Archive for the ‘1974’ Category

Hunkering Down

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Well, we’re pretty much self-isolating, as we should. I was out yesterday for a brief time, picked up two prescriptions at the pharmacy drive-through, then got a pick-up order at the grocery store. The order wasn’t quite right, so I had to go into the store to straighten it out and then go into another store to get the soap powder for the dishwasher that the first store was out of.

Both stores had relatively little traffic, and the shelves were beginning to look bare in some spots: Canned soup, instant potatoes and potato box mixes, cereals, and, of course, paper products. In the store where I did my actual shopping, eggs were plentiful but customers were limited to two dozen. As well as getting the soap powder, I filled some minor gaps in our supplies and headed home.

And today, I’ll head out to the podiatrist for my regular six-week visit, being very careful about surfaces and aware of the people around me. The receptionist said they’ve expanded the seating area of the lobby to provide more distance between people. I’m still a bit nervous about it, but I thought I should go while I can. And then home again for the rest of the day.

There is nothing in the digital stacks with “COVID” in the title, of course. There are, on the other hand, several tracks with “nineteen” in their titles: “The Two Nineteen” by Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Day, “John Nineteen Forty-One” (the closing track to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar), “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” by Paul McCartney & Wings, “Nineteen Something” by Mark Willis, and five versions of the blues tune “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” Not much joy there.

So I thought I’d look at the Billboard charts from the years I call my sweet spot, 1969-75, and, playing some Games With Numbers, see what was at No. 19 during the third week of March in those years. With any luck, we’ll find something decent to listen to this morning. Here we go.

1969: “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” by James Brown
1970: “Call Me/Son Of A Preacher Man” by Aretha Franklin
1971: “(Theme From) ‘Love Story’” by Henry Mancini, His Orchestra and Chorus
1972: “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers
1973: “Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler
1974: “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” by Aretha Franklin
1975: “I Am Love (Parts 1 & 2)” by the Jackson 5

Well, that’s an interesting mix. I respect James Brown more than I listen to him, and Aretha’s double-sided single doesn’t grab me this morning. I know we’ve offered the Mancini, Bremers and Midler singles before (maybe some time ago, but still). And I’m going to ignore the Jackson 5 record because a quick search tells me that not only have I never posted “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” I’ve never – in more than thirteen years of blogging – even mentioned the record.

There’s a reason for that neglect. Given that it was on the radio in early 1974, the record falls into the list of those that I did not hear at the time, being in Denmark and beyond the reach of Top 40. I learned about it through my digging into Aretha during the late 1980s and via whatever play it got on oldies stations, and I like it a lot.

In mid-March 1974, the record was on its way down the chart, having peaked in the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 3 at the end of February. It spent a week at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart and went to No. 33 on the Easy Listening chart.

And finally, it shows up here.

Saturday Single No. 673

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

I’ve got a bunch of music stored on my phone, stuff that I put there a year ago so the phone could be my mp3 player while I was in the hospital, and every once in a while, as I take a rest, I lay the phone near the pillow and let the music lull me to sleep.

Except not all of the tunes on the phone are lulling. The other day I was roused when Long John Baldry began graveling his way through “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield,” the Randy Newman tune Baldry covered on his 1971 album It Ain’t Easy.

I wrote briefly about the song in 2008, quoting the assessment of Newman’s original recording of the song found at All-Music Guide:

A sinewy ballad built around a fine bottleneck guitar riff, “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” is a love song, basically, but the slightly demented lyric content is what gives it the edge.

Slightly demented? Well, yeah. Take a read:

Let’s burn down the cornfield,
Let’s burn down the cornfield,
And we can listen to it burn.

You hide behind the oak tree,
You hide behind the oak tree,
Stay out of danger ’till I return.

Oh, it’s so good on a cold night
To have a fire burnin’ warm and bright.

You hide behind the oak tree,
You hide behind the oak tree,
Stay out of danger ’till I return.

Let’s burn down the cornfield,
Let’s burn down the cornfield,
And I’ll make love to you while it’s burning.

At the time, more than eleven years ago, I had access to two covers of the song, those by Baldry and by Alex Taylor, and I noted that I planned to soon rip to mp3s Etta James’ version of the tune from her 1974 album Come A Little Closer.

