Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

The Moody Blues’ Seventies, Part 1

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Now we come, in our long-term look at the catalog of the Moody Blues, to the hard part, assessing the three albums the British group released during the first years of the 1970s: A Question Of Balance from 1970, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour from 1971, and Seventh Sojourn from 1972.

Those are the albums that made me a fan of the Moody Blues. I heard the first of the three across the street at Rick’s sometime in late 1970, soon after it came out. During my early college days, I heard bits and pieces of the second in dorm rooms and apartments, enough to know I liked it. The third of those came my way in December 1972 as a Christmas present from Rick.

And there were singles from all three of those albums that got airplay during those years as well.

In other words, enough of my youth is tied up into those three albums to make it difficult to assess them dispassionately. But I’ll give it a try, starting today with A Question Of Balance.

After starting their last three albums with spoken word introductions or sound collages, the group shifted gears and started A Question Of Balance with music, the stand-out track “Question,” written by Justin Hayward. A version of the track was released as a single in late April 1970, a little more than three months before the album came out, and went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100. By the time the album came out in early August, the track had undergone some changes, perhaps most notably the addition of orchestral flourishes – courtesy, no doubt, of the Mellotron – in its introduction.

About a decade ago, I included the single version of “Question” in the 228-track Ultimate Jukebox, but I like both versions equally, and I recall the sixteen- and seventeen-year-old me listening especially closely during the spring of 1970 to the words of the single’s slow middle section:

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life
And if you could see what it’s done to me
To lose the love I knew
You’d safely lead me to
The land that I once knew
To learn as we grow old
The secrets of our soul

And if I hadn’t ever written anything in this space about my adolescent romanticism, all you’d need to do is read those lines to know a lot about who I was in 1970 (and likely still am).

So I still love the album’s title track. What about the rest of it? How can I separate the music I hear now from how I heard it as a junior in high school (and as a college student and as a young adult and so on)?

Well, first, let’s note that – as was often their habit – the Moodies blended a lot of the tracks into one another, making suites instead of discreet tracks. And that’s how I listen to the album these days: as clusters of tracks. Still, being as discerning as I can, I have noted during my listening over the past few months that some of the songs on the album work less well than others.

The first of those is the one that immediately follows “Question,” Mike Pinder’s “How Is It (We Are Here),” which kind of lumbers along with its commentary about “men’s mighty mine machines” and “concrete caves with iron doors.” The fade-out, repeating the title, works but the stuff that comes before it seems heavy-handed in 2019.

Nothing else on the album is that awkward, but I find two of John Lodge’s compositions a little lacking as well: “Tortoise & The Hare” – appended to Graeme Edge’s “Don’t You Feel Small” – strains lyrically, as does his “Minstrel’s Song,” which one finds between a pair of Hayward tunes: “It’s Up To You” and “Dawning Is The Day.”

And then there’s the final track, “The Balance,” co-written by Edge and Thomas, which starts with a spoken word section that – like those on preceding albums – indulges the worst instincts of the band. Consider this:

And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked,
And he saw the tree above him,
And the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light,
And the balance.
And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.

I’m no cynic, but that doesn’t connect with me nearly as well in 2019 as it did in 1970 (or 1975 or 1980, even). Maybe it should, but . . .

There are, though, some tracks on the album that still work for me after almost fifty years. Ray Thomas’ “And The Tide Rushes In,” the two Hayward tunes – “It’s Up To You” and “Dawning Is The Day” – and especially Mike Pinder’s “Melancholy Man” all still speak to me without irony or eye-rolls.

And back in 1970, the album spoke to a lot of people, rising to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and staying on the chart for seventy-four weeks. From what I can tell, “Question” was the only single released from the album.

So with all that, what letter grade would I give the album, assessing it not as a memory but as I hear it today? Despite the missteps outlined above, it’s got a better selection of songs than most of the group’s albums, and my misgivings with a few of the songs are generally with the lyrics; musically, the album is gorgeous. (Assuming, that is, that the listener likes the wall of sound the Moodies offer; I recall one co-worker years ago at the Monticello Times who refused to listen even once to an album I offered him. The group’s sound was “too busy and heavy” for him.)

So I’ll give it a B.

Here’s a 2017 remastered version of my favorite track (save perhaps “Question”) from the album, “Melancholy Man.”

Saturday Single No. 663

Saturday, October 26th, 2019

As of today, we’ve been married twelve years now, the Texas Gal and I. She’s been a Minnesota (or at least a Texan in exile) for nineteen years this month. And in just a few months, we’ll mark twenty years since our avatars popped up on the same day in the listings of a Lycos chat room devoted either to social issues or music. (We think it was the former, but we frequented both, so we’re not entirely sure.)

We thought about those tales of years the other day as we sat on the couch ignoring something on TV, and we agreed that it doesn’t feel like twelve years since we walked out of the Stearns County Courthouse as married folks; nor does it feel like nearly twenty years since we met. That, I guess, proves two truisms: My dad’s long-ago warning that time would go faster and faster the older I got, and the universal warning that time flies when you’re having fun.

Conversely, it seems as if we’ve been in each other’s lives forever (and karmically, we think that’s so for this life and others that have gone on elsewhen).

Here’s what I posted here twelve years ago, as we reached one of those markers noted in today’s first paragraph:

Sometimes the Texas Gal and I look at each other and marvel that we ever met, that our lives took the turns they did to bring us together, first in a small corner of the Internet and then – in a leap that took courage and faith for both of us – in a small corner of Minnesota.

Other times, we smile and acknowledge that, well, where else could we have ended up? As I’ve written before, we find the places and the people we are meant to find, no matter how crooked our paths might have been. And she and I are where we belong.

We’re not young, but there were reasons – ones we’ll never know – that our meeting was delayed until midlife. We find solace in knowing that the lives we led before we met are what made us each who we are. Those lives – we hope – have provided us with some level of wisdom that has guided us during the seven years we’ve known each other and will continue to guide us.

If this sounds solemn, it is. This afternoon, we’re going to go down to the courthouse, where we’ll formalize the marriage that took place long ago in our hearts. It’s something we’ve been planning to do for a while, and it’s time.

So here are some of the songs that have been important to us during the past seven years (with one ringer that I threw in). This is a Baker’s Dozen for the Texas Gal, who from today on will be my wife.

“Loving Arms” by Darden Smith from Little Victories, 1993
“Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer from Sixpence None the Richer, 1998
“Rest of My Days” by Indigenous from Circle, 2000
“Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, Capitol single 5614, 1988
“I Knew I Loved You” by Savage Garden from Affirmation, 1999
“If I Should Fall Behind” by Bruce Springsteen from Lucky Town, 1992
“Precious and Few” by Climax, Carousel single 30055, 1971
“Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden from Savage Garden, 1997
“This Kiss” by Faith Hill from Faith, 1998
“Levee Song” by Darden Smith from Little Victories, 1993
“Two of Us” by the Beatles from Let It Be…Naked (recorded 1969)
“Wedding Song” by Tracy Chapman from Telling Stories, 2000
“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison from Moondance, 1970

All of those still matter to us, though we hear some of them much less frequently than the others. But it’s Saturday, and we must choose one. It comes down, then, to either the first of that list or the last, perhaps the first two recordings we chose as ours. (I think I introduced her to Darden Smith and “Loving Arms,” and I know she pointed us toward Van Morrison and “Into the Mystic.”)

I think I know what her choice would be, so I’ll defer to that. Here’s Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic,” today’s Saturday Single.

Finding Granny’s Intentions

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

I’m trying this week to finish up three projects: Scanning old photos and burning them to disc for my sister and our cousins, writing a song for our church, and catching up on stats for my tabletop baseball league.

That sadly leaves this space in fourth place this week.

And the weather’s not helping: The second week of autumn is cloudy and damp. The leaves are still generally green, though those on our flowering crab and linden have begun turning yellow. But it’s gray outside.

But back to fourth place: A search for “fourth” on the digital shelves brought up a a track titled “Fourthskin Blues” by a group with the intriguing name of Granny’s Intentions. The band came out of Limerick, Ireland, in the mid-1960s and in a few years was making a good living in the club scene in Dublin.

The band’s only album, according to discogs, was Honest Injun, released on Deram in 1970. “Fourthskin Blues” was one of that album’s tracks.

Saturday Single No. 658

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

We’re going back to 1970 again this morning, a year we’ve reviewed in music and events here more often than any other year.

It was, as I’ve said here before, the only full year during which I got my musical fix from Top 40 radio: I began listening in earnest in the late summer of 1969, and by the time the end of 1971 rolled around, I was beginning to listen more to progressive rock and album tracks.

So this morning, we’re going to take the Billboard Hot 100 that lies closest to the mid-point of September 1970 – a time when I was settling into my classes as a high school senior – and look at whatever record might be sitting at No. 100. We’ll start, though, as we customarily do, by taking a look at the Top Ten from that week. Here are those records as listed in the September 19, 1970, edition of the magazine:

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door/As Long As I Can See The Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Patches” by Clarence Carter
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“25 or 6 to 4” by Chicago
“In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry
“(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters
“Candida” by Dawn
“Make It With You” by Bread

I like nine of those eleven a lot. My only reservations – and those reservations have been in place for forty-nine years – are for the the A-side of the CCR single and for “Patches.” I can hear them clearly in my head as I write, and they’re not malignant earworms, but I’ve just never cared much for them.

The nine others I liked then and still like, some more than others, of course. I have to be in the right mood for “War” and for “In The Summertime” (not the same mood, though). But the others are welcome at any time.

As to the some that I like more than others, five of the lower six in that Top Ten are in the iPod, putting them on the current playlist of 3,900-some tracks. The only one of those lower six that’s missing is “Candida,” which may or may not be added. And I may add the Diana Ross single. I’ll have to think about it.

And now, to our business at the bottom of the Hot 100: We find at that lowest spot a single we’ve written about but that we have not exactly shared here before: Love’s “Alone Again Or.” The track originally showed up on the classic 1967 album Forever Changes (timing out at 3:13.) A shorter version – timed at 2:49 – was released as a single and bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 123 in the spring of 1968.

In the late summer of 1970, Elektra tried again. The video below is posted on the more or less official Love channel at YouTube and is labeled as the “mono single remix,” so I think this is the right one. The second single release of “Alone Again Or” did only a little better, peaking at No. 99 during a three-week stay on the charts.

In 2011, I tried to figure out which version was the 1970 release and ended up posting here the album track. In a note, friend and chart expert Yah Shure pointed that out and wrote: “In my [Joel] Whitburn Pop Annual, the time listed for the 1970 re-do is 2:50. Under the ’68 single’s entry in my Whitburn Bubbling Under chart book, Joel refers to the 1970 #99 release as ‘an enhanced version,’ and that’s what it really is: embellished with additional instrumentation to pack more of a wallop over the airwaves. The difference between it and the original mix is quite apparent.”

So, is the video below right one or not? I don’t know. In any case, it’s a lovely, whirling taste of psychedelia from Albert Lee & Co., and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Back In ’73

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been looking at my radio listening and then my LP listening from first 1972 and then 1971, then ending the week with a Saturday Single from that year. It occurred to me sometime in the dreamy hours last night that some weeks ago, I addressed my radio listening during the summer of 1973 but I didn’t think to look at the LPs I’d added to the cardboard box in the basement in the year prior.

Never one to let an easy idea go unused, here’s a look at how my LP collection had grown between midsummer 1972 and the same time of year in 1973, and an assessment of how much those LPs matter to me now:

As the summer of 1973 passed by, I bought no new music. Even though my ideas of what I would find when I went to Denmark in September were very unclear, I was certain that saving five dollars to spend on a beer or three in Denmark in the autumn was a better choice than picking up something by Steely Dan at Axis on St. Germain Street downtown.

So once the calendar hit February 1973 and I knew I’d be going away in September, I spent almost no money on music. The two late winter exceptions, according to the LP database, were a used copy of J.J. Cale’s Naturally that I actually bought at Axis, and a double album of Fats Domino’s 1950s and early 1960s hits that I bought used from a co-worker at St. Cloud State Learning Resources. I think I paid a buck for the Cale and fifty cents for the Domino.

