Archive for the ‘1971’ Category

What’s At No. 100? (February 1971)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Well, the Billboard Top Ten from the last week in February 1971 – fifty years ago – doesn’t hold many surprises:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Knock Three Times” by Dawn
“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot
“I Hear You Knocking” by Dave Edmunds
“Sweet Mary” by Wadsworth Mansion
“Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed
“Mr. Bojangles” by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Me & Bobbie McGee” by Janis Joplin

Man, there are a bunch of short titles in there. That list might set a record for the Top Ten with the fewest words in its ten titles: Thirty, making for an average of three words per title.

That, of course, says nothing about the quality of the records, which is pretty good, as I sort it out. (As always, I’m confronted by the quandary: Do I assess these records as I would have when the chart was new, or do I look at them from today’s perch? I end up doing a little bit of both, I imagine.)

What did I like back then? I liked the records by Anderson and Lightfoot. I liked “Sweet Mary,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “Bobbie McGee.” And fifty years later, only “Rose Garden” isn’t as good as it used to be.

I liked “I Hear You Knocking,” but I didn’t understand why the vocal sounded as if it were pinched somehow, and I really didn’t get why Edmunds hollered out what seemed like random names during the instrumental. I recognized only one of the names – Chuck Berry – and that one only vaguely. I could have used the record as a road map to learn more about music if I’d only paid attention or had someone to ask, I guess. I like it a lot more today, knowing what Edmunds was up to, than I did then.

“One Bad Apple” and “Amos Moses” didn’t do it for me when I was seventeen. I’ve changed my mind about the Jerry Reed single but not about the Osmonds’. The Dawn record was a hoot in 1971; when it played on the jukebox in St. Cloud Tech High’s multi-purpose room, kids would use their fists on the lunch tables to knock three times themselves. It’s a nice memory today. I don’t recall hearing “Mama’s Pearl” back then at all. And from 2021, it’s just okay.

What, then, do we find when we drop to the bottom of that Hot 100, which came out on February 27, 1971?

We find “Super Highway” by Ballin’ Jack, a record that kind of fits into the “back to the land” ethos that permeated a lot of tunes at the time, or if not “back to the land” at least offered a critique of society’s tendency to trade land for asphalt.

The chorus, specifically, tugs at me:

Super highway tearing through my city
Super highway tearing through my town
Super highway tearing through my country
Super highway, got to tear it down

We seem in the United States these days to at least be starting to reckon with how our culture has treated the cultures of people of color. Whether that turns into a long-term effort is, of course, an open question. But among the topics I’ve seen raised lately in news coverage and in online gathering spots is how the routing of the Interstate Highway system literally tore apart inner-city communities of color.

Here in Minnesota, St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood – the center of Black culture in the city – was shredded when I-94 was routed through the city in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I think a similar thing happened, though not to the same degree, when the western segment of I-35 was routed through South Minneapolis. And Ballin’ Jack was singing about it – or something very much like it – fifty years ago.

Ballin’ Jack was, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, an interracial jazz-rock group from San Francisco. “Super Highway” was the group’s only single to hit the Hot 100, topping out during a four-week run at No. 93. The single was a very tight edit of a longer track on the group’s first album, a self-titled effort that hit No. 180 on the Billboard 200.

The album track starts with a slow introduction that kills the track before it begins to rock, while the single kicks from the start, sort of like what happened not quite a year earlier with the punchy radio single of Pacific Gas & Electric’s “Are You Ready” and the slowly starting album track.

Here’s the single of “Super Highway,” which would have been a fine piece of horn band rock if the writers had developed the lyric – which is way too repetitive – a lot more.

‘Faith Has Been Broken . . .’

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Sometime during the summer of 1971, in the car or hanging out on the front porch or even while cleaning floors at St. Cloud State with Janitor Mike, I must have heard the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” on the radio.

It was on the Billboard Hot 100 for only eight weeks, and it only went to No. 28, yeah, but given that I surrounded myself with music during my non-work and non-sleep hours (and even during work at times as Mike and I waited for floors to dry so we could wax them), I think I had to have heard it. But it must not have made much of an impression, as I recall the first time I played the album Sticky Fingers about a year and a half later, when I got the album through a record club.

