Posts Tagged ‘Eric Clapton’

Saturday Single No. 617

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

When we look for tracks recorded over the years on November 24, the RealPlayer brings us a few results, ranging through the years from 1924 to 1978.

The recordings from 1924 come from the Charleston Seven, a group recording for Thomas Edison’s National Phonograph Company, long defunct and historically significant. The record was likely one of the advanced Diamond Discs, made of Bakelite rather than shellac. According to Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories, that manufacturing advance gave Edison’s records greater durability, longer running times, and better sound quality than those of rival companies. Those advantages were pretty much canceled by the fact that Edison discs could only be played on phonographs manufactured by Thomas Edison’s company (making Edison’s records the early 20th Century equivalent, I’d guess, of Betamax video).

Anyway, the Charleston Seven were in New York ninety-four years ago today, laying down “Nashville Nightingale” and “Toodles.” Neither of them made the charts of the time, a result – I would guess – of the record’s limited playability. The fact that both of them are still available – and I have no memory of how they ended up on the digital shelves here – is, I think, pretty remarkable.

Chronologically, the next tracks we can look at come from a busy day in New York City for Bessie Smith in 1933. There were likely more tracks recorded that long-ago November 24, but the four that show up in our files from that session are “Do Your Duty,” b/w “I’m Down In The Dumps” and “Gimme A Pigfoot” b/w “Take Me For A Buggy Ride.” The tracks were released on both the Okeh and Columbia labels in 1934, and a note a Discogs.com says that the four sides were the last Smith recorded before her death in an auto accident in 1937. None of the four sides charted, according to Pop Memories.

The next November 24 track on the digital shelves did chart, and in a big way: The Andrews’ Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (Means That You’re Grand)” was No. 1 for five weeks in early 1938. Released on Decca, it was the first charting hit for the sisters from Minneapolis. They’d have about twenty more hits on the more condensed charts of their times, but none were ever bigger.

Then, on this day in 1941, just thirteen days before the United States was pulled into World War II by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Glenn Miller & His Orchestra recorded their version of one of the most romantic songs of the war, “(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs Of Dover.” Probably better known through Vera Lynn’s 1942 recording, the song offers a vision of life after the war, using England’s iconic white cliffs and the prospect of bluebirds (a bird which lyricist Nat Burton mistakenly thought was indigenous to Britain).

Miller’s version of the tune went, I think, to No. 2 in 1942. At least, that’s the impression I get from the website playback.fm. (My reference library has a historical gap in it; Pop Memories gets me to 1940, and Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles picks things up in 1955. For the fifteen years in between, I’m on my own.)

From 1941, we jump ahead six years for a 1947 session in New York, as Sister Rosetta Tharpe laid down one of her signature tunes, “Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air.” The record was released on Decca late in 1948 and went to No. 6 on the Billboard Best Seller chart and to No. 9 on the magazine’s Jukebox chart. (Oddly enough, considering that the tune is relatively obscure, I have five covers of it in the digital stacks, including one by Sister Rosetta herself on a television show in 1964 or 1965.)

Our last stop this morning is in Glasgow, Scotland, where on this day in 1978, Eric Clapton offered a concert at the Glasgow Apollo. Two of the tunes performed there wound up on the live disc of the two-disc compilation Blues, released in 1999. One could quibble that “Wonderful Tonight” isn’t strictly a blues, but it’s mournful enough, I guess. (I’m reminded of a long-ago colleague in the music department at Minot State University who expressed skepticism when I offered Derek & The Dominos’ “Layla” for a desert island tape and categorized it as a type of blues. I got by with that one, so I’ll give Slowhand a break, too.)

The other tune from the November 24 Glasgow show that wound up on Blues certainly fit: A cover of Robert Johnson’s “Kind Hearted Woman.” As the video below shows, the performance also ended up on the compilation Crossroads 2: Live In The Seventies.

And despite the attraction of the Glenn Miller and Rosetta Tharpe recordings (and even the lesser attraction of Bessie Smith’s “Gimme A Pigfoot”), I’m going to stay in the modern era and make Eric Clapton’s November 24, 1978, performance of “Kind Hearted Woman” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 475

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

Well, morning came and morning went . . .

