Archive for the ‘1984’ Category

Legs & Needles

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

I learned about something called “dry needle therapy” yesterday, a process that closely resembles acupuncture.

Since about mid-June, I’ve been having problems with my legs: tightness in my hamstrings and my calf muscles, accompanied by painful occasional cramps. The two physical therapists I’ve been seeing have tried deep massages and have prescribed some simple exercises, which I’ve done on a generally regular basis. The tightness hasn’t gone away, and as of this week, the cramping is stronger and more frequent (although I take a few meds that usually help me get up and down the stairs or out to the mailbox without screaming).

So let’s cue up ZZ Top with “Legs” from 1984:

Neither of the physical therapists nor I expected Billy Gibbons and his pals to show up and solve my problems, so yesterday, one of them brought out the needles. The form I signed to consent to the treatment said that the technique wasn’t acupuncture, but it sure sounded like it, and once the treatment started, it felt like it. (I had one round of acupuncture back in 1999 after the on-set of my chemical sensitivity, when I was looking anywhere for answers.) I found a clarification this morning through Google:

Dry needling, according to one website, “involves needling of a muscle’s trigger points without injecting any substance. . . . The approach is based on Western anatomical and neurophysiological principles. It should not . . . be confused with the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique of acupuncture. However, since the same filament needles are used in both dry needling and acupuncture, the confusion is understandable.”

Did it hurt? Well, most of the twenty or so needles she placed in my hamstrings and my calves gave me a light poke that I could easily ignore, but two of three of them had me gritting my teeth. Did it help? I think it’s too soon to tell. The therapist said the muscles she treated would likely be a little weaker today, and I think that’s true. I’ve got three more sessions scheduled, with an appointment with my regular doctor nestled in between to talk about my legs and a few other concerns I have.

All I can do is keep on with the program, which means do my exercises, drink more water and take the needles. And in the meantime, lend an ear to Jackie DeShannon. Here’s “Needles & Pins” from 1963.

The Peddler Of Dreams

Friday, March 17th, 2017

Something reminded me the other day of this bit of fiction. I’m not entirely sure when I wrote it, but it was sometime during the mid-1980s, probably in 1984 in Columbia, Missouri.

In the dim light of early morning, he came down the cobblestoned street, half shuffling, half dancing. His hair, like silver feathers, peeked out from under a hat that had been new many towns ago. He rubbed the knuckles of his right hand on the right breast of his tan jacket, where the nap of the fabric was only a memory, then breathed on the hand as if for warmth and stuck it into his trouser pocket. His left hand swayed in the air, holding tight against the breeze to the eight balloons tethered on strings.

As he came down the empty street, the balloons danced with him, bouncing in the air. They were as blue as a kitten’s eyes.

He made little noise as he passed. Only the slight whisper of his soft shoes on the cobbles and a faint melody hummed under his breath gave note of his passing in the small alley where working folk lived. Their daily labors were some hours ahead, and few had started to prepare. Of those, only one saw the man with the balloons.

She was Ritva, and she had lived alone for years, less by choice than by circumstance. Her morning tea was ready, and she sipped it standing by the single window in her second-floor rooms, watching the shadows retreat before the day in the little canyon of the alley. She sipped, then grimaced. Her tea was unsweetened; sugar was a luxury although she would have denied herself sweetness even if she could have afforded it. There was something noble for Ritva in the bitterness of the tea.

She sipped again. Her tongue curled, seeking refuge from the tartness, as always. Then she saw the balloons. They jumped and twisted on their strings as they capered past her window. She leaned closer to the glass and peered downward to see whose fist held the strings. A simpleton, no doubt, for who but a fool would prance through the alley with balloons?

She savored the bite of the last swallow of tea, found her cloak and walked carefully down the narrow stairs to the street. The fool with the balloons was heading out of sight around the small curve to her left. She turned right, toward the counting house and work, but then turned in pursuit of the fool; someone had to tell him not to bother hard-working folk who needed their rest.

She rounded the slight curve in the alley and came nearly face-to-face with him. He smiled as if he’d been waiting for her. “Hoy, Ritva! You must have stern business this morning to be off so fast with so grim a look. Who draws your wrath today?”

“It is you,” she said, then paused, less certain. “How is it you know my name, as I do not know yours?” She dismissed the question with a sharp wave of her hand. “What business have you in the alley, bothering sleeping folk? Are you foolish or simply idle?”

