Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

‘I Want All The Time . . .’

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

I write a fair amount about Bruce Springsteen, I know. And even when I don’t write about him, I often mention him in reference to something I’m writing, or I post some of his music when it fits something I write about. (And of course I ponder his work as I listen to the iPod or the RealPlayer.) As it happens, it’s actually been almost a year since I posted any of his music, but anyway, I’ve posted more of his music than I have anyone else’s in the nearly twelve years I’ve been throwing stuff at the wall here.

And I’ve often wondered as I’ve written about Springsteen which of his hundreds of songs he considered his best. I found the answer last evening near the end of a long piece Michael Hainey wrote for Eqsuire. Hainey writes:

I tell him I’m thinking about “Born to Run,” which contains four words in one line that are the sum of him: sadness, love, madness, and soul. “Together, Wendy, we can live with the sadness / I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.”

And Springsteen responds:

“Those are my lines. ‘Born to Run.’ That’s my epitaph, if you wanna know my epitaph. There it is. It still is, probably—I use the song at the end of the show every night as a summary. The idea is that it can contain all that has come before. And I believe that it does.”

Hainey: Sadness, love, madness, soul. I tell him: Those are your four elements.

Springsteen: “The last verse of my greatest song. And that’s where it ought to end every night.” Springsteen pauses. “Twenty-four when I wrote it. Wow. It’s a . . . holds up pretty well. But I . . . that was what I was aiming for in those days—that’s what I was shooting for.”

Who am I to contradict the creator? But I wonder this morning if “Born to Run” is in fact Springsteen’s greatest. His most anthemic, yes. The one that made him a star, yes. Maybe even the one that told us out here most clearly who he was in those uncertain years before 1975.

But his greatest?

If you asked a hundred Springsteen fans . . . well, I don’t think you’d get a hundred different answers, but I think you’d get at least twenty. And I think that those twenty would reflect more than anything how each listener’s life was going at the time he or she first heard the Springsteen song each of them judges the greatest. And the choices might also reflect the times all of those fans really listened to Springsteen’s work for the first time.

It’s that way for me. As I’ve said here before, I resisted digging into Springsteen’s work for a long time, finally deciding to start with Tunnel of Love when it came out while I was living in Minot, North Dakota, in early 1988 and when, not coincidentally, I was inside a relationship that I could see transforming in a way that I adamantly did not want. So when I found among the songs on Tunnel of Love a song about a lasting pairing that also had a clever lyric . . . Well, as have millions before and since, I heard my story – or at least the story I wanted to have – in one of Bruce’s songs:

I got a dollar in my pocket
There ain’t a cloud up above
I got a picture in a locket
That says baby I love you
Well if you didn’t look then boys
Then fellas don’t go lookin’ now
Well here she comes a-walkin’
All that heaven will allow

Say hey there mister bouncer
Now all I want to do is dance
But I swear I left my wallet
Back home in my workin’ pants
C’mon Slim slip me in man
I’ll make it up to you somehow
I can’t be late I got a date
With all that heaven will allow

Rain and storm and dark skies
Well now they don’t mean a thing
If you got a girl that loves you
And who wants to wear your ring
So c’mon mister trouble
We’ll make it through you somehow
We’ll fill this house with all the love
All that heaven will allow

Now some may want to die young man
Young and gloriously
Get it straight now mister
Hey buddy that ain’t me
’Cause I got something on my mind
That sets me straight and walkin’ proud
And I want all the time
All that heaven will allow

So what’s the difference between the greatest something and the most important something? I don’t know, right off-hand. Maybe there is none. Springsteen says his greatest is “Born to Run,” and I acknowledge that I still get a thrill from his anthems, from “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” and “Thunder Road” and especially “Born to Run.” And I do appreciate that subtext in “Born to Run” that he mentions in the interview. (And other subtexts besides.)

But the tale of “All That Heaven Will Allow” (minus, of course, the working class details; I have never had to work with my hands for a living) mirrored what I was hoping to have the first time I heard it. That matters to me (and I think it would matter to Springsteen, too, for if the main purpose of art is to create what one needs to create, then I think the next most important purpose of art is to be relevant to one’s audience).

But what do I know? Well, I do know that it took years of listening to “All That Heaven Will Allow” for me to find the place where the song’s narrator lives. And I also know that “All That Heaven Will Allow” is to me the most important of all of Springsteen’s songs.

‘Oh, The Good Life . . .’

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

I ran an errand the other day for the Texas Gal, something so routine that I’ve forgotten what the errand was, but it brought me near the new home of Uff Da Records, St. Cloud’s only real record store. So I spent some time leaning over the CD tables.

Much of what I saw fell into two categories: Stuff I already had and stuff that didn’t interest me. But I persevered, looking for stuff that will fill small gaps. And I filled a couple. I scored What Is Hip, a two-disc Tower of Power anthology, and I found a greatest hits disc by Tony Bennett.

During the Great Vinyl Selloff a couple of years ago, I kept all ten my Tower of Power LPs, and I think I have all of the group’s 1970s work on the digital shelves. On the other side of the equation, I only ever had two Tony Bennett LPs, and they’re no longer here. Nor have I gathered much of his early work for the digital shelves (although I have his 1994 MTV Unplugged and his 2002 Playin’ With My Friends CDs). So the Bennett CD from Uff Da truly filled a gap, bringing me most of his hits from 1951 to 1972.

And I’ve realized over the past week that the sound of Bennett’s voice is one of the sounds of my childhood. Whether it was my interest in the easy listening sounds of the time or whether it was hearing the music in the background from adults’ radios and record players, Bennett’s 1960s work pulls me back; I hear “I Wanna Be Around” or “Who Can I Turn To,” and I feel the tug of years handing me memories and feelings that seem so distant and yet so immediate.

Oddly enough, Bennett’s most famous tune, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” doesn’t trigger that nostalgia. I guess I’ve heard it too many times in too many places for it to have the kind of weight that many of his other tracks do.

One of those heavier tracks was, for some reason, not on the CD I picked up the other day. The CD, released in 1997, is simply a repackaging of his 1972 two-LP hits album, with the tracks rearranged in chronological order. And it did not include “The Good Life,” which, for whatever reasons, is for me one of the most evocative of Bennett’s singles, as well as one of the more successful: During the summer of 1963, it went to No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the chart now called Adult Contemporary. I must have heard it a lot, because it takes me back to the early 1960s, not to a specific moment but to a sense of the times.

And I never really realized until this week, when I saw “The Good Life” was absent from the CD and I found a copy and then listened to the words, how melancholy a song “The Good Life” really is:

Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal
Mm, the good life lets you hide all the sadness you feel
You won’t really fall in love for you can’t take the chance
So please be honest with yourself, don’t try to fake romance

It’s the good life to be free and explore the unknown
Like the heartaches when you learn you must face them alone
Please remember I still want you, and in case you wonder why
Well, just wake up, kiss the good life goodbye

It’s bittersweet, like so much else that’s attracted me over the years. Either I internalized the words without really knowing it, or else life just hands me these things because I need them. Anyway, here it is:

Locked Inside, Part Two

Friday, November 16th, 2018

A little more than two years ago, I told what I knew of the tale of the man my dad called Uncle Joe, the man who’d fought in World War I before my dad was even born and came back mostly silent and hardly present.

Uncle Joe lived in a little house – not much more than a shack – on a piece of rural property he evidently owned with his sisters, whom my dad called Aunt Ella and Aunt Minnie. The two sisters lived in a slightly larger home about fifty yards from Joe’s, and I assume he took his meals with them. When we visited them, and that happened several times during the early 1960s, all three were quite elderly. In that piece from May 2016, I estimated them all to be in their late seventies and early eighties. I wrote about my interactions with Joe:

Joe was quiet, and everything seemed a bit slower with him, and he seemed – again from the perspective of the child I was – not altogether present.

Dad told me once that Joe was severely afflicted during World War I with what was called “shell shock.” (Now we call it Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.)

Of course, I knew next to nothing about World War I in, say, 1965. I probably knew that the war had happened, and I imagine I’d seen a television documentary about it at one time or another. (Even at eleven, I was a news junkie and loved documentaries.) But even if I knew anything about Sarajevo, about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, about Kaiser Wilhelm, or even about trenches and mustard gas, I really knew nothing about war or what it does to those caught up in it. And I surely didn’t understand what shell shock was.

