Archive for the ‘1974’ Category

‘So Long Ago . . .’

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

We talked a bit about 1974 last week, when I told a tale of romance and its aftermath, but the music tied to that post came from a year earlier. This morning, I decided to wander through the Billboard Hot 100 from December 21, 1974, forty-two years ago today, and see what came to mind.

The bulk of the records listed were, without surprise, familiar. I wasn’t actively listening to Top 40 at the time, but stuff drifts in the environment, you know, and becomes familiar whether you really like it or not. In addition, a lot of the stuff in that chart from December 1974 was on the jukebox at the student union, where I still spent a lot of time once I got back to school at the beginning of winter quarter.

And one of the records making its chart debut forty-two years ago today – sitting at No. 68 – is one that I liked a great deal then even though for some reason, I didn’t make any effort to find the record or even learn its title for years. I just heard John Lennon’s “#9 Dream” coming out of the speakers at school, in the car and, I imagine, many of the other places I hung out as the sad year of 1974 began to fade toward 1975 (which turned out to be a far better year). And I heard it a lot, as it went, eerily, to No. 9. And then, as records do, it faded away.

In some ways, I’m surprised that I never thought to find out the record’s title. I obviously knew it was Lennon’s work, but I evidently didn’t need to know more than that. As for buying it, well, I never did buy many singles, and I never gave much thought in those days to picking up Lennon’s Walls and Bridges album.

All I can say is that I wasn’t spending a lot on records in late 1974 and I kept to that in the first months of 1975 (and for a long time after, as far as that goes). And when I did buy, I was focusing on getting the most prominent of the stuff I’d heard during my time in Denmark, including albums by the Allman Brothers Band and the first Duane Allman anthology. So as much as I liked “#9 Dream,” it had to wait to get onto my shelves.

And it was a long wait. Eleven years later, on a January evening in 1986, the Other Half and I did some shopping in Buffalo, the county seat about ten miles south of Monticello. It’s a odd destination, as we rarely shopped in Buffalo; if we didn’t stay in Monti, we’d usually head thirty miles northwest up Interstate 94 to St. Cloud or go the same distance the other way to any number of malls or big box stores in the Twin Cities’ northwestern suburbs.

But we went that Friday evening to Buffalo, and one of the places we went had LPs. I noticed The John Lennon Collection, a recently released anthology of the man’s solo work, and it went home with us. So if I hadn’t ever bothered to learn it before (and I don’t know if I had or hadn’t), I learned by the end of that evening that the track with the haunting refrain “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé” was in fact called “#9 Dream.” And I was glad to have it – and the rest of the tracks on the collection – with me.

Saturday Single No. 520

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

The late autumn gods sent us snow yesterday and early this morning. Nothing odd about that in mid-December, but it is still – in technical terms – late autumn. Winter doesn’t truly begin here until the lovely time of 4:44 a.m. this coming Wednesday.

But that’s just a formality. We’ve had three pretty good snowfalls already – by that, I mean four inches or more – and although we got back to bare ground a couple days after the first one, I think we’re set now with snow cover until late February or March. And that’s fine; it’s winter in Minnesota.

And I’m taking it easier on the shoveling this season. This is our ninth winter in the house. During the previous eight, I would take care of all the shoveling in one go: Clear the top of the driveway, swoop a center path on the sidewalk along the edge of the house and from the front steps out to the street, clear the front steps and then trim the sidewalk edges with a upward and forward beveling motion of the shovel combined with a sort of crab-like backward shuffle.

(It’s likely hard to envision that edge-trimming strategy from words; one of these days, I think I’ll have the Texas Gal shoot some video. But there’s something comforting about the beveling and crab shuffle; every time I finish off our brief bit of sidewalk with that technique, I am – just for those few minutes – my father, for I learned that odd bit of sidewalk maintenance from him during the 1960s on the walk that ran along Kilian Boulevard.)

