Posts Tagged ‘Jake Holmes’

‘We Almost Didn’t Make It . . .’

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

An email came in yesterday that piqued my interest and reminded me of a post from more than four years ago. A reader taking the name “mm” asked if I’d ever figured out who covered Jake Holmes’ song “So Close,” adding, “It’s been driving me crazy.”

The question was a follow-up to a chart-digging post that ran here in October 2010, looking back at a Billboard Hot 100 from October 1970. Among the records I noted in that chart was Holmes’ “So Close,” which was sitting at No. 70 on its way to No. 49. I wrote:

“Since I found the record at YouTube a couple of weeks ago, I’ve listened to it several times, and although I recall Holmes’ version, I swear I remember another performer singing it . . . . Is anyone out there aware of who might have covered Jake Holmes’ ‘So Close’?”

And I don’t think I ever heard from anybody about it until yesterday, when mm reminded me of Holmes’ record and my vague memories of a cover version. So I turned to one of my favorite toys, one that I did not know about (if it was in existence) during the autumn of 2010: the website Second Hand Songs, which – as I’ve noted here before – might not have full listings of all cover versions but at least provides a place to start.

First, though, here’s Holmes’ version of the song, which was pulled from his 1970 album So Close, So Very Far To Go. (As is the case with many albums from the early 1970s, I recall seeing and ignoring many copies of So Close, So Very Far To Go in the cutout bins at St. Cloud’s Woolworth’s and Musicland stores. And I have long wished I’d bought the album.)

I still like Holmes’ performance, but I think the backing gets a little busy (and Holmes’ voice gets a little thin as he goes into the higher notes on the chorus.) But even as I listened yesterday for the first time in a while, I was still hearing echoes of a cover version.

So who might have done that cover version? Well, Second Hand Songs has three covers listed, one of which I’ve managed to find. That version is by Harry Belafonte, with some help from Eloise Laws, on his 1973 album, Play Me. It’s a little bland, but it’s not awful. It is not, however, the version that sits on the edge of my memory.

Two other versions of “So Close” are mentioned at SHS: Mary Travers of Peter, Paul & Mary recorded the song for her 1974 album, Circles, and Aruban-born soul singer Julio Bernardo Euson – who recorded as Euson and whose career was centered mostly in the Netherlands – included the song on his 1975 album Sweet Surrender. If I’ve ever heard either of the two, I think it’s more likely that I heard Travers’ version, but I don’t know.

Still wondering, I waded through pages of links last evening, looking for other versions of the tune. There were quite a few other songs with the same title and lots of dead links. But after a bit, there was a reference to one Helen Schneider, a Brooklyn-born singer and actress whose career has been mostly based in Germany. Her one major U.S.-based acting credit, it seems, was playing Joann Carlino, Eddie Wilson’s girlfriend in the 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers.

But it’s her music career that interested me. She’s had only a few albums released in the U.S., but one of them was her 1977 debut, which was titled So Close. The title song was, in fact, the Jake Holmes tune:

Is it the cover that I remember? It could be, although I can’t figure out how I ever would have heard it. But I do like it, and I would have liked it if I had heard it in 1977.

Back To 1970 Once Again

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

A lot of records from 1970 have been explored in this space in the past few months, but it’s been a while – going back to July, actually – since we looked at a chart from that year, which I noted some time ago was my first great music year and the first full year I spent digging into Top 40.

So what was I doing forty years ago as October entered its final fortnight? Well, I finally got my driver’s license, passing the behind-the-wheel test on my fifth try. Nerves had been my nemesis, but knowing that another failure meant retaking driver’s training focused my attention, even if it didn’t really settle my nerves, and I squeaked through.

My afternoons and Friday evenings were spent as head manager for the St. Cloud Tech high school football team, which was struggling through the first season of two high schools in St. Cloud. We had kids on the team who’d never gone out for football before in their lives, and although some of them did quite well, our inexperience showed on the field and in our won-lost record.

Other than that, I filled my time with a number of hobbies: I was deep into making model rockets, shooting them off in the empty field just down the alley from Rick’s house. I was expanding my collection of LPs, still catching up on the Beatles; but I was also savvy enough to be one of the first people among my small group of friends to get a copy of Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. And along with rockets and records, I spent a good deal of my free time pondering a group of sophomore girls, one of whom became, as I told some months ago, the recipient of song lyrics – original and otherwise – printed in purple ink.

Much of that pondering came as I listened to my old RCA radio in my room. Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the week ending October 24, 1970, forty years ago this week:

“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“All Right Now” by Free
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Candida” by Dawn
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Lola” by the Kinks
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross

The first seven of those are stellar. The final three, not so much. I liked “Indiana Wants Me” a lot at the time, and I still like it as an artifact of its time, but it’s aged much less well than the others on that list, with its sirens and police bullhorns. But it was fun at the time. I’ve never much cared for “Lola” or for “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” though.

But there were plenty of records further down the chart that I liked a lot. And looking at the chart this morning, there were plenty of them that I didn’t know all that well.

Mark Lindsay, previously with Paul Revere & The Raiders, had scored two hits earlier in the year: “Arizona” went to No. 10 in the early months of 1970, and “Silver Bird” had reached No. 25 during the summer. During this fourth week of October, his current single, “And The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind,” was sitting at No. 53. The record, which is a sweet ballad, got as high as No. 44, where it spent two weeks in mid-November, but it got no higher.

 

Sitting at No. 70 during this week in 1970 is a record I know I heard at least once, though I swear I also heard a cover version of the song as well. Jake Holmes released a few well-regarded albums in the 1960s: The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes, A Letter to Katherine December and a self-titled effort. The best known of those is probably the first, as it includes the song “Dazed and Confused,” which was later seemingly appropriated without credit by Led Zeppelin. But the song I remember was from Holmes’ lesser known fourth album, So Close, So Very Far To Go. Forty years ago, “So Close” was at No. 70, and it peaked at No. 49 during the last week of November. Since I found the record at YouTube a couple of weeks ago, I’ve listened to it several times, and although I recall Holmes’ version, I swear I remember another performer singing it, and no, it wasn’t Robert Plant. Is anyone out there aware of who might have covered Jake Holmes’ “So Close”?

It was likely during the autumn of 1970 that I made one of my worst LP purchases of all time, spending five or six bucks for Iron Butterfly Live. The review of the album at All-Music Guide nails it, noting that the album “is noteworthy for its second side, which contains a 20-minute version of ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.’ Even though it’s only three minutes longer than the original version, it’s three times as tedious.” I would have done far better to get a copy of the group’s new album, Metamorphosis, which included a pretty good single. “Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way)” was at No. 82 during this week in 1970; it peaked at No. 66 during the third week of November.

Just a little further down, we find the first record to reach the Billboard charts from one of the first country rock bands. Poco, the foundations of which had emerged from the wreckage of Buffalo Springfield, would have four Top 40 hits from 1979 through 1990, but the group’s best music, most fans would say, came in the first half of the 1970s. “You Better Think Twice,” which was at No. 88 during the week of October 24, 1970, peaked at No. 72 during the third week of November. It should have done far better.

Dipping into the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard Hot 100, we find a great slice of southern soul sitting at No. 105: “Ace of Spades” by O.V. Wright. While he never had a record reach the Top 40, Wright – according to the listings at All-Music Guide, which are sometimes incomplete – had three records reach the Hot 100 and twelve records in the R&B chart between 1965 and 1978. His highest-charting single was “Eight Men, Four Women” – a song about the jury that convicted the narrator of a crime – which went to No. 4 on the R&B chart in 1967. “Ace of Spades” didn’t do quite that well, but it did all right: No. 11 on the R&B chart and No. 54 in the Hot 100.

And closing our search this morning is a one-hit wonder by a group from Los Angeles: “Games” by Redeye. The record was sitting at No. 116 during the fourth week of October 1970; by the fourth week of January 1971, “Games” was at its peak of No. 27. The record was Redeye’s only Top 40 single, though the group did see “Red Eye Blues” get to No. 78 in the Hot 100 later in 1971.

Now that we’re facing our first week since February without an installment of the Ultimate Jukebox, Odd, Pop and I are dealing with the task of finding something else to fill our time and our posting space here. Stop by Thursday and see what we come up with. (We have no clue at the moment what that will be.)

Baseball Report
For those who are interested, this year’s Strat-O-Matic tournament, about which I wrote briefly on Saturday, went to Dan, whose 1998 Atlanta Braves defeated Rick’s 1961 New York Yankees two games to none in the finals. My 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates and 2006 Minnesota Twins both went down in the semifinals.