Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 565

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

When my external hard drive clicked its way to death the other week, I replaced it – for the time being – with the 500-gig hard drive I’d tucked away as a partial back-up. Doing that means that iTunes could no longer find the 3,600 or so tunes I’d loaded there for my iPod to find.

My plan – now maybe half-way completed – was to buy two new three-terabyte hard drives, use one as my day-to-day drive and put all my music in the other one and tuck it away as a back-up along with the 500-gig hard drive. It took all day yesterday to transfer my current (diminished) library (along with many documents and other bits) to one of the new 3TB drives. I’m going to do the remaining transfer overnight tonight, and on Monday, I’ll reload all of the sorted mp3s into the RealPlayer and start selecting tracks – once again – to go into iTunes for the iPod.

While I was laying those plans, I did not want to go without tunes on the iPod, so I spent a few hours pushing about 2,500 tunes its way via iTunes. This was no careful selection; it was more like one of those sixty-second shopping sprees one sees occasionally on television: grab some stuff here, grab some stuff there, take a whole folder here and another over there.

What it means is that the current tracks in iTunes (and on the iPod) have maybe a different flavor than they had before. So I’m going to run random through four of them to find our single for today.

First up is “Kingdom of Days” from Bruce Springsteen’s 2009 album Working On A Dream. It’s a testament to loving another as the days and years pass. I’ve not listened to it a great deal, and when I do, I tend to get lost in the hypnotic melody. But every time I do stop to notice it, I wonder again why I don’t listen to it more. Probably because when I drop the CD into the player, I have to make sure to skip the first track, “Outlaw Pete.” (It’s the only Springsteen track I truly dislike.)

Our second stop is a take on “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” by Bob Dylan and The Band. It came here on the 1985 box set Biograph and was a product of the sessions in Woodstock, New York, that became known as The Basement Tapes. It’s a decent performance of the tune, but – as these things usually go – I tend to like the first version I ever heard of the tune, and that’s Dylan’s live performance with The Band at the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival. That one was also included on Dylan’s second greatest hits package in 1971.

Then we get Jim Croce’s “Next Time, This Time,” about as catchy a kiss-off song as you might ever want to find. “I’m gonna forget your name and your pretty face, girl and write you off as a bad mistake,” he sings, adding that “a woman like you ought to be ashamed of the things that you do to men.” I remember hearing that lyric for the first time in November of 1974 as I played my newly purchased copy of Croce’s 1973 album Life & Times. As I listened, I found myself relating the song clearly to someone I’d dated briefly that September. Many years later, sipping drinks with a couple of friends from that long-ago era, I mentioned the woman’s name, indicating my less-then-fond memories. The other two guys nodded and noted that they’d had similar, and probably more costly, experiences with the same woman. And that memory makes me wonder if Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken” might show up next.

But it doesn’t. And that’s okay, because it lands on Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.),” a 1966 record that went to No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart for seven weeks. Even I, as disconnected as I was with Top 40 music in seventh grade, knew that phone number by heart. Thank goodness I still like the track. Oddly, though, I have mentioned Pickett’s record only once in more than ten years of blogging, and that was in a piece on telephone numbers.

And that means that Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 564

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

The Texas Gal is in Texas this weekend, visiting her family. So I slept late before running her car down to the nearby tire shop for a routine tire check.

All was well, so I’m home and half the day is over.

November always brings with it thoughts of those gone from my life, making me a little subdued for the first half of the month. One of the folks I miss is Bobby Jameson, who entered my life after I shared some of his music here. One of my favorites among Bobby’s work is “Big Spoke Wheel,” recorded with Crazy Horse, Red Rhodes and Gib Gilbeau. Bobby told me that the sessions – unreleased until Bobby put many of his tunes up at YouTube – took place in either 1970 or 1971.

And “Big Spoke Wheel” – with its slender connection to my taking care of the tires on the Texas Gal’s car – is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 563

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Remembered moments and places sometimes swirl and connect in odd ways, filling in a picture of something I hadn’t thought about for years.

I was pondering the autumn of 1969, when the St. Cloud Tech Tigers football team – I was one of the managers – went 6-3 and finished at No. 9 in the state rankings released at season’s end by the Minneapolis Tribune. (A lofty ranking for a team with three losses? Maybe, but the Tigers’ three losses came at the hands of the Minneapolis Washburn Millers, the Austin Packers and the Moorhead Spuds, all undefeated and ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 3 by the Tribune. Tech played a tough schedule.)