When we’d go to Ella and Minnie’s, I’d wander down the fifty-yard path to Joe’s house and sit with him. Sometimes – and again, these memories are filtered through more than fifty years gone – he’d talk; sometimes not. I’d greet Uncle Joe, see if he was talking that day, and make some brief conversation if he was. Then I’d make my way back down the path to Ella and Minnie’s little house, to where the old folks were at least present, to where my family was, to where things were mostly the way they were supposed to be.

Looking back this morning, I think I knew somehow that Dad’s Uncle Joe was locked inside. And I guess I knew that there was no key at hand. I guess I also knew that whatever it was that had made Uncle Joe the way he was, it had happened a long time ago and that Dad had never known Uncle Joe to be any other way. And I knew it was sad.

Over the years since, I’ve read histories and memoirs about World War I and many other wars, and I’ve learned from them more about war and what it does. (And I’m thankful that I’ve never had to learn those things from personal experience.) But knowing and understanding are, of course, two different things. And as I write this morning (having followed my thoughts and words into a topic not at all anticipated), I wonder if the only thing I ever needed to know about war was the sad fact that it had forever locked my dad’s Uncle Joe inside himself.

I know a bit more about Joe today. Not much, but a little. One of my cousins emailed a few of the other cousins and my sister this week, remembering Ella and Minnie and Joe and wondering who they really were, how they connected with our family. Knowing that I play around with Ancestry.com, my sister copied me on the email, and I went to work. We knew their last name was Nelson. My dad’s mom, Grandma Jennie, was born a Nelson, so I checked her siblings. No joy.

One of my cousins thought they might have been cousins to my dad’s dad, Grandpa Albert. So I looked up Albert’s father, Otto (from whom my dad got his middle name) and started looking at the offspring of his siblings. That didn’t get me anywhere. I knew I needed to look at Otto’s wife’s family, but I was getting a bit confused as I wandered through the thickets of the website. So I tried something else.

I’d seen a few young women in the late 19th Century named “Louella” and seen that name later shortened to “Ella.” So I searched the massive website for women christened “Louella Nelson” in Minnesota in the latter years of that century. I got very lucky. At the top of the list of possible results was a link to a page at the website Find A Grave that showed a burial in Spring Lake – a city where a lot of our family has been buried over the years – of a Louella Nelson with birth and death dates of 1878 and 1969. There was a very small picture of a headstone.

I clicked on the picture and found that Louella shared a headstone with Minnie (1880-1969). And in the same cemetery was Joseph E. Nelson (1893-1968). Find A Grave told me that their parents had been Lem and Anna Elman Nelson (also buried in the Spring Lake Cemetery). The name “Elman,” Anna’s birth name, was familiar, so I went back to the main page of my family tree. My great-grandfather Otto had married Mary Elman, Anna’s sister. I’d found them.

Ancestry.com helpfully told me that Ella, Minnie and Joe were my second cousins, once removed. I looked at the chart and did my own figuring and concluded that the three Nelsons were my Grandpa Albert’s cousins. Ella and Minnie were the eldest of nine children. Their mother died relatively young, leaving behind four children under the age of twenty, two of them younger than ten. By that time, Ella and Minnie were thirty and twenty-eighty, respectively, and had never married. I assume they just stayed home and helped their father with the children still at home, and they never left.

I went looking for Joe’s story, wondering if anyone in the broad range of Ericksons and Nelsons had ever dug into his tale. He never had children, but at least one of his siblings did and I know many of his cousins did. Given the current vast interest in genealogy – and the general ease with which research can be done these days – I thought that perhaps someone had told Joe’s story.

It seems not. So I did some digging. Born in rural North Branch in 1893, he seemingly stayed there until maybe 1915 or 1916. His draft registration card, filled out on June 5 or 6 of 1917, finds him living in Room 520 of the Y.M.C.A. at 84 East Bethune in Detroit, Michigan. He was making a living, the registration card said, as a driver for the Ford Motor Company. I saw in one of the entries that his brother Oscar, ten years older, lived his whole adult life in Detroit, so it might be reasonable to assume that Joe followed him there.

