Archive for the ‘1972’ Category

‘How Can I Go On Living . . .’

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Since we dabbled around the other day in the Billboard 200 album chart from mid-January 1972, I thought we’d stay in that same time period and check out the magazine’s easy listening chart, the chart now called Adult Contemporary. Here are the top fifteen records from that chart as of January 15, 1972:

“American Pie” by Don McLean
“Cherish” by David Cassidy
“It’s One Of Those Nights (Yes Love)” by the Partridge Family
“Anticipation” by Carly Simon
“I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” by the Hillside Singers
“Without You” by Nilsson
“The Harder I Try (The Bluer I Get)” by the Free Movement
“Sunshine” by Jonathan Edwards
“An Old Fashioned Love Song” by Three Dog Night
“All I Ever Need Is You” by Sonny & Cher
“Joy” by Apollo 100
“500 Miles” by Heaven Bound with Tony Scott
“My Boy” by Richard Harris
“Friends With You” by John Denver
“Brand New Key” by Melanie

Well, at least three of those ring no bells for me by title, which is a little odd, considering that 1972 falls smack in the middle of what I call my sweet spot. I don’t recall the singles by the Partridge Family, the Free Movement, or John Denver. The Heaven Bound single is ringing faint bells; I have a hunch it’s shown up in this space before. And a quick bit of research shows that I spent a couple of posts in 2012 digging into the single and other versions of the Hedy West song “500 Miles.”

As to the other three, after a quick trip to YouTube, I find I do not recall the Partridge Family or Free Movement records at all, though they’re pretty good singles. And after a reminder, I do recall the John Denver record without pleasure.

And of the other eleven, how many of them matter today? I don’t really dislike any of them; I suppose I have the least affection for the Sonny & Cher record, but it doesn’t make me ill. So let’s take a look at the iPod and see how many of those eleven records are among the 3,900-some that make up my day-to-day listening.

Well, in the device we find the singles by McLean, Simon, Nilsson, Edwards, Three Dog Night and Apollo 100. And none of those really surprise me. After all, as I noted above, 1972 falls right in the middle of my sweet spot. Since I got my own corner of the ’Net in 2010, I’ve written about 1972 and its music 150 times (including today). The only years that have shown up here more frequently are 1972’s immediate predecessors: 1969 (178 times), 1970 (196 times) and 1971 (167 times). (The total number of posts, for what it’s worth, is 1,508, including today.)

All of that tells me something that is likely self-evident: I am a product of those years when my tastes were formed. So, I think, are we all. Our listening (and viewing and reading) habits may expand and modify, but they all build on the foundations of our youths.

As an example, I know a fair amount about the blues, its history and its variants, but I got there by going backwards from (among others) Eric Clapton and the early Rolling Stones. It’s probably not a stretch to say that my interest in the blues was seeded in large part by hearing the Stones’ “Love In Vain” and “You Gotta Move” and Cream’s “Rollin’ & Tumblin’” in 1971 and 1972 (though those seeds took years to sprout).

Well, I ramble. To get back to the fifteen records above, of those that are in my iPod, only two speak to me on a deeper level: the Nilsson and Carly Simon records, the first because a friend of mine used to sing it as I played piano and the second because of a day that came fifteen years later. So I thought I’d look at the remaining twenty-five records in that long-ago easy listening chart and see if any of those spoke to me.

And I find at No. 24 Beverly Bremers’ “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember,” a record I’ve mentioned only a few times over the years, which is a little odd, as it’s a lovely exercise in sorrow, sentiment and nostalgia (all among my major weaknesses) with a killer hook. The record peaked on the easy listening chart at No. 5 and went to No. 15 on the Hot 100.

No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, and today, we’re wandering back to January of 1972, a time when I was kind of figuring out college life. I was learning how to study, how to enjoy coffee, and how to put together a late-night, five-minute, top-of-the-hour newsbreak for St. Cloud State’s KVSC-FM that wouldn’t sound stupid being bracketed by Mason Proffit and Long John Baldry.

We’re going to change the game a little bit today, calling it Album Symmetry and instead of looking at the top singles, we’ll look at the album chart. The top ten albums in the Billboard 200 forty-eight years ago today were:

Music by Carole King
American Pie by Don McLean
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
The Concert for Bangla Desh
Led Zeppelin IV
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
All In The Family soundtrack
There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Black Moses by Isaac Hayes

Eight of those eventually ended up on the vinyl stacks here. At the time this chart was released, two, maybe three, of those albums were in the cardboard box in the basement rec room: The Concert For Bangla Desh and Tapestry were for sure, but I’m not certain about the Cat Stevens album.

Tapestry and Teaser . . . were my sister’s LPs, and she’d take them with her when she got married and left Kilian Boulevard during the coming summer. I’d eventually get my own copies of those two records and copies of five more of the ten albums listed there. The only two that didn’t ever show up were the All In The Family soundtrack and the Isaac Hayes album. (The Isaac Hayes album is on the digital shelves, but oddly, the Sly & The Family Stone album is not; all of the others except the All In The Family soundtrack are there.)

So of those, how many matter today? Well, most of Tapestry is in the iPod, as well as selected tracks from Music, American Pie, The Concert For Bangla Desh, and the albums by Led Zeppelin and Cat Stevens. It’s the stuff that – if you’ve been reading this blog even semi-regularly – you’d expect to be there. So no surprises there.

But what about our ostensible purpose for being here today? What album sits at No. 48 on that chart released forty-eight years ago today?

Well, it’s an album that never had a chance of getting onto my shelves: Cheech & Chong. I heard the 1971 debut album by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong often at friends’ places, and I laughed along with everyone else. But comedy albums have never been a big deal to me. In fact, the only comedy album I ever sought out for myself was Bill Cosby’s Wonderfulness, which my folks bought for me, most likely in 1967. (A few other comedy records have come and gone in box buys at flea markets and garage sales.)

Enough people elsewhere loved Cheech & Chong for it to get to No. 26 during a sixty-four week run on the chart. And here’s the opening bit from the album, a bit that lives on in a lot of people’s heads when they meet someone named Dave.

Oh, Well

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

We didn’t have a spectacular autumn this year. September was rainy, keeping us mostly indoors. Early October brought a few household challenges – the main one being a leak under the kitchen sink that was poorly repaired and required a second visit from a plumber – taking from us a couple of Fridays when we might have gone adventuring.

That all meant that by the time we went for a Friday drive, October was more than half-way over, and about half of the trees near Lake Mille Lacs – one of Minnesota’s largest, about forty miles away – were already bare. It was a sunny day, there was some color, but it was hardly the autumn drive I’d hoped for in late August when the first signs of the season came my way.

And based on November’s results so far, autumn’s “four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind” that I’ve mentioned here over the years will this year be a little longer and much colder – if a little sunnier – than it has been in past years.

But it goes as it goes, and sometimes you get half a serving. So here’s a “half” song: “Halfway Down The Road” by Robert Thomas Velline (better known as Bobby Vee). It’s from his 1972 singer-songwriter album, Nothin’ Like A Sunny Day.

Saturday Single No. 648

Saturday, July 6th, 2019

Well, since we’ve been in kind of a 1972 groove this week, I thought we’d stay there today and let the gods of randomness have a moment. There are about 3,300-some tracks from 1972 in the RealPlayer, and we’re going to sort those by length, drop the cursor into the midpoint and go random four times. We’ll skip past stuff we’ve listened to here before.

The Trammps were still six years away from the glory of “Disco Inferno” when “Scrub Board” came out as a B-side of “Sixty Minute Man” on the Buddah label. As B-sides go, well, it’s a B-side – 3:11 of orchestral riffs that might have been a decent backing track for some vocals. The A-side, “Sixty Minute Man,” was more energetic and interesting, but still a little limp. It bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks, getting to No. 108, and I’m sure that any music director that gave the flip a chance didn’t listen too long. Since we’re locked into the B-side, these are not the riffs we’re looking for.

One of my recent dishwashing music sequences for Facebook brought me around to “Propinquity,” a track from Earl Scruggs’ 1972 album I Saw The Light With Some Help From My Friends. The brief tune – it runs only 2:21 – is a tale of finally seeing clearly, and with love, someone who’s been close for a long time. It came from the pen of Mike Nesmith (one of the Monkees, of course, but a very good country-rock musician and writer on his own), and on Scruggs’ album, it features the vocals of Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I came upon the album only two years ago – there is so much music still to learn about – and have been enjoying it greatly.

And next we get “It’s Only A Dream” by Mama Lion, your basic early ’70s rock joint, with some intrusive driving guitar and catchy drum work, a decent piano riff and some vocals over-sung by lead singer Lynn Carey. As I’ve noted before, Mama Lion released two albums of competent but hardly ground-breaking rock; Preserve Wildlife, the source of “It’s Only A Dream,” was its first. I’ve sometimes thought that Carey’s post-Lion work might be worth seeking out, but I’ve never made it a priority.

Finally, we fall on the title track of an album I’ve surprisingly mentioned only once here: “Toulouse Street” by the Doobie Brothers. The album is home to the group’s first hits – “Listen To The Music,” “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “Rockin’ Down The Highway” – but the title track has always seemed to me one of the most atmospheric of the group’s recordings. With its chorus of “I just might pass this way again,” the track – the B-side to “Listen To The Music” – seems like an eerie progenitor of – and possibly the inspiration for – Seals & Crofts’ 1973 hit “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)”

So the gods of randomness have batted .500, and that’s good enough. I was ready to feature “Propinquity,” but a nighttime walk through the Crescent City altered that idea. Here’s the Doobie Brothers’ “Toulouse Street.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Back In ’72

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

I shared here the other day a repost from 2007, a piece about my high school friend Becky and how I found a track from her 1972 album, A Special Path, on an anthology titled Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From the Canyon. I admit that I likely never listened more than once to Becky’s album – Christian folk was never my genre – but I made sure that I kept it the other year when I sold about two-thirds of the LPs on my shelf.

And thinking about July 1972 – when Becky delivered her album to my door – I got to wondering what I was listening to at the time. Part of that was easy. I was working half-time as a janitor at St. Cloud State’s Campus Lab School that summer, and a radio tuned to the Twin Cities’ KDWB was never far away (though never turned up very loud).

Neither Oldiesloon nor the Airheads Radio Survey Archive has a KDWB survey from July 1972, but Oldiesloon has the July 7 Star Survey from WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station of the time. The Top Ten at ’DGY was:

“Lean On Me” by Bill Withers
“Too Late To Turn Back Now” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“Layla” by Derek & The Dominos
“Rocket Man” by Elton John
“Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” by Wayne Newton
“Brandy” by Looking Glass
“Day By Day” by the cast of “Godspell”
“Conquistador” by Procol Harum & The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan

A few of those underline the summer for me. The first, the O’Sullivan single was omnipresent; I recall hearing it at work, in the car, around me as I wandered around with friends, just everywhere. I got tired of it rapidly and dismissed it when it showed up again over the years (until a recent hearing of it on one of our cable channels reminded me how tightly crafted a pop song it is).

The other two that hang in the air of my summer of ’72 memories are “Brandy” and “Layla.” The Looking Glass single was a large part of the soundtrack to the trip that I took with Rick and our pal Gary to Winnipeg in August. No matter what Top 40 station we found on the radio of my 1961 Falcon, “Brandy” was sure to pop up very soon. As to “Layla,” well, I’d heard the first half of the classic track two years earlier when Atco released an edited version that ended before Jim Gordon’s lyrical piano coda. The 1972 single from Polydor included that portion, which I’d never heard before, being clueless about Derek & The Dominos to that point in my life.

(Beyond being a beautiful piece of work, Gordon’s piano part – which, given things I’ve read over the years, should also have been credited to Rita Coolidge [not Bonnie Bramlett, as reader David helpfully pointed out] – was the first piece of pop music that I was able to play on piano simply by listening to it on the radio. My two recently completed quarters of music theory along with lots of piano practice had given me new tools that I was thrilled to use.)

There are a few other records a bit lower on that WDGY survey that immediately say 1972: “Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway is one that I singled out a few years ago as the record of the summer, and the Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman,” America’s “I Need You,” and Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim” also bring back that time pretty vividly.

Wandering afield from what I was listening to that summer, there are a couple of records listed on the WDGY survey from July 7, 1972, whose titles I do not recognize: “We’re Free” by Beverly Bremers at No. 15 and “We’re On Our Way” by Chris Hodge, at No. 18. So I head to YouTube.

Bremers’ record, a paean to being lovers without being married – a topic at least slightly controversial for a record in 1972– is utterly unfamiliar to me. According to ARSA, it went to No. 2 or No. 3 in a number of markets: in Anchorage, Alaska, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in Honolulu, Hawaii, and – surprisingly –in Nashville, Tennessee, and Lynchburg, Virginia. And it went Top Ten in about ten more markets across the country. Overall, though, its performance was just so-so, as the record peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 40.

A quick listen to Hodge’s record – a release on the Beatles’ Apple label – reminds me that I sought it out once and dismissed it. It’s a mid-tempo rocker about UFOs, a woman riding on moonbeams, and bringing the “truth to planet Earth,” all of which, one would think, would have played well in 1972. The surveys gathered at ARSA show the record making the Top Ten in Syracuse, New York, and Saginaw, Michigan. It went to No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Of the two, Bremers’ record is more interesting, and it made the Top 40, if only barely. So here it is:

I Knew The Singer & The Song

Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

As I wandered through the archives today, I ran across this piece that was originally posted in May 2007, when this blog was about four months old. I’m not sure why it caught my attention, but I realized that, like me, Becky would now be in her mid-sixties. I’ve never tried to find her on the ’Net, and I don’t know if I will, but wherever she is, I hope she still sings.

I was wandering around the blog Lost-In-Tyme, reading about a CD anthology called Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From The Canyon, a collection of mostly self-released recordings by women from the early 1970s. The folks at Chicago’s Numero Group label, which released the collection in March 2006, heard the influence of Joni Mitchell in those long-ago recordings and named the collection in tribute to Mitchell’s 1970 album, Ladies Of The Canyon.

It sounded like the kind of thing I’d like, so I read the review and looked at the track list. And I looked again.

There, listed as the first track, was “A Special Path” by Becky Severson. I knew the song. I knew the self-released album from which it came.

I knew the singer.

Becky Severson was in my graduating class at St. Cloud Technical High School in 1971. She and I had been the trumpet section in our orchestra when we were sophomores, sharing chuckles through the year. Sometime during that year, we were playing with words, and I’d switched the syllables in her names. She blushed, but she evidently liked her new moniker; she signed my yearbook that year as “Sexy Beaverson.” She wasn’t in orchestra after that year, but we were casual friends through high school, including our senior year, when she was Homecoming Queen.

A year after we graduated, I’d heard that she’d recorded an album. I called her and asked about buying one. Twenty minutes later, she brought my copy of A Special Path to my door. We chatted for a few minutes, talking about what the first year after high school had brought us. Then she got into her car and drove off down Kilian Boulevard. I played the record once and put it on the shelf.

I’ve never seen Becky again. I made a couple of reunions, but I don’t think she was at either of them.

And thirty-five years after she recorded it, the title song to her album was chosen for an anthology. I dug a little deeper on the ’Net.

According to a piece in the Chicago Tribune, the Numero Group found its niche in the music business by deciding to find “lost musical gems from around the country and give them a second chance via a smartly curated and beautifully packaged series of CDs.” Ladies From The Canyon was the label’s eighth such package, and thirteen of its fourteen songs, including Becky’s, were released on private press labels.

The Tribune piece quoted Numero’s Ken Shipley as he talked about Becky and her song:

“Becky [Severson] was so surprised when we contacted her,” Shipley says of the singer whose simply strummed, Joan Baez-inspired “A Special Path” opens the “Ladies From the Canyon” CD. “She didn’t think anyone ever cared. … I mean, we’re not anyone’s savior here, but it’s nice.”

The story goes on to tell how the Numero Group found Becky. First, they noticed that her 1972 LP was recorded in St. Paul, which led them to check Seversons in Minnesota. Eventually, they narrowed the search to St. Cloud, and after calling twenty-four of the twenty-five Seversons in the phone book, the folks from Chicago found Becky’s dad, who told them Becky lived not far away. He also told them that he had boxes of her album in the attic.

They eventually found Becky, and after the CD was released, the Los Angeles Times evidently got hold of her. A piece from the Times – in a collection of news pieces gathered on the Numero Group’s website – notes:

Becky Severson, a Minnesotan whose early-’70s selection “A Simple Path” opens the set, expresses a sentiment common among her peers: “Singing brought me so much fulfillment. I could do that in public or in my little bedroom, and it would not have made much of a difference.” Based on a passage in the book of Jeremiah, her song lasts scarcely a minute; her voice quivers over delicate finger picking as she tells of her youthful devotion to God. Severson married young, and says her faith has held fast: “I am committed to serving Christ for eternity because of his love he revealed to me when I was 16.”

Asked if she was ever a flower child, Severson confesses to taking on the style of dress, but little else: “I didn’t fall into the ‘free love’ mode, because I didn’t believe in passing out something that I valued dearly.”

As I was digging online, I went to the stacks and pulled out A Special Path and put it on the turntable. It was as I remembered: The record was pleasant, clearly the work of a young singer-songwriter, with all fourteen tracks telling of Becky’s faith and the joy she’d found in that faith. She wrote seven of the songs on the album and co-wrote another. All but one of the other songs were written by friends of hers. One song, “Come To The Water,” was credited to the “Jesus People.” (One of those credited friends, I remembered as I glanced at the back of the jacket, was Wendy, the guitarist who’d been in my short-lived junior high band and of whom I wrote last week.)

I left a note at Lost-In-Tyme, telling Janisfarm, who’d contributed the piece on Ladies From The Canyon, about knowing Becky long ago and having her album. He wrote back, “The world is so [strange]!! Can you rip it and share with us?”

So here’s an album from a gal who used to sit next to me in orchestra.

With that, I shared the album for downloading, as was my habit in the early days of this blog. Since then, a YouTube user named R. K has posted Becky’s album as a single video. That link is just below. Further down is a link to a playlist of Ladies From The Canyon, the anthology that sparked this post.

I should note that I recall receiving an email after the publication of this post in 2007 telling me that one of the songs credited in the piece to either Becky or to her friends was in fact a well-known Christian folk song written by someone else. I can’t offer any more information, as a brief search for that note through the email archive was unsuccessful.

Becky Severson – A Special Path [1972]

Track listing:
A Special Path
God Gave Me A Light
I’ve Searched
House Song
Gospel Ship
Love Is A Wonderful Word
Come To The Water
Only Word
Jesus Song
Prayer Is The Key
Missing Out
Children’s Song
Now
Children Growing In God

Various Artists – Ladies From The Canyon (2006)

‘And they’re off!’

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Dance Into May!’

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Here’s a piece that ran here ten years ago. I’ve edited it just a bit. Happy May Day!*

It’s May Day again

No one has left a May Basket at my door this morning. I’m not surprised: How long has it been since anyone actually left a May Basket anywhere? I suppose there might be places where that sweet custom lingers, but that’s not here.

I do recall spending hours with construction paper, blunt scissors and schoolroom glue at Lincoln Elementary School, painstakingly putting together May Baskets with my classmates. I was not an artistic child. My skills were such that my baskets – year after year – were lopsided creatures with little gaps and clots of dried white glue all over. And the May Baskets I made over the years never got left on anyone’s doorstep.

May Day has long been marked as International Workers Day, but on this May Day I do not know of any workers who will march in solidarity today. In Europe, certainly (and perhaps in other places as well), there will be such marches. I do wonder how relevant those marches and those marchers are in these times. How lively is the international labor movement these days? Probably not all that lively, and these may be days when a more vital labor movement would be useful, as societies and priorities are being reordered.

As to specifically celebrating May Day, though, I recall the days of the Soviet Union: May Day was one of the two days a year when there were massive parades across the expanse of Moscow’s Red Square, past the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb. It would have been a spectacle to see, of course. One thing the Soviet Union could do well was put on a parade.

Looking further back into May Day history, Wikipedia tells me that the “earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian [times], with the festival of Flora the Roman Goddess of flowers, [and] the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane.” May Day, in pagan times, the account continues, marked the beginning of summer.

Current celebrations still abound in the land of about half of my ancestors, according to Wikipedia: “In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of Pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of maypoles, and young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: ‘Tanz in den Mai!’ (‘Dance into May!’). In the Rhineland, a region in the western part of Germany, May 1 is also celebrated by the delivery of a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike. On leap years, it is the responsibility of the females to place the maypole, though the males are still allowed and encouraged to do so.”

Well, there is no dancing here today, at least not around maypoles (possibly around the kitchen if I am bored while waiting for the toaster). If I look real hard in the refrigerator, I might find a bottle of Mai Bock from one of the area’s breweries. That would be cause enough to celebrate.

Happy May Day!

A Six-Pack For May Day
“First of May” by the Bee Gees, Atco 5567 (1969)
“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” by Glenn Yarbrough, from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (1967)
“May Be A Price To Pay” by the Alan Parsons Project from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)
“Mayfly” by Jade from Fly on Strangewings (1970)
“Hills of May” by Julie Felix from Clotho’s Web (1972)
“King of May” by Natalie Merchant from Ophelia (1998)

I imagine I’m cheating a little bit with two of those. But to be honest, I thought I’d have to cut more corners than I did. I was surprised to find four songs in my files with the name of the month in their titles.

How could I not play the Bee Gees’ track? It was, I think, the only single pulled from the Gibb brothers’ sprawling album Odessa, but it didn’t do so well on the chart: It spent three weeks in the Top 40, rising only to No. 37. Clearly out of style in its own time, what with the simple and nostalgic lyrics, the sweet, ornate production and the voice of a singer seemingly struggling not to weep, it’s a song that has, I think, aged better than a lot of the singles that surrounded it at the time. Still, I think “First of May” is better heard as a part of Odessa than as a single.

Speaking of out of style at the time, in 1967 Glenn Yarbrough’s honeyed voice was clearly not what record buyers were listening for. His For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her was a brave (some might say desperate, but I wouldn’t agree) attempt to update his sources of material, if not his vocal and background approaches: Writers whose songs appear on the album include Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, Buffy Ste. Marie, Phil Ochs, the team of Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley and, of course, Paul Simon, who wrote the enigmatic and beautiful title track. I don’t think the new approach boosted Yarbrough’s sales much – at least one single was released to little effect in Canada and the UK; I don’t know about the U.S. – but the record enchanted at least one young listener in the Midwest. The album remains a favorite of mine, and Yarbrough’s delicate reading of the title song is one of the highlights.

The Alan Parsons Project track “May Be A Price To Pay” is the opener to The Turn Of A Friendly Card, the symphonic (and occasionally overbearing) art-rock project released in 1980. Most folks, I think, would only recognize it as the home of two singles: “Games People Play” went to No. 16 in early 1981, and the lush “Time” went to No. 15 later that year. The album itself was in the Top 40 for about five months beginning in November 1980 and peaked at No. 13. That success paved the way for the group’s 1982 album, Eye In The Sky, which peaked at No. 7 in 1982, with its title track becoming a No. 3 hit. As overwhelming as The Turn Of A Friendly Card can be, I think it’s Parsons’ best work.

I don’t know a lot about Jade; I came across the trio’s only album – rereleased on CD with a couple of bonus tracks in 2003 – in my early adventures in the world of music blogs. All-Music Guide points out the obvious: Jade sounded – right down to singer Marian Segal’s work – very much like early Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny. That’s a niche that a lot of British groups were trying to fill at the time, and Jade filled it long enough to release one album. “Mayfly” had more of a countryish feel than does the album as a whole.

According to AMG, “Julie Felix isn’t too well-known in her native United States, but since 1964 she’s been a major British folk music star and has been compared over there with Joan Baez.” Well, that seems a stretch to me, based on Clotho’s Web, the album from which “Hills of May” comes. The album is pleasant but has never blown me away.

One album that did blow me away when I first heard it in, oh, 1999, was Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia. Supposedly a song cycle that traces the character of Ophelia through the ages, the CD was filled with lush and melancholy songs, some of which were almost eerie. Repeated listening only made the CD seem better, if a bit more depressing. It’s a haunting piece of work, and “King of May” is pretty typical of the entire CD.

*The information at Wikipedia may have altered over these past ten years. If this were a newspaper piece, I’d check. But it’s a blog post and not a very important one, either, so I’m leaving that stuff as it was ten years ago.

Saturday Single No. 637

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Last evening we attended a local production of Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the first production written years ago by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It was lively, fun, well-done, and a good time. And it got us home relatively early as these things go, about 10. That gave us time enough to stay up late.

So after settling in, we watched a couple episodes of Season Six of Game of Thrones in advance of the premiere of Season Eight tomorrow evening. We watched a couple more this morning before beginning our Saturday chores. We might finish Season Six before tomorrow evening, but we won’t have time for Season Seven. That’s okay, as it’s still relatively fresh in our memories, I think.

Anyway, along with frittering away our time on fantasy, we’ve been keeping the household running. I’m doing more these days than I have since early January, although there are some tasks I cannot yet resume. I keep trying to remind myself as I sit at the computer or sit on the couch that healing of any kind – physical or emotional – takes time. I’d kind of forgotten that.

So, three paragraphs, all mentioning time. That’s a cue. The RealPlayer has more than 2,800-tracks that come up in a search for “time.” As usual, some go by the wayside, like all of Ronnie Aldrich’s All-Time Piano Hits and Big Maybelle’s Saga of the Good Life & Hard Times as well as everything but the title track from Anne Briggs’ The Time Has Come and many more.

Still, as one might expect, there’s a lot to work with. And I run across an easy listening version of “It’s Going To Take Some Time” by the Button-Down Brass (featuring the “funky trumpet” of Ray Davies). The song, written by Carole King and Toni Stern and first released in 1971 on King’s album Music, showed up here eight years ago when I waded through King’s work in the wake of my Ultimate Jukebox. Other than that, it’s been ignored.

Along with those two versions, the RealPlayer also offers the Carpenters’ cover of the tune, which went to No. 12 in 1972, the only version of the song ever to reach the Billboard Hot 100. (The Carpenters’ record also went to No. 2 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.)

Now, I once referred to the Carpenters as sitting on the softest end of the pop-rock couch or something similar, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like their work, or at least some of it. And Karen Carpenter’s voice was a thing of beauty. So for all of the above reasons, here’s “It’s Going To Take Some Time,” today’s Saturday Single.

No. 47 Forty-Seven Years Ago

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

As I hoped/expected, Sunday’s performance of Don McLean’s “Crossroads” at our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship went well. The other two members of our music group in attendance pitched in on vocals (and on bass), and we got through it well enough.

But spending three hours at the fellowship – on top of having run some errands on Saturday – pretty well wiped me out. I spent a good deal of the rest of Sunday doing nothing, and the same was true yesterday.

As well as I may think I am recovering from January’s surgery, I still have a ways to go to get back even everyday strength and stamina. It’s a long road.

Today, we’re going to jump back into the category I have dubbed “symmetry,” a game we first played early in February when we looked at the No. 50 record from fifty years ago that week. We’ve moved forward and back from that particular spot a couple years each way, and this morning, we’re going to look at what was No. 47 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-seven years ago, in the magazine published on March 18, 1972.

In previous iterations of this game, we’ve done a quick check of the top two records; I think we’ll expand that to the top three records from now on, and forty-seven years ago yesterday, they were “A Horse With No Name” by America, “Heart Of Gold” by Neil Young, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh)” by Robert John. That last, of course, was a cover of the Tokens’ No. 1 hit from 1961.

And what of our business further down the chart? Well, at No. 47 in the third week of March 1972 was one of my favorites of that long-ago season, a song that I no doubt heard live in mid-May of that year when Elton John played at St. Cloud State: “Tiny Dancer.”

Surprisingly, it would just miss the Top 40, peaking at No. 41.