Archive for the ‘1967’ Category

Four At Random

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Here are four for a Thursday. We’re going to let the computer do the work, drawing from the 2,900-some tracks I keep in iTunes for the iPod.

First up is the Bee Gee’s string-laden “To Love Somebody.” Released in June 1967, it was the second hit for the group to reach the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 17. (“New York Mining Disaster 1941,” released a couple months earlier, had reached No. 14.) What got to me when I first heard it a few years later was the harp in the intro, the feather-light vocals, and the light touch of the horns in a few places, all leading to the forceful “You don’t know what it’s like!”

And when the track plays, I still see the yellow cover of Best of Bee Gees, as that’s pretty much always been the source of the song for me. It actually came out on Bee Gees’ 1st, which was really the group’s third album but the first to be released internationally.

And that first time I heard the record – across the street at Rick’s, where a borrowed copy was residing for a few days – I thought the “No, no, no, no!” and the lush orchestration and the near wailing leading to the end of the record was all a bit overdone. But then I thought back to the previous school year and a certain violinist of my acquaintance and thought, “That’s about right.”

Then pop up the insistent horns announcing Chicago’s “Free,” a 1971 single from Chicago III. I recall it coming out of my radio in the early months of 1971 and not being overly impressed. (“Make Me Smile” was – and still is – my Chicago fave.) And then much later that year – after high school ended and college life began – I heard the track as part of the long “Travel Suite” from the album. And I liked it better in that setting.

But there was still something about the record that never quite felt right to me. It went to No. 20 in the Hot 100 – a disappointment, as three of the group’s four previous charting singles (“Make Me Smile,” “25 or 6 to 4,” and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”) hit the Top Ten.

I wrote long ago about my love for Chicago’s early work at the time it came out and my perception that the group soon ran out of ideas and energy, becoming stale and not much fun to listen to. That happened during the mid-1970s by my reckoning, but as I think of “Free” and Chicago III this morning, I think the signs were beginning to show. Or maybe my admiration for the silver album – whether you call it Chicago or Chicago II – still overpowers anything else the band did.

Don’t get me wrong: I like “Free” and Chicago III, but as I ponder them this morning, they seem to be just on the wrong side of the divide from the group’s earlier work.

And we drop back to 1964 and an early version of a tune the Youngbloods would make famous five years later: “Get Together” as recorded by Hamilton Camp. With an austere guitar backing and a harmonica solo, Camp’s October 1964 performance, included on his Paths Of Victory album, fits into a folky aesthetic that was already being overtaken and would not emerge again until the rise of the singer-songwriter in the early 1970s.

Even as I write that, though, I think to myself that the arrangement would have fit very nicely on Bob Dylan’s 1967 album John  Wesley Harding. But then Dylan always creates a problem when one tries to categorize styles and slide those styles into any kind of chronological pattern.

Camp’s performance is nice enough, pleasant as background, but his thin voice and the subdued arrangement aren’t enough for the song. Maybe if Jesse Colin Young had never found the song, I’d find Camp’s version more compelling. But I wouldn’t want to make that trade.

Last up for the day – having skipped a couple, the first because it’s too new and I haven’t really listened much to it yet and the second because it was “25 or 6 to 4” – is Lefty Frizzell’s “She’s Gone Gone Gone” from 1965. One of Frizzell’s last hits, it went to No. 12 on the Billboard country chart. I don’t know when I first heard it, but it was decades later, and all I really need to say about it is that it’s classic country.

‘This Old World . . .’

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

I woke from a dream this morning with the chorus from the Fred Neil song “Dolphins” running through my head:

I’ve been searchin’ for the dolphins in the sea
And sometimes I wonder, do you ever think of me . . .

It’s a haunting, lovely song that was first recorded and released in 1967 on Neil’s first third* album, a self-titled work that also included his most famous song, “Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me,” used as part of the soundtrack of the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy. Here’s Neil’s version of “Dolphins.”

Covers – many of them titled “The Dolphins” – popped up quickly, of course, and several of them are here on the digital shelves: Gale Garnett & the Gentle Reign (1968) and It’s A Beautiful Day (1970) did covers that seem from here to be a little odd, as did a country-ish group called West (1968).

The two most standard of the early covers – through, say, the mid-Seventies – were those by Dion and Al Wilson (both 1968). I think I like Wilson’s better. Richie Havens released a nice live version in 1972.

We might come back another day and look at some other early covers as well as those from the mid-Seventies onward. (There were very few in the 1980s, but the 1990s onwards saw the song covered more frequently.) But we’ll close today with one of the covers that I always think I should like but have a little trouble embracing: Linda Ronstadt’s 1969 version that was part of her Hand Sown . . . Home Grown album. I think maybe she over-sings it a little.

*Neil’s self-titled 1967 album was his first for Capitol but his third overall. He and Vince Neil recorded Tear Down The Walls in 1964, and Fred Neil released Bleeker & McDougal in 1965; both were on Elektra.

‘The Price You Pay To Fall’

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Consider “December Dream,” singer/songwriter John Braheny’s languid song of love lost:

I can see her slowly walking
Through the empty streets of morning
Who she’s with I cannot tell
His face fades with the others
In the endless spell of dreams I know so well

Though she walks with him, no more with me,
And I know she’s where she wants to be,
Her happiness is there for all to see,
But I find that I still wish it was for me

I can hear her voice still ringing
Through the empty songs I sing
It seems that all the words I find
To say the things that crowd my mind
Only bring me closer to the things I’d rather leave behind

Though I know the game’s been played
I know the mistakes I’ve made
I know I shouldn’t be afraid
To love, for love for any time at all
Is worth the price you pay to fall

Here’s what the Stone Poneys (of which Linda Ronstadt was a member, of course) did with it on their first album, Evergreen Vol. 2, in 1967:

Braheny died at age 74 in 2013. His web page is still up, and there, he noted – not at all surprisingly – that he wrote the song in 1964 after his girlfriend “had a fling with another guy that just destroyed me.” The song later won a songwriting contest in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, festival, and was published in Sing Out! magazine.

One of the musicians Braheny knew in the Boston area was Pete Childs, who – a few years later – was a guitarist for the Stone Poneys sessions. When the Poneys came up light on songs to record, Braheny’s web site says, Childs suggested “December Dream,” which ended up as the first track on the Poneys’ album.

(As it happened, Childs had also worked on earlier sessions by Fred Neil, the reclusive singer/songwriter, and had taught Braheny’s song to Neil, who titled it “December’s Dream.” The recording went unused, however, until it resurfaced in 1999 on the anthology The Many Sides of Fred Neil. It’s available at YouTube.)

Along the way, Braheny recorded a 1968 album, Some Kind Of Change, and left us his version of “December Dream.”

At his website, Braheny marveled that his song got any attention at all: “In retrospect . . . I never would have given the song a shot at being recorded. No real hook, no ‘commercial’ structure, no repeated chorus, a title that doesn’t show up in the song, not even a bridge. Sometimes emotional honesty, sincerity, a little poetry and a pretty melody win. Who knew?”

Saturday Single No. 713

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

I’ve mentioned before how some dates resonate with me, how I’ll look to the calendar and see, for example, January 25 and remember in vivid detail a long-ago (and unhappy) January 25. I doubt if I’m alone in that; I assume the same thing happens to other folks.

Today, November 28, is one of those days. It was forty-three years ago today that I – twenty-four years old and not at all sure of myself – walked into the offices of the Monticello Times and took up desk space as a reporter. My beats, to start, would be sports at Monticello High School and at the high school in the nearby city of Big Lake; school news from the high schools, junior high schools and elementary schools in the two cities, and features.

In a very short time, I’d add to my plate coverage of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department (which provided police service to the city of Monticello), and of the Big Lake Police Department and of the sheriff’s department in Sherburne County.

The following spring, I’d add coverage of city government to my duties, attending meetings of the city councils in both Monticello and Big Lake, and covering through phone interviews the board meetings in Monticello and Big Lake townships. I’d do fewer features.

My first day at the Times included an interview with the owners of the new Milky Whey cheese shop in the hamlet of Hasty, introductions and lunch at Monticello High School, and – if I recall things rightly – coverage of a girls basketball game that evening. Sometime during the day, I posed at the typewriter at my boss’ desk so readers could get a look at the new guy who’d end up hanging around for almost six years. (My desk was backlit, said the photographer.)

GPE, 11-28-77I think back to that slender young man as he entered the world of professional journalism. His earliest plan – no more than a vague idea, to be honest – had been to become a television sports reporter and play-by-play guy. Then he spent more time writing in college than he did learning how to shoot film, and after some initial resistance, he embraced print reporting. (He realized he liked to write long pieces, and the byword of broadcast reporting is brevity, so . . .)

As I walked into the Times office that morning in November 1977, I was still unformed (although I would have been horribly insulted had anyone told me that). I had an immense amount to learn about journalism, about small-town living, about life in general. A lot of those lessons came my way during the nearly six years I spent at the Times, lessons for which I am – more than forty years later – grateful.

After those nearly six years, I moved on to grad school, to teaching, to reporting at other papers. I took with me a box full of plaques, a clutch of skills, and a cluster of friendships that remain strong to this day. That’s a pretty good haul for a first job.

There’s nothing that speaks to me in the two Billboard Hot 100s that bracket that long-ago November 28, so I’m going to turn to one of the three LPs I bought later that week. Thursdays – the day after we went to press – were light days at the newspaper, so I drove the thirty miles to St. Cloud that afternoon, did some shopping and had dinner with my folks, handing them as I arrived copies of that week’s newspaper, including – I’m pretty sure – a piece with my byline on the front page.

That evening, back in my rented mobile home just outside of Monticello, I no doubt played the records I’d bought in St. Cloud that day, and it’s pretty likely that I went to sleep with the Moody Blues’ Days Of Future Passed on the turntable. So here’s what was probably the last thing I heard on that long-ago Thursday, my first day as a published journalist: It’s “Nights In White Satin” from 1967, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘It’s A Monday Kind Of Friday . . .’

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

An appointment with the eye doctor – no biggie, just some surprisingly large floaters – has pulled me away today, leaving the day disjointed and my left eye dilated. So here’s a tune from 1967 with an appropriate title: “Monday Kind Of Friday” by a group called Dawn’s Early Light.

A comment at YouTube by a fellow named Eddie Black says that the group was made up of four guys who otherwise were in a five-man group from the Bronx called the Five Sharks. He says the record was No. 1 in upstate New York, but nothing at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive supports that, although the record went to No. 13 on WINN in Louisville, Kentucky, and to No. 14 on WVAM in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

The record also made it onto surveys in Montgomery, Alabama; Lowell and Medford, Massachusetts; Quincy, Illinois; and Latrobe, Pennsylvania, as well as in Milwaukee, New York City, Seattle and Montreal.

The record came to me in the massive Lost Jukebox collection that floated around the ’Net a decade ago or so.

‘This Is What I Give . . .’

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

The atmospheric “Since You Asked” is the second track on Judy Collins’ hushed 1967 album Wildflowers. The album itself was part of the soundtrack of my mid- to late teen years, from the time my sister bought the album – probably in 1968, after Dad finished work on the basement rec room – to the time she took it with her on her newlywed way to a career in education in the summer of 1972.

I couldn’t have told you the title of the track until it came to mind the other day, but as soon as I called it up on the RealPlayer, it was instantly familiar, pulling me back to adolescent reveries on the green couch:

What I’ll give you since you’ve asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stones lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more.

After my sister headed out to adult life, I went about sixteen years without hearing the song except by accident. I found it in 1988 on Collins’ anthology, Colors Of The Day, and then found Wildflowers five years later. Even during a time of increased record-buying, the two Collins albums got fairly regular play as I drifted between North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Missouri and back to Minnesota

In a seemingly unrelated event, I also picked up in 1988 an album by Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg titled Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a 1978 piece of work that I’ve listened to occasionally but not with any great attention.

So, until it was mentioned in a Facebook music group the other day, I’d not realized that the track on the latter album titled “Since You’ve Asked” was actually Collins’ song. After reading the note at Facebook, I wandered off and found the Fogelberg/Weisberg track in the digital stacks and of course knew it immediately. The production – framed by piano, with some slight alterations in the lyrics – makes the tune fit nicely into Fogelberg’s catalog of sometimes spare and haunting songs:

There are a few other covers of the song out there, some instrumental (and most using the title “Since You’ve Asked” instead of Collins’ original “Since You Asked”). If we dabble with those at all, we’ll do so on another day.

‘Maintain’

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Long ago, about midway through my 1973-74 stay in Denmark, the American girl I’d been seeing became very unhappy with me for very legitimate reasons. I sought counsel from my friend Gus, who was a few years older and much more experienced than I at the dance of relations between men and women.

“I messed up, Gus,” I told him, more or less. “How can I fix it? What am I gonna do?”

And Gus looked at me and said, “Maintain.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Just maintain.”

Okay. Well, it was the early Seventies, after all, a time of seemingly weighty catch-phrases. And Gus was a vet, so maybe that pithy bit of advice came from his time in the service. Looking for any life preserver to cling to, I tried to internalize “maintain.”

Sometime in the next few days, I spent a few minutes making a small sign to tape to the cabinet that overlooked the study table in the small room I shared with a guy named Roger. It read “Maintain,” of course, in three different colored inks. It was pretty badly done. But I stuck it on the cabinet, and it brought me some comfort as the days crawled by and repairs to what had been my first serious relationship seemed less and less likely.

As the next weekend approached, I decided to get out of town. A couple of the St. Cloud State students in our program were doing their student teaching at an American school in Copenhagen that quarter, so I hitch-hiked the 120 miles to Copenhagen for a four-day weekend of Carlsberg beer, Chinese take-out, piano-led singalongs and some intense conversation.

Late on the first Monday afternoon of February, returning from Copenhagen, I opened the door to the small room I shared with Roger and stopped. Taped to the cabinet in the spot where my admittedly ugly “Maintain” sign had been was a delightfully designed sign in red marker that read “C’est La Vie!” Fuming, I unloaded my backpack, and when Roger came in, I let him have it. He had, I told him firmly (and likely loudly), no right to remove my sign. Yeah, I said, it was a crappy piece of work, but it was mine.

And I left the room, no doubt slamming the door as I went. Some time later, calmed by a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the hostel lobby, I returned to the room, ready to apologize to Roger. I opened the door to Room 8 and started to laugh. Roger had put up a new sign on the cabinet.

Again in red marker, it read “Main-Fuckin’-Tain!”

I still have both of the signs Roger made for me, tucked away in a box full of memories from that year. And as public life has become stranger and more stressful in this awful year, I have on occasion posted my own sign of encouragement at Facebook:

Maintain1

A search through the digital stacks found one track with the title “Maintain,” a 1967 record on the Dunhill label by Jim Valley, a one-time member of Paul Revere & The Raiders. An earlier record, “Try, Try, Try,” had bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 106, but “Maintain” didn’t chart, and Valley’s journey went in new directions, as chronicled at his website. (The single came my way via the massive Lost Jukebox collection that was posted online some years ago.)

Maybe Gus knew the record, maybe not. But as terse and cryptic as his advice was, it was valuable. Here’s “Maintain.”

Saturday Single No. 697

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

We’ve already hit the Farmers’ Market this morning, picking up a half-bushel of pickling cucumbers; the Texas Gal is cleaning and sorting them, and she’ll be pickling either this afternoon or tomorrow, depending on energy reserves.

And we made a stop at her plot in our church’s community garden. She was alerted by a fellow gardener yesterday that her cupcake squash plant was infested with squash bugs; the other gardener then spayed the plant with an organic treatment, but when we arrived this morning, the bugs had not been deterred. The Texas Gal pulled up the plant and double bagged it, and we left it in a wastebasket at a nearby gas station.

(The memory of those hundreds of little crawlers swarming across the squash leaves makes me pretty edgy.)

All of that means that I’m much later than usual sitting here at the keyboard, and my own energy reserves are fairly well depleted.

So here, for the second day in a row, is Bobbie Gentry, this time with the appropriately titled track “Bugs.” It’s from her 1967 album Ode To Billie Joe, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Midnight’

Friday, June 12th, 2020

As I made my way through two new Long John Baldry CDs in the past few weeks, I noticed a couple of tracks I really liked: “Midnight in New Orleans” on It Still Ain’t Easy and “Midnight in Berlin” on Right To Sing The Blues.

And I got to thinking about the word “midnight” and its presence in song titles. So I asked the RealPlayer to search for the word among its 80,000-plus tracks. It came back with 515 results, some of which find the word included in group names – like Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – and some of which find the word included in album titles – like Midnight Radio by Big Head Todd & The Monsters. After winnowing out those and others like them, we end up with about 200 tracks with “midnight” in their titles.

We’re going to hit four of them randomly today.

Our first stop brings us a familiar tune performed by a familiar name: “In The Midnight Hour” by King Curtis. It’s a track from Plays The Great Memphis Hits, released in 1967. The album went to No. 185 on the Billboard 200, and one track – “You Don’t Miss Your Water” – bubbled under the magazine’s Hot 100 at No. 105. King Curtis has shown up enough times in this space that not a lot need to be said except to adapt the title of a 1992 anthology of Curtis Ousley’s work and say, “Blow, man, blow!”

From the midnight hour, we move to the “Midnight Shift” as described by Buddy Holly. The tune warns the listener what to look for in an unfaithful girl (or perhaps a working girl – it’s not entirely clear):

If Annie puts her hair up on her head
Paints them lips up bright, bright red
Wears that dress that fits real tight
Starts staying out ’til the middle of the night
Says that a friend gave her a lift
Well, Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

The track, recorded in 1956, showed up as an album track on the 1958 release That’ll Be The Day. It’s one of my favorite Holly tracks, likely because it’s a little cynical, a counterpoint to a lot of his other work.

And from one giant of the early days of rock ’n’ roll, we move to another, falling onto a track by the recently departed Little Richard. His take on “Midnight Special” (written by another musical giant, Lead Belly) was included on King Of Rock & Roll, a 1971 album on the Reprise label. No singles from the album made the charts (a couple from his 1970 release, The Rill Thing, had tickled the middle and lower portions of the Hot 100), but the album went to No. 193 on the Billboard 200. As to the track itself, Little Richard takes his time getting going, but about a minute in, the train takes off.

We close today’s brief expedition with a track from Bobby Womack: “I’m A Midnight Mover” from his 1968 album Fly Me To The Moon. As always when Womack’s work shows up here, I feel as if I don’t know enough about the man’s work to comment much except to say that his stuff grabs hold of me nearly every time it pops up. “I’m A Midnight Mover” was released as a single by Atlantic but did not chart. The album went to No. 174 in Billboard.

Saturday Single No. 676

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

It’s not a nice round number, but we’re going to back fifty-three years today, to February of 1967. I was thirteen, and it was about this time that I had my tonsils out and spent about a week home from school. I remember eating a fair amount of ice cream and sipping a good quantity of broth, sometimes beef, sometimes chicken.

And I recall lugging our brown and gold AM radio from the kitchen up to my room every morning after Dad had headed off to work. I’d park it on my bedside table and read while Minneapolis’ WCCO offered its combination of talk and middle-of-the-road music. When Arthur Godfrey’s show came on at 10 a.m., I’d retune the radio to KDWB, one of the Twin Cities’ Top 40 stations, and listen to records that I didn’t really know or appreciate yet. When I knew Godfrey was done for the day, I’d head back to WCCO where the middle of the road welcomed me again.

I was an easy listening kid.

So what was in the Billboard Easy Listening top ten during the second week of February 1967? Take a look:

“My Cup Runneth Over” by Ed Ames
“Music To Watch Girls By” by the Bob Crewe Generation
“Wish Me A Rainbow” by the Gunter Kallmann Chorus
“Lady” by Jack Jones
“All” by James Darren
“Sweet Maria” by the Billy Vaughn Singers
“Georgy Girl” by the Seekers
“I’ll Take Care Of Your Cares” by Frankie Laine
“Sunrise, Sunset” by Roger Williams
“What Makes It Happen” by Tony Bennett

I recall without prompting the records by Ames, the Bob Crewe Generation, the Seekers and Williams. (I’ll note here that seeing the Ames single listed here reminds me of a piece by my pal jb at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. It remains the best thing I’ve ever read about “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

The others? Well, we’re going to make a visit to YouTube to see if some melodies jog my memory.

I don’t recall and truly do not like “Wish Me A Rainbow,” which came from the film This Property Is Condemned, the title of which is only vaguely familiar to me. Nor does the Jack Jones record click for me (though I like it a little).

The James Darren record, though, sounds familiar, and it’s something that I would have liked as a thirteen-year-old: romantic with a pretty instrumental arrangement and lush voices in the background. (The video I checked out shows the cover of the LP from which “All” came, and I’m amused to see from the cover that Darren also recorded “Georgy Girl,” “Lady,” and “My Cup Runneth Over.”)

I have about sixty tracks by Vaughn on the digital shelves, but “Sweet Maria” is not one of them, but it sounds familiar, so who knows? And I have no memory of the records by Laine or Bennett, although I do like them, along with most of this top ten. Taken together, they sound exactly like what my 1967 sounded like.

But let’s play some Games With Numbers, taking today’s date 2-8-20 and making that into 30, and then look at the No. 30 record on that long-ago Easy Listening chart. And we find “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” by Jane Morgan, who was an occasional presence on both the Easy Listening chart (from 1965 to 1968) and the Hot 100 (from 1956 to 1967).

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” would go no higher on the Easy Listening chart during a nine-week stay, and it was the last record Morgan placed in or near the Hot 100, as it bubbled under at No. 121. It’s an okay record, but it’s not at all familiar and I doubt I’d have liked it in 1967, but that’s the way things go. It’s today’s Saturday Single.