I’m going to make this quick this morning, as I’m headed out in a few moments to the health station our clinic operates at a nearby supermarket. I’ve decided that the sinus infection that’s been hanging on for a week requires professional intervention.
So I’m going to let the iTunes player here in the EITW studios do the work for me. I’ll let it roll on random for six tracks and then take whatever the seventh track is for our Saturday Single. Here we go for the first six:
“One Of These Nights” by the Eagles (1975)
“Levon” by Elton John (1971)
“Walking On A Wire” by Lowen & Navarro (1990)
“Raining On Sunday” by Keith Urban (2002)
“Working At The Car Wash Blues” by Jim Croce (1973)
“Golden Years” by David Bowie (1976)
“Jessie’s Girl” by the Chipmunks (1982)
And finally, we land on some sweet Boz Scaggs: “We’re All Alone” is the closing track to Silk Degrees, one of my essential albums since not long after it was released in 1976. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.
We’re gonna do the fifty years ago thing this morning because it’s fun and because the Airheads Radio Survey Archive just happens to have in its files the “The Big 6+30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB from March 11, 1967, fifty years ago today.
And to find our Saturday Single, we’ll play Games With Numbers with today’s date – 3/11/17 – and check out the records that were at No. 11, No. 17 and No. 28 in “The Big 6+30” from that long ago date.
But first, let’s think about March of 1967 from the view of a 13-year-old whiteray. He was making his way through the thickets of eighth grade, dealing well enough with a basic curriculum of geometry, geography, English, Earth science, industrial arts and phy. ed. (Looking back fifty years this morning, I’m surprised that I don’t recall any art classes from that year; perhaps the junior high powers had observed my efforts during seventh grade and had wisely decided there was no point in investing any more tempera paint or India ink into my decidedly mediocre work.)
He’d had his tonsils out in February, and his throat was still a little tender. His heartfelt overtures to a cute blonde contemporary had been rebuffed sometime that winter, and his feelings were still a little tender. And he’d been kept after school sometime over the winter for defacing, literally, a magazine cover.
One thing he wasn’t doing – as I’ve noted here many times over more than ten years – was paying any attention to KDWB and its Top 40 music. He heard the station’s output at home when his sister listened and at friends’ homes, so much of what was on “The Big 6+30” fifty years ago would have been familiar if not favored. Here’s the station’s Top Five from that week:
“Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher
“My Cup Runneth Over With Love” by Ed Ames
“Kind Of A Drag” by the Buckinghams
“I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” by the Electric Prunes
Of those five, the only one I knew well was Ames’ single, and being even then an utter romantic, I adored it. Could I have told you why? Not then. (I could now, I think, but there’s no point in my trying after reading my pal jb’s tender assessment of the record in a post from five years ago at And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’.) And I would have heard Ames’ single more frequently on the Twin Cities’ WCCO or St. Cloud’s KFAM, as the record topped the Billboard Easy Listening chart (now called Adult Contemporary) for four weeks that winter.
Three of the other four in that top five are vague portions of the soundtrack of those times. The only one of KDWB’s Top Five that doesn’t ring old bells is the single by the Electric Prunes. But what about our three targets for this morning’s exercise?
Sitting at No. 11 in KDWB-Land was “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group. The No. 17 slot was occupied by “So You Want To Be A Rock ’N’ Roll Star” by the Byrds. And the No. 28 record in “The Big 6+30” was “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by the Casino.”
I don’t recall the Byrds’ single from my life in 1967. The other two records ring those old bells: “Gimme Some Lovin’” because its unmistakable intro would have ingrained itself into the head of any kid whether he liked rock music or not, and the Casinos’ record because it was pretty and romantic, qualities that spoke to the awkward and lonely lad that I was. It was also fairly pragmatic, given the repeated line, “If it don’t work out,” a subtle virtue I did not grasp then and would not grasp in music or romance for many years to come.
By this time fifty years ago, the Casinos’ record had already peaked at No. 14 on KDWB and was on its way down. In the Billboard Hot 100 fifty years ago this week, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” was peaking at No. 6. (Given that the record was so clearly out of step with nearly every trend in pop music at the time, sounding like it belonged to, say, 1961 instead of 1967, I was startled to see this morning that it made no dent in the Easy Listening chart.)
So, it’s pretty, romantic and pragmatic; it’s only been mentioned twice here in more than ten years (once in 2007 and once earlier this winter); and it reminds me of a thirteen-year-old whiteray anxiously awaiting the day when he’d understand both girls and love (and of course, he still doesn’t fully understand either). Because of all that, the Casinos” “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” is today’s Saturday Single.
