Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 753

Saturday, September 18th, 2021

Having looked yesterday at the Top Ten from the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago this week, we may as well take a look at the Top Ten from that week’s album chart:

Tapestry by Carole King
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues
Who’s Next
Ram
by Paul & Linda McCartney
Carpenters
Mud Slide Slim & The Blue Horizon
by James Taylor
Shaft (Soundtrack) by Isaac Hayes
Master Of Reality by Black Sabbath
What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

That’s a great Top Ten. There are at least five in there that I’d call essential Seventies albums, those by King, Stewart, the Who, Hayes and Gaye. And four of the others aren’t that far behind. (I’m not certain about the Black Sabbath album simply because it’s in a genre in which I have no expertise at all. Anyone who wants can leave a comment assessing it.)

The earliest any of those came into my life was Ram, which I got as a high school graduation present. And I’ve owned eight of those ten as LPs, everything except the Black Sabbath and James Taylor albums. Then, between CDs and digital files, I have everything on that list except Master Of Reality.

It’s interesting that Rod Stewart shows up here today. Earlier this week, the Texas Gal and I were driving home from some errand when Stewart’s “Gasoline Alley” came on the radio. I’m not as familiar with the track, or with the 1970 album that’s its namesake, as I am with other portions of Stewart’s early solo work, but I recognized it immediately and I was struck by what seemed its sloppiness: guitars going every which way, the bass and percussion seemingly working off a different sheet. I should go back and listen to the entire album, I guess, but I think I’d hear the same thing.

And that contrasts with what I hear when I listen to Every Picture Tells A Story from 1971. Stewart produced both albums, but it seems that during the time between them, he learned some restraint. I’m not saying that every track on the later album was painstakingly precise, but the rowdiness that gives Gasoline Alley its somewhat ramshackle air is gone.

I dunno, maybe I’m hearing things that aren’t there. But anyway, here’s “Seems Like A Long Time” from Every Picture Tells A Story, a cover of a tune that was originally recorded by Brewer & Shipley. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 752

Saturday, September 11th, 2021

It’s been a challenging week around here. Neither of us has felt very well.

There’s been 9/11 almost 24/7, leaving a residue of remembered emotion behind.

And last evening was the first of two reunion events celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Class of 1971 at St. Cloud Tech. So, I’m dealing with memories, thoughts and feelings that last night’s gathering brought up, and I know tonight will do the same. It’s not all bad; some of the memories and feelings are very good. But if you know me, you know that I have to let that stuff settle when it will.

So I’m taking the easy was out this morning. Here’s Reunion with “Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me),” and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 751

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

I’m going to turn 68 tomorrow. And today is September 4, which means that forty-eight years ago this evening, I boarded a Finnair jet and headed off to Denmark for a college year that I can only describe – after years of thought – as the single greatest formative experience of my life.

The confluence of those things can put me in a pensive, nostalgic mood, one that can prod me to fill this space with ideas I’ve offered here before (perhaps too many times), a mood that can nudge me into messy binges of memories.

And to add to the perils a writer with an occasional lack of discipline must face, it’s beginning to feel a little bit like autumn around here: a little bit cooler, a little less humid, with high school and college football underway.

So, I’ll just mention the best meal I’ve had in some time, courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law yesterday at Krewe, a Cajun restaurant in the nearby burg of St. Joseph. The tradition of my sister taking me out for lunch around the time of my birthday arose in the early 1990s, when I’d quit my Midwest wanderings and was living in South Minneapolis. I don’t think we’ve missed a year since then.

Now, of course, the lunches include the Texas Gal and – when he’s not working at the golf course – my brother-in-law.

We’ve eaten at basic burger joints, an upscale steak place or two, an Ethiopian place in south Minneapolis, and other places I cannot recall. My sister said friends of her had recommended Krewe.

The food was good: muffuletta for my sister and the Texas Gal, a chicken sandwich with spicy coleslaw on the side for my brother-in-law, a bowl of gumbo without rice for me – too much white rice can give me unpleasant after-effects – and a plate of maque choux – a creole-seasoned corn dish that we augmented with some andouille – for all of us to share.

