‘Ho-Sanna, Hey-Sanna . . .’

January 23rd, 2018

Tracks from iTunes were running randomly the other evening as I puttered on one thing or another, and up popped the tune “Everything’s Alright” by Yvonne Elliman from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

The inclusion of that track and three others from the Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice creation – the Overture, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by Elliman and “Superstar” by Murray Head (with The Trinidad Singers) – in iTunes and the iPod was a recent thing. During my most recent stocking of the iPod after the crash of my external hard drive, I idly saw the folder for Jesus Christ Superstar in the J folder and without much thought pulled into the iPod those four tracks.

They’d been on the digital shelves for a long time. I likely found the 1970 rock opera offered at one blog or another not long after my 2006 discovery of music blogs. Its acquisition was a small portion of my lengthy project of replicating digitally my record collection from the early 1970s, but once the JCS mp3s were safely tucked away on my digital shelves, I never purposely listened to them. I imagine that one time or another a track or two might have popped up while the RealPlayer was rolling on random, but I don’t recall. I think my view of the production – an album I played frequently back in the basement rec room during the early 1970s and on occasion during the years since I left St. Cloud in 1977 – was that it was nice to have on hand but no more than that.

And then came “Everything’s Alright” the other evening, except the track began with a clank or a clunk or a thunk, some kind of sound that did not belong there. Nor was the sound the result of poor splitting; the clunk or thunk did not belong to the end of the preceding track, “What’s the Buzz/Strange Thing Mystifying.” But as I listened to that track, I noted other noise that marred it, too. Irritated, I deleted the entire album and decided that, once we’ve finished moving, I would buy the CD set online.

Then I wondered, do I really need it? Would I still enjoy it? Or was its attraction one of time and place, the era of Hippie Jesus and my first years of listening to rock and pop and all their relatives?

So I borrowed the set from the library and began listening to it in the car as I ran a lengthy set of errands Saturday and went to and from church on Sunday. I’m not quite finished – “Trial Before Pilate (Including The 39 Lashes)” was playing as I got home from church Sunday – but one thing is apparent: Even twenty or so years removed from my last listening and forty-some years removed from repeated listening, I still know every line and every instrumental turn of the album.

That in itself is not surprising; the album imprinted itself on my brain when I was seventeen. How, though, does it sound at sixty-four? As was pointed out by critics when the album came out, its grasp on theology and history is spotty, and Rice’s lyrics can still startle one with modern-day references and still sometimes land smack in the middle of hippie mysticism. I recognize without too much concern the historical and theological fuzziness, and I don’t mind the modern vernacular or the hippie mysticism one bit. As to the music, it’s better than I remembered, superb instrumentally and vocally.

So is it essential? Well, it’s been 48 hours since I last heard any of the album, and for most of my waking hours in that time, the album’s instrumental themes and motifs as well as bits and pieces of the lyrics have been tumbling through my brain:

What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening . . .

I dreamed I met a Galilean, a most amazing man.
He had that look you very rarely find, the haunted, hunted kind . . .

Ho-sanna, hey-sanna, sanna-sanna-ho . . .

You have set them all on fire.
They think they’ve found the new Messiah
And they’ll hurt you when they find they’re wrong . . .

Will no one stay awake with me? Peter? James? John?

Listen to that howling mob of blockheads in the street!
A trick or two with lepers, and the whole town’s on its feet . . .

If you knew all that I knew, my poor Jerusalem . . .

Every time I look at you, I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned.
Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?

So, yeah, when we get settled on the North Side, I think I’m going to add the CD set to the collection. (As it happens, the vinyl is still on the shelves; it survived last year’s sell-off.)

Back in the early 1970s, of course, Jesus Christ Superstar was a massive hit. The rock opera – the stage and screen versions came later – spent 101 weeks on the Billboard 200 starting in November 1970 and was No. 1 for three nonconsecutive weeks during the first half of 1971. The album was the source of three singles in the magazine’s Hot 100: Elliman’s “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” went to No. 28 in the spring of 1971; her follow-up, “Everything’s Alright,” stalled at No. 92 that autumn. And Head’s “Superstar” went to No. 14 in early 1971 as a reissue; it went only to No. 74 when first released in early 1970, before the album came out.