Here are the albums I added to the cardboard box in the rec room from mid-1972 to September 1973:

Beatles VI
A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles
Live: The Road Goes Ever On by Mountain
In Search Of The Lost Chord by the Moody Blues
Stage Fright by The Band
Retrospective by Buffalo Springfield
Imagine by John Lennon
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
To Bonnie From Delaney by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
Seventh Sojourn by the Moody Blues
Naturally by J.J. Cale
Legendary Masters Series by Fats Domino
Exile on Main St. by the Rolling Stones
John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic

The last two were gifts from a friend at The Table at St. Cloud State. He’d found them underwhelming and handed them to me one evening in June. And that was the last new music I got until May of the following year, 1974, when I spent about fifty Danish kroner – garnered from ten bucks Rick had sent me from home – to buy Sebastian’s Den Store Flugt, the first of what is now a substantial collection of Danish folk-rock and pop on my various shelves.

But back to the 1972-73 acquisitions: The first two entries completed my Beatles collection, giving me all eighteen of the American releases on Capitol/Apple and United Artists. I finished it, as I’d told Rick I would, just weeks before he began his senior year of high school. In the rankings of Beatles’ albums, A Hard Day’s Night was pretty good, but Beatles VI was a little blah. Some of the tracks from the first of those two are in the iPod, but few, if any, from the second are among my day to day listening; the CD shelves do hold everything from those two albums in the British configurations.

Again, I’m struck by how much of this music seems to be formative. Aside from the Beatles’ albums, eight of the twelve LPs listed there are on the CD shelves today, and I have two differently titled Fats Domino collections. The only albums listed there that are not replicated on the CD stacks are those by Mountain, Buffalo Springfield and John Lennon.

So how many tracks from those albums show up in the iPod?

There’s just one – the long version of “Nantucket Sleighride” – from the Mountain album, and none from In Search Of The Lost Chord, which to me has always been the least interesting of the Moody Blues’ 1960s and 1970s albums (though perhaps I should find room for “Legend Of A Mind” with its lilting chorus of “Timothy Leary’s dead . . .”).

The iPod offers eleven of the twelve tracks from the Buffalo Springfield compilation (excluding “Rock & Roll Woman” for some reason). Conversely, only the title track from Imagine is in my day-to-day listening, and that seems to be enough.

Elsewhere in the iPod, we find five tracks each from Sticky Fingers and Seventh Sojourn, four from To Bonnie From Delaney, all twelve tracks from Naturally, nine from Exile On Main St., four from John Barleycorn Must Die, and three from Stage Fright.

So, as I’ve concluded from earlier posts looking at the music acquired in 1970-71 and 1971-72, this stuff still matters greatly to me. Interspersed among the 3,900-some total tracks in the iPod, the tunes from those first three years of serious listening and collecting don’t pop up often, but when they do, they remind me of the foundations of my listening habits.

Here’s one of those foundational tracks: “Living On The Open Road” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends from 1970. (One of those friends is Duane Allman, who adds slide guitar here.)

Saturday Single No. 646

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

We stopped at the St. Cloud farmers market this morning, hoping to connect with the woman from Browerville from whom we buy cucumbers every summer. Alas, she was not there today. Nor were there many other vendors; it’s still early – especially given the wet, cool spring – for much produce to be available.

So we and a friend wandered through the rest of the market, and we bought some green onions, though I’m not certain what plans the Texas Gal has for them. I considered a lamb chop before deciding against it. And then the three of us had a late breakfast/early lunch.

A stop at the grocery store followed, and we came home already tired and ready to sneak in a nap. So I’m making this brief.

Here’s a loose and loopy Saturday song: “Big Time Saturday Night” by the Goose Creek Symphony. It’s from 1970, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

How Many Junks?

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

Summer – in a cultural sense – starts this week, the last days of May. (In a meterological sense, summer starts with the solstice, which will take place here in the American Midwest at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, June 21.) But these days of dwindling May have been disappointing, with too many clouds and too much rain and very few sunny days.