“I need to learn to play that on piano,” I recall thinking, listening to the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards composition as it came out of the speakers in the basement rec room. Hearing the song as part of the album – a hodgepodge of outtakes and finely constructed pieces the Stones had clumped together in the spring of 1971 – was like hearing the song for the first time, I guess. Or maybe I just paid attention to it for the first time.

There was no way that I knew that the song existed elsewhere. But it did. “Wild Horses” had showed up in April 1970 on Burrito Deluxe, the second album by the Flying Burrito Brothers:

Here’s the “Wild Horses” timeline, as pieced together from AllMusic Guide, Second Hand Songs, and Wikipedia.

December 2-4, 1969: Rolling Stones record “Wild Horses.”
December 7, 1969: Keith Richards gives Gram Parsons a demo of “Wild Horses.”
April 1970: Flying Burrito Brothers release “Wild Horses” on Burrito Deluxe.
April 1971: Rolling Stones release “Wild Horses” on Sticky Fingers.

My question, admittedly an inside baseball kind of thing, is: Which recording is the original and which is the first cover? Is the original version of a song the first one recorded or the first one released?

My thought is that the first recorded version is the original and anything else – even if it comes to light ahead of that first recorded version – is a cover.

But to close things out, here’s one of my favorite covers of the song, the version that Leon Russell included on his 1974 album Stop All That Jazz.

Saturday Single No. 719

Saturday, January 9th, 2021

So, looking for something to listen to today, we’re going to play some Games With Numbers, and turn today’s date – 1/9/21 – into No. 31. Then we’re going to take that number over to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and look at four station’s surveys from across the country from fifty years ago today and check out No. 31.

As we do, we’ll note the No. 1 and 2 records of the week at those various stations.

We’ll start on a ship off the coastline of the Netherlands, where the pirate station Radio Veronica broadcast Top 40 to the Dutch from 1960 into 1974, when Dutch legislation shut it down. In 1971, the station was still rockin’, and the No. 31 record on its January 9 Top 40 & Tipparade was “Indian Reservation” by Don Fardon, up two spots from the week before. (Radio Veronica’s list notes that the record on its library is on the Young Blood label, and a check of the actual record confirms that the survey compilers trimmed the record’s full title, which is “(The Lament Of The Cherokee) Indian Reservation”

Fardon’s version of the song, according to Second Hand Songs, was recorded in 1967, and went to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968, so it’s interesting that Radio Veronica was playing Fardon’s version just as the Raiders’ hit version was about to show up, being recorded during February 1971, though the Raiders shifted the title to “Indian Reservation (The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian).” Maybe there’s no connection; as I said some time ago, as we look back, things that happened about the same time sometimes seem connected but really aren’t.

The No. 1 record on Radio Veronica fifty years ago today was George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” and the No. 2 record was the Tee Set’s “She Likes Weeds,” which is a new one to me. (The record turns out to be about a witch who likes weeds and grows her own, so there’s a clear 1971 subtext there.)

From the North Sea, we’ll jump back to the U.S. and land at Sarasota, Florida, where the Wixie Tunedex from WKXY has “1900 Yesterday” by Liz Damon’s Orient Express sitting at No. 31. The record was new to the Tunedex and, in the interest of space, I guess, was credited to only Liz Damon.

Just the sight of the record’s title sets the tune playing in my head, sweet and lush as it was, and I let my internal record player get as far as the bridge before I pull myself back to the task at hand and check out the top of the Wixie Tunedex from fifty years ago today.

The No. 1 record on WKXY on January 9, 1971, was “Knock Three Times” by Dawn, while Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” sat at No. 2.

From Florida, we’ll jump to the West Coast and stop off at KGW in Portland, Oregon, where the More Music survey from January 9, 1971, lists James Taylor’s “Fire & Rain” at No. 31. That’s another one that starts playing in my head, but we’ll cut it short this time. There’s not much to say about Taylor’s record that’s likely not been said somewhere many times. So we’ll move on.

Sitting at No. 1 on the More Music survey was “My Sweet Lord,” with “Knock Three Times” at No. 2.

And we end our quick tour with a little bit of cheating. The files at ARSA could not supply me with a January 9, 1971, survey from the Midwest (or even the Mideast) that had more than thirty records in it. So we’re going to pretend that two days don’t matter when we’re dealing with things fifty years in the past and take a look at the Twin Cities’ KDWB and its 6+30 from January 11, 1971.

So what was sitting at No. 31 on my home station during the second week of January 1971? We find “If I Were Your Woman” by Gladys Knight & The Pips in its first week in the survey. That’s another one that plays in my head fairly well but more from familiarity than from affection.

The No. 1 record at KDWB fifty years ago this week was “Knock Three Times,” with “My Sweet Lord” parked at No. 2.

So, we’re left with Don Fardon. Liz Damon and her crew, James Taylor, or Gladys Knight and her gang. Life would have been a lot more interesting if the Tee Set’s “She Likes Weeds” had been sitting at No. 31 in the North Sea.

I don’t know how often the other three have been featured here before – or even if they have – and I don’t care. I love “1900 Yesterday,” and it’s been shared only once in the 2,500-some posts in the history of this blog. So here’s “1900 Yesterday” by Liz Damon’s Orient Express, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘New Jersey’?

Saturday, October 17th, 2020

Hoping for inspiration, I scanned the entries on KDWB’s 6+30 survey released this week in 1971, seeing lots of familiar stuff: Rod Stewart, the Carpenters, Carole King, Donny Osmond, the Stampeders, Lighthouse . . .

And then, at No. 24: “New Jersey” by England Dan & John Ford Coley.

My mind shuffled through its internal files, quickly confirming that the first hit for the pop-rock duo came in the summer of 1976, when “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight” often came wafting from the ceiling speakers at St. Cloud State’s student union as I sipped my first cup of coffee of the day.

So, No. 24 at KDWB in the autumn of 1971? I must have heard it, right? I dug a little more at Oldiesloon, my source for the KDWB surveys. “New Jersey” had peaked at No. 22 during the week of October 4, 1971.

So – and this is a question that’s not at all rhetorical – how many times in a day would KDWB have played a record that peaked at No. 22? Maybe my listening hours at the time and “New Jersey” never intersected. A trip to YouTube brought me the record, but beyond its introduction’s resemblance to Joe Cocker’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends,” there were no memories there.

Looking for more information, I visited the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and learned that KDWB was one of only five stations that listed “New Jersey” in its surveys.

The record was hit-bound at KAFY in Bakersfield, California, during the second week of August; was listed the next week as an “Instant Preview” at KRCB in Council Bluffs, Iowa; went to No. 7 in early September at WLON in Lincolnton, North Carolina; and went to No. 12 at KSPD in Boise, Idaho, near the end of September.

And it was on KDWB’s 6+30 for nine weeks, crawling from No. 35 to No. 22 in seven weeks, then sitting at No. 24 for two weeks – where we found it – before falling out of the survey.

Nationally, it did next to nothing, bubbling under the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, peaking at No. 103.

Even after a couple of listenings, I don’t remember “New Jersey.” It’s got a harder edge than the stuff that would bring England Dan & John Ford Coley into the Top Ten four times during the period from 1976 to 1978. But it’s an okay record, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 706

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

The trees around the condo are doing their autumnal things. From where I write, I can see some lower branches of our flowering crab; about a tenth of its leaves are yellow, and some have fallen, while the remainder are yet green (though not at all a becoming shade of green). Down the alley, the leaves on one of the maples in front of a nearby unit are turning a vivid red.

Also near that unit, another tree – this one closer to us – has only a sparse collection of yellow leaves remaining in its branches. I do not know what type of tree it is, but its part in the autumn symphony, my favorite among nature’s performances, is almost over.

I find, though, that as October approaches, bringing the midpoint of my six favorite weeks of the year, that I am not nearly as pleased this year by nature’s displays as I have been during most of the sixty-plus autumns I can remember. As I’ve noted before, the events of the world have left me unsettled.

