Today is Earth Day, and – according to the map I saw on the CBS Evening News last night – folks around a large portion of the world will be marching and mobilizing to defend and protect our environment, science, and common sense itself.
We did this almost half-a-century ago, and we made some progress in cleaning up our back yards (literal and metaphoric both), progress that in many cases is distinctly imperiled by the ham-handed actions – some already taken with many others likely yet to come – promised by the science-denying worshippers of Mammon who currently run our federal government. I guess we naively though we’d won.
We were wrong.
I’m not, however, going to turn this space into a screed about all the things that are likely to head in the wrong direction in the next few years. I’m just going to note that – as I have in the past few months – I’m going to continue to regularly call and email Minnesota’s U.S. Senators and our local U.S. Representative about matters that I believe need better thought and attention; I plan to begin doing the same with my state senator and representative on state and local matters.
Forty-seven years ago, I marched, hoping my energy and actions – combined with the energy and actions of like-minded people – would help preserve those things that needed preserving and help change those things that needed changing. Here’s my armband from back then:
These days, I write emails and make phone calls, still hoping my energy and actions – combined with the energy and actions of like-minded people – can preserve those things that need preserving and can change those things that need changing .
I find comfort in the large numbers of people who, in whatever way they choose, are working harder than ever these days for progressive causes. Turning in another direction, it’s no secret that I find comfort from day to day in music. So here, to keep to the topic at hand, is Tony Joe White’s “Ol’ Mother Earth.” It’s from his 1973 album Homemade Ice Cream, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
So, a chance to breathe. And to rewind to two weeks ago today, when I headed over to my recently discovered barber shop, Barbers on Germain, where Russ has been clear-cutting my scalp since sometime early this year.
On the way over – not far; just across the Mississippi and west about a mile – I slid into the CD player a Time-Life anthology of hits from 1964, and as I drove, up popped Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell.” I knew the record, but only a little, not nearly as well as I know his 1950s work that was a major part of the foundation of rock ’n’ roll, the records like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and the rest.
And I realized – not for the first time – that I’d not offered anything here to note Chuck Berry’s passing on March 18. Over the years here, I’ve noted the passing of many artists, but I imagine that if I were to take the time to track out the subjects of those pieces, my choices of which artists’ passings to note might seem idiosyncratic. That’s likely no surprise. But to ignore Chuck Berry?
So I thought, as I headed up the sidewalk to Barbers on Germain with the strains of “You Never Can Tell” running through my head – “C’est la vie,” say the old folks. “It goes to show you never can tell.” – that I should probably do something here about the man and his music. Well, c’est la vie, indeed. The following Monday was the start of two weeks of dealing with changes in my mom’s life, as I noted here yesterday.
I’m not going to say that Chuck Berry’s music, life and passing are now old news: The edition of Rolling Stone that came into my mailbox yesterday has Berry on the cover. But I’ve read too many tributes to the man at too many blogs and online publications in the past month to have any assurances that whatever I offer here would be anything other than echoes of those pieces.
So I think back to that drive to the barber shop. As “You Never Can Tell” came out of the speaker, I thought about Dave Marsh’s comments in his 1989 ranking of the top 1,001 singles, The Heart of Rock & Soul. He ranked “You Never Can Tell” at No. 341, writing:
Chuck returned from doing time on his trumped-up Mann Act charge in 1964 as if his flow of hits had never been interrupted. The new batch included two of his finest, “Promised Land” and “You Never Can Tell.”
“You Never Can Tell” makes an obvious break with Berry’s earlier format, not so much by prominently featuring Johnny Johnson’s piano as by using it with a New Orleans-style beat.
Had prison altered Chuck’s gifts in any way? Nah, he was bitter and hostile before he went in. And still a poet when he came out. How else explain: “They furnished off an apartment with a two-room Roebuck sale / The coolerator was crammed with teevee dinners and ginger ale.” It may not read as great as it sings, but then, neither does the rhythm of everyday life.
So here, to catch up and to offer my respect and thanks to Chuck Berry, is “You Never Can Tell.” It went to No. 14 in the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
With only a few days left to organize my mom’s stuff, my sister and I will be spending most of the day in Sauk Rapids today, trying to get ready for Wednesday’s move. I imagine that any appearance I make in this space through the middle of next week will be cursory.