Forty-three years ago today, I spent some time in Paris’ Montmartre district, touring the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and then walking to Place du Tertre, where painters gather to ensnare the tourists. Many years later, I looked back at that walk and wrote this:
The basilica’s neighborhood – including Place du Tertre – seemed almost too French, a little too close to what one thinks of when one imagines a Parisian neighborhood: Nattily dressed men, arms waving as they argue on the sidewalk; a student in tattered jeans sipping café au lait at a sidewalk table, jotting his thoughts into a journal and peering through the smoke of his Gauloise at the girls passing by; an older woman trudging to work or to the bakery past a row of parked Citroën autos; two priests walking rapidly with their heads down and with their cassocks flowing in the breeze made by their rapid passage down the sidewalk and into a side street; and the artists with their easels and their palettes and their berets, eyeing their own works critically and their neighbors’ works enviously.
It felt a little like a movie set or a collection of clichés, and it took a few moments of reflection for me to realize that it’s not often that life so perfectly mimics a stereotype. As I wandered from the basilica and into Place du Tertre, the image of Paris that I carried around inside me from books, movies and music was superimposed on the reality of Paris that was in front of me, and for a few brief and sweet moments, the two were congruent: I had found the Paris I had imagined I would find.
Of course, moments like that aren’t at all durable. In a few minutes, maybe a garbage truck came by from a nearby alley, or two backpacking travelers began laughing loudly at something that only they found humorous, or a group of Japanese tourists clustered around their flag-toting guide to hear what she had to say about the square, and that small corner of Paris was still Paris, but it was no longer as nearly perfect as it had been.
And as I look back, it seems to me that for those few moments of near-perfection, the only thing missing was the sound of an Edith Piaf song playing in the background: “No, je ne regrette rien . . . .”
So here, forty-three years later, is Edith Piaf’s “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien,” recorded in Paris on November 20, 1960. It’s today’s Saturday Single.
Puttering in the EITW studio the other evening with half an eye on a hockey game and half an eye on Facebook, the remaining eye was wandering through mp3s in the RealPlayer, and for some reason, I searched to see how many versions of “The Girl From Ipanema” are stacked on the digital shelves.
I actually searched just for the term “Ipanema,” so I’d be certain to catch the gender-flipped versions – it turns out I have eight tracks titled “The Boy From Ipanema” – and those titled in a foreign language. And I learned that I have eighty-four versions of the tune, a fact that I idly shared on Facebook.
I got a few reactions, mostly chuckling face emoticons. The Texas Gal jokingly responded, “Delete them all!” And Jeff, the Green Bay-based proprietor of AM Then FM, warned me of an impending visit by the Completist Police. Well, I certainly didn’t do any deleting, and I don’t think I have to worry about the police quite yet: According to Second Hand Songs, at least 273 versions exist of the song written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes and first recorded by Os Cariocas in 1962.
(From what I can tell at SHS, the first version to use the English lyrics crafted by Norman Gimbel was the 1964 release by Stan Getz and João Gilberto with Astrud Gilberto supplying the vocal.)
So, while the Completist Police may be some distance from my door, I do have plenty of Ipanema to keep me company while I wait for the (no doubt) musical knock on the door. The versions range along the timeline from Os Cariocas’ 1962 original to a cover released in 2013 by Andrea Bocelli (a version I got at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, where the Half-Hearted Dude is celebrating his tenth anniversary). Now, Bocelli isn’t always to my taste, but when one begins to collect versions of a classic tune, one sometimes steps in unanticipated directions.
And those directions have brought me versions from the breathy Anita O’Day (1963), the horn of my man Al Hirt (1964), the pianos of Ferrante & Teicher (1964), the very easy listening of the Ray Charles Singers (1964), the vibraphone of Freddie McCoy (1965), the sax of King Curtis (1966), the Hammond organ of Denny McClain (1969), the a capella sounds of the Swingle Singers (2002), and many more.
Do I have a favorite? Probably the Getz/Gilberto/Gilberto version. (The entire Getz/Gilberto album never strays far from one or another of the CD players.) Of more recent vintage, though with a similar sense, is the 1998 version by Brazilian singer (and pianist) Eliane Elias, who recorded “Garota De Ipanema” for her album Eliane Elias Sings Jobim. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.
