Asbury Park, 854 miles that way

It’s all over Facebook and Twitter today. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run” LP was released 40 years ago today, on Aug. 25, 1975.

Many of my friends are Springsteen fans, and I understand and appreciate their passion for The Boss. I just don’t share it, at least not with that intensity.

I vividly remember when Springsteen was the hottest thing in music, making the covers of Time and Newsweek in the same week. That came in late October 1975, a couple of months after “Born To Run” came out.

That was during the first semester of my freshman year of college, when I was stepping out into the world on my own for the first time. Into that new world came that new sound. I remember thinking: So this is what music is like now.

springsteen born to run lp

But at 18, I just wasn’t sophisticated enough to appreciate it all.

As you might imagine, Springsteen sounded like nothing else we’d heard in central Wisconsin. The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey, was 854 miles from where I lived. It might as well have been halfway around the world.

At the time, I still viewed music largely through the prism of the radio. In the Midwest, Springsteen’s R&B-influenced Jersey Shore rock seemingly wasn’t suited for anything but free-form FM radio, which by late 1975 was starting to fade from the scene. So we didn’t hear a lot of Springsteen, save for the occasional album cut.

Wanting to be sure I wasn’t remembering it wrong, I checked some of the Wisconsin radio charts from that time. There’s no sign of “Born To Run,” the album or the single.

It wasn’t until after those Time and Newsweek covers came out that Springsteen even registered on the charts at Chicago’s WLS, whose playlist often influenced what other Midwest stations played. Even then, “Born To Run” lasted only two weeks on the WLS album charts. At year’s end, “Born To Run” wasn’t among WLS’ Big 89 songs of 1975.

None of my friends were Springsteen fans. Until I met my friend Doug in 1978, that is. He tried to get me to dig Springsteen in the late ’70s. He tried hard. We met halfway, on another member of the extended Springsteen family. I’ve long enjoyed Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. But I’ve never seen Springsteen live, nor do I have any of his records, much to my son’s chagrin.

Over time, though, I started digging covers, first by others doing Springsteen songs, then by Springsteen doing others’ songs. Here are a couple of those.

daveedmundsde7thlp

“From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come),” Dave Edmunds, from “D.E. 7th,” 1982. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This song, an outtake from “The River” sessions, was given to Edmunds by Springsteen in 1981. Springsteen’s version wasn’t released until 2003.

Springsteen covered “War,” the Motown classic that’s one of my all-time favorites, during his Born in the U.S.A. Tour in 1985.

 

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Filed under August 2015, Sounds

It was 50 years ago today …

One of the joys of digging through old newspaper microfilm is finding things you didn’t expect to find. So it is as I’ve started a project to live-tweet, sort of, the Green Bay Packers’ championship run of 1965, 1966 and 1967 as it happened, 50 years after it happened.

It’s been barely a month and already the late summer of 1965 also has seen the Watts riots, the Beatles at Shea Stadium and Lassie at the county fair.

Fifty years ago today, on Friday, Aug. 20, 1965, as the Packers rested for the next’s afternoon’s preseason game in Milwaukee, the Beatles played two shows at Comiskey Park in Chicago.

Sharon Simons, an 18-year-old woman who’d graduated from Green Bay West High School just two months before, took the train to Chicago, went to one of the shows and wrote it up for the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Tickets were $3.50, $4.50 and $5.50, or about $27, $34 and $42 in today’s dollars.

beatles ticket 08201965

Before the Beatles ever took the stage, she saw the King Curtis Band, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Brenda Holloway, Sounds Inc. and Gordon Waller, the latter half of Peter and Gordon. The whole thing was emceed by Ron Riley, Art Roberts and Don Phillips of WLS, the mighty top-40 AM station in Chicago.

The Beatles played a typically fast but short set: “Twist And Shout,” “Baby’s In Black,” “She’s A Woman,” “I Feel Fine,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Ticket To Ride,” “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help” and “I’m Down.”

Then the wild Comiskey Park scoreboard went “TILT!” and blasted off fireworks.

Here’s a little of what that day was like.

Some other memories from that day …

7 more flashbacks, via the Chicago Tribune, plus some great color photos.

Larry Kane interviews all four Beatles in the basement at Comiskey Park.

Ringo didn’t care for shows in ballparks.

“Not as much as indoor with the people a bit closer, you know. ‘Cuz they’re too far away, really.”

John didn’t care for the stands left empty behind the stage, which sat on second base on the Comiskey infield.

“Yeah, it does put you off a bit, you know. Even though they keep saying, we don’t allow them to sit there. I dunno, I wish they’d hide it. Whereas there’s also kids always half behind, you know. And I’m really looking ’round so they get to see something, anyway.”

