Posts Tagged ‘Gayle McCormick’

One Chart Dig: July 10, 1971

Friday, July 10th, 2015

By the early days of July in 1971, I’d been shifted by my supervisors in St. Cloud State’s maintenance department from mowing grass to an indoor janitorial position, one that would evolve into my partnering with my eventual friend Mike as a wandering floor cleaning team.

Frankly, I was relieved. The big riding lawnmowers scared me, and that left me moving much more slowly than the other members of our crew, a fact noted with increasing displeasure by our supervisor. And trimming around the edges of the lawns with push mowers had its risks: The mowers would frequently shoot small rocks, aluminum cans and other pieces of junk out from underneath, and that was scary.

So even though I felt a little lonely after being part of a crew, and a little limited being assigned to one building – Headley Hall, where the art and industrial art departments were based – I soon fell into a routine of sweeping floors and stairs, washing windows and shining bannister railings. I got to know, at least a little, one of the student potters, chatting with him occasionally as he worked at his wheel. In early August, as I was finishing up my time in Headley, he gave me one of his hand-made mugs; it still sits in my cupboard more than forty years later.

By that time, Mike was working in Headley for a while, filling in while the regular janitors took vacations, and the potter dropped off a mug for Mike as well. When the regular janitors came back from vacation and summer session ended, the janitorial supervisor paired me with Mike as a floor washing team.

We moved from building to building for the rest of August and the first weeks of September, scrubbing floors and hallways, and for one week, we worked nights so we could get to the floors in the college’s administrative offices (from which stemmed the tale of the bat and the rolled-up Playboy magazine, which I told long ago). After the scary roar of the lawnmowers and the isolation of working alone, partnering with Mike was a gift. He was not that much older than I, our senses of humor were similar, and we had plenty of time to chat and laugh as we waited for floors to dry.

So as I thought this morning about the shifts in that summer of 1971 and glanced at the Billboard Hot 100 for July 10 of that year – forty-four years ago today – I noticed a title that would have given me some hope: “Gonna Be Alright Now” by Gayle McCormick. (Even though the record was about a romance instead of life in general, I likely would have found some inspiration in the title/hook, had I ever heard the record. I doubt I ever did.)

McCormick had been the lead singer in Smith, which had a Top Ten hit with a cover of “Baby It’s You” in 1969. By 1971, the group had broken up and McCormick released the first of three solo albums, with “Gonna Be Alright Now” going out as a single. Forty-four years ago today, it sat at No. 97 in its first week in the Hot 100. It would hang around another four weeks and peak at No. 84 (No. 20 on the Adult Contemporary chart).

McCormick would see two other singles from that first album reach the Hot 100: “It’s A Cryin’ Shame” went to No. 44 (No. 9, AC) later in 1971, and “You Really Got A Hold On Me” got to No. 98 in early 1972. A 1975 single, “Coming In, Out Of The Rain,” went to No. 40 on the AC chart.

‘My Love’s Got No Season . . .’

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

As far as I know, the first time I ran into the very good song “Even A Fool Would Let Go” was in February of 1990, when I happened upon a copy of Levon Helm’s self-titled 1982 album in Anoka, Minnesota. The album didn’t entirely impress me – I think it’s one of Levon’s lesser efforts, which is kind of a mystery, given the presence of the Muscle Shoals crew and Steve Cropper and production by Duck Dunn – but the song, the third track on the album, grabbed me:

And as Levon’s version came to my attention in the past few days, I thought I’d dig around a little bit. The song, written by Kerry Chater and Tom Snow, was first recorded by Gayle McCormick, the former lead singer for Smith, for her 1974 album One More Hour.

There are more covers beyond Levon’s, of course, although not as many as I thought there would be. But my attention is flagging this morning, and the painters are here. I’ll get back to “Even A Fool Would Let Go” in one of the next few days.

Saturday Single No. 347

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

I thought about writing about the recent passing of Bobby “Blue” Bland this morning, but for as little as I really know about the blues, I know less about Bland’s life and music, except that both deserve my respect and more of my attention. Others can do the man and his life more justice than I can.

