Archive for the ‘1982’ Category

Into The Second Decade

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

For a few weeks in January 2007, after I’d gone to Blogspot and reserved a space called Echoes In The Wind, I shared rips of some of my more rare albums and singles, stuff by Bobby Whitlock and Levon Helm, singles and B-sides from the Mystics and Dion, and some other stuff that wasn’t quite as hard to find. And I called it a blog.

Somewhere during the last few days of January and the first few of February – ten years ago this week – I figured out what I did best: Write about music and the way it’s intersected my life. The first time I did that was on Saturday, February 3, when I shared my rip of a Danish single and its effect on me:

“For just a few moments, it is the fall of 1973, and I am walking somewhere inside the old portion of the city of Fredericia, maybe heading to have a beer with a buddy, maybe walking with that long-ago girlfriend, or maybe just walking. It’s a golden day in October, and somewhere, not too far away, Lecia & Lucienne are singing ‘Rør ved mig. Så jeg føler at jeg lever . . .’”

That, to me, was when this blog became what I wanted it to be. And in the past ten years, I’ve generally managed to stay true to that idea. I’ve sometimes sputtered along, throwing out some odd ideas and mediocre posts – almost all with some kind of music – hoping to catch the lightning again if I just kept on writing.

But I’ve hung in there. Two hosting sites evicted me following complaints by artists that I was giving away their music, and I found my own space on the ’Net. Over the past eight years, I’ve been reloading the posts from those first two sites at Echoes In The Wind Archives, and I have about 190 posts left to re-up. Taking those into account, and looking at the totals offered by the dashboards here and at the archives site, in the past ten years, I’ve tossed a few more than 2,000 posts at the EITW studio walls, hoping they would stick.

Even though I’m not unbiased about this, some of them have. I think back to the nearly year-long project of the Ultimate Jukebox, winnowing the (then) 40,000 or so mp3s on the digital shelves to the 228 records that made up, as I said, “the jukebox of the mind, the jukebox that I’d have in my living room if my living room were part malt shop, part beer joint, part crash pad and part heaven.” Having inevitably missed some essential records, I later added about a dozen under the label of Jukebox Regrets, and the project of sorting out those 240 or so tracks still pleases me.

I wrote a few concert reviews, detailing evenings spent in the company (sometimes distant, once in the front row) of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Fleetwood Mac, Glen Campbell, Bob Dylan and Peter Yarrow.

My imaginary tunehead buddies Odd and Pop showed up a few times, guiding me through the conflicting desires to offer, say, Bulgarian choral music or records that everyone knows and loves and might be tired of hearing. And I wrote about the small and large bits and pieces of life, from my early days on Kilian Boulevard and the life that followed with the Other Half into the years when I was waiting for my Texas Gal and the sweet days of now.

There were times when I couldn’t find the groove or the heart of the story, and there were times I got it right. I seem to have gotten it right with a pair of consecutive posts in late October 2008 that each generated large numbers of comments, more than almost any other posts here: the first was “An Hour At Tom’s Barbershop” and the second – “A Halloween Tale” – was a tale of young love found and lost.

I’ve made friends here, some of them – Patti Dahlstrom, the late Bobby Jameson (posts here and here) and the late Dave Thomson of Blue Rose – because I shared their music and they got in touch with me. And then there are my fellow bloggers – JB of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, Jeff at AM Then FM, Larry at Funky16Corners, Alex at Clicks and Pops and the Half-Hearted Dude at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart come immediately to mind, and a couple of of those friendships have crossed into the real world with more of that to come, I hope.

I should note as well the friendship of Yah Shure, the occasional contributor, regular reader and frequent commenter who really should have a blog of his own. And in a special place on the list of friends is Jim Kearney, who blogged as Paco Malo at Goldcoast Bluenote. He’s been on the other side for two-and-a-half years now, and I still miss him and his frequent comments and occasional emails.

In other words, the ten years I’ve spent here at Echoes In The Wind have been a lot like life in the real world: I’ve done some things well and some not so well, indulging in some whimsy along the way as I’ve made friends and seen some of them head to the other side.

So on we go into our second decade. And there’s no better time to share once more the track that was Saturday Single No. 1, Cris Williamson’s “Like An Island Rising,” from her 1982 album Blue Rider. As you all might guess, I love the line “Sweet miracles can come between the cradle and the grave.” Because they can.

