Struggling

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.

Saturday Single No. 545

June 17th, 2017

The number of mp3s currently loaded into the RealPlayer is 95,083. We topped the 95,000 mark sometime in the past two months, when I wasn’t watching carefully. Both Odd and Pop, however, insist that the last couple thousand tracks we’ve added to the main shelves here at EITW were carefully curated.

Well, let’s take a look at some of the recently added albums that got us to the big number:

We have three CD’s worth of work – with some duplicates winnowed out – by the original Carter Family: A.P. Carter, his wife, Sarah, and A.P.’s sister-in-law, Maybelle. After watching the PBS special American Epic, a three-hour look at the years when recording industry representatives went out and recorded a vast array of American folk music, I thought I needed to hear a little more from the Carter Family, and with some help, I got some new stuff. If I have a favorite among the tracks that were added, it might be the 1929 track “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blues Eyes.”

After listening for years to a badly ripped version of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s self-titled debut from 1969, I took advantage of a visit to a major brand bookstore the other week and plucked Crosby, Stills & Nash from a budget bin. The CD also has four unreleased tracks, but they don’t seem integral to the story of the album (though they’re pleasant enough to hear). I dropped the CD into the player in the car as I was running some errands the other day, and I was reminded once more how good the album is and how ingrained in my memory it remains. My favorite track? Well, that’s hard, but I do remember that after I got the music book for the album, “Helplessly Hoping” was the first track I learned to play on the guitar.

During that retail stop, I also grabbed the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the stereo version newly produced from the original tracks by Giles Martin, the son of Sir George Martin. You’ve probably heard about it. I ripped the album as one long mp3 for the files, but I gave the CD its first listen on a larger player, and it sounds new and remarkably clear. I’m going to have to give it a few more listens to note specific differences between this version and the three others I already had (stereo vinyl from 1970, CD release from the late 1980s, and The Beatles in Mono release from 2009). If I had to choose a favorite, it’s not very original: the suite from “Good Morning Good Morning” through the last fading seconds of the massive piano chord that ends “A Day In The Life.”

I stopped in the other week at Uff Da Records, St. Cloud’s new place for vinyl and CDs, both used and new. A quick rifling of the used CDs brought me two finds. The first was Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1, an album that I’ve had on vinyl since 1988 and had occasionally looked for on CD since 2000 or so. My copy is a record club edition, which doesn’t bother me because the music is the same, and the tunes put together by the Wilburys – who were, of course, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison – still holds up. I have two favorite tracks that I would find hard to separate: “Handle With Care,” which I first heard in 1988 while driving home one afternoon in Minot, North Dakota, giving me some of the relatively few moments of undiluted happiness I felt that year, and “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” Dylan’s winking parody/tribute aimed at Bruce Springsteen.

The other find at Uff Da was a disappointment: Boz Scaggs’ 1997 release, Come On Home. I’ve enjoyed Scaggs for years, even some of the more uneven work, and I’ve long had his 1976 masterpiece, Silk Degrees, on a short list of essential albums. But I’ve run Come On Home through the CD player in the car a couple of times and it falls flat. The blues licks and the arrangements are okay, Scaggs’ voice is still great, the lyrics leave a great deal to be desired, and the result is one of the most disappointing albums I’ve bought in a long, long time. I think I have to go back to 2004 and Brian Wilson Presents Smile to find an album that has left me feeling so empty. So there are no favorite tracks from Come On Home.

As I wrote about the Traveling Wilburys this morning, I remembered how good it felt to smile as I listened in my car to George Harrison’s lead vocal on “Handle With Care.” That smile got wider when I heard Orbison’s voice on the first bridge and the whole crew – led by Dylan and Petty – on the second bridge. And as the song began to fade, just when I thought I could grin no wider, the harmonica solo – it had to be Dylan, right? – just about split my face apart. For the memory of that pure joy in the midst of a very hard year, “Handle With Care” by the Traveling Wilburys is today’s Saturday Single.

‘Weary’

June 16th, 2017

Well, the ceremonies and formalities are over, and we’ve laid Mom to rest next to Dad in the Lutheran Church cemetery in Dad’s hometown of Cambridge. And we’re slowly getting back into the rhythms of everyday life: laundry, housework, cooking, watering the garden.

