Archive for the ‘1947’ Category

Saturday Single No. 527

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

It’s time for a four-track random walk through the 3,805 tracks on iTunes to find ourselves a Saturday Single:

First up is Muddy Water’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” the first single the blues musician released after making his way in 1943 from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The track was recorded in December 1947 and released on Aristocrat – a precursor of Chess Records – in 1948. It didn’t hit the Billboard R&B chart, but in September of 1948, Waters’ “I Feel Like Going Home” went to No. 11 on R&B chart. From what I can tell this morning, in more than ten years of blogging here, I have mentioned “I Can’t Be Satisfied” only twice, once in passing and once as one of the records played daily in my mythical roadhouse.

Up pops a Bob Dylan B-side: “Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar,” released on the flip of “Heart of Mine” in 1981 and then released on the Biograph box set in 1985. A different version of the tune showed up on the Shot of Love album in 1981, but I think I’d have to do a side-by-side, second-by-second comparison to find the differences. In the notes to Biograph, Dylan basically says that he and the band lost their ways in the version that went out as the B-side. I have to admit that I was unaware that “Heart of Mine” was released as a single in 1981; I never heard it, and it never even bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100.

And we stay with Mr. Dylan, moving back fourteen years from Shot of Love to the quiet and understated John Wesley Harding from 1967 and its meditative track “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” With just a guitar and a harmonica and an understated voice, Dylan tells of the saint “tearing through these quarters” and offering the cryptic words

No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own
So go on your way accordingly
But know you’re not alone.

Next comes the sweet love story of “1927 Kansas City” as told by Mike Reilly, who became a member of Pure Prairie League after a brief solo career. The only remnant of that solo career in the charts is “1927 Kansas City,” which tumbled around the lower levels of the Hot 100 for six weeks, peaking at No. 88 (and at No. 38 on the Adult Contemporary chart). It’s a little gooey, maybe, but it’s got some nice production touches and some nice lyrical turns, and since I’m a sucker for sweet love stories, it’s a favorite.

Well, we’ve got two Dylans, a classic blues and a sweet love story on the table. I’m tempted by the love story, of course, but I featured it here not quite three years ago. I’m also limited by the fact that Dylan’s originals do not stay on YouTube very long at all, and although some nice covers of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” are available there (including one from last year by Eric Clapton), it was the original that popped up in iTunes this morning. So pretty much by default, we’re going to have to go with Muddy Waters. (That’s not a bad default position to have, you might note.)

Here’s Muddy Water’s 1947 recording of “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

One From 12-30

Friday, December 30th, 2016

As has been our wont these past few days, we’re going to look through the digital shelves today for something that was recorded on today’s date, December 30. Long ago? In recent years? Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the tune in question was waxed, taped or digitized on the next to last day of the year.

And we come to the King Porter Orchestra and “Chitlin’ Ball” (sometimes spelled “Chittlin’ Ball”). There’s not a lot out there about the group, just four tracks listed at a YouTube topic page and a lot of playlist references, seemingly mentioning the same four tracks. And since I scavenged the track after borrowing a 1997 Capitol collection called Jumpin’ Like Mad: Cool Cats & Hip Chicks, I have no liner notes to turn to.

All I do know is that the King Porter Orchestra recorded the track in Detroit on December 30, 1947, and it was released as a 78 on Imperial 5039. And it’s a fine piece of R&B for a cold day in December.

‘Smoke, Smoke, Smoke . . .’

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

I’d been a smoker for most of the past twenty-five years when I lit up my last cigarette on October 9, 1999, fifteen years ago today. I’d tried to quit at least three times, but not even the wishes of the Other Half and the promise of a more serene domestic life back in the late 1970s were powerful enough to keep me smokeless. Once that pairing was over in 1987, I gave little thought to quitting for the next twelve years.

Smoking was a habit I’d fallen into by happenstance coupled with a moment of terrible judgment. After a few fumbling encounters with cigarettes in my mid-teens – the most memorable was a smoke shared at Bible camp with another camper, the two of us feeling like outsiders as we listened to the music coming from the cabin where the other campers were dancing – I was firmly a non-smoker. Smoke was all around me, of course: My dad smoked, both cigarettes and a pipe. Friends smoked. Passengers on buses smoked. Diners in restaurants smoked. I didn’t, and I was pretty resolute about it.

Until a spring day in Fredericia, Denmark, in 1974. I’d become pretty good friends with a fellow named Rob C (so called to differentiate him from Rob from across Kilian Boulevard). And one day in May, we ended up sitting in a quiet spot on the city’s earthen walls, probably talking about what we expected to find when we went back home, a trip that was only days away. Rob pulled out a pack of cigarettes – hideously expensive in Denmark even then – and shook one out. Then he offered the pack to me. I took a cigarette – the brand was “LOOK” and like the American “KOOL” brand its name echoed, it was a menthol – and I lit up and inhaled for the first time.

And I was hooked.

I smoked for the rest of my college years, even after an odd lung ailment in June 1974 put me in the hospital for a week and took away a good chunk of that summer. I quit when I married the Other Half, but I started smoking again during an afternoon of fishing with my pal Larry not quite a year later. I quit twice more during the nine years the Other Half and I were together, but that only meant I started smoking again two more times. Eventually I quit trying to quit and smoked my way through the late 1980s and almost all of the 1990s.

And then, in September 1999, I was overexposed to toxic chemicals when new carpet was put into the building where I worked, and that – coupled with what I now suspect was a mold problem in my new apartment – made my system extremely sensitive to many common chemicals, including tobacco smoke. After that happened, I knew I would have to quit. Smoke in the air made my scalp itch and my ears burn, as did many other common chemicals. I avoided the other chemicals as well as I could – I wasn’t working, I quit using fragranced products, I changed my diet and more – but I still smoked about two packs a day.

Until that evening fifteen years ago today. I was at my kitchen table, and I lit up a cigarette, and my throat immediately started to swell shut. I stubbed out the cigarette and went in search of my antihistamines. They didn’t work. I used an epi-pen, a couple of which I kept on hand. That didn’t work. I called a friend and asked her to take me to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. They kept me there about six hours, giving me more antihistamines and epinephrine until my throat settled down to a more normal state.

And at two in the morning, my friend and I went back to my place, and I loaded my smoking stuff – ashtrays, lighters and a few packs of Old Gold – into a bag and asked her to dispose of it. I haven’t had a cigarette since, except in a few dreams. Sometimes I miss smoking, but I have a pretty good incentive not to smoke: I like breathing.

And here’s the best recording I know about the tug of tobacco, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” by Tex Williams & His Western Caravan from 1947. A cover of the tune by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen made it to No. 94 in 1973, but Tex Williams’ version outdid that by a long ways: It sat at No. 1 on the country chart for sixteen weeks in 1947.

Saturday Single No. 230

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

In one of the earlier James Bond novels – Diamonds Are Forever, published in 1956 – there is a scene during which Bond comes across a record player with the needle riding the groove at the end of the record. Bond goes to the record player and identifies the LP, which turns out to be Echoes of Paris by pianist George Feyer. Then, author Ian Fleming tells us: “He examined the other side and, skipping ‘La Vie En Rose’ because it had memories for him, put the needle down at the beginning of ‘Avril au Portugal’.”

I first read Diamonds Are Forever when I was twelve or so, and I missed a few things in that brief passage. First, I had no awareness of “La Vie En Rose,” one of the great French pop songs and one most frequently associated with singer Edith Piaf. Second, I missed Fleming’s hint that despite Bond’s stoic and sometimes aggressive demeanor, there were times when he was vulnerable. Third, because I had not yet read Casino Royale, the first Bond adventure, I missed what I think was a reference to Bond’s ill-fated love affair with Vesper Lynd.*

And fourth, I didn’t get – and I recall being puzzled – how a song can hold memories. That tells me that at the age of twelve, I didn’t yet understand one of the main premises on which a lot of my writing – including this blog – would eventually be based: That our memories come along with us (whether we like that or not) and one of the best keys to unlocking our closets of memories is music, whether it’s Lou Christie’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine,” Moby’s “South Side” or Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.”

That last tune, the one that left me blank when I first read its title in Diamonds Are Forever, now has memories that come to the surface when I hear it: First, I’m back in French class during my junior year of high school as our teacher, Madame Coffman, tries to explain the impact Piaf had on French popular culture. And then, I have in my head an image of James Bond – played by Sean Connery, of course – looking at the label of an LP. He cocks his head ever so slightly to the side as he does. Then he carefully places the record on the turntable and sets the needle at the beginning of the third track before getting back to the task that brought him to the room with the record player.

And that’s how memory and song overlap: Sometimes the song comes to us before the incidents that create the memory. Sometimes those incidents come first and the song comes by later. And on occasion, the song and the makings of the memory arrive together, and those times, I’d suggest, are among the most potent of the things we carry around with us. And as long as we live, music will remind us of the people, places and moments that we store in our closets of memories.

So, for James Bond, for Ian Fleming, and for that twelve-year-old reader who had yet to discover the often bittersweet linkage between music and memory, here, from 1947, is Edith Piaf’s “La Vie En Rose.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

*I saw a note at a James Bond board this week that referenced John Pearson’s 1973 book, James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007, saying “Pearson (who I am reading) suggests Bond’s disaffection for ‘La Vie En Rose’ occurs even earlier than Vesper.” That may be, as I am no Bondologist. But there is, if I recall correctly, a reference to “La Vie En Rose” being played in a nightclub in Casino Royale, so I’ll stop right there.