Archive for the ‘1965’ Category

Black & Blue

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Every once in a while, the various ailments that escort me through life combine to make life, well, difficult. One of the least-liked phenomena around here is the body aches. I’ll be having a perfectly fine morning – like I was Wednesday, when I wrote about tape recorders and the Beatles – and my muscles will start to tighten, especially in my back.

Walking becomes difficult. Sitting becomes difficult, though a little less so than walking. And a mind-numbing fatigue sets in. So I begin to cancel plans. On Wednesday, that meant dropping an errand for my mom and a meeting for church. Yesterday that mean altering significantly an errand for my mom; I attended a church meeting in the evening, though I likely should not have. I had no plans for today, and that’s just fine.

This will pass, as it always does. But I may be scarce in these precincts for a while. Or at least terse.

Here’s Judy Roderick’s “Black & Blue” from her 1965 album Woman Blue.

What’s At No. 27?

Friday, February 27th, 2015

So, with today being February 27 and Odd, Pop and I being short of ideas this morning, we’re going to look at a few Billboard charts released on this date over the years and check out what’s hiding at No. 27. Along the way, we’ll check out the No. 1 records of the times, too. There are four such charts during the span of years that tends to interest us here. We’ll start in 1957.

One of the odd things about the earlier charts in the files I have is that records are often tied for a spot. In the Top 100 for February 27, 1957, two records are tied at No. 26, which means there really was no record at No. 27. So we’ll look at both records at No. 26. The first listed is “Lucky Lips” by Ruth Brown. The record, which went no further on the Top 100 but went to No. 25 on two of the other main charts Billboard issued at the time, is the first listed under Brown’s name in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where the listings start in 1955. Brown was a force long before that, of course; her listings on the magazine’s R&B chart start in 1949. “Lucky Lips” went to No. 6 on that chart.

The other record at No. 26 on this date in 1957 was a pairing of artist and song that seems incongruous from a distance of nearly sixty years: “Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody” by Jerry Lewis, whose image in my mind starts at goofy comedian and ends at smarmy telethon host and doesn’t come close to hit singer at all. (The combination evidently seemed so bizarre to the anonymous person who transcribed my collection of Billboard charts that he or she credited the record to Jerry Lee Lewis, which caused me a bit of confusion.) Lewis offers the song over a Vegas-style big band arrangement that serves it well although the whole thing sounds odd to me. Listeners liked it, though; the record peaked at No. 10 on the store sales list. Lewis had one other hit: “It All Depends On You” went to No. 68 on the Top 100 later in 1957.

Sitting at No. 1 on this date in 1957 was “Young Love” by Tab Hunter, by far the most successful single the actor ever had to his credit. (I recall Hunter’s smiling visage on the front of a comic book that told the tale of one of Hunter’s movies. I forget which movie, and a look at Hunter’s credits this morning doesn’t help.)

The next time Billboard released a pop chart on February 27, it was 1961, and the chart was called – as it would be past the turn of the century – the Hot 100. Parked at No. 27 was “What A Price” by Fats Domino. The slow, sad record, which was the forty-fourth of an eventual seventy-seven Domino placed in or near the Hot 100, was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 22 (No. 7, R&B). Should it have done better? Well, yes, because Fats Domino should always be in the Top Ten.

The No. 1 record as February approached its end in 1961 was Chubby Checker’s “Pony Time.”

It took only another four years before a Billboard Hot 100 touched down on a February 27, and the No. 27 record on this date in 1965 was the first track on one of the first pop LPs I ever owned. My sister gave me Herman’s Hermits On Tour (which was made up of studio recordings, not the live recordings that the album’s title might have implied), and “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” led off the album. As a single, “Heartbeat” went to No. 2, the first of nine straight Top Ten hits for Peter Noone and his group. (The Billboard Book of No. 2 Singles tells me that the Hermits’ single was blocked from the top spot by the Supremes’ “Stop! In The Name Of Love.”)

The No. 1 record fifty years ago today was “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys.

