Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

‘I Was Alone, I Took A Ride . . .’

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

As I noted last week, some dates resonate and unlock memories. I typed today’s date at the top of this post and was immediately pulled back fifty years to St. Cloud Tech and a day of high school crisis during my senior year.

What was the crisis? I’d spent a portion of the previous evening visiting a young lady – the blonde sophomore girl I’ve mentioned here over the years, calling her Dulcinea in honor of my quixotic pursuit of her affections, a pursuit that lasted the bulk of my senior year of high school.

She had a boyfriend, and he’d made it clear to me and some mutual friends that he was not pleased with me and my goals. What he told her, I’ve never known. And fifty years ago last evening – on December 1, 1970 – I visited the young lady at her home, bringing along the Beatles’ Revolver album to make a point.

We sat at her kitchen table, talking of everything and nothing as the record played. Then came the fourth track on Side Two, “Got To Get You Into My Life.” She nodded and smiled at me as Paul McCartney’s words filled the space between us, words I’d written out and tucked into her locker at school only a few weeks earlier.

I left not long after the album ended. She accompanied me to my car, and we stood talking in the cold for a few moments before I drove off. As I did, I wondered if I should have kissed her.

And the next day, fifty years ago today, whispers and urgent conversations filled my day and those of my friends. In a quiet corner of the band room, I told my Dulcinea how I felt about her and left her to make a choice. It took her some time to do so, but by the end of the school year, she did, and as I graduated and headed off to college, my load of regrets was just a bit heavier.

There are more than 130 covers of “Got To Get You Into My Life” listed at Second Hand Songs, ranging from one by Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers in August 1966, shortly after the Beatles released the song, to a cover by a singer named Fay Classen released last March.

Here’s one from 2009 by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, from the soundtrack to the movie Imagine That.

‘From Nowhere Through A Caravan . . .’

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

I took a glance this morning at what I was likely hearing on the radio fifty years ago, checking out the “6+30” from the Twin Cities’ KDWB from November 23, 1970, and found no real surprises.

The No. 1 record was “I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family, a record I suspected of having bubblegum tendencies at the time but which I now admire as being a great piece of craft (as well as being the trigger for several memories that have become far less bitter and far more sweet with the passage of half a century.)

Sitting at No. 2 was Brian Hyland’s “Gypsy Woman,” a record I remember well without putting any real heft on it, which means that no young lady danced around a campfire for me during that long ago November (or any other time, to be honest). It was an okay record:

Hyland’s record would go no higher at KDWB. In the Billboard Hot 100, it would get to No. 3. What I didn’t know at the time, of course, was that it was a cover of the Impressions’ 1961 original, a record that went to No. 20 on the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the magazine’s R&B chart. It was, also, a better version of the song:

The website Second Hand Songs lists thirty-four other versions of the song, ranging from a cover by Major Lance in 1964 to a 2017 version by the Isley Brothers and Santana on an album titled Power Of Peace. In between came versions by a lot of folks whose names I recognize as well as by folks unknown to me. I checked out versions by Ry Cooder, Bobby Womack, Santana, Bruce Springsteen and more and was unmoved.

The only cover I heard that I really liked was the version by Santana and the Isleys, an atmospheric take on the song:

Saturday Single No. 712

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Trying to keep things picked up around here, about once a week, I head into posts from years past and replace – if I can – videos that have been deleted. Doing so also has the benefit of reminding me of topics I planned to follow up, ideas that have been swept away by my inattention and simple time.

That brought me yesterday to a 2015 post about the song “He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right,” written by Patti Dahlstrom and Al Staehly and recorded by Patti for her 1975 album Your Place Or Mine. In 1978, Bobbie Gentry covered the song as the B-side to a promo release of the Jimmy Hughes song “Steal Away.”

The promo turned out to be, from what I can tell, the last new recording Gentry ever released, which was interesting enough, so in that 2015 post, I offered videos of Gentry’s cover and Patti’s original. (It seems odd to use Bobbie Gentry’s last name and Patti Dahlstrom’s first name, but Patti and I are friends because of this blog and exchange emails occasionally. Gentry, as you might imagine, has never contacted me.) It was the video for Patti’s version of the song I replaced yesterday; the fan-made video I’d originally used was deleted, so I dropped in Patti’s official version.

