There’s a house. If it’s real, it’s in an older neighborhood, one that was home to factory workers about a hundred years ago. When I stand on the wooden back steps and look at the sidewalk at the end of the plain dirt driveway, I sense the footprints of tired men walking home.
The house is tan, the window frames dark brown, and the paint is flaking badly. I turn to the back door and enter the kitchen. The old linoleum crackles under my tread. I know this place, can sense the faint aromas of hundreds of meals: chicken, maybe chops, and almost certainly some favorites from an old country left behind.
A plain table with two chairs is on my left as I enter, next to the window that overlooks the driveway, and I turn toward it. The kitchen appliances are somewhere to my right. They’re indistinct, but I know that like the paint outside and the linoleum underfoot, they are old.
There is a doorway beyond the table, and there is light in the room beyond the doorway. I hear the murmur of voices, perhaps conversation or maybe a radio. Through the doorway, I see the shape of a chair, perhaps a sofa, and just beyond, there is a flicker of movement and maybe the sound of footsteps.
And I see no more. The dream, one I’ve had dozens of times over the years, ends there as I stand by the table in the kitchen, looking into the next room with its yellowish light and its murmurs and its shadows. If that house exists, I do not know where it is, and yet, I’ve been there time and again.
Here’s “Theme From A Dream” by the Larry Page Orchestra. It’s a tune written and first recorded by Chet Atkins. Page’s version was first released on his orchestra’s 1970 album, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Puttering in the EITW studio the other evening with half an eye on a hockey game and half an eye on Facebook, the remaining eye was wandering through mp3s in the RealPlayer, and for some reason, I searched to see how many versions of “The Girl From Ipanema” are stacked on the digital shelves.
I actually searched just for the term “Ipanema,” so I’d be certain to catch the gender-flipped versions – it turns out I have eight tracks titled “The Boy From Ipanema” – and those titled in a foreign language. And I learned that I have eighty-four versions of the tune, a fact that I idly shared on Facebook.
I got a few reactions, mostly chuckling face emoticons. The Texas Gal jokingly responded, “Delete them all!” And Jeff, the Green Bay-based proprietor of AM Then FM, warned me of an impending visit by the Completist Police. Well, I certainly didn’t do any deleting, and I don’t think I have to worry about the police quite yet: According to Second Hand Songs, at least 273 versions exist of the song written by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes and first recorded by Os Cariocas in 1962.
(From what I can tell at SHS, the first version to use the English lyrics crafted by Norman Gimbel was the 1964 release by Stan Getz and João Gilberto with Astrud Gilberto supplying the vocal.)
So, while the Completist Police may be some distance from my door, I do have plenty of Ipanema to keep me company while I wait for the (no doubt) musical knock on the door. The versions range along the timeline from Os Cariocas’ 1962 original to a cover released in 2013 by Andrea Bocelli (a version I got at Any Major Dude With Half A Heart, where the Half-Hearted Dude is celebrating his tenth anniversary). Now, Bocelli isn’t always to my taste, but when one begins to collect versions of a classic tune, one sometimes steps in unanticipated directions.
And those directions have brought me versions from the breathy Anita O’Day (1963), the horn of my man Al Hirt (1964), the pianos of Ferrante & Teicher (1964), the very easy listening of the Ray Charles Singers (1964), the vibraphone of Freddie McCoy (1965), the sax of King Curtis (1966), the Hammond organ of Denny McClain (1969), the a capella sounds of the Swingle Singers (2002), and many more.
Do I have a favorite? Probably the Getz/Gilberto/Gilberto version. (The entire Getz/Gilberto album never strays far from one or another of the CD players.) Of more recent vintage, though with a similar sense, is the 1998 version by Brazilian singer (and pianist) Eliane Elias, who recorded “Garota De Ipanema” for her album Eliane Elias Sings Jobim. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.
Last week, we took a look at the top singles listed by St. Cloud’s WJON in its Starship Sampler dates February 6, 1976. (The sampler images were, as I noted, a gift from regular reader Yah Shure.) Today, we’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” on the back of the sampler and see what we can glean from that list. (The scan is here).
Here are the top ten albums (with a couple of titles corrected).
Desire by Bob Dylan Fool For The City by Foghat Alive by Kiss History by America Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates Captured Angel by Dan Fogelberg Face The Music by the Electric Light Orchestra Eric Carmen Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon Chicago IX, Chicago’s Greatest Hits
That would be a decent seven hours or so of listening, with a few caveats from my side of the speakers. Seven of those records eventually showed up in the vinyl stacks; the ones that did not were the ones by Foghat, Kiss and the Electric Light Orchestra. (No Foghat or Kiss ever showed up among the vinyl; three other albums by ELO eventually did, and the Foghat album is present on the digital shelves.)
So, are any of those essential as albums in these precincts? As albums, I see only one: Abandoned Luncheonette. It’s a little startling to see a 1973 album on a 1976 survey, given that the entry of the re-release of “She’s Gone” into the Billboard Hot 100 was still five months in the future, but from the sweet “When The Morning Comes” through the funk-to-rock-to-hoedown epic “Everytime I Look At You,” it’s a joy.
Dylan’s Desire comes close, missing the cut because of the eleven-minute tale of gangster Joey Gallo. So does the Paul Simon album, missing the cut for no particular reason.
But perhaps, as we did the other day, it might be instructive to check out the 3,825 tracks in the iPod and see how well these albums are represented. Five tracks show up from the Hall & Oates album: “When The Morning Comes,” “Had I Known You Better Then,” “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song),” “I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man),” and, of course, “She’s Gone.”
I find four tracks from Still Crazy After All These Years: The title track, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover,” and two duets, “Gone At Last” with Phoebe Snow and “My Little Town” with Art Garfunkel. The only track present from Dylan’s Desire is “Black Diamond Bay,” though I may find room for “Hurricane.” America’s hits album is represented by “A Horse With No Name” and “Don’t Cross The River,” and I could throw “Sandman” in there.
As to the Electric Light Orchestra album, the iPod holds versions that appear to be single edits of “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic,” and the Chicago hits album is sort of represented there: I have the single version of “Make Me Smile” in the iPod, but I got it from the CD release of Chicago, the silver album. (The album offered edits of “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings,” but I go with the full-length versions.)
Shut out on the iPod are the albums by Kiss, Foghat, Carmen and Fogelberg.
I’m not at all sure what that proves, but I find it interesting that the Hall & Oates album pleases me these days more than the Dylan, a judgment that I’m not sure I’d have made twenty or thirty years ago.
Here’s “Had I Known You Better Then” from Abandoned Luncheonette.
Among the trees we have gracing our acre-plus of yard are three Norway pines, perhaps my favorites with their graceful conical shapes and their clusters of long needles. One of the three is not far from the house and has been the starting point over the years for the seating for our summer picnics. All three are tall and, if you’ll excuse the personification, noble.
But I’m a little worried. All three of them have been shedding branches – some quite large – this winter. The yard is strewn with maybe thirty of them, ranging from a foot to perhaps four feet long. And that seems odd. We’ve had some high winds so far this winter, but nothing more fierce than we’ve had in winters past. (In fact, this has been a fairly mild winter: not that much snow and only one stretch of sub-zero temperatures although there is some chatter about a major storm heading our way at the end of next week.)
So I don’t know why the Norway pines are shedding so many branches this winter when they’ve not done so in winters past. I’m uncertain if the falling branches are harbingers of something wrong with the three Norway pines or if they’re just coincidence. I’d like to think it’s the latter.
The branches also bother me because they’re unsightly. As the snow cover has melted and the temperatures have risen in the past week or so, the Texas Gal and I have talked about getting outside and picking up the branches. I think we’ll be doing that today or tomorrow afternoon, as the temperature is supposed to get into the mid-50s.
That won’t tell us why the Norways are shedding branches, but at least it will make the yard a little more tidy.
And here’s an appropriate tune, a cover of a song originally done by The Band in 1969. Here’s “Whispering Pines” as performed by Boz Scaggs and Lucinda Williams. It’s from Scaggs’ 2015 album A Fool To Care, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.
In one of those things that occasionally bedevil all of us in this digital world, I found myself for about two weeks unable to access my Yahoo! email account, the one that’s used for this blog and for offers to meet incredibly scrumptious women. When whatever gunked up the Intertubes cleared up – and I imagine it was a combination of digital Yahooligans and my own errors – I found a gift from regular reader and friend Yah Shure:
He sent along scans of the WJON/WJJO Starship Sampler from February 9, 1976, detailing thirty-eight top singles on each of the two St. Cloud stations – WJON was Top 40 (or near enough) and WWJO was (and still is) country – along with a list of 30 featured pop/rock albums on the back cover of the sampler. (Yah Shure had intended me to have the sampler in time to write about it on February 9, but whatever went wrong with my email put a dent in that idea, so we’re a little more than a week late, which seems like no big deal after forty-one years.)