And the last of the February 27 Billboard charts that we’re concerned with today came out in 1971. (There were charts on February 27 in 1982, 1988 and beyond, but that gets us into years we are not all that enthusiastic about.) The No. 27 record at the end of the last February of my high school days was “Help Me Make It Through The Night” by Sammi Smith, written by Kris Kristofferson. Smith’s plaintive performance was on its way to No. 8; it would go to No. 1 on the country chart and to No. 3 on the easy listening chart. I’m not sure I had much regard for “Help Me Make It Through The Night” when I was a high school senior, but now I think it’s pretty great stuff.

And to finish this off, the No. 1 single during on this date in 1971 was the Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple.”

Here’s Smith’s single:

Saturday Single No. 426

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

We’re going to play some games with numbers and dig into some fifty-year old surveys this morning in search of a Saturday tune. The Airheads Radio Survey Archive offers seven surveys released on January 3, 1965, so we’re going to take a look at four of them. We’ll take today’s date – 1/3/15 – and turn that into No. 13 and No. 15, and see what we find.

We’ll also, as we customarily do, check out the No. 1 record on each survey simply for context.

We’ll start in the Midwest with the “Silver Dollar Music Survey” from Milwaukee’s WRIT. Sitting at No. 13 fifty years ago today was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers, an epic record that would top the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks a month later. And parked at No. 15 in Milwaukee was “Let’s Lock The Door (And Throw Away The Key)” by Jay & The Americans, a single that, as far as I know, I’ve not heard until this morning. It did go to No. 11 in Billboard, but that only goes to show that making the Top 20 is no guarantee of oldies radio immortality.

The No. 1 record at WRIT fifty years ago was the Beatles’ two-sided “I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman.”

From Wisconsin, we’ll head east and make a stop in Columbus, Ohio, where we’ll check out the hot tunes on WCOL’s “Hit Line Survey” from the first week in January 1965. The No. 13 record there was “Give Him A Great Big Kiss” by the Shangri-Las, a lively bit of girl group joy with a bit of teenage theater between verses. It went to No. 18 nationally, which was kind of a bring-down after “Leader Of The Pack” went to No. 1 in late 1964. Sitting at No. 15 in Columbus was Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “I’ll Be There,” another record that I’ve never heard before this morning. A sweet pledge of loyalty to a departing lover, the record went to No. 14 in Billboard.

Sitting atop the “Hit Line Survey” at WCOL fifty years ago today was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

From Ohio we head to Newport News, Virginia, where WGH releases its “Original Official Top Thirty,” which includes at No. 13 Del Shannon’s “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun).” Blessed with a great organ break and Shannon’s unearthly wails at the end, the record would go to No. 9 in the Hot 100. Sitting at No. 15 in Newport News that week fifty years ago was the Animals’ “Boom Boom,” in which Eric Burdon and his pals take on John Lee Hooker and, almost inevitably, come up wanting. The record stalled at No. 43 in Billboard.

Perched at No. 1 in WGH’s “Original Official Top Thirty” fifty years ago was “Mr. Lonely” by Bobby Vinton.

From the East Coast we jump to the West Coast and the “Top Sixty Tune-Dex” offered by Los Angeles’ KRLA. At No. 13, we find “Willow Weep For Me” by Chad & Jeremy, a soft rock duo from England. Squishy by even Chad & Jeremy standards, “Willow” would peak at No. 15 in Billboard. And at No. 15, we find British MOR singers Matt Monro with “Walk Away,” a song telling a lover to move on for her own good. It went to No. 23 in Billboard.

The No. 1 record on the “Top Sixty Tune-Dex” fifty years ago today was, as it was in Columbus, the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

Well, with the No. 13s and the No. 15s, we have a wide range of records to consider for our Saturday morning listening. Most of them are relatively unfamiliar to me, which only serves to show that there is a limit to how much back-filling can take place. As 1965 began, I was eleven, and I was still four to five years away from digging deeply into the Top 40 and a good twenty years away from beginning any serious effort to know and understand what came before 1969.

In any case, we have some intriguing choices for our Saturday morning listening, and I think we’ll go with a cool organ break followed by unearthly wails and make Del Shannon’s “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)” today’s Saturday Single.

From The Castaways To . . .