But this winter, when I can, I’m splitting the shoveling task in two: I’ll clear the top of the driveway and scrape a center path down the sidewalk (and clear the front steps while I’m at it), and then leave the beveling crab shuffle for a later trek outside. It’s easier on the body that way, and that’s something I need to keep in mind as I wander between birthdays No. 63 and No. 64. And that’s fine.

The only negative so far in this early portion of the snow season comes from an error by our new plowman. In previous winters, the guys who have snowplowed our drive have pushed the scraped snow into an open area on the west side of the garage. The grass there is pretty sketchy because of the presence of a large Norway pine. When the new fellow did his first run through, I pointed the area out to him, and he nodded.

This morning, about seven o’clock, I watched as he plowed our drive, and – as he had done earlier in the week – he pushed some snow into an area east of the drive, between the house and an oak tree. I thought to myself that he was getting awfully close to the little brick-lined garden buried under the snow near the tree. And as I prepared to head outside – still in the lounging pants and sweatshirt I use as pajamas, but never mind – I saw him push a second load of snow into the area and heard a crunch that could only have come from blade on brick.

I headed out and told him where he needed to put all the snow from now on, and I mentioned that we have a brick-lined garden there, and that he’d plowed into it. “I didn’t hear anything,” he said, shaking his head. I’m sure he didn’t. The truck is loud and the heater fan was on in the cab.

“Well, I did,” I said. “Please put all the snow up by the pine tree.” He nodded, and I went back inside. As I did, I took a quick look at the place where the bricked garden lies. Any damage to the bricks was in the area where we plant annuals because I could still see the taller perennials – lilac, spirea and red something-or-other – poking above the snow. Other than that, we’ll have to wait until the snow melts to see if there’s much damage to our little garden.

In the RealPlayer, there are forty-three tracks that have something to do with the word “brick,” ranging temporally from Fairport Convention’s 1969 album Unhalfbricking to the 2009 track “Brick by Brick” by Train. There is, of course, the Commodores’ “Brick House” as well as several versions of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” And there are four versions of a tune listed once as “(Play Something Sweet) Brickyard Blues” and three times as just “Brickyard Blues.”

We’ll go with a version of that last song by a Scottish singer named Frankie Miller. Oddly enough, on the label for Miller’s 1974 album High Life, the tune is listed as simply “Brickyard Blues,” but on the authorized video at YouTube, the title is listed as “(Play Something Sweet) Brickyard Blues.”

No matter. It’s a decent take on the tune, produced by its writer Allen Toussaint, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: October 12

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

It’s time for some Games With Numbers. We’re going to take today’s date – 10-12-16 – and turn it into 38, and then we’ve going to see what was at No. 38 on some Billboard Hot 100 charts on October 12 from the years we like best around here, the 1960s and 1970s.

Because of the way the calendar works, we have only three charts to work with, those from 1963, 1968 and 1974. But that’s okay, because those three years are parked in very clear and different eras. Along the way, as well as listening to No. 38 from those three specific charts, we’ll check out the No. 1 singles from those weeks.

First up: October 12, 1963, a little less than four months before Beatlemania and the first British Invasion. So what was at No. 38 in that long-ago week? We find “The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” by the Raindrops. And it turns out that the Raindrops were only the song-writing team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (who were married at the time). Their credits include “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Chapel of Love,” “River Deep-Mountain High” and many, many more as a team and as individuals. Sadly, “The Kind Of Boy You Can’t Forget” isn’t a classic. It was, however, the best-performing of the six records the Raindrops got into or near the Hot 100, peaking at No. 17. (Oddly, the record covers shown on the official videos for the Raindrops at YouTube show three members; I don’t know who the second woman is, and she’s not mentioned at Wikipedia or in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles.)

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 for October 12, 1963, was “Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs.

