Archive for the ‘1972’ Category

Saturday Single No. 554

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

I was short on time this morning, so I’m getting to this a bit late. I ran some errands, and I spent half an hour at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship helping a handful of the fellowship’s children learn Ringo’s “Octopus’ Garden.” They’re going to lead the fellowship in singing the song during the first service of our new year in a few weeks.

Running late, then, I glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 for August 19, 1972, a date forty-five years now past (though it seems to me, as it no doubt does to many, as if it were 1972 just yesterday). The No. 1 record was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s omnipresent “Alone Again (Naturally).” And not a lot that followed in the Top 40 was unfamiliar, surprising or forgotten.

Then I got close to the middle of the chart, and what I noticed wasn’t surprising for its place in the chart, but it was surprising for what I learned about it moments later. Procol Harum’s live version of “Conquistador” was sitting at No. 46 on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 16, and I wondered when I’d last featured the track, which is one I liked a fair amount back in 1972.

And the answer? Never. And I’ve mentioned it only a handful of times.

Now, Procol Harum was never a favorite band of mine. I liked “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” when it came out of friends’ radios on its way to No. 5 in 1967. And when “Conquistador” came humming out of speakers during the summer of ’72, Procol Harum was still a mystery, a band that was more album rock than Top 40, and album rock was a territory I was only just beginning to explore.

So even though I liked the track, I didn’t run out and get the single or the album. I had other musical business at hand. That summer of 1972 saw me completing my Beatles collection and adding the double album Eric Clapton At His Best. And as it turned out, I didn’t get any Procol Harum until the 1990s, when I acquired the group’s 1967 self-titled debut, 1969’s A Salty Dog, and finally – in 1998 – the 1972 live album with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. None of those survived the Great Vinyl Selloff last winter, but I have most of it covered digitally and plan to get the rest (as well as more of the group).

Anyway, it was a nice reminder to see “Conquistador” listed in that long-ago chart, and it was – as I said – a surprise to see that I’d never featured it here. That neglect ends today, and Procul Harum’s “Conquistador” – recorded live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra – is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 544

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

So let’s take a look at the late spring of 1972, around the time my freshman year of college ended and a patchwork summer began. During spring quarter, I’d retaken the history course I’d failed in the fall, but because of that F and another that same fall quarter in chemistry, I was still a few credits short of actually being a sophomore.

I wasn’t worried about that. After that disastrous first quarter, I’d worked harder on my courses and was doing much better. Socially, I was doing okay: I was still spending time with the guys in the dorms, the ones I’d met during the orientation the summer before, and I was hanging around with folks from KVSC, the college radio station, in the studios and the lounge, and on the softball field.

I’d dated three girls during the 1971-72 academic year, and the results showed that I was not in any way ready for a relationship. The first young lady moved ahead faster than I was ready for, and I ran. The second young lady found me insecure, and she dumped me. The third young lady moved ahead rapidly, and I again ran. I needed time off, and life gave it to me: I would not have a date from the middle of May 1972 until sometime in the summer of 1973.

So the spring of 1972 was a mixed bag. So, too, was the Billboard Hot 100 of June 10, 1972, forty-five years ago today:

“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
“Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
“Nice To Be With You” by Gallery
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
“Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song” by Billy Preston
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension

How much did I like or not like those records? None of them showed up on my 2010 Ultimate Jukebox. Only one – the Staple Singers’ record – is among the 3,700 or so tracks in my iPod. (I probably should add “Oh Girl” and maybe “Song Sung Blue” to the iPod.) But for me and my evolving tastes – Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie, Shawn Phillips and a few others were moving to the top of my list at the time – that was a pretty sad Top Ten.

But are there nuggets in the deeper places? Playing Games With Numbers with the digits available in today’s date doesn’t get us as deep into the Hot 100 as I want to go. So we’re going to check out Nos. 100, 90, and 80 to find ourselves a Saturday Single and hope that the track is available on YouTube. (The copy of the Hot 100 I have does not have the Bubbling Under section, which likely means it was in a different place in the magazine that week than the Hot 100 itself, and the unknown compiler either didn’t know it could be found or didn’t want to take the time.)