 

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Filed under August 2015, Sounds

Summer’s over, man

It’s been a weird summer, and now it’s over.

Your calendar doesn’t say so, but ours does. Packers training camp started today, and that is the beginning of football season in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It’s the first summer in more than 40 years that I haven’t had a car. No car means no summer songs blasting on the radio. No, not even Boston.

A song for the summer of 2015 might be “Gwan,” by the Suffers, the scorching 10-piece Houston soul/R&B group seen by about 100 of us in downtown Green Bay last month. We rarely see anyone that cool. Go see them if they’re near you.

In 1970, that summer’s song was, and is, “In The Summertime,” by Mungo Jerry. It was starting its rise up the charts on this week in 1970, entering the WLS Hit Parade at No. 22. This week in 1970, I was 13, and I suspect it wasn’t too long before I bought this 45, which I loved.

You know “In The Summertime,” of course. But I also loved the rollicking flip side on that Janus 7-inch: “Mighty Man.”

Mungo Jerry records are on my digging wish list, but you rarely see them.

I found one a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t have any of the cuts I seek, neither “Mighty Man” nor the Sgt. Pepperesque “Memoirs Of A Stockbroker” (also possibly influenced by Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”) nor “Little Miss Hipshake,” which sounds a little like T. Rex. I bought it anyway.

mungo jerry pye history lp

On “Mungo Jerry: The Pye History of British Pop Music,” a 1975 compilation that’s long out of print, I found this Dylanesque tune. In it, our hero’s girlfriend’s parents freak out over his long hair, and he’s hassled by “the fuzz.”

Ah, those glorious ’70s.

“You Don’t Have To Be In The Army To Fight In The War,” Mungo Jerry, 1971. Originally released on a 45, then on the LP of the same name, both long out of print. It’s available digitally on any number of Mungo Jerry comps.

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Filed under July 2015, Sounds

I came in through the bathroom window

Hope Nobody's Watching

Do memories become any less tangible, any less vivid if there is no physical frame of reference for them? Particularly memories of a place where you’ve lived? I’m about to find out again.

First it was Beaver Lodge, where I lived with six other guys and an unending stream of house guests from the summer of 1978 to the spring of 1979, during my junior year of college in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The place where Johnny’s Goat smashed through the garage door one day. It’s long gone.

Now it’s Hose and Tone’s old house. It’s being torn down to make room for a gas station, convenience store and other stuff. I never lived there, but I certainly lived it up there. We had a lot of fun at that little house on Green Bay’s east side.

1583 East Mason

My friends Hose and Tone, brothers, lived there in the early ’80s. It was all they — or we — really needed. Couch. Fridge. Small black-and-white TV. Stereo. You came in the back door, through the kitchen and dining room. The front porch was used only to buffer the sound from the four-lane street out front.

We were single guys in our mid-20s. We watched a lot of basketball, listened to a lot of tunes, drank a lot of beer.

One night, I climbed in the bathroom window at Hose and Tone’s house after we’d made the rounds of the neighborhood taverns. There were at least 10 blue-collar bars within five blocks. One of them was Bill and Tess’ (Mostly Tess’).

We didn’t need a designated driver. We walked.

One night, we got the munchies and poured chicken noodle soup over toast on a hot plate. Whether that followed window diving, none of us can remember.

There always was music. Hose and Tone liked Elvis. That’s when and where I started digging Elvis. That also was when MTV and “Night Flight” brought music videos to TV. Where else would we have heard “Ghost in the Machine,” or Flock of Seagulls or our particular faves, Flash and the Pan?

Or this, which might account for the photo above. We dug the song and the video, the latter for obvious reasons.

gap gold lp

“Party Train,” the Gap Band, 1983, from “Gap Gold: The Best of the Gap Band,” a 1985 compilation LP. Originally from “Gap Band V: Jammin’,” 1983. Both are apparently out of print, but the song is available digitally.

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Filed under June 2015, Sounds

Gone fishing up north

Memorial Day weekend always summons the same set of memories.

My uncles — my mother’s brothers — and my dad occasionally gathered for a guys’ getaway at the same northern Wisconsin resort on Memorial Day weekend. It seemed that it always was cold and wet, much as yesterday was. Few fish, if any, were caught.

During the summer, some of my uncles and their families reconvened at the same resort. Our family also traveled back up north to be with them. We were at the far end of that S-shaped lake, at a state forest campground. You can figure out who could afford what.

If my dad could start his small boat motor — the one notorious for running only when not in the water — we’d take our small aluminum rowboat down to the resort. More often than not, we drove.

That memory, among the first realizations of haves and have-nots, lingers to this day. As does the memory of there being nothing on the radio.

