Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

‘Seven’

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

And the March of the Integers goes on, this morning reaching “Seven.”

Having looked ahead, as all good tour guides do, I see that the march is likely to end after “Ten.” Titles with numbers in them are pretty slender from “Eleven” through “Fifteen.” “Sixteen” would work (I’ll bet readers can think of six songs with “sixteen” in their titles in less than sixteen seconds), but the flow ebbs to a trickle after that.

This morning’s search through the RealPlayer for “seven,” however, turns up more than two hundred records. That total is trimmed a fair amount when we take into account the Allman Brothers Band’s 1990 album Seven Turns, French singer Françoise Hardy’s 1970 album One Nine Seven Zero, Etta James’ 1988 album Seven Year Itch, Bettye LaVette’s 1973 release Child Of The Seventies and a few other albums. We also have to ignore the two songs recorded in March 1930 in Atlanta, Georgia, by A. A. Gray & Seven-Foot Dilly and everything listed by the John Barry Seven, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Seven, the Society of Seven, Sunlights’ Seven and numerous titles with the words “seventh” and “seventeen” in their titles. (No Willie Mabon, Johnny Rivers or Janis Ian today.) Still, we have enough to play with.

And we start with a Fleetwood Mac record from 1987. “Seven Wonders” was the second single released from the group’s 1987 album, Tango In The Night. It went to No. 19, which was not as high as the two singles from the album that bracket it in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles: “Big Love” went to No. 5, and “Little Lies” went to No. 4. Because of that bracketing and because of the massive overall success of that era’s Fleetwood Mac on both the singles and album charts, I think “Seven Wonders” has been a little obscured. I suppose that for some folks, a little of Stevie Nicks’ mysticism can be more than enough, and “Seven Wonders” does follow that path lyrically as well as in Nicks’ vocal delivery. That’s no problem for me, though.

We’ll stay in 1987 for a bit yet, as that was the year that Terence Trent D’Arby released Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent d’Arby, an album on which the precocious D’Arby – as noted by Rob Bowman of All-Music Guide – “wrote virtually every note, played a multitude of instruments, and claimed that this was the most important album since the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper.” Now, it’s not that good, though it did spin off a couple of Top Five hits: “Wishing Well” went to No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts, and “Sign Your Name” went to No. 4 pop and No. 2 R&B. Given our focus this morning, “Seven More Days” is our landing spot. It’s an atmospheric track with intelligent lyrics and a good vocal.

When one seeks out songs using the word “seven,” then Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” becomes one of the obvious choices. First released on Young’s 1969 album Rock, Salt & Nails, the song was covered memorably by the Eagles, as well as by groups and performers ranging from Mother Earth and Ian Mathews to Rita Coolidge and Dolly Parton. The song’s genesis is interesting, and in 2007 the now-dormant blog pole hill sanatarium presented Young’s comments on the song, as found at a website that evidently no longer exists:

I lived in Montgomery, Alabama, in the early ’60s and had a group of friends there that showed me the road. It led out of town, and after you had crossed seven bridges you found yourself out in the country on a dirt road. Spanish moss hung in the trees and there were old farms with old fences and graveyards and churches and streams. A high bank dirt road with trees. It seemed like a Disney fantasy at times. People went there to park or get stoned or just to get away from it all. I thought my friends had made up the name “Seven Bridges Road.” I found out later that it had been called by that name for over a hundred years, that people had been struck by the beauty of the road for a long time.

The Bee Gees’ 1969 album Odessa has popped up in this space before, at least once as an album and once as a source for a tune in my Ultimate Jukebox. Sprawling and at times beautiful, Odessa remains a favorite, one that I don’t pull out of the CD shelves and listen to in its entirety nearly often enough. Among its seventeen tracks are three instrumentals, two of which don’t seem to work all that well, as if the Bee Gees’ ambitions were larger than their abilities in 1969 (and if that were the case, well, the Bee Gees weren’t the only performers in that time – or any time – to fall into that category). The instrumental that works for me, however, is “Seven Seas Symphony” with its gentle and lightly accompanied piano figure leading into full-blown orchestration and back to (mostly) piano again and then again.