And then came World War I. And the only tangible thing after that in Uncle Joe’s record at Ancestry.com is a scan of his draft registration card for World War II, which notes that he was a disabled veteran.

I know what happened to Uncle Joe, but I don’t know how or where or when. I’m feeling like it’s very much up to me to find out. I have work to do.

And just like the other time I wrote about Ella and Minnie and Joe, I have no music for this.

What’s At No. 100? (11/13/71)

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

I’m in the mood to play a round of What’s At No. 100, so I searched the Billboard Hot 100 files for charts released on November 13 over the years we generally cover here, and I ended up getting my choice of 1961, 1965, 1971, 1976 and 1982.

I know that my pal and blogging brother jb – who spins his tales at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – would jump at the 1976 chart, as that is his year beyond all years. I’m going to pass on it, although I will satisfy some of his itch and tell him that the No. 100 record on this day in 1976 was “Daylight” by Vickie Sue Robinson, which had peaked the week before at No. 63.

But we’re going to head to November 1971, when I was nearing the end of my first quarter at St. Cloud State and struggling with the realities of maybe having a girlfriend (a story – one I do not believe I’ve told entire – for another time). Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen for November 13, 1971:

“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Imagine” by John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band
“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“I’ve Found Someone Of My Own” by the Free Movement
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“Have You Seen Her” by the Chi-Lites
“Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler)” by Marvin Gaye
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts And Children” by the Carpenters
“Baby, I’m-a Want You” by Bread
“Never My Love” by the 5th Dimension
“Got To Be There” by Michael Jackson
“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels
“Desiderata” by Les Crane

I know well all of those except for the 5th Dimension single, which was a live performance. It’s not on the digital shelves here, and a quick check at Oldiesloon tells me that it never made the 6+30 at KDWB in the Twin Cities, which is where I still did most of my Top 40 listening. I still tuned my RCA radio to Chicago’s WLS as I went to sleep, and the 5th Dimension record went to No. 10 there, so I likely heard it, but do not remember it.

And knowing the other fourteen well, hearing them in a cluster like this would be a time trip: Hanging with the guys in Stearns Hall, playing table-top hockey with Rick and Rob, enjoying a surprise evening visit from my maybe girlfriend, listening to the radio in the lounge at Carol Hall with a bunch of guys as we waited to learn our draft lottery numbers, failing basic chemistry and African history because I’d never learned how to study in high school, and a whole lot of other memories.

Do I really like all those records? Most of them. I can do without the Osmonds, and the Michael Jackson record has never meant much to me. Many of the others, as it turns out, are on my iPod: Cher, Isaac Hayes, Bread, Rod Stewart, the Free Movement, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, the Chi-Lites, Lee Michaels, and the Carpenters’ A-side. So it was a good month for me to listen to the radio.

But what lies below? What do we find when we head down the chart to No. 100? Well, we find a record that’s been featured here a number of times, “Hallelujah” by Sweathog, in its first week in the Hot 100. By the end of the year, the group’s cover of the Clique’s 1969 recording would peak at No. 33. Almost ten years ago, when I included Sweathog’s record in my Ultimate Jukebox, I wrote:

From the clanking introduction with its gospel piano and percussion through the workmanlike vocal and jubilant choruses, Sweathog’s single hit is fun. It doesn’t tap any major memories; it’s more of a dimly recalled artifact that it would have been nice to hear more often long ago.

Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 615

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

It’s quiet and cool this morning in our little corner of the world.

The quiet, it turns out, is a near-constant thing. The four-plex that contains our condo – one of nine such buildings in the development – is tucked back on what is in effect an alley, so we have very little traffic noise, in fact very little noise at all. During the warm season just past, the occasional sound of the lawn service taking care of things made its way inside, especially when the fellow with the leaf blower worked on the patio just on the other side of the window where I write and putter.

And on occasion in the evening, Larry down the way shoots off some fireworks. That can be startling, but it’s not really a problem. Nor is the occasional noise we hear from the kids across the alley when they play on their trampoline.

