Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

Saturday Single No. 511

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

I’ve dithered long enough this morning, sitting here at the computer, looking vainly through Billboard charts and glaring at white space on the screen. Ideas come and go, none of them growing into fruit.

So I’m turning this morning’s exercise over to Odd and Pop. Odd’s instructions are to look at the Hot 100 (and its Bubbling Under section) from this week in 1970, our favorite radio year, and find the strangest title he can.

Pop’s job at that point is to tell us what he knows about the record.

And my job is to put it up on the website. So here we go.

Odd reports that he started at the bottom of the Bubbling Under section, thinking that less familiar titles might sound stranger than familiar ones. After all, he notes, “Many strange titles, like ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ for instance, no longer seem strange because we’ve known them for years.” (Pop interrupts, as he tends to do, to say that even though the Iron Butterfly single is clumsily edited, it works much better than the sleep-inducing album track.)

Odd pulls us back on track. Three titles stand out for weirdness from this week in 1970: “Money Music” by the Boys in the Band at No. 104; “Gas Lamps and Clay” by Blues Image at No. 95; and “Screaming Night Hog” by Steppenwolf at No. 72. “That last,” he says, “is of course about a motorcycle, but the words are a strange combination.” He shrugs. “Still, I think the strangest title is the Blues Image record: ‘Gas Lamps and Clay.’ So there you go.”

I turn to Pop, eyebrows raised.

“Well,” he says, “it was the second record in the charts for Blues Image, after they hit No. 4 with ‘Ride Captain Ride’ in the spring of 1970.” Pop pauses for a second. “Oddly enough,” he adds distractedly, “one of the members of Blues Image, Mike Pinera, had been in Iron Butterfly and bears some responsibility for ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’.”

“Focus!” says Odd.

Pop nods. “Okay,” he says. “Well, ‘Gas Lamps and Clay’ was around for just four weeks in September and October of 1970. It peaked at No. 81. And no one ever heard about Blues Image ever again.”

Odd asks “What’s it about?”

Pop shrugs. “The chorus is about being who you are, but how it gets to that, I have no idea. But face it, it was 1970. You can take a look at the lyrics. I think they’re right.”

I was out at the old mill pond
A week ago today
What I saw was a small gas lamp
And pots made out of clay

When I wiped off a little dust
Smoke began to rise
Out of a cloud came a frightful sight
Of people running, child

And they sang, la la la la . . .

When I sat down beside the lamp
I couldn’t believe my eyes
They were blowing a bubble pipe
About two times the size

As they sang, la la la la . . .

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

It’s fun just to be
Be what you are
So we are singing a happy song

“I love it!” Odd says.

Pop nods a little glumly. “I knew you would.”

And that’s how “Gas Lamps and Clay” by Blues Image came to be today’s Saturday Single.

‘Open The Door, Richard . . .’

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Just to show that I’m upright – and to celebrate that there’s a working handle on the door of the Versa – I thought we’d consider Bob Dylan’s “Open The Door, Homer” as covered by Thunderclap Newman.

Best known for the No. 37 hit “Something In The Air,” which was used in the 1969 movie The Magic Christian, Thunderclap Newman was a group assembled by the Who’s Pete Townshend in what Wikipedia says was “a bid to showcase the talents of John ‘Speedy’ Keen, Andy ‘Thunderclap’ Newman and Jimmy McCulloch.” (Townshend played bass for the group under the name of Bijou Drains.)

“Open The Door, Homer” showed up on the group’s 1970 album Hollywood Dream. I love Newman’s herky-jerky piano solo, similar to the one he supplies on “Something In The Air.” And not being interested in digging even lightly into Dylanology today, I’ll just say that I don’t know why the song title is addressed to Homer when the lyrics address Richard.

‘Hard To Handle’

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

When the Texas Gal went to the car – our Nissan Versa – after a business appointment two days ago, she pulled the door handle like she and I have done thousands of times in the nine years we’ve had the car. And the handle came off in her hand.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what it looked like. I know, though, what I would have looked like had it happened to me: I would have stood there for a second, looking dumbly from the black handle in my hand to the empty space on the car door. “Huh,” I would have thought, processing.