And we jump to 1990 and the sessions that took place after Bruce Springsteen famously fired the E Street Band. Recorded in Los Angeles during the sessions that resulted in the lightly regarded 1992 albums Human Touch and Lucky Town, “Seven Angels” has Springsteen handling guitars and bass as well as vocals. The only other musicians listed in the credits – “Seven Angels” is found on the 1998 box set Tracks – are Shawn Pelton on drums and E Streeter Roy Bittan on keyboards. Even taking into consideration Springsteen’s propensity for recording tracks and then stashing them in the vault because they don’t fit the vision he has for an album, one wonders how a track as good as “Seven Angels” was passed over for some of the stuff that was used on those two 1992 albums.

For those who were television watchers during the 1960s, Elmer Bernstein’s main theme for the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven does not raise visions of a Western (in both senses of the word) version of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic The Seven Samurai. Rather, we see the Marlboro Man, rugged in his sheepskin coat and cowboy hat, as he herds cattle and rides the mountain ridge before pausing to light up a Marlboro. Sometimes I think that all we need to know about American advertising culture – the joys of Mad Men notwithstanding – is that Bernstein’s sweeping and heroic theme became identified with Marlboro cigarettes and that Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was better known to kids of my age as the Puffed Wheat song. I could, of course, cite many more uses of classical pieces, orchestral movie themes and popular songs for advertising, but I’d rather just sigh and listen to Bernstein’s majestic theme and try to remember John Sturges’ tale of heroism, loyalty and sacrifice.

‘It’s Never Seen The Sun . . .’

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Two-and-a-half years ago, as I offered six of the records in my Ultimate Jukebox, I wrote:

“Looking for a version of ‘Spanish Harlem’ to celebrate, I imagine that lots of folks would choose Aretha Franklin’s imaginative 1971 cover, which went to No. 2. But there’s something I prefer about Ben E. King’s original, which went to No. 10 in early 1961. Maybe it’s the tropical lilt brought out by the marimba during the introduction and throughout the record, maybe it’s the baion bass provided by producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Leiber co-wrote the song with Phil Spector), maybe it’s King’s hushed, almost serene vocal, or maybe it’s the saxophone solo. Maybe it’s all of those or something else entirely. Whatever it is, it makes Spanish Harlem into a place I wish I’d seen through the eyes of all of those involved.”

Well, all that still holds true, but after King’s version popped up on the mp3 player in the kitchen the other day, I thought about cover versions as I rinsed the silverware. It might be that Franklin provided the definitive cover of the Leiber/Spector tune. But what else was out there?

The index at BMI lists twenty-seven covers of the tune, and Second Hand Songs lists thirty-six, with a lot of (expected) overlap between the lists. Combined, the two lists hold some interesting names. Among those listed whose performances I either didn’t look for or listen to entirely in the past week or so are Jay & The Americans, Chet Atkins, Manuel and His Music of the Mountains, Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Freddie Scott, Arthur Alexander, Frankie Valli, Bowling For Soup, Vicki Carr, Ray Anthony, Kenny Rankin, Janet Seidel, Keld Heick and Tony Mottola.

The BMI list doesn’t show recording or release dates, but at Second Hand Songs, the earliest listed cover is a 1961 effort by Britain’s John Barry, whose version – included on his Stringbeat album – falls into what I would call easy listening territory. Other easy listening versions came over the years from Percy Faith, Andre Kostelanetz, the previously mentioned Manuel and His Music of the Mountains and guitarist Bert Weedon, whose 1971 take on the tune pleased me more than the others in that genre.

