Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Saturday Single No. 770

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

It’s time for some Games With Numbers. We’ll take the first two digits from the numeral in the title – 77 – and see what was sitting at No. 77 in the Billboard Hot 100 during this week in 1977, which is a convenient forty-five years ago. We’ll also note the top five records in that chart.

The chart in question actually came out on January 22, so that’s a nice bit of serendipity. I’m reminded as I type that January 1977 came along while I was living in the drafty old house on St. Cloud’s North Side, about ten blocks south of there. Last summer, as I was preparing for my Denmark reunion, I happened to see on a real estate site that the old house – built in 1890 – was for sale for something like $5,000. Given that I’ve seen few signs of upkeep whenever I’ve driven by it since we moved to St. Cloud almost twenty years ago, that didn’t surprise me.

This morning, I took another look. The exterior of the house is the same, except for new windows and a new roof, but the interior has been pretty well gutted and redone, and the listed prices is now $155,000. I can tell which room was mine during my last months there, and I can tell where the living room was. I should wander by there someday soon and see if I can go through it.

Anyway, in the January in question forty-five years ago, here were the five top singles on the Hot 100:

“I Wish” by Stevie Wonder
“Car Wash” by Rose Royce
“You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer
“Dazz” by Brick
“You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr.

I never much cared for the Sayer or Brick singles. I liked the singles by Wonder and by McCoo and Davis. “Car Wash” wasn’t a big deal to me back then, but I noticed the other day when it came on the Seventies channel on cable that I knew all the words and the instrumental turns. And it’s the only one of the five that’s in the iPod.

But what of our main business here? What was at No. 77 in January 1977? Well, it’s a record I don’t recall ever hearing: “Yesterday’s Heroes” by the Bay City Rollers. From here, it seems like a decent record, tougher than I remember the Rollers’ work being. It didn’t do too well on the chart, peaking at No. 54.

‘When You’re Lost In The Rain In Juarez . . .’

Friday, January 21st, 2022

I told most of this story here long ago, and I told it again this week at the Consortium of Seven, where I blog on Mondays about music. I figured a third time would not hurt.

I was reminded the other day that somewhere in my (relatively small) collection of 45 rpm singles is Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John.” And I was reminded that I found the 45 in a box of records I got from Leo Rau, the man who lived across the alley from us in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I was fourteen at the time and pretty pleased with the records – for reasons we’ll get to in a moment – and didn’t quite understand what Mr. Rau did for a living.

My dad said Mr. Rau was a jobber, and then explained to me that Mr. Rau had a chain of vending machines – candy machines, cigarette machines and juke boxes – that he kept stocked with what seemed to me the good stuff of life: Snickers, Nut Rolls and Juicy Fruit Gum among the candy; Camels, Winstons and Herbert Tareytons among the cigarettes (not such a good part of life, as it turned out), and records by performers such as Sandy Posey, Petula Clark and Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass.

As I headed into my teens, being across the alley from the Raus seemed like a pretty good deal. Steve Rau, who was four years or so older than I (and played the drums, which I thought was kind of cool), decided one day to get rid of his comic book collection and gave it to me: Lots of Jughead and Archie, some war comics – stories of World War II, which was just more than twenty years past – and comics based on television shows of the mid-1950s, none of which I recalled. It was a treasure trove.

And several times, Mr. Rau passed on to me a box of 45 rpm records. I don’t recall everything he gave to me; I know one of them was Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” because I still have it. Another was Bob Dylan’s “I Want You.” And there are a few others that Mr. Rau gave me that have survived the fifty-some years since. (A list of those survivors, from what I can remember – I had several sources over the years for mid-1960s 45s – is at the bottom of this piece.)

The Raus were good folks to have as neighbors. When they – Leo and Ilamae – were out in their back yard at the same times as my folks were in ours, the four would often have alley-side conversations that might last an hour or might last as briefly as it took for my folks – or just my dad or mom – to hand over some home-grown rhubarb and accept from one or both of the Raus some cucumbers ready for the table.