And then I, like she did, would have thought, “Well, it was going to happen sometime.”

As is the case with many cars these days – with key fobs that carry electronic openers – the driver’s door on the Versa is the only one with a lock that can be opened with the key. And about four to five months ago, the little plastic cowling around the keyhole started to break; it would come out of alignment a little, and we’d push it back in. And the handle was a little loose. We knew we were going to have to deal with it eventually, and we put it our agendas, but it was a littler lower on our lists than maybe it should have been.

This week, however, with the Texas Gal standing in the street in front of a client’s home holding a door handle that was no longer doing its job, it became a whole lot more important to get repairs done. As it happened, our other car, a Chevy Cavalier, was at the nearby tire place that day for an oil change and some minor other work, so when the Texas Gal – who got into the Versa via the passenger door, of course – came home, she and I headed down the street, picked up the Cavalier and dropped off the Versa to wait for parts.

I should hear sometime today that the Versa’s door is fixed, and I’ll walk the half- mile down to the tire place and pick it up. And we can hope that any more automotive ailments will wait a while longer.

A total of thirty-six tracks show up in the RealPlayer when I search for “handle.” Nine of them come from Gene Chandler, with the most famous of those, of course, being 1962’s “Duke of Earl.” There are also tracks from four lesser-known Chandlers: Dillard (“Rain and Snow,” a 1975 track from a 2002 Smithsonian Folkways collection), Howard (“Wampus Cat,” an originally unreleased track from a 1957 Sun session), Len (“Touch Talk,” a Columbia single from 1967) and Wayland (“Little Lover/Playboy” on the 4 Star label from 1958).

That leaves twenty-two tracks with “handle” in their titles, ranging along the time line from 1941’s “Panhandle Shuffle” by the Sons Of The West to Leon Russell’s 2013 version of “Too Hot To Handle.” We’ll stop somewhere near the middle for Tony Joe White’s 1970 cover of “Hard To Handle.”

The song was written by Allen Jones, Alvertis Isbell and Otis Redding and was first recorded by Redding. One of numerous releases that came after Redding’s death in December 1967, “Hard To Handle” was the B-side to “Amen” and, on its own, went to No. 51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 38 on the magazine’s R&B chart during the summer of 1968. (“Amen” went Nos. 36 and 15, respectively.)

The song’s been covered numerous time – Second Hand Songs lists thirty-five covers – and two other versions charted along the way (at least through 2008, which is the last year in my copy of Top Pop Singles): Patti Drew’s 1968 cover went to No. 93 on the Hot 100 and to No. 40 on the R&B chart, and the Black Crowes released their cover twice, once in the autumn of 1990, when it went to No. 45 and then again during the summer of 1991, when it got to No. 26.

Some of the other covers of the tune have come from Tom Jones, the Grateful Dead, Brenda Lee, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Toots Hibbert, Gov’t Mule and – always one of my oddball favorites – the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

Here’s Tony Joe’s version, which was an album track on 1970’s Tony Joe:

‘And Wondering Why . . .’

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Last evening, as I made dinner – a classic Midwestern meal of a sauce of cream soups, milk, canned chicken, onions and a few other things over elbow macaroni – the iPod chugged along atop the repurposed bookcase we call Pantry Boy. Among the twenty or so tracks the iPod offered as I chopped, mixed and stirred was Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park” from 1968.

As has been my habit for some time now, I shared the lengthy list of tracks – divided this time into two portions – at Facebook last evening, highlighting first Joe Brown’s performance of “I’ll See You In My Dreams” from the 2002 Concert for George and later the Rascals’ 1969 hit, “People Got To Be Free.” The first post got little comment, but there was a lot of positive response to the second set. And then a friend of mine said she’d never gotten “MacArthur Park” and asked for insight.

