Archive for the ‘Single’ Category

My Faves From ’71

Friday, October 15th, 2021

I saw a squib the other day on Facebook for a book titled Never a Dull Moment: 1971, The Year That Rock Exploded by writer and broadcaster David Hepworth, a book I plan to read as soon as the local library sends it my way. The squib was followed by a challenge to list the twenty best albums from that admittedly very rich year, now fifty years in the past.

Well, I love lists, as anyone who comes past here knows. I usually do lists of single tracks, although I recall listing my thirteen favorite albums in a very early post here (the post is here, but I’ll warn you, it wanders around for a while before getting to the list). I revised that list a little later, and I imagine if I took on the topic again, my list would look at least a little different than it did fourteen years ago.

So, I’ve put together – in no particular order – a  list of my twenty favorite albums from 1971, which was, in fact, a great year for music. The greatest? Impossible to say, except to note that it lies right in the middle of my sweet spot. The years of high school and early college – 1968 through 1974 – were the best years for music for me.

I should note that one album that I wrestled with was The Concert For Bangla Desh, but I decided that all-star live albums have an unfair advantage. I’ll just note that Leon Russell’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Youngblood” medley at that concert might be the single best thing released in 1971.

Here are my twenty:

Tapestry by Carole King
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
It Ain’t Easy by Long John Baldry
Naturally by J.J. Cale
The North Star Grassman and the Ravens by Sandy Denny
Madman Across The Water by Elton John
Pearl by Janis Joplin
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartney
Mudlark by Leo Kottke
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues
Stargazer by Shelagh McDonald
Leon Russell & The Shelter People
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand
Teaser & The Firecat by Cat Stevens
Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys by Traffic
Just An Old Fashioned Love Song by Paul Williams
2 Years On by the Bee Gees
Chase (Self-Titled)
Closer To The Ground by Joy Of Cooking

This was not a deeply researched list. I simply sorted the mp3s in the RealPlayer for 1971 and then sifted through the 300 or so albums that showed up, so I imagine I might have missed one or two that I’ll think about later.

And again, without thinking too hard about it, I’ll choose a track to share here today. It’s the title track to Shelagh McDonald’s Stargazer. Her story, as I’ve said here before, is quite strange; here’s a link to her tale at Wikipedia. And here’s “Stargazer.”

My Eyes

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021

This – like so many other posts recently – will be brief for a very practical reason. I can no longer see very well. Even the white of the word processing program’s page has smudges on it that I cannot see through very well, the product of cataracts in both eyes, and that makes writing very much a headache-producing struggle.

That should change this week and the next. Tomorrow I will have the lens in my right eye replaced, and a week later, the same will happen with my left eye. I know the surgeries are now very common: My mom and the Texas Gal both had their lenses replaced during the life of this blog, and there were no complications.

Still, I have some anxieties about the surgeries, which I think is understandable. I’ve been trying in the past weeks simply to acknowledge them and then let them go. That’s not easy, but I think I’m doing all right.

This has been coming for a while, maybe three years for the cataract in my left eye and two for the one in my right eye, but the growth of the two has accelerated greatly in the last year, causing the vision experts to say that it’s time. And in just the month or so that the surgeries have been contemplated and scheduled, I’ve noticed an even more rapid degradation of my vision.

I assume things will go well tomorrow and the following Wednesday. I’m not sure how awkward things will be during the week between the two surgeries, with one eye corrected and the other still impaired. So, I do not know how often I will be posting here. A one-week absence is possible. So I’ll (metaphorically) see you – more clearly, I assume – on the far side.

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite tunes with “eyes” in the title: “Dark Eyes” by Bob Dylan. It’s from his 1985 album Empire Burlesque. The notes to the recently released Bootleg Series No. 16 – titled Springtime in New York, 1980-85 – say that the album’s co-producer, Arthur Baker, one day suggested adding an acoustic song to the album, and the next day, Dylan brought in “Dark Eyes,” written the night before:

Oh, the gentlemen are talking, and the midnight moon is on the riverside,
They’re drinking up and walking and it is time for me to slide.
I live in another world where life and death are memorized,
Where the earth is strung with lovers’ pearls and all I see are dark eyes.

A cock is crowing far away and another soldier’s deep in prayer,
Some mother’s child has gone astray, she can’t find him anywhere.
But I can hear another drum beating for the dead that rise,
Whom nature’s beast fears as they come and all I see are dark eyes.

They tell me to be discreet for all intended purposes,
They tell me revenge is sweet and from where they stand, I’m sure it is.
But I feel nothing for their game where beauty goes unrecognized,
All I feel is heat and flame and all I see are dark eyes.

Oh, the French girl, she’s in paradise and a drunken man is at the wheel,
Hunger pays a heavy price to the falling gods of speed and steel.
Oh, time is short, and the days are sweet, and passion rules the arrow that flies,
A million faces at my feet but all I see are dark eyes.

‘What Good’s A Metronome . . .?’

Friday, July 30th, 2021

I’ve been thinking about my high school pal Mike recently. He’s living in Arizona now – he moved there from Northern Minnesota a few years ago – and he’s been dealing with extremely high temperatures, drought and the impact of flash flooding in his area (though thankfully the floods seem not to have come too close to Casa Mike.) And he’s said that he’ll be unable to get back to Minnesota for the fifty-year reunion of the St. Cloud Tech and Apollo high school classes of 1971 this autumn. So he, and this piece from 2008 came to mind this week. I’ve altered it just a bit.

One of my companions as I began my exploration of the world of Top 40 during the 1969-70 school year was a fellow named Mike, someone who’s shown up in this space rarely. (He’s not to be confused with Janitor Mike, with whom I scrubbed floors at St. Cloud State during the summer of 1971.) Mike lived on the north side of St. Cloud – within a few blocks of where the Texas Gal and I now live – and had gone to a different junior high school; we met when we were sophomores at St. Cloud Tech, and for two years were pretty good friends, sharing our love of music and working together as managers for the football team as juniors.

One Saturday in 1970, Mike made his way from the north side over to our place with a bunch of singles he’d found in one of his recent excursions to Musicland. I’m not sure there was anything new there, nothing I hadn’t heard on the radio, but of course, the sound quality of the stereo was better, and yakking while listening to music was a pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning. And then Mike put on a novelty record.

It was funny and raucous, and we laughed as only high school juniors can as it spun on the stereo. I’d heard it before, on the radio, but it never failed to amuse me. So I grabbed my cassette recorder and a new tape. My taping method back in 1970 was crude. There was no output plug on the stereo, so I’d lay my recorder on the carpet on the middle of the basement floor, aim the microphone as well as I could toward the stereo and tape the sound coming from the speakers. Our first attempt was interrupted by the sound of my father whistling as he came downstairs to get something from the storage room. The second ended when I sneezed. On our third take, we were barely seconds from the end when someone outside pounded twice on the basement window. That was Rick, coming from across the street, giving me his usual signal that he was heading to the back door. With Rick joining us, we got the song recorded on the fourth take. (By that time, my mother, upstairs in the kitchen, was heartily tired of the song.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten tired of the record, though I no longer listen to it more than once at a time. It turns out, though, that I’d heard the main performer’s voice many times. His name was Tony Burrows, and during the early 1970s, he was one of the more active and successful studio singers in Britain. He might, in fact, qualify for the title of King of the One-Hit Wonders, having sung lead on Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” White Plains’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” “Beach Baby” by First Class, the Brotherhood of Man’s “United We Stand” and the record I’m pondering today (on which Burrows partnered with Roger Greenaway). I’d heard and liked the Edison Lighthouse, White Plains and Brotherhood of Man singles (“Beach Baby” was still four years in the future), but I had no clue that Saturday morning that the same voice had sung on all of them. Nor did I imagine that the single Mike and I were laughing at that morning featured the same person as well.

The record in question made it into the Top Ten that summer, peaking at No. 9 on the July 18, 1970, Billboard Hot 100. And it’s not entirely forgotten; it gets a bit of airplay on the oldies stations, though not nearly as much play as Tony Burrows’ other singles have gotten over the years.

Mike and I didn’t see each other much after that summer. The St. Cloud school district opened Apollo High School in the autumn of 1970: Mike went there while I stayed at Tech. And I was not welcome at his home; during the summer of 1970, I brought a Beatles album over one evening and learned that Mike’s mom had never gotten past John Lennon’s 1966 comment that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. After high school, I headed to college while Mike went into the Army and then went to St. Cloud State for a brief time in the middle of my years there. We’ve seen each other a couple of times in the last ten years – once, sadly, at a memorial service for a college friend and then one Saturday when he stopped by the house for a couple of hours – and we keep up on Facebook.

I long ago lost the tape we made that Saturday morning. But when I got my computer in early 2000 and began creating a collection of mp3s, I imagine that the novelty record Mike brought over that long-ago morning was one of the first couple hundred songs I secured. And I imagine that as I heard the record in 2000 for the first time in years, I laughed again, though probably not as hard as a high school junior might have.

Here’s “Gimme Dat Ding” by the Pipkins.

‘You Just Can’t Win . . .’

Thursday, April 15th, 2021

This will be brief because the upcoming work by GoDaddy may mean that this post gets left behind, but I feel a need to post something.

I was poking through the Billboard 200 from mid-April 1971, looking at which albums eventually showed up on the shelves here, when I noticed the album parked at No. 144: One & One by Gene & Jerry, who only turn out to be Gene Chandler and Jerry Butler.