Moving ahead to 1968, we find “Hold Me Tight” by Johnny Nash parked at No. 38. And that’s coincidental, as last evening, I was reviewing some long-ago posts and came across the 2008 post titled “First Friday: November 1968,” looking at the news and music of that month. The post had included a look at the Top 15 as the month began, and I had noted that Nash’s single – sitting at No. 8 by that time – was one I did not remember ever hearing. It’s still not all that familiar; it doesn’t say “1968” to me. But it’s a sweet reggae-influenced record, and it peaked at No. 5, making it the second-most successful single of Nash’s long career. (He placed twenty-three records in or near the Hot 100 over a span of nearly twenty years, from 1957 to 1976.) His most successful record, of course, was “I Can See Clearly Now,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 in November 1972.

Topping the Hot 100 during the second week of October 1968 was the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” in the third of its eventual nine weeks at No. 1.

Lastly, we look at the Hot 100 from October 12, 1974. The No. 38 record that week was one of my favorites from the year, “Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton. The Detroit native had first reached the charts in 1968 when he was 15 and “Competition Ain’t Nothin’” went to No. 75 (No. 36 on the R&B chart). “Everlasting Love” was by far the best-performing of Carlton’s singles, peaking at No. 6 (No. 11, R&B), and it’s one of those records that say “1974” to me, bringing back a welter of memories from that tumultuous autumn. I like it so much, in fact, that I’m tempted to resurrect the category of Jukebox Regrets and stuff it into the overcrowded Ultimate Jukebox I constructed back in 2010. But no; I’ll just make sure it’s in the iPod so it can show up sometime during one of my Dishwashing Music posts on Facebook.

The No. 1 record during this week in 1974 was Olivia Newton-John’s “I Honestly Love You.”

Plenty

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

At about 7 a.m. Sunday, I thought we were in deep trouble: The sky was gray, rain was falling, and the Texas Gal and I were expecting as many as sixty people for our biennial End of Summer Picnic in five hours. As cozy as our house is, we would not get sixty folks into the kitchen, dining room, living room and back hallway.

That was especially true because much of the space in the dining room and living room was already taken up by tables on which we would place the food brought by our guests.

So I did what I could do inside to prepare for the picnic and then sat at my computer, refreshing the weather radar every few minutes.

The Texas Gal soon joined me downstairs and began culinary preparations: getting the shredded beef brisket and the barbecued chicken into the oven and the calico beans into the crockpot. The cats were sequestered upstairs. Tablecloths went on the tables, followed by utensils, pickles and condiments.

And then we waited and checked the weather, she on her phone, I at my computer. Around ten o’clock, a weather program I consult occasionally said that the rain would end in about thirty minutes. And it did. When I went out about forty minutes later to place lawn chairs, the rain was over, although the trees were still shedding water from their leaves.

Soon after that, I made a run for ice, got the various beverages in coolers under a Norway pine and we waited. And our biennial picnic was a great success. The sun came out, the grass dried, and although the day became fairly warm, the heat was never oppressive.

We had about sixty people join us: My mom, my sister and a few of my cousins; members of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; the Texas Gal’s co-workers, both former and current; and friends from all eras of our lives, including a cluster of about eight folks from the days of The Table at St. Cloud State, three of whom I had not seen for close to forty years.

Finally, there was Yah Shure, constant reader and frequent commenter here. His regular contribution to our picnics has moved over the years into legend. I greeted him and sent him on into the house with his famed white plastic bucket (and a clutch of custom-burned CDs he was delivering), and as I moved back to the rapidly growing throng, four or five of our regular guests asked me, “Is that the Fudgy Bonbon man?”

“Yep,” I told them, guessing that by the end of the day, Yah Shure’s chocolatey treats would be gone and his white bucket, which he always makes certain to take back to St. Paul with him, would be empty. (I didn’t check as he left, but as the bucket made the rounds where the last eight or nine of us were chatting in the late afternoon, there were very few bonbons left.)