The two stations, of course, were right around the corner and across the railroad tracks from my folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard (and they’re still there in a newer building, just down Lincoln Avenue from our current place). For many years, WJON was one of the stations that gave me my evening Top 40 fix. Oddly enough, at the time of this particular sampler, that wasn’t the case: I was living in the Twin Cities, finishing an internship in television sports and getting my Top 40 from KDWB.
Still, it’s fun to know what the folks I left behind me in the Cloud were listening to, even though not much of it is surprising. Here is WJON’s Top Ten from that long-ago week:
“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
(I’m going to leave the country side of the sampler alone today except to note that “Convoy” was also No. 1 there.)
The only one of the pop Top Ten I did not recall was “Winners & Losers,” and a trip to YouTube did not impress me. The record, which went to No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, was HJF&R’s follow-up to the group’s No. 1 hit, “Fallin’ In Love,” which I also thought was a little flabby. (I’m not alone there. Yah Shure noted in a later email that both “Fallin’” and “Winners” were releases on the Playboy label, the group’s new home, and he noted that “their Playboy output was like listening to their Dunhill singles, minus any air in the tires.”)
The only surprise that Yah Shure pointed out on the Top 40 side of the sampler was the presence of Michael Murphey’s “Renegade” at No. 34, a decent enough record but one that I don’t recall at all. We both expressed amused bafflement that “The White Knight” by Cledus Maggard & The Citizens Band – a sort of rough-edged “Convoy” wannabee – sat at No. 26 on WJON. And he noted – half kidding, I think – that he was surprised that station owner Andy Hilger hadn’t “put the kibosh” on the station’s airing the Who’s naughty joke, “Squeezebox.”
Beyond that, the sampler was pretty much what you’d expect from early February 1976. There were a good number of records I recall fondly, some I love, some I don’t care about, and some I dislike. Beyond “Renegade,” there was only one I did not recall: David Ruffin’s “Walk Away From Love,” which sat at No. 19. A trip to YouTube refreshed my memory, and it fell into the “don’t care” category.
The interior pages from the February 9, 1976, Starship Sampler are here.
We’ll take a look at the list of “St. Cloud’s Top Albums” from February 9, 1976, early next week. And we’ll close today with a record that sat at No. 31 in the Starship Sampler that long-ago week, one that I like a great deal, and one that’s not been mentioned here since April 2007, Helen Reddy’s “Somewhere In The Night.”
Today, finally, we go west, sorting through the digital shelves for four tracks that use the word “west” in their titles.
Sorting in the RealPlayer for the word, we get 613 tracks, but as I suspected, we have some winnowing to do. Numerous tracks have been labeled “West Coast” in the genre slot, and they fall by the wayside, Jackson Browne’s For Everyman, the City’s Now That Everything’s Been Said, and Walter Eagan’s Not Shy among them. Anything titled or tagged as having been recorded at the Fillmore West will be ignored, as will numerous blues joints that came out of West Helena, Arkansas (many of them by Howlin’ Wolf).
Most of Alfred Newman’s soundtrack to the 1962 movie How The West Was Won is lost, as are Ray Charles’ two volumes from 1962 of Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music. The same holds for anything by Cashman & West (with and without Pistilli), and for a group called West, which gets double-docked for its 1968 self-titled album.
We also throw out the fight song from Western Illinois University, and numerous singles, starting with those on the Westbound and EastWest labels. Among the lost singles are “Linda’s Gone” by the West Coast Branch, “Fairchild” by Willie West, “Rave On” by Sonny West, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)” by Tex Williams & His Western Caravan, “Tennessee Toddy” by Billy Gray & His Western Okies, “Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)” by Kim Weston, “500 Miles” by Hedy West, “Take What You Want” by West Point, and “The Ballad Of Paladin” by Johnny Western.
Still, we have enough to work with.