Here’s Head and The Trinidad Singers with “Superstar.”

Saturday Single No. 574

January 20th, 2018

Another question popped up on Facebook this week: My college friend Laura – with whom I’m in contact nearly every day but haven’t seen in the flesh for more than forty years (ain’t modern life marvelous?) – asked folks about their favorite toys as kids.

Not a lot of stuff came to mind from my younger years – I had a fair number of toys but no real favorites, I guess – but when I thought about my tween and teen years, I had a quick response. So I wrote briefly about my tabletop hockey game and posted a picture I found online of metal players from Toronto and Montreal. And I started thinking about my other diversions from those years.

And it didn’t take long before I thought about the dart board. I was maybe ten when I got it for Christmas. This was before the rec room went into half of the basement, so Dad found an empty spot on the basement wall with about ten feet of open space in front of it. On the wall, he installed a large piece of plywood with a hook in the middle from which to hang the actual dartboard.

And I was off and darting.

It was fun just throwing the darts, for a while. I learned how to keep score, finding out that the scoring in an actual match starts with 300 points (if I recall things correctly) and counts down from there. But I wanted to have some kind of competition that I could keep track of myself. So I took the four sets of three darts each that came with the board and made them into imaginary teams, kind of a National Dart League.

I thought about cities where I would base each team, and then I pondered nicknames. (I’d learned recently that Rob, across the street, was doing the same thing, creating imaginary teams for imaginary Dart2leagues – in his case, for a baseball game he had.) The orange darts became the Seattle Ravens. The green ones were the Trenton Cougars. The yellow darts were based in Portland, Oregon, and at first were the Yellow Jackets and later, one supposes under new imaginary ownership, the Lumberjacks (often shortened, as I did my sotto voce play-by-play, to ’Jacks). The blue darts were peripatetic, beginning as the Akron Hubs (a city/name combination I borrowed from Rob). Then I wanted something from my own imagination, and they moved to Texas and became the Austin Bullets, though I was not entirely satisfied with that. Finally, I decided to bring them home to Minnesota, though not in the Twin Cities. I parked them in Duluth, and in a nod to the history of French exploration and fur-trading in Lake Superior and the rest of the Northland, I named them the Voyageurs.

I don’t remember how I structured the matches or the schedule. But I spent many happy hours pairing the four teams against each other and keeping tracks of scores and matches won and lost. A few years later, when Dad built the rec room in the basement, the space configuration was changed, and the plywood sheet had to be moved. I wasn’t playing much by that time, anyway, and that Christmas, my Royal Canadian hockey game became my favorite winter pastime.

As you can see from the picture above, I still have the darts. They’ve traveled with me over the years in a greeting card box, and for the last nine years have been on a shelf in the room that serves as the EITW studios. I’ve been pondering what to do with them. I doubt that Goodwill or other places that seek donations would want them; they could easily be dangerous. And I see no point in packing them away in a box, as I’ll never use them again. But when I think about discarding them, it feels as if I’m about to throw away part of my childhood.

I’ll have to think about it.

So musically, where does that leave us? Well, I thought about offering something from the long-gone Dart label, the one-time home of Lightnin’ Hopkins, but then I thought about the word “games.” It shows up in a lot of record titles, of course, and I’ve decided to go with the Joe South tune “Games People Play,” as offered by King Curtis (with guitar work by Duane Allman). It’s from Curtis’ 1969 album Instant Groove, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

One Chart Dig: January 20, 1973

January 19th, 2018

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from January 20, 1973, forty-five years ago tomorrow:

“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
“Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“Crocodile Rock” by Elton John
“Your Mama Don’t Dance” by Loggins & Messina
“Rockin’ Pneumonia – Boogie Woogie Flu” by Johnny Rivers
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield
“Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas
“Oh, Babe, What Would You Say” by Hurricane Smith

And, as might be expected, those ten records slap me right into the middle of my sophomore year at St. Cloud State, sparking memories of music theory classes, of Cokes with a young lady who worked the main desk at the Learning Resources Center, of lengthy bull sessions in the office of the small TV studio next door at the Performing Arts Center, of a cross-country skiing weekend in Wisconsin with the Luther League from Salem Lutheran, and of trying to figure out where I belonged.

In that last category, three things come to mind. It was about this time when I realized I no longer fit in with the group of kids I’d hung around with for much of my freshman year and quit trying to spend time with them. It was around the middle of January in 1973 when a young woman in my philosophy class invited me to join her for coffee at Atwood Center after class to meet her friends, a group of people that turned out to be The Table, the center of my on-campus life for the next several years. And it was around this time when a friend of mine from church asked me to go to a meeting one evening and take notes for her, a meeting set up to assess students’ interest in spending the next academic year in Fredericia, Denmark.

So even though I felt lost and uncertain as the month began – and even though I never got past friendly Cokes after work with the girl from the main desk – I can look back at January of 1973 and see from 2018 a hinge on which my life pivoted.

Looking through the rest of the Hot 100 from that long-ago time, I don’t see any records that really speak to those days (though I do note that Shawn Phillips’ “We” – a record that showed up in the Atwood Center jukebox during the autumn of 1974 and became one of the touchstones of my life – was sitting at No. 92 in the second of its three weeks on the chart).

So I looked for something I might never have heard that sounds good, and I found, parked at No. 66, “Daytime Night-time” by Keith Hampshire, a native of England who grew up in Canada. I don’t recall the record at all, though if I’d heard it back in 1973, I probably would have liked it, what with the piano in the intro, the horns throughout, and the vocal very reminiscent of David Clayton-Thomas. It peaked at No. 51 during the second week of February.

Saturday Single No. 573

January 13th, 2018

I filled out one of those Facebook list things this week, giving details about my senior year in high school: Did you know your life partner (no), were you a jock or a nerd (the latter), do you remember the mascot (Tigers), do you remember the school song (“March Straight On, Old Tech High”) and about fifteen other questions that I answered from the perspective of the St. Cloud Tech Class of 1971.

I’ve written before about that year, how that was when I began to read science fiction and astronomy books, when I spent a good portion of time wooing a cute sophomore girl whose attentions were focused elsewhere, when I began to play the guitar, and when I began – in large part because of my unrewarded romantic efforts – to write verse that sometimes worked as lyrics.

And this morning, I wondered what the Billboard Top Ten albums looked like as January and my senior year approached their midpoints in 1971. Here’s the list, along with the dates the LPs came to my shelves.

All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (August 15, 1981)
Abraxas by Santana (April 1, 1989)
Stephen Stills (August 1971)
The Partridge Family Album
Greatest Hits by Sly & The Family Stone (October 3, 1997)
Jesus Christ Superstar (August 1971)
Pendulum by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Live Album by Grand Funk Railroad
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (July 14, 1990)
Led Zeppelin III (March 10, 1999)

I’m not surprised by the absence of the albums by the Partridge Family and Grand Funk Railroad (not only did I not buy those two specific albums, but I never bought any LPs by the two groups), but I am a little startled at the absence of Pendulum. The LP log shows that I acquired every other Creedence album from 1968’s self-titled debut to 1973’s Mardi Gras plus two greatest hits albums. Not sure why I jumped over Pendulum.

Obviously, the two most important to me in that list were the Stephen Stills album and Jesus Christ Superstar. I desperately wanted All Things Must Pass, too, but the price of a three-disc album was out of my reach at the time. I found a passable used copy in 1981, as noted in the list above, and then replaced it with a better copy in the 1990s.

As to the other four albums in that top ten, the purchase dates pretty clearly show that by the time I got around to them in 1989 or later, it was when I was assembling an archive rather than a collection. Of those four, I liked Abraxas and the hits album from Sly & The Family Stone the most; the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and the Zep album had a few tracks each that I liked much more than the rest of what they offered.

So as my music source evolved in the past twenty years to CDs, which of those ten albums showed up? Well, two of them: All Things Must Pass and Stephen Stills. Anthologies suffice for Lennon, Led Zeppelin and Creedence, and there are blank spaces for the other five of those ten albums in that long-ago list.

Of course, for much of the last eighteen years, I’ve collected a lot of digital music as well. The only album not represented in the 69,000 mp3s here in the EITW studios is the one by Grand Funk. I have a few tracks from the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the digital stacks, most of what was offered by the Sly & The Family Stone hits album and complete digital copies of the remaining seven albums.