I spent the early hours today at the annual Santa Lucia celebration at Salem Lutheran Church, just as I did when I was a youngster and later when I was in Luther League, twice reading the story of St. Knut to those gathered for the celebration.

And just like last year, I wore a red carnation and was recognized during the early morning service as one of those named Salem’s St. Knut over the years. As I noted a year ago, however, when I was in Luther League, I was only listed in the programs for 1969 and 1970 as the fellow reading the story of St. Knut; it wasn’t until years later that the story-reader was actually given the title of that year’s St. Knut and the readers from previous years were named St. Knuts long after the fact. But being named a saint after the fact is, I submit, better than not being named a saint at all. And being the only two-time St. Knut (because there were no senior boys available the year I was a high school junior) is kind of nifty.

I wasn’t the only family member recognized this morning. My sister also wore a red carnation, having been Santa Lucia in 1966. And during the breakfast following the service, plenty of folks came over to talk to my mother, who doesn’t get to church often anymore. Add in plenty of coffee, some Swedish cookies and pastries and some very good potato sausage, and it was a very nice – if early –way to start the day.

Then came the more mundane Saturday chore of an hour at the grocery story with the Texas Gal. And all of that means that I was either going to leave this space empty today or offer a tune on a sort of ad hoc basis, finding something interesting that can pretty much stand in its own.

Well, yesterday at Facebook, an acquaintance of mine shared a cover of Double’s “The Captain Of Her Heart” by a jazz singer named Randy Crawford. I’d not heard much of her stuff, although I had a couple of tracks that had come to me by way of some Warner Brothers samplers. Intrigued by the Double cover, I did some digging and came up with some other stuff by Crawford, including another cover that I found interesting.

Here, with assists from saxophonist David Sanborn and Eric Clapton, is Crawford’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” from her 1989 album Rich and Poor. The sax parts are a little overbearing in a very Eighties way, but I’m still going to call it today’s Saturday Single.

The Hill City Kid

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

I’m not sure why it started, and – like many things in life – it’s way too late to ask now, but when I was about six or seven, my father for some reason started calling me the “Hill City Kid.”

Hill City is a little burg about 130 miles northeast of St. Cloud, on the south edge of the pine forests that blanket that corner of the state. There are a few lakes around, including Hill Lake right in town, and a skiing resort just southeast of town. About 630 folks live in Hill City these days. And when I was six or seven, there were a lot fewer than that. Tammy at Hill City’s City Hall couldn’t find the 1960 population this morning, but she did tell me that there were 357 people in Hill City in 1970. In 1960, she guessed, the town was likely a little smaller.

And Dad said that’s where I came from, that he and Mom got me from Hill City. I knew that wasn’t the case, or at least I was pretty sure, if not positive, that he was joking. So I didn’t mind Dad goofing around and calling me the Hill City Kid, which he did for a few years. Except for one thing.

When he talked about my Hill City origins, he often added that the day would come when we’d go to Hill City and he and Mom would leave me where I belonged. Again, I was pretty sure he was joking, but I was young, and I wasn’t entirely sure.

And on a summer day when I was maybe eight, we were coming home from a weekend trip to the Iron Range, in Minnesota’s northeastern corner. Our route to St. Cloud brought us along Highway 169, through Grand Rapids, where the pine forests begin to thin, and on to Hill City, where we stopped for lunch.

I did not enjoy my lunch. I don’t recall much about it except that I wondered all through the meal if Mom and Dad were really going to leave me there in Hill City. By the end of the meal, Dad had said nothing, so I figured things were okay. As Dad paid for our meals, I went to the rest room.

And when I came out and walked out the front door of the restaurant, our 1952 Ford was not there. It had been parked right in front, right where I was standing. And it was gone.

They’d left me in Hill City. And I started to cry.

And of course, in about five seconds, Dad brought the ’52 Ford around the corner from where he’d been waiting, and I scrambled into the back seat and dried my eyes as we headed down Highway 169 toward St. Cloud.

Maybe Dad expected me to laugh it off. If I’d been five years older, I might have been able to do so. But I was maybe eight and not very secure anyway. And for a few moments, I was terrified.

As far as I remember, Dad never called me the Hill City Kid again.

Here’s a self-explanatory tune: “Lonesome And A Long Way From Home.” It’s from Eric Clapton’s 1970 solo album.

A Landmark Preserved

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

A few times over the past five years, I’ve written about the building at 508 Park Avenue in Dallas, the building where Robert Johnson spent two days recording in 1937. I’ve written about the possibility that the building – dilapidated and in a difficult neighborhood – might be torn down. I’ve written about the sessions that Eric Clapton conducted there in 2004, recording several of Johnson’s songs in the same room where Johnson recorded them in 1937. And I’ve written about my two visits to the building, about standing at its doorstep and standing in the same place where both Robert Johnson and Eric Clapton had been.

But I’m not sure I ever shared here the very good news that, through a project headed by the Stewpot – a homeless shelter across the street from 508 – and the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, the building at 508 Park will be preserved and will become the centerpiece for what’s being called the Museum of Street Culture. The vacant building on the north side of 508 has been razed to create a space that will include an amphitheater, and a now-vacant lot on the south side of the building will become a community garden.

The plans for the museum and its programs are available at the website for the Museum of Street Culture, a website that includes a photo of Steven Johnson, the grandson of Robert Johnson, standing in front of the building where his grandfather recorded some of the most influential songs in blues history.

Here’s my photo of the door of 508 from one of my trips to Dallas.

And here is a selection – offered once before, in 2009 – of covers of some of the songs that Robert Johnson recorded during his two sessions in 508 Park Avenue in 1937:

A Six-Pack of 508 Park Avenue
“Stop Breakin’ Down” by the Jeff Healey Band from Cover To Cover [1995]
“Malted Milk” by Eric Clapton from Unplugged [1992]
“Traveling Riverside Blues” by John Hammond from Country Blues [1964]
“Love In Vain” by the Rolling Stones from ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’ [1970]
“Stones In My Passway” by Chris Thomas King from Me, My Guitar and the Blues [1992]
“I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man” by Robert Lockwood, Jr. & Carey Bell from Hellhound on My Trail: Songs of Robert Johnson [2000]

‘Ten’

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Sorting for the word “ten” in the titles of the 68,000 mp3s is a difficult process, perhaps the most difficult so far in our March Of The Integers. The RealPlayer lists 1,632 mp3s with that letter combination somewhere in the indexed information. And few of those titles in that listing can be used.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos as recorded by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment? Gone, just like the Allman Brothers Band’s album Enlightened Rogues. Any music tagged as easy listening is also dismissed, which wipes out entire catalogs from artists like Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, the Baja Marimba Band, Ray Conniff & The Singers, Ferrante & Teicher, Percy Faith and of course (in a double stroke), my entire collection of Hugo Montenegro’s music.

Anything with the name of the state of Tennessee in its title has to be set aside, from the Dykes Magic City Trio’s 1927 version of “Tennessee Girls” to the Secret Sisters’ 2010 track “Tennessee Me.” We also lose anything tagged as having been recorded in the state, from Clarence “Tom” Ashley’s 1929 recording of “Coo Coo Bird” to Johnny Cash’s 1974 take on “Ragged Old Flag.” And we eliminate as well several albums: The Tennessee Tapes by the Jonas Fjeld Band, Easin’ Back to Tennessee by Colin Linden and Tennessee Pusher by the Old Crow Medicine Show.

Marc Cohn’s 2010 album of covers, Listening Booth: 1970 is gone, as are the single tracks “Lisa, Listen To Me” by Blood, Sweat & Tears, “Listen to the Wind” by Jack Casady, “Listen to Me” by Buddy Holly, “Listen Here” by Richard “Groove” Holmes and “Listen To The Flowers Growing” by Artie Wayne, among many others.

We’ll also have to avoid everything with the word “tender” in it, including the Bee Gees “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love),” Blue Öyster Cult’s “Tenderloin,” all of Jackson Browne’s album The Pretender, Trisha Yearwood’s “Bartender’s Blues,” and six versions of the classic song “Tenderly,” including Sam “The Man” Taylor’s sweet 1960 saxophone cover.

Lastly, we must pass over the marvelously titled 1945 R&B number “Voo-It! Voo-It!” by Marion (The Blues Woman) Abernathy. As well as having a great title, it’s a decent record that showed up in the list only because an appended comment noted that it was co-written – there’s the “ten” – by Buddy Banks and William “Frosty” Pyles. I am now determined to feature it in this space someday soon.

So what are we left with? Well, there are likely several tracks with the word “ten” hidden in the middle of their titles, but we’ll go the easy route from here and land on six tracks that start with the word. And we have about twenty to choose from, so we should come up with something interesting.

We have covers of a Gordon Lightfoot tune by Tony Rice and Nanci Griffith. We’ll go with Griffith’s version of “Ten Degrees and Getting Colder” from her 1993 album of covers, Other Voices, Other Rooms. The album is well worth finding; the highlights also include Griffith’s takes on John Prine’s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” and Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Griffith reprised the idea in 1998 with Other Voices, Too (A Trip Back to Bountiful), an album that starts with a Fairport Convention bang: covers of Richard Thompson’s “Wall of Death” and Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where The Time Goes.”

The Miller Sisters – Elsie Jo Miller and Mildred Miller Wages – were actually sisters-in-law from Tupelo, Mississippi. After performing with Elsie’s husband Roy Miller (being billed then as the Miller Trio), the women auditioned for Sun Records in Memphis. According to Wikipedia, “Producer Sam Phillips believed that the Millers’ vocal harmonies, complemented by the steel guitar solos of Stan Kesler and the percussive electric guitar of Quinton Claunch, would translate into significant record sales,” and the duo released a few country singles without much success. Those singles included “Ten Cats Down” from August of 1956, a rockabilly romp that features some nice harmonies. I found the track on the 2002 British compilation The Legendary Story of Sun Records.

We’ll stay with rockabilly for another record: “Ten Little Women” by Terry Noland. A Texas native, Noland – according to the website BlackCat Rockabilly – “attended the same school as Buddy Holly, and like Holly, most of his Brunswick records were produced by Norman Petty in Clovis, New Mexico.” Brunswick released “Ten Little Women” in 1957 and followed it with “Patty Baby.” The latter sold well in New York, says BlackCat Rockabilly, which led to Noland’s appearing “at the bottom of the bill on Alan Freed’s 1957 Holiday of Stars show at the Brooklyn Paramount.” The flip side of “Ten Little Women” was a tune called “Hypnotized,” which the Drifters covered and took to No. 79 in 1957. I found “Ten Little Women” in the massive That’ll Flat Git It collection of rockabilly released about twenty years ago.

One of the highlights of 2000 – around here, anyway – was the release of Riding With The King, the album that brought Eric Clapton and B.B. King into the studio together. The album’s highlights include takes on King classics like “Help the Poor” and “Three O’Clock Blues” and a shuffling duet on Bill Broonzy’s “Key to the Highway,” a take that’s shorter and less intense but just as pleasurable as the legendary version Clapton recorded in 1970 with Derek & The Dominos. Today, however, it’s “Ten Long Years” that draws our attention. The version King recorded for the RPM label in 1955 went to No. 9 on the R&B chart; the version from Riding is longer but, again, no less pleasurable.

Led Zeppelin was never high on my list of favorite bands; I imagine the band’s excesses – in all ways – put me off. These days, the group’s music is more accessible (and no doubt my tastes have broadened), and there’s no doubt the band’s legendary misbehaviors are far less shocking when viewed from the perspective of today’s libertine culture. So I’ve heard more Zeppelin in the past fifteen years than I likely did in the years way back, but there are still surprises: The aching “Ten Years Gone” from 1975’s Physical Graffiti is one of them. The track was tucked into the second disc of the two-LP album, but I came across it after finding two concise anthologies – Early Days and Latter Days – at a garage sale a couple of years ago. And it’s a pleasant interlude as we wander toward our last stop of the morning.

I don’t know a lot about the Canadian group Steel River. The group was from the Toronto area and got a deal in 1970 from Canada’s Tuesday Records, according to Wikipedia. “Ten Pound Note” was the group’s first single; the record ended up reaching the Canadian Top Ten and was No. 79 in Canada for the year of 1970. I found the single a few years ago when I came across a rip of the group’s only album, Weighin’ Heavy. It’s a decent single, and, given that songs with “eleven” in their titles are rare – I have only four of them among the 68,000 on the mp3 shelves – it’s not a bad place to end the March Of The Integers.

Saturday Single No. 331

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

It’s time for a random six-song jaunt through the mp3 shelves. (It’s a good thing the shelves are reinforced; the number of mp3s in the library went past the 67,000 mark sometime in the past two weeks.)

First up this morning is “Black, White & Blue” from guitarist Sonny Landreth’s 1996 album, Blues Attack. The track, featuring sweet solos on saxophone and blues harp (I wish I knew who from whom; the credits at All-Music Guide are sparse), rolls on for a pleasant 4:40. Landreth, a native of Mississippi, has been playing since the 1970s, working at one time or another with Clifton Chenier, John Hiatt, John Mayall, Allen Toussaint, Junior Wells, Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Winter, Martina McBride and many more. (His list of credits at AMG contains 595 entries.)  AMG tells me I need to find his earlier albums from the 1990s, Outward Bound and South of I-10. If those two are better than the two Landreth albums I have – Blues Attack and Levee Town from 2000 – then AMG is very much right.

From there, we land on “High Priest of Memphis” a 1971 track by a British group called Bell & Arc. The quartet released one self-titled album, one that’s not especially heavy by today’s standards but that likely seemed like it rocked out a bit when it came out. I wasn’t all that impressed by the album when I came across it a few years back. I mean, having a track from the album pop up every once in a while is fine, but I’m not particularly interested in listening again to the album as a whole. The plodding “High Priest of Memphis” does nothing this morning to alter that judgment.

And we stay in 1971, but with a major difference. After Stephen Stills hit No. 14 in 1971 with “Love the One You’re With,” the Isley Brothers covered the song on their Givin’ It Back album and released the track as a single on their own T-Neck label. It went to No. 18 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 3 on the R&B chart. Although it’s not as creatively reimagined as some of the Isleys’ other covers of the time – see their work on Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” in 1974 – the Isleys’ take on Stills’ song is sly and funky and a nice stop on this morning’s journey.

One of the most annoying singles during my prime Top 40 listening years – say, 1969 through 1975 – was Albert Hammond’s No. 5 hit in 1972, “It Never Rains In Southern California.” Why? Well, after telling us that he got on a west-bound 747, Hammond sings, “Didn’t think before decided what to do.” That second line may be the most awkward bit of writing I’ve ever come across that didn’t come from my own keyboard, and it’s quashed for more than forty years any appreciation of Hammond’s single, which otherwise was a pretty good record. That annoyance also kept me for years from listening to anything else by Hammond except for the joyous “Free Electric Band” from 1973, so when a friend of mine passed along Hammond’s 1975 album, 99 Miles from L.A., I was skeptical. I shouldn’t have been; it’s a little lightweight, but it’s a pretty decent singer/songwriter effort (especially on the title track, which I first knew from Art Garfunkel’s Breakaway album). This morning, the RealPlayer lands on the mellow “Rivers Are For Boats” from the 99 Miles album, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing nearly as awkward as that awful second line from “It Never Rains . . .” So that’s good, as we head toward our fifth stop.

I’ve written frequently that when I was beginning to build a CD library in 1999 and 2000, among my favorite sources of new (to me, anyway) music were the discount CD carts at the various Twin Cities locations of Half Price Books. I’ve never gone back and figured out how many CDs I grabbed from those carts for one or two bucks, but I think the total would be impressive. The one that pops up this morning is One Of These Days, a 1996 album by the James Solberg Band. The band was the long-time backing band for bluesman Luther Allison before releasing its first albums in the mid-1990s. One Of These Days was the second of those albums, and the track we land on this morning – “Can It Be” – is a decent blues workout for Solberg and his pals.

As I was writing about the track that would have been our sixth stop – and today’s feature – the power went out, and when it came back on, the paragraph I’d started was gone. As I was not pleased with the record anyway, I’m going to take the brief outage – it lasted no more than two seconds – as a sign and go one more selection forward.

And we do pretty well, staying with the blues. During my time (1993-2001) in the blues & R&B band I’ve mentioned occasionally, one of our favorite workouts was the Freddy King/Sonny Thompson tune “I’m Tore Down,” which likely came to our attention after Eric Clapton included it on From the Cradle, his 1994 all-blues album. Clapton’s version is a nice place to end our trek this morning, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

About Five Years Ago . . .

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

When did this blog start? There really is no easy answer.

After the Texas Gal gave me a USB turntable for Christmas 2006, I began to rip lots of vinyl into mp3s. Having wandered through hundreds of other folks’ music blogs (and having been encouraged by the Texas Gal out of my skepticism that others would be interested in anything I happened to post), I set myself up at Blogger.

For a while I just shared albums, using commentary from All-Music Guide to fill the white space, and then I slowly began to write about the music myself. Sometime around the end of January 2007 – it could have been early February – I put a counter on the site to see if anyone was coming by. A few folks were.

Then, on a Saturday morning, the Texas Gal and I came home after a night in the emergency room; she was fine but she’d had a difficult night. Exhausted but not wanting to leave the blog blank, I cobbled together a mention of the night before and then wrote a brief memoir about a single that takes me – every time I hear it – back to the autumn of 1973: “Rør Ved Mig” by the Danish duo of Lecia & Lucienne:

Purely by accident, I’d blundered into two of the constants of Echoes In The Wind: Memoir attached to music and a single on Saturday. The following week found me writing, among other things, about Leo Rau, the guy across the alley from my childhood home who ran a string of jukeboxes and gave me old records; about my grandfather purchasing a 45 of fairy tales for my sister that turned out to be fables told for the hip set of the early 1950s; and about rummaging for records with my pal Rick and hearing, for the first time, the Twin Cities band Gypsy.

And on the following Saturday, I wrote briefly about Cris Williamson, a member of the women’s music movement. Calling the post “Saturday Single No. 1” (and I really should have called it No. 2), I shared the lovely “Like An Island Rising” with whoever happened to come by:

What that means is that right about this week, this blog will mark five years of telling tales, playing games with numbers, making lists with sometimes flimsy evidence or insufficient thought, and sharing enough singles on Saturdays that next weekend’s post will be Saturday Single No. 275.

More than I ever could have anticipated, writing this blog has enriched my life. Not because I’ve gotten to tell my tales and write about music, though I admit to loving both of those things. Rather, my life is richer because of the people I’ve met along the way, folks who stopped by to see what I was up to and continued to do so, often leaving notes when they thought I got something right or wrong (both types of notes are welcome, of course). Many of those folks are represented by the blogs linked on the right-hand side of this page. Deserving special mention are jb of The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and his Mrs. and frequent commenter Yah Shure, who – as last week’s post made clear – have become dear friends to me and to the Texas Gal in the real world. I hope in the future to convert more cyberfriends to real-world friends.

I’ve also had the joy of getting to know through email and letters a few of the musicians whose stories I’ve told here. Chief among those would be Bobby Jameson and Patti Dahlstrom.

And I’ve had to start over twice, having been dropped by both Blogger and WordPress. (Posts published during those times are being reposted – without links to music – at Echoes In The Wind Archives; that project has reached February 2009 and has about a year’s worth of writing left to post.)

It’s been quite a trip, and the journey’s not over yet. I plan to keep on writing about the music that moves and mystifies me for a while yet. I do want to make sure that I don’t become like some garrulous uncle who tells the same stories over and over, but I think there are tales yet to be told, and I’ll do my best to tell them.

I rummaged around this morning, but I couldn’t find a tune titled “Five Good Years,” so I settled for close: From his 1994 album From the Cradle, here’s Eric Clapton’s version of the blues standard, “Five Long Years.”

‘You Never Give Me Your Money’

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

In April, after I wrote about being a Beatles fan during the confusing year of 1970, regular reader and commenter porky recommended a book: He told me that You Never Give Me Your Money, Peter Doggett’s examination of the Beatles during and after their break-up, would be released here in the U.S. in June. (He got his own copy, he said in his note here, during a December vacation in England, lucky man.)

My copy arrived last week, and I’ve found it hard to set aside. The tales of bitterness and anger among the four men who’d created some of the world’s best pop-rock are – even forty years after the fact – saddening and frustrating. Beyond the personal hurts of what was, in effect, a four-person divorce, Doggett also chronicles the details of the tangled hodge-podge of Beatles’ business interest, which made sorting those things out daunting as well.

The book seems impeccably researched, calling on a wide range of interviews and reviews of documents and publications; what impresses me most is that not only am I being reminded of what happened (I’m up to about late 1972), but Doggett fills the gaps other chroniclers seem to have left over the years in letting us know not only what happened (and in some cases of urban legend, what didn’t happen), but how the four ex-Beatles and those around them felt about the things that took place.

As I said, it can make for sad reading. As I go through the tales of bitterness and anger and the thousands of rumors of Beatle reunions, I also reflect on something I read long ago in the first volume I ever owned of the Rolling Stone Record Guide. John Swenson, one of the editors of the guide, wrote:

“In retrospect, the group’s much-lamented decision to call it quits as the Seventies began was entirely appropriate; the collected work does not leave you with the impression that there were unfinished statements. There is a perfectly resolute and logical progression of ideas from Meet the Beatles to Abbey Road. They did it all, they did it right, and then they went their separate ways.”

Swenson wrote that in 1976 or so, when a reunion of the four – however unlikely – was possible, implying, as I read it, that a reunion was unnecessary and would probably be ill-advised. All these years later, with a reunion having been impossible for almost thirty years, Swenson’s main point remains valid: The music stands on its own as a complete story.

As sad and as frustrating as You Never Give Me Your Money can be, it’s also compelling, and I’ll make quick work of it. Leavening the sadness and frustration as I read is the knowledge that the music is still there. For many years, the Beatles were my favorite group, and their body of work keeps them very close to the top of my list still today. And two of their recordings made it through my winnowing and are included in my Ultimate Jukebox.

The first is a track from Revolver that I wrote about last December, detailing the high school courtship that found me leaving the song’s lyrics in the locker of my romantic interest. I’ve seen comments from Paul McCartney and John Lennon that “Got To Get You Into My Life” – McCartney’s creation entirely – was influenced, especially in its use of horns, by the Motown sound. That makes sense. I’ve also seen vague references to an interview with McCartney – one I’ve never read, I don’t think – in which he said the song was written about his need for marijuana. That’s possible, I suppose, but I got the impression somewhere – I must have read it, but it would have been long ago soon after I discovered the Beatles – that McCartney wrote the song soon after meeting Jane Asher, who for a few years was his girlfriend.

Whatever the source, “Got To Get You Into My Life” from the 1966 album Revolver is still a great record:

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 22
“Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin, Atco 6147 [1959]
“Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles from Revolver [1966]
“The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel, Columbia 44785 [1969]
“Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton from Eric Clapton [1970]
“Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” by the Dramatics, Volt 4058 [1971]
“Arms of Mary” by Chilliwack from Light From the Valley [1978]

Bobby Darin never seemed to know what kind of singer he wanted to be. Or it might be more fair to say that the record companies for whom he recorded had no clue what to do with him. From the silliness of “Splish Splash” in 1958 (silly or not, it went to No. 3 and was No. 1 for two weeks on the R&B chart) through his folk-rock period in the mid-1960s (with Top 40 singles in1966 and 1967), Darin wandered through changes of style after style. Among the things that didn’t change, however, were his great voice and his superb sense of timing. I’m not sure if it’s his best performance, but my favorite performance of Darin’s is “Mack the Knife,” a tune pulled from the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill production, The Threepenny Opera. Adding some Las Vegas/Rat Pack swing to the tune – which is crushingly staid in the versions of the opera I’ve seen – Darin swaggers his way through “Mack the Knife,” famously name-checking opera character Lucy Brown and Lotte Lenya, Weill’s wife and star of several stagings of the opera. Darin’s version of “Mack the Knife” was No. 1 for nine weeks in late 1959.

I suppose there’s little argument about which record was the best thing that Simon & Garfunkel ever did. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” is an extraordinary song and record. But as much as I’ve loved it over the years, I found myself uneasy sliding it in among the other records in this mythical jukebox. As well as looking for good records, I guess I was also looking for flow, for a collection of songs that would make interesting combinations and patterns as the tunes played. And I decided as I considered the work of Simon & Garfunkel that “Bridge” just brings a little too much weight along with it, stopping the show. So I opted for “The Boxer,” which comes from the same album and was actually the first single released from Bridge Over Troubled Water. (It went to No. 7 in the spring of 1969.) And “The Boxer” was a better choice for my purposes. For the past few months, my pocket mp3 player has been loaded only with the tunes from the Ultimate Jukebox, and after hearing it pop up in several contexts, I’ve concluded that “The Boxer” is a better fit for what I was seeking than its towering neighbor. Beyond that, I like the story, seemingly told as it is from the shadows, and I love the long “lie-la-lie” ending.

Speaking of extended endings, Eric Clapton’s lengthy and compelling solo at the end of “Let It Rain” was one of my earliest exposures to Clapton as guitarist. I might have heard some of his work with the Yardbirds, and I know I heard some of Cream’s stuff, but those hearings would have come in the days before I paid much attention to who was actually doing the playing. When I finally got to that point – sometime between late 1971 and the summer of 1972 – Clapton was one of the first musicians I began to explore, along with his friends who helped record “Let It Rain” and the rest of his first solo album: Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett (she co-wrote “Let It Rain” with Clapton) and the group of friends that included Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Leon Russell and all the rest. “Let It Rain” wasn’t released as a single in 1970 when Eric Clapton came out, but when Polydor released the anthology Clapton At His Best in 1972, the label also released “Let It Rain” as a single (it may have been an edit of the album track; I don’t know). The record somehow missed the Top 40, peaking at No. 48.

It took nine years and a few personnel changes for the Dramatics to get from their formation in Detroit in 1962 to the recording of their first album, Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get in 1971. All the work seemed worth it, I imagine, when the record was a hit. The album went to No. 20 on the Billboard 200 and to No. 5 on the R&B album chart. At the same time, the album threw off three hit singles: “In The Rain” went to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 1 on the R&B chart; “Get Up and Get Down” went to No. 78 on the Hot 100 and to No. 16 on the R&B chart; and “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” went to No. 9 on the Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the R&B chart. Of the three, the sweet and pretty “In The Rain” did a little better, but “Whatcha See” has a groove that can’t be refused. So I won’t try.

I have ten versions of the song “Arms of Mary” right now, and I’ll collect more as I find them. It’s one of those songs that grabs hold of me – it’s a song of memoir and memory, after all – and I knew one version of it would end up in this list. The original, by the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver, off of 1975’s Reach For The Sky, is nice enough, and managed to get to No. 85 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the spare folky accompaniment is somehow wanting. As a result, I prefer the slightly tougher version from the Canadian group Chilliwack. The track comes from the album Lights From The Valley, and the Mushroom label released the song as a single, as well. I imagine it might have done well in Canada, but all I know is that it didn’t make the Hot 100. Well, the other thing I’m sure of is that it should have been a hit.

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