Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

‘Don’t Be Concerned . . .’

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

A little while back, I looked at one of the Billboard Easy Listening charts from 1968 – fifty years ago – and was surprised to learn that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I’ve been getting lessons like that for nearly sixty-five years, so my pride wasn’t wounded all that much. And, given a little more thought about how I came to hear easy listening tunes when I was in my early teens, I thought I’d take a look at another one of the magazine’s easy listening charts from the mid-1960s.

In that earlier post, I ascribed my exposure to – and my continuing love of – easy listening to the fact that we frequently listened to the Twin Cities radio giant WCCO at home. And we did. But there’s another source I didn’t think about as I wrote: my sister’s transistor radio.

I think I’ve told the tale, but if I did, it was some time back, so here goes: In either 1963 or 1964 – probably the latter – my folks gave my sister a transistor radio as a gift (Christmas, I think, though it could have been for her birthday). She evidently didn’t use it all that much, for not long afterward, my dad commandeered it for his nightstand, and every evening (save perhaps Saturdays), he would play the radio for about twenty minutes before we all closed up shop for the night.

And his station of choice was St. Cloud’s KFAM, an outfit located over on the south side that played easy listening music at that time of the evening. I clearly remember, for example, hearing Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” – No. 1 on the easy listening chart for one week during October 1966 – coming from Dad’s transistor radio more than once. So I thought – even though it’s April – I’d take a look at that mid-October chart from 1966 and see what’s familiar and what’s not. Here are the top fifteen from that long ago Billboard Easy Listening chart:

“Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra
“Born Free” by Roger Williams
“Summer Samba (So Nice)” by Walter Wanderley
“In The Arms Of Love” by Andy Williams
“Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad)” by Jerry Vale
“The Wheel Of Hurt” by Margaret Whiting
“I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” by Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra
“Flamingo” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
“Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66
“A Time For Love” by Tony Bennett
“Free Again” by Barbra Streisand
“I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
“Lookin’ For Love” by Ray Conniff
“Elusive Butterfly” by Jane Morgan
“Once I Had A Heart” by Robert Goulet

I think I do better with this set of fifteen than I did with the earlier grouping about six weeks ago. The top three are on the digital shelves here, as are “Mas Que Nada” and the record by Tony Bennett. I know “Dommage, Dommage,” likely from Vale’s version; I know “Elusive Butterfly” from Bob Lind’s original; and I know “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” from multiple versions (chiefly the Tommy Dorsey recording from 1935). And for what it may matter, I did refer to Whiting’s record in a post last September.

The rest would be mysteries, even “Flamingo” and “Lookin’ For Love,” despite my enjoyment of the work of both Herb Alpert and Ray Conniff.

Having dipped a toe into most of the unfamiliar tunes in the list above, I find myself liking Morgan’s sprightly take on “Elusive Butterfly.” It turned out to be her most successful record on the magazine’s easy listening chart, reaching No. 9.

Morgan’s chart history is interesting: Massachusetts-born (in 1920) and Florida-raised, she had ten records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 between 1956 and 1967, and seven records in the magazine’s easy listening chart between 1965 and 1968, but – if I’m reading things correctly – only two records showed up in both charts. Her best-performing record was “Fascination,” credited to Jane Morgan & The Troubadors, which went to No. 7 in 1957 in one of the several charts Billboard compiled at the time.

Here’s her take on Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly.”

Chart position corrected after first posting.

Saturday Single No. 585

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

So we’re seven days into April, and here in St. Cloud, we got about nine inches of snow in two bursts this week, the first on Monday during the day and the second running from late Monday night into Tuesday. (I think that’s right; things tend to blur right now.)

And we’re supposed to get more measurable and plowable snow tomorrow afternoon and evening.

We’ve been here on the North Side for almost seven weeks and for four substantial snowfalls, and one concern I have so far about our new place is the snowplowing service. Our driveway gets cleared just fine, but the service road/alley on which we front doesn’t seem to get very good attention. Today, four days after a major snowfall – six inches – the road is basically two grooves in a field of ice. I imagine that I’ll have to attend the next meeting of our homeowners’ association and find out why.