He laughed, his head thrown back, the sounds of his amusement coming from deep within his chest. The sun, peering through a gap between buildings, caught his upturned face under the brim of his squashed hat and made it glow like embers not quite gone. He shook his head when his laughter was done. “So many questions and so little time for answers,” he said. “I bother no folk in their beds, nor am I foolish. I sell my wares and bring what all folk need.”

“Balloons? We all need balloons?” Ritva’s scorn was as bitter as her tea.

“Nay, not just balloons, but dreams. I am a peddler of dreams, and all folk here and in all the other cities and villages in this world need dreams. We all need a moment in the day to wonder, to hope, to pretend. We need to counter the fear, the anger, and the sorrow that wait at work, at home, and in between. We need to hear the sun sing its golden aria, to know that the mountains we climb in our minds are real and that our failures are not so important.”

He paused and looked directly into her eyes, his own eyes as blue as the balloons that swayed in the slight morning breeze.

“We need our dreams,” he said. “They chase the nightmares from our sleep and hold us steadfast in our waking hours. Gloom falls in the face of their gentle advance. Come, Ritva, choose a dream!”

“I need no dreams,” she said. “And I need no balloons. I have work.” She moved to go back down the alley. He bowed and waved her on with his right arm. The balloons bobbed on their strings as he bowed.

“I charge no coin,” he said. “If the balloons be only balloons, you lose naught. Come, the figures at the counting house can wait. Buy from me a dream!”

Ritva hesitated. “You must leave the alley,” she said. “I shall have a balloon, but you must go elsewhere.”

“You would deny your neighbors the dreams they need, just as you deny your own need for dreams?” He waited for no answer but reached to his left hand and selected a balloon. He brought it down to her, held it near her chin and popped it with the thrust of a fingernail.

“Hai! You did that intentional!” Ritva glared at him for an instant, then gasped. She looked at the peddler of dreams, but he was already fading from sight.

She stood atop a tall hill, taller than any near the village, and the grass under her feet was greener than springtime and softer than the velvet worn by kings. The air was sweet like ripe fruit and just a bit cold. She was waiting for someone.

How did she know that? Ritva shivered, made anxious by this place where she had found herself. Where was the idle fool with his balloons? She brought her hand to her mouth in fear and stopped in wonder. The skin of her face was smooth, the wrinkles she’d long ago accepted with little grace now gone. She looked at her hand and saw the hand of a young woman. And she was waiting for someone.

She turned into the wind. The wind was real. It blew her hair back, flattened the fabric of her dress against her body, shaping the cloth to a figure that was never Ritva’s, even when she was young. It was like a dream. No, she thought and closed her eyes, and the young hand went again to the smooth face in astonishment. It was not like a dream. It truly was a dream. She’d bought it from the peddler of dreams.

She opened her eyes and looked down the hill. A young man with brown hair and a thick beard, strong and ruddy, was rushing up the hillside toward her. Still a little fearful, she waited for him, and he took her into his arms as he reached the summit. “I’m home,” he said, his hazel eyes looking at her as if to compare reality with memory. “We can be married now.” Then he leaned over and kissed her. Ritva, who had never been embraced, kissed back. It tasted like cinnamon, she thought, though she’d never tasted the spice. Somehow, she knew.

The kiss ended and Ritva opened her eyes. She was in the alley again, and the peddler of dreams stood beside her, watching her closely. “That was the dream of a young woman from Hardin Province,” he said. “Her young man went away to war and never returned, and she dreams of what would have been.”

Ritva gathered her thoughts, like weapons, to deal with the intrusion of fancy. She was no young girl in need of kisses from a lost lover. She was a woman, an old woman, and she had work at hand. Still, she delayed. The dream had been pleasant, maybe something more than pleasant, even if it was not real.

“If I can pay you” she said slowly, her eyes on his, “may I have another?” She frowned, for that was not what she had intended to say.

He smiled and then shook his head. “No, Ritva. One is all you may have. More than that, well . . .” He paused, evidently thinking, and then nodded. “Have you ever had airwine?” She shook her head. “No? You must someday, and you will learn that the first sip of airwine is the best ever, that moment when the racing bubbles fly out of the glass as you sip, when some of them streak into your nose to tickle it with tiny feathers as the sweetness of the nectar slides across your tongue.”

