Posts Tagged ‘Great Speckled Bird’

Four At Random

Friday, May 15th, 2020

We’re wandering through iTunes today, landing on four of the 3,900-some tracks I keep there and on my iPod.

First up is “I Want Candy” by the Strangeloves. The Strangeloves were a goof perpetuated in 1965 by Brill Building writers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gotterher. As Dave Marsh notes in The Heart of Rock ’n’ Soul, they decided in the wake of the British Invasion that “if the public wasn’t interested in domestic acts, they’d reinvent themselves as foreigners.” So they became the Australian brothers Miles, Giles, and Niles Strangelove, claiming to “have taken their rhythmic ideas from aborigines and to have added Masai drums after hearing them while on an African safari. The goof worked, with the Masai drums – actually tympani – helping “I Want Candy” to get to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

We jump ahead to 2019 and “Moonlight Motel,” the most effective track on Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars:

There’s a place on a blank stretch of road where
Nobody travels and nobody goes
And the Deskman says these days ’round here
Two young folks could probably up and disappear into
Rustlin’ sheets, a sleepy corner room
Into the musty smell
Of wilted flowers and
Lazy afternoon hours
At the Moonlight Motel . . .

Last night I dreamed of you, my lover
And the wind blew through the window and blew off the covers
Of my lonely bed,
I woke to something you said
That it’s better to have loved, yeah it’s better to have loved
As I drove, there was a chill in the breeze
And leaves tumbled from the sky and fell
Onto a road so black as I backtracked
To the Moonlight Motel

She was boarded up and gone like an old summer song
Nothing but an empty shell
I pulled in and stopped into my old spot

I pulled a bottle of Jack out of a paper bag
Poured one for me and one for you as well
Then it was one more shot poured out onto the parking lot
To the Moonlight Motel

As regulars here know, I love Springsteen’s work, but I have to admit that most of Western Stars left me unaffected, its subdued mood not really grabbing me. It held together thematically, but most of the tracks were just okay. I did, however, think that “Moonlight Motel” worked, and worked well.

Great Speckled Bird was a Canadian county band put together in 1969 by folk performers Ian and Sylvia Tyson. Named after the 1938 recording by Roy Acuff, the group released a self-titled album in 1970, You Were On My Mind in 1972 (billed as Ian & Sylvia & The Great Speckled Bird), and was credited on Ian Tyson’s 1973 album, Ol’ Eon. Wikipedia notes that the band continued to back the duo until their break-up in 1975. What we get this morning is a track from the 1970 album, “Long Long Time To Get Old.” The song is a series of vignettes, most of which end with the advice, “Remember this, children: If the good lord’s willing, live a long, long time to get old.” I guess it sounded profound in 1970.

Our final stop brings us one of those sappy things that I carry close to me and always will: “Somewhere My Love (Lara’s Theme from ‘Dr. Zhivago’)” by Ray Conniff & The Singers. The 1966 single went to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks on top of the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. I heard it, no doubt, on WCCO from the Twin Cities and on KFAM from St. Cloud’s south side, and it became one of my favorite records from the mid-1960s. The song itself is also one of my favorites: there are twenty versions of the tune on the digital shelves by performers like Roger Williams, Ramsey Lewis, Ferrante & Teicher, along with – of course – the Conniff version and several versions by Maurice Jarre, who wrote the soundtrack for the film.