Posts Tagged ‘Doors’

Assisted Living Music

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

My mom’s been living in her assisted living center for nine years now, which means I’ve dropped by there somewhere around a thousand times. Beyond the fact that some of Mom’s fellow residents don’t seem all that much older than I am, one of the main things I notice about Ridgeview Place over in Sauk Rapids is the background music. (That figures, eh?)

There’s a CD player in a small sitting room adjacent to the foyer, and there’s another one upstairs in what’s called the Great Room, where the folks who live at Ridgeview Place gather for musical performances by community groups and presentations by visitors. (Travel tales with photos and videos are a big hit.) It’s also where the folks gather monthly for a Happy Hour – some wine, crackers and cheese – and where they play bingo twice a week. (Mom told me on the phone yesterday afternoon that she’d just won that day’s blackout game; she netted two dollars.)

When the Great Room isn’t hosting an event, though, music comes quietly from the CD player there, and the CD player in the sitting room seems to be playing tunes through the day.

So what is it the folks at Ridgeview Place are hearing? Well, you’d think it was 1942 or maybe 1948, which makes some sense. On my regular walks through the foyer, I hear a lot of Big Band stuff, recognizing on occasion some Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. I was waiting to talk to the director the other afternoon, and as I sat there, I heard a nice rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” I’m not sure whose version it was, except that it was neither the Bing Crosby version nor the Tommy Dorsey version (with a vocal by Frank Sinatra), both of which were big hits in 1944.

There are moments when the time focus slides a little bit further into the Twentieth Century: I’m pretty sure that the other day I heard Percy Faith’s 1953 hit “The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart),” and there have been a few other moments when I’ve heard something that comes from the easy listening files of the late 1950s or even the early 1960s. And that makes some sense. If we assume that the idea is to present the music of the residents’ youth (when they were, say, fifteen to twenty-two) and the current residents range in age from, oh, seventy-five to ninety-three (my mother’s age), then the years from which the music would be drawn would range from 1936, when my mom was fifteen, to 1962, when a seventy-five year old resident would have been twenty-two.

That ending date – 1962 – might be a bit recent. During my trips through the lobby – and they’re brief though frequent – I’ve not yet heard much from the late 1950s or early 1960s. But I imagine hits from those years are coming: Probably not much Elvis or any Lloyd Price, but certainly the Browns, the McGuire Sisters, some Perez Prado, some Percy Faith and some Floyd Cramer.

The topic came up this morning as I drove the Texas Gal to work. A tune came on WXYG, and she said, “That’s probably what we’ll be hearing when we’re in assisted living.” I laughed and said, “Maybe.” And then I told her that I had not yet heard anything on the Ridgeview Place CD players from the era of the Beach Boys, Lesley Gore and Chubby Checker.

“Well, thank God for that,” she said. “Maybe they’ll skip that era.”

I doubt it. I expect that when folks eight to ten years older than I become the majority of the residents at places like Ridgeview Place, the music in the sitting rooms and activity rooms will include tunes from the Highwaymen, Ferrante & Teicher, the Kingston Trio, Bobby Vee, the Shirelles and other artifacts of the early 1960s.

The more interesting question to me is whether the music in places like Ridgeview Place will follow the shifts in popular music that took place in the 1960s. Will the music by those artists mentioned in the above paragraph be followed in five to ten years by tunes from Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles, Janis Joplin, the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix?

That, too, I doubt. I think any music from our era – and my sweet spot stretches from 1967 to 1975 or so – will draw from the softer side: Simon & Garfunkel, the 5th Dimension, Seals & Crofts, Neil Diamond, Carole King and so on. And some years down the road, as I sit as a resident in one of those foyers, even though it would amuse me, I doubt very much that I’ll hear Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “And When I Die.”

Nor, I would think, will I heard the tune that came on WXYG this morning, the one that got the Texas Gal and me talking: the Doors’ 1967 track, “Break On Through (To The Other Side).”

Out From The Sun, Part 1

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

It’s time for a trip, starting right at the center of the Solar System. Along the way, we’ll check in at the eight planets, a couple of moons and maybe a comet. Why? Well, maybe I’m in a space/science mood from watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s 1980 TV series Cosmos. Whatever the reason, it seemed like a good idea this morning.

We’ll start at the center, with the Sun. There were lots of titles to choose from on the digital shelves, even after I weeded out all the mp3s originally released on the Sun label. I dithered a while, and then remembered something I read long ago written about solar exploration either by a second-grader or a slow learner: If the surface of the sun is too hot for humans to survive, then we can go at night. Well, we’ll go at sundown and listen to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown” as we travel. Pulled from his 1974 album of the same name, “Sundown” went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop and adult contemporary charts and to No. 13 on the country chart.

Heading outward from Sol, our first stop is Mercury. After we eliminate the records on the Mercury label, we’re left with a few tracks about the element and a few tracks about the car but none about the planet itself. That’s okay. We’ll settle for the car, which might as well be our mode of transport on this journey. So here is “Mercury Blues” from Fly Like An Eagle, the 1976 album by the Steve Miller Band that went to No. 3 in the Billboard 200. The band had recorded a much more up-tempo version of the tune for the soundtrack to the 1968 movie Revolution, but I like the slower version. After all, we may as well take our time and see the sights.

Next stop as we head out from the Sun is Venus, and there are a few tunes to choose from about the goddess, if not the planet. Considered for an instant and discarded just as quickly was Frankie Avalon’s “Venus,” a No.1 hit from 1959, although I considered for a moment a 1962 version of the same tune by the Ventures. But if we’re going to land on Venus, then we’re going to land on “Venus” by the Shocking Blue. The record was a No. 1 hit for the Dutch group in February 1970, jumping out of millions of radios around the world – including my old RCA upstairs on Kilian Boulevard – with its ringing introductory riff. (I passed a little regretfully on a 1972 cover of the same tune by organist Zygmunt Jankowski. Maybe another time.)

Leaving Venus and its clouds and ringing riff behind, we head to our home planet. And we dig deep into Motown’s huge catalog for the 1970 cautionary tune “You Make Your Own Heaven And Hell Right Here On Earth” by the Temptations. I’ve noted in the past my general preference for the Four Tops over the Temptations, but I do love the freaky, funky and atmospheric production that Norman Whitfield brought to this tune and the others that he and Barrett Strong wrote for the Psychedelic Shack album. The album went to No. 9.

Leaving Earth, we’ll make a brief stop at the Moon before heading further out into the Solar System again. I was very tempted to go into my Al Hirt collection for his 1963 rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon,” but having dropped Big Al in here the other week when I looked at “I’m Movin’ On,” I passed on the horn. Instead, I opted for a track by the Doors that I first heard in 1971 when I picked up 13, the band’s greatest hits album. The slightly spooky “Moonlight Drive” comes from the 1967 album Strange Days and showed up as the B-side to “Love Me Two Times” late that year.

Our last stop today, as we cross the Asteroid Belt and finish the first half of our trek out into the Solar System, is Mars. A search for “Mars” in the RealPlayer’s files brings up a lot of stuff we can’t use, including lots of music from Marsha Hunt, the Marshall Tucker Band and Wynton Marsalis. But one single stands out among the unusable: “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” by Wings. Pulled from the Venus and Mars album, the record went to No. 12 in December 1975, and it provides a very hummable tune as we pause here on Mars before continuing our journey and heading to the giant planets.

Summer Songs, Part One

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The RealPlayer hummed along the other day as I did a little housekeeping in the study, trying to do something more substantial than simply move stacks of books, paper and 45 rpm records from one flat surface to another. Not much got accomplished, especially after the RealPlayer settled on “Where Is The Love” by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

For just a few moments, it was the summer of 1972: A half-time janitor gig on campus, my sister’s wedding, my first car and a road trip to Winnipeg. While there are other records that bring back portions of that summer – “Alone Again, Naturally” has me cleaning venetian blinds and “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” has me driving north to Canada – there’s something about the Flack/Hathaway single that somehow sums up the feel of the whole summer. The record was inescapable (though I never wanted to escape it) as it went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the R&B and Adult Contemporary charts.

As the mp3 played, I found the video above and posted it at Facebook and then sat and wondered what other records have such visceral connections with specific summers of my younger days. It seemed worth some digging, both in reference books and memory.

Paging through the Sixties, no records really say “Summer!” until I get to 1968. I wasn’t listening to Top 40 at home yet, but that was the first summer I worked as a setter at the state trap shoot, spending about ten hours a day for four days straight placing clay targets on a scary machine. As did the other setters, I brought a radio, and my semi-subterranean corner of the world was filled with KDWB’s Top 40 most of the day and Minnesota Twins baseball for a couple of hours in the afternoons.

Four records trigger memories as I page through Fred Bronson’s Billboard Book of No. 1 Hits and look at a late July 1968 survey from WDGY, KDWB’s main competitor: “Indian Lake” by the Cowsills, “Classical Gas” by Mason Williams, “Turn Around, Look At Me” by the Vogues and “Grazing in the Grass” by Hugh Masekela. The Vogues’ single has a niche of its own in my memory, but the 1968 record that to this day says “trap shoot” (and thus “Summer of ’68”) is “Hello, I Love You” by the Doors, which spent two weeks at No. 1 in early August that year.

Looking back to 1969, the memories of my RCA radio at the trap shoot have to compete with the memories of the radio in the training room at St. Cloud Tech, as the last weeks of summer were my first weeks of being both a manager for the Tigers football team and a dedicated Top 40 listener. But checking Bronson and a late July survey from KDWB, it’s the trap shoot that wins. Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & The Shondells are in the running, but nothing says “Summer 1969” for good or ill – and many folks will think it ill – like “In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)” by Zager & Evans, a record that sat atop the Hot 100 for six weeks and on top of the AC chart for two weeks.

The summer of 1970 was my third and final trap shoot summer, but by the time the four-day event rolled around, I’d been listening to Top 40 for nearly a year. That means there are many more songs I recall from that summer with only a little help needed from Bronson’s book or a KDWB survey. Near the top of the list (in memory and quality) are Bread’s “Make It With You,” Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold,”  “Ride, Captain, Ride” by Blues Image, “Spill the Wine” by Eric Burdon & War and the 5 Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child.” But the top spot  in my Summer of ’70 list goes to a record that I’ve mentioned numerous times in six-plus years of blogging: “Are You Ready” by Pacific Gas & Electric. The record peaked in the Hot 100 at No. 14.

That’s a good place to stop. We’ll pick up this slender thread next week and see – beyond “Where Is The Love” – which records defined summers after my high school days. In the meantime, any readers who wish can answer this question:

What are your summer records?

Chart Digging: April 12, 1969

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

I wrote my first screenplay in the spring of 1969. For a final project in a mass media class, I chose to adapt one of my favorite science fiction stories – “One Love Have I” by Robert F. Young – into a screenplay.

The results were mixed: I learned a lot about narrative, pacing and the use of language as I worked with Young’s meditation on love, loss, sacrifice and the Theory of Relativity; but then, I had a lot to learn. I came across my work not quite three years ago, when the Texas Gal and I were packing for storage those things we wanted to keep but did not need to have at hand. As I glanced through it, I saw immediately that as I’d written, I’d invested little effort in thinking visually, a major deficit in a piece intended for a visual medium.

Still, I was only fifteen in the spring of 1969, and for a first try at what was essentially a new language, the screenplay wasn’t bad. And I did get an A on it.

What else was happening as April of 1969 unreeled? I know Rick and Rob and I played table-top hockey. (Rick’s Chicago Blackhawks brought him his second Stanley Cup.) I spent weekday afternoons – as I chronicled here once before – in the St. Cloud Tech training room, overseeing the whirlpool and making certain that none of the distance runners drowned there.

And I think that more and more, I was listening to Top 40 radio. I hadn’t yet moved Grandpa’s old RCA radio from the basement workbench to my room, but that shift – a key moment in my listening life – wasn’t many weeks away. Sometime that spring, I’d lay down cash in a Minneapolis department store for my first 45 of popular music, buying the record that headed the Top Ten on this day in 1969:

“Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (The Flesh Failures)” by the 5th Dimension
“You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Dizzy” by Tommy Roe
“Galveston” by Glen Campbell
“Time of the Season” by the Zombies
“Only the Strong Survive” by Jerry Butler
“It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers
“Hair” by the Cowsills
“Run Away Child, Running Wild” by the Temptations
“Twenty-Five Miles” by Edwin Starr

With the exception of the Tommy Roe record, which I’ve never liked, that’s a fine set. Given the hoo-ha over the nude scene in the stage version of Hair, and given the family image of the Cowsills, my sister and I were a bit puzzled by the group’s recording of the musical’s title track. “I didn’t think they’d record a song like that,” my sister said to me one day as KDWB provided the soundtrack as we did the dishes. The song, of course, was benign, just as the brief nude scene would be for most folks these days, forty-two years later.

As usual, there were some interesting things in the chart that week, and we’ll start our exploration of the Billboard Hot 100 just beyond the edge of the Top 40.

I once spent an entire post dissecting my thoughts about the Doors, returning to an earlier conclusion that they were a fine singles band but an overrated album band. While making that judgment, I don’t know if I thought about “Wishful Sinful” from The Soft Parade. One of the lesser known Doors’ singles, it was sitting at No. 45 that week, and would move up only one more notch before heading back down the chart. With that, “Wishful Sinful” was the first of four straight singles by the band that would reach the Hot 100 but fall short of the Top 40. (The others? “Tell All The People” and “Runnin’ Blue” from The Soft Parade would peak at Nos. 57 and 64, respectively, and the double-sided “You Make Me Real/Roadhouse Blues” from Morrison Hotel would get to No. 50.) Pulled from the context of its album, “Wishful Sinful” is better than I recalled.

Earthquakes were the inspiration for the only Hot 100 single by a California band called Shango. The group’s reggae-styled single “Day After Day (It’s Slippin’ Away)” was at No. 57 on the chart released forty-two years ago today, and would move no higher. “Where can we go when there’s no San Francisco?” the group asked. “Better get ready to tie up the boat in Idaho.” A year later, Shango’s single, “Some Things A Man’s Gotta Do,” went to No. 107 in the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under section. Other than that, the only other thing I know about Shango – and this is courtesy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles – is that Tommy Reynolds,  Shango’s lead singer, was later a member of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds.

The Foundations are best-known for “Build Me Up Buttercup” (No. 3 in early 1969) and “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” (No. 11 in 1968). In mid-April of 1969, their lesser-known “In Those Bad, Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me)” was sitting at No. 64, heading to a peak position of No. 59. The English group would have one more record reach the Hot 100 – “My Little Chickadee” would get to No. 99 during the summer of 1969 – and their last mentioned record in Top Pop Singles was “Stoney Ground,” which bubbled at No. 113 for one week in February 1972. “In Those Bad, Bad Old Days” isn’t awful, but it’s not very good, either.

For some reason, obscure covers of Beatles records are among my favorite things to discover. And last evening, as I was beginning the digging for this post, I came across a Beatles cover that surprised me. Not only had I never heard it before, but until last evening, I’d had no clue that it existed. Here’s Chubby Checker taking on “Back In The U.S.S.R.”

The record was at No. 85 in the Billboard Hot 100 released on this date in 1969, the thirty-third record Checker had placed in the Hot 100 (along with two that bubbled under). “Back In The U.S.S.R.” wouldn’t go much higher, spending the last week of April and the first week of May at No. 82 before falling off the chart. It would be another thirteen years – 1982 – before Checker would show up in the charts again, when “Running” went to No. 91 and “Harder Than Diamond” got to No. 104. And in 1988, “The Twist (Yo, Twist!),” credited to “The Fat Boys with Chubby Checker,” went to No. 16 on the pop chart and to No. 40 on the R&B chart, Checker’s last appearance on the charts.

At No. 91, we find Dusty Springfield’s sultry “Breakfast in Bed.” The B-side of her “Don’t Forget About Me” single (which went to No. 64), “Breakfast in Bed” would go no higher. To my ears, it deserved much more, being at least on a par with “Son Of A Preacher Man,” which had gone to No. 10 earlier in 1969. All three of those tracks – along with Springfield’s next charting single, “The Windmills of Your Mind/I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore” (Nos. 31 and 105) – came from the sessions that resulted in the glorious Dusty In Memphis album, which had been released that March.

Finally, dipping into the Bubbling Under section of the April 12, 1969, chart, we find Al Wilson, whose “I Stand Accused” was perched at No. 107. In early 1968, Wilson’s “Do What You Gotta Do” had gotten to No. 102, and then two of his singles had climbed into the Hot 100 – “The Snake” went to No. 27 in 1968, and “Poor Side of Town” had reached No. 75 earlier in 1969. “I Stand Accused” would, however, climb only one spot more before disappearing. Not quite five years later, of course, Wilson’s brilliant “Show and Tell” would spend a week at No. 1.