He sighed and shook his head again. “After that, as fine as airwine is, it’s never quite so fine. And so it is with the dreams I sell. The first time is all there can be, for it can never be so fine again.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue balloon. “Now you may pay me,” he said. “I will take your dream in return for the dream of the girl in Hardin. Here,” he said, placing the balloon in her hand, “give me your dream.”

“I have none,” Ritva said. “Even so, I am an old woman. Who would want my dream?”

“You have dreams, Ritva, even if you do not care to remember them. Like any young woman, you once sat in the moonlight on Midsummer, wearing a crown of silverflowers, and thought about the man you hoped to meet. Your sleep brings you dreams.”

She shook her head quickly, sharply. He chuckled.

“Yes, your sleep brings you dreams although you, like many, refuse to receive them. There are dreams hidden inside you, Ritva. You might dream of the first taste of an apple in the autumn or the laughter of young children. We all have dreams, but it sometimes takes the dream of another to bring forth our own.” He looked at her with a soft smile. “I know these things. I am a peddler of dreams.”

Wordlessly, she brought the balloon to her mouth and filled it with her breath until it shone from the light of the day reaching through its thin blue shell. He tied it on a string, and it rose into the air, lifted by Ritva’s dream. He turned away as if to leave. She stood silently, and he looked back at her.

“Come, Ritva,” he said, “go to your work. You have had another’s dream, but your life is still your own to lead, and your duties are your own to fulfill.” He stepped closer and placed his hand gently on her cheek. “Go. Live your life and remember the dream.”

He began to hum a strange tune and then his shuffling dance took him away down the alley. It was full morning. The alley’s dark corners were gone, and windows were opening. She turned toward the counting house.

Horses ran free in her sleep that night. She awoke from the dream, her own dream, and in her mind, she could see him: On the road between Ritva’s village and the next, blue balloons glimmering in the moonlight, the peddler of dreams danced a little faster.

On Stage

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Well, I was correct last week when I guessed that the butterflies in my stomach would settle down Saturday evening as soon as my friends Lucille and Heather and I began our show Cabaret De Lune. As soon as I walked up the aisle toward the piano for the first of our three performances, I was no longer nervous; I was, however, energized in a way that I haven’t been for years, since I left Jake’s band about fifteen years ago.

But the weekend’s feeling – we did two shows Saturday evening and one Sunday afternoon – was even more potent than I remembered the band’s house parties to be. While many folks paid close attention to our music at those parties, a lot of other people didn’t. This past weekend, though, the audiences’ attention was on the three of us alone. It’s heady stuff.

StudioJeff (located above a bagel shop downtown) has room for about forty spectators, and that space was filled for two of the three performances. And when I spoke, read and sang, the sight and the sense of audience members reacting to (and, as it turned out, generally approving of) words and music I’d crafted thrilled me and amped me up a fair amount. I had a hard time unwinding both days, and Saturday evening I had a hard time getting to sleep.

A few posts back, I hinted vaguely that I’d be talking during our show about the contrast between the autumns of 1971 and 1972. That contrast provided me a focal point for my opening monologue, during which I outlined the main themes of the show: how do we find our identity and our place and how do we sometimes lose our ways?

We’d played some music as the as the audience settled in, and one of the tracks we played and then included in an edited montage as the show began was “Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins & Messina. It followed excerpts from tunes like Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen,” Frank Sinatra’s “None But The Lonely Heart,” Graham Nash’s “Be Yourself,” and Cat Stevens’ “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out.”

And the audiences nodded in agreement when I noted that the Loggins & Messina tune was out of place in a mix of tracks focused on self-doubt and self-realization. And then I explained why it belonged:

As freshman year began at St. Cloud State in September of 1971, I began hanging out with a bunch of guys I’d met during an overnight orientation. I’ve detailed some of our adventures here over the years; they were familiar ones that included football and basketball games, keggers, and long bull sessions in dorm rooms that covered topics including music, girls and Vietnam. And when the spring of 1972 arrived and my buddies dispersed to their home towns for the summer, I figured that when September rolled around, we’d all get together again and have more great times.