By the first Saturday in November, the high school season was over. There were no playoffs. So, I wondered, what did go on during the first weekend of November. Locked into football at the moment, I checked at Pro Football Reference to see what the Minnesota Vikings had done. (Besides win, that is: The Vikings that year lost the first and last games of the season, winning twelve in a row in between.) It turned out that was the week that the Vikings hosted the Cleveland Browns and won 51-3.

I didn’t watch the game. This was the era when pro football games were not telecast in the home markets. Did I listen to it? I don’t think so. I do recall learning the final score while at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. My folks and I were waiting for a flight bringing my sister back from Alabama, where she’d been visiting a friend. I remember being in the airport, being annoyed about something. What it was that annoyed me, I’m not sure. Maybe her flight was late.

Having remembered my sister’s trip to Alabama, I recalled that my folks and I had brought her to the airport on Friday evening. In the midst of what was rush hour traffic back then, we made our way south along Highway 100, which was then the main north-south route on the Twin Cities’ western edge. And here’s where the memories get a little fuzzy.

On the western side of Highway 100 in the suburb of Robbinsdale, there was a restaurant called Vanni’s. Its menu was mostly Italian. I think we’d stopped there once before because I remember looking for it as we made our way south. And if I recall correctly, I thought that there might be a good chance of eating at Vanni’s as we made our way home from the airport that evening.

And so we did. I think. I know we made an evening stop at Vanni’s right about this time during the late autumn of 1969. Maybe it was on the way home after taking my sister to the airport that Friday. It might have been the following Sunday, on the way home after my sister’s return from Alabama. I’m not sure of which evening it was, but it was one of the two.

How am I sure? Because I remember what I had for dinner. On our first visit to Vanni’s sometime in the preceding two or three years, I was puzzled by an item on the menu: chili mac. Having learned that it was chili ladled onto spaghetti – two of my favorites in one dish! – I went for it and enjoyed it greatly. So, on our second visit on this November evening, I didn’t bother to look at the menu. I had chili mac and enjoyed it again.

And as we dined, someone went to the jukebox against the wall not far from where we sat. I recognized the record the instant it began. As I sat in Vanni’s and listened, the record – according to research from this morning – was at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 (having moved up smartly from the previous week’s spot at No. 42). On the KDWB survey that week, it was at No. 31, right where it had been the week before. I may have only heard the record once or twice before, but I recognized it.

Why? Because during the introduction, I heard the unmistakable sound of a football game, and the record’s lyrics played on football lingo. It was, of course, “Backfield In Motion” by Mel & Time. It peaked at No. 10 on the Hot 100 and at No. 3 on the R&B chart, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 562

Saturday, October 28th, 2017

Well, freezing my balky external hard drive did not do anything except make a dead hard drive icy. I could pry nothing from its cold, dead digital fingers.

But things are not as terrible as I thought they might be when Dale the computer guy first mentioned “The Clicks of Doom.”

Still, it took me most of yesterday to get to a point where I was not in despair:

My old 500-gig hard drive had 338 gigs of tunes, about 62,000 tracks sorted and tagged, as well as another 50 or so gigs of unsorted tunes. It took about four hours to copy all of that from the external drive into the C drive of my desktop desktop (where it will remain until I get two new large capacity external drives, one for use and one for backup). It took about 15 minutes to then tell the RealPlayer to delete things it could not find (in essence clearing the player of tunes), so I had lunch while the player slowly deleted its listing of the 98,000 tracks that had been on the dead drive. I then spent the afternoon and evening pulling tracks from the old (and now current) hard drive into the RealPlayer, doing that task twice because I screwed it up the first time.

(I did talk to the guys at Best Buy’s Geek Squad about salvaging some data, but given that I had on the old drive much of what I’d had on the dead drive, I decided not to spend the $100 to $600 the geek on the phone quoted me.)

So where am I? I’m about where I was four to five years ago. My rough estimate of that came from my file of television soundtracks: The reloaded RealPlayer showed me with two seasons’ worth of soundtracks from Game of Thrones. Up until the crash, I had six seasons’ worth of the show’s soundtracks. So, I have about four-and-a-half years’ worth of music to re-rip and re-load. Luckily, I have my CD log to help me along the way.