I responded, perhaps a little pertly, “Surrealism, memory and regret.” She said she got those things from the tone of the music but she didn’t get the lyrics. I think the lyrics as well as the tone of the music carry all of that. So I wrote:

Well, unless I’m mistaken in what I remember this morning, the only part of the lyrics that needs any explication is the part about the cake, and my thought has always – well, since I became an adult – been that the cake represents the love of his life, now gone for reasons beyond their control, with the sweet things melting away in the rain of troubles. Otherwise, I don’t think the lyrics are all that obtuse; they tell a story of simple joys, loss, hope and grief: “After all the loves of my life, I’ll be thinking of you . . . and wondering why.”

And for good measure, I posted the comments I made more than five years ago when I included Harris’ version of the song in my Ultimate Jukebox:

I think “MacArthur Park” is one of those records that has no middle ground. Folks either love it or find it ridiculous. Obviously, I’m I the first group, and have been from the first time I heard it. (One day in the summer of 1968, my sister called me to the radio to hear “this stupid song that goes on forever about leaving the cake out in the rain.”) I recognize its flaws: Harris’ vocals are overblown. The lyrics – even without the cake in the rain – are overwritten. The backing, with its lengthy instrumental passages, is too big for the song. But you know what? From where I hear the record, every one of those things – the over-reaching vocal, the over-written lyrics, the overwhelming backing – is a virtue for a record that went to No. 2 during the summer of 1968. Baroque and excessive “MacArthur Park” may be, but it’s also brilliant.

My friend later thanked me for my comments, said she generally agreed with me about the tunes I list at Facebook, and added that this time, she agreed with my sister.

The exchange got me thinking about the song, of course, and went to the RealPlayer to see how times “MacArthur Park” showed up. Turns out it’s nineteen times. Three of those are from Harris: the original mono mix from the 45 and two copies of the album track, one from Harris’ 1968 release A Tramp Shining and the other from a box set of work by the famed session musicians called the Wrecking Crew.

The rest run the gamut from Ray Conniff & The Singers to Waylon Jennings with the Kimberlys; from Enoch Light to the Three Degrees; from Ferrante & Teicher and the 101 Strings to the Brazilian Tropical Orchestra and the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain. One major version missing from the digital stacks is Donna Summer’s cover of the tune, which spent three weeks at No. 1 in Billboard in November 1978. That’s a gap I will remedy soon, even though I’ve never been fond of Summers’ version.

I think over the next week or so, I’ll do some digging and find out what the hell Jimmy Webb was thinking about when he wrote the song. (I noticed a listing for a piece online in which Webb discusses the lyrics, and I’ll have to check that out.) And we’ll dig into some of the covers I have on the shelves. We’ll start that process with the instrumental version offered as an album track in 1970 by the Assembled Multitude, the group of Philadelphia studio musicians whose version of “Overture From Tommy (A Rock Opera)” went to No. 16 in Billboard that summer.

Saturday Single No. 504

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

After another harsh week around portions of the world – terror in Nice, a failed coup in Turkey, political craziness here at home and who knows what else in other places – I was looking for something to make me feel better. Music works, more often than not, so I decided to take a look at what I was likely hearing on my radio during this week in 1970.

As I’ve noted before, that year was my one full calendar year of focused Top 40 listening. Until late summer 1969, I hadn’t cared much; come the autumn of 1971, I moved in the direction of albums and progressive rock. So it’s a year I look at as a touchstone. Given that, what did I find looking back at KDWB’s “6+30” from mid-July of 1970?

Well, as the link shows, a lot of familiar stuff, records I’ve heard over and over and over in the years since then. Not that I dislike them; some of the stuff on the survey from the week of July 20, 1970, is among my favorite music. But I don’t know that after nine years of blogging, I have much more to say about those favorites.

And then I spotted a listing of a record I’ve not heard in years. I don’t know that it was among my favorites back then, and I’ve not thought often of it since. It sat at No. 13, heading up from No. 20; it would peak on KDWB at No. 7 where it would spend the next two week: “A Song of Joy” by Miguel Rios. (It did better on KDWB than it did nationally in Billboard, where it peaked at No. 14.)