Parked at the very bottom of the Hot 100 forty-five years ago today was Petula Clark and her pretty bland cover of “My Guy,” the Smokey Robinson tune that Mary Wells took to No. 1 on both the Top 100 and the Billboard R&B chart in 1964. It’s a bit too bouncy and a bit too meh for me. The record would peak only at No. 70. Although she had two more records hit the Hot 100 (one in 1972 and another in 1982), Petula’s day was done.

Coming up ten places, we find “Rip Off” by Laura Lee, the tale of a woman’s planned vengeance on her cheating partner. Released on the Hot Wax label, the record sounds, of course, like Motown. That’s unsurprising, given that Hot Wax was the label that Edward Holland, Jr., Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland started when they left Motown in 1968. I like it a lot, especially the payoff verse, when Lee details exactly how she’s going to leave the guy with nothing:

I’m taking the carpet off the floor and the wallpaper off the walls
I’m taking the telephone so he can’t make no calls
This fool is in for the shock of his life. I’m tired of being neglected.
I’m gonna slap him in the face with the unexpected.

“Rip Off” went only to No. 68 in the Hot 100, but went to No. 3 on the R&B chart, Lee’s best-performing single on that chart.

Moving to No. 80, we come across a familiar record: “Coconut” by Nilsson, in its first week in the chart. It would eventually make its way to No. 8, become an earworm of great magnitude, inspire jokes (and in current days, memes) about the lime in the coconut, and spawn thousands (perhaps millions) of imitations of Nilsson’s own imitation of an island patois. You might guess I don’t like it very much. I don’t, but nevertheless, it’s got a place on the digital shelves, and when I hear on an oldies station, I sing along.

So, where do we go? I don’t like “Coconut” (and it’s far too familiar anyway), and I’m not moved by Petula Clark’s take on “My Guy.” Then it’s lucky that I like Laura Lee’s “Rip Off.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 538

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Sometime around 1969, I was wandering around Mac’s Music in downtown St. Cloud, either checking out books of solos for trumpet or piano sheet music (if it was before the autumn of that year, it was horn music I was looking for, as I hadn’t yet resumed playing piano), and I came across a bin of odd little plastic thingies. I picked one up, white with a red sort-of speaker, and took a closer look.

It was called a Hum-A-Zoo, and it was basically a kazoo in altered form. HumaZooIntrigued, I spent fifteen cents or so and began a period of (most likely) annoying my friends, my family and our neighbors by humming random tunes into the toy as I went about my mid-teen days. (It wasn’t the only odd instrument I had cluttering the knick-knack bin on my bedroom table; I also had a couple of Jew’s harps, a nose flute and a box of what were called – if my memory serves me well today – Swiss bird whistles that I bought from a vending machine at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.) But the joy of the Hum-A-Zoo faded, as it does for most gimmicks and gewgaws, and it eventually sat ignored in the bin, its pristine white in time turning an ugly shade of yellow.

I’m not sure if the Hum-A-Zoo is still with me in one of the boxes of miscellany I’ve ported around through the years. If it is, I’m not sure the little membrane would still be flexible enough to produce the buzz that a good kazoo provides. No matter. Up until last autumn, I would have put long odds on needing either a Hum-A-Zoo or its ancestor, a kazoo, for any of my musical needs or impulses.

That was when I was working with my friends Heather and Lucille to put together our show, Cabaret De Lune. And we decided that my tune “Twenty-First Century Blues” needed an instrumental break on kazoos. I didn’t even bother to look for the Hum-A-Zoo but went kazoo hunting instead. I called a couple of music stores and came up empty, but my third call, to an establishment called Bridge of Harmony, was a success: The store had two kazoos. Either Heather or Lucille stopped by and bought them, and they were then used to good effect for that small portion of our show. And I assume that Heather and Lucille took their kazoos home for whatever use they had for them.

And I now have a kazoo, a blue and gold one – just like in the picture – from the Trophy Music Company of Cleveland, Ohio.kazoo

Earlier today, I was practicing with two of my fellow musicians from our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, preparing for the next few Sundays. This week’s program is a presentation by one of our members on Scott Joplin and his times. Earlier this week, that member asked Jane and Tom if they’d perform “I’m Certainly Living A Ragtime Life,” a tune recorded in 1913 for the Zoophone label by G.H. Elliot. (Was that the original? I’d guess so, but I’m not certain.)

So I listened this morning as Jane and Tom worked through the chords – he with his banjo and she with her guitar – and took a go at the melody. And when they finished a couple of run-throughs, I idly said, “You know what might be kind of fun in there? A kazoo.”