But when the fall quarter of 1972 began, things were different. I didn’t feel as tight with the guys as I had the previous year, and the cast of guys was slightly different. I still spent time with the group on occasion, but I was more and more puzzled as to why it didn’t quite seem right. And then, one Friday evening toward the end of the quarter – mid- to late November, if I recall correctly – I went over to one of the dorms to hang around with a couple of guys named Dave.

The Daves were just hanging around with no specific intent, and the radio was playing Top 40. I sat down and we talked for a while, and after maybe twenty minutes, I suddenly realized I didn’t belong there. So I said my goodbyes and as I left the room and headed down the corridor, the radio was playing “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” And, as I told our audiences over the weekend, for more than forty years that record has reminded me of the moment when I knew I no longer fit in and when I knew as well that I had no idea where I belonged.

And last weekend we took off from there and explored our theme in song, in words, and in dance (because, as I told the audience at the end of my monologue, sometimes your mama does dance). One of the songs that Heather sang (with me on the piano) wasn’t exactly new to me, but I doubt that I’d really listened to it before, and I’m going to go ahead and drop it here (because it would be too easy to share the Loggins & Messina tune). It’s “Sad Old Red” by Simply Red, from the group’s 1985 album Picture Book.

Laying Low

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Well, it’s a third of the way into August, and I have a summer cold. I’ve laid low for a few days, heading out only to take in a St. Cloud Rox baseball game last evening with Rob and his sister Mary Ellen. And I’ll head out in a while to run an errand or two for my mom and to stock up on decongestants.

And tomorrow, I’ll be back with a Saturday Single.

But for now, I’m going to leave you with a catchy tune that I utterly ignored during the summer of 1984 as I wended my way through grad school. Its title expresses how I feel today about this season, and as I listen to it, I find myself wondering once more why so much music from the 1980s now seems so much better than I thought it was at the time. I’ll probably never figure that out.

Anyway, here’s “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama, which went to No. 9 during the late summer of 1984.

Random In The ’80s

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Simply because we don’t visit the decade very often around here, we’re going to make a four-stop trip through the 1980s this morning. When I sort for the decade, the RealPlayer offers us somewhere around 6,200 tracks. (I have to estimate because of things like catalog numbers – Buddy Holly’s “Rave On,” Coral 61985, for example – and releases from box sets and other re-releases that note a date in the 1980s for things recorded earlier.) So here we go:

First up is Wynton Marsalis with “Soon All Will Know” from his 1987 album Marsalis Standard Time, Vol. 1. Modern jazz is not a territory I know well or travel in confidently, but a while back – after Marsalis and Eric Clapton recorded a live blues album – I grabbed some Marsalis CDs from the library and dropped them into our mix here, figuring I might learn something. I’m not sure I have so far, but I keep letting the tracks fall here and there as I roll on random. After seeming to wander around for a while, “Soon All Will Know” grabs a decent groove and offers a nice intro to today’s wanderings.

Steve Forbert’s music has been for years on the margins of my interest. Folks might recall that his 1979 single “Romeo’s Tune” showed up in my Ultimate Jukebox six years ago, but that was more a consequence of its getting radio play at a time when I wasn’t hearing much I liked on the radio. This morning, we land on “Laughter Lou (Who Needs You)” from Forbert’s 1980 album Little Stevie Orbit, a work whose tracks pop up on occasion but on which I’ve not focused much attention. The album went to No. 70 on the Billboard 200, clearly following on the success of 1979’s Jackrabbit Slim, which hit No. 20. But there was no interest in any singles from the album, even though Nemperor released “Song For Katrina” as a promo. As to “Laughter Lou (Who Needs You),” the lyrics have some nice putdowns for poor Lou and the music drives along quite nicely. I probably wouldn’t have changed the station if it had come on the radio back in 1980, but I don’t know that I would have anxiously waited to hear it again.

We move on to “Crazy Feeling” a track from The “West Side” Sound Rolls Again, a 1983 album by Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, the guys who years earlier were the heart of the Sir Douglas Quintet and its hit, “She’s About A Mover.” Sahm has shown up in this space a number of times over the years (as has Meyers, though almost always unmentioned while Sahm’s music played), and “Crazy Feeling” is a remake of a 1961 Sahm single that hews very, very close to the original; the major difference seems to be that the 1961 version doubled up on the crazy and was titled “Crazy, Crazy Feeling.” As to the album, there’s not a lot out on the Interwebs about it (and I’m not at all sure how it came to be in the digital stacks), but I do note this morning that a copy of the LP is going for $219 at Amazon. (That’s the asking price, of course; how much it actually sells for could be an entirely different matter.)

