Posts Tagged ‘Association [The]’

‘Six’

Friday, January 11th, 2013

And so we come to “Six” as the March of the Integers goes on. The RealPlayer sifts through more than 66,000 mp3s and brings back 176 of them, leaving us the task of sorting out the chaff from those results.

All the songs with “sixteen” in their titles have to go, including Joe Clay’s 1956 rockabilly romp, “Sixteen Chicks,” country singer Lacy J. Dalton’s 1982 tribute to perseverance, “Sixteenth Avenue” and several versions of “Sweet Little Sixteen.” The same holds true for songs with “sixty” in their titles, including two versions of Elton John’s “Sixty Years On” – one from the studio and one from his live 11-17-70 set – as well as Billy Ward & The Dominoes’ “Sixty Minute Man” from 1951.

A cluster of tracks by some groups have to be set aside as well: That includes single tracks by the Deep Six, the Electric Six, the Six Mile Chase, the Soul Brothers Six, the Sound of Six as well as the gloriously titled “Rub A Little Boogie” by Duke Bayou & His Mystic Six. We also have to set aside a couple of albums each by Sixpence None the Richer and the New Colony Six. And then, everything but the title tune from B.B. King’s 1985 album Six Silver Strings goes by the wayside, as does all of Steeleye Span’s 1974 album Now We Are Six and the 1973 opus by Rick Wakeman, The Six Wives of Henry VIII. But we’re still left with enough titles to put together a nice six-record set.

The most successful, and maybe the best of the bunch, is one I’ve written about before: “Six Days on the Road” by Dave Dudley. Recorded in Minneapolis’ Kay Bank Studios in March 1963, “Six Days” spent two weeks at No. 2 on the country chart and went to No. 32 on the pop chart. The record, wrote Dave Marsh in 1989, had “about as much impact as any hit of the early sixties – it spawned a whole genre of truck driving songs that are not only the closest contemporary equivalent of the cowboy ballads of yore but have produced some of the best country records of the past thirty years.”

[Wikipedia notes: According to country music historian Bill Malone, “Six Days on the Road” was not the first truck driving song; Malone credits “Truck Driver’s Blues” by Cliff Bruner, released in 1940, with that distinction. “Nor is it necessarily the best,” said Malone, citing songs such as “Truck Drivin’ Man” by Terry Fell and “White Line Fever” by Merle Haggard and the Strangers as songs that “would certainly rival it.” However, “Six Days,” Malone continued, “set off a vogue for such songs” that continued for many years. “The trucking songs coincided with country music’s growing identification as working man’s music in the 1960s,” he said. Dudley “strikingly captures the sense of boredom, danger and swaggering masculinity that often accompanies long-distance truck driving. His macho interpretation, with its rock-and-roll overtones, is perfect for the song.”]

When Ringo Starr and producer Richard Perry put together the ex-Beatle’s 1973 release Ringo, the other three ex-Beatles stopped by at various times to offer songs and some help in the studio. Paul and Linda McCartney offered the song “Six O’Clock” and hung around to record background vocals, while Paul wrote the arrangement for the strings and flutes and then sat down at both the piano and the synthesizer, adding a solo on the latter that hangs around in one’s ears long after the very catchy track is over.

The Association was a pretty mellow group (occasionally moving, as Bruce Eder of All-Music Guide notes, “into psychedelia and, much more rarely, into a harder, almost garage-punk vein”), so when “Six Man Band” starts coming out of the speakers, those few bars of growling guitars that follow the light percussion opening make one take note. Soon enough, the record mellows, but those guitars keep popping up, alternating with the stacked vocal harmonies. The record label credits the group as producers, but that only shows how much the Association learned from Curt Boettcher. The record, detailing in vague allusions the joys and hassles of being on the road, hit the Billboard Hot 100 in late August 1968 but only got as high as No. 47.

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart are perhaps better known as songwriters – their credits include “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” “Come A Little Bit Closer” and much of the Monkees’ catalog – than as performers. But between 1962 and 1969, they put ten singles in or near the Hot 100 (and Hart had a solo single bubble under at No. 110 in 1980). The best-known of the duo’s records is no doubt “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonite,” which went to No. 8 in February 1968. They’re of interest today because the romantic lament “Six + Six” showed up as the B-side to “We’re All Going To The Same Place,” which bubbled under the chart for one week at No. 123 in November 1968.