And that’s been a problem, as the Texas Gal has taken this week off from work, and we’d like to play in the sunshine. (Well, it was just as well that yesterday was kind of ooky, as we both had dental appointments and neither of us – especially she – wants to waste a nice day with the mundane unpleasantness of that.) Today, however, promises better times with a high temperature of about 75 (Fahrenheit) and – if I am reading the forecast on my phone correctly – at least dappled sunshine for the day.

So we’re going to go play in a few hours, starting with a lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. Then we’re going to wander a little ways from St. Cloud, looking for antique stores or junk shoppes that we have not visited recently. How many junks we buy depends on both our moods and our assessments of our wallets.

I had thought about dropping in here a song with “summer” found somewhere in its title, but the last sentence of that last paragraph pushed me in a different direction. Here’s Paul McCartney’s lovely brief ballad “Junk.” It was written in India in 1968 and was passed over for inclusion on the White Album and Abbey Road, finally seeing release on the solo album McCartney in 1970.

Forty-Nine Years

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Here’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with the version of “Ohio” that was included on the live album 4 Way Street, assembled from 1970 performances in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and released in 1971.

‘Dance Into May!’

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Here’s a piece that ran here ten years ago. I’ve edited it just a bit. Happy May Day!*

It’s May Day again

No one has left a May Basket at my door this morning. I’m not surprised: How long has it been since anyone actually left a May Basket anywhere? I suppose there might be places where that sweet custom lingers, but that’s not here.

I do recall spending hours with construction paper, blunt scissors and schoolroom glue at Lincoln Elementary School, painstakingly putting together May Baskets with my classmates. I was not an artistic child. My skills were such that my baskets – year after year – were lopsided creatures with little gaps and clots of dried white glue all over. And the May Baskets I made over the years never got left on anyone’s doorstep.

May Day has long been marked as International Workers Day, but on this May Day I do not know of any workers who will march in solidarity today. In Europe, certainly (and perhaps in other places as well), there will be such marches. I do wonder how relevant those marches and those marchers are in these times. How lively is the international labor movement these days? Probably not all that lively, and these may be days when a more vital labor movement would be useful, as societies and priorities are being reordered.

As to specifically celebrating May Day, though, I recall the days of the Soviet Union: May Day was one of the two days a year when there were massive parades across the expanse of Moscow’s Red Square, past the Kremlin and Lenin’s Tomb. It would have been a spectacle to see, of course. One thing the Soviet Union could do well was put on a parade.

Looking further back into May Day history, Wikipedia tells me that the “earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian [times], with the festival of Flora the Roman Goddess of flowers, [and] the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane.” May Day, in pagan times, the account continues, marked the beginning of summer.

Current celebrations still abound in the land of about half of my ancestors, according to Wikipedia: “In rural regions of Germany, especially the Harz Mountains, Walpurgisnacht celebrations of Pagan origin are traditionally held on the night before May Day, including bonfires and the wrapping of maypoles, and young people use this opportunity to party, while the day itself is used by many families to get some fresh air. Motto: ‘Tanz in den Mai!’ (‘Dance into May!’). In the Rhineland, a region in the western part of Germany, May 1 is also celebrated by the delivery of a tree covered in streamers to the house of a girl the night before. The tree is typically from a love interest, though a tree wrapped only in white streamers is a sign of dislike. On leap years, it is the responsibility of the females to place the maypole, though the males are still allowed and encouraged to do so.”

Well, there is no dancing here today, at least not around maypoles (possibly around the kitchen if I am bored while waiting for the toaster). If I look real hard in the refrigerator, I might find a bottle of Mai Bock from one of the area’s breweries. That would be cause enough to celebrate.

Happy May Day!

A Six-Pack For May Day
“First of May” by the Bee Gees, Atco 5567 (1969)
“For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” by Glenn Yarbrough, from For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (1967)
“May Be A Price To Pay” by the Alan Parsons Project from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)
“Mayfly” by Jade from Fly on Strangewings (1970)
“Hills of May” by Julie Felix from Clotho’s Web (1972)
“King of May” by Natalie Merchant from Ophelia (1998)

I imagine I’m cheating a little bit with two of those. But to be honest, I thought I’d have to cut more corners than I did. I was surprised to find four songs in my files with the name of the month in their titles.

