Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

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.

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.

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. 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.

‘Turn, Turn Any Corner . . .’

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Thirty-some years ago, as part of a summer I spent in St. Cloud in between things and places and people, my ladyfriend and I decided to put on a Sixties party. Our friends filled the place I was renting – the lower level of a house, usually home to probably ten to twelve students – as we laughed, drew pictures on the tagboard designated a graffiti wall, and took part in a Sixties trivia contest.

There was music, of course. My lady and I spent hours the week before the party creating mix tapes. I borrowed records from the St. Cloud State radio station’s library to supplement my own pretty good collection. (This was in the late 1980s; I had about 250 albums, nothing near what I would eventually have filling the shelves.)

She insisted that the first track of the first tape played be the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In.” Okay. And then, she said, should come Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Woodstock.” 

Well. I told her – and fifty-seven years after the Summer of Love, I don’t know who would argue – that along with the shininess of Sixties’ utopianism, there was always a shadow side, and if we were setting up a sense of the decade for our guests, that shadow had to be reflected in the first parts of the music.

I persuaded her, so the second track on our first mixtape for that evening was “Long Time Gone” by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Written, it is said, by Crosby upon the death of Robert F. Kennedy, it’s a song of portent, and the first time I heard it – not long after the trio’s first album was released in May of 1969, it spooked me out (and it did so again the other day when it popped up on the radio in the car).

And today, as I sat down to check email and so on first thing this morning (after a series of unsettling early morning dreams), it popped up in iTunes, this time in the cover version recorded and released by Ruthie Foster in 2012, accompanied by the Blind Boys of Alabama.

With nothing else to say this morning, here’s that cover:

‘My Sweet Lord’ vs. ‘He’s So Fine’

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

As I sometimes do, I was browsing through the old posts here yesterday when I came across one that wandered from the Beatles’ last years as a group into George Harrison’s massive 1970 album All Things Must Pass,

The post mentioned Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and the resulting suit brought by the copyright owners of “He’s So Fine,” a hit for the Chiffons in 1963. And when iTunes offered me “He’s So Fine” this morning as I pondered the empty space here, I wondered two things: First, how did things in that lawsuit actually resolve? And second, was I right in thinking that the Chiffons did a cover version of “My Sweet Lord”?

I dug into the tale of the U.S. suit at Wikipedia and read, as I recalled, that Harrison was in fact found, in 1976, to have plagiarized the melody of “He’s So Fine,” written by one Ronnie Mack, who had died in 1963. The financial verdict against Harrison, says Wikipedia, was startlingly large: He was to pay Bright Tunes Music – holder of the “He’s So Fine” copyright – $1.6 million, which amounted to three quarters of the sales of the single in the U.S. and a significant amount of the proceeds from the sales of All Things Must Pass.

And then, Wikipedia tells us, we find the dirty hands of Allen Klein, one-time manager of the Beatles (over the protests of Paul McCartney). After Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr severed their business relationship with Klein in 1973 – a move that led to protracted litigation itself – Klein began providing inside information to Bright about, if I read things rightly, Harrison’s legal strategy. Eventually, Klein’s ABCKO Industries purchased from Bright the rights to “He’s So Fine” and the rights to any settlement; that cost Klein $587,000, and he then proceeded to open negotiations with Harrison for the rights to the song.

In February 1981 – more than ten years after the release of the single “My Sweet Lord” and All Things Must Pass – the New York court ruled that because of Klein’s duplicity and interference, Harrison would pay Klein $587,000 for the rights to “He’s So Fine” and would retain the rights to “My Sweet Lord.”

Okay, that’s how that turned out. But what about the Chiffons covering “My Sweet Lord”? Well, that happened, too. In 1975, the Chiffons released their version of the song with the aim, Wikipedia says, of drawing attention to the languishing court proceedings. I suppose that sounded like a good idea, but I think the result is a little tepid. Here it is:

Saturday Single No. 750

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

A few days ago, I examined the top fifteen albums offered in a survey fifty years ago this week by KSHE-FM, a progressive station in St. Louis. I thought today, we’d drop in on a survey from fifty years ago from a Top 40 station in St. Louis.

Here’s the Top 15 from the KXOK Bookmark from August 28, 1971.

“Sweet Hitch-Hiker” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“Smiling Faces Sometimes” by the Undisputed Truth
“Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye
“Spanish Harlem” by Aretha Franklin
“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers
“Beginnings” by Chicago
“Liar” by Three Dog Night
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who
“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” by Paul & Linda McCartney
“Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band
“Dragging The Line” by Tommy James
“Go Down Gamblin’” by Blood, Sweat & Tears
“Go Away Little Girl” by Donny Osmond
“Rain Dance” by the Guess Who
“Bangla Desh” by George Harrison

Well, except for the Donny Osmond record (and maybe the Guess Who record, which I honestly do not recall), that would be a real fine hour of listening, no matter what station you were tuned to. There are three others among those fifteen that I think tend to get lost or somewhat forgotten, at least around here. Those are the records by CCR, BS&T and George Harrison. And that’s somewhat understandable. The catalogs of those three are stuffed with goodies that probably make better listening.

As to “Rain Dance.” I pulled it up on the RealPlayer to be reminded what it sounded like, and I have no memory of ever hearing come out the radio speakers.

Then, as far as “Bangla Desh” goes, that’s one of those records that I don’t often run into when I dig into old surveys. And that’s just chance, I guess. The surveys gathered at Airheads Radio Survey Archive show the record reaching the top ten, by my count, at fourteen stations, including KDWB in the Twin Cities.

And the cities where the record reached the top ten are an interesting bunch. Beyond the Twin Cities you find Gadsden, Alabama; Erie, Pennsylvania; Vincennes, Indiana; Amarillo, Texas; Terre Haute, Indiana; Rochester, New York; Hemingway, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Lincoln, Nebraska; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Montreal and Vancouver in Canada.

Hmmm. Four major metro areas – Denver, Montreal, Vancouver and the Twin Cities – and a lot of mid-range and smaller cities. Does that mean anything? I dunno.

I doubt we’ve ever featured the record here. The times I did hear the single release during the late summer and autumn of 1971, I thought the production was kind of thin. The song sounded a lot better live, as performed in the Concert for Bangla Desh. (Why wouldn’t it, with Billy Preston and Eric Clapton doing the fills and Leon Russell leading the way?)

So, here’s the live version from August 1971 of “Bangla Desh” as shown in the film of the concert. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

The Moody Blues: 1981

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Here, we resume a long-dormant project: An assessment of the massive oeuvre of the Moody Blues, looking today at the 1981 album Long Distance Voyager.

It hasn’t quite been forty years – the conversation I recalled this morning happed in the autumn of 1981 – but it’s close enough. I was out for lunch with the new photographer for the Monticello Times – our previous, long-time guy had left for grad school in Missouri during the summer – and we were still in the stage of getting to know each other.

I mentioned that over the previous weekend I’d picked up Long Distance Voyager, the most recent release by the Moody Blues. It had come out the previous spring and had been on my want list for a bit, especially since I’d heard “Gemini Dream,” the album’s first single, during the summer, and had been hearing “The Voice,” the second single from the album, on the radio in recent weeks.

(At the time of the conversation I’m remembering, in fact, it’s quite likely that “The Voice” was nearing its peak position of No 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. And the album itself spent three weeks at No. 1 during the summer of 1981.)

“I do really like ‘The Voice’,” I likely would have told Andris, “and there are a couple of other tracks that I think are really good, but I want to hear them a few times.”

“Hmpph!” Andris looked at me over his menu. “I don’t like the Moody Blues at all. I don’t like the Wall of Sound.”

We found other things to talk about.

Forty years later, I still like Long Distance Voyager. Despite some flaws, it remains for me one of the most listenable albums in the Moody’s lengthy discography, from the opener, “The Voice,” right up to the end of “Nervous.” Then come the last three tracks, “Painted Smile/Reflective Smile” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker,” all written by Ray Thomas.

The first of those tries to hard to be cute, with circus music and simplistic lyrics that – had I written them in 1981 – would have made me cringe. Then, with “Reflective Smile,” Thomas lapses into one of those bits of bombastic narration that mar the Moodys’ releases from the late 1960s. And in “Veteran Cosmic Rocker,” Thomas tries so hard that the track verges on parody.

Up until then, however, Long Distance Voyager offers plenty that I do like: “The Voice,” once we get past the Moody’s usual quasi-dramatic introduction, propels us into the album with lyrics that are both mystical and a call to action (I think). I also like the other two tracks that came out as singles: “Gemini Dream” got to No. 12; “Talking Out Of Turn” came out after the title track and stumbled, reaching only No. 65.

The best thing on the album, however, is John Lodge’s “Nervous,” which could have used a better title (as my blogging colleague jb noted in his perceptive assessment of Long Distance Voyager two years ago). Intense, compelling, and propulsive, the song, with its refrain of “Bring it on home/let’s bring it on home (your love)” would have been a perfect place to end the album instead of Thomas’ strange and sophomoric trilogy.

In fact, I think that the first time I listened to the album, I expected it to end after “Nervous,” and I thought to myself “That’s a really short album, isn’t it?”

So, forty years down the road, what grade do I give to Long Distance Voyager? Thinking of it that way, I’m reminded of a long-ago student of mine who turned in superior work for eight weeks of the quarter and then faltered. I knew life was throwing some challenges his way, and he ended up with an A after a good final exam.

But there is no final exam for the Moody Blues here. The first eighty percent of the record was A or A-minus quality, but the ending was full of nonsense that – because it comes at what should be a climactic moment – saddles the album with inescapable flaws. The record gets a grade of B-minus (and is lucky to get that).

Here’s “Nervous.”

‘Down The Road . . .’

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Fifty years ago, I was spending my evenings washing floors at St. Cloud State with Janitor Mike and spending my day-time hours no doubt wasting time in the basement rec room, sitting on the green couch and listening to my limited collection of LPs.

It was probably about this time of August that the college hosted an overnight orientation for incoming freshman students, which is when I met Dave the Poet, Wyoming Rick and the other folks who would make up a lot of my social life during that first year at St. Cloud State. But they were in town for one night and then went back to their hometowns and would not be back until nearly two-thirds of September had passed.

And Rick from across the street was – I think – toiling at a summertime job somewhere, and when that ended, he’d head to his junior year at St. Cloud Cathedral, the Catholic high school downtown.

So, pretty much alone, I listened to my LPs – only a few of which were very current – and wondered what albums (beyond the Beatles LPs I would need to backfill my complete collection) I should have in my sights. I could have used the help of the progressive rock folks at KSHE-FM in St. Louis. Here are the top fifteen albums listed in the station’s mid-August 1971 survey:

Every Picture Tells A Story by Rod Stewart
Tapestry by Carole King
Aqualung by Jethro Tull
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones
Four Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Poems, Prayers & Promises by John Denver
Fifth by Lee Michaels
The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East
Stephen Stills II
Mudslide Slim & The Blue Horizon by James Taylor
L.A. Woman by the Doors
Electric Hot Tuna
Who’s Next
High Time by the MC5
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by the Moody Blues

I’ve corrected a couple of titles – on the Allman Brothers Band and James Taylor albums – and I have no idea what album Electric Hot Tuna is. The listings at discogs show First Pull Up, Then Pull Down as the group’s 1971 album, released in June 1971. I’m guessing it’s that album mistitled.

The major question I have there is the presence of the John Denver album on the list. Progressive? Poems was Denver’s fourth album and contained his first hit, “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and I guess his version of folky country (or countryish folk, depending on your vantage point) night have seemed different enough to be progressive. To be honest, at the time this survey came out, one of the albums getting regular play in the rec room was Denver’s third album, Whose Garden Was This, which my sister had brought home some months earlier, and I liked it a lot.

It’s kind of hard to look back and recall how Denver was received and perceived in 1971 without letting a lot of the later stuff – his saccharine singles, his goofy persona, and “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” – get in the way. In 1971, at least in St. Louis (and likely elsewhere), Denver was seen as a serious musician poised at that intersection of rock, pop, folk and country that always grabs my attention. I should listen to Poems, Prayers & Promises again with that in mind.

So how many of those albums ever came home with me? Twelve or thirteen of them. (There is some confusion about, again, the Hot Tuna album. About twenty-five years ago, just after I quit working for the newspaper in Eden Prairie, a friend from there offered me a crate of her college records; then, about ten years later, she called me and told me one of her children wanted them, if I would part with them, which of course I did. I also deleted the titles from my database (something I no longer do when I let an LP go).

I think the Hot Tuna album was one of those I got from Linda and later returned.

Otherwise, the only two albums on that list that I never brought home are those by Lee Michaels and the MC5. But none of those fifteen was in the cardboard box in the rec room as I sat there during August 1971. Aqualung would show up in November that year, as would my sister’s copy of Tapestry, and Sticky Fingers would arrive not quite a year later. The rest would take longer.

My favorites among those fifteen are – predictably – the albums by Carole King, the Rolling Stones, Stephen Stills, and the Moody Blues.

And that’s helpful because it provides a way to say farewell to Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer who died at the age of 80 yesterday in London. Many times through the years, as Sticky Fingers played, I’d stop whatever I was doing and listen to the album’s closer “Moonlight Mile” and nod as Watts’ drumming brought the song to its climax. Listening to it again is as good a way as any for a fan to say goodbye.

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.)