Posts Tagged ‘Prelude’

‘A New Adventure’

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

He was almost certainly homeless, dressed in a tattered and stained yellow long-sleeved shirt and what I think were bicycle pants, with the left leg shorter than the right. He carried a scuffed and dirty red athletic bag and a plastic bag from a grocery store, the latter holding at least two bottles of water.

He was heading over to visit a friend, he said, at the River Crest Apartments, a residence for chronic inebriates just down Lincoln Avenue from our place, and he stopped by our garage sale on the way. He looked to be in his forties, and he spoke with the same vagueness, the same lack of focus, that we’ve heard from the folks who live at River Crest since the place opened about six years ago.

He talked about a wife and oddities in their lives, but it was hard to tell as he spoke whether those were things that had happened in the last few years or long ago. Later on, the Texas Gal and I guessed it was the latter.

As he wandered around our small offering of things for sale, he noticed a magnifying glass on a stand with a flexible neck, like a gooseneck lamp. It was priced at five bucks, and he picked it up, and then his gaze fell on an orange backpack. “Oh,” he said, “that looks like a good one.”

It was a good backpack, bought in November 1973 in a sporting goods store in Fredericia, Denmark. When I’d headed to Denmark that September, I’d brought with me a light rucksack, thinking that it would suffice when I headed out hitchhiking or riding trains across Western Europe. One four-day trip to the West German harbor city of Kiel told me it wasn’t big enough or rugged enough, and I told my parents so in a letter.

They responded by sending me $35 – the equivalent of about $190 today – to get a backpack in time for my planned early December travels to Brussels and Amsterdam, and sometime in late November, I went to the store recommended by my Danish host family and bought myself an orange nylon backpack with a silver aluminum frame. That’s what our ragged customer saw offered for sale last week.

It was only a little difficult to put the backpack into the garage sale. I hadn’t used it since 1975, when I took a bus trip from St. Cloud to Kingston, Ontario, to visit a young lady I’d met during my European travels. We didn’t match well on this side of the Atlantic, and I never heard from her again. Nor had I used the backpack. Protected by an old pillowcase, it had sat on a shelf in my parents’ basement until Mom sold the house on Kilian Boulevard in 2004. Since then, it had sat in a closet in our apartment and then on a shelf in our basement. About a week before the sale, the Texas Gal asked what I wanted to do with it. I acknowledged with a sigh that my backpacking days were long gone, and we priced it at five bucks.

As we sat at our small table watching our visitor examine the backpack, the Texas Gal asked me, “Do you want to just give it to him?”

I shook my head. I was willing to sell the backpack, but to just give it away? “No,” I said.

After all, it had been my companion for much of what I’ve called the greatest formative experience of my life. On my December travels, I had carried it and it had carried me as I hitchhiked to Hamburg and Hanover in West Germany and then rode buses and trains to Brussels and Amsterdam and back to Fredericia. In March and April, I traveled more than 11,000 miles on a rail pass, and the backpack rode my shoulders from train stations to hostels and cheap hotels all over Western Europe, as far south as Rome and as far north as Narvik, keeping safe all the things I needed as I traveled.

Our ragged visitor moved on to look at other stuff we had for sale, but I was looking back. By the time one of my trips – the longest one, in March and early April 1974 – had ended, the backpack carried not only my clothing and sundries but four pieces of contraband: a liter mug pilfered from the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, a smaller beer glass lifted from a restaurant in Nuremburg, and two delicate painted tea glasses liberated from an Arabic restaurant in Paris. The mug and the beer glass were late additions to the backpack’s contents, but I still marvel that the two tea glasses – they now sit atop a bookshelf in our dining room – survived more than a month of travel, protected by nothing more than a sweater or other soft garments.

As I looked back, our visitor returned to the backpack. “That sure is a nice one,” he said.

I think I sighed. And I said to the Texas Gal, “Go ahead. Give it to him.”

She did. I had to show him how to work the flap and its ties, and then we loaded his bags into it and helped him slip it on his shoulders. He picked up his new magnifying glass and headed for River Crest. I watched him as he went, the vivid orange of his new backpack easily visible until he went into the building about a half a block away.

“He needed it,” the Texas Gal said.

“I know,” I managed to say. “And it’s gone on a new adventure.”

Here’s the best track I could find among the nineteen tracks in the RealPlayer that had the word “adventure” in their titles. It’s “Adventures On The Way” by the English group Prelude, and it’s from the group’s 1974 album, After The Gold Rush.

Uncovering More Browne Covers

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

This morning, as I scanned the lower depths of the Billboard Hot 100 from November 29, 1975, I saw the name of a group that tickled some vague place in my memory: Prelude.

I let the circuits connect – it took a few seconds – and came up with a reference: I’d mentioned the folk-rock trio from England a couple of years ago and shared its cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” in the context of looking at a chart from November of 1974. Prelude’s cover of the Young song had gone to No. 22.

The chart I was looking at – the one from about a year later – showed Prelude with another cover, this time of Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer.” As November 1975 came to a close, the Prelude’s single was sitting at No. 100 in its first week on the chart. It spent another seven weeks on the chart and peaked at No. 63, far lower than had the 1974 single. And it was the last appearance on the American pop chart for the English trio. I remembered liking the trio’s cover of “After The Gold Rush,” and the group’s take on “For A Dancer” has its charms as well.

From there, I had a few possible routes. Had Prelude had a third single listed in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, I might have dug for some more of the group’s music. I imagine that some of the group’s five albums are floating around out there, and there are two CD collections available, including one that offers everything the group recorded for the Pye and Dawn labels between 1973 and 1977.

And I pondered digging into more of that chart from the autumn of 1975. Despite my mining of that season numerous times, there are likely a few nuggets still to be found. But having found that Prelude cover of a Jackson Browne song, I decided to look for more Browne covers (something I did in two consecutive posts last spring).

My first stop was Joan Baez. On her 1975 album Diamonds & Rust, she offers a sweet cover of “Fountain of Sorrow,” a track I’d not been able to find at YouTube the last time I went digging for Jackson Browne covers. This time, it was available. Now, I enjoy Diamonds & Rust so much that it’s hard to pick out highlights beyond the title track, but, powered by Larry Knechtel’s piano and Jim Gordon’s drumming, “Fountain of Sorrow” is pretty close to the top of the list.

Perhaps the most-remembered accolades bestowed early on Baez had something to do with the purity of her voice, which was remarkable. These days, the same is often said about Alison Krause. The clarity of her voice is, in fact, one of the things that have moved her beyond the bluegrass niche in which she was first placed. Yes, she fiddles well, but, to me, it’s her singing – along with the quality of her backing band, Union Station, and the crafty selection of good material – that has brought her to a wider audience. On 2011’s Paper Airplane, she covered Browne’s “My Opening Farewell” with her customary brilliance.

We’ll close today’s post with a cover that on first thought surprised me and on second thought didn’t. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never quite embraced Browne’s two late-1980s albums Lives in the Balance and World in Motion, probably because they were so vastly different in focus from his earlier albums, from 1972’s self-titled debut through 1980’s Hold Out. (I tend to disregard Lawyers in Love from 1983 because it seems to have no focus.)

But when I heard Richie Havens’ take on “Lives in the Balance” (a performance I shared in one of those earlier posts of covers), I began to think that perhaps my main difficulty with those late 1980s albums isn’t the material but Browne’s performance of that material. I’ve come to no conclusion yet, but I think I’m going to have consider that possibility a bit more closely after coming upon a very accessible cover of “World in Motion” by the late Roebuck “Pop” Staples. With some help from Bonnie Raitt (and what sounds like Jackson Browne himself), the track showed up on Staples’ 1992 album Peace to the Neighborhood.

Chart Digging: November 23, 1974

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I don’t remember much about November 1974. But as I recovered from a traffic accident, I did listen to a lot of music.

Reading was difficult as I dealt with the impact of a concussion. (The memory of the fog in which I found myself that autumn makes the current discussion of concussions in athletics frighteningly relevant; as much as I love watching the game, if I had a grandson, I would exert all of my persuasive powers to keep him from playing even one game of football at any age level.) So, as I had many times before, I leaned on music to get me through, spending large portions of my days in the basement rec room, where the albums on my turntable included records by the Allman Brothers Band, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison, the various combinations of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Band, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and a smattering of other artists and groups. During other parts of the day and in the evenings, I carefully made my way upstairs and listened to the radio in my room, sometimes tuning in the campus radio station, sometimes an album rock station I remember hearing without recalling its call letters, and quite often, the Top 40 offered by KDWB in the Twin Cities or in the evenings by WJON just across the tracks.

So what did I hear? The Top Ten on November 23, 1974 – thirty-six years ago today – was:

“I Can Help” by Billy Swan
“Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” by B.T. Express
“My Melody of Love” by Bobby Vinton
“Tin Man” by America
“Longfellow Serenade” by Neil Diamond
“Everlasting Love” by Carl Carlton
“Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas
“When Will I See You Again” by the Three Degrees
“Back Home Again” by John Denver
“Cat’s In The Cradle” by Harry Chapin

If ever there was a Top Ten that deserved to be called a mixed bag, this one is it. I can do without the John Denver and “Kung Fu Fighting,” and for some reason, my tolerance over the years has been low for “Cat’s In The Cradle.” I still enjoy the novelty of a Top Ten record sung partly in Polish – “My Melody of Love” – although the frequency of its airplay at the time became wearisome. Otherwise, we’ve got a good mix of some rockabilly, some folk-rock, some post-era Brill Building pop, some funk and some R&B. And I’ve proclaimed in this space not all that long ago my deep affection for the Three Degrees’ record.

Heading a little further into the Top 40, there’s a gem sitting at No. 24, a record I do not at all recall hearing that autumn. Prelude was a folk-rock trio from England made up of the husband-and-wife team of Irene and Brian Hume along with Ian Vardy. During the week in question, their cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” was at No. 24; it would peak the next week at No. 22. The group would reach the Billboard Hot 100 two in 1976 with a cover of Jackson Browne’s “For A Dancer,” which would go to No. 63. Of the two, I prefer the 1974 record, which carries in its grooves an anticipation of the version of “After the Gold Rush” recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris on their 1998 album Trio II.

 

At No. 54, we find the last Top 40 hit for the Righteous Brothers that wasn’t titled “Unchained Melody.” “Dream On” was on its way up the charts during this week in 1974. The single – on which Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield did a decent enough job – was pulled from their album Give It To The People and peaked at No. 32. After that, the only RB hit singles were a rerelease of their 1965 version of “Unchained Melody,” which went to No. 13 in the autumn of 1990, and a new recording of the same song, which went to No. 19 during that same season.

In 1975, Sammy Johns had his only Top 40 hit with the delightful and very much of its time “Chevy Van,” which went to No. 5. The previous year, he’d come relatively close with “Early Morning Love.” It’s not quite as good a single as “Chevy Van,” but it’s pretty good. Thirty-six years ago today, “Early Morning Love” was at its peak of No. 68. (In 1975, “Early Morning Love” would get to No. 75 on the country chart, and Johns’ “Rag Doll” would reach No. 52 in the Hot 100.)

By the autumn of 1974, the Main Ingredient had scored three Top 40 hits: “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” (No. 10, 1974) and “Happiness Is Just Around The Bend” (No. 35, 1974) had followed the brilliant “Everybody Plays The Fool,” which went to No. 3 in 1972. The group had also reached the Hot 100 and the R&B chart several times, and would continue to do so into 1976. In the autumn of 1974, the group reached No. 75 (and No. 48 on the R&B chart) with “California My Way,” a decent enough bit of light R&B. In the chart released thirty-six years ago today, the single was just short of its peak, sitting at No. 76.

As 1974 began to head toward 1975, disco was beginning to pop up more and more in the charts. I don’t know exactly when to date the beginning of the disco era, but if we weren’t quite there yet in November 1974, we were very close. And one of the most fun – and frankly, a little bit screwball – records of the beginning of that era was “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)” by Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes. Sitting at No. 90 on November 23, in its first week in the Hot 100, “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)” would enter the Top 40 during the last week of the year and peak in early 1975 at No. 10. (Later in 1975, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes would reach No. 23 with “I Wanna Dance Wit’ Choo [Doo Dat Dance], Part 1.”)

All-Music Guide says of Dick Feller, “Best-known for a brief run of country novelty hits in the mid-’70s, Dick Feller was also a songwriter responsible for several hits by other artists, most notably his oftentime writing partner, Jerry Reed.” And in fact, it was Jerry Reed I thought of this morning when I heard Feller’s 1974 recording, “The Credit Card Song” for the first time. An almost spoken-word tale of Feller’s introduction to computerized record-keeping and what we now call customer service, the record was at No. 105 in the Bubbling Under section of the chart thirty-six years ago today. It dropped one spot in the next week, and then, as far as I can see, fell off the chart for a week before coming back and bubbling under for another four weeks, never going higher than No. 105. On the country chart, however, “The Credit Card Song” went to No. 10.