Saturday Single No. 461

Earlier this week, as I wondered what I was listening to during the late summer and early autumn of 1975, when Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run was released and was in the headlines, I wasn’t sure what station had supplied my radio fix. I thought it might have been WCCO-FM, the sister station to Minnesota’s AM giant; the FM version was playing a format called Adult Album Alternative.

With a bit more thought in the past two days, and some additional collating of memories from the summer and autumn of 1975, I’ve realized I called it correctly: WCCO-FM was my station of choice at home in those days. In the car, where there was no FM radio, I no doubt kept the radio tuned to either KDWB for music or WCCO for sports. But when I was listening at home, and I did so almost every night while reading before going to sleep, it was WCCO-FM.

The memory that assured me I was correct is one that I’ve shared here before: An evening in July, my bedroom windows open to gather what breeze there might be, me on my bed reading, and the radio playing softly, tuned to WCCO-FM. The disk jockey played a portion of an interview with Paul Williams, probably done while the singer was in the Twin Cities for a concert, and the interview segment closes with Williams talking about his song “Waking Up Alone.”

And after that, the deejay cues up Williams’ sorrowful “Waking Up Alone.” I’d never heard the record, and the sad story, the quiet arrangement and, yes, the saxophone solo called to me as I listened. I’ve learned since that “Waking Up Alone” was released as a single in early 1972 and got to No. 60 in the Billboard Hot 100, and as I’ve said many times before, it deserved better.

I jotted the song’s title on a piece of paper so I would remember it in the morning, and the next day, a Friday, I spent a little time at the St. Cloud State library, figuring out what Paul Williams album offered “Waking Up Alone.” It turned out to be the 1971 release Just An Old Fashioned Love Song. And after school, I drove out to Crossroads Mall, where I no doubt checked for the album at Musicland. Not finding it there, I headed to the J.C. Penney store at the other end of the mall, where I found and purchased the record.

As quiet and as forlorn in some ways as the album is – many of the tracks on the album as nearly as sad as “Waking Up Alone” – the album was immediately a favorite. Williams’ stuff sounded like the kind of stuff I was writing at the time, and although I don’t recall purposefully dissecting his songs for craftsmanship as I listened, I have no doubt that if one were to dissect my own songs from over the years, one would find more than a touch of Paul Williams.

Williams wrote all but one track on the album – three of them with Roger Nichols – and I like all of those tracks. But my second-favorite track – we all know the title of my favorite track – is the album’s lone cover, a brief but touching take on Graham Nash’s “Simple Man.” And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

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3 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 461”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    It seems hard to believe that Paul will turn 75 in just a couple of weeks. I’ll have to dig that album out of the shelves for a few listens.

    If I were to describe the direction music director Ron Geslin took WCCO-FM from about 1973 on, it would be *adventurous* adult contemporary. They were also very personality driven, as one would have expected under the WCCO umbrella. And, of course, prior to his long tenure at WJON, Bill Henderson was news director at “FM wuh-un oh-oh three,” to paraphrase the a capella female identifier.

  2. Irene Greulich says:

    Hello! I’ve been trying to find out who is the musician who plays the saxophone solo at the end of “Waking Up Alone”. If you have the album (CD?) and the musicians’ credits are listed in the liner notes, can you please tell me the sax player’s name? Truly a very beautiful and moving song – always been one of my favorites. Thank you!

  3. Marcia Fisher says:

    The sax solo at the end of Waking Up Alone is Gene Cipriano (“Yo, Cip!”), famous guy, long history in music. This song was my first exposure to Paul Williams, sent me looking for more, and I’ve loved his work ever since.

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