Archive for the ‘1971’ Category

Saturday Single No. 693

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

In a world that seems off-kilter, I’m a little off-kilter myself, not quite centered.

The whirlwind of events in recent months and weeks is a major part of that, but I’d also have to put the death this week of my Danish host mother in the mix. Add to that the fact that I’ve not been sleeping well for about a month (and when I do sleep, I have vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams).

And then, I have a few physical aches and pains, and it all means that I’m not in great shape. But I’m going to take this weekend to try to refresh myself, try to mend my body and get myself in as good a frame of mind as I can.

Noting that today and tomorrow are a weekend is part of that; numerous times in the past twelve or so weeks, the Texas Gal and I have found it hard to keep track of time. “What day of the week is it?” has been a common question around our home. Today, I know, is Saturday, and one small thing will help it feel like a Saturday: The Belmont Stakes will be run today. Yes, it’s disorienting that this year, the Belmont is the first Triple Crown race to take place, but its running still provides a small bit of normality.

Another bit of normality that’s made me feel better is that my regular barber shop, Barbers On Germain, has opened for appointments. I made my way there yesterday and had Russ take care of the thin thatch on my head and the unruly, almost Karl Marxian foliage on my face. I feel better for it.

So that’s one small bit of better.

And sorting through the digital shelves, I was reminded of a 1971 track that showed up among the extras on the 40th anniversary edition of Derek & The Dominos’ album Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs: “Got To Get Better In A Little While.” Here it is, today’s Saturday Single.

‘Midnight’

Friday, June 12th, 2020

As I made my way through two new Long John Baldry CDs in the past few weeks, I noticed a couple of tracks I really liked: “Midnight in New Orleans” on It Still Ain’t Easy and “Midnight in Berlin” on Right To Sing The Blues.

And I got to thinking about the word “midnight” and its presence in song titles. So I asked the RealPlayer to search for the word among its 80,000-plus tracks. It came back with 515 results, some of which find the word included in group names – like Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – and some of which find the word included in album titles – like Midnight Radio by Big Head Todd & The Monsters. After winnowing out those and others like them, we end up with about 200 tracks with “midnight” in their titles.

We’re going to hit four of them randomly today.

Our first stop brings us a familiar tune performed by a familiar name: “In The Midnight Hour” by King Curtis. It’s a track from Plays The Great Memphis Hits, released in 1967. The album went to No. 185 on the Billboard 200, and one track – “You Don’t Miss Your Water” – bubbled under the magazine’s Hot 100 at No. 105. King Curtis has shown up enough times in this space that not a lot need to be said except to adapt the title of a 1992 anthology of Curtis Ousley’s work and say, “Blow, man, blow!”

From the midnight hour, we move to the “Midnight Shift” as described by Buddy Holly. The tune warns the listener what to look for in an unfaithful girl (or perhaps a working girl – it’s not entirely clear):

If Annie puts her hair up on her head
Paints them lips up bright, bright red
Wears that dress that fits real tight
Starts staying out ’til the middle of the night
Says that a friend gave her a lift
Well, Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

The track, recorded in 1956, showed up as an album track on the 1958 release That’ll Be The Day. It’s one of my favorite Holly tracks, likely because it’s a little cynical, a counterpoint to a lot of his other work.

And from one giant of the early days of rock ’n’ roll, we move to another, falling onto a track by the recently departed Little Richard. His take on “Midnight Special” (written by another musical giant, Lead Belly) was included on King Of Rock & Roll, a 1971 album on the Reprise label. No singles from the album made the charts (a couple from his 1970 release, The Rill Thing, had tickled the middle and lower portions of the Hot 100), but the album went to No. 193 on the Billboard 200. As to the track itself, Little Richard takes his time getting going, but about a minute in, the train takes off.

