Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 682

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

The blank space on the computer screen has been mocking me for about an hour. At least five times, I’ve typed something, looked at it, and then deleted it. For some reason – perhaps because of the madness beyond our walls, perhaps because of a weariness that seems to have found its home in me overnight – I have nothing to say this morning.

Here’s Fotheringay’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Too Much Of Nothing.” It’s from the group’s self-titled 1970 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 681

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

Intrigued by the results the other day of digging into a 1972 survey from a radio station formatting itself as “progressive,” I thought we’d do it again this morning. The first time, we were in Portland, Oregon, so I thought we’d head to the East Coast for our second time around.

Here are the six albums that WMMR in Philadelphia listed in its survey for the second week in March 1972:

Together by Jesse Colin Young
Sailin’ Shoes by Little Feat
Isle Of View by Jimmie Spheeris
Fanny Hill by Fanny
Hellbound Train by Savoy Brown
Compost self-titled

Only two of those ever showed up on the vinyl stacks here, the Spheeris and the Little Feat. I had seven LPs on the shelves by Jesse Colin Young, but Together was not one of them, so I’m surprised by that absence, as I am by the absence of Fanny Hill. The absence of the Savoy Brown album does not startle me at all. And Compost?

Well, I can’t say I’ve never heard of the band, but I didn’t recall the name. It turns out that Compost was also one of those groups promoted by Columbia on The Music People, just like Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders from Tuesday’s post. I checked the LP log, and I brought The Music People home with me in 1992, twenty years after it came out, so I first heard of Compost long after the group’s performing days.

And those days were relatively short: Wikipedia tells us that Compost released two albums, the 1972 self-titled release listed by WMMR (which has the alternate title of Take Off Your Body), and a 1973 release titled Life Is Round. The band is described at both Wikipedia and discogs.com as a jazz fusion group; its members were Bob Moses, Harold Vick, Jumma Santos, Jack Gregg and Jack DeJohnette. And we’ll get back to the group later.

First, though, how many of those albums ended up on the digital shelves here? Well, the albums by Little Feat, Spheeris, Fanny, and Young are here. Hellbound Train is not, although I do have Savoy Brown’s 1971 release, Street Corner Talking. Compost is represented only by the one track from its 1972 album that was featured on The Music People, “Country Song.”

So here’s “Country Song” by Compost, today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 680

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

This will be quick and easy this morning, as I am late getting going. I’ve not said much – if anything – about it, but both the Texas Gal and I have been battling colds pretty much since the beginning of the year, feeling fine for two days and then feeling utterly miserable for the next two. Anyway, miseries led us to sleep in today, and I have an appointment very soon with bacon and pancakes.

So I’m going to head to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and look at the “Fabulous Forty” survey from the Twin Cities’ KDWB for the first week in March 1965, fifty-five years ago. We’ll look at the top five, and then play Games With Numbers on today’s date – 3-7-20 – and fall onto the No. 30 record in the survey for our listening this morning.

So, fifty-five years ago this week, here was KDWB’s top five:

“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by the Righteous Brothers
“King Of The Road” by Roger Miller
“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“The Jolly Green Giant” by the Kingsmen

I was in sixth grade at the time, and I recall hearing all of these coming out of various radio speakers. I wasn’t really listening, but I couldn’t help hearing. And I liked them all except for the Kingsmen’s record, which I thought was really dumb. And all of those top four are among the 3,900-some tracks on the iPod, which puts them in my day-to-day listening even after fifty-five years.

Okay, so let’s head to No. 30 on that long-ago survey. And we find a record that, to be honest, should be among my regular listening: “Hurt So Bad” by Little Anthony & The Imperials. I first knew the song via the 1969 cover by the Lettermen. (Their album, Goin’ Out Of My Head, was one of my sister’s records.) And as I sit here more than fifty years removed from both versions, I have to say that Little Anthony takes the song to levels of despair that the Lettermen likely couldn’t approach. Still, I prefer the cover. (It could be that I want my suffering to be at least a little stoic and not so demonstrative.) But there’s no denying that the original is a great record.