Well, I must have done that, because James’ version of the song is now in the RealPlayer stacks, as are additional versions by Lou Rawls, Sam Samudio and the Walkabouts. There are others out there, but we’re not going to look any further afield this morning. Instead, we’re just going to make Etta James’ take on “Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield” today’s Saturday Single.

No. 45 Forty-Five Years Ago

Friday, December 20th, 2019

I thought we’d drop back to the last month of 1974 today for a quick look at the Billboard Hot 100 and a game of Symmetry. Much of the music in the top of the chart, I imagine, will be familiar from the jukebox near The Table in St. Cloud State’s Atwood Center. Here’s the Top Ten from forty-five years ago:

“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“You’re The First, My Last, My Everything” by Barry White
“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by Elton John
“Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)” by Al Green
”Junior’s Farm/Sally G” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express

That’s an okay set, I guess. I had to remind myself about the Al Green single with a trip to YouTube, and the very first strains of the record touched a vein of melancholy, an emotion not in short supply that month. The others are all familiar to varying degrees, but none of them were overly important during that long-ago December (although the Three Degrees single became very important not quite a year later when I was courting the young woman who eventually became the Other Half).

Even at the time, I was tired of the Harry Chapin and Billy Swan singles, and my occasionally faulty memory wants me to think that “Kung Fu Fighting” was a hit in the summer instead of the autumn. Was there a favorite among that bunch of eleven records as December 1974 headed into its last ten days? Well, maybe “Angie Baby,” Reddy’s surreal tale about the crazy radio-loving girl.

And today? How many of them are in the iPod? Only two: “Angie Baby” and “When Will I See You Again.” That says something, I guess.

And how about our work a little lower down, when we drop to No. 45 in that long-ago chart, what do we find?

Well, we find a double-sided single from James Brown, the first side of which – “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” – has the singer testifying about the sad state of the nation, ending with Brown stating, “I need to be the governor. I need to be the governor . . .” On the B-side, “Coldblooded,” he reminds us that “Every trip you got to be hipper than hip!”

The double-sided single didn’t go much further on the pop chart, peaking at No. 44. On the R&B chart, the A-side went to No. 4, so we’ll go with “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” this morning.

No. 45, Forty-Five Years Ago

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, this time looking at a Billboard Hot 100 from August 1974. (There were editions of the magazine released on August 17 and August 24 that year; we’re going with the latter edition.) As always, we’ll take a look at the top ten first:

“(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates
“The Night Chicago Died” by Paper Lace
“Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack
“I Shot The Sheriff” by Eric Clapton
“Waterloo” by ABBA
“Wildwood Weed” by Jim Stafford
“I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Rock Me Gently” by Andy Kim
“Keep On Smilin’” by Wet Willie

Okay, that starts badly. “(You’re) Having My Baby” is certainly in my list of the ten worst singles, so close to “Seasons In The Sun” territory that I don’t want to think about it much. And while “The Night Chicago Died” is not nearly as awful, it’s still thought of as cringe-worthy around here.

A little further down, we hit two more that don’t get much of my affection: I always thought “Wildwood Weed” was a bad joke gone very wrong, and while Donnie and Marie handled their cover of “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You” all right, it missed the mark by a little when compared with the 1963 version by Dale & Grace. (And, of course, it didn’t come anywhere near the quality of the 1957 R&B original by Don & Dewey.)

That leaves six records from that August 1974 Top Ten that I generally enjoy, and three of those six – the records by Roberta Flack, Andy Kim, and ABBA – are among the 3,900 or so on the iPod and are thus part of my current listening. (The Rufus record may get added the next time I shuffle things around.)

But our business here is lower in that August 1974 Hot 100, as we check in on the No. 45 record from forty-five years ago. And we find “Sugar Baby Love” by the Rubettes, which was on its way up the chart to No. 37.

When last I chanced on the record not quite seven years ago, I wrote:

The Rubettes were a pop rock sextet from London who put nine singles into the U.K. Top 40 between 1974 and 1977. Their “Sugar Baby Love,” a marvelous pop-rock confection that I don’t ever recall hearing (and that I might have thoroughly disdained at the time), went to No. 1 in the U.K.

The record – the Rubettes’ only entry ever in the Hot 100 – has since made its way onto the digital shelves here, where it had stayed unnoticed (except by my imaginary tunehead Pop, who no doubt grieves that his friend Odd and I are slow to comprehend the record’s greatness). Perhaps I should move it into the iPod.

What’s At No. 100? (June 1974)

Friday, June 21st, 2019

So we’re going to look today at the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 that came out as June 1974 hit the three-quarter mark and see what there is to listen to. But first, as we do with these exercises, we’re going to look at the Top Ten from that time and see if any of those records still have a shelf life around here.

Here’s the Top Ten from the Hot 100 released June 22, 1974, forty-five years ago tomorrow:

“Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” by Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics
“Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot
“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“Be Thankful For What You Got” by William DeVaughn
“Band On The Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” by Olivia Newton-John
“Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5
“Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & The Gang
“The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch

Well, seven out of those ten would make some good listening, back then and even today. Two of them I’ll dismiss from class early: The story-song of “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” didn’t do much for me in 1974 and still doesn’t today. It’s benign, though, unlike the Ray Stevens record, which I dislike greatly.

Then there’s “Hollywood Swinging,” a title I do not recognize. And listening to the track this morning rings only very faint bells. My Top 40 listening at the time would have come from the Twin Cities’ KDWB in the daytime (though that was limited), from St. Cloud’s WJON in the early evening and from, well, who knows what later in the evening. I could not find a KDWB survey from the week in question, but one released ten days later, on July 1, 1974, finds the single absent. So I might have heard it in 1974, but if I did, it obviously didn’t matter to me.

The other seven, though, I liked. How much? Well, four of them – those by Lightfoot, McCartney & Wings, Newton-John, and the Stylistics – are among the 3,900 tracks in the iPod, which gives them some kind of stature around here. The other three? Well, I’ve featured the DeVaughn single here at least once, and I don’t wince when the other two show up.

Actually, at the time this Hot 100 came out, I wasn’t listening to a lot of Top 40, except maybe in the evening. I was pretty much confined to home, recovering from a mysterious lung ailment that set in a week after I got home from Denmark, and my days were spent mostly on the green couch in the basement rec room, getting reacquainted with my album collection and going through the piles of Time and Sports Illustrated that my dad had set aside for me while I was gone. So the fact that four of those ten are still in my queue is pretty good, I think.

But what of our other business with the Hot 100 from June 22, 1974? What lies at the very bottom of that list?

Well, it’s a piece of funk from Smokey Robinson titled “It’s Her Turn To Live,” on its way off the chart after peaking at No. 82 and reaching No. 29 on the Billboard R&B chart. I doubt I’ve ever heard it until this morning, but it’s pretty good. Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 632

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

So, I slept late. Watched as the Texas Gal moved our new furniture into its approved places (I could not help because of limitatons from my surgery), ate lunch and am now watching the Class A – generally the smaller schools – final of the state high school hockey tournament. (After two periods, St. Cloud Cathedral, where Rick, Rob and their siblings went to high school, leads Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin from up on the Iron Range by a score of 4-2.)

Obviously not much will get done in this space today.

So here, just because it’s Saturday, is “Dancing On A Saturday Night” by Flash Cadillac & The Continental Kids. It went to No. 93 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 629

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

We’re going to head over the Airhead Radio Survey Archives today and play some Games With Numbers. We’re going to find four surveys from widely differing geographic areas, and then we’ll take today’s date – 2/16/19 – and turn that into 37. And we’ll see what’s at No. 37 on those four surveys. One of those four records will be today’s Saturday Single.

Along the way, we’ll check out – as we generally do – the No. 1 record on those surveys. As for the year, I think we’ll go forty-five years back and see what was on the air in February 1974.

We’ll start on the West Coast, checking out the Pop Sound of Southern California, as offered by KOLA of San Bernardino. Sitting at No. 37 forty-five years ago today was “Pepper Box” by the Peppers. The Peppers were, says Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, a “pop instrumental studio duo from Paris,” with Mat Camison on synths and Pierre Dahan on drums.

The record is two-and-a-half minutes of not very inspired wheedling melody backed with a basic rhythm track. It probably seemed revolutionary in 1974. The record was new that week to KOLA’s survey, and in about three weeks it would make its way into the Billboard chart, peaking at No. 76 on the Hot 100. It was the Peppers’ only record to reach the Hot 100. (The title triggered a memory, so I checked the archives: “Pepper Box” was mentioned here about five years ago when I spent some time checking out a survey from March 1974 at KUPK of Garden City, Kansas.)

The No. 1 record forty-five years ago at KOLA was Terry Jacks’ “Seasons In The Sun.”

We’ll head to the mountains for our next stop, digging into the weekly survey at Denver’s KTLK, where the No. 37 rung was taken up by “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & The Gang, which is familiar, I would imagine, to anyone who hangs around this joint. The record had just entered KTLK’s survey that week.

Nationally, “Jungle Boogie” would, of course, be one of Kool & The Gang’s biggest hits, grunting its way to No. 4 in the Hot 100 and to No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart.

The No. 1 record at KTLK forty-five years ago this week was also “Seasons In The Sun.”

We’ll head a long ways southeast from Denver and check out “South Florida’s Top Selling Music” as compiled by WQAM of Miami. The No. 37 record there forty-five years ago today was “I Love” by country artists Tom T. Hall. The saccharine list of the things that Hall loves – including little fuzzy pups, bourbon in a glass, honest open smiles, tomatoes on the vine “and you” – was in its first week on the WQAM survey.

Nationally, “I Love” went to No. 12 on the Hot 100, No. 2 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart and spent two weeks at No. 1 on the magazine’s country chart.

Then No. 1 record at MQAM forty-five years ago was “Love’s Theme” by the Love Unlimited Orchestra.

We finish our journey with a stop at WCFL in Chicago, where the Super CFL Survey showed Elton John’s “Bennie & The Jets” holding down spot No. 37 in its first week on the survey. The record, of course, went to No. 1 on the Hot 100.

And the No. 1 record at WCFL during that long-ago week was Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.”

So our choices come down to “I Love,” “Bennie & The Jets,” “Jungle Boogie” or “Pepper Box.” The gods of randomness have disappointed us this time. So we’ll go with rarity. Here’s “Pepper Box” by the Peppers, today’s Saturday Single.

What’s At No. 100? (11/30/74)

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Okay, so it’s the last day of November, and our time-waster today is to take a look at the Billboard Hot 100 from this date in 1974, looking at the Top Ten and then taking a chance on whatever might be sitting at No. 100.

Here’s the Top Ten from that chart forty-four years ago today:

“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied” by B.T. Express
“Longfellow Serenade” by Neil Diamond
“Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton
“My Melody Of Love” by Bobby Vinton
“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet/Freewheelin’” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin
“Angie Baby” by Helen Reddy

Boy, there are some clinkers in there: The records by Carl Douglas, Bobby Vinton and Harry Chapin are pretty much guaranteed to make me wince (and if I’m in the car, punch a button for another station). I’m not all that fond of “I Can Help,” either, having heard it too many times on the Atwood Center jukebox at St. Cloud State forty-four years ago. (Someone who hung out in the snack bar must have really liked the record because it felt back then as if I heard it every day at The Table.) And after forty-four years, I still go back and forth on “Longfellow Serenade.”

Of the others, the records by the Three Degrees and Helen Reddy and the A-side of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive are on my iPod, and the Carl Carlton record should be (and will be within minutes). I took a few minutes this morning to listen to the B-side of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive record – Joel Whitburn notes in Top Pop Singles that the track, an instrumental, is dedicated to Duane Allman – and was not impressed.

What about B.T. Express? Well, maybe I should pop it into the iPod; it might be good for a kitchen dance or two.

As usual these days, though, we have business at the lowest end of the chart. We’re going to see what’s at No. 100.

And we find a classic track that I heard almost daily in September and October of 1974 while I sipped coffee at The Table: “Then Came You” by Dionne Warwick and the Spinners. By the end of November, the record was in its last of its nineteen weeks in the Hot 100. A little more than a month earlier, it had been at No. 1. It’s a gem polished by a lot of good memories.

