Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

How Many Junks?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Summer – in a cultural sense – starts this week, the last days of May. (In a meterological sense, summer starts with the solstice, which will take place here in the American Midwest at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, June 21.) But these days of dwindling May have been disappointing, with too many clouds and too much rain and very few sunny days.

And that’s been a problem, as the Texas Gal has taken this week off from work, and we’d like to play in the sunshine. (Well, it was just as well that yesterday was kind of ooky, as we both had dental appointments and neither of us – especially she – wants to waste a nice day with the mundane unpleasantness of that.) Today, however, promises better times with a high temperature of about 75 (Fahrenheit) and – if I am reading the forecast on my phone correctly – at least dappled sunshine for the day.

So we’re going to go play in a few hours, starting with a lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Then we’re going to wander a little ways from St. Cloud, looking for antique stores or junk shoppes that we have not visited recently. How many junks we buy depends on both our moods and our assessments of our wallets.

I had thought about dropping in here a song with “summer” found somewhere in its title, but the last sentence of that last paragraph pushed me in a different direction. Here’s Paul McCartney’s lovely brief ballad “Junk.” It was written in India in 1968 and was passed over for inclusion on the White Album and Abbey Road, finally seeing release on the solo album McCartney in 1970.

Saturday Single No. 642

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Here’s a piece that ran here in October 2015. I’m running it again today because of the number in the heading above. As you’ll see lower down, the minor mystery has been solved.

My sister and I had one of those “oh, my” moments last week at Mom’s storage unit when we found Dad’s alarm clock in a box of stuff. Every night he was home during his more than forty-six years on Kilian Boulevard, Dad had wound the little brown clock – Westclox? Timex? I don’t recall right now – and checked the alarm before setting it back on the nightstand and turning off the light for the evening.

It was that brown alarm clock that had started our weekdays during the school year, waking Mom and Dad at 6 a.m. They’d get dressed, and then Dad would rouse my sister and me while Mom headed downstairs to make breakfast for all of us.

When my second year of college started in September 1972, after my sister had decamped during the summer for marriage and a life in the Twin Cities, my mom decided to sleep in most mornings. That meant it was just Dad and me during the early morning, getting ready for our days across the river at St. Cloud State. He’d rise and dress, then wake me, and both of us would head out the door and drive off right around 7 a.m., he in his 1952 Ford and me in the 1961 Falcon I’d just inherited from my sister.

And for some reason, as the college quarter started during September 1972, Dad began waking me exactly at 6:42 a.m. Every day. Why that exact minute? I have no idea. But for some reason, that minute mattered.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sleeping, having surfaced from slumber to a half-waking state (a place between dreams and reality that I find quite pleasant), and I’d be aware of Dad standing next to my bed. Moments later, I’d hear the very faint click as the plastic tile in my clock radio flipped down, changing the time from 6:41 to 6:42, and Dad would shake my shoulder gently.

I’d nod, he’d head down the stairs to the kitchen, and I’d get out of bed and prepare for the day. By that time, neither of us ate breakfast at home, but when I got down to the kitchen, there would be a small glass of V-8 Juice and a larger glass of milk at my place at the table. I drank them standing up, and we’d head out.

And that’s how I started pretty much every school and work day from the autumn of 1972 until I moved away from Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 (my time in Denmark excluded, although even there, I was an early riser). I never knew the significance of 6:42, and I never asked. I once mentioned it to my sister, and learned that before she left home, she was the 6:42 riser, with me following. Our conversation went elsewhere, so I never asked her the significance, if any, the minute had.

And I suppose I could have asked her last week, as she and I stood in the storage unit, looking at Dad’s clock with memories whirling in our heads. I didn’t think to do so.

She held up the clock and looked at me, as if to ask what to do with it. I shrugged; there are only so many things one can keep. She shrugged, too, and she placed Dad’s alarm clock into the box of things destined for an antique store.

