Archive for the ‘1969’ Category

‘Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me . . .’

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

It was ninety-three years ago today in Atlanta, on October 22, 1928 – according to the notes to the CD The Essential Jimmie Rodgers – that the Yodeling Brakeman recorded a song that I’d guess is one of his best-known: “Waiting For A Train.” The recording was released the following February as Bluebird 5163.

I imagine that my first exposure to the tune came with Boz Scaggs’ version, found on his 1969 self-titled album recorded in Muscle Shoals, a track highlighted by Duane Allman’s sweet work on dobro. (Also on the album, of course, is the epic “Loan Me A Dime,” which features Allman’s ferocious slide work.) I got the album in the spring of 1989, but I imagine I’d heard Scagg’s version of the tune long before, though I have no idea when.

Scaggs’ version is just one of more than eighty covers of the tune listed at Second Hand Songs. Three versions are listed from 1929, by Riley Puckett, by Ed (Jake) West, and by Carson Robison and Frank Luther, who recorded as the Jimson Brothers.

The most recent version of “Waiting For A Train” listed at the site was by Billy Bragg and Joe Henry. They recorded the song in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, the same room where Robert Johnson recorded twenty-three tracks during three sessions in November 1936. Bragg and Henry released their version in 2016 on the album Shine a Light: Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad.

There was a surprise, though, waiting for me at Second Hand Songs. Listed with the versions of “Waiting For A Train” were thirteen versions of the song “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me,” with the words credited to Mississippi John Hurt. The website says that Hurt first recorded the song in 1966, a take that was included on the posthumous 1972 album Last Sessions.

I’ve noted here before that Second Hand Songs is a good place to start but not always complete. That’s the case here, as in the digital stacks here I find a version of “Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me” that Hurt recorded in 1963 for the Library of Congress. That version was first released in 1982 on an album titled Avalon Blues: The Library of Congress Recordings, Vol. 2 and has been released on several anthologies since (as has the 1966 version) as shown by the photo in the video below.

Whichever came first, it’s a surprise and a delight to hear the same melody as Rodgers’ “Waiting For A Train” used as the basis for an entirely different song (as was frequently the case in the folk and blues tradition).

Saturday Single No. 751

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

I’m going to turn 68 tomorrow. And today is September 4, which means that forty-eight years ago this evening, I boarded a Finnair jet and headed off to Denmark for a college year that I can only describe – after years of thought – as the single greatest formative experience of my life.

The confluence of those things can put me in a pensive, nostalgic mood, one that can prod me to fill this space with ideas I’ve offered here before (perhaps too many times), a mood that can nudge me into messy binges of memories.

And to add to the perils a writer with an occasional lack of discipline must face, it’s beginning to feel a little bit like autumn around here: a little bit cooler, a little less humid, with high school and college football underway.

So, I’ll just mention the best meal I’ve had in some time, courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law yesterday at Krewe, a Cajun restaurant in the nearby burg of St. Joseph. The tradition of my sister taking me out for lunch around the time of my birthday arose in the early 1990s, when I’d quit my Midwest wanderings and was living in South Minneapolis. I don’t think we’ve missed a year since then.

Now, of course, the lunches include the Texas Gal and – when he’s not working at the golf course – my brother-in-law.

We’ve eaten at basic burger joints, an upscale steak place or two, an Ethiopian place in south Minneapolis, and other places I cannot recall. My sister said friends of her had recommended Krewe.

The food was good: muffuletta for my sister and the Texas Gal, a chicken sandwich with spicy coleslaw on the side for my brother-in-law, a bowl of gumbo without rice for me – too much white rice can give me unpleasant after-effects – and a plate of maque choux – a creole-seasoned corn dish that we augmented with some andouille – for all of us to share.

And, because the waiter noticed my sister handing me a birthday card, I got the free dessert that goes to birthday folks: I chose the bourbon caramel bread pudding. It’s waiting for me in the refrigerator, and I’ll have to eat it over the course of a few days, as white flour has the same effect on me as white rice. But I’ll bet it’s going to be tasty.

Anyway, I got through a September 4 post without being maudlin, which is good. And here’s an appropriately titled swampy tune: “Hippy Gumbo” by Marsha Hunt. It was written by Marc Bolan in his pre-T. Rex days; his version was released as a single in the U.K. in December 1966. It did not chart.

Hunt’s version was recorded in late 1969 after she and Bolan began a relationship; it came out as the B-side to her “Desdemona” single in the U.K. and a few other places. It doesn’t seem to have charted either (though I cannot be sure). It’s a little strange, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Ooh, She Do Me . . .’

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

Having revisited Phoebe Snow’s cover of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” earlier this week, I was poking around various sites looking for other covers of the John Lennon-penned tune, and I was reminded of a different cover of a Beatles song by band with a very familiar name: Underground Sunshine.

The group, from Montello, Wisconsin, was part of my first full season of Top 40 listening, with their cover of the Beatles’ “Birthday” rising as high as No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the late summer and early autumn of 1969. That cover hangs in my memory for two reasons:

First, the record stayed long enough on the playlist of WJON, just down the street and around a couple of corners from us in St. Cloud, that I managed to get a decent recording of the record off of the radio on the late September evening that my sister was celebrating her nineteenth birthday. Not a big deal, but it’s always nice to surprise and please your older sister.

Second, as the Underground Sunshine’s record got its airplay during that late summer and early autumn, I was blissfully unaware of the song’s genesis, as I had only recently entered the world of pop and rock. Some months later, I heard the Beatles’ original (from the 1968 White Album) and pondered for a moment why the Beatles would bother recording another group’s song. I remain very glad, more than fifty years later, that I did not voice that thought aloud in the presence of any of my peers.

Anyway, the Underground Sunshine came to mind today – and as I write, I realize I’m kind of burying the lede here – with the discovery that the Wisconsin group had recorded “Don’t Let Me Down” and included the track on its only album, Let There Be Light, released on the Intrepid label in 1969.

The cover is a mixed bag: The tempo is just a hair slower than on the Beatles’ version, and the vocals are a bit dodgy, especially on the bridge. On the other hand, the organ solo – subbing for Billy Preston’s electric piano – works nicely. For a regional band’s album cut, it’s decent.

‘Let Me Be Your Little Dog . . .’

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

We go on exploring versions of “Matchbox,” the song first written and recorded by Carl Perkins in 1957. (After a while, we’ll also explore the versions of “Match Box Blues,” first written and recorded in 1927 by Blind Lemon Jefferson. As I noted the other day, even if they are two different songs, they are at least cousins.)

As I do this, I’m just bouncing around the versions parked in the RealPlayer here and then checking out the lists at Second Hand Songs. I don’t know that I’ve got much original to say about any of these versions, but we’ll see.

In the first iteration of this blog, fourteen years ago, I shared the 1970 album Ronnie Hawkins, (recorded the year before at Muscle Shoals and released on the Cotillion label), which included Hawkins’ second stab at “Matchbox.” His first came a couple years earlier on an album titled Mojo Man released on Roulette. I’ve not checked out the 1967 version; if and when I do, I doubt I’ll like it as much as I like the 1969 recording.

As the track was included on the second of the two 1970s Duane Allman anthologies, it’s a good bet that Allman handles the lead work on Hawkins’ “Matchbox.” Others credited are Eddie Hinton on guitar, David Hood on bass, Roger Hawkins on drums, Barry Beckett and Scott Cushnie on keyboards and King Biscuit Boy on harp.

Making A Myth?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Poking around in the LP database this morning, I noticed that twenty-one years ago today, I picked up Neil Young’s three-record anthology Decade, released in 1977.

It’s strange, the things that stick with you. I stopped at a garage sale in the suburb of Richfield., a couple miles from my apartment in the very southern portions of Minneapolis. I remember it because of the delusional prices for records. There were several Elvis Presley anthologies in the box of records, all of them priced at $10 or more.

I’d seen many copies of the same anthologies at Cheapo’s for much less.

And I found Decade. I’d glanced at copies of it at Cheapo’s – they were infrequent there – and winced at the $10.80 price. (Cheapo’s sold records in what was considered fine condition for $3.60 a disc, thus a three-LP set in fine condition was $10.80.) That price was a budget-buster back in 2000. But at the garage sale, the fine folks who wanted $10 for an omni-present Elvis collection were asking only $1 for Decade.

I walked away with it, and later that day, gave its three records a listen. It was in great shape, and the music was fine. It wasn’t stuff I was going to listen to frequently, but it was good to have it around: stuff from the Buffalo Springfield years, from his work with Crazy Horse, his solo work, and stuff with Crosby, Stills, and Nash. It left me, however, vaguely dissatisfied.

When the time came for the great vinyl sell-off maybe five years ago, Decade went out the door. I’d gotten hold of Young’s 2004 Greatest Hits CD, and that – along with a few other albums on CD – was all I needed. (I kept the LP of his 1978 album Comes A Time, as it’s my favorite of all his work.)

So, anyway, I was pondering Decade this morning on the anniversary of my finding it, and I went to Wikipedia to check the track list, and I found this interesting segment:

The album has been lauded in many quarters as one of the best examples of a career retrospective for a rock artist, and as a template for the box set collections that would follow in the 1980s and beyond. However, in the original article on Young from the first edition of the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll and a subsequent article in the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide, critic Dave Marsh used this album to accuse Young of deliberately manufacturing a self-mythology, arguing that while his highlights could be seen to place him on a level with other artists from his generation like Bob Dylan or The Beatles, the particulars of his catalogue did not bear this out. The magazine has since excised the article from subsequent editions of the Illustrated History book.

I’ve got both books here, and yeah, Marsh lays it on a little hard. In the Record Guide, he writes: “[F]or all his virtues, Young embedded his good ideas in a trove of bad ones, and his realized concepts are forever juxtaposed (except on Decade) with his worst. With the exception of Tonight’s The Night, he has never been able to make a fully realized concept album, not a terribly significant flaw except that he kept on making half-realized ones. By excerpting the most successful moments from these failures, Young almost managed to convince you they were triumphs.”

I think Marsh is right about half-baked ideas in Young’s oeuvre, but it crosses my mind that it’s pretty rich for the man who helped elevate Bruce Springsteen to mythic status to complain about another rock star’s efforts to hone his own legend.

Decade was a great bargain twenty-one years ago today, but I don’t miss it. Young’s Greatest Hits CD is a better fit for me. It’s missing the Buffalo Springfield  and CSN&Y tracks, as well as stuff from Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach, and a Crazy Horse jam or two, if I read the listings correctly. I’ve got the Springfield and CSN&Y stuff elsewhere, I can find Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach if I want to hear them and the jams aren’t a big deal to me.

So, here’s a Young track with Crazy Horse from Decade that I do like: “Down By The River.” It was originally on the 1969 album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

Promises

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

I was going to do marvelous things here this week. Well, I was at least going to do something here this week.

But a trip to the doctor’s office for blood work Monday turned into an additional appointment Wednesday to catch up on some Medicare regulations, split by a trip across town Tuesday evening for my first Covid vaccination.

The shot gave me no trouble at the moment – considering my history with reactions to chemicals, I was concerned – but last evening, I started to have some fatigue and body aches. Add to that the common cold I generally carry from mid-November to mid-March, and I slept in this morning. And I do not feel at all well.

So, for at least today, I cannot offer what I planned, which was my post about The Harry Smith B-Sides, the collection of vintage music I described last week. Perhaps tomorrow, although I make no promises (and I should not have done so last week).

And that provides an opportunity to offer instead of some vintage music a version of one of my favorite songs, “Don’t Make Promises,” written and first recorded by Tim Hardin. He released the tune on a Verve single in June 1966 and on the album Tim Hardin I in August of that year. According to Second Hand Songs, more than thirty covers have followed, most of them in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here’s the Texas Gal’s favorite version of the tune, one that was included by Three Dog Night as an album track on its self-titled 1969 album:

‘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.

Saturday Single No. 718

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

Okay, so I was confused two days ago when I said I’d be back here yesterday. New Year’s Eve felt like a Friday, so I was anticipating posting a Saturday Single the following day. Then yesterday turned out to be Friday.

It’s been hard keeping track of days, anyway, a statement that’s likely not surprising to anyone out there. The disruption in our routines over the past year have often left me trying to track back, wondering what television show I watched the night before or trying to remember something else from the day before that would help me put it on a peg and thus identify the current day.

The one thing I do have that helps me lock in my temporal fix is Wednesday, garbage day. Now, the truck comes by early Thursday morning, so that’s technically garbage day for this part of the city. But the trash goes out to the alley the afternoon before, making Wednesday the day of the week that offers a task than cannot be farmed out to another day, thus providing one bit of certainty during the week.

So even though it’s a Saturday, we’re going to celebrate a Wednesday song: “A Wednesday In Your Garden.” Written by Randy Bachman of the Guess Who, it first showed up on that band’s 1969 album Wheatfield Soul. According to Second Hand Songs, there have been only a handful of covers of the song in the fifty-plus years since.

One of those covers came my way this Christmas, when the Texas Gal gave me the Staple Singers’ Come Go With Me, a seven-CD box set that collects the six albums the group did for Stax in the late 1960s and early 1970s and adds a seventh CD of non-album B-sides and some live work from the 1972 Wattstax concert.

And on the 1969 album We’ll Get Over, we find “A Wednesday In Your Garden.” The Staples take a few liberties with the lyrics, dismissing the “long black funeral gown” for a line I can’t hear clearly.

Doesn’t matter. Here’s the Staple Singers’ take on Randy Bachman’s “A Wednesday In Your Garden.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging, December 1969

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Having played around the other day with the albums from this week in 1969, I thought we should look at the Hot 100 for that week as well. Here are the Top 10 records from the third week in December 1969:

“Leaving On A Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
“Down On The Corner/Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas
“Come Together/Something” by the Beatles
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” by Stevie Wonder
“Take A Letter, Maria” by R.B. Greaves
“Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond
“And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat & Tears

Wow. There’s not a one of those I wouldn’t welcome anytime. If forced to trim two records from those twelve, I’d likely take out “Down On The Corner” and “Take A Letter, Maria,” but only because I had to.

Maybe I love those records in large part because they were among the first batches of records I ever heard rise to the top in the Top 40. I started listening sometime in August 1969 and by December, I had gotten used to the cycle: New record shows up and catches my ear, so I wait for the next time I hear it, and it gets the same reaction from lots of other listeners and climbs up the ladder.

I dunno. But it seems that the records from, oh, the first year-plus of Top 40 listening – August 1969 to December 1970 – belong to me more than records from any other time of my life. There would be a few exceptions, sure, for stuff that came along later during the years I call my sweet spot, but after 1970, I’m not sure I could find a Top Ten in which every record was something I liked.

Has that appreciation for those twelve records lasted for fifty-one years? Let’s look at the iPod and see. Well, ten of the twelve are there. Missing are the B.J. Thomas and Blood, Sweat & Tears records. They should have been there.

Let’s take a look now at the bottom of the chart, at No. 100, and see what we find. It’s a record in its first week on the chart that would enter the Top 40 in early February 1970 and eventually peak at No. 7.

And even my mother liked it. Sometime in February or March 1970, she’d hear it coming from my radio as she came upstairs and stop and listen in the doorway for a moment. Then, as she headed to do whatever it was she was doing, she said something like “Why can’t more of your music be like that?”

Here are the Hollies and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”

Chart Digging, December 1969 (Albums)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

It’s time to dig into an album chart. Here are the top ten albums from this week in 1969, fifty-one years ago:

Abbey Road by the Beatles
Led Zeppelin II
Tom Jones Live In Las Vegas
Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones
Puzzle People by the Temptations
Santana
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Easy Rider soundtrack

Well, that’s a hell of a great chart. Seven of those ten albums were once on my LP shelves. Most of those are on the CD shelves, and all seven are here digitally. The exceptions are the Easy Rider soundtrack and the albums by the Temptations and Tom Jones. They never made the LP shelves, and on the digital shelves, I’ve got about half of the tracks from the soundtrack from other sources, but only one track from the other two albums, the Tempts’ “I Can’t Get Next To You.”

But I could put the seven I do have on shuffle and be happy for a long, long time.

It’s time, though, to look for interesting albums further down the chart. Instead of just falling to the bottom of the chart as we often do, we’re going to check some other stuff along the way, fifty slots at a time. And we’ll see what we find to listen to.

Parked at No. 50 we find the soundtrack to the 1969 film Romeo & Juliet by Nino Rota. The album would peak at No. 2 for two weeks, but the only track from it that had any success on the Billboard Hot 100 was a recording of an actual scene from the movie, “Farewell Love Scene,” with the voices of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. That single peaked at No. 86 in the late summer of 1969. (Henry Mancini, of course, had a No. 1 hit with Rota’s “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” – also known as “A Time For Us” – in June 1969.) As you might guess, the soundtrack is atmospheric, laden with strings and a little subdued. It had a spot on my shelves at one time but seems not to have survived the great sell-off about five years ago. I may have to rectify that.

Heading down fifty spots to No. 100, we come to an album by The Mamas & The Papas that my sister used to own (and may still): 16 Of Their Greatest Hits. I recall listening to it in the basement rec room many times before my sister took it with her in 1972. All the familiar records are there, as well as a few that weren’t as prominent. The most interesting of those might be “For The Love Of Ivy,” a 1968 single that peaked at No. 81 and was inspired by a 1968 film starring Sidney Poitier. I don’t recall the single; I got my M&P fix from the 1967 compilation Farewell To The First Golden Era, which gave me all the hits I needed. (I imagine that during my record-digging days,  if I’d seen a copy of the album my sister had, I’d have grabbed it.)

Down at spot No. 150, we find the first of two albums released by the group Fat Mattress, which was founded by Noel Redding, who played bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Both of the group’s albums are on the digital shelves, and I’m not sure why (except that someone offered them to me). Fat Mattress’ rock doesn’t seem to center on a particular style, and what it does offer is pretty derivative. The album was on its way down the chart after peaking at No. 134. The second album didn’t make the chart, and neither of them spun off any hit singles (though I doubt that was the aim of Redding and his pals).

Finally, at the bottom of the Billboard 200 from fifty-one years ago this week, we find Your Good Thing by Lou Rawls. The album did one more week at No. 200 and then fell off the chart, but it did spin off two singles: “Your Good Thing (Is About To End),” which went to No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 3 on the magazine’s R&B chart, and “I Can’t Make It Alone,” which went to Nos. 63 and 33, respectively. From what I can tell, the album is your basic Lou Rawls joint, which is a good thing around here. I doubt if I ever saw the album during my digging days. I had a couple of Rawls’ hits albums on the LP shelves, but they’re gone; I have all the hits and lot of album tracks among the digital files.

Once Lou Rawls showed up, the decision here was easy. Rota’s original version of his gorgeous theme got a few moments’ consideration, but Rawls’ work is so smooth, it over-rides even Rota’s theme. And then, Rawls has show up here at this blog only three times since we got our own spot more than ten years ago. He’s due. Maybe Rota is, too, but anyway, here’s “Your Good Thing (Is About To End).”