We try here to maintain, though. We spent an enjoyable Thursday evening in the parking lot of a local dining and drinking establishment with about a hundred other folks – all groups sensibly distanced and some, at least, masked when appropriate – listening to the country band Mason Dixon Line. Two of the band’s members are acquaintances of ours, and they and their two mates did nice work on a program of covers.

It was a pleasantly cool evening, and I sat with my attention shifting from the band and a few dancers in front of me to the sky, where the moon was in its waxing quarter phase (more commonly called a half-moon) with a planet in attendance to its east. I learned later that it was Jupiter, with Saturn only a little bit farther east.

That was our first evening out since sometime in maybe early February, and given reports of a rapidly rising infection rate in Minnesota in recent weeks, likely the last for some time to come. And as I sat there in my lawn chair alternating my gaze between the stage and the sky, there was a song that kept popping into my mind, even as Mason Dixon Line offered tunes by Alabama and Alan Jackson. “Half moon,” I kept hearing. “Nighttime sky . . .”

That’s why Janis Joplin’s “Half Moon,” from her 1971 album Pearl, is today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 68?

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

I can’t resist today’s date: 8/20/2020. So we’re going to play Games With Numbers and turn those numerals into sixty-eight, and then we’ll check what was at No. 68 in the Billboard Hot 100 on this date during the seven years that make up my sweet spot, the years 1969 through 1975.

So, during the third week of August 1969, when the No. 1 record was “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones, what was parked at No. 68? Well, it’s a record I don’t think I’ve ever heard: “I Do” by the Moments. The R&B trio from Hackensack, New Jersey, was eight months away from breaking through with the sweet “Love On A Two-Way Street,” and “I Do” went only to No. 62 in the Hot 100 (and to No. 10 on the Billboard R&B chart). Listening this morning, it sounds shrill.

A year later, the third week of the eighth month of 1970 found Bread’s “Make It With You” at No. 1. Our target spot down the chart was occupied by a short version of one of my favorite tracks from that summer fifty years ago: A cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” by drummer Buddy Miles & The Freedom Express. The link is to the single version, which I don’t recall hearing; Rick and I heard the album track – a much better piece of work – on WJON during late evenings in his screen porch that season. We’ve caught the record at its peak; it would go no higher than No. 68.

Sitting at No. 1 forty-nine years ago this week was the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart.” The No. 68 record during that week in 1971 was one of the two hits I recall from my college years to feature a banjo solo: “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, a trio from Calgary, Alberta. (“Dueling Banjos” from the movie Deliverance is the other I recall; there are likely more.) The Stampeders’ record went to No. 8 in the Hot 100 and to No. 5 in the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. And you know, you can do lots worse than love and tenderness and macaroons.

On to 1972, when the No. 1 record as August 20 went past was “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” by the Looking Glass (and its mention brings back radio memories as Rick, Gary and I drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba). As we drove, we likely also heard the A-side of the single at No. 68 that week: “Burning Love/It’s A Matter Of Time” by Elvis Presley. (I don’t know that I’d ever heard the B-side until today.) “Burning Love” was Presley’s last big hit in the Hot 100, as it peaked at No. 2. (He would still have Top Ten hits on the Easy Listening and Country charts.) On the Billboard Easy Listening chart, the record – with “It’s A Matter Of Time” listed as the A-side, according to Joel Whitburn’s top adult songs book – went to No. 9.

“Brother Louie” by the Stories sat atop the Hot 100 as the third week of August 1973 ended and the fourth week began. Down at our target slot that week was the title track from Alice Cooper’s current album, “Billion Dollar Babies.” I admit that I’ve listened to very little of Cooper’s work over the years, and in 1973, I was, I guess, pointedly ignoring it as gauche or something. The record had guest vocals from Donovan, but still disappointed, peaking at No. 57, considerably lower than Cooper’s last few singles.

Perched at No. 1 as the third week of August 1974 passed was “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka and Odia Coates. Hoping for better, we drop down to our target at No. 68 and find “Finally Got Myself Together (I’m a Changed Man)” by the Impressions, a record I do not recall and honestly doubt that I’ve ever heard until today. It’s a sweet soul/R&B side, underlaid with the social awareness that ran through much of Curtis Mayfield’s work. The record peaked at No. 17 in the Hot 100 and spent two weeks on top of the Billboard R&B chart.