We close today’s brief expedition with a track from Bobby Womack: “I’m A Midnight Mover” from his 1968 album Fly Me To The Moon. As always when Womack’s work shows up here, I feel as if I don’t know enough about the man’s work to comment much except to say that his stuff grabs hold of me nearly every time it pops up. “I’m A Midnight Mover” was released as a single by Atlantic but did not chart. The album went to No. 174 in Billboard.

George Is Gone

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

During my last year in Minot – the 1988-89 academic year – and for a few years after I’d left North Dakota, my buddy George was a constant in my life.

We’d met at a faculty workshop during the summer of 1989, and in a few weeks, we were having dinner once a week, set on finding ourselves a favorite restaurant in Minot, a task simplified by the limited offerings of the city of about 35,000. Soon enough, we were joined in our quest by Helen, one of George’s colleagues from the College of Education.

We never did find a favorite, but we had some decent meals and some good conversations. The three of us were all cat people – Helen and I of long-standing and George of recent vintage – and we took turns taking care of each other’s cats during absences from Minot during quarter and holiday breaks.

And George and I settled into a routine of having late-evening coffee either at his house or mine, talking about serious life issues or about frivolous nothings as we watched the evening news and then re-runs of Cheers.

During the summer of 1989, he and his brother Ed visited me in Minnesota, and the three of us –joined by my ladyfriend of the time – saw Bob Dylan in concert in downtown St. Paul. Then, after my ladyfriend had headed home, George and Ed and I talked over coffee until early morning in my apartment in the suburban town of Anoka.

I wandered off to Kansas and Missouri and then back to Minnesota, but phone conversations with George were a constant, and by the time I got back to Minnesota in the late summer of 1991, George was there, too, teaching at a private college in St. Paul. We had the occasional dinner but George was more occupied with his teaching and with his new lady, who was still in North Dakota but who was working to get to Minnesota. I understood, I’d been there.

And, as friends sometimes do, we began to drift apart. Some of that was George’s new commitment. He and his lady married and began to raise a late-in-life family, something he thought he’d never have the chance to do. Some of that drift – maybe most – was mine, as I spent the mid-1990s in a devastating depression, barely able to do more than go to work, go to the record store and go home and listen to music.

The last time I saw George was at the Minnesota State Fair sometime around 1995, when we took in a blues festival featuring B.B. King and Etta James. I knew he and his family were headed to California and teaching gigs at Cal-Berkeley, but I wasn’t sure when. And when I came out of my depression around 2001, George and his family were living in Oakland and I wasn’t in their lives.

I got in touch with him, and emails went back and forth for a brief time, but – just like in Harry Chapin’s “Taxi” – whatever we’d had once was gone. My fault? Maybe. George’s fault? Perhaps.

Just the way life sometimes is? Most likely.

I found him on Facebook a couple of years ago and left a message. I got no answer, which is what I expected. And he crossed my mind again this past weekend, so I searched again, and saw a listing for him in a small town in Maine. I searched further and found his obituary. He died about a year ago.

I know. We come into each other’s lives and leave each other’s lives for reasons, those reasons rarely discernible. George had been gone from my life for more than twenty years and I regret that, although I’m not sure I could have done anything to change it. I guess that at times I hoped I could reconnect with him and if things needed repairing, repair them. That chance, if it ever existed, is gone.

But I remember our late-night coffees, our late-night phone calls between Missouri and North Dakota, our bafflement at the odd behaviors of his two cats, Ginseng and Cinnamon, our love of football and good food and music, and all the things that go into a friendship, however brief it turned out to be.

Here’s a tune we tried to play together once. It didn’t work well, as he was using the words to the Byrds’s version, and I was singing the words Bob Dylan recorded with Artie Traum. (Dylan and Traum, we weren’t.) Here’s their 1971 recording of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” released in 1972 on Dylan’s second greatest hits collection.

What’s At No. 100 (May 1971)

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

We’re gonna look around in late May of 1971 today, forty-nine years ago. It was that week or the next – my memory fails me and I don’t want to dig for documentation – when I put on a blue cap and gown and graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School. (I also wore an orange and black woven cord, signifying that I was graduating with honors, a fact that baffled me and surprised and pleased my parents.)