And the single – with music based on the Fourth Movement of Ludwig von Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and words (credited on the record label only to “Orbe”) that echo, if not exactly replicate Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” which Beethoven used for the chorale portion of the movement – is worth a listen this morning.

Two years after Rios’ single was a best-seller in much of Europe as well as here, an adaptation of Beethoven’s music was adopted as a European anthem. Given Europe’s travails in the past week – indeed in the past year – it’s an easy choice to make “A Song of Joy” this week’s Saturday Single.

‘Way, Way Down Inside . . .’

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

I slept in today, a rare thing. But when the alarm went off at 6:54, I wasn’t feeling well, and four hours later, not much has improved. Sluggish mind in a sluggish body isn’t exactly the ideal the ancient Greeks had in mind. But we get what we get.

I’ve been following the ongoing plagiarism case against Led Zeppelin for allegedly nicking a piece of Spirit’s song “Taurus” for the famous riff in “Stairway To Heaven,” and I saw a piece on the Rolling Stone website that in its introduction pretty much summed up my thinking about the case brought by the estate of Randy California. Gavin Edwards writes:

Reasonable people can disagree on whether (and how heavily) Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” filches from Spirit’s “Taurus” – that’s why there’s a court case in progress. But the reason many people aren’t extending Led Zeppelin the benefit of the doubt on “Stairway” is because they have an extensive history of swiping songs from other people and giving credit only under duress.

And Edwards’ piece goes on to explore – with videos illustrating each example – ten cases of appropriation.

(Another cataloging of Zep’s indiscretions – with nifty illustrations – is found at the great blog Willard’s Wormholes. Look for “Zeppelin Took My Blues Away” in the blog archives.)

So I was thinking about Led Zeppelin, and I got to thinking about “Whole Lotta Love,” which had its genesis in Muddy Water’s “You Need Love.” And I got to pondering covers of “Whole Lotta Love” (and the Led Zeppelin single remains part of the remembered soundtrack of my junior year of high school, which makes it matter).

I have a few covers of the tune, and there are more out there, according to Second Hand Songs. But if my search function worked correctly this morning, I’ve never posted any of those covers here. That oversight ends now, and sometime soon – tomorrow? Tuesday? I will not promise a specific date, only an intention – we’ll dig into more covers of an appropriated tune.

Our starting point is one of the better versions we’ll find of “Whole Lotta Love,” a 1970 track from King Curtis & The Kingpins.

‘The Many-Colored Beast . . .’

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Forty-five years ago this week, as I was entering the home stretch of my senior year of high school, the top three spots in the Billboard Hot 100 were occupied by Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobby McGee”), Tom Jones (“She’s a Lady”) and the Temptations (“Just My Imagination [Running Away With Me]”).

None of those really spoke to me, nor did much else in the Top 40 at the time, but I was still listening late every evening in my room. Early portions of the evenings were taken up at the time by keeping the scorebook at St. Cloud Tech High wrestling matches; by rehearsals and eventually performances of Don’t Drink The Water, the spring play at Tech; and by plenty of table-top hockey.

How much hockey? Rick, Rob and I had decided during the autumn that we would try to play a full 76-game schedule for our twelve-team league (the NHL’s Original Six and its first six expansion teams). That would have come to 456 games. By the time March rolled around, we realized that we weren’t going to finish the task. So we trimmed the schedule to 52 games per team, which still accounted for a pretty impressive total of 312 games (not counting the playoffs, which went around 40 games).

(It’s remarkable what’s stayed in my head over the years. Rob was clearly the best player that season: His St. Louis Blues were 36-8-8, and his New York Rangers were 30-10-12 and won the Stanley Cup.)

And there was music from the stereo as the games went on in the basement rec room. The two brothers would occasionally bring one or two albums with them, but usually, the music came from my slowly growing library: Seven Beatles albums (Beatles ’65, Let It Be, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Hey Jude, Revolver, and the White Album), Chicago’s second album, the 5th Dimension’s Aquarius, The Band’s self-titled second album, Best of Bee Gees, and an album that was becoming a favorite (and remains so to this day although it never seems to make those Top Ten lists I occasionally put together): Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu.