And comparing the CD log to the tracks in the RealPlayer, it seems that I will have to re-rip and re-install anything I got after the first week of January 2013. That’s about 220 CDs’ worth of tunes. And I know there is some stuff I got from friends or in odd corners of the Intertubes that I may not be able to replace.

(And there are some non-musical things, too; the scans of my slides from my time in Denmark are gone, as are some scans I did of family photos. But I have the slides, and I was not all that pleased with the way the home program I used dealt with high contrast slides, so I’m not all that upset. In time, I’ll take them down to the Camera Shop and let Frank deal with them.)

So for as wearying and worrisome as the last couple days have been, it could have been far worse. So, to mark the end of an eventful week, here’s a tune written by Bob Dylan and performed by one of my favorite current groups, and it comes from one of the last CD sets I ripped before I got the external drive that read its last byte this week.

Here’s the Carolina Chocolate Drops and their take on “Political World.” It’s from the 2012 set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan and it’s this week’s Saturday Single.

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.

Saturday Single No. 560

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

In the spring of 1964, when I was ten and in fifth grade, a kindly, older gentleman came to Lincoln Elementary School and asked if anyone wanted to learn to play a band instrument. I was interested, and when I met with that gentleman, he looked at my teeth – which would never need braces – and suggested that I might want to play a brass instrument. He suggested trumpet.

Not long after that, my folks took me on a Friday evening to Weber’s Jewelry & Music, a store on the further downtown reaches of St. Cloud’s St. Germain Street, and we looked at horns. My folks opted to buy me a cornet. It had the same fingering and same scale as a trumpet, but with a slightly different construction, which made it shorter but taller than a trumpet. It also may have made it slightly cheaper; I’m not sure.

My folks laid out $165 for my cornet, which – considering the things that it brought me over the years – was a small investment for a very large return. Actually, it wasn’t such a small investment. Although $165 might not seem like much now, an online inflation calculator tells me that spending $165 in 1964 was like spending a little more than $1,300 today. Nevertheless, the return over the years has been huge.

The kindly gentleman turned out to be Erwin Hertz, the band conductor at St. Cloud Tech High School, and during sixth grade, he stopped by Lincoln School once a week to give me (and the other Lincoln students who’d chosen to play band instruments) lessons, and once a week, as well, we all went over to Tech to be members of a district-wide sixth grade band.

I played my cornet – playing parts written for trumpet, which was in practical terms, the same thing – in band from sixth grade through my sophomore year of high school. I also played in the district’s orchestra program, starting with summer orchestra after eighth grade and continuing during the school year for all three years of high school. I was pretty good, with a good ear, but I didn’t practice near enough, so when I headed to college, I learned after one quarter in band that, like a minor league pitcher moved up to the bigs, I wasn’t good enough anymore.

But that was okay. Those seven years of playing in those large groups had been enough. And along the way, I’d gotten some gifts I’d not at all anticipated. One of them was the music of Al Hirt. His only Top Ten hit, “Java,” went to No. 4 in Billboard in early 1964 and was No. 1 for four weeks on the magazine’s easy listening chart. My appreciation for “Java” led my sister to give me Hirt’s Honey In The Horn for my eleventh birthday in September 1964, when my work on the cornet was only a few months old.

And that album is one of formative albums of my musical life. Among its tracks were the first tunes I remember hearing from what we now call the Great American Songbook: Gershwin & Duke’s “I Can’t Get Started” and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me To The Moon,” along with other tunes like Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On,” Ray Charles’ “Talkin’ Bout That River,” Boudleaux Bryant’s “Theme From A Dream” and more. The next Hirt album I got – That Honey Horn Sound from 1965 – brought me, among others, Rogers & Hart’s “You Took Advantage Of Me,” Chip Taylor’s “Long Walk Home,” Tchaikovsky’s “None But The Lonely Heart” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “Star Dust.”

From there, I dug into the rest of that mythical songbook and then into film scores, learning songs that kept me largely out of step with what my peers were listening to during the mid- to late 1960s. I didn’t always like being out of step at the time, but now – looking back fifty years – I wouldn’t change it.