Tom jumped on the idea: “Oh, yeah, that would be great!” Jane nodded her head, and one of the two asked if I had a kazoo.

Well, I didn’t, but I knew where I could get one. So I joined them on the vocal and then faked a humming part as they ran through the chords for the chorus. And on the way home from practice, I stopped by Bridge of Harmony and picked up my Trophy Music kazoo. It cost a little more than four bucks, far more than my red and white Hum-A-Zoo cost me nearly fifty years ago. (Yeah, I could check the actual values with an inflation calculation, but never mind.)

I may never use the kazoo after tomorrow; the demand for a kazoo solo tends to be pretty rare, I’m sure. But that’s okay. Maybe twice in a lifetime is enough.

In any case, “I’m Certainly Living A Ragtime Life” is a fun song to do. It’s hard to make out the words in the 1913 recording, so here’s a modern version by British singer Ian Whitcomb. It’s from his 1972 album Under The Ragtime Moon (an album I must find), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘The Door Is Open . . .’

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

Having dabbled in early 1972 for a Saturday Single last weekend, I began running through my head what I was doing at the time, about midway through my second quarter of classes at St. Cloud State. And I hit a blank spot.

It’s not a huge blank spot, but I do not recall a couple of the courses I took that quarter. I know I took a general ed math class, because I sat next to a guy named Jerry, and sometime in January, he gave me his copy of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul.

I know I took a one-credit practicum at the college radio station, because I remember a fair amount of stuff from the studios of KVSC-FM. Like other staffers, I’d spend my hours between classes there. We’d laze in the lounge, talking about pretty much anything in the world as we listened to the sounds of album rock coming from Studio B while the station’s signal sent classical music over the air from Studio A.

My duties included airing a five-minute sports break two or three times a week during a thirty-minute evening newscast that ended at 5:30. Two things come back to me from that: First, they were lousy sports breaks, made up entirely of copy pulled from the Associated Press printer. Not once during the quarter did I cover anything done by the various St. Cloud State athletic teams, which tells me that I knew how to read, but I had no idea how to report. And second, I recall heading outside at about 5:35 on those evenings and seeing my dad waiting for me by the back door of Stewart Hall, the exhaust from his beloved 1952 Ford billowing in the winter air.

I know I took the first of an eventual five music theory courses. We’ll get back to that.

And there were two other courses on my schedule, but even a couple days’ worth of pondering has brought me no closer to recalling what they were. “Was it English 162?” I’d think, and then place that course in the spring of 1972 because I showed some of my lyrics to the grad assistant who taught the course, and one of those lyrics – a not particularly good one – was written in April of that year. “Was it Speech Communication?” Well, no, that was the fall quarter of 1972, because that was how I met the girl from Indiana . . .

Having sorted through what I recall of St. Cloud State’s general ed requirements (and not being certain where I might have a transcript), I can only guess that I took a geography course and, well, something else that quarter. Those courses obviously didn’t matter to me at the time.

The music theory course did matter, as I’ve noted before, but as I ransacked the cupboards of my memory this week, I thought of one bit from that class that I’d not thought about for a while: At the end of the quarter, each of us in that theory class was required to perform an original song. I already had a couple of songs in my bag that might have worked, but I wrote a new one, “Sing Your Songs.”

As well as meeting the course requirements, the song was aimed at winning a greater portion of affection from a young lady I’d been seeing. I look at the lyrics now, after decades of writing lyrics and prose, and I wince, but only a little. For a callow eighteen-year old just beginning to learn his craft, they weren’t bad:

The door is open, come on in.
I won’t ask you where you’ve been.
I’ll remember, lose or win
As you sing your songs for me.

Don’t forget, it’s always here,
Sometimes cloudy, sometimes clear,
Standing far or drawing near
As you show your dreams to me.

Your songs need not be long
Not perfect in their rhyme,
All that I am asking
Is to exchange your songs with mine.

When you leave, if you ever do,
Smiling, frowning, false or true,
I’ll remember in green and blue
When you sang your songs for me.

I accompanied myself on guitar, adding an instrumental break on my racked harmonica. My theory classmates liked it. So did the professor. And more importantly, so did the young lady, who thanked me for it after she got the copy I tucked into her dorm mailbox.