All I know about the Apostles, I learned at the blog Funky Sixteen Corners, which is where my pal Larry spins his records. Back in 2006, Larry noted that all he knew about the superb instrumental “Six Pack” was that it was from 1969 (and he could have added that it was released on Kapp, a fact made obvious by the label scan). He said, “Despite any religious connotations of the name Apostles, I’m betting that they weren’t following anyone spiritually besides the Meters. It starts out with a funky – but not overly exciting – bass line, so as the record begins you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, ‘I expect this 45 to provide an acceptable level of funk, but little else.’ Then, a few short seconds later, the guitar player drops in with some of the wildest, bell-bottomed, crazy-legged fatback guitar and knocks the whole thing for a loop.” Not quite a year later, a reader by the name of John Rogger left Larry a note: “[I]’m glad to see that someone other than myself likes the records my father produced! ‘Six Pack’ was a great hit for him, but the bigger hit was ‘Soulful’ on the first album he released with the band. . . . If you’re able to find it, listen to it. It’s a great song. It actually sold more than “Six Pack” did. . . .Thanks for finding stuff on my dad. It makes me happy since he wasn’t able to continue his dream and legacy due to the war. I still play his songs on the radio station I work at. It’s fun times for me. . . . The Apostles was a rock and roll band formed from the Renegades that my dad was in charge of in the ’60s in St. Louis. He did a lot back then for music. Now he does real estate. Go figure!”

Candi Staton has showed up here a few times, most recently in September, when her “Never In Public” caught my ear. This morning, it was her “Six Nights and a Day” that got my attention. The track showed up in 1974 on the album Candi, Staton’s first release on Warner Brothers after leaving the Muscle Shoals-based Fame label. Warner Brothers released “Six Days and a Night” as a single (Warner Bros. 8112 b/w “We Can Work It Out”) in 1975, but it didn’t show up in either the Hot 100 or the R&B Top 40. I seem to say this every time I run across one of Staton’s R&B sides, but it’s true: The record deserved better.

Preparing For The Storm

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Here comes the snow!

Sometime this afternoon – around three o’clock, if the weather warnings are accurate – the snow will begin, and it’s not likely to end until sometime late Wednesday afternoon. After having only about eighteen inches of snow fall all winter, we’re about to get hit. The forecasters say that we’re likely to get between ten and thirteen inches here in St. Cloud.

Well, bring it on! We haven’t had a good snowstorm since, I think, the week of Christmas in 2009, when we were socked in for a couple of days. In any case, whether we have a legendary blizzard or just a big end-of-February snow, there were a few things that had to get done in preparation this morning. So I ran a few errands for my mom and then stopped at the nearby supermarket for some necessities and some extras for the Texas Gal and me.

I expect the Texas Gal to be home a little early today, and no doubt she’ll bring some work for tomorrow and maybe the next day, as I doubt we’re going anywhere until the driveway gets plowed. The earliest I’d expect that to happen would be mid-morning Thursday.

So, I’m thinking that it’s a good day for a song with “snow” in its title. I’d hoped to share Carole King’s “Snow Queen” as performed by her late 1960s group The City, but embedding of that tune seems to be disabled. (The tune and the rest of the City’s single album, Now That Everything’s Been Said, are worth checking out although the album’s availability as a new CD is spotty, and the CD can be expensive. The album is available as a download at Amazon.)

So I looked for other versions of the tune. The Roger Nichols Trio released a version of the tune as a single in 1968, but the track is pretty light-weight. (Confusingly, the same group is called Roger Nichols & The Small Circle Of Friends on its single album from 1968.) And I don’t much care for the version that King did on her 1980 album Pearl – The Songs of Goffin & King. Moving on, once I corrected a spelling error in the title, I found in my files the typically jazzy version by Blood, Sweat & Tears that showed up on 1972’s New Blood, but I was underwhelmed once again.

So I dug deeper and found that the Association recorded the tune for its 1972 album, Waterbeds in Trinidad, an effort that turned out to be the group’s last album, according to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. And that version of “Snow Queen” turns out to be pretty good. (With the vocals stacked Curt Boettcher-style and laid atop what sounded to me like an adventurous backing track, I heard echoes, actually, of Gypsy.)

Since we’ll be snowed in tomorrow, I think I’ll finally get around to writing about Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. Honest. As long as the storm doesn’t take down the cable and Internet.

One Part Bliss, Two Parts Agony

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

What is it that qualifies a record for my Ultimate Jukebox?

Well, it’s not universal acclaim, for there are few records that would qualify under so stringent a rule. I’d hazard that a few Beatles records might. (The 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Album Guide noted that “not liking the Beatles is as perverse as not liking the sun.”) I do have two records by the Beatles among the songs I’ll be featuring here, but they are, I guess, quirky picks and thus might not find unanimous support. And if Beatles records aren’t unanimous choices, I don’t know what records might be.

Obviously, the records highlighted here are songs that move me one way or another: Some of them make me want to dance (a sight not often granted to non-family members, which is good for the welfare of all). Some of them astound me musically. Some take me to other places and times, both good and ill, and some remind me that there were times when folks were making great music in many places before I was aware of it or even before I was born. And some of them tug on my emotions, bitter and sweet alike.

