Archive for the ‘1971’ 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.

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:

‘Give Up Your Guns . . .’

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

Scanning the 6+30 survey that the Twin Cities’ KDWB released on June 7, 1971 – fifty years ago yesterday – I struggled to find something fresh. Until I got to the very bottom line, No. 36, where I saw “Give Up Your Guns” by the Buoys.

I remembered the Buoys and their hit from the previous spring, “Timothy,” about the aftermath of a mining cave-in that might have included cannibalism (unless Timothy was a pack mule, which I’ve heard bandied about). “Timothy” was No. 1 for two weeks at KDWB as March turned into April (and went to No. 17 nationally on the Billboard Hot 100), so I heard the record plenty, learning years later that it was written by Rupert Holmes of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” fame.

But “Give Up Your Guns”? I have no memory of that one. I did a quick search in the RealPlayer, and there it was, though when I gathered it, I have no idea. It turns out to be a “boy on the lam from the cops” song with a nicely done melody in a minor key:

When I woke up this morning
I found myself alone
I turned to touch her hair, but she was gone
She was gone
And there beside my pillow
Were her tears from the night before
She said, give up your guns and face the law

I robbed a bank in Tampa
And I thought I had it made
But the hounds picked up my trail within the glades
So I ran
And I stumbled on this cabin
And she came to me once more
She said, give up your guns and face the law

I don’t wanna leave her
I don’t wanna die
Deep within a cold, cold grave
With no one ’round to cry
But I have got my pistol
Now it’s time to choose
Shooting here or hanging there
And either way I lose

And now, I’m in this cabin
Where my own true love should be
Instead, there lies a note she wrote to me
And it says
No, you can’t live by the bullet
But you sure as death can die
My love, give up your guns or say goodbye, goodbye

And the sheriff now is calling
With his shotgun at my door
Son, give up your guns and face the law

That’s all told nicely in 2:34 or so, but then the strange thing happens: An instrumental passage – nice but repetitive – starts and runs for another 1:30 or so. It’s pleasant, but I can’t imagine a radio station letting it go for the entire length, so I wondered if the copy of the track I had was some kind of oddity. But the folks at discogs say the 45 runs 4:14. My track’s a second shorter, which is no big deal.

So that long instrumental at the end is kind of odd. (An album track evidently ran about two minutes longer yet.)

The record stiffed. It stayed on the KDWB survey for another three weeks and peaked at No. 24, and nationally, it stalled at No. 84 on the Hot 100. And the Buoys never saw the charts again.

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, June 4th, 2021

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, checking out the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of 1971, fifty years ago. Along the way, we’ll check out the Top Ten from that week and see how they stacked up then and whether they matter now.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten released on June 5 of that year, fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet and Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Me and You and A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo

Back then, having just graduated from high school and about to start a summer of lawn-mowing, janitoring and floor-cleaning at St. Cloud State, I liked most of those. The Donny Osmond single left me pretty blah, and something about Lobo’s single bothered me. (Maybe it was “the wheatfields of St. Paul” and the farmer from whom the narrator stole eggs. Not the St. Paul I knew.)

And I do not at all recall hearing Aretha’s cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the time, even though it went to No. 24 on the Twin Cities’ KDWB. (I don’t think I heard that meditative take on Paul Simon’s masterpiece until I sought it out after reading a Dave Marsh piece about it during the early 1990s.) The flipside went unheard until the Nineties as well.

The others, though, would make up a more than pleasant stretch of listening. My favorites among them? The Stones, Ringo, the Carole King A-side and the Carpenters. And not much has changed today. Those four are in my current day-to-day listening in the iPod, along with “Want Ads” and “Joy To The World.” (I maybe should add “I Feel The Earth Move.” We’ll see.)

Now to our other business, checking out the No. 50 record from fifty years ago. And we find a slow and sad piece of soul from an artist who doesn’t show up here very often: “I Cried” by James Brown. There are several videos of the tune at YouTube, and under one of them, a commenter said, “This is how you sing a soul song.” I agree. (The record went no higher in the Hot 100, but it did go to No. 15 on the magazine’s R&B chart.)

‘A Small Vacation . . .’

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

This wasn’t planned, but this has turned out to be vacation week here. I’m weary and uninspired.

So here’s Dallas County with “Small Vacation” from the group’s self-titled 1971 album. The song was written by Don Nix and Jay Pruitt. Nix produced the album.

I’ll be back Saturday.

Chart Digging: LPs, May 1971

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Here are the top ten albums in the Billboard 200 from the third week in May 1971, fifty years ago:

4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Jesus Christ Superstar (Original concept album)
Up To Date by the Partridge Family
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Golden Bisquits by Three Dog Night
Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon by James Taylor
Tapestry by Carole King
Tea For The Tillerman by Cat Stevens
Survival by Grand Funk Railroad
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones

I know eight of those, and I know most of those eight very well. The only mysteries would be the albums by Grand Funk Railroad and the Partridge Family, though I imagine I might recognize some tracks on the latter from radio play at the time.

