Archive for the ‘Journalism 101’ Category

A ‘When’ Preview

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Between medical appointments, household errands and consultations about music for church, today’s hours are nearly filled. But I thought I’d toss out a preview for the next installment of Journalism 101.

A search for “when” turns up 1,009 tracks in the RealPlayer. As usual, some of those will have to be set aside, and we’ll list some of those when we take on the topic in full force next week. For today, we’re just going to cherry-pick a representative tune.

As I ran errands this week, I dropped some Brewer & Shipley into the car’s CD player, thinking it fit well with the mood I’ve been in after watching portions of The Vietnam War, the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary I mentioned yesterday. So after I sorted 96,000-some tracks this morning down to just more than a thousand, I looked first for something by Brewer & Shipley.

And there in the search results I found a track from the duo’s 1971 album Shake Off The Demon that fit that mood perfectly. Here’s “When Everybody Comes Home.”

We’ll bathe in the love that surrounds us
We’ll sip from the cup of the throne
And friends that remain will be boundless
Oh the planets will fly
When everybody comes home, comes home
Will you be coming home, coming home?
Will you be home?

We’ll share in the crystal communion
And rise on the hymns that we’ve known
We’ll cherish our ragged reunion
All the ships will be sailing
When everybody comes home, comes home
Will you be coming home, coming home?
Will you be home?

Comes home
Will you be coming home, coming home?
Will you be home?

Will you be coming home?
Will you be home?

‘Where’

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Today, we’re going to open our textbook and take on the third portion of a project we’re calling Journalism 101, looking for tracks that have the word “where” in their titles. And it has to be a stand-alone word; “nowhere,” “somewhere,” “anywhere” and all the other possible compound words won’t cut it.

The first run through the RealPlayer nets us 947 tracks. But we lose a number of entire albums (except, in some cases, the title tracks): Where It All Begins by the Allman Brothers Band, Come To Where I’m From by Joseph Arthur, Where Is Love by Bobby Caldwell, Eva Cassidy’s Somewhere, Judy Collins’ Who Knows Where The Time Goes, Somewhere My Love by Ray Conniff & The Singers, Bo Diddley’s Where It All Began, and that just gets us into the D’s with so much more of the alphabet to go until we run into Bobby Womack’s Home Is Where The Heart Is.

Lots of titles with those compound words are culled as well, including six versions of “Somewhere My Love.” (I also have ten versions of the tune under the title “Lara’s Theme.”) We also lose four versions of Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” twelve versions of the Beatles’ “Here, There & Everywhere,” five versions of “Somewhere In The Night,” and more that I won’t list here.

But there are still plenty of titles to choose from, so let’s look at four:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not so subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

More than six years ago, I looked at Oscar Brown’s song “Brother Where Are You” and wrote:

The tune is familiar to me – and others of my vintage, I assume – because of its inclusion by Johnny Rivers in his 1968 masterpiece Realization. In those environs, the song became less a plaint about racial injustice and more a call for economic and political justice. (It was, of course, not uncommon in the late 1960s and early 1970s for young, socially aware white men to call each other “brother” with no irony and little self-consciousness.)

That post (you can read it here) gave a listen to the first version recorded of the song – Abbey Lincoln’s take from her 1959 album Abbey is Blue – and to a few other versions as well, including Rivers’ cover. Sorting through the eleven versions of the tune here on the digital shelves, I’ve decided to offer the one I found most recently: Marlena Shaw’s typically eccentric version, released in 1967 on the Cadet label. From what I can find, it made no chart noise at all.

Thinking, as we were, of records that define seasons, as soon as the list of “where” tunes got to “Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, I was back in the summer of 1972, working half-time as a custodian at St. Cloud State, taking long bicycle rides on Saturday evening, driving idly around town in my 1961 Falcon with Rick as a passenger, and wondering when I was going to meet someone. I doubt if I heard the record as a cautionary tale, advising me that love was hard and not always permanent, but if that thought had ever crossed my mind, I likely would have thought in response, “But even lost love is better than no love.” (I learned years ago that such a thought is better left to songwriters and poets than to anyone in real life.) The record was everywhere that summer, going to No. 5 on the Hot 100 and topping both the R&B and Easy Listening charts.