The album, released in 1970, was in its fourth week on the chart, down one spot from its peak at No. 143 the previous week. After another week, the album would fall off the chart.

I found the album in July 1998, most likely at a neighborhood garage sale in south Minneapolis. And it turned out to be the first LP I ripped to mp3s when we moved to the condo three years ago. It’s decent R&B/soul.

Here’s the opening track, “You Just Can’t Win (By Making The Same Mistake).” Released as a single, the track spent three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1971, peaking at No. 94.

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.

‘The Ship That Sailed The Moon . . .’

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

I woke this morning (earlier than I’d have liked, due to feline interference) with “An American Tune” – the Paul Simon song – running through my head:

Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I’ve often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I’m all right, I’m all right
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a fried who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it’s all right, it’s all right
For we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what’s gone wrong.

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune
Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right
You can’t be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow’s gonna be another working day
And I’m trying to get some rest
That’s all I’m trying, to get some rest

Taken from the album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, the track was released as a single in November 1973 and went to No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’ve read over the years that the song’s stately, elegant music reflected America’s Shaker tradition, but now I notice that in Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn says Simon based the tune on the German classical piece “Oh Sacred Heart” (originally “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden”), credited to Johann Sebastian Bach.

Wikipedia, however, notes that “Oh Sacred Heart” was actually the text of the German hymn, which was later paired with the melody that Simon uses. That melody, “Passion Chorale,” was written by German composer Hans Leo Hassler and was later harmonized by Bach (who used the resulting composition in several of his works, including his St Matthew Passion).

So, Hassler and Bach get credit for the melody, but the words are all Simon’s. Here’s how it sounded on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon:

After I woke with “Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower/We come on the ship that sailed the moon” running through my head,” I did two things: As I fed the cats, I tried to remember any dream I might have been having that could have brought that lyric into my head, but I failed.

And then I checked to see how long it had been since I’d mentioned the song here. It turns out that in more than fourteen years, “An American Tune” has never been mentioned here. Not once. I know I thought about writing about the song at various times in the four years just past and then decided against it; the words were cutting too closely to my heart. But today it seemed to be about time the song got some attention.

So, there it is, and it might be useful to remember that when Simon released the song as a single, in November 1973, the U.S. was hip-deep in Watergate and heading into a recession that would last a year-and-a-half. An uncertain hour, indeed.

True Spring

Friday, May 8th, 2020

It’s more than pleasant to see the trees and grass and all the greening things beyond our windows. The flowering crab off of our deck is nearly fully leaved and in a week or so will be in bloom. The maple near the front door shows signs of budding.

And the linden in between them waits, as it always does; its leafing will come when the other two are in full green. A late arrival in spring allows the linden to be the last of the three trees to yield its leaves in the autumn.

So, spring as a fact – as opposed to an alignment of the earth – is here. As is pollen. Both the Texas Gal and I have been stuffed, itchy-eyed, and sniffing for the past few days. For me, each passing year seems to bring more allergies. Forty years ago, in my mid-twenties, I was aware of none, but slowly, they’ve accumulated. For a few years in my late thirties, the middle and end of June was the most notable time. Then August came into play as I hit my forties.

Now – and for the past few years – early May has me heading for decongestants, antihistamines and tissues more than ever. So I’m going to sit back and take it easy. There’s little that need be done today. Maybe a bit of work around the house, but then, maybe not.

Here’s a springtime tune: “First Spring Rain” by the little-known New York City group, the Canterbury Music Festival. The 1968 track came my way through the massive Lost Jukebox I found online some years ago.

Fifty Years

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Four dead in Ohio, May 4, 1970:

Allison Krause
Jeffery Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

“Ohio” by the Assembled Multitude

‘Somewhere East Of Midnight . . .’

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

In 1988, April 29 was a Friday, and I’m guessing that I stopped off to do some shopping on the way home from Minot State University that day and came away with a copy of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1986 album East Of Midnight.

The album was Lightfoot’s most recent release of all new material. (Sometime in 1988, he would release Gord’s Gold, Volume II, which included re-recordings of some of his recent work, as well as some repackaging of earlier recordings and one new track.) And it was, according to the LP database, the fifth album by the Canadian folk singer to come home with me.

I was likely in a difficult mood that day, struggling after the ending of a relationship during the first days of the month. New music might cheer me, I suppose I thought. And there was another thing, as I look back.

One of the stages of grief, it’s said, is bargaining: If I do this, things will change and the grief will go away, or something like that. And, I’ve read, we don’t often recognize the bargaining behavior at the time. One of the touchstones of the relationship just ended had been music, and Lightfoot’s music had been high on our list. Was there a subconscious motive in my buying East Of Midnight?