We took radios up north, but you couldn’t get anything decent. Local shopping shows. Country music. Your only hope was that the atmospheric conditions would allow you to pull in WLS out of Chicago or KAAY out of Little Rock late at night … when everything was supposed to be quiet in the Northwoods.

On Memorial Day weekend 1973, this wholly appropriate song was back on the WLS charts: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Yeah, we tried sometimes. But we just couldn’t, well, you know.

What we needed to get us through those weekends up north was this, something KAAY might have dropped on “Beaker Street” late at night.

“Superstition,” Beck, Bogert & Appice, from “Beck, Bogert & Appice,” 1973. The LP is out of print but available digitally.

This is a heavier version perhaps as envisioned by Jeff Beck, who helped Stevie Wonder write it.

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Filed under May 2015, Sounds

How much stuff is too much stuff?

Dad old apartment

Much of the month that’s passed since our last post has been spent moving my 89-year-old father into assisted living.

A big part of that has been dealing with things he accumulated — and for whatever reason — held onto. He wasn’t a hoarder, but it still was too much stuff, some of it kept for no apparent reason. Chalk it up to the mindset of someone who grew up during the Great Depression.

Everyone collects stuff. I’ve collected baseball cards and football cards and basketball cards, Batman cards and Green Hornet cards and James Bond 007 cards, Beatles cards and Monkees cards, comic books, coins and old pop bottles. I collected bobbleheads long before that became a thing. I don’t collect any of those things anymore.

Of course, I still collect records, as I have for more than 40 years.

Having dealt with all my dad’s things, I wonder whether I have too much stuff. I have about 1,200 vinyl records, the vast majority of them LPs. There must be at least 100 records I’ve bought but never listened to. Is that a bad thing? Does that happen to other record diggers?

All those records bought but never heard, set aside for a day when I have more time, a day that never seems to come.

But I did sit down pretty much right away and listen to the Ike and Tina record I bought last month at Tin Dog Records. When Don Covay died at the end of January, I pulled out the only Don Covay record I have — bought it at least a couple of years ago — and listened to it for the first time. About the same time, I pulled out a Booker T. and the M.G.’s record I bought in Chicago last summer and listened to it for the first time.

I know this because I ripped all three of these records to digital.

Edwin Starr Hell Up In Harlem LP

As I did when I found the “Hell Up In Harlem” soundtrack back in January.

But as I listened to that record, I discovered it was missing the last cut on Side 1. A record about 2:43 shy of a load. Typical Motown bull to leave it off the reissue pressing. I mentioned it on Facebook, and my man Greg in Minnesota came to the rescue.

So please enjoy a song I don’t have from a record I do have.

“Don’t It Feel Good To Be Free,” Edwin Starr, from the “Hell Up In Harlem” soundtrack, 1974.

 

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Filed under April 2015, Sounds

Tin Dog’s sound advice

enjoy the tunes

There, on the bottom of the receipt from Saturday’s record-digging expedition, are words to live by.

“ENJOY THE TUNES”

I didn’t notice that until I got the record all the way home from Tin Dog Records in Beloit, Wisconsin, which is about as far south as you can go in Wisconsin without stumbling into Illinois.

Enjoy the tunes. That’s advice akin to Warren Zevon’s suggestion to “enjoy every sandwich.”

So I did. I enjoyed the tunes even though “River Deep, Mountain High,” from Ike and Tina Turner wasn’t exactly what I expected.

I knew Phil Spector produced, and that Ike and Tina got the Wall of Sound treatment. I didn’t know those tunes account for only six of the 12 cuts on the record. The rest? Apparently just stuff Ike had laying around.

So this 1966 record careens from that elegant Wall of Sound to Ike and Tina’s typically grittier sound and back again. It both disproves and confirms Tina’s spoken intro to “Proud Mary” four years later: “We nevah, evah, do nothing nice and easy. We always do it nice and rough.”

Nice and easy.

“A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Everyday),” a Holland-Dozier-Holland song first recorded in 1963 by Martha and the Vandellas. It was the flip side to “Heat Wave.” Ike and Tina’s version — the followup single to “River Deep, Mountain High” — reached No. 16 in the UK in 1966 but didn’t chart in the U.S.

Nice and rough.

“Such A Fool For You,” written by Ike Turner.

iketinaturner riverdeepmtnhigh lp

Both from “River Deep, Mountain High,” Ike and Tina Turner, 1966. Also available digitally. This LP originally was released in the UK that year. Then, after a third single — “I’ll Never Need More Than This” — was released in 1967, that cut was added to the LP for its American release. My copy is that A&M Records release from 1969.

As for the title cut? Well, sorry, but the definitive version for me is the one by the Supremes and the Four Tops from 1970. The one I heard first.

 

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Filed under March 2015, Sounds