And, because the waiter noticed my sister handing me a birthday card, I got the free dessert that goes to birthday folks: I chose the bourbon caramel bread pudding. It’s waiting for me in the refrigerator, and I’ll have to eat it over the course of a few days, as white flour has the same effect on me as white rice. But I’ll bet it’s going to be tasty.

Anyway, I got through a September 4 post without being maudlin, which is good. And here’s an appropriately titled swampy tune: “Hippy Gumbo” by Marsha Hunt. It was written by Marc Bolan in his pre-T. Rex days; his version was released as a single in the U.K. in December 1966. It did not chart.

Hunt’s version was recorded in late 1969 after she and Bolan began a relationship; it came out as the B-side to her “Desdemona” single in the U.K. and a few other places. It doesn’t seem to have charted either (though I cannot be sure). It’s a little strange, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 749

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

As I noted yesterday, the first verse of Kate Wolf’s song “Across The Great Divide” – covered in yesterday’s post by the recently departed Nanci Griffith – starts thus:

I’ve been walkin’ in my sleep
Countin’ troubles ’stead of countin’ sheep
Where the years went, I can’t say
I just turned around and they’ve gone away

It continues:

I’ve been siftin’ through the layers
Of dusty books and faded papers
They tell a story I used to know
And it was one that happened so long ago

It’s gone away in yesterday
Now I find myself on the mountainside
Where the rivers change direction
Across the Great Divide

And as I listened to Griffith’s 1993 album Other Voices, Other Rooms over the past few days, I found myself more and more often pushing the buttons that would bring the CD back to Track 1, “Across The Great Divide.” I was, I suppose, thinking – as Wolf no doubt intended – about the other great divide, the one that remains a mystery no matter how often someone we love, know, or simply admire crosses it.

I’m guessing that I first heard Wolf’s song in 2002, when I came across Gold In California, an anthology of Wolf’s work released in 1986, the same year that Wolf died at the age of 44. It was not quite a year later, when I was catching up with Griffith’s work, that I heard the Texas singer-songwriter’s version of the tune.

There are fourteen more versions of the song listed ay Second Hand Songs (and I imagine there are others, too), but I find myself oddly reluctant this morning to go digging among them. It’s as if I want the versions by Griffith and Wolf to remain alone in my head for a little while.

I recall a writing specialist say once, “Follow your instincts. If you’re not ready to write about something – and you have no deadline – don’t push it.” And just as I’m not yet ready to listen to other covers of “Across The Great Divide,” so am I not ready yet to write much more about Griffith, and I may never be.

Given that, a good account of her life and an appreciation of her work came from Mark Deming of AllMusic and is available here.

And, still following my instincts, we’ll shift gears here and close with a live version of my favorite song by Nanci Griffith, “Love At The Five & Dime.” In many cases, I prefer studio versions to live versions, but not this time. This performance of “Love At The Five & Dime” is cited at YouTube as being from a 1988 gig at the Houston club called Anderson Fair.* I think, though, that it is from a 1989 or 1991 episode of Austin City Limits. Either way, it shows, I think, Griffith’s charm, story-telling gifts, and her musicianship as well as anything else can. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

*The album One Fair Summer Evening, released in 1988, was made up of performances at Anderson Fair recorded on August 19 and 20 of that year. This performance of “Love At The Five & Dime” is not the one that was on the album, but it is very similar. (Text edited August 26, 2021.)

Saturday Single No. 748

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

As this week has turned into an “It’s Too Late” week here, I thought that we’d close the week by doing one of my favorite things: Finding a foreign language version of the tune that is our focus.

And Second Hand Songs provides a few options for languages: Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Portuguese, and Swedish. (And there are suggested versions in Khmer and Spanish that the website had not yet verified.)

As readers might expect, we’ll go Scandinavian: Here, with Swedish lyrics by Stig Anderson, is Björn Skifs’ recording of “Alltför sent.” It was on Skifs’ 1972 album Blåblus, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 747

Saturday, July 31st, 2021

So, No. 747, eh? Rather than muse about airplanes and my limited experience with them (and none since 1989), we’re going to pull some reference books from the shelves and look for the number 747.

First up, the book I likely use most often when I throw stuff at the wall here: Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles. At the top of Page 747, we find a listing for Patty Lace & The Petticoats, whose single entry, “Sneaky Sue,” bubbled under for one week in December 1963, hitting No. 104.

Whitburn tells us the record was a “Feldman-Goldstein-Gottehrer production,” meaning that the folks who made “Sneaky Sue” were also the folks that recorded as the Strangeloves (“I Want Candy,” No. 11 in 1965) and also produced, among many others, “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels. One other name – found in a comment at Amazon, so who knows? – is that of the lead singer on “Sneaky Sue,” one Diane Christian.

I sense, without being able to precisely measure it, a sonic similarity between “Sneaky Sue” and “My Boyfriend’s Back.” And the antiphonal spoken words “Sneak, sneak” at the end of lines in “Sneaky Sue” remind me of something else, but I can’t find that record in my memory banks this morning. In any case, “Sneaky Sue” has a classic girl group sound.

We turn to The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, and on Page 747, we find the entry for the ’50s vocal group, the Penguins, a Los Angeles quartet that gave us the immortal “Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine),” which went to No. 8 in 1955 and then bubbled under at No. 101 after a rerelease in 1957.

Whitburn notes that the Penguins were the second doo-wop group to make the Top Ten on the pop charts, following the Chords, who got to No. 5 in 1954 with “Sh-Boom.”

On Page 747 of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, we find an entry for Nirvana’s 1994 release MTV Unplugged In New York. I’ve passed on hearing the album for, well, twenty-seven years, and I suppose I should end my ignorance. But Nirvana and grunge have never been my thing. Reading the entry for the album in 1001 Albums makes me think, though, that I should seek the album out and give it a listen so at least I know what I’m talking about the next time the topic comes up. The library will hear from me.

Finally, we have the 2004 edition of The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. On Page 747, we find the entry for the Small Faces. If I read the history right, the band released two albums before personnel changes resulted in the band’s name being changed to Faces (Steve Marriott left for Humble Pie and Ron Wood and Rod Stewart joined up). The two albums are pretty well regarded by writers Paul Evans and Bud Scoppa: There Are But Four Small Faces from 1967 gets three-and-a-half stars, and 1968’s Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake gets four stars. The two writers also note that “Itchycoo Park,” the group’s No. 16 hit, “was a great flower-power single whose outsized influence reaches down to the Raspberries and Prince.”

Well, that’s four of the many reference books that clutter up my shelves, and I’m ready to hand down a decision. “Sneaky Sue” tempts me greatly, as I like the girl group sound of the early Sixties a great deal. (I must have heard a lot of it around me in those days when I wasn’t really listening.) From what I can tell, though, I’ve mentioned “Itchycoo Park” only once, and that was just in passing, but I recall hearing it many times, again in those days when I was not actively listening to pop music. And I liked it a lot, which makes is easy to say that the Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park” is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 746

Saturday, July 24th, 2021

During the summer of 1942, Alan Lomax, representing the U.S. Library of Congress, was traveling in the southern United States, lugging a bulky recording machine and getting on tape music, essentially, of the people. He was accompanied by John Work of Fisk University, a historically Black university in Nashville, Tennessee.

A year earlier, at Stovall Plantation, just a few miles south of Friars Point, Mississippi, Lomax (accompanied presumably by Work) had recorded a few songs performed by a tractor driver for the plantation, a young Black man named McKinley Morganfield. In July 1942, again at Stovall Plantation and probably in the city of Clarksdale as well, Lomax and Work recorded more tunes by Morganfield. During the Stovall sessions, the duo also recorded some with Morganfield as a member of a string band called the Son Sims Four.

Morganfield, of course, would eventually be one of the millions of Black men and women who would leave the south during the Great Migration of the mid-Twentieth Century, He would end up in Chicago, where he would be known by his childhood nickname, Muddy Waters, and where he would become one of the giants of the blues

Here’s one of the tunes that the young Muddy Waters performed for Lomax, Work, and the recording machine during the 1942 sessions at Stovall Plantation, the first of two takes of “I Be Bound To Write You.” Its sound is very similar to a song Waters would record in 1948 in Chicago that would become his first hit, “I Can’t Be Satisfied.”

“I Be Bound To Write You” was recorded on July 24, 1942, seventy-nine years ago today, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 744

Saturday, July 10th, 2021

Sometimes the blank white space on my screen mocks me.

The cursor blinks impatiently, urging me to get on with things. And there’s nothing there.

This used to happen occasionally during my newspapering days, especially on Wednesday mornings, deadline time at both the Monticello Times, where I began my career in weekly journalism, and the Eden Prairie News, the last community weekly of my career. Quite often at both papers, the final thing I’d write for the weekly edition was my column, Musings.

I’d sit at my desk, pondering the blinking cursor – or, in the earliest days at Monticello, the blank sheet of paper in the typewriter – going over in my head the events of the last seven days to see if any of them sparked an idea. I’d page through the morning’s newspaper quickly, looking for news of an event somewhere, anywhere, that might bring inspiration.

If those brought no deadline joy, I might begin a tentative sentence, maybe: “I wonder if . . .”

Sometimes that worked. I’d recall something I’d thought about in recent days, and maybe finish the sentence with the words “. . . if the folks who run the Monticello Country Club know what a tidy little gem they have tucked next to Interstate 94.”

And I’d be off and writing, telling folks about last week’s early Thursday morning round on the nine-hole course, perhaps writing about the day when I made a winding 65-foot putt on a tricky three-level green, with the ball leaving its track in the heavy morning dew so clearly that another early morning golfer, following about two holes behind, congratulated me on the putt when our paths crossed in the parking lot after our rounds.

Or, if it were before December 1980, I might finish my starter sentence with “. . . the Beatles will ever record together again, and if they do, will the finished product come close to the quality of the stuff already released?”

And I’d be off on that, writing about their recent solo releases, fitting together bits and pieces I’d read about those albums and about the activities of the four men, perhaps sliding in commentary about the most recent of the compilations released, maybe Rarities, and wandering my way from there until I had a coherent column.

Or else, I might end my wondering question with “. . . the Minnesota Vikings will ever win the Super Bowl?”

That one would end quickly with “Probably not in my lifetime.” And that’s not enough for a column, except as a gag.

One thing I wasn’t ever allowed to do, though, at either of the two papers mentioned above – or at any of the five or six other newspapers for which I wrote over the years – was give up. I could not go tell the editor on a Wednesday morning, “I’m sorry. The well is dry, and it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to rain today.”

I can do that here, if I need to. My only responsibility here is to my self-esteem, and I can deal with the occasional dry spell, as long as it’s just a spell and it doesn’t turn into a drought. And writing without a destination in mind can often be a rainmaker. bringing one to just the right place, a place where the rain comes without warning and the well is filled just enough to accomplish the day’s chores.

So here is a very aptly titled tune: Wynonna Carr’s “’Til The Well Runs Dry,” recorded for the Specialty label in Los Angeles in November of 1956. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 743

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

Every once in a while, there’s one of those days when all I want to do is share a song and then go sip coffee. So here’s a Saturday song: “Saturday Night Repentance” by the Waterproof Candle.

If the comments at YouTube are accurate, the group was from Indianapolis, and, as the label in portions of the video shows, the record was produced and arranged by Jimmy Webb. It came my way in the massive Lost Jukebox collection posted years ago by Jeffrey Glenn.

Slightly trippy, the record was released on Dunhill in 1968, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 741

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

In recognizing Juneteenth today, one hopes not to be ham-handed nor to miss the target out of simple cultural dimness.

Here’s a track titled “Day of Liberty,” recorded by the renowned string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops for a 2013 two-CD set titled Divided & United: Songs of The Civil War. The track is made up of the lyrics to the song “Wake Nicodemus,” an 1864 piece by Henry Clay Work (the composer of, among other songs, “My Grandfather’s Clock”) and a musical chorus that also comes, I assume, from the Civil War era.

As to the personnel on the track, I’m uncertain, as I don’t have the notes to the album and the group’s members changed frequently throughout its existence, but I know the female vocal is from Rhiannon Giddens, and I think that the recitation is by Dom Flemons.

All those uncertainties aside, the piece seemed like an appropriate one for the first Juneteenth following the day’s being cast as a federal holiday. So here’s “Day of Liberty,” today’s Saturday Single.