Posts Tagged ‘Derek & The Dominos’

Saturday Single No. 599

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

From the time I was seven – when I started taking piano lessons – to the time I moved from my folks’ house on Kilian Boulevard when I was twenty-two, I had access to a piano almost every day. There was a period of about four years, ending when I was sixteen, when I played rarely, but other than that, I played the piano at home in the evening and – during my college years – in the practice rooms at St. Cloud State’s Performing Arts Center during the day.

Even when I was in Denmark, I could play. My Danish family had a piano, and there was a piano in the lounge at the Pro Pace youth hostel where I lived for most of the last four months of that adventure. (I have vague memories of playing at several youth hostels during my major travels around Western Europe as well.)

Then during the summer of 1976, I moved to the drafty house on the North Side and, nine months later, to the mobile home I rented from Murl. I was still in school most of that time, so I could still play piano on campus, but it wasn’t nearly as convenient as walking into the dining room.

In late 1977, I moved to Monticello and then to other places and I didn’t get to play very often at all. In Monticello, I occasionally went to the Lutheran church the Other Half and I attended and played there. In Columbia, Missouri, I sometimes walked across campus to the University of Missouri’s performing arts building, and I made similar walks when I taught at Minot State in North Dakota and at Stephens College during a later stop in Columbia.

When I was in Jacques’ band during the late 1990s and early 2000s, I got to play a very good electronic keyboard every week. After a while the guys in the band pitched in and bought me a keyboard and sound module for my home, but then I was asked to leave the band, and over time, the touch of the keyboard they gave me deteriorated as did the quality of the module’s sound.

And then we moved to St. Cloud and I hardly ever played. The night before the closing of the sale of the house on Kilian in late 2004, I went over and said goodbye to the old Wegman upright, and from that night until the time I began playing at our church almost five years ago, I didn’t play at all.

I’ve played a lot since then, but it’s still required heading over to our church and making sure that nothing’s been scheduled for the meeting rooms there that my playing either the grand piano in the sanctuary or the Yamaha Clavinova in the office would disturb. So my playing has required scheduling.

That won’t be true any longer. Just this morning, one of these was assembled and installed in my half of the family room:

Korg LP-180

It’s a Korg LP-180, with a full 88 keys and about ten voices. My external speakers will be in on Monday, but even so, its own speakers sounded wonderful when I gave the keys their first whirl about twenty minutes ago. So what did I play?

Well, after noodling a bit to hear the various voices and to get a sense of the keys’ feel, I launched into the first piece of music I was able to pull from the radio and replicate on the Wegman without resorting to sheet music. That happened in the spring of 1972, and it was a major advance in my growth as a musician.

The piece? Jim Gordon’s lovely coda to Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” (I learned to play the first portion of the piece from sheet music shortly thereafter.) And though it’s nowhere near rare, and it’s no doubt been featured in this space more than once, Derek & The Dominos “Layla” from 1970 is today’s Saturday Single.

The Passing Of Paco Malo

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Blogging wasn’t supposed to hurt. Well, let’s be fair. It’s not blogging that hurts this morning. It’s me, my heart, my soul.

I learned yesterday morning that my blogging brother Jim Kearney – who wrote the blog Gold Coast Bluenote under the name of Paco Malo and posted here the same way – is gone. Notes at his Facebook page indicate that he passed away in his sleep last Thursday, June 5, in his home town of Tampa, Florida.

I hadn’t seen a comment from him here for a few weeks, and I’d thought vaguely of dropping him a line. I should have, but we all know how that goes. There’s always tomorrow, next week, next month . . . but sometimes there’s not.

Thinking back this morning, and sorting through an archive of email from the spring and summer of 2007, I can’t figure out which of us found the other first. Jim started Gold Coast Bluenote in December 2006, and there are references there to an earlier blog called Carnal Reasoning. At GCB, he wrote – far more sparely than I – about music, literature, film and more. I started Echoes In The Wind a little more than a month later, and by sometime that summer, Jim was visiting and commenting here and I was visiting and commenting there, and that shifted to email exchanges that continued sporadically for what’s been seven years.

In those exchanges, we talked about music, of course. He especially loved Derek & The Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and the work those musicians did before and after that album. We talked as well about books and about film and about how all of those things reflect and inform our lives.

We talked about life itself. We’ve all got our tales and challenges, and I have a good idea of what some of Jim’s were. He wrote in his notes to me, and a little bit at GCB, about some of the difficult portions of his path, and those words came without even a hint of self-pity; things had happened – some of his own making and some of them not – and he’d worked hard and dealt with the outcomes, and he was optimistic, and soon it would be time to head out on the boat and go fishing, and in the meantime, let’s listen once again to Derek & The Dominos’ “Anyday.”

I’m certain, knowing a little about walking the path that Jim walked, that there were mornings when his optimism was hard to find, afternoons when the joys of fishing were thin, and evenings when he was not certain that, as Eric Clapton sings, “I will see you smile.” We shared a little of how we dealt with those times, how we’d learned to have faith that putting one foot in front of the other eventually gets one out of the dark and back to the place where the smiles are possible and the pompano are biting.

When I wrote here about meeting in real life some of the other bloggers whose work he and I both read, folks with whom I’ve become friends in the flesh-and-blood world as well as the virtual world, he told me that he looked forward to the day when I could give him what I’d called “the nickel tour” of my St. Cloud places from both the present and the past. I told him I looked forward to it as well, but now, of course . . .

The idea evidently mattered to him. I checked at Jim’s Facebook page this morning to see if there was any more information about his passing, and I saw nothing new. Then I happened to notice the pictures on the left side of the page detailing things he’d “liked” on Facebook. The first four “likes” in that list were the Bob Dylan film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Loyola University of New Orleans (his alma mater), and the city of St. Cloud, Minnesota, a place he never knew.

He had at least two friends here, though, as the Texas Gal had also connected with him on FB and read his blog occasionally. And we’ll miss him.

I closed a brief note at Facebook yesterday with these words: “And to say goodbye, I turn to the music that brought us together. Beyond this world there lies a tunnel, and beyond that tunnel there is the light, and in that light, I hope, there is a highway. And I hope that Jim has found the key to his highway.”

We’re Halfway Home

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

This is the nineteenth segment, out of a planned thirty-eight, in which I’m exploring the records that would belong in what I call my Ultimate Jukebox. That means we’re halfway home. And I find it entirely fitting that one of the two songs that sparked this idea comes along this week by happenstance.

Last October, I wrote, in a meditation on autumn (and specifically on the autumn of 1975):

If there is a shining season during the years I spent on the campus of St. Cloud State, it is the autumn of 1975. . . .  It was a golden time, one that seems more rich in memory with each passing year. But there were concrete reasons for that sense of goodness: Hope and renewal found me for the first time in a year. . . . My smile returned. And all around me – my home, my car, the student union, downtown bars and everywhere else – music was a friend once more, instead of a reminder of loss.”

Among the six songs I offered that day were selections from Jefferson Starship and Orleans, and as I wrote about those six, I said: “I think two of them would make my all-time jukebox (a mental exercise at this point, but perhaps the basis for a series of posts in the future): ‘Miracles’ and ‘Dance With Me.’”

Well, both of those did make the final list. “Miracles” will come along in a few weeks, but this week’s six selections are anchored by Orleans’ “Dance With Me.” As you likely know, it’s a sweet love song, written by the group’s John Hall and his wife, Johanna, and produced and performed nicely. In one sense, that’s all there is to say for it: It’s a nice tune and a nice record, and it spent eleven weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 6.

But for me – as some songs are for everyone who loves music, I imagine (or at least hope) – “Dance With Me” is magic. In memory, it seems like I heard it everywhere I went during that sweet autumn as I figuratively danced through my classes and my work and my free time. As that quarter began – and the record began its time in the Top 40 – there was no special person to whom I could extend the invitation to dance; by the time the record was about to fall out of the Top 40 in early November, there was.

And almost thirty-five years later, after changes upon changes, there’s still someone to invite to the dance, as “Dance With Me” is also one of the Texas Gal’s favorite records.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 19
“Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass, Checker 1120 [1965]
“Summer Wind” by Frank Sinatra, Reprise 05090 [1966]
“Anyday” by Derek & the Dominos from Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs [1970]
“Dance With Me” by Orleans, Asylum 45261 [1975]
“(Don’t) Fear the Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult from Agents of Fortune [1976]
“Wall of Death” by Richard & Linda Thompson from Shoot Out The Lights [1982]

The most accurate description, for me, of Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me” comes – as is so often the case – from Dave Marsh, who called the record the “[b]est non-Aretha Aretha ever,” noting that the sound was not surprising, as Bass’ mother was gospel music star Martha Bass, who got her own start with the Clara Ward Singers, who traveled with Rev. C.L. Franklin, Aretha’s father. In any case, “Rescue Me” is a fine slice of mid-Sixties R&B from the Chess studios in Chicago. The record went to No. 4 during the autumn of 1965 and was No. 1 for four weeks on the R&B chart.

Even though the record pre-dates the time when I gave full attention to the Top 40, I’m certain I heard Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind” during 1966, when it went to No. 25 (and spent one week at the top of the Adult Contemporary chart). I imagine that if nothing else, I heard it late one evening as our household was turning in for the night: For about twenty minutes as we got ready for bed, Dad would turn on the transistor radio on his bedside table. The radio – which Dad had appropriated from my sister, although she didn’t seem to care – was almost always tuned to KFAM, the station on the west side of town, and our twenty minutes of music at bedtime was very definitely middle of the road, not like that rock and roll that the station nearest us, WJON, played. (I wonder now if KFAM’s format might have been called adult contemporary?) In any case, I’m certain that my faint memory of having heard “Summer Wind” comes from one of those evenings during the autumn of 1966. So why does it show up here? Because it’s a good record with a subtle performance by Sinatra, and it reminds me of my dad.

I love “Layla.” I have since I first heard it in 1970, and I dug it more when it was re-released as a single in 1972. But its familiarity worked against it when I was sorting through titles to list here. The burning riff that opens “Layla” would certainly wake up the denizens of any coffeehouse in which I installed my hypothetical jukebox, but I think that after that opening burst, folks would think, “Oh, yeah, ‘Layla,’” and push the music into the background. My choice from the Layla album is instead “Anyday,” which has almost as arresting an opening and, I’m thinking, wouldn’t be quite as familiar nor as easily dismissed. Even if I’m wrong about that, “Anyday” is a tremendous piece of rock, with the descending bass line that always intrigues me and great vocals by both Eric Clapton and co-writer Bobby Whitlock.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” which went to No. 12 during the autumn of 1976, is pretty much all I really know about Blue Öyster Cult. I’ve got the Agents of Fortune LP and I have mp3s of some of the group’s other stuff, but it all tends to get lost in the (literal) shuffle. That just puts the group’s work onto a (long) list of music I need to pay more attention to, and the list gets longer every week. But the loping, looping introduction to “Reaper” commands my attention whenever it pops up on the computer or on the Zen player, and the “la-la-la-la-la” refrain remains chilling. According to Wikipedia, writer Donald Roeser – better known as Buck Dharma – says the song is not, as is often supposed, about death but about eternal love. That may be what he thinks, but I know how it feels to me, and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” feels like an invitation to step through a door I’ve seen once and am not nearly ready to see again.

“Wall of Death,” the closing song on Richard and Linda Thompson’s grim and tense 1982 masterpiece, Shoot Out The Lights, is, if one would believe the lyrics, about an amusement park ride. Given the real-life circumstances of the recording sessions – from what I’ve read, the Thompsons’ marriage was crumbling rapidly at the time – one can find all sorts of metaphors in the song. I’m reminded as I write of Bruce Springsteen’s 1987 single “Tunnel of Love,” which also used an amusement park ride as a metaphor for the circumstances of his failing marriage to Julianne Phillips. Somehow “Wall of Death” seems darker than that, though: “On the Wall Of Death all the world is far from me. On the Wall Of Death it’s the nearest to being free. . . . You can waste your time on the other rides. This is the nearest to being alive. Oh, let me take my chances on the Wall Of Death.”  Or it just could be Richard Thompson’s voice, which has a much more somber cast. Either way, it’s an arresting song:

Something For A Monday Morning

Monday, March 8th, 2010

I’m moving a little slowly this morning, and I’m going to put off the next installment of the Ultimate Jukebox until tomorrow or Wednesday.

In the meantime, the mailman dropped off a nifty CD Saturday: The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show, 1969-1971. As one might expect, there’s plenty of classic country on the CD, with performances by Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Bobby Bare, the Carter Family, the Statler Brothers and a few others.

But Cash always had a wide view of the world of music. One of the guests on his first show in 1969 was Bob Dylan (whose performances, sadly, are not on the CD). Other performers who do show up on the CD include Ray Charles, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, Roy Orbison and James Taylor.

And then there was the show that aired January 6, 1971, when Eric Clapton, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle and Jim Gordon – Derek & The Dominos – showed up to play. After performing “It’s Too Late,” the band welcomed Cash and Carl Perkins to the stage for a killer trip through “Matchbox.” That latter performance wasn’t included on the CD I got Saturday, but the video of the entire segment is available on YouTube:

And here’s the performance that starts off that clip:

“It’s Too Late” by Derek & The Dominos
On The Johnny Cash TV Show, January 6, 1971