Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

Saturday Single No. 588

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Because I create and post videos at YouTube (mostly for this blog but sometimes just for the fun of it), I have a channel at the website. It’s called “whiteray1,” because “whiteray” was not available when I began to post videos back in 2011. And as of this morning, there are 385 videos available on my channel.

That’s not the stunning number. Given my tastes, the stuff available on my channel comes from a wide swath of performers and styles, ranging from Liberace (one video) to Levon Helm (many videos) with a lot of stuff in between. It’s not a mix I would think would appeal to a lot of people. Yet, YouTube notes that as of this morning, my channel has 6,026 subscribers. And my 385 videos have generated a total of 7,001,011 views. That, to me, is the stunning number.

And stuff happens fast. Just a couple days ago, I put up a piece with the audio of Toni Brown’s 1974 album Good For You, Too. (Brown was one of the lead singers of Joy Of Cooking, the early 1970s band from the Bay Area that’s been the topic of quite a few posts here.) A few years ago, I’d put up a track from Brown’s album – “Hold On To Your Happy Days” – and this week, I got a note from a listener, asking if I had any other tracks from the album.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to create videos the way I do them – the visual is almost always the album cover or a picture of the 45 – so I took a little bit of time and put together a video of Brown’s entire album and dropped it at YouTube. I haven’t yet heard from the young woman who left the note, but in less than forty-eight hours, Good For You, Too has gotten fifty-nine view. That seems like a lot of views in less than two days.

What are the most-viewed pieces? Well, generally the ones that have been up longer. My second video, offering “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, leads the way with 1,195,314 views this morning. (My first video, Al Hirt’s “I Can’t Get Started,” has been viewed 105,275 times, which is a decent total.) And the rest of the most-viewed videos are generally from the first couple years I was putting stuff up. Here’s the rest of the top five:

“Tangerine” by Eliane Elias, 325,674 views (November 2013)

“Misty” by Groove Holmes, 291,055 views (July 2013)

“Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King of Rock & Roll” by Long John Baldry, 264,938 views (July 2013)

“Nantucket Sleighride (Live)” by Mountain, 258,776 views (May 2014)

It’s an interesting mix. And to look at the other end, the least-viewed piece (out of anything that’s been up for more than a year) is Cat Stevens’ lovely meditation “Where Do The Children Play?” Since it went up in April 2014, it’s gotten only seventy-six views. I’m not sure that posting it here is going to bring about many more hits; nevertheless, “Where Do The Children Play?” from Stevens’ 1970 album Tea For The Tillerman is today’s Saturday Single.

Six at Random

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

My iPod currently holds a total of 3,930 tracks, which – as iTunes helpfully tells me – is enough for ten days of listening. We’ll not run that type of marathon here; instead, we’re going to let iTunes supply us with six random tracks of music this morning, and we’ll see what we know and think about those six tracks.

First up is a lilting clarinet tune by Mr. Acker Bilk that went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1962. “Stranger on the Shore” was originally titled “Jenny” but was renamed for the BBC television show that used it as a theme. I have vague memories of hearing the tune in 1962: I would have been eight, and it’s the type of record that would have found a good home on the Twin Cities’ WCCO as well as on St. Cloud’s local stations. I’ve heard it (and liked it) so many times over the years since that it’s impossible to say if I heard it back then, but I do know that when I started during the late 1980s to dig into the music of the early 1960s, “Stranger on the Shore” was familiar.

Our second stop is a track I first heard across the street at Rick’s house in early 1971. “Two Years On” by the Bee Gees was the title track to the album that was home to their No. 3 hit “Lonely Days.” The album was also the first since Robin Gibb had reunited with his brothers after a spat of two or so years, and we speculated that the title track was a reference to that time. It’s a good track, one that reminds me of the pleasant hours I spent across the street listening to albums, playing pool and pinball, and generally cementing a friendship that remains a vital part of my life after more than sixty years. (I also recall the bemused smile I got from Rick maybe a dozen years ago when he discovered Two Years On among my CDs.)

And we stay in that era, listening to a record that puts me in my own room with the sound of the Hollies’ “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” coming from my old RCA radio. It’s probably an evening in early 1970 – the record went to No. 7 that March – and I’m holed up in my room after surviving another day of my junior year of high school. It’s a good record (despite the mournful intro) and not a bad memory, and I know it instantly, as I do most Top 40 hits from that season. But the record wasn’t a big deal to me then and it’s not now. Having come across it this morning, I’m likely going to pull it from iTunes and the iPod and replace it with a record that means something to me.