How could I not play the Bee Gees’ track? It was, I think, the only single pulled from the Gibb brothers’ sprawling album Odessa, but it didn’t do so well on the chart: It spent three weeks in the Top 40, rising only to No. 37. Clearly out of style in its own time, what with the simple and nostalgic lyrics, the sweet, ornate production and the voice of a singer seemingly struggling not to weep, it’s a song that has, I think, aged better than a lot of the singles that surrounded it at the time. Still, I think “First of May” is better heard as a part of Odessa than as a single.

Speaking of out of style at the time, in 1967 Glenn Yarbrough’s honeyed voice was clearly not what record buyers were listening for. His For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her was a brave (some might say desperate, but I wouldn’t agree) attempt to update his sources of material, if not his vocal and background approaches: Writers whose songs appear on the album include Stephen Stills, Bob Dylan, Buffy Ste. Marie, Phil Ochs, the team of Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley and, of course, Paul Simon, who wrote the enigmatic and beautiful title track. I don’t think the new approach boosted Yarbrough’s sales much – at least one single was released to little effect in Canada and the UK; I don’t know about the U.S. – but the record enchanted at least one young listener in the Midwest. The album remains a favorite of mine, and Yarbrough’s delicate reading of the title song is one of the highlights.

The Alan Parsons Project track “May Be A Price To Pay” is the opener to The Turn Of A Friendly Card, the symphonic (and occasionally overbearing) art-rock project released in 1980. Most folks, I think, would only recognize it as the home of two singles: “Games People Play” went to No. 16 in early 1981, and the lush “Time” went to No. 15 later that year. The album itself was in the Top 40 for about five months beginning in November 1980 and peaked at No. 13. That success paved the way for the group’s 1982 album, Eye In The Sky, which peaked at No. 7 in 1982, with its title track becoming a No. 3 hit. As overwhelming as The Turn Of A Friendly Card can be, I think it’s Parsons’ best work.

I don’t know a lot about Jade; I came across the trio’s only album – rereleased on CD with a couple of bonus tracks in 2003 – in my early adventures in the world of music blogs. All-Music Guide points out the obvious: Jade sounded – right down to singer Marian Segal’s work – very much like early Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny. That’s a niche that a lot of British groups were trying to fill at the time, and Jade filled it long enough to release one album. “Mayfly” had more of a countryish feel than does the album as a whole.

According to AMG, “Julie Felix isn’t too well-known in her native United States, but since 1964 she’s been a major British folk music star and has been compared over there with Joan Baez.” Well, that seems a stretch to me, based on Clotho’s Web, the album from which “Hills of May” comes. The album is pleasant but has never blown me away.

One album that did blow me away when I first heard it in, oh, 1999, was Natalie Merchant’s Ophelia. Supposedly a song cycle that traces the character of Ophelia through the ages, the CD was filled with lush and melancholy songs, some of which were almost eerie. Repeated listening only made the CD seem better, if a bit more depressing. It’s a haunting piece of work, and “King of May” is pretty typical of the entire CD.

*The information at Wikipedia may have altered over these past ten years. If this were a newspaper piece, I’d check. But it’s a blog post and not a very important one, either, so I’m leaving that stuff as it was ten years ago.

‘Winter Winds’

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

I looked out the window first thing this morning, and I heard Boz Scaggs’ voice in my head, with the faux Boz changing one word:

“And now the snow begins, and it may never end . . .”

This week’s edition of the snow to end all snows crept into southern and southwestern Minnesota around midnight and is slowly making its way northeast across the state. It’s before eight in the morning as I write, and we’ve gotten a dusting so far, less than an inch, I’d guess.

Before it’s all over sometime this evening, we’re supposed to get anywhere from four to eight inches of new snow. That’s less than they’ll get in the Twin Cities, which is more near the center of the storm track, and unless the storm veers suddenly, I’m guessing our total will be right around six inches.