In the meantime, the only appropriate song for today is “Sometimes It Snows In April,” a tune written by Prince, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman and first released on Prince’s album Parade in 1986.

The list of covers at Second Hand Songs offers names of artists like Native, Michelle Solberg, Montezuma’s Revenge, Sanne Salomonsen, the Knut Reiersrud Band, StarGate & Espen Lind and a few others. The name that grabs me most, though, is that of Meshell Ndegeocello, whose cover of the tune was released just three weeks ago on her new Ventriloquism. It’s sleepy and kinda trippy vibe makes it today’s Saturday Single.

On Patrol

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The most direct route from our new digs to the local hardware store – and I’ve traveled that route many times during the past nine days – takes me along Twelfth Avenue North past the back of the Church of St. Paul, a Catholic church that’s home to All Saints Academy, an elementary school.

I drove home along Twelfth Avenue the other day just as recess was starting. A batch of All Saints students, heavily bundled against the day’s cold, were making their ways across the street to the playground with a young woman standing guard with a school patrol flag. The woman – a teacher or perhaps an aid – extended the flag across my path as I approached. I stopped, and the last of the students made their ways across the street and into the snowy playground.

She lifted the flag and headed toward the church, her duty done. As she did, I rolled down my passenger side window and called out to her. When she turned, I asked her how frequently she had to stop a vehicle.

“About one or two times every recess,” she said. She, like the students, was dressed for the cold: A heavy coat, a scarf that covered her throat and chin, and a hat that came down to the top of her glasses. A few tendrils of blonde hair had escaped her hat and framed her face, and her cheeks were ruddy from the cold.

I told her that I’d been a patrol boy long ago at Lincoln Elementary and that there was hardly any traffic there, with Lincoln being at the end of a less-traveled street. “In two years,” I told her, “I got to stop one car.”

“That’s all?”

“That was it,” I said. “And it was a glorious day.”

She laughed, as did I, and then she turned to head into the church, carrying her patrol flag, and I headed up the street toward home.

Searches on the digital shelves for “patrol,” “traffic,” and “school” brought me nothing that I cared for this morning. So I searched for “saint,” given the name of the school whose recess parade I encountered. And I came up with “The Saints,” a cover by Little Richard of “The Saints Come Marching In.” It’s from the 1972 album The Second Coming. (Given Mr. Penniman’s diction and my unfamiliarity with anything but the song’s first verse, I’m not sure if the lyrics are the traditional ones or an alternate version, but according to the information at All Music, Little Richard and producer R.A. “Bumps” Blackwell claimed writing credits for the track, so who knows?)

Saturday Single No. 579

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

After four days of unpacking and dealing with crises in our new place, we have made progress, although both the Texas Gal and I wish we’d made more. Some rooms are nearly finished, awaiting touches of décor; some are functional, needing only a little more work; others are a mess. My portion of the lower level, which will become the EITW studio, is a mountain range of boxes, with a desk tucked into a corner that holds a functional computer.

The crises include the death of a freezer packed with mostly meat. Luckily, we noticed it soon after its demise on Thursday, and we headed across town to an appliance store owned by two fellow members of the St. Cloud Tech Class of ’71. On the phone, the Texas Gal told Bob what we needed, and by the time we got there, Bob had already unboxed a freezer for us and brought it to the showroom floor. His guys delivered the freezer an hour later, and we lost no food. Crisis No. 1 resolved.

We also bought a microwave oven. On the day we closed our purchase of the condo, the sellers’ realtor approached us. He told us that the over-the-oven microwave in the condo had died the previous day, and he gave us some cash. In the meantime, our own countertop model had begun to act balky. So when we were at the appliance dealer, the Texas Gal thought we should buy a microwave. It came with the freezer, and on Friday afternoon, another member of the Tech Class of ’71 – one whom I’d not seen since graduation – came to remove the old microwave and install the new one.

