Archive for the ‘Symmetry’ Category

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Wednesday, October 20th, 2021

We’re going to indulge in a game of Symmetry in a moment, looking at the No. 50 record from the fourth week of October 1971, but first, we’re going to take a look at the top five from that week in the Billboard Hot 100:

“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“Superstar/Bless The Beasts & Children” by the Carpenters
“Yo-Yo” by the Osmonds
“Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves” by Cher
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez

“Maggie May” still works for me as a record, especially the long mandolin solo before the final choruses, but it also serves as a reminder of that long-ago season, the first autumn of my college days. It brings up memories of wandering down dorm hallways and across campus and into pizza joints with my first set of college friends, the folks I’d met at the summertime orientation. It’s always welcome here.

So, too, is “Superstar,” chiefly for the purity of Karen Carpenter’s voice (and the tasteful arrangement by her brother Richard). Bowdlerizing a bit the original lyric by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell, the record still works.

We looked at Baez’ cover of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” the other week. As for “Yo-Yo” and “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” well, “Yo-Yo” is a pleasant memory, and the Cher single is one of the 2,900-some in the iPod, so I must like it.

But what do we find when we go the halfway point of that week’s Hot 100? Well, we find a record I’m pretty certain I’ve never heard before: “She’s All I Got” by Freddie North, during which North pleads with a rival: “Please don’t take. She’s all I got . . .”

It’s an okay record, I guess, but nothing special. It made it to No. 39 on the Hot 100 and to No. 10 on the magazine’s R&B chart. North was a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Nashville, and the only other record of his that made the two charts was “You And Me Together Forever,” which bubbled under the Hot 100 at No. 116 and went to No. 26 on the R&B chart in early 1972.

Oddly, I have North’s 1975 album, Cuss the Wind, in the digital stacks. How it got there, I have no idea. I may have grabbed it somewhere because it contains North’s cover of “A Rainy Night In Georgia.”

Here’s “She’s All I Got.”

‘Another Night, Another Day . . .’

Friday, September 17th, 2021

We’re playing “Symmetry” this morning, checking out the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 from fifty years ago this week.

As usual, we’ll start the game with a look at that week’s Top Ten. There are no surprises.

“Go Away, Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Maggie May/Reason To Believe” by Rod Stewart
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth
“I Just Want To Celebrate” by Rare Earth
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez
“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees
“Whatcha See Is What Cha Get” by the Dramatics

Well, except for the records by Osmond and Baez, that’s some decent listening. “Go Away, Little Girl” is at least a little icky these days no matter who sings it (and no matter how noble the intentions of the character the singer is channeling) but having a thirteen-year-old boy sing it is just weird. But that’s today’s mores, and I guess few people were thinking that way fifty years ago.

As to the Baez, my frustration with the record starts with – as I think I’ve noted before – her mis-singing the lyrics. I’ve heard or read somewhere that Baez’ people got the lyrics over the phone from Robbie Robertson’s people or publisher and mis-heard some of them, thus turning “Stoneman’s cavalry” into “so much cavalry” and Robert E. Lee into the steamboat-to-be.

But I’ve realized that the main reason I dislike Baez’ version of the song is that she pulls all the emotional weight out of it. She treats it as she did many old folk songs during the beginning of her career, as if it were a fragile flower needing her protection. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is a song of grief, and the singer needs to offer it as if the events it chronicles matter to him or her, as does Levon Helm of The Band.

(As I mentioned almost in passing in a post from a year ago, I’m still sorting out how I feel about “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and other cultural pieces that would undoubtedly offend some folks.)

Other than that, the nine records remaining of the eleven listed above range from inspired to pleasantly remembered. The best one there is either “Spanish Harlem” or “Maggie May,” and I won’t argue with anyone who chooses one over the other.

Oddly, only about half of the records I like from that list are in the iPod and thus in my day-to-day listening. I’ll have to add the records by the Undisputed Truth, the McCartneys, the Bee Gees and the Dramatics. It’s strange that I missed so many of those.

And now to our main business, the No. 50 record in that Hot 100 released fifty years ago yesterday. It turns out to be a ballad by Engelbert Humperdinck, some of whose stuff I’ve liked over the years and some of whose stuff I have little time for. I’d never heard “Another Time, Another Place” before:

Her candles flicker in the fading light
I sit alone and watch that lonely night
I see you everywhere and I try desperately to hide

Another time, another place, I see that old familiar face
And I try hard to catch your eye
Another road, another mile, I see that old familiar smile
But you’ll be with somebody new
Another night, another day, I’ll see you standing in my way
I’ll stop and say “Hello, my friend”
Another place, another time, you’ll tell me you’ve been doing fine
And walk away from me once more.


I try to run away from sad regrets
The bitter wine won’t help me to forget
That I locked up my heart and threw away the precious key

Another time, another place, I see that old familiar face
And I try hard to catch your eye
Another road, another mile, I see that old familiar smile
But you’ll be with somebody new
Another night, another day, I’ll see you standing in my way
I’ll stop and say “Hello, my friend”
Another place, another time, you’ll tell me you’ve been doing fine
And walk away from me once more.

Another night, another day, I’ll see you standing in my way
I’ll stop and say “Hello, my friend”
Another place, another time, you’ll tell me you’ve been doing fine
And walk away from me once more.

A couple of years earlier, still in my easy listening and soundtrack days, I probably would have liked that one a lot. Maybe I would have, anyway. But the brassy backing and Humperdinck’s over-singing were a long distance from what I was listening to during my first days of college.

The record peaked at No. 43 on the Hot 100 and got to No. 5 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

No. 55, Fifty-Five Years Ago (June 1966)

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

It’s been a couple of years since we looked at a chart from 1966 for any reason, so we’re going to head that direction this morning and then play a game of Symmetry. Here are the top ten records from the Billboard Hot 100 from the third week in June 1966, fifty-five years ago:

“Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones
“Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“I Am A Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel
“When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge
“Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra
“A Groovy Kind Of Love” by the Mindbenders
“Barefootin’” by Robert Parker
“Green Grass” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Cool Jerk” by the Capitols
“Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle

As I typed that list, I knew nine of those ten, and a trip to YouTube refreshed my memory of “Green Grass.” How many of those would I have known fifty-five years ago, though?

I was twelve, between seventh and eighth grades, and that might have been the summer that I took summer school courses in cooking and World War II history, or it might have been chemistry and Spanish. And I wasn’t yet very interested in pop music, so any of those records I remember, I remember only because I heard then when I was with my peers and the radio was on, not because I was listening.

I have vague memories of hearing the records by the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, the Lovin’s Spoonful, Percy Sledge and the Cyrkle. And I know I heard the Frank Sinatra single: I was still an easy listening kid, and “Strangers In The Night” topped the Easy Listening chart for seven weeks. I no doubt heard it on WCCO from the Twin Cities and on the two St. Cloud stations, WJON and KFAM. And I liked it, too.

I also liked “I Am A Rock” and “Red Rubber Ball,” as well as “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind,” although the dilemma facing the singer in that tune bemused me. I could not imagine myself in a position of having to make a choice between two willing girls. (I marked that one off on my bucket list not quite ten years later.) On the other hand, even though I knew it fifty-five years ago, I have never really liked “When A Man Loves A Woman,” and I don’t have any idea why that is.

How about now? Do any of those records fit into my day-to-day listening? Let’s look at the iPod. Four of them are there: The records by Sinatra, the Stones, the Cyrkle and the Capitols. That last is a surprise, almost as much of a surprise as the absence of “I Am A Rock.”

Now, to our other business today: Checking out the record that sat at No. 55 in the middle of June 1966. Not unsurprisingly, it’s a record I don’t think I’ve ever heard of, much less heard: “Come Running Back” by Dean Martin. Back then, I knew “Everybody Loves Somebody,” Martin’s No. 1 hit from 1964, and I think I’d heard “Houston” on one of the 45s that I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley.

But that was the limit of my Dean Martin lore then. In the past few years, I’ve added a hits package to the digital shelves, but I don’t know much of it well except “Volare” and “That’s Amore.” Add “Mambo Italiano” from my cabaret adventures with Lucille and Heather a few years ago, and that’s the extent of my Dean Martin awareness.

“Come Running Back” is an okay record – it’s a mid-Sixties swingin’ and brassy Pack Rat joint – except for the shrillness of the background singers, and since they pretty much start things off, well, that takes off some points right there. Lyrically, it’s pretty simple: She’s gone and he’s saying that if things don’t work out, come on home. Yeah, we’ve found better records on our dives into the charts, but we’ve also found much, much worse.

“Come Running Back” peaked at No. 35 on the Hot 100 and at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart.

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, June 4th, 2021

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, checking out the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of 1971, fifty years ago. Along the way, we’ll check out the Top Ten from that week and see how they stacked up then and whether they matter now.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten released on June 5 of that year, fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet and Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Me and You and A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo

Back then, having just graduated from high school and about to start a summer of lawn-mowing, janitoring and floor-cleaning at St. Cloud State, I liked most of those. The Donny Osmond single left me pretty blah, and something about Lobo’s single bothered me. (Maybe it was “the wheatfields of St. Paul” and the farmer from whom the narrator stole eggs. Not the St. Paul I knew.)

And I do not at all recall hearing Aretha’s cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the time, even though it went to No. 24 on the Twin Cities’ KDWB. (I don’t think I heard that meditative take on Paul Simon’s masterpiece until I sought it out after reading a Dave Marsh piece about it during the early 1990s.) The flipside went unheard until the Nineties as well.

The others, though, would make up a more than pleasant stretch of listening. My favorites among them? The Stones, Ringo, the Carole King A-side and the Carpenters. And not much has changed today. Those four are in my current day-to-day listening in the iPod, along with “Want Ads” and “Joy To The World.” (I maybe should add “I Feel The Earth Move.” We’ll see.)

Now to our other business, checking out the No. 50 record from fifty years ago. And we find a slow and sad piece of soul from an artist who doesn’t show up here very often: “I Cried” by James Brown. There are several videos of the tune at YouTube, and under one of them, a commenter said, “This is how you sing a soul song.” I agree. (The record went no higher in the Hot 100, but it did go to No. 15 on the magazine’s R&B chart.)

No. 46, Forty-Six Years Ago

Friday, March 19th, 2021

Looking for a quick Friday fix, we’re playing another game of Symmetry, this time looking back to 1975 and the Billboard Hot 100 that was released on March 22 of that year. We’ll check out the top two records of the week and then see what was sitting at No. 46 in that chart from forty-six years ago.

Sitting in the top two spots were two pretty good records: “My Eyes Adored You” by Frankie Valli at No. 1 and “Lady Marmalade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)” by LaBelle. The latter made my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, and maybe the Franki Valli record should have, too. Coincidentally, I’ve heard both of these this week on the Seventies cable channel the Texas Gal plays as she’s working on jigsaw puzzles.

But what’s at No. 46? Well, it’s a lesser Harry Chapin record: “I Wanna Learn A Love Song,” pulled from his album Verities & Balderdash. It was the follow-up on the charts to “Cat’s In The Cradle,” which had gone to No. 1 in December 1974 (though “What Made America Famous” had been released between the two records and had not hit the charts).

When I saw the title, I did not recall the record, but five seconds into listening, I remembered the tale of the itinerant musician who wins another man’s wife with his guitar and his songs. The record didn’t go much higher on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 42, but it went to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.

Saturday Single No. 728

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

It’s been a while since we played “Symmetry” here, so we’re going to pull up the Billboard Hot 100 from March 13, 1971, and check out what record was at No. 50 exactly fifty years ago.

We’ll start, as we customarily do, with the Top Ten:

“One Bad Apple” by the Osmonds
“Me & Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin
“For All We Know” by the Carpenters
“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” by the Temptations
“She’s A Lady” by Tom Jones
“Mama’s Pearl” by the Jackson 5
“Proud Mary” by Ike & Tina Turner
“Have You Ever Seen The Rain/Hey Tonight” by CCR
“Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted” by the Partridge Family
“If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot

At the time, I was heading into my last few months of high school, and I got my radio fixes mostly from WJON down across the railroad tracks in the hours before bedtime and from WLS when I went to bed. The radio was pulled right up to the edge of my nightstand, and I’d keep the volume down low enough that the music coming from the Chicago giant would lull me to sleep. The Twin cities KDWB supplied daytime tunes, but that happened infrequently.

Nine of those eleven were familiar back then. I think I may have heard the Partridge Family record at the time, as it was vaguely familiar when I came across it on an anthology in the mid-1990s. If I ever heard “Mama’s Pearl” in 1971, it was either not frequently enough to register or loud enough to wake me up as I slid toward sleep. The only times I recall hearing it have come in the fourteen years I’ve been writing this blog.

The other nine, though, are lodged in my memory, and two of them – the Janis Joplin and Gordon Lightfoot records – are among my favorites and have burrowed deep inside. (Just yesterday, I was down in my corner of the family room working on baseball statistics while the Texas Gal was working on a jigsaw puzzle upstairs with one of the music channels keeping her company. I was only vaguely aware of the sounds of “Bobby McGee” coming down the stairs as I bent over a stat sheet, but my hands knew, as I suddenly realized I was playing air piano and air organ during the long instrumental break at the end of the record.)

I used to love the Turners’ “Proud Mary,” but now I’m a little tired of it, and the same goes for “One Bad Apple,” which has been in my iPod for years now but may be retired soon.

Which of the others are in my iPod and thus part of my day-to-day listening? The Joplin and the Lightfoot, certainly, along with the Temptations and both sides of the Creedence single. Adding in the Osmonds, that makes six. The Carpenters and Tom Jones may be added. The Turners and the Jacksons won’t be. The Partridge Family? Maybe.

And now, let’s drop to No. 50 from fifty years ago. And we find B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions,” a track pulled from the album Indianola Mississippi Seeds. The record was climbing the Hot 100, heading for a peak at No. 40, while over on the magazine’s R&B chart, it was at its peak of No. 18.

It’s an interesting record, in that it’s got more piano in it than I tend to expect of a King record, but a quick look at the credits at both AllMusic and discogs tells me that Carole King was around for the album sessions. I wish I had track-by-track information, but I don’t. Even without knowing for sure who’s on the piano, it’s a good listen, which means that B.B. King’s “Ask Me No Questions” is today’s Saturday Single.

No. 48, Forty-Eight Years Ago

Friday, December 4th, 2020

We’ve not bounced around in 1972 lately, so it’s likely a good time to see what folks were listening to in early December of that year, at least as reflected in the top section of the Billboard Hot 100. And we’ll play a game of Symmetry, heading down the chart to see what was sitting at No. 48 during that late autumn forty-eight years ago.

It was my second autumn as a student at St. Cloud State (because of a couple of failed courses a year earlier, I wasn’t technically a sophomore), and it was an unmemorable time. The friendships that has sustained me through my first year of college had faded away, and I was pretty much on my own. I hung around with some folks from a speech class that fall quarter, but I never quite fit there, either. And I wasn’t dating anyone, nor were there any candidates in sight.

I was exploring musically, having finished my Beatles collection in August. Some record club purchases brought me albums by the Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones and Mountain, and those sounds filled the basement rec room many evenings as I played a Sports Illustrated tabletop football game by myself.

And I still listened to the radio in my bedroom and in the car, so the records in the Top Ten forty-eight years ago (as reported by Billboard on December 9, 1972) were likely familiar:

“I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy
“Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” by the Temptations
“If You Don’t Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes
“I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash
“You Ought To Be With Me” by Al Green
“Me & Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul
“It Never Rains In Southern California” by Albert Hammond
“Ventura Highway” by America
“Clair” by Gilbert O’Sullivan
“I’m Stone In Love With You” by the Stylistics

That’s pretty heavy on the soul/R&B side of the ledger, with a couple of southern California records (stylistically as well as literally), one piece of fluff (“Clair”) and one record – the Helen Reddy – that’s sui generis. And nine of the ten are as familiar as was the interior of my 1961 Falcon, which I’d inherited that summer from my sister.

The one record not familiar by title is the Al Green, which I recalled after a quick listen; I don’t know that I heard it often, and I certainly haven’t heard it as much over the years as I’ve heard “Call Me (Come Back Home),” “Tired Of Being Alone” and “I’m Still In Love With You.”

So, here’s the question we almost always ask when we look at a Billboard Top Ten: Do those records matter now? And we find the answer to that question by seeing if they’re among the 2,700 or so tracks in my iPod.

And I find four of those ten: The records by Nash, Paul, Hammond and the Stylistics. I might add “Ventura Highway,” but the others that I recall – as I ponder them this morning – carry a sense of sorrow. (Well, not “I Am Woman,” but as I noted above, that’s one of a kind.) I was not happy during the latter months of 1972, and nearly a half-century later, that unhappiness seems to be still attached to some of that era’s music.

But what of our other business here? What do we find when we move further down that Hot 100 to No. 48? Well, we come across a record I knew well at the time, one that I heard from an album that took its place between the Moody Blues, Mountain, the Beatles and the rest as I pondered third down and three in the basement rec room: “Let It Rain” by Eric Clapton.

The track came from Clapton’s first solo album, a self-titled effort released in 1970, and was released as a single in 1972, I think, because of its inclusion that year in the two-LP Polydor release Clapton At His Best (which is where I found it). We’ve caught it here at the peak of its thirteen-week stay on the Hot 100. And whether you count it as forty-eight years or fifty years, the track – co-written by Clapton and Bonnie Bramlett – is still a brilliant piece of work.

 

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

Friday, November 20th, 2020

We’re playing Symmetry today, checking out the Billboard Hot 100 from this week in 1970. We’ll look at the top five and then see what was hanging on the hook at No. 50 fifty years ago.

Here’s the top five from the Hot 100 as of November 21, 1970:

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“The Tears Of A Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“Fire & Rain” by James Taylor

I don’t think I was particularly thrilled by that set of five records fifty years ago, as my senior year of high school was sliding by. I noted earlier this week that at the time I thought “I Think I Love You” was a little too poppy but that I admire its craft now.

One of the best things about the records we love is that they connect with us emotionally, tie in somehow to what we’re feeling at the time they come along. Over the fifty years that I’ve been seriously listening to and thinking about music, there are no doubt hundreds of records with which I’ve connected emotionally.

None of these five are among those hundreds of records.

They’re fine records all, but not one of them has ever meant anything to me. (There is that one fleeting memory of hearing the Partridge Family record during a long-ago date, but that’s it.) Even James Taylor’s classic, ushering in (kind of, sort of, maybe) the era of the singer-songwriter (a genre I loved then and still love) has no emotional resonance for me.

I would guess it’s one of the few times that would happen during the years of my so-called sweet spot, running from the late summer of 1969 to the late autumn of 1975. Four of the five – all except “I’ll Be There” – are in the iPod and thus are a part of my day-to-day listening, but the prospect of deleting them would bring no distress (except, and this make sense, a slight bit of regret at losing “I Think I Love You”).

But what do we find when we get to our other business this morning? What was at No. 50 during the third week of November 1970?

We find the record that in a very few weeks would become Neil Young’s first Top 40 hit: “Only Love Can Break Your Heart.” Pulled from the stellar album After The Gold Rush, the record had been No. 60 a week earlier and would rise to No. 33. It’s a good record. (For what it matters, it’s not in the iPod either, though maybe it should be.)

No. 50, Fifty Years Ago (October 1970)

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020

Despite the concern at plowing fields already set into furrows, we’re going to play a game of Symmetry this morning and check out the record that was at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 during the first portion of October fifty years ago, in 1970.

We’ll start with a look at the top five from the Hot 100 as offered in the magazine’s October 10 edition:

“Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“Candida” by Dawn
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“All Right Now” by Free

That’s a pretty decent quarter-hour of listening. There might have been times over the past half-century when I would have looked askance at the Jackson 5 or Dawn singles, finding them a little bit lightweight, but these days, they’re fine. Neither one of them has been plugged into the iPod, where I find my day-to-day listening, but after this morning, they’ll be on the short list, with “Candida” a little closer to the top than “I’ll Be There.”

The Diana Ross and Free singles are in the iPod, but somehow while I was reloading the device after getting a new computer during the summer. I managed to do so without selecting any tracks by Neil Diamond. That oversight will be corrected today, and “Cracklin’ Rosie” will be one of the tracks selected.

And what of our main business today? Well, sitting at No. 50 fifty years ago this week was a record that takes me back to late autumn evenings in 1970, when it was just me and my RCA radio killing time in my bedroom. Among the songs I heard that autumn was the only Top 40 hit by the English band named after its vocalist: “Yellow River” by Christie.

The record, says band leader and writer Jeff Christie, was inspired by the thoughts of a soldier going home after the American Civil War. Given the era in which it was released, with the U.S. still entangled in the Vietnam War, many listeners thought the record was about current events. On a page on his website, Christie has collected comments he’s received about the record over the years from Vietnam vets and others who lived through the times.

Fifty years ago this week, “Yellow River” was on its way to a peak of No. 23 in late November. The record also went to No. 22 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart. A later single from the group, “San Bernadino,” got to No. 100 in late January 1971. (And yes, the record’s title misspelled the name of the California city.)

Here’s “Yellow River.”

No. 50 Fifty Years Ago (September 1970)

Friday, September 18th, 2020

As promised earlier this week, we’re playing Symmetry, looking back fifty years to whatever record was sitting at No. 50 in the Billboard Hot 100 at this point in September 1970. First, though, we’re going to take a look at the Top Five released fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross
“War” by Edwin Starr
“Lookin’ Out My Back Door/Long As I Can See The Light” by CCR
“Patches” by Clarence Carter
“Julie, Do Ya Love Me” by Bobby Sherman

This is not a particularly great five (or six) from where I listened long ago. There are some nice moments here, especially the intro to the Diana Ross single (although the spoken word portion of the record tamps that down a bit for me), and “War” is always going to get one’s attention. I like the CCR B-side, and the Bobby Sherman single always reminds me that there was a young lady named Julie during that long-ago season who was – clearly in retrospect but not evident to my seventeen-year-old self – interested in me.

As to the CCR A-side and the Clarence Carter single, I’ve never been interested, though I could no doubt sing along without errors as each of them played.

The four I dealt with two paragraphs above are in fact in the iPod and thus are part of my current listening, but if I were forced to trim, say, a hundred tracks from the device, three of them would likely be among those culled. Julie would stay.

And what do we find when we drop halfway down the Hot 100? We chance on one of the great singer-songwriter singles, one that’s been, I think, devalued and set aside somewhat as a result of its prominence, its ubiquity, and its status as one of the foundations of the decade’s singer-songwriter movement: James Taylor’s “Fire & Rain.”

I don’t remember the first time I heard the record, but I do know that as I heard it frequently during the autumn of 1970, its personal and confessional lyrics touched something in me. I’d guess – not for the first time – that the record was part of what moved me to begin writing my own stuff later that school year. (The other part, of course, was an unrequited affection for a sophomore girl, the tale of which I told in 2009 and revisited some years later in a post found here.)

If one tries to listen to the record with fresh ears – an almost impossible task after so many years and so many hearings – it remains a remarkable piece of work, one that went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 7 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.