‘My Love’s Got No Season . . .’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

As far as I know, the first time I ran into the very good song “Even A Fool Would Let Go” was in February of 1990, when I happened upon a copy of Levon Helm’s self-titled 1982 album in Anoka, Minnesota. The album didn’t entirely impress me – I think it’s one of Levon’s lesser efforts, which is kind of a mystery, given the presence of the Muscle Shoals crew and Steve Cropper and production by Duck Dunn – but the song, the third track on the album, grabbed me:

And as Levon’s version came to my attention in the past few days, I thought I’d dig around a little bit. The song, written by Kerry Chater and Tom Snow, was first recorded by Gayle McCormick, the former lead singer for Smith, for her 1974 album One More Hour.

There are more covers beyond Levon’s, of course, although not as many as I thought there would be. But my attention is flagging this morning, and the painters are here. I’ll get back to “Even A Fool Would Let Go” in one of the next few days.

‘A Restless Wind . . .’

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

While I was multitasking the other evening – checking out Facebook, listening to music and keeping half an eye on a football game – the RealPlayer selected from its 70,001 mp3s a track I hadn’t heard for a long, long time: “The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant, a record that spent eight weeks at No. 1 during the summer of 1956.

It was the second hit in the career of the woman who began life as Myrtle Arinsberg and went through several name changes before an A&R man from RCA named her Gogi Grant, if I’m reading things right in Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Grant first reached the Top Ten in late 1955, when “Suddenly There’s A Valley” went to No. 9. I’d never heard “Valley” until this morning, and my sense is that it’s just standard mid-1950s pop.

Grant’s take on “The Wayward Wind,” however, is a sweeping and dramatic record, and I got to wondering how the song – written by Stan Lebowsky and Herb Newman – fared in the hands of folks who covered it. So I went digging. There are twenty-one other versions of the song listed at Second Hand Songs  and numerous other versions listed at Wikipedia and at All Music Guide. Two covers made the Billboard pop chart: a version by Tex Ritter entered the chart about two months after Grant’s did and climbed to No. 28, and in 1961, a cover by Frank Ifield bubbled under at No. 103. (Grant’s version was re-released in 1961 and went to No. 50.)

In the five years between the Ritter and Ifield covers, there were plenty of folks who took a stab at “The Wayward Wind.” Among those listed were Jimmy Young, Shirley Bassey, Gene Vincent, Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke, rockabilly singer Carl Mann, the Everly Brothers, Pat Boone, Eddy Arnold and Rikki Henderson. The most interesting of those might be the 1961 cover by the Everly Brothers, just for their well-known close harmony. The quasi-rockabilly take from 1960 by Carl Mann (almost certainly recorded at Sam Phillips’ studio in Memphis) has its moments, and I also like 1963’s bare bones country version from Eddy Arnold. But too many of those early covers try to replicate the epic (in the original sense of the word) sound of Grant’s original.

It’s also mildly interesting to check the lyrical approach: Grant sang the song in third person, about the man who wandered. Mann gender-flips, singing about the girl who wandered. The Everlys sing the song in the first person, as do Ritter, Ifield and Arnold.

After Ifield’s version bubbled under in 1963, covers came from the Browns, Hank Snow, Mary McCaslin, Connie Smith, Connie Francis, Crystal Gayle, and in 1985, from Neil Young with Denise Draper, a countryish version that leads off his Old Ways album. Since then, the various lists include versions by the Lazy Cowgirls, Lynn Anderson, Anne Murray, Logan Wells, Barbara Mandrell & Friends and Carol Noonan.

Even combining the three lists doesn’t provide a comprehensive account. I found versions as well by Slim Whitman and Frankie Laine, and a version that I like a lot that paired 1980s country singer Sylvia Hutton with flautist James Galway for the title track of Galway’s 1982 album, The Wayward Wind.

Instrumental Digging: 1950-1999

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

We continue today seeking the answer to a question sparked by our digging into instrumental music the other week: Which instrumentals ranked highest in the year-end listings in each of the decades of the 1900s? I looked at the years 1900-1949 late last week. Today, we’ll return to Joel Whitburn’s A Century of Pop Music and look at the more familiar music that came along during the years from 1950 to 1999.

1950s: The highest-ranking instrumental in any single year of the 1950s was the mambo “Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado, which was the No. 1 record for 1955. The highest ranking instrumental for the decade as a whole was The Third Man Theme” by Anton Karas, 1950’s No. 3 record, which was No. 6 for the decade. Perez Prado’s record fell in at No. 10 on the decade list.

