Posts Tagged ‘America’

Saturday Single No. 566

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

One of the main currents that’s run through my adult life – and thus through this blog – is the impact of the time I spent in Fredericia, Denmark, through St. Cloud State during the 1973-74 academic year. It was, as I think I’ve said here before, the greatest formative experience in my life, a foundation for almost anything I’ve done, thought and written over the past forty-four years.

I wondered for years if my attachments to my time in Denmark and to the memory of the more than one hundred students who shared that experience were excessive, and I wondered if they were mine alone. But when I broached in late 1993 to a few of those folks that we should plan a twenty-year reunion the following summer, I learned I was not alone. Others felt the same way about the impact of those days in Denmark and in their connections to those who were there.

We are, as one of us noted in an email this week, brothers and sisters. In our day-to-day lives, we are – as is true of any large group – closer to some than to others. But when the largest of life’s sorrows come to one, all of us feel it. And this week, we grieve for the loss of one of our own.

I’ve written before about Dewey, telling of our 450-mile trek to watch the Super Bowl on television in Hanau, Germany, and remembering our pilgrimage to the headquarters of the Adidas shoe company in the small German town of Herzogenaurach. I’ve likely not noted that as we resumed our Minnesota lives and for some years after that, Dewey was one of my closest friends.

We finished college pretty much together, and he was one of two from our Denmark group to stand at my side when I married the Other Half in 1978. He was troubled but supportive when that pairing failed in 1987. When I landed a job in the Twin Cities suburb of Eden Prairie a few years later, I stopped by his office every now and then. But my life turned left in 1999, and I saw Dewey only once more, at our 2004 reunion.

Dewey was a very private man. I had no idea he was seeing anyone until I was invited to his wedding in the early 1980s. And when he began having the physical difficulties that were eventually diagnosed as ALS, he held that pretty close. He had to be persuaded by his life-long friend Cal that those who were in Denmark with him should know, and Cal passed the word on to us at a gathering a few summers ago. I emailed Dewey, and in his reply he said things weren’t too bad, a typical Dewey response. Neither of us said anything about his prognosis in the few emails we sent back and forth after that. But we knew.

The end came last Monday, November 20, and Cal emailed us all that afternoon. Emails went back and forth in the next couple days as we shared our tales of Dewey and our grief. In one of those emails, I shared a graphic I made a few years ago when a Facebook acquaintance died. I found the photo online; the text is the chorus of a lyric I wrote about thirty years ago.

Be A Candle

Do we need music today? Well, I remember visiting Dewey in the mid-1970s when he had an apartment in Minneapolis, and he introduced me to the music of Jackson Browne, for which I’ll be forever grateful. But nothing from Browne’s catalog seems to fit perfectly here, not even “For A Dancer,” Browne’s meditation on grief. So I’ll reach back forty-four years for a tune that we listened to in the lounge at our youth hostel as the end of our time together in Denmark approached.

Here’s America’s 1973 track “To Each His Own.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 398

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

I write this during a break in a busy couple of days. I’ve written many times about my college year in Fredericia, Denmark, how it changed my life and the hold it will always have on me. I’ve been reminded last night and this afternoon how it did the same for – and has the same grip on – the others who spent those months in Fredericia as well.

We’re celebrating this weekend with a reunion marking forty years since we came back from that marvelous academic year. About thirty of us showed up here in St. Cloud last night for an informal get-together and slide show; the same number took a tour of the St. Cloud State University campus this morning and ate lunch on campus, greeted by representatives of the university’s International Studies program and its Alumni Relations office.

And this evening, about forty of us – with some wives, husbands and partners joining in – will dine and celebrate at St. Cloud’s River’s Edge Convention Center, telling more tales and catching up on who we are now and how much it meant for each of us to get on that airplane in September 1973 and fly into the unknown. Like the adventure so many years ago that made tonight’s gathering possible, it will be a wonderful time.

And here’s a song from our distant days that I’ve evidently never shared or mentioned. It’s one that one of our fellows discovered on one of his tapes as our final days in Fredericia approached in May 1974. He played the song on the tape player in the lounge, and we listened and nodded, and for the rest of our time in Fredericia, I’m sure we heard the song at least once a day, and we sang along.

Here’s “To Each His Own” by American, from the group’s 1973 album Homecoming, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

And At No. 86 . . .

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

We’ll take a break from summer records and memories for today and dive deep into some charts from the years that make up our sweet spot. We’ll take today’s date – 8/15 – and twist it just a little so it becomes 86, and then check out the Billboard Hot 100 charts from mid-August for a half-a-dozen years. We’ll start in 1965 and come forward two years at a time.

(A note on our methodology, if that’s not too grand a word for something that Odd and Pop and I came up with off the top of our shiny heads a while back. When we dig into the charts to see what record was doing what on a particular day, as we are doing this morning, we look at the chart that would have been released on that day or during the following six days. Take August 1965 as an example. Billboard released a Hot 100 on August 14. We’re looking at where records sat on August 15, so we’ll look at the following chart, which came out on August 21. When we started digging into charts for games like this, a six-day gap like that was a little disconcerting, but those things happen. Anyway, on with the fun . . .)

When we look just past the mid-point of August 1965, we find Gerry & The Pacemakers’ “Give All Your Love To Me” perched at No. 86, heading toward a peak at No. 68. The Liverpool group, signed in 1962 by Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles, had scored three Top Ten hits (“Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” “How Do You Do It” and “Ferry Cross The Mersey”) starting in the spring of 1964, but it was clear that since “Ferry,” the ride was slowing down, as the group had missed the Top Twenty with its next two releases. “Give . . .” was a little more dramatic and over-wrought than the group’s earlier hits, almost as if the boys – especially lead singer Gerry Marsden – were trying too hard. The record was the ninth single the group had placed into the Hot 100, but there would be only two more of them – none in the Top Twenty – and three other releases that bubbled under the Hot 100. (One of those bubblers would be a 1970 re-release of “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” which stalled out at No. 112.)

Just for context, the No. 1 record during that week in August 1965 was Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe.”

“Leon Haywood” is a name that’s never been mentioned in this space. That’s not a huge omission, but I’d have thought that in more than six years of blogging I would have somehow mentioned his 1975 hit “I Want’a Do Something Freaky To Ya,” which moaned and grooved its way to No. 15 (No. 7 on the R&B chart). But it’s Haywood’s “It’s Got To Be Mellow” that brings him here today, as during mid-August 1967, it was sitting at No. 86 on its way to No. 63 (No. 21 R&B). It was the first record released under the Houston singer’s real name; “She’s With Her Other Love,” a late 1965 release credited to Leon Hayward, had gone to No. 92 (No. 13, R&B). Haywood would show up sporadically on the pop charts up to 1980 and on the R&B charts a few years longer than that. “It’s Got To Be Mellow” was a decent record but not all that different from what a lot of other R&B groups were doing at the time; it sounds to me very much like an Impressions record.

The No. 1 record on the August 19, 1967, Hot 100 was the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.”

As August passed its midpoint in 1969, the No. 86 record was one that we mentioned in this space a little more than three years ago. But three years is an eternity in blogtime, and anyway, the record in question probably doesn’t get mentioned all that often anywhere, so we’ll take another listen to “The Colour Of My Love” by the English singer who performed under the name of Jefferson. It’s a melodramatic single, a bit overwrought with splashes of brass underneath. I don’t remember hearing it back in 1969, but I might have liked it then. I know I liked Jefferson’s only other hit, “Baby Take Me In Your Arms,” which went to No. 23 (No. 19 on the Adult Contemporary chart) in February of 1970.

Sitting at No. 1 in mid-August of 1969 was a record that showed up in this space a little more than a week ago in one of our posts about summer records: Zager & Evans’ “In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus).”

From 1967 through 1973 or so, Clarence Carter was a regular presence on the pop and R&B charts. In mid-August 1971, his “Slipped, Tripped And Fell In Love” was sitting at No. 86 in the Hot 100. A piece of deep soul, the record would only go two places higher on the pop chart but would get to No. 25 on the R&B chart. It was the fourteenth Hot 100 record for the blind singer from Alabama; he’d have two more records on the chart and three more bubble under into 1973; his total on the R&B chart would be eighteen, with seven of them hitting the Top Ten. His best-performing records – “Slip Away” in 1968 and “Patches” in 1970 – would get to No. 2 on the R&B chart and to No. 6 and No 4 respectively on the pop chart.

The No. 1 record as the third week of August 1971 rolled on was the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend  A Broken Heart.”

I’m not sure I ever heard America’s version of “Muskrat Love” on the radio. It was sitting at No. 86 during this week in 1973, and it climbed just a little bit, peaking at No. 67 (No. 11 AC). At the time, I was preparing for my stay in Denmark, and I was gone for more than half of the eight weeks the record charted, so it doesn’t really hit any buttons. I’ve heard it in the intervening forty years, of course, and it’s not as bad this morning as my gut reaction to the title said it would be. I imagine that I tend to conflate America’s folky version with the cutesy No. 4 hit that the Captain & Tennille had with the song in 1976. Anyway, the record was one of America’s lesser hits; the group put nineteen records in or near the charts between 1972 and 1984, hitting No. 1 with “A Horse With No Name” in 1972 and “Sister Golden Hair” in 1975.

Sitting at No. 1 during the third week of August 1973 was Diana Ross’ “Touch Me In The Morning.”

Speaking of the Captain & Tennille, in 1975, when “Love Will Keep Us Together” was a hit, the duo recorded and A&M released a version of the single in Spanish, something I’ve not heard until this morning. “Por Amor Viviremos” was sitting at No. 86 this week in 1975, heading for a peak of No. 49. The English version (which makes up the first half of the linked video) was, of course, a massive hit, spending four weeks at No. 1 (one week at No. 1 on the AC chart), topping the year-end chart and winning a Grammy for Record of the Year. And to be honest, coming across the listing for the Spanish version has made me listen to the English version for the first time in years, and if I set aside the cynicism that’s somehow gathered around my memory of the Captain & Tennille and their records, “Love Will Keep Us Together” – in English or Spanish – is a hell of a record. (The duo ended up with fifteen records in or near the Hot 100; “Do That To Me One More Time” was their second No. 1 hit in 1979.)

Sitting at No. 1 during that week in August 1975 was “Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees.

Gimme Some Saxophone!

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

As readers might know, I love me some saxophone, and I’ve been having a fine time lately with a document I found quite by accident in the hinterlands of the ’Net.

Not quite a month ago, as I wandered through music blogs and forums, I chanced across a Word file: The History of Top 40 Saxophone Solos, 1955-2005. The seventy-six page document seems to be a preview of a two-CD set available by mail order, a set that includes more text and seventeen tracks of music, if I read correctly. I may get in touch with the authors, John Laughter and Steve D. Marshall, and find out about the CD set. But in the meantime, I’m having a fine time digging into the document

The Word file appears to list every American and British Top 40 hit during that fifty-year span that had a saxophone solo or significant background saxophone part and then lists the individual player or players who crafted those solos or those parts. Plenty of spots in the list of soloists are blank – the writers say research continues – but many of them are filled. And many of those that are filled, gratifyingly, are from the earlier years, when individual credits on records were few.

The familiar names pop up frequently: King Curtis, Herb Hardesty, Lee Allen, Sam Taylor, Plas Johnson, Steve Douglas, Junior Walker, Jim Horn and on and on down to Clarence Clemons, Tom Scott and David Sanborn. The number of records listed gets a quite a bit more slender from the mid-1990s onward, but there’s still a lot to dig into.

And just as interesting are the occasional notes about the research, either notes by the author or else bits of information they’ve received from musicians or producers about who actually played saxophone during various sessions, some of them long ago.

For instance, there’s a note regarding “China In Your Hand,” a 1987 No. 1 hit in the U.K. for T’Pau (it did not chart at all in the U.S.). The note says: “Per [T’Pau’s lead singer] Carol Decker, Gary Barnacle played on the hit single. The album sax player’s name is unknown but he was a session player in the states.”

Now, that’s not all that long ago as those things are measured, but it caught my eye because I doubt I’d ever heard the tune until this morning, and I liked it – and its saxophone solo – a fair amount.

That’s one of six listings for Barnacle in the document, and no, I don’t know if that’s Barnacle – a member of both Visage and Jamiroquai – hefting the saxophone in the video or an actor faking it.

I’ll no doubt be pulling bits and pieces of saxophone lore from the document’s pages for months, and I’m certain some of those bits and pieces will show up here. In the meantime, I thought I’d offer a couple of other things I found. I mentioned Plas Johnson above; he’s one of the most frequently cited saxophone players in the document, from 1955’s “The Great Pretender” by the Platters to the Vogues’ 1968 No. 7 hit “My Special Angel.”

(Okay, so we know that Johnson did the saxophone fills; what I want to know is who played drums? I have an idea who it was, but I’m not certain.)

And to close things this morning, I checked the mentions of Raphael Ravenscroft, the sax player who crafted the great introductory riff for Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street.” He’s listed twice more, for Kim Carnes’ “More Love” in 1980 and for the track “The Border” in 1983, the last Top 40 hit for America. Here’s the latter of those two.