Anyone trying to keep track of the various unreleased works by Bruce Springsteen that end up bootlegged in the corners of the ’Net would have an impossible task. I don’t try to keep track; I just listen to the boots when they show up and keep some of them (well, most of them). One of the tracks that I’ve come across that way is “Sugarland,” which showed up on a board somewhere as part of a collection called Unsatisfied Heart, a group of outakes from the Born In The U.S.A. sessions in 1983 and 1984. According to Setlist.fm, Springsteen has performed the song live twice, two days apart in Ames, Iowa, and Lincoln, Nebraska in November 1984. It’s a plaint about the prospects of a farmer (and that makes sense of the locales of its performances):

Grain’s in the field covered with tarp
Can’t get a price to see my way clear
I’m sitting down at the Sugarland bar
Might as well bury my body right here

Tractors and combines out in the cold
Sheds piled high with the wheat we ain’t sold
Silos filled with last year’s crop
If something don’t break, hey, we’re all gonna drop

All In Texas

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

As we drove down the Interstate Saturday en route to meet friend and regular commenter Yah Shure for lunch, the radio offered us ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” I wondered out loud whether I should have included the record or the group’s “Legs” in this blog’s long-completed Ultimate Juke Box or the following series of posts called Juke Box Regrets.

Having decided that including ZZ Top’s “La Grange” in the long project was likely enough Texas boogie, I told the Texas Gal that one of my goals in life is still to drive through the streets of La Grange, Texas, with my car audio blaring out “China Grove.”

“Or the other way around?” she asked with a chuckle. That would do, too, I told her. And then she asked “But what about Luckenbach?” I said I wasn’t sure what to do about any visit to that city, and we began listing song titles that include the names of cities in Texas. It didn’t take us long to come up with a good list, and I’ve continued the work this week. So here’s a six-stop musical tour of the Lone Star State.

We’ll cross into the state from the Oklahoma panhandle, probably because someone told us to get of out Dodge City, just a ways north and east in Kansas. So the first major city we come to, smack-dab in the middle of Texas’ own panhandle is Amarillo. And it’s “Amarillo” by Emmylou Harris that starts off our musical tour. She’s lost her fellow, but not to another woman: “Oh I lost him to a jukebox and a pinball machine,” she sings.

The song, written by Harris and Rodney Crowell, was the opening track to Harris’ 1975 album, Elite Hotel. The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard country chart and to No. 25 on the Billboard 200. And we’re on our way south, noting that we could have listened to a couple of other tunes instead: “Midnight In Old Amarillo” by Cindy Cashdollar (2004) or “Amarillo By Morning” by George Strait (1982).

But we head south to Lubbock and then make our way southeast to Abilene, which George Hamilton IV said, in his 1963 cover of Bob Gibson’s 1957 song, was “the prettiest town I’ve ever seen.” Hamilton’s “Abilene” was a pretty major record, sitting on top of the country chart for four weeks and reaching No. 4 on the Adult Contemporary chart and No. 15 on the Hot 100.

The record was one of thirty-one that Hamilton got into the country Top 40 between 1960 and 1973. I have to admit that his work is mostly unfamiliar to me, and I may correct that. While in Abilene, we could also have listened to Bobby Bare’s 1963 cover of the same song, Dave Alvin’s similarly titled but entirely different song from 1998 or Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Way Out In Abilene,” which showed up for me on a 1973 album titled Legacy of the Blues, Vol. 12.

We head east along Interstate 20, now getting into parts of Texas I’ve seen, even if I don’t know them well. Eventually, we make it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and the first tune we come across is the 1984 single “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind” by George Strait. His gal has gone to Dallas, not far away in miles, but far enough in culture. My take on the two cities – and the Texas Gal generally agrees – is that Dallas is a city that mixes Eastern and Southern cultures in a kind of uneasy truce, while Fort Worth, just thirty or so miles away, is a Western city, and the gap between the two is greater than the distance.