“Cherish” by the Association is one of the latter. It’s also a record that I once acclaimed as the perfect single or as near as one can get to a perfect single or something like that. And I still think it’s that good. So did a lot of people: Written by Association member Terry Kirkman and produced by the legendary Curt Boettcher, the record spent three weeks at No. 1 during the early autumn of 1966.

And “Cherish” is one of those relatively rare pre-1969 pop/rock records that broke through to me at the time of its release, during the years before I became an active Top 40 listener. Romantic that I was even at the age of thirteen, I’d had crushes, but I recall thinking as I sorted out the record’s lyrics that “Cherish” was describing something several magnitudes greater, a kind of worshipful enchantment that I thought – admittedly vaguely; I was thirteen – must be one part bliss and two parts agony at the same time.

When I finally got my own futile chance to truly cherish someone a few years later, I learned I was right. Even so, or maybe because of the formative memory, “Cherish” remains atop my all-time list:

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 21
“Yakety Yak” by the Coasters, Atco 6116 [1958]
“Cherish” by the Association, Valiant 747 [1966]
“Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin/Big Brother & The Holding Company, Columbia 44626 [1968]
“Going Up The Country” by Canned Heat, Liberty 56077 [1968]
“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum, Reprise 0885 [1970]
“Dreams” by the Cranberries from Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? [1993]

“Yakety Yak” was one of the little playlets that writers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller put together for the Coasters and other R&B groups during the mid- to late 1950s. The genius of the song is having the tale told almost entirely from the father’s perspective; as I hear it, “Yakety Yak” is the only thing the kid gets to say. And that’s trumped every time by Dad’s “Don’t talk back!” Add to that a stellar saxophone solo by the great King Curtis, and it’s no wonder that “Yakety Yak” was a No. 1 hit, reaching that spot for a week on the Top 100 chart of the time, and topping that era’s R&B chart for seven weeks.

“Piece of My Heart,” which is almost entirely linked to Janis Joplin these days, was originally recorded by Erma Franklin, Aretha’s sister. Franklin’s R&B/soul version of the song did fairly well, making it to the Top Ten of the R&B chart and to No. 62 on the pop chart. Then Joplin and her backing band of the time, Big Brother & The Holding Company, got hold of the song and drenched it in acid. By the time Joplin and her band were done, the song was hers, though I think one can hear echoes of Franklin’s performance in Joplin’s work. The record was released as a single and went to No. 12 during the autumn of 1968.

When those of us of a certain age hear the opening riff to Canned Heat’s “Going Up The Country,” most of us, I’d wager, see the opening sequence to the 1970 documentary Woodstock, which tells the tale of the legendary three-day music festival of the previous summer. The use of the blues ’n’ boogie band’s anthem for the film was a brilliant idea, benefitting both film and band. Now, Canned Heat was hardly unknown at the time, as “On The Road Again” had gone to No. 16 in the autumn of 1968 and “Going Up The Country” had reached No. 11 as 1968 turned into 1969, but I’m sure that the group became far more visible as a result. In another vein, I still have fun demonstrating to music-attuned visitors the opening riff on the quills from Henry Thomas’ 1928 recording of “Bull Doze Blues,” clearly the source of the opening flute riff of “Going Up The Country.”

When my mind wanders to the topic of my favorite one-hit wonders, Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky” usually floats to the top of the pool fairly quickly. I like too many one-hit wonders to be able to sort out an utter favorite, but Greenbaum’s fuzz-drenched single – which went to No. 3 in the spring of 1970 – would certainly be one of the finalists. I’ve seen it lumped in at times with other hit songs of its era that actively promoted religion (see “Put Your Hand In The Hand” by Ocean, as an example), but I don’t think “Spirit In The Sky” is quite as clear in its theology. Not that it matters when the guitar solo hits.

The shimmering and jangly “Dreams” remains an enigma to me. It’s not the lyrics, which tell a pretty straight-forward tale. Nor is it the music, per se. What still puzzles me is Dolores Riordan’s odd keening. Don’t get me wrong, I like it. But it’s such an odd sound – I like odd sounds, sometimes – that I sometimes wonder at the popularity of the Cranberries during the 1990s.  When I first heard the Cranberries sometime around 1993 – almost certainly on Minneapolis’ Cities 97 – I was intrigued but I figured I’d be part of a minority. If so, it was a substantial minority, as the Cranberries did quite well: The group’s debut, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, was a Top 20 album and “Dreams” made it to No. 42 in the Billboard Hot 100. After that, the three succeeding albums went to No. 6, No. 4 and No. 13 before 2001’s Wake Up And Smell The Coffee reached only No. 46. That’s a pretty good run; I won’t say “Dreams” is the best the group did in that run, but it is the track I like the best.