About a month later, after she’d decided we were not well-matched, I tucked another lyric into her mailbox. (I won’t share that one; it’s truly dreadful, even for a beginner.) She was not at all touched: She returned the lyric to me without comment via the U.S. Mail.

Twelve Presidential Votes

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

It’s still early here on the East Side, and the fellow heading up the polling place at the city public works building says he expects a busy day. The Texas Gal and I got there about ten minutes after the doors opened at seven o’clock, and there were about ten people ahead of us. We checked in and marked our ballots, and I cast vote No. 15 in the precinct. Hers was either No. 16 or No. 17. (I didn’t notice; I was waiting in the lobby, chatting with the greeter.)

This is the twelfth presidential election in which I’ve cast a vote. In the previous eleven elections, I’ve voted for the winner five times. And yes, I’m a Democrat. Actually, here in Minnesota, I’m a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a name that reminds us of a 1944 merger between Minnesota’s Democrats and the state’s Farmer-Labor party. That bit of historical resonance pleases me.

(As Wikipedia notes, Minnesota’s DFL is one of only two state Democratic party affiliates that has a different name; the other one is the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party. I wasn’t active in the DNPL when I lived in Minot, but I voted for its candidates in 1988.)

That 1988 election was the fifth presidential election I voted in, and my fifth voting location. As I’ve noted here other times, I’ve moved around a lot over the years. Here’s a synopsis of my residences for the twelve presidential elections in which I’ve voted.

1972: Folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard, St. Cloud
1976: Drafty house on St. Cloud’s North Side
1980: Mobile home just outside Monticello, Minn.
1984: Mobile home on south edge of Columbia, Mo.
1988: Apartment near downtown Minot, N.D.
1992: Apartment on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.
1996: Apartment on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.
2000: Apartment on Bossen Terrace in south Minneapolis.
2004: Apartment on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.
2008: House on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.
2012: House on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.
2016: House on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.

I’m not certain that listing proves anything except that my life has become far more stable since a certain February evening in 2000, when I met the Texas Gal. And the first half of that list reminds me of a remark my pal Rob made not long ago while we were sipping beers at the Lincoln Depot just down the road from here. We’d struck up conversations with a couple of other music fans, and I’d noted that until I’d moved back to St. Cloud in 2002, my life had been “somewhat nomadic.”

Rob snorted. “Take out the adjective,” he said. “You were just nomadic.”

I was. And this morning, I look back at that first presidential election, when I was a sophomore in college, before I did any of that wandering. I cast my ballot for George McGovern at the Faith Lutheran Church, about five blocks away from home, drove over to school for an afternoon class and came home looking forward to an evening of watching election returns.

There wasn’t much suspense, of course, although in my youthful optimism, I’d hoped for a competitive race. McGovern, as you might recall, carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, and Richard Nixon was elected to a second term as president (a term he did not complete). After a brief time, I turned off the television and went elsewhere for diversion, probably up to my room and the radio, an AM/FM model Mom had won in a drawing – something I’d not recalled until writing this sentence – that I had recently claimed as my own.

I probably had the radio tuned that evening to KVSC-FM, St. Cloud State’s student-run station. What did I hear? I have no idea. But during the evening of that quintessential American day, it might very well have been the odd and disturbing title track from David Ackles’ third album, American Gothic, released that summer on the equally quintessential American day of July 4:

Mrs. Molly Jenkins sells her wares in town
Saturdays in the evening when the farmhands come around
And she sews all their names in her gown
Ah, but is she happy?
No no no
She wants a better home and a better kind of life
But how is she going to get the things she wants,
The things she needs as some poor wretch of a farmer’s wife?
He trades the milk for booze
And Molly wants new shoes
And as she snuggles down
With a stranger in some back of the barroom bed
It’s much too dark to the see the stranger
So she thinks of shoes instead

Old Man Horace Jenkins stays at home to tend his schemes
Sends for pictures of black stockings on paper legs with paper seams
And he drinks ’til he drowns in his dreams
Ah, but is he happy?
No, no, no
He wants to be reborn to lead the pious life
But how’s he going to shed his boozy dreams
When he has to bear the cross of a wicked wife?
She claims to visit shows
And he pretends that’s where she goes
And as he snuggles down to his reading in a half-filled marriage bed
He’s so ashamed of what he’s reading that he gets blind drunk instead