1960s: The highest-ranking instrumental in any single year of the 1960s was “The Theme From A Summer Place by Percy Faith & His Orchestra, which was the No. 1 single for all of 1960. When the Sixties ended almost ten years later, Faith’s record was the top-ranked instrumental for the decade, ranking second among all records during the 1960s to only the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” (Paul Mauriat’s “Love Is Blue,” which I featured last week, was the No. 3 record in 1968 and the No. 12 record for the overall decade.)

1970s: According Whitburn, the highest-ranking instrumental in any single year of the 1970s is “Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention, the No. 2 record for all of 1975 (behind the Captain & Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”). I might disagree with Whitburn’s classifying the record as an instrumental, as the record has words: “Fly, Robin, Fly/Up, up to the sky.” But given that the vocals are more of a chant than anything else (and that similar chant-like vocals show up in other records classified as instrumentals), I’d concede. As to the highest-ranking instrumental of the decade, I have to guess, as not one instrumental made the Top 40 records of the 1970s. My guess would be “Fly, Robin, Fly,” based on its three weeks at No. 1, a span of time no other instrumental matched during the decade. (Three instrumentals spent two weeks at No. 1 during the 1970s: “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” by MFSB with the Three Degrees in 1974, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” by Meco in 1977, and “Rise” by Herb Alpert in 1979.)

1980s: The decade was a grim one for instrumental hits. Only three instrumentals were listed among the four hundred records that comprise the ten annual Top 40 listings for the 1980s. Of those three, the highest ranking was “Chariots of Fire – Titles” by Vangelis, which was the No. 15 record for 1982. (The other two ranked instrumental were from 1985: “Miami Vice Theme: by Jan Hammer and “Axel F” by Harold Faltenmyer, which came in at Nos. 24 and 37, respectively, in that year’s final listing.) And, as was the case with the 1970s, no instrumental made the list of the decade’s Top 40 records. One has to think, given the year-by-year rankings mentioned above, that “Chariots of Fire – Titles” was the decade’s highest-ranked instrumental.

1990s: If the 1980s were a dismal time for instrumentals in the charts, I have no words at all to describe the 1990s. Only one instrumental single made any of the ten year-end Top 40 listings: “Theme from Mission: Impossible” by Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen of U2 ranked No. 39 for the year of 1996 and would, most likely, be the decade’s top instrumental. And that brings this exploration to a whimpering halt.

Note: The linked video for “Fly, Robin, Fly,” is of the album track; the single ran about two minutes shorter, but I don’t own the single, and the only good video of the single has some NSFW artwork. As to the other linked videos, I’m reasonably sure that the linked videos from the 1950s and 1960s feature the original singles, and I have no certainty at all about the music in the linked videos from the 1980 and 1990s.

They Weren’t ‘One-Hit Wonders’

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

As the Texas Gal and I watched the second hour of American Idol last evening, I was grumbling. Now, lots of folks grumble about American Idol, many of whom don’t watch the show, so I was in good company. But I had a specific complaint.

The second half of last evening’s singing competition was dedicated to “one-hit wonders.” Each of the four remaining contestants – four talented young women – got to choose and perform a one-hit wonder. But as that second hour of the show moved on, it became obvious to me (and to other chart geeks out there, I imagine) that AI had not spent much time – if any – working on a definition of “one-hit wonder.”

What’s my definition? Having thought about it overnight, I’d say an artist or group qualifies as a one-hit wonder by placing one and only one single in the Top 40. As to calling songs themselves “one-hit wonders” as AI did last evening, my thought is that the term should be reserved for songs that were in the Top 40 only one time. I think that’s reasonable. (What about artists and groups whose body of work was album-based or not specifically aimed at hit singles? That would seem to be a matter of common sense. As an obvious example, I think all record and chart geeks would agree that calling Jimi Hendrix a one-hit wonder is silly, even though he had only one record in the Top 40.)

Applying the above definitions, none of the four “one-hit wonders” served up last night on American Idol qualify, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles. The songs were: “MacArthur Park,” which was Richard Harris’ only hit when it went to No. 2 in 1968 but was also a No. 1 hit for Donna Summer in 1978; “Emotion,” which was Samantha Sang’s only hit when it went to No. 3 in 1978 but was also a No. 10 hit for Destiny’s Child in 2001*; “Whiter Shade of Pale,” which went to No. 5 for Procol Harum in 1967 but was one of three Top 40 hits for the group (“Homburg” went to No. 34 later that year and “Conquistador” went to No. 16 in 1972); and “Cry Me A River,” which was Julie London’s only Top 40 hit when it went to No. 9 during a 1955-56 stay on the charts but which also went to No. 11 for Joe Cocker in 1970.

Mention is made occasionally on the show of lists from which the performers select their songs when those songs fall in a specific category, so I’m going to assume that all four of those songs were on a list provided to the performers by the show’s producers. If that’s the case, it makes the show’s producers seem uninformed, if not disingenuous or actually dishonest, as they essentially sold those four songs as something they were not.

Does it matter? Not really, not in the large scale. But in the area of pop music and those who love it, I think it does. As I indicated above, I doubt that I was the only viewer bothered by the song selections last night. If there’s one thing that the Internet has taught us by giving us a number of ways to find kindred souls in large numbers, it’s that there are more chart geeks out there than anyone might have realized in, say, 1990, although it should be noted that even at that date, Whitburn was selling a lot of chart books.

And it’s not like there aren’t a lot of good songs available that would qualify on both portions of the definition I offered above. Let’s look for four of them just from the 1980s alone.

First stop as I wander through my files, my books and Wikipedia is “Tainted Love,” a song that was Soft Cell’s only hit when it went to No. 8 hit in 1982. The song was originally recorded in a superb soul version by Gloria Jones in 1965 (in what All Music Guide says is “one of the great ’60s hits that never was” and which would be a far better approach on AI than Soft Cell’s synthpop). It’s been covered by many – more than fifty versions are listed at Second Hand Songs – but was a hit only once.

For a performer with a country bent, there’s Rosanne Cash’s “Seven Year Ache,” which went to No. 22 in 1981. Trisha Yearwood covered it in 2001, according to SHS, but that version didn’t chart and Cash’s did, making it Cash’s only Top 40 hit (which is an injustice, but that’s another post entirely).

Benjamin Orr’s “Stay the Night,” which he co-wrote with Diane Grey Page, was synth-heavy when it went to No. 24 in 1987, but it’s a good song that I could very well hear from one of the four remaining AI contestants. The late Orr was bassist for the Cars, of course, and saw the Top 40 thirteen times as a member of the group, but “Stay the Night” was his only solo hit, and no other versions of the song – if there are any – have made the Top 40.

We’ve found a soul song, a country tune and a mid-tempo pop rock song. You want a ballad? How about “She’s Like The Wind,” a tune from the movie Dirty Dancing sung by the late Patrick Swayze with some help from Wendy Fraser. The record went to No. 3 in 1988, the only time either one of the performers hit the chart. Gender-flip it for one of the final four contestants, and you’re in business. A cover of the song by Lumidee with Tony Sunshine did get to No. 43 in 2007, but that’s not Top 40.

See, that wasn’t so hard, was it? Those titles might not be to everyone’s taste, but it took me less than an hour to find four viable songs that are true one-hit wonders according to the definition I laid out above. It seems to me that the producers on American Idol could have easily compiled a long list of similar songs.

*Mention was made last night on American Idol of the Bee Gees’ recording of “Emotion.” That version never made the Billboard Top 40 or Hot 100 and is listed by Whitburn as a “classic” recording.

‘Scarf Now!’

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I have – as we all do – consistent patterns and habits.

The Texas Gal first noticed that soon after we met, when our daily contact was still limited to computer chat and telephone calls. “What’s for lunch?” she asked one morning. Chili beans over hot dogs, I told her.

“You had that yesterday,” she said.

“Yes, and the day before that,” I replied.

There were reasons for the sameness of my lunch menu, I told her. First, I like chili beans over hot dogs. And then, I was at the time on a very limited budget. Chili beans were cheap, and a couple weeks earlier, the grocery store where I shopped had filled a small freezer in the meat department with one-pound packages of John Morrell’s German Brand hot dogs. They’d been frozen upon their arrival at the store some time earlier and had been forgotten in the main freezer until they were past their so-called freshness date. There was nothing wrong with the hot dogs, a sign assured shoppers; they’d been frozen since their arrival. But because of the date on the packages, the store was selling them at a dollar per one-pound package.

I’d never tried the brand, so I bought a package and had two or three that noon. Having approved, I went back to the store that afternoon and stocked up on, oh, fifteen pounds of German Brand hot dogs. And that became my preferred brand until the Morrell company discontinued them about five years ago. So I found another brand, and even with the addition to my lunchtime options earlier this year of several varieties of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pasta, a bowl of chili beans over hot dogs still shows up frequently on my noontime table.

So what brought habits and patterns to mind this morning? My breakfast.

