Posts Tagged ‘Brewer & Shipley’

A ‘When’ Preview

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Between medical appointments, household errands and consultations about music for church, today’s hours are nearly filled. But I thought I’d toss out a preview for the next installment of Journalism 101.

A search for “when” turns up 1,009 tracks in the RealPlayer. As usual, some of those will have to be set aside, and we’ll list some of those when we take on the topic in full force next week. For today, we’re just going to cherry-pick a representative tune.

As I ran errands this week, I dropped some Brewer & Shipley into the car’s CD player, thinking it fit well with the mood I’ve been in after watching portions of The Vietnam War, the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary I mentioned yesterday. So after I sorted 96,000-some tracks this morning down to just more than a thousand, I looked first for something by Brewer & Shipley.

And there in the search results I found a track from the duo’s 1971 album Shake Off The Demon that fit that mood perfectly. Here’s “When Everybody Comes Home.”

We’ll bathe in the love that surrounds us
We’ll sip from the cup of the throne
And friends that remain will be boundless
Oh the planets will fly
When everybody comes home, comes home
Will you be coming home, coming home?
Will you be home?

We’ll share in the crystal communion
And rise on the hymns that we’ve known
We’ll cherish our ragged reunion
All the ships will be sailing
When everybody comes home, comes home
Will you be coming home, coming home?
Will you be home?

Comes home
Will you be coming home, coming home?
Will you be home?

Will you be coming home?
Will you be home?

Saturday Single No. 487

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

I was going to play around this morning with more of the tracks from the various Warner Bros. loss leaders, but the RealPlayer and I did not get along very well. I was trying to reload some albums, and it kept telling me there was something wrong with part of the selection.

In order to find the flaw, I had to reload small batches at once. I never did figure out what the program didn’t like, but after about two hours, I’d worked around the problem. That, however, has left me with little time, as the Texas Gal and I are meeting a friend for brunch in a little more than an hour.

So I decided to pull up all the tracks in the RealPlayer with the word “time” in their titles and see what catches my eye and ear this morning. And that’s how “Seems Like A Long Time” by Brewer & Shipley – from their 1970 album Tarkio – became today’s Saturday Single.

Keys

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I have four key rings, but two of them get little use. One ring has only one key on it, the key to the Nissan Versa that I usually drive. It’s the ring with the fob that locks and unlocks the door and blows the horn.

Key ring No. 2, a leather and metal concoction emblazoned with the first initial of my first name, is mainly for the house key, though it holds three other keys. One of those is the key to my bicycle lock, a lock that sadly gets little use these days, as my Schwinn Typhoon has been sequestered in the basement for a few years. I always intend to haul it upstairs into the garage in spring, fill its tires and ride it through the warm months. Perhaps next year.

There are two other keys on key ring No. 2. One is for a Master padlock, but I have no idea where the padlock is. The last time I recall seeing it was in August 1991 when I used it to lock the sliding back door of the rental truck while moving from Columbia, Missouri, to the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park. It’s no doubt in a box somewhere, but all I know this morning is that five house keys have come and gone from that key ring – each replaced by another – since I last used the padlock.

The fourth key on the “G” key ring is also for a padlock, I think, this time a Curtis brand. I think that was for the lock on one of Mom’s storage units, the one we no longer use since we merged her two units into one storage unit in the small town of Sartell north of here.

And that brings us to key ring No. 3, one that promotes a local auto dealer. That one holds the key to the storage unit in Sartell, and I keep it in the fanny pack that I carry with me almost every place I go. That key ring also has three other keys on it, and I’m not sure what they’re for. I think they’re a house key and two copies of the mail key from the house Mom owned before she moved into the assisted living center more than eight years ago.

Key ring No. 4 is a souvenir I bought some years ago when the Texas Gal and I went to an exhibit in the Twin Cities of artifacts from the tomb of King Tut and other Egyptian pharaohs. I had no need of a key ring, but it looked nice and I wanted some kind of souvenir from the exhibit. (I also bought a CD of the Egyptian-inspired ambient music that was playing in the background for the exhibit.) These days, key ring No. 4 is home to my keys for our second car, a Chevy Cavalier.

Right now, key ring No. 4 is with the Texas Gal at her office, as she was unable this morning to find her collection of keys, which consists of a lanyard with perhaps as many as five different key rings attached. All her current keys are in that jumble, along with keys for locks she no longer needs to open, some of those dating back perhaps twenty years. (We spoke on the phone soon after she reached her office. She found her keys in the bottom of her computer bag and not in the purse where she generally keeps them.)