As far as I recall, other than deliveries and friends, our doorbell has rung only three times: two sets of school-age kids came by raising money, one seeking donors for a walk-a-thon and the other selling chocolate bars. We invested in both.

And we had one politician stop by, seeking re-election. I shook his hand and told him politely that there was little he could say that would earn my vote. We chatted for about ten minutes about why that was, and he went on his way. (About a month later, he ceased campaigning because of some unseemliness in his past; it was way too late for his party to nominate a different candidate, so it will be interesting to watch the returns next Tuesday.)

Anyway, it’s quiet in this little corner of the north side, something that we hoped would be the case when we moved here eight months ago. We’d become accustomed to the quiet at the house, when living on more than an acre kept us isolated for the most part from the rest of the city around us. So we’ve been pleased.

And as I make my way through tracks with the word “quiet” in their titles, I’m caught – as I am other times – by Carole King’s effort from her 1973 album Fantasy: “A Quiet Place To Live.” The brief song has some political and social overtones that don’t fit our specific living place but might fit into today’s world. And it’s worth recalling that things don’t always have to mesh perfectly to work well:

All I want is a quiet place to live
Where I can enjoy the fruits of my labor
Read the paper
And not have to cry out loud

In my mind I can see it crystal clear
Sharing my dreams with the people around me
Now they surround me
And I’m just a part of the crowd

What will become of us
What about the children
What will they do to us next time around
What will the answer be
What will it mean to me
When are they gonna see we’re underground
Here underground

And all I want is a quiet place to live
Where I can be free in a world of my making
Instead of taking
What they decided to give
I wouldn’t want what they have, no
If I could only find
A quiet place to live

So we’ll make Carole King’s “A Quiet Place To Live” today’s Saturday Single.

An Hour At Tom’s Barbershop

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

I haven’t been down Wilson Avenue on the East Side recently – I don’t get back to the East Side very often – so I don’t know if the little square building where Tom had his barbershop is still vacant. Tom hung up his clippers on the advice of his doctor about two years ago, and I wonder how he is. I also sometimes wonder where his other customers head for their haircuts now. And then I think of this piece from October 2008 when Tom’s place was pretty busy.

I spent a pleasant hour late yesterday morning at Tom’s Barbershop, waiting behind three other guys as Tom trimmed their hair and then mine. We waited on two long benches along the wall, gazing at Tom’s collection of model cars and nodding in approval as classic country songs came and went from the CD player: Hank Williams (the original one, not the son or grandson), Johnny Cash, Ferlin Husky and some we didn’t recall.

“Don’t remember who did that one,” one of the fellows across the way from me said as the music played. “Heard it for the first time back in about ’48, I think.” One of the other two waiting men nodded.

“Yeah,” said the white-haired fellow next to me, as he headed for the now-empty barber chair, “country was what there was back then. We didn’t have all this rock and roll.”

“Not in my house, either,” said the fellow who’d heard music in 1948. “It was country music at home.”

“And polkas,” said the customer now easing his way into the chair.

Four other heads, including Tom the Barber’s and mine, nodded. I’ve never listened to polka music voluntarily, but down at Grampa’s farm, there was often a polka program playing on one of the two television channels available.

“Yah,” said the dark-haired guy sitting across from me, near the CD player. Up to now, he’d only nodded. “I remember Whoopee John. And the Six Fat Dutchmen.”

The guy in the chair spoke as Tom trimmed his hair: “Used to be lots of those ballrooms around, where those bands would play on Saturday night,” he said, talking carefully so as not to disturb Tom’s work. “Not many of them left, you know.”

Heads nodded again. Tom held his clippers in the air as the man in the chair began to talk with a little more animation. “We used to go up to the ballroom at New Munich on Saturday nights, there.” (New Munich is a burg of about 350 souls forty miles northwest of St. Cloud, smack in the middle of Stearns County, doncha know?) “There’d be all them Stearns County farm boys standing around the edge of the dance floor ’til, oh, close to midnight, each one of ’em holdin’ a bottle of beer.

“Finally, around midnight, just before the band was gonna shut ’er down for the night, them boys would get out on the dance floor and find some gal to dance the polka with.”

We all laughed. “They had to have some Dutch courage, huh?” I asked him.

He nodded. “Yah,” he said, “right out of the bottle.”

I spoke up, told them I’d seen the same things – reluctant guys holding drinks ringing the dance floor until it got late – in the bars in downtown St. Cloud when I was in college thirty years ago. “Take away the drinks,” I said, “and I saw the same thing in the junior high cafeteria as the records played during our dances!”

They laughed.

“Boy,” said the fairly quiet fellow sitting by the CD player, “thirty years ago, I’d have been there, too. Might dance, might not, but just past midnight, it’s ‘See you next week,’ and on out the door.”

“For a while in college,” I said, “it was ‘See you tomorrow.’”

“Yah,” said one of them, amid general laughter, “I done some of that, too!”

The fellow in the chair stood, his white hair now trimmed. The dark-haired guy near the CD player rose, about to take his turn. “Boy,” he said, “I remember when Whoopee John and his band come to town. They used to come in three, four new Chevrolets. They got a bus a little later on, but when they come into town in those shiny new Chevies, boy, that was somethin’!”

The CD changed, with the classic country being replaced by Tom’s beloved country-tinged gospel music. The white-haired fellow headed to the door. “See you boys later,” he said as he opened the door. “Don’t go dancin’ too much now.”

We all laughed as the door closed. And then the only sounds in the barbershop were the strains of “Amazing Grace” coming from the CD player, the buzz of Tom’s clippers, and the very faint sound of Tom singing along under his breath.

Even though they might have preferred a polka, here’s a suitable track for the guys who were at Tom’s that morning: “Put Your Dancing Shoes On” by Danny Kortchmar, a guitarist who’s been one of the best-known session musicians for years. It comes his 1973 album Kootch.

Edited slightly on reposting.

‘Sail On, Silver Girl . . .’

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

We spent a pleasant evening with Rob and his sister Mary Ellen the other Saturday, taking in a show by a local group called the Fabulous Armadillos. The show, titled “What’s Going On – Songs From The Vietnam War Era,” was remarkable, with the very familiar tunes – starting with the Animal’s “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” and ending with Ray Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful” – being performed as closely as possible to the original recordings.

(Interspersed between many of the tunes came memories and commentary from three veterans of the armed forces, two who served in Vietnam and one who served in Iraq, giving the evening a sense of gravitas.)

Performing the songs as closely as possible to the originals means, of course, finding local talent able to perform in a broad range of styles. I would guess the most difficult thing about a band like the Armadillos is finding vocalists. Not to downplay the instrumentalists – especially the guitarist of the group who replicated Jimi Hendrix’ famed Woodstock performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” just before intermission – but somehow vocal matching seems harder.

Which is why I wondered a bit when one of the group’s vocalists took his place in a spotlight during the first half of the show and the keyboard player in the shadows behind him moved into the familiar and beautiful introduction to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” It’s one thing for a keyboard player to master Larry Knechtel’s astounding piano arrangement, and it’s quite another to find a singer who can match Art Garfunkel’s range and purity of tone.

Of course (well, perhaps I shouldn’t be so matter of fact about it, but having seen the Armadillos a couple of times, nothing they do really startles me beyond, occasionally, the choice of material), he nailed it, leading to one of several standing ovations the crowd gave the band during the two-and-a-half hour show.

And since then, in odd moments, I’ve found myself thinking about and assessing Paul Simon’s masterpiece, and not for the first time. Nearly ten years ago, when offering the 228 tracks of my Ultimate Jukebox, I thought about “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” writing:

I suppose there’s little argument about which record was the best thing that Simon & Garfunkel ever did. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an extraordinary song and record. But as much as I’ve loved it over the years, I found myself uneasy sliding it in among the other records in this mythical jukebox. As well as looking for good records, I guess I was also looking for flow, for a collection of songs that would make interesting combinations and patterns as the tunes played. And I decided as I considered the work of Simon & Garfunkel that “Bridge” just brings a little too much weight along with it, stopping the show.

