Archive for the ‘Seventies’ Category

That First Move, Again

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

We’re dropping back to July 1976 today, back to the month when I moved out of the folks’ house and not only had to begin to cook for myself every day, but I had to buy groceries, figuring out for myself – as I once wrote – what type of tuna, toothpaste and coffee – along with everything else – I should buy, now that the consumer decisions were up to me. (As I wrote before, I went with Del Monte grated tuna, Colgate toothpaste, and Butter Nut coffee.)

But did I buy much music during the nine months I lived on the North Side, roasting in summer and freezing in winter? Hardly any. Evidently, the need to set aside money for such things as rent, groceries and my shares of the electric, phone, and fuel oil bills tightened my grip on my dollars. (Had I not been a smoker at the time, I imagine I might have used the money I spent on my daily pack – probably $3.50 to $5 a week – for LPs. Or more tuna.)

It turns out that I acquired only four albums during my nine months on the North Side:

Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack
Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan
The Lonely Things by Glenn Yarbrough
The Three Degrees

The Roberta Flack album was a gift from a friend; the others I paid for. The Steely Dan I bought new because I found it in a clearance bin; the others were used. With the Yarbrough, I was continuing my long quest to replicate the collection of albums my sister took with her from Kilian Boulevard when she left for adult life in the summer of 1972, and the Three Degrees album came home with me because it contained their hit, “When Will I See You Again.” (I was dating the young woman who would, in a few years, become the Other Half, and that was “our” song.)

But I wasn’t without a fair variety of music. One of the guys owned a stellar stereo system that held place in the living room, and there was an assortment of fairly current LPs on a shelf. And I always had my radio in my room. And there were a number of current hits on the radio that, as I wrote here eight years ago, remind me of that move and that summer. First, there was the record that was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band. And then, as I wrote in 2013:

Beyond that, there were these: “Moonlight Feels Right” by Starbuck (sitting at No. 13 during the first full week of July 1976); “I’m Easy” by Keith Carradine (No. 26); “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” by Lou Rawls (No. 37); “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” by England Dan & John Ford Coley (No. 40); “This Masquerade” by George Benson (No. 44); and “Lowdown” by Boz Scaggs (No. 70).

The titles alone bring back memories of sharing a kitchen with three others guys (and introducing one of them to the joys of creamed tuna on toast), of greeting my girlfriend on her first visit, of setting up the necessary items and supplies for my first cat, and of taking mass communications workshops and courses in information media at St. Cloud State as I tried to figure out how I was going to make a living.

All of those records, too, are in my iTunes/iPod and are thus still part of my day-to-day listening.

When I last wrote about that first week on the North Side, I offered the Lou Rawls record as definitive of the time. But they all were, and without digging around for an hour in the archives, I’d guess I’ve written about all of them several times. If I had to guess which one I’ve written about the least, I’d land on either the Keith Carradine single or the George Benson single. And I’m in the mood for it today, so here, from the movie Nashville, is “I’m Easy.”

No. 50, Fifty Years Ago (October 1970)

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Despite the concern at plowing fields already set into furrows, we’re going to play a game of Symmetry this morning and check out the record that was at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 during the first portion of October fifty years ago, in 1970.

We’ll start with a look at the top five from the Hot 100 as offered in the magazine’s October 10 edition:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free

That’s a pretty decent quarter-hour of listening. There might have been times over the past half-century when I would have looked askance at the Jackson 5 or Dawn singles, finding them a little bit lightweight, but these days, they’re fine. Neither one of them has been plugged into the iPod, where I find my day-to-day listening, but after this morning, they’ll be on the short list, with “Candida” a little closer to the top than “I’ll Be There.”

The Diana Ross and Free singles are in the iPod, but somehow while I was reloading the device after getting a new computer during the summer. I managed to do so without selecting any tracks by Neil Diamond. That oversight will be corrected today, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” will be one of the tracks selected.

And what of our main business today? Well, sitting at No. 50 fifty years ago this week was a record that takes me back to late autumn evenings in 1970, when it was just me and my RCA radio killing time in my bedroom. Among the songs I heard that autumn was the only Top 40 hit by the English band named after its vocalist: “Yellow River” by Christie.

The record, says band leader and writer Jeff Christie, was inspired by the thoughts of a soldier going home after the American Civil War. Given the era in which it was released, with the U.S. still entangled in the Vietnam War, many listeners thought the record was about current events. On a page on his website, Christie has collected comments he’s received about the record over the years from Vietnam vets and others who lived through the times.

Fifty years ago this week, “Yellow River” was on its way to a peak of No. 23 in late November. The record also went to No. 22 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. A later single from the group, “San Bernadino,” got to No. 100 in late January 1971. (And yes, the record’s title misspelled the name of the California city.)

Here’s “Yellow River.”

‘Maintain’

Wednesday, September 30th, 2020

Long ago, about midway through my 1973-74 stay in Denmark, the American girl I’d been seeing became very unhappy with me for very legitimate reasons. I sought counsel from my friend Gus, who was a few years older and much more experienced than I at the dance of relations between men and women.

“I messed up, Gus,” I told him, more or less. “How can I fix it? What am I gonna do?”

And Gus looked at me and said, “Maintain.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Just maintain.”

Okay. Well, it was the early Seventies, after all, a time of seemingly weighty catch-phrases. And Gus was a vet, so maybe that pithy bit of advice came from his time in the service. Looking for any life preserver to cling to, I tried to internalize “maintain.”

Sometime in the next few days, I spent a few minutes making a small sign to tape to the cabinet that overlooked the study table in the small room I shared with a guy named Roger. It read “Maintain,” of course, in three different colored inks. It was pretty badly done. But I stuck it on the cabinet, and it brought me some comfort as the days crawled by and repairs to what had been my first serious relationship seemed less and less likely.

As the next weekend approached, I decided to get out of town. A couple of the St. Cloud State students in our program were doing their student teaching at an American school in Copenhagen that quarter, so I hitch-hiked the 120 miles to Copenhagen for a four-day weekend of Carlsberg beer, Chinese take-out, piano-led singalongs and some intense conversation.

Late on the first Monday afternoon of February, returning from Copenhagen, I opened the door to the small room I shared with Roger and stopped. Taped to the cabinet in the spot where my admittedly ugly “Maintain” sign had been was a delightfully designed sign in red marker that read “C’est La Vie!” Fuming, I unloaded my backpack, and when Roger came in, I let him have it. He had, I told him firmly (and likely loudly), no right to remove my sign. Yeah, I said, it was a crappy piece of work, but it was mine.

And I left the room, no doubt slamming the door as I went. Some time later, calmed by a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the hostel lobby, I returned to the room, ready to apologize to Roger. I opened the door to Room 8 and started to laugh. Roger had put up a new sign on the cabinet.

Again in red marker, it read “Main-Fuckin’-Tain!”

I still have both of the signs Roger made for me, tucked away in a box full of memories from that year. And as public life has become stranger and more stressful in this awful year, I have on occasion posted my own sign of encouragement at Facebook:

Maintain1

A search through the digital stacks found one track with the title “Maintain,” a 1967 record on the Dunhill label by Jim Valley, a one-time member of Paul Revere & The Raiders. An earlier record, “Try, Try, Try,” had bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 106, but “Maintain” didn’t chart, and Valley’s journey went in new directions, as chronicled at his website. (The single came my way via the massive Lost Jukebox collection that was posted online some years ago.)

Maybe Gus knew the record, maybe not. But as terse and cryptic as his advice was, it was valuable. Here’s “Maintain.”