Trying to tap into the spirit of the music they’d made a decade earlier, the Allman Brothers Band offered “From The Madness Of The West” on its 1980 album Reach For The Sky. In its six-plus minutes, the jam gave the listener the expected: parallel guitar lines playing arching melodies, a percussion solo, modal progressions and a technically precise guitar solo. What it could not offer, of course, were those people and things the Allman Brothers Band lost along the way: the departed Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, the bypassed Jaimoe, and the ability to do things no other band could. “From The Madness Of The West” is decent listening but no more than that. If you let it roll by in the background without thinking about it, it’s pleasant music, but when you stop to think about the arc of the Allman Brothers Band, the track – and in fact all of Reach For The Sky – feels like the part in a novel where you pause and wonder if in fact there can be any revival.
In 1987, when the Grateful Dead released the album In The Dark and pulled from the album the single “Touch Of Grey,” I wonder if Jerry Garcia and the rest of the band were baffled by the result. The album went to No. 6 on the Billboard 200, and the single went to No. 9 on the Hot 100. The group had reached the Top 20 of the album chart a few times before – Blues For Allah had done the best, going to No. 12 in 1975 – but never before had a Dead single hit the Top 40, much less the Top Ten. The group’s highest charting single before “Touch Of Grey” had been 1971’s “Truckin’,” which topped off at No. 64. As it happened, the Dead’s burst of popularity coincided with the rebirth of my interest in buying tunes, and In The Dark became the first Grateful Dead album on my shelves. And one of my favorite tracks from the album – “West L.A. Fadeaway” – qualifies for today’s exercise, bringing along a blues verse that more often than not makes me chuckle: “I met an old mistake walkin’ down the street today/I didn’t wanna be mean about it, but I didn’t have one good word to say.”
With a spare accompaniment – guitars and few strings – Nanci Griffith sings:
Wash away the tears
All the angry times we shared
All the feelings and the sorrows come and gone
We have let them slip away
Because I’m standing here today
And I’m smiling at your old West Texas sun
I remember times When you’d weathered out my mind But you always had a peaceful word to say And you could always bring a smile With the mischief in your eyes Still, I’m glad the miles keep me separate from your games
You know you’re still as wild As those old west Texas plains Standing by the highway do you still call my name? Lord, I can’t believe it’s been such a long, long time Since I’ve seen that Texas boy smile
Well, I’ll be heading out of town I may stop by next time around Hell, it’s raining, but at least that’s something real I came shackled down with fears About our dreams and wasted years And now I know exactly how to feel
Wash away the tears All the angry times we shared All the feelings and the sorrows come and gone We have let them slip away Because I’m standing here today And I’m smiling at your old West Texas sun
The track is “West Texas Sun” from Griffith’s first album, the 1978 release There’s A Light Beyond These Woods. As one might expect for a first album, it’s a little tentative; the confident story-teller that I discovered in the early 1990s has yet to show up. (I think of “Love at the Five & Dime” from The Last of the True Believers in 1986 and “Trouble In The Fields” from Lone Star State Of Mind a year later, just to highlight two great songs that came along very soon.) But even early Griffith is worth a stop this morning.
And we close this morning with a recent version of a song that’s been around for nearly ninety years: “West End Blues.” Written by Clarence Williams and King Oliver and first recorded in 1928 by King Oliver & His Dixie Syncopators, “West End Blues” was one of the tunes that New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint selected for his 2009 album The Bright Mississippi. In his review of the album at AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that “although straight-out jazz is uncommon in Toussaint’s work, this neither feels unfamiliar or like a stretch,” adding, “Upon the first listen, The Bright Mississippi merely seems like a joyous good time, but subsequent spins focus attention on just how rich and multi-layered this wonderful music is.” As I listened to the most recent cover of “West End Blues,” I noted that the digital shelves also hold a copy of one of the earliest covers of the song: A 1928 release by Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five.
It’s time for a four-track random walk through the 3,805 tracks on iTunes to find ourselves a Saturday Single:
First up is Muddy Water’s “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” the first single the blues musician released after making his way in 1943 from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The track was recorded in December 1947 and released on Aristocrat – a precursor of Chess Records – in 1948. It didn’t hit the Billboard R&B chart, but in September of 1948, Waters’ “I Feel Like Going Home” went to No. 11 on R&B chart. From what I can tell this morning, in more than ten years of blogging here, I have mentioned “I Can’t Be Satisfied” only twice, once in passing and once as one of the records played daily in my mythical roadhouse.