I’m not going to sort out where the Little Anthony record peaked on KDWB, but it went to No 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s R&B chart. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 679

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

There’s only one thing to do here today.

I’ve known jb, the proprietor of the fine blog The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, since sometime in 2007, first as a presence in the music blogging community and then, starting in 2009, as a presence in the real word. He and his Mrs. have, over those years, shared several weekends with the Texas Gal and me, some here in St. Cloud, one in the Twin Cities, and several in Wisconsin, where they live near Madison. And he’s visited us here when his work – which involves travel – brings him nearby.

So the four of us have noted each other’s birthdays as years pass. But I don’t know if I’ve ever marked jb’s birthday here in this space. But then, I’ve only had three previous chances to do so. He is, you see, one of those rarities, a child born on February 29. And as far as I know, he’s the only person I’ve ever met who was a Leap Day baby.

(I’m sure there were others who came through my life who were. Simple math tells me that one out of every 1,461 people walking through the mall or attending a concert at the Paramount Theatre downtown would have a February 29 birthday. But I’ve never known who they were.)

Anyway, in literal terms, my good friend jb turns fifteen today. In practical terms, well, you can do the math. And to mark the day, what else can I do but share an appropriate record by a band from his home state of Wisconsin? (Well, I can also wish him good beer, but he’ll take care of that by himself.)

Here’s “Birthday,” a cover of the Beatles’ tune by the Underground Sunshine. It was the only hit for the group from Montello, Wisconsin, peaking at No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1969. (A release later that year, “Don’t Shut Me Out,” bubbled under at No. 102.) And in jb’s honor, the Underground Sunshine’s cover of “Birthday” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 677

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Searching for inspiration this morning, I went to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, thinking vaguely of checking some surveys from this date in 1980. I wasn’t truly sold on the idea, as 1980 was about when I’d lost interest in most current music. Still, a dull idea is better than no idea, so I pulled up the page where the website lists its collected surveys and clicked the link that puts them in historical order.

And near the bottom of the page, I saw a familiar set of call letters: KFAM.

KFAM was one of the two AM stations serving St. Cloud in the 1960s. Located on the southwestern edge of town, it offered pretty much what WJON did: News and sports, some talk, and some middle-of-the-road music. (I wrote briefly once about my acquaintance with Peter Jay, the man who did play-by-play in the 1960s for the St. Cloud State basketball team; his work went out over the air on KFAM.)

KFAM is long gone. The AM side of the station is now KNSI (for New, Sports, Information), although I do not know when the call letters changed. The FM side, which offered beautiful music during the late 1960s and early 1970s, went Top 40 right around 1975 and changed to KCLD.

It turns out that there are six KFAM surveys at the ARSA site: Four consecutive from 1948, one from 1949, and one from 1954. So let’s look at that first survey, dated October 23, 1948, a survey that the website says was compiled by KFAM disc jockey Dudley Dane.

None of the names in the survey are at all familiar to me:

“I’m Gonna Tear Down The Mailbox” by Montana Slim
“Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue” by Art Lund
“Chime Bells” by Elton Britt
“A Tree In The Meadow” by John Laurenz
“Twelfth Street Rag” by Pee Wee Hunt
“You Call Everybody Darlin’” by Anne Vincent
“Buttons & Bows” by Betty Rhodes
“When I Was Young And Handsome” by Texas Jim Robertson
“Ev’ry Day I Love You (Just A Little Bit More)” by Blue Barron
“Underneath The Arches” by Andy Russell

Some of those names and records show up in Joel Whitburn’s Billboard Pop Hits, which covers the pop charts from 1940 to 1954, and some don’t.

There’s no sign of Montana Slim, and Texas Jim Robertson is listed only as working with the Fontane Sisters. (He has his own listing, with the Panhandle Punchers, in Whitburn’s Top Country Hits, but “When I Was Young And Handsome” is not among the records there.)

Elton Britt’s “Chime Bells” went to No. 6 on the country charts but is not listed in the pop hits book. Britt also had several other hits on the country charts.