While restocking the iPod after last autumn’s external drive crash, I tried to include records from a wider time frame than I previously had. Since I’ve tended to slight the 1980s over the years, I consciously dropped more tracks from that decade into the playlist this time around. And this morning we fall on “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, a one-hit wonder* that went to No. 8 in 1982. So I look at the other tracks in the iPod from 1982 and think that including the mechanical-sounding cover of Sharon Jones’ 1964 record was a mistake. And I realize that having to stop and think about the tracks as they come up, rather than just letting them roll by in the background as I cook dinner or do some other task, makes me a great deal more critical. There might have been a time when I liked the Soft Cell track, but that time is past.

And iTunes offers us the sharp and somewhat dissonant intro to “Home At Last” from Steely Dan’s 1977 album, Aja. Last September, noting the death of the Dan’s Walter Becker, I selected “Home At Last” as my salute to his passing: “I know that Steely Dan and a romantic notion seem as odd a pairing as cognac and Cheez Whiz, but it would be nice to think that Becker is – in whatever way he might have wished – home at last.” And my friend jb – who blogs at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and understands more about Steely Dan than I ever will – left a trenchant comment:

“Home at Last” seems like a good choice for him, as it’s not so much about finding an idealized home with Mom and chocolate chip cookies as it is getting past the place with the monsters that want to kill you and into a somewhat safer harbor. And if you’re not as free as you’d like to be (“still I remain tied to the mast”), who is?

And we end with one of the records of my life, one of those whose introductions make me take a sharp, short breath as memories instantly cascade. With some of those – and there may be hundreds in that category of “Records of My Life” – it’s the record alone; there is no tale from my years attached to them. Most, though, have a connection with my times, with my joys or sorrows, my roads and my homes. Jackson Browne’s “Late For The Sky” is one of the latter. The title track of his 1974 album, the song depicts a pairing once filled with hope gone hopelessly awry, a scene sadly familiar to me (as it no doubt has been to most of the folks who’ve listened to that tune and the other sad songs the album offers). Even as I live now in a better and sweeter time, the memories of those other times are potent, and I sometimes need those memories to remind myself how far the grace of my life has brought me.

Saturday Single No. 584

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

A little bit more than two months ago, in my exploration of “When” for our ongoing Journalism 101 project, I wrote:

The short-lived British band McGuinness Flint managed one appearance in the Billboard Hot 100 when “When I’m Dead And Gone” went to No. 47 in early 1971, and as I listen today to that track and to “Malt and Barley Blues,” a 1971 Capitol promo single, I wish I had a lot more from the band on the digital shelves. I have Lo and Behold, a 1972 album by the group’s successor band, Coulson, Dean, McGuinness and Flint, and that’s fine, but I suppose I’m going to have to shell out some cash for the original group’s 1970 album. The group’s tangled history is best left to Wikipedia.

Well, as part of a minispree at Amazon this week, I now have more McGuinness Flint on the CD and digital shelves, as one of my selections was the CD titled The Capitol Years. It pulls together almost all of the group’s first two albums, the 1970 self-titled debut and the 1971 release Happy Birthday Ruthy Baby, along with two sides of a British single (released as a promo here, if I read the tea leaves correctly), and a couple of Brit B-sides.

Why did I say “almost all” in that last sentence? Because the 1996 CD fails to include the track “Brother Psyche” from the first album. I saw a note online somewhere – and I wasn’t bright enough to notice where – that the track had been left off due to time restraints. I snorted and thought to myself that the group would have been better served to leave off the two Brit B-sides, which would have left enough time to accommodate “Brother Psyche.” But I found the missing track elsewhere, so no harm and all that. But I found it an odd decision, and I found it even more odd that the decision wasn’t mentioned at all in the booklet notes, which were written by group founder Tom McGuinness.

So, how’s the music?

Actually, quite good, though I have to agree with Mr. McGuinness that the first album is better than the second. The reason for that, he says, echoing something I’ve often noted about many groups, is that the material on the first album was the result of an extended period of writing as the band coalesced, while the material on the second album was written in a brief time with the goal of recording a second album.

Even with that, it’s all a good listen, and the group has a rootsy sound, with sometimes adventurous instrumentation, that puts me in mind of The Band. Of course, it’ll take some time, some repeated listens, before I’ve absorbed the music (and I doubt whether I’ll ever again absorb music new to me these days the way I did when I was eighteen), but for now, I’m pleased with what I hear.

And we’ll leave you this morning with “I’m Letting You Know.” It’s from the group’s 1970 self-titled album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 583

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

So what would I have heard if I’d turned on my radio during a quiet Saturday on Kilian Boulevard in late March of my junior year of high school?

Here’s the Top Ten from the Twin Cities’ KDWB for March 30, 1970, forty-eight years ago this week:

“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“The Rapper” by the Jaggerz
“Instant Karma (We All Shine On)” by Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band
“Give Me Just A Little More Time” by the Chairmen of the Board
“Come and Get It” by Badfinger
“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” by Edison Lighthouse
“House of the Rising Sun” by Frijid Pink
“Walking Through the Country” by the Grass Roots

None of that, of course, would have surprised me, although I think I heard the Grass Roots’ record a little less frequently than I heard the other nine during that period of time. And there were some interesting records in the lower portions of that KDWB survey, including at least one record I do not think I have ever heard.

That would be “All In My Mind” by Pure Love & Pleasure. Neither the title nor the name of the group set off any small alarms. I went to YouTube and found no trace of the record, and the same is true at Amazon and iTunes. I suppose it might have been included in the couple of hundred K-Tel and Ronco compilations that used to gather dust on my shelves, but those are all gone now (and that saves me maybe an hour of sitting on the floor, scanning record jacket after record jacket).

All I know is that “All In My Mind” was at No. 32 on the KDWB survey, up from No. 34. It wasn’t a big deal nationally, either: The data at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive show the record being listed in the surveys of only three other stations: WTIX in New Orleans, KADI in St. Louis, and WFSO in St. Petersburg, Florida. The highest reported position for the record among the surveys listed for those four stations is No. 17 in New Orleans.

And Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles doesn’t offer much information. The record bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, reaching No. 104. It was the only record that Pure Love & Pleasure, a pop-rock group from Los Angeles, got near the Hot 100.

There are any number of online emporia offering copies of the 45 for sale, and we’ll see if I send any of my shekels to any of them, but anyway, I’m not going to be hearing the record this morning. Oddly, though, the record’s B-side, a chipper tune titled “What’cha Gonna Do” – a record that flirts so heavily with country pop rock that it might in fact be a joke – is available on YouTube as part of a collection called Lost Pop & Doo Wop 45s, Vol. 7.

Well, the universe works in strange ways, so I’ll yield to its whims and make “What’cha Gonna Do” by Pure Love & Pleasure today’s Saturday Single.

Another Step

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Well, it’s getting busy around here, what with packed boxes piling up in the spare bedroom and in the living room. The two piles have different destinations: Those in the living room are filled with books headed for the Friends of the Library bookstore downtown.

Those in the spare bedroom are filled with books, LPs, clothing, living room knick-knacks, and a lot of other bits and pieces of life. There will be more boxes there yet, and all of them will be moving with us to the North Side in a little more than two weeks.

For the first time in our lives, the Texas Gal and I are homeowners; we closed on our condo Wednesday morning, signing paper after paper and form after form and finally being handed keys and garage door openers. On our way to a celebratory lunch, we stopped at our new place and continued our frequent discussions about where things will go and what we want to replace.

And we looked around the condo with a little bit of disbelief hanging in the air. “We really did this,” I was thinking. “This place is ours. Wow!”

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

All of that is yet to come, of course, and we have much work left to do. As I look around, I see what seems like so much more than two weeks’ worth of packing left, and I despair, especially because my back and leg difficulties have not been resolved by the cortisone shot I got three weeks ago, and I’m heading back to the doctor on Monday. And I do not dare lift anything very heavy (which means we’ll likely have to find some folks to help us pack).

However we do it, though, the work will get done. And the movers will arrive February 19 and take the furniture and the boxes of stuff that make up a lot of our lives across town. We’ll settle in and after a while, it will feel as if we’ve always belonged there.