Among the trees we have gracing our acre-plus of yard are three Norway pines, perhaps my favorites with their graceful conical shapes and their clusters of long needles. One of the three is not far from the house and has been the starting point over the years for the seating for our summer picnics. All three are tall and, if you’ll excuse the personification, noble.
But I’m a little worried. All three of them have been shedding branches – some quite large – this winter. The yard is strewn with maybe thirty of them, ranging from a foot to perhaps four feet long. And that seems odd. We’ve had some high winds so far this winter, but nothing more fierce than we’ve had in winters past. (In fact, this has been a fairly mild winter: not that much snow and only one stretch of sub-zero temperatures although there is some chatter about a major storm heading our way at the end of next week.)
So I don’t know why the Norway pines are shedding so many branches this winter when they’ve not done so in winters past. I’m uncertain if the falling branches are harbingers of something wrong with the three Norway pines or if they’re just coincidence. I’d like to think it’s the latter.
The branches also bother me because they’re unsightly. As the snow cover has melted and the temperatures have risen in the past week or so, the Texas Gal and I have talked about getting outside and picking up the branches. I think we’ll be doing that today or tomorrow afternoon, as the temperature is supposed to get into the mid-50s.
That won’t tell us why the Norways are shedding branches, but at least it will make the yard a little more tidy.
And here’s an appropriate tune, a cover of a song originally done by The Band in 1969. Here’s “Whispering Pines” as performed by Boz Scaggs and Lucinda Williams. It’s from Scaggs’ 2015 album A Fool To Care, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
It’s time for a four-track random walk through the 3,805 tracks on iTunes to find ourselves a Saturday Single:
First up is Muddy Water’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” the first single the blues musician released after making his way in 1943 from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The track was recorded in December 1947 and released on Aristocrat – a precursor of Chess Records – in 1948. It didn’t hit the Billboard R&B chart, but in September of 1948, Waters’ “I Feel Like Going Home” went to No. 11 on R&B chart. From what I can tell this morning, in more than ten years of blogging here, I have mentioned “I Can’t Be Satisfied” only twice, once in passing and once as one of the records played daily in my mythical roadhouse.
Up pops a Bob Dylan B-side: “Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar,” released on the flip of “Heart of Mine” in 1981 and then released on the Biograph box set in 1985. A different version of the tune showed up on the Shot of Love album in 1981, but I think I’d have to do a side-by-side, second-by-second comparison to find the differences. In the notes to Biograph, Dylan basically says that he and the band lost their ways in the version that went out as the B-side. I have to admit that I was unaware that “Heart of Mine” was released as a single in 1981; I never heard it, and it never even bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100.
And we stay with Mr. Dylan, moving back fourteen years from Shot of Love to the quiet and understated John Wesley Harding from 1967 and its meditative track “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” With just a guitar and a harmonica and an understated voice, Dylan tells of the saint “tearing through these quarters” and offering the cryptic words
No martyr is among ye now Whom you can call your own So go on your way accordingly But know you’re not alone.
Next comes the sweet love story of “1927 Kansas City” as told by Mike Reilly, who became a member of Pure Prairie League after a brief solo career. The only remnant of that solo career in the charts is “1927 Kansas City,” which tumbled around the lower levels of the Hot 100 for six weeks, peaking at No. 88 (and at No. 38 on the Adult Contemporary chart). It’s a little gooey, maybe, but it’s got some nice production touches and some nice lyrical turns, and since I’m a sucker for sweet love stories, it’s a favorite.
Well, we’ve got two Dylans, a classic blues and a sweet love story on the table. I’m tempted by the love story, of course, but I featured it here not quite three years ago. I’m also limited by the fact that Dylan’s originals do not stay on YouTube very long at all, and although some nice covers of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” are available there (including one from last year by Eric Clapton), it was the original that popped up in iTunes this morning. So pretty much by default, we’re going to have to go with Muddy Waters. (That’s not a bad default position to have, you might note.)
Here’s Muddy Water’s 1947 recording of “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.
I still feel like crap, so I searched the 90,000-odd mp3s in the RealPlayer for the word “headache,” and I came up with one title: “Willies’ Headache,” a 1973 track by Cymande.
Cymande, according to Wikipedia, is “a British funk group that released several albums throughout the early 1970s and . . . recently reunited in 2014 with a European tour.”
“Willies’ Headache” was a track on the group’s second album, Second Time Round, and it brings with it a conundrum: On the album label as offered at Discogs.com, the title of the track is spelled as I have it above. On the video below, it’s spelled “Willy’s Headache,” which makes more sense.
It doesn’t matter, I guess. What matters is that my own headache is soothed this morning by the mellow and funky sounds, and I like the chorus: “Gotta be aware! Don’t get too lost in your dreams.” And all of that makes “Willies’ Headache” a good choice for this week’s Saturday Single.
Wandering through the digital stacks this morning, I found a few tracks tagged as having been recorded on January 28 over the years. (I have session date information for perhaps five percent of the 90,000 mp3s in the RealPlayer.) Let’s take a look at them.
The oldest comes from Frank Hutchison, who recorded “Stackalee” in New York City in 1928. An early version of the tale of bad man Stagger Lee that Lloyd Price turned into a No. 1 hit in 1959, Hutchison’s spare take on the song – with his guitar on his lap and a harmonica in a rack – came to me through the CD box set of the legendary Anthology of American Folk Music compiled by Harry Smith and released in 1952.
Next along the timeline for January 28 are a couple of western swing tracks laid down in Chicago in 1935 by Milton Brown & His Brownies. “Crafton Blues” is an instrumental composed by the band’s Ocie Stockard, and “Who’s Sorry Now” is a cover of the 1920s standard first recorded and released in 1923 by Bob Thompson. The two tracks came my way on Western Swing, a three-CD set that billed itself as “The Absolutely Essential” collection.
On January 28, 1953, most likely in Los Angeles or Hollywood (a judgment based on the fact that the arrangements and backing were from Nelson Riddle), Nat King Cole recorded “Almost Like Being In Love.” The track was released that year on Nat King Cole Sings For Two In Love, an eight-track, ten-inch LP. I found “Almost Like Being In Love” on the compilation CD The Very Best of Nat King Cole.
Big Joe Turner had a busy day on January 28, 1955, in New York City, and four tracks from that day’s session have made their ways to my stacks: “Morning, Noon and Night,” “Ti-Ri-Lee,” “Flip Flop and Fly” and “Hide and Seek.” Of the four, “Ti-Ri-Lee” is a little less frantic but still nowhere near a slow dance, and the other three are your basic (but still enjoyable) Joe Turner joints. I found “Morning, Noon and Night” and “Ti-R-i-Lee” on a Turner compilation titled Big. Bad & Blue, and the other two came from the CD The Very Best of Big Joe Turner (which I happened to be playing in the car this week).
Jumping ahead in the timeline a little bit, two Johnny Cash-related tracks show up. On January 28, 1971, Tammy Wynette appeared on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC. Her performance of “Stand By Your Man” showed up on The Best of The Johnny Cash TV Show. And on January 28, 1974, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, Cash recorded “Ragged Old Flag,” which was released as a Columbia single and was later included in the CD collection The Essential Johnny Cash.
Heading back a few years from that, in 1969, George Harrison brought Billy Preston to a Beatles session at the Apple studios on January 28. Among the results was the single version of “Get Back,” on which Preston provides an electric piano solo and became, if I recall things correctly, the only non-Beatle credited on a Beatles record. The track was included in the Mono Masters CD package.
And last, we’ll head back another year to 1968 and a recording session for the Moody Blues at the Decca Studios in the West Hampstead area of London. The group was working on In Search of the Lost Chord, and among the results of the session was an early version of “What Am I Doing Here?” The track got left off the album, and in November of that year, it was given some overdubs and a new mix. Still, “What Am I Doing Here?” was unreleased until 1977, when the November version was included in the Caught Live + 5 collection.
I found the original version of “What Am I Doing Here” on the expanded CD release of In Search of the Lost Chord, and I prefer it to the overdubbed November version. At any rate, a November track doesn’t meet our requirements today, so the January 28, 1968, recording of “What Am I Doing Here?” is today’s Saturday Single.
It’s been a while since we looked at the book that offers the weekly Top Ten album charts from Billboard. So here’s the Top Ten from this week in 1972, forty-five years ago:
American Pie by Don McClean The Concert for Bangla Desh Music by Carole King Chicago at Carnegie Hall Led Zeppelin IV (untitled) Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens Tapestry by Carole King There’s a Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone Madman Across The Water by Elton John Wild Life by Wings
During that distant week, three of those albums would have been in the box next to the stereo in our basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard. The Concert for Bangla Desh was there, as I’d gotten it for Christmas just weeks earlier. And my sister had copies of Tapestry and the Cat Stevens album. She did, however, take them with her when she got married, so by August of that year, the only one of those albums in the house was the massive concert document.
