Archive for the ‘1962’ Category

‘I’ve Seen Trouble . . .’

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

I’m finding it hard to lift my head and get anything done that’s not essential. Why? Most likely a combination of my revulsion at the turns our national life seems to be taking these days and the depressive effects of my own cyclical biochemistry, along with, no doubt, grief.

My goal in the midst of that this morning was to write a bit about the fortieth anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, but I found little to say. So I let that go, and that’s okay, for as important as Elvis Presley was to the music that I love, I was never more than a casual fan. Others can testify far better than I.

Instead, I went looking for “sorrow” in the RealPlayer and found – among other titles – sixteen versions of the tune “Man of Constant Sorrow,” some with different titles. Wikipedia tells me that the first version of the song was published in 1913 “by Dick Burnett, a partially blind fiddler from Kentucky” under the title “Farewell Song.”

The first recorded version, according to Second Hand Songs, was a release on Vocalion by Emry Arthur in 1928. The website lists fifty-six additional versions of the tune, ranging from a 1951 cover by the Stanley Brothers with the Clinch Mountain Boys to a 2015 cover by Dwight Yoakam.

In the midst of that bit of digging, I ran a search in this blog’s archives and found that I’ve never featured any version of the tune and have mentioned it just once in passing, in a 2007 meditation on the definition of “folk music.”

So here are Peter, Paul & Mary with my favorite version of that oft-covered tune. It was titled simply “Sorrow” and was on their self-titled debut album in 1962.

Saturday Single No. 547

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

A week ago, I wrote about San Francisco and its “lasting and perhaps pre-eminent place in American culture as a destination where one can alternately find or lose or sell or buy one’s self all with the purpose of being the best self one can be.”

Okay, so I was being a bit glib by the end of the sentence, perhaps not wanting to get too weighty on a Saturday morning. But it’s true, I think, that San Francisco has long been used by songwriters (and writers of all type, for that matter) as an ideal. And, as I noted last week, songs about San Francisco abound. I’m not sure how many sit on the digital shelves here, because when I sort the RealPlayer for “San Francisco,” I also get tracks recorded there.

But there are lot of them, starting with eleven versions of “San Francisco Bay Blues” and eleven versions as well of the tune that may be the quintessential song about the city, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” Now, eleven versions aren’t very many, and I was surprised that there weren’t more versions of the latter tune. After all, Second Hand Songs list 135 versions of the tune, and I’m sure there are some that are unaccounted for there. But eleven is what we have.

The first release is probably, to re-use a word, the quintessential version of the song: Tony Bennet’s 1962 release, which went to No. 19 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. Elegant and controlled, Bennet’s vocal glides above an understated accompaniment, and as I listen to it this morning, I marvel – not for the first time – at Bennet’s voice and delivery.

We’ll take a look at some of the covers of the tune in the near future, but the only thing we need to listen to this morning is Tony Bennett’s 1962 version of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” today’s Saturday Single.

Struggling

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

I’m not doing all that well right now. Understandable, I suppose. I posted at Facebook yesterday:

“My home phone number when I was a kid was BLackburn 1-5557. When exchanges were dropped, it became 251-5557. Mom once told me that they got the number sometime before we moved from our apartment on Riverside Drive to our house on Kilian Boulevard in February 1957. So that was Mom’s phone number for more than sixty years. Sometime this afternoon, it will be disconnected. . . . I’ve been closing accounts and cancelling subscriptions for a week now. This one hurts.”

I’ve got nothing else to say right now, and too many sad tasks ahead of me yet.

Here’s “Samba Triste” – or “Sad Samba” – by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. It’s from their 1962 album Jazz Samba.

‘Let Me Tell The Story . . .’

Friday, August 19th, 2016

I was pondering this morning the transition during the 1960s of the place of record albums: If you look at the weekly Top Ten in the Billboard 200 from 1963 to, oh, 1969, you’ll see the top-selling albums went from being mostly the province of folk, easy listening and soundtracks to the land of pop, rock, R&B and soul.

That in itself is pretty old news, and I was trying to cobble together something interesting by comparing the top ten album charts from mid-August of 1963, 1966 and 1969. But as I examined the top ten albums from this week in 1963, I got sidetracked.

The top album that week was Little Stevie Wonder/The 12 Year Old Genius but as I had expected, most of the albums listed – seven of the ten – were soundtracks, comedy, folk or easy listening. One of the other exceptions was the immortal Live At The Apollo by James Brown.

The third outlier was Shut Down, a collection released by Capitol of tunes mostly about cars and motorcycles by various artists. That album offered two tracks by the Beach Boys, a bunch of tracks by groups with short shelf lives (the best of those might be the “Brontosaurus Stomp” by the Piltdown Men) and one track from actor Robert Mitchum. And it was that last track that grabbed my attention. Here’s “The Ballad of Thunder Road” by Robert Mitchum:

The scenes used in the video are from the 1958 film Thunder Road, which Mitchum co-wrote and produced (and perhaps partly directed, according to Wikipedia). Mitchum also co-wrote – with Don Raye – the song. But Mitchum’s version was not used in the movie. Instead, a folky version of the tune was recorded for the movie by Randy Sparks, who a few years later would be the founder of the New Christy Minstrels. Here’s Sparks’ version of the tune, which was titled “The Whippoorwill.”

As “The Ballad of Thunder Road,” Mitchum’s version of the theme was released as a single in 1958 and went to No. 62 in the Billboard Hot 100. Capitol tried again in early 1962, and the single topped out at No. 65. And then it showed up in 1963 on Shut Down, which was at its peak at No. 7 in that Billboard album chart from this week in 1963. (Mitchum would hit the Hot 100 one more time: “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me” went to No. 96 during the summer of 1967.)

As to the 1958 movie, I’ve read in various places that it’s a cult classic, and beyond Mitchum’s single, it does have a place in music history: During a 1978 concert, Bruce Springsteen said that the poster for the film was the source of the title for his song “Thunder Road” although Springsteen evidently never saw the movie.

And all of that is enough for today.

‘Do It’

Friday, September 25th, 2015

I took a look yesterday at the Billboard Hot 100 that was released this week in 1975, and since yesterday’s date – 9/24 – added up to thirty-three, I took a close look at No. 33. It turned out to be “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by the People’s Choice, a Philadelphia-based R&B dance group.

The funky boogie chant went to No. 11, the best performance of the three Hot 100 hits for People’s Choice. (“I Likes To Do It” went to No. 38 in 1971, and “Nursery Rhymes [Part I]” went to No. 93 in 1976.) And I thought I should see how many titles on the digital shelves start with the words “do it.”

There are twenty-four of them. The simple “Do It” shows up three times at the top of the alphabetical list: Once in 1971 from Aphrodite’s Child, the Greek progressive rock band of the late 1960s and early 1970s, once in 1969 from the Doors, and once in 1972 from Jesse Winchester. At the other end of the alphabetical listing we find “Do It, Fluid,” a 1974 offering by the Blackbyrds. None of those four grip me very hard.

Sorting the tracks by year, we follow a path from Richard “Groove” Holmes’ “Do It My Way” from 1962 to Keb Mo’s “Do It Right” from 2014. Both of those are pretty good, but if we have to choose one, we’ll listen to Holmes’ track:

The most frequent title is “Do It Again,” which shows up five times. I have two copies of the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again,” one tagged as a single and the other tagged as coming from the album 20/20. I’m not sure there’s any difference. I also have Steely Dan’s 1972 track “Do It Again,” Richie Havens’ 1976 cover of the Steely Dan tune, and a passable 1996 country tune with that title by singer Lari White.

Beyond those, here’s the “do it” harvest:

“Do It (’Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express, 1976.
“Do It All Over Again” by J. Vincent Edwards, 1970
“Do It For Mother” by Whistler, 1971
“Do It Good” by Bill Withers, 1971
“Do It In The Name Of Love” by Candi Staton, 1972
“Do It In The Rain” by Buster Benton, 1977
“Do It Just For Me” by Genya Ravan, 1978
“Do It Now” by Bessie Banks, 1963
“Do It Now” by Ingrid Michaelson, 2012
“Do It Right” by Bobby Womack & Peace, 1972
“Do It To ’Em” by the Big Town Boys, 1968
“Do It To Me” by the South Side Movement, 1975

There are some good ones among the twelve tracks in that last list. (There are also some that leave me cold.) Here’s one of the good ones, chosen for no reason other than that I like it: “Do It In The Name Of Love” by Candi Staton from her self-titled 1972 album.

Taking A Few Days

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Summer’s dealt us an incredibly busy week, so Odd, Pop and I are going to take a few days away from the studios. See you Saturday.

In the meantime, here’s Connie Francis’ “Vacation” from 1962. It went to No. 9 in the late summer, and it’s got a sax solo from Boots Randolph right about the 1:20 mark.

Offenbach With Bongos

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

So there I was this morning, sipping my coffee and thinking about possible blog posts. As I thought, I was wandering through Easy and Wonderful, one of the blogs that satisfies my itch for easy listening music, and I came across an album titled Champagne & Bongos by the Irving Fields Trio.

How could I resist?

I knew nothing about Irving Fields, though I’ve since learned that, according to Wikipedia, he’s had a lengthy and successful career as a soloist, with his trio and with the Irving Fields Orchestra. Along with a review of his career, the page about him at Wikipedia – updated this year – notes that Fields, now 99, “currently plays six nights a week at Nino’s Tuscany, an Italian restaurant in New York City.” (A quick check at the website for Nino’s Tuscany confirms that Fields still plays there.)