I didn’t quite get everything on the record: It took me years to figure out that David Crosby’s title tune was a reincarnation metaphor. Even so, I liked the track and the rest of the record enough that the process of having the music pretty much embedded in my mind was underway. (It’s still embedded; unless I purposefully divert it, the sounds of Déjà Vu will be running through my head the rest of the day.) And not only was I hearing the album as background for our rather loud hockey evenings; I was also listening to it at other, quieter times, absorbing what that quartet of gifted men were offering as musicians and as songwriters.

As a nascent songwriter myself – I’d bought my first guitar from a friend a few months earlier – I tried figure out how the four performers were putting their songs together. Some of them were far too complex for me to try to replicate (at least until I bought a songbook a few months later that offered the songs on Déjà Vu as well as those from the earlier Crosby, Stills & Nash album). Some of them, I wasn’t particularly interested in playing. But one of them caught my interest and was workable:

Four and twenty years ago, I come into this life,
The son of a woman and a man who lived in strife.
He was tired of being poor, and he wasn’t into selling door to door.
And he worked like the devil to be more.

A different kind of poverty now upsets me so.
Night after sleepless night, I walk the floor and I want to know:
Why am I so alone? Where is my woman? Can I bring her home?
Have I driven her away? Is she gone?

Morning comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed.
I see that it is empty, and there’s devils in my head.
I embrace the many-colored beast.
I grow weary of the torment. Can there be no peace?
And I find myself just wishing that my life would simply cease.

The emotional desolation in the song resonated with me, longing as I was for the company of one particular young lady (though the thoughts in the song were framed in far more adult ideas – the empty bed, for instance – than I could have found at the time). So I painstakingly worked out the chords. And though the emotional anguish that Stills chronicles is long gone from my life (it showed up a few other times along the way), the song “4+20” remains one of my favorites from Déjà Vu.

Saturday Single No. 487

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

I was going to play around this morning with more of the tracks from the various Warner Bros. loss leaders, but the RealPlayer and I did not get along very well. I was trying to reload some albums, and it kept telling me there was something wrong with part of the selection.

In order to find the flaw, I had to reload small batches at once. I never did figure out what the program didn’t like, but after about two hours, I’d worked around the problem. That, however, has left me with little time, as the Texas Gal and I are meeting a friend for brunch in a little more than an hour.

So I decided to pull up all the tracks in the RealPlayer with the word “time” in their titles and see what catches my eye and ear this morning. And that’s how “Seems Like A Long Time” by Brewer & Shipley – from their 1970 album Tarkio – became today’s Saturday Single.

‘But She Could Not Rob . . .’

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Taking up our project of replicating Joe Cocker’s self-titled 1969 album through a series of covers, we come to the fourth track of that fine album, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”

When I heard the album for the time in the spring of 1972, I was a little skeptical. I knew the original version, of course, from the long set of three medleys on Side Two of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album, where it follows “Polythene Pam” and ends the second medley (leaving listeners with a brief moment of silence before Paul McCartney’s piano opens the final medley with “Golden Slumbers”).

But the song itself – credited to the writing partnership of John Lennon and McCartney but written solely by McCartney – was such a brief snippet, running less than two minutes on Abbey Road, that I wondered as Cocker’s album played how it could be stretched to a full track. Well, Cocker didn’t stretch it a lot, but he and producers Denny Cordell and Leon Russell added a guitar solo between the verses and got the track to 2:37. Good enough.

But as we replicate Joe Cocker! with covers, which other version of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” do we use? There are plenty to choose from. Second Hand Songs lists twenty-two covers, and there are more listed at Amazon. No doubt there are others not listed either place.

Booker T & The MG’s included the song in an instrumental medley on McLemore Avenue in 1970. It’s a decent version, but it isn’t as good as some of the other covers on the Abbey Road tribute. Ray Stevens covered the song on Everything Is Beautiful in 1970, adding a funky voodoo rhythm behind his blah vocal.

