Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25th, 2020

It’s early Christmas morning, and it’s quiet here. The Texas Gal is still sleeping, likely with Little Gus the cat keeping her company after his breakfast. The other two cats have probably found their morning nap places, too. And it’s quiet as I write, with only the sound of warm air blowing from the vents keeping me company.

We’re staying home today, nibbling during the day on a charcuterie tray and dining this evening on a homemade lasagna. We’ve got a few television series we’re running through, so we’ll likely watch some episodes of those, and no doubt the jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table will get some attention, as will the new box sets of music. (More about those later.)

So, Merry Christmas to all our friends out there! In this strangest – and for some, stressful and sad – holiday season, may you find yourself among those whom you love in the places you call home. If at all possible, may you be joyful and be at peace!

Here’s a lovely piano version of one of the few Christmas songs I post here. It’s pianist Ilio Barantini taking on John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” from 1971. It’s from Barantini’s 2019 album Merry Christmas All Over The World.

Saturday Single No. 715

Saturday, December 12th, 2020

“This is an odd phone call,” my sister said the other day. “I’m dis-inviting you two for Christmas dinner.”

It wasn’t unexpected. The Texas Gal and I had already decided that we were going stay home on Christmas. And it wasn’t distressing, either, to be dis-invited. It makes perfect sense. We have our very small set of people we see – and then only briefly – during these Covid times, and my sister and her husband and their son have their pods (a usage I’ve begun to see more and more frequently but one I’ve not employed until this moment).

“That’s fine,” I said. “We’d pretty much decided to turn down any invitation, but you’ve come in ahead of us. What will we not be having for Christmas dinner?”

They’re having a ham dinner purchased in full from one of their nearby grocery stores. We’re planning – we think – lasagna, baked in a large pan that was a Christmas gift from my sister and her husband to us more than fifteen years ago, not long after the Texas Gal and I set up housekeeping together.

And as I told my sister that this week, the length of time we’ve owned that pan startled me, and that reminded me of the flexibility of time, how it bends and stretches and turns in its own ways, leaving those of us who use it to measure our lives baffled and bemused.

Fifteen years ago, we were midway through our time in our second apartment, the one in St. Cloud in the complex called Green Gable, just yards from the house where we would eventually live for more than nine years. In some ways – and this is not by any means a deep thought – it feels as if the time in that apartment was just moments ago. Still, I was forty-nine when we first moved there; now I am sixty-seven. We’d been together a little less than three years at the time; now we’ve been married for thirteen.

When we were first merging our households in 2001 and it became evident that the task of moving my stuff to her apartment was beyond our abilities and we’d need to hire the task out, she said to me, offhandedly, “Well, you’re almost fifty, you know.”

The comment, true though it was, startled me. I was forty-seven, but I’d never thought of myself as being close to that milestone. My reaction amused her, and the comment has come with us through the years, being updated every once in a while. These days, she tells me, “Well, you’re almost seventy, you know.”

And I am. And as this odd year of Covid plays out its last month, I think of years together, which is a grace I often thought I’d never have with anyone. And I think that lasagna for Christmas sounds perfect.

There are, as might be expected, no tracks on the digital shelves that include the word “lasagna” in their titles. As for “time,” there are too many to sort rationally, so I’ll just fall on one of my favorite tracks by Eric Andersen, whether it actually speaks to my thoughts above or not.

Here’s “Time Run Like A Freight Train” from Andersen’s 1975 album Be True To You. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

Friday, December 4th, 2020

We’ve not bounced around in 1972 lately, so it’s likely a good time to see what folks were listening to in early December of that year, at least as reflected in the top section of the Billboard Hot 100. And we’ll play a game of Symmetry, heading down the chart to see what was sitting at No. 48 during that late autumn forty-eight years ago.

It was my second autumn as a student at St. Cloud State (because of a couple of failed courses a year earlier, I wasn’t technically a sophomore), and it was an unmemorable time. The friendships that has sustained me through my first year of college had faded away, and I was pretty much on my own. I hung around with some folks from a speech class that fall quarter, but I never quite fit there, either. And I wasn’t dating anyone, nor were there any candidates in sight.

I was exploring musically, having finished my Beatles collection in August. Some record club purchases brought me albums by the Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones and Mountain, and those sounds filled the basement rec room many evenings as I played a Sports Illustrated tabletop football game by myself.

And I still listened to the radio in my bedroom and in the car, so the records in the Top Ten forty-eight years ago (as reported by Billboard on December 9, 1972) were likely familiar:

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Ventura Highway” by America
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics

That’s pretty heavy on the soul/R&B side of the ledger, with a couple of southern California records (stylistically as well as literally), one piece of fluff (“Clair”) and one record – the Helen Reddy – that’s sui generis. And nine of the ten are as familiar as was the interior of my 1961 Falcon, which I’d inherited that summer from my sister.

The one record not familiar by title is the Al Green, which I recalled after a quick listen; I don’t know that I heard it often, and I certainly haven’t heard it as much over the years as I’ve heard “Call Me (Come Back Home),” “Tired Of Being Alone” and “I’m Still In Love With You.”

So, here’s the question we almost always ask when we look at a Billboard Top Ten: Do those records matter now? And we find the answer to that question by seeing if they’re among the 2,700 or so tracks in my iPod.

And I find four of those ten: The records by Nash, Paul, Hammond and the Stylistics. I might add “Ventura Highway,” but the others that I recall – as I ponder them this morning – carry a sense of sorrow. (Well, not “I Am Woman,” but as I noted above, that’s one of a kind.) I was not happy during the latter months of 1972, and nearly a half-century later, that unhappiness seems to be still attached to some of that era’s music.

But what of our other business here? What do we find when we move further down that Hot 100 to No. 48? Well, we come across a record I knew well at the time, one that I heard from an album that took its place between the Moody Blues, Mountain, the Beatles and the rest as I pondered third down and three in the basement rec room: “Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton.

The track came from Clapton’s first solo album, a self-titled effort released in 1970, and was released as a single in 1972, I think, because of its inclusion that year in the two-LP Polydor release Clapton At His Best (which is where I found it). We’ve caught it here at the peak of its thirteen-week stay on the Hot 100. And whether you count it as forty-eight years or fifty years, the track – co-written by Clapton and Bonnie Bramlett – is still a brilliant piece of work.

 

‘I Was Alone, I Took A Ride . . .’

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

As I noted last week, some dates resonate and unlock memories. I typed today’s date at the top of this post and was immediately pulled back fifty years to St. Cloud Tech and a day of high school crisis during my senior year.

What was the crisis? I’d spent a portion of the previous evening visiting a young lady – the blonde sophomore girl I’ve mentioned here over the years, calling her Dulcinea in honor of my quixotic pursuit of her affections, a pursuit that lasted the bulk of my senior year of high school.

She had a boyfriend, and he’d made it clear to me and some mutual friends that he was not pleased with me and my goals. What he told her, I’ve never known. And fifty years ago last evening – on December 1, 1970 – I visited the young lady at her home, bringing along the Beatles’ Revolver album to make a point.

We sat at her kitchen table, talking of everything and nothing as the record played. Then came the fourth track on Side Two, “Got To Get You Into My Life.” She nodded and smiled at me as Paul McCartney’s words filled the space between us, words I’d written out and tucked into her locker at school only a few weeks earlier.

I left not long after the album ended. She accompanied me to my car, and we stood talking in the cold for a few moments before I drove off. As I did, I wondered if I should have kissed her.

And the next day, fifty years ago today, whispers and urgent conversations filled my day and those of my friends. In a quiet corner of the band room, I told my Dulcinea how I felt about her and left her to make a choice. It took her some time to do so, but by the end of the school year, she did, and as I graduated and headed off to college, my load of regrets was just a bit heavier.

There are more than 130 covers of “Got To Get You Into My Life” listed at Second Hand Songs, ranging from one by Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers in August 1966, shortly after the Beatles released the song, to a cover by a singer named Fay Classen released last March.

Here’s one from 2009 by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, from the soundtrack to the movie Imagine That.

Saturday Single No. 713

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

I’ve mentioned before how some dates resonate with me, how I’ll look to the calendar and see, for example, January 25 and remember in vivid detail a long-ago (and unhappy) January 25. I doubt if I’m alone in that; I assume the same thing happens to other folks.

Today, November 28, is one of those days. It was forty-three years ago today that I – twenty-four years old and not at all sure of myself – walked into the offices of the Monticello Times and took up desk space as a reporter. My beats, to start, would be sports at Monticello High School and at the high school in the nearby city of Big Lake; school news from the high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools in the two cities, and features.

In a very short time, I’d add to my plate coverage of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department (which provided police service to the city of Monticello), and of the Big Lake Police Department and of the sheriff’s department in Sherburne County.

The following spring, I’d add coverage of city government to my duties, attending meetings of the city councils in both Monticello and Big Lake, and covering through phone interviews the board meetings in Monticello and Big Lake townships. I’d do fewer features.

My first day at the Times included an interview with the owners of the new Milky Whey cheese shop in the hamlet of Hasty, introductions and lunch at Monticello High School, and – if I recall things rightly – coverage of a girls basketball game that evening. Sometime during the day, I posed at the typewriter at my boss’ desk so readers could get a look at the new guy who’d end up hanging around for almost six years. (My desk was backlit, said the photographer.)

GPE, 11-28-77I think back to that slender young man as he entered the world of professional journalism. His earliest plan – no more than a vague idea, to be honest – had been to become a television sports reporter and play-by-play guy. Then he spent more time writing in college than he did learning how to shoot film, and after some initial resistance, he embraced print reporting. (He realized he liked to write long pieces, and the byword of broadcast reporting is brevity, so . . .)

As I walked into the Times office that morning in November 1977, I was still unformed (although I would have been horribly insulted had anyone told me that). I had an immense amount to learn about journalism, about small-town living, about life in general. A lot of those lessons came my way during the nearly six years I spent at the Times, lessons for which I am – more than forty years later – grateful.

After those nearly six years, I moved on to grad school, to teaching, to reporting at other papers. I took with me a box full of plaques, a clutch of skills, and a cluster of friendships that remain strong to this day. That’s a pretty good haul for a first job.

There’s nothing that speaks to me in the two Billboard Hot 100s that bracket that long-ago November 28, so I’m going to turn to one of the three LPs I bought later that week. Thursdays – the day after we went to press – were light days at the newspaper, so I drove the thirty miles to St. Cloud that afternoon, did some shopping and had dinner with my folks, handing them as I arrived copies of that week’s newspaper, including – I’m pretty sure – a piece with my byline on the front page.

That evening, back in my rented mobile home just outside of Monticello, I no doubt played the records I’d bought in St. Cloud that day, and it’s pretty likely that I went to sleep with the Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed on the turntable. So here’s what was probably the last thing I heard on that long-ago Thursday, my first day as a published journalist: It’s “Nights In White Satin” from 1967, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Bookshelf

Friday, November 13th, 2020

I was recently invited to be the once-weekly music blogger at the blog Consortium Of Seven. Here’s a piece I posted there this week:

I used to be just a record buyer. Every once in a while. I’d find myself at a record store, a flea market, or a garage sale, and come home with an LP or two. And I’d get them as presents for birthdays or Christmas.

By the time I was thirty-three, at which point I made a major life change, I had about two-hundred LPs, just a couple of boxes’ worth. Sixteen years later, at the cusp of another major life change, I had 3,000 LPs, a massive collection grown far beyond reason.

We’ll talk about the records and how the collection grew another time, probably several other times. Today, I want to talk about the books. As I got more and more records over the years, I not only wanted to listen to the music, I wanted to know where it fit historically, so I began buying books: Books that listed the records that hit the Billboard charts, books of album reviews, encyclopedias of rock music and the various other genres that surround it, and more.

And as I shifted to CDs in the 2000s (with about 1,500 of them on the shelves now) and then began to write about music, I needed – or at least wanted – more books. More books about the various Billboard charts. More encyclopedias. More books of reviews, of lists, of any possibly useful (and some entirely useless) pieces of data about American recorded music (and the music we listened to before recording began in earnest in the early Twentieth Century).

BooksI’m not going to list all the books (and special editions of Rolling Stone) I have on the shelf in the picture. But I thought I’d offer a nugget of information from seven of those books grabbed not entirely at random to give readers an idea of the kind of information I find interesting.

The first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide (released in 1979; there have been at least three more since) gives the Beatles’ 1969 album Abbey Road five out of five stars: “One remembers snatches of melody, the great guitar fills and solos (which spawned a whole school of guitar accompaniment in the Seventies), the harmonic swells. The second side of Abbey Road is perhaps the most purely musical work the Beatles ever created, and in its own way, it stands with their best.”

Joel Whitburn is the great collector and publisher of chart data from Billboard and other music periodicals, and at least ten of his volumes are on my shelves. From Top Adult Songs, 1961-2006, we learn that the Carpenters were the top Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary artists of the 1970s, with twenty-three singles reaching that chart, fourteen of them going to No. 1. (For what it matters, my favorite Carpenters’ single of that decade is “Goodbye To Love,” which unaccountably went only to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart and to No. 7 on the magazine’s main pop chart, the Hot 100).

From the 2001 volume Folk & Blues: The Encyclopedia, we learn that in 1978, Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary summed up the trio’s work by saying “We are the children of Pete Seeger, We come from the folk tradition in a contemporary form where there was a concern that idealism be a part of your music and the music a part of your life.”

In a 1999 reissue of his 1989 volume The Heart Of Rock & Soul; The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, critic and historian Dave Marsh ranks “Anarchy In The U.K.” by the Sex Pistols at No. 100. He writes: “What’s this doing here? You could say that it represents the tip of an iceberg: the sum total of punk and post-punk music that “Anarchy” and the Sex Pistols inspired. But it might be more accurate to call it the entrance to a tunnel in a cave, leading to a buried universe.”

The Whitburn book titled #1s tells us that on September 6, 1969 (the day after I turned sixteen and just weeks after I became very interested in the Top 40), the No. 1 records in Billboard were “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones on the Hot 100, “Share Your Love With Me” by Aretha Franklin on the R&B chart, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash on both the country and the Adult Contemporary charts, Johnny Cash At San Quentin on both the pop and country album charts, and Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes on the R&B album chart.

Another Whitburn book, A Century Of Pop Music, tells us that the No. 1 record for 1915, the year my maternal grandparents were married, was “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary” by John McCormack. It was one of twenty-five records McCormack placed on the charts in the early years of the Twentieth Century.

In his 1989 book Beatlesongs, William J. Dowlding gathers information about the writing and recording of every track the Beatles released during their years together, every song written by the group’s members and recorded by other musicians, and many of the Beatles’ recordings that were unreleased at the time. He notes that “You Never Give Me Your Money,” the first part of the long set of suites on Side Two of the LP of Abbey Road, was written by Paul McCartney alone. Dowlding quotes George Harrison as saying of the track, “It does two verses of one tune, and then the bridge is almost like a different song altogether, so it’s very melodic.”

And here’s an appropriately titled tune for this piece: Dion’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Book Of Dreams.” It’s from Dion’s 2000 album Déjà Nu.

‘I’m Not S’posin’ . . .’

Thursday, November 12th, 2020

My sister’s record collection, the stuff she took with her in 1972 when she departed Kilian Boulevard and St. Cloud for marriage and a life in the Twin Cities, has been the topic of a few posts here over the years. And I’ve also explored my attempts to find, over the years, the twenty or so LPs that made up that collection.

One of those records, one she bought from the Record Club of America around 1965, was, I think, the acquisition that moved me twenty-some years later to recreate on my own shelves the collection she took with her. And it was also, I think, at least one of the reasons I continue to collect both the music of Ray Conniff and of the wider universe of mid-Sixties easy listening.

I never thought to ask my sister why she chose Conniff’s 1964 album Invisible Tears as one of her selections from the record club, (for about three years, we chose records from the club in alternate months), just as I never thought to ask her why she once chose the album Traditional Jewish Memories. But once the stereo found a permanent home in the basement rec room in 1967, both albums became part of my own regular listening, along with Al Hirt and the soundtracks of John Barry.

The tracks on Invisible Tears were covers of country and pop-folk songs: The title track was a No. 13 hit for Ned Miller on the Billboard country chart in 1964 (Conniff’s version went to No. 57 on the Hot 100 that year). Other tracks included “Honeycomb,” “Oh, Lonesome Me,” “Singing The Blues,” “I Walk The Line,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” That’s stuff, of course, that was made famous by other artists, folks I did not know about then.

And among the other tracks on the album was one titled “S’posin’,” which went:

S’posin’ I should fall in love with you
Do you think that you could love me too?
S’posin’ I should hold you and caress you
Would it impress you or distress you?


S’posin’ I should say “For you I yearn”
Would you think I’m speaking out of turn?
And s’posin’ I declare it
Would you take my love and share it?
I’m not s’posin’,I’m in love with you

S’posin’ I declare it
Would you take my love and share it?
I’m not s’posin,’ I’m in love with you

I’m not s’posin,’ I’m in love with you
I’m not s’posin,’ I’m in love with you

For some reason, the song fascinated the twelve-year-old I was, and I found myself humming or singing it as I went about my tweenage business around the house (which I’m sure was at least a little annoying to the other three occupants). I don’t remember if I had anyone in mind as I sang the song, anyone to whom I wanted to declare my ardor, but I imagine I did.

Then, a few years later, I fell into the Beatles, Chicago, Top 40 radio, underground progressive radio, and all the other musical stuff that’s followed me around for years. And until August 1989, for the most part, I forgot about Ray Conniff and Invisible Tears and “S’posin’.” That was when the album turned up in a box of stuff I picked up at a garage sale, tucked next to records by Peter, Paul & Mary, Roy Hamilton, Percy Faith, James Taylor, Joan Baez, and the Climax Blues Band. (An interesting mix, to be sure.)

The record wasn’t, as I recall it, in very good shape, but through the hiss and the crackle came the sounds from the basement rec room. I still liked most of it, although the continued use of the contraction in “S’posin’” now seemed a silly construct. (And it’s been silly for a long time, as the song, written by Andy Razaf and Paul Denniker, was first recorded in 1929 by Bob Haring & His Orchestra and was most recently recorded by Lesley Lambert in 2017.)

That was about the time, 1989 was, when my record buying became a little manic, and that was about the time – probably inspired by finding Invisible Tears – when I began to replicate my sister’s collection as well as to look for Conniff’s work and the work of other easy listening artists from the mid-1960s. (All of my sister’s collection, Invisible Tears included, is replicated on my digital shelves, as is a lot of the easy listening stuff.)

And I still don’t know why my sister chose the record more than fifty years ago, why it mattered to her then and why it still does. About ten years ago, when she and her husband passed on to me a box of LPs they’d decided were no longer essential, Invisible Tears was not among them.

Here’s “S’posin’.”

And here’s a playlist of the album:

Saturday Single No. 711

Saturday, November 7th, 2020

Now nursing a cold than came in overnight, and wearied by the week of presidential election anxiety, I am of course relieved at the outcome. (Anyone who’s read this blog for even a brief time can certainly assess my political affiliations.) And I think of the places I’ve cast my presidential ballots over the years.

They range from a Lutheran church about a mile from our home on Kilian Boulevard in 1972 to the Senior Center no more than a mile from our condo last Tuesday. Churches, public schools, park rec centers, the St. Cloud Public Works building, Monticello Township Hall. So many places over almost fifty years where I’ve made my small investment in the republic.

And I’m tired. Though if I had to vote again today, I’d be in that distanced line at the Senior Center, waiting for my turn.

Anyway, as I said. I’m tired, and I’m going to spend the day doing very, very little.

Here’s “Lazy Day” by the Moody Blues (which mentions Sunday and not Saturday, but I don’t care). It’s from the 1969 album On The Threshold Of A Dream, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Friday Tune

Friday, November 6th, 2020

It’s been a long election week here in the U.S., no matter what side of the ballot you fall on. And it’s Friday, likely more important for those who still clock in or report to a desk somewhere than for those of us who don’t, but still . . .

So here’s “Friday” by J.J. Cale. It’s from his 1979 album 5.

Monday morning comes too early
Work my back to the bone
All day Monday I keep thinking
“Weekend’s coming, gonna go home”

Tuesday I hate, oh, Tuesday
Ain’t no girls on the streets
Tuesday it ain’t good for nothing
Drinking beer and watching TV

Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, it’s been too long
Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, I want to go home

Wednesday’s hump day, hump day’s Wednesday
Over the hump, the week’s half-gone
If I had my pay on Wednesday
I’d hang out, the hump day’s gone

Thursday, you know I feel better
I can see the end in sight
Think I’ll write myself a letter
Help myself through the night

Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, it’s been too long
Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, I want to go home

Saturday Single No. 710

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

I saw this morning that Sean Connery has died. With that news, another bit of my youth has gone as well. Connery, of course, was the first James Bond,  playing 007 of the British Secret Service in seven films, inhabiting a role that came along with him for the rest of his life, despite fifty-some more films and an Academy Award for the 1987 film The Untouchables.

Here, with a few changes, is a piece I posted in 2007 about my mid-1960s Bond fascination. Though that fascination was anchored as much by Ian Fleming’s books as by the Bond films, Connery’s work in those films – which I still watch at least in part when I stumble into them on cable – remains a potent link to the boy I once was.

And I say, not at all for the first time, Connery – formally Sir Thomas Sean Connery – was Bond, and of the other actors cast in that role, only Daniel Craig has come close.

I had a huge James Bond jones when I was a kid.

I was eleven in 1964 – in sixth grade – when the growing popularity of the novels by Ian Fleming and the first two films based on those novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, burst into full-blown Bondmania with the release of the third film, Goldfinger.

I wanted badly to see the movie, but my parents weren’t sure. After all, the ads looked like they showed a naked woman painted gold. I won’t deny the attraction that held, but it was truly the story of 007 saving the world – or at least the world’s gold supply – that grabbed me. But my folks said no, a little regretfully, I’ve always thought.

They also weren’t sure if I should be allowed to read Fleming’s novels; Dad bought a copy of Goldfinger to see if it would be appropriate for the somewhat precocious urchin I was, but he read it in the evening, just before retiring, and he read at most four or five pages at a time. I despaired as I saw his bookmark make slow progress into the middle of the book.

Then the Minneapolis Star, an evening paper that no longer exists, began to print excerpts from The Man With The Golden Gun, the final novel Fleming completed before his death in August of 1964. My parents saw how avidly I read the twelve or so excerpts, which had to be okay for kid consumption – after all, they were in the evening paper. And I think they began to think that the books might be okay for me, after all.

But the bookmarker still moved slowly. Then, one day, I heard on the radio the main theme to Goldfinger, with the vocal performed by Shirley Bassey. We belonged to a record club, so I ordered the soundtrack to the movie, and once it arrived, I would sit by the stereo, trying to imagine the scenes that went with John Barry’s sometimes lush and sometimes sparely powerful music. I especially liked the instrumental version of the main theme, with its lead and rhythm guitars, its surging horns and its insistent percussion.

Eventually, Dad’s bookmark reached the end of the book, and with a sigh at my impatience and a shrug, he handed me Goldfinger, which I devoured in only a few days. (It was, like almost all of Fleming’s Bond novels, only 191 pages long.) I moved into seventh grade and met a classmate named Brad, who was also a Bondhead. The film version of Thunderball came out; we went to it and I bought the soundtrack. We spent an afternoon at a double feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. We devoured movie magazine pieces about Sean Connery. And we saw Goldfinger when it was re-released.

At the local toy store, where we raced model cars on the big track – we did have some interests beyond Bond – we looked at the items marketed under the 007 license: toy guns, board games, secret agent kits, trick briefcases, and more. As we looked, we wondered in part who would buy such things, and in part, we wanted them.

Secret agents were so cool. Not just James Bond, but Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, the men from U.N.C.L.E. And John le Carré’s Alec Leamas, who was The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, as well as Len Deighton’s nameless agent in The Ipcress File.

My dad took me to see the film based on Deighton’s book, and I read a few “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” books. A copy of Fleming’s Dr. No showed up in my Christmas stocking, and I devoured that as rapidly as I had Goldfinger. And I started to read the rest of the books.

I got two more records: one a low-budget item titled Thunderball, which had a bunch of jazz guys performing themes from all the various secret agent movies and television programs, and one called Sounds For A Secret Agent, on which David Lloyd and his London-based orchestra (a jazzy group, despite the word “orchestra”) offered their versions of themes from the four existing Bond films as well as themes for those Bond titles that had not yet been made into films (excluding Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, evidently because films based on the books were in production at the time Lloyd was recording the project). Brad and I thought that was a great idea, and the music was pretty good, too.

And then, it ended. When eighth grade began, Brad had moved out of town; I never knew where. And although spies and agents were still cool for a while, by the time 1967 rolled around, other things – the rise of the hippie, for one – captured the public’s imagination. I finished reading Fleming’s novels, and I enjoyed them, but about the time I finished the last one, my sister brought home a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I had a new world to explore.

Bond’s exploits and the music that backed them have come along with me, fifty-some years later. I have digital files for all of John Barry’s Bond work and for the two other LPs I got back in 1964-65. I also have files of numerous other LPs that capitalized on Bondmania back then. I’ve not re-read any of the books since the mid-1970s, but I remember the plots, the villains, the women and many of the individual scenes (of the novels, at least; I’d be a little spotty on the five short stories in For Your Eyes Only).

And coming along with all those memories are memories of the kid who read the books, saw the movies, and listened to the music, the kid whose favorite piece from all the John Barry soundtracks was the instrumental version of the theme to Goldfinger. That 1964 track is today’s Saturday Single.