Well, it did stop the show the other week, at least for a few moments, and it touched a memory for me of a bicycle ride through the streets of Fredericia, Denmark, a ride that took place forty-five years ago this month. I was falling in love, and after spending an evening with the young lady, I was biking sometime after midnight to the home where I lived with my Danish hosts. As I wrote in a memoir a few years ago:

I was so enthralled, so immersed in the joy of falling in love, and one night, as I rode that big black bicycle home to Vejrøvænget, I sang the third verse of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the verse that goes, “Sail on, silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine – all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine.”

I could not make the young lady in question shine as much as she deserved. And, not quite fifteen years later, when the same verse became a beacon in another chance at love, another woman and I learned that maintaining the luster is hard work, and we failed. Even with all that attached to it, that third verse of the song is still my favorite, and – after truly listening to the song for the first time in a long time – I find myself loving the song again.

Here it is, the title track of Simon & Garfunkel’s brilliant 1970 album:

Saturday Single No. 612

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

The Texas Gal took this week off work, and while we had made no plans for a major trip, we had hoped to spend a couple of days in the car doing some leaf-peeping, perhaps heading from here to Taylor’s Falls at the Wisconsin border or maybe heading northeast toward Duluth.

Alas, it rained Monday through Thursday – nothing torrential, just slow, steady soakings with one minor storm (although Thursday’s storm in Duluth brought ocean-sized waves crashing in along the Lake Superior shoreline; the photos have been amazing). And Friday, yesterday, was cold. So we stayed in. Probably just as well. We did some binge-watching of the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale and of the first few episodes of both New Amsterdam and A Million Little Things, ate out a little, ordered in a little, dealt with problems with an overhead fan/light in our entryway (a tale I may tell in full on another day), and got new phones.

On Wednesday, while we were waiting for the phone techs at a big box store to solve a problem with our new phones, I wandered over to the clearance CD bin and dug around for a while. I came out with five discs to fill gaps in the collection, compilations of work by Billie Holiday, the Drifters, Wilson Pickett, ABBA, and Buddy Guy.

And here’s a track that came along with one of those five, one whose title, at least, tells how the week felt for us. It’s Buddy Guy – with some help from Bonnie Raitt – with “It Feels Like Rain,” the title track from his 1993 album. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Imprinted

Friday, October 5th, 2018

So last evening, as the small music group from our Unitarian-Universalist fellowship got some music ready for Sunday, our conversations wandered all over our musical landscapes. Three of us are about the same age, and we know pretty much the same songs (although the other two have a better grasp on folk while I know more pop and rock). Our occasional old fogeyness is leavened by our fourth member, who is a graduate student in her twenties.

Anyway, we were working on a couple of tunes to accompany a program on a local social justice initiative. We settled on Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and “The Hammer Song (If I Had A Hammer),” written, of course, by Pete Seeger although we’re performing it more in the style of Peter, Paul & Mary. And we came to a quandary as we worked on the latter.

I was running through the chords on the keyboard, playing from memory and by ear while Jane was following along with guitar, using the chord sheet she’d found in her binder. And at one point, we were playing different chords. So I pulled out my phone to jump onto YouTube to give a listen to Peter, Paul & Mary.

“It’s going to be in a different key,” said Tom, who was working out a bass line for the song.

“I’ll still be able to tell if they’re going to the tonic or to the dominant,” I said. (I’m kind of the music theory geek among the bunch.) And we soon found that the chords on Jane’s sheet were right and my ears (and memory) had been in error. And along the way we ran across Trini Lopez’ 1963 version of the Seeger song, a very rapid live version that went to No. 3 in the Billboard Hot 100.

I laughed, telling the others that I have the 45, which came to me from my sister. She got it in 1963 from one of those grab bags you could get at record stores, something like twelve records for a buck. And I mentioned that I liked the flip side – Lopez’ take on “Unchain My Heart” a little bit better.

Then we went back to work, getting a handle on the two songs for this coming Sunday. We’re still a little shaky on “Stand By Me,” but we’re okay on “If I Had A Hammer.” As we began to pack away guitars and close up the keyboard, our young friend Cassie headed out for home and sleep – a precious commodity for a grad student.

The rest of us chatted for a few minutes. We talked about our early records: children’s 78s, classical 78s and early 45s. Jane recalled having a copy of Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater” (No. 1 for six weeks in 1958), and Tom recalled David Seville’s “Witch Doctor” (No. 1 for three weeks, also in 1958).