And Blue Barron & His Orchestra have ten records listed in the pop hits, but “Ev’ry Day I Love You (Just A Little Bit More)” is not among them.

That leaves six records from that long-ago survey that are listed in the Whitburn book as having reached the Billboard charts:

Lund’s “Hair Of Gold, Eyes Of Blue” went to No. 20. Laurenz’s “A Tree In The Meadow” went to No. 18. Russell’s “Underneath The Arches” went to No. 13. Rhodes’ “Buttons & Bows” went to No. 9. Vincent’s “You Call Everybody Darlin’” went to No. 6. And Hunt’s “Twelfth Street Rag” was No. 1 for eight weeks.

So, Pee Wee Hunt. He was born in Ohio in 1907 and died in Massachusetts in 1979. Wikipedia says he was “the co-founder and featured trombonist with the Casa Loma Orchestra, but he left the group in 1943 to work as a Hollywood radio disc jockey before joining the Merchant Marine near the end of World War II. He returned to the West Coast music scene in 1946. His “Twelfth Street Rag” was a three million-selling, number one hit in September 1948.”

And all of that means that “Twelfth Street Rag” by Pee Wee Hunt & His Orchestra is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 676

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

It’s not a nice round number, but we’re going to back fifty-three years today, to February of 1967. I was thirteen, and it was about this time that I had my tonsils out and spent about a week home from school. I remember eating a fair amount of ice cream and sipping a good quantity of broth, sometimes beef, sometimes chicken.

And I recall lugging our brown and gold AM radio from the kitchen up to my room every morning after Dad had headed off to work. I’d park it on my bedside table and read while Minneapolis’ WCCO offered its combination of talk and middle-of-the-road music. When Arthur Godfrey’s show came on at 10 a.m., I’d retune the radio to KDWB, one of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, and listen to records that I didn’t really know or appreciate yet. When I knew Godfrey was done for the day, I’d head back to WCCO where the middle of the road welcomed me again.

I was an easy listening kid.

So what was in the Billboard Easy Listening top ten during the second week of February 1967? Take a look:

“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames
“Music To Watch Girls By” by the Bob Crewe Generation
“Wish Me A Rainbow” by the Gunter Kallmann Chorus
“Lady” by Jack Jones
“All” by James Darren
“Sweet Maria” by the Billy Vaughn Singers
“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers
“I’ll Take Care Of Your Cares” by Frankie Laine
“Sunrise, Sunset” by Roger Williams
“What Makes It Happen” by Tony Bennett

I recall without prompting the records by Ames, the Bob Crewe Generation, the Seekers and Williams. (I’ll note here that seeing the Ames single listed here reminds me of a piece by my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. It remains the best thing I’ve ever read about “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

The others? Well, we’re going to make a visit to YouTube to see if some melodies jog my memory.

I don’t recall and truly do not like “Wish Me A Rainbow,” which came from the film This Property Is Condemned, the title of which is only vaguely familiar to me. Nor does the Jack Jones record click for me (though I like it a little).

The James Darren record, though, sounds familiar, and it’s something that I would have liked as a thirteen-year-old: romantic with a pretty instrumental arrangement and lush voices in the background. (The video I checked out shows the cover of the LP from which “All” came, and I’m amused to see from the cover that Darren also recorded “Georgy Girl,” “Lady,” and “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

I have about sixty tracks by Vaughn on the digital shelves, but “Sweet Maria” is not one of them, but it sounds familiar, so who knows? And I have no memory of the records by Laine or Bennett, although I do like them, along with most of this top ten. Taken together, they sound exactly like what my 1967 sounded like.

But let’s play some Games With Numbers, taking today’s date 2-8-20 and making that into 30, and then look at the No. 30 record on that long-ago Easy Listening chart. And we find “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by Jane Morgan, who was an occasional presence on both the Easy Listening chart (from 1965 to 1968) and the Hot 100 (from 1956 to 1967).