Champagne & Bongos, a 1962 album, turned out to be a collection of tunes from or about France with, in fact, some bongos adding rhythmic touches. It was one of several bongo-backed albums Fields released with his trio around the same time: Pizza & Bongos (1958) featured Italian tunes, Bagels & Bongos (1959) and More Bagels & Bongos (1961) featured traditional Jewish music, and Bikinis & Bongos (1962) featured Hawaiian tunes. I may have to seek out of few of those and take a listen as well to some of Fields’ work without the bongos.

And just as I couldn’t resist grabbing the album, neither can I resist sharing a portion of it here. So, from Champagne & Bongos, here’s the Irving Fields Trio’s “Can Can Merengue,” based at least mostly (if not entirely; I’m not certain) on themes from Jacques Offenbach’s compositions, as presented (again, as far as I understand it) in orchestrations by the composer’s nephew in the 1938 ballet Gaîté Parisienne.

Clarification added after initial posting.

Another Discovery

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

So up pops the name of another artist whom I do not recognize but absolutely need to learn more about.

Glancing this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 for January 27, 1962 – forty-five years ago today – I recognized a title bubbling under at No. 103: “Drown In My Own Tears” by Don Shirley.

I know the song, certainly. In 1956, Ray Charles’ version went to No. 1 on a couple of the pop charts of the time and on the R&B chart. Written by Henry Glover and – according to Second Hand Songs – first recorded by the Sonny Thompson Orchestra in 1952, the song has been covered many, many times. My first hearing of the song was likely as part of the “Blue Medley” on Joe Cocker’s live Mad Dogs & Englishmen from 1970, and just by accident, I’ve gathered ten other versions of the song.

So who was Don Shirley? Well, we’ll start with the version of “Drown In My Own Tears” that he released as the title track to a 1961 album. (Is this the single version? I doubt it. A label I saw for the single shows a running time of 2:16. As I implied the other day, we all know how unreliable running times on single labels are, but still, that 2:16 is about forty seconds shorter than the album track, and that’s a big difference to hide.) The single peaked at No. 100, and on its B-side, “The Lonesome Road” bubbled under at No. 116.

It turns out that Shirley was a well-known and well–regarded composer and pianist, working in jazz but with influences from other forms as well. As Wikipedia notes, “Don Shirley’s music is hard to categorize. As an arranger-composer he treated each piece of music as a new composition, not just an arrangement. Shirley played standards in a non-standard way. He was a virtuoso, playing everything from show tunes, to ballads, to his personal arrangements of Negro spirituals, to jazz, and always with the overtone of a classically trained musician who has utmost respect for the music he is playing.”

His biography is – to use a word I likely have overused in this space – fascinating, from studying music theory in Leningrad at age nine, to playing with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops and performing at Milan’s La Scala, to becoming a psychologist and then falling back into a musical career and recording a series of jazz albums from the mid-1950s through the 1960s.

His chart presence was minimal: In 1955, his album Tonal Expressions went to No. 14 on the Billboard chart, and in mid-1961, a cover of the traditional work song “Water Boy” by the Don Shirley Trio went to No. 40 on the Hot 100 and to No. 10 on the Easy Listening chart. Neither of the two singles – “Water Boy” or the earlier mentioned “Drown In My Own Tears/The Lonesome Road” – showed up in the R&B Top 40.

There’s plenty of Don Shirley’s stuff out there. I saw numerous CDs listed and there’s some stuff in the wilds of the ’Net, too, I imagine. What I’ve heard so far, I like, and I’m no doubt going to find more.

‘That Big Eight-Wheeler . . .’

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

So what other covers did I run across this week as I dug into Hank Snow’s 1950 classic song “I’m Movin’ On”? Well, using the list at Second Hand Songs and the list of performers available at BMI, I found a bunch that I thought were interesting and a couple that I really liked.

My favorite? Well, that can wait for a bit, but second place goes to the version that Leon Russell released in 1984 recording as his alter ego, Hank Wilson. Here’s that rollicking cover, from Hank Wilson Vol. II.

As I dug, I was particularly interested in giving a listen to the first cover listed at SHS, a performance by Hoagy Carmichael, but I think that’s an error, maybe a different song with the same (or a similar) title, as Carmichael is not included in the BMI list of performers who’ve recorded the song. Given that, it seems – and I’m not at all certain, as the BMI listings don’t include dates – that the first cover of “I’m Movin’ On” came in 1955 from Les Paul and Mary Ford.

