Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 522

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 7, 1967, fifty years ago today:

“I’m A Believer” by the Monkees
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Tell It Like It Is” by Aaron Neville
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
“Sugar Town” by Nancy Sinatra
“That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra
“Good Thing” by Paul Revere & The Raiders
“Words of Love” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Standing In The Shadows Of Love” by the Four Tops
“Mellow Yellow” by Donovan

Still deeply into soundtracks and trumpet music at the time, about the only one of those I paid any attention to in early 1967 was “Winchester Cathedral,” and that was for two reasons: First, Rick’s older sister – or maybe one of her friends – had the record, and we’d heard it multiple times on New Year’s Eve as we whiled away the last hours of 1966. And then, being a fan of distinctive (read “odd”) music even then, I liked the faux 1920s vibe of the record.

The other nine records in that list, however, were unimportant to me although I’m sure I heard all of them as I made my way through the middle of eighth grade. From the vantage point of a half-century down the road, it’s a decent Top Ten. None of them would make me punch the button on the radio to change the station in irritation, but then, neither would any of them call me to sit in the car to hear the end of the record once I’d pulled into, say, the hardware store lot.

But then, I’m no longer dependent on the radio to hear any of those records; they’re all at my fingertips when I’m home, and I can add any of them to the iPod any time I want. In fact, that might be a better measurement of whether any of those records matter to me these days: Are they among the 3,751 tracks currently in the iPod?

As it turns out, six of them are. The four that are absent are the records by the Royal Guardsmen, Aaron Neville, the Mamas & the Papas and Donovan. That’s not a particularly surprising split, and of those four, I’m most likely to add “Mellow Yellow” to the mix, as I’ve neglected to place any Donovan at all onto the iPod.

There are others from that long-ago Hot 100 that are in the iPod, and there are likely others on the list that I’ve neglected to pull into the little appliance but should have. As I head down the list from No. 10, the first one I notice that fits into either of those categories is a record that was featured here as part of a Baker’s Dozen almost ten years ago, which is a long, long time in blog years. It was probably my favorite pop record in the first months of 1967.

So here’s “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers. Fifty years ago today, it was sitting at No. 20, having leaped up from No. 37 the week before. It would eventually spend two weeks at No. 2 (and get to No. 7 on the chart that today is called Adult Contemporary), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 521

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

There is a temptation as we get to the end of a calendar year to offer something here to sum up the twelve months ending today and then offer good cheer as we head into another trip around the Sun. That’s not an attractive idea this morning.

Why? Well, things are unsettled both here along Lincoln Avenue and in the world at large, and I wouldn’t know what to say about any of that right now. Resolution of our local concerns may come in the first few months of the coming year, and that would be welcome. Resolution of my concerns about the world at large will take longer, and I’m not particularly hopeful.

So we’re going to leave all that alone. Instead, I’m going to carry on today on the path I’ve taken here for the last three days: Offering a tune original to the date, and today that means finding a track recorded on December 31. There are a few candidates on our digital shelves:

On this date in 1973, the Allman Brothers Band played the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and I have recordings of the entire concert, which went on for nearly four hours. I also have one track – “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” – from the Allmans’ gig a year earlier in New Orleans.

In 1963, a girl group called the Gems gathered at the Chess studios in Chicago and laid down a peppy version of a near-novelty tune: “That’s What They Put Erasers on Pencils For.” It was released as Chess 1882. The record didn’t chart, nor did it make it onto any of the 1964 surveys collected at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive.

We find two tracks recorded on this date in 1955 by Marty Robbins: “Mean Mama Blues” and “Tennessee Toddy.” They’re decent country tunes, and they were released on Columbia 21477 but did not chart.

The last of the December 31 recordings in the digital stacks (and recording date information is attached to maybe 10 percent of the nearly 90,000 mp3s in the RealPlayer) comes from a familiar source. On New Year’s Eve 1980, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band played Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. Two of that evening’s performances showed up not quite five years later as tracks on the massive Live/1975–85 box set: “Held Up Without A Gun” and “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Regular readers, I’m sure, already know where things are headed here. Here, recorded thirty-six years ago this evening and offered as both our year-end marker and our regular Saturday Single, is “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy).”

Saturday Single No. 520

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

The late autumn gods sent us snow yesterday and early this morning. Nothing odd about that in mid-December, but it is still – in technical terms – late autumn. Winter doesn’t truly begin here until the lovely time of 4:44 a.m. this coming Wednesday.

But that’s just a formality. We’ve had three pretty good snowfalls already – by that, I mean four inches or more – and although we got back to bare ground a couple days after the first one, I think we’re set now with snow cover until late February or March. And that’s fine; it’s winter in Minnesota.

And I’m taking it easier on the shoveling this season. This is our ninth winter in the house. During the previous eight, I would take care of all the shoveling in one go: Clear the top of the driveway, swoop a center path on the sidewalk along the edge of the house and from the front steps out to the street, clear the front steps and then trim the sidewalk edges with a upward and forward beveling motion of the shovel combined with a sort of crab-like backward shuffle.

(It’s likely hard to envision that edge-trimming strategy from words; one of these days, I think I’ll have the Texas Gal shoot some video. But there’s something comforting about the beveling and crab shuffle; every time I finish off our brief bit of sidewalk with that technique, I am – just for those few minutes – my father, for I learned that odd bit of sidewalk maintenance from him during the 1960s on the walk that ran along Kilian Boulevard.)

But this winter, when I can, I’m splitting the shoveling task in two: I’ll clear the top of the driveway and scrape a center path down the sidewalk (and clear the front steps while I’m at it), and then leave the beveling crab shuffle for a later trek outside. It’s easier on the body that way, and that’s something I need to keep in mind as I wander between birthdays No. 63 and No. 64. And that’s fine.

The only negative so far in this early portion of the snow season comes from an error by our new plowman. In previous winters, the guys who have snowplowed our drive have pushed the scraped snow into an open area on the west side of the garage. The grass there is pretty sketchy because of the presence of a large Norway pine. When the new fellow did his first run through, I pointed the area out to him, and he nodded.

This morning, about seven o’clock, I watched as he plowed our drive, and – as he had done earlier in the week – he pushed some snow into an area east of the drive, between the house and an oak tree. I thought to myself that he was getting awfully close to the little brick-lined garden buried under the snow near the tree. And as I prepared to head outside – still in the lounging pants and sweatshirt I use as pajamas, but never mind – I saw him push a second load of snow into the area and heard a crunch that could only have come from blade on brick.

I headed out and told him where he needed to put all the snow from now on, and I mentioned that we have a brick-lined garden there, and that he’d plowed into it. “I didn’t hear anything,” he said, shaking his head. I’m sure he didn’t. The truck is loud and the heater fan was on in the cab.

“Well, I did,” I said. “Please put all the snow up by the pine tree.” He nodded, and I went back inside. As I did, I took a quick look at the place where the bricked garden lies. Any damage to the bricks was in the area where we plant annuals because I could still see the taller perennials – lilac, spirea and red something-or-other – poking above the snow. Other than that, we’ll have to wait until the snow melts to see if there’s much damage to our little garden.

In the RealPlayer, there are forty-three tracks that have something to do with the word “brick,” ranging temporally from Fairport Convention’s 1969 album Unhalfbricking to the 2009 track “Brick by Brick” by Train. There is, of course, the Commodores’ “Brick House” as well as several versions of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” And there are four versions of a tune listed once as “(Play Something Sweet) Brickyard Blues” and three times as just “Brickyard Blues.”

We’ll go with a version of that last song by a Scottish singer named Frankie Miller. Oddly enough, on the label for Miller’s 1974 album High Life, the tune is listed as simply “Brickyard Blues,” but on the authorized video at YouTube, the title is listed as “(Play Something Sweet) Brickyard Blues.”

No matter. It’s a decent take on the tune, produced by its writer Allen Toussaint, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 519

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

I was waiting at a light on Riverside Drive last evening, heading downtown for some Mexican takeout, when a city bus rolled past, its bright interior lights outshining the early December gloom and illuminating its occupants as if they were on a stage. The bus rolled past me, heading – like me – for the bridge across the Mississippi River and downtown. And as it did, it triggered two things in me: memories of several winters riding the bus to and from work in downtown Minneapolis and an accompanying visceral sorrow.

That visceral reaction, a burst of sadness so powerful that I had to take a few deep breaths as I waited for the green light, took me aback. But it probably shouldn’t have. Those three winters when I rode the bus to work downtown – the winters from late 1995 to the spring of 1998 – were among some of the bleakest seasons of my life.

It’s worth noting here that winters in Minnesota can be bleak no matter what else is going on in a person’s life. From November to February, anyone who works a regular shift job – say 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – here in the northland will go to work in the dark and return home in the dark. That’s cause enough for a little gloominess to start with. Then add, for me and many others, the difficulty that’s now called Seasonal Affective Disorder (with the disarmingly appropriate acronym of SAD), in which the absence of light fuels depression.

To that bitter mix, add my own chronic depression (noted here recently), and then add the situational sadness over a life seemingly heading both nowhere and toward any imaginable disaster at the same time, and you have a potent brew. So you find me during those dark winters leaving my cats in the morning and heading to the bus stop to ride to downtown jobs – one supposedly permanent and the others temporary – that were not at all what I ever planned or expected. And you have me riding home in the dark of late afternoon, home to the cats and a dinner alone, home to an evening of table-top baseball, vapid television or sad music on the stereo.

Of course, not all of my music was truly sad then; those were the years – 1995 into 1998 – during which vinyl was my drug of choice, holding at bay an even worse depression than the one I found myself in. (Also helping to hold back that deeper depression were my cats, Aaron and Simmons.) But in the memory that rolled over me as I waited out the traffic light last evening, the music was as doleful as was almost all of my life back then.

So that’s what I felt last evening as I watched the city bus go past with its passengers safe in its haven of light. When I was one of those winter passengers in a much larger city twenty years ago, that bright light was no haven; the darkness of my life felt inescapable, and it seemed as if I’d lost nearly all that had been good about my life. Those long gone but so very familiar feelings rolled over me as I waited out the red light on Riverside Drive, and then they left, leaving a vague residue of uneasiness.

That residue faded as the light changed and I moved on, heading first for the Mexican take-out place and then back to the East Side and eventually up the driveway toward my dual havens, the warm lights of home and the love of my Texas Gal.

So instead of thinking, as I’d originally planned, about a melancholy man, let’s think about a song I no doubt heard during those dark winters on Pleasant Avenue, a track that might have provided some hope and solace to brighten the gloom. It’s the tentatively hopeful “Love Will Come To You,” a 1992 track by the Indigo Girls, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 518

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

Damn, but 2016 is getting to be greedy. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve lost Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, and then yesterday, Sharon Jones.

Now, none of that – and this holds true for many of the deaths of prominent musicians this year – was a surprise. Cohen and Russell were known to be in ill health and were getting up there in years, and Jones’ travails with pancreatic cancer were well known. (As most likely know, that’s a particularly nasty cancer, hard to diagnose and to counter; it took the Texas Gal’s father about a dozen years ago.)

But still, as the musicians of one’s life regularly exit stage sinister, one pauses. As I wrote last January, when David Bowie died:

[W]hen the folks who provided the music of our formative years leave us, part of the background of our lives is taken away, too. And we begin to feel like an actor on a stage would likely feel if the scenery, the props and the furniture began to disappear one item at a time: confused, unmoored and maybe a little bit alone.

The “formative years” part doesn’t truly fit for Sharon Jones, of course, as her recordings all were released this century, but it feels as if it does, and I think that’s because the music that she and the Dap-Kings laid down sounded and – more importantly – felt like the soul and R&B music that I heard from the radios of my youth. As to Cohen, many of his songs, if not his own performances, came out of nearby speakers during my high school and college days, offered by voices as disparate as those of Joe Cocker and Judy Collins.

Then there was Leon Russell: His joyous barroom piano stylings, his idiosyncratic voice and delivery, his shepherding of the Tulsa Sound, and his sardonic persona all made him one of my favorites during my college days. That favorites room was a crowded place even then, but after hearing his work with Joe Cocker, with Bob Dylan and especially with George Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh, I wedged him in.

My regard for the three is evident on the shelves, both physical and digital: I have, I think, all of Sharon Jones’ CDs; all of my Leon Russell LPs will survive the ongoing winnowing, and I have much more of his music in mp3 form; there’s less of Leonard Cohen’s music here – a few albums in digital form, one CD and one LP – but most of the time, I’d rather hear other folks doing his songs, and there are a lot of Cohen covers available here.

Of the three deaths, I guess Russell’s hits me hardest, but given the seemingly continuous series of blows this year, every one of them hurts. And the metaphoric stage setting I mentioned above just got a little more spare this week, as it has on a seemingly regular basis all year long.

I managed to throw a brief tribute to Russell into Cabaret De Lune last Sunday: During an interlude that called for about forty seconds of piano, I tossed in about twelve bars of “Superstar,” the tune Russell co-wrote with Bonnie Bramlett. And tomorrow, at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, we musicians will be performing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (and leading the congregation in the chorus). I’ll be adding harmonica to the mix.

As for Sharon Jones, all I can do is salute her in this inadequate space. Here’s the aptly titled “People Don’t Get What They Deserve.” It’s from Jones and the Dap-Kings’ 2014 album Give The People What They Want, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 517

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

Well, today is opening day for Cabaret De Lune, the three-person show that my friends Lucille and Heather and I have been putting together since mid-summer. It’s just after 8 a.m., almost nine hours until we begin the first of our two shows today, and the butterflies are already busy in my gut.

If my performing past is any guide, they’ll stay that way until right about 5 p.m., when a little bit of recorded music stops and I noodle a few notes at the piano and then get up and begin the opening monologue. Once the show gets underway, I should be fine, finding the groove and just doing smoothly and naturally what the three of us have been doing every Saturday for the past couple of months.

There are really only two portions of the show that worry me. The first is a very brief selection of classical music that’s been added in the past week. How brief? Six to eight bars, and it’s a piece I’ve heard thousands of times. And it’s not all that difficult, but it is new, and it requires the precision of a classical pianist, which I am not.

(I took piano lessons for six years when I was in elementary school, then quit playing for four years to concentrate on horn and – for two of those school years – go out for wrestling. When I was a junior in high school, I heard “Let It Be” and decided to resume playing. In college as I’ve noted in another post here, I took five quarters of theory and began to focus my playing on chord charts instead of actually reading the notation. I acknowledged to my sister over lunch the other day that I am far from comfortable sight-reading musical notation, something she does very well, having taken piano lessons from the time she was seven or eight well into college. “Isn’t it interesting that we came up with such different skill sets,” she said. It is, I said, adding, “Just tell me ‘Blues in G,’ and I’m home free.” She shook her head. “No,” she said.)

The other portion of the show that worries me a little is a sixteen-bar section of our closer, a well-known tune that in its middle modulates from A minor, which no flats or sharps, to B-flat minor, which has five flats. That’s a lot of black keys to keep track of. Thankfully, after those sixteen bars, the tune modulates up another half-step to B minor, where I am much more at home.

Beyond those two spots, I’m feeling pretty good about the show, but then . . .

“How are you feeling about this?” Heather asked me one afternoon in late summer when the show was coming together in bits and pieces.

“Oh, boy,” I said. “I’m enjoying putting the bits together and then stitching them into a show, but the thought of actually performing is real scary. I just want to sit in a corner.”

“That’s the Virgo in you,” she said.

“I know,” I said, having done a little digging into my horoscope a few years ago (and finding that a lot of it fits whether I believe in it or not). “And I have the moon and about three or four other things in Leo.” Leos love being the center of attention as much as Virgos avoid it.

Her eyes widened. “Oh, my god,” she said. “You love performing. I can tell. But I bet it’s terrifying.”

I nodded. And she added, “But I also bet that once we get going, you’ll be fine.”

I think that’s true, and we’ll find out later this afternoon.

Given all that, only one song fits in this space today. Here’s “Stage Fright,” the title track to The Band’s 1970 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single 516

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

I wrote here last Saturday about the cabaret performance that two friends and I have been rehearsing and polishing since late July. Today’s our dress rehearsal, and I have butterflies to a degree I’ve not felt in years.

I imagine I’ll be fine, that once the suite of tunes we’ve selected as our seating music ends and I begin our opening monologue, the butterflies will have taken a seat along with those who have come to see our rehearsal, and the show will go on and will go relatively smoothly. I don’t expect perfection, but I think all three of us will do well.

That said, I was nosing around today in the goodies at oldiesloon, which offers many of the surveys that the Twin Cities’ KDWB put out from the years 1959 through 1972. (I’m sure the surveys lasted much longer than that; the site focuses on those years.) And since one of the tales I’m telling in Cabaret De Lune looks at the contrast between late autumn 1971 and late autumn 1972, I thought I’d look today at KDWB’s “6+30” for this week in 1971, a survey dated November 8.

And we’ll take care of November 1972 in some fashion next week.

The top ten on KDWB forty-five years ago this week holds a few surprises:

“One Tin Soldier” by Coven
“Imagine” by John Lennon
“It’s A Cryin’ Shame” by Gayle McCormick
“Peace Train” by Cat Stevens
“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“Theme from ‘Shaft’” by Isaac Hayes
“Long Ago and Far Away” by James Taylor
“Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots
“Everybody’s Everything” by Santana

Maybe the most surprising entry there is the single by McCormick, previously the lead singer for Smith. The highest “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” reached in the Billboard Hot 100 was No. 44. I also noticed that the James Taylor single did better in the Twin Cities than it did nationally; it went to No. 31 in the Hot 100. But I do recall hearing those tracks and the rest of KDWB’s top ten from that week, though the Santana track is a little less sharply defined in my memory.

As I’ve noted in this space before, my listening habits began to evolve during my freshman year of college. My Top 40 listening was limited pretty much to the daytime or when I was visiting friends in the dorms. During evenings at home, I was generally listening to the album rock offered by St. Cloud State’s KVSC-FM or to my own LPs, which was still pretty Beatles-heavy (though Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu was in heavy rotation, as were Stephen Stills’ first solo release and Janis Joplin’s Pearl, and I added a Doors hits album and Jethro Tull’s Aqualung to the playlist in early November of 1971).

So it doesn’t startle me that I don’t recognize all the records listed on that week’s 6+30, but I think a few of them still qualify as surprises.

Maybe the biggest is sitting at No. 29: “He Will Come” from the album Truth of Truths, a rock opera offering tales from the Bible. I recall seeing the album in the stores and always thought it was a blatant attempt to piggyback on the success of Jesus Christ Superstar. It didn’t work; Jesus Christ Superstar spent three weeks at No. 1 in the Billboard 200 and stayed in the chart for 101 weeks; Truth of Truths was in the album chart for seven weeks and peaked at No. 185. And listening to “He Will Come” this morning – and I don’t at all recall hearing it forty-five years ago – I thought for the first ten seconds or so I was hearing a mistakenly labeled cover of the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

(A side note about Truth of Truths here: Having never heard the entire album, I was unaware until this morning that – according to Wikipedia – the voice of God was provided by Jim Backus, perhaps best known for playing the role of Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island and for providing the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo.)

Getting back to KDWB’s 6+30 from November 8, 1971, I noticed a couple of other unfamiliar records that went higher in the Twin Cities than they did nationally: “Long Ago Tomorrow” by B.J. Thomas was at No. 33 on KDWB but peaked at No. 61 in Billboard. Mason Proffit’s “Hope” was sitting at No. 27 on KDWB in November 1971 but only bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 108. Bob Seger’s “Lookin’ Back” was at No. 35 on KDWB but peaked in Billboard at No. 96. And Martha & The Vandellas’ “Bless You” was at No. 34 on KDWB but peaked nationally at No. 53.

There are likely a few others in the 6+30 from forty-five years ago this week that did better in the Twin Cities than in the national chart, but those are the ones that jumped out at me. Well, that’s not quite true. The first record I noticed as an anomaly in KDWB’s 6+30 from that long ago week was a Beatles cover that I don’t recall: “It’s For You” by a Detroit band called Springwell was at No. 25 on the KDWB survey for November 8, 1971.

That far outpaced its overall performance, as it peaked in the Hot 100 at No. 60. More interestingly, it was Springwell’s only charting single ever. And more interestingly yet, the record – recorded in Toronto, for what that’s worth – offers a harmony vocal stacked on top of a backing track that sounds to me like something that Rare Earth might have put together.

All of that is enough to make “It’s For You” by Springwell today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single 515

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

Show time is fast approaching!

For the past four months, I’ve been working with two friends – Lucille Guinta-Bates, a dancer, and Heather Helmer, a singer – on a cabaret-styled program scheduled for three performances during the second weekend of November.

My part in what we’re calling Cabaret De Lune is not huge. I give an opening monologue, accompany Heather on the piano for several songs, join her in singing one, and I perform three of my original songs. I guess when it’s written down like that, it sounds pretty hefty, but in the context of the show – with Lucille offering memoirs as monologues interspersed with dance and Heather singing five numbers – including that duet with me – it doesn’t seem as daunting.

Or so I tell myself.

Beyond performances at our Unitarian Universalist church in the past few years, I haven’t really sung or played in public since the last performance with Jake’s band, which I think took place in the summer of 2000. And I had a whole band behind me then. There are moments in Cabaret De Lune when I am alone at the piano, and I will be performing for people whom I do not know. The prospect of that is un-nerving.

There will be people there whom I know, certainly. The Texas Gal will attend one of our three performances, and my sister and brother-in-law are bringing my mom to one. And there will no doubt be other folks in the audiences for the three performances whom I know, as Lucille, Heather and I know a fair number of people in common. (I met Lucille, our co-director, through Heather, who used to work with the Texas Gal at the legal aid office. And our other co-director, Tom Hergert, is a member of our church.)

So what’s it about? Well, our promotional material says:

Cabaret De Lune is a show that explores themes of feeling alone, different and misunderstood. How do we find our way during the dark times?

If you give yourself the gift of following your bliss you just might also end up finding your tribe.

I’m pretty nervous about it. As I should be. I do know, however, that when the lights go up in our small performance space on Saturday, November 12, and I look up from my perch at the piano and begin to tell the tale that frames our various pieces, I’ll be energized and ready in spite of my nerves.

We’re doing a full run-through this afternoon and a couple full dress rehearsals next weekend, so I’ll be able to polish my performances a little bit more, and I can only hope that all will go well and will continue to do so.

With all that, the only suitable tune this morning, of course, is “Cabaret,” the theme from the 1966 Broadway music, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Here’s Louis Armstrong’s take on the tune. It was released in 1966 as a Columbia single, but it did not chart.

For those readers nearby who are interested, Cabaret De Lune will be presented at 5 and 7 p.m., Saturday, November 12, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, November 13, at StudioJeff, which is located at 701 W. Saint Germain St., Suite 201, in downtown St. Cloud. If you need more information, leave me a message here.

Saturday Single No. 514

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

The top ten records in the Billboard Hot 100 that was released fifty years ago today – October 22, 1966 – make, with one exception, a great stretch of listening:

“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“96 Tears” by ? & The Mysterians
“Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Cherish” by the Association
“Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers
“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“See See Rider” by Eric Burdon & The Animals

Even though I was about three years away from rescuing my grandpa’s old RCA radio from the basement and listening to Top 40 every night, I knew most of those during my second month of eighth grade. I probably would not have recognized the Count Five record nor perhaps “See See Rider,” but I heard the others all around me and liked most of them although even then I thought that “Dandy” was pretty slight.

But as I often do when looking at a long-ago Hot 100, I’m going to head toward the bottom of the chart in search of something new or different (or at least forgotten). Way down at the bottom, bubbling under at No. 135, is “Clock” by Eddie Rambeau. When I saw that it was produced by Bob Crewe, I had hopes for it, but it’s pretty bland. It turns out that “Clock” was the last of five records that Rambeau got into or near the Hot 100; four of them did no more than bubble under, but his cover of “Concrete and Clay” went to No. 35 in the spring of 1965. (The original, by Unit Four plus Two, went to No. 28 the same week.)

Still in the Bubbling Under section, I see records by Don Covay, the Baja Marimba Band, Laura Nyro, Del Shannon, Bert Kaempfert, the Shirelles and the Chiffons. And I see two versions of “Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad),” one by Jerry Vale, whose name I recognize, and one by Paul Vance, whose name is new to me, as is the tune. As I expected, it’s a slow sad ballad; I might have found it moving when I was thirteen (and vainly besotted with a sweet blonde who sat near me in science class), but it’s not what I’m looking for today. Vale’s version peaked at No. 93 and Vance’s at No. 97; Vale’s version went to No. 5 on the chart that is now called Adult Contemporary.

In the records ranked from No. 80 to No. 99, I see a lot of familiar names – B.B. King, Brian Hyland, Lee Dorsey, Percy Sledge, the Standells, Bobby Bland, the O’Jays, James Carr and more – but not a lot of familiar records. Still, nothing much catches my attention, so we climb upward.

At No. 77, we find one of two versions in this chart of “The Wheel of Hurt,” this one by Al Martino, a regular in the charts from 1959 to 1977. I remember him best for his 1967 record “Mary in the Morning.” The other version of “The Wheel of Hurt” in the Hot 100 fifty years ago today was Margaret Whiting’s version at No. 68. I know Margaret Whiting’s name as one of the most successful female vocalists of the 1940s. “The Wheel of Hurt” was her most successful offering of ten charting or near-charting records in the Hot 100 era, going to No. 26 in the Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the AC chart. Martino’s version got to only No. 59 in the Hot 100 and went to No. 12 on the AC chart. Still I’m not pulled in, and we go up to the records ranking from Nos. 50 to 59.

Back in the Bubbling Under section, we passed Patti Page’s cover of “Almost Persuaded” sitting at No. 113. It would go no higher, but it’s worth noting because David Houston’s original version of the song was still in the Hot 100, sitting at No. 43 after peaking at No. 24. (Thinking about Houston’s record always reminds me of Leo Rau, the record and candy jobber who lived across the alley; in one of the boxes of records he passed on to me in the mid-1960s were several sleeves for the Houston single although I’m not sure I ever got a copy of the record.)

Also in the Hot 100 fifty years ago today was “Almost Persuaded No. 2,” a drunken-sounding satire of Houston’s record recorded by Sheb Wooley of “Purple People Eater” fame and released under the name of Ben Colder. It was one of five novelty sequels to popular country tunes credited to Colder; none did very well, with “Almost Persuaded No. 2” doing the best by reaching No. 58.

Then we reach No. 42, and we find a record that’s new to me and that I’m a little reluctant to write about. That’s not because it’s not a good one, but because seeing it in the chart makes me feel a little stupid. It’s a record I should have known about a long time ago, and my only defense is that I was thirteen when it was in the charts. Anyway, from what I see at oldiesloon, Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong” did not make the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB, which was the main St. Cloud source of Top 40 tunes in 1966, so I’m not sure where I could have heard it.

Lee’s record was heading up to No. 11, and, as I said, I should have known about it a long time ago, and not just because it’s a good record. I should have known about it because I should have tried to figure out years ago exactly what Golden Earring meant with the line “Brenda Lee is comin’ on strong” in the 1974 hit “Radar Love.” Well, confession is supposed to be good for the soul, and I’ll confess here that sometimes I’m an idiot.

And with that, here’s Brenda Lee’s “Coming On Strong,” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 513

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

Some of my favorite posts from nearly ten years of blogging here are meditations on autumn. Rather than try this morning to do what I’ve already done, I’m offering a post I wrote on the second day of October in 2010. Some of the things mentioned no longer apply: I am now sixty-three, this year’s mix of annuals was different, and neither the red nancy nor the bronze bugleweed we planted along the sidewalk ever flourished. Still, much of this piece applies yet:

Autumn is the season when the ending becomes clear. Like the plot point in the movie that foreshadows the climax and the untangling of plot strands, autumn shows the way to the end – the end of the warm times, the end of the year and – metaphorically – the end of our time here.

Autumn has also always been a season of beginnings, and that’s clearly tied with the first weeks of school, bridging the time between late summer and early autumn. Having been a student or teacher for twenty-six of my fifty-seven autumns and a reporter – small-town newspapers are tied closely to the schools everywhere I know in this country – for another ten of those autumns, the days of September and October seem like a time of new starts as well as a time of preparation for endings.

When one is not involved in the doings of schools, though, it’s easier in autumn to see endings than it is to see beginnings. When I walk past our flower beds on the way to the mailbox these days, the returns are mixed. The marigolds and petunias are still blooming, as are the coral impatiens and the begonias; I wonder how many more days that will be true, as the temperature dropped to 36F sometime early this morning, only a few degrees away from freezing. Around the front of the house, at the northeastern corner where there is little sunshine, the lilies of the valley are already brown and bedraggled, leading the other flowers in the dance of decay that comes every year at this time. Very soon, the rest will follow.

Some will be back next year. We planted some bronze bugleweed along the walk this year, and being a perennial, it will return next spring, as will the red nancy a little further down the walk. And the lilies will crowd their sunless corner again, as well. As fragile as those lilies look, they retreat and get through the winter to come back every spring.

Metaphors abound, of course. And I wonder about my long-time romance with the fall. All my life, I’ve waited through the other seasons for the first signs of autumn: the slight chill in the air of a late summer morning, the first hint of leaves turning orange or yellow, the first photo in the newspaper of anyone – from peewees to pros – in football gear. And every year, it’s been in October that my infatuation with autumn fully blooms.

Yesterday, October 1, marked the first time this year that I had to kick leaves lightly out of my way as I made my walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox. As I did, I glanced at the oak trees lining the way; they have plenty of leaves still on their branches, so we are some days away from raking and from climbing the ladder and cleaning the gutters. So, free for a while yet from those mundane chores, I kicked leaves with the joy of the seven-year-old I once was, delighting for an instant in the rustle of leaf on leaf on leaf.

And yet, autumn always ends. It will end this year almost certainly as it has other years, in a four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind. My romance with the season begins every year with joy and sunlight, bright colors and smiles and ends every time with grim and grey days and colder and colder nights. No matter how many years we’ve counted, the last weeks of autumn are a hard ending. If our lives followed that pattern of the season, living would be a grim business indeed. But most of our lives, I like to think, reject that pattern. I know that not all of us are so favored, but I’d hope that most of us have sources of joy and colors and smiles in our lives all year ’round, thus magnifying the beauty of autumn’s beginning and providing a counterbalance to the bleakness of its ending.

That is the case with me, of course. I can pull out of my autumn reverie and know that my Texas Gal is here, along with all the other things that ease my life. I am reasonably certain at the age of fifty-seven that I have more autumns behind me than I do ahead of me, but that’s a good thing to know, as I think it helps me to appreciate more the passing of all our seasons, not just autumn.

But as much as I may appreciate all the seasons, autumn will remain my favorite, and it will always bring with it that slight sense of melancholy, a sense of endings approaching, of business left undone and dreams left behind. I don’t immerse myself in those feelings as I kick the leaves, but at fifty-seven, I know they’re there.

And here is an early version of one of my favorite autumnal songs: Fairport Convention’s take on “Who Knows Where The Time Goes,” written by its own Sandy Denny and included on Fairport’s 1969 album Unhalfbricking. I imagine this version has been posted here before, but it’s always worthy of a listen, so it’s today’s Saturday Single.