Strait’s record went to No. 1 on the country chart, one of an incomprehensible number of country hits in his column. (My copy of the Billboard Book of Top Country Hits goes through 2005, and Strait’s total at the time the book came out was eighty; All Music lists at least twenty country hits for Strait since then.) As we leave Fort Worth, we’ll skip Dallas and head south, but as we do, we can listen to Lee Hazlewood’s ‘Fort Worth” from 1968 and what seems to be an obscure single by Steely Dan from 1972 titled “Dallas.”

About ninety miles out of Fort Worth, we reach Waco and the Brazos River, where Billy Walker’s bandito was urging himself on in 1964’s “Cross The Brazos At Waco.”

The record went to No. 2 on the country chart and bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 128. “Cross The Brazos . . .” was one of thirty-eight records Walker put into the country Top 40 between 1954 and 1976. As we cross the Brazos and prepare to leave Waco, we can listen to Ronnie Dunn’s “How Far To Waco” from his 2011 solo album.

The road bends slightly to the southwest, and 180 miles later, we find ourselves in San Antonio. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys released two versions of one of his most famous songs: “San Antonio Rose” in 1938 had a traditional string band arrangement, while “New San Antonio Rose” in 1940 added horns and some odd vocal embellishments, but the two were essentially the same song.

As we head through San Antonio, we choose the instrumental “San Antonio Rose” by pianist Floyd Cramer. The 1961 single was the most successful of the records we’re listening to today: It went to No. 8 on both the country and pop charts and to No. 3 on the adult contemporary chart. There are no doubt other tunes about San Antonio, but they’re not on the digital shelves here, and as we drive southwest out of town, we listen to versions of Wills’ tune by Patsy Cline and Leon Russell.

Our last stop today is another 150 or so miles to the south: Laredo, right on the Rio Grande, celebrated in one of the great traditional American songs. The version of “Streets of Laredo” that we hear today is by Willie Nelson, found on his 1968 album Texas In My Soul. Oddly enough, no version of the song has hit the country Top 40, but a version by Johnny Cash bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 124 in 1965. (The tale of “Streets of Laredo,” as gathered at Wikipedia, is quite interesting.)

And if we’re in a mood for some different Laredo music as we reach the Rio Grande, there’s always the “Nuevo Laredo Polka” by Gilberto López, a 1950 track. And casting regretful thoughts toward records about El Paso, Houston, Brownsville, Galveston and more, we come to a stopping place.

‘That Big Eight-Wheeler . . .’

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

So what other covers did I run across this week as I dug into Hank Snow’s 1950 classic song “I’m Movin’ On”? Well, using the list at Second Hand Songs and the list of performers available at BMI, I found a bunch that I thought were interesting and a couple that I really liked.

My favorite? Well, that can wait for a bit, but second place goes to the version that Leon Russell released in 1984 recording as his alter ego, Hank Wilson. Here’s that rollicking cover, from Hank Wilson Vol. II.

As I dug, I was particularly interested in giving a listen to the first cover listed at SHS, a performance by Hoagy Carmichael, but I think that’s an error, maybe a different song with the same (or a similar) title, as Carmichael is not included in the BMI list of performers who’ve recorded the song. Given that, it seems – and I’m not at all certain, as the BMI listings don’t include dates – that the first cover of “I’m Movin’ On” came in 1955 from Les Paul and Mary Ford.

In 1961, a rockabilly musician named Dick Hiorns – whose resume included a couple of daily performances during the early 1950s on WBAY in Green Bay, Wisconsin – recorded a version of Snow’s song for the Cuca Record Company of Sauk City, Wisconsin. A year later, Jerry Reed – at the time a session guitarist in Nashville – teamed up with some background singers who were called the Hully Girlies for a version of Snow’s tune, and a few years after that, in 1965, the Rolling Stones took on the tune and released it on the EP Got Live If You Want It!

Genius organist Jimmy Smith took a whack at the tune in 1967, and two years later, Elvis Presley included it on his From Elvis in Memphis album. In 1978, New Orleans’ Professor Longhair (aka Henry Byrd) took Snow’s song, altered the verses and made it into a Crescent City shuffle. It’s included on Big Chief, a 1993 Rhino album. (And I have no idea if the fourteen tracks on Big Chief were released during the intervening fifteen years).

There were others, of course: Versions that I didn’t track down or that didn’t grab me came from, among other, Del Reeves, Clyde McPhatter, Timi Yuro, Connie Francis, Johnny Nash, Burl Ives, the Box Tops, Sammy Kershaw, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Mickey Gilley, Loggins & Messina and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

But after all of that, I think my favorite cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” that I found this week was actually a rediscovery. Rosanne Cash included the tune on her 2009 CD The List, an album of songs pulled from a list her famous father once gave her of essential American music. I’ve often thought that too many versions of the song – Snow’s included – have sounded almost celebratory. Not Cash’s. She pulls the tempo back, and amid a nest of atmospheric guitars and percussion, she makes the song something closer to a dirge, and that fits.

‘You Done Your Daddy Wrong . . .’

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Back when I was a little horn-playing sprout, listening to my Herb Alpert and Al Hirt records on our RCA stereo, I found myself wanting to dance every time the needle got to the last track on Hirt’s 1963 album, Honey In The Horn. With its rapid tempo, its lip-rippling horn riffs, and its background singers chants of “Go along, go along,” I loved Hirt’s cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On.”

Of course, at the age of twelve or so, I had no idea it was a cover. I had no idea who Hank Snow was. And I had no idea that Snow’s 1950 original had topped the country chart for a record-tying twenty-one weeks, matching the performance of Eddy Arnold’s 1947 release, “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms).” (In 1955, Webb Pierce tied Arnold and Snow when his “In The Jailhouse Now” was No. 1 for twenty-one weeks, and in 2013, notes Wikipedia, the three records were dropped from their record-holding positions when “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line spent twenty-four weeks at No. 1.*)

I’m not sure when I learned about Snow’s original – sometime between 1965 and 2000, I guess – but it’s without a doubt one of the classics of country music:

The record came to mind the other day when I heard a version of “I’m Movin’ On” by Johnny Cash with Waylon Jennings that was recently released on Out Among the Stars, a collection of recently discovered Cash recordings from 1981 and 1984. And I wondered what other covers might be out there, expecting the list to be lengthy.

And I was right: Second Hand Songs lists more than fifty covers of the Snow song, and there are others at Amazon (though many of those listings are the Rascal Flatts song with the same title). And Wikipedia references a few other covers. I don’t entirely trust that list, however, as it cites covers by Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin, and I can find no indication that either Dylan or Zep recorded the song. (Dylan’s official website does note that he performed the song in concert nineteen times between 1989 and 1993.)

Some of the covers have hit the various charts. On the country chart, Don Gibson took the song to No. 14 in 1960, and a live version by Emmylou Harris went to No. 5 in 1983. (The Harris version linked here is from an anthology, and I believe it’s the single version from the live Last Date album, though I imagine the single might have had the introduction trimmed. If it’s the wrong performance, I’d appreciate knowing about it.)

Three versions of the tune have also hit the pop chart: A jaunty cover by Ray Charles went to No. 40 (and to No. 11 on the R&B chart) in 1959, singer Matt Lucas took the song to No. 59 in 1963 in his only appearance on the chart, and John Kay saw his Steppenwolf-ish cover of the tune go to No. 52 in 1972.

And that’s enough for today. We’ll be back later this week with some more.

*Based on what I read at Wikipedia, I have some reservations about “Cruise” holding the record for most weeks at No. 1, as some of those twenty-four weeks belong to the original release and some of them belong to a remix by hip-hop artist Nelly. If there’s a remix, is it the same record?

‘On The Wings . . .’

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

With various winter ailments – inside and outside – still hampering the normal run of things here under the bare oaks, I’ve not had much time or energy to think about the promised look at the Everly Brothers and their place in my musical life in the aftermath of the passing of Phil Everly last week. Still that will come, even if it has to be offered in bits and pieces and shoehorned into the week’s normal duties and the preparations for a group dinner here Friday evening. Here’s a start:

The only Everly Brothers single I knew about during the time it was on the charts was 1984’s “On The Wings Of A Nightingale,” the Paul McCartney-penned track from the album EB ’84 that went to No. 50. I knew, of course, the records that I’d heard on oldies stations over the years, the classic stuff from the late 1950s and early 1960s, the stuff that started with 1957’s “Bye Bye Love” and always seemed to land on 1960’s “Cathy’s Clown.” But I wasn’t all that interested.

As a young radio listener in the years when the 1960s were giving way to the 1970s, the Everly Brothers just sounded old to me. The close harmonies sounded like something from another time and place, a judgment that turned out to be correct although I could not have said what time and place that was. “Wake Up Little Susie” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” – heard as they were wedged in between “Spirit in the Sky” and “Green River” – were out of fashion and out of touch. (The eternal romantic in the teen I was loved “All I Have To Do Is Dream,” but that only served to remind me that I was often out of fashion and out of touch as well.)

It took years for me to understand and then appreciate the heritage that Don and Phil Everly expressed nearly every time they picked up their guitars and approached a microphone. It’s likely true that that the process of appreciating the Everly Brothers began with “On The Wings Of A Nightingale” and EB ’84, but it was in fact a slow process. The history – both theirs and that of the earlier musicians that informed their style – remained murky to me in 1984 when I heard “Nightingale” coming out of my radio speakers and then again, not quite ten years later, when the album came home with me one day. The most I got from the single and the album was a hint.

The McCartney-penned single got most of my interest when I put the album on the turntable, but the other nine tracks – especially a decent cover of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” – gave me for the first time the thought that I needed to go back and really listen to the brothers’ more famous work. The 1984 album was a little busier – as befits that decade – than the classic Everly Brothers’ work, but the close harmonies and those voices were there on center stage. And I finally began to listen.

‘Cast Your Dancing Spell My Way . . .’

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

So how many covers are out there of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”? Who knows?

There are sixty versions – including Dylan’s – listed at Second Hand Songs. There are more than 500 mp3s – with much duplication – offered at Amazon. Beyond that, I’ve found covers at YouTube not listed in either place.

(I checked at both BMI and ASCAP, as I’m not sure which organization administers Dylan’s songs. I found no listings for Dylan at either place, which eithers means I’m doing something wrong while searching or his compositions are administered elsewhere. Either way, it’s no help.)

The listing at Second Hand Songs starts with Dylan’s original and the Byrds’ ground-breaking cover in 1965 and goes on to the 2012 version by Jack’s Mannequin, which was included in the four-CD set Chimes of Freedom – The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. The first cover listed after the Byrds’ cover is a 1965 misspelled offering of “Mr. Tambourin Man” from a group called the Finnish Beatmakers. Except for the Finnish accent – which I kind of like – it’s a copy of the Byrds’ version, starting right from the guitar introduction.

And that’s the case for many of the covers I’ve listened to this week: they’re warmed-over fowl. One of the few with an original sound came, interestingly, from Gene Clark, one of the members of the Byrds when they recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man.” His version of the Dylan tune – with a reimagined (and very nice, to my ears) introduction – was included on his 1984 album, Firebyrd.

The originator of the Byrds’ classic guitar lick, Roger McGuinn, shows up on a 1989 version of the tune recorded live in Los Angeles with Crowded House. As might be expected in that circumstance, it’s pretty much a copy of the Byrds’ version, with the Finn brothers et al. backing McGuinn.

Other early versions of note came from the Brothers Four and Johnny Rivers in 1965, from a young Stevie Wonder (with, one assumes, the Funk Brothers behind him), the Lettermen, the Beau Brummels and Noel Harrison in 1966, and from the Leathercoated Minds and Kenny Rankin in 1967. Versions from 1966 that I’d like to hear came from Billy Lee Riley and Duane Eddy. Odetta, as might be expected, offered an idiosyncratic and austere take on the tune in 1965.

Easy listening folks got hold of the tune, too. Billy Strange is listed at Second Hand Songs as having recorded a cover in 1965; I haven’t found that one (though my digging is not yet done), but I did find an easy listening version – with banjo, no less – recorded in 1965 by the Golden Gate Strings. And Johnny Harris & His Orchestra recorded the tune for the Reader’s Digest’s Up, Up & Away collection, which seems to have been released in 1970.

Speaking of banjo, the bluegrass/country duo of Flatt & Scruggs took on the song for their 1968 album, Changin’ Times. It’s nicely arranged with some nice harmonica in the background, but they’re too, well, square for the song, and that’s true right from the start, when they drop the “ain’t” and sing “there is no place I’m goin’ to.”

We’ll look at a few more versions of the tune – some of them quite nice – next week, but we’ll close today with a foreign language version of the tune. (Did you honestly think I would not drop one of those in?) Titled “Hra tampuurimies,” it’s a 1990 version from the irresistibly named Finnish group Freud, Marx, Engels & Jung.