Archive for the ‘1979’ Category

Saturday Single No. 603

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

I was in a Nancy Wilson mood the other day – the pop jazz singer who was most popular in the early to mid-1960s, not the Nancy Wilson from Heart – so I was sorting through mp3s from a compilation, tagging them with the original album title and date.

When I do that kind of work (and of course, it’s not really work, it’s play), I use a variety of sources: my Billboard chart books (for non-album singles) and discogs.com and Second Hand Songs for album tracks. And I was having trouble tracking Wilson’s cover of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

That’s one of those titles that can be hard to track down, because of the last two words of the title: Sometimes cover versions have one or the other spelled completely instead of dropping the “g”. The original Philles release had – I believe – apostrophes at the ends of both of the last words, but I’ve also seen 45 sleeves for the Righteous Brothers with the second apostrophe dropped. So there are lots of choices to dig through.

Anyway, I finally found out at Second Hand Songs that Wilson’s version – released in 1965 on her album Today – My Way – listed the title with missing g’s and apostrophes on both of the last two words in the title. And then I saw a note at the top of the website’s main page for the song. It said that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” was “according to BMI, the performing rights organization that represents songwriters, the most played song of the 20th century.”

That startled me. So I took a look at the Righteous Brothers’ entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where I saw that bit of information confirmed with the addendum that, according to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector, was “the first eight-million performance song.”

I pondered that and then noticed that Second Hand Songs lists 188 versions of the song. The Righteous Brothers’ version was released in November 1964, and the first listed cover, released in early January 1965, came from Cilla Black. (It went to No. 2 in England.) Another cover followed in the U.K., by Joan Baxter, and then Nancy Wilson was the first to cover the song in the U.S.

The covers continued, of course, soon coming from, among many others, the Lettermen, Fontella Bass, the Boogie Kings, Johnny Rivers, Long John Baldry, the Pozo Seco Singers, Freda Payne, and George Hamilton. And that just gets us through 1966. The most recent cover listed at SHS came from Junko Onishi, a Japanese artist described by the website as a post-bop jazz pianist; she covered the tune in 1999.

I went back to Top Pop Singles to see which versions hit the Billboard Hot 100 or bubbled under. The Righteous Brothers original went to No. 1, of course, staying there for two weeks. Dionne Warwick’s cover went to No. 16 in 1969. A duet of the song by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway went to No. 71 in 1971. Another duet, this one by Long John Baldry (again) and Kathy MacDonald reached No. 89 in 1979. And the best performing cover was yet another duet, this one by Hall & Oates, which went to No. 12 in 1980.

(I should mention that R&B singer Vivian Reed bubbled under at No. 115 in 1968 with her medley of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling/(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration.”)

Several of those covers – and a couple not mentioned – are on the digital shelves here at the EITW studios. One of my favorites is the 1979 duet by Long John Baldry and Kathy MacDonald. It’s from the album Baldry’s Out! and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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.”

Another Departure . . .

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I woke this morning to the news of another musical loss:

Singer/songwriter Michael Johnson, who spent a good share of his performing life in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, died Tuesday at his Minneapolis home. Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offered a look at Johnson’s life and career in today’s paper, and that story is here.

The headline on Bream’s story highlights Johnson’s recording of “Bluer Than Blue,” and it’s true that “Bluer . . .” was Johnson’s greatest chart success, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart during the spring of 1978 while going to No. 12 on the magazine’s Hot 100. And I recall hearing “Bluer Than Blue” on the radio during my days in Monticello, just as I recall hearing Johnson’s 1979 single “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” as it went to No. 5 on what had become the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 19 on the Hot 100.

Both of those were fine singles, and beyond the musical pleasure I got from them, there was a little smidgen of joy as well that the man who made them was based in Minnesota. (Johnson, who was born in Colorado, made his home in Minnesota from 1969 to 1985, then returned here in 2007 after spending the intervening years in Nashville.) But that Minnesota connection is only one of three connections I have to Johnson’s music.

