Thanksgiving night, much like Christmas night, once was a time when we’d have our legal limit of the family, flee the house and hit the bars with our friends.
But it was a cruel tease, especially if you were in college. You had a long weekend, then had to head back to campus for to grind it out for roughly three weeks — including finals — before you could return home for Christmas.
You’d come home, disconnected from your hometown, out of the social loop. You’d make a few phone calls — or hope that someone would call you — to try to figure out who was around and what was going on.
This is the first such Thanksgiving weekend for my nephew Jake, who almost certainly has relied on texts and/or Facebook — who makes phone calls anymore? — to try to figure out what’s happening around his hometown.
When Jake drives back to school on Sunday, he’ll take the same road I did in November 1977, after my first Thanksgiving home from college. Our schools are about 25 miles apart.
So, Jake, wanna hear what your old unk was listening to back then?
Ah, didn’t think so. Too bad, man. Gonna cue it up anyway.
“Gettin’ Lucky,” Head East, from “Gettin’ Lucky,” 1977. The LP is out of print but available digitally.
That never happened during Thanksgiving break. Or Christmas break. Or summer break. This tune, written by guitarist Mike Somerville, rather neatly sums up that futility.
Head East was one of those Midwest rock bands we dug at the time.
Amazing Records, our local used vinyl record emporium, is all but gone now. Jim thought he’d close the store at the end of April. That became the end of May, and then the end of June.
They were lugging the big wooden bins out the door as I drove past yesterday. But the “Open” sign was still on, as it was today. Jim said as long as it was on, it was OK to stop in.
Jim wasn’t there today, but Bruce was. Bruce helps out on weekends. He was throwing vinyl into boxes bound for California. I explained that Jim had said it was OK to stop in, so Bruce pointed me to three small stacks of LPs. Nope. Nothing there.
If you live near Cotati, California, near Sonoma State University, go visit Jim when he reopens Amazing Records later this summer. He’ll have a bunch of nice records.
Two of the records that kept tempting me during Amazing Records’ last days were albums with tunes from the charts in June 1970.
I thought about getting “Are You Ready,” the Pacific Gas & Electric LP with the hit single of the same name. It was the real thing from 1970.
I thought about getting “Just A Stone’s Throw Away,” the 1977 debut album by singer Valerie Carter. I bought it in 1977 only because it had a nice cover of “O-o-h Child,” the great single by the Five Stairsteps.
But I got neither.
As for PG&E, I just wasn’t in the mood for old West Coast blues-rock jams. I should have bought it for the album art alone.
As for Valerie Carter, I’d be buying it for the same reason I bought it in 1977 — for one song. That I rarely otherwise listened to the rest of it is why it went out in the Great Album Purge of 1989.
But I still dig those tunes from the summer of 1970.
“Are You Ready,” Pacific Gas & Electric, from “Are You Ready,” 1970. It’s out of print, but is available on this double CD with the group’s first Columbia album from 1969. This is the longer album version.
PG&E was that rare group, at least for the time, with black and white musicians. I always thought they were from San Francisco. Nope. They came together in Los Angeles in 1967 and lasted until 1972.
The Five Stairsteps was made up of five kids — four boys and a girl — from the Burke family of Chicago. They recorded first on Curtis Mayfield’s Windy City and Curtom labels before moving to Buddah. They later became the Stairsteps and broke up in the late ’70s.
Andy is my friend. We are kindred spirits, throwbacks to old-school newsrooms that were full of characters.
Andy’s busy tonight. He’s getting ready to help some people who desperately need help.
Andy is, among a vast circle of friends, a legend. A burly, flat-topped, gregarious, swaggering legend.
Sometime in the next 24 hours, Andy will pass into legend.
Andy was sitting in the newsroom on Monday night, watching the 10 p.m. news. He had what his family calls “a significant brain incident.” Maybe a stroke, maybe an aneurysm. We don’t know.
Andy is 38.
Tomorrow morning, Andy will head to the operating room. He’ll be working with the organ procurement team from Madison, giving some other folks what they so urgently need.
Later on, we’ll say goodbye to Andy. Wherever they have it, there won’t be room enough for all of Andy’s friends.
A former football lineman who stood 6-foot-5, Andy spent his vacations working security at Summerfest in Milwaukee and at Brat Days in Sheboygan, where we both grew up. He covered cops, courts and fires and loved hanging with those folks. He worked at a bar on the side. He organized summer cookouts in the parking lot, Mardi Gras potlucks in the newsroom and countless other adventures. He quietly did countless small, random acts of kindness that no one ever found out about.
About now, Andy probably would demand that I shut the fuck up.
Postscript: Andy Nelesen passed into legend shortly after noon on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. According to Andy’s family, his death was caused by a burst blood vessel in the pons area of the brain stem.
A second postscript: Since Andy passed on Thursday, we have been treated to some gorgeously sunny days and some beautifully moonlit nights. Those nights have been so bright, the moon casts shadows on the snow. OK, pal, now you’re just showing off.
Did another quick round of record digging today. Among the finds: Willie Bobo, Carl Carlton, the 5th Dimension, Heart and the Ventures. 1 week ago
I think that is enough work for this week. Time for a little record digging. 1 week ago
Late to the party
Always delighted to hear from you. Your guide can be reached at jeffash at new dot rr dot com
About the music
These are mp3s from my collection, taken from vinyl whenever possible. Enjoy. They are intended to encourage you to get out to the music stores, real or virtual, or out to support live music.
If you hold the copyright to something posted here, and you don't want it posted, please e-mail me at jeffash at new dot rr dot com and I'll remove it. Then again, who else is exposing your music to a new audience today?
About the words
The text is copyright 2007-2013, Jeff Ash. Text from other sources, when excerpted, is credited.