And lastly we’ll turn to Cat Stevens’ brilliant 1970 album, Tea For The Tillerman. “But tell me,” Stevens sings in the first track, “where do the children play?” It’s a rhetorical question, of course, but it’s one that I think runs with resignation through the entire album, through “Sad Lisa,” “On The Road To Findout,” “Father & Son” and all the rest. At least that’s what I hear these days. Back in 1971, when I heard “Wild World” on the radio and caught up with the rest of the album over the next few years, the lost loves, the fragile women, the quests for place and knowledge all seemed so utterly romantic. Perhaps the resignation I hear is only the echo of being sixty-four, with eighteen so far in the past as to be unknowable. In any event, “Where Do The Children Play” is still lovely and forever haunting.

‘What’

Friday, August 25th, 2017

We resume our tour this morning through the five W’s and one H of basic journalism, a trek we’re calling Journalism 101, during which we’ll highlight tunes with titles that include the words “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” We started with a post titled “Who” last month. Today, we move on to “what.”

Our initial search through the 96,000 or so tracks in the RealPlayer brings us 1,476 candidates. There’s winnowing required, and we lose entire albums (except, in some cases, the title track) from William Vaughn, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Jimmy Smith, Bobby Womack, Koko Taylor, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Janiva Magness, Catherine Howe, the Decemberists, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jackie Lomax, Gloria Scott, Pat Green, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, and a fair number more. We also lose a few tracks from Michael McDonald, a couple tracks from the Staples, one track from the Dynamics, two tracks from Dinah Washington, a track from Rodney Crowell and a few others.

But there are plenty of tracks remaining for our needs this morning, and instead of trying to sort through the remainder with any sort of criteria, I’m going to let the RealPlayer do the work randomly. I’ll intervene for spoken word tracks, tracks shorter than two minutes, and anything before, oh, let’s say 1945. So here we go:

First up in our trek today is “What Do You Want” by the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds. The track showed up in the U.K. on the 1966 album Yardbirds. In the U.S., it was on Over Under Sideways Down. It’s your basic garage rocker with a slight Brit twist, at least until the last third or so, when Beck takes things over. It’s not near the top of the Yardbirds’ oeuvre, but mediocre Yardbirds is a lot better than a lot of other things we might hear as we wander among the digital shelves here.

We move on to a record about which I know next to nothing, “What More Can I Say” by Jeffrey Clay & The Diggers. It was released by MGM in 1965 but went nowhere; it came to our attention in the massive Lost Jukebox collection that was available online a while back. It’s not in any of the chart books or files I have, the Airheads Radio Survey Archive finds no mention of the single in its vast collection of surveys, and it’s the only single for Mr. Clay and his pals listed at Discogs. It’s not a bad record, just a little boring, with one odd thing: Producer Gene Nash tacked the sound of an audience of screaming girls to the beginning and the end of the record, in what I’d guess was an attempt to make the listeners think the group was overwhelmingly popular. I just wonder who it was those young ladies were actually screaming for.

And we hit some traditional country with “What’ll You Do About Me” by Randy Travis. I suppose that back in 1987, when the tune was an album track on Travis’ Always & Forever, the tale of a spurned lover who won’t give up seemed like a good topic. But listening thirty years later, in a world that’s become much more attuned to the traits of domestic abuse, I hear the story of a stalker who’s likely dangerous (especially in the verse where he’s got his hands on a two-by-two):

All you wanted was a one-night stand
The fire and the wine and the touch of a man
But I fell in love and ruined all your plans
Now what’ll you do about me?

Imagine the faces on your high-class friends
When I beat on the door and I beg to come in
Screamin’ “Come on, love me again!”
Now what’ll you do about me?

Well, you can change your number, you can change your name
You can ride like hell on the midnight train
That’s alright, Momma, that’s okay
But what’ll you do about me?

Picture your neighbors when you try to explain
That good ol’ boy standin’ out in the rain
With his nose on the window pane
Now what’ll you do about me?

What in the world are you planning to do
When a man comes over just to visit with you
And I’m on the porch with a two-by-two?
Lady, what’ll you do about me?

Well, you can call your lawyer, you can call the fuzz
You can sound the alarm, wake the neighbors up
Ain’t no way to stop a man in love
Now what’ll you do about me?

All you wanted was a one night stand
The fire and the wine and the touch of a man
But I fell in love and baby, here I am
Now what’ll you do about me?

Well, you can change your number, you can change your name
You can ride like hell on the midnight train
That’s alright, Momma, that’s okay
Now what’ll you do about me?