Sunday breakfast with the Jenkins
They break the bread and cannot speak
She reads the rustling of his paper
He reads the way her new shoes squeak
And pray God to survive one more week
Ah, but are they happy?
You’d be surprised between the bed and the booze and the shoes
They suffer least who suffer what they choose

Back To Sipping Wine

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

A couple of interesting comments showed up on older posts here late last month. We’ll look at one today and the other later this week. The first was from Shane Valcich, adding a thought or two to a couple of posts from a little more than a year ago

In those posts – they’re here and here – I looked at a seeming contradiction – or mistake – in the titling and crediting one of my favorite tunes from the 1970s. I first knew the tune as “Sip The Wine,” written by Rick Danko and included on his self-titled 1977 album, and I wrote about how that tune and that album had provided some evening comfort and a sense of home for me as I settled into a couple of new apartments in Columbia, Missouri, in the late summer of 1990:

One of the tracks from Danko’s album that’s most evocative of those evenings is “Sip The Wine.” It’s a love song, and for the most part, it had no bearing on my life at the time, but I remember hearing the closing repetitions of “We must sip the wine” and nodding in agreement. The wine I was sipping wasn’t as sweet as that quaffed by the lovers in the song, but that was okay. I still found comfort in the song.

A couple of days later, after the random function on the RealPlayer alerted me, I wrote about the same song being released in 1972 – five years earlier than Danko’s release – by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth under the title “I Want To Lay Down Beside You.” Credited to musician and songwriter Tim Drummond, the track was on the album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth:

Digging into the contradiction, I made the assumption that Drummond was the songwriter and some type of error resulted in its being credited to Danko in 1977. But in the comment Shane left at the second post, he noted that it might have been the other way around. Here’s his comment, edited slightly.

Just a theory but I wonder if the error isn’t on the 1972 album.

Seems more likely that Rick wasn’t paying attention, didn’t care or gave away the song credits to Tim Drummond for the 1972 release. Rick was busy and highly successful in the early 70s with the Band and touring with Bob Dylan in 1974.

Seems less likely that Tim Drummond would get credit for playing bass on two tracks on Rick’s [1977] album while losing out on the higher paying writing credits for “Sip the Wine” on the same album, all while in a far less hectic time period when these musicians were all starting to decline in popularity and were looking for credit and royalties. Also he is properly credited for tons of writing and performing.

But inversely, maybe Tim’s success resulted in him giving the credit to Rick for his debut album seeing that Rick’s popularity may have been in more jeopardy than Tim’s. Or he was so busy he didn’t care or notice.

I will just have to head down to visit Rick’s grave in Woodstock and ask him while I smoke a joint with his spirit.

If Danko has any guidance for Shane from beyond the veil, I hope Shane shares it here.

Saturday Single No. 509

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

So what do we know about September 10? Well, Wikipedia tells us it’s the 254th day of this Leap Year, and it’s slightly more likely to fall on a Monday, Thursday or Saturday. (And in the handful of times we’ve done this type of post, that the first time I can recall Wikpedia noting that likelihood information. Interesting.)

Okay, so historically, what does Wikipedia tell us has happened on September 10?

The list leads off there by noting that in 506 A.D., the bishops of Visigothic Gaul met in the Council of Agde. Visigothic Gaul, as we all should know, was the southwestern area of what is now France, and it was ruled by the Visigoths – the western portions of the Germanic peoples known as Goths (and I don’t think they wore black lipstick and listened to Nine Inch Nails) – from the early 400s to 507. The Council of Agde – which took place on the island of Agde (or Agatha) on the Mediterranean coast east of the now-French city of Narbonne – set out forty-some rules for the naming and behavior of deacons, priests and bishops.

(I went into detail there for a couple of reasons: First, because the event was the first on the list offered by Wikipedia about September 10; second, because I’ve been through Narbonne; third, because it gave me a chance for a cheap joke about modern-day Goths and their music; and fourth, because I never pass up a chance to misspell “Mediterranean” and have spell-check correct me.)

Other events over the years that have taken place on September 10 include:

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, which took place in 1547 “on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland. The last pitched battle between Scottish and English armies, it was part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing, and is considered to be the first modern battle in the British Isles. It was a catastrophic defeat for Scotland, where it became known as Black Saturday.”

The election of John Smith as council president of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608. This was the year after Smith was supposedly saved from death at the hands of the Powhatan Indians by Pocahontas, the daughter of the Powhatans’ chief. There remain some questions about the story’s truth, and Wikipedia goes into detail about the story and about the history of the discussion over the years. I’m a little interested, and I may go back to read further than I did this morning.

Elias Howe was granted a patent for the sewing machine in 1846. By inventing the machine, he saved most likely millions of mothers from the drudgery of hand-stitching their family’s clothing, which resulted in mid-Twentieth Century moms bringing home clothing patterns by Simplicity, Butterick and other companies, which then resulted in kids wearing to school home-made shirts made from odd and no doubt unique plaid fabrics. (It only happened once; during my first marriage, the Other Half offered me well-made shirts in very nice plaids, and I happily wore those until they either fell apart or I got too large.)

In 1919, Austria and the victorious Allies of World War I signed the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye recognizing the independence of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Less than a century later, two of those four nations have now split apart and the Poland that was recognized in that treaty was shifted to the west after World War II, losing territory in the east to the Soviet Union and being compensated by gaining territory from Germany in the west. And I imagine that if I looked into it, the borders of Hungary now are likely no longer the borders that were recognized in that 1919 treaty.

Speaking of the Soviet Union, it was on September 10, 1972, that the USSR’s Olympic men’s basketball team won the gold medal game against the United States by a score of 51 to 50. The Soviets were given three opportunities – two of them against the rules, from what I understand and remember – at the end of the game to score the winning basket. The United States team refused its silver medals, and I’ve read a couple of pieces over the years about the team and that decision; the medals, as I understand it, are in a bank vault in Switzerland, waiting to be claimed. I hope they never are.

And that last item brings me to a numerical hook for some tunes. We can look at the No. 50, No. 51 and No. 101 records from this week in 1972 for a single for today. And we have a nice set to choose from.

Sitting at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-four years ago today was Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me On The Water,” which would in succeeding weeks move up just two more spots to a peak at No. 48. Parked at No. 51 was Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” one of my favorite one-hit wonders, which would eventually move up to No. 9.

And sitting atop the Bubbling Under section at No. 101 was Al Green’s “Guilty,” a record that I’m not sure I’d heard until this morning. It was released on the Bell label, which to me means that it was recorded before Green’s huge success at Hi but released after he was a star. It only went to No. 69, and I can only assume that listeners might have liked Green’s voice but missed the classic production touches offered on Green’s hits by Hi’s Willie Mitchell. I miss them, too, so we’ll pass on “Guilty.”

As to the other two, I spent some time a while ago looking at the Jackson Browne record and various covers of the tune, but according to a search this morning, I’ve mentioned the O’Keefe record only twice in the course of some 1,800 posts, and as much as I like it, we’ve never listened to it here. My little tunehead pal Pop finds that unconscionable, and even Odd thinks it strange.

So here’s Danny O’Keefe’s “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues,” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Utopia’

Friday, July 15th, 2016

As the Texas Gal and I pulled boxes off shelves and out of piles in the basement the other week, we sorted our finds into three categories: Stuff we could sell at last week’s garage sale, stuff we would either keep or take to antique dealers/collectors, and stuff we could just pitch. And as we pulled and sorted, we caught glimpses of bits of our lives long gone (like the orange backpack).

And one of the boxes in the last pile we tackled brought back memories of the only video game system I’ve ever owned: Mattel’s Intellivision. Though the game console is long gone, the box held the ten games I got to go along with the console back in the early 1980s.

Intellivision b y Evan Amos

By today’s standards, it was a laughable system, but in 1980, its graphics and the wide variety of games available made it pretty remarkable. The complexity of the games was pretty cool, too. Take the NFL Football game, for instance. With the key pad on the controller – into which one slipped a plastic insert – you could call a run or pass from any of nine formations. The running plays were pretty simple, but for a pass, you had to then choose one of two receivers – there were only five players on each team – and then choose one of nine areas on the field where the pass would be thrown.

The gold disc in the controller was, in effect, the joystick. Only one player on each team would be under your control. On defense, it was, I think, a linebacker. On offense, it would be the running back or the quarterback/receiver combination. You’d control the quarterback until you hit the “pass” button, and then you’d control the receiver, moving him to the zone where the ball was thrown.