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

So I glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 from November 13, 1965, a date that slid past while I was busy seventh-grading, perhaps even as I was making a mouse out of paper mache while my pal Brad made a kangaroo that he named Aloysius. (The mouse never got a name, turning out more as an abstract idea of a mouse than anything like a real mouse. Neither did the mouse get put on display for parents night while Aloysius did. Such were the stakes in the seventh-grade Paper Mache League.)

But as we papered and mached in November of 1965, Minnesota’s Castaways were trying to follow up their No. 12 hit of late summer, “Liar, Liar.” The Minnesota label Soma released “Goodbye Babe,” and forty-nine years ago today, “Goodbye Babe” showed up in Billboard for the first time and was bubbling under at No. 125.

The record bubbled under for another five weeks and got as high as No. 101, and that was the last the Billboard charts saw of the Castaways. But the group’s drummer, Dennis Craswell, started calling himself Denny and wound up behind the kit for the Twin Cities band Crow, which had a No. 19 hit with “Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games With Me” in early 1970. “Evil Woman” was one of the highlights of my 1970 radio listening although I’ve read many times that the members of Crow were mighty pissed after the folks at Amaret buried Crow’s sound under a lot of added horns.

“Evil Woman” sat at No. 19 for two weeks in January 1970, and the upper portions of the Hot 100 for both of those weeks look like lists I could have made if I had been keeping track of the sounds that came out of the old RCA radio on my nightstand. By that time, Aloysius and the mouse no longer mattered; junior year of high school found me with other concerns, at least one of them quite lovely as she played her violin. Many of the records I heard during the first months of 1970 spoke to that specific concern. Other records, romantic though they might have been, left me with no specific object in mind. Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl” was one of those, and it was No. 20 during the second of the two weeks “Evil Woman” sat at No. 19.

I heard Holman’s record often as it climbed to No. 2, having no idea that it was a cover of Ruby & The Romantics’ version from 1963, which went to No. 27. I also had no idea that during the same weeks when I heard Holman’s plaintive single, there was a girl in Texas a little more than three years younger than I who heard the same record and wondered who would offer to ease her loneliness, and when. She found out, eventually.

My Russian Fascination

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

At the top of my reading pile these days is The Zhivago Affair, the tale of how Russian author Boris Pasternak came to write the novel Dr. Zhivago, how he came to have the novel first published in 1957 in Italy (to the absolute dismay and anger of Soviet authorities who wanted it not to be published at all), and how the United States’ CIA used the novel as an anti-Soviet tool.

I’m about halfway through the book, written by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée, and I find it fascinating, as I do many books, movies and pieces of music that have any connection with Russia. That fascination has endured for many years, built on a number of things, including (but likely not limited to) watching and reading the news of the Cold War centered on Moscow and Washington during my childhood; playing the many pieces of Russian and Eastern European music that my orchestra director at St. Cloud Tech High School selected for our repertoire; seeing the 1965 film version of Dr. Zhivago not long after it came out; spending six days in 1973 in Moscow and the city that was then called Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg, as it was at its founding in 1703); and learning (and watching as an adult) the arc of Russian history from ambitious empire to Soviet linchpin to chaotic democracy to today’s authoritarian state.

When that fascination was developing, in the late 1960s, I tried to read Pasternak’s novel and found it confusing and not a little boring. For years, as an adult, I had a leather-bound copy of the novel on my shelf and never read it. That copy is gone now; I evidently sold it during the lean years of the late 1990s. And as I read The Zhivago Affair, I’m tempted to try Dr. Zhivago once again. I’ll also likely take another look at the David Lean film. I ordered it several years ago from Netflix but for some reason never finished watching it; what I did see confirmed my long-standing impression of it as sprawling but likely easier to digest than the novel itself.

With the movie, of course, comes the music: Maurice Jarre’s soundtrack, for which he won a deserved Academy Award. During recent late evenings, I’ve been using the expanded version of the soundtrack as background music for The Zhivago Affair just as I once used Tchaikovsky’s music – including, of course, the “1812 Overture” – for a long-abandoned reading of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. (Another book I need to try again, I guess.) Jarre’s themes and motifs echo Russian music; the real thing also comes out of the speakers here frequently, from Tchaikovsky to Borodin to Glinka to a scavenged collection of maybe 300 Russian folk songs and the two-CD set The Best of the Red Army Choir.