But before I head out today, here’s an appropriately titled track: “Movin’ On” by Bobby Whitlock. It’s from his 1975 album One Of A Kind, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
Forty years ago today, I gathered up all the stuff I’d moved from my folks’ house over to St. Cloud’s North Side and packed it into my blue 1967 Falcon station wagon. I then moved most of that stuff to the little burg of Sauk Rapids and its Blue Skies Mobile Home Park. (Some things, like the dresser and the bed, went back to Mom and Dad’s because the small mobile home I was now renting from my friend Murl had both a built-in bed and dresser.)
The move didn’t take long. Beyond the furniture that went back to Kilian Boulevard – and I’m not entirely certain how my friend Bill and I got it there; I have vague memories of borrowing a friend’s pick-up truck – there were only a few boxes of clothes and books and miscellany and, of course, my two cats. It only took a couple of trips.
And by the end of the day, I was safely ensconced in my new digs, a 35-foot by eight-foot mobile home. Small, yes, but for one person with few possessions, it was fine. (And I had few possessions: I was still a student, in the first of two quarters aimed at adding a print journalism minor to my radio-television news major.) And it was the first place where I’d ever lived by myself, and that pleased me.
As I settled in that evening, there was, I am certain, music. I had an AM radio in the kitchen, tuned to St. Cloud’s WJON, and I had an AM/FM clock/radio on the bedroom dresser. That radio was tuned at first to KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student-run FM station and then later on – maybe in just a week or two – to WHMH-FM, a Sauk Rapids-based station that offered a format that I remember as half album rock and half hits that weren’t too far to the pop side of the pop/rock divide.
So what might Bill and I have heard on the car radio that day as we drove back and forth from St. Cloud’s North Side to Blue Skies? Here’s the Top Ten in the Billboard Hot 100 that came out the next day:
“Rich Girl” by Darryl Hall & John Oates
“Dancing Queen” by Abba
“Don’t Give Up On Us” by David Soul
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Thelma Houston
“Love Theme From ‘A Star Is Born’” by Barbra Streisand
“Southern Nights” by Glen Campbell
“The Things We Do For Love” by 10cc
“Hotel California” by the Eagles
“I’ve Got Love On My Mind” by Natalie Cole
“Maybe I’m Amazed” by Wings
Well, that’s a mix. I love “Dancing Queen,” and I like “Southern Nights” and “Hotel California” well enough. The David Soul single has an unhappy memory attached to it. The singles by Thelma Houston, 10cc, Natalie Cole and Wings don’t matter to me one way or another. I’m not fond of the Hall & Oates record. And I detest the Streisand single. (It would be during the approaching summer when I took a Streisand-loving young lady to see A Star Is Born on a date that turned into the Night of the Buttered Falcon.)
But as we often do here, we’re going to look deeper into that Hot 100 and play Games With Numbers. We’re going to look at No. 17 for 2017, No. 40 for the number of years it’s been since my move, and No. 77 for 1977.
Sitting at No. 17 forty years ago this week was Bob Seger’s “Night Moves,” a single well-regarded enough here that it showed up in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox. It was coming down the chart after peaking at No. 4.
The No. 40 record forty years ago this week was “Angel In Your Arms” by Hot, a classic cheating song by an interracial trio of women from Los Angeles that was on its way up the chart to No. 6. I recall it as an okay record.
And parked at No. 77 was “Cinderella” by Firefall. This was the group’s third foray into the Hot 100. During the summer of 1976, “Livin’ Ain’t Livin’” went to No. 42, and in the autumn, “You Are The Woman” had gone to No. 9. “Cinderella” would peak at No. 34.
Well, the Seger record – as I noted – is one of my all-time favorites, but, as I also noted, it’s been featured here before. “Angel In Your Arms” is just another record. As to “Cinderella,” well, even though I have had very little of Firefall’s work on my physical or digital shelves over the years – three LPs now gone, no CDs and just twelve mp3s – there is something in the sound of the band from Boulder, Colorado, that just feels like 1977.
Add to that the fact that over just more than ten years, I’ve mentioned the group only four times and have never featured its music here, and it’s an easy call this morning to make Firefall’s “Cinderella” today’s Saturday Single.
Okay, we’re going to play Games With Numbers this morning and convert today’s date – 3/25/17 – into 45, and then we’re going to dig into six Billboard Hot 100s from the end of March during our sweet spot years and see what was at No. 45. Those six records will give us our options for today’s Saturday Single. As we normally do, we’ll check out the No. 1 records along the way.
We’ll start in 1965 and go forward two years at a time. And in late March of 1965, the No. 45 record in the Hot 100 was “Got To Get You Off My Mind” by Solomon Burke. For some reason, I’ve never paid much attention to Burke’s music, and that’s too bad (and not too wise, either), as he casts a fairly large shadow on the soul and R&B of the 1960s. “Got To Get You Off My Mind” is a pretty mellow piece of work, and Burke’s honeyed voice is, of course, well-suited for a short and somewhat upbeat tune marking the loss of a girlfriend. The record peaked at No. 22, the highest Burke would put a record in the Hot 100, but over on the R&B chart, it was No. 1 for three weeks.
The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 for March 27, 1965, was “Stop! In The Name Of Love” by the Supremes.
Moving ahead two years to 1967, we find Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music” perched at No. 45. I don’t know much about Conley except for this one hit record, which makes sense as I look at his entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: Of the eight other records Conley got into or close to the Hot 100, only 1968’s “Funky Street” hit the Top 20, going to No. 14. (I’ve heard “Funky Street,” but for some reason it’s not on the digital shelves.) As would be expected, the Atlanta-born singer did better on the R&B chart, where “Sweet Soul Music” was No. 2 for five weeks (and “Funky Street” went to No. 5 a year later). But “Sweet Soul Music” is, of course, more than its chart history, with its roll call of the greats of R&B: “Spotlight on Lou Rawls, y’all . . .”
Sitting at No. 1 exactly fifty years ago today – March 25, 1967 – was the Turtles’ “Happy Together.”
During the last week in March of 1969, the No. 45 record was the Meters’ funky instrumental “Sophisticated Cissy.” It was the first record by the New Orleans group to hit the Hot 100, and it peaked at No. 34, making it the Meters’ second-most successful single, behind “Cissy Strut,” which went to No. 23 just a few months later. The Meters put five more records into the Hot 100 between 1969 and 1977, but none of them went higher than No. 50. Oddly, although I have a couple of albums by the Meters on the digital shelves, I do not have “Sophisticated Cissy.” So there’s a hole I have to fill somehow, with probably a few other Meters gaps. The record went to No. 7 on the R&B chart.
The No. 1 record during the last week of March 1969 was “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe.
We head into March 1971 and the beginning of the end of my senior year of high school. During the fourth week of March that year, the No. 45 record was “I Am . . . I Said” by Neil Diamond. In the files I have of the weekly Hot 100, the record is listed at No. 45 as a double-sided single, with “Done Too Soon” on the flip. But according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, “Done Too Soon” peaked at No. 65, while “I Am . . . I Said” went to No. 4 on the pop chart and to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart. That’s too bad, as I like the B side better, although the A side would be okay if Diamond hadn’t done the deal about the chair not hearing. And, of course, the single – double-sided or not – was just one of what seems like a hundred Neil Diamond records to reach the chart. (The total is actually fifty-six.)
Sitting at No. 1 during that last week of March 1971 was “Me and Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin.
Sir Elton John shows up when we jump into March 1973 and take a look at the No. 45 record during the month’s last week. It turns out to be “Crocodile Rock,” which spent three weeks at No. 1 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 11 on the Easy Listening chart. There’s not a lot more to say about Sir Elton except that the first time I heard “Your Song” – his second Hot 100 record and the first thing I heard from him – I would not have guessed that he’d become the most popular artist of the 1970s and the third most popular of all time (as noted in Top Pop Singles). For those wondering, “Border Song” was his first Hot 100 record, going to No. 92 during the summer of 1970, just a few months before “Your Song” went to No. 8.
The No. 1 record during the last week of March 1973 was “Killing Me Softly With His Song” by Roberta Flack.
And we end our Saturday jaunt with a look at the Hot 100 from the fourth week of March in 1975, when the No. 45 record was “Living A Little, Laughing A Little” by the Spinners, a record I’m not sure I’ve ever heard until this morning. It fell right into the patch of great records by the group, and my guess is that it never got much play on the jukebox in Atwood Center at St. Cloud State. (My listening elsewhere was more album-oriented.) Maybe the record didn’t get much play on KDWB out of the Twin Cities or St. Cloud’s WJON, both of which got a little (but only a little) attention from me in those days. I don’t know, but listening to the record this morning rang no bells at all. The record went to No. 37 in the Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the R&B chart.
Parked at No. 1 during that fourth week of March 1975 was “Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle.
So we’ve got an interesting assortment to choose from today, four bits of R&B and two big hits that lost their freshness long ago. And I think we’ll head back to 1969 and make the Meters’ funky “Sophisticated Cissy” today’s Saturday Single.
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.