Archive for the ‘Random’ Category

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.

‘Voices Half Remembered . . .’

Friday, March 20th, 2020

I often write about, or at least refer to, my sweet spot (a term I got from my pal Dan), the span of years from my youth when my taste in music was pretty well set. I generally identify it as the years between 1969 and 1975, but it tends to stretch a little on each end. A lot of stuff from 1967 and 1968 matters to me, being not just familiar but formative, and the same holds true to a lesser extent for 1976 and 1977.

As I’ve noted before, a rough gauge of the impact of those years can be gained by looking at the numbers of posts here featuring music from those years, numbers that – were they entered on a chart – would produce a slightly predictable but still interesting bell graph:

1967: 92
1968: 123
1969: 180
1970: 201
1971: 167
1972: 154
1973: 116
1974: 91
1975: 91
1976: 53
1977: 50

Those numbers come from a little more than 1,500 posts in just more than ten years at this site and do not include the three years of blogging at the two shorter-lived sites. And the years cover my life from the last months of eighth grade to the first month of my years at the Monticello Times. If there’s anything surprising in the numbers from those eleven years, it’s the clear drop off from 1975 to 1976 and 1977.

But those last two were years when my view shifted from college life to what would come after. There was an internship, graduation, moving away from Kilian Boulevard, an abortive attempt or two at permanent employment, additional college work, and finally, a job in reporting. Those years were a lot less carefree than the ones that came before. Maybe that makes a difference in what the music of those years says to me. And maybe the music wasn’t – to me, anyway – all that great. I dunno.

But we’ll end this relatively pointless post by letting iTunes do some work. We’re going to click randomly through the 3,900-or so tracks there and focus on the third track from either 1976 or 1977 and see what life serves us.

Well, it took twenty-eight clicks, and the tracks we hit ranged from 1955 (“Bring It To Jerome” by Bo Diddley) to 1991 (“Mysterious Ways” by U2), but we finally fell onto a track that met our requirements. It comes from a 1976 album that I do like a great deal: Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise, produced by Robbie Robertson. The album went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and “Signs” is a pretty decent album track.

Back Business, One Year Later

Friday, January 10th, 2020

It was a year ago today that I had my back surgery, with Dr. McIver doing some clean-up and installing various pieces of hardware to stabilize things in my lumbar spine and to rid me of the horrendous pain I’d been feeling in my hamstrings for about two years.

Well, it all worked. The pain was gone as soon as I woke from surgery, and the pain from the surgery is greatly diminished, Still, there is some pain in my lower back. Two reasons for that:

First of all, I’m sixty-six. As Dr. McIver said during one of my post-op visits, “We can’t make you twenty again.”

And then, I don’t always get to the exercise room at the Senior Center as often as I should. And when I don’t, things stiffen up back there.

That’s what’s been happening during the past ten days, as the Texas Gal and I have been dealing with some kind of cold/body-ache bug. One day I feel fine and she’s down, the next day, she’s better and I’m not. I can tell early this morning that this is one of my “not” days, so I’m going to have to take it easy. I’ll read, practice some piano in preparation for church this coming Sunday, and putter with some mp3s I need to catalog.

As I started this, I told the RealPlayer to sort the 79,000-some mp3s on the organized shelves for files that have the word “back” in them, whether showing up in the title, the performer, the album title or maybe some appended notes. That brought us 1,442 files. And I’m going to sort those for running time and then click on random as many times as needed to land on something from my 1967-75 sweet spot with “back” in its title

And we find a track from Allen Toussaint’s 1975 album Southern Nights, “Back In Baby’s Arms.” I don’t see a single release listed at my normal reference spots, but the album bubbled under the Billboard 200 at No. 204.

And it’s a sweet bit of mellow New Orleans R&B with a couple of nice sax solos.

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.

A Stop In 1975

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

We’re going to scan the digital shelves here today and play around in 1975, checking out five tracks from that long-gone but fondly remembered year. We’ve got a little more than 1,800 tracks to play with, so we’ll sort them by time, put the cursor in the middle of the column, and go.

Our first stop is a track titled “Thirty-Piece Band” by guitarist and singer Ellen McIlwaine from her third album, The Real Ellen McIlwaine. Recorded in Montreal and released on the Canadian Kot’ai label – after her first two albums came out on Polydor – the album is generally a decent mix of covers and originals. She’s not well-known – never having hit any chart that I’ve ever seen – but her records from the 1960s and 1970s were nice additions to a collection. According to Wikipedia, she released a couple albums in Japan in the early 2000s. “Thirty-Piece Band” is two-and-a-half minutes of churning solo guitar work topped off in the middle by some vamping and less than coherent lyrics. It’s not one of McIlwaine’s best moments.

On we go, landing on Linda Ronstadt’s “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox” from Prisoner In Disguise, an album that went to No. 4 in the Billboard 200 after being released in September 1975. Ronstadt’s cover of James Taylor’s 1971 album track has always been my favorite track from Prisoner; her restrained vocal and the light steel guitar are far more effective than anything else on the album, including the hits (“Love Is A Rose,” “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “Heat Wave”). From this point on (with just a few exceptions), Ronstadt seemed a lot more vehement and got a lot less interesting.

The late Larry Jon Wilson pops up here from time to time with his southern wit. This time, it’s “The Truth Ain’t In You” from his debut album New Beginnings. A mostly spoken tale of an early 1960s college-age pursuit of a young woman, the track rambles on nicely, winding around three times to the chorus: “You don’t love Jesus and the truth ain’t in you.” Fun, like much of Wilson’s work was.

In 1975, Gordon Lightfoot followed up the mega-success of 1974’s Sundown – buoyed by two Top Ten singles (“Sundown” and “Carefree Highway”), the album was No. 1 for two weeks during the summer of 1974 – with Cold On The Shoulder, an album similar in approach but, to my ears, less distinctive. Part of that judgment, certainly might be that I know Sundown better, having listened to it more frequently. The tune we fall on today is “Now & Then” from Cold On The Shoulder. It’s your basic softer Lightfoot song, a tuneful reverie of love now gone that slips on occasion into cliché, backed with chiming guitars and perhaps a few too many strings. Pleasant listening, but not as satisfying as his best work.

Albert Hammond has popped up here from time to time, at least once for his hit “It Never Rains In Southern California” and one other time for his “99 Miles From L.A.” Today, we get “Lay The Music Down” from the 99 Miles From L.A. album. A song of lost love told in the context of musicians and their songs, “Lay The Music Down” is backed, says Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic, by “mild disco rhythms.” I don’t get that, but okay. It’s a decent track but no more than that.

Saturday Single No. 639

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

As a follow-up to Tuesday’s post, which dug into the “Now 30” survey put out by WHBQ in Memphis fifty years ago – in April 1969 – I thought I’d sort the 77,000-some tracks in the RealPlayer and see how many tracks from that year reside on our digital shelves here.

It turns out to be around 3,800. (It’s hard to get an accurate count because many of the tracks on the shelves are tagged with two dates, a recording date and a release date, which confuses things. So I estimate.) Those 3,800-some range alphabetically by artist from a single – “Catwoman/Life & Death In G. & A.” – by a group called Abaco to the self-titled album by the group Zephyr.

By title, the tracks go from “(Come On Little Child) Talk To Me” – parentheses always show up first – by a group called 49th Parallel to “Zig Zag Man” by the group Dangerfield. If we ignore parentheses and numerals, the track topping the stack is “Abalony” by the group Love. (In my stacks, the words “A” and “The” at the beginning of a title are appended to the end of the title, just like in the library.)

Running time? The briefest, at nine seconds, is Mississippi Fred McDowell’s statement “My name is Fred McDowell. They call me Mississippi Fred McDowell . . . And I do not play no rock ’n’ roll, y’all. I just play the straight, natch’l blues . . .” The briefest musical entry is “Willie’s Concern,” found on the collection of Robert Cobert’s soundtrack work for the late-1960s soap opera Dark Shadows. The longest is “Bitches Brew,” the twenty-seven minute piece that was the title track to Miles Davis’ acclaimed album.

And to find a tune for Saturday morning, I’m going to put the cursor in about the middle of the stack, among the tracks that run 3:09, and click five times. And barring complications (being overly familiar is considered one of those, as is not finding the tune at YouTube), our fifth click will give us a tune.

And that’s how “Polar Bear Rug” by Ten Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan – from the album Construction #1 – came to be today’s Saturday Single.

One From 1969

Friday, November 9th, 2018

The RealPlayer has been offering tunes from 1969 as I looked at some news online this morning, pondering at the same time what I might write about today. With nothing really shiny coming to mind, I guess I’m going to click through at random and when we land on the tenth click, that’s our tune for the day. Here we go!

And we land on Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” from her second album, Clouds:

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I heard
Was a song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words
It came a-reeling up like Christmas bells and rapping up like pipes and drums
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll wear it till the night comes

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I saw
Was the sun through yellow curtains, and a rainbow on the wall
Blue, red, green and gold to welcome you, crimson crystal beads to beckon
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
There’s a sun show every second

Now the curtain opens on a portrait of today
And the streets are paved with passersby
And pigeons fly
And papers lie
Waiting to blow away

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won’t you stay
We’ll put on the day
And we’ll talk in present tenses

When the curtain closes and the rainbow runs away
I will bring you incense owls by night
By candlelight
By jewel-light
If only you will stay
Pretty baby, won’t you
Wake up, it’s a Chelsea morning

Mitchell was not the first to record the song: According to Wikipedia, the first recording of “Chelsea Morning” was likely “its interpretation by Dave Van Ronk on his 1967 album Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters.” Fairport Convention included the song on the group’s self-titled 1968 debut album, and – again from Wikipedia – Jennifer Warnes recorded it for her 1968 release, I Can See Everything. That version was released as a single, but did not chart.

Clouds was released in May 1969. It went to No. 31 and earned Mitchell a Grammy for Best Folk Album. Reprise released a promo single of Mitchell’s version of “Chelsea Morning” (with “The Fiddle & The Drum” on the B-side), but the record failed to chart. The only charting single of “Chelsea Morning” came from Judy Collins, whose version went to No. 78 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1969 (and to No. 25 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart).

Four At Random

Friday, July 27th, 2018

We’re going to let iTunes do the work today, pulling four tunes at random from the 3,900-some I keep in the program. (I only pull as many tunes into the program as it takes to fill my iPod Nano; I’m pondering increasing the memory in the iPod, but for now, the 3,900-odd tunes – ten days’ worth of music, says iTunes – do me fine.)

The tunes in the program run alphabetically from 1970’s “ABC” by the Jackson 5 to “Zou Bisou Bisou,” a French release by Gillian Hills from 1962. There are nearly forty tracks loaded into the program with titles that start with numerals, and iTunes sorts those tracks at the end of its listings, which seems odd. Those tracks start with three different versions of “007,” the James Bond action theme that John Barry wrote for the 1962 Bond film From Russia With Love, and end with “99 Red Balloons,” the English language version of Nena’s 1984 hit.

Traced in history, the 3,900-some tracks in iTunes span 229 years. They start with the First Movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor (K. 550), which the intemperate genius (if one is inclined to believe Peter Shaffer’s play and the ensuing film Amadeus) composed in 1788, and end with “The Observatory,” a track from Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, a 2017 album from the White Buffalo.

In terms of length, the tracks run from two seconds – Roy Scheider’s utterance, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” from the 1975 movie Jaws – to the thirty-three-plus minutes the Allman Brothers Band invested in “Mountain Jam” during a concert at the Fillmore East in March of 1971.

So here are four from iTunes (excluding tunes we’ve written about during, oh, the last year):

During the first month or so of this blog’s existence – in February 2007 – I described the music of Jimmie Spheeris as having a “California post-hippie singer-songwriter vibe.” Nothing I’ve heard from the late singer-songwriter – he was killed in a 1984 traffic accident – has changed that view. On all four albums he released during his lifetime, and on the tracks I’ve heard from the posthumous Spheeris (recorded in 1984 and released in 2000), we get wandering, mellow tracks, leavened by the occasional tune that’s (a little) more up-tempo.

This morning, we hear “Long Way From China” from Jimmie’s 1973 album The Original Tap Dancing Kid. And, as always happens, Spheeris’ music reminds me at least a little of some of Shawn Phillips’ stuff. Spheeris, as I wrote in 2007, offers “odd misty melodies topped with poetic and sometimes cryptic lyrics adding up to a lush romanticism that one almost never hears anymore.” It’s a fine way to start the day.

“Starin’ at the sun. Been stoned since half-past none,” sings Bob Darin to start out our second track. The tune is “Jive” from Darin’s 1969 album Commitment.

How many versions were there of the man we know most often as Bobby Darin? There was the novelty singer who took “Splish Splash” to No. 3 in 1958, and the Rat Pack-ish singer who topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks in 1959 with “Mack the Knife.” There was the folkie whose version of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” went to No. 8 in 1966.

And this morning’s Darin calls himself “Bob,” as if to say, “Serious artist at work here, folks,” or perhaps to distance himself from his other work and fit into the ethos of 1969. And “Jive” certainly fits into those hippie-ish times in both its attitude and its vagueness:

I got a cloudy-day woman to make my bed and cook for me
When I’m gone a year too long she knows not to look for me
Coz I’ll be back when evenin’ comes
Sleepin’ through them crashin’ drums
Jive’s alive from nine to five my main man.

My favorite Darin track is “Mack the Knife,” but I do truly love “Jive” and the other stuff on Commitment.

And here comes some mid-Seventies sadness, courtesy of Dorothy Moore and her 1976 hit “Misty Blue.” The record went to No. 3 for four weeks on the Hot 100, No. 2 for two weeks on the magazine’s R&B chart and to No. 14 on the Easy Listening chart. (I honestly thought it would be much higher on that last chart.) But chart performance isn’t why “Misty Blue” matters around here. I mean, we’ve all been where Moore is here:

Ooh baby, I should forget you
Heaven knows I tried

Baby, when I say that I’m glad we’re through
Deep in my heart I know I’ve lied I’ve lied, I’ve lied

From the opening piano cascades and Moore’s first “Ooooooooh” through the last “My whole world turns misty blue” three-and-a-half minutes later, this record reminds anyone who hears it exactly how it was, at least once, maybe twice, maybe three times in a lifetime. Anyone who’s truly lived has been in that misty blue world. And it’s a good thing to be reminded of that once in a while.

Our last stop today kicks off with a buoyant banjo riff, joined after a moment by bass and percussion, and then by the vocals:

Well, I’m on my way
To the city lights,
To the pretty face
That shines her light on the city nights
And I gotta catch a noon train, I gotta be there on time.
Oh, it feels so good to know she waits at the end of the line.

The record is, of course, “Sweet City Woman” by the Stampeders, and for three-and-a-half minutes, we’re just fine, hearing the tale of a man whose woman can “make a man feel shiny and new” as she feeds him “love and tenderness and macaroons.”

The Stampeders were from Calgary, Alberta, and their 1971 hit went to No. 8 on the Hot 100 and to No. 5 on the Easy Listening chart. And even after forty-seven years, it’s a record that can still make me smile.

Some Friday Songs

Friday, June 8th, 2018

When I sort the 72,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for “Friday,” the returns are not encouraging: I get twenty-two tracks. Two of them are set aside immediately: They’re performances of “Remedy” and “Willie McTell” by The Band during 1994 on the NBC show Friday Night Videos.

The other twenty tracks, however, provide an interesting mix, though I think we’ll pass by the theme from the television show Friday Night Lights by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden. So what we’ll do is sort the other nineteen tracks by their running time, set the cursor in the middle of the stack and find four tracks.

And we start with a churning, loping and somewhat dissonant boogie decorated by one of those odd lyrical excursions typical of Steely Dan: “Black Friday” from the 1975 album Katy Lied:

When Black Friday comes
I fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book

Gonna do just what I please
Gonna wear no socks and shoes
With nothing to do but feed
All the kangaroos

When Black Friday comes I’ll be on that hill
You know I will

I’m not an expert on Steely Dan, though I enjoy the group’s music almost any time I hear it and recognize the skill and talent on display. But the artistic visions of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen almost always leave me a little off-kilter, as if – to use an idea I think I’ve expressed at other times describing other artists – I’m suddenly living in a world of eighty-nine degree angles.

The first moments of the next track are oddly similar to “Black Friday,” but then the tune slides into the familiar jangly sound of “Friday On My Mind” by the Easybeats, a 1967 hit that peaked at No. 16 in the Billboard Hot 100. The tune has its own moments of dissonance as it tell the tale of a fellow enduring another week of work or school, looking for the weekend so he can get to the city and spend time with his gal: “She’s so pretty!”

So were the Easybeats a one-hit wonder? It depends on how you define the term. I’ve seen some chartheads define a one-hit wonder as a group that had only one record reach the Hot 100. I tend to think that’s a bit stringent, and use the qualifier of only one hit in the Top 40. Why discuss that here? Because the Easybeats had one other record in the Hot 100: a 1969 release titled “St. Louis” that spent one week at No. 100 and then dropped off the chart.

By my terms, then, the Easybeats – who hailed from Sydney, Australia – are definitely a one-hit wonder. Their hit is a record I’m not particularly fond of, but there it was at No. 16 during the spring of 1967.

Larry Jon Wilson, who died in 2010, was a Southern storyteller whose songs never seemed to hurry, even when they clipped right along. “Friday Night Fight At Al’s” fits into that style very well. I found it on an album titled Testifying: The Country Soul Revue, a 2004 sampler put out in the United Kingdom by the Casual Records label. (Among the other artists on the album were Tony Joe White, Bonnie Bramlett and Dan Penn.)

The track starts with Wilson’s laconic explanation that Al’s Beer Depot was a bar out near the bomb factory, a place where he went for a banquet one Friday when things went as they normally did at Al’s:

The Friday night fights at Al’s place: The situation was grim and I was forced to face
The extreme possibility of no one ever seein’ me alive again
When the night was over, chairs are busted, tables are flyin’
Get me out of here, Jesus, I’m afraid of dyin’
It’s the Friday night fights at Al’s place . . . We didn’t have no referee

Wilson’s body of work is a little thin: Four albums between 1975 and 1979, another in 2008, and a few other things here and there, two of which are included on Testifying. I like his stuff a lot.

Our fourth stop today brings us the Tulsa sound of the late J.J. Cale, a shuffling tune titled simply “Friday,” a track from a 1979 album titled, with equal simplicity, 5. I’ve loved Cale’s work since I came across his first album, Naturally, back in 1972, a year after it came out. There is a sameness to his work, yes, but it’s a comfortable sameness, if that makes any sense.

In any case, just lean back and listen to “Friday.”

‘How’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

So, today we finish our project titled Journalism 101, combing the digital stacks for tunes that have in their titles the various one-word questions that make up the foundation of reporting: Who, what, where, when, why, and how.

It’s finally time to look at ‘how,” and when we sort the 72,000 or so tracks currently in the RealPlayer for that word, we have 1,164 of those tracks remaining. Many, of course, must be discarded.

That includes more than 160 tracks by Howlin’ Wolf, more than 100 tracks from the Old Crow Medicine Show, the soundtracks by Howard Shore from all three films in The Lord of the Rings series, two full albums – Howlin’ and Howlin’ at the Southern Moon – by a group called Delta Moon, the 2005 album titled How To Save A Life by the Fray (except for the title track), full albums by Howdy Moon, Jan Howard, Howie Day, Catherine Howe and Steve Howe, and the wonderful album Showdown! by bluesmen Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland.

And that’s maybe half of the chaff we have to discard. Still, there’s plenty of grain, and we’re going to let the RealPlayer decide, ordering the tracks by time, setting the cursor in the middle and going random four times.

We start with a track from one of the two acclaimed country rock albums Gram Parson recorded in the early 1970s. (He called his stuff “Cosmic American Music”). “How Much I’ve Lied” come from the 1973 release GP, and it’s a weeper, with Parsons telling the object of his affections that he’s an unworthy and dishonest rascal:

A thief can only steal from you, he cannot break your heart
He’ll never touch the precious things inside
So one like you should surely be miles and miles away from me
Then you’d never care how much I’ve lied

I’ve never liked a lot of Parsons’ stuff. With the Byrds, with the Flying Burrito Brothers and on his own, he got all the notes right, but seemed to miss the feel of the music more often than not. Maybe if I’d heard his work back when it came out, if the music Parsons made with those two groups and on his own had been my introduction to the genre, I’d feel differently. But from where I listen, the music of the short-lived and admittedly tragic Parsons falls short of country glory.

We leap ahead to the 1990s and a far different aesthetic: “How Will You Go” by Crowded House, with the close harmonies and musical production values that meant that nearly every review of the group’s work during the late 1980s and early 1990s included the word “Beatlesque.” The track comes from the group’s 1991 album Woodface, one that I had on cassette about the time it came out. I don’t know it as well as the group’s self-titled 1986 debut album, but I recall liking Woodface on those 1990s evenings on Pleasant Avenue when I turned to the stack of cassettes on my bookshelf instead of the bins of LPs on the floor. I can’t say I noticed “How Will You Go” back then, but it’s pleasant enough listening, though the lyrics seem a bit uncertain in direction. The track includes a surprise tack-on of about a minute of “I’m Still Here,” not noted on early track listings.

And courtesy of the massive Lost Jukebox project we get a nifty, poppy 1970 tune called “Teach Me How” by the Harmony Grass. The record, according to the notes at a site that catalogs all 170 volumes of the LJ (each with, I would guess, more than twenty-five tracks), was a United Kingdom release on RCA Victor. It’s got a nice backing track, it’s got tastefully stacked vocals with some Four Seasons flourishes, and its tale is one of a young man imploring his loved one to teach him how to survive when she leaves him: “You are my shoulder to lean on. What will I do when you’re gone?” Written by Neil Sedaka and Carol Bayer (before she appended the Sager), the record is a gender-flipped cover of a Chiffons B-side from 1968. Today, we’d call the tale one of dysfunction and co-dependence, I suppose, but I would have liked it if I’d heard it come from the speakers of my old RCA radio in 1970.

Our last stop is a familiar one: “You Don’t Know How It Feels” by Tom Petty. Pulled from the 1994 album Wildflowers, a single release went to No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy for Rock Male Vocal. I’ve never written much about the late Mr. Petty, though I like a lot of his work, including this one. So let’s just listen: