Archive for the ‘1989’ Category

Phones & Springs

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

It started with the phones Friday evening. We were about to head across town to get new phones. The Texas Gal – whose new job will require her to be out visiting clients at times – needed one for work, and I tagged along to see what adding a second phone would cost. So we fired up the Versa and headed down Lincoln Avenue.

But not very far. The left front tire was flat. We were on a mission, though, so we put the Versa back in the driveway and took off in the Cavalier, leaving the tire for Saturday morning. About three hours later, having been utterly unaware that buying a phone would take that much time, we headed back to the East Side and spent the rest of the evening playing with our new gadgets – we each got a Samsung Galaxy 7 – and wondering what happened to the tire, as I’d not driven the car for two days. I must have run over something sharp and had a slow leak, I assumed.

As I churned out a post on Saturday morning, the Texas Gal called the tire place just down the road to let the folks there know we were coming in, and then she called a towing place, which sent a truck out. The driver aired up the tire and judged that it would stay inflated long enough to get up the hill and down the frontage road to the tire place. It did, and a couple hours later, the fellow from the tire place called and said the tire – in which they’d found a sharp screw – was fixed, and the cost was twenty-eight dollars.

All good and well, except . . .

He told us that while his mechanics had been doing their regular check on the Versa, they noticed that the right front spring was broken. There were a couple other things that would need to be addressed in time – some fluids, the rear shock absorbers – but the broken spring was a major concern. And as replacing one spring required replacing the other, we were looking at a cost somewhere around $1,400. The Texas Gal thanked the fellow, hung up and told me the news.

We each took a deep breath and began to discuss numbers, pondering bank account balances and credit cards. After a few phone calls and a few more deep breaths, we thought we had a solution. I headed off to the library as she called the tire place and told them to go ahead and order the parts to do the repairs come Monday. She looked as stressed as I felt.

An hour later, I got home with my book bag filled with works by authors I’d not read before, and the Texas Gal was looking considerably more relaxed. She told me that she’d wondered if the estimate we’d been quoted by the local tire place – and we’ve had lots of work done by the folks there and have found them reliable – was in line with the cost of similar work done elsewhere, and she’d googled something like “2007 Versa front springs replacement.”

That was how she’d learned that Nissan had recalled Versas in certain states to replace the front springs. Because Nissan’s supplier used an inferior coating on those springs, they’re prone to breaking in areas where there is a lot of moisture, salt and (I think she said) cold. Not surprisingly, given driving conditions here, Minnesota is one of the included states. She told me I had an early appointment Monday (yesterday) at the local Nissan dealership.

So we got the damage repaired for free, which is always a good thing. (And we’re wondering how we missed the notice about the recall or perhaps never got one.) The folks at the dealership noted a few things that will eventually need to be addressed – the same things that the folks at the tire place down the road had mentioned – and we were good to go. And it’s kind of fitting that – except for some test calls back and forth between the Texas Gal and me – the first phone call I got on my new Galaxy 7 was the one from the Nissan dealership telling me the work was just about done and that a driver was heading my way to get me back to the dealership.

So now we can, if we want, do what Dion sang about on his 1989 album Yo Frankie! Here’s “Drive All Night.”

Saturday Single No. 502

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Every once in a while around this joint, I like to look back at what I was listening to at a particular time, say, the week before I graduated from high school or the week when I was packing to go to Denmark. Generally, that means a look at a Billboard Hot 100, a radio survey – usually from the Twin Cities’ KDWB – or a glance at the LP log to see what the recent purchases were.

But this morning, as I thought about late Junes over the years, I pondered the June of 1989, when I was sorting and packing in Minot, North Dakota, preparing to leave the prairie for Anoka, Minnesota, a city nestled in the northern portion of the Twin Cities’ metro area. What was I listening to? I’m not immediately certain, and I’ll have to work to reconstruct my set list.

Billboard and whatever surveys that might be available are no help because I manifestly was not listening to Top 40 at home at the time; I’d heard a fair amount of it during my two years advising the student newspaper at Minot State University, as my office adjoined the newsroom, but the students’ station of choice was not mine at home. I kept my radios tuned to an AM station at home for two reasons: Every morning, the station aired a trivia contest that offered free dinners, and I was lucky enough to win a few meals during those two years, and the station was also a member of the Minnesota Twins’ radio network, and I frequently listened to the Twins that season.

Nor is a look at the LP log enlightening. I’d been buying vinyl at a rapid rate during my two years on the prairie – not as rapidly as I would during my seven years in South Minneapolis still to come, but still, between August 1, 1987, and June 30, 1989, my collection had burgeoned from 204 LPs to a total of 586, meaning I’d far more than doubled the shelf space needed since I’d arrived in North Dakota.

So I’m not certain at all what I was listening to as I packed during the last days of June in 1989. The last albums I’d added to the collection were varied: Watermark by Enya, Frampton Comes Alive, James Taylor’s In The Pocket, a hits album by the Cars, and Stevie Nicks’ The Other Side Of The Mirror. Among the numerous LPs I’d purchased in May were Crowded House’s self-titled 1986 album, Boz Scaggs’ self-titled 1969 debut, Van Morrison’s It’s Too Late To Stop Now from 1974, and 1970’s Delaney & Bonnie & Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton. A number of those were likely on the turntable during that last week of June 1989, at least until I packed the records and the stereo the day before I picked up the rental truck.

One album that I know I did not listen to that week was the Peter Frampton live double album. It got stuck into a box for later listening, and – sad to say – never came out of that box from the time I bought it in the summer of 1989 to the day this month that I packed it in a box and sold it at Cheapo in Minneapolis. (I long ago found a digital copy of the album, and – not being entirely blown away by it – decided that mp3s were all the Frampton I needed. Still I wish I’d dropped the album on the turntable at least once, but life – and an overstock of records to hear – got in the way.)

Do I specifically recall hearing any of that music in my Minot apartment? Well, yes. I remember putting the Enya album on the stereo, and the same holds for the albums by Stevie Nicks, Van Morrison and Crowded House. Do any of the tracks I remember hold any emotional punch from those days, when I felt as if I were retreating from a series of battles lost?

Again, yes. Although I’d heard the song before – most notably as Johnny Cash’s 1958 original and Linda Ronstadt’s 1972 cover – Stevie Nick’s version of “I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)” touched a tender spot in me during that summer of 1989 (even though her eyes were not blue). So, as I recall packing my apartment in Minot and remembering as I packed the moments “when all the love was there,” I have to make Stevie Nicks’ “I Still Miss Someone (Blue Eyes)” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Closer To Fine’

Friday, April 8th, 2016

The Texas Gal is still not feeling well, and I’m a little distracted. I seem to have avoided the worst of our shared respiratory ailment, but I’m not counting poultry yet. And I have extra laundry to do and errands to run today.

I also have to work on transposing the Indigo Girls’ tune “Closer To Fine” into a key more suitable for one of the musicians at our Unitarian Universalist fellowship. It’s not all that hard, but it takes some concentration, and that seems to be in short supply here this morning.

As I thought about “Closer To Fine,” I also thought about how I found the Indigo Girls, who are one of my favorite groups that arose in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I have copies of pretty much everything they’ve ever released – I have yet to get hold of last year’s One Lost Day – a couple on vinyl and most on CD.

I told the tale here in early 2008 of how I came to find the Indigo Girls and their music:

One afternoon in August 1989, I was lingering over a cup of coffee in a restaurant in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, looking at the LPs I’d just scored at a nearby used record store. As I glanced over Roxy Music’s Avalon, I heard the college girls in the booth behind me talking about a new group they’d heard at someone’s home the night before, a duo with the odd name of the Indigo Girls. I jotted the name down, paid for my coffee and went back to the record store, where I found Indigo Girls on vinyl. Ever since, I’ve bought most of what the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have recorded, and I’d like to thank those long-ago college girls for the tip.

And since the tune is on my mind today, both as a music project and as a hope for the health of the Texas Gal, here’s the Indigo Girls’ video for their 1989 track, “Closer To Fine.”

Saturday Single No. 488

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

A while back, I wrote about the numbers of places I’d lived as an adult, and noted that I’ve lived here in the little white house off Lincoln Avenue longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I also said that the odds were likely that there’d be another place in that list eventually and that the Texas Gal and I were going to start trimming down in order to fit into what would be a smaller space.

Well, for a few weeks, we actually planned to move from here back into the apartment complex across the back yard, the same place we lived for not quite six years when we moved to St. Cloud. And I began to sort LPs in the EITW studios. My goal is to trim the LPs from about 3,000 down to around 1,000.

There are some, of course, that automatically go on the list of those that will stay: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, some single albums from many performers, the blues collection, and so on. For many of the others, I’ll make certain I have the music in digital format. Some of those I might find at the public library, but I think I will spend a fair amount of time with my turntable.

And some of the vinyl on my shelf will not be replaced digitally. It showed up – generally during the hard years on Pleasant Avenue during the 1990s – and was played once, and it will be considered non-essential as I trim the library. (The most recent of those pulled from the shelf were albums by Dan Hill and by the Holy Modal Rounders.)

As it happened, though, we’re not moving. A couple of shifts in the universe have left us here on Lincoln for the foreseeable future. But we’re still going to downsize. And we’ve been trying to figure out exactly what to do with the albums. We’re going to try to sell them, of course. Many of the LPs I’ll pull from the shelves are good work that might actually be in demand now that vinyl seems to be the hip thing among certain demographic groups in our culture. But there is no vinyl retailer in St. Cloud anymore.

That means going to Minneapolis and to Cheapo Records, the business where I got maybe two-thirds of the 1,500 albums I bought during my seven-plus years on Pleasant Avenue. But I know from direct observation that it takes some time for the record folks at Cheapo to sort through a box of albums offered for sale. If we brought in ten liquor boxes of records, how long would we have to cool our heels while waiting for the records to be sorted and graded?

It seemed impractical. But I finally called Cheapo, which has moved its main location (but is still close enough to my old digs that I know the area), and asked about the best way to accomplish the sale. The fellow on the phone said that we could at any time drop off all the boxes of records we could bring, leave our name, address and telephone number, and they’d send out a check when they were done and then dispose of the records they did not want.

That’s going to work. Now, we need to find a place to store about thirty liquor boxes full of records. (I learned long ago that liquor boxes are the most practical to use for transporting LPs.) The Texas Gal questioned the total of thirty boxes, but the math works out: I can get about 65 LPs into a liquor box, and I need to trim from the collection about 2,000 records, and the math gives me a result of not quite thirty-one boxes.

I’m not sure we’ll be able to get thirty boxes of records into the Versa at one time, but we’ll open that gate when we get to it. In the meantime, we need a place to store boxes of records that leaves me room to work. (The 800 or so records I’ve already culled – and many of those required some hard resolve – are cluttered on the floor and set aside in the stacks.) We have some room in the loft, but lugging records upstairs just to lug them down again seemed impractical.

So the Texas Gal made a decision: She’s going to move her quilting operations upstairs again. That will require some work, but it will give her some more space to work, space that’s available now that we’ve given the treadmill and the pink beanbag chair to a friend. That will allow her some room to sort out the many yards of fabric she has in her current sewing room, and it will grant me space to stack boxes of records that will eventually make their ways to Minneapolis.

I imagine we’ll start that shifting operation in the next week or so and sometime this summer, about 2,000 LPs will head out of here and re-enter circulation. But I’m finding that deciding whether some records go or stay is hard.

How hard?

Well, I did some digging this morning and found out that fifty-two years ago today, Dion recorded a cover of “Don’t Start Me Talkin’,” a blues tune written and first recorded in 1955 by Sonny Boy Williamson II. The cover was unreleased at the time and eventually came out on a 1991 box set of Dion’s work. It’s not a bad track, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. So I idly went to the page about Dion at Wikipedia. And I noticed that in 1989, he released a single from his Yo Frankie album that got to No. 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 16 on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart.

I listened to the single at YouTube and heard something that I just hadn’t noticed in November 1999, when I bought the album and played it in my new apartment further south in Minneapolis. The move put me about six miles away from Cheapo’s, but I still did business there as well as at the Cheapo’s in St. Paul, which might have been marginally closer to my new digs: My copy of Yo Frankie still has the Cheapo’s price sticker on it.

My copy of Yo Frankie was also in the stack of records to be sold. But having listened this morning to Dion’s charting single from 1989 and having learned that the saxophone solo on the track is from Jim Horn (mentioned here in fandom many, many times over the years), I moved Yo Frankie back to the “keep” shelf.

And all of that is how Dion’s “And The Night Stood Still” became today’s Saturday Single.

‘Ain’t No Use Jiving . . .’

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

I drove the Texas Gal to work this morning, something I do maybe one day a week, maybe because of the weather or maybe just so we each get an extra half-hour of sleep. I cleared maybe a half-inch of wet snow from the windows and hood of the car, then got inside and adjusted the wipers.

And as I did, I thought about my 1977 Chevette, which had one of the strangest bits of auto design I’ve run across in the dozen vehicles I’ve owned and/or driven over the years: As is standard, the turn signal stalk was on the left side of the steering column: flip it up for a right turn and flip it down for a left turn.

As has also become standard, the signal stalk also controlled the headlight beams: push it forward for high beams, pull it back for low beams. (I’m old enough, of course, to remember when high/low beams were controlled by a large push-button on the floor.)

Where the Chevette differed from any other car I’ve had is that the windshield wiper and washer were also controlled by the signal stalk: Twist the knob on the end of the stalk a little bit forward, and the wipers went into slow action. Another twist forward put them into fast mode. A twist backward provided one sweep cycle of the wipers. I don’t recall what I had to do to wash the windshield, maybe twist the knob further back or maybe push the knob on the end of the stalk toward the steering column.

That was a lot of tasks assigned to one thin stalk of metal.

And for a few years, it was no problem. I got the Chevette – a brown two-door that I called McQueeg after its license plate, which began with the letters MQG (and I have forgotten the three numerals that followed) – in 1984. The Toyota I was driving while in graduate school in Missouri broke down irreparably while I was visiting Monticello, where the Other Half stayed when I was in graduate school.

We got the Chevette for a good price from the local Chevrolet dealer (whom I had known while I was at the Monticello Times); whoever had traded it in had tampered with the catalytic converter so the car could not be resold at retail without a lot of costly repair. We paid the dealer what he’d given for the car in trade, and each of us had a problem solved.

And then came a Saturday night during the summer of 1987. I was living in St. Cloud and heading to Minot State in North Dakota in a couple of weeks. The financing for a much newer Toyota station wagon was in the works when I drove into the Twin Cities’ northern exurbs to spend a day with Rob before I headed off northwest.

I left Rob’s about nine o’clock that summer evening and had the high beams on as I drove along a township road approaching a highway, where I would turn left. As I got closer to the highway, it began to rain, and then a car turned from the highway and came my way. I needed to switch from high beams to low beams, signal my left turn and turn on the windshield wipers, all functions controlled by the single stalk to the left of the steering column. I reached up and evidently tried to do all three things at once . . . and I snapped the stalk right off the steering column.

The oncoming car whooshed past, its driver blinking his high beams in irritation. I stopped at the end of the township road, looking at the signal stalk in my hand. I was baffled, bemused, nonplussed and a whole lot of other adjectives. Eventually, I turned on the interior light and placed the stalk into the socket from which it had broken. I could still signal turns. I could still switch from high beam to low beam and back. I could not use the windshield wipers, but luckily, the slight bit of rain that had started moments ago had stopped.

I shrugged, headed toward St. Cloud without further incident, picked up my Toyota the next day, sold the Chevette with full disclosure to a former student of mine, and in about ten days, I headed to Minot.

And here’s a track that I sometimes think of when I recall that moment on the township road as I held that metal stalk in my hands and wondered what would work. It’s Bob Dylan’s “Everything Is Broken,” and it’s from his 1989 album Oh Mercy.

Video deleted. [Note added February 8, 2017.]

Saturday Single No. 475

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Well, morning came and morning went . . .

I spent the early hours today at the annual Santa Lucia celebration at Salem Lutheran Church, just as I did when I was a youngster and later when I was in Luther League, twice reading the story of St. Knut to those gathered for the celebration.

And just like last year, I wore a red carnation and was recognized during the early morning service as one of those named Salem’s St. Knut over the years. As I noted a year ago, however, when I was in Luther League, I was only listed in the programs for 1969 and 1970 as the fellow reading the story of St. Knut; it wasn’t until years later that the story-reader was actually given the title of that year’s St. Knut and the readers from previous years were named St. Knuts long after the fact. But being named a saint after the fact is, I submit, better than not being named a saint at all. And being the only two-time St. Knut (because there were no senior boys available the year I was a high school junior) is kind of nifty.

I wasn’t the only family member recognized this morning. My sister also wore a red carnation, having been Santa Lucia in 1966. And during the breakfast following the service, plenty of folks came over to talk to my mother, who doesn’t get to church often anymore. Add in plenty of coffee, some Swedish cookies and pastries and some very good potato sausage, and it was a very nice – if early –way to start the day.

Then came the more mundane Saturday chore of an hour at the grocery story with the Texas Gal. And all of that means that I was either going to leave this space empty today or offer a tune on a sort of ad hoc basis, finding something interesting that can pretty much stand in its own.

Well, yesterday at Facebook, an acquaintance of mine shared a cover of Double’s “The Captain Of Her Heart” by a jazz singer named Randy Crawford. I’d not heard much of her stuff, although I had a couple of tracks that had come to me by way of some Warner Brothers samplers. Intrigued by the Double cover, I did some digging and came up with some other stuff by Crawford, including another cover that I found interesting.

Here, with assists from saxophonist David Sanborn and Eric Clapton, is Crawford’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” from her 1989 album Rich and Poor. The sax parts are a little overbearing in a very Eighties way, but I’m still going to call it today’s Saturday Single.

Not Ready Yet

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

I was waiting for Mom to return to our table at the Ace yesterday, sipping a beer and looking forward to lunch. As I sat, I idly cataloged the music coming from the speakers in the ceiling: The last chunky chords of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Then Macca faded away, a Van Morrison tune came and went, and then came a wash of synth, joined soon enough by some rhythmic backing and then the vocals:

Every generation blames the one before . . .

I knew it immediately, of course: “In The Living Years” by Mike & The Mechanics. And the sound of it put me in my apartment in Anoka, Minnesota, the place I went to after two mostly difficult years on the North Dakota prairie. My place there was one of the nicer places I’ve lived, certainly it was the roomiest apartment I’ve ever had. The huge kitchen had a pleasant dining area that I doubt I ever used, preferring instead to take my meals at a table in the equally huge living room.

At least at the table in the living room, I could hear the stereo at the other end of the room without turning the volume up so high that my landlady and her kids would hear it in their place one floor up.

Having been infected with the collecting bug during my years in Minot, I brought lots of records to Anoka, some by groups new to me (or at least relatively so). Among those relatively new groups were Mike & The Mechanics. I’d heard their hit singles, of course, from the time they emerged in 1985: “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground),” “All I Need Is A Miracle,” and “Taken In.” And then, sometime in the first weeks of 1989, I’d heard “The Living Years” and went out and bought the similarly titled album.

That purchase took place was while I was in Minot, but the strains of the tune yesterday put me in mind of my apartment in Anoka some months later. I must have played the album more then, probably quite often as background music during weekly dinners with a ladyfriend. But somewhere between Anoka in 1989 and St. Cloud in 2015, I quit playing the album and pretty much forgot about Mike & The Mechanics. (The group has been mentioned only three times in this blog over the course of eight-plus years and some 1,800 posts.)

Back in 1989, I thought “The Living Years,” with its themes of father and son and of generational differences and regret, was a fine track, perhaps a bit over-written and a bit over-produced. Good, but nothing that grabbed me very hard. But back then, my father was still alive. As I heard its opening strains from the ceiling at the Ace yesterday, and as my mom returned to our table no more than ten seconds later, I thought to myself that perhaps I should listen to the track again sometime soon and find out how much I’ve changed.

I miss my dad. Later this month, Mom and I will note quietly the day that would have been his ninety-sixth birthday. I’m not sure I can listen to “The Living Years” without lots of tears, so I haven’t done so yet. But here it is, and I’m sure that sometime in the next few days, I’ll take a deep breath and click the “play” arrow and then weep.

‘Voodoo’

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Casting about for an idea, as I often do, I took a look this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from July 3, 1965, fifty years ago today. And sitting at No. 31 was a title and an artist’s name that caused more than an instant of cognitive dissonance: “Voodoo Woman” by Bobby Goldsboro:

It doesn’t give me a sense of the jungles of Haiti or the bayous of Louisiana, but it’s not a truly awful record. The drums kind of work and the shrill harmonica gives the record an alien sound. As to the drums, I wondered if the famed Wrecking Crew provided the backing and the drums were Hal Blaine’s, but my copy of the book The Wrecking Crew is at Rick’s house (though the book might not have answered my question anyway), and I didn’t want to spend time googling this morning.

“Voodoo Woman” was Goldsboro’s seventh record in or near the Hot 100, and by the time early July rolled around in 1965, it was coming down from its peak at No. 27. I don’t think I’d ever heard it until this morning, which isn’t surprising, as I wasn’t a listener at the time. And finding it made me wonder how many tracks on the digital shelves also have “voodoo” in their titles (if not in their marrow).

A search for the word brings up 109 mp3s, but a number of the results have to be discarded: All of D’Angelo’s 2000 album Voodoo and all of the Rolling Stones’ 1994 album Voodoo Lounge have to be set aside, and all but the title tracks from Alex Taylor’s 1989 album Voodoo In Me and the 1959 exotica album Voodoo by Robert Drasnin have to be left behind as well. We also lose Rhythm Disease, a 2001 album by the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls, and several tracks each by the Voodoo Dogs and the Mumbo Jumbo Voodoo Combo.

That still leaves plenty of tracks, with perhaps the best-known being “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” from the 1968 album Electric Ladyland by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Beyond the version that ended up on the album, I’ve somehow managed to get hold of sixteen alternate versions of the Hendrix tune, which is likely overkill even for me, and it’s not what I have in mind this morning anyway.

Of the maybe forty tracks remaining, do any call to mind midnight in the jungles and along the bayous? Taylor’s “Voodoo In You” is decent, but it’s a cover of Johnny Jenkins’ version from the 1970 album, Ton-Ton Macoute! The backing tracks for Jenkins’ album began as tracks for a Duane Allman solo album before he formed the Allman Brothers Band and thus includes work from Allman, some of the future members of the ABB and a few other Muscle Shoals standouts, so Jenkins’ “Voodoo In You” is good. On the other side of the gender divide, I have covers of Koko Taylor’s “Voodoo Woman” from Susan Tedeschi (2004) and Ana Popovic (2011) but oddly, not Taylor’s 1975 original (an omission that will be rectified soon). But none of those quite fill my empty space today, either.

Passing over those tracks seems to leave it up to the Neville Brothers, which feels right. Here’s “Voo Doo” from their 1989 album Yellow Moon. The album went to No. 66 on the Billboard 200.

No. 1’s Heard Live

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

I noted the other day that when Louis Armstrong performed at St. Cloud State in 1966 and played “Hello, Dolly,” that was almost certainly the first time I’d heard a live performance of a No. 1 record (by the original performer, that is). And I wondered how many of those moments there have been in my life.

That called for an hour or so spent paging through Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits, which I accomplished this morning. It turns out that I’ve heard twenty tunes performed by the original artists that have hit No. 1, which seems not a bad total for someone who’s never spent a lot of time going to concerts or clubs.

Two of the No. 1 records have come my way live more than once. I heard Don McLean perform “American Pie” at St. Cloud State in February 1986 and then again in August 1990 in Columbia, Missouri. But that’s topped by Billy Preston’s “Will It Go Round In Circles,” which I’ve heard live three times: In the spring of 1973 at St. Cloud State’s Selke Field; when Preston opened for the Rolling Stones in Århus, Denmark, in October 1973; and when he played with Ringo Starr’s first All Starr Band in St. Paul in July 1989.

I also heard two other No. 1 tunes on that 1989 evening in St. Paul: Ringo’s “Photograph” and “She’s Sixteen,” but even that great night is eclipsed by the October 1973 evening when I heard Preston’s hit and then took in three No. 1 hits by the Rolling Stones: “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar,” and “Angie.”

Going back further in time, there was one other night when I heard three No. 1 tunes from the original performers: In October 1970, the Rascals played St. Cloud State and did “Good Lovin’,” “Groovin’,” and “People Got To Be Free.” It’s a concert I tend to forget because my memories of the evening are tinged with some melancholy: My hopes of taking a certain young lady to the show evaporated very late in the day. With an extra ticket in hand, I gave Rick a call, and he was more than happy to see the show, but even with his good company, I didn’t enjoy the show as much as I had anticipated.

I’ve been at a few other shows over the years during which I heard two performances of No. 1 hits: The Association did “Windy” and “Cherish” at a St. Cloud State show in early 1970; Glenn Campbell sang both “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” at a show in St. Cloud in 2011; and Paul McCartney performed “My Love” and “Band On The Run” when the Texas Gal and I saw him in St. Paul in September 2002.

Those last two, of course, were initially credited to Paul McCartney & Wings, but despite the absence of the Wings folks during that St. Paul performance, I think I can reasonably put the two songs on this list because no matter who the other members of Wings were over the years, McCartney was the main driving force. That wasn’t the case with the Beatles, of course, which is why I don’t include the bonanza of mostly McCartney-penned Beatles’ No. 1 hits that made up a good chunk of that evening in St. Paul: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Yesterday,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Hello, Goodbye,” “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be,” and “The Long & Winding Road.” (Along the way that evening, McCartney performed the George Harrison-penned “Something,” another No. 1 hit, as a tribute to his late bandmate.)

That leaves just three other performances for this list: “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In” by the 5th Dimension during an October 1969 concert at St. Cloud State, “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond at the Minnesota State Fair in September 1971, and the performance that sparked this post, ‘Hello, Dolly” by Louis Armstrong in January 1966 at St. Cloud State.

And to close, here’s a live performance of “Photograph” by Ringo’s first All Star Band at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in 1989. This sounds a lot like it sounded in St. Paul earlier that summer. (Members of that band were: Jim Keltner and Levon Helm on drums, Rick Danko on bass, Joe Walsh and Nils Lofgren on guitars, Dr. John on piano, Billy Preston on keyboards, and Clarence Clemons on saxophone. As Ringo says in the video, his son Zak Starkey sat in.)

‘That Dirty Little Coward . . .’

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The jukebox across the way in the Atwood Center snack bar was playing Elton John. Sitting at The Table, I heard the puzzling title phrase, “I feel like a bullet in the gun of Robert Ford.”

It must have been a Monday morning in early 1976, about the time John’s record entered the Top 40. Why a Monday? Because that was the quarter when I was an intern at a Twin Cities television station, and the only times I was at The Table in Atwood that quarter was on the occasional Monday morning when I checked in with my adviser before heading back to the Twin Cities and my sports reporting work.

Anyway, I looked over at the jukebox across the way and wondered out loud, “Who’s Robert Ford?”

The answer came quickly from my friend Sam, one of whose passions was the American West. “He’s the dirty little coward who shot Mr. Howard,” he said.

I looked blankly at him. “Okay,” I said. “That must mean something.”

He laughed and said, “Robert Ford was the man who shot Jesse James.”

I imagine I nodded, and the conversation went elsewhere and after a while, I headed to my adviser’s office and then back to the Twin Cities. And it’s entirely possible that until I picked up Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to The Long Riders in 1989, I never heard the folk song “Jesse James,” the song that Sam quoted to me that morning. Cooder’s version – which I sadly cannot embed here – plays over the end credits of the Walter Hill movie.*

The song is an old one, written soon after James’ death in 1882 by Billy Gashade (or perhaps LaShade) and first recorded in 1920 by a typewriter salesman named Bently Ball, according to the blog Joop’s Musical Flowers. Until I ran across that citation, the earliest version I knew about – but one I’ve not heard – came from Bascom Lamar Lunsford in 1924. Digging around at YouTube in the past few weeks, I’ve found versions by the Kingston Trio from 1961, the South Memphis String Band (a group made up by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes; Jimbo Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Alvin Youngblood Hart) from 2010 and Van Morrison (from a 1998 performance with Lonnie Donegan and Chris Barber).

(Joop’s Musical Flowers lists many more versions, some dating to 1924, and has video or audio links for some of them.)

The shelves here also include versions by Bob Seger, from his 1972 album, Smokin’ O.P.’s, and by Bruce Springsteen, from his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions and from the 2007 release Live In Dublin.

All of those are worth hearing (well, I’m not sure about the Kingston Trio’s version, which is why I did not link to it), but one of the best is the version by Pete Seeger from his 1957 album, American Favorite Ballads.

* Walter Hill’s film is also notable for the casting of four sets of acting brothers – Keach, Carradine, Quaid and Guest – as, respectively, the historical brothers James, Younger, Miller and Ford.