What did the other four players on each team do? Well, the other offensive players were programmed to block the defenders, and the defenders were programmed to go to wherever the ball was.

Yes, it was the gaming equivalent of the Model T, but it’s worth recalling that just five years earlier, we’d all been amazed by Pong. Given that Intellivision increased the number of moving parts and the complexity of the games, it was a great system. And as soon as I saw it in at my friend Warren’s house back in 1981 or 1982, I knew I had to have one.

It wasn’t cheap. One web site I checked this morning said the original price in 1980 was $299. I don’t remember mine being quite that expensive; I think I laid down about $200 bucks for mine (the equivalent of about $585 these days).  And of course, there was the cost of the games. The console came with a Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack cartridge, which was kind of lame. I eventually bought nine other games:

NFL Football
NHL Hockey
NASL Soccer
Skiing
Tennis
Backgammon
Space Battle
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Utopia

I also remember playing baseball and a game called Sub Hunt at Warren’s. Since I didn’t always have someone around to play against – the Other Half was not at all interested in video games – I enjoyed most the games one could play solo: Skiing, Space Battle, Dungeons & Dragons and Utopia. (I could practice football by myself, especially the passing, in kind of a scrimmage mode, and I could play hockey and soccer solo, after a fashion, controlling the offense for one team until the defense got control of the puck or ball and then switching controllers; that was kind of lame, yes, but it gave me practice in passing and shooting.)

My favorite was probably Utopia, which was designed for either one or two players. You’d control the government of an island, investing gold bars to create farms, school, hospitals, forts and other establishments Intellivision Utopiaand sending out a fishing fleet to gain food and revenue. On a random basis, rain would cross your farms and your crops would flourish. Random hurricanes also came along, destroying your buildings and crops. Playing solo, the goal was simply to govern well and accumulate points. In a two-person game, trying to outscore your opponent, you could also invest in rebels to attack the other island. (In a solo game, hurricanes or the failure of the crops or fishing fleet could result in rebels popping up on your own island.)

I played the various games – solo and with Warren and a few other folks – for about four or five years. Then one day in early 1985, I hauled my console to a friend’s house in Columbia, Missouri, to share it with him. We plugged in the Skiing game and everything showed up on the screen except the skier. Puzzled, I switched to soccer, and everything was there except the ball. Something in the console’s innards had failed. I put the game back in its box and we watched basketball on TV.

A few years later, no wiser as to what had gone wrong with my Intellivision and aware that it was outdated, I threw the console out. I packed the game cartridges in a box, thinking someone might want them someday. And today, they sit on a table here in the EITW studios. I suppose I could try to sell them on Ebay or a similar site. Or I could just give them to Goodwill and let the folks there puzzle things out.

I found in the mp3 stacks two pieces with the title “Utopia.” One was a 2000 recording from the album Voices Of Life by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir. The other came from a self-titled 1972 album by Mother Night, a Latin funk/rock band from New York City (according to the blog Hippydjkit). Here’s the Mother Night track:

Saturday Single No. 497

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

We’re taking kind of a day off here today, as I’m heading out fairly early to play Strat-O-Matic baseball at Rob’s in St. Francis.* We’ve moved the annual event to his place this year (and probably for the future as well).

But May 21 is a date that sticks in my mind, as it was on that date in 1974 that I came home from my school year in Denmark. Here’s a photo my dad took that day; he caught me just as I saw him and my family (and Rick) for the first time in almost nine months.

First look, 5-21-74

As to music, well, one tune rang true to go with that picture. That’s why Delaney & Bonnie’s “Coming Home” – from their 1972 album D&B Together – is today’s Saturday Single.

*For those who are interested, I’m bringing the 2001 Diamondbacks and the 2004 Red Sox into the tournament. Rob’s selected the 1936 Yankees and the 1998 Astros; Dan has the 1924 Senators and the 1998 Braves; and Rick has chosen the 1968 Tigers and 2014 Dodgers.

‘North’

Friday, March 11th, 2016

When we sort the 88,000 or so mp3s on the digital shelves for the direction “north” – beginning, as we do so, our “Follow the Directions” journey promised a few weeks ago – we run into several obstacles.

First of all, numerous mp3s have been tagged by their rippers over the years as “Northern Soul,” a designation that, as I’ve noted before, tends to baffle me because it’s more reliant on the reaction of the listener than it is to anything intrinsic to the music. But never mind. We’ll have to ignore those.

