Archive for the ‘1971’ Category

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

We’re going to indulge in a game of Symmetry in a moment, looking at the No. 50 record from the fourth week of October 1971, but first, we’re going to take a look at the top five from that week in the Billboard Hot 100:

“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts & Children” by the Carpenters
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez

“Maggie May” still works for me as a record, especially the long mandolin solo before the final choruses, but it also serves as a reminder of that long-ago season, the first autumn of my college days. It brings up memories of wandering down dorm hallways and across campus and into pizza joints with my first set of college friends, the folks I’d met at the summertime orientation. It’s always welcome here.

So, too, is “Superstar,” chiefly for the purity of Karen Carpenter’s voice (and the tasteful arrangement by her brother Richard). Bowdlerizing a bit the original lyric by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, the record still works.

We looked at Baez’ cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” the other week. As for “Yo-Yo” and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” well, “Yo-Yo” is a pleasant memory, and the Cher single is one of the 2,900-some in the iPod, so I must like it.

But what do we find when we go the halfway point of that week’s Hot 100? Well, we find a record I’m pretty certain I’ve never heard before: “She’s All I Got” by Freddie North, during which North pleads with a rival: “Please don’t take. She’s all I got . . .”

It’s an okay record, I guess, but nothing special. It made it to No. 39 on the Hot 100 and to No. 10 on the magazine’s R&B chart. North was a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Nashville, and the only other record of his that made the two charts was “You And Me Together Forever,” which bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 116 and went to No. 26 on the R&B chart in early 1972.

Oddly, I have North’s 1975 album, Cuss the Wind, in the digital stacks. How it got there, I have no idea. I may have grabbed it somewhere because it contains North’s cover of “A Rainy Night In Georgia.”

Here’s “She’s All I Got.”

My Faves From ’71

Friday, October 15th, 2021

I saw a squib the other day on Facebook for a book titled Never a Dull Moment: 1971, The Year That Rock Exploded by writer and broadcaster David Hepworth, a book I plan to read as soon as the local library sends it my way. The squib was followed by a challenge to list the twenty best albums from that admittedly very rich year, now fifty years in the past.

Well, I love lists, as anyone who comes past here knows. I usually do lists of single tracks, although I recall listing my thirteen favorite albums in a very early post here (the post is here, but I’ll warn you, it wanders around for a while before getting to the list). I revised that list a little later, and I imagine if I took on the topic again, my list would look at least a little different than it did fourteen years ago.

So, I’ve put together – in no particular order – a  list of my twenty favorite albums from 1971, which was, in fact, a great year for music. The greatest? Impossible to say, except to note that it lies right in the middle of my sweet spot. The years of high school and early college – 1968 through 1974 – were the best years for music for me.

I should note that one album that I wrestled with was The Concert For Bangla Desh, but I decided that all-star live albums have an unfair advantage. I’ll just note that Leon Russell’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley at that concert might be the single best thing released in 1971.

Here are my twenty:

Tapestry by Carole King
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
It Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry
Naturally by J.J. Cale
The North Star Grassman and the Ravens by Sandy Denny
Madman Across The Water by Elton John
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney
Mudlark by Leo Kottke
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues
Stargazer by Shelagh McDonald
Leon Russell & The Shelter People
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic
Just An Old Fashioned Love Song by Paul Williams
2 Years On by the Bee Gees
Chase (Self-Titled)
Closer To The Ground by Joy Of Cooking

This was not a deeply researched list. I simply sorted the mp3s in the RealPlayer for 1971 and then sifted through the 300 or so albums that showed up, so I imagine I might have missed one or two that I’ll think about later.

And again, without thinking too hard about it, I’ll choose a track to share here today. It’s the title track to Shelagh McDonald’s Stargazer. Her story, as I’ve said here before, is quite strange; here’s a link to her tale at Wikipedia. And here’s “Stargazer.”

Saturday Single No. 753

Saturday, September 18th, 2021

Having looked yesterday at the Top Ten from the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago this week, we may as well take a look at the Top Ten from that week’s album chart:

Tapestry by Carole King
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues
Who’s Next
Ram
by Paul & Linda McCartney
Carpenters
Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon
by James Taylor
Shaft (Soundtrack) by Isaac Hayes
Master Of Reality by Black Sabbath
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

That’s a great Top Ten. There are at least five in there that I’d call essential Seventies albums, those by King, Stewart, the Who, Hayes and Gaye. And four of the others aren’t that far behind. (I’m not certain about the Black Sabbath album simply because it’s in a genre in which I have no expertise at all. Anyone who wants can leave a comment assessing it.)

The earliest any of those came into my life was Ram, which I got as a high school graduation present. And I’ve owned eight of those ten as LPs, everything except the Black Sabbath and James Taylor albums. Then, between CDs and digital files, I have everything on that list except Master Of Reality.

It’s interesting that Rod Stewart shows up here today. Earlier this week, the Texas Gal and I were driving home from some errand when Stewart’s “Gasoline Alley” came on the radio. I’m not as familiar with the track, or with the 1970 album that’s its namesake, as I am with other portions of Stewart’s early solo work, but I recognized it immediately and I was struck by what seemed its sloppiness: guitars going every which way, the bass and percussion seemingly working off a different sheet. I should go back and listen to the entire album, I guess, but I think I’d hear the same thing.

And that contrasts with what I hear when I listen to Every Picture Tells A Story from 1971. Stewart produced both albums, but it seems that during the time between them, he learned some restraint. I’m not saying that every track on the later album was painstakingly precise, but the rowdiness that gives Gasoline Alley its somewhat ramshackle air is gone.

I dunno, maybe I’m hearing things that aren’t there. But anyway, here’s “Seems Like A Long Time” from Every Picture Tells A Story, a cover of a tune that was originally recorded by Brewer & Shipley. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Another Night, Another Day . . .’

Friday, September 17th, 2021

We’re playing “Symmetry” this morning, checking out the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago this week.

As usual, we’ll start the game with a look at that week’s Top Ten. There are no surprises.

“Go Away, Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth
“I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees
“Whatcha See Is What Cha Get” by the Dramatics

Well, except for the records by Osmond and Baez, that’s some decent listening. “Go Away, Little Girl” is at least a little icky these days no matter who sings it (and no matter how noble the intentions of the character the singer is channeling) but having a thirteen-year-old boy sing it is just weird. But that’s today’s mores, and I guess few people were thinking that way fifty years ago.

As to the Baez, my frustration with the record starts with – as I think I’ve noted before – her mis-singing the lyrics. I’ve heard or read somewhere that Baez’ people got the lyrics over the phone from Robbie Robertson’s people or publisher and mis-heard some of them, thus turning “Stoneman’s cavalry” into “so much cavalry” and Robert E. Lee into the steamboat-to-be.

But I’ve realized that the main reason I dislike Baez’ version of the song is that she pulls all the emotional weight out of it. She treats it as she did many old folk songs during the beginning of her career, as if it were a fragile flower needing her protection. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a song of grief, and the singer needs to offer it as if the events it chronicles matter to him or her, as does Levon Helm of The Band.

(As I mentioned almost in passing in a post from a year ago, I’m still sorting out how I feel about “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and other cultural pieces that would undoubtedly offend some folks.)

Other than that, the nine records remaining of the eleven listed above range from inspired to pleasantly remembered. The best one there is either “Spanish Harlem” or “Maggie May,” and I won’t argue with anyone who chooses one over the other.

Oddly, only about half of the records I like from that list are in the iPod and thus in my day-to-day listening. I’ll have to add the records by the Undisputed Truth, the McCartneys, the Bee Gees and the Dramatics. It’s strange that I missed so many of those.

And now to our main business, the No. 50 record in that Hot 100 released fifty years ago yesterday. It turns out to be a ballad by Engelbert Humperdinck, some of whose stuff I’ve liked over the years and some of whose stuff I have little time for. I’d never heard “Another Time, Another Place” before:

Her candles flicker in the fading light
I sit alone and watch that lonely night
I see you everywhere and I try desperately to hide

Another time, another place, I see that old familiar face
And I try hard to catch your eye
Another road, another mile, I see that old familiar smile
But you’ll be with somebody new
Another night, another day, I’ll see you standing in my way
I’ll stop and say “Hello, my friend”
Another place, another time, you’ll tell me you’ve been doing fine
And walk away from me once more.


I try to run away from sad regrets
The bitter wine won’t help me to forget
That I locked up my heart and threw away the precious key

Another time, another place, I see that old familiar face
And I try hard to catch your eye
Another road, another mile, I see that old familiar smile
But you’ll be with somebody new
Another night, another day, I’ll see you standing in my way
I’ll stop and say “Hello, my friend”
Another place, another time, you’ll tell me you’ve been doing fine
And walk away from me once more.

Another night, another day, I’ll see you standing in my way
I’ll stop and say “Hello, my friend”
Another place, another time, you’ll tell me you’ve been doing fine
And walk away from me once more.

A couple of years earlier, still in my easy listening and soundtrack days, I probably would have liked that one a lot. Maybe I would have, anyway. But the brassy backing and Humperdinck’s over-singing were a long distance from what I was listening to during my first days of college.

The record peaked at No. 43 on the Hot 100 and got to No. 5 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 750

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

A few days ago, I examined the top fifteen albums offered in a survey fifty years ago this week by KSHE-FM, a progressive station in St. Louis. I thought today, we’d drop in on a survey from fifty years ago from a Top 40 station in St. Louis.

Here’s the Top 15 from the KXOK Bookmark from August 28, 1971.

“Sweet Hitch-Hiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth
“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye
“Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Beginnings” by Chicago
“Liar” by Three Dog Night
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band
“Dragging The Line” by Tommy James
“Go Down Gamblin’” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“Rain Dance” by the Guess Who
“Bangla Desh” by George Harrison

Well, except for the Donny Osmond record (and maybe the Guess Who record, which I honestly do not recall), that would be a real fine hour of listening, no matter what station you were tuned to. There are three others among those fifteen that I think tend to get lost or somewhat forgotten, at least around here. Those are the records by CCR, BS&T and George Harrison. And that’s somewhat understandable. The catalogs of those three are stuffed with goodies that probably make better listening.

As to “Rain Dance.” I pulled it up on the RealPlayer to be reminded what it sounded like, and I have no memory of ever hearing come out the radio speakers.

Then, as far as “Bangla Desh” goes, that’s one of those records that I don’t often run into when I dig into old surveys. And that’s just chance, I guess. The surveys gathered at Airheads Radio Survey Archive show the record reaching the top ten, by my count, at fourteen stations, including KDWB in the Twin Cities.

And the cities where the record reached the top ten are an interesting bunch. Beyond the Twin Cities you find Gadsden, Alabama; Erie, Pennsylvania; Vincennes, Indiana; Amarillo, Texas; Terre Haute, Indiana; Rochester, New York; Hemingway, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Lincoln, Nebraska; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Montreal and Vancouver in Canada.

Hmmm. Four major metro areas – Denver, Montreal, Vancouver and the Twin Cities – and a lot of mid-range and smaller cities. Does that mean anything? I dunno.

I doubt we’ve ever featured the record here. The times I did hear the single release during the late summer and autumn of 1971, I thought the production was kind of thin. The song sounded a lot better live, as performed in the Concert for Bangla Desh. (Why wouldn’t it, with Billy Preston and Eric Clapton doing the fills and Leon Russell leading the way?)

So, here’s the live version from August 1971 of “Bangla Desh” as shown in the film of the concert. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Down The Road . . .’

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Fifty years ago, I was spending my evenings washing floors at St. Cloud State with Janitor Mike and spending my day-time hours no doubt wasting time in the basement rec room, sitting on the green couch and listening to my limited collection of LPs.

It was probably about this time of August that the college hosted an overnight orientation for incoming freshman students, which is when I met Dave the Poet, Wyoming Rick and the other folks who would make up a lot of my social life during that first year at St. Cloud State. But they were in town for one night and then went back to their hometowns and would not be back until nearly two-thirds of September had passed.

And Rick from across the street was – I think – toiling at a summertime job somewhere, and when that ended, he’d head to his junior year at St. Cloud Cathedral, the Catholic high school downtown.

So, pretty much alone, I listened to my LPs – only a few of which were very current – and wondered what albums (beyond the Beatles LPs I would need to backfill my complete collection) I should have in my sights. I could have used the help of the progressive rock folks at KSHE-FM in St. Louis. Here are the top fifteen albums listed in the station’s mid-August 1971 survey:

Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
Tapestry by Carole King
Aqualung by Jethro Tull
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
Four Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Poems, Prayers & Promises by John Denver
Fifth by Lee Michaels
The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East
Stephen Stills II
Mudslide Slim & The Blue Horizon by James Taylor
L.A. Woman by the Doors
Electric Hot Tuna
Who’s Next
High Time by the MC5
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues

I’ve corrected a couple of titles – on the Allman Brothers Band and James Taylor albums – and I have no idea what album Electric Hot Tuna is. The listings at discogs show First Pull Up, Then Pull Down as the group’s 1971 album, released in June 1971. I’m guessing it’s that album mistitled.

The major question I have there is the presence of the John Denver album on the list. Progressive? Poems was Denver’s fourth album and contained his first hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and I guess his version of folky country (or countryish folk, depending on your vantage point) night have seemed different enough to be progressive. To be honest, at the time this survey came out, one of the albums getting regular play in the rec room was Denver’s third album, Whose Garden Was This, which my sister had brought home some months earlier, and I liked it a lot.

It’s kind of hard to look back and recall how Denver was received and perceived in 1971 without letting a lot of the later stuff – his saccharine singles, his goofy persona, and “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” – get in the way. In 1971, at least in St. Louis (and likely elsewhere), Denver was seen as a serious musician poised at that intersection of rock, pop, folk and country that always grabs my attention. I should listen to Poems, Prayers & Promises again with that in mind.

So how many of those albums ever came home with me? Twelve or thirteen of them. (There is some confusion about, again, the Hot Tuna album. About twenty-five years ago, just after I quit working for the newspaper in Eden Prairie, a friend from there offered me a crate of her college records; then, about ten years later, she called me and told me one of her children wanted them, if I would part with them, which of course I did. I also deleted the titles from my database (something I no longer do when I let an LP go).

I think the Hot Tuna album was one of those I got from Linda and later returned.

Otherwise, the only two albums on that list that I never brought home are those by Lee Michaels and the MC5. But none of those fifteen was in the cardboard box in the rec room as I sat there during August 1971. Aqualung would show up in November that year, as would my sister’s copy of Tapestry, and Sticky Fingers would arrive not quite a year later. The rest would take longer.

My favorites among those fifteen are – predictably – the albums by Carole King, the Rolling Stones, Stephen Stills, and the Moody Blues.

And that’s helpful because it provides a way to say farewell to Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer who died at the age of 80 yesterday in London. Many times through the years, as Sticky Fingers played, I’d stop whatever I was doing and listen to the album’s closer “Moonlight Mile” and nod as Watts’ drumming brought the song to its climax. Listening to it again is as good a way as any for a fan to say goodbye.

‘It’s Too Late . . .’

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

Looking back at 1971’s charts, I noticed this morning that during the second week of August that year, Carole King’s Tapestry passed the halfway point of what would be a fifteen-week stay on top of the Billboard 200.

If there is such a thing as a perfect pop album, one on which every track works, that album might be Tapestry. There is one track I’m not fond of on its own for some reason – “Smackwater Jack” – but when I hear it in the context of the album it works, breaking the reflective mood just before the finale of the title tune.

And I find it odd, given my love of covers, that I’ve never dug – in any organized manner – into what covers there might be for the songs on Tapestry. Since Tuesday is a day I’ve decided to set aside most weeks for covers, let us take up the task.

A look at Second Hand Songs finds 128 versions of “It’s Too Late,” two of them by King: the version on the album and a 1970 demo released in 2012. The first of the other 126 came from Johnny Mathis. Then, still in 1971, came covers from Andy Williams, Top of the Pops, Jack Jones, Frances Yip, the Sound Effects, Agnaldo Rayol, Suzanne Lynch, the Shakers, the Music Machine, Mark Lindsay, the Sandpipers, and Bernard Purdie’s Pretty Purdie & The Playboys.

And from then, the covers continue, coming in every decade since the Seventies. There may be some more we look at down the road, but for today, I’m going to stop at the version by Pretty Purdie & The Playboys, which came out on the album Stand By Me (Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get). It seems to work pretty well.

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.

Saturday Single No. 740

Saturday, June 12th, 2021

According to the book Billboard #1s, a Joel Whitburn publication, here were the records at the top of the various charts published in the June 12, 1971 edition, fifty years ago today:

Hot 100: “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
R&B singles: “Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
Country singles: “You’re My Man” by Lynn Anderson
AC singles: “Rainy Days & Mondays” by the Carpenters
Pop albums: Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
R&B albums: Maybe Tomorrow by the Jackson 5
Country albums: Hag by Merle Haggard

I know three of the four singles well, but only one of the three albums. My knowledge of the artists from that list whose works I do not know well forms a pyramid: I know the Jackson 5’s hits but none of their albums; I know Anderson’s biggest hit, “Rose Garden,” but no more than that; and I know only a sliver of Haggard’s mountain of work: “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee” and “Pancho & Lefty” are what came to mind.

And I imagine that kind of differential would be the norm no matter what week’s listings I pulled from the Whitburn book.

I got the LP of Sticky Fingers in late 1972, among a batch of albums ordered from a record club, and it went into heavy rotation in the basement rec room that autumn and winter. Along with the singles, “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses,” my favorites were “Moonlight Mile” and “You Gotta Move.” That last song was credited on the LP in 1971 to Mississippi Fred McDowell, which is what I expected, but the credits on the Sticky Fingers CD release add Rev. Gary Davis, which I did not expect.

Davis recorded his version of the tune in 1953, according to Second Hand Songs, and McDowell’s version was not recorded until 1965 (though he no doubt had been performing the song for years before that). But given that recorded versions of the song date to at least 1944, according to SHS, the credit even to McDowell seems questionable. SHS calls the song traditional.

Wherever it came from, it’s a good song. Here it is as the Stones released it on the No. 1 album from fifty years ago. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘Every Time I Look At You . . .’

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was about this time fifty years ago, in June 1971, that I entered the world of work, toiling for the summer for the maintenance department at St. Cloud State. I was assigned to the lawn-mowing crew, spending my days either riding a huge machine that trimmed the massive lawns of the college (eventually a university) or following behind with a push mower to trim the edges at places the big rigs could not go.

As I think I’ve noted before, I did not do well with the big machines; they scared me, and a timid mower does not move fast enough. After seven or eight weeks, I was transferred to the janitorial crew and soon enough joined Mike the Janitor scrubbing and waxing floors all over the campus.

But as I wrote more than twelve years ago, finding something to occupy one’s time while riding in the deafening roar of the big mowers was a challenge. (These days, I assume we’d be issued protective goggles and headphones. Fifty years ago? Not a chance.) In a post in 2009, I wrote:

We weren’t allowed to bring our transistor radios and earphones to work with us, for safety reasons, I assume. So there we were, those five or six of us on the mowing crew, spending our days on riding mowers or following behind the riding mowers with push mowers to trim around buildings.

The roar of the mowers made conversation impossible. I’m not sure what the other guys did to occupy their minds while riding in the roar, but I “listened” to albums. I’d mentally drop the needle at the start of a record and run through the album in my head, a side at a time.

Among the records I “listened” to as I rode the lawnmower were the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Hey Jude; Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album; Janis Joplin’s Pearl; the second side of Chicago’s second album, the side with the long suite titled “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” and Jesus Christ Superstar. As long as I kept the mower moving and didn’t run into any trees or buildings, my supervisors didn’t seem to care that I was riding along in my own musical world.

As I read that post this morning, I thought of a few other albums that I’d run through my head as I rode during those lawnmower days fifty years ago: Crosby, Stills & Nash, and with Neil Young added, Déjà Vu, The Band’s second-self-titled album, Ram by Paul and Linda McCartney, and several more Beatles’ albums: Let It Be, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the U.S. version of Revolver and the cobbled-together “Yesterday” . . . And Today. I imagine I also took stabs at the first and fourth movements of Antonín Dvořák’s “New World” symphony and Bedřich Smetana’s tone-poem Vltava, all of which I’d played in high school orchestra.

And here’s the first track from any of those albums that popped up during a random click-fest in iTunes this morning: the title track to 1970’s Jesus Christ Superstar, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and performed by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers: