Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 700

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s the only logical conclusion that comes when anyone who counts things – in any endeavor – finds the total number of things counted reaching 700.

And it has been a while. It’s taken me thirteen years and six months to reach that Ruthian number one Saturday Single at a time. (Well, there were a few weeks when I had two featured singles; call those doubleheaders.) And in the last year, as that large round number got closer and closer, I began thinking of what kind of post should accompany it.

And after dithering for a while, I decided to repeat the post that accompanied Saturday Single No. 300 in July 2012. It’s still all true, and I recall that one of my readers called it “charming.” On top of that, it’s one of my favorites among the more than 2,600 or so posts I’ve offered since 2007 – not quite 1,600 of them here and about 1,000 of them at this blog’s two previous locations. With a bit of editing, here it is:

The moments, probably from several consecutive years in the early 1960s, remain clear: I’m kneeling on the back seat of our old 1952 Ford, looking out the back window. In the distance, as we drive away on Snelling Avenue, I can see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the State Fairgrounds.

I loved the State Fair, loved its hucksters and mini-doughnuts, its farm animals and tractors, its wandering, sunburned crowds of folks doing nothing more than having fun. And when our visit to the fair was ended and we were heading back to St. Cloud, I’d look back at the blazes of red, blue and green decorating the sky over the grandstand.

And I’d sigh and then murmur, “This has been the best day of my life.”

That was probably true for the seven-year-old whiteray as summer faded in those years. A day at the State Fair was about as good as life could get. As I look back, though, I’m struck by the youthful certainty of the statement and by what seems to me a precocious desire to rank and order the events of one’s life. Did other seven-year-olds think like that? Maybe. I don’t know.

Whether they did or not, I did. And, of course, I still rank things: Favorite singles, favorite movies, best pizza, best vacation, and on and on. But as I think about those lists, the content of those rankings – the best single, the best pizza or what have you – seems to matter less than the actual act of sorting. Putting things, even if those things often seem trivial, into some kind of order allows me to frame and structure my world, I guess, so I can deal with its inconsistencies and ambiguities.

And thinking about the certainty of that seven-year-old, I ponder the seemingly impossible task – nearly sixty years later – of identifying the best day of my life. There are about 24,000 to choose from now.

Some of the best ones, both early and later on, ended with fireworks. One of them ended as I lay in a youth hostel in London, listening to Big Ben toll midnight. Some weren’t so obvious, like a day in mid-February 2000: I was online and checking out a chatroom for social issues, and I struck up a conversation with a chatter going by the name of “rainbow42.” She eventually became the Texas Gal.

There have been many other good days, as well, and if I were foolish enough to try to create a list of twenty or fifty or a thousand of the best days of my life, I know very well that the list would be incomplete. Not because I would forget some good days, although I would.

But that list will always be incomplete because as good as some of my days have been, I have come to a point in my life where I truly believe that each day that comes to me now is the best day of my life. And that holds true whether the day brings fireworks or bells or just the quiet day-to-day moments that make up the greater portion of a life being lived.

I suppose that all of that sounds like some kind of New Age hogwash or mottos from pretty posters sold down at the bookstore. That’s really not so. I am aware that life can be hard. I’ve had more days than I care to count when I awoke to sorrow, and I know that days of grief inevitably lie ahead, as they are part of life.

But grief and sorrow are absent today. I have my small pleasures at hand (coffee chief among them early this morning), and the joy of my life – my Texas Gal – is still sleeping. The cats are scattered and dozing, and my morning newspaper waits for me in the driveway. And I get to write and hope that others read these words and don’t either snicker or roll their eyes. All of that makes this day, once more, the best day of my life.

And music, of course, always makes a good day better. Here’s a tune from Paul Williams that I loved the first time I heard it in 1975, hoping that someday its lyrics would describe my life. It took some time, but thanks to my Texas Gal, that’s been true now for more than twenty years. From Williams’ 1971 album, Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, here’s “I Never Had It So Good,” Saturday Single No. 700.

