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.


“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 March 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.


“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.


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.


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.


“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

The only ones left to tell the tale

The other day I was going through the dollar records at Rock ‘N Roll Land, a fine indie record store in our corner of Wisconsin. I pulled out a couple of Cowsills records, then couldn’t remember which ones my friend Larry recommended on his Iron Leg blog.

Not far from the Cowsills, there was this.


Wondering what the Buoys sounded like once you got past “Timothy,” I took a flyer on it. Every so often, record diggers do that.

The story of “Timothy,” a hit song in the spring of 1971, is a bit like that of the premise behind “The Producers.”

In what likely was 1969, a Scepter Records executive was tipped to the Buoys. He heard them playing in a pizza place in Exeter, Pennsylvania, and sent them to New York to work with session man Rupert Holmes, who’d worked with the Cuff Links.

Having been given a contract for exactly one Scepter single — but no money to promote said single — Holmes decided to write a song certain to generate attention by being banned from radio. “Timothy,” that notorious tale of cannibalism, unexpectedly became a hit, as did “Springtime For Hitler,” the musical in “The Producers.”

“Rupert was a great doodler on the piano,” Buoys singer and lead guitarist Bill Kelly told the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times-Leader newspaper in 2002. “He was doodling on the piano and played and sang ‘Timothy.’ We laughed our heads off and agreed to record the song, really just for the fun of it. We thought it was a great joke.”

The Buoys, who’d started gigging around Wilkes-Barre and Scranton as teenagers in the mid-’60s, released “Timothy” regionally in early 1970. It did nothing. A year later, it got a national release, and all that attention.

“It seemed like one day we were playing fire halls and gyms and the next day we were at a pop festival in front of 200,000 people,” Kelly said in 2002, “Here we were 20 years old and opening for Spencer Davis and Ike and Tina Turner.”

Fast forward to today, when Rupert Holmes is known more as a successful composer and playwright than the guy who wrote that long-ago song on the radio. He wrote “Drood,” a murder mystery/musical that won all kinds of Broadway awards in 1985. It’s become so popular that even high schools do it now, opium den and all. Our son Evan had one of the lead roles during his senior year at Green Bay East.

Listening to the Buoys beyond “Timothy” for the first time, Holmes’ five songs clearly foreshadow the stage music to come. He arranged the entire LP, save for “Timothy,” but it isn’t clear whether he sings or plays on the record. Some sources credit Holmes as playing piano on the record, but not its liner notes.

This is a remarkably sophisticated record, and not all because of Holmes. The five Buoys — Bill Kelly (lead guitar and flute), Gerry Hludzik (bass), Fran Brozena (guitar and keyboards), Carl Siracuse (guitar, keyboard and flute) and Chris Hanlon (drums and percussion) — wrote five songs, too. They’re tight, finding just the right grooves for a diverse bunch of songs inspired by the pop, prog and folk of the day.

Hear, then, the pride of Wilkes-Barre:

“Bloodknot,” written by Holmes.

“Memories,” written by the band, with dual flutes!

Both by the Buoys, from “Dinner Music,” 1971. It’s out of print.

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


Filed under January 2014, Sounds

Gone in threes: 2013

They say celebrities and prominent people go in threes. Here again is proof.

Gone in 2013 …

Badasses: Jim Kelly (“Enter The Dragon”), Tom Laughlin (“Billy Jack”), Tony Musante (Left TV’s “Toma” after one season. The show became “Baretta” with Robert Blake.).

Bad girls (or so it seemed): Christina Amphlett (Divinyls’ “I Touch Myself”), Lisa Robin Kelly (“That ’70s Show”), Mariangela Melato (General Kala in “Flash Gordon”).

Baseball memories: Gates Brown (Tigers), Stan Musial (Cardinals), Earl Weaver (Orioles).

Behind the boards: Andy Johns (engineered or produced Jethro Tull, Free, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones), Bobby Martin (arranged or produced the Philadelphia sound), Phil Ramone (produced a who’s who of jazz, pop and rock acts).

Bluesmen: Bobby Bland, Bobby Parker, Chick Willis.

Chicago bluesmen: Jimmy Dawkins, Joe Kelley (Shadows of Knight), Magic Slim.

Chicago film folks: Karen Black (she grew up there, then went on to “Easy Rider,” “Five Easy Pieces” and more), Roger Ebert (man, I miss his tweets), Dennis Farina (cop turned actor).

Chicago hosts: Larry Lujack (WLS radio), Earl Pionke (founded Earl of Old Town folk club, where John Prine and Steve Goodman got started), Bernard Sahlins (Chicago’s Second City troupe co-founder).

Chicago singers: Clarence Burke Jr. (Five Stairsteps)Marvin Junior (Dells), Cleotha Staples (Staple Singers).

Childhood memories: Cosmo Allegretti (“Captain Kangaroo”), Frank Bank (Lumpy on “Leave It To Beaver”), Annette Funicello (beach movies).

Country legends: George Jones, Ray Price, Slim Whitman.

Distinctive voices: J.J. Cale, Richie Havens, Pat Summerall.