And, as I mentioned, several times during the mid-1960s, Leo Rau would hand me a box of records that had outlived their usefulness in the juke boxes he stocked. As I look back at the 12- to 14-year-old boy that I was then, it’s remarkable that any of them survived. At that age, I was distinctly unhip. I did not listen to Top 40 radio. I had only a few LPs and no singles to speak of in my record collection. And I didn’t listen to many of the records Mr. Rau gave me. Instead, I used them for target practice with my BB gun.

So when I say that some of the records survived, I am being literal. I have no idea how many 45s I aimed and shot at, punching neat little holes in the grooves. Maybe a hundred. A lot of the records Mr. Rau gave me were country & western, a genre that was far less cool (and far more real and gritty) than country music is today. I do remember a lot of Sandy Posey, Sonny James and Buck Owens, records that it would be nice to have today.

But I know a good share of the records that met my BBs were pop and rock, simply because of those that survived, including the two I mentioned above: the Procol Harum and the Dylan. And it’s knowing how close I came to destroying the Dylan record that makes me shake my head in something near disbelief, because years later, I learned that the B-side of the Dylan 45 offered listeners a true rarity: the sound of Dylan performing live. The B-side was an incendiary version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” recorded live – the label says – in Liverpool.

It’s a noteworthy record. Here’s what Dave Marsh said about it in his 1989 book The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, where he ranked the B-side of the record at No. 243.

If you liked the jingly folk-rock of “I Want You” enough to run out and buy the single without waiting for the album (which only turned out to be Blonde on Blonde), you got the surprise of your life: A B side taken from Dylan’s recent European tour on which he and a rock band (which only turned out to be The Band) did things to “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” a song from Highway 61 Revisited, that it’s still risky to talk about in broad daylight.

Rock critics like to make a big deal about B sides but there are only maybe a dozen great ones in the whole history of singles. This one’s rank is indisputable, though, because it offers something that wasn’t legally available until the early Seventies: a recorded glimpse of Dylan’s onstage prowess. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” came out before anybody ever thought of bootlegging rock shows, before anybody this side of Jimi Hendrix quite understood Dylan as a great rock and roll stage performer. And so this vicious, majestic music, hidden away in the most obscure place he could think of putting it, struck with amazing force.

The group behind Dylan wasn’t exactly The Band: The drummer for the European tour was Mickey Jones. Levon Helm had become fed up with performing in front of angry and jeering crowds who wanted to hear Bob Dylan the folksinger and were being presented with Bob Dylan the rock and roll performer. He’d gone back to Arkansas and wouldn’t rejoin the other four members of what became The Band until after the tour, when he joined them and Dylan in Woodstock (where the six of them began recording the music later released as The Basement Tapes and where The Band began work on its debut, Music From Big Pink.)

Now, we come to an oddity. The visual in the video below tells us that this version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” comes from the so-called “Albert Hall” concert, which actually took place May 17, 1966, at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester and was released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966. According to the label on my 45, the B-side version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” was recorded in Liverpool, England. The concert schedule tells us that would have been on May 14, 1966.

But the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” offered in the video below matches the sound on the B-side of my 45. I think it’s the same as the version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from the official release of the Manchester Free Trade Hall Concert. There was a mistake somewhere, and I have no way to sort it out. Maybe what was actually the Manchester performance was mislabeled on the 45 as being recorded in Liverpool. I dunno. In any case, the music in the video below is the version of the tune that Marsh celebrates in his book.

I look at the fragile 45 that survived my BB gun and shake my head. It’s undeniably a treasure, but it didn’t survive because I knew that. It didn’t survive when so many other records were splintered by BBs because it was by Bob Dylan. I was unhip enough at the ages of twelve to fourteen to have no real good idea who Bob Dylan was; that awareness would take at least another four to five years. It was a happy accident, pure and simple, that I never looked past the sights of my BB rifle at the Dylan record.

Dave Marsh sums up his comments about the record: “Today it sounds like the reapings of a whirlwind, Dylan’s voice as draggy, druggy and droogy as the surreal Mexican beatnik escapade he’s recounting, Robbie Robertson carving dense mathematical figures on guitar, Garth Hudson working pure hoodoo on organ. Slurred and obtuse as Little Richard reading Ezra Pound, there’s a magnificence here so great that, if you had to, you could make the case for rock and roll as a species of art using this record and nothing else.”

I probably got more than a hundred records from Leo Rau during those few years in the mid-1960s. These, I think, are the survivors:

“Downtown” by Petula Clark
“Red Roses For A Blue Lady” by Vic Dana
“I Want You/Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues (live)” by Bob Dylan
“Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead” by the Fifth Estate
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“Don’t Go Out Into The Rain” by Herman’s Hermits
“No Milk Today” by Herman’s Hermits
“This Door Swings Both Ways” by Herman’s Hermits
“Look Through My Window” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Monday, Monday” by the Mamas & the Papas
“Winchester Cathedral” by the New Vaudeville Band
“Single Girl” by Sandy Posey
“Whiter Shade Of Pale” by Procol Harum
“Have You Seen Your Mother. Baby, Standing In The Shadows” by the Rolling Stones
“Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” by the Royal Guardsmen
“Lightning’s Girl” by Nancy Sinatra
“The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher

One Random Shot

Wednesday, January 19th, 2022

For a quick visit this morning – the Texas Gal and I have errands to do and I have things to get to before that – I’m going to look for one track from iTunes. I’m going to sort the tracks by length, set the cursor at the shortest track – Al Shaver, long-time play-by-play guy for the long-gone Minnesota North Stars calling out “He shoots! He scores!” in one second – and click ten times.

We’ll see what we get.

We wander through some Beatles – “Cry, Baby, Cry” and “She Said, She Said” – and some Bread: “Baby, I’m-A Want You.” We get K.C. & The Sunshine Band (“That’s The Way I Like It”) and Eric Bibb (“Diamond Days”). And I click too fast to catch some of them.

But we end up on “South Street” by the Orlons from 1963. From Philadelphia, the group had a pretty good run for about a year in 1962-63 and then hung in there for a couple more years with declining success.

“South Street” was one of their big ones, coming out in early 1963 and going to No. 3 in the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the magazine’s R&B chart. The summer before, “The Wah-Watusi” did a little better on the pop chart, getting to No. 2, but it only got to No. 5 on the R&B chart, so it’s hard to say which of the Orlons’ hits was their biggest.

I’d go with “South Street,” if only because, for years, I mis-heard the first line. The line actually goes “Where do all the hippest meet?” But for a long, long time, ending today, I thought the Orlons were popping through a crease in the time/space continuum and singing about hippies.

Saturday Single No. 769

Saturday, January 15th, 2022

I’m not doing so well this morning – still fighting a (non-Covid) infection – but I’ve got an easy out. Having discovered the Ronnie Spector/E Street Band single from 1977 earlier this week and having offered here the A-side – a cover of Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” – there’s only one reasonable thing to do.

Here’s the B-side from that 1977 single, “Baby Please Don’t Go,” written and – like the A-side – produced by Steve Van Zandt, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Standings & A Ronnie Spector Tune

Friday, January 14th, 2022

As of this morning, the total number of mp3s in the RealPlayer is 83,985, still about ten thousand fewer than there were when my external hard drive crashed during the summer of 2017. (I’ve replaced most of the important stuff; every once in a while, I recall an obscure album I once had and learn that I’ve never replaced it; most of the time, it’s only available for more cash than I care to invest.)

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to see which artists are most represented among those nearly 84,000 tracks. Here are the current totals. (I’ll miss some; for instance, I’ll easily combine the total of tracks credited only to Bruce Springsteen with those credited to Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Sessions band, but I have some tracks out there with the Boss dueting with others. Those won’t get counted.) Here are the top fifteen.