In the time since I wrote this, I’ve asked my sister: Why 6:42? She said that she and Dad had learned that her rising at 6:42 gave her just enough morning preparation time to be ready to leave the house at 7 a.m. “That’s the only significance it had,” she said. And after my sister left Kilian Boulevard for her married life, I unknowingly inherited her schedule. As prosaic and utilitarian as that might have been, any time I see those three digits – whether as 6:42 or 642 – they bring me back to a time when I was much younger and my Dad was still here, winding his alarm clock every night.

And here’s an appropriately titled tune from the late Richie Havens: “Younger Men Grow Older.” It’s from an even more appropriately titled album, 1971’s Alarm Clock.

Time

Tuesday, May 14th, 2019

A Facebook friend of mine posted this morning a photo of herself and her daughter from some decades ago, noting that, “Lately, the years of my life seem to be flying by so much faster. Telephone poles whizzing by my train window, the scenery just a blur.”

I understand, though I did not always. I’ve told the story before, back in 2007:

During my college days – it must have been in 1975 – Mom was away for a few days, and Dad and I were batching it. One evening, we headed downtown to the House of Pizza – without question my all-time favorite pizza place – for dinner and a couple of beers. As we sipped our beers after dinner, the conversation turned to the passage of time.

“You know,” he said, “for someone your age” – I was twenty-one – “time seems to go slowly. As you go on, you’ll see that it begins to speed up. And by the time you get to be my age” – he was fifty-five – “it begins to move so rapidly that the years just fly, and it’s hard to keep track of it.”

I’m sure I nodded, not comprehending. He’d had a heart attack the previous autumn, and it could be that he was feeling that first chill of mortality. Maybe not. But something spurred him to talk for one of the few times I recall about how he felt about at least a part of his life. And I guess that’s why it’s such a clear memory.

As it turned out, Dad had another twenty-eight years left. I’ll turn fifty-four next week, just one year younger than Dad was that evening when we had pizza and beer. . . . I have no conclusions to draw, just the observation that my father was right, and the days and months and years seem to be accelerating, carrying me and those I love along.

I’m sixty-five now, and each of the eleven years since I wrote that has flown more rapidly yet, sweet years flitting past. I never got the chance to tell Dad he was right.

A search for “time” among the 77,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer pulls up more than 2,800 results. That includes artists’ names and album titles, of course, so some of those go away. But there are plenty of tracks still from which to choose.

Having waded through about half of the options, I came across a song called “Of Time And Rivers Flowing” that showed up in 1998 on the album Where Have All The Flowers Gone – The Songs Of Pete Seeger. I’ve never mentioned it, which I find a little odd, as the performance on the tribute album came from Richie Havens.

Of time and rivers flowing
The seasons make a song
And we who live beside her
Still try to sing along
Of rivers, and fish, and men
And the season still a-comin’
When she’ll run clear again.

So many homeless sailors
So many winds that blow
I asked the half-blind scholars
Which way the currents go
So cast your nets below
And the gods of the moving waters
Will tell us all they know.

The circles of the planets
The circles of the moon
The circles of the atoms
All play a marching tune
And we who would join in
Stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.

We can stand aside no longer
Now let us all begin.

Taking Time

Friday, May 10th, 2019

I haven’t been entirely lazy during the last week. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’ve been scanning old family pictures that my sister and I have found in various boxes, spending a couple hours each day at the desk sorting out the in-focus shots from those more fuzzy.

Along with that, I’ve been attaching the occasional scanned photo to the pages of appropriate relatives at my family tree at Ancestry.com, where I’ve been digging for a while.

The one thing I have not done this week is anything regarding blogging, whether about music or anything else. I general write early in the morning, but this week I’ve been sleeping in, perhaps because I still need down time. After all, the doctors did say when I had my surgery in January that, although I could resume normal activities in April, it would be about a year before I’d be fully recovered. And I do tire easily.