For a couple of years now, my breakfast has been the same. It starts with coffee, of course. (I’ve lately been drinking Gevalia’s Traditional Roast, my most recent attempt to find a regular coffee since the McGarvey Flame Room blend has once more disappeared from the shelves of the nearby supermarket.)

To represent the beginning of my breakfast, here’s Squeeze with “Black Coffee in Bed,” which went to No. 103 in 1982. The record isn’t much, but the video is entertaining for both the 1980s fashions and for the seeming disinterest with which the members of Squeeze go through the motions.

Once coffee is brewing, I head to the bread. If I ever took the time to make toast in the mornings, I could dig up a video for “Toast to the Fool” by the Dramatics or maybe “Toast and Marmalade For Tea” by Tin Tin, but I go with plain bread. So here’s a clip from the television show Solid Gold of Robert John performing his 1983 cover of the Newbeats’ “Bread & Butter.” The Newbeats’ version went to No. 2 in 1964, while John’s cover went to No. 68.

Speaking of habits, John made a habit of covering older hits. His 1972 version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” which went to No. 3, was a cover of the Tokens’ No. 1 hit from 1961. (The Tokens’ version was reissued in 1994 and went to No. 50 after the song was recorded by South African artist Lebo M. as part of the soundtrack to the Disney film The Lion King.)* John also covered the doo-wop classic “Hushabye” in 1972. That cover went to No. 99; the Mystics’ version had gone to No. 20 in 1959. And in 1980, John released a version of “Hey There Lonely Girl,” which went to No. 31. That was, in fact, a cover of a cover: Eddie Holman’s take on the song went to No. 2 in 1970 while the original, Ruby & The Romantics’ “Hey There Lonely Boy,” had gone to No. 27 in 1963.

Anyway, once I have my bread (and I suppose we should be grateful that no record ever seems to have come close to the Billboard Hot 100 that has the words “whole grain” in its title), I slather it with peanut butter. Here’s the Marathons (who also recorded as the Olympics, as I noted in a post some time ago) with “Peanut Butter,” which went to No. 20 in 1961.

That takes care of one slice of bread. These days, the other gets a good coating of apple butter. (I used to use grape jam but switched for some reason a couple of years ago). There are no records that I could find specifically about apple butter (and I quickly dismissed the idea of pulling anything out of the “Apple Jam” portion of George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass), but there are plenty about apples. Here’s a pretty good one from Badfinger, “Apple of My Eye,” which went to No. 102 in 1974 (and was released, happily enough for our purposes this morning, on Apple).

*The tangled history of the songs “Mbude” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is told well at All-Music Guide.

Some No. 10s From November 20

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

“Hmm,” I thought this morning as I scanned the Billboard Top Ten from November 20, 1965, and my eye fell on the listing for “You’re the One” by the Vogues. “I’m not sure I know that one.”

And I wandered off to YouTube, where I learned that I did, of course, know “You’re the One,” which went to No. 4. I had just never connected it with the Vogues. And that got me to wondering for a moment about how many records from the years, say, 1960 to 1980 that I know but that I’m not aware I know. It’s a thought that has no answer, unless I want to go line-by-line through the Hot 100 charts and run to YouTube every time a title seems unfamiliar to me.

That might be interesting for a while, but I imagine the task would eventually lapse into drudgery, and I have better ways to spend my time. This morning, for example, I’m going to invest a little bit of time in looking at the Billboard Hot 100 charts issued over the years on November 20. And given that I noticed “You’re the One” sitting at No. 10 in that 1965 chart, I thought I’d look at the records that were at No. 10 as well as noting which two records topped the separate charts.

My collection of Billboard charts starts in December 1954 and ends during the summer of 2004, a nearly fifty-year span. During that time, there were seven charts released on November 20; we’ll look at five of them and leave the charts from the 1990s to themselves.

The first chart released on November 20 came in 1961, when Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” was No. 1 and Dion’s ‘Runaround Sue” was sitting at No. 2 (after peaking at No. 1). The No. 10 single that week was “The Fly” by Chubby Checker. Another dance record in the spirit of Checker’s earlier singles, “The Twist,” “The Hucklebuck” and “Pony Time,” “The Fly” had peaked a week earlier at No. 7. I’ve known the top two records for years, of course, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard “The Fly” until this morning.

Four years later, in the Hot 100 for November 20, 1965, the top two singles are again familiar records: Sitting at No. 1 was “I Hear A Symphony” by the Supremes while Len Barry’s “1-2-3” was at its peak position of No. 2. This was, as I noted above, the chart in which I came across “You’re the One.” The video I found at YouTube is notable for the inclusion every few seconds of young ladies’ graduation pictures from the mid-1960s. I didn’t know those girls, but I knew girls with clothing and hair styles just like theirs.

Unsurprisingly, as I look at the Hot 100 from November 20, 1971, I see a lot of familiar titles. Topping the chart during that week was Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” and sitting just behind it was Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” which had been No. 1 the week before. I knew both of those, loving Hayes’ single and not totally disliking Cher’s. I was, however, pretty dismissive of the single sitting at No. 10 that week: “Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds. My scorn was likely a product of my slow shift away from Top 40 toward album rock, which accelerated that autumn. Now, listening forty years later without that purity/snobbery filter in place, “Yo-Yo” – which had already peaked at No. 3 by November 20 – is a pretty good single.

Another five years went by before a Hot 100 came out on November 20, and the top two records on that date in 1976 were “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” by Rod Stewart at No. 1 and “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot at No. 2. The Stewart single has made me cringe since the first time I heard it, and the Lightfoot single, which went no higher, still has my admiration. At No. 10 that week was “Do You Feel Like We Do,” the third hit – if I read my Joel Whitburn books accurately – from the massively popular Frampton Comes Alive album that spent ten weeks at No. 1. The label for the 45 of “Do You Feel Like We Do” says the record clocks in at 7:19 (which may or may not be accurate). The link here is to the full track, which runs more than fourteen minutes.

By the time we hit our fifth and last November 20 chart, we’re into 1982 and into a time when I wasn’t hearing everything that hit the charts. I knew the top two records of the week: “Up Where We Belong,” the duet between Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, was at No. 1, and Lionel Richie’s “Truly,” which would go to No. 1, was sitting at No. 2. Those two were inescapable that late autumn, but I’m not sure I’ve ever before heard the record that was at its peak position of No. 10: “Muscles” by Diana Ross. Listening this morning, I don’t know that I really missed anything.

Chart Digging, April 17, 1982

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

So what was I up to in April of 1982? I was a reporter at the Monticello Times, writing features and covering city governments, school happenings, high school sports and the police and fire departments in Monticello and the nearby city of Big Lake. I was driving a one-year old Chevette (the first car I ever bought new off the lot). The Other Half and I were living in a mobile home south of Monticello, taking care of our three cats and feeding the frequent strays who dropped by for a meal.

The idea of graduate school at the University of Missouri was taking shape as I began to think about what came after Monticello. I went to see a couple of Minnesota Twins baseball games in the new Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. And I was listening to less and less hit radio, evidenced by the fact that several of the records in the Billboard Top Ten from thirty years ago today seemed unfamiliar until I cued them up this morning on YouTube. Here’s that Top Ten:

“I Love Rock ’N Roll” by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
“We Got The Beat” by the Go-Go’s
“Chariots of Fire – Titles” by Vangelis
“Freeze-Frame/Flamethrower” by the J. Geils Band
“Make A Move On Me” by Olivia Newton-John
“Don’t Talk To Strangers” by Rick Springfield
“Do You Believe In Love” by Huey Lewis & The News
“Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins
“Open Arms” by Journey
“That Girl” by Stevie Wonder

The tunes I didn’t recall until I heard them were those by Newton-John, Springfield and Wonder. But I do not recall hearing the B-Side of the J. Geils Band record at all. (That doesn’t surprise me; I never got into the J. Geils Band’s stuff.)  Nor do I recall all the records that show up lower down in the Billboard Hot 100 from April 17, 1982, but there’s some fun stuff there.

Duke Jupiter, says Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, was a rock band from Rochester, New York, with members by the names of Tom Swift, Sam Deluxe, Cadillac Jack, Koko Dee, Bobby Blue Sky and the superbly christened Rhinestone Mudflaps. The band got three singles into the Hot 100 between 1982 and 1984, all of them wearing influences that seem to include Bruce Springsteen, Michael Stanley and ZZ Top. “I’ll Drink To You” was the first and highest charting of the three. Thirty years ago today, it sat at No. 65, heading to a peak at No. 58.

Another group with limited success on the pop chart was Aurra, an R&B quintet from Ohio that grew out of the funk band Slave, according to All-Music Guide. “Make Up Your Mind” was the only record the group placed in the Hot 100, and on April 17, 1982, the record was sitting at No. 73 on its way to No. 71. Aurra did a fair amount better on the R&B chart, placing four records in the R&B Top 40 between 1981 and 1983. “Make Up Your Mind,” which is a nicely funky bit of dance-pop, did the best, peaking at No. 6 on the R&B chart.

Eddie Schwartz was a Canadian musician who managed to get two records into the American charts in 1982. “All Our Tomorrows” went to No. 28 in mid-February, and two months later, “Over the Line” was sitting at No. 91. In Canada, according to a commenter at YouTube, “Over the Line” went to No. 28, but here in the states, No. 91 was as high as it would go. It’s not a bad record, but there’s not a lot to distinguish it from, say, Huey Lewis & The News.

Three records sitting in the Bubbling Under section on that long-ago April day caught my ear this morning. The first is from Third World, a Jamaican group that Whitburn describes as a “reggae fusion band.” In 1981 – two years after “Now That We Found Love” went to No. 47 on the pop chart and No. 9 on the R&B chart – Third World was joined onstage by Stevie Wonder while performing at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Jamaica. Wonder then joined Third World in the studio, co-writing, arranging and producing “Try Jah Love” for the group’s 1982 album You’ve Got the Power. A single edit of the track was at No. 102 thirty years ago today; it would peak one spot higher at No. 101 (but get to No. 23 on the R&B chart). The video below includes the album track.

Oddly enough, we remain with a Jamaican theme for the next two records as well, though in different ways. Bobby Caldwell’s “Jamaica” was bubbling under in April 1982, sitting at No. 105. Caldwell, of course, had reached No. 9 in 1978 with the ultra-smooth ‘What You Won’t Do For Love,” but subsequent releases had failed to reach the Top 40. The highest charting of those follow-ups had been “Coming Down From Love,” which had peaked at No. 42 in 1980. “Jamaica” would stall as well, going no higher than No. 105.

Last up today is an instrumental from saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. In 1981, “Just The Two Of Us,” featuring a vocal by Bill Withers, had gone to No. 2 (No. 3 on the R&B chart), but ensuing releases did less well; the best-performing of them – No. 92 on the pop chart and No. 13 on the R&B chart – had been “Be Mine Tonight,” with Grady Tate on vocals. In mid-April 1982, Washington’s cover of Bob Marley’s “Jamming” was bubbling under at No. 107 after peaking at No. 102.

Dinner’s On Me!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

How about a five-course meal?

“Cheese & Crackers” by Rosco Gordon is our appetizer. This disjointed, stop-and-start track from 1956 came to me on the two-CD set The Legendary Story of Sun Records, and I admit it’s confused me. At points it sounds like classic rock ’n’ roll, at other moments I hear rockabilly (and neither of those would be startling for Sun Records in 1956) and then I hear something else. A hint of what that is might come from a comment on Gordon by Bryan Thomas at All-Music Guide:

Rosco Gordon was best known for being one of the progenitors of a slightly shambolic, loping style of piano shuffle called “Rosco’s Rhythm.” The basic elements of this sound were further developed after Jamaican musicians got a hold of 45s Gordon recorded in the early ’50s – which were not available to Jamaicans until 1959 – and created ska, which took its name for the sound of this particular shuffle as it sounded being played on an electric guitar (ska-ska-ska).

“Soup For One” by Chic is the soup course. It’s a fairly straightforward serving from the R&B/disco group that producers and musicians Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers loosed on the world in the late 1970s. While not nearly as propulsive as “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” or “Le Freak” from their early days, “Soup For One” glides nicely across the floor. The 1982 release – the title song from the movie Soup For One – went to No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 14 on the R&B chart), the last charting single for the group.

“Poke Salad Annie” by Little Milton is the salad course for those who prefer greens. It’s a fine cover of the Tony Joe White swamp song from Little Milton’s 1994 album, I’m A Gambler. There’d been a time when Little Milton was a pretty regular presence on the charts, with thirteen records in or near the Hot 100 between 1965 and 1972 and twenty-one records on the R&B chart between 1962 and 1976. Even when the hits dried up, though, Little Milton kept on working, releasing twenty-three more albums from 1981 until 2005, when he passed on at the age of 70. And no, I don’t know why Little Milton (or whoever made the decision) spelled the song “Poke Salad Annie” instead of the original title of “Polk Salad Annie.” Makes no difference; Little Milton kills it.

“Memphis Women & Chicken” by T. Graham Brown is our main course. I mentioned Brown’s version of the Dan Penn song a couple of years ago, when I wrote about all the songs I have that mention Memphis in their titles. Greasy, juicy and a little bit sly, this track from Brown’s 1998 album Wine Into Water is a tasty main dish for this musical dinner. I’ve only heard a little bit of Brown’s work – one full CD and a few other tracks – but his name is high on my list of artists to listen to further.

“Chocolate Cake” by Crowded House is one of our two dessert choices. Even though it’s snarky and surreal, this track from 1991’s Woodface nevertheless has that Crowded House sound to it, a glossy finish that the Finn brothers lay on most everything I’ve ever heard from them. The pop culture references date the song considerably, placing it in a post-Soviet and pre-9/11 niche, which makes its ironic shadings seem like more of a pose than anything thoughtful. Or maybe the record was itself an ironic comment on post-Soviet irony. And then again, it might have been just a record.

“Ice Cream” by Sarah McLachlan is our alternate dessert. What better way to close out dinner than with a light, jazzy and sweet love song? “Your love is better than ice cream . . . It’s a long way down to the place where we started from,” McLachlan sings. “Your love is better than chocolate.” That’s pretty damned good, and with this sweet tune from 1993’s Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, our meal is over. I’ll take care of the bill.

About Five Years Ago . . .

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

When did this blog start? There really is no easy answer.

After the Texas Gal gave me a USB turntable for Christmas 2006, I began to rip lots of vinyl into mp3s. Having wandered through hundreds of other folks’ music blogs (and having been encouraged by the Texas Gal out of my skepticism that others would be interested in anything I happened to post), I set myself up at Blogger.

For a while I just shared albums, using commentary from All-Music Guide to fill the white space, and then I slowly began to write about the music myself. Sometime around the end of January 2007 – it could have been early February – I put a counter on the site to see if anyone was coming by. A few folks were.

Then, on a Saturday morning, the Texas Gal and I came home after a night in the emergency room; she was fine but she’d had a difficult night. Exhausted but not wanting to leave the blog blank, I cobbled together a mention of the night before and then wrote a brief memoir about a single that takes me – every time I hear it – back to the autumn of 1973: “Rør Ved Mig” by the Danish duo of Lecia & Lucienne:

Purely by accident, I’d blundered into two of the constants of Echoes In The Wind: Memoir attached to music and a single on Saturday. The following week found me writing, among other things, about Leo Rau, the guy across the alley from my childhood home who ran a string of jukeboxes and gave me old records; about my grandfather purchasing a 45 of fairy tales for my sister that turned out to be fables told for the hip set of the early 1950s; and about rummaging for records with my pal Rick and hearing, for the first time, the Twin Cities band Gypsy.

And on the following Saturday, I wrote briefly about Cris Williamson, a member of the women’s music movement. Calling the post “Saturday Single No. 1” (and I really should have called it No. 2), I shared the lovely “Like An Island Rising” with whoever happened to come by:

What that means is that right about this week, this blog will mark five years of telling tales, playing games with numbers, making lists with sometimes flimsy evidence or insufficient thought, and sharing enough singles on Saturdays that next weekend’s post will be Saturday Single No. 275.

More than I ever could have anticipated, writing this blog has enriched my life. Not because I’ve gotten to tell my tales and write about music, though I admit to loving both of those things. Rather, my life is richer because of the people I’ve met along the way, folks who stopped by to see what I was up to and continued to do so, often leaving notes when they thought I got something right or wrong (both types of notes are welcome, of course). Many of those folks are represented by the blogs linked on the right-hand side of this page. Deserving special mention are jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and his Mrs. and frequent commenter Yah Shure, who – as last week’s post made clear – have become dear friends to me and to the Texas Gal in the real world. I hope in the future to convert more cyberfriends to real-world friends.

I’ve also had the joy of getting to know through email and letters a few of the musicians whose stories I’ve told here. Chief among those would be Bobby Jameson and Patti Dahlstrom.

And I’ve had to start over twice, having been dropped by both Blogger and WordPress. (Posts published during those times are being reposted – without links to music – at Echoes In The Wind Archives; that project has reached February 2009 and has about a year’s worth of writing left to post.)

It’s been quite a trip, and the journey’s not over yet. I plan to keep on writing about the music that moves and mystifies me for a while yet. I do want to make sure that I don’t become like some garrulous uncle who tells the same stories over and over, but I think there are tales yet to be told, and I’ll do my best to tell them.

I rummaged around this morning, but I couldn’t find a tune titled “Five Good Years,” so I settled for close: From his 1994 album From the Cradle, here’s Eric Clapton’s version of the blues standard, “Five Long Years.”