Saturday Single No. 605

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Well, as I opened my Word file this morning and typed in today’s date, I noticed that August 18, 2018 scans out to 8-18-18, and if there were ever a date begging for Games With Numbers, today’s is one of them.

So we’re going to take those numbers and turn them into Nos. 8, 18, 26, 36 and 44 and then visit a Billboard Hot 100 to see what treasures or dross we might find. The question is, what year? I think we’ll take the largest of those numbers and head back forty-four years to August of 1974. I spent that month working halftime in the cataloging department of the St. Cloud State Learning Resources Center and killing time, hanging around with my friends at The Table and waiting for school to resume and for my friends from the Denmark program to come back to St. Cloud. So what do we find as we dip into the Hot 100 from the third week of August 1974?

Heading to our lowest searching point first, we find Mac Davis singing about “One Hell Of A Woman.” The record, heading to a peak at No. 11, would be Davis’ first Top 40 hit since 1972, when “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me” spent three weeks at No. 1. I’ve evidently not thought much about “One Hell Of A Woman,” as it’s not on the digital shelves (though couple of other Davis tracks are), but listening to it this morning, it’s a decent piece of Seventies pop, better musically than lyrically. As I look at that Hot 100 from August of 1974, I notice that by the time Davis’ record got to No. 44, it had already been in the chart for twenty-two weeks. That seems like a long time to get to that point. (The only other record that had been in the Hot 100 longer that week was the Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” which, in its twenty-three weeks on the chart, had spent two weeks at No. 2 and was at No. 93, slowly making its way out of the chart.)

We move up eight spots to No. 36, where we find Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” making its way to a peak of No. 8. Some years ago, I wrote:

I don’t have a lot to say about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” except to note two things about the record that went to No. 8 in 1974: First, the ambiguous second verse that seems to have defended Alabama Governor George Wallace doesn’t actually do so, according to a 1975 interview with the late Ronnie Van Zant, co-writer of the song. Second, I think the current Alabama license plate is just perfect:


I’m not entirely certain, but it appears, sadly, as if that plate is no longer available.

We jump ten spots to No. 26, where Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin,” buoyed by doo-wop vocals from the Jackson 5, is heading toward No. 1. The record, says Wikipedia, “was one of [Wonder’s] angriest political statements and was aimed squarely at President Richard Nixon, who resigned two days after the record’s release.” Although there were numerous criminal and political reasons for Nixon’s resignation, it’s fun to indulge in a revisionist fantasy that has Nixon combing the AM band late at night, hearing Wonder’s thumping and funky put-down coming through the ether, and realizing, “Damn, if I’ve lost Stevie Wonder, I’ve lost the nation. I’d better call it quits.”

Speaking of thumping, moving up to No. 18, we find “Wild Thing” as offered by the English group Fancy. The record wasn’t a major departure from the Troggs’ original version, which went to No. 1 in 1966. Well, the breathy vocals of Helen Caunt and that twee little synth solo were different. Otherwise, the record plodded along as it headed toward a peak at No. 14. It was one of two U.S. hits for Fancy; “Touch Me” went to No. 19 during the first week of December 1974. (As I dug into Fancy’s work at YouTube, I noticed with some amusement that one video poster called Fancy a “[b]argain bin band that still had some talent on board.”)

Our last stop as we climb up the Hot 100 from August 24, 1974, is No. 8, where we find Donny and Marie Osmond covering Dale and Grace’s No. 1 hit from 1963, “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” though the Osmonds adjusted the title, making it “I’m Leaving It (All) Up To You.” The record, inoffensive and bland, was heading to a peak at No. 4. It was the first of six Top 40 hits for the brother-and-sister duo; Donny, of course, had a bushel of hits on his own and with his brothers, some of which were pretty decent.

Just because we do this, I should note that the No. 1 record in that August 24, 1974, Hot 100 was the execrable “(You’re) Having My Baby” by Paul Anka with Odia Coates.

So we’ve listened to a wide range of stuff this morning, but only one record really grabs me. From its funk and its “Doo-da-wop!” chant to its message, Stevie Wonder’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin” resonates, and that’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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.