So I took a week for me. And in the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what I might write about when I come back to this space. I’ve got no major plans for today. I have an idea for tomorrow’s Saturday Single. And I think that next week, Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny and Richard and Linda Thompson will be featured here at least once, as I don’t think I’ve ever written much about them.

But for today, I’m just happy to open the file and put down some words. As for music, I took a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago today – May 10, 1969 – and found at No. 100 a record I featured here a little more than eight years ago, which is an eternity in blog time. Here’s Wilson Pickett’s not-entirely-successful cover of Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild,” which peaked at No. 64.

Forty-Nine Years

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Here’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with the version of “Ohio” that was included on the live album 4 Way Street, assembled from 1970 performances in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and released in 1971.

‘And they’re off!’

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

DerbyI’m not sure when I got the game. I might have been twelve. But at some store – Woolworth’s? Kresge’s? I don’t remember – I saw the Kentucky Derby Racing Game and wanted it enough to either wheedle its price out of one of my parents or pay for it with my own limited funds. (More likely the former.)

It really wasn’t much of a game, as a glance at the photo above reveals. The winner was the horse whose number came up on the spinner fifteen times. No favorites, no dark horses, no upsets. Just spins of a plastic arrow. I played it frequently for a while, then sporadically for a longer while, then not at all.

Eventually, it sat in a closet at the house on Kilian Boulevard waiting for its now-adult owner to deal with it. I think it was among the toys I took to a dealer at an antique mall out by the freeway a year or so after Dad died.

What did intrigue me about the game were the names of the seven horses: Swaps, Needles, Iron Liege, Tim Tam, Tomy Lee, Venetian Way, and Carry Back. Those, I learned after some time playing the game, were the winners of the Kentucky Derby from 1955 through 1961. Earlier versions of the game – and it seems to date back at least to the 1930s – seem to have had only five horses (based on listings at Ebay) and, of course, differing rosters of horses, including Citation, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Gallant Fox and likely more.

And I became fascinated for a time with the act of naming thoroughbred horses. The names seemed so odd and random. And since I was also deeply into naming sports teams (and designing their logos) in those days – a hobby I’ve mentioned before – I began compiling a short list of horse names. That list is long gone, and I recall only one of the names: Walter’s Warrior. (Even at 14 or so, I was a major fan of alliteration.)

I still find the breeding and naming of thoroughbreds interesting. I spent some time the other evening digging into the breeding line of this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite, Omaha Beach. (The horse was scratched from the race – and the other two Triple Crown races – yesterday because of a throat ailment.)

And I’m currently reading Christopher McGrath’s book Mr. Darley’s Arabian, which details the long lineage of a horse brought to England from Aleppo (in today’s Syria) in the early 1700s, a horse that McGrath says is the ancestor of nearly every thoroughbred raced today in England, North American and Australia. (Two other Arabians were also in the genetic mix early, but those lines, McGrath says, have nearly faded away.)

Beyond my general curiosity about a wide range of things, I know that one of the things that got me interested in thoroughbred racing, lineage and names was discovering the names of those seven horses in my Kentucky Derby Racing Game years ago. (The saga of Secretariat when I was nineteen did not hurt, either.) I don’t know if newer versions exist of the game (either as a board game or digital doodad), but it’s nice to think that some urchin somewhere will someday open a racing game that features Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, Always Dreaming, and Justify along with the winner of tomorrow’s 145th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Keeping to the topic (in terms of the title, at least), here’s Little Richard with “Last Year’s Race Horse (Can’t Run In This Year’s Race).” It was originally intended for the unreleased 1972 album Southern Child and showed up on the 2005 release King of Rock & Roll: Complete Reprise Recordings.

Preparation Time

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Over the past few weeks, as I’ve become more active, I’ve been running more and more errands, resuming one of my roles that was transferred to the Texas Gal in the weeks after my January surgery, And as has long been my habit, as I drive around town, I listen to full CDs by favorite performers. And the focus for the past couple weeks has been the music of the Freddy Jones Band.