There are still some tasks left, things like getting out “thank you” cards, and my sister and I will begin that tomorrow. It won’t take too long. And we’ll have to take care of Mom’s estate, although that should be relatively easy, as Mom and Dad had things pretty well planned years ago.

And someday soon, we’ll pick up the threads of some of the various themes I’ve played with here over the past year and dig deep into some music. But right now, I’m weary, both physically and emotionally, so I’m just going to go out and water the garden and then take care of some household tasks that have been mostly ignored over the last two months.

Here’s the folk duo of Jim & Jean with “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” It was originally on their 1966 album Changes.

Saturday Single No. 544

June 10th, 2017

So let’s take a look at the late spring of 1972, around the time my freshman year of college ended and a patchwork summer began. During spring quarter, I’d retaken the history course I’d failed in the fall, but because of that F and another that same fall quarter in chemistry, I was still a few credits short of actually being a sophomore.

I wasn’t worried about that. After that disastrous first quarter, I’d worked harder on my courses and was doing much better. Socially, I was doing okay: I was still spending time with the guys in the dorms, the ones I’d met during the orientation the summer before, and I was hanging around with folks from KVSC, the college radio station, in the studios and the lounge, and on the softball field.

I’d dated three girls during the 1971-72 academic year, and the results showed that I was not in any way ready for a relationship. The first young lady moved ahead faster than I was ready for, and I ran. The second young lady found me insecure, and she dumped me. The third young lady moved ahead rapidly, and I again ran. I needed time off, and life gave it to me: I would not have a date from the middle of May 1972 until sometime in the summer of 1973.

So the spring of 1972 was a mixed bag. So, too, was the Billboard Hot 100 of June 10, 1972, forty-five years ago today:

“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
“Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
“Nice To Be With You” by Gallery
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
“Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song” by Billy Preston
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension

How much did I like or not like those records? None of them showed up on my 2010 Ultimate Jukebox. Only one – the Staple Singers’ record – is among the 3,700 or so tracks in my iPod. (I probably should add “Oh Girl” and maybe “Song Sung Blue” to the iPod.) But for me and my evolving tastes – Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Delaney & Bonnie, Shawn Phillips and a few others were moving to the top of my list at the time – that was a pretty sad Top Ten.

But are there nuggets in the deeper places? Playing Games With Numbers with the digits available in today’s date doesn’t get us as deep into the Hot 100 as I want to go. So we’re going to check out Nos. 100, 90, and 80 to find ourselves a Saturday Single and hope that the track is available on YouTube. (The copy of the Hot 100 I have does not have the Bubbling Under section, which likely means it was in a different place in the magazine that week than the Hot 100 itself, and the unknown compiler either didn’t know it could be found or didn’t want to take the time.)

Parked at the very bottom of the Hot 100 forty-five years ago today was Petula Clark and her pretty bland cover of “My Guy,” the Smokey Robinson tune that Mary Wells took to No. 1 on both the Top 100 and the Billboard R&B chart in 1964. It’s a bit too bouncy and a bit too meh for me. The record would peak only at No. 70. Although she had two more records hit the Hot 100 (one in 1972 and another in 1982), Petula’s day was done.

Coming up ten places, we find “Rip Off” by Laura Lee, the tale of a woman’s planned vengeance on her cheating partner. Released on the Hot Wax label, the record sounds, of course, like Motown. That’s unsurprising, given that Hot Wax was the label that Edward Holland, Jr., Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland started when they left Motown in 1968. I like it a lot, especially the payoff verse, when Lee details exactly how she’s going to leave the guy with nothing:

I’m taking the carpet off the floor and the wallpaper off the walls
I’m taking the telephone so he can’t make no calls
This fool is in for the shock of his life. I’m tired of being neglected.
I’m gonna slap him in the face with the unexpected.

“Rip Off” went only to No. 68 in the Hot 100, but went to No. 3 on the R&B chart, Lee’s best-performing single on that chart.

Moving to No. 80, we come across a familiar record: “Coconut” by Nilsson, in its first week in the chart. It would eventually make its way to No. 8, become an earworm of great magnitude, inspire jokes (and in current days, memes) about the lime in the coconut, and spawn thousands (perhaps millions) of imitations of Nilsson’s own imitation of an island patois. You might guess I don’t like it very much. I don’t, but nevertheless, it’s got a place on the digital shelves, and when I hear on an oldies station, I sing along.

