Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Stills’

One Chart Dig: June 12, 1971

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

By this time during June 1971, I was mowing grass every day, riding across the lawns at St. Cloud State, sometimes enjoying it but mostly worried that I was going to have some kind of accident. That worry slowed me down, and I did not cut as much grass as my supervisor expected, so by mid-summer, I was transferred to the janitorial crew, which was fine with me.

Anyway, during June I’d come home with the roar of the lawnmower in my ears – no protective headgear for us in those long-ago days – and it would be an hour or two before the sound subsided, which was usually right around dinner time. Once I could hear, I’d turn the radio on in my room or stack a few LPs on the stereo in the basement and kick back for the evening.

So what did I hear? Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from June 12, 1971, forty-seven years ago today:

“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Sweet & Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Treat Her Like A Lady” by the Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
“I’ll Meet You Halfway” by the Partridge Family
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin

Well, from nearly fifty years later, that’s a pretty good set; I’d still wince at the Donny Osmond, but I’d likely enjoy the Partridge Family single more now than I did then.

That takes care of the radio. What would I hear if I headed to the rec room and the stereo? Here are the rock albums I’d acquired so far in 1971:

The Beatles (The White Album)
Crosby, Stills & Nash
“Yesterday” . . . and Today by the Beatles
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney
Pearl by Janis Joplin

I was still working on my Beatles collection, but was beginning to branch out, too. By the end of the year, I’d have a few more albums by the Fab Four as well as albums by the Doors, Jethro Tull, Stephen Stills and Three Dog Night. I’d also acquire the original version of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Concert for Bangla Desh.

But to get back to that Billboard Hot 100 from forty-seven years ago today, I was going to play Games With Numbers with today’s date – 6/12/18 – and check out the records at Nos. 18, 24, 30 and 36. But only one of those four interests me – “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds at No. 30 – and I’ve heard it recently.

So I dropped to the bottom of the chart, and at No. 100, I found a Stephen Stills record that I liked a fair amount: “Change Partners,” which also showed up on Stills’ second solo album. I recall hearing it that summer, but probably not often, as the record stalled at No. 43.

Saturday Single No. 589

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

A search through the RealPlayer for tracks with the word “down” in their titles yields a result of 1,827 titles. That’s a lot of “down,” and that’s fitting, as a cold has settled in my head overnight and I’m going to be settling down for a good portion of the day.

I’ll be saving my energy, as we have a dinner with a friend this evening and then will attend a dance performance at the College of St. Benedict in the nearby burg of St. Joseph. So I’m going to sift through the “down” tracks and offer one of them for a tune this morning.

And I find one of my favorite tracks from Stephen Stills’ 1970 self-titled solo album, and a search tells me that somehow in more than eleven years of writing about the music I love, I’ve never once mentioned the track. I find that astounding, especially since I have at times written about the album, long one of my favorites.

So here is Stephen Stills’ “Sit Yourself Down,” today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 573

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

I filled out one of those Facebook list things this week, giving details about my senior year in high school: Did you know your life partner (no), were you a jock or a nerd (the latter), do you remember the mascot (Tigers), do you remember the school song (“March Straight On, Old Tech High”) and about fifteen other questions that I answered from the perspective of the St. Cloud Tech Class of 1971.

I’ve written before about that year, how that was when I began to read science fiction and astronomy books, when I spent a good portion of time wooing a cute sophomore girl whose attentions were focused elsewhere, when I began to play the guitar, and when I began – in large part because of my unrewarded romantic efforts – to write verse that sometimes worked as lyrics.

And this morning, I wondered what the Billboard Top Ten albums looked like as January and my senior year approached their midpoints in 1971. Here’s the list, along with the dates the LPs came to my shelves.

All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (August 15, 1981)
Abraxas by Santana (April 1, 1989)
Stephen Stills (August 1971)
The Partridge Family Album
Greatest Hits by Sly & The Family Stone (October 3, 1997)
Jesus Christ Superstar (August 1971)
Pendulum by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Live Album by Grand Funk Railroad
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (July 14, 1990)
Led Zeppelin III (March 10, 1999)

I’m not surprised by the absence of the albums by the Partridge Family and Grand Funk Railroad (not only did I not buy those two specific albums, but I never bought any LPs by the two groups), but I am a little startled at the absence of Pendulum. The LP log shows that I acquired every other Creedence album from 1968’s self-titled debut to 1973’s Mardi Gras plus two greatest hits albums. Not sure why I jumped over Pendulum.

Obviously, the two most important to me in that list were the Stephen Stills album and Jesus Christ Superstar. I desperately wanted All Things Must Pass, too, but the price of a three-disc album was out of my reach at the time. I found a passable used copy in 1981, as noted in the list above, and then replaced it with a better copy in the 1990s.

As to the other four albums in that top ten, the purchase dates pretty clearly show that by the time I got around to them in 1989 or later, it was when I was assembling an archive rather than a collection. Of those four, I liked Abraxas and the hits album from Sly & The Family Stone the most; the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and the Zep album had a few tracks each that I liked much more than the rest of what they offered.

So as my music source evolved in the past twenty years to CDs, which of those ten albums showed up? Well, two of them: All Things Must Pass and Stephen Stills. Anthologies suffice for Lennon, Led Zeppelin and Creedence, and there are blank spaces for the other five of those ten albums in that long-ago list.

Of course, for much of the last eighteen years, I’ve collected a lot of digital music as well. The only album not represented in the 69,000 mp3s here in the EITW studios is the one by Grand Funk. I have a few tracks from the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in the digital stacks, most of what was offered by the Sly & The Family Stone hits album and complete digital copies of the remaining seven albums.

As I’ve done with similar entries here over the past couple of years, I’ll finish off this exercise by seeing which tracks from those albums show up among the exactly 3,700 tracks on the iPod today. It’s not really close. Nothing from the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band or the Grand Funk albums shows up, and I find one track each from Led Zeppelin III and the Partridge Family album and two each from Abraxas and Pendulum. Six hits show up from Sly & The Family Stone, and four tracks show up from Jesus Christ Superstar.

Right now, there are nine tracks from All Things Must Pass in the iPod (although, as I have a fair amount of space open, the remaining tracks from the main portions of that album will likely be added). But all ten tracks from Stephen Stills show up today, and that’s not at all surprising to me. As I think I’ve noted here at least a few times over the years, Stills’ first solo record is one of my essential albums.

Given that, you’d think my favorite track from the album would have been plugged in here or there numerous times over these nearly eleven years. But it’s only been mentioned and shared once, back in the summer of 2007. And it’s a song of hope. All that made it an easy choice to make Stills’ “We Are Not Helpless” today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging: Early June 1972

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

I was introduced to beerball in the spring of 1972. The concept was simple: Everyone in a group – in this case, the staffers at KVSC, St. Cloud State’s student radio station – chipped in a minimal amount of money, and two or three drinking-age staffers headed to the liquor store. Those two or three staffers would then meet the rest of the crew at a softball diamond somewhere near campus, bringing with them a couple of cases of cheap beer. With teams somehow selected, softball play began, except everyone always had a bottle of beer at hand.

If you were at bat, you placed your bottle a short distance from home plate. If you got a hit or otherwise reached base, there was an automatic time out for you to go back to home plate, retrieve your beer and bring it with you onto the base paths. Fielders had their bottles nearby, and if a batted ball hit a beer bottle, it was an automatic out. And when a player in the field emptied his or her bottle before the inning was over, it was his or her right to call a timeout in order to come in to the cooler to get another beer to take back into the field.

The weekly games usually took place on Wednesday afternoon, beginning sometime after three o’clock or whenever enough of us could break away from classes and our duties at the radio station. They ended, if memory serves me, somewhere between seven and eight o’clock, when many of us would wobble downtown for something to eat. (And for those who, unlike me, were of legal drinking age in the spring of 1972, most likely more beer or related beverages: Wednesday night was party night in St. Cloud in the early 1970s, as early classes did not meet Thursday mornings.)

Sometimes, we drank Cold Spring, a beer brewed in the little town of that name just fifteen miles southwest of St. Cloud. The brewery still exists, now producing microbrews and beers for various other brewers; its best product is probably John Henry Three Lick Spiker Ale. Forty years ago, in the days before craft beers and before any of us had full-time paychecks, we drank the cheap stuff. And Cold Spring was cheap and not all that good.

Other times, we’d dig into a couple of cases of Buckhorn, a budget beer brewed – if I read Wikipedia correctly – by the folks who brewed Lone Star Beer in Texas. Buckhorn was bad beer, too. I knew that even then, but it was a perfectly good beer at the time to carry on the way from first to second base.

As we played beerball, we had music, of course. Sometimes we’d listen on a portable FM radio to whichever poor schmuck was stuck on air back at the KVSC studios and couldn’t get out to play beerball. More often than not, though, we had an AM radio tuned – most likely – to KDWB in the Twin Cities. And if – as seems likely – we played beerball forty years ago this week, we no doubt heard (and groaned at) a good share of the Billboard Top Ten:

“The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr.
“I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
“Oh Girl” by the Chi-Lites
“Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond
“Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show
“Nice To Be With You” by Gallery
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack
“Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens
“Outa-Space/I Wrote A Simple Song” by Billy Preston
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All” by the 5th Dimension

I didn’t care for much of that Top Ten forty years ago, and time has not changed that. Out of those, there are only three that I’d enjoy hearing with any regularity: The Staple Singers, the Chi-Lites and the first of the two Billy Preston titles. And I can gladly go years without hearing “The Candy Man” ever again.

Luckily, there are some better things lower down in the Hot 100 from June 10, 1972, so let’s head that way.

When Stephen Stills released Manassas in the spring of 1972, it was a solo album with a stellar supporting cast (Chris Hillman, Dallas Taylor, Paul Harris, Fuzzy Samuels, Al Perkins and Joe Lala with cameos from Sidney George, Bill Wyman and Byron Berline). A year later, recording under the name of Manassas, the same group of musicians (with a few extra folks) released Down the Road. That always kind of confused me when I was a casual record buyer and didn’t really have any reference books to figure out stuff like that. Anyway, sitting at No. 62 forty years ago this week was “It Doesn’t Matter” from Manassas. A decent enough record, it would go one spot higher.

Just two spots further down, at No. 64, sits a great piece of power pop/boogie from the Raiders. “Powder Blue Mercedes Queen” was the Raiders’ third record to hit the Hot 100 since “Indian Reservation” went to No. 1 in early 1971. But like the previous two entrants, “PBMQ” would fall short of that rarified position, peaking at No. 54. Stylistically, it was a long way from the Raiders’ two country-rock-ish previous releases (“Birds of a Feather” and “Country Wine,” which went to Nos. 23 and 51 respectively). As good as it was, I imagine it didn’t sound the way folks expected the Raiders to sound.

According to the legend, Ringo Starr caught a performance by English singer-songwriter Chris Hodge and got him signed to Apple Records. Hodge’s website says, “Ringo and Chris shared a common interest in sci-fi and UFOs,” which led to Apple releasing Hodge’s trippy “We’re On Our Way” with its references to saucers and astral moonbeams. The record was sitting at No. 69 forty years ago this week, on its way to No. 44. It was the only release by Hodge to reach the chart.

Just a little further down, we find some early boogie by ZZ Top. The first charting single for the Texas trio, “Francene” was sitting at No. 77 and would eventually get to No. 69. As the Seventies moved along and turned into the Eighties, of course, ZZ Top became a fixture in the Top 40 with a couple of No. 8 hits (“Legs” in 1984 and “Sleeping Bag” in 1985). As for “Francene,” one of the commenters at YouTube noted the Rolling Stones-like cries of “Whee!” (or however one might spell it) in the last few moments. Not sure about anyone else, but they work for me.

Sitting at No. 83, we find what I think is one of Rod Stewart’s best vocal performances ever with “In A Broken Dream” from the Australian group Python Lee Jackson. The song was recorded in the 1960s, before Stewart became a star, according to Wikipedia: “Believing his vocals were not correct for the song, [songwriter and Python Lee Jackson member Dave] Bentley brought in Rod Stewart . . . as a session musician for the song.” Wikipedia goes on to note that Stewart was paid for the session with a new set of seat covers for his car. First released in 1970, the record did not make the charts. In 1972 (not coincidentally after Stewart was a star), the record went to No. 56 in the U.S. before becoming a No. 3 hit in the United Kingdom.

I’ve written about my admiration for Jackie DeShannon before, and I was hoping to share a video of her “Vanilla Ólay,” which was sitting at No. 99 forty years ago this week. But that’s not possible, says YouTube. A closer look at the copies I have of the Billboard Hot 100, however, shows that “Vanilla Ólay” was the A-Side of a double-sided single, with DeShannon’s cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” on the B-Side. That’s not the way Joel Whitburn has it listed in Top Pop Singles, but I’m going to give you “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” anyway. The single – however it was promoted – went to No. 76.

Chart Digging: Early August 1971

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

It was about this time forty years ago that I got my first television. I got it from my co-worker and pal Mike, with whom I was scrubbing and polishing floors at St. Cloud State. That wasn’t a bad gig. It was certainly better than the lawn-mowing assignment I’d had – and not done so well with – at the beginning of the summer.

I think Mike and I worked the standard daytime shift about half of the time we were together that summer, cleaning floors in classroom buildings. The rest of the time, when we were working on buildings that housed mostly offices, we’d work from four in the afternoon to about half-past midnight. Either way, it wasn’t a horribly difficult assignment: Clear a room of its furniture, use a mop to spread detergent on the floor and then clean the floor with the electric scrubber. Rinse-mop the floor, and then use a third mop to spread floor wax. Polish the dried floor wax with a soft pad on the scrubber.

There was a lot of down time: After the rinse and after spreading the wax, we had to wait for the floor to dry. In a classroom building, we might be working on two, maybe three classrooms at a time: Mike would scrub floors, and I’d rinse-mop behind him, then I would wax and he would polish. But even working as efficiently as possible, there would be times when we’d have to wait for drying floors. And we were young – I was seventeen and Mike was maybe twenty-two – and there was sometimes more chit-chat and laughter than efficiency.

Along the way, we became friends, for that summer and for the next few years. Mike was going to school part-time and I worked as a janitor a couple hours a day for the next year; our paths crossed frequently.

(During the fall of 1971, we ended up in the same basic African history course. I don’t know how he did in the class, but I failed it, not yet having any clue how to really study. A few years later, as I wandered along a corridor in Stewart Hall, where the history department had its offices, I met the professor whose class I’d failed. I greeted him, and he smiled back. “I don’t remember your name,” he said, “but I remember the face.” I reminded him who I was and told him I’d taken his basic course a while back. He nodded. “Yes,” he said. “You were kind of a bullshit artist, weren’t you?” I could only laugh and acknowledge that he was right.)

Anyway, Mike and I spent hours that summer waiting for floors and wax to dry, and among the things we ended up talking about was his new color television. He had an older one – black and white – that he was going to sell. He asked if I wanted it. I offered twenty bucks, and he took it. So one night as he took me home after our shift – I didn’t yet have a car, and Mike didn’t mind going a bit out of his way – we stopped at his place and picked up the television.

I put it in my room, and a few days later, my dad and I hooked the set up to the rooftop antenna. My television watching back then was mostly sports (some things never change, I guess), and I watched a lot of pro football on that set. But it also became a routine for me in the late evening to watch the local news and then the opening half-hour of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. I’d lie on my bed, propped up on pillows piled against the wall, and listen to Carson’s monologue and then watch his opening bit, usually a comedy routine using long-time sidekick Ed McMahon as his foil. If there were a musical guest I was interested in, I might stay up until just before midnight to catch that performance, but that was infrequent.

Given the omnipresence of media today – the house I’m in has two computers, four televisions, five CD players with radios, three clock radios, an iPod and two other mp3 players, for two people – I find it quaint that a black and white television provides some of my fondest memories. But it does. A couple years later, I spent a portion of a grey Danish Sunday feeling lost and homesick. So I started listing the little things I was missing about life back home. Third on the list was watching Johnny Carson on my TV.

Having a television didn’t mean I stopped listening to the radio, though. And almost all of the records in the Billboard Top Ten that came out during the first week of August 1971 are greatly familiar:

“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees
“Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” by the Raiders
“You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor
“Mr. Big Stuff” by Jean Knight
“Draggin’ the Line” by Tommy James
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Beginnings/Colour My World” by Chicago
“What the World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin and John” by Tom Clay
“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye

Tom Clay’s entry is listed in Top Pop Singles as a spoken word piece; I’d call it a sound collage instead. It pulls together audio bits from the major events of the 1960s and lays them over a medley of the two songs listed in the title. I don’t know that I’d ever heard the piece until I went looking for it this morning. And that’s despite the fact that the KDWB 6+30 from forty years ago today has the record at No. 1. (Across the Twin Cities at WDGY, the Tom Clay single was not listed. I can only assume that it got little airplay on St. Cloud’s WJON, too.)

As interesting at Clay’s work might be, our business – as it almost always does – lies in the lower depths of the Billboard Hot 100. We’ll start at the very bottom and work our way up.

The names of producers and occasional performers Terry Cashman (Dennis Minogue) and Tommy West (Tommy Picardo) – with and without the addition of Eugene Pistilli – pop up frequently on records of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Top Pop Singles lists nine singles by various combinations of the three that either reached the Hot 100 or bubbled under. The best performing of the records came from Cashman & West, whose “American City Suite” went to No. 27 in 1972. In the early days of August 1971, recording as Morning Mist, Cashman and West had “California On My Mind” on the charts. As of the August 7 chart, the record was at No. 100. It would peak at No. 96.

I’ve mentioned this at least once before, but it still baffles me that the Fifties revival group Sha Na Na was considered good enough and hip enough to perform at Woodstock in 1969. I dunno. Maybe I haven’t listened enough to the group, but I find myself not at all interested in finding even the group’s earliest albums. I guess if I want Fifties rock ’n’ roll and doo-wop, I’ll go to the originals. One of the oddest items in the group’s catalog, though, has to be “Top Forty (Of The Lord),” which was sitting at No. 90 during the first week of August 1971. A country-ish encouragement of the Christian good life with a radio-friendly hook, the record would peak at No. 84.

John Kongos’ record “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” is another tune that I’d never heard until this morning, and I regret that very much. I’m not entirely sure what the song is about, but its dense, complex sound had to have been unlike most anything else in the charts forty years ago, when it was at No. 70. The only Hot 100 hit for the South African singer/songwriter (“Tokoloshe Man” bubbled under at No. 111 in 1972), it went no higher on the charts. Wikipedia notes that Kongos’ record has been “cited by the Guinness Book of Records as being the first ever song to have used a sample.” The entry goes on to note, however, that “according to the sleeve note of the CD reissue of the Kongos album, it is actually a tape loop of African drumming; and the use of tape loops and instruments using prerecorded samples such as the Mellotron and Optigan were well established by this time.”

Some time ago, when I listed the albums I turn to on bad days, I included Stephen Stills’ self-titled first album, a record I still play frequently. His second, imaginatively called Stephen Stills 2, had much the same sound and – I think – quality of performance, but I’ve never found myself turning to it as much as I do the first. Seeing Stills’ “Change Partners” sitting at No. 67 in the Hot 100 from forty years ago this week – it had earlier peaked at No. 43 – reminds me that I should reacquaint myself with that second album and see if it needs to be placed in a more frequent rotation.

During the summer of 1971, I would hear Bobby Russell’s “Saturday Morning Confusion” coming from the radio speakers and smile at the depiction of suburban domestic chaos. I don’t know that I ever caught the subtext that the narrating dad had tipped a couple too many on the way home from work the evening before and was paying for it with a hangover headache on the Saturday morning in question. It doesn’t matter, I guess. The record, which was at No. 60 and would peak at No. 28 (No. 24 on the country chart), remains an affectionate look at one slice of American life ca. 1971.

One more record that rings no bells from the summer of 1971 is the deliriously fun “Resurrection Shuffle” from British pop trio Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. I know I listened to radio when I was at home, and some of that had to be on KDWB from the Twin Cities. I listened to WJON at night, after KDWB’s signal had been powered down (jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ provided a primer the other day on powering down and related topics), but KDWB was almost certainly my daytime choice. How is it, then, that I do not recall “Resurrection Shuffle,” which went to No. 40 nationwide but was at No. 13 on KDWB’s chart forty years ago today? Well, it doesn’t matter. I know the record now. Here’s Ashton, Gardner & Dyke performing the tune on the British television show Top of the Pops, a show I’d gladly have watched on my new used television.