Category Archives: Sounds

The downside of digging

This weekend seemed so promising.

A friend emailed to say he’d be at a big indoor rummage sale on Saturday with six boxes of records, so stop by.

I’d heard of a new place — new to me, at least — about a half-hour away that had a bunch of records.

A half-hour away in a different direction, on Sunday, there was a record show.

I dutifully made the rounds, as record diggers do, but came up empty.

After the rummage sale, I stopped by Rock ‘n’ Roll Land, one of our indie record stores. Our son had mentioned he’d stopped there not too long ago and found a dollar record he wanted but had no cash. I grabbed his record — a “South Pacific” soundtrack for the musical theater major — and checked out the dollar records for myself. Again, nothing.

When I got home, I checked Facebook. My friend Emery had posted Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” single. Don’t you know, I’d just seen the LP it’s on among those dollar records at RNR Land. So, on Emery’s recommendation …

aretha lp find 032914

I went back to RNR Land and got it later Saturday afternoon, handing Todd a dollar for the second time that day. He and I got to talking about records you wish you’d gone back for while digging.

Mine is a short list.

Earlier this year, RNR Land had an affordable copy of what’s known as “The Cardboard Album” by Soup, a much-loved blues-rock group from Wisconsin from about 1970. One side is live, one side is demos. You rarely see it, and most copies are pricey. Wish I’d grabbed that.

At our last Green Bay record show, I should have grabbed a couple of things. One was a live Ike and Tina Turner record from the mid-’60s, one I’d never seen before. But the guy selling it didn’t have prices on anything. Cute. I don’t play that game. The other was the Small Faces’ “There Are But Four Small Faces” from 1967. That seemed like a cool record, but it was gone when I circled back.

On my swing through Minnesota a couple of years ago, I came across a handful of Ides of March records at Hymie’s Vintage Records in Minneapolis. I bought one. I should have bought more, because I never see Ides of March records.

Here’s a song off the Ides record I did buy that scorching July day at Hymie’s.

idesofmarchcommonbondlp

“Superman,” the Ides of March, from “Common Bond,” 1971. It’s out of print but is available digitally.


This was the follow-up single to “Vehicle.” I had forgotten about it until I sat on stage with Ides lead singer Jim Peterik, guitarist Larry Millas and bass player Bob Bergland during what was billed as a songwriting workshop in February 2011. It really was a storytelling session, which was fine. Here’s a little video of that, and of them playing a snippet of “Superman.”

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under February 2014, Sounds

‘Seven’ for seven

AM, Then FM turns 7 this week. To celebrate, a story of a long-ago record hunt.

Those of you who are regulars know how much I dig Bob Seger’s early stuff. The first Seger song I came to know and love, I heard on the radio in 1974. That single was “Get Out Of Denver,” the breathless rocker from “Seven,” the seventh LP by a still-young Seger.

Just one problem. Because Seger was then still just a regional act, big only in the Midwest, the distribution of his records was hit or miss. Try as I might, I couldn’t find “Seven” in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin.

So I mentioned that to my friend Herb one day. Herb was two years older, and he promised to look for “Seven” when he went back to college in the fall.

There was one condition, though. Herb also couldn’t find a record he wanted in Wausau. If memory serves, he was looking for this one …

babe ruth first base lp

“First Base,” by the British prog rockers Babe Ruth. They covered Frank Zappa’s “King Kong” on it, and Herb was into Zappa.

So Herb said, “Tell you what. I’ll keep an eye out for your record and you keep an eye out for mine.”

Eventually, I found Herb’s record, and Herb found mine. My copy of “Seven” came out of a cutout bin, probably from somewhere in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Scott Sparling, whose website The Seger File is a tremendous resource about all things Seger, calls this “indisputably the best album never to make the Top 200 Billboard album chart.” This was Seger’s first record with the Silver Bullet Band. They opened for Kiss while touring in support of “Seven.”

You probably know “Get Out Of Denver,” so here are a couple of other cuts from “Seven,” as we celebrate seven years.

bobsegersevenlp

“Need Ya” and “School Teacher,” Bob Seger, from “Seven,” 1974.



The LP, and these songs, are out of print. Three of the other cuts on “Seven” — “Get Out Of Denver,” “Long Song Comin’” and “U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)” — are available on “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” a 2010 release, and digitally.

“Need Ya” was the first single off the album, but went nowhere. Sounds to me to be influenced by Rod Stewart, and Sparling hears that, too. “Get Out Of Denver” came next and peaked at No. 80.

Sparling says the live version of “School Teacher” is a bit of a holy grail for Seger fans. He explains:

“Seger had a ‘long version’ of ‘School Teacher,’ which contained a long story
– told during the instrumental break — about working as a janitor
and watching a very sexy teacher walk home from work.
If there is a God of Boxed Sets … please, please Lord,
let the long, live version appear. It’s a classic.”

As the summer of 1974 wound to a close, “School Teacher” was an album cut listed as “hitbound” on WTAC, The Big 6, out of Flint, Michigan. It never made it.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under February 2014, Sounds

Kings Go Forth, then disappear

There haven’t been a lot of cool soul bands to come out of Wisconsin lately, so when one does, you notice. When that scorching 10-piece group goes missing, you notice that, too.

So whatever happened to Kings Go Forth?

The timeline:

2007: Founded in Milwaukee by Andy Noble, who ran the old Lotus Land Records store in the city’s eclectic Riverwest neighborhood, and then and now is a DJ at a monthly soul/funk dance night in Riverwest.

2009: Signed to Luaka Bop Records.

April 2010: The first and only Kings Go Forth LP, “The Outsiders Are Back,” is released.

April 20, 2010: Riding the crest of acclaim, Kings Go Forth plays a live, one-hour show on NPR Music.

April 30, 2010: Kings Go Forth plays a record release show at Turner Hall in Milwaukee.

May 2010: The band says on its website that it’s “touring internationally in support of the record, and writing and recording new material for a yet-unnamed sophomore release.”

June 25, 2010: I saw Kings Go Forth live at a summer festival in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee. It was tremendous.

April 2011: Detroit guitar legend Dennis Coffey releases his self-titled comeback record. He’s backed by Kings Go Forth on one cut, “Miss Millie.” Eagerly waiting for “Miss Millie,” I wrote about it.

July 2011: The band says on its website that it’s “playing select festivals this summer while spending most of their time writing and recording the next record.”‘

Sept. 24, 2011: Kings Go Forth performs live for KEXP radio in Seattle.

Nov. 19, 2011: The last gig listed on its website, at the Firebird in St. Louis. It came a week after the band had finished a two-week European tour.

Sept. 10, 2012: The last update on its Facebook page, saying that the band’s rhythm section was backing Milwaukee soul legend Harvey Scales and some of the original Seven Sounds at a local gig.

Since then: Nothing. The evidence suggests that Kings Go Forth is no more.

DJ Prestige caught up with Andy Noble over at the fine Flea Market Funk blog a year ago. They talked mostly about collecting records, but Noble also said “I have a new group with an amazing singer from Racine, Little Gregory.” But on Noble’s Soundcloud page, there’s a track titled “Last day before Little Gregory quit.”

On that Soundcloud post from seven months ago, Noble writes:

“so i had this band with this dude little gregory for like 6 months, he was cool but he was old, i guess i shouldn’t have put much faith in it, but i did, because — well i guess that’s what i do … anyways, he dipped outta nowhere one day and left me with not much else besides a lot of little phone recordings of stuff, anyways, i like them — maybe you will too?”

Considering all that, this one seems appropriate.

kingsgoforth outsidersarebacklp

“Now We’re Gone,” Kings Go Forth, from “The Outsiders Are Back,” 2010. Also available digitally.


Noteworthy: Also from last year, from roughly the same time as the Flea Market Funk interview, here’s a podcast with Noble again talking mostly about record collecting. (The host is Mark Metcalf, who for several years lived in the Milwaukee area, ran a restaurant, worked in the media and did some acting. You may remember him as Doug Neidermeyer in “Animal House,” and from those Twisted Sister videos of the ’80s.)

Also noteworthy: Eilon Paz stopped to visit Noble in Milwaukee last fall on another of the road trips for his Dust and Grooves photography and interview project. Noble has a neon “We Buy Records” sign at his house.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under February 2014, Sounds

Don’t let it happen in your world

On Super Bowl Sunday, there was this.

An ad for Chevy Silverado trucks set to Hot Chocolate’s “You Sexy Thing” from 1975.

On the day after Super Bowl Sunday, Deadspin writer Drew Magary went off — and generally rightly so — on that song’s use in films and commercials.

“It’s 2014 and advertisers and movie producers are STILL using this goddamn song as a punchline. When you hear ‘You Sexy Thing,’ you know that you are about to see something unsexy on the screen because IRONY.”

True. We offer the Chevy Silverado ad as evidence.

Magary concludes:

“There are billions of songs out in the universe and yet ‘You Sexy Thing’ and ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Spirit in the Sky’ get used over and over and over again. They need to be formally retired. They need to create a Song Nursing Home where “You Sexy Thing” can go and wither. Because it’s the worst.
It wasn’t even good to begin with.”

There, sir, we must disagree. So we gather here in defense of “You Sexy Thing.”

More specifically, we gather here to celebrate Hot Chocolate, the multiracial group that cranked out a string of memorably moody — yet kinda cool — pop-soul-dance songs in the ’70s and sent them across the pond from England.

Singer Errol Brown and bass player Tony Wilson wrote many of their great songs. Figures. A bass player writing all those great bass lines heard during the disco era. They were produced by British legend Mickie Most, who put them on his RAK label in the UK.

I don’t often come across Hot Chocolate records while digging. I have only two, and I don’t have the LP with “You Sexy Thing.”

Hot Chocolate Cicero Park LP

“Cicero Park,” an album full of hypnotic, menacing songs, is one of mine.

You know two of the more disquieting cuts off that LP: “Emma,” which ends with a suicide, and the original version of “Brother Louie,” about an interracial love affair. You may even know a third. “Disco Queen” shoots down any gent’s hopes in the first line: “She don’t need no man to give her satisfaction. … Music is her lover. Music turns her on and on.” And yes, kids, there were women like that in the dance floors of the mid-70s.

Most memorable after all these years, though, is the title cut. We often heard it, a gloomy take on a doomed neighborhood, after our local Top 40 FM radio gave way to free-form programming after 10 p.m. It’s the kind of thing Norman Whitfield could have produced.

“Cicero Park,” Hot Chocolate, from “Cicero Park,” 1974. It’s the group’s first studio LP, and is out of print, but is available digitally.


Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under February 2014, Sounds

This land was his land

What a time we have lived in.

That realization comes more often as those of us of a certain age get older. When we were kids in the ’60s, there were four TV channels.

On those four channels, there was a thing called the variety show. You could hear some comedic and dramatic monologues, see some skits and production numbers, and hear Broadway songs, pop standards, pop hits and — after a while, grudgingly, it often seemed — rock music.

Folk music was part of that rich cultural stew, too. That’s where I must have heard Pete Seeger and his songs.

In a lifetime of listening to music, his songs are part of the foundation of everything I know. They’re some of the first songs I ever came to know as a grade-school kid in the ’60s. “This Land Is Your Land” was the most memorable. But I also came to know “If I Had A Hammer,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Rock Island Line” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

But as I grew up and my tastes changed, folk music just wasn’t my bag. John Prine and Steve Goodman were as close I got to folk. Pete Seeger was, and is, no less great, but I’ve long known more of his songs done as covers than as his originals. I don’t have any Pete Seeger records.

Peter Paul Mary Moving LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Peter, Paul and Mary, from “Moving,” 1963. Also available digitally.

My dad had this record, so we played it endlessly as kids. This song and “Puff,” one of the saddest songs I know, over and over.


JohnnyCashWithHisHotBlueGuitarLP

“Rock Island Line,” Johnny Cash, from “Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar,” 1957. Also available digitally.

My dad loved trains, so of course we loved this train song. It’s the first cut on Johnny Cash’s debut LP. (I bought this record in the late ’80s, and only recently realized it was his first LP.)


Sharon Jones DK Naturally LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “Naturally,” 2005. Also available digitally.


Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back CD

“Eyes On The Prize” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007. Also available digitally.



(I used to have “Goodnight Irene” on a Ry Cooder record, but it went out in one of the Great Record Purges.)

All these covers inspired by Pete Seeger, a national treasure whose work is timeless, whose influence endures.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under January 2014, Sounds