And I saw that I’d written at the end of that post five years ago that I’d noticed one other cover of the song available on YouTube and promised to share it later that week. Later that week, however, I wrote that the video – by a soul trio called Hodges, James & Smith – had disappeared. And that was that, at least five years ago. But I did a quick search yesterday and found not one, but two other videos of “He Did Me Wrong . . .”

The first was from Evelyn Rubio, a Mexican-born singer and sax player who recorded the song for her album Crossing Borders, released in May 2020. I didn’t care at all for her vocal style, so I left before the sax break I assumed would be there, and moved on to the version from Hodges, James & Smith.

The website Discogs tells me that the trio of Pat Hodges, Denita James and Jessica Smith was the idea of producer William Stevenson. They released four albums, the first two – 1973’s Incredible and 1975’s Power In Your Love – on 20th Century and the others – 1977’s What’s On Your Mind? and 1978’s What Have You Done For Love? – on London. The only chart action I can find for the trio came from a 1977 disco medley of “Since I Fell For You” (a No. 4 hit for Lenny Welch in 1964) and “I’m Falling In Love” (written by Stevenson), which went to No. 96 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 24 on the magazine’s R&B chart. (You can find the medley as both an album track and an extended disco mix at YouTube.)

The trio’s version of “He Did Me Wrong, But He Did It Right” was an album track on Power In Your Love, and it sounds just like 1975, as it should. Is it a great record? Probably not, but it’s a decent take on the song. And, just like I promised five years ago, here it is, as today’s Saturday Single. (Whoever made the video got the title wrong.)

What’s At No. 100? (LPs, October 1971)

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

Not long ago, we bounced around the charts from the autumn of 1970, a neat and clean fifty years ago. We’re going to move up a year to 1971, when the charts should be nearly as interesting but without that nifty round number.

We’ll start today with the Billboard 200, the album chart, and in coming days, we’ll look at the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening chart from the last week of October of 1971.  Here’s the top ten from the album chart from forty-nine years ago this week:

Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart (1991)
Imagine by John Lennon (1972)
Shaft by Isaac Hayes (1989)
Santana III
Tapestry by Carole King (1983)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues (1977)
Carpenters (1980)
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens (1995)
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)
Who’s Next (1988)

As you can see by the years listed in parentheses, nine of those ten albums eventually found places on my shelves, some early, some late. I don’t know why the Santana album never did.

And even though I only owned one of those albums at the time the chart was released – I’d gotten Ram for a high school graduation present in June 1971 – I think I’d heard portions of all of those by the end of the academic year in the spring of 1972. New music was all around me, on my radios, across the street at Rick’s, in the dorms where I hung out with my friends, and at the St. Cloud State radio station.

And at that time, I likely would have rated Ram, the Moody Blues album, and maybe Imagine as the best albums in that chart. Now? I’d likely put Tapestry at the top of the list by a good margin, then Who’s Next and the Rod Stewart album. At the bottom of that very good list would likely be the album by the Carpenters along with Imagine and Ram.

Well, let’s check out the iPod, which as much as anything reflects my current listening. Eight tracks from Tapestry are among the 2,700-some in the iPod, and so are five tracks from Ram, four from the Cat Stevens album, three each from Every Picture . . . and Every Good Boy . . ., two from the Carpenters’ album, and one from Who’s Next. John Lennon, Isaac Hayes and Santana are shut out. (And “Shaft” will be added to the device by the end of the day.)

So are there any lessons or conclusions to be drawn there? Probably not, except to acknowledge that all those college women whose copies of Tapestry I heard as I walked along dormitory hallways during my freshman year at St. Cloud State knew their stuff. (And to note that despite the glory of its title track and the decent quality of one or two other tracks, Imagine wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of folks – including me – wanted it to be.)

Having checked out the iPod, let’s go to the mid-point of the Billboard 200 from forty-nine years ago this week, and see what album sat at No. 100 during the last week of October 1971. And we find a serving of R&B courtesy of the Isley Brothers: Givin’ It Back.

The album leads off with a nine-minute medley of Neil Young’s “Ohio” and Jimi Hendrix’ “Machine Gun.” That’s followed by covers of James Taylor (“Fire & Rain”), Bob Dylan (“Lay, Lady, Lay”), War (“Spill The Wine”), Stephen Stills (“Love The One You’re With” and “Nothing To Do But Today”), and Bill Withers (“Cold Bologna”).

Givin’ It Back peaked at No. 71. Here’s “Love The One You’re With.”

‘If You Believe In Forever . . .’

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Here’s a single that I’m not sure I’ve ever posted here before, the Righteous Brothers’ 1974 hit “Rock and Roll Heaven.” Years ago, I had an email conversation with one of the song’s co-writers, the late Alan O’Day, and the record and the conversation popped back into my head this week because of a couple of posts on Facebook.

I’m out of time and energy this morning, but I hope to get into all of that tomorrow. For now, here’s “Rock and Roll Heaven,” which went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 38 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 708

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

As long as we’ve been messing around in the Billboard charts published this week in 1970, let’s look at the Top Ten in the Easy Listening chart from the edition that came out fifty years ago today:

“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“It’s Only Make Believe” by Glen Campbell
“Snowbird” by Anne Murray
“Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” by the New Seekers
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman
“El Condor Pasa” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Candida” by Dawn
“Pieces Of Dreams” by Johnny Mathis
“Joanne” by Mike Nesmith & The First National Band

Most of those are familiar and were so fifty years ago. I’d forgotten about the Glen Campbell and New Seekers records, and despite a stop at YouTube this morning, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the Johnny Mathis single before. It turns out to be the title theme from a movie starring Lauren Hutton that I don’t recall either. I don’t really care for the record, which went no higher on the Easy Listening chart and didn’t come near the Hot 100.

I remember finding Mike Nesmith’s “Joanne” on a collection sometime during the late 1980s and remembering how much I’d liked it in 1970. It went to No. 21 on the Hot 100, and I must have heard it on KDWB from the Twin Cities or maybe WJON down the around the corner.

The more interesting of the two records I’d forgotten about – “It’s Only Make Believe” and “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” – is the latter. It would peak at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart and get to No. 14 on the Hot 100. It was a cover of a tune by folkie Melanie, slightly retitled. (Melanie’s original version was titled “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It was originally on her 1970 album Candles In The Rain and was also released as the B-side to “The Nickel Song” in early 1972.)

Several strands are coming together in a loose pattern here. I was weeding out some unwanted tracks in iTunes the other day and spent some time thinking about the New Seekers’ medley of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me.” (It stayed.) I also spent some time the other evening sorting through videos at YouTube, looking for the long version of Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” and watching several of her performances on long-ago talk shows.

And the other day I got from our local library a CD anthology of Melanie’s hits as I pondered investing my own cash in a copy. She’s long fascinated me: I used to have seven of her LPs on the shelves – only Candles In The Rain survived the Great Sell-Off – and I wrote a lengthy post about her and Candles In The Rain during the first year of this blog’s existence.

So with all that going on, it seems as if the universe gives me no choice. Here’s the British/Australian group the New Seekers with “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma,” their cover of Melanie’s “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘This Is What I Give . . .’

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

The atmospheric “Since You Asked” is the second track on Judy Collins’ hushed 1967 album Wildflowers. The album itself was part of the soundtrack of my mid- to late teen years, from the time my sister bought the album – probably in 1968, after Dad finished work on the basement rec room – to the time she took it with her on her newlywed way to a career in education in the summer of 1972.

I couldn’t have told you the title of the track until it came to mind the other day, but as soon as I called it up on the RealPlayer, it was instantly familiar, pulling me back to adolescent reveries on the green couch:

What I’ll give you since you’ve asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stones lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more.