The most recent version of the tune listed at SHS was the 2010 cover by Latin vocalist Jon Secada, which I have not heard in full although what I did hear sounded promising. I had hopes for 1960s versions by Santo & Johnny and by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana brass, but both of those were draggy and limp.

So what did I like? Unsurprisingly, I like the version King Curtis released on his 1966 album, That Lovin’ Feeling. (The video misdates the track and shows the cover of the 1969 album Instant Groove.) I like the cover I featured the other day by The Mamas & The Papas. One version that did surprise me pleasantly came from Laura Nyro, who recorded the song with Labelle for her 1971 album, Gonna Take A Miracle. I’ve always admired the late Nyro’s songwriting, but I’ve found her own recordings to sometimes be shrill. This one wasn’t. And as I poked around YouTube this morning, I found a sweet live version of the tune from an October 19, 1974, performance at Union College in Schenectady, New York; according to the YouTube poster, it’s one of only three times that Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band have performed “Spanish Harlem.” (The audio is a bit muffled, but it’s still a treat, I think.)

I keep coming back, though, to Aretha’s version. It was released as a single in 1971 (with its first LP release on Aretha’s Greatest Hits) and was No.1 for three weeks on the R&B chart and No. 2 for two weeks on the pop chart. The video below attempts to identify the players on that session, but in the Franklin listing in Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn notes that Dr. John plays keyboards on the single, and the good doctor is not shown in the video. I’ll go with Whitburn and assume that Dr. John was there. In any case, it’s not the keyboard work that grabs me. And it’s not Aretha’s assured vocal that moves me most. So what does? It’s the drum work, which – if one can trust the video – came from the sticks of Bernard Purdie.

Saturday Single No. 325

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Well, it’s baseball in January.

Last October, my pals and I found ourselves unable to clear a Saturday for us to get together here on the East Side and play the second half of our two-part 2012 Strat-O-Matic baseball tournament. November didn’t work, either, and then came the holidays, so we decided we’d regroup in January. And today is that day.

Waiting in the wings for most of today’s action will be the 1920 Cleveland Indians, who won last spring’s first half by defeating the 1988 Mets 11-2. Rob owns of both those clubs, and he chose to guide the Indians during the finals. The winner of today’s eight-team tourney will take on the 1920 Indians in a best-of-three finals at the end of what could be a long day today.

Today’s first round pairings have another Cleveland Indians team – Rob said he’d play either the 1995 or 1996 Indians; he wasn’t sure which one he could find in his stash—facing Dan’s 1998 Atlanta Braves; my 1991 Minnesota Twins against Rick’s 1946 Boston Red Sox; my 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks against Rick’s 1990 Oakland Athletics; and Rob’s 1922 St. Louis Browns facing Dan’s 1970 Baltimore Orioles.

As always, I’m very much looking forward to having the guys here. And as frequently is the case, the Texas Gal will be taking her laptop and her books to study at the public library for much of the day, leaving us to our loud day of baseball and brotherhood.

Here’s “Blood Brothers,” one of the tracks recorded new for Bruce Springsteen’s 1995 Greatest Hits album. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Corrected since first posting.

‘You Better Start Savin’ Up . . .’

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Quiet times here in the past few days, as the Texas Gal buried her nose in her textbooks and I stayed out of the way. She’s studying employment law and supervisory management this quarter, and although I’ll help where I can – I routinely review and edit papers quite gladly – I’ll have little to add to the conversation. (That’s not always been the case as she heads toward her paralegal degree; her several courses in constitutional law brought us some truly fascinating discussions.)

Anyway, as she studied, I did the minimum required housework and some cooking, watched a lot of football and continued to fight off a sinus infection that’s perplexing both me and Dr. Julie. As a result, I’ve done even less prep work for a post than my usual minimum. But something caught my eye Sunday as I read Jon Bream’s review at the Minneapolis Star Tribune website of Sunday night’s concert in St. Paul by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band.

Bream noted that a sign in the audience requested the band play “Savin’ Up,” a tune Springsteen wrote for the first album recorded by the now-departed Clarence Clemons, an album titled Rescue, credited to Clarence Clemons & The Red Bank Rockers. Springsteen quickly taught the basics of the song to the band, the background singers and the horn section and then let loose a pretty darned good performance on the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

After listening to the live version by Bruce and the gang, I went digging, pretty sure I had Rescue. And I found it in the stack of LPs waiting to be ripped to mp3. But something else nagged at me, so I ran a search through the 65,000 mp3s. And there was “Savin’ Up,” collected as one of twenty-eight tracks on the 1997 two-CD set titled One Step Up/Two Steps Back: The Songs of Bruce Springsteen. And a quick search at YouTube saved me some time.

Personnel on the Clemons’ version of “Savin’ Up” are: Clarence Clemons, saxophone and background vocals; John “J.T.” Bowen, lead vocals; David Landau, guitars; Bruce Springsteen, rhythm guitar; Ralph Schuckett, keyboard; John Siegler, bass; and Wells Kelly, drums.

‘It’s A Thin, Thin Line . . .’

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

While looking for tunes with “rest” in their titles this morning, I came across several entries for the song “Tougher Than The Rest” by Bruce Springsteen. Now, that’s not the kind of rest I had in mind, but it’ll do for today.

The song comes from Springsteen’s 1987 album, Tunnel of Love, and it’s sparked a few covers. I dug into some of those this morning – not as many as I usually sample when I’m exploring covers – and found some interesting versions. Emmylou Harris included the tune on her 1990 album, Brand New Dance, and I saw some commentary this morning that ranked her version higher than others, so I went and bought the mp3, which I evidently can’t share in a video.

Well, I liked what I heard from Emmylou more than I did most of the covers I found. I was surprised by the tepid version from Everything But The Girl on that group’s Acoustic from 1992, as I generally like the album. And I didn’t hear much in the seemingly standard country styling from Chris LeDoux on his 1994 album Haywire. On the other hand, I did enjoy the version released on a two-song disc in 2009 by the Scottish group Camera Obscura.

As it turned out, the best version of the Springsteen tune I came across today is from a source that surprised me. Travis Tritt pulled the song into his hybrid of southern rock and Nashville twang on No More Looking Over My Shoulder in 1998, and the results were pretty good:

I’ll be back Thursday, either writing about Chef Boy-Ar-Dee or about covers of one of the greatest songs ever recorded by The Band.

‘One Last Chance To Make It Real . . .’

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Down on East St. Germain – the main street here on the East Side – there’s a pawnshop. It’s right around the corner from Tom’s Barbershop, and I pop in from time to time. Granite City Pawn Shop, it’s called. It’s kind of dusty, and it’s well-stocked with tools and outdoor sports equipment.

And in the middle of the shop, sometimes guarded by a gantlet of other merchandise – a telescope tripod the other day – is an alcove filled with CDs, all priced at $1 apiece. Over the past couple years, I’ve made a few interesting finds there – probably the best was Blue & Sentimental by 1950s sax player Ike Quebec – and filled some gaps, most of them in my country collection.

I stopped by there the other day and found three CDs from the 1990s by country singer John Berry, about whom I’d read a few nice things. They’re all pretty good, and it turns out that one of them – Saddle the Wind – was an album Berry recorded and released in 1990, before he was signed to Liberty Records. Liberty released it in 1994, and that’s the version I found. And when the CD got to the fifth track, here’s what I heard:

He sings it well, but to my ears, the track hews far too closely to Bruce Springsteen’s version to make it more than interesting. But for the last ten days or so, I’ve had “Thunder Road” running through my head as Berry’s cover inspired me to make my way through various versions of one of Springsteen’s greatest songs.

