Archive for the ‘1971’ Category

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.

Gloves

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Walking through the garage as I returned from an errand this morning, I noticed a pair of battered leather gloves on one of the shelves. Gray and dark blue, they have small holes on a couple of fingers, and they fold neatly along creases left by about ten years of yard work.

They’re the gloves I bought not long after we moved into the house on the East Side in September 2008, gloves that I wore for outdoor chores there: raking, clearing snow from the sidewalk, putting in and taking down garden fences, cleaning the gutters, and changing two storm windows for screens during ten springs and reversing the process during ten autumns.

The gloves came along with us when we moved from the house to the condo a little more than a year-and-a-half ago, but I’ve had little need to use them. They went over my everyday gloves a few times in our first few months here when I cleared snow from the front steps, and did so again in the early portions of last winter for the same reason.

After my back surgery in January, the Texas Gal took over the shoveling duties for the rest of the winter, and my blue and gray gloves sat unused on the shelf. When I saw them this morning, the part of my brain that occasionally mixes up time thought, “Oh, yes, I need to change out the windows.”

And then I realized that we’re no longer at the East Side house. We have all-season windows here, and I no longer need to switch one kitchen window and one dining room window as I did for our decade-plus there. (We had central air in the house, but on temperate days, we liked to be able to open the windows for the comfort of natural breezes.)

It’s just as well that I don’t have to mess with any of the windows, as all of them save one – the one nearest my desk in the lower level of the condo – are on the second floor and would require riskier ladder work than the half-story extension required on the East Side. But there was an odd sense that came along with the realization, a recognition that I kind of miss doing the outside work required at the house, a recognition combined with relief that – being eleven years older now than I was when we moved into the house – I no longer have to mess with most of that stuff.

They’re just gloves, tattered and probably due for disposal. But sometimes things are more than just things. Sometimes they are also reminders of the work they’ve done as well as the times during which that work was accomplished. So it is with the blue and gray gloves on the shelf in the garage. When the snow falls in the coming months, I may buy a new pair, but I doubt I’ll truly be able to replace them.

Here’s a song with an apt title: “Workin’,” by Junior Parker and Jimmy McGriff. It’s from their 1971 album Good Things Don’t Happen Every Day.

Saturday Single No. 657

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

A couple months ago, I wandered over to my friend Jane’s house for a brief meeting. She’s my co-coordinator for music at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship, and we were making preparations for our annual summertime singalong.

That didn’t take long, as we decided to update and reorganize the informal songbook we’d put together a couple of years ago. And then she and I and her husband, Glen sat and chatted music for a while. I talked a bit about the process a few years ago of winnowing my LPs from 3,000 down to 1,000, and one of them said, “I wish we still had our LPs.”

When they were living in Minneapolis in the 1970s, they said, they were burgled one night. Among the things the thieves took were crates of LPs. Although they’ve replaced some of them, Jane said, they’ve never really tried to replicate the lost collection. I asked if there were one album that stands out that they’ve never been able to replace.

Jane nodded. “The one by Fraser & DeBolt,” she said. “The one with the song “Pure Spring Water.” And she and Glen began to sing the song to each other, one line at a time. When they got to a pause, two things were evident from the looks in their eyes: First, the song mattered deeply to them. Second, it had been a while since they’d sung the song, and they were startled how well they remembered it.

“We sang that at our wedding,” Jane said with a laugh. “Pretty racy for a wedding in the 1970s!”

She added that they’d used the title of the song in their invitations, “asking our friends and relatives to come drink pure spring water with us.” She laughed. “And one of our relatives in Wisconsin said, ‘But you’re gonna have beer, too, right?’”

The names Fraser and DeBolt resonated with me, and when I got home that evening, I headed to the digital stacks. And thereFraser was a copy of Fraser & DeBolt with Ian Guenther, a 1971 release that was the first of the duo’s two albums. And the next-to-last track was “Pure Spring Water.” I have no idea where I initially got it, but as you no doubt know, back in 2006-2007 or so, there were hundreds of blogs offering rips of thousands of albums ranging from the well-known to the utterly obscure. The Fraser & DeBolt album no doubt comes much closer to the latter than the former.

Wikipedia says:

Allan Fraser and Daisy DeBolt met at a workshop at the 1968 Mariposa Folk Festival. Their first words to each other were “I like your voice.”” As DeBolt puts it, Fraser “knocked on the door and that was it, he never left.” Not long after, their budding musical romance found them hitchhiking every day from Toronto to Hamilton, Ontario, to work on material. By the summer of 1969, Fraser & DeBolt was officially formed as a duo.

In 1970 they travelled to the United States on a coffee house circuit tour. During the second week of February, while in upper New York State, they received a message from Ravi Shankar’s manager, Jay K. Hoffman. Hoffman signed them to a management contract, and arranged for Fraser & DeBolt to audition for a recording contract. On April 5, 1970, they opened for Tom Paxton at Fillmore East in New York City. The showcase led to two offers, and the duo were signed to Columbia Records.

Work began in Toronto on their debut album. They were accompanied by the violinist Ian Guenther with production by Craig Allen, who was also the art director for the album cover. On its release in January, 1971, one critic, John Gabree of the magazine High Fidelity, writing in the album’s liner notes, states that it had “moments when the only possible responses are to laugh aloud or to cry, and there are very few aesthetic experiences that genuinely produce those effects.” Reviews appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Free Press and other publications.

And I learned that Daisy DeBolt died in 2011.

After that, I checked on a couple things, learning that the duo’s first album has never been released on CD and that the quality of my rip of the album was pretty crackly. I found videos of the album’s individual tracks at YouTube (and I found a video that offers the duo’s second – and final – album, 1973’s With Pleasure, in full). And I pointed Jane and Glen in the right direction.

And here’s “Pure Spring Water” by Fraser & DeBolt. It’s intimate, it’s quirky, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 649

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

We’re still in 1971 today, pulling four tracks from that year at random out of the RealPlayer. As noted earlier this week, those tracks number about 3,900. We’ll sort them by running time, then we’ll drop the cursor in the middle and go.

And our first stop is a brief – 2:15 – piece of easy listening titled “Portrait Of Nancy” from an album titled The Rhythms, Sounds and Melodies of Jean Bouchéty. According to discogs, Bouchéty, a French composer and bass player, released ten or so albums of easy listening music between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s and worked on several soundtracks. It was one of those soundtracks – 1967’s The Game Is Over, written with fellow Frenchman Jean-Pierre Bourtayre – that brought me indirectly to his music. John Denver took the music from one track of the soundtrack, added English words, and offered the resulting tune, “The Game Is Over,” on his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This. Denver’s track led me to the soundtrack, which led me to more of Bouchéty’s work. “Portrait Of Nancy” is a sweet tune with, as one might imagine, a slight Gallic flair.

We move on to “Show Me The Way” from the album One Fine Morning by the Canadian band Lighthouse. The album’s title track was, of course, a hit, reaching No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Show Me The Way” is a mid-tempo ballad, with the singer asking for direction in being a better man: “Take my hand. Gotta show me the way.” It’s not at all clear if the singer is talking to a lover or to God. It could easily have been the latter, given that the record came out in the era of Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s not a bad track, and it has some tasty horns in the background. But it’s not “One Fine Morning.”

It’s our day for instrumentals, as we fall on “Madelin,” a gentle plucked tune by the British folk group Tudor Lodge, found on the group’s self-titled debut album (rereleased in recent years on an Italian label). The group’s music, notes Jo-Ann Greene of AllMusic, is nothing but pastoral:

[T]heir music is the sound of a summer’s day in centuries past, where “grey-backed squirrels run to safety,” (“Forest”), ladies “disappear into the sunset, shrouded in organdie and wine” (“Willow Tree”), and even bloody battlefields become a place for quiet contemplation (“Help Me Find Myself”). And, all the while, clarinets twinkle, violins sigh, and cellos call to one another across the verdant fields.

And since British folk music scratches one of my major itches, I’m quite content to let the intricate string work carry me away to Merrie Olde England.

Returning to 1971, we find another example of religion in pop music with Noel Paul Stookey’s cover of Arlo Guthrie’s “Gabriel’s Mother’s Hiway Ballad #16 Blues.” Stookey was, of course, the Paul in Peter, Paul & Mary, and the track can be found on his solo album Paul and. The rather lengthy tune is simple, made up of four-line verses, with the musical backing going from relatively simple piano chording and guitar plucking to a more complex (and somewhat intrusive) backing as the end of the track approaches.

Mellow is the mood today, with four understated tracks found along the way. And we’re going with the last of them. Here’s “Gabriel’s Mother’s Hiway Ballad #16 Blues” by Noel Paul Stookey. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Back In ’71

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

Having messed around in 1972 last week and finding not many ideas percolating in my brain this week, we’re going to basically do the same thing this week with 1971: A post looking at radio listening followed by one looking at LP listening, capped by a Saturday random post from the 1971 tracks on the digital shelves. (There are about 3,900 such tracks.)

So we’ll start with a stop at Oldiesloon and the KDWB 6+30 from July 12, 1971, forty-eight years ago tomorrow. Here’s the top ten at the Twin Cities station:

“Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
“It’s Too Late” by Carole King
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor
“Never Ending Song Of Love” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
“That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be” by Carly Simon
“Sooner Or Later” by the Grass Roots
“Get It On” by Chase
“When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” by Jerry Reed
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” by the Fortunes

That’s a great stretch of music right there. I’d even be happy hearing the Jerry Reed single again. (It was not one of my faves back in ’71.) And I’m reminded of a comment that came from my pal jb some years ago when I wrote about “It’s Too Late” and its opening piano figure. That intro, he said was “the sound of the summer of ’71 distilled to a few seconds.”

