Archive for the ‘1972’ Category

Saturday Single No. 568

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

My sister and brother-in-law and I stood in the cold for a little more than an hour yesterday as three guys from a local auction and estate sale company emptied one of Mom’s storage lockers.

“It’s an odd feeling, isn’t it,” my sister said, “seeing your parents lives go past piece by piece?”

She was right. We saw the foreman and his two young movers assess Mom’s china closet, a nearly six-foot tall piece with some curved glass windows on either side of its door. Mom and Dad got it soon after I left home in 1976, and I’d guess it dates from somewhere around 1920. As they maneuvered it toward the door of the storage unit and out to the rapidly filling truck, I held my breath for a moment.

But they got the fragile piece safely into the truck, draped it heavily with drop clothes and secured it to the side of the truck with bungee cords.

I remember the china closet being filled with dishes and pieces from Mom and Dad’s past: wedding gifts that they’d gotten in 1948, dishes from both of her grandmothers, and much more. For about thirty-five years, that “much more” included two painted tea glasses that I somehow acquired from a Tunisian restaurant in Paris in March 1974. Mom loved them (although I think she was unhappy with my means of acquisition). The china closet went with her to her assisted living apartment, and in recent years, she began to give away some of her treasures to me, to my sister, to her grandchildren. The tea glasses now sit on a bookcase in our dining room here.

We watched as the dresser and the bed headboard and foot board that Mom and Dad bought soon after they were married headed out the door and onto the truck. Then there was the teal couch Mom bought when she moved into her patio home after Dad’s death, followed the large brown kitchen table my folks bought in the early 1970s, a table at which several of my girlfriends had joined us for meals in the early years, a table around which we’d all gather on Christmas Eve through 2003 for a late evening snack of sausage, meatballs, pickled herring, crackers and flatbread. Then came the black wooden rocking chair – once my great-grandfather’s, I believe – that was my place on Sunday evenings when we all gathered together to watch Walt Disney’s show, a couple of sitcoms and Bonanza.

The last things heading out of the locker were two big cardboard boxes filled with heavily wrapped glassware, much of it antique. From another locker – filled mostly with furniture my nephew may want – the estate sale guys took the vanity and mirror from Mom and Dad’s 1948 bedroom set and the treadle sewing machine that had belonged to my dad’s mom. And they were ready to go.

It was indeed an odd feeling, with the three of us watching as Mom and Dad’s lives, and – in large part – our lives, too, went out the doors and onto the truck. And it happened fast. An hour and ten minutes after the three fellows arrived, they secured Mom’s vanity and its bench in the back of the truck and headed to their warehouse on the southern edge of the city. They’ll organize everything into an on-line sale that will take place most likely next May or June.

Seventy minutes is a very brief time to watch more than sixty years of memories go by. But then, time and memory twist themselves in odd ways as we find our sometimes uncertain paths through our lives. As long as I live, my grandmother’s sewing machine will forever be next to the green couch in the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard, the brown lamp upon it providing the only light as I sit back – maybe by myself, maybe with a sweet young lady – and listen to the Beatles or maybe Van Morrison or maybe the Moody Blues.

The green couch went in Mom’s garage sale in 2005, the sewing machine went onto the truck yesterday, the brown lamp sits on an end table in our living room just steps away, and my vinyl copy of the Moody Blues’ Seventh Sojourn is in the stacks just across the room from me. And they’ll all be in that basement rec room with me for the rest of my life.

Here, from Seventh Sojourn, is “Isn’t Life Strange.” The question in that title can only ever be answered with the words “Yes, indeed.” And “Isn’t Life Strange” is today’s Saturday Single.

Revised slightly after first posting.

Baby Grand? ‘Lucy Cain’?

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Looking for a radio survey from today’s date in 1972 – forty-five years ago – I came upon only two such surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive: one from WMEX in Boston and another from WISM in Madison, Wisconsin. And the latter result amused me, as I’m pretty sure that one of WISM’s listeners in those days – at times, anyway – was my pal jb, who grew up on a farm not far away from Wisconsin’s capital and lives now in a small city adjacent to Madison.

So I took a look at the top ten records listed there:

“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Something’s Wrong With Me” by Austin Roberts
“Papa Was A Rolling Stone” by the Temptations
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“Summer Breeze” by Seals & Crofts
“Me and Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Ventura Highway” by America
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green

The top five has a couple of misses, at least to my ears – the records by Roberts and O’Sullivan never hit my sweet spot – but the other eight would make for a very nice half-hour of listening. The one I know the least is the Al Green tune, but listening to it this morning I’d be willing to put it in second place among those ten. (It would take a hell of a record to push “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” from the top of this heap.)

Even though – as I’ve noted before – my listening at the time was becoming more album-oriented as time went on, I still heard enough Top 40 around me that almost all of the records in the lower spots on the WISM survey were familiar as well. To be precise, as I scan the titles and artists listed in the thirty spots on the survey and the three hit-bound entries, there’s only one pairing that’s a mystery to me: “Lucy Cain” by Baby Grand, sitting at No. 23, up three spots from the week before.

I would guess that “Lucy Cain” would be a mystery to many: Out of the thousands of radio surveys cataloged at ARSA, WISM’s Music Guide from December 7, 1972, is the only one that lists the record. And it seems to have not yet been shared by any of the millions of folks who put tunes up at YouTube. (Although there are evidently three women with YouTube accounts by the name of Lucy Cain.)

So I googled. A copy of the record, which came out on the Hemisphere label, is available at Ebay, and a website titled That 70s Wisconsin Beat informs me that Baby Grand – as I suspected – was a local act. And the next entry in the googled results takes me to the lengthy comment section on a piece about the Wisconsin band Clicker by my pal Jeff at his blog AM, Then FM. A few commenters mention Baby Grand and “Lucy Cain,” but unless I missed something in the more than fifty comments, there’s no real info there.

Perhaps jb or Jeff can clue us in, or maybe our pal Yah Shure. Or someone.

Regrouping, I dropped to the bottom of the WISM survey and picked out the third listed of the three hit-bound singles. I remember hearing and liking the Hollies’ “Long Dark Road,” but I haven’t heard it for years. It’s not on the digital shelves here now, and I doubt that it was there before the recent hard drive crash.

It wasn’t one of the Hollies’ biggest hits, reaching No. 26 in the Billboard Hot 100, but it’s worth a listen today:

Saturday Single No. 561

Saturday, October 21st, 2017

I’ve been digging around in 1972 this week, mostly in the car. I’ve got a couple of CDs I’ve burned that are nothing but tunes from 1972 – mostly hits but some deeper tracks – and those are what’s kept me company as I’ve driven on my errands this week.

So I thought I’d take a quick look at the Billboard Hot 100 from forty-five years ago today – October 21, 1972 – in a search for a single for this morning. Here’s the Top Ten from that long-ago date:

“My Ding-A-Ling” by Chuck Berry
“Use Me” by Bill Withers
“Burning Love/It’s A Matter Of Time” by Elvis Presley
“Everybody Plays The Fool” by the Main Ingredient
“Nights In White Satin” by the Moody Blues
“Ben” by Michael Jackson
“Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” by Mac Davis
“Garden Party” by Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band
“Popcorn” by Hot Butter
“Go All The Way” by the Raspberries

Well. It’s truly a crime of history that Chuck Berry’s only No. 1 hit was a piece of gleefully bawdy crap. He came close a couple of time with a couple of his greatest records: “School Day” was No. 3 for three weeks in 1957, and “Sweet Little Sixteen” was No. 2 for three weeks in 1958. But if we ignore Berry’s record, the Elvis B-side and young Michael Jackson’s love song to a rat, there’s a good half-hour of listening in there. What, though, is lower down the list?

Well, looking at the bottom ten records, we find Joe Simon’s sweet take on “Misty Blue” sitting at No. 95. That’s a song that I know far better from Dorothy Morrison’s No. 3 version from 1976, and it’s one that has a longer lineage than I suspected, based on what I see at Second Hand Songs. I’ll likely have to do some digging among the many versions of the tune sometime soon. All I’ll note this morning is that the first version of the tune to hit the charts came from Eddy Arnold in 1967. His take on the tune went to No. 57 (and to No. 3 on the country chart). Simon’s cover of “Misty Blue” hung around in the bottom portion of the chart for five weeks, peaking at No. 91.

But it’s a nice version of a sweet song, and that’s enough to make Joe Simon’s take on “Misty Blue” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Where’

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday Single No. 555

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Life circles around us and with us.

During the 1990s, when I was living in South Minneapolis, I often drove out to first, the exurb of Cedar and later, the city of St. Francis to spend weekend afternoons with Rob and his family. I watched as he learned to be a dad to his girls, Jessi and Deidre, and his son, Robinson (the middle child).

I won’t say I knew the kids well, but they knew who I was well enough that when I’d call for Rob and one of them answered, they’d chat with me for a few moments before getting their dad to the phone. And when the times came for them to graduate from high school, the Texas Gal and I were invited to the three receptions, the last one taking place eight or nine years ago.

Each of the three got the same graduation gift from us: a collapsible laundry basket to take off to college, and we threw in lingerie bags for the girls. They also each got a custom CD of hits from the year they were born. Jessi and Deidre got pop-rock; Robinson got country. And I was gratified when Deidre, the youngest of the three, opened the package with her CD and told me “I’ve been looking forward to this for years!”

Today, Robinson will be the first of the three to get married, an event that makes me more aware than usual of the passing of time. Back in the 1990s, when he was learning to use silverware, I gave him a gift: the Mr. Peanut silverware set that I’d used when I was young. (His mom, Barb, told me a while back that after he outgrew it, the set was packed away to save it for the next generation.) Today, he and his bride, Katie will get something else for the kitchen from us, along with all the good wishes we can muster.

And as I sorted through music this morning, I was struck by “Wedding Song,” a tune from Dion DiMucci’s 1972 album, Suite For Late Summer:

Love grows every day we’re together.
Life flows, binding our lives to each other.
I was a child; now I’ll be a man.
I was a child; now I’ll be a man.

You hold all my years in your body,
You’re my friend, my love; you know everything about me.
You were a child; you’re a child no more.
You were a child; now you’ve been reborn.

The circle’s waiting for us to take our place.
The circle never changes; we’re all the same.

Love grows every day we’re together.
Life flows, binding our lives to each other.
I was a child; now I’ll be your man.
You were a child; now you’ll be my friend.
Be my friend

So, for Robinson and Katie, Dion’s “Wedding Song” is today’s Saturday Single.

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