Archive for the ‘1979’ Category

On The Nines

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Well, it’s September 9, or 9/9, and the part of me that loves Games With Numbers can’t possibly ignore that. So we’re going to look at three near bottom-dwellers in three Billboard Hot 100s released on or near today’s date, each separated by nine years.

We’ll start in my lodestone year of 1970, the one year of my life when I listened, delighted and dutifully, to Top 40 music all year long, and then go back to 1961, when I had no idea that anything as cool at the Hot 100 existed. And we’ll complete our excursion with a look at 1979, a year when the Hot 100’s coolness quotient was – in my life, anyway – rapidly fading.

Along the way, as we customarily do with these follies, we’ll check out each chart’s top two records.

First, to 1970. Sitting at No. 99 in the Hot 100 released on September 12, 1970, is a record regarded by many as a classic and one that I’m sure has left many a listener baffled, perhaps, with its cryptic message and stunned with its beauty: “Alone Again Or” by the psychedelic group Love.

The version we find there – and it went no higher – is one we’ve tangled with a few times before. It’s longer than the single version that was released in 1968 after the album Forever Changes came out in 1967. (Both versions are shorter than the version on the album.) Yah Shure, my friend and patient guide to all things chart-related, wrote to me a few years ago, saying, “In my [Joel] Whitburn Pop Annual, the time listed for the 1970 re-do is 2:50. Under the ’68 single’s entry in my Whitburn Bubbling Under chart book, Joel refers to the 1970 #99 release as ‘an enhanced version,’ and that’s what it really is: embellished with additional instrumentation to pack more of a wallop over the airwaves. The difference between it and the original mix is quite apparent.”

Here is a version of the tune that has been labeled “mono single remix” with a seemingly appropriate running time. At discogs, the 1967 original release is said to have a running time of 2:49, while the 1970 rerelease – as Yah Shure noted – runs 2:50. (The 1967 album track runs 3:15.) Is this the right one? I dunno.

Sitting at Nos. 1 and 2 during the second week of September 1970 were, respectively, “War” by Edwin Starr and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross.

Hoping to leave bafflement behind, we head to 1961 and the Hot 100 that was released on September 11 of that year, There, parked at No. 99, we find “Signed, Sealed And Delivered” by Rusty Draper, a countryish waltz that has utterly nothing to do with Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” from 1970.

Draper was a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Kirksville, Missouri (a burg where I’d often stop for a burger or gas during the 1980s as I made my way between Columbia, Missouri, and Monticello or St. Cloud in Minnesota). He had one country hit – “Gambler’s Guitar” went to No. 6 in 1953 – and eleven records that reached the Hot 100 (with another bubbling under). Best-performing of the bunch was “The Shifting, Whispering Sands,” which went to No. 3 in 1955.

The maudlin “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” went to No. 91 and was his next to last entry on the chart.

The records at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, during the second week of September 1961 were “Michael” by the Highwaymen and “Take Good Care Of My Baby” by Bobby Vee.

And now to 1979, and the No. 99 record from the chart released on September 15 of that year: “Baby I Want You,” a piece of light R&B that was the only chart entry from the Funky Communication Committee, a short-lived group that managed to release two albums and three singles in 1979 and 1980.

“Baby I Want You” climbed the chart to No. 47 and did not get into the R&B Top 40. And that’s all I know.

Sitting at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, during the third week of September 1979, were “My Sharona” by the Knack and “After The Love Has Gone” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

‘Battle Come Down . . .’

Friday, June 25th, 2021

It was one of those Facebook things, posted by a member of a Seventies group I follow: List five records that sum up the Seventies.

I opened Word and started a list, taking my time over it. I posted my five and then wandered through the twenty or so responses that had accrued by that time. I saw a lot of predictables: “Stairway To Heaven,” “Paranoid,” “Maggie May,” “Free Bird,” “Rhiannon,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Imagine,” and so on.

I also saw a few surprises: “Close To You,” “I Think I Love You,” “Carefree Highway,” “Summer Breeze,” “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” and a few more.

I was surprised there were very few offerings that missed the decade. (Not everyone checks the year, which sometimes annoys me; this time, it didn’t.) There was one entry for “Suspicious Minds” and one for The Band’s version of “The Weight.”

