Posts Tagged ‘John Denver’

No. 46 Forty-Six Years Ago

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

We’re going to fire up the Symmetry machine this morning and jump back to the third week of May in 1974. Why then? Because it was during that week – on May 21, to be precise – that I returned to Minnesota after my college year in Denmark. I don’t think I’ve ever looked to see what was atop the Billboard Hot 100 at the time (And if I have, it was evidently so long ago that another look won’t hurt.)

Here’s the Top Fifteen as of May 18, 1974, three days before our St. Cloud State contingent got onto a Finnair jet in Copenhagen to come home.

“The Streak” by Ray Stevens
“Dancing Machine” by the Jackson 5
“The Entertainer” by Marvin Hamlisch
“The Loco-Motion” by Grand Funk
“The Show Must Go On” by Three Dog Night
“Bennie & The Jets” by Elton John
“Band On The Run” by Paul McCartney & Wings
“Midnight At The Oasis” by Maria Muldaur
“(I’ve Been) Searching So Long” by Chicago
“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics
“TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” by MFSB feat. The Three Degrees
“I Won’t Last A Day Without You” by the Carpenters
“Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield
“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell
“Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” by the Main Ingredient

Let’s take these five at a time. The top five has three sure station-turners (assuming one would ever hear them on an oldies station while in the car these days): the singles by Stevens, Grand Funk and Three Dog Night. None of Stevens’ work has aged well in this corner of the universe; “The Loco-Motion” shows Grand Funk at its sludgiest and most boring; and “The Show Must Go On” just feels silly, not nearly up to the level of Three Dog Night’s work from the years 1969 to 1971.

That leaves two of those five: “Dancing Machine” and “The Entertainer.” They aren’t gems, but hearing them once in a while is fine.

The next five are a different matter altogether. Any of those can pop into my ear anytime they want, even the Chicago, despite some of the things I’ve said about the band’s mid-Seventies work. My favorite among those would be “Midnight At The Oasis,” which was the fuse for my fascination with Muldaur’s oeuvre: Between vinyl and CD, I have six of her albums; those albums and more make up the more than 200 tracks from Muldaur on the digital shelves.

The bottom five of the list above is not quite as stellar: I don’t mind the Carpenters’ single, but it’s not something I seek out; and I cannot recall the last time I heard the “Tubular Bells” single. I do recall listening to Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album on occasional Sunday mornings in Missouri as I read newspapers from Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and New York. The album is probably still here – and both sides of the single are likely on the digital shelves – but I don’t really go looking for any of it.

On the other hand, “TSOP,” “Help Me,” and “Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” are welcome here any time at all.

So let’s use our usual measuring stick on those fifteen. How many of them are among the 3,900-some tracks on my iPod and thus are among my day-to-day listening? Well none of the top five are there, and four of the second five are, all except the Stylistics’ single. Two of the bottom five – the Mitchell and Main Ingredient tracks – are there, and “TSOP” should be.

So all in all, that’s not a bad Top Fifteen.

And now to our other business. What was at No. 46 forty-six years ago? Well, these things sometimes happen, as we land on a record that I didn’t like then and I still don’t like: John Denver’s “Sunshine On My Shoulders.” The record was on its way back down the chart after peaking at No. 1 at the end of March. At least I wasn’t around when the record was in heavy rotation on the radio. Here it is:

Another Step

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Well, it’s getting busy around here, what with packed boxes piling up in the spare bedroom and in the living room. The two piles have different destinations: Those in the living room are filled with books headed for the Friends of the Library bookstore downtown.

Those in the spare bedroom are filled with books, LPs, clothing, living room knick-knacks, and a lot of other bits and pieces of life. There will be more boxes there yet, and all of them will be moving with us to the North Side in a little more than two weeks.

For the first time in our lives, the Texas Gal and I are homeowners; we closed on our condo Wednesday morning, signing paper after paper and form after form and finally being handed keys and garage door openers. On our way to a celebratory lunch, we stopped at our new place and continued our frequent discussions about where things will go and what we want to replace.

And we looked around the condo with a little bit of disbelief hanging in the air. “We really did this,” I was thinking. “This place is ours. Wow!”

