I’ve been sifting through search results for an hour now, and I’m still no closer to figuring out what to do on this first day of September.
We all, I think, have favorite months. September – as I’ve no doubt made clear over the years – is mine. (October runs a close second; if the last two weeks of September and the first two of October made up a month of their own, well, no other month – or other four-week stretch of the year – could come close to touching it.) And it’s an important month, as well.
Why? Because to me, years end on August 31 and begin anew on September 1. That’s in part a carry-over from living with school calendars over the years as a student, a college instructor and a weekly newspaper reporter. It’s in part because, although there may yet be very hot days (and WeatherBug in fact predicts high temperatures in the mid-80s for the next four days), it becomes much more clear in the first days of September that autumn’s dance will soon begin. And it’s in part because as the year turns on its August-September hinge, the Texas Gal and I shut down the gardens, bringing in the last of the vegetables, pulling up the fences, beanpoles and trellises and preparing the empty plots for winter’s sleep.
So in search of some kind of inspiration or at least a tune with an appropriate sentiment, I went to the RealPlayer and sorted out the three hundred or so songs that either were recorded in September or have the word “September” in their titles or in their albums’ titles. But inspiration is hard to find this morning. So here comes a six-tune random selection.
When the CD version of Dusty Springfield’s Dusty in Memphis was released a while back, it came packaged with extra tracks from her highly regarded Memphis sessions as well as tracks from later sessions, some of which had never been released. “What Do You Do When Love Dies” is a track that was recorded partly in Memphis and partly in New York during September 1968. It has some odd time and tempo changes, but in general, it’s of the same high quality as the tracks that ended up on Dusty in Memphis.
During the mid-1960s, when record sales for the blues had slowed some, the folks at Chess Records issued albums by a few artists – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson II, John Lee Hooker and Memphis Slim are the ones I’m aware of, though I imagine there might be more – titled Real Folk Blues. Later, the label issued albums by Water, Williamson and the Wolf titled More Real Folk Blues. The albums were made up of previously released singles and (I think) unreleased sessions. One of the tunes that shows up on Williamson’s More Real Folk Blues is “My Younger Days,” which he recorded on September 3, 1963 in Chicago.
Speaking of the Wolf, one of the nicer artifacts in my CD collection is Moanin’ at Midnight: The Memphis Recordings, a compilation of tracks that Howlin’ Wolf recorded at various locations in the Memphis area during the early 1950s before he headed north to Chicago. The track that pops up this morning is “Moanin’ at Midnight,” likely recorded at KWEM radio in West Memphis, Arkansas, during September 1951 and then leased to RPM Records, which released it as a single titled “Morning at Midnight.” The notes by Bill Dahl in the CD package say the oddity of the RPM title was a result of a conflict between Chess Records and Modern Records (of which RPM was a subsidiary label) for the Wolf’s services: Chess had already released “Moanin’ at Midnight” as the B-Side of Wolf’s first single so Modern just altered the title and had the Wolf record another version of the same song. (Among the folks whose fingerprints were all over the conflict between Chess and Modern was Memphis legend Sam Phillips, but I haven’t got time this morning to untangle all the strands.)
In the second edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, published in 1979, critic Stephen Holden writes that Frank Sinatra’s 1965 album, September of My Years, “summed up the punchy sentimentality of a whole generation of American men.” That may be so. I know that when I listen to the album, I hear bits and pieces of what seems to be my father’s life. Or maybe I’ve watched too many seasons of Mad Men. Either way, the album is affecting, and one of the most evocative songs on the album is “It Was A Very Good Year,” which is our fourth stop in our September travels this morning.
One of my stranger purchases when I was a member of a CD club a few years ago was a collection of the work of Edith Piaf, who could probably be fairly described as the quintessential French chanteuse. I knew little of Piaf’s work, just “La Vie en Rose” from a reference to it in one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and “Non Je Ne Regrette Rien” from somewhere. I guess I chose the CD because Mme. Coffman, my high school French teacher, talked on occasion about the impact Piaf’s music had on French culture. In any case, I like the music, including this morning’s random selection, “Le Droit D’aimer,” which was recorded in Paris on September 22, 1962.
By 1965, the hits had dried up for Dion. His most recent charting record was a cover of “Johnny B. Goode” that had gone to No. 71 during the summer of 1964. He was, it seems, trying to find a niche when he was in the studios in September of 1965. One of the tunes he recorded that month was his own bluesy “Two Ton Feather.” In 1966, Columbia released to radio stations a version of the tune on a white label 45. I don’t know whether there was ever a regular release, but it doesn’t matter this morning because the tune we land on is an unreleased alternate version of the song. It showed up on the 1991 CD set Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-65), and it’s today’s Saturday Single.