And then we three old fogies found ourselves singing “Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang! Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang!”

And we laughed and marveled at how music imprints itself on us, the marvelous, the mundane, and sometimes, the just plain silly.

Saturday Single No. 610

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

It’s funny how the mind works.

Last evening, just before heading upstairs to take a shower, I watched a few minutes of one sporting event or another. As the camera lingered on the crowd just before I turned the television off, framed in the picture was a pretty young woman with striking red hair.

“Gee,” I thought as I made my way upstairs, “that looked a lot like Anne.” I’ve mentioned her before. Anne was the young woman who was an intern at the Twin Cities television station at the same time I was, the winter of 1975-76. She was in the promotions department and I was in sports.

As I prepared for my shower, I pondered – not for the first time – how completely I’d missed Anne’s signals back then that she wanted to be more than just friends chatting over an occasional cup of coffee in the break room. I should have taken her out for a beer after work and seen where things went from there, I thought.

But no, my train of thought went, that might have been hard to arrange, given that I worked reporter hours several evenings a week and given the not inconsequential distance between the station and her home. And that led me to think of those Saturdays late in my internship when I was responsible for producing the full five-minute sports package for our evening news show, selecting stories, choosing highlights, and all of the other tasks that went into the package.

And I recalled one Saturday when our video highlights included some footage of the hockey game that day in Philadelphia between the National Hockey League’s Flyers and the Soviet Red Army hockey team. The Flyers were then in their Broad Street Bullies phase, and perhaps the most newsworthy moment was when one of the Flyers laid out one of the Red Army players with a massive check, knocking the Russian groggy if not out cold.

[We move now in these brackets from memory to information from Wikipedia: The great Valeri Kharlamov was the recipient of the check from Ed Van Impe, and the Russian team withdrew from the game in protest. Eventually, the teams resumed the game, but the Russians were obviously cautious the rest of the game and lost 4-1.]

I wrote a bit of copy about the game, using as my lede something like “It wasn’t quite the Eastern Front, but the Russian Army – at least its hockey team – had a rough day today in Philadelphia.” I’m not sure how that reads now, but for a kid of twenty-two who was learning his craft, I think it wasn’t bad. And with that as one of the leading stories, I handed the sports package off that evening to the night’s on-air talent and went home.

But as I showered last evening, I recalled that the following Monday, my boss/adviser ended a meeting with me by telling me the Saturday sports package had been fine, except for one thing: In the story about the hockey game, I had neglected to include the final score. I was startled, and I’ve used that bit of conversation as a guide for every sports story I’ve written since then: Make sure the score is in the story.

The game between the Flyers and the Red Army was one of several exhibitions that winter between NHL teams and top-level teams from the U.S.S.R., and I pondered that for a moment, and then thought about the 1972 series of games between Team Canada and the Soviets, eight games between what were essentially all-star teams. I don’t remember the entire sequence of eight games, but I remember that the Soviets dominated the four games in Canada, and the Canadians did the same in the U.S.S.R., and when the eighth game came around, the series was tied three games apiece with one tie.

But I did remember the outcome of the eighth game, which Canada won after Paul Henderson of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the winning goal with something like thirty-four seconds left in the game.

[Hard data intrusion: According to Wikipedia, Henderson scored the winning goal for Canada in the sixth, seventh and eighth games of what was called the Summit Series. I had forgotten that. But the winning goal in game eight was in fact scored with thirty-four seconds left.]

And I started thinking about time zones and another international hockey game, the 1980 Olympic match between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., the famous “Miracle On Ice” game. I recalled it starting at an odd mid-afternoon time here in the U.S. because to start it any later would mean the game would have taken place long after midnight in Soviet Union.

“So,” I wondered as I finished toweling myself off after my shower, “if it’s four o’clock here” – thinking about the mid-afternoon start of the Miracle On Ice game – “then is it midnight in Moscow?”

Well, during Daylight Savings Time, it is. In the winter, when the game was played, that would not hold true. But anybody who’s waded to this point through the swamp with me knows what’s coming next.

Here are Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen with “Midnight in Moscow.” It went to No. 2 in 1962, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.