The listening is easy. Reading, of course, takes more time (and sometimes much more effort). There are Russian books beyond Tolstoy’s masterpiece that I need to read, including a copy of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment that was signed and dated by my dad in 1948. And I need to accelerate my reading of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, at which I’ve been poking for years. (Fortunately, Solzhenitsyn’s account of the Soviet forced labor camps – and of the various government agencies that sent millions to those camps – is more anecdotal than narrative, so reading bits and pieces at a time is an approach that seems to work.)

So is this fascination of mine with things Russian – especially with the period from, oh, 1900 through 1950 – just a historical interest? I don’t think so. It feels deeper than that, like the grip that Stonehenge has had on me over the years. I think that the soul I carry through this life – or that carries me, more fittingly – knows Russia well. That’s all I can say. Would I like to be able to say more? Well, yes, but the best I can do is guess at this point. And beyond indulging in a little bit of supposition over a beer with friends, I’m better off finishing The Zhivago Affair and then turning my attention to other works that might enlighten me, helping me to know (once again, I think) the history and culture of a place that seems so alien and yet so familiar.

Here’s Maurice Jarre’s “Main Title” from the 1965 film Dr. Zhivago.

Sitting Near The Bottom

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

A couple of weeks ago, Odd, Pop and I spent some time looking at records that over the years on July 8 had perched at No. 100 in the Billboard Hot 100 and at the bottom of the magazine’s Bubbling Under section. The exercise brought our attention back to the music of B.W. Stevenson, which provided two CDs’ worth of new listening and fodder for a few posts in this space.

I don’t expect anything quite as cool as that to come out of a similar exploration for three charts released on July 31 in the 1960s and 1970s, but we’ll see what we find.

We’ll start in 1961, when the No. 100 record was a lugubrious bit of wedding bell doo-wop by a New York-based R&B group called the Van Dykes. “The Bells Are Ringing” had been released in 1958 on the King label and went nowhere; this release, on the Deluxe label, would climb one more spot, to No. 99, before disappearing. (Earlier in 1961, “Gift Of Love,” a re-release on the Guardian Angel label of a recording that had been released on the Spring label in 1960, had done a little better, climbing to No. 91.)

Parked at No. 120, the bottom of the Bubbling Under section on July 31, 1961, was “Johnny Willow” by Fred Darian, the ludicrous tale of a World War II infantryman who, if I hear the record correctly, helped hold off the enemy while holding a letter to his girl in his left hand and his rifle in his right hand. The record, which accelerates alarmingly to an almost tongue-twisting speed, eventually spent one week in the Hot 100, making it to No. 96. It was Darian’s second low-charting record based on things military; the Detroit native saw his spoken word “Battle of Gettysburg” spend one week at No. 100 in February 1961. (Darian was also a co-writer of “Mr. Custer,” Larry Verne’s No. 1 hit from 1960.)

And we’re off to 1965, when the No. 100 record on July 31 was a single recorded live that in ten weeks would peak at No. 5 (No. 2 R&B): “The ‘In’ Crowd” by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. It was the sole Top Ten hit for the jazz pianist, but he’d put three more records into the Top 40 in the next year: “Hang On Sloopy” went to No. 11, a cover of the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” went to No. 29, and “Wade In The Water” went to No. 19. Lewis’ 20th and last record in or near the Hot 100 was “What’s The Name Of This Funk (Spiderman),” which went to No. 69 in 1976.

The Bubbling Under section that July 31 was thirty-five records deep, and sitting at the very bottom of that section was a record by young English singer who in a little bit more than a year would become a television and recording star. “What Are We Going To Do” by David Jones is a lightweight record that to my ears owes a lot to Herman’s Hermits. In a couple of weeks it would move into the Hot 100 and peak at No. 93. Starting in September 1966, Jones would be better known as Davy, and with the other three members of the Monkees, would star in the hit television show and record and release numerous hit records, including three that went to No. 1.

In her first hit record, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (No. 1 pop and country, 1968), Jeannie C. Riley took on small-town hypocrisy. In 1971, in the last record she had in or near the Hot 100, Riley took on cohabitation, telling her beau in “Good Enough To Be Your Wife” that shacking up wasn’t gonna happen. The record was at No. 100 as July 1971 ended, and it would only move up three more notches before disappearing. On the country chart, however, “Good Enough To Be Your Wife” went to No. 7, the sixth and final record Riley put into the country Top Ten.

The horn band Ides of March had a No. 2 hit in early 1970 with “Vehicle” and kept throwing singles at the wall for the next eighteen months or so, hoping something would stick. Nothing really did, with “Superman,” the immediate follow-up to “Vehicle” doing the best, getting to No. 64. In the last days of July 1971, the band’s “Tie-Dye Princess” was parked at No. 124, smack on the bottom of the Bubbling Under section. It would get up to No. 113, and it was the last time the Ides of March would be in or near the Hot 100. (The single version of “Tie-Dye Princess doesn’t seem to be available at YouTube; you can find the eleven-minute album track here.)

‘That Big Eight-Wheeler . . .’

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

So what other covers did I run across this week as I dug into Hank Snow’s 1950 classic song “I’m Movin’ On”? Well, using the list at Second Hand Songs and the list of performers available at BMI, I found a bunch that I thought were interesting and a couple that I really liked.

My favorite? Well, that can wait for a bit, but second place goes to the version that Leon Russell released in 1984 recording as his alter ego, Hank Wilson. Here’s that rollicking cover, from Hank Wilson Vol. II.

As I dug, I was particularly interested in giving a listen to the first cover listed at SHS, a performance by Hoagy Carmichael, but I think that’s an error, maybe a different song with the same (or a similar) title, as Carmichael is not included in the BMI list of performers who’ve recorded the song. Given that, it seems – and I’m not at all certain, as the BMI listings don’t include dates – that the first cover of “I’m Movin’ On” came in 1955 from Les Paul and Mary Ford.

In 1961, a rockabilly musician named Dick Hiorns – whose resume included a couple of daily performances during the early 1950s on WBAY in Green Bay, Wisconsin – recorded a version of Snow’s song for the Cuca Record Company of Sauk City, Wisconsin. A year later, Jerry Reed – at the time a session guitarist in Nashville – teamed up with some background singers who were called the Hully Girlies for a version of Snow’s tune, and a few years after that, in 1965, the Rolling Stones took on the tune and released it on the EP Got Live If You Want It!

Genius organist Jimmy Smith took a whack at the tune in 1967, and two years later, Elvis Presley included it on his From Elvis in Memphis album. In 1978, New Orleans’ Professor Longhair (aka Henry Byrd) took Snow’s song, altered the verses and made it into a Crescent City shuffle. It’s included on Big Chief, a 1993 Rhino album. (And I have no idea if the fourteen tracks on Big Chief were released during the intervening fifteen years).

There were others, of course: Versions that I didn’t track down or that didn’t grab me came from, among other, Del Reeves, Clyde McPhatter, Timi Yuro, Connie Francis, Johnny Nash, Burl Ives, the Box Tops, Sammy Kershaw, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Mickey Gilley, Loggins & Messina and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

But after all of that, I think my favorite cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” that I found this week was actually a rediscovery. Rosanne Cash included the tune on her 2009 CD The List, an album of songs pulled from a list her famous father once gave her of essential American music. I’ve often thought that too many versions of the song – Snow’s included – have sounded almost celebratory. Not Cash’s. She pulls the tempo back, and amid a nest of atmospheric guitars and percussion, she makes the song something closer to a dirge, and that fits.

Chart Digging: February 13, 1965

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

So, one year after Beatlemania broke on the United States’ shores, where were the Beatles? In the Billboard Hot 100 released on February 13, 1965, forty-nine years ago today, the Beatles were at No. 40 with “I Feel Fine” and nowhere else.

It wasn’t time to feel sorry for the Beatles, however: They’d started the year with “I Feel Fine” at No. 1 and “She’s A Woman” at No. 4, and they would place a total of eleven more singles and one EP into or just under the Hot 100 during 1965, with five of those eleven singles (“Eight Days A Week,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Yesterday,” “We Can Work It Out” and “Help!”) going to No. 1. To repeat a cliché I’ve heard several times in recent weeks, a year like that would have been a career for many groups.

But it would be a bit of a come-down for the Beatles, whose 1964 was, as we all know, ridiculous: Thirty singles and one EP in the Hot 100, with six of the singles (“I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night” and “I Feel Fine”) reaching No. 1. A quick bit of arithmetic shows that a Beatles’ single was at No. 1 for eighteen of the year’s fifty-two weeks.

As it turned out, the Beatles would be absent from top spot for just three more weeks, as “Eight Days A Week” would enter the chart at No. 53 on February 20 and then make weekly jumps to No. 19, to No. 5 and to No. 1. In the meantime, though, what was in the Top Ten forty-nine years ago today?

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers
“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“The Name Game” by Shirley Ellis
“My Girl” by the Temptations
“Hold What You’ve Got” by Joe Tex
“All Day And All Of The Night” by the Kinks
“Shake” by Sam Cooke
“The Jolly Green Giant” by the Kingsmen
“I Go To Pieces” by Peter & Gordon

Well, eight of those would make a very nice swath of radio. I’ve never liked “The Name Game” (and no, that’s not because my name was subjected to the game’s torsions in junior high; I just don’t care for the record), nor do I have much time for the Kingsmen’s record. Other than that, that’s a pretty good mix.

As always, though, I wondered what might lurk a little lower, so I’m taking today’s date – 2/13/14 – and adding that up to 29, and we’ll look at No. 29 and No. 129.

Sitting at No. 29 was a nice piece of pop that would not have been out of place in the repertoire of the Lettermen: “No Arms Can Ever Hold You” by the Bachelors, a group that I don’t think I’d ever heard until this morning. The trio from Dublin had reached No. 10 in June 1964 with “Diane,” and “No Arms . . .” was the third follow-up to hit the Hot 100 and second to reach the Top 40. The Bachelors would have five more charting records, taking them into early 1967, with the best-performing of those being “Marie,” which went to No. 15 in mid-1965.

“No Arms Can Ever Hold You” would peak a week later at No. 27. It’s not a bad single, and it’s got what a music-teaching colleague of mine once called “that MGM ending,” but there really wasn’t much to differentiate it from a thousand other orchestra-backed pop group singles, I suppose. Still, it’s a nice stop this morning as we head down the chart.

At No. 129, we find “I Love You Baby,” the only single placed in or near the chart by the R&B duo of Dottie & Ray, released as Le Sage 701. The record was in its third week Bubbling Under, having moved from No. 135 to No. 131 to No. 129. A week later, it would hit No. 126 and then be gone. On the R&B chart, the record peaked at No. 35 during a three-week stay.

And that’s all we know about Dottie & Ray. Neither Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles nor his Book of Top 40 R&B and Hip-Hop Hits have any more information. At Discogs.com, “I Love You Baby” is the only record credited to the duo. The song’s writer, Cecil Bowen – also one of three producers listed on the label – is credited at the Music VF.com database as having written one hit record: “I Love You Baby.” (Searching for the other producers – “A. Cleveland” and “A. Crier” – tells me only that Le Sage Records was based in Brooklyn and released a 1958 single by the Exciters, “I Talk To My Echo.”)

We could dig more, but for today, we’ll leave it there. “I Love You Baby” is a nice bit of vocal R&B with some interesting guitar and bass behind it. (Of course, if anyone out there has any more information about Dottie & Ray, it would be welcomed.)

‘You’re Never Too Old To Change The World . . .’

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Pete Seeger passed away yesterday. His story is well told in today’s edition of the New York Times (and told in great detail at Wikipedia), and I thought that instead of trying (and failing) to tell the whole story this morning, I’d just share a few moments of Seeger’s musical life and heritage.

Seeger was a founding member of the Weavers, the early 1950s folk group that had a No. 1 hit with Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene” and was blacklisted for its liberal leanings during the 1950s Red Scare. This is the Weavers’ 1950 recording of “If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song),” written by Seeger and fellow Weaver Lee Hayes.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Seeger was considered by many to be a dangerous man. As Wikipedia relates, “In 1960, the San Diego school board told him that he could not play a scheduled concert at a high school unless he signed an oath pledging that the concert would not be used to promote a communist agenda or an overthrow of the government. Seeger refused, and the American Civil Liberties Union obtained an injunction against the school district, allowing the concert to go on as scheduled. In February 2009, the San Diego School District officially extended an apology to Seeger for the actions of their predecessors.”

Seeger’s songs and music were without doubt popular and important far beyond the reach of radio and pop music. Still, in the 1960s, a few of his songs provided hits. “If I Had A Hammer” was a hit for both Trini Lopez (No. 3, 1963) and Peter, Paul & Mary (No. 10, 1962). (It’s likely, for what it may matter, that Lopez’ version of the song is the first Pete Seeger song I ever heard, as a copy of Lopez’ single came home with my sister one day in one of those record store grab bags of ten singles for a dollar. I still have the single, with “Unchain My Heart” on the flipside.) The Byrds (No. 1, 1965) and Judy Collins (No. 69, 1969) reached the charts with “Turn! Turn! Turn!” And “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” was a hit for the Kingston Trio (No. 21, 1962) and Johnny Rivers (No. 26, 1965), while a version by guitarist Wes Montgomery bubbled under the chart (No. 119, 1969).

Perhaps the greatest attention Seeger got in the 1960s was when he was scheduled to perform his Vietnam allegory, “Waist Deep In The Big Muddy” on the CBS television show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, in September 1967. Wikipedia notes, “Although the performance was cut from the September 1967 show, after wide publicity it was broadcast when Seeger appeared again on the Smothers’ Brothers show in the following January.” Here’s that January 1968 performance:

This morning, after I heard the news of Seeger’s passing, I dug around at YouTube for something different to post at Facebook. I came across a mini-documentary detailing how Seeger came to recite Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” for the 2012 collection Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. It’s a piece that tells as much about Seeger as it does about the recording he was invited to make. I was especially moved at the end of the piece when one of the Rivertown Kids, the Seeger-organized choir of young people involved in the recording, seemed to sum up Seeger’s life about as well as can be done: “You’re never too old the change the world.”

‘In From The Cold . . .’

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Another cold snap has found us, and I came in about an hour ago from shoveling three inches of fluffy snow off the sidewalks. My fingers have warmed up, and I plan on staying inside until late this afternoon when I’ll combine a stop at the library with a stop to pick up the Texas Gal after work.

In what may seem like an entirely unrelated subject, I’ve kept for years a mental list of movies I need to see. One of them has been Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese’s award-winning adaptation of boxer Jake LaMotta’s memoir. I’ve tried several times to watch it, and I can’t get into it. I sent the DVD back to Netflix yesterday for maybe the third time. The same holds true for Mean Streets, another highly regarded Scorsese film; I start watching it and can’t get into it. Maybe it’s Scorsese, although I’ve seen and enjoyed a few of his other films, notably Taxi Driver and The Last Waltz. (The Aviator was just okay.) So it’s likely me.

But I added a film to my list this morning as I was wandering through the mp3s, looking for something suitable for a frigid Minnesota morning. Back in the mid-1960s, when I was in my James Bond phase, I went beyond Ian Fleming’s books and the movies based on them and read other spy novels and watched other movies. I’ve mentioned here before Len Deighton’s novel The Ipcress File and the movie based on it. I read a lot of Deighton’s other work, and I read, among others, many of John le Carré’s spy novels.

And when I looked for mp3s with “cold” in their titles this morning, the search function on the RealPlayer reminded me that I’ve never read the 1963 novel that seems to have been le Carré’s first true spy novel , The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Nor have I seen the 1965 film, starring Richard Burton, based on the book. (In that long-ago post about my Bondmania, I said I saw the film, but after some thought, I do not think I did.) So the movie goes on my list (and I add the book to my long list of books I want to read).

And I’ll likely take a look at a couple more Scorsese films soon, maybe Cape Fear or Gangs of New York. (I’d welcome suggestions.)

In the meantime, here’s something related to the cold. Here’s Billy Strange’s version of the theme from The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. It’s from Strange’s 1965 album, The Secret Agent File.