And I thought about digging into tunes with the word “storm” in their title, as a way of tying off the events of the last week. But that didn’t arouse my enthusiasm this morning.

So when all else fails, go random.

“Don’t Get So Down On Yourself” is a track on Chris Isaak’s 1998 album Speak Of The Devil. The song is on one hand a matter-of-fact first-person tale of a lover gone away; on the other hand, there are moments during the song when Isaak’s delivery gives hints of the haunting persona that grabbed my ears and imagination the first time I heard “Wicked Game” in 1991. Finally, it’s a not-bad track, but I’m glad it’s a place to start our journey this morning rather than its ending.

Bread’s self-titled 1969 album hints at the treasures to come. “Move Over” might not be the best track on the album, but I’m not certain, as Bread is not an album to which I’ve devoted much listening time. The group’s cascade of hits – thirteen records in the Billboard Hot 100, with six in the Top Ten – began the next year, in 1970, and the albums that start with that year’s On The Waters are where I’ve spent my time. (Yes, “It Don’t Matter To Me” from Bread was a hit, but that happened a couple of years later and with – I think – a new version of the tune.) So the James Griffin-penned “Move Over,” with its half-fuzz chords and its garage rock keyboard solo, is only a step toward both Bread’s eventual success and wherever we’ll get this morning.

“She grew up with the children of the stars/in the Hollywood hills and the boulevard . . .” Shawn Mullins’ “Lullaby” was omnipresent on whatever radio station I was listening to in 1998 (probably Minneapolis’ Cities 97) with its matter-of-fact yet affectionate portrayal of a girl lost. “Lullaby” is not a record I’ve spent a lot of time with, although the album it came from, Soul’s Core, was one of my relatively early CD purchases (one of the first two hundred in a collection that now numbers more than 1,100). Time spent or not, “Lullaby” is a track that’s insinuated itself into my head, which is okay. There are worse things to hear internally than “Everything’s gonna be all right . . .”

Our fourth stop of the morning is “Grey Line Tour,” a track from Gayle McCormick’s second solo album, 1972’s Flesh & Blood. McCormick, who came to attention as lead singer for the band Smith – the group’s cover of “Baby It’s You” hit No. 5 in 1969 – could certainly grab hold of a song, and she does so here, leading her backing band through a romp that sounds absolutely both like 1972 and a slightly tougher Joy of Cooking. That’s a sound I like a lot, and I wish I knew more about the track, but not even the record jacket tells me who wrote the tune; beyond McCormick’s name, the only names I recognize on the jacket are those of Chuck Findley, who played trumpet and trombone, and Ike Turner, who’s given a special thank you as the owner of Bolic Sounds, where the album was recorded.

Caravan, says All Music Guide, “was one of the more formidable progressive rock acts to come out of England in the 1960s, though they were never much more than a very successful cult band at home, and, apart from a brief moment in 1975, barely a cult band anywhere else in the world.” For a brief while during my vinyl madness of the 1990s, I was looking hard for stuff by Caravan; I found an anthology and I found In the Land of Grey and Pink, about which I’d read good things. It was a good album, and this morning’s jaunt stops on the album’s side-long epic “Nine Feet Underground.” Like most prog rock these days, it works better for me as something playing in the background than as something I’ll actively listen to. Maybe that’s my ADD, but whatever it is, I’m not going to listen to all twenty-two minutes this morning before moving on our sixth and final stop.

How to describe the 1970s group Mandrill? Back to AMG: “One of funk’s most progressive outfits . . . [its] jam-heavy brand of funk was liberally infused with Latin, Caribbean, and jazz influences, plus blues, psychedelia, African music, and straight-up rock.” Fair enough, and the track we land on this morning is “Mini-Suite For Duke,” a shape-changing and tone-shifting piece from the 1974 album Mandrilland. Mellow enough at one moment to be something from Franck Pourcel and then turning funky enough for Bootsy Collins, the track brings our trek to a nice close.

What then, do we choose? Well, since the moment McCormick’s “Grey Line Tour” popped up on the RealPlayer, I’ve been leaning that direction. My only question was whether a video of the tune would be allowed on YouTube. Happily, it was, and Gayle McCormick’s “Grey Line Tour” is today’s Saturday Single.