Long Form No. 4

As I’ve noted many times in this space, one of the major influences on my listening life was the tape player in the lounge at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my junior year of college.

I moved to the hostel in late January 1974, after spending about four-and-half-months living with a Danish couple about my folks’ age on the other end of the city of 32,000. There were about fifty college kids still living at the hostel by the time I moved to Pro Pace. (The hostel’s name meant “For Peace” in Latin, and it was pulled from the motto of the city of Fredericia, Armatus Pro Pace, which means “Armed For Peace. It’s a long story.) And with that many kids crowded into sixteen small rooms, it’s no wonder that the lounge became the center of activity.

And, as I’ve also said before, it was in that lounge that I first heard Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and first knowingly heard the Allman Brothers Band and the first Duane Allman anthology, with its riches of Southern music as recorded by both the Allmans and by the artists on whose work Duane Allman played during his short life. The tapes we played were dubbed from vinyl, so we didn’t have the jacket notes. That meant that every once in a while, as something came from the speakers that caught my ear, I’d ask the fellow who brought the tape to Fredericia (or one of his pals) who was performing a particular piece of music.

I don’t know if I ever specifically asked anyone about Boz Scaggs’ take on “Loan Me A Dime,” one of the pieces included on the Duane Allman anthology, but nearly every time the tape rolled past John Hammond’s take on Willie Dixon’s “Shake For Me,” I’d be deeply interested in the song that followed. I’d listen closely as “Loan Me A Dime” moved with its descending bass pattern – a pattern that’s always grabbed me – through its slow section in 6/8 time, into its moderate jam in 4/4 and then its maelstrom of a closing jam in 2/2, with the piano runs whirling in between the fiery guitar runs and above the punching horns.

Winter in Denmark wasn’t cold – temperatures stayed above freezing most of the time – but it was dark: It was almost always cloudy from November into February, and the sun rose late and set early, even in late January. Add to that gloomy prospect the utter failure of a romantic pairing and add as well many hours spent in the lounge reading, studying, writing letters or simply being, and the words and music of “Loan Me A Dime” insinuated themselves deep into me:

I know she’s a good girl, but at that time, I just didn’t understand.
I know she’s a good girl, but at that time, I just could not understand.
Somebody better loan me that dime, to ease my worried mind.

Now I cry, just cry, just like a baby all night long
You know I cry, just cry, just like a baby all night long.
Somebody better loan me that dime. I need my baby, I need my baby here at home.

The Danish nights got shorter, and the days got brighter through February. I spent March and most of April riding the trains of Western Europe, and all the things I saw, added to time and to distance from the lost young lady, helped my heart begin to heal by the time I came home in May.

Once home, I reacquainted myself with the life I’d left behind almost nine months earlier, from my friends and family to the forty or so rock/pop/R&B LPs in a crate in the basement on Kilian Boulevard. I also began slowly – the pace dictated both by a lack of cash and by other things requiring my attention during that late spring and summer – adding to my collection the music I’d learned to love while I was away. My first addition was the Allmans’ Brothers and Sisters, in the first few days I was home. My second, in early September – I said it was a slow process – was the first Duane Allman anthology, with “Loan Me A Dime” as its centerpiece.

I’d probably been told in Denmark that the singer was Boz Scaggs, but I don’t know if I’d recalled that. I knew that the guitar work came from Allman, of course. But as I took in the thirteen minutes of “Loan Me A Dime” in our rec room for the first time, I no doubt looked at the jacket notes and learned the names of drummer Roger Hawkins, bassist David Hood, pianist Barry Beckett, guitarist Johnny Johnson and horn players Joe Arnold, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller and James Mitchell. I learned as well that the track came from Scaggs’ self-titled debut album from 1969.

More than forty years later, there are still a few tracks that in my memory belong more to the lounge in Fredericia than anywhere else: Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” is one of them. Most of the music I first heard there, however, has traveled with me well and now belongs to me everywhere. It’s no longer limited to that distant and long-ago and cherished room.

“Loan Me A Dime” has traveled with me the best of all of them, perhaps. In the mid-1990s, I taught the song to Jake’s band during one of our weekly jams, and for the next few years, for twenty minutes a week, I got to be Barry Beckett (and for a couple of those years, in one of those marvelous and unlikely gifts that life can bring us, the fellow who brought the Allman anthology to Denmark would stand next to my keyboard and be Duane Allman).

And all of that is why Boz Scaggs’ “Loan Me A Dime” is Long Form No. 4.

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2 Responses to “Long Form No. 4”

  1. david young says:

    “Loan Me A Dime” is actually a Fenton Robinson song which he originally recorded in 1967 for Palos Records in Chicago. He successfully sued Boz Scaggs for royalties. I have a 1974 Alligator album by him with the same title. I saw him perform at the Montreal Jazz Festival in the 1980’s.

  2. Michael Cummings says:

    I came across this post of “Long Form No. 4” and recognize that I stayed at this location at the same time as the author. I was en route to Oslo, Norway in the fall of 1973 and spend several days and nights at Pro Pace Youth hostel. I am interested to hear more about the author’s stay…

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