Beyond the Fudgy Bonbons, the bounty offered on our tables by our guests was astounding in its variety and quantity: the salads included potato, pasta, cole slaw, and a wonderful concoction of watermelon and feta cheese under a savory dressing (I’m going to get the recipe for that one very soon); there were chips, crackers, dips and salsas; kabobs with veggies, fruit and sausage; and desserts galore, including apple pie, apple cobbler, bars and cakes, and an ice box cake from our new friend Lucille, one made from her grandmother’s recipe. (It combines chocolate and vanilla puddings, graham crackers and bananas, and I’m making quick work of the leftovers.)

If anything was in short supply Sunday, it was time enough for the Texas Gal and me to spend with all of our guests as we hosted. There were some with whom we hardly spoke, but I’m sure they understood. Other than that, it was a day of plenty: Plenty to eat on the tables, plenty to drink in the coolers; plenty of good company; and plenty to talk about.

And to mark that day of plenty, here are the Pointer Sisters combining the jazz standard “That’s A Plenty” with the silliness of a tune called “Surfeit, U.S.A.” from their 1974 album That’s A Plenty.

‘Manifest Destiny’

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

The current book on the reading table is Measuring America, Andro Linklater’s account of how surveyors, land agents, speculators, squatters and others moved west across North America from the late 1700s onward.

The tale of what Linklater calls “the greatest land sale in history” covers the long development of tools of measurement, looking at how a pound became a pound, an acre became an acre, and so on; the development of the idea of private citizens, rather than the Crown, owning land; the creation, in most of the United States, of the grid system that anchors many states, cities and individual lots of property; and the long sad tale of the dispossession of North America’s native cultures.

It was during Linklater’s discussion of the outcome of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 that I came across the two words that reminded me of sixth grade social studies at Lincoln Elementary School just down a couple streets from here: “manifest destiny.” I learned the words during that sixth grade school year of 1964-65, and we in my class – every one of us Caucasian – learned that those words were somehow tied to the expansion of the United States from an Atlantic seaboard nation to a trans-continental empire.

I don’t know if any of us grasped what the words really meant or what they implied. I was a smart kid, and I think I had a handle on “destiny,” meaning something foreordained, but I don’t think I really knew what the word “manifest” meant, and I don’t recall that our teacher, Miss Hulteen, ever defined it for us. Google tells me this morning that the word means “clear or obvious to the eye or mind.”

In Measuring America, Linklater notes that the two-word phrase came from John L. O’Sullivan, who said that it was the United States’ “manifest destiny to overspread the continent.” As Wikipedia notes, O’Sullivan first used the words in the July-August 1845 edition of his magazine Democratic Review during the discussion over the potential annexation of Texas. The two-word phrase came to wider attention when O’Sullivan used it in a column in the December 27, 1845, edition of the New York Morning News. In that piece, O’Sullivan addressed the ongoing boundary dispute with Great Britain in what was called the Oregon Country:

And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

Okay, so I didn’t need all of that in sixth grade, but it would have been helpful if our teacher had interpreted the words for us, helping us understand that they reflected the mid-Nineteenth Century belief that the nation was clearly meant to stretch from Atlantic to Pacific. And it would have been even better, of course, had she told us that the implementation of that idea, the expansion of the United States across the continent from the already settled eastern portions, would continue the dispossession and destruction of native cultures that began soon after Caucasians first came ashore.

We didn’t get any of that, not even a clarifying definition. And of course, relatively few people in 1964-65 were thinking about imperialism or the fate of Native American cultures, and certainly none of them were in the classrooms of Lincoln Elementary School. I have a sense that the story of the westward expansion of the United States is told at least a little differently in schools these days. And that’s good.

Here’s “The Indian Prayer” by Richie Havens. Written by Roland Vargas Moussaa and Tom Pacheco, it’s from Havens’ 1974 album Mixed Bag II. Knowing at least a little bit about Havens’ and Pacheco’s world-views, I would guess that the song’s purpose was to offer respect to the Native Americans whose similar prayers in previous centuries were not answered in any affirmative way.

‘A New Adventure’

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

He was almost certainly homeless, dressed in a tattered and stained yellow long-sleeved shirt and what I think were bicycle pants, with the left leg shorter than the right. He carried a scuffed and dirty red athletic bag and a plastic bag from a grocery store, the latter holding at least two bottles of water.

He was heading over to visit a friend, he said, at the River Crest Apartments, a residence for chronic inebriates just down Lincoln Avenue from our place, and he stopped by our garage sale on the way. He looked to be in his forties, and he spoke with the same vagueness, the same lack of focus, that we’ve heard from the folks who live at River Crest since the place opened about six years ago.

He talked about a wife and oddities in their lives, but it was hard to tell as he spoke whether those were things that had happened in the last few years or long ago. Later on, the Texas Gal and I guessed it was the latter.

As he wandered around our small offering of things for sale, he noticed a magnifying glass on a stand with a flexible neck, like a gooseneck lamp. It was priced at five bucks, and he picked it up, and then his gaze fell on an orange backpack. “Oh,” he said, “that looks like a good one.”

It was a good backpack, bought in November 1973 in a sporting goods store in Fredericia, Denmark. When I’d headed to Denmark that September, I’d brought with me a light rucksack, thinking that it would suffice when I headed out hitchhiking or riding trains across Western Europe. One four-day trip to the West German harbor city of Kiel told me it wasn’t big enough or rugged enough, and I told my parents so in a letter.

They responded by sending me $35 – the equivalent of about $190 today – to get a backpack in time for my planned early December travels to Brussels and Amsterdam, and sometime in late November, I went to the store recommended by my Danish host family and bought myself an orange nylon backpack with a silver aluminum frame. That’s what our ragged customer saw offered for sale last week.

It was only a little difficult to put the backpack into the garage sale. I hadn’t used it since 1975, when I took a bus trip from St. Cloud to Kingston, Ontario, to visit a young lady I’d met during my European travels. We didn’t match well on this side of the Atlantic, and I never heard from her again. Nor had I used the backpack. Protected by an old pillowcase, it had sat on a shelf in my parents’ basement until Mom sold the house on Kilian Boulevard in 2004. Since then, it had sat in a closet in our apartment and then on a shelf in our basement. About a week before the sale, the Texas Gal asked what I wanted to do with it. I acknowledged with a sigh that my backpacking days were long gone, and we priced it at five bucks.

As we sat at our small table watching our visitor examine the backpack, the Texas Gal asked me, “Do you want to just give it to him?”

I shook my head. I was willing to sell the backpack, but to just give it away? “No,” I said.

After all, it had been my companion for much of what I’ve called the greatest formative experience of my life. On my December travels, I had carried it and it had carried me as I hitchhiked to Hamburg and Hanover in West Germany and then rode buses and trains to Brussels and Amsterdam and back to Fredericia. In March and April, I traveled more than 11,000 miles on a rail pass, and the backpack rode my shoulders from train stations to hostels and cheap hotels all over Western Europe, as far south as Rome and as far north as Narvik, keeping safe all the things I needed as I traveled.

Our ragged visitor moved on to look at other stuff we had for sale, but I was looking back. By the time one of my trips – the longest one, in March and early April 1974 – had ended, the backpack carried not only my clothing and sundries but four pieces of contraband: a liter mug pilfered from the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, a smaller beer glass lifted from a restaurant in Nuremburg, and two delicate painted tea glasses liberated from an Arabic restaurant in Paris. The mug and the beer glass were late additions to the backpack’s contents, but I still marvel that the two tea glasses – they now sit atop a bookshelf in our dining room – survived more than a month of travel, protected by nothing more than a sweater or other soft garments.

As I looked back, our visitor returned to the backpack. “That sure is a nice one,” he said.

I think I sighed. And I said to the Texas Gal, “Go ahead. Give it to him.”

