Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ 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.”

Depression, Take 2

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

I’ve written before about the deep ditch of depression I sometimes fall into, finding myself there for no particular reason except my own biochemistry (and sometimes – but only sometimes – my having neglected to take my meds).

I’m there again, and I have been for a few days. I’m not looking for sympathy, just letting those of you who still do show up here why this place might look a little ragged around the edges, needing a little attention.

I’ll be back Friday, and we’ll see how things are then. In the meantime, I sorted among 83,000-some mp3s for things related to “September,” and I found Richie Havens’ cover of David Blue’s song “23 Days in September. (Blue actually titled it “These 23 Days in September; for some reason, the word “The” was trimmed from the title when Havens released it.)

Havens’ version of the song is on his 1973 album Portfolio.

On The Nines

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

What’s At No. 200? (LPs, March 1970)

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Digging into the bottom of the singles in the Billboard Hot 100, as we frequently do here, often finds us listening to records that, well, are unfamiliar and perhaps . . . well “odd” is a good word. The bottom of the singles chart can be a strange place.

And when one dives into the bottom of the magazine’s album chart, the Billboard 200, well . . . it’s a deeper dive, and the denizens of deeper portions of that sea can be unfamiliar as well, the kind of thing that we here in Minnesota would listen to politely and then say, “Well, that’s different.”

We’re heading into that deeper place this morning, checking out the No. 200 album in the chart released on March 27, 1971, fifty year ago this week. Before heading into the depths, we’ll take a look at the Top Ten. (Just for fun, I’m going to tag onto each title in parentheses the year I acquired the album, if I ever did, adding a + if the album sits in the CD stacks.)

Pearl by Janis Joplin (1971+)
Love Story soundtrack
The Cry Of Love by Jimi Hendrix (1999)
Chicago III (1989+)
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971)
Abraxas by Santana (1989)
Love Story by Andy Williams
Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John (1988+)
All Things Must Pass by George Harrison (1981+)
Stoney End by Barbra Streisand (1992+)

Well, eight of them on vinyl, five on CD, and all of those eight, plus the Love Story soundtrack, are on the digital shelves, leaving only the Andy Williams album ignored. This chart obviously falls in the thick of my sweet spot, though I don’t know every album well.

The three I know best, unsurprisingly, are the three I’ve had the longest: the albums by Joplin and Harrison and Jesus Christ Superstar. And if I had to choose two more to supplement those three on a desert island, I’d add the Streisand and the Chicago. (And I would venture that nothing in this paragraph is a surprise to anyone who’s read this blog for even a very short time.)

And although the results will be similarly unsurprising, we’ll employ my usual measuring tool for current relevance and see which of those albums has the most tracks among the 2,900 or so tracks in my iPod that make up my day-to-day listening.

The tally: Harrison 8, Joplin 6, Streisand 3, Santana and Elton John, 2 each, Jesus Christ Superstar 1, with Lai, Hendrix, Chicago and Andy Williams shut out. And “Free” from Chicago might end that album’s shutout this week.

And now to our other business here, checking out the bottom spot in that long-age LP chart. And we find Sugar by jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. I’ve heard the name but know little about the man’s work. The album was in its second week in the chart, both weeks at No. 200. It would move to No. 182 a week later and then fall from the chart.

Sugar was one of sixteen albums that Turrentine would get into the Billboard 200 between 1967 and 1981, most of those failing to get into the top half of the chart. Of the six that reached the Top 100, 1978’s West Side Highway did the best, getting to No. 63.

Sugar seems to have been an odd album, but I don’t know, not really knowing the man’s work. Albums released before and after Sugar seem to be a mix: Some are filled with short tracks – three minutes or less – covering pop songs of the day. Some have a few short tracks and a couple lengthier works. Sugar in its 1970 form had three long tracks, all running ten minutes or more. (Reissues have altered that over the years.)

Here’s a link to the title track. (Although the video credits the piece to the Stanley Turrentine Sextet, the record is credited at discogs to Turrentine alone. The jacket front does list three other musicians: trumpeter Ron Carter, guitarist George Benson and bassist Freddie Hubbard. And the liner notes mention drummer Billy Kaye, organist Butch Cornell, as well as Lonnie Smith, Jr., on keyboards and Richie “Pablo” Landrum on congas.)

Under The Knife

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook or my email correspondents already know what I’m going to say this morning, but I imagine – I hope, anyway – that the reach of this blog is greater than that.

I’m having surgery tomorrow morning at the St. Cloud Hospital to repair my back.

The surgeon, Dr. McIver, will do several things in my lower back: remove a bulging disc and replace it with a titanium one, realign with some small rods the vertebrae below the bulging disc, and clear out some more room in the spinal canal so the nerves there can function properly. Dr. McIver said Monday that the work he does will relieve pretty much immediately the hamstring pain I’ve been dealing with for nearly two years.

And yes, his name sounds like the television character, and he said he’s heard every MacGyver joke there is. The most frequent, he said, is when patients ask what he can do with duct tape, and he tells them “I can put it over your mouth!”

He said he expects me to be able to go home either Friday or Saturday, but I will be very restricted in what I can do. When I go out, I will have to wear a bulky brace – I got it Monday – but if I am careful at home, I can go without it there. I have to avoid things that cause twisting core motions – snow shoveling and vacuuming were two he mentioned – for some time, and for twelve weeks, I cannot pick up anything heavier than fifteen pounds.

That weight limit is going to make things hard on Little Gus, the youngest (and heaviest) or our three cats. Cubbie Cooper, our middle cat, is very good at jumping on laps. Oscar Charleston is a lap cat on occasion, but he’s happier getting his affection while lying on the floor. (The doctor said that if I am careful, playing with the cat on the floor is approved.) But when Gus wants laptime from me, he paws at my leg, and when I reach for him, he collapses into a twenty-two pound dead weight, way beyond my approved weight limit. He will be unhappy as I recuperate.

There is a possibility that I may have to spend some time in an after-care facility for healing and physical therapy, but Dr. McIver said that’s unlikely. He said that for this surgery, that’s generally for folks who are reliant on walkers and who are older than I am. That’s good news.

Whenever I come home, the Texas Gal will take the next week off from work. She may have to go in to deal with some administrative tasks unique to her position, but if so, she will make certain I am settled in one spot or else bring a friend in to keep me company.

While I am apprehensive, I will be relieved to have the procedure. The pain in my hamstrings has gotten to the point where even simple tasks have become very difficult to accomplish.

Things can happen, of course. While I am nearly certain that I will be back to post here sometime soon – perhaps next week – there is that small bit of uncertainty that goes with any surgical procedure. So, if things go wrong and this is my last post here, thanks for stopping by for these last eleven years. Thanks for reading my tales and listening to the music that moves me. Thanks for the corrections, clarifications and contrary opinions. Thanks for everything. I’ll see you on the other side.

One Chart Dig: January 1966

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Fifty years ago this week, six guys from Allen Park High School in Michigan – Allen Park is a suburb southwest of Detroit – saw their record sitting on the lowest rung of the Billboard Hot 100. “Wait A Minute” by Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons was bubbling under at No. 130 in the chart released on January 29, 1966.

Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons

Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons

Still, that was an improvement over the previous week, when the Bubbling Under section of the chart had listed thirty-five records, and “Wait A Minute” entered the chart at No. 131. The record would spend five weeks in the chart, peaking at No. 76. It was the only record the group ever placed in the Billboard charts.

The record was written by Rick (Tim-Tam) Wiesend and Tom DeAngelo, and I assume DeAngelo was a house writer/producer for Detroit-based Palmer records. It’s a not a bad record, kind of a mix of doo-wop and garage rock, and I do like the drum fills.

“Wait A Minute” would have fit right in with the records I vaguely recall from that winter’s seventh grade dance at South Junior High in St. Cloud. I do have some more vivid memories from that dance, and I may share them sometime, but for now, let’s just listen to Tim Tam & The Turn-Ons:

“Cold’

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

As I write, the WeatherBug program tells me that it’s -20 Fahrenheit out at the St. Cloud Municipal Airport just a mile or two away. Factor in the 3 mph wind, and it feels like it’s -30. (Those temperatures are -29 and -34 for those keeping score in Celsius.)

I’m just back from dropping the Texas Gal at her workplace downtown so she wouldn’t have to walk either two blocks from the parking lot or four blocks from the downtown bus terminal. And although I have one errand to run later today – and of course have to go pick up the Texas Gal at the end of the workday – I will be content to spend the bulk of the day inside where it’s warm. To mark the chill, however, here’s a three-song sampler of “cold.”