After my sister headed out to adult life, I went about sixteen years without hearing the song except by accident. I found it in 1988 on Collins’ anthology, Colors Of The Day, and then found Wildflowers five years later. Even during a time of increased record-buying, the two Collins albums got fairly regular play as I drifted between North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Missouri and back to Minnesota

In a seemingly unrelated event, I also picked up in 1988 an album by Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg titled Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a 1978 piece of work that I’ve listened to occasionally but not with any great attention.

So, until it was mentioned in a Facebook music group the other day, I’d not realized that the track on the latter album titled “Since You’ve Asked” was actually Collins’ song. After reading the note at Facebook, I wandered off and found the Fogelberg/Weisberg track in the digital stacks and of course knew it immediately. The production – framed by piano, with some slight alterations in the lyrics – makes the tune fit nicely into Fogelberg’s catalog of sometimes spare and haunting songs:

There are a few other covers of the song out there, some instrumental (and most using the title “Since You’ve Asked” instead of Collins’ original “Since You Asked”). If we dabble with those at all, we’ll do so on another day.

September Songs 2

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

We’re going to pick up where we left off earlier this month, exploring songs on the digital stacks with “September” in their titles. We got not quite halfway through the alphabet last time, ending with a tune titled “Lucy September” by the Dream Academy. On to the letter M and beyond!

Quite a ways beyond, in fact. We have to head into the letter S before we find the next tune, a 1965 single titled “Sad September” by Grady & Brady. “It’s gonna be a sad September” because the guy’s girl – who promised last spring to come back when school started – met someone else and has possibly left town. (The latter is not clear.) The sweet but unimaginative record, which showed clearly that the two had listened to a lot of Everly Brothers tunes, was the third for the duo, the first coming on the Dolton label credited to Grady & Brady Sneed and the other two on Planetary credited to just Grady & Brady. As far as I can see, they got no chart action at all.

Then we come onto two versions of “See You In September.” We have the Tempos’ original from 1959 (No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100), and the Happenings’ cover from 1966 (No. 3). The Tempos were from Pittsburgh, and their version is passable but a little stiff, and it has what a music professor colleague of mine from long ago called “an MGM ending,” which doesn’t seem to work. But maybe it doesn’t work because I remember the Happenings’ version from 1966, which at points could easily be mistaken for the work of the Four Seasons. Closer listening shows that’s not so, but still, there’s more excitement in the Happenings’ version of the tune. And the background chants of “Bye-bye! So long! Farewell!” rule.

There are twenty-one tracks on the digital shelves whose titles essentially start with the word “September.” I count six versions of “September Song,” five of “September In The Rain,” two of “The September Of My Years” (both of those – one live and one in the studio – by Frank Sinatra), and several single versions of tracks that name the month in their titles.

We’ll consider the five versions of “September In The Rain.” The earliest is a 1937 take on the tune by Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians, with vocals by Carmen Lombardo. As one might expect, it’s pretty and competent big band music. Twenty-four years later, Dinah Washington made the song the title track of a 1961 album. Her version is more rhythmic but still pretty standard pop jazz, except for the idiosyncratic quality of her voice. It went to No. 23 on the Hot 100 and to No. 5 on both the magazine’s R&B and Easy Listening charts, but it leaves me wanting something more.

In 1963, easy listening maestro Ray Charles took hold of the song, slowing it down a little too much and sanding the rough spots off entirely. The version by his Ray Charles Singers on the album Autumn Moods is a bit smooth and slick for even my easy listening-tolerant tastes. A year later, Chad & Jeremy did a tasteful version of the tune for their album Yesterday’s Gone, a take on the tune that I kind of like, maybe because of the harmonica solo.

And in 1971, a group called Aeroplane released a version of “September In The Rain” on singles in both France and West Germany, according to the website 45cat. Their take on the tune came my way in the Lost Jukebox project that showed up online some years ago (as did the single by Grady & Brady at the top of this piece), and the on-line discography for that venture indicates that the version I have is one of the two French releases on the Pink Elephant label. Aeroplane gives the tune a folk-rock setting that seems to work pretty well.

We’ll leave the rest of the September songs for another day in the next week and take a listen today to the only charting version of “September In The Rain,” Dinah Washington’s 1961 take on the tune:

Saturday Single No. 705

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

We had a busy day yesterday, the Texas Gal and I: We did a grocery run in the morning, then spent the afternoon preparing the house for company for the first time since March. Tom, a friend from our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, had offered to come over and help us with a household problem, and we in turn had offered him dinner.

The problem was basically pretty simple. The light bulbs in the ceiling fixture over the landing had finally died. The fixture hangs from the main floor ceiling and can only be reached from the landing a story-and-a-half below. Not long after we moved here, we bought a twelve-foot step ladder, but we soon learned we were uncomfortable – both of us being a bit wobbly – near the top of the ladder.

Tom isn’t. Soon after he arrived, he was checking out the light fixture, tightening screws on the fan blades and installing light bulbs. Not long after that, he and I were quaffing Oktoberfest brews while the Texas Gal put finishing touches on dinner, and then all three of us were dining on chicken breasts with an apple-onion-raisin curry sauce and roasted sweet potatoes.

It was good to have company again. And yes, it’s good to have lights over the landing again, but we would have been pleased with the company even without the household assistance. As I’m sure many folks out there agree, the last six months have been fairly isolating, and a taste of safe normality – we’ve known Tom long enough that we trust him and he trusts us in all matters, not just those related to the corona virus – was good for all three of us.

But I’m tired today. So I’m not doing a whole lot here this morning. I just dipped back into the Billboard Hot 100 we looked at yesterday – released on September 19, 1970, fifty years ago today – and looked for something interesting in its lower reaches.

And I found a cover I’d never heard before, a take on Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” by Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Fifty years ago today, it was bubbling under at No. 101, and that’s as high as it ever went, although it went to No. 10 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. I do wonder why Mendes thought 1970 was a good time to cover the tune, which the Buffalo Springfield originally released in 1967. Whatever the reason. it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Keeping Odd & Pop Happy

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020

It’s been a couple of years since we checked in with my imaginary alter egos, tuneheads Odd and Pop. I think they’re happy here in the condo. There are fewer records, of course, about 1,000 LPs instead of the 3,000 or so that were crammed into the EITW studios on the East Side, but there are more CDs and reference books these days, as the passing pandemic seasons here resulted in – as I’m certain is true elsewhere – fairly frequent online shopping sprees.

Anyway, they’re here, Odd and Pop, with their internal radios tuned to different stations.

Pop likes the familiar, the pleasant, the unchallenging. He loves records he’s heard a thousand times, and if he wants variety, he’ll gladly listen to a thousand different records he’s heard a thousand times before. He’s the reason why the digital shelves once held eighty-four different versions of “The Girl From Ipanema.” (The external hard drive crash three years ago eliminated many of them, and he’s been scheming to get them back ever since.)

Odd, however, likes different things. Very different. He’s the one whose eyes widened with joy the other day when the mail carrier dropped off, with its accompanying CD, the book Stomp and Swerve, subtitled “American Music Gets Hot, 1843-1924.” He laughed loudly when he learned that the tune “The Smiler,” written by Percy Wenrich and recorded sometime around 1908 by the Zon-O-Phone Concert Band, was craftily subtitled “A Joplin Rag” not because of any connection with ragtime giant Scott Joplin but because Percy Wenrich was born in Joplin, Missouri.

And . . . well, here it is. The date of 1907 on the video may well be correct.

And, of course, Pop says it’s not fair that Odd gets a treat and he does not. So, okay, we’ll check the list of covers of “The Girl From Ipanema” at Second Hand Songs and choose something he’s not heard before. A foreign language, maybe. And that’s fine with him, as long as the melody is familiar.

And here’s Finnish singer Laila Kinnunen with “Ipaneman Tyttö,” recorded on November 10, 1964, and released later that year on the Scandia label. (Odd likes it, too.)