Archive for the ‘Covers’ Category

‘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.

I Heard It Somewhere

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

Tuesday used to be a day devoted to cover versions here at EITW, a notion that I think will return, starting with this post. It’s a recobbling of a post from 2008 – augmented now with more information – that I shared this week at Consortium Of Seven, where I blog weekly.

The image of a young folks’ hangout, a place of Cokes and laughter and a jukebox, is a central icon of American mythology, a scene generally based in the 1950s. One thinks of Arnold’s in the faux Fifties of television’s Happy Days or of the less bubbly but more realistic teen hangout – if it had a name, I don’t recall it – in John Farris’ disturbing 1959 novel, Harrison High. (Never heard of it? It seems to be forgotten these days. It’s worth a look.)

The only place I ever spent a great deal of time where there was a jukebox was Atwood Center at St. Cloud State. One of the main rooms in the snack bar area downstairs had one of the machines against the wall, and that happened to be the room in which we gathered, those twenty or so of us who made up The Table, to spend those portions of the day not devoted to the classroom. The jukebox wasn’t in constant play, but often enough, someone would wander over and drop in a quarter or two.

Accordingly, there are some songs and voices that are tied to Atwood Center and its jukebox, sounds I either heard for the first time there or else heard so frequently there that they became meshed with my memories of the place. Every once in a while, the radio, the computer or the iPod offers a song whose first notes whirl me nearly fifty years back and a couple miles southeast of here, and in my mind, I’m once more in a place of coffee cups and notebooks, the occasional romance, and plenty of laughter for jests both silly and ribald.

What records put me there?

Shawn Phillips’ “We” – discussed here more than once – is one of them, a record on which the Texas singer lets loose his amazing falsetto; I fed the jukebox frequently for that one, and I recall one of my tablemates shaking her head in admiration and murmuring, “He just soars, doesn’t he?” I also spent a few quarters to hear Bob Dylan’s “If You See Her, Say Hello,” the flipside to his single, “Tangled Up In Blue.”

Another B side that got a fair amount of play in Atwood was the live performance of “I Saw Her Standing There” by John Lennon and Elton John, the flipside to Elton’s hit single, “Philadelphia Freedom.” There was Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” a weeper that eased my way through the first major break-up of my life. We all rolled our eyes at the silliness of Reunion’s novelty, “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me),” with its rapid-fire selected history of rock & roll: “B. B. Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers . . .” But we kept playing it.

And as I finished my college days in 1977, it was occasionally to the accompaniment of “Smoke From A Distant Fire,” the single hit from the Sanford/Townsend Band.

Then there was Phoebe Snow. Her 1975 hit “Poetry Man” was a favorite down in the snack bar (and not only with those of us at The Table; that was a record that was frequently in play from other folks’ quarters, too). Her voice propelled “Gone At Last,” a Paul Simon record on which she shared billing later in 1975.

And I swear I heard Snow’s brilliant 1976 version of the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” come from the jukebox. Now, according to everything I can find on the ’Net or in my library, I am in error, as the track was never released on a 45: The website 45cat shows no U.S. release of the track as a single, and the site discogs shows a single release of the track only in Greece.

So, my memory of hearing it on the jukebox must be wrong, but I know I heard it somewhere long before I had the LP It Looks Like Snow, where it nestles as an album track. Maybe I heard it on the college radio station back in those days. I don’t know.

Snow is ten years gone now, having died in April 2011 following a cerebral hemorrhage in early 2010. And every time her version of “Don’t Let Me Down” pops up on my computer or my iPod, I wonder for an instant. Then I just listen to Snow’s brilliant cover of the John Lennon-penned tune, and I know that all that matters is that I heard it long ago and can hear it again these days.

‘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.

‘Sure Got A Long Way To Go . . .’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

About “Matchbox,” which we discussed briefly Saturday: I imagine it came to my attention during a sticky 1970 evening when the evening DJ at WJON spent his shift playing nothing but Beatles tracks.

I long ago lost the tapes, but I got everything from that night – five hours’ worth, maybe – on cassette. Many of the tracks were new to me, among them “Matchbox.”

The track, recorded June 1, 1964, was released that month in England as part of a four-track EP. (The other tracks were “Long Tall Sally,” “I Call Your Name,” and  “Slow Down.”) According to Mark Wallgren’s The Beatles on Record, the EP went to No. 1 in England in the charts released by Music & Video Week, to No. 14 in Melody Maker, and to No. 11 in New Music Express. As was the case for many of the Beatles’ singles and B-sides, it did not show up in album format in England until the release on CD of the two Beatles Past Masters collections in 1988.

In the U.S., “Matchbox” was released as a single b/w “Slow Down.” It went to No. 17 in both Billboard and Cashbox, and to No. 22 in Record World. It was part of the Capitol hodgepodge album Something New, released during the summer of 1964; the album went to No. 2 in the album charts of all three of the earlier mentioned magazines.

Musically, “Matchbox” is a direct descendant of Carl Perkins’ 1957 record on Sun, which is no surprise, as the Beatles, especially George Harrison, admired Perkins’ work. They’d also record Perkins’ “Honey Don’t,” which came out on a four-track EP in Britain during 1965 and was included on another of Capitol’s hodgepodge albums, Beatles ’65, released in the U.S. in December 1964.

Here’s Perkins’ 1957 take on “Matchbox.” It’s listed at Second Hand Songs as an original, but in the next couple weeks, we’ll examine some of the records listed there under the title “The Matchbox Blues,” and see how related they are.

Saturday Single No. 742

Saturday, June 26th, 2021

Blame it on Amazon Prime.

I had plans for a post today, one that would require a little time and thought, but last evening, we dined out, then came home and watched a couple of episodes of The Killing, a series on Amazon Prime. Add another hour-long show and the necessary tasks prior to retiring for the night, and we got to bed very, very, late. (Cue “Around Here” by Counting Crows.)

So I wound up sleeping late, having odd dreams as I did. The one salient detail I remember from the last dream was a sign on the wall that said, “For help, call Boogie Boy 28.” And today’s partly planned post will wait for another day.

But the RealPlayer will bail me out, somewhat. It tells me that on this date – June 26 – in 1939 in Chicago, Roy Shaffer recorded “The Matchbox Blues,” later released as the B-side of Bluebird 8234. His version is one of eight tracks with similar titles on the digital shelves here, ranging in time from Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1927 version to Bob Dylan’s 1970 take on the version of the song called simply “Matchbox.”

(The website Second Hand Songs lists Jefferson’s “Matchbox Blues” and “Matchbox” as two different tunes, crediting Carl Perkins with authorship of the latter. That surprises me, and I may look into it next week. If they’re not the same song, they’re at least cousins.)

As to Shaffer, discogs tells me he was a cowboy singer born in Mathiston, Mississippi, in 1906 who was active from the 1930s into the 1950s. recording for Decca and Bluebird in the mid- to late 1930s. He died in 1974 in Greenville, Mississippi, and is buried in nearby Cleveland, Mississippi.

Here’s Shaffer’s version of “The Matchbox Blues.” It came my way via the tenth disc – East Virginia Blues – of the eleven-disc series When The Sun Goes Down: The Secret History of Rock & Roll released in the early 2000s by Bluebird and RCA. And it’s today’s Saturday single.

‘You Are The Reason . . .’

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Having discarded three ideas for a post and having spent some time on the phone with the plumber this morning (minor problem, but it can’t be fixed until Tuesday), I’m turning back to the list of covers of Steve Winwood’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

Here’s Alison Krauss’ take on the song, which was used in the soundtrack to the 2003 NBC TV series Crossing Jordan. It’s not that different from most of the covers, but Krauss’ voice is always a treat.

‘Come Down Off Your Throne . . .’

Friday, May 7th, 2021

In a couple of posts last week, I wrote a bit about the Steve Winwood song “Can’t Find My Way Home,” originally recorded by Blind Faith and released on the group’s only album in 1969. Looking back at those, I wondered what I might have said about the song in earlier posts, so I opened the folder that contains the Word files for this blog.

And I haven’t said much. I posted the Blind Faith version of the song as a Saturday Single in early 2009 without much comment, and in the posts last week, I shared covers of the song by Yvonne Elliman and Gilberto Gil. Beyond those, I’ve never mentioned the song in fourteen years of tossing stuff at the wall here.

I might have more to say about the song, but that will be on another day. Perhaps next week. In the meantime, there are plenty of covers to sample. But, like the two I posted last week, most of the other covers of the song I’ve ever heard seem to echo the Blind Faith arrangement, and as good as some of those covers are, that becomes a bit wearisome.

There is, however, one cover on the digital shelves here that finds a different path. It’s by country performers Pat Green and Cory Morrow, and it showed up on the 2001 album Song We Wish We’d Written.

Enjoy! I’ll be back tomorrow with a Saturday Single.

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.

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: