Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

‘I’ve Seen Trouble . . .’

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

I’m finding it hard to lift my head and get anything done that’s not essential. Why? Most likely a combination of my revulsion at the turns our national life seems to be taking these days and the depressive effects of my own cyclical biochemistry, along with, no doubt, grief.

My goal in the midst of that this morning was to write a bit about the fortieth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, but I found little to say. So I let that go, and that’s okay, for as important as Elvis Presley was to the music that I love, I was never more than a casual fan. Others can testify far better than I.

Instead, I went looking for “sorrow” in the RealPlayer and found – among other titles – sixteen versions of the tune “Man of Constant Sorrow,” some with different titles. Wikipedia tells me that the first version of the song was published in 1913 “by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky” under the title “Farewell Song.”

The first recorded version, according to Second Hand Songs, was a release on Vocalion by Emry Arthur in 1928. The website lists fifty-six additional versions of the tune, ranging from a 1951 cover by the Stanley Brothers with the Clinch Mountain Boys to a 2015 cover by Dwight Yoakam.

In the midst of that bit of digging, I ran a search in this blog’s archives and found that I’ve never featured any version of the tune and have mentioned it just once in passing, in a 2007 meditation on the definition of “folk music.”

So here are Peter, Paul & Mary with my favorite version of that oft-covered tune. It was titled simply “Sorrow” and was on their self-titled debut album in 1962.

‘If You See Your Brother . . .’

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

So Glen Campbell’s journey has ended. The Arkansas-born musician – and how slender a reed that word seems, given Campbell’s accomplishments! – died Tuesday in Nashville from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

As happens when someone of Campbell’s stature passes, it’s all over the news, and there seems to be no point in my repeating what others have reported at venues with wider reaches than this one. The New York Times’ coverage is here, and the report from Rolling Stone is here.

And I guess I’ll share here a link to the piece I wrote the day after the Texas Gal and I saw Campbell and his band at the Paramount Theatre here in St. Cloud. The show took place in May 2011, after Campbell had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but before that diagnosis was made public. When Campbell and his family made the public aware of his illness the next month, the Texas Gal and I both nodded, recalling moments during the show when Campbell has seemed a little confused.

Beyond the memories of that wonderful evening at the Paramount, I have plenty of Campbell’s music around: A total of 103 tracks on the digital shelves encompassing the four great 1960s albums, Gentle On My Mind, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Wichita Lineman and Galveston plus his 1968 album of duets with Bobbie Gentry and some other bits and pieces. And rummaging through them this morning, one of them brought me an “Oh, yes,” moment.

I have no idea what Glen Campbell would want for his musical epitaph, maybe something from his last album, Adiós, released earlier this year, or maybe something else from the final cluster of albums released since his condition was made public. But one of the tracks on my digital shelves spoke to me this morning. It went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November of 1969, peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s country chart and was No. 1 for a week on the easy listening chart. Here’s “Try A Little Kindness.”

‘A Time For Us . . .’

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

A quick glance this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from July 26, 1969 – forty-eight years ago today – brought back a treasured memory from the following summer. Perched at No. 10 this week in 1969 was Henry Mancini’s cover of “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet.”

During early August of 1970, I spent a week at Boy Scout camp as an instructor for Troop 112, which was sponsored by our church, St. Cloud’s Salem Lutheran. I was also the troop’s bugler, rousing our scouts every morning with a poor version of “Reveille” and easing them into their sleeping bags at night with “Taps,” a tune more suited for my skills.

On one of the evenings we spent in the pines of Camp Clyde (or perhaps Parker Scout Reserve, which became the camp’s name somewhere along the line), the boys in my troop asked me to play some music on my horn as we sat around a campfire. I was pretty good at playing by ear, so I offered them a few tunes we’d all heard on the radio over the past year. After about fifteen minutes, with my fellow scouts pretty attentive for adolescent boys, I decided to close my little show with the “Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet,” perhaps better known by that time as “A Time For Us.”

By the summer of 1970, I’d been playing my cornet for about six years, and I’d play for another two or three, but I don’t know if I’ve ever played any better than I did during those three or so minutes when I offered Nino Rota’s melody to my troop members and to those scouts at other campsites within earshot in the pine forest. As the last notes from my horn faded in the fire-lit dark, the scouts from Troop 112 were utterly silent. And a few moments later, over their silence, came faint applause from several directions, as scouts at those other campsites offered their appreciation.

Here’s Mancini’s version:

I can’t remember if I had read William Shakespeare’s play by 1968, when Franco Zeffirelli’s film version came out, the film for which Nino Rota wrote the theme that Mancini covered with his 1969 record. But I was certainly aware by then of the plot of the play; the budding romantic in me would have latched tightly onto the theme of doomed love. And the tune was beautiful, so when Mancini’s version hit the airwaves during the summer of 1969, I was a willing absorber.

Where did I hear Mancini’s record? All over the place, no doubt. The record was No. 1 on KDWB’s “6+30” for the week of June 23, 1969, so I’m sure I heard it as I was hanging around with my friends, even though I was still a few weeks away from bringing my grandfather’s old RCA radio up to my room from the basement to feed my burgeoning interest in Top 40 music. And I certainly heard it elsewhere, too. Not only did Mancini’s record spend the last week of June and the first week of July at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, it spent all of June and July on top of the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, which meant I would have heard it on the Twin Cities’ WCCO as well as on St. Cloud’s WJON and KFAM.

Mancini’s version of the tune was the only one to hit the Top 40, although Johnny Mathis placed a vocal cover – “Love Theme From ‘Romeo And Juliet’ (A Time For Us)” – at No. 8 on the Easy Listening chart. I don’t recall hearing Mathis’ version until I sought it out this morning, and although I’ve generally liked Mathis’ work over the years, I didn’t care for it. I pondered that, and as I did, I took a look at the digital shelves here and got a slight surprise: Of the nineteen versions of the tune here at the EITW studios, seventeen are instrumentals.

The only two vocal versions are by the Lettermen and Bobby Sherman. And even I shake my head at the latter name. The Lettermen, I can understand. Their version of the tune was on the 1969 album Hurt So Bad, an album my sister owned and that I listened to regularly in the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard. But the Bobby Sherman version of the tune isn’t something I would have sought on its own; all I can figure is that when I looked for Sherman’s version of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” I found it on Sherman’s self-titled album from 1969 and “A Time For Us” came along as collateral damage.

Anyway, as the digital evidence points out, I prefer the Rota tune without the words. And it turns out the words we’ve heard so frequently for almost fifty years weren’t the original ones. The song was originally titled “What Is A Youth,” with lyrics by Eugene Walter. It was performed in Zeffirelli’s film by Glen Weston during the scene that sets up the first meeting of Romeo and Juliet at a party at the Capulet home. (The video of that scene – with the original performance of the original lyrics – cannot be embedded but can be seen here.)

Those lyrics – seemingly well-suited for the film’s setting in Renaissance Italy, have long since been pushed out of mass awareness by the lyrics crafted for the tune by Eddie Snyder and Larry Kusik. According to Second Hand Songs, those lyrics, with the song bearing the title “A Time For Us,” were first recorded in 1968 by Merrill Womach, a forty-one year old undertaker and gospel singer from Spokane, Washington. It was released on his 1968 album A Time For Us.

The first release of “A Time For Us” by a well-known performer followed quickly, according to the list at SHS: Shirley Bassey released her version of the song on her 1968 album This Is My Life, and the Lettermen followed with their version the next year. After that, SHS lists thirty-four more vocal versions.

As to instrumental versions, the first, says SHS, was Rota’s use of his theme in the film’s soundtrack under the title “In Capulet’s Tomb.” The first cover listed there came from Mancini, and the website lists forty-two more recordings under the title of “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet.”

Add a few instrumentals recorded as “A Time For Us” and about fifteen versions listed in Italian, Portuguese and Finnish (!), and there are about a hundred versions of the tune listed at SHS. There are no doubt more out there. My favorite? The Mancini version, although I’m tempted to say that my favorite version is the one that I sent out among the pines one summer night in 1970.

‘Estate’

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

The week is getting away, what with the holiday Tuesday and a meeting yesterday with Mom’s bank, working through some of the details for settling Mom’s estate. That should all be sorted through in a couple of months, but it’s going to be time-consuming (more for my sister than for me, although she’s asked me to pick up a couple of tasks).

Among my tasks for today is to call the storage place and change the billing for the two units where we have a lot of Mom’s furniture and some other stuff. We’re thinking about an estate sale in October to take care of most of things in the units.

And, since the word “estate” is on my mind, I searched for it among the 95,000-plus mp3s in the RealPlayer this morning, and I came up with eighteen tracks. Ten of them comprise the 1974 album Estate Of Mind by American singer/songwriter Evie Sands. It’s an album that I don’t know well. Perhaps I should give it more attention, since John Bush of AllMusic writes in his review that Estate Of Mind “was one of the better pop/rock albums of the mid-’70s,” adding in a parenthetical note, “It certainly deserved better than its poor sales performance.”

Another seven of the “estate” tracks come from the late Sixties group the Fifth Estate, known solely in most quarters for getting a No. 11 hit in 1967 out of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” from The Wizard Of Oz. Those seven tracks also include a couple of similar follow-ups to the hit, covers of “Heigh-Ho” from the 1937 Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and of “The Mickey Mouse Club Mouse March.” Neither of the follow-ups charted. (As to why I have the other four tracks from The Fifth Estate, I’m not at all sure. Things happen.)

The final track with “estate” in its title is “Estate (Summer)” by the Brazilian pianist and singer Eliane Elias, from her 2008 album Bossa Nova Stories. Her take on the Bruno Martino song is lush and languid and perfect for today. Here’s an English translation of the words that I found at the website of jazz pianist Michael Sattler:

Summer
You are as hot as the kisses that I have lost
You are filled with a love that is over
That my heart would like to erase

Summer
The sun that warmed us every day,
That painted beautiful sunsets,
Now only burns with fury

There will come another winter
Thousands of rose petals will fall
The snow will cover all
And perhaps a little peace will return

Summer
That gave its perfume to every flower
The summer that created our love
To let me now die of pain

Summer

‘Oh, Ain’t You Glad . . .’

Friday, June 30th, 2017

It’s time to revive the project we called “Covering Cocker” after a long time away from it. So we resume pulling together covers of the ten tracks on the 1969 album that’s long been one of my favorites, Joe Cocker!

When I started digging around on the Intertubes for covers, the vast majority of the songs on the record provided riches: Most had been covered many, many times, often leaving me with difficult decisions (some of which I have still put off). I was, however, concerned about one of the tracks on the album: “That’s Your Business,” written by Cocker and keyboard player Chris Stainton. How many covers of that tune would I find? Would I find any?

Well, I found one, a single by an Australian group called Hot Rocket released on the Festival Label in 1971. There’s not a lot of information out there about the group, a fact that also hampered the writer of the blog Ozzie Music Man during the writing of a post eight years ago. I’ve done some editing, but here’s what the blog reported:

Hot Rocket is a Sydney honky-tonk rock band who only released one single . . . “That’s Your Business.” They are another one of those bands that are hard to find any info about. But who knows? Maybe one day a producer, band member or even the tea lady might stumble over this blog and leave me some more details . . . you never know. The band members were Paul Coates (vocals), Jan Dezwaan (keyboards) Dave Gibbons (vocals & [producer of] this single) Phil Layton (sax, flute) John Swanton (drums) John Taylor & Rod Webster.

In the comments section below that 2009 post, a reader tells Ozzie Music Man that Hot Rocket actually released another single, “Bottle Of Red Wine b/w Rock And Roll Hootchie Koo.” And a few comments down, as the writer anticipated might happen, a member of Hot Rocket – Dave Gibbons – chimes in with some comments about the band’s line-up.

Beyond that, I know nothing about Hot Rocket except that the band’s cover of “That’s Your Business” made it possible for me to cover Joe Cocker! Here’s the single:

The earlier installments of “Covering Cocker” can be found here.

‘Like A Summer Thursday’

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Grasping at straws this morning and trying to right my ship, I checked the tracks in the RealPlayer that had the word “Thursday” in their titles. There were three:

“Thursday” by Country Joe & The Fish, from their 1969 album I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die.

“Thursday” by Jim Croce, from his 1973 album I Got A Name.

And “Like A Summer Thursday” by Townes Van Zandt, from his 1969 album Our Mother The Mountain.

I knew the first two well. The Van Zandt, I’d no doubt heard but did not know well, so I let it play. And I was a little startled. From where I listen, much of the late singer/songwriter’s work has melancholy undercurrents. “Like A Summer Thursday,” however, has the melancholy right on the surface:

Her face was crystal
Fair and fine
Her breath was morning
Her lips were wine
Her eyes were laughter
Her touch divine
Her face was crystal
And she was mine

If only she
Could feel my pain
But feelin’ is a burden
She can’t sustain
So like a summer Thursday
I cry for rain
To come and turn
The ground to green again

If only she
Could hear my songs
’Bout the empty difference
’Tween the rights and wrongs
Then I know that I
Could stand alone
As well as they
Now that she’s gone

Her face was crystal
Fair and fine
Her breath was morning
Her lips were wine
Her eyes were laughter
Her touch divine
Her face was crystal
And she was mine

It’s a lovely track:

Struggling

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

I’m not doing all that well right now. Understandable, I suppose. I posted at Facebook yesterday:

“My home phone number when I was a kid was BLackburn 1-5557. When exchanges were dropped, it became 251-5557. Mom once told me that they got the number sometime before we moved from our apartment on Riverside Drive to our house on Kilian Boulevard in February 1957. So that was Mom’s phone number for more than sixty years. Sometime this afternoon, it will be disconnected. . . . I’ve been closing accounts and cancelling subscriptions for a week now. This one hurts.”

I’ve got nothing else to say right now, and too many sad tasks ahead of me yet.

Here’s “Samba Triste” – or “Sad Samba” – by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. It’s from their 1962 album Jazz Samba.

‘Weary’

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Well, the ceremonies and formalities are over, and we’ve laid Mom to rest next to Dad in the Lutheran Church cemetery in Dad’s hometown of Cambridge. And we’re slowly getting back into the rhythms of everyday life: laundry, housework, cooking, watering the garden.

There are still some tasks left, things like getting out “thank you” cards, and my sister and I will begin that tomorrow. It won’t take too long. And we’ll have to take care of Mom’s estate, although that should be relatively easy, as Mom and Dad had things pretty well planned years ago.

And someday soon, we’ll pick up the threads of some of the various themes I’ve played with here over the past year and dig deep into some music. But right now, I’m weary, both physically and emotionally, so I’m just going to go out and water the garden and then take care of some household tasks that have been mostly ignored over the last two months.

Here’s the folk duo of Jim & Jean with “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” It was originally on their 1966 album Changes.

Gregg Allman, 1947-2017

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

I can’t tell you when I first noticed Gregg Allman’s voice, but I know where I was.

That first moment might have been during the autumn of 1973, but it more likely was early the next year. Either way, it happened in the lounge of the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark. Among the small collection of cassette tapes we St. Cloud State students had pooled in the lounge were the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat A Peach and Brothers & Sisters, as well as the first Duane Allman anthology, which had on its fourth side a few other tracks from the band.

The lounge was the epicenter of life for those of us living at the hostel – a group I joined in late January 1974 after living for about five months with a Danish family – and music from the tape player was one of the constants of time in the lounge. And although I no doubt heard one of the tracks by the Allman Brothers during my brief visits to the hostel in the months before I moved there, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t until I took up residence there that I sat still in the lounge long enough to truly listen to Gregg Allman’s voice in front of the band he and his late brother had assembled.

This matters of course, because Gregg Allman died last Saturday in Savannah, Georgia, from liver cancer. To music fans, his tale is familiar: The Florida childhood, the early recordings with his brother, Duane, as record companies tried to shoehorn the brothers’ talents into boxes, the formation of the Allman Brothers Band and the world success that followed, then addiction, pain, missteps both personal and professional, the resurrection of the ABB (albeit without his late brother and the also deceased original bassist Berry Oakley, and later, original guitarist Dickey Betts), illness and so much more, right to the end.

If anyone wants to write a Southern gothic rock opera, the story is there for the taking.

As interesting as the story is, I’ll leave it to others; here’s Rolling Stone’s piece on Allman’s death and life. To me, what mattered was the music, especially those albums I heard in Denmark and acquired soon after I came home, those and the other early works I soon collected as well. The music I’d heard in the lounge, I knew – and still know – note for note, having been immersed in it nearly every evening for something more than two months. The stuff that was new to me – most of the group’s self-titled 1969 debut, 1970’s Idlewild South and the 1971 Fillmore East album – took longer to work its way into me but it did so eventually. And I have some of Allman’s work – both with the ABB and as a solo artist – from the later years into the 1990s, as well, although I don’t know that music as well.

So, like much of the music I listened during the years from, oh, 1969 into 1975, the Allman Brothers Band’s early work, with Allman’s voice, gruff, bluesy and tender by turns, leading the way, is part of my foundation.

Still, I try not to let the music I love get trapped in time, to let it belong only to one year, one decade, one moment. That’s hard for any music lover, I think, but it seems especially hard for me, given my fascination with how music and memory entwine. I don’t think that Gregg Allman’s work – as the voice of the ABB and on his own – is frozen like that for me, locked in the Pro Pace lounge. “Dreams,” from The Allman Brothers Band, popped up on a CD in the car the other day, and as I drove, I was listening to a song that mattered right then, not just to a memory. I thought about that as I drove and listened, and I was pleased.

And “Dreams,” from 1969, seems to be a good place to close this awkward appreciation of Gregg Allman.

Complications & Fries Again

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The vacant corner lot up the road is being developed. Fences are up, dirt’s being pushed around, and a concrete platform for utility meters has gone up. A sign along the Highway 10 frontage road says that a self-storage place is going in. I’m glad to see something’s being done with the corner – the East Side needs more commerce – but I was hoping for something less prosaic. After all, the corner lot used to be the site of a place that mattered to me. Here’s a post I wrote about the place back in 2009.

Just up the road from our place, right next to U.S. Highway 10, is a vacant building. Sometime in the last year, the auctioneer came by. They sold the booths and the counters, the grill and the deep-fat fryers, the hydraulic lifts and the gas pumps, the tool cabinets and all of the things that made the little building a gas station and restaurant for as many years as I can remember.

It was called Townsedge, and that was accurate enough in a practical sense. For many years, when folks would come into St. Cloud from the Twin Cities, Townsedge was the first gas station or restaurant they saw. They’d pass by a few other places – the marine shop, the masonry place and a used car lot or two – but if folks on the road had the usual travelers’ needs, Townsedge was the first place they saw where those needs could be met: Fill your tank, check the oil, buy a pack of smokes, sit down in a booth for a few minutes and have a cheeseburger straight from the grill, with a couple of pickle slices on the plate and a basket of fries on the side.

It was the kind of place you don’t often find anymore, and that’s truly a shame. There was another place like Townsedge across Highway 10, Fred’s Cafe, a classic American truck stop, and both Fred’s and Townsedge did well for many years. When Fred’s went out of business – that happened during the years I was away, but I think it was in the early 1990s – a chain convenience store/gas station took its place, and I’m sure that took business away from Townsedge. And when a franchised burger place opened up a couple of years ago about half a block from Townsedge, that pretty much told the tale.

After Dad retired, my folks went to Townsedge for coffee a couple of times a week, and after the Texas Gal and I moved here in 2002, I’d walk over and join them every once in a while. As we sat, I’d look around the place and gauge the ages of the customers. I’d see a few single moms with kids, but not many. Most of the time, I was the youngest person in the place (except for one or two of the waitresses). Once Dad was gone and Mom moved, I had no reason to go into Townsedge anymore, and not too long after that, I saw the “Closed” sign in the window as I drove by one day. And eventually, the auctioneer came by.

Places come and go, but Townsedge – as it was in the 1970s, not as it was in its last years – was a special place for a couple of reasons. First, the fries. The French fries at Townsedge – golden and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – were among the best I have ever had. I’ve been to a few other places over the years whose fries were better, but when I was in high school, Townsedge had the best fries in town, and the little cafe was frequently the last stop during an evening spent out with friends.

Then there was the evening in early December 1970, during my senior year of high school. The St. Cloud Tech High School choirs had performed in concert, and a young lady and I were going to double up with another couple for burgers and fries at Townsedge. For some reason, the other guy had to cancel, so there were only three of us, my date and me on one side of the booth and the other young lady sitting across from us.

I dropped a quarter into the jukebox terminal in our booth. I have no idea what I played, but one of the other young folks elsewhere in the cafe had cued up the week’s No. 1 record, and that’s what we heard first. My date sang along for a few moments with the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” We all laughed, and I realized that my life right then was about as complicated as it had ever been. None of us mentioned it, but all three of us – my date, the other young lady and I – knew that if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been sitting on the other side of the booth, next to the gal whose boyfriend hadn’t been able to join us.

Then the waitress brought us our burgers and fries, and life moved on.

And here’s “I Think I Love You.”