Another connection came through this blog during its early years, when I was exploring the music of Patti Dahlstrom. (Posts about her and her four 1970s albums are here.) During our email exchanges at the time, Patti noted that she and Tom Snow had written “Dialogue,” the title track of Johnson’s 1979 album, and she sent me an mp3 of the demo she and Snow had recorded. Here’s what Johnson did with it:

And then there was the first connection, the most visceral of the three. Johnson’s first album, the 1973 release There Is A Breeze, was one of those that we had on tape at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my 1973-74 college adventure. It probably didn’t get dropped into the tape player as frequently as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers & Sisters, but it was there.

And, as I’ve noted about the other music I heard in the lounge during those Danish days and nights, it only takes a few notes of any of the tunes on There Is A Breeze to remind me how those days and nights felt as well as how important they were in making me who I am today.

Of the seven or so mainstay albums were had on tape during our time in Denmark, Johnson’s There Is A Breeze was probably the last one I looked for, and it was difficult to find, though I admit my searching during the years 1974-77 was sporadic. I had other stuff to do and other music to find. My chance came during the autumn of 1977. I was working as a public relations officer at the St. Cloud CETA Center – CETA was a federal jobs program – and a co-worker brought in a box of records he was going to take across the street to Axis, a store that sold new and used records along with leather coats and hats.

And in the box was a copy of There Is A Breeze, which I gladly took home, listening to it that evening in the lake cabin where the Other Half and I were living for a couple months until we found out where my permanent job search would take me. And the first strains of the first track, “Pilot Me,” whisked me a few years back and four thousand miles away.

As I noted above, I remember hearing Michael Johnson’s two most successful singles in 1978 and 1979, but I have to admit I’ve not followed him closely. I had a vinyl copy of Dialogue, his 1979 album, but it did not survive the Great Vinyl Sell-off of last winter. And rummaging through the ’Net a couple of years ago, I found a two-CD repackaging of Johnson’s first three albums, beginning with There Is A Breeze, so I was also able to let my vinyl copy of that album go, too. (It was worn and a little banged, and no longer sounded very good.)

I suppose that if I were writing for a newspaper, I’d have to take into account – as did Jon Bream for the Minneapolis paper – all of Michael Johnson’s career as I write this morning. But what we do here – what Odd and Pop and I try to do – is to consider the music that’s mattered to me over the years. And with a stop at “Dialogue” to salute a distant friend, and acknowledging as well that Michael Johnson made a lot of very good music in his seventy-two years, I have to say . . .

Well, anyone who reads this space regularly knows where that’s going: There Is A Breeze is one of the treasures of my life, and here’s the opening track, “Pilot Me.”

Up Late

Friday, May 6th, 2016

I stayed up late last night, at first plunging and then dragging myself to the end of the novel Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. As regular readers might gather from the title and knowing my tastes, it’s a time travel yarn, and it’s got some good points. It also has some twists that I’m going to have to sort out, as well as a few major flaws. I think we’ll be returning to Elton’s book in this space next week, after I’ve untangled those twists and cataloged the flaws.

But staying up long past my generally late bedtime has, of course, some associated costs. I end up sleeping later than normal, and that gives me a late start on the day with my most productive time – the early morning – already gone.

Wanting to fill the white space here and get to the rest of the day, I went looking for a track with the word “up late” in the title. The RealPlayer returned eight tracks. Most startling among them were three tracks from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. I had to look closely, and then I realized that the player had found the “late” in Pilate and the “up” in “Superstar” as it searched. So those three aren’t what we’re looking for this morning.

Among the other five, I found no titles that corresponded with staying up on an evening past one’s normal bedtime, which I found a bit odd. A topic not covered among the 88,000 mp3s that clog the player? Maybe I’ll put on my songwriting hat one of these days and fill that seeming gap.

But that’s for another day as well. And I did find “up late” in the title of a decent track, though the topic isn’t what I was hoping for. Still, we take what we find on mornings like this, so here’s “Turned Up Too Late,” a Graham Parker tune, as offered by the Pointer Sisters on their 1979 album Priority.