Saturday Single No. 699

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from forty-five years ago this week, the first week of August 1975:

“One Of These Nights” by the Eagles
“I’m Not In Love” by 10cc
“Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees
“Please Mister Please” by Olivia Newton-John
“The Hustle” by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” by Elton John
“Midnight Blue” by Melissa Manchester
“Listen To What The Man Said” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Rockin’ Chair” by Gwen McCrae
“Dynomite – Part 1” by Tony Camillo’s Bazuka

I can live without “Dynomite,” although it’s better today that I thought it would be. I remember not being impressed by the TV show Good Times (which makes sense as I was not a member of its target audience), and I found Jimmie Walker’s exclamations of “Dynomite!” tiring as they echoed in the popular culture canyons that season.

The rest of that top ten has worn well, for the most part. If I were to rank those nine, there would be a first tier occupied by the Eagles, the Bee Gees, McCartney & Wings, and Manchester. Any of those are welcome in my ear buds at any time. The other five? Well, I don’t mind hearing them now and then, except for the Newton-John single.

Not all of the eight that I like are in my current listening in the iPod, at least not as I begin writing. I’m still reconstructing the device’s contents after clearing it earlier this summer. But by the time this piece is finished, the only two singles from that top ten not in my current playlist with be “Dynomite” and “Please Mister Please.”

We’re not going to look at No. 100 today. I glanced ahead, and it’s a single by the Mystic Moods (having dropped “Orchestra” from its name) that’s been featured here twice in the life of this blog. Instead, we’ll play Games With Numbers, using today’s date as a guide, and look at No. 81 from that Hot 100 of forty-five years ago.

And we fall onto the next-to-last Hot 100 hit from the long career of Frank Sinatra, “I Believe I’m Gonna Love You.” It was in the first of seven weeks in the chart; it would peak at No. 47. I’ve not heard it before, and as I listen, I note that its lyric is studded with clichés, but hey, it’s Sinatra, And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 698

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

We’re going to stay right with Crabby Appleton this morning because I’m tired and my sinus infection – a standard summer companion – is hanging around like a visitor who’s exhausted the supply of guest towels.

Crabby

A reminder of where the California group got its name: As seen on the right, Crabby Appleton was the arch-villain on the Tom Terrific cartoon segments that were part of the Captain Kangaroo show, bedeviling Tom, whom Wikipedia describes as a “gee-whiz boy hero.” Simplistically drawn, the cartoons were offered in five-minute segments during the 1957-58 and 1958-59 seasons (and re-run frequently in years to follow).

As to the band and its music, I thought the simplest thing to do today would be to listen to the B-side of its one Hot 100 hit. Here’s “Try,” which also showed up in a longer (and possibly different) version on the group’s self-titled 1970 album. (The second album, released in 1971, was titled Rotten To The Core.)

Here’s what I think is the B-side version of “Try”. (The label is of the Canadian release, but I think it’s the same recording.) It’s pretty good, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 697

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

We’ve already hit the Farmers’ Market this morning, picking up a half-bushel of pickling cucumbers; the Texas Gal is cleaning and sorting them, and she’ll be pickling either this afternoon or tomorrow, depending on energy reserves.

And we made a stop at her plot in our church’s community garden. She was alerted by a fellow gardener yesterday that her cupcake squash plant was infested with squash bugs; the other gardener then spayed the plant with an organic treatment, but when we arrived this morning, the bugs had not been deterred. The Texas Gal pulled up the plant and double bagged it, and we left it in a wastebasket at a nearby gas station.

(The memory of those hundreds of little crawlers swarming across the squash leaves makes me pretty edgy.)

All of that means that I’m much later than usual sitting here at the keyboard, and my own energy reserves are fairly well depleted.

So here, for the second day in a row, is Bobbie Gentry, this time with the appropriately titled track “Bugs.” It’s from her 1967 album Ode To Billie Joe, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 695

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Well, it’s Independence Day, or as they may refer to it in Great Britain, Treason Day.

(Admission: I get mightily peeved in the weeks leading up to today’s holiday when folks who should know better – writers, reporters both print and broadcast, and editors – refer to the holiday as only July Fourth or the Fourth of July. That’s a date, folks. It’s an informal way of referring to the holiday, but the name of the holiday is Independence Day. Use it. Look, I know “independence” is a long word, but deal with it. Be pros. Get it right!)

Rant over.

I’ve long had in my collection of 45s an Everest release, “Independence Day Hora/Like A Young Man,” and I’ve wondered about it ever since it showed up in the early 1960s in one of those “thirteen records for a buck” bags that my sister used to buy at Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis. I’ve never bothered to look it up until today.

Turns out that the songs come from a 1961 Broadway musical, Milk and Honey, the tales of two American widows touring Israel. The book and music were by Jerry Herman, and the musical earned several Tony nominations (but won none).

The tune on the A-side of the record, it turns out, is one that helps the characters in the musical celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. Given the perfidy of numerous Israeli actions in recent years, there’s a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth as I proceed, but the musical was set in 1961, so we’ll go on. After all, in 1961, neither Herman nor those involved in producing the musical nor the musicians who recorded the 45 in my collection had any idea how Israel would lose its way in the years to come. (Had that nation already lost its way in 1961? I don’t know.)

Beyond all that, it’s the musicians who recorded the Everest single that make it more interesting this morning: Wild Bill Davis, a pianist, organist and arranger; and trumpeter Charlie Shavers. Each has an impressive list of credits at discogs.com and Wikipedia. I imagine I should know more about the two of them than I do. Maybe I’ll take the time to do so, but I fear that like so many other musicians about whom I learn a trifle, their names will fade and I will forget.

The duo also released “Independence Day Hora” and “Like A Young Man” on the 1961 album The Music From Milk & Honey. From what I can tell with a fairly cursory search this morning, neither the album nor the single made any charts.

Anyway, leaving behind all the contradictions and questions, here’s “Independence Day Hora” by Wild Bill Davis and Charlie Shavers. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 692

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

Boy, I was beginning to think that any record I ever wanted to hear was available in a video at YouTube.

Well, not quite. Four months ago, when I wanted to share here a version of “Goldfinger” by easy listening musician Jack LaForge, I had to make a video and upload it. But that was a niche thing, and understandable. And three of the other four videos I’ve created and uploaded in the last two years were niche things that one wouldn’t expect to find. The fourth was a Joe Cocker tune that I put up because I couldn’t find the official version on that particular day. (I’m sure it was there but I got frustrated and made my own video.)

How niche-y were the other three videos? They were two singles – “Never Goin’ Home” by Owen B. and “Summer Sunshine” by Misty Morn – and a repackaging of “Going The Distance” and “The Final Bell,” the soundtrack music by Bill Conti that backs the climactic fight and its aftermath in the original Rocky from 1976.

(And the music from Rocky may not be as niche-y as I once thought; since I put the video of Conti’s music on YouTube a year ago, it’s been viewed three million times, which makes it by far the most popular of the 500 or so videos I’ve put up; second place goes to the video of “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, which has been viewed 1.9 million times.)

Otherwise, over the past two years, anything I wanted to share in this space has been available on YouTube. But the website failed me this morning.

Just before I started writing, I opened my iTunes library and clicked around and then posted a link at Facebook to Sweathog’s 1971 cover of “Hallelujah.” And I wondered about versions of the song I might not have heard. Beyond Sweathog’s cover, I have the Clique’s 1970 original and Chi Coltrane’s 1973 version.

So I went to Second Hand Songs and learned about two other covers, one by a group called Lovequake in 1976 and one by Dobie Gray in 1970. The Lovequake one didn’t intrigue me at the moment – we may get back to it – but the thought of Dobie Gray taking on the song? Oh, yeah.

It’s not at YouTube. It’s not at Amazon. It’s not at iTunes. I learned at discogs that “Hallelujah” was the B-side to “Honey, You Can’t Take It Back” on the White Whale label, but so far, the only copies of the single I’ve seen for sale are promos with “Honey, You Can’t Take It Back” on both sides.

I probably won’t dig any further, but damn, it would have been nice to hear Dobie’s take on the song. I’m going to default to Coltrane’s version of the tune, even though I’ve likely shared it before. It was on her 1973 album Let It Ride, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 691

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

When weeks are as news-filled (and as discouraging) as the last week has been, I try to take a break from the news every now and then, try to get away from the crawl and scroll. And I run head-on into the (long acknowledged) fact that I am a news junkie.

While listening to music or reading a book or magazine, I peek around the corner (as it were) and something in one of the crawls or scrolls or webpages catches my eye. Ninety minutes later, I’m drowning in facts, suppositions and analyses, and I am once again overwhelmed. So I wander around some place like YouTube, looking for diversion. And I found something this week, something not only diverting but pertinent to the supposed purpose of this blog.

Here’s a recent video put up on the channel “Jamel_AKA_Jamal.” Jamel/Jamal is a young African American man who’s found an audience of 400,000-some on the video site by listening to decades-old music he’s not heard before and recording and offering his reactions to that music. Here he is, in a video posted yesterday, listening for the first time to Al Stewart’s 1976 track, “Year Of The Cat.”

(I particularly love the expression on his face at 6:10 when he hears Phil Kenzie’s saxophone solo start.)

There are other similar channels at YouTube, and I’ve dipped into some of them, but I keep coming back to Jamel/Jamal, probably because he so clearly loves learning about music recorded long before he was born (and not coincidentally, music from my formative years). And it’s fun to listen to old favorites through young ears, as it were.

I imagine I’ll spend a few hours with Jamel/Jamal over the weekend, interspersed with housework, table-top baseball, and keeping a wary eye on the news. I think I’ll also suggest to Jamel/Jamal that he take a listen to another Al Stewart track, this one from 1978. “Time Passages” is one of my favorites, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 690

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

The other day, I drove past the house on Kilian Boulevard, the one Mom sold in 2004. I don’t get over to the East Side very often, and I was startled to see that whoever lives there now has put up a fence.

It’s a nice fence, about six feet tall with vertical white slats, enclosing the back yard. Curious, I drove around the block and then along the alley, looking at how the fence installers handled the relatively steep bank along Eighth Street, the rise along the driveway, and the area back by the alley where the garbage cans stand.

And as I examined the fence, I was stuck by my reaction to it. Not all that deeply inside of me, a voice was saying, “Dammit, you can’t fence off my back yard!”

Of course, it’s not my back yard anymore. Hasn’t been since 1976, when I packed a few things into my 1961 Falcon and moved across town to the drafty old house on the North Side.

But in a way that I’m sure lots of people will understand, it still is my back yard. It’s where Dad put the swing set and built the sandbox during the summer of 1957. It’s where I took a batting stance near the back steps and learned to hit a plastic baseball over the garage and into the alley. It’s where I endured the drudgery of digging dandelions and picking up sticks more times than I can count from childhood into young adulthood, adding mowing the grass along the way.

The back yard is where Dad cooked bread-and-butter roasts on his grill on many Saturdays and Sundays from the early 1960s into the 1990s. It’s where relatives gathered, again from the early 1960s into the 1990s to celebrate our family’s milestones: Lutheran confirmations, high school graduations, weddings, anniversaries.

It’s where we sat – Mom, my sister and brother-in-law, the Texas Gal and I – late on the June afternoon when Dad died, beginning to plan his funeral.

As I said, it’s a nice fence, and no doubt the folks who live in the house on Kilian have good reasons for installing it. And they certainly have the right to do so. It’s their back yard.

But in a very fundamental way, it’s always going to be my back yard, too.

Here’s a tune unrelated to any of that except for the words “back yard” in the title: Nat Stuckey’s cover of “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard,” first recorded by Elvis Presley. Stuckey’s version comes from his 1969 album New Country Roads. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 689

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

I worked at a number of things during my professional career: college teacher, corporate researcher, skip-tracer, public relations writer, newspaper editor and reporter. If I am at base any of those things, it is that last. Even more than twenty years after I closed my final notebook, I am a reporter, a newspaperman.

That’s why the story published May 13 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune – headlined “Twin Cities weekly newspapers are shutting down in the face of pandemic” – was distressing. The newspaper business has been in crisis for some time, of course. The rise of the 24-hour news cycle on television and the availability of other news sources on the Internet, along with other factors, have made newspapers more vulnerable, dropping circulation and thus depressing ad revenue.

Then, as the piece notes, add the impact of Covid-19 to society in general and to the business sector particularly, and ad revenues drop even more. The story wasn’t surprising to me; I’ve noticed the Minneapolis paper becoming noticeably slimmer in the past two months, and Time magazine, too, is remarkably more slender when I take it from the mailbox. That revenues have been falling at community newspapers as well is not startling.

Just as distressing as the actual news about weekly papers in the Twin Cities area, however, were the personal connections. I’ve known reporters, editors and publishers at many of the newspapers mentioned in the piece, and one of the newspapers that recently closed was the Eden Prairie News, where I wrote for almost four years in the early 1990s.

In a lot of ways, those were good years for me: I was coming out of my wandering phase – I had moved seven times in a little less than four years, going from Minnesota to North Dakota back to Minnesota to Kansas to Missouri and finally back to Minnesota again – and was looking for a place to stay for a while, perhaps even thrive. Eden Prairie and its newspaper helped me do both. And I was saddened to see that the newspaper is gone and sad, too, to see that the vibrant city I enjoyed getting to know is now without a local paper.

I imagine the day will come when print news is dead instead of just dying, and it may come in my lifetime. Maybe I’m wrong. Actually, I think I am. I see the major national newspapers – the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and others – surviving, and maybe even the newsmagazines like Time will do so, too. But I expect that smaller cities and town will be without local papers, and I think that will include St. Cloud.

There are about 100,000 folks in the St. Cloud metro area, and for years, the St. Cloud Times – owned by the Gannett chain – has been struggling, downsizing office space and shedding staffers in an attempt to stay upright. Someday, I think, the corporation will pull the plug. And the same is going to happen, I think, to newspapers all over the country in a lot of medium-sized cities like St. Cloud. We’ll all be poorer for it.

So I looked on the digital shelves for a track with the word “sad” in the title, to match how I feel as I write this, and I came up with “Sad Wind,” a 1966 instrumental B-side from a group called the Imperial Show Band. It came to me through the massive Lost Jukebox collection, and though it doesn’t sound particularly sorrowful, it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 688

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

I woke this morning to the sad news that Little Richard has died. The cause was cancer, said his son, Danny Jones Penniman, in the Rolling Stone report.

That report covers Richard Penniman’s career and influence better than I can, so I’ll leave that alone. I’ll note that in a long ago (and long abandoned) book and website project with a friend, we tabbed Little Richard as one of the five biggest trees from which the rock ’n’ roll forest descended.

(The other four, for what it matters, were Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and Fats Domino. I think we likely nailed it, with the possible exception of Bo Diddley, unless one wants to go further back into late 1940s and early 1950s jump blues and R&B.)

Anyway, I’ve never said much about Little Richard here, and I’m not sure why. I’ve written some about his 1970s comeback albums on Reprise and his stuff has popped up occasionally in random draws. But as much as I respect his influence, for some reason, he’s never seemed central to my musical universe.

And the LP and CD shelves over the years have reflected that: A few hits packages and a two-CD re-release of those Reprise albums from the 1970s. That’s a pretty sparse – if stellar – collection of one of the founding fathers of the music I love. All I can say is that when pop-rock music grabbed me in 1969 and I began to explore its different roads, none of those early explorations brought me to Little Richard.

The closest I came was through Delaney & Bonnie and their 1970 album To Bonnie From Delaney, which came to me in late 1972. I recall reading through the notes as the record played and noticing that Little Richard supplied the piano on the second track on the second side, a cover (I now know) of his own 1956 record “Miss Ann.” At that point, being nineteen and still catching up, I knew his name but had heard little, if any, of his work.

So I sat there on our green couch in the rec room and listened as Little Richard proceeded to rip it up. That memory means that “Miss Ann” by Delaney & Bonnie – with Little Richard on piano – is today’s Saturday Single.