Forty-five years ago this week, as August 1975 spooled out, the No. 1 record was “Fallin’ In Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. Sixty-seven spots further down the chart, we find, again, the Impressions, this time with “Sooner Or Later,” a tale of romantic consequences told with an irresistible groove. The record went no higher on the Hot 100, but went to No. 3 on the R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 700

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

I’ve been doing this for a while. That’s the only logical conclusion that comes when anyone who counts things – in any endeavor – finds the total number of things counted reaching 700.

And it has been a while. It’s taken me thirteen years and six months to reach that Ruthian number one Saturday Single at a time. (Well, there were a few weeks when I had two featured singles; call those doubleheaders.) And in the last year, as that large round number got closer and closer, I began thinking of what kind of post should accompany it.

And after dithering for a while, I decided to repeat the post that accompanied Saturday Single No. 300 in July 2012. It’s still all true, and I recall that one of my readers called it “charming.” On top of that, it’s one of my favorites among the more than 2,600 or so posts I’ve offered since 2007 – not quite 1,600 of them here and about 1,000 of them at this blog’s two previous locations. With a bit of editing, here it is:

The moments, probably from several consecutive years in the early 1960s, remain clear: I’m kneeling on the back seat of our old 1952 Ford, looking out the back window. In the distance, as we drive away on Snelling Avenue, I can see the fireworks exploding in the sky over the State Fairgrounds.

I loved the State Fair, loved its hucksters and mini-doughnuts, its farm animals and tractors, its wandering, sunburned crowds of folks doing nothing more than having fun. And when our visit to the fair was ended and we were heading back to St. Cloud, I’d look back at the blazes of red, blue and green decorating the sky over the grandstand.

And I’d sigh and then murmur, “This has been the best day of my life.”

That was probably true for the seven-year-old whiteray as summer faded in those years. A day at the State Fair was about as good as life could get. As I look back, though, I’m struck by the youthful certainty of the statement and by what seems to me a precocious desire to rank and order the events of one’s life. Did other seven-year-olds think like that? Maybe. I don’t know.

Whether they did or not, I did. And, of course, I still rank things: Favorite singles, favorite movies, best pizza, best vacation, and on and on. But as I think about those lists, the content of those rankings – the best single, the best pizza or what have you – seems to matter less than the actual act of sorting. Putting things, even if those things often seem trivial, into some kind of order allows me to frame and structure my world, I guess, so I can deal with its inconsistencies and ambiguities.

And thinking about the certainty of that seven-year-old, I ponder the seemingly impossible task – nearly sixty years later – of identifying the best day of my life. There are about 24,000 to choose from now.

Some of the best ones, both early and later on, ended with fireworks. One of them ended as I lay in a youth hostel in London, listening to Big Ben toll midnight. Some weren’t so obvious, like a day in mid-February 2000: I was online and checking out a chatroom for social issues, and I struck up a conversation with a chatter going by the name of “rainbow42.” She eventually became the Texas Gal.

There have been many other good days, as well, and if I were foolish enough to try to create a list of twenty or fifty or a thousand of the best days of my life, I know very well that the list would be incomplete. Not because I would forget some good days, although I would.

But that list will always be incomplete because as good as some of my days have been, I have come to a point in my life where I truly believe that each day that comes to me now is the best day of my life. And that holds true whether the day brings fireworks or bells or just the quiet day-to-day moments that make up the greater portion of a life being lived.

I suppose that all of that sounds like some kind of New Age hogwash or mottos from pretty posters sold down at the bookstore. That’s really not so. I am aware that life can be hard. I’ve had more days than I care to count when I awoke to sorrow, and I know that days of grief inevitably lie ahead, as they are part of life.

But grief and sorrow are absent today. I have my small pleasures at hand (coffee chief among them early this morning), and the joy of my life – my Texas Gal – is still sleeping. The cats are scattered and dozing, and my morning newspaper waits for me in the driveway. And I get to write and hope that others read these words and don’t either snicker or roll their eyes. All of that makes this day, once more, the best day of my life.