It didn’t take long, but because of its angled design, the old oven took more wall space than does the new one, and there is now a white area between the wall tile and the bottom of the new oven, thirty inches wide and one and three-quarters inches high. The tiles we bought yesterday afternoon from the local branch of a regional home improvement store were an eighth of an inch too tall, but the Texas Gal found some correctly sized one-foot tile strips online that would look very nice in the blank spot, if we can find someone around here who can cut one of those strips of tile in half. That can likely be done, so Crisis No. 2, while not yet resolved, is heading that direction.

So today, after a breakfast of cottage bacon, will be a day to finish the kitchen, to move some pieces of furniture to their destinations, to find the last boxes of my shirts, to hook up the Texas Gals’ stereo in the master bedroom, and to see if we can figure out how to put the two portions of the Texas Gal’s recliner together.

The RealPlayer did its best, but a search for “crisis” brought me the 1985 album Flaunt the Imperfection by China Crisis and a 1996 Dar Williams track titled “The Pointless, Yet Poignant, Crisis of a Co-Ed,” neither of which grab me this morning. And nothing comes up for “assemble,” although I could stretch that to come up with a tune by the Assembled Multitude. So I thought I’d just go with our constant condition this week and find a good tune that features the word “tired.’

And that’s how “So Tired” by the group Eva – from the soundtrack to the 1971 film Vanishing Point – became today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 578

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

I’ve hated change all my life.

Well, most of the time. When I’ve traveled, I’ve enjoyed seeing, doing, experiencing new things. Traveling was different.

But when I am home, I like my life, my days to be orderly. Even a minor change puts me off-kilter. Case in point: Monday is laundry day. When there’s a Monday holiday, I usually end up doing laundry on Tuesdays, and the whole week feels out of whack.

I know, I know. This is one of those things we call a first-world problem. But it’s true: Even the slightest change in my routines and patterns leaves me feeling out of place.

And here comes a major change as we move from our house on the East Side to the condo on the North Side.

(The truck comes Monday. I think we’ll be ready, although we have two very long days of work ahead of us, work I will get to as soon as I finish here.)

One would think that I’m apprehensive or put off balance by the prospect of moving, of going through one of the major changes we can have in our lives. Well, I was. For the past several years, as the Texas Gal has talked about finding a new place, I’ve been skittish. I’ve loved living here on the East Side, here with the thirty-four oak trees and the garden and the squirrels and the lilacs. Especially the lilacs.

But I’ve come to realize that my skittishness was when we talked about finding an apartment, some place that wasn’t ours. I didn’t want to leave my house, the place where I’d felt at home probably more than any other, for just another place that would feel temporary.

As soon as the Texas Gal brought up the idea of buying a place, there was a shift in me, one I didn’t see coming. Of course, I never saw our owning a place coming, either. And when we decided on the condo on the North Side, there was a major shift. I won’t say I looked forward to the packing, the work of moving, but the move itself, the idea of a place that was ours, felt right.

A little less than ten years ago, when we moved from the adjacent apartments into the house, I wasn’t sure it was the right thing. We were cramped, yes, but . . . well, I was set in a place and I knew where things were and all that. But moving to the house here under the oaks turned out to be the right thing. And I think our move to the North Side will be the right thing.

I think that’s been obvious in some of my work here. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

And it’s taken a couple of weeks since then to realize that for the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to a major change, and that’s something new for me, a reflection of a change in me that I never saw coming. And that’s an appropriate place to end this last epistle from the East Side.

Here, with their cover of one of Phil Ochs’ most lovely songs, are Ian & Sylvia with “Changes.” It’s from their 1966 album Ian & Sylvia Play One More, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Listen To The Wolf

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Looking for a tune with the word “moving” in its title – trying to match our reality with a post for today – I came across Howlin’ Wolf’s “Moving.” It’s a basic Wolf joint, and I wondered as it played: How many Howlin’ Wolf tracks sit on the digital shelves?

The answer turns out to be 149, ranging temporally from some sides recorded to the RPM label in West Memphis, Tennessee, in 1951 to “Moving,” a track from The Back Door Wolf, which was released in 1973, just three years before the Wolf laid down his harp. The track, like many others on the digital shelves, came from the box set Chess put together in 1991.

And since we are moving, and because I have some duties along that line today – we are making progress, but Monday’s arrival of the moving van looms large – I’ll just offer “Moving” here and get out of the way. I hope to offer a post on Saturday, but we’ll see how things go.

Nervous Cats

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

The catboys are nervous. Their world is changing every day.

Boxes now block their preferred running paths through the house. The little enclosed cat bed on the sofa, which all three have normally used at one time or another throughout the day, is gone (taken to cushion something fragile when it was packed in a box).

Their world is disrupted, and they are, as I said, nervous. During the evenings, when the Texas Gal and I sit in the living room and watch TV (with me peering at the screen over a pile of boxes that will go to the Friends of the Library bookstore), all three cats come to us for lap time. That’s not new for Little Gus (who long ago gained enough excess weight to make his name ironic instead of cute), and not entirely new for Cubbie Cooper, but it is a new behavior for Oscar Charleston, whose preferred mode of contact with me until recently was “chase me until I fall down as if I’m exhausted, and then you may pet me.”

He hasn’t entirely given up the chase – or his rolling on the laundry rug in the basement until he’s so cute I have to pet him – but more often these days he paws at my leg as I sit in the living room, and once I’ve lifted him to my lap, he settles down quietly, as if seeking reassurance that there are still some certainties in his feline world.

We think they’ll like the new place. It will take some getting used to, and there will be some new – and thus unfamiliar – things. (Case in point: The makings of three beds – frames, box springs and mattresses – were delivered yesterday.) But many of the things that made up their home here on the East Side will be in their new place on the North Side.

And they’ll get their new home in one swoop: Early on February 19, moving day, we’ll be taking the three catboys to a pet spa just east of St. Cloud. Once the move is done – and Connor the mover estimates that it will take four to six hours to get everything moved and then unloaded at the new place – we’ll retrieve the cats.

Cats are notorious for being set in their ways. (I am the same, so I understand their anxiety.) Any change in their routine or their surroundings can distress them; the degree of distress depends entirely on the personality of the cat. We’re not too concerned about Oscar or Cubbie; they’re generally pretty mellow. Gus, on the other hand, is pretty insecure, and we expect that he may find a hidey-hole in the new place for a few days, coming out only when necessary. We’re pretty sure that when he learns that there are no monsters in the new place, he’ll settle in like the other two and once more be a happy cat.

And for a tune
today, we’re going to dip into the massive rockabilly/country compilation titled “That’ll Flat Git It,” where we find the McCoys’ “Full-Grown Cat” from 1958. The McCoys were Ronnie and Peggy McCoy, evidently brother and sister, and they recorded at least two singles for RCA Victor. The site Rockin’ Country Style notes that the McCoys were regular performers on Dallas’ KSKY in 1956 and regulars during 1959 on the Cowtown Hoedown that was broadcast on Fort Worth’s KCUL.

Saturday Single No. 576

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

Let’s go back to 2007: After flailing around for a couple weeks in January and a couple of days in February – ripping LPs and a few singles to mp3s and then trying to figure out what to say about them – I stumbled across what I really wanted to do with this blog eleven years ago today.

We’d had a difficult night, the Texas Gal and I. An ailment of some sort – and I do not recall what it was, whether she’d been ill or if it had been something wrong with Mom – brought us to the emergency room after midnight and kept us there for a couple of hours. As morning came, I felt compelled to post something here, even if it could not be an album, as I had planned.

And after a paragraph of explanation, I wrote:

But I thought I’d at least show that I was still alive and still blogging by tossing a single out into the ether.

So as I was wandering through my music files, I came upon a single that was – for a few weeks, at least – omnipresent in Denmark during the nine months I spent there many years ago. No matter where my girlfriend of the time and I went that autumn, we heard – sometimes just off in the distance – Lecia & Lucienne singing “Rør Ved Mig” (which translates roughly, I think, into “Stay With Me”).

When I got back to the U.S. in the spring of 1974, I was startled to hear coming from my radio the same tune and nearly the same arrangement, but this time with the words in Spanish. I’ve never been able to determine whether Mocedades’ “Eres Tu,” was the original song and “Rør Ved Mig” was the second-language copycat, or the other way around. And it could be, I suppose, that there are other versions of the song out there in other languages, although in the more-than-thirty-years since I spent my time in Denmark, I’ve heard none.

A couple years after I came back to the U.S., my Danish brother visited, and during his visit, I mentioned “Rør Ved Mig” to him. After he got home, he mailed me a copy of the single. I don’t suppose I’ve played it often, but I did every once in a while. And then I got online about seven years ago and found an MP3 copy out there on the web. It pops up on the RealPlayer now and then.*

And whenever I hear “Rør Ved Mig,” it has the same effect: 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 . . .”

I headlined the post “Taking Me Somewhere Else,” and the following Saturday, I wrote about Cris Williamson’s “Like An Island Rising” and titled that “Saturday Single No. 1.” I’ve wished for a long time that I’d thought to call “Rør Ved Mig” the first in this long-running list of Saturday Singles, because it was with that post on February 3, 2007, that I found what I wanted to do with this blog: tell how music and my life have been viscerally intertwined, probably since the first time either Mom or Dad sang me to sleep in September 1953.

As is my habit, I’ve since found several other versions of “Rør Ved Mig” or “Eres Tu” or whatever you want to call it, in several different languages. I’ve not indexed them well, which puts another item on my list of tasks for after our move. But even if those versions were easily accessible, this eleventh anniversary spot belongs to Lecia & Lucienne, and “Rør Ved Mig” is today’s Saturday Single.

*I should note that the mp3 I found online did not stay long in my files after I got my turntable. The mp3 shared with that post eleven years ago and that I used to make the video above was recorded from the single that my Danish brother sent to me in 1975.

Another Step

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Well, it’s getting busy around here, what with packed boxes piling up in the spare bedroom and in the living room. The two piles have different destinations: Those in the living room are filled with books headed for the Friends of the Library bookstore downtown.

Those in the spare bedroom are filled with books, LPs, clothing, living room knick-knacks, and a lot of other bits and pieces of life. There will be more boxes there yet, and all of them will be moving with us to the North Side in a little more than two weeks.

For the first time in our lives, the Texas Gal and I are homeowners; we closed on our condo Wednesday morning, signing paper after paper and form after form and finally being handed keys and garage door openers. On our way to a celebratory lunch, we stopped at our new place and continued our frequent discussions about where things will go and what we want to replace.

And we looked around the condo with a little bit of disbelief hanging in the air. “We really did this,” I was thinking. “This place is ours. Wow!”

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

All of that is yet to come, of course, and we have much work left to do. As I look around, I see what seems like so much more than two weeks’ worth of packing left, and I despair, especially because my back and leg difficulties have not been resolved by the cortisone shot I got three weeks ago, and I’m heading back to the doctor on Monday. And I do not dare lift anything very heavy (which means we’ll likely have to find some folks to help us pack).

However we do it, though, the work will get done. And the movers will arrive February 19 and take the furniture and the boxes of stuff that make up a lot of our lives across town. We’ll settle in and after a while, it will feel as if we’ve always belonged there.

And here’s another
one of my favorite tunes with “home” in the title: John Denver’s “Sail Away Home.” It’s from his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This.

Saturday Single No. 574

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

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

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

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

And I was off and darting.

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

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

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

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

I’ll have to think about it.

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