Along with “It’s Too Late,” I’d note a few other records from those ten as major pleasures: The records by Chase, Carly Simon, the Grass Roots, and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.

I was likely not listening to KDWB as much that summer as I had been other summers. This was the summer I spent working maintenance at St. Cloud State, mowing lawn for about six weeks and then working as a custodian for another six (with the last four of those spent roaming the campus with my new pal Mike as a two-man floor cleaning crew). A couple of days during the first six weeks, inclement weather kept the mowers inside doing odd jobs, and we could have a radio then, and I think Mike and I had a radio we moved from room to room as we scrubbed, waxed and polished floors. So there was music during working hours maybe a third of the time.

And in the evenings at home, I listened to WJON across the tracks, and my bedtime listening came courtesy of WLS in Chicago.

Still, most of the 6+30 from this week in 1971 is familiar. I had to look up “Double Barrel” by Dave & Ansel Collins, which was sitting at No. 15. It’s a decent reggae record that got to No. 7 at KDWB and to No. 22 in the Billboard Hot 100.

And at No. 33 on KDWB was Tom Clay’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin And John.” It’s an audio collage that opens and closes with conversations with children and includes sounds associated with the upheavals of the 1960s, especially the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. It’s all backed with music from the two songs in the title (with vocals by the Blackberries, according to Joel Whitburn).

Clay was a disc jockey at KGBS in Los Angeles when he put the record together. It spent the first two weeks of August at the top of KDWB’s 6+30; it peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100.An album featuring the single went to No. 92 on the Billboard 200.

It’s an interesting artifact of the times, and it makes me a little melancholy.

Saturday Single No. 642

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Here’s a piece that ran here in October 2015. I’m running it again today because of the number in the heading above. As you’ll see lower down, the minor mystery has been solved.

My sister and I had one of those “oh, my” moments last week at Mom’s storage unit when we found Dad’s alarm clock in a box of stuff. Every night he was home during his more than forty-six years on Kilian Boulevard, Dad had wound the little brown clock – Westclox? Timex? I don’t recall right now – and checked the alarm before setting it back on the nightstand and turning off the light for the evening.

It was that brown alarm clock that had started our weekdays during the school year, waking Mom and Dad at 6 a.m. They’d get dressed, and then Dad would rouse my sister and me while Mom headed downstairs to make breakfast for all of us.

When my second year of college started in September 1972, after my sister had decamped during the summer for marriage and a life in the Twin Cities, my mom decided to sleep in most mornings. That meant it was just Dad and me during the early morning, getting ready for our days across the river at St. Cloud State. He’d rise and dress, then wake me, and both of us would head out the door and drive off right around 7 a.m., he in his 1952 Ford and me in the 1961 Falcon I’d just inherited from my sister.

And for some reason, as the college quarter started during September 1972, Dad began waking me exactly at 6:42 a.m. Every day. Why that exact minute? I have no idea. But for some reason, that minute mattered.

There were days when I wasn’t quite sleeping, having surfaced from slumber to a half-waking state (a place between dreams and reality that I find quite pleasant), and I’d be aware of Dad standing next to my bed. Moments later, I’d hear the very faint click as the plastic tile in my clock radio flipped down, changing the time from 6:41 to 6:42, and Dad would shake my shoulder gently.

I’d nod, he’d head down the stairs to the kitchen, and I’d get out of bed and prepare for the day. By that time, neither of us ate breakfast at home, but when I got down to the kitchen, there would be a small glass of V-8 Juice and a larger glass of milk at my place at the table. I drank them standing up, and we’d head out.

And that’s how I started pretty much every school and work day from the autumn of 1972 until I moved away from Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 (my time in Denmark excluded, although even there, I was an early riser). I never knew the significance of 6:42, and I never asked. I once mentioned it to my sister, and learned that before she left home, she was the 6:42 riser, with me following. Our conversation went elsewhere, so I never asked her the significance, if any, the minute had.

And I suppose I could have asked her last week, as she and I stood in the storage unit, looking at Dad’s clock with memories whirling in our heads. I didn’t think to do so.

She held up the clock and looked at me, as if to ask what to do with it. I shrugged; there are only so many things one can keep. She shrugged, too, and she placed Dad’s alarm clock into the box of things destined for an antique store.

In the time since I wrote this, I’ve asked my sister: Why 6:42? She said that she and Dad had learned that her rising at 6:42 gave her just enough morning preparation time to be ready to leave the house at 7 a.m. “That’s the only significance it had,” she said. And after my sister left Kilian Boulevard for her married life, I unknowingly inherited her schedule. As prosaic and utilitarian as that might have been, any time I see those three digits – whether as 6:42 or 642 – they bring me back to a time when I was much younger and my Dad was still here, winding his alarm clock every night.

And here’s an appropriately titled tune from the late Richie Havens: “Younger Men Grow Older.” It’s from an even more appropriately titled album, 1971’s Alarm Clock.