‘Thirteen’

Friday, November 13th, 2015

It’s Friday the Thirteenth, and the only reasonable thing to do is to look for tracks on the digital shelves with either “thirteen” or “13” in their titles. The take turns out to be slender: four tracks.

We could expand the search into albums. A numeral search would bring us Lee Hazlewood’s 13 from 1972 or Blue Magic’s 13 Blue Magic Lane from 1975, and a word search would call up Laura Nyro’s 1968 album, Eli And The Thirteenth Confession. And if we wanted, we could look into a couple of albums from Thirteen Senses, a current British group whose own website describes its sound as “indie/melodic.”

But we’ll stay with our four titles.

First up, alphabetically, is “Thirteen” by Big Star, the legendary power pop group of the early 1970s fronted by Alex Chilton. The track is from the group’s 1972 debut album, No. 1 Record, and describes the reactions of Chilton and fellow band member Chris Bell to witnessing a performance by the Beatles at the age of thirteen. In its listing of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Rolling Stone ranked “Thirteen” at No. 406. Big Star, like a lot of other groups and performers, is something I missed (both in the 1970s and during the band’s brief reunion in the 1990s). Listening now, I wish I hadn’t. But there was only so much time and money, and at least I got to No. 1 Record and all the rest eventually.

There are three albums on the digital shelves by the British group Charlie – No Second Chance, Lines and Fight Dirty, from 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively – and none of them really stand out. All three are pleasant, they’re competently played, and they sound as much like Southern California work of the time as anything British (except for the occasional Brit accent or bit of slang). I remember seeing the group’s albums in the store – noted as they were for the pretty young women on their covers – but I was never tempted, and listening occasionally nearly forty years later, I’m not sure I missed much. But “Thirteen” from No Second Chance is melancholy and affecting, the tale of a girl grown up too quickly:

When she fell in love with her first boy, she was only just thirteen
She never had another look, this one could buy her dreams
So she signed away her life at sixteen

When you cue up a J.J. Cale track, you know pretty much what you’re gonna get: A relaxed, shuffling tune with some tasty guitar fills, no matter what he’s singing about. And that holds true for “Thirteen Days” from his 1979 album 5, which turns out to be a salute to life on the road:

Thirteen days on gig down south
We got enough dope to keep us all high
We got two girls dancing to pick up the crowd
Sound man to mix us, make us sound loud

Sometimes we make money
Sometimes we don’t know
Thirteen days with life to go

Having listened several times to Steve Forbert’s “Thirteen Blood Red Rosebuds” while following along with the lyrics, I have no idea what the song is about. He sings:

Hang your hopes on sun but the ships don’t sail
Storm clouds rule everything
Sailors pack both bars and Marlene works hard
More cheap engagement rings

Thirteen blood red rosebuds
Five weird weekend crimes
Sixteen sincere smiles while
Nobody’s lyin’

But that’s okay. It’s Steve Forbert. The track carries echoes of his 1979 hit, “Romeo’s Tune,” which I like a lot. “Thirteen Blood Red Rosebuds” is from his 2010 album, Mission Of The Crossroad Palms.

Six From The ’70s

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

So we’ve sorted the tracks in the RealPlayer and found about 24,000 from the 1970s. Let’s go find six at random to think about this morning.

“In the corner of my eye, I saw you in Rudy’s. You were very high.” So starts “Black Cow” from Steely Dan’s 1977 album Aja, one of two Steely Dan albums I had before the 1990s (when I, as is well-known around here, went a little mad and bought more than 1,800 LPs over those ten years). My memory, aided by a look at the LP database, tells me that I won Aja for answering a trivia question on WJON while I lived in St. Cloud in late 1977, but there was a delay on the radio station’s part in getting the album, and then there was a delay on my part in getting to the station after I moved to Monticello. The delays didn’t bother me because Steely Dan wasn’t really in my sights at the time. I had Pretzel Logic on the shelves because of the presence of “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” (and I liked the rest of the album), but the work of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker wasn’t high on my list. Still, I wasn’t going to pass up a free album, so I took Aja home, and I liked it okay. But it’s probably not on my Top 200. So, “Drink your big black cow and get out of here.”