Here’s the Billboard Top Fifteen from May 29, 1971:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“Wants Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet And Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo
“Chick-A-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)” by Daddy Dewdrop
“Rainy Days And Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Love Her Madly” by the Doors
“If” by Bread
“Superstar” by Murray Head & The Trinidad Singers
“I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by Helen Reddy

There’s some good radio in there. Let’s take them five at a time:

Three of the first five are five-star records: “Brown Sugar,” “Joy To The World,” and “It Don’t Come Easy.” And the other two – the Jackson 5 and the Honey Cone singles – are not far behind. But then, this was a time when top 40 radio was my musical focus, and it’s hard to separate the times from the music that was the soundtrack for those times. And my senior year of high school, though it had its challenges, was a pretty good time.

The next five are a little tougher. The Ocean record no longer speaks to me, and I never liked Donny Osmond’s single. Daddy Dewdrop was a hoot, but not one with legs, and the Lobo record, well, I don’t mind hearing it, but it’s not a big deal. The A-side of the Aretha record is a great performance, but I found it later and don’t remember it at all from 1971. (My digging at Oldiesloon seems to say that the record did not get into the survey at the Twin Cities’ KDWB’s but I’m not sure.)

Finally, the five records at Nos. 11 through 15: I liked all five and still do, though the order in which I’d rank them has changed in nearly fifty years. Back in 1971, I likely put “Love Her Madly” at the top of that small heap; today, I’d put either “If” or “Rainy Days And Mondays” there. And seeing the Helen Reddy record in a springtime chart feels odd. I heard it on the radio, sure, but I heard it a lot more the next autumn coming from many rooms in the two women’s dorms I visited at St. Cloud State, so it feels like a college-time record more than one that comes from my high school days.

Usually, at this point I check the records in the chart against my iPod, but I got a new computer last week and I am still in the process of reloading about 3,900 tracks into iTunes and the iPod from the 80,000-some in my main music files. So we’ll see which ones are among the 2,900 or so in the device right now and I’ll make some notes as to which of the remainder will get there, too.

Right now, of the top five, the Stones, Ringo and Three Dog Night are in the device. Honey Cone and the Jackson 5 will follow.

None of the second five are in the iPod, but Lobo likely will be, once I get to the “L” folder, and the Aretha A-side might, depending on my mood, when I get to “F.” Donny Osmond, Daddy Dewdrop and Ocean? No.

From the final set of five, “If” and “Superstar” have already made the cut. The Carpenters and the Doors likely will follow. I did the second half of the alphabet first this time, so I’ve already passed on the Helen Reddy single, but I may change my mind. I did pull in four of her tracks already (“Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” “Angie Baby,” “Don’t Make Promises,” and “Somewhere In The Night”).

And then, there’s our nominally main business today: Checking out the single at No. 100 in that long-ago chart. And it’s “Love Means (You Never Have To Say You’re Sorry)” by the Sounds Of Sunshine. We’ve run across it before. Finding it inspired the following (edited a bit):

The Sounds Of Sunshine were actually three brothers from the Los Angeles area – Walt, Warner and George Wilder – and the sound they offered on their only hit record owed a lot to the Lettermen and the Sandpipers (and probably a few other vocal groups that don’t come to mind at the moment).

For a one-shot hit, the record did pretty well, peaking at No. 39 in the Hot 100 and at No. 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The album from which the single was pulled got to No. 187 on the Billboard 200.

The source of the song – written by Warner Wilder – is, of course, the most famous line from the movie Love Story, a 1970 film “about a girl who died” co-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. In the film, after the two lovers have a spat, McGraw’s character tells O’Neal’s, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

The line became the 1970s equivalent of a meme: It was impossible to avoid and to ignore. Originated by Erich Segal, who wrote both the screenplay and the novel on which the film is based, the famous line is, however, bullshit.