And music, of course, always makes a good day better. Here’s a tune from Paul Williams that I loved the first time I heard it in 1975, hoping that someday its lyrics would describe my life. It took some time, but thanks to my Texas Gal, that’s been true now for more than twenty years. From Williams’ 1971 album, Just An Old Fashioned Love Song, here’s “I Never Had It So Good,” Saturday Single No. 700.

Dylan All Around Me

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

“I woke up this morning, there were tears on my face,” begins one of Bob Dylan’s more forgotten songs, the 1971 single “George Jackson.”

As I wrote in 2008:

George Jackson . . . was an inmate in a California state prison who became a self-educated leader and political figure during his incarceration. He wound up dead in prison during the summer of 1971 in what some called an assassination, while others seemed to think that his death was simply the unsurprising end of a life of violence and crime. Folk hero or thug? I don’t know, and the page on Jackson at Wikipedia doesn’t really resolve anything. I recall the first time I heard the record: I was sitting . . . somewhere with Rick and a radio one day, and we listened intently, as we did in those days to anything Dylan did. I don’t know if the deejay was asleep at the switch or making a statement, but the radio station didn’t bleep the line, “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” and Rick and I looked at each other, startled. “Bob Dylan lays it on the line,” said Rick, laughing. In any case, the record – which never made it to an LP back then and, as far as I know, has since been included only on three relatively obscure Dylan CD anthologies – is an audio artifact of the tail end of the odd and bitter time we now call the Sixties. I sometimes wonder if Dylan ever regrets recording and releasing the song, but I figure not: I don’t think – at least as far as his music goes – Dylan has much time for regrets.

Anyway, as I woke up this morning, there were no tears on my face, but for some reason the line “He wouldn’t take shit from no one,” embedded itself in my brain not long after I wandered down the hall intent on brushing my teeth. I recognized the source of the line immediately, of course, and as I cleaned my teeth and went on into the morning, I wondered how often Dylan pops up, unsought, in my life.

Quite regularly, I would guess. Two examples come to mind from recent weeks. (I could, of course, hold off on this idea for a month and keep track of any other examples that come to mind, making this idea more flesh than bare bones, but hey, I’m not a scientist. And I’m already this far into the post . . .)

Standing in front of my music bookshelf and looking for something to browse through the other day, I grabbed The Band FAQ, a lengthy and somewhat oddly organized volume by Peter Aaron, and although Dylan is not mentioned on every page or even in every section, he of course shows up a fair amount in portions of the book and otherwise flits around the margins, as he does with almost anything written about The Band.

And the other day, Facebook offered up – as one of my memories from years past – my scan of a post card of Rome’s Colosseum. I’d sent the postcard to Rick when I was in the Eternal City long ago, and he’d given it back to me – along with other cards and letters I’d sent to him – when I returned home. So where’s Dylan in that?

Well, I began my message on the back of the postcard: “Oh, the hours that I’ve spent inside the Colosseum, dodging lions and wasting time . . .” Those are, of course, the opening words to Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” My choosing to open my message to Rick with those words wasn’t random, but Facebook offering my scan of the card as an “On this date . . .” certainly felt so.

So do bits of thought about Dylan pop up more frequently than bits of thought about other performers? Does Dylan permeate my life more than, say, Springsteen, the Beatles, The Band or Richie Havens? It’s an odd thing to ponder, but I’d have to say yes. There’s more music by Dylan on the shelves here than there is from any other performer or group. In my early songwriting days, Dylan was the major influence on my lyrics (with Lennon & McCartney being the greatest influence on song construction). And bits and reminders of Dylan likely pop up regularly.

So yeah, whether I always realize it, I’d have to say that Dylan is all around me. And here’s the acoustic version of “George Jackson,” the track that sparked this odd post. Interestingly enough, it’s found – as one can see below – on the 2012 album Listen, Whitey! The Sounds Of Black Power 1967-1974, and it’s the version that went to No. 33 around the time 1971 turned into 1972. (The flip side was the same song with a backing band.)

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.