And then there was my entry. Four of the five were echoed in other posts:

“Layla” by Derek & The Dominos (1970)
“Fire & Rain” by James Taylor (1970)
“Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen (1975)
“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees (1977)
“London Calling” by the Clash (1979)

The only one of my five not echoed in the twenty or so responses at the time was the record by the Clash. I don’t particularly enjoy the record. (I don’t detest it, either.) But the assignment, as it were, was to sum up the Seventies. And I think the anger of “London Calling” ends the decade well.

By this morning, the post had grown to more than eighty responses, and I’m not going to wade through the new stuff. And I think my five are a decent effort at the impossible task of summing up a sprawling decade. If I had to do it over again, I’d probably drop “Fire & Rain” and put Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me” (1974) in the list.

As to “London Calling,” it (or the album of the same title) has been mentioned here five times over the course of more than fourteen years and nearly 3,000 posts, but it’s never been shared. It’s time.

A Friday Tune

Friday, November 6th, 2020

It’s been a long election week here in the U.S., no matter what side of the ballot you fall on. And it’s Friday, likely more important for those who still clock in or report to a desk somewhere than for those of us who don’t, but still . . .

So here’s “Friday” by J.J. Cale. It’s from his 1979 album 5.

Monday morning comes too early
Work my back to the bone
All day Monday I keep thinking
“Weekend’s coming, gonna go home”

Tuesday I hate, oh, Tuesday
Ain’t no girls on the streets
Tuesday it ain’t good for nothing
Drinking beer and watching TV

Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, it’s been too long
Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, I want to go home

Wednesday’s hump day, hump day’s Wednesday
Over the hump, the week’s half-gone
If I had my pay on Wednesday
I’d hang out, the hump day’s gone

Thursday, you know I feel better
I can see the end in sight
Think I’ll write myself a letter
Help myself through the night

Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, it’s been too long
Friday, Friday evening
Come on Friday, I want to go home

Saturday Single No. 652

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Top 40 didn’t always thrill me, as those who’ve been regular readers here know well, so looking at the Billboard Hot 100s from those years doesn’t seem to work when I’m looking around for a topic.

But, I wondered early this morning, what about the Adult Contemporary chart? That’s where KSTP-FM, the station that the Other Half and I listened to most evenings at home, had its niche. And quite often on those long ago evenings, one or the other of us would turn a page in a book or a magazine and say, “Good music tonight.” And the other would murmur an assent.

The station – which called itself KS-95 – used as its tag phrase in the early 1980s something like “The hits of the Sixties, the Seventies and today.” These days that would be a pleasant place to park my radio dial. So lets’ take a look at the AC Top Ten from the first week of August 1979 and see how it would sound today:

“Lead Me On” by Maxine Nightingale
“Morning Dance” by Spyro Gyra
“Mama Can’t Buy You Love” by Elton John
“Shadows In The Moonlight” by Anne Murray
“The Main Event/Fight” by Barbra Streisand
“I’ll Never Love This Way Again” by Dionne Warwick
“Different Worlds” by Maureen McGovern
“Heart Of The Night” by Poco
“When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman” by Dr. Hook
“Suspicions” by Eddie Rabbit

Well, this might not have been that good an idea. Many of those titles ring faint bells at best, and most of those I recall clearly would not inspire a murmur of “Good music tonight.” Time to head to YouTube.

Having refreshed my memory, those ten records wouldn’t have been as dismal a stretch as I first thought, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as I hoped. I don’t remember fondly the records by Maxine Nightingale, Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick or Dr. Hook, and I’m not that sure about the Eddie Rabbit single. As it happens, the only one of those five that I find among the 78,000 tracks in the main digital archive is “Suspicions,” and its low bit rate tells me that I grabbed it early in my excavations of the ’Net when I was not being at all particular. I’ll have to listen to it again and see what I think.

How about the others? Four of them are okay, but the only record I really like there is “Heart Of The Night,” which turns out to be the only one of that bunch that’s on the digital shelves here. (It’s also the only one of those ten that’s in my current listening on the iPod.)

As it happens, “Heart Of The Night” has been mentioned here only once in these twelve years, and that was in passing. That’s a little surprising. It went to No 20 in the Billboard Hot 100, and forty years ago this week, it was at No. 8 on the AC chart, heading down after peaking at No. 5.