As I’ve done with similar entries here over the past couple of years, I’ll finish off this exercise by seeing which tracks from those albums show up among the exactly 3,700 tracks on the iPod today. It’s not really close. Nothing from the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band or the Grand Funk albums shows up, and I find one track each from Led Zeppelin III and the Partridge Family album and two each from Abraxas and Pendulum. Six hits show up from Sly & The Family Stone, and four tracks show up from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Right now, there are nine tracks from All Things Must Pass in the iPod (although, as I have a fair amount of space open, the remaining tracks from the main portions of that album will likely be added). But all ten tracks from Stephen Stills show up today, and that’s not at all surprising to me. As I think I’ve noted here at least a few times over the years, Stills’ first solo record is one of my essential albums.

Given that, you’d think my favorite track from the album would have been plugged in here or there numerous times over these nearly eleven years. But it’s only been mentioned and shared once, back in the summer of 2007. And it’s a song of hope. All that made it an easy choice to make Stills’ “We Are Not Helpless” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Shooting Star’

January 9th, 2018

I was glancing this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from the second week of 1968, staying in our recent mode of fifty years ago. I was thinking about doing a post about the Bottom Ten from that list, a selection of records that would start with “United (Part 1)” by the Music Makers and end with “Funky Way” by Calvin Arnold.

(Joel Whitburn tells me in Top Pop Singles that the Music Makers evolved into M.F.S.B., which is not a surprise after seeing that the record, which Whitburn notes is an instrumental version of the Intruders’ “(We’ll Be) United,” was written and produced by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and was released on the Gamble label. As to “Funky Way,” Whitburn has less information, noting only that Arnold was a Detroit-based performer. Neither record did much, with “United (Part 1)” peaking at No. 78 and “Funky Way” getting to No. 72.)

But one of the records in that Bottom Ten diverted my train of thought. I was pretty sure I’d written before about the record at No. 93, “A Little Rain Must Fall” by the Epic Splendor. And, in fact, I had, in a Chart Digging post in late January 2011. Having refreshed my memory about the Epic Splendor, I idly clicked past that post down to the next post, one written a couple days earlier, and I found myself re-reading my tale of some college friends who claimed to have gone into a bar in a rural area west of Minneapolis during the autumn of 1975 and encountered Bob Dylan, who got on stage and sang a few songs with a local performer.

In that post, I pondered what song I’d want to sing with the Bard of Hibbing if I ever got such an unlikely opportunity. I settled on “Shooting Star,” a melancholy memoir from the 1989 album Oh Mercy.

Still looking for a topic for this morning, I checked out my post from January 9, 2008, ten years ago today, a post in which I looked at what the world had been listening to in 1989 and what I was listening to that same year. The two lists were markedly different, which should be no surprise to anyone who knows me or who’s read even a few things here. And one of the tracks listed in my version of 1989 in that post was “Shooting Star.”

Bemused, I wondered how often I’ve mentioned “Shooting Star” in the nearly eleven years I’ve been throwing stuff at the wall here. It turns out to be three times. The third time was in a March 2009 post as I considered which ten tracks I’d play as my first ten if I had a radio show. For what it’s worth, here’s that list:

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult
“Don’t the Moon Look Sad and Lonesome” by Joy of Cooking
“You Don’t Have To Cry” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Bare Trees” by Fleetwood Mac
“Valdez In The Country” by Cold Blood
“Anyday” by Derek & the Dominos
“A Woman Left Lonely” by Janis Joplin
“Blue River” by Danko/Fjeld/Andersen
“Shooting Star” by Bob Dylan
“The Promised Land” by Bruce Springsteen

So in the course of 2,000-and-some posts, I mention “Shooting Star” three times, and this morning, looking for other stuff, I stumble on two of those mentions. Clearly the universe is at work.

I went to YouTube. As might be expected, Mr. Dylan keeps a tight rein on his music, and only two tracks from Oh Mercy are available there: “Political World” and “Most Of The Time.” There’s no point in my making a video for “Shooting Star” and putting it up; it will be taken down shortly and I’ll get a little note from the website.

So let’s look at covers. The website Second Hand Songs lists four. I only checked out one of them, finding a pleasant take on the tune by the duo of Andy Hill & Renée Safier. It’s from their 2001 album of Dylan covers, It Takes A Lot To Laugh.

Before we listen, though, remember that I called the song a melancholy memoir? Here are the lyrics:

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you
You were trying to break into another world
A world I never knew
I always kind of wondered
If you ever made it through
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of you

Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me
If I was still the same
If I ever became what you wanted me to be
Did I miss the mark or overstep the line
That only you could see?
Seen a shooting star tonight
And I thought of me

Listen to the engine, listen to the bell
As the last fire truck from hell
Goes rolling by
All good people are praying
It’s the last temptation, the last account
The last time you might hear the sermon on the mount
The last radio is playing

Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away
Tomorrow will be
Another day
Guess it’s too late to say the things to you
That you needed to hear me say
Seen a shooting star tonight
Slip away

And here are Hill and Safier:

Saturday Single No. 572

January 6th, 2018

Having set myself a year-long project of looking back at 1968 earlier this week, I thought I’d end this first week of the year by looking at the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from January 6, 1968, fifty years ago today:

Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Rolling Stones
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. by the Monkees
Diana Ross & The Supremes Greatest Hits
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Dr. Zhivago soundtrack
The Sound Of Music soundtrack
Farewell To The First Golden Era by the Mamas & the Papas
Strange Days by the Doors
Love, Andy by Andy Williams

That’s kind of a mixed bag for me, and that’s borne out by checking for those albums in the vinyl database. I’ve owned six of them: The two Beatles albums, the Supremes’ hits album, the Doors’ album, the Mamas & the Papas’ album and the soundtrack to Dr. Zhivago. The database also shows a copy of the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music, but that one belongs to the Texas Gal and moved onto the shelves only after she brought it back from Texas in 2004.

I had one Andy Williams album on the vinyl shelves, Born Free, because I love the title track. Given my penchant for 1960s easy listening, I likely would have liked Love, Andy, but it never made its way home with me.

The more interesting absences are those of the Stones and Monkees albums. I’ve heard Their Satanic Majesties Request several times over the years, and once was enough. I found it silly and overbaked, so I never bothered to acquire it. As to the Monkees’ album, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it, and that’s because I’ve never paid much attention to the group. I had Headquarters and a greatest hits album on the vinyl shelves, and neither one of those survived the sell-off a year ago.

Moving forward to the CD racks, only four of those albums show up: The two Beatles albums and the two soundtracks, although I do have a more extensive collection of hits by the Supremes, with and without Diana Ross. The digital shelves have most of that stuff – again, The Sound Of Music is the Texas Gal’s deal – as well as the Doors’ album, the Monkees’ album and the albums by the Mamas & the Papas that were the sources of the hits on Golden Era. Still absent are the albums by the Rolling Stones and Andy Williams.

Trying to sort out which of those albums matters most by looking at what shows up on the iPod, as I’ve done here before, is uninformative. About half of Sgt. Pepper shows up, as does about half of Magical Mystery Tour. There are four tracks from Strange Days, seven hits by the Mamas & the Papas, twelve hits from the Supremes, and one hit – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” – from Aquarius et al. I find nothing from either of the soundtracks, although versions of “Somewhere, My Love” pop up from Ray Conniff and Roger Williams.

So which of the albums in that Billboard Top Ten matters most to me? Probably Sgt. Pepper, but there’s no point in posting anything from it here. So I turn to a track from the Doors that I first ran across in late 1971, when I bought their hits collection, 13, after hearing The Soft Parade every time I visited my friend Dave in his St. Cloud State dorm room. “Moonlight Drive” from Strange Days – released in September 1967 – became one of my favorites on that compilation, and it turns out that I’ve never mentioned the track even once here in nearly eleven years of blogging.

That’s why it’s today’s Saturday Single.

First Wednesday: January 1968

January 3rd, 2018

In this space ten years ago, I put up a series of monthly posts looking at the year of 1968, then forty years gone. I thought it would be interesting to rerun those posts this year as we mark the fiftieth anniversary of that remarkable and often horrifying year. We’ll correct errors or make notes as necessary, but the historic portion of the posts will otherwise be unchanged. As to music, we’ll update our examination of charts from fifty years ago and then, when possible, share the same full albums from 1968 as we did ten years ago, but this time – as is our habit now – as YouTube videos. The posts will appear on the first Wednesday of each month.

