Posts Tagged ‘Walkabouts’

‘Eight’

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The integers march again . . .

Sorting the 67,000-some mp3s on the digital shelves for the word “eight” brings up 194 titles, most of which we cannot use. Anything about a freight train goes by the wayside, as does Nanci Griffith’s “White Freight Liner.” The entire output of a 1970s band named Jackson Heights is crossed off our list, as is Michel Legrand’s soundtrack to the 1970 film Wuthering Heights.

And we also have to discard twenty-nine versions of the Robbie Robertson song, “The Weight.”

Still, we’re left with enough tunes to be able to pick and choose a little bit, starting with one of eight versions – how appropriate! – of the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High.” The one I settled on is a 1969 cover of the tune from the Canadian band Lighthouse. Still two years away from having a hit with “One Fine Morning” – it went to No. 24 in 1971 – the band covered the Roger McGuinn song on its first, self-titled album, and an edit was released as a single. As far as I can tell, Lighthouse’s take on “Eight Miles High” never showed up on any chart anywhere although I’m not sure about Canada. Nor am I certain the video to which I’ve linked is the single. I think it is. In any case, it’s a decent enough cover but nothing amazing.

The Walkabouts’ “Train Leaves at Eight” is the title track of an album released in 2000 by the sometimes dark but always intriguing Seattle band. The album serves as a tour of European music, and “Train Leaves at Eight” takes the listener to Greece: The song was written by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis and came from Ta Laika, or The Popular Songs, a project Theodorakis and Greek poet Manos Eleftheriou completed in 1967 but which went unreleased after a military coup in Greece that year. The work was released in 1975 after the military government fell.

David Castle’s 1977 single “Ten to Eight” was the first single released on the Parachute label and went to No. 68 (No. 45 on the AC chart). That was the first of two times Castle broke into the Billboard Hot 100: “The Loneliest Man on the Moon” went to No. 89 in early 1978. Both singles were pulled from Castle’s 1977 album Castle in the Sky. Castle’s website says a third single, “All I Ever Wanna Be Is Yours,” made the Easy Listening chart, but I can find nothing about the record in Joel Whitburn’s Top Adult Songs. “Ten to Eight” was originally recorded by Helen Reddy and released on her 1975 album No Way to Treat a Lady, leaving Castle in the well-populated but nevertheless interesting position of covering his own song.

Steve Goodman’s “Eight Ball Blues,” is not a blues at all, at least in its musical construction. Pulled from his self-titled 1971 album, it’s nevertheless the plaint of a man who wishes he and life were different and does so with regret: “I wish I had the common sense to be satisfied with me.” And the chorus tells us a bit more:

Is this the part where I came in?
I’ve heard this song before.
Had a couple too many
But I think I can find the door.
And I do not know your name, my friend
But I’ve seen that face before.
Well, I saw it in the jail house
And I saw in the war,
And I saw it my mirror,
Well, just a couple of times before.

This was 1971, and the war was in a place called Vietnam, but it could just as well be 2013 and places called Iraq and Afghanistan.

O.V. Wright came out of the gospel music circuit before going secular in the mid-1960s, eventually ending up in the 1970s with Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. That’s maybe where Wright did his best work, but his mid-1960s singles for Backbeat are superb. “Eight Men, Four Women” from 1967 is likely the most atmospheric. It went to No. 4 on the R&B chart – one of eight singles Wright placed in the R&B Top 40 between 1965 and 1974 – and to No. 80 on the pop chart.

On its third album, 1990’s A Different Kind of Weather, the English trio Dream Academy included a tune called “Twelve Eight Angel.” A year later, the group released its final single before disbanding. That single was “Angel of Mercy,” and from what I can tell, the single was simply “Twelve Eight Angel” renamed. The single failed to chart, and the band called it quits. Dream Academy is best-known, of course, for the shimmering “Life in a Northern Town,” which went to No. 7 in 1986. (Those sharp of ear might notice the voice of the single’s producer, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, in the background during the instrumental break.)