker; she signed my yearbook that year as “Sexy Beaverson.” She wasn’t in orchestra after that year, but we were casual friends through high school, including our senior year, when she was Homecoming Queen.

A year after we graduated, I’d heard that she’d recorded an album. I called her and asked about buying one. Twenty minutes later, she brought my copy of A Special Path to my door. We chatted for a few minutes, talking about what the first year after high school had brought us. Then she got into her car and drove off down Kilian Boulevard. I played the record once and put it on the shelf.

I’ve never seen Becky again. I made a couple of reunions, but I don’t think she was at either of them.

And thirty-five years after she recorded it, the title song to her album was chosen for an anthology. I dug a little deeper on the ’Net.

According to a piece in the Chicago Tribune, the Numero Group found its niche in the music business by deciding to find “lost musical gems from around the country and give them a second chance via a smartly curated and beautifully packaged series of CDs.” Ladies From The Canyon was the label’s eighth such package, and thirteen of its fourteen songs, including Becky’s, were released on private press labels.

The Tribune piece quoted Numero’s Ken Shipley as he talked about Becky and her song:

“Becky [Severson] was so surprised when we contacted her,” Shipley says of the singer whose simply strummed, Joan Baez-inspired “A Special Path” opens the “Ladies From the Canyon” CD. “She didn’t think anyone ever cared. … I mean, we’re not anyone’s savior here, but it’s nice.”

The story goes on to tell how the Numero Group found Becky. First, they noticed that her 1972 LP was recorded in St. Paul, which led them to check Seversons in Minnesota. Eventually, they narrowed the search to St. Cloud, and after calling twenty-four of the twenty-five Seversons in the phone book, the folks from Chicago found Becky’s dad, who told them Becky lived not far away. He also told them that he had boxes of her album in the attic.

They eventually found Becky, and after the CD was released, the Los Angeles Times evidently got hold of her. A piece from the Times – in a collection of news pieces gathered on the Numero Group’s website – notes:

Becky Severson, a Minnesotan whose early-’70s selection “A Simple Path” opens the set, expresses a sentiment common among her peers: “Singing brought me so much fulfillment. I could do that in public or in my little bedroom, and it would not have made much of a difference.” Based on a passage in the book of Jeremiah, her song lasts scarcely a minute; her voice quivers over delicate finger picking as she tells of her youthful devotion to God. Severson married young, and says her faith has held fast: “I am committed to serving Christ for eternity because of his love he revealed to me when I was 16.”

Asked if she was ever a flower child, Severson confesses to taking on the style of dress, but little else: “I didn’t fall into the ‘free love’ mode, because I didn’t believe in passing out something that I valued dearly.”

As I was digging online, I went to the stacks and pulled out A Special Path and put it on the turntable. It was as I remembered: The record was pleasant, clearly the work of a young singer-songwriter, with all fourteen tracks telling of Becky’s faith and the joy she’d found in that faith. She wrote seven of the songs on the album and co-wrote another. All but one of the other songs were written by friends of hers. One song, “Come To The Water,” was credited to the “Jesus People.” (One of those credited friends, I remembered as I glanced at the back of the jacket, was Wendy, the guitarist who’d been in my short-lived junior high band and of whom I wrote last week.)

I left a note at Lost-In-Tyme, telling Janisfarm, who’d contributed the piece on Ladies From The Canyon, about knowing Becky long ago and having her album. He wrote back, “The world is so [strange]!! Can you rip it and share with us?”

So here’s an album from a gal who used to sit next to me in orchestra.

With that, I shared the album for downloading, as was my habit in the early days of this blog. Since then, a YouTube user named R. K has posted Becky’s album as a single video. That link is just below. Further down is a link to a playlist of Ladies From The Canyon, the anthology that sparked this post.

I should note that I recall receiving an email after the publication of this post in 2007 telling me that one of the songs credited in the piece to either Becky or to her friends was in fact a well-known Christian folk song written by someone else. I can’t offer any more information, as a brief search for that note through the email archive was unsuccessful.

Becky Severson – A Special Path [1972]

Track listing:
A Special Path
God Gave Me A Light
I’ve Searched
House Song
Gospel Ship
Love Is A Wonderful Word
Come To The Water
Only Word
Jesus Song
Prayer Is The Key
Missing Out
Children’s Song
Now
Children Growing In God

Various Artists – Ladies From The Canyon (2006)