On 1972’s Feel Good, Ike & Tina Turner offered a herky-jerky, gender-flipped cover of the song laden with some of the most unpleasant shrieks of Tina’s career. The Youngbloods turned the song into a near-country shuffle on their 1972 album, High On A Ridge Top, adding slide guitar and some nice country-folk accents and harmonies.

The Bee Gees took two stabs at “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” The first came for the soundtrack to All This And World War II, which, says Wikipedia, is a 1976 musical documentary that juxtaposes covers of Beatles songs “with World War II newsreel footage and 20th Century Fox films from the 1940s. It lasted two weeks in cinemas and was quickly sent into storage.” As to the Bee Gees’ contribution, the vocals sounded like the Bee Gees and no one else, but the orchestral backing was overly busy. With the addition of Peter Frampton, the Brothers Gibb took another swing at the song for the 1978 movie, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Bracketed by “Polythene Pam” and “Nowhere Man,” the cover is as dull as one can imagine.

I noticed, without listening to them, several other covers of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” Eddie Money and Los Lonely Boys each took on the song in 2009, as did British singer-songwriter Karima Francis. Her version was released on a 2009 tribute celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ album, titled Abbey Road Now! (The CD was included free with MOJO Magazine No. 191, dated October 2009.)

I also noticed that the tune has been covered by several groups naming themselves with ghastly Beatle-related puns, including Yellow Dubmarine and Shabby Road.

So there are lots of choices out there. But I’m going with the first cover of the song that ever came to me, one that I heard across the street at Rick’s. Here, from his 1970 album Fireworks, is José Feliciano’s idiosyncratic cover of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.”

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2016

We celebrated the New Year last night with our customary zeal: We watched television and puttered on Facebook until just near midnight, when we flipped channels until we found a celebration going on in Chicago with the band Chicago playing “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”

Well, the band evidently knew, because they closed the song while the year-end countdown had about five seconds to go. The crowd in Chicago went nuts, and here in St. Cloud, we clinked glasses and toasted the New Year with some sparkling grape juice (the Texas Gal does not like champagne) and just a bit of gelato (mine with sea salt, caramel and peanuts; hers a double chocolate). And then, old folks that we are, we headed to bed.

Our tepid celebration masks the fact that we’re hoping very much that the New Year brings better things with it than did the year just past. I don’t think I’ve indicated it here much, if at all, but 2015 was a difficult year in many ways here under the oaks, and it does seem as we start 2016 that most of the difficulties that made it so have been resolved.

So we are hoping for better days, not only for us but for all our family and friends, and that includes anyone who stops by this little corner of the Interwebs these days.

And we’ll ring in the New Year, of course, with music. In the closing track of his 1970 album Open Road, Donovan said it pretty well with “New Year’s Resolution.”

Do what you’ve never done before
See what you’ve never seen
Feel what you’ve never felt before
Go where you’ve never been

Sing what you’ve never sung before
Say what you’ve never said
Bear what you’ve never borne before
Hear what you’ve never heard

All is not as it would seem
Nothing ever remains the same
Change is life’s characteristic
Bend and flow and play the game
Loose your chain . . .

And do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like
Get on your back and do what you like

So many times
I was the one who stopped myself from doing things
So many times
I was the one who grounded myself and clipped my wings
So I say:

Do what you’ve never done before
For fear of losing face
You’ve got nothing to defend now
In your state of grace

All is not as it would seem
Nothing ever remains the same
Change is life’s characteristic
Bend and flow and play the game
Loose your chain . . .

And do what you like
(What you’ve never done before)
Get on your back and do what you like
(You must see what you have never seen)
Get on your back and do what you like
(Feel what you have never felt before)
Get on your back and do what you like
(You must go where you have never been)

So many times
I was the one who stopped myself from doing things
So many times
I was the one who grounded myself and clipped my wings, clipped my wings,
clipped my wings, clipped my wings

Love is the gift of man which he will not receive
Within is the judge of man yet he cannot perceive
Without is the realm of man he yet cannot perceive
Wealth is the plague of man but he will not believe
There go you go I
There go you go I
There go you go I
There go you go I