Monthly Archives: July 2011

Heaven knows

Rob Grill, the lead singer of the Grass Roots for more than 40 years, died quietly earlier this week in Florida. He was 67.

The Grass Roots long ago faded from prominence. Even so, they forged a nice career for themselves, playing across America before tens of thousands of people who remembered those great pop/rock songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

I was fortunate enough to see Grill and the Grass Roots. It was two years ago, at a free show at one end of the midway at a small county fair. Grill, who battled health problems for years, moved carefully and gingerly on the small stage but was in fine voice.

More than a decade ago, I came to the realization that some of the acts I’d long enjoyed — like the Grass Roots — were not going to tour forever, and that I ought to get out and see them. My friend Meat once called it “a cool midlife crisis.”

I wouldn’t necessarily call it that, but I did make up for lost time, for shows not seen when I was much younger. La, la, la, la, la, la, live for today, you might say.

So today, yeah, it’s nice to be able to say I saw Rob Grill with the Grass Roots, and he was good.

He’s not the only one who’s gone now. I saw Brad Delp with Boston. Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Warren Zevon and Steve Goodman and Jeff Healey. I even saw Mel Torme.

“Heaven Knows,” a Top 25 hit for the Grass Roots in 1969, is of course a love song. But in the light of Grill’s passing — and considering those who went before him — it also might express the love between performers and their fans.

With a song in my heart/And a chance to be yours forever
I couldn’t feel more secure/I know I couldn’t feel any better
Oh Lord, heaven knows/How much I love you and how much it shows
Oh Lord, heaven … heaven knows

“Heaven Knows,” the Grass Roots, 1969, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. It’s out of print. It’s available on this 2003 import CD and digitally.


It was written by Mike “Harvey” Price and Dan Walsh, the Los Angeles songwriting team that also came up with “Temptation Eyes.”

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Juuuuust a bit outside SI’s Top 40

There, the other day, in the July 4 issue of Sports Illustrated, was “The Ultimate Play List,” what its writers considered the best sports songs of all time.

SI’s Top 40 includes the Beach Boys’ “Surfin USA” at No. 2, John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” at No. 7, Warren Zevon’s “Boom Boom Mancini” at No. 12, Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” at No. 28 and Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” at No. 31. That’s about it for songs I recognize.

(I only grudgingly include the Fogerty tune. Even though I enthusiastically bought the “Centerfield” LP in 1985, the title song quickly wore out its welcome and has been unlistenable for years.)

Whether SI’s Top 40 is good or bad, as always, you be the judge. I can’t say it blew me away. As I read the piece, I kept wondering whether certain tunes would show up in the Top 40. They didn’t. So here they are.

“Bill Lee,” Warren Zevon, from “Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School,” 1980. It’s out of print but is available digitally.


Lee — nicknamed “Spaceman” — was an irreverent left-hander, a California hippie who was good enough to pitch in the major leagues for 14 years, from 1969 to 1982. Lee liked Zevon, and Zevon liked Lee. Boston Red Sox manager Don Zimmer, who was from baseball’s old school, did not like Lee. Zevon wrote this song after the Red Sox got rid of Lee in 1978. That’ll happen when you spar with your manager all year long and call him “a gerbil.”

“You’re supposed to sit on your ass/And nod at stupid things
Man, that’s hard to do
And if you don’t, they’ll screw you/And if you do they’ll screw you, too.”

“Vida Blue,” Albert Jones, from the Tri-City 45 (TC327A), 1971. It’s out of print.


Almost everything I know about this “stomping funk tribute to the early ’70s Oakland A’s hurler of the same name” is from Larry Grogan’s most excellent Funky 16 Corners post from last year. As Larry also said then: “Where else are you going to hear a funk 45 that namechecks Harmon Killebrew and Carl Yastrzemski?” (The flip side is a country version of the song, according to Scott Soriano’s long-ago Crud Crud post.)

“Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces,” Cheech and Chong, from “Los Cochinos,” 1973.


This is a song remembered mostly because I so often heard it sung in the shower by the players on my high school basketball team. Sorry, you had to be there.

To get a sense for that vibe all these years later, watch the animated short they made for the song. It was released to theaters in 1974. They showed it before “The Last Detail,” which of course starred basketball fan Jack Nicholson.

There’s an all-star group behind Cheech Marin’s falsetto vocals. That’s George Harrison on lead guitar, backed by many of his Beatles session friends, including Billy Preston on the organ. Carole King plays electric piano. Darlene Love and Michelle Phillips are among those voicing the cheerleaders.

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Red, white and blue revisited

As we did last year, we’re dishing up some music for your Fourth of July party.

We have some red, some white, some blue, the makings for a fine gathering. However, you still won’t find any Greenwood, if you know what I mean.

Red.

You’ll need a little something to eat and a little something to wash it down.

“Red Beans,” Marcia Ball, from “Blue House,” 1994.


“Red Red Wine,” Neil Diamond, 1967, from “Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits,” 1968. That’s long out of print, but the song is on “Neil Diamond: The Bang Years, 1966-1968,” released earlier this year.


White.

Then you’ll need to chill.

“Ice Cream Man” and “Back Porch Therapy,” Tony Joe White, from “The Heroines,” 2004. It’s out of print but is available digitally.



Blue.

Before enjoying a nightcap or two.

“Martini 5-0,” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Sway,” 1998. It’s out of print and apparently not available digitally.


“A Shot of Rhythm and Blues,” Dave Edmunds, from “Subtle As A Flying Mallet,” 1975. Also out of print and not available digitally.


Speaking of shots …

As you the blow the fireworks, be sure to …

“Pop That Thang,” the Isley Brothers, from “Brother, Brother, Brother,” 1972.


And as you reflect on it all …

“People Got To Be Free,” Dionne Warwick, from “Soulful,” 1969. Available on “Soulful Plus,” a 2004 limited-edition release from Rhino Handmade, and digitally.


Yes, people still got to be free, even today.

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