A note here: Those duties have been temporarily interrupted by an early Wednesday morning visit to the Emergency Room. What I feared was a serious problem turned out to be a much-less-major concern, but the medical tests to determine that have left me fatigued and in some pain (compounded by the ongoing recovery from January’s back surgery). Still, I feel much better today than I did yesterday, and I assume that by the beginning of next week, I’ll be back on the errand trail with the Freddy Jones Band keeping me company.

As I noted once before here, I am likely one of the few people with a complete set of albums by the Freddy Jones Band. (Eight CDs from 1993 through 2015, one of them a compilation. There may be a stand-alone single or two that I do not have.) Why? Well, for a couple simple reasons: I like the band’s rootsy and generally happy sound. And that sound takes me back to the 1990s, the bulk of which I spent on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.

My main radio station during those years was Minneapolis’ Cities 97, playing an eclectic mix of mainstream rock, and several early tracks by the Freddy Jones Band came through my stereo speakers on quiet evenings: “Hold On To Midnight,” “In A Daydream,” “One World” and likely a few more.

Some of the music that pulls me back to those years from 1992 into 1999, tunes from other performers, is a little moody and reminds me of the less happy times I spent there. But the tunes of the Freddy Jones band remind me of the good things, the joys I found living in an urban environment: The butcher shop and barbershop I frequented on Thirty-Sixth Street and the nearby Vietnamese restaurant; Mojo’s coffeehouse on Grand Avenue, just a block away; and five blocks north (for the first few of those seven years, then a little bit farther away), Cheapo’s, the used record store where I spent inordinate amounts of time and money during those seven years.

And since one of the purposes of music in my life is to cement my memories in place, it’s been a little reaffirming to be reminded that the years I spent on Pleasant Avenue were not all lost time. I sometimes look back at those years and grieve for what I see as time spent trying – with only a little success – to figure out where I fit into the world. And then I think about a line I wrote in a song for a friend in the past year or so: “Time away is not time lost, and seasons always turn.”

So when I hear the Freddy Jones Band as I go about my errands, I realize that those years were better than I sometimes remember, and, if nothing else, they were preparation for the sweet years I’ve lived since. And that makes the Freddy Jones Band even more important to me.

Here’s “One World” from the band’s 1993 album Waiting For The Night, written by the group’s Marty Lloyd.

On the gypsies avenue tonight
Hundred lairs seem like a thousand candle lights
I do not read what the signs they have to say
In my soul there are riches locked away

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away

If you lost all of your obsessions
Could you part or would you cling to be your possessions?
I do believe in a sweet imagination
An open road paved by inspiration

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away

So many thorns wrapped around your ankles
Pretty gold that is taken by the banker
But I believe in a sweeter than sensation
An open path that’s not choking with temptation

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away
One world within, afraid of the gold
Unlock the doors in anger with the keys you hold

One world within, afraid to be sold

And the thorns around your ankle
Makes you bleed and bleed and bleed in gold

One world within, one heart is beating still today
An open road, one love can carry you away

X’s & O’s

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Watching the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four this past weekend reminded me of the one time in my life I was a basketball scout. (The Final Four took place in Minneapolis, seventy miles away, but I watched from my study, not tempted one minute to be in the midst of the activity. Had I been thirty years younger, things might have been different.)

The weekend’s games brought to mind a weekend in early 1979: The Other Half and I were heading northwest from Monticello about 125 miles to visit her family, who lived between the two small towns of Eagle Bend and Parkers Prairie, going up Saturday morning and coming back Sunday afternoon.

On my newspaper rounds that Friday, I mentioned our plans to the boys’ basketball coach at Big Lake High School. “Really?” he said. “I noticed that Swanville is playing at Eagle Bend Saturday night. They’re supposed to be good, but nobody I know has had a chance to look at them.”

That wasn’t surprising. The basketball district included about twelve schools – smaller ones tagged as Class A by the state high school league – all within about forty-five miles of St. Cloud. Big Lake was at the southeastern corner of the district, and Swanville, a burg of about 300, was in the northwestern corner of the district.

The coach looked at me, and I knew what was coming: “What are you doing Saturday night?”

I had no plans other than being in the farmhouse halfway between Eagle Bend and Parkers Prairie with the Other Half, her parents and her nine siblings. Based on previous visits, it wasn’t like we all did things together around the huge kitchen table. The Other Half would be catching up with her mom and her sisters, and I’d likely be on my own.

“I’ll see if I can get into town,” I told the coach. “But you know that I’m not an X’s and O’s guy. I’m not that good.” After all, I’d only been covering basketball for a little more than a year.

He dismissed that concern with a wave of his hand. “You’ve learned more than you think,” he said. “You can tell zone from man-to-man, you can tell when a team likes to press or to run fast off rebounds. You can see a team’s tendencies in the half-court game.”

He shrugged. “And even if you couldn’t see all of that, you might see one thing that gives us some insight if we end up playing them in the tournament.”

So after dinner Saturday evening, I drove our Toyota from the farm to Eagle Bend High School to watch the Eagles host the Swans. As it happened, my father-in-law was on duty that evening as a custodian at the high school, so I stopped in at his workroom for a few minutes, then headed into the gym with my notebook.

I don’t recall if the Swans played man or zone. I don’t remember if they won the game although I think so, as they had a far better record coming in than did the Eagles. I do remember one thing about their half-court offense: From the top of the key, the Swans would pass the ball to the side about halfway between mid-court and the baseline. From there would come a pass to a player in the corner, and he would attempt to drive along the baseline and shoot. If the shot wasn’t there, he’d retreat to the corner, passing the ball back to the top of the key for a shot or more rarely, a pass to the halfway point on the other side of the court, followed by another attempt at baseline penetration.

I’d watched a lot of high school basketball games in the previous year and a half, and I’d never seen anything like what the Swans were doing. It looked odd and inefficient.

At halftime, the fellow I’d noticed doing radio play-by-play of the game approached me. If I recall this correctly, a decal on his equipment or a patch on his jacket told me he was from a station in Wadena, a larger town a little bit north of Eagle Bend. He asked if I was a reporter, and I said I was but that I was playing the role of scout for the Big Lake coach. He invited me to join him on the air to talk about the teams in the southern portion of the district, and I shared what I knew and what I thought for a few minutes.

He asked me who I thought might reach the district title game, and I said that based on what I’d read and seen, it would be the teams from Big Lake and from Albany, which is just a little northwest of St. Cloud. (I was right: In the title game, Albany’s tough defense shut down Big Lake’s running game and outside shooting, ending the Hornets’ season for the second year in a row; a year earlier, the loss had come in the quarterfinals.)

The Swans beat the Eagles, and I headed via country roads to the farmhouse and – a day later – back to Monticello. On Monday, when I made my regular stop at Big Lake High School, I handed in my scouting report. When tournament time came, the bracket put Swanville up against the Bulldogs from Becker, eight miles northwest of Big Lake, and – without my knowing it – the Big Lake coach passed my notes onto the coach from Becker, a close friend.

And on another Monday, the Big Lake coach told me he’d talked to the Becker coach over the weekend, following Becker’s victory over Swanville. “He said that Swanville did exactly what you said they’d do,” the Big Lake coach told me. “From the key to the side, down to the baseline and back to the key with a few outside shots added. Becker shut down the baseline, challenged the outside shooters and frustrated ’em all night long.”

I’ve never been called on to scout another game. Why should I? I’m 1-0.

I have one track on the digital shelves that has the word “basketball” in its title. (I expected at least two, but I tend to forget that I lost my copy of “Basketball Jones” in the hard drive crash a couple of years back and haven’t replaced it.) Here’s “I Never Play Basketball Now” by Prefab Sprout. It’s from the English band’s 1984 debut album Swoon.

No. 54, Fifty-Four Years Ago

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, today checking out the No. 54 record in the Billboard Hot 100 fifty-four years ago, during the first days of April 1965.

That chart, actually released on April 3, fifty-four years ago yesterday, had as its top three records “Stop In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” by Herman’s Hermits, and “I’m Telling You Now” by Freddie & The Dreamers.

Back then, I doubt whether I knew two of the three. I’m sure I knew the Supremes’ record; it was all around. But as the last months of sixth grade were going past, I doubt that I heard either of the other two often enough to recognize them. Later in the year – in September or December – I would get to know the Herman’s Hermits record, as it was the first track on Herman’s Hermits On Tour, which my sister gave me for either Christmas or my birthday that year. (Whichever it was, the other occasion was marked by her giving me Sonny & Cher’s Look At Us, thus providing me my introduction to the musicians of the Wrecking Crew.)

Fifty-four years later, the Supremes’ record still sounds good, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” is pleasant nostalgia, and “I’m Telling You Now” just brings up memories of Freddie Garrity and his mates losing their way (along with any credibility they might have had in the view of a twelve-year-old boy) by doing the Freddie.

So what do we find further down, fourteen places below the Top 40? Well, we find one of the classic middle-of-the-road pop singers of the 1950s and 1960s, Jerry Vale, and his single ‘For Mama.” The Bronx- born Vale first hit the Billboard chart in 1954 with “Two Purple Shadows,” which peaked at No. 20. His take on “You Don’t Know Me” brought him his greatest success on the pop chart when it went to No. 14 in 1956.

And the record that was at No. 54 during the early days of April 1965 was, well, a melodrama in a minor key, kind of a mish-mash that I doubt that I would have liked even in 1965, when traditional pop was my jam. It went no higher in the Hot 100, although it went to No. 13 on the Billboard chart that was then called “Middle-Road Singles.”

Maybe it’s just me, but the tale of Mama’s last request wanders all over the place.

No. 53, Fifty-Three Years Ago

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

With my time self-limited this morning – I have two or three errands that I want to complete before watching the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team take on Louisville in the NCAA tournament – I’m jumping into another game of Symmetry this morning, this time taking a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty-three years ago.

During the third week of March 1966 – as represented by the Hot 100 released on March 19 – the top three records in the Hot 100 were “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” by S/Sgt. Barry Sadler, “19th Nervous Breakdown” by the Rolling Stones, and “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra.

I heard all three regularly, somewhere. (Most likely, as I think about it, in Mrs. Villalta’s art classroom, where she allowed us to play the radio at low volume while we drew or inked or clayed.) And I was pretty much okay with all of them, as I am with two of them these days: Both the Stones’ record and “Boots” are among the 3,900-some tracks in the iPod.

About Sadler’s record: As awful as the war in Vietnam was, thoughtfulness about it had not yet percolated to the level of seventh grade; that – along with opposition to the war – would take a couple more years, so Sadler’s record, which was No. 1 for five weeks, did not bother me or my peers. We thought the Green Berets were heroes. But when it popped up on one of the Sixties radio channels maybe a month or so ago, I winced.

And now, we’ll drop a few slots past the mid-point of the Hot 100 and check out No. 53 from fifty-three years ago this week. There we find one of Edwin Starr’s first hits: Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S.),” which would peak at No. 48 a week later (and would go to No. 9 on the Billboard R&B chart).

The record was on the Ric-Tic label, but in his 1989 book The Heart Of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh notes that Starr’s first hits “may have been released on this minor-league Motor City label, but their every inflection established that Motown was embedded in the grooves of his destiny,” adding that the record was “one of the greatest non-Motown Motown discs ever cut, with the same booting backbeat, the same thunderous baritone sax riffs and a vocal as tough and assured as any of the early Marvin Gaye’s.” (Marsh ranks the single at No. 210.)