I imagine that those who celebrate Poco for its country rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s find “Heart Of The Night” to be a weak reminder of what the band once was. It’s true that it’s neither very adventurous nor really very country-ish (beyond some twang in the guitars). But it’s a lovely record and its first lines set a tone that – even if I have almost entirely ignored the record in this space – I still find affecting:

In the heart of the night
In the cool Southern rain
There’s a full moon in sight
Shining down on the Pontchartrain

And it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 651

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

Okay, so 651 is an area code around here, mostly covering St. Paul and the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities area. What else is 651?

Well, it was a year, of course. And in the year 651, Wikipedia says (noting that it’s an approximate date), King Clovis II of Neustria and Burgundy married Balthild, an Anglo-Saxon aristocrat sold into slavery in Gaul. She had been owned by one Erchinoald, Clovis’ mayor of the palace. Erchinoald, says the website, gave Balthild to Clovis, hoping to curry favor with the king.

Also in 651, according to Wikipedia:

In the Arabian Empire, “The Qur’an is compiled by Caliph Uthman ibn Affan in its present form. The text become(s) the model from which copies are made and promulgated throughout the urban centers of the Arab world.”

The Hôtel-Dieu de Paris is founded by Saint Landry. Still in existence, it is the oldest hospital in the city.

King Yazdegerd III of Persia is murdered by his followers in a miller’s hut near the city of Merv (a major oasis on the Silk Road). His murder ends both Persian resistance to Arab conquest and the existence of the Sassanid Empire.

That’s about it for the year of 651, except for the death of Aidan, the bishop of Lindisfarne, who founded the famed monastery on the holy island off the northeast coast of England.

And that tumbles us easily into Lindisfarne, the English folk-rock band that hailed from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, about sixty miles south of the island. So here’s “Run For Home,” a lush ballad from the group’s 1979 album Back & Fourth. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 603

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

I was in a Nancy Wilson mood the other day – the pop jazz singer who was most popular in the early to mid-1960s, not the Nancy Wilson from Heart – so I was sorting through mp3s from a compilation, tagging them with the original album title and date.

When I do that kind of work (and of course, it’s not really work, it’s play), I use a variety of sources: my Billboard chart books (for non-album singles) and discogs.com and Second Hand Songs for album tracks. And I was having trouble tracking Wilson’s cover of the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

That’s one of those titles that can be hard to track down, because of the last two words of the title: Sometimes cover versions have one or the other spelled completely instead of dropping the “g”. The original Philles release had – I believe – apostrophes at the ends of both of the last words, but I’ve also seen 45 sleeves for the Righteous Brothers with the second apostrophe dropped. So there are lots of choices to dig through.

Anyway, I finally found out at Second Hand Songs that Wilson’s version – released in 1965 on her album Today – My Way – listed the title with missing g’s and apostrophes on both of the last two words in the title. And then I saw a note at the top of the website’s main page for the song. It said that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” was “according to BMI, the performing rights organization that represents songwriters, the most played song of the 20th century.”

That startled me. So I took a look at the Righteous Brothers’ entry in Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, where I saw that bit of information confirmed with the addendum that, according to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and Phil Spector, was “the first eight-million performance song.”

I pondered that and then noticed that Second Hand Songs lists 188 versions of the song. The Righteous Brothers’ version was released in November 1964, and the first listed cover, released in early January 1965, came from Cilla Black. (It went to No. 2 in England.) Another cover followed in the U.K., by Joan Baxter, and then Nancy Wilson was the first to cover the song in the U.S.

The covers continued, of course, soon coming from, among many others, the Lettermen, Fontella Bass, the Boogie Kings, Johnny Rivers, Long John Baldry, the Pozo Seco Singers, Freda Payne, and George Hamilton. And that just gets us through 1966. The most recent cover listed at SHS came from Junko Onishi, a Japanese artist described by the website as a post-bop jazz pianist; she covered the tune in 1999.

I went back to Top Pop Singles to see which versions hit the Billboard Hot 100 or bubbled under. The Righteous Brothers original went to No. 1, of course, staying there for two weeks. Dionne Warwick’s cover went to No. 16 in 1969. A duet of the song by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway went to No. 71 in 1971. Another duet, this one by Long John Baldry (again) and Kathy MacDonald reached No. 89 in 1979. And the best performing cover was yet another duet, this one by Hall & Oates, which went to No. 12 in 1980.

(I should mention that R&B singer Vivian Reed bubbled under at No. 115 in 1968 with her medley of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling/(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration.”)

Several of those covers – and a couple not mentioned – are on the digital shelves here at the EITW studios. One of my favorites is the 1979 duet by Long John Baldry and Kathy MacDonald. It’s from the album Baldry’s Out! and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Some Friday Songs

Friday, June 8th, 2018

When I sort the 72,000 tracks in the RealPlayer for “Friday,” the returns are not encouraging: I get twenty-two tracks. Two of them are set aside immediately: They’re performances of “Remedy” and “Willie McTell” by The Band during 1994 on the NBC show Friday Night Videos.

The other twenty tracks, however, provide an interesting mix, though I think we’ll pass by the theme from the television show Friday Night Lights by W.G. “Snuffy” Walden. So what we’ll do is sort the other nineteen tracks by their running time, set the cursor in the middle of the stack and find four tracks.

And we start with a churning, loping and somewhat dissonant boogie decorated by one of those odd lyrical excursions typical of Steely Dan: “Black Friday” from the 1975 album Katy Lied:

When Black Friday comes
I fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book

Gonna do just what I please
Gonna wear no socks and shoes
With nothing to do but feed
All the kangaroos

When Black Friday comes I’ll be on that hill
You know I will

I’m not an expert on Steely Dan, though I enjoy the group’s music almost any time I hear it and recognize the skill and talent on display. But the artistic visions of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen almost always leave me a little off-kilter, as if – to use an idea I think I’ve expressed at other times describing other artists – I’m suddenly living in a world of eighty-nine degree angles.

The first moments of the next track are oddly similar to “Black Friday,” but then the tune slides into the familiar jangly sound of “Friday On My Mind” by the Easybeats, a 1967 hit that peaked at No. 16 in the Billboard Hot 100. The tune has its own moments of dissonance as it tell the tale of a fellow enduring another week of work or school, looking for the weekend so he can get to the city and spend time with his gal: “She’s so pretty!”

So were the Easybeats a one-hit wonder? It depends on how you define the term. I’ve seen some chartheads define a one-hit wonder as a group that had only one record reach the Hot 100. I tend to think that’s a bit stringent, and use the qualifier of only one hit in the Top 40. Why discuss that here? Because the Easybeats had one other record in the Hot 100: a 1969 release titled “St. Louis” that spent one week at No. 100 and then dropped off the chart.

By my terms, then, the Easybeats – who hailed from Sydney, Australia – are definitely a one-hit wonder. Their hit is a record I’m not particularly fond of, but there it was at No. 16 during the spring of 1967.

Larry Jon Wilson, who died in 2010, was a Southern storyteller whose songs never seemed to hurry, even when they clipped right along. “Friday Night Fight At Al’s” fits into that style very well. I found it on an album titled Testifying: The Country Soul Revue, a 2004 sampler put out in the United Kingdom by the Casual Records label. (Among the other artists on the album were Tony Joe White, Bonnie Bramlett and Dan Penn.)

The track starts with Wilson’s laconic explanation that Al’s Beer Depot was a bar out near the bomb factory, a place where he went for a banquet one Friday when things went as they normally did at Al’s:

The Friday night fights at Al’s place: The situation was grim and I was forced to face
The extreme possibility of no one ever seein’ me alive again
When the night was over, chairs are busted, tables are flyin’
Get me out of here, Jesus, I’m afraid of dyin’
It’s the Friday night fights at Al’s place . . . We didn’t have no referee

Wilson’s body of work is a little thin: Four albums between 1975 and 1979, another in 2008, and a few other things here and there, two of which are included on Testifying. I like his stuff a lot.

Our fourth stop today brings us the Tulsa sound of the late J.J. Cale, a shuffling tune titled simply “Friday,” a track from a 1979 album titled, with equal simplicity, 5. I’ve loved Cale’s work since I came across his first album, Naturally, back in 1972, a year after it came out. There is a sameness to his work, yes, but it’s a comfortable sameness, if that makes any sense.