Funny guys: Charlie Hill (Oneida Indian comic who grew up here), Elroy Schwartz (“Gilligan’s Island” co-writer), Jonathan Winters.

Funny ladies: Jane Kean (“The Honeymooners”), Jean Stapleton (“All In The Family”), Marcia Wallace (“The Bob Newhart Show”).

Glamour gals: Gussie Moran (1949 tennis fashion sensation), Maxine Powell (Motown style adviser), Esther Williams (swimmer turned actress).

Good advice: Dr, Joyce Brothers (TV psychologist), Dr. C. Everett Koop (surgeon general), Pauline Phillips (Dear Abby).

Gone from the group: Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner (Ohio Players), Bobby Rogers (Miracles), Bobby Smith (Spinners).

Great imagery on film: Ray Harryhausen (stop-motion animation), Dean Jeffries (designed the Monkeemobile and the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty), Hal Needham (ex-stunt man who wrote and directed “Smokey And The Bandit”).

Great imagery on paper: Carmine Infantino (vintage DC Comics), Elmore Leonard (crime novels), Storm Thorgerson (Hipgnosis’ ’70s album covers).

Great Train Robbers: Ronnie Biggs, John Daly, Bruce Reynolds.

Guitars: Peter Banks (Yes), Alvin Lee (Ten Years After), Jim Sundquist (Fendermen).

Hot wheels: Andy Granatelli (Indy 500 car owner, STP ads), Dick Trickle (NASCAR driver from Wisconsin), Cal Worthington (Los Angeles car dealer with wild TV ads).

Innovators: Ray Dolby (Dolby noise reduction), Paul Tanner (Glenn Miller Band trombonist who created the Electro-Theremin used by the Beach Boys), Paul Williams (founded Crawdaddy magazine).

Keyboards: George Duke, Allen Lanier (Blue Oyster Cult), Ray Manzarek (Doors).

Meet the Beatles’ pals: Sid Bernstein (U.S. promoter), Jackie Lomax (late ’60s Apple sides produced by George Harrison), Tony Sheridan (early ’60s collaborator).

Memorable everyday people: William “Freddie” McCullough of Bloomingdale, Georgia (“There isn’t enough space here to list all of the women from Freddie’s past. … A few of the more colorful ones were Momma Margie, Crazy Pam, Big Tittie Wanda, Spacy Stacy and Sweet Melissa.”), Mary A. “Pink” Mullaney of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin (“If you’re about to throw away an old pair of pantyhose, stop.”), Harry Stamps of Long Beach, Mississippi (“He particularly hated Day Light Saving Time, which he referred to as The Devil’s Time.”).

Milwaukee’s finest: Edmund Fitzgerald (insurance executive for whom ill-fated Great Lakes ship was named), Elmer Lenz (police officer who yanked George Carlin off a Summerfest stage after he did “The 7 Dirty Words You Can’t Say On Television” routine in 1972), Sam Pace (Esquires singer).

Muscle: Emile Griffith (boxer), Ken Norton (boxer and actor), Joe Weider (bodybuilder).

Nicknames from my youth: Flynn “The Electric Eye” Robinson (Milwaukee Bucks), George “The Boomer” Scott (Milwaukee Brewers), Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon (All-Star Wrestling).

Percussion: Vincent Montana Jr. (MFSB, Salsoul Orchestra), Alan Myers (Devo), Ed Shaughnessy (“Tonight Show” orchestra).

Role models: Mike Hegan (Brewers player whose fashion style I borrowed when I was 14), Arnie Hoffman (I worked under Arnie on the regional desk at the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram in 1978 and 1979, my first paying job in the news business), Fred Steffen (he hired me for that job).

Scene-stealers: Deacon Jones (once part of the Los Angeles Rams’ Fearsome Foursome, he also was a larger-than-life actor and singer), Richard LeParmentier (Admiral Motti, all choked up in “Star Wars”), Peter O’Toole (in pretty much all of his films).

Seen on the original “Hawaii Five-O”: Allan Arbus (bad guy, 1976), Glenn Cannon (Attorney General John Manicote, 1972-77), Ed Lauter (bad guy, 1980).

Seen on the original “Star Trek”: Michael Ansara (Kang, 1968), Jay Robinson (Ambassador Petri, 1968), Malachi Throne (Commodore Mendez, 1966).

Songbirds: Patty Andrews, Eydie Gorme, Patti Page.

Temptations: Damon Harris (tenor/falsetto, 1971-75, succeeded Eddie Kendricks), Deke Richards (co-produced their duet LPs with the Supremes, wrote “Give Love on Christmas Day,” which they covered) Richard Street (baritone, 1971-92; succeeded Paul Williams).

Unforgettable: Scott Carpenter, Nelson Mandela, Lou Reed.

When basketball was watchable: Zelmo Beaty, Tom Boerwinkle, Dean “The Dream” Meminger.

X-rated: Dixie Evans (burlesque dancer and stripper), Al Goldstein (“Screw” magazine), Harry Reems (“Deep Throat”).

One last note: This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2013. Rather, this is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.

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