Archive for the ‘Life As She Is’ Category

‘Every Time I Look At You . . .’

Friday, June 11th, 2021

It was about this time fifty years ago, in June 1971, that I entered the world of work, toiling for the summer for the maintenance department at St. Cloud State. I was assigned to the lawn-mowing crew, spending my days either riding a huge machine that trimmed the massive lawns of the college (eventually a university) or following behind with a push mower to trim the edges at places the big rigs could not go.

As I think I’ve noted before, I did not do well with the big machines; they scared me, and a timid mower does not move fast enough. After seven or eight weeks, I was transferred to the janitorial crew and soon enough joined Mike the Janitor scrubbing and waxing floors all over the campus.

But as I wrote more than twelve years ago, finding something to occupy one’s time while riding in the deafening roar of the big mowers was a challenge. (These days, I assume we’d be issued protective goggles and headphones. Fifty years ago? Not a chance.) In a post in 2009, I wrote:

We weren’t allowed to bring our transistor radios and earphones to work with us, for safety reasons, I assume. So there we were, those five or six of us on the mowing crew, spending our days on riding mowers or following behind the riding mowers with push mowers to trim around buildings.

The roar of the mowers made conversation impossible. I’m not sure what the other guys did to occupy their minds while riding in the roar, but I “listened” to albums. I’d mentally drop the needle at the start of a record and run through the album in my head, a side at a time.

Among the records I “listened” to as I rode the lawnmower were the Beatles’ Abbey Road and Hey Jude; Blood, Sweat & Tears’ second, self-titled album; Janis Joplin’s Pearl; the second side of Chicago’s second album, the side with the long suite titled “Ballet For A Girl In Buchannon” and Jesus Christ Superstar. As long as I kept the mower moving and didn’t run into any trees or buildings, my supervisors didn’t seem to care that I was riding along in my own musical world.

As I read that post this morning, I thought of a few other albums that I’d run through my head as I rode during those lawnmower days fifty years ago: Crosby, Stills & Nash, and with Neil Young added, Déjà Vu, The Band’s second-self-titled album, Ram by Paul and Linda McCartney, and several more Beatles’ albums: Let It Be, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the U.S. version of Revolver and the cobbled-together “Yesterday” . . . And Today. I imagine I also took stabs at the first and fourth movements of Antonín Dvořák’s “New World” symphony and Bedřich Smetana’s tone-poem Vltava, all of which I’d played in high school orchestra.

And here’s the first track from any of those albums that popped up during a random click-fest in iTunes this morning: the title track to 1970’s Jesus Christ Superstar, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and performed by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers:

‘A Small Vacation . . .’

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

This wasn’t planned, but this has turned out to be vacation week here. I’m weary and uninspired.

So here’s Dallas County with “Small Vacation” from the group’s self-titled 1971 album. The song was written by Don Nix and Jay Pruitt. Nix produced the album.

I’ll be back Saturday.

Saturday Single No. 737

Saturday, May 22nd, 2021

The last three posts here, we’ve looked back at music bought on that date in the years 2000 and 2014. I thought I’d try the trick again today, and what I found brought back a memory from around 2014, maybe a bit later.

During the last four or five years of Mom’s life – from about 2012 into June 2017 – she quit going to Sunday services at Salem Lutheran Church, the East Side congregation that she and Dad had joined quite probably as soon as they set up housekeeping on Riverside Drive during the summer of 1948.

For about five years before that, after she sold her last car, she’d been riding with a fellow parishioner – also aging – who lived not far from her in Sauk Rapids. But he, too, became unable to drive, which left Mom to listen to the weekly services from Salem on a local radio station. I know she missed seeing Salem’s other members, but she also enjoyed, I think, being able to sit back in her favorite chair and sip a cup of coffee as the service went on, especially during bad weather.

(Could I have driven her to and from Salem? Well, not without major difficulty. That was about the time that the Texas Gal and I became involved in the activities of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in St. Cloud, and the schedule would have been difficult to navigate even at first, and then impossible after I became involved in the music activities at the UUF. I offered once to check with the local bus service’s custom ride program, but Mom demurred. I do think she enjoyed having church come to her.)

Having church come to her, however, did not curtail one of her favorite bits of involvement in Salem’s parish life: As every new year dawned during those last years, when it was difficult for her to be out and about, she’d have me go over to Salem for her and check out the calendars hanging on the corridor wall near the church office. Those calendars showed which members were sponsoring what portion of the service on which Sundays.