She did. I had to show him how to work the flap and its ties, and then we loaded his bags into it and helped him slip it on his shoulders. He picked up his new magnifying glass and headed for River Crest. I watched him as he went, the vivid orange of his new backpack easily visible until he went into the building about a half a block away.

“He needed it,” the Texas Gal said.

“I know,” I managed to say. “And it’s gone on a new adventure.”

Here’s the best track I could find among the nineteen tracks in the RealPlayer that had the word “adventure” in their titles. It’s “Adventures On The Way” by the English group Prelude, and it’s from the group’s 1974 album, After The Gold Rush.

Saturday Single No. 501

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

The invitation came in the mail yesterday: In September, the 1971 graduating classes of St. Cloud Tech and St. Cloud Apollo high schools will gather for a reunion. That will, of course, include me, as I graduated from Tech that year.

Why in September and not in May or during the summer? I don’t know. Maybe because May and summer are busy months. It doesn’t matter. After forty-five years, a month or two of delay is small change.

And I’ll likely go. I’ll hobnob with my fellow Tigers and with the Eagles from the North Side, wander through the taco bar for dinner, drink a few beers and probably just stand and listen as a deejay plays what I assume will be music from our youth.

And I’ll miss my friend John. I’m not sure I’ve ever written much about him; he and I were pals in Sunday School from as early as I can remember. He lived across the Mississippi River, over on the North Side of town, and he went to Roosevelt Elementary, which was just half-a-block north of his house.

We’d see each other pretty much every Sunday during the school year and only a couple of times during the summer, at least during the early years. When the St. Cloud schools began offering summer enrichment classes in 1964 or so, John and I would see each other daily for the first half of the summer. Then, when we’d gotten through sixth grade, we learned that boundary lines dividing those students who went to North Junior High and those who went to South fell in our favor: John, like I, would attend South and then, for two years as Apollo was being planned and built, Tech.

But we grew apart, as friends often do. By the time we headed to Tech for our sophomore years, we were friendly but no longer spent much time together. We saw each other on Sundays, as we both sang in the church choir, but whatever it was that had made us close friends not that many years earlier was gone, and it had gone away so slowly that I never really noticed.

We graduated from our respective high schools and both went to St. Cloud State, where we must have played together in band at least one quarter, though I do not remember it. He studied the sciences and then went off to the University of Minnesota to study pharmacology; he eventually got his doctorate and taught at the U of M. I wandered into a career of reporting, editing and research. We saw each other at a couple of reunions and, after his mother passed in 2003, we spent a few minutes talking at the reviewal.

We talked vaguely during those few minutes about getting together, but nothing came of it. A little more than three years ago, he himself passed. I read that there would be a memorial service in St. Cloud during that summer of 2013, but I never saw anything more about that. And there things would sit, except . . .

Two years ago this month, Roosevelt Elementary School burned. Built in 1920, it was probably the most attractive of St. Cloud’s elementary schools, having an actual design instead of the functional blockishness of later schools (Lincoln included). Its location on a main traffic route across the North Side meant I drove past the school – and now drive past the location of what is called the Roosevelt Education Center, a blockish construction that incorporates some remainder of the old school – once every couple of weeks.

The first time I drove past the site after the fire – three years ago when the ashes were still smoking – I thought, “I wonder what John thinks about this. I should ask him.” And I recalled with a start that he was gone. And I now remember that moment every time I drive past there.

I had other friends during my schoolboy years; most of them are still around, I think. And I’ll be glad come September to chat with whoever remembers me kindly from those days long ago. But with no disrespect meant to the living, I fear that John in his absence will be for me a larger presence at the reunion.

So what comes to mind this morning is Jackson Browne’s 1974 meditation on death, loss and grief: “To A Dancer.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Let Your Light Shine’

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

I have not much to say.

Our hearts ache from the massacre in Orlando, from hearing the names and seeing the faces of the lost, from hearing the tales of those who were in the Pulse club at the time and who managed to survive while dear friends did not, from realizing once again that no number of lives lost to bullets this week, this month, this year, this lifetime, will budge the heartless and the paid-for from their resistance to true gun control in this nation.

My heart aches, too, at the bullying, anger and pure meanness put forward with mouth-frothing ferocity and glee by the supporters of the man who will evidently be the nominee for President of the United States of one of our major political parties. He inspires and glories in that anger and glee, and with each preening pronouncement, he makes it clear that he is unqualified for that office, indeed unqualified for any elective office.

So we here are emotionally weary. I know we are not the only ones. I know our brothers and sisters all around this blue planet share our concerns and sorrows. And that helps.

In search of solace, I wandered through my music, and I found the fourth part of the “California Suite” that Jesse Colin Young offered on his 1974 album Light Shine. It’s the album’s title track, and it starts:

People, let your light shine. Come on now, let it shine.
Come on, let it shine on, all night and day.
People, let your light shine. Let it shine.
Come on, let it shine on, all night and day.

We all got a light inside. People how can we survive
If we don’t let it shine on, all night and day?
You know the world is dark with fear, people scared to let you near.
They need you to shine on, shine on all day.

Young’s words and gentle music bring me some comfort, as they have since, in a lovely coincidence, I brought the record home to my apartment in Minot, North Dakota, twenty-eight years ago today. May they do the same for you.

‘South’

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

We’ll finally get back to Follow The Directions today and sort the 88,000 mp3s in the RealPlayer for “South,” which might be the most musically evocative of all the directions. It’s certainly the one I’ve been pondering the most since Odd, Pop and I came up with the idea for the series. But we run into problems right from the start. The player sorts for genre tags as well, so the list we get includes everything that’s tagged as “Southern Rock.”

Thus, we get most of the catalog of the Allman Brothers Band as well as work by Delaney Bramlett, Elvin Bishop, the Cate Brothers, Charlie Daniels and on and on through 1,146 mp3s. Some of those will work for us. But not only do we have to ignore southern rock, we have to ignore lots of albums with “south” in their titles but no tracks titled with “south.” That includes the epic – yes, I used the word – four-CD collection titled Sounds of the South assembled from various albums of recordings done by folklorist and musicologist Alan Lomax.

We also lose, among others, Magnetic South by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band, Colin Linden’s Southern Jumbo, Little Richard’s unreleased 1972 album Southern Child, Koko Taylor’s South Side Lady, Maria Muldaur’s Southern Winds, and many entire catalogs, including those of J.D. Souther, Joe South, Southside Johnny (with and without The Asbury Jukes), Matthews’ Southern Comfort and the 2nd South Carolina String Band.

But, as generally happens, we have enough left to find four records that may entertain us this morning.

We’ll start with a record that refers, evidently, to a New York City locale but that came out of Philadelphia: “100 South Of Broadway, Part 1” from a group called the Philadelphia Society. Now, Wikipedia tells us that the Philadelphia Society is “a membership organization the purpose of which is ‘to sponsor the interchange of ideas through discussion and writing, in the interest of deepening the intellectual foundation of a free and ordered society, and of broadening the understanding of its basic principles and traditions’.” Somehow, I don’t think that’s the source of this fine and funky 1974 instrumental on the American Recording label. But a moderate bit of searching brings up hardly any information: Discogs lists no other releases for the Philadelphia Society (which I suspect was a generic name for a group of studio musicians), and the record label itself, as shown at Discogs, tells us very little: only that the track was recorded at the Sigma and Society Hill studios in Philly and a few names. Googling those names noted on the label – writers Davis, Tindal and Smith and producers M. Nise and B. Adam– gets us mostly unrelated links along with some links to sites offering the record for sale. One note I saw said the record was a significant hit in Great Britain. Maybe so. But whatever its genesis and its reception, it’s a nice way to start heading south.

Gil Scott-Heron’s uncompromising poetry on his solo releases – think “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” from 1971, for one – earned him (according to several things I’ve read) the title of “Godfather of rap.” He was just as uncompromising – if seemingly a little less acerbic – three years later on Winter In America, his first album with keyboardist Brian Jackson. That’s where we find “95 South (All Of The Places We’ve Been)” getting down to business after a mellow introduction:

In my lifetime I’ve been in towns
where there was no freedom or future around.
I’ve been in places where you could not eat
or take a drink of water wherever you pleased.
And now that I meet you in the middle of a mountain,
Well, I’m reaching on out from within.

And all I can think of are chapters and scenes of all of the places we’ve been.

I’m not such an old man, so don’t get me wrong.
I’m the latest survivor of the constantly strong.
I’ve been to Mississippi and down city streets.
I’ve seen days of plenty and nights with nothing to eat.
But I’m not too happy ’bout the middle of a mountain so soon I’ll be climbing again.

’Cause all I can think of are chapters and scenes of all of the places we’ve been.

I was raised up in a small town in the country down south
So I’ve been close enough to know what oppression’s about.
Placed on this mountain with a rare chance to see
Dreams once envisioned by folks much braver than me.
And since their lives got me to the middle of a mountain,
Well, I can’t stop and give up on them.

’Cause their lights that shine on inspire me to climb on from all of the places we’ve been.

From all of the places we’ve been
From all of the places we’ve . . . been a lot of places, yeah,
From all of the places we’ve been,
Been down, been down, been down, a lot of roads and places.
All of the places . . .

And from there, we slide back to the autumn of 1948 and “Down South Blues” by Muddy Waters. The track might have been issued on Aristocrat 1308 at the time – I have a note that says that might have happened, but I can’t at the moment find the online source for that note – but it was certainly part of the second package of “real folk blues” put out by Chess in 1966 and 1967. As Mark Humphries writes in the notes to the 2002 CD release, “Muddy’s two ‘real folk blues’ albums were revisionist history of a sort, attempts to provide a fresh framework for his music, especially his earliest Aristocrat and Chess label recordings. By the time the second collection appeared in 1967, Muddy and his band were making forays into such hip niteries as the Electric Circus and the Fillmore. Yet even as Muddy’s audience changed, he continued to bring them many of the songs first collected on LP under the ‘real folk blues’ rubric. While this may have been because he saw them as folk songs and thus suitable for young white listeners, it was more likely because they were core parts of his repertoire, major elements of a music gazing with one eye back at the Delta and with the other toward a future which Muddy lived to enjoy but could scarcely have imagined when these recordings were freshly minted.”

Delta Moon is an Atlanta-based band about which I don’t know much except the music. I’ve found my way to several of the group’s CDs, and every time one of the band’s tunes pops up on random on the RealPlayer, the iPod or some of the mix CDs I play in the car, I find myself pulled in. That’s especially true for the track “Goin’ Down South,” the title track from the band’s second studio release in 2004. Swampy and sticky, this is music that calls me home to a place I’ve never been.

Taking Some Time

Friday, March 18th, 2016

With my attention turned elsewhere, things will be a bit lean around here for a few days, including tomorrow, when there will be – for one of the rare times since early 2007 – no Saturday Single. Instead, the Texas Gal and I will be at a State Senate District convention of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, a result of our having volunteered as delegates when we were at our precinct caucuses earlier this month.

Instead, here’s a preview, sort of, of the next installment of our “Follow the Directions” adventure, Steely Dan’s jaunty take “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo,” a tune written by Bubber Miley and Duke Ellington and first recorded in 1926 by Duke Ellington and His Kentucky Club Orchestra. The track is from the Dan’s 1974 album Pretzel Logic. It doesn’t really sound like Steely Dan, of course, and I’ve often wondered vaguely why Walter Becker and Donald Fagen dropped it on the album.

Well, I imagine there’s an answer out there somewhere, and maybe I’ll look into it when my current tasks are taken care of.