In any case, just lean back and listen to “Friday.”

Another Departure . . .

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

I woke this morning to the news of another musical loss:

Singer/songwriter Michael Johnson, who spent a good share of his performing life in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, died Tuesday at his Minneapolis home. Jon Bream of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune offered a look at Johnson’s life and career in today’s paper, and that story is here.

The headline on Bream’s story highlights Johnson’s recording of “Bluer Than Blue,” and it’s true that “Bluer . . .” was Johnson’s greatest chart success, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart during the spring of 1978 while going to No. 12 on the magazine’s Hot 100. And I recall hearing “Bluer Than Blue” on the radio during my days in Monticello, just as I recall hearing Johnson’s 1979 single “This Night Won’t Last Forever,” as it went to No. 5 on what had become the Adult Contemporary chart and to No. 19 on the Hot 100.

Both of those were fine singles, and beyond the musical pleasure I got from them, there was a little smidgen of joy as well that the man who made them was based in Minnesota. (Johnson, who was born in Colorado, made his home in Minnesota from 1969 to 1985, then returned here in 2007 after spending the intervening years in Nashville.) But that Minnesota connection is only one of three connections I have to Johnson’s music.

Another connection came through this blog during its early years, when I was exploring the music of Patti Dahlstrom. (Posts about her and her four 1970s albums are here.) During our email exchanges at the time, Patti noted that she and Tom Snow had written “Dialogue,” the title track of Johnson’s 1979 album, and she sent me an mp3 of the demo she and Snow had recorded. Here’s what Johnson did with it:

And then there was the first connection, the most visceral of the three. Johnson’s first album, the 1973 release There Is A Breeze, was one of those that we had on tape at the Pro Pace youth hostel in Fredericia, Denmark, during my 1973-74 college adventure. It probably didn’t get dropped into the tape player as frequently as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon or the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers & Sisters, but it was there.

And, as I’ve noted about the other music I heard in the lounge during those Danish days and nights, it only takes a few notes of any of the tunes on There Is A Breeze to remind me how those days and nights felt as well as how important they were in making me who I am today.

Of the seven or so mainstay albums were had on tape during our time in Denmark, Johnson’s There Is A Breeze was probably the last one I looked for, and it was difficult to find, though I admit my searching during the years 1974-77 was sporadic. I had other stuff to do and other music to find. My chance came during the autumn of 1977. I was working as a public relations officer at the St. Cloud CETA Center – CETA was a federal jobs program – and a co-worker brought in a box of records he was going to take across the street to Axis, a store that sold new and used records along with leather coats and hats.

And in the box was a copy of There Is A Breeze, which I gladly took home, listening to it that evening in the lake cabin where the Other Half and I were living for a couple months until we found out where my permanent job search would take me. And the first strains of the first track, “Pilot Me,” whisked me a few years back and four thousand miles away.

As I noted above, I remember hearing Michael Johnson’s two most successful singles in 1978 and 1979, but I have to admit I’ve not followed him closely. I had a vinyl copy of Dialogue, his 1979 album, but it did not survive the Great Vinyl Sell-off of last winter. And rummaging through the ’Net a couple of years ago, I found a two-CD repackaging of Johnson’s first three albums, beginning with There Is A Breeze, so I was also able to let my vinyl copy of that album go, too. (It was worn and a little banged, and no longer sounded very good.)

I suppose that if I were writing for a newspaper, I’d have to take into account – as did Jon Bream for the Minneapolis paper – all of Michael Johnson’s career as I write this morning. But what we do here – what Odd and Pop and I try to do – is to consider the music that’s mattered to me over the years. And with a stop at “Dialogue” to salute a distant friend, and acknowledging as well that Michael Johnson made a lot of very good music in his seventy-two years, I have to say . . .

Well, anyone who reads this space regularly knows where that’s going: There Is A Breeze is one of the treasures of my life, and here’s the opening track, “Pilot Me.”

Up Late

Friday, May 6th, 2016

I stayed up late last night, at first plunging and then dragging myself to the end of the novel Time and Time Again by Ben Elton. As regular readers might gather from the title and knowing my tastes, it’s a time travel yarn, and it’s got some good points. It also has some twists that I’m going to have to sort out, as well as a few major flaws. I think we’ll be returning to Elton’s book in this space next week, after I’ve untangled those twists and cataloged the flaws.