Now, pop culture offers all sorts of twaddle to its audiences as wisdom. Listeners, viewers and readers can, if they are so moved, pull epigrams or advice on living well from almost any bit of pop culture ephemera. (Well, “Disco Duck” might be a stretch.) And if those epigrams help those pop culture consumers make their ways through the crabgrass of life, that’s just fine.

But I think that a large swath of the Baby Boomer demographic closed Segal’s book or walked up the theater aisle during the closing credits of the movie with the thought circling through their minds that maybe love really does mean never having to say you’re sorry. I wonder how many college relationships foundered because one or the other of the individuals involved held to the wisdom of Segal and McGraw during a disagreement when a simple “I’m sorry” would have repaired a lot of damage.

Well, maybe not all that many. I don’t know. I’m sure there were those who thought “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” was a sweetly romantic idea, but I’d also like to think that most of those folks realized that what works in the movies rarely works in real life. For my part, I was not all that experienced in what worked in love at the time, but even at seventeen, I knew that a philosophy of no apologies would be more nearly lethal than nurturing to a romantic coupling.

Ah, well, it’s a line from a movie that inspired Warner Wilder to write a pretty song. If we dismissed all the songs based on bullshit, then the pop charts would be a lot shorter and not nearly as much fun.

That’s probably much more than you wanted this morning. Here’s the Sounds Of Sunshine single:

A Random Six-Pack

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

There are currently 79,000-plus tracks in the RealPlayer, most of them music. (I have about thirty familiar lines from movies in the stacks and some bits of interviews, too.) And today, we’re going to take a six-stop random tour through the stacks. We’ll sort the tracks by length; the shortest is 1.4 seconds of broadcaster Al Shaver exulting over a goal by the long-departed Minnesota North Stars – “He shoots, he scores!” – and the longest is the full album with bonus tracks of Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, clocking in at an hour and eighteen minutes.

We’re going to put the cursor in the middle of the stack and click six times and see what we get.

We land first on a track by Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers: “Memphis Queen” from the group’s 1989 album Rock & Real. At All Music, William Ruhlman notes, “Grushecky’s songs of tough urban life are made all the more compelling by his rough voice and the aggressive playing of his band.” The track in question, “Memphis Queen,” tells the tale of a Pittsburgh boy headed to New Orleans on the titular riverboat, stopping in St. Louis to search for the “brown-eyed handsome man” and meeting a girl named Little Marie, whose daddy is “down in the penitentiary.” I found the album at a blog somewhere when I was going through a Grushecky phase a few years ago. It’s a good way to start.

We jump from 1989 back to 1972 and a track from Mylon Lefevre. “He’s Not Just A Soldier” comes from Lefevre’s Over The Influence album. Originally recorded in 1961 by Little Richard, who wrote the song with William Pitt, the song reads on Lefevre’s album as an artifact from the Vietnam era, declaring that a young man in military service “is not just a soldier in a brown uniform, he’s one of God’s sons.” And there’s a surprise along the way, as Lefevre is joined on vocals by Little Richard himself. There’s also a great saxophone solo, but I don’t know by whom. (I saw a note on Wikipedia that said the album was a live performance, but I doubt that’s the case.)

Next up is a cover of a piece of movie music: “Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures. The tune originated in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Penned by Nelson Riddle, the song is source music from a radio the first time that the movie’s protagonist, Humbert Humbert, sees the title character who will become his obsession. Sue Lyon, the actress who played Lolita, provided the vocals for the film version of the tune. The Ventures’ cover of the tune was released as a single, but got only to No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From there, we head to 1968 and Al Wilson’s first album, Searching For The Dolphins, recorded for Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Label. “I Stand Accused” was the fourth single from the album aimed at the Hot 100; the most successful of the four was “The Snake,” which went to No. 27. “I Stand Accused,” a good soul workout, bubbled under at No. 106. As usual with Rivers’ productions, the backing musicians were spectacular: Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Jim Horn and James Burton. (A 2008 reissue of the album provided as bonus tracks eleven singles and B-sides recorded around the same time for the Soul City, Bell and Carousel labels.)