Over the years, all but one of the other nine made their ways to my shelves, but it took some time to get started and to finish:
American Pie, February 1989 Madman Across The Water, February 1989 Chicago at Carnegie Hall, February 1989 & June 1990 Led Zeppelin IV, March 1989 There’s A Riot Goin’ On, September 1989 Teaser & The Firecat, November 1995 Music, November 1998 Tapestry, November 1998
(Two notes: I have never owned a copy of Wild Life, and by the time I got around to the four-LP Chicago album, it was being offered as two sets of two LPs each.)
I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn from that timeline, but the question that popped into my head as I pulled that listing together was: Are any of those albums essential listening for me in 2017?
Well, making that question hard to answer is the fact that the way we listen to music in 2017 is far different than the way it was back in 1972. We have playlists in our devices, pulling individual tracks from disparate sources. It’s a rare thing, I think, for us to listen to an album – whether current or from our youths – from start to finish. I try to do that in the car at least once a week, popping a CD in and letting it roll from the first track through the last; since it generally takes several trips to get through a CD, it’s not quite the same, but it’s a close approximation, I think.
As it happens, one of the two albums that I heard in the car this week was The Concert for Bangla Desh. It was as enjoyable this week as it was during January of 1972, and I made a mental note to see how much of its music I have among the 3,700 tracks in the iPod. As it turns out, I had pulled only four tracks from that album into the device: Leon Russell’s medley of “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Young Blood,” Billy Preston’s “That’s The Way God Planned It” and George Harrison’s performances of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Bangla Desh.”
So I guess I could say that those four are the essential tracks from that album, and maybe we should alter our question, asking instead: Which of those albums in that long ago Top Ten have tracks that are, based on the contents of the iPod, still essential to me today?
Well, almost all of them. Tapestry leads the way with six tracks in the iPod, and there are three from Music. The device has four tracks from the Led Zeppelin album, and I’ve pulled two each from the Don McLean, Elton John and Cat Stevens albums. Which leaves unrepresented from that January 1972 Top Ten the albums by Chicago and Sly & The Family Stone, meaning that – approaching our question from the other end – those two albums have for me nothing essential.
None of that accounting is surprising, of course (except maybe that four of the Zep tracks landed in the iPod). But it tells me that there twenty-three tracks that I evidently see as essential from those albums in that January 1972 Top Ten. And here’s the one that back in 1972, I would have deemed least likely to be among my essential listening. It’s “When The Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
Well, the great LP purge is finished. Last Saturday, we took another 800 or so LPs down to Cheapo in Minneapolis, and we should get a decent check in the mail today.
When Tony at Cheapo told me the amount over the phone Sunday, I was a bit surprised. It was more than I expected for this particular batch of records.
“Well, you had some interesting stuff in there,” he said.
“What worried me,” I told him, “was all the K-Tel and Ronco stuff.”
“Yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “You didn’t get much for those.”
Altogether, I estimate that we dropped off about 2,200 LPs in our three trips to Minneapolis. How many of those Cheapo sent to the wastebasket, I don’t know. But we averaged about fifty-six cents per LP, which was nice for our savings account.
I still have about 1,000 LPs, mostly the stuff I love (some of which, like the Beatles and the Dylan collections, would sell well), and about twenty of them are in a basket near my desk where they wait to be ripped on the turntable. And I have a list of stuff I sold that I want to replicate via mp3. I’ve scavenged a few of those out in the wilds of the ’Net in the past weeks, and I’ve got a long list of CDs reserved at the local library.
This week, I was ripping some of the yearly Billboard hits CDs and some of the massive – eight CDs’ worth – history of Atlantic rhythm & blues. That’s meant a few hours each day at the computer, winnowing out old mp3s of lower bitrate or researching catalog numbers and release dates for tunes new to the digital shelves.
With the total of sorted and tagged mp3s loaded into the RealPlayer approaching 90,000, it’s difficult – as I’ve noted here before – to keep track of everything I have. So as I sort things, I’m sometimes surprised. That was the case yesterday as I wandered through my collection of work by the late Ben E. King.
I don’t have a lot of his work – thirteen tracks – but I have the obvious ones – “Stand By Me,” “Spanish Harlem” and the other hits. And I have a track that I tend to forget about that I found on the 1997 anthology One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen.
So here’s Ben E. King’s sweet cover of “4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.