Playing my horn also brought me a sense of melody that I think informs my songwriting to this day, and it brought me something I didn’t quite understand at first, even as I embraced it: I realized as I listened to Hirt’s records (and others’), that as a melody played, I knew how to finger it on my horn. It wasn’t perfect pitch, but it was close, a gift of relative pitch that I also use to this day.

So all of that is what my 1964 Conn cornet brought me. Now it has the chance to bring its gifts to another student. I took my horn – unplayed for many years – over to St. Cloud Tech yesterday and gave it to the band conductor there, a man named Gary Zwack. He said – confirming something my sister told me last week – that Tech, like almost all high schools in the state, often has students who want to play but who cannot afford an instrument. One of those students will now have a cornet to play.

When I arrived at Tech, Gary took me on a tour of the building. Renovations and additions made portions of the campus unfamiliar, but some doorways and corridors were recognizable. I carried my horn with me through the hallways, as I had done hundreds of times so long ago, and then I left it in the band office, giving its case a final pat and thanking it silently for the gifts it brought me.

And here’s one of those tunes I first heard long ago from the horn of Al Hirt. It’s Tchaikovsky’s “None But The Lonely Heart” from Hirt’s 1965 album That Honey Horn Sound, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 559

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Autumn, that most melancholy and sweetest of the four seasons, is here in full. I should be appreciating the glint of sunshine on golden and red leaves as they fall. I should be watching great V’s of waterfowl as they make their ways across the skies heading south. I should be nodding in appreciation as a song of loss and growth and hope plays in the car or the study.

I should be enjoying autumn as I have almost always done.

But this has been a dismal season so far. We have had many more days of rain and cloud than of sunshine in the past four weeks, and most of the leaves that have fallen from the oaks and the basswood here lie sodden on the lawn. One cannot kick one’s way joyfully through wet leaves.

My physical ailments – my cramping and stiffening legs – make it difficult as well for me to find joy in the season. Neither physical therapy nor a wealth of advice drawn from numerous sources seem to be helping, and I am worried.

And this autumn is different in at least one other way. My sister and I both have September birthdays, and when I wished her well during a phone call the other day, she noted that this year’s birthdays were our first without either of our parents. She said our mom often called her about 7:30 in the morning on her birthday, as that was the time of day she was born. I said that Mom often called me at 7:50 in the evening on my birthday for the same reason. And then neither of us said much for a few moments.

Not all the leaves have fallen yet, and we may still get the sunny days that have always leavened autumn’s melancholy for me in years past. My ailments may subside; if they do not, I will find ways to live with them. My grief will never disappear, but it will fade to a level that I can both tolerate and embrace.

And if it still turns out that this autumn is not one I can celebrate or cherish, well, I have had similarly sad autumns before, and I may have them again. Likewise, I may still have one or more gloriously bittersweet autumns waiting for me in the years to come. And as I ponder those things, I remind myself that here in this human plane of joy and woe, we are granted those things we need at the times we need them.

And that tells me that I must embrace this season with all its disappointments and worries just as fully as I have embraced the seasons that were sweet and thus more easily embraced.

As for music this morning, here’s the wistful and lovely “Early Autumn” by Toots Thielemans. It’s from his 1958 album Time Out For Toots, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 558

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Looking for inspiration this morning, I took a glance at the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from September 24, 1977, forty years ago this week:

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Star Wars soundtrack
Moody Blue by Elvis Presley
JT by James Taylor
Shaun Cassidy by Shaun Cassidy
Commodores by the Commodores
CSN by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Foreigner by Foreigner
Going For The One by Yes
The Floaters by the Floaters

We were slowly moving into a time when what was popular was no longer what I wanted to hear. Only three of those albums – the Fleetwood Mac, the James Taylor, and the Star Wars soundtrack – ever made it onto the vinyl stacks.

But there were no surprises as I scanned my way down the list this morning, at least until the very end. The Floaters? Who in the hell were the Floaters? As I limped to the shelf where I keep my reference books, I surmised that the Floaters were likely an R&B group, as it wasn’t rare for an R&B act do well nationally but get little exposure or airplay in the St. Cloud of the late 1970s. Or maybe there had been airplay, but I wasn’t paying attention.