And here’s another
one of my favorite tunes with “home” in the title: John Denver’s “Sail Away Home.” It’s from his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This.

‘Ho-Sanna, Hey-Sanna . . .’

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Tracks from iTunes were running randomly the other evening as I puttered on one thing or another, and up popped the tune “Everything’s Alright” by Yvonne Elliman from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

The inclusion of that track and three others from the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice creation – the Overture, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by Elliman and “Superstar” by Murray Head (with The Trinidad Singers) – in iTunes and the iPod was a recent thing. During my most recent stocking of the iPod after the crash of my external hard drive, I idly saw the folder for Jesus Christ Superstar in the J folder and without much thought pulled into the iPod those four tracks.

They’d been on the digital shelves for a long time. I likely found the 1970 rock opera offered at one blog or another not long after my 2006 discovery of music blogs. Its acquisition was a small portion of my lengthy project of replicating digitally my record collection from the early 1970s, but once the JCS mp3s were safely tucked away on my digital shelves, I never purposely listened to them. I imagine that one time or another a track or two might have popped up while the RealPlayer was rolling on random, but I don’t recall. I think my view of the production – an album I played frequently back in the basement rec room during the early 1970s and on occasion during the years since I left St. Cloud in 1977 – was that it was nice to have on hand but no more than that.

And then came “Everything’s Alright” the other evening, except the track began with a clank or a clunk or a thunk, some kind of sound that did not belong there. Nor was the sound the result of poor splitting; the clunk or thunk did not belong to the end of the preceding track, “What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying.” But as I listened to that track, I noted other noise that marred it, too. Irritated, I deleted the entire album and decided that, once we’ve finished moving, I would buy the CD set online.

Then I wondered, do I really need it? Would I still enjoy it? Or was its attraction one of time and place, the era of Hippie Jesus and my first years of listening to rock and pop and all their relatives?

So I borrowed the set from the library and began listening to it in the car as I ran a lengthy set of errands Saturday and went to and from church on Sunday. I’m not quite finished – “Trial Before Pilate (Including The 39 Lashes)” was playing as I got home from church Sunday – but one thing is apparent: Even twenty or so years removed from my last listening and forty-some years removed from repeated listening, I still know every line and every instrumental turn of the album.

That in itself is not surprising; the album imprinted itself on my brain when I was seventeen. How, though, does it sound at sixty-four? As was pointed out by critics when the album came out, its grasp on theology and history is spotty, and Rice’s lyrics can still startle one with modern-day references and still sometimes land smack in the middle of hippie mysticism. I recognize without too much concern the historical and theological fuzziness, and I don’t mind the modern vernacular or the hippie mysticism one bit. As to the music, it’s better than I remembered, superb instrumentally and vocally.

So is it essential? Well, it’s been 48 hours since I last heard any of the album, and for most of my waking hours in that time, the album’s instrumental themes and motifs as well as bits and pieces of the lyrics have been tumbling through my brain:

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening . . .

I dreamed I met a Galilean, a most amazing man.
He had that look you very rarely find, the haunted, hunted kind . . .

Ho-sanna, hey-sanna, sanna-sanna-ho . . .

You have set them all on fire.
They think they’ve found the new Messiah
And they’ll hurt you when they find they’re wrong . . .

Will no one stay awake with me? Peter? James? John?

Listen to that howling mob of blockheads in the street!
A trick or two with lepers, and the whole town’s on its feet . . .

If you knew all that I knew, my poor Jerusalem . . .

Every time I look at you, I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned.
Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?

So, yeah, when we get settled on the North Side, I think I’m going to add the CD set to the collection. (As it happens, the vinyl is still on the shelves; it survived last year’s sell-off.)

Back in the early 1970s, of course, Jesus Christ Superstar was a massive hit. The rock opera – the stage and screen versions came later – spent 101 weeks on the Billboard 200 starting in November 1970 and was No. 1 for three nonconsecutive weeks during the first half of 1971. The album was the source of three singles in the magazine’s Hot 100: Elliman’s “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” went to No. 28 in the spring of 1971; her follow-up, “Everything’s Alright,” stalled at No. 92 that autumn. And Head’s “Superstar” went to No. 14 in early 1971 as a reissue; it went only to No. 74 when first released in early 1970, before the album came out.