Maybe. I’d added some Lightfoot to my stacks during the previous year, while things had been going well. I might have seen East Of Midnight as a talisman of some sort. Or maybe not. As well as I recall the events of that spring, I can’t untangle my motivations on that long-ago Friday.

So I don’t remember the specific purchase. At first thought this morning, I was guessing I stopped at a garage sale on the way home, but after pulling the record from the stacks, I lean toward a retail purchase: the jacket is crisp and the record is shiny and unmarked. I assume I put the record on the turntable sometime after dinner that evening, but it’s pretty evident that the record has not been out of the jacket very often in the past thirty-two years. And when it has come out of the jacket, it did so most often at the times I was making mixtapes for friends. I often included the album’s moody title track on those mixtapes.

I recognize the other titles listed on the jacket, but none of them are favorites of mine, especially not “Anything For Love,” which was pulled from the album as a single. It’s the one track on the album produced by David Foster, whose work I’ve never much cared for. (Lightfoot produced the rest of the album.) And as a single, “Anything For Love” had some success, reaching No. 15 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart; the album itself went to No. 165 on the Billboard 200. Given the radio stations I tended to listen to in 1986, I imagine I heard the single without really noticing it.

In the context of the album, though, the single was noticeable, as Foster’s overblown approach was vastly different from the tack Lightfoot took, a pop-folk vein familiar to listeners since his first major successes in 1970. And I imagine I noticed that difference during that first playing of the album on that long-ago evening.

In the years since, I’ve continued to gather Lightfoot’s work, with seventeen LPs and five CDs on the stacks here. East Of Midnight isn’t my favorite; I think that title would go to 1974’s Sundown, with Shadows from 1982 coming in second. East Of Midnight comes somewhere after those two, but the dark title track still ranks pretty highly with me. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a hodge-podge, so I’m not sure what Lightfoot was actually trying to say, but I like it nevertheless.

And the fact that I found the track during a difficult spring and still like it in a springtime thirty-two years later – a springtime also difficult but for far different reasons – pleases me. Here’s “East Of Midight.”

One Random Shot

Friday, April 17th, 2020

As I wrote ten years ago:

It was twenty years ago today that I watched a Bekins van pull away from my door with almost everything I owned inside of it. Fifteen minutes later, I gave my apartment key to my landlady, put three cats in carriers into my car and then followed the van’s path toward the highways that would take me from Anoka, Minnesota, to Conway Springs, Kansas.

I wasn’t in Kansas long, just about three months, and at the time, my moving there and then away in such short order felt like random events that life was throwing at me. Looking back, those moves – and a few that followed – look more like mid-course corrections that brought me back to the path where I belonged.

Thirty years after that move, I am without doubt where I belong, but life seems evermore random right now. That’s unsettling, and until I figure out how I feel about that, I’m going to move to another topic.

The Texas Gal and I are putting together a list of household tasks that we have neglected: defrosting the freezer, pulling out the carpet cleaner and letting it do its work, and so on. Some of the tasks on our list are less arduous, and we’ll start with a couple of those today.

But I’m going to go back to the randomness I noted in that earlier paragraph. I’m going to open up iTunes and hit “play,” and we’ll all listen to whatever it gives us.

And we get one of Nanci Griffith’s gentle meditations on life, time, and friendship, “There’s A Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret).” It’s from her 1987 album, Lone Star State Of Mind.

There’s a light beyond these woods, Mary Margaret.
Do you think that we will go there
And see what makes it shine, Mary Margaret?
It’s almost morning, and we’ve talked all night.
You know we’ve made big plans for ten-year-olds,
You and I.

Have you met my new boyfriend, Margaret?
His name is John, and he rides my bus to school.
And he holds my hand.
He’s fourteen, he’s my older man.
But we’ll still be the best of friends,
The three of us, Margaret, John, and I.

Let’s go to New York City, Margaret!
We’ll hide out in the subways
And drink the poets’ wine. Oh,
But I had John, so you went and I stayed behind.
But you were home in time for the senior prom,
When we lost John.

The fantasies we planned, well, I’m living them now.
All the dreams we sang when we knew how.
Well, they haven’t changed.
There’ll never been two friends like you and me,
Mary Margaret.

It’s nice to see your family growing, Margaret.
Your daughter and your husband here,
They really treat you right.
But we’ve talked all night
And what about those lights that glowed beyond
Our woods when we were ten?
You were the rambler then.

The fantasies we planned, oh, Maggie,
I’m living them now.
All the dreams we sang, oh, we damn sure knew how
But ours haven’t changed.
There’ll never be two friends just like you and me,
Maggie, can’t you see?

There’s a light beyond your woods, Mary Margaret

See you tomorrow.