Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 720

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

As it often does as I sit here on the seventh day of the week, the tune “Come Saturday Morning” popped into my head today.

Written for the 1969 film The Sterile Cuckoo, the song was first recorded by the film’s star, Liza Minelli, as the title track of an album released in February 1969, according to Second Hand Songs. The film came out in October 1969, and it was the Sandpipers’ cover of the song that was used on the film’s soundtrack and released as a single. The record went to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 8 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Other covers followed, of course, and a few of them have ended up on the digital shelves here, by artists like Joe Reisman & His Orchestra & Chorus, the Fifty Guitars Of Tommy Garrett, the Mystic Moods Orchestra, and Mark Lindsay, one-time lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders.

Other familiar names show up on the list of covers at Second Hand Songs with Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Patti Page, Robert Goulet, Ray Conniff and Scott Walker found among the vocal list, and artists like Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, Peter Nero, Roger Williams, and Jackie Gleason listed among the instrumental covers of the song. The most recent of all of those was Walker’s take on the song, which came in 1972, and more followed.

Only five of the thirty-eight versions of the song listed at SHS have been released later than 1974: Vocal versions by Charles Tichenor (1996) and a female vocalist called Rumer (2010), and instrumentals by the Keith McDonald Trio (1986), Jim Hudak (2000), and the Dave McMurdo Jazz Orchestra (also 2000).

So there are lots of versions to sample and choose from. But I’m going to take the easy way out and find Peter Nero’s version of the tune because he’s one of the very few artists I’ve written about who has left a note here. (He responded a few years ago to a post about “The Summer Knows,” the theme from the movie Summer of ’42.) Nero’s version of “Come Saturday Morning” is from his 1970 album I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 717

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

And the holiday is over.

It was a pleasant one here, with plenty of goodies and with gifts between the Texas Gal and me parceled out one-at-a-time every few days or so starting about December 10 (a pattern we fell into about fifteen years ago and have liked).

There are plenty of goodies left: about a third of a charcuterie tray – meats and crackers and cheese – is yet in the fridge, as is at least two-thirds of a large lasagna. And even the cats have leftover treats, courtesy of the new family just to our east; sixteen-year-old Sydney stopped by yesterday afternoon with a stocking full of cat treats. We’ll have to ask the newcomers what brand the goodies are, as the cats seem to like them a great deal.

We Zoomed for a while yesterday afternoon, checking in with my sister and her husband and my nephew in the Twin Cities suburb of Maple Grove and with my niece and her husband and their two toddler boys in a Chicago suburb. And we made phone calls to the Texas Gal’s sisters and to a few other folks we know who were alone for the day.

So even though we went nowhere, it was a busy sort of day, and it’s left an odd sort of weariness, perfectly suited, I guess, for the odd sort of year we’re having. So, as the morning mist outside my window begins to differentiate itself from the cloud cover, I’ll ask the RealPlayer to sorts its 82,000-some tracks for the word “odd.”

We don’t get a lot to work with, which does not surprise me, and what we do get is not inspiring. So I’m going to turn to the most odd thing I’ve come across in recent months.

Adriano Celantano is an Italian multi-talent: actor, director, producer, singer-songwriter. In 1972, according to what I’ve read, he had the idea to write a song with lyrics that sounded English but were actually nonsense. So he wrote and produced “Prisencólinensináinciúsol,” enlisting his wife, Claudia Mori, for some vocal parts.

Wikipedia says: “Celentano’s intention with the song was not to create a humorous novelty song but to explore communication barriers.” The website quotes Celantano: “Ever since I started singing, I was very influenced by American music and everything Americans did. So at a certain point, because I like American slang – which, for a singer, is much easier to sing than Italian – I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.”

That’s a little more high-minded that what I’ve read elsewhere, which is that Celantano thought that English-sounding lyrics were so popular in Italy that he figured he could have a hit with a record of gibberish if it just sounded like English.

Either way, it worked. “Prisencólinensináinciúsol” went to No. 5 in Italy and in the Netherlands, to No. 2 on the Belgian Wallonia chart and to No. 4 on the Belgian Flanders chart, and to No. 6 in France. The Germans, however, didn’t seem to get the joke, as the record went only to No. 46 in West Germany.

It’s kind of a hoot, so here’s “Prisencólinensináinciúsol” in its basic form. There is a video out there from an Italian television show setting the record in a large dance routine, with Mori’s lyrics lip-synced by Italian actress Raffaella Carrà, and that’s kind of fun, but for now, the original is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 716

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

At times over the years, I’ve used one post or another here as kind of a note on a bulletin board, something to remind me to start a new project or to pick up on a series of posts interrupted and since set aside. This is one of those posts.

It’s been ten months since I added to the series of posts intended to examine the catalog of the Moody Blues. I dug into the group’s 1972 album, Seventh Sojourn, in February, just before the world went askew, and have never gotten back to that project, never examined the next stop in the group’s journey, 1978’s Octave.

But I reckon that delay is all right. After all, it took the group six years to get from Sojourn to Octave. If I can do so in a little more than ten months, well, that’s not too bad. So sometime in the next week, that long-delayed project should resume.

As a teaser, I’m offering here the track that might be the second-best the album has to offer. I’m not exactly where “One Step Into The Light” fits among the tracks from Octave. Musically, it’s very much like late 1960s Moodies stuff (which may or may not be a good thing), and lyrically, it lapses into the kind of mysticism that left a lot of people either laughing or leaving the room during those late 1960s days:

One step into the light
One step away from night
It’s the hardest step you’re gonna take
The ship to take you there is waitin’ at the head
Of the stairs that lead up through your opened mind

Above the dark despair
Shines a light that we can share
Close your eyes and look up in between your brows
Then slowly breathing in
Feel the life force streaming in
Hold it there, then send it back to him

All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning
All the truth we’ve been yearning for
Life is our savior, savior, savior
Save your soul

The river of living breath
Is flowing through the sun
He was there before the Earth began
The world will drag on you
Use his love to pull you through
Find the mission of your life and start to be

All the old things are returning
Cosmic circles ever turning
All the truth we’ve been yearning for
Life is our savior, savior, savior
Save your soul

There’s one thing I can do
Play my Mellotron for you
Try to blow away your city blues
Your dreams are not unfound
Get your feet back on the ground
The truth will set us free, we cannot lose
We cannot lose
We just have to choose

But still, there is – to my Moody-friendly ears – a kind of stately grandeur about “One Step Into The Light.” And that, along with its utility as kind of a Post-It note to remind me of my task next week, makes it today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 715

Saturday, December 12th, 2020

“This is an odd phone call,” my sister said the other day. “I’m dis-inviting you two for Christmas dinner.”

It wasn’t unexpected. The Texas Gal and I had already decided that we were going stay home on Christmas. And it wasn’t distressing, either, to be dis-invited. It makes perfect sense. We have our very small set of people we see – and then only briefly – during these Covid times, and my sister and her husband and their son have their pods (a usage I’ve begun to see more and more frequently but one I’ve not employed until this moment).

“That’s fine,” I said. “We’d pretty much decided to turn down any invitation, but you’ve come in ahead of us. What will we not be having for Christmas dinner?”

They’re having a ham dinner purchased in full from one of their nearby grocery stores. We’re planning – we think – lasagna, baked in a large pan that was a Christmas gift from my sister and her husband to us more than fifteen years ago, not long after the Texas Gal and I set up housekeeping together.

And as I told my sister that this week, the length of time we’ve owned that pan startled me, and that reminded me of the flexibility of time, how it bends and stretches and turns in its own ways, leaving those of us who use it to measure our lives baffled and bemused.

Fifteen years ago, we were midway through our time in our second apartment, the one in St. Cloud in the complex called Green Gable, just yards from the house where we would eventually live for more than nine years. In some ways – and this is not by any means a deep thought – it feels as if the time in that apartment was just moments ago. Still, I was forty-nine when we first moved there; now I am sixty-seven. We’d been together a little less than three years at the time; now we’ve been married for thirteen.

When we were first merging our households in 2001 and it became evident that the task of moving my stuff to her apartment was beyond our abilities and we’d need to hire the task out, she said to me, offhandedly, “Well, you’re almost fifty, you know.”

The comment, true though it was, startled me. I was forty-seven, but I’d never thought of myself as being close to that milestone. My reaction amused her, and the comment has come with us through the years, being updated every once in a while. These days, she tells me, “Well, you’re almost seventy, you know.”

And I am. And as this odd year of Covid plays out its last month, I think of years together, which is a grace I often thought I’d never have with anyone. And I think that lasagna for Christmas sounds perfect.

There are, as might be expected, no tracks on the digital shelves that include the word “lasagna” in their titles. As for “time,” there are too many to sort rationally, so I’ll just fall on one of my favorite tracks by Eric Andersen, whether it actually speaks to my thoughts above or not.

Here’s “Time Run Like A Freight Train” from Andersen’s 1975 album Be True To You. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 714

Saturday, December 5th, 2020

A few months ago, when the counter on this (generally) weekly feature hit 700, I referred to it as a “Ruthian number.” Today’s number is, of course, even more so. (I likely don’t have to explain it, but just in case: During his career, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs.)

In tribute, I could post something by the 1970s group Babe Ruth, but I’ve never found the group’s music very compelling (even though a very dear friend loved Babe Ruth’s work back in our college days).

A better thought, though, is to post something from the best Ruth I know of in music. After all, the Babe was the best Ruth in baseball. Actually, the Babe was the best player in baseball history and remains so, even eighty-five years after his last game. (The rest of the top five? Willie Mays, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Oscar Charleston.)

So, the best Ruth in music? Actually, that’s pretty easy: Ruth Brown.

We could go back to her seminal work for Atlantic in the 1940s and ’50s, but I think we’re going to land on something from one of her last albums, the 1997 release R+B=Ruth Brown. Here, with Bonnie Raitt, Brown takes on “Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town,” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 713

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

I’ve mentioned before how some dates resonate with me, how I’ll look to the calendar and see, for example, January 25 and remember in vivid detail a long-ago (and unhappy) January 25. I doubt if I’m alone in that; I assume the same thing happens to other folks.

Today, November 28, is one of those days. It was forty-three years ago today that I – twenty-four years old and not at all sure of myself – walked into the offices of the Monticello Times and took up desk space as a reporter. My beats, to start, would be sports at Monticello High School and at the high school in the nearby city of Big Lake; school news from the high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools in the two cities, and features.

In a very short time, I’d add to my plate coverage of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department (which provided police service to the city of Monticello), and of the Big Lake Police Department and of the sheriff’s department in Sherburne County.

The following spring, I’d add coverage of city government to my duties, attending meetings of the city councils in both Monticello and Big Lake, and covering through phone interviews the board meetings in Monticello and Big Lake townships. I’d do fewer features.

My first day at the Times included an interview with the owners of the new Milky Whey cheese shop in the hamlet of Hasty, introductions and lunch at Monticello High School, and – if I recall things rightly – coverage of a girls basketball game that evening. Sometime during the day, I posed at the typewriter at my boss’ desk so readers could get a look at the new guy who’d end up hanging around for almost six years. (My desk was backlit, said the photographer.)

GPE, 11-28-77I think back to that slender young man as he entered the world of professional journalism. His earliest plan – no more than a vague idea, to be honest – had been to become a television sports reporter and play-by-play guy. Then he spent more time writing in college than he did learning how to shoot film, and after some initial resistance, he embraced print reporting. (He realized he liked to write long pieces, and the byword of broadcast reporting is brevity, so . . .)

As I walked into the Times office that morning in November 1977, I was still unformed (although I would have been horribly insulted had anyone told me that). I had an immense amount to learn about journalism, about small-town living, about life in general. A lot of those lessons came my way during the nearly six years I spent at the Times, lessons for which I am – more than forty years later – grateful.

After those nearly six years, I moved on to grad school, to teaching, to reporting at other papers. I took with me a box full of plaques, a clutch of skills, and a cluster of friendships that remain strong to this day. That’s a pretty good haul for a first job.

There’s nothing that speaks to me in the two Billboard Hot 100s that bracket that long-ago November 28, so I’m going to turn to one of the three LPs I bought later that week. Thursdays – the day after we went to press – were light days at the newspaper, so I drove the thirty miles to St. Cloud that afternoon, did some shopping and had dinner with my folks, handing them as I arrived copies of that week’s newspaper, including – I’m pretty sure – a piece with my byline on the front page.

That evening, back in my rented mobile home just outside of Monticello, I no doubt played the records I’d bought in St. Cloud that day, and it’s pretty likely that I went to sleep with the Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed on the turntable. So here’s what was probably the last thing I heard on that long-ago Thursday, my first day as a published journalist: It’s “Nights In White Satin” from 1967, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 712

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Trying to keep things picked up around here, about once a week, I head into posts from years past and replace – if I can – videos that have been deleted. Doing so also has the benefit of reminding me of topics I planned to follow up, ideas that have been swept away by my inattention and simple time.

That brought me yesterday to a 2015 post about the song “He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right,” written by Patti Dahlstrom and Al Staehly and recorded by Patti for her 1975 album Your Place Or Mine. In 1978, Bobbie Gentry covered the song as the B-side to a promo release of the Jimmy Hughes song “Steal Away.”