Here’s Head and The Trinidad Singers with “Superstar.”

Saturday Single No. 573

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

I filled out one of those Facebook list things this week, giving details about my senior year in high school: Did you know your life partner (no), were you a jock or a nerd (the latter), do you remember the mascot (Tigers), do you remember the school song (“March Straight On, Old Tech High”) and about fifteen other questions that I answered from the perspective of the St. Cloud Tech Class of 1971.

I’ve written before about that year, how that was when I began to read science fiction and astronomy books, when I spent a good portion of time wooing a cute sophomore girl whose attentions were focused elsewhere, when I began to play the guitar, and when I began – in large part because of my unrewarded romantic efforts – to write verse that sometimes worked as lyrics.

And this morning, I wondered what the Billboard Top Ten albums looked like as January and my senior year approached their midpoints in 1971. Here’s the list, along with the dates the LPs came to my shelves.

All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (August 15, 1981)
Abraxas by Santana (April 1, 1989)
Stephen Stills (August 1971)
The Partridge Family Album
Greatest Hits by Sly & The Family Stone (October 3, 1997)
Jesus Christ Superstar (August 1971)
Pendulum by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Live Album by Grand Funk Railroad
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (July 14, 1990)
Led Zeppelin III (March 10, 1999)

I’m not surprised by the absence of the albums by the Partridge Family and Grand Funk Railroad (not only did I not buy those two specific albums, but I never bought any LPs by the two groups), but I am a little startled at the absence of Pendulum. The LP log shows that I acquired every other Creedence album from 1968’s self-titled debut to 1973’s Mardi Gras plus two greatest hits albums. Not sure why I jumped over Pendulum.

Obviously, the two most important to me in that list were the Stephen Stills album and Jesus Christ Superstar. I desperately wanted All Things Must Pass, too, but the price of a three-disc album was out of my reach at the time. I found a passable used copy in 1981, as noted in the list above, and then replaced it with a better copy in the 1990s.

As to the other four albums in that top ten, the purchase dates pretty clearly show that by the time I got around to them in 1989 or later, it was when I was assembling an archive rather than a collection. Of those four, I liked Abraxas and the hits album from Sly & The Family Stone the most; the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and the Zep album had a few tracks each that I liked much more than the rest of what they offered.

So as my music source evolved in the past twenty years to CDs, which of those ten albums showed up? Well, two of them: All Things Must Pass and Stephen Stills. Anthologies suffice for Lennon, Led Zeppelin and Creedence, and there are blank spaces for the other five of those ten albums in that long-ago list.

Of course, for much of the last eighteen years, I’ve collected a lot of digital music as well. The only album not represented in the 69,000 mp3s here in the EITW studios is the one by Grand Funk. I have a few tracks from the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the digital stacks, most of what was offered by the Sly & The Family Stone hits album and complete digital copies of the remaining seven albums.

As I’ve done with similar entries here over the past couple of years, I’ll finish off this exercise by seeing which tracks from those albums show up among the exactly 3,700 tracks on the iPod today. It’s not really close. Nothing from the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band or the Grand Funk albums shows up, and I find one track each from Led Zeppelin III and the Partridge Family album and two each from Abraxas and Pendulum. Six hits show up from Sly & The Family Stone, and four tracks show up from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Right now, there are nine tracks from All Things Must Pass in the iPod (although, as I have a fair amount of space open, the remaining tracks from the main portions of that album will likely be added). But all ten tracks from Stephen Stills show up today, and that’s not at all surprising to me. As I think I’ve noted here at least a few times over the years, Stills’ first solo record is one of my essential albums.

Given that, you’d think my favorite track from the album would have been plugged in here or there numerous times over these nearly eleven years. But it’s only been mentioned and shared once, back in the summer of 2007. And it’s a song of hope. All that made it an easy choice to make Stills’ “We Are Not Helpless” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 567

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Household tasks and other stuff call me away today. Here’s one of my favorite Saturday tunes: “Saturday Clothes” by Gordon Lightfoot. It’s from his 1970 album If You Could Read My Mind, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 564

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

The Texas Gal is in Texas this weekend, visiting her family. So I slept late before running her car down to the nearby tire shop for a routine tire check.

All was well, so I’m home and half the day is over.

