Category Archives: Sounds

Goodbye, indeed

As mentioned the other day …

Goodbye, indeed. It probably went out in the Great Record Purge of 1989.

That year, some friends were having a big rummage sale. We sent over a bunch of stuff, including a bunch of records I’d bought in my teens and 20s that I wasn’t listening to in my early 30s. After collecting records for almost 20 years — hell, simply after growing up — your tastes change.

On record digs, I still come across some of those records. “Yeah, I used to have that one,” I think to myself. But there are few regrets. Certainly no regrets for dumping any and all Ted Nugent records. Nor for any Styx record released after 1974. Nor those Hot Tuna records. Nor those Starcastle records. Nor, really, even a Rolling Stones record considered to be one of their best.

I didn’t go to the rummage sale, but I vividly remember the lovely Janet telling me that more than one person had dug through the vinyl and said “Hey, there are some good records in here.”

Guessing, then, that Cream’s final record, “Goodbye,” from 1969, was been one of them. Told you I was prone to occasional outbreaks of cluelessness.

Glad, then, that one Jack Bruce record survived the Great Record Purge of 1989.

Apostrophe Frank Zappa

“Apostrophe,” Frank Zappa, from “Apostrophe,” 1974. Also available digitally.

For 40 years, it’s been debated what, exactly, Jack Bruce did on this fierce, fuzzed-out instrumental jam with Zappa and drummer Jim Gordon.

Did Bruce — then just six years moved on from Cream — play bass, as the liner notes and Zappa himself insisted? Or did he play cello, as Bruce tried to tell an interviewer almost 20 years later? All the evidence points to bass, and Bruce listed “Apostrophe” among his “special appearances” on his website.

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

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Filed under October 2014, Sounds

Life at 20

To mark its 20th anniversary, Mojo magazine is doing a series of interviews with “20 world-changing musicians looking back on their 20th year.”

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Less grandly put, it’s about what their life was like, what their influences were, when they were 20. It’s sometimes fascinating, sometimes remarkably ordinary. As I read through these pieces, I think back to my 20th year, which also was sometimes fascinating, sometimes remarkably ordinary.

Because my birthday falls on the first day of summer, my school years are neatly defined. My 20th year was my junior year of college. It was a time of great change.

A couple of weeks before I was to leave my Wisconsin hometown, Elvis died.

That was, as I wrote seven years ago, a mild, sun-splashed Tuesday afternoon in 1977, 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, knowing you are leaving home for good.

Then, seven weeks into that junior year, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down.

That was 37 years ago today, Oct. 20, 1977. I’d just picked up their new record. My vinyl copy of “Street Survivors” is the original issue, with the cover showing flames surrounding the band. In the middle, Steve Gaines stands with his eyes closed, enveloped by flames.

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My lingering memory is of how I’d snapped up that record, and of how quickly thereafter the band was silenced.

The loss of Lynyrd Skynyrd was greater than the loss of Elvis. I’d grown up with Skynyrd on the radio and on my stereo. Elvis was old news, old music for old people. (I was 20. I’d learn.)

Thinking back to that year of being 20, sorting through the loss of Lynyrd Skynyrd signaled that maybe this is the way you grow up. You deal with real life, which delivers blows like that. You live in a tiny apartment. There’s not much money, so you scrape by. I vividly remember saving pop bottles, then cashing them in during the last week of the fall semester and getting as many groceries as possible for that $3 or $5 or $7. Whatever it was, it wasn’t much.

Some better news came along during Christmas break. As 1977 turned to 1978, the local paper hired me. That’s another way you grow up. You go to work in your chosen profession and you keep at it for 36 years.

But when you’re 20, the new kid in the newsroom, there’s things going on that you don’t know.

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“Things Goin’ On,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, from “Endangered Species,” 1994. It’s their unplugged record, one I’ve enjoyed for 20 years now. It’s out of print.

This acoustic version is available only on the “Thyrty: 30th Anniversary Collection” CD, and not digitally. The original version was on Skynyrd’s 1973 debut album, “Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd.”

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

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Filed under October 2014, Sounds

My lingering cluelessness

Even though there are more than 1,000 records in the crates at AM, Then FM world headquarters, evidence of my lingering cluelessness emerges from time to time. As it has with the news that Paul Revere, the leader of Paul Revere and the Raiders, has died.