I had a copy of 4 Way Street for a time; Rick brought it over one evening in 1974 when he was clearing his shelves of stuff that no longer fit into his listening aesthetic. (He was moving quickly into a heavy Poco and Gram Parsons period.) I’d heard 4 Way Street at his place when he got it, and although I liked some of the performances on it – and I was pleased to have the album at a time when I was homebound – I never did find the album to be essential listening.

There were too many ragged performances, and it just wasn’t fun listening. (As I understand it, of course, the band wasn’t really having fun, either). My vinyl copy of the record left here during the big sell-off a few years ago, I’ve never had a CD copy of the album, and only one track from the album – the lovely performance of “The Lee Shore” – is on the digital shelves.

(I’ve heard some of the live collection from the 1974 tour of the quartet, and those performances sound fairly good. I was at one of those shows, and at least on that evening in St. Paul, it seemed like the four men almost liked each other. I might add that album to the collection someday.)

Of the others, the one I know least is likely the James Taylor album. I have it on the digital shelves but nowhere else, and it’s never seemed essential to me. As to Three Dog Night, the Texas Gal’s long-loved copy of Golden Bisquits is still in the vinyl stacks, and somewhere among the CDs we have a newer anthology from the group.

The other five albums – Jesus Christ Superstar and those by Joplin, Stevens, King, and the Rolling Stones – were essential listening to me during my college and early adulthood years with Tea For The Tillerman coming into the mix a little later than the others. During those years, I’d guess that at least one of those first four – Tapestry, Sticky Fingers, Pearl and Jesus Christ Superstar – was on the stereo every week.

Are they still that vital to me? Let’s check the iPod, where we find one track from Jesus Christ Superstar (the title track), four tracks each from the albums by Stevens and the Rolling Stones, six tracks from Pearl, six tracks from Three Dog Night’s Golden Bisquits, and eight tracks from Tapestry.

When this chart came out, I was seventeen, still three-and-a-half months from eighteen. As always, I ask myself: Is my affection for the music of that time because of the joy of memory or for the quality of the music? Well, it’s great music. Of that, I am certain. But the memories of that time – most of them, anyway – are good, too. So as always, I don’t know.

It’s hard to pick a single favorite track from any of those albums. So I’m going to go with a track from the Joplin album that ran through my dreams the other night when I was not sleeping well: “Half Moon,” written by John and Johanna Hall.

Saturday Single No. 734

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

We’re going to skip talking about May Day today – we once celebrated the day on the wrong date once, and invested two years of the holiday – 2009 and 2019 – into singing in German Tanz In Den Mai. That’s likely enough. So, all we’re going to say is that may your May Baskets be full, and then we can get on with talking only a little bit about Steve Winwood’s song “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

Once the song was released on Blind Faith in 1969, covers began to pop up. A Brazilian psychedelic/progressive group called Sound Factory took a run at the song in 1970, leaving behind a track with a reedy vocal not always certain about pitch. A year later, another Brazilian artist, Gilberto Gill, offered up on a self-titled album a cover of the song tinged with jazzy Latin influence.

And that’s where we’ll stop today: Gilberto Gill’s 1971 version of “Can’t Find My Way Home” is today’s Saturday Single.

I should note that I am aware that folks who have tried to leave comments here have been unable to do so. The folks at GoDaddy are trying to take care of that.

‘Somebody Holds The Key . . .’

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

I was puttering at my computer the other week, probably reading the news, while across the room, the Texas Gal was working on a quilt. My computer’s iTunes provided the soundtrack.

There came a familiar acoustic introduction and then Steve Winwood’s unmistakable voice:

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key

Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home . . .

It was, of course, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” a track from the only album ever released by the British supergroup Blind Faith and a staple of progressive stations when the album came out in 1969.

The moment came back to me yesterday as I was wandering around YouTube digging into the oeuvre of Yvonne Elliman, the Hawaiian-born singer who first came to prominence in 1970 when she sang the role of Mary Magdalene for original release of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The album spent three non-consecutive weeks in early 1971 on top of the Billboard 200, and was in the magazine’s Top Ten for more than forty weeks.

And it brough Elliman her first two hits. In 1971, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” went to No. 28 (and to No. 15 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart), and “Everything’s Alright” went to No. 92 (No. 25, Easy Listening). As fine as those records were, yesterday, I was looking into other portions of Elliman’s career.

Why? Because the fine blog And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – run by my friend jb – pointed me to Elliman’s single “I Can’t Get You Outa My Mind” from 1977. And once at YouTube, I began to dig around in the Hawaiian singer’s other later work, as collected on The Best Of Yvonne Elliman, a sixteen-track CD released in 1997. It’s got the two 1971 hits, of course, and 1978’s “If I Can’t Have You” a No. 1 hit from the movie Saturday Night Fever, as well as “Hello Stranger,” a No. 15 hit from 1977.

But it’s also got a lot of other stuff I’ve never heard, some of it from Elliman’s 1978 album Night Flight and a fair amount from elsewhere. One of those – and here things tie together – is Windwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Elliman’s version was released as a Decca single in 1971 and then showed up on her first album, a self-titled effort released in 1972.

Neither the record nor the single hit the Billboard charts. The single was listed as “hitbound” on an April 10, 1972, survey released by WILI in Willimantic, Connecticut, and was listed two days later as one of more than forty unranked singles on a survey released by WRKR-FM in Racine, Wisconsin.

There are a few other versions of Winwood’s song on the digital shelves here – and many more beyond that, based on the information at Second Hand Songs – but we’ll listen to Elliman’s today and perhaps dig into more covers in the weeks to come.

The Video Standings

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Over the years, I’ve made more than 370 videos for this blog. My first, slapped together not too carefully ten years ago, back in April 2011, was of Al Hirt’s 1963 track “I Can’t Get Started.” It’s been viewed 154,120 times since then, not bad for a bit of pop jazz.

I don’t often make videos anymore. There are two reasons: First, it’s getting very rare for a record that has even the slightest bit of notoriety to not show up on YouTube. It happens, most often, for records that have a one- or two-week presence in the lower portions of the charts, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to. The main reason I starred putting together videos ten years ago was because I could not find good videos – meaning first, with decent sound, and second, with some pleasing visual aesthetic – of the tunes I was writing about. That’s no longer the major concern it was ten years ago.

The second reason I’ve not messing with videos any more is that the video-making software that came along with my new computer last summer is kind of clunky, not as intuitive as the software I’d used on the previous computer. If making vids were as important to me now as it was, say, five years ago, I’d buy a better program, as I have done for apps to rip and sort CDs and to record musical notation. But it’s not worth it.

Anyway, to get back to what I was doing. I thought, as the ten-year anniversary of my video-making approaches – the actual date will be Monday – that I’d note which of my vids have been the most popular over the years.

The most popular, by far, is the merger of two pieces by Bill Conti from the soundtrack of the original Rocky, from 1976. “Going The Distance” is the music that undergirds most of the championship fight between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, and “The Final Bell” is the triumphant set of themes that runs under the climactic final scene of the film. Playing them one after another – they’re separated by numerous tracks on the official soundtrack release – only made sense to me. And it seems to make sense to lots of others, too. As of this morning, the video has received 6,445,134 views in not quite three years. Nearly 39,000 folks have liked it, but about 1,500 folks have given it a thumbs-down.

Second place in my video derby goes to “Bittersweet” by Big Head Todd & The Monsters, the second video I made and uploaded in April 2011. So, longevity no doubt plays a part in the piece having gathered 2,116,503 views as of this morning, with some 602 folks unaccountably not liking the vid. (Maybe my very simple visual style – generally a picture of the album cover, no more – disappoints some folks.) As to the video’s popularity, that, I think, has to be credited to the sweet slow story of the 1993 song. As I wrote almost ten years ago:

Every generation finds its own versions of universal truths and tales, and “Bittersweet” is one generation’s version of the thought that even if you get what you dreamed of, you might find that it wasn’t what you really wanted.

Coming in next in the video derby is Long John Baldy and “Don’t Try To Lay No Boogie-Woogie On The King Of Rock & Roll” from 1971’s It Ain’t Easy, with the shaggy dog story of Baldry’s long-ago arrest in London followed by one of my favorite tracks of all time. Altogether, 930,406 folks have viewed it, and somehow, 323 folks didn’t like it. Perhaps those are the same folks who insist in the comments that the rocking piano part on the track is played by Elton John (who produced half of It Ain’t Easy), when the album’s credits make it clear that it was Ian Armitt at the keyboard.

Here’s the rest of the Top Ten:

“Theme From Summer Of ’42” by Michel Legrand (833,375)
“Nantucket Sleighride (Live)” by Mountain (500,398)
“Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne (499,913)
“Tangerine” by Eliane Elias (477,334)
“Misty” by Richard “Groove” Holmes (430,465)
“Wind Up” by Jethro Tull (355,688)
“Ballad Of Easy Rider” by Roger McGuinn (334,010)

On the bottom of the list are two videos that evidently ran into some accessibility issues due to copyright and were unavailable for a while: “The River” by Bruce Springsteen (140 views) and “That’s The Way Of The World” by Earth, Wind & Fire (202 views). Then comes a cover of The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” by an obscure band called Home Groan. The cover ended up on an album of tracks played on a Norwegian radio show about American music. As of today, the video had been viewed 298 times.