I know that it’s going to take some time, even after we move, for the condo to feel like home. Every move I’ve ever made – and this move will be my twenty-first since I left Kilian Boulevard during the summer of 1976 – has found me slowly acclimating to each new place, living there for maybe a month or two before it felt like home. There will be no “eureka” moment, I know, just an eventual recognition that the new place on the North Side is where we belong.

All of that is yet to come, of course, and we have much work left to do. As I look around, I see what seems like so much more than two weeks’ worth of packing left, and I despair, especially because my back and leg difficulties have not been resolved by the cortisone shot I got three weeks ago, and I’m heading back to the doctor on Monday. And I do not dare lift anything very heavy (which means we’ll likely have to find some folks to help us pack).

However we do it, though, the work will get done. And the movers will arrive February 19 and take the furniture and the boxes of stuff that make up a lot of our lives across town. We’ll settle in and after a while, it will feel as if we’ve always belonged there.

And here’s another
one of my favorite tunes with “home” in the title: John Denver’s “Sail Away Home.” It’s from his 1970 album Whose Garden Was This.

Saturday Single No. 297

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

I took a look this morning at historical events that have taken place on June 30, the midpoint of the year. As usual, Wikipedia had a lengthy list, but only one of the items in that list caught my attention: The Tunguska Event. Thought now to have been triggered by a meteor, the 1908 explosion in a remote part of Siberia was about a thousand times more powerful than the atom bomb the U.S. would drop on Hiroshima, Japan, in World War II. About eighty million trees were blown over by the explosion, which has been the subject of numerous studies and fancies over the years. I remember reading about the event and being fascinated by it when I was a kid.

As interesting as the Tunguska Event is (to me, anyway), reading about it again this morning brought me no closer to finding a song for a Saturday morning. So I looked for tracks recorded on June 30 over the years. I have a few for which I  have that kind of detail, including four by the Coon Creek Girls, who were quite busy in Chicago on this date in 1938. But I decided to pass.

And I’ve decided to mark the midpoint of the year by using another one of my favorite tools: We’ll look at the record that was No. 30 in the Billboard Hot 100 on June 30 during six different years, and select our Saturday Single from those six. We may get lucky or we may not, but let’s go dig . . .

As 1962 reached the half-way point, the No. 30 record was Dion’s “Lovers Who Wander,” coming back down the chart after peaking at No. 3. It was the third Top Ten hit for Dion after he split from the Belmonts and went out on his own: “Runaround Sue” went to No. 1 in the autumn of 1961, and “The Wanderer” went to No. 2 in February of 1962. Dion would gather five more Top Ten hits, with the last being the immortal “Abraham, Martin and John” in late 1968. All together – with the Belmonts and on his own – Dion would have thirty-nine records in or near the Hot 100.

Sitting at No. 30 as June ended in 1965 is a record I’m sure I’d never heard before: “You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy” by Jan & Dean, which was on its way to a peak of No. 27. A trip to YouTube finds a Spectorian trip through a romantic break-up, with Jan & Dean sounding pretty good. Online scans tell me that Jan Berry produced the record, and I’m sure we’d find the names of members of the famed Wrecking Crew on the session logs. The record was one of thirty that Jan & Dean put in or near the chart between 1958 and 1967; “Surf City” (No. 1 in 1963) and “Dead Man’s Curve” (No. 8 in 1964) are, of course, their monuments.

We move into 1968, and we find that as the year entered its second half, the No. 30 spot on the Billboard chart was held down by a lesser-known record by Diana Ross & The Supremes: “Some Things You Never Get Used To.” The record would go no higher, the second straight record by the trio to stall before hitting the Top Twenty (“Forever Came Today” peaked at No. 28 in the spring of 1968), but as history tells us, the group was not nearly finished. The next Supremes’ single was “Love Child,” which went to No. 1, and many more hits – five of them in the Top Ten – were yet to come. The final tally? Forty-six records in or near the Hot 100, with twelve of them going to No. 1.

It seems that, more often than not, when I do one of these numerical tricks, John Denver pops up. This time, it’s not so bad as it could be, as Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” – probably the last John Denver records I truly liked – was sitting at No. 30 as 1971 turned the mid-year corner. The record – Denver’s first hit – was on its way to No. 2. Between 1971 and 1984, Denver would put thirty-six records in or near the Hot 100, with four of them going to No. 1: “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” and “I’m Sorry.”

In the first four years of this little exercise, we’ve run across four greatly successful acts. Does that continue as we head into June of 1974? Yes, to a degree. Holding down spot No. 30 on the Billboard chart as June turned to July that year was “Taking Care of Business” by the Bachman-Turner Overdrive. This was the group’s third single to hit the chart, and it would eventually peak at No. 12, setting the stage for the group’s only Top Ten hit, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” which would go to No. 1 in November 1974. BTO wound up with twelve records in or near the Hot 100 between 1973 and 1979.

Our last year to check out this morning is 1977, and the No. 30 song at the end of June that year was the Emotions’ funky “Best of My Love,” which was on its way to No. 1, where it sat for five weeks. The group had been putting records in or near the chart since 1969, with their previous best result coming from “So I Can Love You,” which went to No. 39. Two years after “Best of My Love” hit, the Emotions’ last charting single – their thirteenth overall – found them teaming up with Earth, Wind & Fire for the No. 6 hit “Boogie Wonderland.”

So there we are: Six acts, the least of which was far more successful than most performers can dream of. Of the six tracks we ran across today, the one I liked the most was Jan & Dean’s “You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy,” but I don’t have the record in my stacks, and the only high quality video of the tune at YouTube chops off the song’s ending. That disappoints me.

But there is a good alternate: As I said above, “Take Me Home, Country  Roads” is one John Denver record I do like. So it’s this week’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 291

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

A look at this morning’s weather forecast is not encouraging: A chance of showers and thunderstorms this morning, and then showers and thunderstorms this afternoon. If the Texas Gal is to make much progress in the two gardens today, it will be between raindrops and perhaps in wet soil.

Gardens? As in more than one? Yep.

Sometime last summer, the Texas Gal decided that she wanted more space for vegetables during the next gardening season than we’d been taking from the community garden west of the lilac grove. The answer was to have the yardman – when he came to till the community garden this spring – till a section of the lawn for a new garden. There were a couple of considerations when we negotiated that space’s location: I didn’t want it too close the part of the lawn where we sit during our annual picnic, and we had to avoid the diagonal swath of hard-packed gravel barely covered with grass that used to be the driveway.

Eventually, we settled on a section of the lawn about two-thirds of the way toward Lincoln Avenue from the house. That square — twenty-five feet on a side – will be home to sunflowers and corn (new ventures) as well as to potatoes, peppers, cabbages and some of the tomatoes. Those all went in this week, and there’s still some space to fill. But the Texas Gal has yet to plant onions, carrots, green beans, peas, broccoli and summer squash along with flowers to attract bees and I’m not sure what else. She has, over the winter, been collecting a massive supply of seeds for a wide variety of veggies and flowers, and she has a master plan in her head of where all those things will grow.

She is, of course, the moving force behind our gardening. I’m willing to help put up the fences in the springtime. I will run get things she needs from the garage as she plants. I’ll do some weeding and watering as things grow over the summer, and I’ll help pick tomatoes and beans and whatever else we may nurture. Then, I’ll assist with canning the bounty we gather. But were she not here, I would be doing none of those things. She is the gardener; I am not. Gardening, from the planning through the planting through the final harvest, is one of her major sources of joy. Seeing the joy she finds in the garden is one of the major sources of mine.

So, before the rain comes in and turns both plots into muck, let’s look at six random tunes about gardens and settle on the sixth for today’s selection (unless it’s been here before, in which case I’ll skip it and settle on the next.).

First up is “The Garden of England,” Gerry Rafferty’s lament for freedoms waning in England. As the track comes from 1980’s Snakes & Ladders, I have to assume that Rafferty was expressing his opposition to the plans of William Whitelaw as Britain’s Home Secretary (after the election in 1979 of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister). The latter portions of the track offer an excerpt from a speech in which Whitelaw outlined how his Conservative Party intended to deal with juvenile offenders:

We Conservatives have always maintained the need for an experiment with a tougher regime for depriving young football hooligans of their leisure time. I can announce today that the experiment promised in our election manifesto is to begin in Surrey . . .  These will be no holiday camps. We will introduce on a regular basis drill, parades, and inspections . . .  from 6:45 a.m. ’til lights out at 9:30 p.m. Life will be conducted at a brisk tempo.