1,076: Bob Dylan
800: Bruce Springsteen
477: Beatles
342: Sebastian
341: Chris Rea
303: Eric Clapton
290: Nanci Griffith
271: John Barry
270: Jimmy McGriff
256: Rory Block
252: Cowboy Junkies
250: Richie Havens
241: Ferrante & Teicher
234: Frank Sinatra
234: The Band

The next fifteen are Gordon Lightfoot, Joe Cocker, Carole King, Ramin Djawadi (who scored the Game Of Thrones series), Muddy Waters, Trevor Morris (who scored, among other projects, Vikings, The Tudors and The Borgias), Etta James, the Indigo Girls, Fleetwood Mac, Maria Muldaur, the Bee Gees, Clannad, Al Hirt, Paul McCartney, and Darden Smith.

None of that will be a surprise to anyone who’s visited here regularly over the past fifteen years. The Beatles’ total has risen appreciably since the last time I checked the numbers; over the course of the past two years, I’ve added to the CD stacks the three 1990s anthologies and the four volumes of performances live at the BBC, all of which I previously had only as LPs.

The last things I added to the RealPlayer? The 1972 album by Danny O’Keefe titled simply O’Keefe, newly ripped files of Dark Side Of The Moon, a single edit of Carole King’s “Corazon,” the 2000 album Rose by Danish singer Lis Sørensen as a single mp3 (as well as a corresponding single mp3 of the tunes from Rose as originally recorded by Sebastian).

And tucked in among the last things I added to the RealPlayer this week was a single track that came my way via Facebook following the death of Ronnie Spector: A 1977 take on Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” by Spector backed by the E Street Band. It showed up on Spector’s album Unfinished Business, and it’s one of the better things I’ve heard for a long time:

Saturday Single No. 768

Saturday, January 8th, 2022

I went back to Tucson this morning, checking out some more info on the playlist survey from KWFM that brought us Brewer & Shipley yesterday. One portion of the survey I’d not mentioned yesterday was the list of new albums and featured cuts, which included work by artists such as Lighthouse, Repairs, Steve Kuhn, Ron Cornelius, Taj Mahal, Colonel Bagshot, Pendulum & Co., and a few others, not all of whom I know.

I checked out “Sleep My Lady,” one of the featured cuts on the self-titled Pendulum & Co. album. It was folky and pretty and, yeah, it would put the targeted lady asleep pretty damned quickly. If you’re gonna do lutes and flutes, you gotta make it interesting, not somnolent.

I sampled a few more of the featured cuts and then went back to a band I know, though I did not know the track: Here’s “Rockin’ Chair.” It’s from Lighthouse’s 1971 album Thoughts Of Movin’ On, and it was a featured track at KWFM fifty years ago. It’s also today’s Saturday Single.

On The Air In Tucson In Early ’72

Friday, January 7th, 2022

Having dabbled over the last ten days in what was happening in the Billboard album and easy listening charts as 1971 eased into 1972, I thought we’d visit the Airheads Radio Survey Archive and see what the well-appointed progressive station was offering its listeners fifty years ago this week.

These were the hit albums at KWFM in Tucson, Arizona, this week in 1972:

R.E.O. Speedwagon
E Pluribus Funk
by Grand Funk Railroad
In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster
Off The Shelf
by Batdorf & Rodney
Synergy by Glass Harp
Detroit
Muswell Hillbillies
by the Kinks
The Hills Of Indiana by Lonnie Mack
Shake Off The Demon by Brewer & Shipley
IV by Led Zeppelin

There’s some obscure – at least to me – stuff there. The album Detroit is subtitled “With Mitch Ryder.” The group turns out to be one Ryder put together in 1969 with Johnny Badanjek, who’d been the drummer when Ryder had fronted the Detroit Wheels. Detroit, released in 1971. was the group’s only release during the band’s existence; a live performance from April 1972 was released in 1997. A 1987 CD re-release of the album – I think – is available as one video at YouTube; a quick sampling finds about what you’d expect from Ryder: straight-ahead rock, with one of the 1987 bonus tracks being a cover of “Gimme Shelter” that starts off with an extended acoustic introduction and shifts without warning to a thrumming, pulsing workout.

The Glass Harp album listed here is also a mystery to me. It’s the group’s second release; I have the first, self-titled, release on the digital shelves, It’s pretty mellow, from what I can tell, but I’ve not spent much time with it. In digging through some references, I see the group – from Youngstown, Ohio – listed as “Christan folk-rock,” which is likely true, as one of its members was Phil Keaggy, later a major player in the world of contemporary Christian music. You can find Synergy in various forms at YouTube, as well.

The Hills Of Indiana by Lonnie Mack is the third album from that list that’s a little bit of a mystery. The website discogs lists the album as folk rock and country rock, which seems to make sense: I somehow have the title track on the shelves here, and it’s a nice bit of mellow nostalgia that sounds like a thousand other songs from the time period. The album can be pieced together from separate videos at YouTube.

The fourth album on KWFM’s top ten that might be obscure is In Hearing Of Atomic Rooster. The album somehow ended up on the digital shelves here, and it’s pretty jazzy, from what I remember (and from some quick smidgen listens this morning), reminiscent, I think, of the first album by Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Batdorf and Rodney might be obscure to others, but I know their stuff: pleasant folk-rock that – like the Mack track – sounds like the work of a thousand other groups from the early 1970s.

Both the Atomic Rooster and Batdorf and Rodney albums can be found at YouTube as well, the first as a full album and the second – it appears – as separate files.

The rest of the top ten from KWFM fifty years ago this week is familiar, perhaps even predictable. My favorite would be Shake Off The Demon by Brewer & Shipley. And here’s what might be the quintessential track from the early Seventies: Brewer & Shipley’s “Back To The Farm.”

As 1972 Began . . .

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

Before the New Year’s holiday intervened, I’d been looking at some Billboard charts from the close of 1971, and I meant to get around to looking at the album chart but never did. So, we’ll turn the corner and look at the top fifteen albums on the first Billboard 200 of 1972:

Music by Carole King
Led Zeppelin (I)
American Pie by Don McLean
Chicago at Carnegie Hall
E Pluribus Funk
by Grand Funk Railroad
There’s A Riot Goin’ On by Sly & The Family Stone
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Tapestry by Carole King
All In The Family (Cast Recording)
Black Moses by Isaac Hayes
Wild Life by Wings
Santana
Madman Across The Water
by Elton John
Concert for Bangla Desh by George Harrison & Friends
Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

A lot of fine stuff there, most of which I know now, with a few exceptions: I doubt I’ve heard more than “Those Were The Days” from the All In The Family album, I’ve heard only bits and pieces of Wild Life for some reason, I’ve heard Black Moses several times (at least) but I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to it, and I doubt that I’ve heard anything at all from E Pluribus Funk.

And a couple more: I heard most of the Chicago Carnegie Hall album when it came out and was unimpressed, and I listened to the Sly & The Family Stone album once after I found it used in Wichita in 1990 and never put it on the turntable again, so all I really know is “Family Affair” and – to a lesser degree – “(You Caught Me) Smilin’.”

But those are my limitations, and – with the exception of the All In The Family album – that top fifteen at the start of 1972 is, I think, a varied and accurate portrait of where rock, pop and soul were at the time. Even the Dylan retrospective is kind of a signpost forward by way of its inclusion of a few things that had never been widely heard (or heard at all) from Dylan himself before: “Tomorrow Is A Long Time,” “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” “I Shall Be Released,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and “Down In The Flood,” along with the recent single “Watching The River Flow.”

The ones that spoke to me at the time are likely predictable: I heard a lot of the albums by King, McLean, Dylan, Harrison et al., Stevens and John although I didn’t own all of them until years later. I caught up to Santana and Zepp in the years to come.

And if I had to choose one of them right now to represent the beginning days of 1972 – time spent hanging around the student radio station, a few tentative dates, a few keggers, numerous spontaneous discussions of the issues of the day (Viet Nam, the draft, girls, music and more) sometimes lasting past midnight – I’d have a very hard time.

Three of them – Tapestry, Bangla Desh and the Dylan anthology – are too monumental to be pinned to any season of one year. (In any case, Tapestry would belong to two seasons – the summer and early autumn of 1971.) Two of those fifteen albums – Music and Teaser & The Firecat – were good but still lesser sequels to classic albums, Tapestry and Tea For The Tillerman. And speaking of monuments, the title track of American Pie overshadows everything else – including some astoundingly good tracks – on McLean’s album.

So I guess I’d land on Elton John’s Madman Across The Water and the track “Levon,” a surreal tale told so matter-of-factly that it seems entirely plausible. And as I write that, I think to myself that the words “a surreal tale told so matter-of-factly that it seems entirely plausible” could easily sum up the entire first half of the 1970s from Kent State through Watergate and the fall of Saigon and on to the capture of Patty Hearst.

Here’s Elton John’s “Levon.”

What’s At No. 100? (December 1975)

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

So what do we get when we look at the (no doubt) familiar records that make up the Billboard Top Ten for this week in December 1975?

Well, we get a set of records that I heard while driving around the Twin Cities during my television internship and also, no doubt, heard while enjoying two weeks of holiday break from that internship.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten from the week ending December 27, 1975:

“Let’s Do It Again” by the Staple Singers
“Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers
“That’s The Way (I Like It)” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band
“Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players
“Theme From ‘Mahogany’ (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” by Diana Ross
“I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Convoy” by C.W. McCall
“Fox On The Run” by the Sweet
“Fly, Robin, Fly” by Silver Convention
“I Love Music (Part 1)” by the O’Jays

I never much cared for the records by the Sweet and the Bay City Rollers. But then, at 22, I was not in the target demographic. The rest of those ten are fine, though I imagine that as “Convoy” rose in the chart – it was up seven spots from No. 14 the week before – folks were getting a little tired of it. And I know there was derision for the Manilow single. The singles from Ross and Silver Convention are fondly remembered artifacts from a fondly remembered season and year.

Before I look, I’m going to guess that no more than four of those singles matter today, as measured by inclusion among the 2,900-some tracks in my iTunes files. That would track with my general thought about the Top 40 as 1975 eased to its ending. The music wasn’t speaking to me the way it had two or three years earlier, and the music then hadn’t seemed as essential as the music from two or three years before that. I was approaching, I now know, the end of my sweet spot.

After checking, I’m a little startled to find that the only two tracks from that Top Ten that are in iTunes – and thus in my day-to-day listening – are the Ross and Silver Convention singles. I would have thought the Staple Singers and perhaps K.C. & The Sunshine Band would have been there. And they likely will by the end of the day. And so, probably, will be “Convoy.”

But what of our other business today, checking out the record at the bottom of that forty-six year old chart?

Well, it turns out to be the very last chart gasp for one of the significant voices of the 1960s who wasn’t all that concerned about the charts anyway: “Breakfast For Two” by Country Joe McDonald wasn’t about anyone like Sweet Martha Lorraine. Nor was it about protesting foreign policy, as McDonald had with his group, the Fish, not that many years before.

We went out to dinner
Boy, what an appetite
We just couldn’t stop eating
We stayed up most of the night

And after three or four hours
Our stomachs began to hurt
But everything tasted so good
We didn’t stop until after dessert

Ooh la la, breakfast for two
Ooh la la, you got me and I got you

I’ve eaten in Italy
Yes, I’ve eaten in Spain
I must admit I’d be licking my lips
If I ever was to eat there again

But last night at dinner
You really, really blew my mind
The way we supped just filled me up
I think about food all of the time

Ooh la la, breakfast for two
Ooh la la, you got me and I got you

People always come up to me
They say, hey, man, how about a little smile
Don’t take life so seriously
Lighten up for a little while

I say that a man’s a fool
If he don’t know how to cry
When I get down, I sure get down
But when I’m up, I know how to fly

Ooh la la, breakfast for two
Ooh la la, you got me and I got you


My first thought is, “That’s got to be a joke.” But I wouldn’t be able to know for sure, I imagine, unless I listen to the rest of the album, Paradise With An Ocean View. Which I might try to do. Anyway, the single was at No. 100 during the last week of 1975 after peaking at No. 92. Three earlier singles with the Fish had bounced around in the same territory; “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” went to No. 95 and the other two – “Who Am I” and “Here I Go Again” bubbled under.

“Breakfast For Two” ended Country Joe McDonald’s tale on the singles chart. The album was the next-to-last of his to chart, reaching No. 124 on the Billboard 200. Love Is A Fire bubbled under at No. 202 a year later.

(McDonald’s early albums with the Fish were, of course, a major part of the music scene of the late 1960s; the best selling of those was 1968’s Together, which went to No. 23. The most important, most likely, was 1967’s Electric Music For The Mind And Body, which went to No. 39.)

Anyway, here’s “Breakfast For Two.”

‘Cahoots’ Gets A Re-Make

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

“Life Is A Carnival,” sang The Band on the group’s 1971 album Cahoots, an album that also contained the group’s take on Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a duet with Van Morrison titled “4% Pantomime,” and the elegiac “River Hymn.”

I heard some of those on the radio, maybe – “Life Is A Carnival” was the first single pulled from the album, and it went only to No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100, leaving me wondering on which station I heard it (KVSC-FM at St. Cloud State is my guess this morning) – and I heard some at friends’ homes and at other places in St. Cloud during my college years.

I wasn’t impressed. Even though I had the group’s self-titled 1969 album – an album I loved – at home, the bits and pieces of Cahoots that I heard left me cold. So I forgot about the album until the late 1980s, when a lady friend of mine began to explore the music of The Band for the first time, and I came along, adding Cahoots in early 1988. And I added the CD to the collection in 2018.

It still didn’t impress me. It sounded flat, unfinished somehow. I might have pulled it out of the stacks once or twice to put “When I Paint My Masterpiece” on a mixtape or a CD for a friend, but that would have been about it. Unlike Music From Big Pink, The Band, or even Stage Fright, it wasn’t an album I sought out for casual listening.

And I began to understand my decades-long reaction yesterday when a delivery truck dropped off the two-CD fiftieth anniversary edition of the album. The notes in the accompanying booklet tell how the album came to be created in the first place: With the group recording whatever the five musicians had at hand while helping Albert Grossman figure out how to finish off his Bearsville studio in Woodstock, New York.

The notes, by Rob Bowman, explain that The Band – especially Robbie Robertson – had always felt Cahoots to be unfinished because of the lack of facilities at Bearsville at the time. And that meant that preparing the fiftieth anniversary version offered an opportunity to mix and master the album the way the group would have liked in 1971.

Robertson and engineer Bob Clearmountain have both been involved in three previous fiftieth anniversary reissues of albums by The Band: Music From Big Pink, The Band, and Stage Fright. Those projects, both men say in comments in the new edition’s notes, involved enhancing the sound of the three albums, making them sound better while keeping the albums’ characters and general sound the same. Their work with Cahoots, the two say, was to make the album sound like it should have sounded.

Much of the commentary supporting that approach comes from Bowman’s interviews with Robertson. Although there are general quotes from the other members of The Band about the making of Cahoots that come from previously published material, it’s probably good to remember that Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Levon Helm are gone and unavailable for current comment. A few comments from Garth Hudson make their way into Bowman’s notes, but it’s basically Robertson’s views that prevail.

So, does it work? I have yet to absorb the whole album in its new state. And I think I’ll be going back and forth between the new version and the old one at odd times for a while, trying to internalize the changes. (That’s true, too, of the live bootleg of a 1971 performance by the group in Paris that’s included on the second CD of the package.  And both CDs have bonus tracks of outtakes and alternate takes from the Cahoots sessions.)

As “Life Is A Carnival” started to come out of the speakers here yesterday, I reminded myself that different isn’t always better. But, at least for that track, it is. The track, enhanced even more now by Allen Toussaint’s horn arrangement, has a kick it’s never had. As I wander through the rest of the new album, comparing it to the old one, I hope I continue to be pleased.

Here’s the new version of “Life Is A Carnival.”