Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

Two Headaches

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

I have two concurrent headaches. One of them is literal, the product of a sinus infection.

The other is metaphorical, the product of waiting for the GoDaddy folks to finish “migrating” this blog to a new server. The process, when it starts, will take some time, and anything I post here might or might not be migrated. When will that process start? They can’t seem to tell me.

Additionally, until that process is finished, folks aren’t able to leave comments here.

It’s a headache. So, here’s “Willies’ Headache” from Cymande. Here’s what discogs has to say about the band:

Formed [in] 1971 in London, England featuring musicians from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent. The name Cymande is based on a calypso word for dove, symbolising peace and love. They play a style of music that they call Nyah-Rock: a mixture of funk, soul, reggae and African rhythms. The band achieved their greatest initial success in America and were actively recording and performing until 1975.

“Willies’ Headache” is on the band’s second album, Second Time Around, released in 1973.

On The Radio: March 1981

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

Forty years ago today – March 31, 1981 – was a Tuesday, and I was no doubt sitting at my electronic terminal at the Monticello Times. As I noted not quite six years ago Tuesday was a writing day:

From seven in the morning until about four in the afternoon, I’d have been at my desk, turning out copy: An account of the previous evening’s meeting of the Monticello City Council; stories covering the previous Friday’s football games at the high schools in Monticello and nearby Big Lake, as well as coverage for the other fall sports at the two schools and their attendant junior high schools; highlights from the weekly sheriff’s reports in Wright County and Sherburne County; a feature story or two; and coverage of anything out of the ordinary that might have occurred during the past seven days in that small town.

There would have been very little music during the day, probably only what I heard in the car as I drove: to work in the morning, to and from lunch, to home in the later afternoon and then to and from work again in the evening, when I would do some final phone interviews for last-minute stories and we began to paste together that week’s edition.

It was around March 1981 when the Other Half and I purchased our first and only new car, a 1981 Chevette, which we thought was a decent vehicle. Beyond automotive value, it had an FM radio, so I was no doubt listening to the Twin Cities’ KSTP-FM as I drove. Here’s the Top Ten from KS-95 – as it was called – released forty years ago today:

“Morning Train” by Sheena Easton
“Hello Again” by Neil Diamond
“Just The Two Of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr. (with Bill Withers)
“What Kind Of Fool” by Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb
“Crying” by Don McLean
“While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood
“Somebody’s Knockin’” by Teri Gibbs
“Woman” by John Lennon
“9 To 5” by Dolly Parton
“Angel Of The Morning” by Juice Newton

That’s not a bad stretch of listening, actually, better than I expected. I got weary of the McLean single and of “9 To 5,” but the rest was not bad. Still, only four of those tracks are on the digital shelves here: those by Winwood, Washington/Withers, Lennon, and – surprisingly – Newton. And only “Just The Two Of Us” and “While You See A Chance” have made it to my day-to-day listening in the iPod.

I note one other interesting thing on the KS-95 survey: At No. 16 is Bruce Springsteen’s “Fade Away,” down three spots from the week before. Now, during the three or four evenings a week I was home in those days, the Other Half and I would often turn off the television and turn on KS-95. But I don’t recall ever hearing “Fade Away” during any of those evenings forty years ago. I wasn’t, of course, into Springsteen at the time, but still . . .

Here’s the single version of “Fade Away,” highlighting the organ work of the late Danny Federici. It’s slightly shorter, based on the listed running time, than the version on The River.

Saturday Single No. 730

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

As I wander through the vast universe of popular music from the middle of the Twentieth Century, I more and more find myself stumbling into lyrics that would no longer be acceptable in polite company.

Last evening, I was playing tabletop baseball with the RealPlayer offering full albums, and I was quite enjoying the Rolling Stones’ 1970 live album, ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’ And then Mick and the boys launched into “Stray Cat Blues” and got to the second verse:

I can see that you’re just thirteen years old
I don’t want your I.D.
You look so lonesome and you so far from home
It’s no hanging matter
It’s no capital crime

I stared at the computer for a few seconds, wondering what Mick Jagger sings these days if “Stray Cat Blues” ends upon the setlist and wondering, too, how that lyric was ever acceptable even in the 1960s and early 1970s. (In the original version of the song on the Beggars Banquet album, the young lady in question is fifteen years old, which was not much better.)

And this morning, as I searched for tracks recorded over the years on March 27, I came across “Your Funeral And My Trial” by Sonny Boy Williamson II, recorded in Chicago on this date in 1958 and released as Checker 894. Here’s the first verse:

Please come home to your daddy, and explain yourself to me
Because I and you are man and wife, tryin’ to start a family
I’m beggin’ you baby, cut out that off the wall jive
If you can’t treat me no better, it gotta be your funeral and my trial

That tagline shows up on all three verses. Now, that was 1958, and the Stones’ record was 1969-70. Attitudes have changed, at least in mainstream culture. What do we do with the art from earlier times that expresses attitudes we no longer hold?

I dunno. But while we think about it, here’s “Keep Your Hands Out Of My Pocket” by Sonny Boy Williamson II, also recorded in Chicago on March 27, 1958. It ended up on his Bummer Road album. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

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:

Saturday Single No. 725

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

During a conversation about concerts over the Texas Gal’s birthday dinner yesterday, I came to realize that I’d made an error in yesterday’s post about the concert meme running around Facebook.

She mentioned that sometime in the early 1970s, she’d seen both the Partridge Family and the Cowsills , and that triggered my memory. It turns out that the first pop/rock concert I ever attended that was not at St. Cloud State was a performance in 1970 by the Cowsills at the Minnesota State Fair. All of us – Dad, Mom, my sister and I – were there.

I vaguely remember the family band coming onto the stage in spangly costumes, and I imagine they performed their hits: “Hair,” “Indian Lake,” and “The Rain, The Park, & Other Things,” but I don’t recall that part of the evening. Nor do I recall the opening act, which was Bobby Vinton. So, if I don’t remember it, does it count? I dunno.

(I could rely on the same scoring system I encourage the Texas Gal to use: Her older sister brought her along when she was very young – maybe seven or eight – to see the Beatles. She doesn’t remember anything of the show, just that there were a lot of people screaming. Does she get to say her first concert was the Beatles? I say yes. But should I count the Cowsills? I guess so.)

Another candidate for first pop/rock concert not at St. Cloud State also took place at the State Fair, a year after the (evidently) forgettable performance by the Cowsills. This one I remember: Neil Diamond. We’d been at the fair most of the day, and when showtime – likely 6 p.m. – rolled around, my folks wandered around the fairgrounds while Rick and I took in the first of two shows that Diamond did that night.

It was the day before my eighteenth birthday, and I recall bits and pieces of the concert: “Sweet Caroline,” “Done Too Soon,” and my favorite of the time, “Holly Holy” all come to mind.

And since the conversation over our meal yesterday, I’ve been wondering how many concerts I’ve been to that I’ve utterly forgotten about, as I did the Cowsills’ performance as I was writing yesterday. Not many, I don’t imagine. I didn’t go to that many to begin with, probably between twenty and thirty pop/rock (and related) shows. There are a few others that are dim in memory, though. As I’ve noted here before, I sometimes have to remind myself that I saw It’s A Beautiful Day when I was in college and that I saw the Rascals a year before that when I was a senior in high school.

Ah, well. No big deal. Here’s Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie,” which I’m sure we heard that evening in September 1971, as it was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

A Survey From St. Cloud!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

I have no idea how many times in the past fourteen years I’ve written about WJON, the AM radio station that brought me a lot of my Top 40 fixes during my teenage years. More than I want to count, I’m sure.

Settled on Lincoln Avenue just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house on Kilian Boulevard, WJON and its disk jockeys eased my way, starting in the summer of 1969, from being a soundtrack and trumpet nerd into knowing a little bit more about the music my peers had been listening to for a long time.

(And that continues today, as I often get a note of enlightenment here from my friend Yah Shure, whose career in radio includes a late 1970s stint at WJON; our paths did not cross, however, as he arrived in St. Cloud about the time I decamped to Monticello, thirty miles away, for a newspapering gig.)

Similarly, I have no idea how many times I’ve stopped by the Airheads Radio Survey Archive for fodder for a post here. But until recently, I’d not found one survey from St. Cloud from the years I lived there and listened to Top 40. There were a few from KFAM, another AM station now called KNSI, from the 1940s and 1950s, and there were some from the early 1980s from KCLD, an FM sister station of KFAM/KNSI.

The other week, though, I found one survey at the site from WJON, a survey issued February 9, 1976, forty-five years ago today. Now, I guess I wasn’t really living in St. Cloud at the time, as I was taking my internship in the Twin Cities, but I was in St. Cloud every other weekend or so, so I would have heard whatever it was WJON was offering at the time. Here’s the top ten:

“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
“Evil Woman” by the Electric Light Orchestra
“Squeeze Box” by the Who
“All By Myself” by Eric Carmen
“Fox On The Run” by Sweet
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“Winners & Losers” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds

That’s a “meh” from here. I liked “Convoy,” but like all novelty records, it’s got a limited shelf life. I liked the Manilow then, but now, not so much. I still like the Simon and the ELO records, and the Carmen is good from time to time.

Lower down, however, there are some records I liked better: “Fanny (Be Tender With My Love)” by the Bee Gees at No. 17, “Break Away” by Art Garfunkel at No. 25, “December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)” by the 4 Seasons at No. 27, “Somewhere In The Night,” by Helen Reddy at No. 37, and a few more.

But the record at No. 18 in that forty-five-year-old survey popped up on my iPod the other day, and reminded me of something I wrote here about three years ago:

There are a few records that bring back viscerally the last months of 1975 and the first of 1976, and Diana Ross’ “Theme From Mahogany (‘Do You Know Where You’re Going To’)” is one of them. Those months were my last as an undergrad; I was an intern in sports at a Twin Cities television station, with graduation quickly approaching (and no job prospects in sight). I was also in a relationship that seemed promising, but I was nevertheless very aware of the not-so-subtle hints being laid down by the lovely redhead who was interning in the station’s promotions department. So, to answer the record’s question, no, I had no idea where I was going to. But it wasn’t the lyrics that pulled me into the song; it was the twisting, yearning melody that caught me then and still does today (with current hearings all the more potent for the memories they stir). Whether for the melody or the words, the record caught many people as 1975 turned into 1976: It went to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the magazine’s Easy Listening chart, and it reached No. 14 on the magazine’s R&B chart.

Saturday Single No. 723

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

As I’ve likely mentioned at one time or another, I use a sleep aid at night, a pill. About fifteen years ago, I fell into a pattern of sleeping well for five weeks or so and then having a five-or six-day stretch when, no matter what time I went to bed, I got about two, maybe three hours of sleep.

And the pill – a generic of one of those you see ads for on TV – solved that and has done so for these fifteen or so years. Most of the time. About once every four or five months, I have a difficult night. Last night was one of those nights:

I took my pill and retired about one o’clock last night, then lay there with the music from my iPod, turned down low, playing in my ears. For about an hour, I waited for the pill to kick in, occasionally getting drowsy but never more than that.

So, I got up and did stuff: Played a game on the computer, read some news, petted the cats. Then I went back to bed, this time without music. No diff. So I got up and finished a recent (and badly written) novel from the Tom Clancy franchise. By that time, it was four o’clock.

Then I curled up on the couch, my customary afternoon nap spot, and yes, I fell asleep. When the cats began to annoy me, I fed them, then shifted to the bedroom and slept the morning away.

Here’s the so-called Esher Demo of the Beatles’ “I’m So Tired,” a 1968 recording released a few years ago with an expanded edition of The Beatles. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 722

Saturday, January 30th, 2021

I’ve been seeing a number of similar posts of Facebook lately that deal with No. 1 records. They say things like “The story of your life is determined by the record that was No. 1 on” either your seventh or tenth or fourteenth birthday.

(The posts don’t instruct readers which chart to use – Cashbox, Billboard, or another – but I assume that most folks use Billboard. I will.)

My birthday falls in early September, so let’s take a look at the three that have been mentioned on Facebook:

The No. 1 record on my seventh birthday, in 1960 – seems awful early to have one’s life’s story determined – was “It’s Now Or Never” by Elvis Presley. I know it was a love song, but in the context of determining the life story of a second-grader as he struggled with getting his assignments done on time, it’s sounds pretty fatalistic. There was evidently no point in looking ahead toward third grade and Miss Kelly and the cute girl who would move to town from Redwood Falls.

The No. 1 record when I turned ten, the month in 1963 when I began fifth grade with Mr. Lydeen, one of the four or so most important teachers of my life, was “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels. Well, “He went away, and you hung around, and bothered me every night” sounds like it could have been a romantic modus operandi for a fifth-grader (if you change “night” to “afternoon”). But I think the gods of the 45s got this one wrong (I hope, or somewhere down the road yet, I’m gonna be in trouble.).

When I turned fourteen and started ninth grade at South Junior High, the No. 1 record was Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billy Joe.” Rather than assume this meant I was destined to do a suicidal bridge-jump somewhere along the line, I’d rather interpret this pairing of birthday and record to mean that my life is going to unfold like a Gothic Southern mystery. I don’t think it has; I’m far too Midwestern for that, so that’s another miss.

But let’s take a look at three other birthdays that might have carried portents, as they marked important moments in my life:

I began my senior year of high school in September 1970, and the No. 1 record on my birthday as we headed back to the classrooms was “War” by Edwin Starr. That fits short-term, yes, as that school year brought me into conflict with a sophomore boy whose girlfriend I desperately wanted to date. But as a portent for my life, I think it misses.

On my twentieth birthday, I landed in Copenhagen to start my third year of college and eight-plus months of being away from home for the first time. I thought perhaps I should find out which record had been No. 1 in Denmark at the time, but in messing with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, the closest I could get was to learn that the top Danish single of the year was “Rør Ved Mig” by Lecia & Lucienne, which translates, or so says an online tool, to “Touch Me.” So we’ll skip that, even though I love the record. So, what was No. 1 on the Hot 100 as I flew east? “Brother Louie” by Stories, which – if it’s a marker for my life – seems to mean I’m gonna cry.

The last important birthday during my younger years, I’d guess, was my thirtieth, which fell right about the time I began graduate school at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. I was making a life change, so the No. 1 single of the time might have brought some insight as to how that change was going to go. After all, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by the Eurythmics sounds like it might portend pleasant times. But to my ears, there’s always been a subtext of unease in the record, a hint that those dreams might not be so sweet after all.

So what does all that mean? Nothing, of course, except as a time-waster. And which of those do we want to hear on a Saturday morning? None of the first three, I’d say, and I’ve offered “Rør Ved Mig” here several times over the years. We’ll pass on “War” and, I guess, on Stories.

So “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” from 1983 is today’s Saturday Single. Maybe you can catch the undercurrent I always hear.

A January Tale

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

I was sitting at my desk the other day, watching the snow fall outside, when the RealPlayer offered up a Roberta Flack tune. That reminded me of this piece, which originally ran in January 2008. I’ve polished it a bit, and the ending is different.

It was a snowy late afternoon in January 1975, and I was at The Table in the student union at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State. Most of the folks who spent their between-classes time at The Table had already headed out into the snow. The only other regular remaining was Laura, a woman who’d joined us during autumn after moving to St. Cloud from a city about sixty miles north.

I don’t recall what we were talking about that afternoon. It could have been my health – I’d been in a serious auto accident in October. Or we might have been discussing her progress in disentangling herself both legally and emotionally from her marriage to an abusive husband (a circumstance commonly mentioned today but one that was not much talked about in 1975). Whatever it was, we were intent on the topic. I knew, however, that it would soon be dinnertime at my parents’ house, and I needed to either go home or call them to say I wouldn’t be home for dinner.

My guess is that we’d been discussing her dilemmas, as I remember reading on her face that she was not keen on the idea of making her way to the house a few blocks away that she shared with, oh, maybe ten other women. So I dug a dime out of my pocket, walked to the phone on the wall a few feet away and told my folks to set another place at the table. Swaddled in winter garb, we headed out to the parking lot, where we cleared about three inches of snow from my car, and then we drove to the East Side.

I think my folks had met Laura before, most likely at the hospital after my accident, but even if they hadn’t, they greeted her warmly, as I knew they would. I don’t recall what we ate, but it was a pleasant meal. As dinner ended, Laura suggested we go for a quick drink at the Grand Mantel, the downtown bar where we and our friends frequently gathered. Sounded like a good idea, I told her, but there was still three inches of snow on the sidewalks – adjacent to the house and along Kilian Boulevard – and it needed to be cleared.

She offered to help. So we bundled up again and spent twenty minutes shoveling snow, with the streetlamp on the corner casting a honey-colored glow onto the snowy sidewalk and street, onto the snow that continued its leisurely descent to the ground, and onto us. When we were finished, we got into my old Falcon and headed across the river to the Grand Mantel, where there were only a few other folks taking refuge from a winter evening.

I don’t remember what we talked about as we sat there sipping drinks – Scotch and water, if I’m not mistaken – but we likely danced around the topic of whether the two of us were ever going to be a couple. I was still fragile in all ways from the auto accident, and she was still linked – however tenuously and unhappily – to another. So I’m certain we talked of other things and left the heavy issues to resolve themselves. But there was no denying the attraction.

Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song” played on the bar’s sound system. She said, “That’s from the record I gave you, isn’t it?” I nodded. She’d given me Flack’s Killing Me Softly album while I was homebound in November. “The other song is on there, too, right?” And I nodded again.

She took a fountain pen out of her purse and grabbed one of the napkins on the table, with one of the four quadrants displaying the Grand Mantel’s name and logo. Carefully, she unfolded the napkin and wrote on an empty quadrant the opening words from that other song:

When you smile, I can see
You were born, born for me,
And for me you will be do or die.

She blew on the napkin to dry the ink, then folded it and gently tucked it in my shirt pocket. Not much later, we left. When I got home, I put the napkin in a shoebox I used for keepsakes, where it still is today.

The wish written on that napkin never came true. Laura and I remained friends through our college years and saw each other occasionally for about fifteen years after that, but we’ve since drifted apart, the way people sometimes do. The Roberta Flack LP is gone, too, but I’ve got the CD, and I listen to it sometimes. When I do, I almost always think about Laura.

The first time I ran this piece here, I closed with Flack’s “No Tears (In The End)” from that same 1973 album because I thought it had a better groove than “When You Smile.” It does, but I still should have closed with the song that Laura quoted. Here’s Roberta Flack’s “When You Smile.”

Chart Digging: January 1975

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Here’s the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100 from the fourth week of January 1975, released on January 25 that year:

“Please, Mr. Postman” by the Carpenters
“Laughter In The Rain” by Neil Sedaka
“Mandy” by Barry Manilow
“Fire” by the Ohio Players
“Boogie On, Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder
“You’re No Good/I Can’t Help It” by Linda Ronstadt
“One Man Woman/One Woman Man” by Paul Anka w/ Odia Coates
“Morning Side Of The Mountain” by Donny & Marie Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor
“Pick Up The Pieces” by the Average White Band

Oh, my god. No wonder I was depressed that month.

Well, there were other reasons for my deep funk. I was still trying to put my life back together after my Halloween 1974 traffic accident (and I was not doing a very good job of it). But if that’s the music I was hearing as I skipped class and spent my days at The Table sipping bad coffee and pretty much chain-smoking Marlboro Lights, then the tunes were not likely helping my mood.

The best thing there is the Stevie Wonder single. Some folks will find virtues in the Ronstadt A-side that I have never heard. There are times when I enjoy the records from the Ohio Players, Gaynor and the Average White Band, but they’re not real frequent. (Of those three, the Gaynor is the best.)

I have no time at all for the records by the Carpenters, Anka/Coates or the Osmonds, and I can enjoy the Sedaka record on only very rare occasions.

Then there’s “Mandy,” which I swear we’d been hearing in the Atwood Center jukebox since mid-October, at least four weeks before it entered the Hot 100 in November. It got to No. 1 a week before the chart we’re examining today, where we found it at No. 3.

It’s an overly dramatic, trite and bathetic song and a bombastic record. And I loved it. I recall regularly dropping quarters in the snack bar jukebox for four records between the autumn of 1974 and spring 1975. They were “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)” by Reunion, “We” by Shawn Phillips, “I Saw Her Standing There” as performed by John Lennon with Elton John (the flip side of Elton John’s “Philadelphia Freedom”), and “Mandy.”

I probably dropped more quarters for “Mandy” during that 1974-75 year than for any other record. And the thought of it this morning brings back potent bittersweet memories.

As we usually do, let’s see how many of those eleven records in the top of that chart are among my current day-to-day listening in my iPod.

Well, only one of them is included in the more than 2,800 tracks I carry around the house with me: The Stevie Wonder single.

Now, here is where I usually drop to the bottom of the chart, or somewhere in the middle, to find something more or less at random, something we’ve never (or rarely) heard in the nearly fourteen years this blog’s been throwing things at the wall. But a search of the 2,500-or-so posts in our history this morning told me that we’ve mentioned Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” twice and never posted it.

So here’s “Mandy.” Will I drop it into the iPod? I dunno.

Incorrect title changed after posting.