Still, that will be the largest snowfall of the season, and it will – I believe – make this February the snowiest February ever recorded in St. Cloud.

And we’ve had plenty of warning, what with weather folk on television tracking the major systems across the country for the past week. As we watched television last evening, the lists of school districts closed for the day scrolled past, and the Texas Gal commented on them. Being a Minnesota native, I told her that schools had in the past closed for the following day when a storm was bearing down, adding that announcing the closings the evening before gave working parents time to plan for themselves and their kids.

Of course, the three- to four-day warning of a major storm allowing such planning is a relatively new phenomenon, the product of the late satellite age. That was the case about eight years ago when we had three-day warning of a Christmas-time blizzard that stranded us in our house on the East Side for a couple of days. But this morning I’m thinking back to two of the major winter storms I recall, and there wasn’t nearly as much warning for them.

In October 1991, Minnesotans were still celebrating the baseball Twins’ victory in the World Series on Sunday when the weather indicators showed by mid-week a storm coming in Thursday night or Friday morning. I was new at the Eden Prairie News, located in a second-ring suburb in the southwest corner of the Twin Cities, and as I saw the winds whipping around on Thursday afternoon, October 31, I called over to the high school to see if the volleyball match I’d planned to shoot that evening was still scheduled.

“Yes,” said the activities secretary. Then she asked if I were new to Minnesota, wondering if I’d just moved from some less snowy place.

“No,” I told her. “I was born here, and I just have a sense about this one.”

I shot the volleyball game, and drove home in heavy snow, one of the few cars on the Interstate highway that evening. The snow continued falling through Friday, with most of Minnesota shut down, through Saturday and into Sunday. Wikipedia tells me that the Twin Cities received 28.4 inches of snow, which set a record for a single storm in the Metro area.

I hunkered down in my apartment in the northwestern suburbs, venturing out only on Saturday to walk to the hardware store in the adjacent block to replace my coffee maker, which had helpfully given up the ghost on Friday evening. No one went anywhere on Monday, and on Tuesday traffic crawled through the morning rush hour and life went on.

I don’t think we had even three days of warning in January 1975 (or perhaps I, a college student at the time, was oblivious to the warnings), when the snow – whipped around by wind – began to fall around noon on a Thursday. Wikipedia says the snow began on Friday, but I know darned well that the St. Cloud State campus was closed on Thursday afternoon and that the snow was so heavy by then that my friend Larry, who lived in Elk River – thirty-five miles away – turned around on the edge of St. Cloud and stayed with us until Tuesday.

We got about eighteen inches of snow in that one, but the wind created drifts as high as six feet in the street just north of us and much larger than that out in the country. We stayed in most of the time, though Larry and I did venture out during a lull Saturday, walking through deep snow to the nearby Dew Drop Inn for a pitcher of beer – the owners lived in a house attached to the back of the tavern – and then stopping by Rick’s house, where a few of his school friends had gathered. After a few spirited rounds of the card game Pit, Larry and I trudged back across Kilian Boulevard.

Snow came in again Sunday, and we stayed in, spending three dismal hours of the day watching the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in the Super Bowl. On Monday, I walked the windy mile or so to school to man the circulation desk at the St. Cloud State library. Even with the chilly walk, I got the better of the deal, as Larry ended up helping Dad shovel the walks and paths and clear snow from the roof of the house.

And on Tuesday Larry happily headed home, and once again, life slowly lurched back to normal.

I doubt that this week’s storm will be as disruptive, but if I were one of those who were out on work or errands today, I’d be keeping an eye on the weather and planning to cut short my time away from home. That’s what the Texas Gal is likely to do today: She has some flex hours available, so she’s probably coming home during the midafternoon. And if we’re snowed in tomorrow, well, we’ve got some television shows to binge-watch.(And a quick look out the window tells me that the snow has become appreciably heavier in just the forty minutes it took me to put this post together.)

Here’s the British folk-rock band Fotheringay with a suitable tune for today. The band, Sandy Denny’s project after she left Fairport Convention, released a single self-titled album in 1970. Though brief, the evocative “Winter Winds” is one of my favorites on the album.