And we close our four-tune sample with the combination from 2008 of a long-familiar name with a long-familiar tune: Bonnie Bramlett taking on “For What It’s Worth.” Bramlett, of course, was the Bonnie of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, the powerhouse group of the late 1960s and early 1970s that offered a wicked stew of rock, blues, R&B and gospel; and the song, of course, is the one that Stephen Stills wrote when he was member of Buffalo Springfield that became an anthem for the counter-culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. A cynic could say, “Hey! It’s Double-Nostalgia Day!” But the song, slightly cryptic as it is, still sounds right today, and Bramlett’s supple and bluesy voice still sounds good on what is – so far – her most recent album, Beautiful.

‘Who’

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

After a couple of previews six months ago, we finally get around to beginning the project called Journalism 101. Today, we’ll be sorting the 95,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for titles that contain the word “who,” the first of the five W’s of reporting. (I doubt this needs stating, but those W’s are who, what, when, where, and why. And we’ll include “how” in the project as well.)

That sorting brings us 740 tracks, twenty-six more than we found when we announced the idea back in February. As is usual when we do these types of searches, many of the tracks aren’t suitable for our purposes. Tracks from the Who, the Guess Who, a late Seventies group called 100% Whole Wheat, the novelty project Dylan Hears A Who, and more go by the wayside, as do some albums, including Kate Rusby’s 2005 effort The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly and the Warner Brothers loss leader from 1972, The Whole Burbank Catalog. We also have to discard eighty-one tracks with the word “who’s” in the title and four tracks with titles that carry the word “whoever” (I thought there’d be more). But we still have enough to find four worthy titles.

Given the alphabetical nature of the player’s search, the first track that shows up is “Who To Believe” by the Allman Brothers Band. It’s from the 2003 album, Hittin’ The Note, which turned out to be the group’s last studio release. It’s also the first album not to include guitarist Dicky Betts (and the first to include guitarist Derek Trucks). I’ve had the CD since not long after it came out, but I’ve not listened to it very often, which is too bad. Many of the pieces I’ve read since the recent death of Gregg Allman said that Hittin’ The Note was good work, and “Who To Believe” sounds very much as if it could have been recorded in 1970.

The digital shelves here hold six versions of “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” ranging from the original 1961 release by Charlie Rich (who wrote the song) to versions from 1975 by the Amazing Rhythm Aces and from 2003 by Janiva Magness. Those are only a taste of the number of times that very good song has been recorded, of course. The website Second Hand Songs lists forty-five versions (though there are likely more), with the most recent being a 2013 take on the song by jazz singer Tina Ferris. And though the bluesy versions by Bland and Magness call to me this morning, I think I’ll stick with the song’s country roots and offer Rich’s original version.

Then we come to the melodramatic “I (Who Have Nothing),” which comes up twice in our listings: the 1963 version by Ben E. King and a 1972 cover by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. King’s release was the first English recording of the song, and it went to No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100, to No. 16 in the magazine’s R&B chart, and to No. 10 on what is now called the Adult Contemporary chart. Based on the information at Second Hand Songs, the tune was first recorded in Italian in 1961 by Joe Sentieri; the English lyrics are credited to songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. I’m a little surprised that I don’t have more versions of the tune in the stacks, especially the 1970 version by Tom Jones, which went to No. 14 on the Hot 100 (as well as to No. 2 on the AC chart). I could go wandering for other versions as well, but we’ll stick with King’s version of “I (Who Have Nothing)” this morning.

And what would a trek through the digital shelves here be without some 1960s easy listening combined with a theme from a spy movie? I have four versions on the shelves of the theme from The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, the 1965 movie based on the novel by John le Carré. I think I saw the movie when it came out. (That would have been on one of those Saturday nights out with my dad that remain a bit puzzling, as I wrote a few years ago.) Oddly, Sol Kaplan’s moody soundtrack is not on the shelves here, an absence that needs to be corrected. But the four versions I have of the disquieting theme are all pretty good (with that assessment coming, of course, from one who loves spy themes and mid-1960s easy listening), with the sources being the well-known trio of Billy Strange, Roland Shaw and Hugo Montenegro as well as the blandly named Jazz All-Stars. That last is a group of what I assume was studio musicians; they’re identified at Discogs as Bobby Crowe, Ernie Royal, J.J. Johnson, Joe Newman, Johnny Knapp, Larry Charles, Milt Hinton, Mundell Lowe and Sy Saltzberg, though I do not think all of those men played on the version of the theme I have. That version was included on Thunderball & Other Secret Agent Themes, a 1965 album on the Design label that came to me during my James Bond obsession.