Up pops a Bob Dylan B-side: “Groom’s Still Waiting At The Altar,” released on the flip of “Heart of Mine” in 1981 and then released on the Biograph box set in 1985. A different version of the tune showed up on the Shot of Love album in 1981, but I think I’d have to do a side-by-side, second-by-second comparison to find the differences. In the notes to Biograph, Dylan basically says that he and the band lost their ways in the version that went out as the B-side. I have to admit that I was unaware that “Heart of Mine” was released as a single in 1981; I never heard it, and it never even bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100.
And we stay with Mr. Dylan, moving back fourteen years from Shot of Love to the quiet and understated John Wesley Harding from 1967 and its meditative track “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.” With just a guitar and a harmonica and an understated voice, Dylan tells of the saint “tearing through these quarters” and offering the cryptic words
No martyr is among ye now Whom you can call your own So go on your way accordingly But know you’re not alone.
Next comes the sweet love story of “1927 Kansas City” as told by Mike Reilly, who became a member of Pure Prairie League after a brief solo career. The only remnant of that solo career in the charts is “1927 Kansas City,” which tumbled around the lower levels of the Hot 100 for six weeks, peaking at No. 88 (and at No. 38 on the Adult Contemporary chart). It’s a little gooey, maybe, but it’s got some nice production touches and some nice lyrical turns, and since I’m a sucker for sweet love stories, it’s a favorite.
Well, we’ve got two Dylans, a classic blues and a sweet love story on the table. I’m tempted by the love story, of course, but I featured it here not quite three years ago. I’m also limited by the fact that Dylan’s originals do not stay on YouTube very long at all, and although some nice covers of “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine” are available there (including one from last year by Eric Clapton), it was the original that popped up in iTunes this morning. So pretty much by default, we’re going to have to go with Muddy Waters. (That’s not a bad default position to have, you might note.)
Here’s Muddy Water’s 1947 recording of “I Can’t Be Satisfied.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.
All right, gather ’round. Here’s “Frozen Bill” by Arthur Pryor’s Band:
Not amazingly catchy, no, but then, it does come from 1909, when Arthur Pryor’s Band was big stuff. Pryor, according to Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories, was the first trombonist in John Philip Sousa’s famous band (and actually served as conductor for many of the band’s recordings). His own band, Whitburn notes, became “a major concert attraction in its own right.”
Pryor’s first listed recording in Pop Memories, which covers the years 1900 through 1940, comes from 1904, when his band’s recording of “Bedelia,” a tune from the Broadway musical The Jersey Lily, was at one time the third-most popular recording in the U.S.
(These days, we’d say it went to No. 3, and I’ll likely use that terminology in the rest of this post, but it’s worth noting that Whitburn calculated the overall popularity of records in the book by drawing from a variety of sources. Especially complicated was the task of rating records from the years 1900 to 1909: Whitburn used fourteen different sources, some modern and some historical, to determine popularity.)
And “Bedelia” was just one of twenty-six recordings by Pryor’s band that made the back-dated Top Ten. The best-performing record that Pryor and his band released was “On The Rocky Road To Dublin,” which was assessed to have made it to No. 2 in December of 1906.
What about “Frozen Bill,” which we heard at the top of the post? Well, “Frozen Bill” didn’t make the compiled charts and is not listed in Whitburn’s book. So why am I featuring it today? Well, because it was recorded on February 10, 1909, exactly 108 years ago today.
“Frozen Bill” is one of seven tracks that I have in the digital stacks tagged with today’s date. All but one of those seven come from the years before World War II, because most of the tunes for which I have session data generally come from historical compilations, and many of the compilations I have come from that era. Here are the other six that I know (or at least believe, in a couple of cases where I’ve done some digging myself) were recorded on February 10 over the years:
“Po’ Mo’ner Got A Home At Last” by the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet, 1910
“The Pay Off” by the California Ramblers, 1928
“Things ’Bout Comin’ My Way” by Tampa Red, 1931
“Untrue Blues” by Blind Boy Fuller, 1937
“Deep Purple” by Jimmy Dorsey (vocal by Bob Eberly), 1939
“The House Is Rockin’” by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, 1989
Of the five records from before World War II on that brief list, only one of them is listed in Pop Memories. Dorsey’s “Deep Purple” went to No. 2 on the Billboard charts of the time. The Fisk University Jubilee Quartet, the California Ramblers and Tampa Red, though, all had other recordings that were listed in Pop Memories. Only Blind Boy Fuller was shut out.
Then, of course, there is the Stevie Ray Vaughan tune, which I found on the two-CD set The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble. “The House Is Rockin’” did not chart, but the album on which it was released, In Step, went to No. 33 on the Billboard 200.
And we’ll close with my favorite selection from that brief list of February 10 recordings: Tampa Red’s take on “Things ’Bout Comin’ My Way,” recorded in Chicago eighty-six years ago today. The song was originally recorded by the Mississippi Sheiks, and at Second Hand Songs, the Sheiks’ Walter Vincent is credited as its writer. The melody is, of course, similar to “Sitting On Top Of The World,” also first recorded by the Mississippi Sheiks and credited to Vinson, but I have seen a note somewhere – I cannot find it at the moment – that says that portions of the melody of “Sitting . . .” likely came from an earlier composition by Tampa Red. (And as I noted in a 2010 post, Charley Patton’s “Some Summer Day” is also similar.)
In any case, here’s “Things ’Bout Comin’ My Way,” by Tampa Red (and I’m guessing – but it’s only a guess – that the piano work comes from Georgia Tom, who became famous in gospel circles as Rev. Thomas Dorsey).
I’m still regrouping here, doing the minimum necessary to keep the household running, drinking lots of fluids, taking lots of decongestant and other meds and just holding on. But I thought I’d toss out another preview to the feature I hope to start in earnest in the next week or so: Journalism 101.
Last Thursday, I offered a preview of the first of the five W’s: “Who.” Today, we’ll find a tune with “What” in its title, sorting among 1,375 tracks the RealPlayer found. Among the tracks we’ll have to reject are two pretty good albums, the Doobie Brothers’ What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits and the Dramatics’ Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get. (There are more that we must pass by, but – in keeping with the tenor of this post – that’s a preview.)
From the perspective of nearly sixty years, the Coasters’ 1959 track “What About Us” sounds, certainly in the first verse and perhaps in some of the later verses, like a plaint about economic inequality:
He’s got a house made of glass Got his own swimming pool . . . what a gas We’ve got a one-room shack Five by six by the railroad track, well
What about us What about us Don’t want to cause no fuss But what about us
He’s with a beautiful chick Every night of the week, pretty slick We’re two poor hung up souls Girls won’t touch with a ten-foot pole, well
What about us What about us Don’t want to cause no fuss But what about us
He goes to eat at the Ritz Big steaks, that’s the breaks We eat hominy grits From a bag, what a drag
He’s got a car made of suede With a black leather top, got it made If we go out on dates We go in a box on roller skates, well
What about us What about us Don’t want to cause no fuss But what about us
By the second verse, songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are placing the tale clearly in the teen-age milieu, but I wonder if the first verse and some of the later verses had a wider target.
“What About Us” was released in late 1959, and Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles shows it going to No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the B-side to “Run Red Run,” which went to No. 36. Oddly, perhaps, Whitburn’s R&B book shows “What About Us” as the A-side; it went to No. 17 on the Billboard R&B chart (with “Run Red Run” going to No. 29 on the B-side).
Whether pointed statement or teenage playlet, whether A-side or B-side, the record has the classic Coasters sound: A catchy rhythm, humor-laden lyrics, the low-voice interjections and a sax solo that I assume comes from King Curtis. Enjoy!
I still feel like crap, so I searched the 90,000-odd mp3s in the RealPlayer for the word “headache,” and I came up with one title: “Willies’ Headache,” a 1973 track by Cymande.
Cymande, according to Wikipedia, is “a British funk group that released several albums throughout the early 1970s and . . . recently reunited in 2014 with a European tour.”
“Willies’ Headache” was a track on the group’s second album, Second Time Round, and it brings with it a conundrum: On the album label as offered at Discogs.com, the title of the track is spelled as I have it above. On the video below, it’s spelled “Willy’s Headache,” which makes more sense.
It doesn’t matter, I guess. What matters is that my own headache is soothed this morning by the mellow and funky sounds, and I like the chorus: “Gotta be aware! Don’t get too lost in your dreams.” And all of that makes “Willies’ Headache” a good choice for this week’s Saturday Single.