Archive for the ‘1970’ Category

‘Raise The Candles High . . .’

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Glancing at the Billboard Hot 100 from May 16, 1970 – an astounding forty-eight years ago today – I played a quick Games With Numbers and converted today’s date – 5/16/18 – to thirty-nine. And sitting at No. 39 forty-eight years ago today was Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain),” the anthem she composed after the experience of performing at Woodstock the previous August.

Recorded with the Edwin Hawkins Singers, the single had jumped twenty-three spots in the previous week and was on its way to a peak position of No. 6. It got there during the second week of July, about the time that the state trapshoot took place at a gun club just outside the St. Cloud city limits. I heard the record often as I sat in a trap for four long days, loading clay targets on a scary humming machine and trying not to get my fingers broken.

And since I’ve never featured the single here (and because long ago I characterized Melanie Safka in this space as the quintessential hippie chick), here’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain).”

(I think this is the single version, but there are so many versions offered at YouTube that I’m really not sure.)

‘How’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

So, today we finish our project titled Journalism 101, combing the digital stacks for tunes that have in their titles the various one-word questions that make up the foundation of reporting: Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

It’s finally time to look at ‘how,” and when we sort the 72,000 or so tracks currently in the RealPlayer for that word, we have 1,164 of those tracks remaining. Many, of course, must be discarded.

That includes more than 160 tracks by Howlin’ Wolf, more than 100 tracks from the Old Crow Medicine Show, the soundtracks by Howard Shore from all three films in The Lord of the Rings series, two full albums – Howlin’ and Howlin’ at the Southern Moon – by a group called Delta Moon, the 2005 album titled How To Save A Life by the Fray (except for the title track), full albums by Howdy Moon, Jan Howard, Howie Day, Catherine Howe and Steve Howe, and the wonderful album Showdown! by bluesmen Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland.

And that’s maybe half of the chaff we have to discard. Still, there’s plenty of grain, and we’re going to let the RealPlayer decide, ordering the tracks by time, setting the cursor in the middle and going random four times.

We start with a track from one of the two acclaimed country rock albums Gram Parson recorded in the early 1970s. (He called his stuff “Cosmic American Music”). “How Much I’ve Lied” come from the 1973 release GP, and it’s a weeper, with Parsons telling the object of his affections that he’s an unworthy and dishonest rascal:

A thief can only steal from you, he cannot break your heart
He’ll never touch the precious things inside
So one like you should surely be miles and miles away from me
Then you’d never care how much I’ve lied

I’ve never liked a lot of Parsons’ stuff. With the Byrds, with the Flying Burrito Brothers and on his own, he got all the notes right, but seemed to miss the feel of the music more often than not. Maybe if I’d heard his work back when it came out, if the music Parsons made with those two groups and on his own had been my introduction to the genre, I’d feel differently. But from where I listen, the music of the short-lived and admittedly tragic Parsons falls short of country glory.

We leap ahead to the 1990s and a far different aesthetic: “How Will You Go” by Crowded House, with the close harmonies and musical production values that meant that nearly every review of the group’s work during the late 1980s and early 1990s included the word “Beatlesque.” The track comes from the group’s 1991 album Woodface, one that I had on cassette about the time it came out. I don’t know it as well as the group’s self-titled 1986 debut album, but I recall liking Woodface on those 1990s evenings on Pleasant Avenue when I turned to the stack of cassettes on my bookshelf instead of the bins of LPs on the floor. I can’t say I noticed “How Will You Go” back then, but it’s pleasant enough listening, though the lyrics seem a bit uncertain in direction. The track includes a surprise tack-on of about a minute of “I’m Still Here,” not noted on early track listings.

And courtesy of the massive Lost Jukebox project we get a nifty, poppy 1970 tune called “Teach Me How” by the Harmony Grass. The record, according to the notes at a site that catalogs all 170 volumes of the LJ (each with, I would guess, more than twenty-five tracks), was a United Kingdom release on RCA Victor. It’s got a nice backing track, it’s got tastefully stacked vocals with some Four Seasons flourishes, and its tale is one of a young man imploring his loved one to teach him how to survive when she leaves him: “You are my shoulder to lean on. What will I do when you’re gone?” Written by Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer (before she appended the Sager), the record is a gender-flipped cover of a Chiffons B-side from 1968. Today, we’d call the tale one of dysfunction and co-dependence, I suppose, but I would have liked it if I’d heard it come from the speakers of my old RCA radio in 1970.

Our last stop is a familiar one: “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. Pulled from the 1994 album Wildflowers, a single release went to No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Rock Male Vocal. I’ve never written much about the late Mr. Petty, though I like a lot of his work, including this one. So let’s just listen:

Saturday Single No. 589

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

A search through the RealPlayer for tracks with the word “down” in their titles yields a result of 1,827 titles. That’s a lot of “down,” and that’s fitting, as a cold has settled in my head overnight and I’m going to be settling down for a good portion of the day.

I’ll be saving my energy, as we have a dinner with a friend this evening and then will attend a dance performance at the College of St. Benedict in the nearby burg of St. Joseph. So I’m going to sift through the “down” tracks and offer one of them for a tune this morning.

And I find one of my favorite tracks from Stephen Stills’ 1970 self-titled solo album, and a search tells me that somehow in more than eleven years of writing about the music I love, I’ve never once mentioned the track. I find that astounding, especially since I have at times written about the album, long one of my favorites.

So here is Stephen Stills’ “Sit Yourself Down,” today’s Saturday Single:

Forty-Eight Years

Friday, May 4th, 2018

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Here’s the original Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young single of “Ohio” from 1970, written by Neil Young.

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.”