There was a calendar for those who wanted to provide flowers for the altar. There was one for those who wished to defray the cost of the radio broadcast of the service. There was another one, too, perhaps for something to do with the cost of communion – I’m not certain. My task, for those years, was to find one Sunday to sponsor the broadcast that was close to the date of Dad’s death in early June or their wedding anniversary in July, as well as sign up to cover the cost of altar flowers on Sundays close to each of those dates.

I don’t remember the cost of doing that. Somewhere around $200, I think. And having signed up on the calendars, I brought a check into the office, and handed it to Viv, the secretary and knower-of-all-things-essential that no organization can survive without. Viv’s younger brother was a high school classmate of my sister, who is three years older than I, so Viv and I were pretty much contemporaries.

I saw Viv maybe ten to twelve times a year during Mom’s last years. Not only was there the January trip to sponsor flowers and the radio broadcast, but there was also the near-monthly stop to pick up the newest edition of the booklet of daily devotions. And pretty much every time I stopped in, Viv had time to chat.

We had shared interest in pets and in pop-rock music, especially on LP. She and her daughter would make frequent trips to the Twin Cities on record-digging expeditions, and she was always pleased to share her successes and failures with me. The size of my LP collection – then at about 3,100 – fascinated her. And one of the constants of our conversations became her attempt to get a good collection of Pink Floyd LPs.

They were, she said, hard to find in any kind of decent condition. So, at one point, I told her that I had a wide collection of Floyd’s tunes in digital form, and if she wanted to give me some blank CDs, I’d burn my Floyd collection on them. I did note that the fidelity would be a little compromised, with the music having been first reduced from CD to mp3 and then stretched back. She didn’t care.

Then came the day I took Mom to Salem for a funeral of a friend. Viv was busy in the office, so I decided I’d get the blank CDs from her when I came back to pick up Mom, and I went home for a couple of hours. Once there, I sat in my study and thought about Pink Floyd. In not too many months, I knew, I was going to sell off two-thirds of my LPs. I had Dark Side Of The Moon and a few other Floyd albums on CD, and – as I mentioned above – most of the group’s entire catalog in digital form.

And when the time came for me to head to Salem again that morning, I pulled all the Pink Floyd LPs from the shelf, put them in a bag and took them with me to Salem. With Mom still at the post-funeral reception in the church’s Great Hall, I headed to the office. As I entered, Viv grabbed a stack of blank CDs and offered them to me. I shook my head and handed her the bag. “No,” I said, “this is yours.”

She looked through the bag and raised her head, staring at me. “How much?”

I shook my head again. “Nothing. You’ve been so good to Mom.”

Expressions of thanks went back and forth, and I left to find my mother, leaving in Viv’s possession five Pink Floyd LPs in very good condition, including my second copy of Dark Side Of The Moon, a record I bought in Minneapolis on May 22, 1993, replacing my first copy, one my Mom had bought for me as a gift in 1975.

And here, from 1973’s Dark Side Of The Moon, is “Time,” today’s Saturday Single.

‘Ages ago, last night . . .’

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Keeping to a theme begun a few posts ago, I checked out the data bases and found that just seven years ago today, I brought home the CD of one of Frank Sinatra’s greatest albums, September Of My Years.

It’s a melancholy album, filled with longing, doubt and reverie, recorded in 1965 when Sinatra was forty-nine and perfect for how I often feel these days. I’m some years older than Sinatra was when he recorded the album, but the record still speaks to me; I feel as if I’ve invested a great deal of my entire life in reverie, doubt, and longing. Fine. I am who I am.

Whatever else I might say about the album – or how I feel these days – was said much better by Stan Cornyn in his liner notes for the album in 1965:

He sings of the penny days. Of the rose-lipt girls and candy apple times. Of green winds, of a first lass who had perfumed hair. April thoughts.

He sings with perspective. This vital man, this archetype of the good life, this idolized star . . . this man pauses. He looks back. He remembers, and graces his memory with a poet’s vision.

He has lived enough for two lives, and can sing now of September. Of the bruising days. Of the rouged lips and bourbon times. Of chill winds, of forgotten ladies who ride in limousines.

September can be an attitude or an age or a wistful reality. For this man, it is a time of love. A time to sing.

A thousand days hath September.

Here’s the melancholy (what else?) plaint, “Last Night When We Were Young.”

Saturday Single No. 733

Saturday, April 24th, 2021

We’re almost back to full operations here. GoDaddy continues its work on a backup database of my work since February 2010, and there are other updates that need to be done. So I hesitate to lay too much out here in fears that those operations will wipe away my efforts.

So, here – from 1965 – are the Kinks with “Tired Of Waiting For You.” (We might talk about the Kinks next week, maybe.) It’s today’s Saturday Single.

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.