We also lose tunes by those performers and groups that have “north” as part of their names, like Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers, a 1920s string band; the North Mississippi Allstars, a current blues ’n’ boogie band; Northern Light, the band that released “Minnesota” in 1975; Canadian singer-songwriter Tom Northcott (without intending to, I’ve gathered eleven of his recordings); and a current folky group called True North.

Then we have to cross off our list a live 1982 performance by Jesse Winchester in Northampton, Massachusetts; and almost every track from many albums, including the Freddy Jones Band’s 1995 album North Avenue Wake Up Call, the Michael Stanley Band’s North Coast (1981), Dawes’ North Hills (2014), Sandy Denny’s The North Star Grassman & The Raven (1971), The Band’s Northern Lights/Southern Cross (1975) and Ian & Sylvia’s Northern Journey (1964). But we still have enough to choose from to find four worthy tunes pointing us to the “N” on the compass.

Regular readers know my regard for the late Jesse Winchester, and I think I know his catalog fairly well, but every now and then, his whimsy surprises me all over again, as happened with his tune “North Star” this morning. It starts like a serene, folky meditation:

Heaven’s got this one star that don’t move none
And that’s the place you want to aim your soul
Set you on a spot that knows no season
And be satisfied just to watch old Jordan roll

And then Winchester leaps:

Now, does the world have a belly button?
I can’t get this out of my head
’Cause if it turns up in my yard
I’ll tickle it so hard
’Til the whole world will laugh to wake the dead

Surprises me every time. It’s on Winchester’s 1972 album Third Down, 110 To Go.

If the North had ever had a poet/musician laureate, for years that place would have been filled by Gordon Lightfoot, and just three of his songs would have cemented him there: “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and “Alberta Bound.” And it seems to me that Lightfoot summed up all of his Canadian lore in one last good Northern song: “Whispers of the North” from his 1983 album Salute:

Whispers of the north
Soon I will go forth
To that wild and barren land
Where nature takes its course
Whispers of the wind
Soon I will be there again
Bound with a wild and restless drive
That pulls me from within
And we can ride away
We can glide all day
And we can fly away

Back in the late 1980s, a ladyfriend and I included Lightfoot on our list of essential musicians; even so, I’ve never been driven to pull together a complete Lightfoot collection, as I’ve done with Bob Dylan (with the exception of his Christmas album). The urgency wasn’t there, I guess, although the shelves – both wooden and digital – hold plenty of Lightfoot. And “Whispers of the North,” though it might not rank with the other three Canadian anthems I mentioned above, is pretty high on my list. The loon call at the start doesn’t hurt, of course.

The song that shows up most frequently – twenty-two times – in my sorting of “north” is Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country.” Beyond five versions by Dylan himself and four by Leon Russell (one of those with Joe Cocker and one with the Tedeschi Trucks Band), I have versions by the Country Gentlemen, Hamilton Camp, Howard Tate, Margo Timmins, Rosanne Cash, Mylon Lefevre, Jimmy LaFave, Leo Kottke and several other folks, including the previously mentioned Tom Northcott. A Vancouver native, Northcott had several charting singles in Canada in the late 1960s and early 1970s and got into the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. once, when his cover of Harry Nilsson’s “1941” went to No. 88 in early 1968. (A cover of Donovan’s “Sunny Goodge Street” had bubbled under at No. 123 during the summer of 1967.) His pleasant take on “Girl From the North Country” went to No. 65 on the Canadian charts in 1968.

And we end today with “Lady Of The North” by Gene Clark, the closer to his 1974 album No Other. According to the tales told at Wikipedia, Clark – after some years of indulgence – was sober when wrote the bulk of the album’s songs at his home in Mendocino, California. After heading to Los Angeles to record, though, he more than dabbled in cocaine, and his wife, Carlie, took the couple’s children back to Northern California. Whether it was a direct response, I’m not certain, but Clark, with help from Doug Dillard, wrote “Lady Of The North” for Carlie and used it as the album’s closer. Wikipedia notes that the album was a “critical and commercial failure,” that the time and resources used to record were “seen as excessive and indulgent,” and that Asylum did little to promote the album. Two CD releases of the album in recent years have been met with better critical and commercial response.