I said at the beginning of this recitation that I have four key rings. I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I have four current key rings. I’m sure that in a box or two, I would find one or two or more key rings with more keys for locks long gone. I certainly have a set somewhere for the house over on Kilian Boulevard, a place I left in 1976 and which Mom left in 2004.

And I get the sense as I write this that I could retrace the story of my life through the keys I’ve kept and the locks I’ve left behind. That’s something to ponder, and as we do so, we can listen to “Keeper Of The Keys,” an anthem from Brewer & Shipley’s 1968 album Down In L.A.

Saturday Single No. 418

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

It’s grey outside, grey and brown. We’ve passed through the finest part of autumn and find ourselves in that “four-week slice of rain and gloom and bitter wind” that I first described in this space four years ago. And Sunday evening and Monday, the season’s first snow will come through, with three to five inches of snow expected.

Given that, it’s good to report that nearly all of the end-of-season tasks have been accomplished. The Texas Gal’s outdoor shelves need to come in for the winter yet, and that can be done today. I have to check the air in the tires on the Versa, and that is another of today’s tasks. (I’ll also check the oil and fill the gas tank, as the Texas Gal and some colleagues from church are heading to a conference tomorrow afternoon.) Finishing up those minor tasks is, I’ve realized lately, the equivalent here on the East Side – in tone if not in effort – of the season’s last work on my Grandpa’s farm. Thinking of that reminds me of a character in a song I that shared here recently, Young Rob in Eric Andersen’s “Blue River,” standing with his ax in his hand, “thinkin’ that the crops are in.”

“Blue River,” which I once described somewhere as the most autumnal song I’ve ever heard, fits perfectly into my musical mood these days. Some years ago, I was discussing in this space the music of Joy of Cooking, the early 1970s band from Berkeley, and I called it “living room music,” meaning music that folks at home can replicate – in style if not in expertise – in their living rooms. All three of Joy of Cooking’s albums from that time have that feeling, and they’ve been in frequent rotation in the CD players here this week. A similar album, of course, is Carole King’s Tapestry, and as a portion of that played this week, I recalled producer Lou Adler’s comment that he tried to give the album a “living room” feel.

And “living room music” is for me the sound of late autumn. There’s something that just feels right about hearing, say, Joy of Cooking’s “Don’t The Moon Look Sad And Lonely” while the wind mourns outside. I’ve realized this week that this is not the first late autumn that’s found me seeking such music. Every year at this time, I pull out Tapestry and Music by Carole King, the Joy of Cooking catalog, some Danko/Fjeld/Andersen and Darden Smith, some Van Morrison and The Band, and some Brewer & Shipley and let the music mark the passing of the season.

And here’s a tune from that last-named duo that fits my mood in these days about as well as anything can. Here’s Brewer & Shipley’s “Song From Platte River.” It’s from their 1970 album Tarkio, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Witchi Tai To’

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

As I wandered through various mp3s of one of my favorite songs the other day and then took a look in this blog’s Word files to see what I’d said about it, I discovered, to my utter bafflement, that not only have I never written about the song “Witchi Tai To,” but over the course of seven years and an estimated 1,400 posts, I have never even mentioned it. That neglect ends now.

In 1969, as the folk-rock duo of Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley were travelling to gigs all over the American Midwest, they’d tune in late at night to the legendary underground radio program “Beaker Street” on KAAY from Little Rock, Arkansas. And it was on “Beaker Street,” according to the official Brewer & Shipley website, that the duo first heard the song “Witchi Tai To.”

Among the members of the band Everything Is Everything was Jim Pepper, a saxophonist of Kaw and Creek heritage. As the Brewer & Shipley website puts it: “Pepper adapted the song ‘Witchi Tai To’ from an ancient peyote chant that he learned from his Native American grandfather. . . . The group’s producers encouraged Pepper to express his Native American heritage in his music, and helped him work out the arrangement and English translation.”

The single, notes the Brewer & Shipley website on its page about the song, is “the only hit in the history of the Billboard pop charts (reaching No. 69 in 1969) to feature an authentic Native American chant.” (I don’t know when that statement went up on the website, which seems to be regularly updated, but it would not be surprising if the statement remains true.)

Brewer & Shipley decided to cover the song, of course, and recorded it for their 1969 album, Weeds. And they got some of the words wrong. “The irony,” notes their website, “is that they got all the Native American lyrics right but misheard the adapted English lyrics.” They heard and sang:

What a spirit spring
Is bringing round my head
Makes me feel glad
That I’m not dead

But Pepper had written:

Water spirit feelings
Springin’ round my head
Makes me feel glad
That I’m not dead

No matter. Brewer & Shipley’s version got what the website calls “heavy FM airplay” and was perhaps the best-known version of the song, even getting mention in Jim Pepper’s obituary in the New York Times when the musician passed away in 1992.

There were other covers of “Witchi Tai To,” of course. (Some of the offered the title as “Witchitai To,” others a “Witchi Tia To,” and there are likely more variants.) Jim Pepper did his own version of the tune on his 1971 album, Pepper’s Pow Wow. Other early covers came from a group calling itself Topo D Bil, which was actually Larry Smith of the Bonzo Dog Band along with some of his bandmates and other friends (1969); from the American group Harpers Bizarre on its 1969 album Harpers Bizarre 4; from the John Schroeder Orchestra, a British ensemble that – according to the notes at YouTube – got David Byron of Uriah Heep to handle the vocals (1971); from a New Zealand group named Tom Thumb (1969); from a group called Today’s Tomorrow (1970); and from Québécois singer Robert Charlebois (1973).

Additionally a jazz group named Oregon took on the song twice, recording a short version on its 1974 album, Winter Light, and then taking the song for an eight-minute ride on Out Of The Woods in 1978. From then on, there’s a gap in my collection of covers of “Witchi Tai To” that goes to 1993, but I have no doubt that if I dug further, I’d find versions to fill those fifteen years. (The list of covers at my usual starting point, Second Hand Songs, is a little slender, but the list of mp3s available at amazon is lengthy; it includes the eighteen versions of the song I already have and offers many more.)

There are a few versions of the tune on the other side of that fifteen-year gap in my files: Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek did a nice version on his 1993 album Twelve Moons. And French-born Pete Wyoming Bender, a musician of Native American descent who evidently lives in Berlin, Germany, covered the song well on his 2005 album, Rainmaker.

Sometimes, though, the later versions are disappointments. I searched out the 2004 CD Red Dragonfly by saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett for her cover of “Witchi Tia To,” and found it devolved into what sounds to me aimless wandering. (As Chuck Berry wrote about modern jazz nearly sixty years ago, “they lose the beauty of the melody.”) And the 2007 version by X-Press 2, the title track of their Witchi Tai To album, sounded a little mechanical with the beats and the electronica.

My favorite? Well, I can’t say today. I still love Brewer & Shipley’s version, which was no doubt the first version I heard (likely on freeform FM radio in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as it was familiar to me when I picked up their album Weeds in the late 1990s). And I like the original by Everything Is Everything, which is relatively new to me. But one of the more arresting versions I’ve come across lately is one that showed up after the first cluster of covers from the years 1969-71. Singer/songwriter, producer and composer Rachel Faro included a reflective version of the song on her 1975 album, Rachel Faro II, and if it’s not my favorite, it’s definitely in the running.

(Mathematical error and origin of Robert Charlebois – thanks, David Young – corrected since first posting.)

On The High School Jukebox

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

The tale of the jukebox in the Multi-Purpose Room at St. Cloud Tech in the autumn of 1970 was told here once before: In a time when school schedules were becoming more flexible, the former cold lunch room was renamed, and in an effort to make it more attractive to students for those times when their classes were not meeting, the administration installed a jukebox.

That was a move that I think the authorities eventually regretted, certainly by the second time Dawn’s No. 1 hit “Knock Three Times” drew the attention of some student’s quarter late in the autumn. When Tony Orlando and his crew told us to “knock three times,” feet stomped on the floor and books slammed on the table.  “Twice on the pipe” drew the same reaction.

Not all songs – or very many – created the aural chaos that Dawn’s second hit did. (“Candida” had come around earlier.) But the jukebox made the Multi-Purpose room, obviously, much louder than it had been during its service as a lunchroom. I give that long-gone administration credit for simply closing the doors and letting the music roll. And I wonder if any members of that administration had second thoughts the following spring when various news agencies reported that some radio stations across the U.S. were removing from their playlists – because of its seeming drug references – the Brewer & Shipley hit “One Toke Over The Line.”

The record was popular down in the Multi-Purpose Room that spring, maybe as much because of its buoyant country rock arrangement as its winking and chuckling “toke” reference. As we listened, we often wondered how Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley thought they could get away with it, and we marveled at the fact that – for the most part – they had: The record went to No. 10 in the spring of 1971. And we marveled as well that no one from the Tech administration seemed inclined to call the juke box jobber and demand that the record be pulled from the machine.

The record, as it turned out, was one of those happy accidents that seem to wait to happen. Two quotes from a page about the record at the Brewer & Shipley website make that clear:

Michael Brewer: ‘We wrote that one night in the dressing room of a coffee house. We played there a lot.  We were real bored, sitting in the dressing room.  We were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it.  We were literally just entertaining ourselves. The next day we got together to do some picking and said, ‘What was that we were messing with last night?’ We remembered it, and in about an hour, we’d written ‘One Toke Over the Line.’ Just making ourselves laugh, really. We had no idea that it would ever even be considered as a single, because it was just another song to us.”

Tom Shipley: “‘One Toke’ wasn’t meant to make it to record. We were opening for Melanie at Carnegie Hall, and we played two encores. We really didn’t have anything else to sing to them. So we played ‘One Toke,’’ and the audience gave us a standing ovation. The record company president was there, and he said ‘Record it!’”

On the same page at the website, Brewer goes on to note: “The Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, named us personally as a subversive to American youth, but at exactly the same time Lawrence Welk performed the crazy thing . . . That shows how absurd it really is. Of course, we got more publicity than we could have paid for.”

For all of that, and for the fact that just hearing the introduction still brings a smile to my face, “One Toke Over The Line” has a spot in the Ultimate Jukebox.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 13
“Dirty Water” by the Standells, Tower 185 [1966]
“Everybody Is A Star” by Sly & the Family Stone, Epic 10555 [1970]
“One Toke Over The Line” by Brewer & Shipley, Kama Sutra 516 [1971]
“How Long” by Ace, Anchor 21000 [1975]
“Mainstreet” by Bob Seger, Capitol 4422 [1977]
“(I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, RCA 5224 [1987]

“Dirty Water” is, of course, a crunchy piece of great garage rock celebrating Boston as the home of lovers, muggers, thieves and those mysterious – to the twelve-year-old whiteray during the summer of 1966 – “frustrated women.” The record went to No. 11 during that summer forty-four years ago, and that single guitar introduction – with the fellows lip-synching here – still grabs hold of a listener and says, “Pay attention! We’re talking about Boston here!”

Having first heard Sly & the Family Stone as the group behind the frenetic “Dance To The Music,”  the winking “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and the funky “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again),” I wasn’t prepared in the autumn of 1970 when I heard the B-Side of that last record on WJON one evening. Sweet, melodic, a little bittersweet and even a little inspirational, “Everybody Is A Star” wasn’t something I would have expected from Sly Stewart and his pals. The record got airplay as the flipside of the No. 1 hit “Thank You,” although the Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits doesn’t give it a ranking of its own. In my own book, though, sweet often outranks funky (not always, but often enough that I recognize the pattern), and “Everybody Is A Star” thus finds its place in the Ultimate Jukebox.

The pulsing bass introduction that kicks off Ace’s “How Long” sounds more foreboding than the song actually is, although a tune in which the narrator quizzes his gal on her infidelity isn’t going to be a chorus of hoots and giggles. The record – which went to No. 3 in the spring of 1975 – was the only hit for the group from Sheffield, England, although the group’s lead singer, Paul Carrack, later reached the charts four times in the 1980s as a member of Mike & The Mechanics. (Ignore, if you can, the video’s picture of Ace Frehley of Kiss.)

I spent a few days the other week reading Late Edition: A Love Story, Bob Greene’s Valentine and eulogy to the newspaper business, framed through his work during his mid-1960s high school and college years for two newspapers in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a good read, and I might write about the book itself one of these days, but what made it come to mind this morning was Greene’s tale about a nightspot where he and his pals would sometimes stop. A band of scuffling folks about the same age regularly came down from Detroit to play there, and Greene notes that when the band took its breaks, he often had a chance to talk to the band’s lead singer, a young Bob Seger. The odds of either one of them making it big in their chosen professions were so slender, and Greene’s tale makes me wonder about the odds of both of them succeeding to the degrees they have. “Mainstreet” is the second Seger selection in these lists – after “Night Moves” – and to my ears is the better record, although “Night Moves” packs a stronger emotional wallop. “Mainstreet” also came from the 1976 album Night Moves, and it went to No. 24 in the spring of 1977.

I’m not quite sure what to say about “(I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life,” which came – as most readers likely know – from the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing. A ladyfriend and I saw the movie the first weekend it was released in the autumn of that year. As soon as the movie was over, we wanted the soundtrack and tried to get to any of the several record shops in St. Cloud before they closed for the evening. As it happened, we had to wait until the next day, when we had planned a shopping trip to the Twin Cities. And the record – a ballad that turns into a dance number with hints of gospel (musically if not lyrically) – remains a touchstone for me for the seasons that preceded the film’s release.