So, where do we go? I don’t like “Coconut” (and it’s far too familiar anyway), and I’m not moved by Petula Clark’s take on “My Guy.” Then it’s lucky that I like Laura Lee’s “Rip Off.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Grieving

June 9th, 2017

Mom died Monday. The hospice nurse called me about 3 that afternoon and said that Mom had been attentive and chatty during their visit. The nurse said she’d left the room for a few moments, and when she came back, she said it was obvious Mom had had another stroke, this one pretty big: She was slumped over in her chair and was generally unresponsive.

The care attendants and the nurse put her in bed and checked on her every hour, and they said she stirred when they changed her position, but that’s all. (I kept in touch by phone because the memory care unit where Mom lived during her last days has been putting new laminate flooring into its rooms, and the fumes that the flooring is off-gassing made me very ill every time I visited.) And about 9:30 Monday evening, the hospice nurse called and told me Mom had passed.

The funeral is Tuesday. Weekend events long-scheduled in Chicago for my niece and her family necessitated a delay in services, and maybe that’s a good thing. After a whirlwind two days putting plans in place, it’s good to have some downtime, some time to feel and to grieve.

I last talked to Mom on Sunday. It was a brief conversation about problems with her cable TV and her newspaper delivery.

I last saw her on June 1, the day she turned ninety-five-and-a-half. We met, along with my sister, at Dairy Queen, where she had a hot fudge and caramel sundae. She’d had a whirlpool bath and a massage that morning, and she was alert and talkative, but she was moving very slowly and uncertainly with her walker. That evening, the attendants at Prairie Ridge wheeled her over to the adjacent Ridgeview Place for a musical performance, a pretty good end to a good day.

My last sight of her was when she got into my sister’s car at Dairy Queen. She was clearly weary, but she was smiling as she waved goodbye to me.

She died just three days after the fourteenth anniversary of my dad’s death. And wherever she went Monday night, Dad was there to greet her. So here’s the lovely “Mom and Dad’s Waltz,” by Hugo Montenegro. It was on the 1963 album Country and Western.

Saturday Single No. 543

June 3rd, 2017

Okay, so it’s going to be a beautiful day today, with the temperatures peaking somewhere above eighty degrees. And the Texas Gal wants to go out and play.

We’ll likely head north, hoping that the traffic of folks heading from the Twin Cities “to the lake” – as the Minnesota saying goes – is not too thick. Our destination? Well, we may head to the city of Brainerd, an hour away, and hit an antique shop or two as well as a discount store we’ve heard about.

We may head a little further than that and stop in the rather touristy town of Nisswa, not far at all from Gull Lake, where my dad’s boss had a summer home during the 1960s and I spent some time water skiing on occasion. In Nisswa, we’d walk the three blocks or so of (rather expensive) shops and probably have some ice cream.

And we’ll likely stop in Baxter at Morey’s Fish House for some treats.

Beyond that, we don’t know. But we do know we’re heading north in a very short time, so I’m just going to grab a June tune, one either with “June” in its title or that was recorded in June. So let’s see what the RealPlayer gives us.

Among the very few tracks that I know were recorded on June 3, we find “Southern Casey Jones,” recorded in Chicago on this date in 1936 by a performer named Jesse James. It’s one of many recordings telling the tale of the legendary (but real) railroad engineer who died when his Illinois Central freight train crashed into a stationary train near Vaughan, Mississippi, on April 30, 1900. The crash became fodder for numerous tunes in numerous versions, moving the location of the crash and revising much more, as well.

The recording came my way in the fourth volume of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, the group of tracks that Smith had selected before his death in 1991. The first three volumes were released in 1952, and that fourth volume was released in 2007.

Anyway, here’s Jesse James’ version of the Casey Jones tale, “Southern Casey Jones.” It was recorded eighty-one years ago today, and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Gregg Allman, 1947-2017

May 31st, 2017

I can’t tell you when I first noticed Gregg Allman’s voice, but I know where I was.

That first moment might have been during the autumn of 1973, but it more likely was early the next year. Either way, it happened in the lounge of the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark. Among the small collection of cassette tapes we St. Cloud State students had pooled in the lounge were the Allman Brothers Band’s Eat A Peach and Brothers & Sisters, as well as the first Duane Allman anthology, which had on its fourth side a few other tracks from the band.

The lounge was the epicenter of life for those of us living at the hostel – a group I joined in late January 1974 after living for about five months with a Danish family – and music from the tape player was one of the constants of time in the lounge. And although I no doubt heard one of the tracks by the Allman Brothers during my brief visits to the hostel in the months before I moved there, I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t until I took up residence there that I sat still in the lounge long enough to truly listen to Gregg Allman’s voice in front of the band he and his late brother had assembled.

This matters of course, because Gregg Allman died last Saturday in Savannah, Georgia, from liver cancer. To music fans, his tale is familiar: The Florida childhood, the early recordings with his brother, Duane, as record companies tried to shoehorn the brothers’ talents into boxes, the formation of the Allman Brothers Band and the world success that followed, then addiction, pain, missteps both personal and professional, the resurrection of the ABB (albeit without his late brother and the also deceased original bassist Berry Oakley, and later, original guitarist Dickey Betts), illness and so much more, right to the end.

If anyone wants to write a Southern gothic rock opera, the story is there for the taking.

As interesting as the story is, I’ll leave it to others; here’s Rolling Stone’s piece on Allman’s death and life. To me, what mattered was the music, especially those albums I heard in Denmark and acquired soon after I came home, those and the other early works I soon collected as well. The music I’d heard in the lounge, I knew – and still know – note for note, having been immersed in it nearly every evening for something more than two months. The stuff that was new to me – most of the group’s self-titled 1969 debut, 1970’s Idlewild South and the 1971 Fillmore East album – took longer to work its way into me but it did so eventually. And I have some of Allman’s work – both with the ABB and as a solo artist – from the later years into the 1990s, as well, although I don’t know that music as well.

So, like much of the music I listened during the years from, oh, 1969 into 1975, the Allman Brothers Band’s early work, with Allman’s voice, gruff, bluesy and tender by turns, leading the way, is part of my foundation.

Still, I try not to let the music I love get trapped in time, to let it belong only to one year, one decade, one moment. That’s hard for any music lover, I think, but it seems especially hard for me, given my fascination with how music and memory entwine. I don’t think that Gregg Allman’s work – as the voice of the ABB and on his own – is frozen like that for me, locked in the Pro Pace lounge. “Dreams,” from The Allman Brothers Band, popped up on a CD in the car the other day, and as I drove, I was listening to a song that mattered right then, not just to a memory. I thought about that as I drove and listened, and I was pleased.

And “Dreams,” from 1969, seems to be a good place to close this awkward appreciation of Gregg Allman.

Saturday Single No. 542

May 27th, 2017

In between helping the Texas Gal with setting up and planting the garden and helping my sister coordinate financial and medical details for my mom, I’ve not had a lot of time to think this week. Add to that my annual spring sinus infection, and my energy level is low. So we’re going to do a quick and easy post here this morning. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from forty years ago this week, the end of May 1977, when I was midway through my term as arts and entertainment editor at St. Cloud State’s University Chronicle.

“Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder
“When I Need You” by Leo Sayer
“I’m Your Boogie Man/Wrap Your Arms Around Me” by KC & The Sunshine Band
“Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
“Got To Give It Up (Part 1)” by Marvin Gaye
“Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)” by Bill Conti
“Couldn’t Get It Right” by the Climax Blues Band
“Lucille” by Kenny Rogers
“Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold
“Feels Like The First Time” by Foreigner

At the time, I was listening to albums and album rock at home, to Top 40 in the Chronicle newsroom, and to whatever it was that was offered by jukebox in the Atwood Center snack bar. And I knew all of those during the spring of 1977 except maybe “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” and the Marvin Gaye record.

Did I like the ones I knew? Not many. I truly liked the Stevie Wonder and the Fleetwood Mac, and I loved – as readers will know – the Bill Conti (though I heard it far less on the radio than I did Maynard Ferguson’s version of “Gonna Fly Now”). I didn’t care about “Boogie Man,” “Couldn’t Get It Right” or “Lonely Boy,” and I disliked the singles by Rogers and Foreigner.

This morning, “Wrap” was still a stranger, but I know the Gaye record not only from hearing it over the years since but from the hoo-ha about its having been appropriated in 2013 for “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. (I’m still baffled that I don’t remember “Got To Give It Up” from 1977.)

But what else I there in that Hot 100? Let’s do some games with numbers, taking today’s date – 5/27/17 – and checking out Nos. 22, 32 and 44 to find a Saturday Single. Just for fun, we’ll also check out No. 100.

Sitting at No. 22 forty years ago was “Calling Dr. Love” by Kiss, coming down from a peak at No. 16. While I know many loved the painted ones, Kiss has never been on my list. So I’ll refrain from comment except to note that the record was the group’s tenth of an eventual twenty-seven in or near the Hot 100 between 1974 and 1990.

Things sound better at No. 32, at least for fans of quirky one-hit wonders, for sitting in that spot forty years ago this week was “Ariel” by Dean Friedman. The only appearance by the singer from Paramus, New Jersey, in the Hot 100, the record is one I remember fondly from evenings in my tiny mobile home in Sauk Rapids. “Ariel” peaked at No. 22, and I still think its tale reflects accurately at least a portion of the odd carnival that was the mid-1970s. As I wrote nine years ago, “Friedman got the details right about post-hippie, pre-disco America, from the peasant blouse to the Legion Hall.”

Parked at No. 44, we find “Hollywood” by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, heading up to No. 32. I know the record now, but I don’t recall hearing it anywhere during those months forty years ago. It showed up for me on the album Ask Rufus during 1997, and was pleasant listening but no more than that.

And finally, we look at the No. 100 record during that week forty years gone: “Freddie” by Charlene. A tribute to the late actor and comedian Freddie Prinze that peaked at No. 96, it’s soggy and pathetic. (Charlene, of course, was the perpetrator in 1982 of the No. 3 hit “I’ve Never Been To Me.”)

Given the options, I have little choice, but that’s okay: Dean Friedman’s “Ariel” is today’s Saturday Single. [This is the album version, not the single version, but so it goes.]

Complications & Fries Again

May 26th, 2017

The vacant corner lot up the road is being developed. Fences are up, dirt’s being pushed around, and a concrete platform for utility meters has gone up. A sign along the Highway 10 frontage road says that a self-storage place is going in. I’m glad to see something’s being done with the corner – the East Side needs more commerce – but I was hoping for something less prosaic. After all, the corner lot used to be the site of a place that mattered to me. Here’s a post I wrote about the place back in 2009.

Just up the road from our place, right next to U.S. Highway 10, is a vacant building. Sometime in the last year, the auctioneer came by. They sold the booths and the counters, the grill and the deep-fat fryers, the hydraulic lifts and the gas pumps, the tool cabinets and all of the things that made the little building a gas station and restaurant for as many years as I can remember.

It was called Townsedge, and that was accurate enough in a practical sense. For many years, when folks would come into St. Cloud from the Twin Cities, Townsedge was the first gas station or restaurant they saw. They’d pass by a few other places – the marine shop, the masonry place and a used car lot or two – but if folks on the road had the usual travelers’ needs, Townsedge was the first place they saw where those needs could be met: Fill your tank, check the oil, buy a pack of smokes, sit down in a booth for a few minutes and have a cheeseburger straight from the grill, with a couple of pickle slices on the plate and a basket of fries on the side.

It was the kind of place you don’t often find anymore, and that’s truly a shame. There was another place like Townsedge across Highway 10, Fred’s Cafe, a classic American truck stop, and both Fred’s and Townsedge did well for many years. When Fred’s went out of business – that happened during the years I was away, but I think it was in the early 1990s – a chain convenience store/gas station took its place, and I’m sure that took business away from Townsedge. And when a franchised burger place opened up a couple of years ago about half a block from Townsedge, that pretty much told the tale.

After Dad retired, my folks went to Townsedge for coffee a couple of times a week, and after the Texas Gal and I moved here in 2002, I’d walk over and join them every once in a while. As we sat, I’d look around the place and gauge the ages of the customers. I’d see a few single moms with kids, but not many. Most of the time, I was the youngest person in the place (except for one or two of the waitresses). Once Dad was gone and Mom moved, I had no reason to go into Townsedge anymore, and not too long after that, I saw the “Closed” sign in the window as I drove by one day. And eventually, the auctioneer came by.

Places come and go, but Townsedge – as it was in the 1970s, not as it was in its last years – was a special place for a couple of reasons. First, the fries. The French fries at Townsedge – golden and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – were among the best I have ever had. I’ve been to a few other places over the years whose fries were better, but when I was in high school, Townsedge had the best fries in town, and the little cafe was frequently the last stop during an evening spent out with friends.

Then there was the evening in early December 1970, during my senior year of high school. The St. Cloud Tech High School choirs had performed in concert, and a young lady and I were going to double up with another couple for burgers and fries at Townsedge. For some reason, the other guy had to cancel, so there were only three of us, my date and me on one side of the booth and the other young lady sitting across from us.

I dropped a quarter into the jukebox terminal in our booth. I have no idea what I played, but one of the other young folks elsewhere in the cafe had cued up the week’s No. 1 record, and that’s what we heard first. My date sang along for a few moments with the Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” We all laughed, and I realized that my life right then was about as complicated as it had ever been. None of us mentioned it, but all three of us – my date, the other young lady and I – knew that if I’d had my druthers, I’d have been sitting on the other side of the booth, next to the gal whose boyfriend hadn’t been able to join us.

Then the waitress brought us our burgers and fries, and life moved on.

And here’s “I Think I Love You.”

Saturday Single No. 541

May 20th, 2017

So I searched the 94,746 tracks in the RealPlayer for tracks with “Saturday” in their titles (and yeah, we’ve done that before, but it’s been a while and we’ve added some material), and came up with 115 tracks.

But you know the drill: There are a number of them we can’t use, like everything we get from the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever. With the exception of their title tracks, other entire albums get tossed away, too, like Saturday Night Special, a 1975 album by jazzman Norman Connors; Come Saturday Morning, a 1970 easy listening treat from Jackie Gleason; Between Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a 2005 release from Mick Sterling; and Come Saturday Morning (And Other Hits), a 1970 album by the Living Trio. And there are single tracks from albums that have “Saturday” in their titles, like a Tom Waits track from his own The Heart of Saturday Night from 1974 and a Bobby Charles track found on the 1993 compilation Louisiana Saturday Night.

But we still have about forty tracks to choose from, so let’s look at three of them.

The first track under consideration is “Saturday Nite At The Duckpond” by the Cougars, a 1963 record from a short-lived band from Bristol, England. The surfish record, which spent eight weeks in the U.K. singles chart and peaked at No. 33, borrows themes from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, an act of appropriation that led to its being banned from broadcast by the BBC. It showed up in the digital files here as part of a collection titled Instrumental Gems 1959-1970.

A fair number of emails show up here offering digital copies of new musical releases, and that, I think, is how I came to own copies of two albums by Gin Wigmore, a singer-songwriter from New Zealand. She has an odd quality to her voice that’s not easy to describe, something that other listeners might think makes her voice sound, well, “affected and “precious” are words that comes to mind. Over the course of an album, that quality might be wearisome, but one track at a time, I think it works. “Saturday Smile” is from her 2013 album Gravel & Wine, and it’s a slightly melancholy but effective meditation on love and loss.

Seven versions of “Come Saturday Morning” lie on the digital shelves. The song was first recorded by Liza Minelli in 1969, but became popular when the Sandpipers’ was included on the soundtrack to the 1970 file The Sterile Cuckoo. From there, for a few years, the coverfest was on, with easy listening giants like Ray Conniff and Jackie Gleason joined by singers like Johnny Mathis and Patti Page, instrumentalists like Peter Nero and Andre Kostelanetz and more. I think the Sandpipers’ version is my favorite, but the most interesting of the seven I have – and I will no doubt go looking for more in the next few days – is the one offered by former Raider Mark Lindsay on his 1970 album Silverbird.

And for some reason, as I ponder those three, I keep returning to Gin Wigmore’s “Saturday Smile.” It’s grabbed hold of me this morning like I remember it doing the first time I listened to it a few years ago. So it’s today’s Saturday Single.