Posts Tagged ‘Roger McGuinn’

Saturday Single No. 380

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Well, we’re gonna jump into the Billboard album charts this morning, digging into Joel Whitburn’s Top Ten Album Charts, 1963-1998. We’ll start with the chart for February 22, 1969, forty-five years ago today, and then we’ll come forward a year at a time, checking out the No. 10 albums for a potential Saturday Single. We’ll also note the No. 1 and No. 2 albums of the week. We’ll go four years, bringing us into 1972. We usually do six at a time, but four is enough for today.

Parked in the No. 10 spot forty-five years ago today was one of those combination albums into which Motown habitually dropped Diana Ross & The Supremes. If I’m reading the Supremes’ listing correctly in Whitburn’s Top Pop Albums, between late 1968 and early 1972, the Supremes charted with four albums with the Temptations and three more with the Four Tops. The first of them was the album we’re interested in today, Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations. It peaked at No. 2, and among its joys is the No. 2 single (No. 2 R&B as well) “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.”

Sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 in that Billboard chart from February 22, 1969, were, respectively, The Beatles (forever known, of course, as the White Album) and Glenn Campbell’s Wichita Lineman.

On the last day of February 1970, the No. 10 spot in the Billboard 200 belonged to the soundtrack from the film Easy Rider. From Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” and “Born To Be Wild” through the Fraternity of Man’s “Don’t Bogart Me” and Roger McGuinn’s “The Ballad of Easy Rider,” the soundtrack, which peaked at No. 6, not only illustrates Dennis Hopper’s film but today provides an aural reminder of an entire era of (take your pick) love, hate, exploration, social awareness, revolution, drug-induced hazes, protest, paranoia, contempt, fear, freedom, loss and/or great music.

The No. 1 and No. 2 albums on that last day of February 1970 were Led Zeppelin II and the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

A year later, as February 1971 came near its ending, the No. 10 album in the Billboard 200 was The Partridge Family Album, a collection of recordings featuring Shirley Jones and David Cassidy, two members of the cast of the hit TV show The Partridge Family, backed – says All Music Guide – by Hal Blaine on drums, Larry Carlton on guitar, Joe Osborne on bass and Larry Knechtel on keyboards. At the time, I didn’t know what to think: I liked the No. 1 single “I Think I Love You,” but a band from a TV show? Forty-three years later, I have no qualms: The album, which peaked at No. 4, holds some sublime pop music.

The top two albums on February 27, 1971, were, respectively, Pearl by Janis Joplin and Chicago III.

As we get to the end of February 1972, we run smack into progressive/classical rock: Sitting at its peak position of No. 10 in the Billboard 200 was Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Pictures At An Exhibition. It’s an album I found overbearing when I heard it in friends’ apartments and dorm rooms back then, though I halfway liked ELP’s take on Modest Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gates of Kiev,” which I’d played with my high school orchestra. Notably, it’s the only album mentioned in this post that’s not on my LP, CD or digital shelves. I don’t think that’s going to change; I have the trio’s self-titled debut album (with “Lucky Man”) in a couple of formats, and I have “From The Beginning,” and that’s enough ELP for me.

Sitting at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the Billboard 200 from February 26, 1972, were Don McLean’s American Pie and Carole King’s Music.

That’s four albums from which to select a track for today. I expressed my surprise the other week when I realized I’d never mentioned the song “Witchi Tai To” in seven years of blogging. I’m even more startled this morning to learn while writing this post that in those same seven years of blogging I have never before mentioned the film Easy Rider.

As startling as that is, it makes this morning’s choice easier. Here’s Roger McGuinn’s “Ballad of Easy Rider,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Cast Your Dancing Spell My Way . . .’

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

So how many covers are out there of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”? Who knows?

There are sixty versions – including Dylan’s – listed at Second Hand Songs. There are more than 500 mp3s – with much duplication – offered at Amazon. Beyond that, I’ve found covers at YouTube not listed in either place.

(I checked at both BMI and ASCAP, as I’m not sure which organization administers Dylan’s songs. I found no listings for Dylan at either place, which eithers means I’m doing something wrong while searching or his compositions are administered elsewhere. Either way, it’s no help.)

The listing at Second Hand Songs starts with Dylan’s original and the Byrds’ ground-breaking cover in 1965 and goes on to the 2012 version by Jack’s Mannequin, which was included in the four-CD set Chimes of Freedom – The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. The first cover listed after the Byrds’ cover is a 1965 misspelled offering of “Mr. Tambourin Man” from a group called the Finnish Beatmakers. Except for the Finnish accent – which I kind of like – it’s a copy of the Byrds’ version, starting right from the guitar introduction.

And that’s the case for many of the covers I’ve listened to this week: they’re warmed-over fowl. One of the few with an original sound came, interestingly, from Gene Clark, one of the members of the Byrds when they recorded “Mr. Tambourine Man.” His version of the Dylan tune – with a reimagined (and very nice, to my ears) introduction – was included on his 1984 album, Firebyrd.

The originator of the Byrds’ classic guitar lick, Roger McGuinn, shows up on a 1989 version of the tune recorded live in Los Angeles with Crowded House. As might be expected in that circumstance, it’s pretty much a copy of the Byrds’ version, with the Finn brothers et al. backing McGuinn.

Other early versions of note came from the Brothers Four and Johnny Rivers in 1965, from a young Stevie Wonder (with, one assumes, the Funk Brothers behind him), the Lettermen, the Beau Brummels and Noel Harrison in 1966, and from the Leathercoated Minds and Kenny Rankin in 1967. Versions from 1966 that I’d like to hear came from Billy Lee Riley and Duane Eddy. Odetta, as might be expected, offered an idiosyncratic and austere take on the tune in 1965.

Easy listening folks got hold of the tune, too. Billy Strange is listed at Second Hand Songs as having recorded a cover in 1965; I haven’t found that one (though my digging is not yet done), but I did find an easy listening version – with banjo, no less – recorded in 1965 by the Golden Gate Strings. And Johnny Harris & His Orchestra recorded the tune for the Reader’s Digest’s Up, Up & Away collection, which seems to have been released in 1970.

Speaking of banjo, the bluegrass/country duo of Flatt & Scruggs took on the song for their 1968 album, Changin’ Times. It’s nicely arranged with some nice harmonica in the background, but they’re too, well, square for the song, and that’s true right from the start, when they drop the “ain’t” and sing “there is no place I’m goin’ to.”

We’ll look at a few more versions of the tune – some of them quite nice – next week, but we’ll close today with a foreign language version of the tune. (Did you honestly think I would not drop one of those in?) Titled “Hra tampuurimies,” it’s a 1990 version from the irresistibly named Finnish group Freud, Marx, Engels & Jung.

Saturday Single No. 318

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

The place was called Mojo’s. It wasn’t much different from a hundred other coffee houses in Minneapolis in the early 1990s: You could get lattes (with or without flavored syrup), espresso and just plain coffee. And there was a display case with a few scones and some pastries.

Well, there was one thing that made it different: Mojo’s was less than a block away from my apartment in south Minneapolis, and from the time I moved to Pleasant Avenue in early 1992 until Mojo’s closed sometime around 1997, it would have been a rare week when I didn’t get into Mojo’s at least once.

It wasn’t fancy. Jimmy, the owner, had put his money into his coffee-making equipment and had then collected chairs and tables where he could. Most of them matched but not all. It didn’t matter, though. Folks in the neighborhood filled many of those chairs in the evenings and nearly all of them on weekend days. I was one of those folks. I spent quite a few Saturday mornings during those years sipping coffee at Mojo’s while my clothes were in the washer and dryer at the laundromat two doors down. And I spent many Sunday mornings reading the Minneapolis Star-Tribune over a couple of lattes and occasionally hearing Cities 97’s “Acoustic Sunday” program come from the overhead speakers through the din of conversation.

As busy as Mojo’s was at some times, I think it was tough for Jimmy. There were only a couple other people who worked there, so he put in a lot of hours behind the counter. And the restaurant/café business is a tough one financially, too. Even if Mojo’s was making money, I’m sure the profit margin was low. That was probably why the coffee shop downsized after a few years. When I first started spending time at Mojo’s, the shop occupied two storefronts on Grand Avenue, spaces connected inside with an archway. A couple years later, an artists’ cooperative took over the northern storefront, trimming by more than half the number of tables in the coffee house but also trimming, I assume, Jimmy’s overhead.

Eventually, the balance of cost vs. return tipped, and it wasn’t worth it for Jimmy to keep Mojo’s running. Maybe the rent was getting too high, and I imagine the cost of everything else was increasing: coffee, supplies, insurance and more. I don’t know. I never asked Jimmy about it. All I know is that one day, there was a sign next to the cash register that said Mojo’s would be closing.

Before he shut the doors, however, Jimmy had a little evening get-together for his employees and a few neighborhood regulars. I was one of them. We pulled a couple of tables together and sipped some lattes, and then Jimmy opened a bottle of champagne and we raised our glasses to Mojo’s and to the future.

When I went past the place a couple days later on my way to the butcher shop, it was empty. Sometime during the next month, a vegetarian restaurant was doing business where Mojo’s and the art cooperative had been. I ate there a couple of times and enjoyed it, but Mojo’s closing left a hole in my routine, one that was never really filled during the rest of my time – two years or so – on Pleasant Avenue.

There’s no great tale here, but something this week brought Mojo’s to mind. I remembered Jimmy’s grin as he handed lattes over the counter. I remembered the steam on the large front windows on a January morning. I remembered Jimmy letting me run a tab for a couple of days when I was between temp jobs and pretty close to broke. And I remembered the afternoon right about that time when the gal behind the counter – and I’ve lost her name over the years – had to leave for a family emergency and Jimmy wasn’t due in for another hour.

I shooed her out the door and went behind the counter. For an hour, I explained to customers that I was filling in, that I did not know how to make espresso or lattes, but that I could draw them coffee from the urns. I couldn’t run the cash register, but I was able to make change and kept track on a piece of paper of that hour’s transactions. When Jimmy came in, I told him what had happened and showed him my accounting. Then I refilled my coffee cup and went back to my table and my book.

Moments after I sat down, Jimmy called my name. I looked up. He stood behind the counter, holding my tab. “Thanks,” he said, and he crumpled my tab and tossed it in the trash.

So for Jimmy and Mojo’s and for any neighborhood business like the one Jimmy ran for those few years, here’s Roger McGuinn and Calexico performing Bob Dylan’s “One More Cup of Coffee.” It’s from the soundtrack to the 2007 film I’m Not There, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.