November always brings with it thoughts of those gone from my life, making me a little subdued for the first half of the month. One of the folks I miss is Bobby Jameson, who entered my life after I shared some of his music here. One of my favorites among Bobby’s work is “Big Spoke Wheel,” recorded with Crazy Horse, Red Rhodes and Gib Gilbeau. Bobby told me that the sessions – unreleased until Bobby put many of his tunes up at YouTube – took place in either 1970 or 1971.

And “Big Spoke Wheel” – with its slender connection to my taking care of the tires on the Texas Gal’s car – is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Be On My Side . . .’

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Sometime in the past week or two – and I cannot recall where or when – I heard a faint snippet, no more than five seconds, of Buddy Miles’ cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River.” It reminded me of this piece, now more than ten years old.

There was a half-second of empty air after the commercial ended. A softly strummed guitar broke the silence, and then, above that, came the moan of an electric guitar playing one long note and then a short break of melody in a minor mode. A choir came in behind the guitars, a chorus of “oooooh” sounding as lonely as a back road while the guitar continued its forlorn dance above the chorus.

A quiet organ wash replaced the chorus as the drums entered and set a pace, and then a tortured voice sang, “Be on my side, I’ll be on your side, baby. There is no reason for you to hide . . .”

Rick and I paused whatever we were doing – probably playing a board game – and stared at the small radio and the sounds coming from its somewhat tinny speaker. What the hell was that? And who was singing?

The sounds of a summer night came through the screened windows of the porch that Rick’s dad had recently added to their house: oak leaves whispering in the wind, a car’s honk some blocks away, the faint “breek-breek” of frogs in the low places near the railroad tracks, the laughter of teens out walking in search of something, the distant horn of an approaching train.

But we kept looking at the radio, wondering what in the heck they were playing on WJON, whose studios were no more than two blocks away, just the other side of the railroad tracks.

It was 1970, and like many stations in non-metro America, WJON tried to be all things to all people. Daytime was farm reports, the Party Line show in the morning, news at regular times during the day, and, I seem to remember, lots of traditional pop music during the day: Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Al Martino and maybe, if the deejay were feeling adventurous, Hugo Montenegro’s version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” with its eerie whistle and twangy guitars.

At night, from seven o’clock on, the station played pop and rock, ranging from mostly Top 40 during the early hours of the segment to deeper cuts and slightly harder sounds as the night aged. And it was about ten p.m., I guess, when Rick and I were transfixed by the sounds coming out of the radio.

Maybe Rick recognized the song as Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” but I don’t think he recognized the vocals as coming from funky drummer Buddy Miles. I didn’t know either the song or the singer. I was still pretty unhip to most pop and rock music, although in the past nine months, I’d started to listen and to buy LPs. My first two purchases had been Chicago II and the Beatles’ Let It Be. It would be a while before I got around to Neil Young. And beyond hearing on radio the spooky sounds of his version of “Down by the River,” it would be a longer time yet before I got around to Buddy Miles and his combination of blues, funk and rock.

“Down by the River,” which Rick and I would hear several more times late at night that summer, was from Miles’ third solo album, Them Changes. His first two, Expressway to Your Skull and Electric Church, had been well received by critics. (Jimi Hendrix, with whom Miles would play in Band of Gypsys, had produced about half of Electric Church.) Earlier, Miles had been part of Electric Flag, a group that was eclectic in both its membership and its music.

He’s not always been received well by critics. I recall reading particularly savage reviews in the various editions of the Rolling Stone Record Guide and Album Guide. But in the years following Them Changes, Miles would team up with Carlos Santana on a well-regarded live album in 1972 and would record consistently through 1976. After that, his recording was sporadic.

For me, though, as intriguing as his other work may be, nothing from Miles has ever grabbed my attention and imagination as tightly as that first hearing of “Down by the River” during that long-ago summer evening.

Miles, of course, is gone now: He passed on in February 2008, less than a year after this piece first showed up here. The album track of “Down By The River” remains one of my favorite tunes; I’m not as fond of the single edit that went to No. 68 in the Billboard Hot 100 that summer. I have a few other interesting covers of “Down By The River” in the digital stacks, and I pondered offering one of them here. But having heard just a snippet of Miles’ version the other day, I’m hungry for more of it.



(I’ve edited the 2008 post slightly.)