The promo turned out to be, from what I can tell, the last new recording Gentry ever released, which was interesting enough, so in that 2015 post, I offered videos of Gentry’s cover and Patti’s original. (It seems odd to use Bobbie Gentry’s last name and Patti Dahlstrom’s first name, but Patti and I are friends because of this blog and exchange emails occasionally. Gentry, as you might imagine, has never contacted me.) It was the video for Patti’s version of the song I replaced yesterday; the fan-made video I’d originally used was deleted, so I dropped in Patti’s official version.

And I saw that I’d written at the end of that post five years ago that I’d noticed one other cover of the song available on YouTube and promised to share it later that week. Later that week, however, I wrote that the video – by a soul trio called Hodges, James & Smith – had disappeared. And that was that, at least five years ago. But I did a quick search yesterday and found not one, but two other videos of “He Did Me Wrong . . .”

The first was from Evelyn Rubio, a Mexican-born singer and sax player who recorded the song for her album Crossing Borders, released in May 2020. I didn’t care at all for her vocal style, so I left before the sax break I assumed would be there, and moved on to the version from Hodges, James & Smith.

The website Discogs tells me that the trio of Pat Hodges, Denita James and Jessica Smith was the idea of producer William Stevenson. They released four albums, the first two – 1973’s Incredible and 1975’s Power In Your Love – on 20th Century and the others – 1977’s What’s On Your Mind? and 1978’s What Have You Done For Love? – on London. The only chart action I can find for the trio came from a 1977 disco medley of “Since I Fell For You” (a No. 4 hit for Lenny Welch in 1964) and “I’m Falling In Love” (written by Stevenson), which went to No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 24 on the magazine’s R&B chart. (You can find the medley as both an album track and an extended disco mix at YouTube.)

The trio’s version of “He Did Me Wrong, But He Did It Right” was an album track on Power In Your Love, and it sounds just like 1975, as it should. Is it a great record? Probably not, but it’s a decent take on the song. And, just like I promised five years ago, here it is, as today’s Saturday Single. (Whoever made the video got the title wrong.)

Saturday Single No. 711

Saturday, November 7th, 2020

Now nursing a cold than came in overnight, and wearied by the week of presidential election anxiety, I am of course relieved at the outcome. (Anyone who’s read this blog for even a brief time can certainly assess my political affiliations.) And I think of the places I’ve cast my presidential ballots over the years.

They range from a Lutheran church about a mile from our home on Kilian Boulevard in 1972 to the Senior Center no more than a mile from our condo last Tuesday. Churches, public schools, park rec centers, the St. Cloud Public Works building, Monticello Township Hall. So many places over almost fifty years where I’ve made my small investment in the republic.

And I’m tired. Though if I had to vote again today, I’d be in that distanced line at the Senior Center, waiting for my turn.

Anyway, as I said. I’m tired, and I’m going to spend the day doing very, very little.

Here’s “Lazy Day” by the Moody Blues (which mentions Sunday and not Saturday, but I don’t care). It’s from the 1969 album On The Threshold Of A Dream, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 710

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

I saw this morning that Sean Connery has died. With that news, another bit of my youth has gone as well. Connery, of course, was the first James Bond,  playing 007 of the British Secret Service in seven films, inhabiting a role that came along with him for the rest of his life, despite fifty-some more films and an Academy Award for the 1987 film The Untouchables.

Here, with a few changes, is a piece I posted in 2007 about my mid-1960s Bond fascination. Though that fascination was anchored as much by Ian Fleming’s books as by the Bond films, Connery’s work in those films – which I still watch at least in part when I stumble into them on cable – remains a potent link to the boy I once was.

And I say, not at all for the first time, Connery – formally Sir Thomas Sean Connery – was Bond, and of the other actors cast in that role, only Daniel Craig has come close.

I had a huge James Bond jones when I was a kid.

I was eleven in 1964 – in sixth grade – when the growing popularity of the novels by Ian Fleming and the first two films based on those novels, Dr. No and From Russia With Love, burst into full-blown Bondmania with the release of the third film, Goldfinger.

I wanted badly to see the movie, but my parents weren’t sure. After all, the ads looked like they showed a naked woman painted gold. I won’t deny the attraction that held, but it was truly the story of 007 saving the world – or at least the world’s gold supply – that grabbed me. But my folks said no, a little regretfully, I’ve always thought.

They also weren’t sure if I should be allowed to read Fleming’s novels; Dad bought a copy of Goldfinger to see if it would be appropriate for the somewhat precocious urchin I was, but he read it in the evening, just before retiring, and he read at most four or five pages at a time. I despaired as I saw his bookmark make slow progress into the middle of the book.

Then the Minneapolis Star, an evening paper that no longer exists, began to print excerpts from The Man With The Golden Gun, the final novel Fleming completed before his death in August of 1964. My parents saw how avidly I read the twelve or so excerpts, which had to be okay for kid consumption – after all, they were in the evening paper. And I think they began to think that the books might be okay for me, after all.

But the bookmarker still moved slowly. Then, one day, I heard on the radio the main theme to Goldfinger, with the vocal performed by Shirley Bassey. We belonged to a record club, so I ordered the soundtrack to the movie, and once it arrived, I would sit by the stereo, trying to imagine the scenes that went with John Barry’s sometimes lush and sometimes sparely powerful music. I especially liked the instrumental version of the main theme, with its lead and rhythm guitars, its surging horns and its insistent percussion.

Eventually, Dad’s bookmark reached the end of the book, and with a sigh at my impatience and a shrug, he handed me Goldfinger, which I devoured in only a few days. (It was, like almost all of Fleming’s Bond novels, only 191 pages long.) I moved into seventh grade and met a classmate named Brad, who was also a Bondhead. The film version of Thunderball came out; we went to it and I bought the soundtrack. We spent an afternoon at a double feature of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. We devoured movie magazine pieces about Sean Connery. And we saw Goldfinger when it was re-released.

At the local toy store, where we raced model cars on the big track – we did have some interests beyond Bond – we looked at the items marketed under the 007 license: toy guns, board games, secret agent kits, trick briefcases, and more. As we looked, we wondered in part who would buy such things, and in part, we wanted them.

Secret agents were so cool. Not just James Bond, but Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin, the men from U.N.C.L.E. And John le Carré’s Alec Leamas, who was The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, as well as Len Deighton’s nameless agent in The Ipcress File.

My dad took me to see the film based on Deighton’s book, and I read a few “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” books. A copy of Fleming’s Dr. No showed up in my Christmas stocking, and I devoured that as rapidly as I had Goldfinger. And I started to read the rest of the books.

I got two more records: one a low-budget item titled Thunderball, which had a bunch of jazz guys performing themes from all the various secret agent movies and television programs, and one called Sounds For A Secret Agent, on which David Lloyd and his London-based orchestra (a jazzy group, despite the word “orchestra”) offered their versions of themes from the four existing Bond films as well as themes for those Bond titles that had not yet been made into films (excluding Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, evidently because films based on the books were in production at the time Lloyd was recording the project). Brad and I thought that was a great idea, and the music was pretty good, too.

And then, it ended. When eighth grade began, Brad had moved out of town; I never knew where. And although spies and agents were still cool for a while, by the time 1967 rolled around, other things – the rise of the hippie, for one – captured the public’s imagination. I finished reading Fleming’s novels, and I enjoyed them, but about the time I finished the last one, my sister brought home a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I had a new world to explore.

Bond’s exploits and the music that backed them have come along with me, fifty-some years later. I have digital files for all of John Barry’s Bond work and for the two other LPs I got back in 1964-65. I also have files of numerous other LPs that capitalized on Bondmania back then. I’ve not re-read any of the books since the mid-1970s, but I remember the plots, the villains, the women and many of the individual scenes (of the novels, at least; I’d be a little spotty on the five short stories in For Your Eyes Only).

And coming along with all those memories are memories of the kid who read the books, saw the movies, and listened to the music, the kid whose favorite piece from all the John Barry soundtracks was the instrumental version of the theme to Goldfinger. That 1964 track is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 709

Saturday, October 24th, 2020

Our main task today here on the North Side is to defrost the freezer. Somehow, when we bought our new freezer the day we moved into the condo (or perhaps the day after) in February 2018, we neglected to see if the new appliance – like the old one – was frost-free.

It isn’t, and defrosting the thing is one of those chores we tend to put off. Today, however, is the day.

We have plastic bins in the kitchen, waiting to be filled with the freezer’s contents, and nature is helping out today, with an outdoor temperature that will stay well under freezing all day. So we’ll just put the filled bins on the deck as we get to the work inside.

With the Texas Gal doing some prep upstairs, it’s about time for me to make my appearance, so we’ll just default to a record I’ve mentioned a couple times before but never featured here: “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. In 1966, it went to No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 12 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

The Airheads Radio Survey Archive tells us that “The Philly Freeze” went to No. 1 on WJLB in Detroit, and hit the Top Ten on WJMO in Cleveland, WVON and WBEE in Chicago, WCHB in Detroit, and CKLW in Windsor, Ontario. The highest it went in Philadelphia – at least according to the information compiled at ARSA – was to No. 52 at WIBG.

Anyway, here’s “The Philly Freeze” by Alvin Cash & The Registers. It’s today’s Saturday Single.