Looking at the list Wikipedia presents of events that took place in January 1968, one wonders if the year started with a sense of foreboding. Probably not.

We have the advantage of hindsight, of course, so – to take one example – when we see in a list of events the notation, “January 5 – Prague Spring: Alexander Dubček is elected leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia,” we know that the Prague Spring, the easing of social and political repression in that small corner of Eastern Europe, was doomed. We remember the news footage from August showing Soviet tanks in Prague and in other cities. We recall the reports of students and other protestors shot or arrested as a new and much more repressive government took over, one whose approach continued for another twenty-one years, until the Communists in Prague fell in the series of mostly peaceful revolutions of 1989-90.

If there was no sense of foreboding, of tense anticipation as the year’s events began to spin out in January, there is now, forty years later, when one reads the list. It reminds me of something film director Alfred Hitchcock said once. He described a scene in which a woman comes in off the street, climbs a staircase and finds a dead body. The best way to show the scene, he said, is not to follow the woman and show her finding the body, but to show the body in its place and show the woman entering the building. Then, Hitchcock said, keep the camera on the street. The audience knows what the woman will find, and the anticipation of her discovery will heighten the tension and horror.

So when one reads the list of the events of January 1968, it’s like watching the first moments of that scene, like we’re watching the world enter the building of 1968. We know the building is full of bodies.

On January 23, North Korea seizes the U.S. ship The Pueblo, claiming that the ship violated its territorial waters, with more than eighty U.S. sailors and officers taken prisoner. The crew was moved twice to POW camps during the ensuing months, and – crewmen said after their release in December – was systematically starved and tortured. That treatment was said to have worsened, Wikipedia notes, when the North Koreans realized that the sailors were flipping the camera off during the taking of propaganda photos.

On January 30, the Tet (or New Year’s) offensive, an attack by the People’s Army of [North] Vietnam and Viet Cong guerillas, began in Vietnam. As I wrote in an earlier post, Americans had been assured time and again by military and political leaders that the opposition was were no longer strong enough to mount major operations. Oops! During the Tet offensive, some of the fighting took place on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in the city that was then called Saigon.

It was not an auspicious start to the new year. There were, of course, some more pleasant events during the month. The NBC network aired the premiere of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Johnny Cash recorded his live album, At Folsom Prison. In Super Bowl III on January 12, the New York Jets, in what has been described as one of the two most important professional football games ever played (the 1958 NFL title game is the other), defeated the Baltimore Colts 16-7.

(And that bit about the New York Jets and Super Bowl III is wrong, of course. The championship game played in 1968, as faithful reader Steve reminded me in a comment, “was Super Bowl II, where the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers repeated as champions, defeating the Oakland Raiders.” Thanks, Steve!)

Here are the Top 15 records from the Billboard Hot 100 released on January 6, 1968:

“Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles
“Daydream Believer” by the Monkees
“Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Gladys Knight & The Pips
“Woman, Woman”by Gary Puckett & The Union Gap
“I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin
“Bend Me, Shape Me” by the American Breed
“Boogaloo Down Broadway” by The Fantastic Johnny C.
“Skinny Legs And All” by Joe Tex
“Honey Chile” by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
“Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers
“If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Summer Rain” by Johnny Rivers
“Incense & Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock

Sitting at No. 50 was “Dear Eloise” by the Hollies, and “Born Free” by the Hesitations was at No. 100.

And the record at No. 14, Johnny Rivers’ “Summer Rain,” leads perfectly into the album I shared here ten years ago, Rivers’ Realization. Here’s what I wrote about it then:

While the album’s single, “Summer Rain” is well-known – it went to No. 14 during the winter of 1968-69 – and is a great song, it’s quite likely not the best track on the album. The entire album is full of sparkling performances, but if I had to select three that stand above the rest, I’d go with “Look To Your Soul,” written by James Hendricks (who also wrote “Summer Rain”), “Brother, Where Are You,” written by Oscar Brown, and Rivers’ own composition, “Going Back to Big Sur.”

It’s difficult, though, to separate out those tracks, as the entire album is truly great. Among the eye-openers are three covers: The album’s first track, “Hey Joe,” credited here to William M. Roberts and Rivers; “Whiter Shade of Pale,” released only a year earlier by Procol Harum; and Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.”

Personnel on the record included Hal Blaine on drums and percussion, James Burton on guitar, James Hendricks on rhythm guitar, Joe Osborn on guitar and bass and Marty Paitch in charge of the strings and the horns. Rivers produced the album.

There’s nothing there I disagree with now, ten years later. Back then, I knew that the story of the origins of “Hey Joe” was a complicated one, so I just listed the credits as they were on the LP (and eventually got around to touching on the writing of “Hey Joe” in another January 2008 post about the Indigo Girls’ cover of “Get Together”).

I suppose I should note that over the years, I have included Rivers’ “Summer Rain” in the list of my four favorite singles of all time. It remains there.

The tracks on Realization are:

Hey Joe
Look To Your Soul
The Way We Live
Summer Rain
Whiter Shade Of Pale
Brother, Where Are You
Something’s Strange
What’s The Difference
Going Back To Big Sur
Positively 4th Street

Saturday Single No. 571

December 30th, 2017

My thoughts are jumbled this morning, as they have been for much of this year. In many ways, it’s been a hard year. Mom’s death in June hit me hard, harder than had Dad’s in 2003. And though the work of settling Mom’s estate wasn’t really difficult in itself, it was a constant reminder for these past seven months that she was gone. (And we’re not quite done yet; there is a bank account to close and boxes and boxes of her memorabilia to sort through.)

And all of that – Mom’s death and the ensuing tasks – has reminded me nearly every day that I am getting no younger, and there are things I should get done. One of those things is to winnow out the boxes of stuff that I’ve hauled along with me over the last thirty to forty years. I’ve been doing some of that in the last few months, and I’ll do more of it, now that we’re planning on moving to the North Side.

Another of those things I should do – and yes, it sounds a little macabre – is to write my obituary. I don’t think there will be a need for it very soon, but one never knows, and I would like to make certain that some things about my life are mentioned when the time comes. Mom wrote hers, and that was immensely helpful. Dad hadn’t done so, and while I’ve written hundreds of obituaries over the years, it wasn’t easy deciding what he would have wanted included. I erred on the side of inclusion, which made it longer than the average obituary. (No surprise here; I write everything long.)

A third thing that needed doing is done. Over the past few years the Texas Gal and I have pondered where we will spend our retirement years. She’s got a few years yet before that comes along, and we’ve talked about a number of places that we either like or that intrigue us: Marquette, Michigan, Columbia, Missouri, and Clarksdale, Mississippi, were among those mentioned, more as daydreams than as any real option. But this week’s decision to purchase the North Side condo pretty well anchors us. Our intent is to stay in St. Cloud.

But all of those thoughts and events have left me unfocused for most of this year, and even with those good things that did happen this year – and there were many of them, however overshadowed they might have been – this is a year whose ending I will not regret.

So, in this last post of 2017, I offer a wish for all of us – those of us here on the East Side, whether human, furry or imaginary (Odd and Pop come to mind), those who stop by this place, and those whose handshakes and embraces I know in the non-digital world of flesh and blood: May 2018 be the best year of all our lives.

And we’ll close the year at this place with some Bruce Springsteen: the title track to his 2014 album High Hopes. Yeah, he sings “Don’t you know these days you pay for everything?” But he also tells us “I got high hopes,” and that’s more than enough to make it the year’s final Saturday Single.

An Unexpected Direction

December 29th, 2017

I’ve noted here several times that the Texas Gal and I have been thinking about finding another place to live. The house – where we’ve lived for nine years – is getting a bit too hard to take care of, and the stairs are becoming less easy to navigate as we get older. The Texas Gal has already fallen down the stairs from the second floor once, and that’s more than enough.

So we’ve been looking. In the past few months, we’ve scanned the ads for apartments and spent portions of a couple of Saturdays looking at a few places. We didn’t find anything we really liked, and we came face-to-face with the reality of renting in St. Cloud, which has one of the tightest rental markets in the state: We can’t afford an apartment.

Well, we probably could right now, but in a few years, when the Texas Gal retires, it would be tight. So we’ve been pondering that for a few weeks. And about ten days ago, the Texas Gal suggested we think about buying a place, maybe a patio home or a town home. We checked out some possibilities on line, and a week ago today, we spent an hour with a mortgage specialist at an area bank who’d been recommended by friends.

We came away discouraged. While we would likely qualify for a mortgage, the banker said, the cost of the patio and town homes we were thinking about would put the monthly mortgage payment right about where we’d found rents for apartments: within reach now but . . .

All the while, I was trying to wrap my head around the idea of buying a home. I’ve been a renter most of my adult life. I’ve owned a mobile home, but that’s not quite the same. Owning a place, well, that would feel different. I wasn’t quite sure how, but it would.

That evening, the Texas Gal poked around real estate listings on her laptop as we watched television. “How about a condo?” she asked me. There were some listed that were about two-thirds the price of the patio home and town home we’d talked about with the banker. It was worth a shot, I said, and she emailed a friend of ours who’s a realtor, and very quickly, he had arranged a tour of four places for Tuesday, three condos and a house that was included in the tour for its price and its location on a favorite East Side street.

We dismissed the house pretty quickly. We saw some things that needed attention, and the stairs were as steep as the ones we deal with now. We looked at two condos on the North Side, liked the first and weren’t crazy about the second, which was missing some appliances. Then we went to a place in the smaller city of Waite Park, just west of St. Cloud. We’d been very interested in that one, given the photos we’d seen online and its location not far from the Texas Gal’s office. But we saw some major flaws, and it just felt somehow not right.

More and more, we liked the first of the two condos on the North Side. It has stairs, but it’s a split entry, just six up to the main floor and six down to the lower level. It has a deck and a patio, two bedrooms upstairs and a large den/family room downstairs that could easily host a sewing area on one end and a music area on the other.

We talked about the first North Side condo with our realtor as we were about to leave the Waite Park place. He could easily put in an offer and reach out to the banker, he said, and we talked about things like closing costs, association fees and other pre-paid items. We told him to get back to us after he’d talked to the banker.

We heard from him Wednesday evening. The banker approved the mortgage. Our realtor put in an offer, and after a little bit of back-and-forth, we signed a purchase agreement yesterday. We’ll close at the end of January, and of course, something might yet go awry, but that’s unlikely. So we’re a little giddy and a little baffled at this rapid left turn. And we’re looking at our stuff and beginning to figure out where it’s going to fit in our new home.

And the most astounding thing? Our monthly payment will be only three dollars more than we’re paying now for rent.

I have many tracks with the word “home” in their titles. One of my favorites – and one that seems to have never been mentioned in nearly eleven years of blogging – is “Comin’ Home” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. Recorded in 1969, it was released as an Atco single that year and stalled at No. 84 in the Billboard Hot 100. It was also released in 1972 as a track on the Atco album Country Life and later that year on Columbia’s album D&B Together, which offered the same tracks as Country Life but with a different order. That album was the last work Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett would release together.

Saturday Single No. 570

December 23rd, 2017

The last days of Christmas busy-ness are upon us. We’ll spend much of the day finishing holiday-related tasks: mailing packages and cards (yes, they will arrive late), buying provisions for our own celebration Christmas Eve and for the family dinner at my sister’s in Maple Grove Monday.

We’re meeting a friend for lunch, and we’ll also take time to attend a memorial service for the husband of a fellow member of our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Add in some necessary household tasks – given my difficulties with my legs, the Texas Gal needs to spot me when I climb a ladder to replace light bulbs in the kitchen’s ceiling fixture – and we have a busy and demanding day.

So I’m just going to wish a Merry Christmas to all out there. May you spend these days with those you love in whatever place you consider home. And amid all the hubbub, be good to one another.

Here’s one of the two or three Christmas tunes we ever post here, John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” performed this time in Swedish by Linda Andrews with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and Dobbletkvartetten (the male vocal group, I assume). It’s from Andrews’ 2009 album Husker du julen . . . (Do You Remember Christmas), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.