Monthly Archives: August 2007

One last summer fling

As August draws to a close, there’s almost a tangible sense that summer also is doing so.

Those last few nights by the lake, or at the cottage, seem quieter. They seem longer. There’s an emptiness about them.

You know what has gone on all summer. Perhaps you miss that vibe. Perhaps you’re glad to be done with it.

Perhaps you hooked up with someone. Perhaps it went well, perhaps not. Perhaps you wanted to hook up with someone, but could not or did not. Perhaps you just remember those experiences from summers past.

That pursuit is one of the essential ingredients of any summer.

So we’re putting our money in the jukebox and playing those songs — the ones that have the feel of summer crushes, love, lust, flirtation, obsession, whatever — one last time before the outdoor bar closes until Memorial Day.

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“Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” the slow version, Neil Sedaka, 1976, from “The Definitive Collection,” 2007.

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“Me and Mrs. Jones,” Billy Paul, 1972, from “Soul Hits of the ’70s — Didn’t It Blow Your Mind” sampler, 1991. The entire series is out of print. Try “Me and Mrs. Jones: The Best of Billy Paul,” from 1999.

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“Bailamos,” Enrique Iglesias, from “Enrique,” 1999. (It’s also on the “Wild Wild West” soundtrack from the same year.)

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“Who Will the Next Fool Be?” Amazing Rhythm Aces, from “Stacked Deck,” 1975. (Packaged on CD with the “Too Stuffed To Jump” album.)

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“How Blue Can You Get?” B.B. King, 1970, from “The Best of B.B. King,” 1973. This album is out of print. This tune also is on “Live in Cook County Jail,” 1971. Whether it’s the same version, I don’t know. (It is, and thanks to Whiteray over at Echoes in the Wind for the heads-up.)

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Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 26

And so we have reached six months of Sleepy Sundays.

Hope you have been digging it. Please know that we have the blessing of Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, to “keep it up!”

Today, Sleepy covers an Ernest Tubb tune from 1944. It’s also been covered by a young Glen Campbell and by Elvis Presley and the Statler Brothers.

It’s the title cut from Sleepy’s most recent studio album, and it makes the most of Sleepy’s big baritone voice.

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“Tomorrow Never Comes,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Tomorrow Never Comes,” 2000.

If you want to watch Ernest Tubb sing it, go here and here. I like Sleepy’s version better.

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Thanks, Betty

Why Betty Trindal ever wanted to part with today’s selection is beyond me, but I hope to give it a good home and some new life.

This afternoon, after dropping Evan off at my brother’s lake cottage for a sleepover, I headed to one of the finest small-town record stores I know.

They still have angle parking on Main Street in Waupaca, Wisconsin, so I pulled up right in front of the Book Cellar.

Waupaca is a summer resort town, and the fine folks at the Book Cellar feed the Chain O’ Lakes visitors lots of used and new books and CDs. They have a fine selection of both. If you closely read No Depression, you’ll see that the Book Cellar is one of the record stores consulted by the magazine’s editors as they compile the monthly sales chart.

The good stuff is down in the basement at the Book Cellar. That’s where they keep the used vinyl. Working solo, I spent a good hour digging through the modest selection in the crates.

The rock, pop and country is mostly mainstream stuff from the ’70s and ’80s, though there’s a fair amount of older easy listening stuff. There’s a little jazz and blues, but not much in the way of R&B and almost no soul. Of course, this is central Wisconsin we’re talking about.

I found a few things, but most of them will have to wait for another time, when I have a little more disposable income.

There was one album I couldn’t pass up, though.

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I saw “Joe South” and “Games People Play” and grabbed it immediately. I’ve been looking for that bit of classic Southern R&B and soul for a while.

Then I looked closer at that cover and saw it was a Pickwick International release, not a major-label release. Hmmm. Those of us who are older than dirt remember Pickwick releases could be cheapies and knockoffs.

But the front of the jacket said “by arrangement with Capitol Records” and the back of the jacket said “previously released on Capitol Records.” So, for $5, how bad could that be?

I’m delighted to report that the vinyl is pristine and the tunes are the original versions.

I was 12 — Evan’s age — when I heard Joe South on WLS radio out of Chicago. “Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home” was No. 39 in the Top 40 in the last week of August 1969.

You know Joe South’s other hits — “Games People Play” and “Walk A Mile In My Shoes.” He wrote and performed “Rose Garden,” which was a huge hit for Lynn Anderson. He wrote “Down In The Boondocks,” a hit for Billy Joe Royal (another of our faves), and “Hush,” a hit for Deep Purple. He was a highly regarded session guitarist, playing for Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Tommy Roe and Simon and Garfunkel.

But Joe South’s work on his own album, the one Betty Trindal let go, is outstanding. Here’s the track listing:

Side One: Games People Play, All My Hard Times, Rose Garden, The Greatest Love, Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home.

Side Two: Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Mirror Of Your Mind, These Are Not My People, Birds Of A Feather.

Here’s the proof.

“Walk A Mile In My Shoes,” Joe South, from “Games People Play,” 1969. It’s out of print.

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Going with the flow

Ever go on vacation, and have a song or an album become the soundtrack to that trip?

That’s happening here this week, as our 12-year-old has commandeered the CD player in the car.

We’re not doing much, just hanging around town, but we listen to the same thing everywhere we go — music from “Naruto,” a Japanese adventure cartoon. Oops, sorry, anime.

Judging from its Wikipedia description, I can see why “Naruto” appeals to 12-year-old boys: “The main character, Naruto Uzumaki, is a loud, hyperactive, unpredictable adolescent ninja who constantly searches for recognition, as well as to become Hokage, acknowledged as the leader and strongest of all ninja in the village.” I can think of someone who fits that description. Yes, you, Evan.

So I’ve been listening to the same eight cuts, found on the Web, downloaded and burned onto a CD by our 12-year-old son. It’s an interesting little trip into the world of Japanese pop music. Most of it clearly is influenced by American pop-punk, but some also by ’80s pop.

“Naruto” is just the latest in a series of Japanese comics (oops, sorry, manga) and anime that Evan has dug.

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So I ask: Why Naruto, and not Spider-Man or Batman or some of their fellow superheroes?

“Dad, I like this.”

Maybe Andrew over at Armagideon Time, were comics and music peacefully coexist, can explain it all. (And he has! Please check the comments. Thanks, Andrew!)

I guess Evan isn’t all that different at 12 than I was at 11, when in the summer of 1968 I read:

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So, in the unlikely event you’d like to hear Evan’s favorite tune from his Naruto CD, here you go.

“Go!!!,” by Flow, 2004.

It sounds like Green Day until about 2:30 in, when there’s a 25-second bridge that’s a classic ’80s guitar solo. I just can’t put my finger on the influence for that. Maybe Starship. No, maybe Asia.

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I think I’ll resist the urge to offer any of the five versions of Neal Hefti’s classic “Batman” theme I have.

For today, anyway.

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I’m (no longer) Eighteen

Last month, undecided about whether to go see Alice Cooper when he came to town, I wrote a post about that. I confessed that I’d passed on previous opportunities to see Alice, saying I was just a casual fan. Still, the consensus was that I should go. So I went last night.

I have to be honest with you. It was one of the most disappointing shows I’ve seen in a long time.

Please don’t think I was naive about what I was going to see. Horror chiller thriller theater combined with hard rock. That it was. And, yes, it did have its moments, but not enough of them.

Easily the best thing was Eric Singer’s terrific drumming. A big sound, energetically delivered. Quite a treat.

They played most everything you’d want to hear, so no complaints there.

That said …

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Alice was OK, but it’s hard to buy his stage persona when he’s so otherwise intent on selling himself as nice guy, family man, golf fanatic, radio host, businessman. (Gene Simmons has the same problem these days.)

The rest of the band played with lots of energy, but the guitarists seemed in tune for only the first half of the show. If not that, then the sound mix left something to be desired.

The problem may be that Alice’s albums often are so lushly produced, so lushly orchestrated, that it’s impossible to reproduce that sound on the live stage with just two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer. The live show lacks the nuances of the albums, the quiet moments that give the shocks more sudden impact. Then again, that may be on purpose, old tunes given a new interpretation I really don’t dig.

After last month’s post, Willie left a comment that he’d seen Alice do an all-request show with no costumes or theatrics.

I’d rather have seen that show.

Easily the most disturbing thing was this: Anytime there was make-believe violence of any kind on stage, a young guy off to my left went absolutely ape shit. I don’t want to know what’s in that guy’s head.

Easily the scariest thing was this: One of our local TV anchors, wearing a biker’s black cutoff T-shirt, jeans and pointy-toed boots.

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Yeah, this guy.

If you’re curious about the visual aspect of Alice’s show, check out this blog and these photos, both from Alice’s show at the Missouri State Fair on Aug. 11. The show here looked much the same. (The photo of Alice is by Chuck Zimmerman, from his AgWired blog, also from last week’s show at the Missouri State Fair.)

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Filed under August 2007, Sounds like bull to me

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 25

Today brings unseasonably cool weather and much-needed rain to our corner of Wisconsin.

Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is cool in any season.

Of course, Sleepy’s singing about a lost love on today’s selection, but as far as we’re concerned, he could be singing about the loss of our nice summer weather as we begin a week of vacation.

We’re doubling your pleasure today, with two versions of Sleepy covering this Slim Harpo tune.

The first version was recorded at Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville. I’m guessing it’s from the late ’70s. The CD doesn’t say.

Sleepy duets with Maria Muldaur on the second version, from his 2000 album, “Tomorrow Never Comes” on M.C. Records. Here’s what Sleepy has to say about Muldaur on the liner notes: “She sings good harmony and she has a lot of soul in her delivery.” I’ll leave it to you to be the judge on how effectively they work as a duo.

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“Raining in My Heart,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “The Human Jukebox,” 1995.

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“Raining in My Heart,” Sleepy LaBeef with Maria Muldaur, from “Tomorrow Never Comes,” 2000.

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I reconsidered, baby

It was a mild, sun-splashed Tuesday afternoon, one of those August days that seems to last forever.

Especially when you are 20 and trying to wring the most out of every moment left before you leave home for college, knowing you are leaving home for good.

Of course, it was the day Elvis Presley died.

It was 30 years ago today, Aug. 16, 1977.

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When I heard the news that day, I was at the Pizza Hut on Grand Avenue in Wausau, Wisconsin, where I worked. (That is not it above, but ours looked just like that. Sadly, Pizza Hut is abandoning that classic design.)

What I was doing there that afternoon, I don’t remember. Perhaps getting off work, perhaps giving my two weeks’ notice, perhaps just hanging out.

When I heard the news, my first reaction was surprise. My next reaction was that Elvis was old news, old music for old people.

No, I didn’t appreciate Elvis then. That took a few years, a friend who recognized Elvis’ ironic and iconic significance, a blue vinyl record album and a couple of trips to Memphis.

– — — — –

Curious to see how Elvis’ death was covered in the time before the Internet and hundreds of cable channels, I went back to the microfilm earlier today.

In the Aug. 17, 1977, edition of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, the story of Elvis’ death was placed prominently in the upper left corner of the front page. It had the biggest picture, but not the biggest headline. The day’s lead story: “Carter likely to pick judge to head FBI.” The smaller headline, under Elvis’ smiling face: “Fans young and old mourn Elvis the King.”

Some of the more interesting coverage came in the days that followed.

A Press-Gazette writer named Mark Moran wondered about Elvis’ legacy, and that of other rockers, and asked:

“In 20 years, will Alice Cooper still be a household word? Will Ted Nugent’s head band be auctioned off for $5,000? Will Led Zeppelin T-shirts be honored museum pieces?”

I’d have to say yes, perhaps and yes.

Finally, there was this item. There had been a run on Elvis records, and only a few 45s remained anywhere in Green Bay.

Two record stores in Green Bay’s new downtown mall, Galaxy of Sound and Musicland, reported “panic buying” and said they were cleaned out of 125 albums by noon Wednesday. Two other record stores, the hipper, funkier Freedom Records and Pipe Dreams, said they were sold out of even their used, cutout and Christmas albums by Elvis.

All those record stores are gone now, and so is the mall. But Elvis lives.

– — — — –

Three years later, done with college, I was living in Green Bay, where I started to get my Elvis education from The Hose. We’d often wind up at the small house he shared with his brother, usually quaffing or having quaffed a few Hamm’s beers. We’d watch basketball or listen to tunes or do both at the same time.

The Hose appreciated Elvis on a couple of levels. First, that it was cool to like the early Elvis, that there was something good going on with that music. Second, that you just had to laugh at some of the things Elvis did and said, something that covers most of his films, save for “King Creole.”

So I started buying some Elvis compilations (and the “King Creole” soundtrack). Then, in 1985, I came across the album that instantly became my favorite and remains so today.

– — — — –

By the late ’80s, The Hose and his lovely wife were living in Memphis, of all places. So I made a couple of trips down, a couple of pilgrimages to Graceland.

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Janet and I will never forget the adventure of 1988, which found us at dusty hotels in Nashville and Chattanooga, with car trouble in Atlanta that required a drive home to Wisconsin without the fifth gear on our five-speed transmission and wandering across Alabama and Mississippi’s back roads on our way to — where else? — Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, Miss., on our way to Memphis.

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If you have not seen Graceland — it’s pronounced “GRACE-lunn,” not “Grace-LAND” — you must try to go some day. Everyone has a little different take on it.

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I’ve not been there in almost 20 years and I still vividly remember two things — the Jungle Room and all those Elvis fans. It is a remarkable place for people-watching.

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The soundtrack for those trips to Graceland came from several Elvis albums, and one in particular.

“Reconsider Baby” is a 1985 compilation of a dozen of Elvis’ blues tunes recorded from 1954 to 1971. That it was on blue vinyl was just icing on the cake. Some of it is raw and unpolished and a little unruly, and that’s what’s so great about it. Elvis often was most interesting when he sang the blues.

Peter Guralnick’s liner notes to “Reconsider Baby” point out that Elvis’ 1968 comeback TV special “was a nakedly intimate, almost embarrassingly spontaneous live concert … which focused not surprisingly on the blues.”

So here, from a February 1969 session, is an alternate take of Elvis covering a Percy Mayfield tune.

“Stranger In My Own Home Town,” Elvis Presley, from “Reconsider Baby,” 1985. It’s out of print.

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