Lou Christie’s fame (and his appeal), as I see it, rests on five singles: “The Gypsy Cried” (1963), “Two Faces Have I” (1963), “Lightning Strikes” (1965), “Rhapsody In The Rain” (1966), and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (1970). He shows up here today with “Wood Child,” a track from his 1971 album Paint America Love, released under his (almost) real name, Lou Christie Sacco. (He was born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, according to discogs.com.) I’m not sure what the song is about, except that its lyrics are evocative and include the recurring choruses, “You’ve got to save the wood child” and “Take a ticket and get on this boat.”

(A 2015 appreciation of the album by Bob Stanley for The Guardian said: “Yet another side of Christie emerged in 1971 when he cut his masterpiece, Paint America Love, a Polish/Italian/American take on What’s Going On. Orchestrated state-of-the-nation pieces (‘Look Out the Window,’ the extraordinary ‘Wood Child’) compete with majestic instrumentals (‘Campus Rest’) and childhood reminiscences (‘Chuckie Wagon,’ the Sesame Street-soundtracking ‘Paper Song’) in a gently lysergic whole. Online reviews compare it to Richard Ford and John Steinbeck: fans of Jimmy Webb are urged to seek it out.”)

I’m not sure where I got the album, probably a long-lost blog, but I suppose I should take Stanley’s advice and listen to it more closely.

And our six-pack this morning ends with “Long Line” from Peter Wolf, one-time member of the J. Geils Band. The title track from his 1996 album, the tune shifts from straight-ahead tasteful rock to a spoken interlude and back. It sounds a lot more like 1972 than 1996, with some nifty piano fills, which makes it a nice way to end our trek.

No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, and today, we’re wandering back to January of 1972, a time when I was kind of figuring out college life. I was learning how to study, how to enjoy coffee, and how to put together a late-night, five-minute, top-of-the-hour newsbreak for St. Cloud State’s KVSC-FM that wouldn’t sound stupid being bracketed by Mason Proffit and Long John Baldry.

We’re going to change the game a little bit today, calling it Album Symmetry and instead of looking at the top singles, we’ll look at the album chart. The top ten albums in the Billboard 200 forty-eight years ago today were:

Music by Carole King
American Pie by Don McLean
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
The Concert for Bangla Desh
Led Zeppelin IV
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
All In The Family soundtrack
There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Black Moses by Isaac Hayes

Eight of those eventually ended up on the vinyl stacks here. At the time this chart was released, two, maybe three, of those albums were in the cardboard box in the basement rec room: The Concert For Bangla Desh and Tapestry were for sure, but I’m not certain about the Cat Stevens album.

Tapestry and Teaser . . . were my sister’s LPs, and she’d take them with her when she got married and left Kilian Boulevard during the coming summer. I’d eventually get my own copies of those two records and copies of five more of the ten albums listed there. The only two that didn’t ever show up were the All In The Family soundtrack and the Isaac Hayes album. (The Isaac Hayes album is on the digital shelves, but oddly, the Sly & The Family Stone album is not; all of the others except the All In The Family soundtrack are there.)

So of those, how many matter today? Well, most of Tapestry is in the iPod, as well as selected tracks from Music, American Pie, The Concert For Bangla Desh, and the albums by Led Zeppelin and Cat Stevens. It’s the stuff that – if you’ve been reading this blog even semi-regularly – you’d expect to be there. So no surprises there.

But what about our ostensible purpose for being here today? What album sits at No. 48 on that chart released forty-eight years ago today?

Well, it’s an album that never had a chance of getting onto my shelves: Cheech & Chong. I heard the 1971 debut album by Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong often at friends’ places, and I laughed along with everyone else. But comedy albums have never been a big deal to me. In fact, the only comedy album I ever sought out for myself was Bill Cosby’s Wonderfulness, which my folks bought for me, most likely in 1967. (A few other comedy records have come and gone in box buys at flea markets and garage sales.)

Enough people elsewhere loved Cheech & Chong for it to get to No. 26 during a sixty-four week run on the chart. And here’s the opening bit from the album, a bit that lives on in a lot of people’s heads when they meet someone named Dave.

The Moody Blues’ Seventies: Part 2

Friday, December 27th, 2019

Casting my memory’s net back to the summer and fall of 1971, I vaguely recall conversation among my pal Rick and his friends and among my friends at St. Cloud State about the Moody Blues’ 1971 album, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. There was talk before the album came out about what seemed to be an odd title. There was talk when the album came out about the striking cover art. What I don’t recall is talk about the content of the album.

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour(The title comes from the mnemonic used by music students in Britain to memorize the lines of the treble clef – E-G-B-D-F – with the word “favour” taking on the British spelling. Here in the U.S., our mnemonic is slightly different: Every Good Boy Does Fine. As to the art work, well, it’s displayed here, and perhaps it’s a little less striking after nearly fifty years.)

As to the content, the music and lyrics, the Moody Blues were, as usual, ambitious. Says Graeme Edge in the liner notes to 1997 CD release of the album, “We decided we would write the history of music” in the opening track, “Procession,” which fades in to what seems to be the chirping of insects and makes its way to obviously computerized sounds (Mellotron or Moog, I don’t know) and then wind before we get the chanted word “Desolation!” followed by raindrops and “Creation!” Then come drums and “Communication!” followed by grunts, chants, sitar, a somewhat Baroque melody on flute and harpsichord, an organ wandering around, a brief orchestral interlude, and then electric guitars leading into what is no doubt the album’s best-known track, “The Story In Your Eyes.”

It’s not as bombastic as the spoken word intros of the group’s late 1960s albums, but it doesn’t age well, either. Some of my fellow freshmen at St. Cloud State during the autumn of 1971 thought, however, that it was profound. The same three introductory words – desolation, creation, and communications – show up with numerous other “tion” and sound-alike words (“degradation,” “humiliation,” and “salvation” among them) – in the lumbering chorus to “One More Time To Live” on what was the first track of the album’s second side in its LP configuration. They work there, but only a little better.

The Moodies were always – up to 1972, at least – trying to make a statement and craft their music and lyrics to center on a chosen theme. That’s hard to do, which is why writers are often told to forget about theme and message and just tell the story: The theme will shine through the story and the message will be in the tale itself. So, like the group’s previous albums, EGBDF is in several places heavy-handed and obvious.

It has its very good moments, too, however. The one single released from the album, “The Story In Your Eyes” is one of my favorite Moody Blues tracks. Its lyrics are a little preachy, yes, but they’re carried along by one of the group’s most propulsive rock tracks. Released in the U.S. a month after the album was released. “The Story In Your Eyes” went to No 23 in the Billboard Hot 100. (The album went to No. 2 in Billboard.)

I’m not going to go into great detail about the rest of the tracks on the album, except to note that a few do stand out: “After You Came” and “You Can Never Go Home” are well-done, and the closer, “My Song,” is an ambitious statement song collage, much like the closers on the group’s previous albums. How well it works depends on whether you’re . . . well, let me put it this way: I’d like to be as impressed with it today as I was when I was 18, but I’m not. What was moving – if recognizably bombastic – in 1971 is just overkill and the source of pleasant memories in 2019.

And that’s the key there, the memories: Even though I didn’t have my own copy of the album until the late summer of 1977, evidently enough of my friends did, or I heard enough of it on KVSC, the St. Cloud State student radio station, for the album to pull me back into 1971, not as potently as a couple other albums and a few singles and album tracks, but enough so that EGBDF feels like my freshman year of college.

Assessing it as fairly as I can in 2019, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is better than the group’s late 1960s albums, and about as good as 1970’s A Question Of Balance. I’ll give it a B.

Here’s the second-best track on the album, “You Can Never Go Home.” Again, there were often no discernable gaps between the tracks, so the beginning of the song is indistinct.

Still Moody

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Today was the day I was going to continue my assessment of the Moody Blues’ catalog and dive into their 1971 album Every Good Boy Deserves Favour. But my semi-annual cold with its assorted ailments has sapped my energy, and although I’ve likely listened to the album enough, I don’t have the energy to write about it at length.

Later in the week, perhaps, I can take another whack at it. In the meantime, here’s the best track from the album, likely an unsurprising choice (and one that’s been featured here before): “The Story In Your Eyes.” A single release of the track went to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early October 1971, a month after the album peaked at No. 2 on the magazine’s album chart (where it sat for three weeks, blocked from the top spot by Carole King’s Tapestry).

Saturday Single 669

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

I missed putting up a Saturday Single the other week. We were a little busy around here, and I was lagging behind because of a cold. Legitimate reasons, both, but I don’t like leaving this space blank on a Saturday. I would guess that’s happened less than ten times since this blog began in late January 2007.

So I’m here mostly to fill space today. I’m still fighting the cold, which is morphing into one of my frequent sinus infections. And my attention is at least partly on a football game between North Dakota State University and Illinois State, a national quarterfinal game. (My affection for NDSU’s Bison is one of the remnants of my two-year stay in Minot, North Dakota, in the late 1980s.)

So here, by default, is a track titled “Dakota” by the band Swampwater. (It’s a song about a dancing bear named Dakota instead of about North Dakota or South Dakota, but never mind.) It’s from the group’s 1971 self-titled album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

What Are The Words?

Friday, December 6th, 2019

Late last evening, I finished Steven Johnson’s book How We Got To Now: The Innovations That Made The Modern World. (The book was based on a 2014 television series that was, as I understand it, broadcast on both PBS and the BBC).

In the book, Johnson examines the history of six foundations of the modern world: glass, refrigeration, sound technology, sanitation, the measurement of time, and light. Along the way, many of Johnson’s insights and the historical nuggets he mined made me pause in thought, especially the idea that many inventions come along only when there is not only the technological skill to make them but a need for them.

The most interesting of those pairings – ability and need – was the invention of corrective lenses and the widespread demand for eyeglasses, which followed by very few years Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type and the proliferation of reading material in Europe. With popular reading material available, more people were reading, and they were discovering that their vision needed correcting. The demand for eyeglasses increased greatly enough to make the manufacturing of lenses a major industry. (And soon enough, there were other uses for those lenses as well, like telescopes and microscopes.)

There are connections like that – sometimes several – in all six of the main sections of the book, juxtapositions that made me stop reading and just think for a few moments. And there was one other moment that gave me pause.

In the chapter on light, Johnson links Georges Claude, the French scientist who discovered the luminescent qualities of isolated neon gas, to the book Learning From Las Vegas, a 1972 work on postmodern art and architecture by Yale professors (and married partners) Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Johnson explores several steps in the link, and acknowledges that none of those steps would have happened without electricity.

Johnson then writes, “but just about everything needed electricity in the 1960s: The moon landing, the Velvet Underground, the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech . . .”

And I put down the book and thought, if I were to use three examples to stand for the technology, the pop culture and the wider zeitgeist of America in the 1960s, could I do better than that? How long, I wondered, did he and perhaps his collaborators on the television series work at getting the right combination of three items?

In the essay on President John Kennedy’s assassination that I recently reposted here, I spent many more words than that to describe the times we now call the Sixties. Then, I called the years before Dallas “a time of Father Knows Best and the New York Yankees,” a description that still pleases me.

After pondering Johnson’s succinct characterization of the 1960s and recalling my description of the era that came before, I began to wonder how one would characterize the other decades, the other eras of American life in three brief examples. I played around with a few, but I’ll let them be today, as they need work. But if readers want to throw out some brief characterizations of any American decade/era, they’re welcome to do so.

And since we’re talking about words, here’s David Crosby’s “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves).” It’s from his 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name.