Bobby Sherman was a regular chart presence on the Metromedia label between 1969 and 1971 – “Little Woman,” “La La La (If I Had You),” “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Julie, Do Ya Love Me” all hit the Top Ten and a few others made the Top 40 – but before that, he scuffled around on at least two other labels. His “It Hurts Me” on Decca bubbled under the chart at No. 116 in 1965, and in 1967, his Epic single “Cold Girl” made no dent in the chart at all. I came across the record in the massive Lost Jukebox files I’ve mentioned several times before. Much of the stuff in those files is easily ignored, but “Cold Girl” is pretty good.

I’m not at all certain what Gordon Lightfoot is singing about in “Cold On The Shoulder.”

All you need is time
All you need is time, time, time to make me bend
Give it a try, don’t be rude
Put it to the test and I’ll give it right back to you

It’s cold on the shoulder
And you know that we get a little older every day

But it really doesn’t matter. Like most Lightfoot tunes, especially those from the mid-1970s, the title tune to his 1975 album Cold On The Shoulder is atmospheric, tuneful and catchy, all of which helped the album go to No. 10 on the Billboard chart. Many of Lightfoot’s lyrics became a little elliptical during those years (and continued to be so for a few years to come). That indirection, as I understand from various interviews, was because he was writing about things in his life that were difficult to come at from the front, so that’s understandable. And metaphor is generally easier to listen to than straight-on blood-letting anyway.

Speaking of metaphor, “Cold Bologna” by the Isley Brothers is both metaphor and tale, as the narrator notes that he’s five years old and “Mama’s out cookin’ steak for someone else,” with that someone else being the rich folks Mama works for. The track, written by Bill Withers, is from the brothers’ 1971 album Givin’ It Back, which went to No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 200 and to No. 13 on the R&B albums chart. Three singles from the album reached the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B singles chart. “Cold Bologna” was not one of them.

As 2013 winds down today and midnight leads us into 2014, the Texas Gal and I would like to pass on our hopes that the New Year will be one of those years that shines while you’re living it and shines even more brightly as it recedes in the past. See you on the other side of the calendar!

Just One Of Those Days

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I had planned an episode of the Ultimate Jukebox today, but I’m just not up to it. It’s just one of those days. But there’s another day to come. Here are Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite from Joy of Cooking with “Beginning Tomorrow,” a track from their 1977 album, The Joy.

We’ll see you tomorrow.

Tunes To File Tax Returns By

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

During the adult years when I sailed my ship solo – from 1976 into 1978 and then again from 1987 through 1999 – April 15 was a scramble day. Despite my intentions every year, I was never organized enough to get my taxes done with anything more than a day left until the deadline for filing.

It’s not that my tax returns presented any real challenges: There were no deductions beyond the basic, no special forms to fill out, nothing out of the ordinary. I was just – as I have been in many areas all my life – disorganized. So I would generally complete my tax returns the night before and had to make time the next day to photocopy them somewhere and then run them to whichever post office was closest to my place of work.

I always got it done. The returns always made the mail on April 15. But not without a lot of stress and some extra commotion, which was good neither for me nor, I imagine, for my co-workers.

It’s different these days. The Texas Gal and I file our returns electronically, and – due to her organizational skills – generally do so by the beginning of February. It might have been a little later this year due to her schedule. But those tasks were done far in advance of the deadline of midnight tonight. And that’s good. I don’t miss the stress.

Anyway, trying to find something musical out of all that, I got to wondering what songs were at No. 15 on April 15 during some of the years that this blog looks at. I went back to 1960 for my first one, and found a song that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard: “Step by Step” by the Crests. It peaked at No. 14.

 

And then it was on to 1965 and another record that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard. If so, it’s been infrequently and not for a long time: Jack Jones and “The Race Is On,” which during the week of April 15 in 1965 was at its peak position of No. 15.

Five years later, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition were sitting at No. 15 with “Something’s Burning” as Tax Day came in 1970. The record peaked at No. 11.

In 1975, the No. 15 song on April 15 was one that I became tired of hearing probably the second time it came on the radio: Leo Sayer’s “Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance),” a record that unaccountably made it into the Top Ten, peaking at No. 9.

Five years later, Queen’s first No. 1 hit was sitting at No. 15 as Americans were rushing to get their taxes filed. I can’t embed the official video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” but you can see it here.

And we’ll close this Tax Day exercise with a look at 1985’s No. 15 song as of April 15. Holding down that position twenty-five years ago today was “Lover Girl” by Teena Marie, a record that went to No. 4.

I don’t know about you, but for me, the purposefully blurry video on that last one gets tiring after about twenty seconds.