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” would go no higher on the Easy Listening chart during a nine-week stay, and it was the last record Morgan placed in or near the Hot 100, as it bubbled under at No. 121. It’s an okay record, but it’s not at all familiar and I doubt I’d have liked it in 1967, but that’s the way things go. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 675

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

It was about this time thirteen years ago that I figured out what I wanted to do with this blog. I’d spent about a month ripping records from my collection to mp3s, then posting them at the blog’s first location, first without much commentary at all, and then, pulling comments from places like All-Music Guide.

After a few weeks, I began writing my own commentary, but it was limited. And then, right around February 1, 2007, I began to write about how I got my records over the years, how it felt when listening to them, and also about the life I’d lived while hearing the music and how the music had affected that life.

And I was off, doing finally what I’d hoped to do when I set up housekeeping on the Web. Over these thirteen years, the tales have dwindled and become generally less interesting (one runs out of tales eventually and does not want to be Old Uncle Walter, who tells the same war stories every time you see him at a family reunion). Thus, my posts have become more reliant than I might like on record charts and radio station surveys and the shelves full of books that this hobby has led me to collect.

I’m sure there are more stories inside that will interest me if no one else, and there’s always the music, so this blog – to quote Bob Dylan – ain’t goin’ nowhere. I just hope that the folks who stop by here for whatever entertainment they may gain continue to do so.

So another year starts. Thanks for stopping by through the years gone by.

With that, I offer (with some minor revisions) a piece I first posted here almost thirteen years ago as Saturday Single No. 1, accompanied by a video of one of the first tracks I ripped from vinyl:

All Music Guide makes a trenchant observation in its overview of Cris Williamson and her music: It notes that trying to assess Williamson and her place in popular music is like trying to assess those athletes who played Negro League baseball before Jackie Robinson began the integration of major league baseball in 1947: We can never really know what might have been.

That’s because Williamson was one of the first – possibly the first – musician to state clearly that she was gay. And she did it in the early 1970s, when doing so scared away major labels that otherwise would likely have scooped her up in the hubbub of the singer-songwriter boom and happily mass-marketed her literate, thoughtful and often lovely music.

Even as her music has never reached as wide an audience as it deserves, Williamson – born in Deadwood, S.D., in, oddly enough, the Jackie Robinson year of 1947 – has made the proverbial lemonade: She, along with a few other pioneers like Meg Christian and Margie Adam (and Holly Near, who should have been mentioned in the original post), created through their recordings and performances the genre of music that became known as Women’s Music (which, if it originated today, would likely be clustered in with folk music, which is the category in record stores where I’ve found the Williamson albums I own). Recording on Olivia Records – which released thirteen of her albums, including The Changer and the Changed, quite likely her best and most influential record – and then on her own Wolf Moon label, Williamson has been a consistently good, sometimes great and always listenable musician.

AMG wonders, and I do too: What would her career have been like had she come along twenty years later, at a time when top-rank performers like the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge could openly proclaim their orientations without losing their mass audiences? We can’t answer that, of course. As a friend of mine once told me during a conversation about roads not taken, we’ll never know what didn’t happen.

But there is the music, a body of excellent work (on nearly thirty albums) that deserves more notice than it gets. In that body of work is today’s Saturday Single, the song “Like An Island Rising” from Williamson’s 1982 release, Blue Rider.

Like any listener, I have songs that move me in various ways, including a whole box-set’s-worth of tunes that move me to tears. Some of those are linked to people and times now gone; others touch me simply because they do. “Like An Island Rising” is one of the latter. Whenever I hear it, from the first time after a garage sale purchase in 1998 through my listening to it again this morning, it dives deeply into me. And I find myself pondering once more the line that seems to me to be at the song’s heart:

“Sweet miracles can come between the cradle and the grave.”

Yes, they can. Just listen.

Saturday Single No. 674

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Some songs haunt.

As I read the paper this morning, the RealPlayer wandered through 1975: Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Albert Hammond, Seals & Crofts, Barry Manilow, and then Janis Ian:

The days are okay
I watch the TV in the afternoons
If I get lonely,
The sound of other voices,
Other rooms are near to me
I’m not afraid . . .

And in the winter,
Extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
I am wiser now, you know
And still as big a fool concerning you . . .

And I was pulled back twenty years, into the winter after I was overexposed to toxic chemicals and was left unable to work, unsure of where I could go safely for more than a few minutes, and uncertain of the future. I was isolated in a new apartment in the southern reaches of Minneapolis, and I was lonely.

Ian’s song “In The Winter” has left me feeling desolate from the first time I heard it during the late summer of 1988. It’s from her 1975 album Between The Lines, the album that contains the remarkable “At Seventeen,” which itself is no joyful romp in the meadow. But the angst in “At Seventeen,” is a look back to youth, and when it came out of speakers everywhere during the late summer and early autumn of 1975, it was a tale of memory. And those of us at The Table at St. Cloud State – all attuned for years to Thoreau’s distant drummer – could listen and agree that our younger days had been confusing and sometimes far less than happy.

But “In The Winter” has no insulation of time gone, being written in the present instead of as a look back. I first heard it, I imagine, in September 1988, when Between The Lines was among a batch of records I brought home from a Saturday excursion to either the flea market or some garage sales. It had been a difficult summer, and in Ian’s dirge of solitude after the end of a relationship, I heard echoes of my life at the time.

And this morning, as it came up, I was back for a moment in another desolate time, January 2000, when I wondering how where my life would go (not knowing, of course, that by mid-February, during my first full week online, my life would take another astounding turn, this one fulfilling). I must have heard it during that winter, but whether I sought it out to underline my depression or forgot it was on the album as I cued it up, I do not know. (I’d like to think it was the latter.)

It’s still a bleak song, but beyond that first twinge, its tale is now memory, like the tale of “At Seventeen” was forty-five years ago. And its appearance this morning during random play is a reminder – one we all sometimes need, I think – that bleakness doesn’t always last. And all of that means that Janis Ian’s “In The Winter” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 673

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

I’ve got a bunch of music stored on my phone, stuff that I put there a year ago so the phone could be my mp3 player while I was in the hospital, and every once in a while, as I take a rest, I lay the phone near the pillow and let the music lull me to sleep.

Except not all of the tunes on the phone are lulling. The other day I was roused when Long John Baldry began graveling his way through “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield,” the Randy Newman tune Baldry covered on his 1971 album It Ain’t Easy.

I wrote briefly about the song in 2008, quoting the assessment of Newman’s original recording of the song found at All-Music Guide:

A sinewy ballad built around a fine bottleneck guitar riff, “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” is a love song, basically, but the slightly demented lyric content is what gives it the edge.

Slightly demented? Well, yeah. Take a read:

Let’s burn down the cornfield,
Let’s burn down the cornfield,
And we can listen to it burn.

You hide behind the oak tree,
You hide behind the oak tree,
Stay out of danger ’till I return.

Oh, it’s so good on a cold night
To have a fire burnin’ warm and bright.

You hide behind the oak tree,
You hide behind the oak tree,
Stay out of danger ’till I return.

Let’s burn down the cornfield,
Let’s burn down the cornfield,
And I’ll make love to you while it’s burning.

At the time, more than eleven years ago, I had access to two covers of the song, those by Baldry and by Alex Taylor, and I noted that I planned to soon rip to mp3s Etta James’ version of the tune from her 1974 album Come A Little Closer.

Well, I must have done that, because James’ version of the song is now in the RealPlayer stacks, as are additional versions by Lou Rawls, Sam Samudio and the Walkabouts. There are others out there, but we’re not going to look any further afield this morning. Instead, we’re just going to make Etta James’ take on “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 672

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

Having started and discarded in extreme dissatisfaction two posts this morning (my sinus infection and needy cats have been no help at all), I’m just going to punt and do right from the top the same thing we did here two days ago as we noted that 1970 is now fifty years distant:

I’m going to sort the releases in the RealPlayer from 1970 by running time, drop the cursor in the middle, and click on random ten times.

And we fall upon “Rosy Shy,” a track from Jesse Winchester’s self-titled debut album, a work produced by Robbie Robertson of The Band. And it’s today’s Saturday Single. (I hope to have more to say come next week.)