As I write, the WeatherBug program tells me that it’s -20 Fahrenheit out at the St. Cloud Municipal Airport just a mile or two away. Factor in the 3 mph wind, and it feels like it’s -30. (Those temperatures are -29 and -34 for those keeping score in Celsius.)
I’m just back from dropping the Texas Gal at her workplace downtown so she wouldn’t have to walk either two blocks from the parking lot or four blocks from the downtown bus terminal. And although I have one errand to run later today – and of course have to go pick up the Texas Gal at the end of the workday – I will be content to spend the bulk of the day inside where it’s warm. To mark the chill, however, here’s a three-song sampler of “cold.”
Bobby Sherman was a regular chart presence on the Metromedia label between 1969 and 1971 – “Little Woman,” “La La La (If I Had You),” “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” all hit the Top Ten and a few others made the Top 40 – but before that, he scuffled around on at least two other labels. His “It Hurts Me” on Decca bubbled under the chart at No. 116 in 1965, and in 1967, his Epic single “Cold Girl” made no dent in the chart at all. I came across the record in the massive Lost Jukebox files I’ve mentioned several times before. Much of the stuff in those files is easily ignored, but “Cold Girl” is pretty good.
I’m not at all certain what Gordon Lightfoot is singing about in “Cold On The Shoulder.”
All you need is time
All you need is time, time, time to make me bend
Give it a try, don’t be rude
Put it to the test and I’ll give it right back to you
It’s cold on the shoulder And you know that we get a little older every day
But it really doesn’t matter. Like most Lightfoot tunes, especially those from the mid-1970s, the title tune to his 1975 album Cold On The Shoulder is atmospheric, tuneful and catchy, all of which helped the album go to No. 10 on the Billboard chart. Many of Lightfoot’s lyrics became a little elliptical during those years (and continued to be so for a few years to come). That indirection, as I understand from various interviews, was because he was writing about things in his life that were difficult to come at from the front, so that’s understandable. And metaphor is generally easier to listen to than straight-on blood-letting anyway.
Speaking of metaphor, “Cold Bologna” by the Isley Brothers is both metaphor and tale, as the narrator notes that he’s five years old and “Mama’s out cookin’ steak for someone else,” with that someone else being the rich folks Mama works for. The track, written by Bill Withers, is from the brothers’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back, which went to No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 200 and to No. 13 on the R&B albums chart. Three singles from the album reached the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B singles chart. “Cold Bologna” was not one of them.
As 2013 winds down today and midnight leads us into 2014, the Texas Gal and I would like to pass on our hopes that the New Year will be one of those years that shines while you’re living it and shines even more brightly as it recedes in the past. See you on the other side of the calendar!
I suppose it might have been in July, but I think it was a sunny morning in August 1970 when my dad presented me with a couple of paintbrushes, some turpentine, some rags and a couple of gallons of white paint. The west side of the garage needed painting.
Actually, I imagine the entire garage needed painting and he was presenting me with the west side as a test: The south side of the garage was fronted by rose bushes, the east side held a door and a window and had a begonia bed in front of it, and the north side had the overhead door. If I could handle a blank wall without mishap, I might be trustworthy enough to be let loose on one of the other three sides. I was not, one might guess, particularly adept at handyman-type chores.
Why do I think it was August? Because as well as the paint, the brushes, the turpentine and the rags, I took with me out to the garage that morning my RCA radio, the one that had been my grandfather’s, the one I’d brought up from the basement about a year earlier as I answered the siren call of Top 40 music. I opened the overhead door, ran an extension cord around to the back of the garage and provided myself with some entertainment as I painted.
And one of the records I heard that morning on the Twin Cities’ KDWB was one of my favorites at the time, a record that was sitting at No. 19 forty-two years ago this week: the “Overture From Tommy” by the Assembled Multitude. (It still is a favorite of mine; when it popped up the other week on the mp3 player in the kitchen, I found myself doing one of my unorthodox kitchen dances, using a soup ladle as a mallet for air chimes when the real chimes come in at the forty-nine second mark.)
I recall bobbing my head to the record as I painted that morning, happily refraining from using my paint-laden brush as an air chimes mallet or a conductor’s baton. I was trying to be responsible and careful as I worked. Nevertheless, by the end of the morning, when I had finished the job, there were a few spatters of white paint on the radio’s brown casing, spots that were still there when the radio was removed from the basement (where I placed it after getting an AM/FM radio) in 2004.