And I was right. The Floaters – as maybe most of those who stop by here already know – were an R&B group, hailing from Detroit. The self-titled album that was No. 10 forty years ago was their first; they recorded three more albums in the next four years, according to Discogs, the last with, evidently, a female vocalist named Shu-Ga. Their single history goes back to 1965, when they released a record – “Down By The Seashore” – with Kenny Gamble before he was Kenny Gamble. It didn’t chart, and it wasn’t until 1976 that the Floaters were heard from again, with “I’m So Glad I Took My Time” released as a non-charting single ahead of its being included on The Floaters.

So there’s all of that (and more, if I wanted to go through every single the Floaters released), but our interest is that debut album, the one that peaked at No. 10, because it did sprout one massive single: “Float On.”

The single topped the Billboard R&B chart for six weeks during a seventeen-week run that started during the summer of 1977. Over on the Hot 100, “Float On” peaked with a two-week stay at No. 2, blocked from the top spot by first, Andy Gibb’s “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” and then, the Emotions’ “Best Of My Love.”

The single is not quite my deal; having each member of the group introducing himself to some imaginary lady is, to me, lame. But the chorus hangs with me, and anyway, when I discover a smash hit forty years late, I sort of feel as if I need to acknowledge it. That means that the Floaters’ “Float On” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 557

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

Today, I thought I’d go back to a moment on our trip to South Dakota. Not long after leaving Rapid City on our way home, we took a thirty-mile detour through Badlands National Park, getting out at several places for photos and to simply marvel at the land:

Badlands

What in the world, we wondered, did the explorers and settlers of the Nineteenth Century think when they came to these places, stretching for miles under the harsh Dakota sun? Further south, in the park’s Stronghold Unit, lies the place where the Lakota – seeking the survival of their way of life – held their Ghost Dance. As we drove the loop through the park, our comments to each other became murmurs and then became silence, both of us overwhelmed by the savage beauty of the place.

In that silence, as we drove on out of the Badlands, I thought – not at all for the first time during our Dakota trip – of the man I’d once known as Paul Summers, now Paul LaRoche, whose Lakota ancestors had been among those displaced from their homes and lives during the 1800s. I told his story – learning after the death of his Anglo parents that he had been adopted as an infant and then reconnecting with his Lakota heritage – long ago in the Eden Prairie News and then seven years ago in a post here.

Since that post, recording as Brulé, he’s continued to be one of the most well-known and successful Native American artists, releasing numerous CDs and touring frequently. I had some of his work before we headed west, and I added to that collection while we were in the Black Hills. None of Brulé’s work that I have at hand seems to speak specifically to the Badlands, but this morning, “Buffalo Moon” from the 1996 album We The People caught my ear. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 556

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Boy, you go away for a week, and stuff piles up on you, in this case, folks crossing over. Walter Becker of Steely Dan left us on September 3, and country giant Don Williams and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry both died on September 8. So this is the first moment I’ve had to sit down and really think about any of those deaths, and I’m not sure what to say. I’ll deal with Becker today and probably write about the other two next week, after we’re all unpacked and the laundry from the road is done.

When Steely Dan came along in 1972, I liked what I heard, and I still like it. All of the early albums – from 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill through 1980’s Gaucho – are on the digital shelves, even though I haven’t often written about the work of Becker, his partner Donald Fagen and the rest of the folks who laid down those sounds.

But liking Steely Dan isn’t enough for me to know what to say about its music. Trying to describe it, I once wrote of the Dan’s 1974 hit, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” that it had the visceral feel of that convalescent season, combing relief with “dissonance and odd angles and strange transitions.”

A far better assessment of what Becker meant to Steely Dan and to a fervent listener came the day after Becker crossed over. I frequently lean on the work of my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ when I either don’t know what to say or don’t know enough to write intelligently about something. Today I do so again. Go here and read jb’s reflections.

As for this space, it would too easy to post “Rikki” here this morning. So I’m going to dip into 1977’s Aja and the track whose lyrics tell us:

Well, the danger on the rocks is surely past
Still I remain tied to the mast
Could it be that I have found my home at last?
Home at last.

I know that Steely Dan and a romantic notion seem as odd a pairing as cognac and Cheez Whiz, but it would be nice to think that Becker is – in whatever way he might have wished – home at last, so “Home At Last” from Aja is today’s Saturday Single.