A ‘What’ Preview

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

I’m still regrouping here, doing the minimum necessary to keep the household running, drinking lots of fluids, taking lots of decongestant and other meds and just holding on. But I thought I’d toss out another preview to the feature I hope to start in earnest in the next week or so: Journalism 101.

Last Thursday, I offered a preview of the first of the five W’s: “Who.” Today, we’ll find a tune with “What” in its title, sorting among 1,375 tracks the RealPlayer found. Among the tracks we’ll have to reject are two pretty good albums, the Doobie Brothers’ What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits and the Dramatics’ Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get. (There are more that we must pass by, but – in keeping with the tenor of this post – that’s a preview.)

From the perspective of nearly sixty years, the Coasters’ 1959 track “What About Us” sounds, certainly in the first verse and perhaps in some of the later verses, like a plaint about economic inequality:

He’s got a house made of glass
Got his own swimming pool . . . what a gas
We’ve got a one-room shack
Five by six by the railroad track, well

What about us
What about us
Don’t want to cause no fuss
But what about us

He’s with a beautiful chick
Every night of the week, pretty slick
We’re two poor hung up souls
Girls won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, well

What about us
What about us
Don’t want to cause no fuss
But what about us

He goes to eat at the Ritz
Big steaks, that’s the breaks
We eat hominy grits
From a bag, what a drag

He’s got a car made of suede
With a black leather top, got it made
If we go out on dates
We go in a box on roller skates, well

What about us
What about us
Don’t want to cause no fuss
But what about us

By the second verse, songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are placing the tale clearly in the teen-age milieu, but I wonder if the first verse and some of the later verses had a wider target.

“What About Us” was released in late 1959, and Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows it going to No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the B-side to “Run Red Run,” which went to No. 36. Oddly, perhaps, Whitburn’s R&B book shows “What About Us” as the A-side; it went to No. 17 on the Billboard R&B chart (with “Run Red Run” going to No. 29 on the B-side).

Whether pointed statement or teenage playlet, whether A-side or B-side, the record has the classic Coasters sound: A catchy rhythm, humor-laden lyrics, the low-voice interjections and a sax solo that I assume comes from King Curtis. Enjoy!

A ‘Who’ Preview

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

The Texas Gal headed off to work a few moments ago, sniffling and wheezing from a mid-winter cold that’s been plaguing her for a few days, and I have a feeling I’m not far behind her. (As I typed that sentence, I barked out two or three dry coughs similar to those she began with early this week.)

So I’m going to go take it easy on the couch for a good portion of the day and get back in here tomorrow. But first, I thought I’d mention an idea for a series of posts that I hope to get to very soon. As readers know, I’ve found a number of ways to sort track titles over the years. Two that seemed to work were March of the Integers, looking for numbers in song titles, and Floyd’s Prism, seeking colors. Follow the Directions ignored Horace Greeley’s advice and failed to go west, but that may happen yet.

And I realized as I was pondering the news the other day that my long-ago training in journalism offers me a list of words that should be good sorting material. I think we’ll call it Journalism 101, and we’ll sort for:

Who
What
When
Where
Why
How

As I noted above, I’m going to take the rest of the day off (thought processes are already beginning to get a little gummy), but first, I’m going to offer a preview of the eventual post that will be titled “Who.”

When we sort the 90,000-odd mp3s in the RealPlayer for “who,” we get 714 tracks. (Babe Ruth!) And of course, lots of them aren’t going to work. Everything in the player by the Guess Who goes by the wayside, as do twenty-some tracks by a group called 100% Whole Wheat. And so on. (A more detailed list of what’s lost will be included in the full track, which will run sometime next week, I hope.)

But, as I’d expected, there will be plenty of tracks left with the word “who” in their titles. And we’ll preview the new feature with one of those tracks, a single from a New Jersey group called the Glass Bottle. I don’t recall hearing the single when it came out in late 1971; not a lot of people did, as the record got only as high as No. 87 in the Billboard Hot 100, but I know that if I had heard it, I would have loved it.

Here’s the Glass Bottle with “The Girl Who Loved Me When.”