Along the way, I’ve been wondering if the harmonica and piano that lead off “Thunder Road” on Born to Run might not be the very first things that lots of folks ever heard from Bruce Springsteen. My reasoning: It was with Born to Run, of course, that Springsteen made the leap from regional favorite to national artist, and I figure a lot of folks picked up the album on the basis of the national noise without having heard anything from Springsteen before, even the single “Born to Run.” The album reached the Billboard chart on September 13, 1975, showing up at No. 84, a week before “Born to Run” jumped into the Hot 100 at No. 68. And “Thunder Road” leads off the album. So that introduction could have been the introduction to Springsteen for a lot of people.

Well, it’s an interesting thought (to me, anyway), but it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that “Thunder Road” is one of the sturdiest songs Springsteen’s ever put together. Wikipedia notes that in 2004, the song was ranked No. 86 in Rolling Stone magazine’s assessment of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” And, as Wikipedia notes, the song has shown up highly ranked on several similar lists.

Like all sturdy songs, it’s been covered fairly frequently. Among those who’ve tackled the song are Badly Drawn Boy, Frank Turner, Tori Amos, Mary Lou Lord and Bonnie “Prince” Bill with Tortoise. I’ve heard some of those, and I’ve come across a few more. Melissa Etheridge sang the song in concert at least once after Springsteen performed the song with her at an earlier show. (Her solo performance of the song is listed as being in 2009, but I don’t know when the duet took place.) I also found a few studio covers that I thought were interesting: Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners recorded the song for his 1999 album My Beauty, but – according to a comment at YouTube – the track was held back because Springsteen thought Rowland took too many liberties with the lyrics. I thought the Cowboy Junkies did a nice version; it was released on the bonus CD that came with their 2004 album One Soul Now.

And I came across this version by a string quartet calling itself the Section; it came from the 2002 CD Hometown: The String Quartet Tribute to Springsteen:

 There are other covers out there, but my energy waned. Of the covers I found, I think I like the Cowboy Junkies’ version best; Margo Timmins can do little wrong from where I listen. But the best version of the song I found on YouTube isn’t really a cover at all.

In 2005, Springsteen toured as a solo artist after the release of Devils & Dust, and for that tour, he shelved a lot of the songs he normally performed live. But he did “Thunder Road” once, backing himself on the piano. And it’s neat to know that the performance took place in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium on October 12, 2005. (No, I wasn’t there, but I sure wish I had been.)

Corrected and edited slightly after posting.

Bootlegs & Buckets

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Unlike a lot of music fans, I’ve never done much with bootleg recordings, either pursuing or listening to them. There are a few rattling around in the external hard drive, stuff that I’ve stumbled into while wandering the wilds of the ’Net or that friends have pointed me toward. But gathering bootlegs has never been a large part of my musical obsessions.

What I mean is that I don’t go on journeys online in search of, say, a specific Allman Brothers Band performance from 1970, or Bob Dylan’s performance at St. Paul’s Riverfest in 1989. (There are plenty of the former out there, I think, most of which would make compelling listening; as to the Dylan show at Riverfest, that’s less likely, and I’ve never actually looked for it. But it would be fun, as I was there.)

On those days when I wander the web with no particular destination in mind, however, I sometimes run into bootlegs that interest me. For the record, I’m defining “bootleg” here as an officially unreleased recording or performance. Most bootlegs, I imagine, would be illicit although that definition would also include all the audience tapes of the Grateful Dead done with the band’s encouragement and even assistance.

Whatever the definition, I do have a few. One bootleg in my collection that’s among the most interesting actually hasn’t made it to the hard drive yet. It’s something the Texas Gal found and bought for me as we dug into boxes at a huge record store in Arlington, Texas, back in December of 2001: The Band Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 7-10-70. Having been thinking about bootlegs for the past day or do, I pulled it from the shelves this morning and I’ll likely rip it to mp3s in the next week or so. (Not only might it be the most interesting bootleg I have in any format, it’s certainly the most expensive; she laid out fifty bucks for the two-LP set.)

Not all boots are buried deep in the niches of the ’Net, of course. One of the better-known sources is roio, with a broad assortment of riches. My pal jb pointed me there after he found a December 1970 performance by Leon Russell that’s turned out to be quite a treat. Some digging there can be rewarding.

But most of the bootlegs I have in my collection are things I found by accident. There are a few favorites: Delaney & Bonnie & Friends at the Fillmore West in 1970. Bob Dylan’s outtakes from Blood on the Tracks. The Rolling Stones in Brussels, Belgium, October 17, 1973 (just thirteen days after I saw them in Denmark).

And I have one excruciating oddity: Four tracks by Tiny Tim with The Band from 1967.

So why have I been thinking about bootlegs for much of the past twenty-four hours? Because of one of those happy accidents. I was working on the Echoes In The Wind Archives yesterday morning, reposting the piece that contained my music bucket list. (An aside: After I added Glen Campbell performing “Wichita Lineman” to my list last month, jb provided some bucket list tales of his own at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ .) As I prepared to repost my bucket list, I decided to add a note, detailing a few updates about the topic, including the fact that I’d added another figurative check mark to the list after seeing Bruce Springsteen perform “Born To Run.”

Just to make certain of the date of the concert, I Googled “Springsteen St. Paul 2009.” I verified from the first link that the show took place on May 11 and then idly looked at the next few links. And did a double-take.

I wrote above that I don’t often look for bootlegs. And I don’t. But now and then, for a little more than two years, there is one Springsteen bootleg I’ve looked for: The May 11, 2009, show at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center. And there it was.

The sound’s not as good as bootlegs sometimes are. But still, it’s my show. And here’s how it sounded that night as my bucket got a little bit more full:

Saturday Single No. 223

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Some while back, I told the story of my dad and his 1952 Ford, the brown auto that he bought for cash when it was new and drove for some twenty-four years until it was actually a hazard to him and his passengers.

The ails that the old Ford accumulated were many, and long before the time Dad let the car go to some junkyard here in St. Cloud, the cost of repairing it was greater than its dollar value or even its practical value.

I must have acquired from Dad the gene that pushes a driver to get every possible mile out of a car before letting go of it, forcing me many times over the years to find a place to dispose of a valueless auto instead of being able to trade it in as part of the next vehicle’s purchase. The roll call of my cars over the years is long, and I’ve had most of them hauled to junk: A 1961 Falcon, a 1967 Falcon wagon, a 1971 Duster, a 1972 Toyota, a 1977 Chevette, a 1981 Toyota, a 1988 Mazda and a 1990 Oldsmobile. Almost all of them were driven until they had essentially no value, with the repairs that would have been required to get any of them back on the road costing more than the car was worth.

Beyond the practical difficulty of leaving me carless in a culture that is very much designed around the automobile, I felt little grief in walking away from most of those vehicles. The only time I felt anything approaching my father’s reluctance to get rid of his old Ford was when I had to let go of my first car – the 1961 Falcon I called Farley – in 1976. His rear springs had failed and his engine and electrical system were both showing signs of needing major repairs. My buddy Murl found me a 1967 Falcon wagon and arranged the transfer one Sunday evening. But when the moment came to get out of Farley for the last time, I found it difficult to do so. I took a deep breath and looked blankly out of the windshield – not seeing Murl’s back yard but all those semi-distant places where I’d gone with Farley – and before I left him, I laid my hand on the horn ring and pushed, letting Farley give himself a twenty-second farewell salute.

I won’t be quite so affected this week as the Texas Gal and I go find a replacement for our 1998 Nissan Sentra. We’ve been lucky it’s lasted as long as it has; the Texas Gal bought it new about two years before she moved to Minnesota, and about four years ago, it became our second car, the one I use for errands around town. It’s got, we think, about 150,000 miles on it, but we’re not sure, as the odometer quit working a while back at 91,000 miles. The driver’s window no longer rolls down; or maybe it would, but it would most likely stay down, so we don’t try it, as open-window driving in Minnesota’s winter is not a good idea.

And the vehicle gives off odd clanks and groans as it idles in the driveway. It’s time. So we’re heading over to a nearby used car lot this afternoon; we’ve got our eye on another Nissan Sentra although we’ll take a look at the fellow’s other inventory, too. And we plan to stop at a couple of other places before we make a decision.

And when we do, I’m assuming we’ll feel better about our new used car than does the narrator of Bruce Springsteen’s “Used Cars.” It’s a track from his 1982 Nebraska album and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

All Elevens, All The Time!

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I had planned today to write about an obscure cover of an obscure Bob Dylan tune, discovered in my vinyl stacks via my current reading of two books about Dylan’s catalog. And I still will do that, and I’ll offer a chance to hear that tune. But that will likely come Thursday.

Why the delay?

Because along with digging into records from over the years, I also like playing with numbers, and today’s date just can’t be ignored: 1/11/11. And even though I played a similar game last Saturday with the number 18, well, it can’t be helped. Today’s date calls loudly for a look at records that were No. 11 during various years on January 11. We’ll start in 1965 and move ahead from there, this time in four-year increments. So here we go.

I’ve told the story about how my sister and I got the LP Beatles ’65 for Christmas one year (either 1964 or 1965, I’m still not entirely certain). The album, a late 1964 release, was one of those that Capitol created for the U.S. market by trimming a few tracks from Beatles LPs as they were released in the U.K. and then adding some tracks released only as singles in Britain. However it was put together, Beatles ’65 was my first album by the boys from Liverpool, and its tunes and track order remain ingrained in my memory. I loved “I Feel Fine,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Mister Moonlight,” but one of the tracks to which I didn’t, to be honest, pay much attention at the time is the one that was No. 11 in the Billboard Hot 100 forty-six years ago today. Released as the B-side to “I Feel Fine,” “She’s A Woman” went to No. 4, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, and I do think its crunchy chords and Paul McCartney’s great vocal tend to get lost a little bit today among the riches of the Beatles’ catalog. According to William J. Dowlding in his book Beatlesongs, the tune was written in Abbey Road studio the day it was recorded, October 8, 1964.

 

Having identified the No. 11 record from January 11, 1969, I turned to Whitburn’s book for more information, and a terse line told me that if I wanted information about the singer who called himself Derek, I needed to go read about Johnny Cymbal. It turns out that Cymbal was a Scottish singer who got three records into the Hot 100 in 1963, with “Mr. Bass Man” – an effort Whitburn tags as a novelty record – going to No. 16. Six years later, in 1969, Cymbal – who died in 1993 at the age of forty-eight – was recording as Derek and had two Hot 100 hits, “Cinnamon” and “Back Door Man.” The latter went to No. 59 in March 1969, but “Cinnamon” nearly made the Top Ten, peaking at the No. 11 spot it held forty-two years ago today.

The Four Tops seem so firmly planted in the mid-1960s with their string of superlative Top Ten singles – “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” and “Bernadette” chief among them – that it’s sometime surprising when one is reminded that the Tops’ career stretched through the 1970s and into the 1980s (though with less chart success). One of the quartet’s most successful 1970s entries was sitting at No. 11 during this week in 1973. “Keeper of the Castle” would peak the following week at No. 10, giving the Four Tops their first Top Ten hit since “Bernadette” in early 1967. The Tops’ next single, “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got),” did even better, going to No. 4 in April of 1973; it was the last Top Ten hit for the Four Tops. But thirty-eight years ago this week, it was “Keeper of the Castle” that folks were hearing on the radio.

The Sylvers were a group of nine brothers and sisters from Memphis who had three records reach the lower level of the Hot 100 in 1972 and 1973 before hitting it massively in early 1976 with the No. 1 hit “Boogie Fever.” Later that year, the group released “Hot Line,” and the record began to make its way up the chart. By the second week in January, the record was at No. 11, heading to No. 5. The group had two more hits in 1977, with “High School Dance” going to No. 17. I don’t recall that last record, but in late 1976 and early 1977, “Hot Line” was pretty much inescapable.

I never quite got the Police. Their music seemed brittle and fussy to me, and although I didn’t entirely tune it out, neither did I dig into it. Still, the group’s hits would pop up on the radio during my newspapering days as I made my way from interview to interview. And twenty-nine years ago this week, I likely heard “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” as I drove around Monticello and the record was perched at No. 11. A week later, the record would peak at No. 10, giving the Police their first Top Ten hit. They’d have five more through 1984. Here’s the official video for “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.”

I don’t suppose I have to say a lot about the record that was at No. 11 this week in 1985, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” Or maybe I do. I will note that more than a quarter century later, I still find myself amused by George Will’s fawning column about the Boss in which – after spending an evening at a Springsteen concert – he interprets “Born in the U.S.A.” as a patriotic anthem. And I suppose that it’s not all that far-fetched – though it is saddening – to think that all one needs to do these days is plug a few different proper nouns into the lyrics, and “Born in the U.S.A.” is timely today. Getting back to the record, it would peak at No. 9 two weeks later, Springsteen’s fourth Top Ten hit and the third of seven Top Ten hits from the album Born in the U.S.A.

I’ll be back Thursday, likely with that obscure cover of an obscure Bob Dylan tune.

Six Tunes For A Plugged Head

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Every year in late summer – the first couple weeks of September or so – something in the plant world decides to declare war on me. I don’t know if it’s pollen, but then, I’m no botanist, so I suppose it could be. Whatever it is, though, it doesn’t like me very much. And I spend, usually, a week to ten days with a sinus infection, feeling as if someone has turned my head into a block of concrete. (There are those, I imagine, who will tell me that September is no different, that I am a blockhead the rest of the year, too. Fine. Chuckle away. At least someone is getting something out of this.)

This year, however, my ailment lasted longer than usual, and I began to find myself dragging more and more each day. When I started last Friday on the fourth week of feeling crappy, I decided enough was enough. And though I could not get in to see Dr. Julie yesterday, I did get an appointment with one of her colleagues. He asked me my symptoms and nodded as I listed them. He listened to my lungs, looked in my ears and down my throat. And he told me I have a sinus infection. More importantly, he prescribed an antibiotic. So I should be perkier in a few days.

In the meantime, here are some related tunes.

J.J. Cale’s first album, Naturally, remains one of my favorites, with its slow Okie groove. The best track on the 1972 record is probably “Magnolia,” but this morning, we need “Call the Doctor.”

I won’t call the Bliss Band a favorite – I haven’t listened to the group’s stuff long enough to use the word – but I find that enjoy the group’s late 1970s work when it pops up on the RealPlayer. Here’s “Doctor” from the group’s 1979 album, Neon Smiles. The band sings, “I don’t need you, doctor to make me better . . . I need a shot of rock ’n’ roll!” A good thought.

I have eight versions of the classic R&B song “Sick & Tired” in my collection. Here’s one that I don’t have: Fats Domino’s version of the tune. Domino’s version of the tune peaked at No. 22 in the spring of 1958. The original version, by Chris Kenner, had been recorded and released in 1957.

And of course, perhaps the most appropriate tune for what I’ve been dealing with is the first hit by the Electric Light Orchestra, which went to No. 9 in early 1975: “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.”

Along with a diagnosis, one thing the doctor provides is hope. And that was the title of a track that showed up on Quicksilver Messenger Service’s 1971 album, Quicksilver.

And of course, in a week or two, with my medicine and rest and other good stuff, I’ll find better days. So here’s the official video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Better Days,” which came from the 1992 album Lucky Town.

That should do it for today. If all goes well, then tomorrow we’ll dig into the final six records in the Ultimate Jukebox.