Then we find “In the Garden” by Susan Tedeschi, a much more pleasant song. Written by C. Austin Miles, the track comes from Tedeschi’s 2002 album, Wait For Me, and notes that “When I wake up in the garden . . .  The sun and moon are always present/there are no more crying people around.” While the lyrics are a bit unfocused and later shift from a gardening metaphor to one based on sailing, either activity would certainly be preferable to a boot camp in Surrey.

Our third stop this morning is one we’ve made before: “Here In The Garden, Part 1,” by Gypsy, the band that started as Minnesota’s Underbeats before heading to Los Angeles in search of gold records. The track notes during its elegiac first half that “Here in the garden/once long ago, there was no need/for men to dwell in a world of dreams.” Unfortunately, the second half of the track is one of those three-minute drum solos that all too many bands thought were essential during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Still, the first half of the track is nice. It comes from Gypsy’s 1971 album In The Garden, the group’s second album.

Our Saturday journey then takes us back to 1929 and the tune “Fatal Flower Garden” by Nelstone’s Hawaiians, a track found on Harry Smith’s massive 1952 Anthology of American Folk Music that tells the tale of a young boy kidnapped by Gypsies.* The group was actually a duo: Hubert Nelson and James D. Touchstone combined their last names and then called themselves Hawaiians because of the so-called Hawaiian-style guitar they played. According to the blog The Old Weird America:

The craze for Hawaiian music in America started in the early 20th century. The exotic sounds of Hawaiian guitars and ukuleles were featured everywhere in pop and mainstream music of that time, and Hawaiian musicians were blending their own styles with jazz and country influences . . . The Hawaiian falsetto singing was echoed by the yodel in the voice of country singers like Jimmie Rodgers and Gene Autry, and steel guitar would soon be an essential part of western swing and modern country music.

*The origins of “Fatal Flower Garden” can be traced, says Wikipedia, to the Thirteenth Century. Generally, the earlier variants of the song are blatantly anti-Semitic and cast the boy as a victim of Jewish ritual murder.

We come next to “Dark Garden,” a track by the group Mama Lion from its 1973 album Give It Everything I’ve Got. It’s a moody piece with what sounds like early synthesizer descants flying in and around Lynn Carey’s vocals. Mama Lion released two albums of competent but hardly ground-breaking rock; its first was Preserve Wildlife in 1972. The group is probably best known, however, for the photo inside the gatefold of its first album showing Carey – a one-time Pet Of The Month for Penthouse magazine – nursing a lion cub.

And we land on the title track from an album I’ve mentioned from time to time and even shared back during the Blogger days: “Whose Garden Was This” by John Denver. An ecological lament, the song was written by folkie Tom Paxton, who included it on his Tom Paxton 6 album in 1970, the same year that Denver recorded his cover. Other versions, according to All-Music Guide, have been recorded by Bobby Vinton and British singer Vera Lynn, and both of those, as well as the Paxton original, can be found at YouTube. But the Denver version remains my favorite, likely because it’s the first one I ever heard, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Chart Digging At The End Of June

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

The last day of June. Half-way through the year.

Fiscal years end today in a lot of places, including the state of Minnesota, where the state Legislature and the governor are still sparring over a budget. If there’s no agreement today, then many state office and services will be shut down tomorrow. I don’t know that the absence of any of those offices and services would affect our lives right away, but that just means we’re fortunate. Others, I know, are less so, and those who rely on state services for health care, for nutrition, for transportation are likely in for some precarious times. (A court ruling reported this morning contains the good news that health care and food stamps, among other services considered essential, will continue to be available. But state services considered nonessential will be discontinued if July 1 dawns without a budget.)

Political paralysis aside, the last day of June is a nice time to ponder the progress of things. We frequently do that at the end of the year when midwinter gloom makes it difficult to see progress or sometimes even much good. It’s a whole lot better, I think, to do that kind of navel-gazing at the midpoint of the year. It’s warm and generally sunny, and one can contemplate the way things are going while seated in a lawn chair next to a leafy oak tree, sipping from a cold mug of beer. Things always seem better with sunshine and beer.

And the mid-point of the year is a good time to dig into a few Billboard charts from over the years, as I am wont to do anyway. This time, we’ll be looking at records that were at No. 30 on June 30 over the years. We’ll start in 1961 and wander this direction.

According to Joel Whitburn in Top Pop Singles, the Edsels first released their one Top 40 hit on the Dub label in 1958, when its title was first “Lama Rama Ding Dong” and then the more familiar “Rama Lama Ding Dong.” But it wasn’t until 1961, when the same record was released on the Twin label, that “Rama Lama Ding Dong” became a hit. By the time June 30 rolled around, the record was on its way down the chart, having peaked at No. 21. The Edsels, who hailed from Campbell, Ohio, were of course named for the highly touted line of automobiles introduced by Ford in 1957. The vehicle was one of the greatest failures in American automotive history. The musical group, with one great doo-wop hit, did much better.

Listening to the introduction of Johnny Rivers’ “(I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water” with the crowd noises in the background, I can only assume that the track was recorded – as were a number of Rivers’ mid-1960s records, including his No. 2 hit “Memphis” – live at Hollywood’s Whisky á Go-Go nightclub. And at the mid-point of June in 1966, “Muddy Water” was at No. 30, heading toward an eventual peak of No. 19. It was the tenth time Rivers had reached the Hot 100, and he’d end up with a total of twenty-nine Hot 100 hits by the time “Curious Mind” went to No. 41 in 1977. But what intrigues me this morning is the title of the tune on the flipside of the record: “Roogalator.” It was during 1966 that Bobby Jameson recorded and released his song “Gotta Find My Roogalator,” and I know that Bobby knew Johnny Rivers. The Rivers B-side is not the same tune; it’s an instrumental jam punctuated by shouts of “Roogalator!” So I wonder if it was a catch-word for folks in that milieu, or was it a shout-out to Bobby Jameson?

Having jumped five years in that first leap, we’ll now move up four years. In the last days of June 1970, the No. 30 song was “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I’ve written before that “Teach Your Children” is the best thing Graham Nash ever wrote in his long career, and I think I’ll stick by that statement. I have also mentioned that the track was one I featured on a long-ago radio show as one of the ten records I’d put on a desert island tape. (This was in 1988, just before CDs became the medium of choice.) And I find it interesting that a bit more than twenty years later, as I assembled my Ultimate Jukebox, “Teach Your Children” – which peaked at No. 16 – was not included. I still like the record, but the evidence shows that it doesn’t rate as highly with me as it once did.

When I glance at the Billboard Hot 100 from June 30, 1973, I find a record that I only vaguely remember. Sitting at No. 30 that week was “Give It To Me” by the J. Geils Band. It was the second Top 100 hit for the band (“Looking For A Love” had gone to No. 39 in early 1972), but it would go no higher than No. 30. The band eventually reached the Top Ten in the early 1980s with the No. 1 hit “Centerfold” and the No. 4 “Freeze-Frame,” neither of which I like as much as I like “Give It To Me” this morning. I find it interesting that the version of “Give It To Me” posted at YouTube is the single; at least one commenter there notes the absence of the harp solo by Magic Dick, which showed up in the version released on the album Bloodshot.

Jumping ahead just two years this time, we land in the middle of the summer of 1975, a season I wrote about not long ago. In that post, as I noted the presence of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” in the Top Ten, I wrote: “I can do without the John Denver tune for the rest of my life.” Well, the ball takes funny bounces, and at No. 30 as June 1975 ended sat “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” sliding down the chart after peaking at No. 1 during the first week of June. But that’s okay. Having John Denver show up as I dig through the charts does two things: It shows that I don’t cherry-pick when I dig, and it gives me a chance to link to a post I recently put up at Echoes In The Wind Archives in which I discussed my thoughts about John Denver in the context of a 1975 visit to a St. Cloud pizza joint gone now for many years.

And we’ll end this journey in 1976 with a record that I tend to forget about, and it’s one I liked a fair amount when it was on the radio. Keith Carradine’s “I’m Easy” was sitting at No. 30 as June ended that summer, heading to peaks of No. 17 on the pop charts and No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  Having been cast in Robert Altman’s acclaimed 1975 movie Nashville, Carradine wrote “I’m Easy” for his character to perform in the film. The tune earned him an Academy Award for Best Song. Here’s his performance of the song from Nashville: