Saturday Single No. 198

Every once in a while, when I begin to write a post for this blog, I’ll open the lengthy Word file, type in the day’s date and then stare blankly at the blinking cursor, waiting for an idea to settle on me.

On most days, I have a topic in mind when I sit down to write. Yesterday’s post highlighting the most recent installment of the Ultimate Jukebox, for example, had as its main focus the challenges of exploring rap and hip-hop, and that topic had been pretty well set in my head for some time. Exactly what I was going to say about those challenges, though, was another story. Having the topic, however, I could start off and let the thoughts flow, cleaning them up later.

Other regular features here, like the “Chart Digging” series and my explorations of cover songs, have boundaries and implied guidelines, which makes it relatively easy to start writing. Once again, I can set sail with words and, if necessary, correct the navigation after a bit.

But something as open-ended as the Saturday Single – when I can write about anything I want as long as I eventually tie that piece somehow to one piece of music – can be daunting. And when I began this morning, I looked at the white space under today’s date and stopped. Then I looked at the clutter on my desk and typed:

“There is a pile of CDs on my desk waiting to be logged.”

And that’s as far as I got. I turned the pile of CDs so I could read their titles, and decided that a list of my most recent acquisitions didn’t seem all that thrilling. The most interesting thing about any of those CDs is disappointment. Through a music club, I got a collection of Elmore James’ 1950s recordings for the Meteor and Flair labels; the CD is part of the Blues Kingpins series on Virgin, and the tunes are fine. But the basic session information – locations, dates, catalog numbers – wasn’t specifically listed, which is something one would expect in a historical anthology. I combed through the accompanying booklet and was able to piece together the session locations and most of the months when the sessions took place, and I found catalog numbers at a discography website I use frequently. But that stuff should have been clearly listed in the booklet, and I’m annoyed enough that I likely won’t get any more CDs in the series.

So I thought about that annoyance as I stared at the blinking cursor. And sitting there with my hands behind my head reminded me of times during my reporting career, moments when I would look at the blank screen or – in days long gone – the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter, trying to decide what came next. Sometimes instead of staring at the screen, I’d stare out the window, if I had one. I was doing so one day in the late 1980s while I was working for the public relations office at St. Cloud State, trying to find a lead sentence, or a transition, or maybe a relatively clever way to make honors handed out to accounting students more interesting to the general public. My boss poked his head into my office. “Taking a break, eh?”

I don’t recall what I said to him, but it reminded me of something I read about Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip. Schulz was talking about his work, and he said something to the effect that when he heard people in the outer office say something to his staff about only needing a minute of Schulz’s time, he’d grab his drawing pencil and turn to his drawing board. The visitors, Schulz said, would inevitably say something about how busy he looked and would leave soon. That done, Schulz said he’d put down the pencil and return to what he called the hardest part of his job: looking out the window and thinking.

The view outside my study window this morning is damp and gray, and now that we’ve arrived at gray, this has gone on long enough. So here’s my favorite song by Dobie Gray, “Loving Arms” (MCA 40100, 1973), and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

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4 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 198”

  1. jb says:

    The way you finally landed on Dobie Gray made me laugh out loud. Well-played, sir.

  2. porky says:

    this tune was played at the MOR station I worked at. I loved it then and forgot about it. Years later I heard it and EVERYTHING came back to me. It’s just one of those records. That two-note bent guitar string thing is genius.

  3. […] me that day. Anybody who’s ever stared at a blank page for too long  will probably enjoy whiteray’s struggle for inspiration. At 30 Days Out, the recurring feature “Your Sister’s (Record) Rack” has been […]

  4. Lynchie from Aberdeen says:

    Hadn’t heard this Dobie Gray track before. It’s a gem – thankyou for sharing it.

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