In 1961, a rockabilly musician named Dick Hiorns – whose resume included a couple of daily performances during the early 1950s on WBAY in Green Bay, Wisconsin – recorded a version of Snow’s song for the Cuca Record Company of Sauk City, Wisconsin. A year later, Jerry Reed – at the time a session guitarist in Nashville – teamed up with some background singers who were called the Hully Girlies for a version of Snow’s tune, and a few years after that, in 1965, the Rolling Stones took on the tune and released it on the EP Got Live If You Want It!

Genius organist Jimmy Smith took a whack at the tune in 1967, and two years later, Elvis Presley included it on his From Elvis in Memphis album. In 1978, New Orleans’ Professor Longhair (aka Henry Byrd) took Snow’s song, altered the verses and made it into a Crescent City shuffle. It’s included on Big Chief, a 1993 Rhino album. (And I have no idea if the fourteen tracks on Big Chief were released during the intervening fifteen years).

There were others, of course: Versions that I didn’t track down or that didn’t grab me came from, among other, Del Reeves, Clyde McPhatter, Timi Yuro, Connie Francis, Johnny Nash, Burl Ives, the Box Tops, Sammy Kershaw, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Mickey Gilley, Loggins & Messina and Jimmie Dale Gilmore.

But after all of that, I think my favorite cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” that I found this week was actually a rediscovery. Rosanne Cash included the tune on her 2009 CD The List, an album of songs pulled from a list her famous father once gave her of essential American music. I’ve often thought that too many versions of the song – Snow’s included – have sounded almost celebratory. Not Cash’s. She pulls the tempo back, and amid a nest of atmospheric guitars and percussion, she makes the song something closer to a dirge, and that fits.

‘The Gist Of The Twist . . .’

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

I remember twisting in the spring of 1962. I was in third grade, and the Twist was the pop culture nugget of the season, what with Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” having hit No. 1 in Billboard for the second time in January, spending two weeks atop the chart. (“The Twist” had been No. 1 for a week in September 1960, and it remains, I think, the only record to rise to No. 1 twice in separate releases.)

Like the rest of the country, my third-grade class at Lincoln Elementary School was very aware of the dance, of Checker’s record and of at least some of the numerous twist records that followed. There was one rainy afternoon when lessons were set aside for a time in favor of twist talk. I clearly remember our teacher, Miss Kelly, being schooled in the fine points of the “Peppermint Twist” (a No. 1 hit for Joey Dee & The Starliters early in 1962) by a classmate of mine named Debbie for whom dance was a passion; nine years later, she’d be one of the leaders of the St. Cloud Tech High dance line, the Tigerettes.

As Debbie demonstrated without music, Miss Kelly, a pretty brunette who I think was a first-year teacher, urged all of us to move away from our desks and follow along. And we did, making that afternoon the only time I’ve ever done the Twist, which is probably a good thing.

Had I wanted to dance some more, however, and had I listened to Top 40 radio at the time, I would have found plenty of music for twisting, as there were no fewer than ten twist records in or near the Billboard Hot 100 of May 5, 1962. One of them, at least, might have been useful to us in Miss Kelly’s classroom. “Teach Me To Twist” by Bobby Rydell & Chubby Checker was bubbling under at No. 112. Despite the classic line, “The gist of the twist is chiefly in the hips,” it would rise only to No. 109. The seemingly odd pairing of singers becomes less odd when one recalls that Rydell recorded for Cameo and Checker’s records were on Cameo’s sister label, Parkway.

Checker also twists much higher in that same Hot 100. His “Slow Twistin’,” recorded with Dee Dee Sharp, was parked at No. 8, having peaked at No. 3. The song was, I believe, featured in a movie titled Don’t Knock the Twist, and I believe the clip below is from the movie.

So what other records were urging folks to twist that week? Well, there was “Twist, Twist Senora” by Gary U.S. Bonds at No. 10, “Soul Twist” by King Curtis & The Noble Knights at No. 17, “Twistin’ The Night Away” by Sam Cooke at No. 32, “Twistin’ Matilda” by Jimmy Soul at No. 36 and “Meet Me At The Twistin’ Place” by Johnnie Morisette at No. 71. (Those not linked are all available at YouTube.)

And then there were three remakes of records by folks trying to capitalize – as good businessfolk should – on the craze. Perez Prado, known as the King of the Mambo, had scored a No. 1 hit in 1958 with “Patricia.” In early May 1962, Prado’s “Patricia – Twist” was sitting at No. 70, having peaked at No. 65. Bill Black’s Combo had reached No. 9 in 1960 with “White Silver Sands.” In early May 1962, the combo’s “Twistin’ White Silver Sands” was peaking at No. 92. And there was saxophonist Moe Koffman, who’d hit No. 23 in 1958 with “The Swingin’ Shepherd Blues.” In early May 1962, Koffman’s “Swingin’ Shepherd Blues Twist” was bubbling under at No. 115; it would peak at No. 110.