But staying up long past my generally late bedtime has, of course, some associated costs. I end up sleeping later than normal, and that gives me a late start on the day with my most productive time – the early morning – already gone.

Wanting to fill the white space here and get to the rest of the day, I went looking for a track with the word “up late” in the title. The RealPlayer returned eight tracks. Most startling among them were three tracks from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. I had to look closely, and then I realized that the player had found the “late” in Pilate and the “up” in “Superstar” as it searched. So those three aren’t what we’re looking for this morning.

Among the other five, I found no titles that corresponded with staying up on an evening past one’s normal bedtime, which I found a bit odd. A topic not covered among the 88,000 mp3s that clog the player? Maybe I’ll put on my songwriting hat one of these days and fill that seeming gap.

But that’s for another day as well. And I did find “up late” in the title of a decent track, though the topic isn’t what I was hoping for. Still, we take what we find on mornings like this, so here’s “Turned Up Too Late,” a Graham Parker tune, as offered by the Pointer Sisters on their 1979 album Priority.

‘Thirteen’

Friday, November 13th, 2015

It’s Friday the Thirteenth, and the only reasonable thing to do is to look for tracks on the digital shelves with either “thirteen” or “13” in their titles. The take turns out to be slender: four tracks.

We could expand the search into albums. A numeral search would bring us Lee Hazlewood’s 13 from 1972 or Blue Magic’s 13 Blue Magic Lane from 1975, and a word search would call up Laura Nyro’s 1968 album, Eli And The Thirteenth Confession. And if we wanted, we could look into a couple of albums from Thirteen Senses, a current British group whose own website describes its sound as “indie/melodic.”

But we’ll stay with our four titles.

First up, alphabetically, is “Thirteen” by Big Star, the legendary power pop group of the early 1970s fronted by Alex Chilton. The track is from the group’s 1972 debut album, No. 1 Record, and describes the reactions of Chilton and fellow band member Chris Bell to witnessing a performance by the Beatles at the age of thirteen. In its listing of the 500 greatest songs of all time, Rolling Stone ranked “Thirteen” at No. 406. Big Star, like a lot of other groups and performers, is something I missed (both in the 1970s and during the band’s brief reunion in the 1990s). Listening now, I wish I hadn’t. But there was only so much time and money, and at least I got to No. 1 Record and all the rest eventually.

There are three albums on the digital shelves by the British group Charlie – No Second Chance, Lines and Fight Dirty, from 1977, 1978 and 1979 respectively – and none of them really stand out. All three are pleasant, they’re competently played, and they sound as much like Southern California work of the time as anything British (except for the occasional Brit accent or bit of slang). I remember seeing the group’s albums in the store – noted as they were for the pretty young women on their covers – but I was never tempted, and listening occasionally nearly forty years later, I’m not sure I missed much. But “Thirteen” from No Second Chance is melancholy and affecting, the tale of a girl grown up too quickly:

When she fell in love with her first boy, she was only just thirteen
She never had another look, this one could buy her dreams
So she signed away her life at sixteen

When you cue up a J.J. Cale track, you know pretty much what you’re gonna get: A relaxed, shuffling tune with some tasty guitar fills, no matter what he’s singing about. And that holds true for “Thirteen Days” from his 1979 album 5, which turns out to be a salute to life on the road:

Thirteen days on gig down south
We got enough dope to keep us all high
We got two girls dancing to pick up the crowd
Sound man to mix us, make us sound loud

Sometimes we make money
Sometimes we don’t know
Thirteen days with life to go

Having listened several times to Steve Forbert’s “Thirteen Blood Red Rosebuds” while following along with the lyrics, I have no idea what the song is about. He sings:

Hang your hopes on sun but the ships don’t sail
Storm clouds rule everything
Sailors pack both bars and Marlene works hard
More cheap engagement rings

Thirteen blood red rosebuds
Five weird weekend crimes
Sixteen sincere smiles while
Nobody’s lyin’

But that’s okay. It’s Steve Forbert. The track carries echoes of his 1979 hit, “Romeo’s Tune,” which I like a lot. “Thirteen Blood Red Rosebuds” is from his 2010 album, Mission Of The Crossroad Palms.