Along with checking where “Overture From Tommy” sat forty-two years ago this week, I took a deeper look this morning at the Billboard Hot 100 from August 15, 1970. Usually, of course, I’m looking for obscure singles, records that pretty much stayed at the bottom of the chart. But this morning, I thought I’d look for records that were favorites of mine at the time, records I was likely to have heard that morning as I painted the garage.
Heading down only a little to No. 22, we find “Are You Ready” by Pacific Gas & Electric. I’ve mentioned the record numerous times during the past five-plus years, but it’s here again because it mattered to me. I’d be a high school senior in less than a month, and the following summer, after I graduated, I knew my folks would expect me to find some kind of summer job. Yes, I was doing chores during that summer of 1970, and I did spend four days working at the state trap shoot at the nearby gun club, but for the most part, that summer was mine. And “Are You Ready” is a record that over the years has come to be a defining sound of that last free summer.
At the time, being a relatively recent convert to the Church of 45s, I don’t know that I’d ever heard of “Duke of Earl,” Gene Chandler’s classic No. 1 hit from 1962. Early in my senior year, I would come across a slender paperback, The Poetry of Rock, in which Richard Goldstein gathered and commented on rock and pop lyrics he thought significant. Among the lyrics in that book were those to “Duke of Earl.” But it took me years to connect the Gene Chandler mentioned as the singer of “Duke of Earl” in Goldstein’s book to the Gene Chandler whose “Groovy Situation” was sitting at No. 36 as I painted, heading to No. 11 on the pop chart (and No. 8 on the R&B chart, about which I know I was utterly unaware). I had much to learn. But I liked “Groovy Situation,” and that was a start.
Despite being clueless about the origins and background of much of the music I heard coming from that old RCA radio, I was developing – via the commentary of my friends, a little bit of reading in music magazines and the shifting sands of my own tastes – a sense not only of what I liked but of what was, for the lack of a better word at the moment, valuable. I knew the difference between Bob Dylan and Bobby Sherman, and I would spend much of my life digging into the work of the former and forgetting about the latter. Nevertheless, one of the records I was glad to hear coming out of the radio that morning was “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman, which was sitting at No. 38 on its way to No. 5. Why? Well, it was romantic adolescent pop, and I was a romantic adolescent. In memory, it doesn’t hurt that there would actually be a Julie during my senior year, one whose charms I noticed but whose interest in me I absolutely missed.
The concept of groups covering other performers’ earlier hits was also something I had to assimilate. The previous autumn – as I’ve related here before – I quite liked “Birthday,” the No. 26 hit by Underground Sunshine, and when confronted some months later by the Beatles’ version from the White Album, I wondered (without, thankfully, expressing the thought to my friends) why the Beatles had recorded another group’s song. With some exceptions, my knowledge of pop music as I painted the garage still started with the late summer of 1969. So if Rare Earth’s trippy cover of the Temptations’ “(I Know) I’m Losing You” came through the speakers that sunny morning, I would have had no awareness that there had been an earlier, earthier version of the song that had gone to No. 8 (No. 1 R&B) in 1966. All I knew was that I liked the record, which was sitting at No. 47 that week, on its way to No. 7, and I certainly didn’t realize that the trippiness I liked would eventually trap Rare Earth’s “(I Know) I’m Losing You” in that specific time.
In the song “Yellow River,” Tony Christie – billed on the label as just Christie – sings about coming home from war:
So long, boy, you can take my place
Got my papers, I got my pay
So pack my bags and I’ll be on my way to Yellow River
Put my gun down, the war is won Fill my glass high, the time has come I’m going back to the place that I love: Yellow River
A note at Wikipedia says that Christie wrote the song from the viewpoint of a Confederate soldier returning from the U.S. Civil War, but I have a sense that a lot of folks who listened to Christie’s words in 1970 heard the story of a soldier coming home from Vietnam instead. “Yellow River” was sitting at No. 80 forty-two years ago this week and would eventually climb to No. 23, and as often as I would hear the song that late summer and autumn, I don’t think I ever listened closely enough to hear either the story that Christie intended nor the parallel tale that must have echoed in the record’s chords for thousands of Americans who were not all that much older than I was when I was painting the garage.
A couple of days ago, looking ahead to the first after-Christmas post here, I started digging around in the Billboard charts. One of the Hot 100 charts that came out on December 27 – today’s date – was in 1969. Here’s the Top Ten that week:
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by the Supremes
“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
“Whole Lotta Love/Living Loving Maid” by Led Zeppelin
“Take A Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves
Boy, there is nothing there that I would not want to hear coming out of my radio. I don’t know that I ever heard the B-side of the Zeppelin record back then, but the rest were – and still are – about as familiar as any music in any year. I don’t know, however, that I have much to say about the records at the top of the chart anymore.
So, as I frequently do, I dropped to the bottom of that Hot 100 to see if there was anything I missed forty-two years ago. And moving up through the Bubbling Under portion, I saw a title that seemed familiar sitting at No. 113: “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” by Don Young. A quick check of the reference library told me that the record peaked at No. 104 in the first weeks of 1970. It turned out to be the only record that the Brooklyn-born Young ever got near the pop chart. Still, it’s pretty good.
I kept scanning the Bubbling Under section of that Hot 100, and just six spots higher, at No. 107, was Gene Pitney with the same title: “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning).” Pitney’s version went to No. 89 in early 1970 and has the distinction of being the last of thirty-one records that Pitney placed in or near the chart between 1961 and 1970.
I’d never heard either Young’s or Pitney’s version before. But the tune was familiar, as was the title. So I began digging and learned that two other versions of the same tune made the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section. The best-performing of all the versions was by the Tokens, whose version of “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)” was sitting at No. 68 during that last week of 1969, on its way to a peak of No. 61.
And the version that fared the worst was a cover of the tune by Bobby Sherman, who released “Early In The Morning” in the spring of 1973. That version topped off at No. 113.
But none of that explained why the tune was familiar. So I checked on its writers: Paul Vance and Leon Carr, according to All-Music Guide. Various indices noted that the two had written several pop tunes, with one of the indices listing eight of them. But it didn’t list “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning),” so I figured it wasn’t complete. And I began wading through links on Google and elsewhere.
Vance, as it turns out, is someone whose name I should have known, a writer and producer whose co-writing credits include “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (No. 1 in 1960 for Brian Hyland), “Catch A Falling Star” (No. 1 in 1958 for Perry Como) and the parody “Leader of the Laundromat” (No. 19 in 1965 for the Detergents). A look at his page at Wikipedia is instructive.
Carr, who passed on in 1976, had a list of credits nearly as impressive, in both popular music and advertising. Those credits include, Wikipedianotes, the “Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut . . .” jingle for Mounds and Almond Joy candy bars as well as the “See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet” jingle made famous by Dinah Shore:
Having wandered far astray – and not being bothered by that one bit – I refocused on Vance and Carr’s tune, “She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning).” I found a listing of tracks and writers for a greatest hits album by the Cuff Links, who had a No. 9 hit with “Tracy” in late 1969. There I saw a familiar title. For some reason, I have the entire Tracy album by the Cuff Links both on vinyl and in mp3 form, so I did a quick search. And among the blues, folk and pop tunes with the title “Early In The Morning” was a familiar album track by the Cuff Links:
I probably prefer Pitney’s version, but Ron Dante and his studio pals did a pretty decent job on a sweet pop song.
With a nearly complete* collection of Bob Dylan’s work available, I can pick and choose when I want to listen to an hour’s worth of the Bard of Hibbing. And there are a few of Dylan’s albums that rarely make it to the CD player or turntable or mp3 player.
Chief among those are Saved, the 1980 release that was the second of the three Christian-era albums; At Budokan and Dylan and The Dead, two pretty bad live albums; his debut album, titled simply Bob Dylan; and his third album, The Times They Are A-Changin’.
That last album, The Times They Are A-Changin’, was released in 1964 and was Dylan’s most topical during his early folkies-can-change-the-world days, and as such, it’s not aged well. Not all the songs are tied to then-current events, but enough of them are – “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” and “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” for example – that it’s not an album I play very frequently. And that’s too bad, as it means I have to find other settings – beyond the hope of a random play – for some strong songs that aren’t tied to those times, like “Boots of Spanish Leather” and “Restless Farewell,” to name two.
The same holds true for my favorite on the album, “One Too Many Mornings,” which was written for Suze Rotolo, Dylan’s girlfriend at the time. (Rotolo, who crossed over February 25 at the age of sixty-seven, was the girl walking with Dylan on the cover of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. In the evocative words of Jeff Ash of AM, Then FM: “The girl on the cover, now forever young.”) Their relationship lasted into 1964, and Rotolo was the inspiration for some of Dylan’s most enduring songs, including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” and “Boots of Spanish Leather.” But out of the cluster of songs that I’ve read were inspired by Rotolo, “One Too Many Mornings” is my favorite:
Down the street the dogs are barkin’
And the day is a-gettin’ dark
As the night comes in a-fallin’
The dogs’ll lose their bark
An’ the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind
For I’m one too many mornings
And a thousand miles behind
From the crossroads of my doorstep
My eyes they start to fade
As I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid
An’ I gaze back to the street
The sidewalk and the sign
And I’m one too many mornings
An’ a thousand miles behind
It’s a restless hungry feeling
That don’t mean no one no good
When ev’rything I’m a-sayin’
You can say it just as good.
You’re right from your side
I’m right from mine
We’re both just one too many mornings
An’ a thousand miles behind
Dylan’s version of the song from The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a solo take, with just his guitar and harmonica. It’s thoughtful and gentle. That wasn’t the case with the next version of the tune in Dylan’s catalog. On stage during a 1966 concert in Manchester, England (erroneously and eternally known as “The Royal Albert Hall Concert” and released in 1998), Dylan and his band – four-fifths of The Band and drummer Mickey Jones – tear into the song with gusto, and Dylan makes his way raggedly through the song in the weary, half-sneering voice that every Dylan imitator prizes. It’s a fun trip.
The third version of the song that Dylan released, a take from the 1975 Rolling Thunder tour that was released in 1976 on Hard Rain, is maybe the most interesting. Still ragged, but less frenetic than the 1966 version, the version on Hard Rain finds Dylan seeming to actually think about what he’s singing as he provides slight changes from the 1964 melody.
Still, as much as I love Dylan, none of his versions of “One Too Many Mornings” provide my favorite take on the tune. For that, I have to turn to a cover. And there are plenty of them from which to choose. All-Music Guide lists 196 CDs that include a song with that title. At a guess, two-thirds of those are duplicates or different songs with the same title. That kind of blunt math leaves us with about sixty-five different versions of the Dylan tune.
I’ve posted videos in the past couple weeks of two of those covers: a 2007 release by David Gray this week and a 1989 release by Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings in February. That last outing wasn’t the first time Cash had taken on “One Too Many Mornings.” He and Dylan gave it a try – I believe there are bootlegs out there – during the sessions for Dylan’s 1969 album, Nashville Skyline, and he recorded a solo version in 1964 with help, it seems, from June Carter Cash. That one was released in 1978 on Johnny and June:
A lot of familiar names pop up in the list of covers. The Association released the song as a single in 1965, and it showed up on the group’s 1970 live album. The Beau Brummels also released the tune as a single; it went to No. 95 in 1966. Joan Baez took a couple of shots at the song; her first version showed up as a bonus track on the CD reissue of her 1964 album, Farewell Angelina, and a version with a slightly Latin tinge to it – one I like a lot – came out in 1968 on Any Day Now.
Perhaps the most surprising name on the list of those who’ve covered “One Too Many Mornings” is that of Bobby Sherman, whose 1969 version – from his Bobby Sherman album – isn’t bad at all.
The list of names goes on, some familiar and some not: The Dillards, the Kingston Trio, Jerry Jeff Walker, Radio Flyer, Robyn Hitchcock, Jaime Brockett, Tony Furtado with Jules Shear, Steve Howe with Phoebe Snow, Ralph McTell, the Alan Lorber Orchestra and more.
But my favorite take on the song comes from the later version of The Band. Released as the closing track of the 1999 CD Tangled Up In Blues: Songs of Bob Dylan, it’s a cover that echoes the classic sound of The Band, with Dylan’s old friends Rick Danko, Levon Helm and Garth Hudson joined by new members Jim Weider, Richard Bell, Randy Ciarlante and guest Derek Trucks.
*A while back, I wrote that I owned a copy – vinyl or CD – of everything Dylan has ever released. I was in error. I forgot about Live at the Gaslight 1962, which was sold through a chain of coffee shops that has no St. Cloud outlet (though a friend was nice enough to provide me with a digital copy, which is good, with even used copies of the CD going for more than $22), and I do not have Christmas in the Heart because I don’t do Christmas records, not even Dylan’s. Since I wrote the post overlooking those two albums, Dylan has released Bob Dylan In Concert: Brandeis University, 1963, which I plan to get soon. I also see limited copies for sale of Live At Carnegie Hall 1963, which isn’t yet listed on Dylan’s website, but when it is officially released, I’ll make sure it’s soon on my shelves.