Sure, I knew of Paul Revere and the Raiders when I was a kid. I knew all their hits. In the summer of 1971, when I was 14, I bought the 45 to “Indian Reservation.” But I liked the Monkees more.

Today, I have records by the Monkees, but none by Paul Revere and the Raiders. Lingering cluelessness.

So, today, my friends are schooling me when it comes to those underappreciated garage rockers from the Pacific Northwest.

– Larry dropped a solid remembrance of Paul Revere and the Raiders, including a nod to their influence on ’80s kids, over at his Iron Leg blog. It’s a must read.

– Along those lines, Norb says “Just Like Me” was one of the first songs he learned to play on bass from start to finish.

– Steve says Paul Revere and the Raiders might have been “America’s version of The Animals.” He interviewed Revere once, maybe 20 years ago, and remembers being told “Mark Lindsay’s famous ponytail was fake.” He also remembers Revere “probably would have talked all day.”

– Emery reminds me that “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” was done first by Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966, then by the Monkees later that year.

Sigh.

– Joe dug up a review of a Paul Revere and the Raiders show in Milwaukee from late October 1966. The show — with the Robbs, Keith Allison (who later joined the Raiders), the Standells and the Gilloteens as the opening acts — drew 3,500 to the Milwaukee Auditorium.

“Generally the audience, composed mostly of teen age girls, was very well behaved but the Raiders’ Mark Lindsay’s version of ‘Kicks’ was too much and fans mobbed the stage until ushers escorted them back to their seats.

“After their last number, the Raiders ran to a waiting bus that left the building as soon as they boarded. Even with their quick exit, about a hundred screaming girls mobbed the bus before police could clear a path to W. State St.”

Here’s an interview with Bob Barry, Milwaukee’s most popular DJ, done in 1966 for a Milwaukee TV station. Don’t know whether this was done at the same time as the show.

That show, by the way, was a Dick Clark production. The Robbs, who had moved from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, were the house band on “Where The Action Is,” also a Dick Clark production. Robbs drummer Craig Krampf remembers the tour as “about 80 one-nighters in a row.” Here’s a look at that 1966 tour.

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

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Filed under October 2014, Sounds

Kind of absurd, but great memories

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Hard to believe that Steve Goodman has been gone 30 years today. Leukemia.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we met at the merch table after a show in Madison, Wisconsin? When he autographed my record to Joe, and not to Jeff? I still smile at that.

No, it’s been 31 years since he opened for fellow folk singer Leo Kottke at the old Madison Civic Center, a show I remember nothing about.

Kinda wondering what people remember of Steve Goodman today.

Probably most know him for the songs he wrote about his beloved Chicago Cubs. If you’ve visited here during the Christmas season, you know his charming live version of “Winter Wonderland” is one of our seasonal faves.

“It’s kind of absurd/when you don’t know the words/to sing/
walkin’ in a winter wonderland!”

I probably was introduced to Steve Goodman’s music in 1976 or 1977 by my friend Pat Houlihan, a folk singer from central Wisconsin who also introduced me to the music of John Prine, who was Goodman’s friend. I liked Goodman and Prine for the same reason. There’s a lot of humor in real life. They saw that, and wrote songs accordingly.

So let’s listen to some Steve Goodman. He wrote or co-wrote all but one song.

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“Men Who Love Women Who Love Men,” an irreverent but perceptive take on sexual identity.

“The One That Got Away,” a duet with Nicolette Larson on a song wistfully remembering life’s missed opportunities.

Both from “High And Outside,” Steve Goodman, 1979. His second-to-last major-label record, on Asylum. Goodman produced it, but the arrangements are almost too lush, too rich for his sometimes-thin voice.

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“You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” a country music spoof co-written with John Prine, and a hit for David Allan Coe. Goodman improvised the final verse to include references to Mama, trains, trucks, prison and getting drunk, which Coe thought every great country song needs.

“City Of New Orleans,” which really launched Goodman’s career when it became a hit for Arlo Guthrie in 1972.

Both from “Artistic Hair,” Steve Goodman, 1983. A wonderful collection of live performances from over a 10-year period. I’m generally not big on live records, but this is really the only way to get the essence of Steve Goodman.

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“Souvenirs,” a duet with John Prine on the familiar song written by Prine and first heard on Prine’s second LP, “Diamonds In The Rough,” from 1972.

“Talk Backwards,” a goofy take full of double-speak.

Both from “Affordable Art,” Steve Goodman, 1984. This was the last record released before Goodman’s death. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Thanks to Clay Eals, Goodman’s biographer, for the 30-year reminder.

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

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Filed under September 2014, Sounds

Could we go back to lighters?

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When I went to see Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Saturday night, I walked down to within about 20 feet of the stage. Close enough for a decent picture, I thought.

When she took the stage, I pulled out my phone and took a crappy picture. Then another crappy picture. I should have known better. The Paul McCartney picture I took last summer turned out somewhat decent only because I shot the giant video board and not Macca himself.

Lots of other people were taking pictures on Saturday night, as you’d expect. One guy provided a vaguely surreal experience. As I watched Joan Jett live, I also saw it on the small screen on the guy’s phone. Both were in my line of sight.

The night before, on Friday night, I was sitting in the left-field corner at Miller Park in Milwaukee, not all that far from where we sat for McCartney. My friend Doug and I got to talking about keeping a scorecard at ballgames. We used to do it all the time. We don’t do it anymore. I’ve gone to dozens of ballgames since the ’70s, but I remember few of the details. Too busy keeping score.

Which is why I deleted all but one of my Joan Jett pictures on Saturday night and put my phone away. I wanted to soak in the show and remember its essence, and to not have a crappy picture as my lingering memory.

Joan Jett sounded great, looked great, had a tight band, and looked like she was having fun, even on a cool Wisconsin night when she wore a lightweight hoodie until she warmed up with the first couple of numbers. Can’t ask for more.

Of course, one of those lingering memories will be all the phones whipped out by the faithful.

As will the lighters whipped out by a couple of old-school folks toward the end of the show. There you go. That’s more like it.

You know all of Joan Jett’s hits — and she played most of them on Saturday night — so here’s one from their most recent record, “Unvarnished,” which came out a year ago. It’s called “Soulmates To Strangers,” and was written with Laura Jane Grace. The band in the video is the one that played here.

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

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Filed under September 2014, Sounds

Starring the legendary Harvey Scales!

Once upon a time, there were rock and soul and R&B revues that traveled the land, stopping at clubs, college rathskellers, frat houses, roadhouses and beer bars across the Midwest, then rocking the house. That scene, and those groups, are mostly long gone. But not quite.

A year ago, during an all-too-short couple of hours on the Fourth of July, I saw what may be one of the last of the original soul and R&B revues.

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Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds played before a couple of hundred people in a beer tent at Sawdust Days in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It qualified as a revue because the Seven Sounds — actually 10 players strong with a five-piece horn section, three guitarists, a drummer and a keyboard player — played a long instrumental jam before Harvey and his backup singer ever came out.

Some of those in the tent remembered Harvey from the glory days of the club circuit. Those folks are older now, in their 60s. They’re like my friend Mike in Ohio, who recalled this when I mentioned that I was going to see Harvey.

“Wow, saw him and the Sounds there at the Five Oaks in ’67.
An amazing night.”

Harvey Scales has been around that long.

Harvey — who by most accounts turns 73 this year, or is younger by his own account — grew up in Milwaukee and emerged on the scene as Twistin’ Harvey in 1961. In short order, he teamed up with the Seven Sounds, another Milwaukee group. They released a string of soul and R&B singles on the small Cuca and Magic Touch labels during the ’60s. Though not widely known, they are highly regarded among Northern soul fans.

Harvey Scales is one of the great characters of the American soul and R&B scene. To hear him tell it, he was the first black soul singer to make the rounds of Wisconsin venues outside Milwaukee and an early member of the Esquires, whose members were classmates at North Division High School in Milwaukee. (Listen to this great interview with the late Bob Abrahamian of Chicago radio station WHPK. Scroll down to 7/27/2008.)

He’s rubbed shoulders with everyone who was anyone: Al Jarreau (another Milwaukee native), the Jackson 5 (and a young Michael Jackson, of course), Otis Redding, Chubby Checker, Wilson Pickett, Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Bobby Bland, Isaac Hayes, David Porter, Booker T and the M.G.’s, the O’Jays, the Dells, the Dramatics, Tavares, Millie Jackson and Cissy Houston.

This is where Paul Mollan comes in.

Mollan is a New York writer and producer who’s working on a documentary about Harvey. It’s called “Soul Untold: The Life & Times of Harvey Scales.”

He’d hoped to raise $16,000 to stage a show in Milwaukee — “think ‘The Last Waltz,’ but for Harvey Scales,” Mollan says — for use in the film. However, the Kickstarter campaign didn’t get funded.

“The only risk involved with this film are the consequences of it not getting funded and made. If that happens we run the risk of losing the memories and stories of a music business survivor. We’ve recently lost two industry giants in Don Davis and Bobby Womack. Our challenge is to not let any more stories pass without being told.”

Mollan hopes to finish the film in 2015, then screen it at festivals.

Harvey doesn’t play a lot of gigs anymore, at least not in Wisconsin. He splits his time between California and Georgia, with only occasional homecomings. This year, Harvey has another Fourth of July gig, at Summerfest in Milwaukee.

When I saw him last Fourth of July, the first of two short but energetic sets featured a raucous 12-minute jam on “The Yolk,” a 1970 single on Chess. Always a ladies’ man, he invited some to dance with him on stage, then closed the show by surrounding himself with five “disco ladies” as he performed the No. 1 hit he wrote for Johnnie Taylor in 1976. The first time I saw Harvey, four summers ago at a small festival in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he stepped down from the stage and closed the show with a snake dance through the audience.

One of the songs played in Oshkosh last year was the first one released by Harvey Scales with the Seven Sounds.

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“Glamour Girl,” Harvey Scales and the Seven Sounds, 1964, from Cuca J-1155, a 7-inch single. It’s long out of print, but is available on “Northern Soul’s Classiest Rarities, Vol. 3,” a 2008 UK compilation.

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

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Filed under July 2014, Sounds

The show must go on … and does

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After Davy Jones’ death two years ago, I wondered how the Monkees would, or even could, go forward.

Even after Michael Nesmith came back into the picture later that year, I wondered how that would go. Davy Jones, I thought, was the man the Monkees could not lose.

My friend Derek saw the Mike Nesmith/Micky Dolenz/Peter Tork lineup in California in November 2012, in one of their first shows on that tour. I asked Derek how that was, whether he was satisfied with how they handled not having Davy. He said:

“They handled Davy’s absence in a way that was so incredibly respectful and classy. In effect he *was* there, but there certainly weren’t any creepy holograms onstage.”

Thus reassured, we were eager to see Mike, Micky and Peter a couple of weeks ago in Milwaukee. It was everything Derek said it would be. A great show with just the right nods to Davy’s memory. I won’t give it away, either.

I’d been down that road before, at another show in Milwaukee. Eight years ago, I saw Queen on its first tour without Freddie Mercury.

Paul Rodgers was the lead singer on that tour. That show was tremendous, blending Queen songs with those from Free and Bad Company, but still you wondered how they’d handle Freddie’s absence when it came time for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” That, too, was handled with class and grace, just the right way.

Queen carried on. The Monkees carried on. That’s my hope for another band, one you don’t know.

Last month, The Hot Mess, a trio from Green Bay, packed up and headed north for a gig in Menominee, Michigan. On the way, they stopped at a park to practice and to unwind. They went swimming. Something happened. Mike drowned.

Mike was one of the guitarists, a gentle kid who’d spent time in our basement with the other music kids. He’s the one on the right in this video. It was shot an hour before the accident.

Mike had just turned 20. He and Collin, the Hot Mess’ drummer/guitarist, and our son Evan were pals. (That’s Collin on the left, with fellow bandmate Mitch in the middle.)

A devastating loss. But kids are resilient, thankfully.

It’s been Collin and Mitch and a handful of guest players as they continue to make the rounds of open mic nights. They’ve played a memorial show for Mike and dedicated a picture of him at the coffeehouse where they’re regulars.

The Hot Mess, like Queen and the Monkees before them, carries on.

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

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Filed under June 2014, Sounds