Canny marketers as well as classically trained musicians, the duo of Ferrante & Teicher rarely missed a trend in the 1960s and 1970s, and as the world hit the dance floor in the late 1970s, Ferrante & Teicher followed, providing us in 1979 with Classical Disco, one of the stranger albums of the duo’s nearly forty-year recording career. Covering pieces ranging from composers Rachmaninoff and Khachaturian to Grieg and Tchaikovsky, the album closes with a thumping version of Felix Mendelssohn’s famed “Wedding March” (cliché that it is). Given the move in recent years toward massively choreographed wedding processionals and recessionals (some staid, many not), I can see a couple and their friends putting together a disco processional to the beat of the Ferrante & Teicher track. If it were my wedding and up to me, I’d save it for the reception.

Head On was a late 1975 release from Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and its relative failure in the charts portended the end for the rockers from Canada. The group’s previous three albums of new music had all gone Top Ten in the Billboard 200, but Head On stalled at No. 23. A single from the album, “Take It Like A Man” (with a backing vocal from Little Richard) went to No. 33 in early 1976, but the band’s moment had passed. Fittingly, then, the track titled “It’s Over” is the one that pops up from Head On. It’s a decent enough track, not unlike most of the stuff in the group’s catalog, but its unsubtle pleasures didn’t offer listeners anything new as 1975 was turning into 1976.

As an object lesson that one can find almost anything online these days, we move next to “Tiffany Case” from John Barry’s soundtrack to the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. When the RealPlayer offered the track to me this morning, I winced, but not because of the music. (It’s a decent bit of quiet and pretty musical fill for the movie, nicely portraying the soft side of Ms. Case, played in the film by the lovely Jill St. John.) The wince was for an expected difficulty in finding the track at YouTube. (I’d already made and uploaded one video this morning.) But there it was, and a quick click on the #JohnBarry hashtag shows me that what appears to be the vast majority of Barry’s work is now officially available at YouTube. I will have to do some digging there soon.

Whenever I write anything about Bobby Womack, I always feel as if I don’t know enough about the man or his work to write anything substantial. Today is no different, even though I know more about him and have heard more of his stuff now, thanks to a little bit of concentrated effort in the past few months. Anyway, what we have this morning is “Natural Man” from Womack’s 1973 album Facts Of Life. It’s a gender-flipped version of the Gerry Goffin/Carole King song “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” best known for the 1967 hit version by Aretha Franklin. It doesn’t seem to work, but then covering a classic is risky territory, and doing so with a gender-flip seems to make things all the more awkward. Womack’s delivery is fine, as usual. But it just feels, well, odd.

Speaking of covers of classic records, we close our expedition this morning with Ellie Greenwich taking on “Chapel Of Love” from her 1973 album Let It Be Written, Let It Be Sung. Greenwich, of course, wrote the song with Jeff Barry and Phil Spector, and the Dixie Cups had a massive hit with it in 1964, with the record sitting at No. 1 for three weeks. For her own album, Greenwich and co-producers Steve Tudanger and Steve Feldman take the song in an interesting direction, with bare-bones instrumentation and layered and entwined vocals, coupled with some ringing bells in the middle. It works for me.

The Day

Friday, October 16th, 2015

In the east, a thin sliver of light – maybe bright, maybe muted through clouds – slides its way above the horizon. As it does, the music begins.

The tune is “Dawn” from a 1973 self-titled album by a group calling itself Glory. It was Glory’s first album, but that’s only a technicality: Since 1968, when two Cleveland groups more or less merged to form what All Music Guide calls an “acid rock combo,” the musicians in Glory had been calling themselves The Damnation Of Adam Blessing and had released three albums on the United Artists label. A dispute with the label brought about the name change.

The first album, a 1969 self-titled work, spent two weeks in the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 181. In 1970, a single titled “Back To The River” – from the album The Second Damnation – bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks, peaking at No. 102.

Glory, a good if unspectacular album, was the last word from the group; it and the first two Adam Blessing albums, as well as an anthology, are available on CD.

The music continues as the hands of the clocks turn just a little. It’s not quite raining as we listen to “In A Misty Morning” by the late Gene Clark from his 1973 album, Roadmaster.

At the time, the album was actually released only in the Netherlands, according to Wikipedia, which notes that Clark’s label, A&M, was displeased with the slow pace of his work and created the album by combining eight of Clark’s new tracks with three tracks from other sessions (two tracks from sessions with the Byrds in 1970-71 and one track from sessions with the Flying Burrito Brothers). Whatever the source, Roadmaster is a decent listen.

Clark’s catalog is not easily listed, given his solo work and his work with Doug Dillard, with the Byrds and finally with McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. I’ve seen his 1974 album No Other mentioned as the best of his career, and it’s the only solo album to reach the Billboard 200, peaking at 144 in 1974.

Most of his work, including Roadmaster, seems to be available on CD; I didn’t take the time to do an album by album check.

By late morning, the mist is gone, and as the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, it’s time for a break. Our refreshment is “Red Wine At Noon” by Joy Of Cooking, found on the group’s 1971 self-titled debut.

The Berkeley-based group has been mentioned and featured here frequently enough that I’m not sure there’s a lot left to say. I’ll just note that I wish that the group’s unreleased fourth album, 1973’s Same Old Song And Dance, would somehow find a release. And I’ll add that not long ago, I got hold of a two-CD collection titled “back to your heart” that offers seventeen unreleased studio tracks – some of them polished, some less so – as well as a 1972 concert in Berkeley. If you like what I call “living room music,” it’s sweet stuff.

All three of Joy Of Cooking’s original albums spent some time in the Billboard 200: Joy Of Cooking (1971) went to No. 100, Closer To The Ground (1971) peaked at No. 136, and Castles (1972) got to No. 174. The group’s only charting single in Billboard was “Brownsville,” which went to No. 66 in 1971. All the original albums are available on CD, as is “back to your heart” and a collection titled American Originals, which includes a few tracks from the unreleased Same Old Song And Dance.

The day moves on, and some times of day and some times of year merge nicely for time spent outdoors. That’s evidently what the Stone Poneys thought in 1967 when they released “Autumn Afternoon” on Evergreen Vol. 2.

The Stone Poneys were, of course, Linda Ronstadt, Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards, with Ronstadt handling almost all of the lead vocals on Evergreen Vol. 2, the group’s second album. If the stories at Wikipedia are accurate (and I think they are, given the notes), the group’s label, Capitol, saw Ronstadt as the marketable talent and Kimmel and Edwards as expendable. And the guys were pushed firmly to the side.

Evergreen Vol. 2 went to No. 100 in Billboard upon its release in 1967. The first album, re-released with the title The Stone Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt, went to No. 172 in 1975.

The Stone Poneys’ first two albums are available on a two-fer CD; also available on CD is Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys and Friends, Vol. III, a 1968 release that was, from what I read, more Ronstadt and very little Poneys.

After the sun goes down (and we could easily – and might someday – devote an entire slice of this kind of whimsy to “sundown” alone), and the shadows come from the streetlights and perhaps a full moon, it’s time to get a little slinky. Pat Benatar did it well on “Evening” from her 1991 exploration of jump blues and torch songs, True Love.

Benatar, of course, was a 1980s icon with eleven Top 40 hits from 1979 to 1984; six of her albums made the Top Fifteen during that time as well. True Love did not. It peaked at No. 37. Given my tastes, it’s not surprising that I like it better than the rest of Benatar’s catalog. Like all of her catalog, it’s easily available.

Just past 11:59 p.m., the clock turns over, a new day starts, and we hear “Midnight Wind” by John Stewart from his 1979 album Bombs Away Dream Babies. The album was fortified by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – both contributed backing vocals, and Buckingham added guitar and co-produced – and was the greatest success of Stewart’s long career, peaking at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

None of Stewart’s six earlier charting albums had gone higher than No. 126; his 1980 follow-up, Dream Babies Go Hollywood, went to No. 85, and Stewart’s moment was gone.

But the moment was a great one, with a sound evocative of its time: “Midnight Wind” went to No. 28 in the Hot 100; its predecessor, “Gold,” had reached No. 5. A third single from Bombs Away Dream Babies, “Lost Her In The Sun,” went to No. 34.

The album is seemingly out of print; copies are available on CD but at higher prices than I’m willing to pay. The same seems to hold true for most of Stewart’s catalog.

‘Are All Three Of You Looties?’

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

We headed out last evening to celebrate my mother’s birthday. She turned 93 yesterday, and we took her to the Ace Bar & Grill here on the East Side, where she and I often have lunch (though we haven’t been there recently, as the cold weather has kept Mom inside in the past few weeks).

As we entered, Mom leading the way with her walker and the Texas Gal and I trailing in her wake, the hostess smiled. I waved three fingers in the air, and she said, “Three tonight! Are all three of you looties?”

None of us answered, and in the silence, I tried to figure out what she had said. “Are we what?” I finally asked.

“Looties! Here for the lutefisk dinner!”

We’d not known that Monday was the date for the Ace’s lutefisk buffet. Mom and I glanced at each other, knowing that we’d love to have lutefisk for dinner.

The Scandinavian dish has become a American joke over the years, the punch line often wielded in self-deprecation by descendants of the Swedes, Norwegians and Finns who brought the dish with them during the great migration from their homelands to the United States in – mostly – the mid- to late 1800s.

It is an odd dish. Here’s how it’s prepared, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Lutefisk is made from dried whitefish (normally cod in Norway, but ling is also used) prepared with lye in a sequence of particular treatments. The watering steps of these treatments differ slightly for salted/dried whitefish because of its high salt content.

The first treatment is to soak the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent, producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) is caustic, with a pH value of 11–12. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked.

It sounds dreadful, I know. When lutefisk is baking, the aroma is pungent (though the taste is much more bland than the aroma would lead one to believe). The memory of that aroma makes me think of December evenings on Kilian Boulevard long ago, where we had lutefisk at least once every year, and makes me think as well of my grandfather’s farm outside Lamberton, where we had lutefisk every Christmas Eve. In the early 1970s, that tradition moved to my parents’ home, and it lasted there until 2002, the Christmas before my dad died.

At the Ace last night, when Mom and I learned that lutefisk was on the menu, we looked at each other and shrugged. A lutefisk dinner for her birthday would have been a wonderful surprise, but the white sauce was almost certainly made with wheat flour, something she must avoid completely and that I can only have if it’s whole grain. (The Texas Gal, for her part, shuddered at the thought of lutefisk, which she’s tried once, and began thinking immediately of prime rib.) Just to make certain, I had our young waitress check with the kitchen on the ingredients in the sauce.

She confirmed our suspicions about the flour, and we regretfully said we’d have to pass on the lutefisk. “Well,” she said, “we do have lutefisk in butter.”

“Yeah,” I said, nodding, “but we’re firmly in the Swedish tradition with the white sauce. The other stuff? That’s for the Norwegians.”

The waitress laughed along with us and then said, “So that’s the difference! I’ve always wondered.” And she went off and got us our beverages as we all settled on the prime rib. As we waited, Mom and I discussed the possibility of making a lutefisk meal using a flour we both can have, probably brown rice flour. “It wouldn’t look very good,” I said.

“And that’s a lot of work for just the two of us,” she added. I nodded in agreement. And we pretty much decided that, like other things and people still cherished but now gone, lutefisk is a memory.

And here’s one version of the most common lutefisk joke among we Scandinavians: The song “Oh, Lutefisk,” offered here in barbershop harmonies by four sharply dressed fellows in 1979:

Another Friday Song

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

I frequently note in this space that we’re busy here under the oaks. This week, we’re busier than normal as we prepare for our End of Summer Picnic this coming Sunday. It had been an annual event, but we skipped it last year for a number of reasons, and we’re glad that we’re able to renew the festivities this year.

But that means lots of preparation, and although much has been done, much remains. And I’ll spend much of the day focused on that. So here, to get through the day and allow me to get on with my tasks, is a nifty shuffle by J.J. Cale, “Friday” from his 1979 album 5.

‘Another Man Done Gone . . .’

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

So, what do we know about “Another Man Done Gone”? The tune has led me on a merry chase (well, maybe not so merry, considering the subject matter of the song) since I posted the version of the song that Jorma Kaukonen recorded for his 1974 album Quah. The first item on my list was to find out where the song came from.

In the notes to the 2003 CD reissue of Quah, Jeff Tamarkin writes that “Another Man Done Gone” is “another one of those ancient blues standards whose origin is shrouded in mystery. Although credited on Quah to Ruby Pickens Tart, Vera Hall and folklorists John and Alan Lomax, other versions have assigned its authorship to any number of persons, among them Johnny Cash, Sonny Boy Williamson, C.C. Carter and Woody Guthrie – or Public Domain.”

The earliest version I’ve been able to find of the tune is the one performed by Vera Hall that was recorded by John Lomax in Livingston, Alabama, on October 31, 1940.

I believe that’s the Lomax recording. According to the information at Discogs, Alan Lomax also recorded two versions of the tune during visits to prisons in the south around the same time, but I’ve not heard those or seen the documentation. Someday, maybe.

In the meantime, we have Hall’s haunting a capella version as a starting point. Odetta offered a similar version on her 1957 album Odetta Sings Ballads And Blues. I was puzzled by the last verse of Hall’s version of the song, which sounds like “I’m going to walk your log.” A discussion at the Southern music board WeenieCampbell.com, where folks better informed than I share their ideas, seemed to come to no conclusions as to what the verse means. The phrase “walk your log,” the discussion said, sometimes appears in blues and folk songs as meaning “I’ll get the better of you” (perhaps from log-walking and -rolling contests, one poster theorized), while another poster thought the line might be “a tribute from a fellow prisoner, who will pick up the workload/log of his departed comrade.”

As versions of the song multiplied during the folk/blues boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s, some other lyrical elements showed up along the way. The spare version that Johnny Cash offered on his 1963 album Blood, Sweat and Tears includes the additional lines “They hung him from a tree/ they let his children see” and “When he was hangin’ dead/ the captain turned his head.” By the time Kaukonen recorded “Another Man Done Gone” for Quah, the lines “They set the dogs on him/they tore him limb from limb” had become part of the song.

As I wandered through discography websites and versions of the tune this week, I came across a couple of head-scratchers. The spooky and somewhat weird 1959 version by Lorrie Collins turns the tune into a song of lost love and credits Johnny Cash as the writer. (Lyrically, it is a different song, though the melody remains the same.) I don’t know who Cash originally credited in 1963, but the current listing for Cash’s version at AllMusic Guide now credits the quartet of Tart, Hall and the Lomaxes. (Tart, if you’re wondering, was an Alabama folklorist whose work was similar to that of the Lomaxes and who assisted them during their travels in that state.) The other puzzle I found came from the credits of Harry Belafonte’s 1960 album, Swing Dat Hammer, on which the writing credit goes to Anita Carter of the Carter Family, which I find odd, as the Carters never recorded the song, as far as I can see.

Well, anyway, it’s a haunting song still, and versions of it keep showing up. The bluesman Sugar Blue included a nice version on his 1979 album Cross Roads; Irma Thomas added some lyrics for a post-Katrina version that was included in the Paste Magazine Sampler Issue 24 in September 2006; the Mercy Brothers, a Boston duo, recorded an intriguing version of the song for their 2008 album, Strange Adventure; and there are no doubt others out there worth hearing that I missed.

One of my favorite current versions of the tune hews pretty closely to Hall’s version from 1940. The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a group from Durham, North Carolina, described by Wikipedia as “an old-time string band,” included the song on their 2007 album, Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind.