Sundays at 8: Goodbye, Glen

My memories of Glen Campbell, who died yesterday at 81, come almost entirely from television. I think back to the earliest ’70s, and I see our family sitting together around the TV.

There was something for everyone on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Comedy skits for Dad, country music for Grandma, folk and rock groups for me. That, in the fall of 1970, was our life. I pinpoint 1970 because that’s where the facts confirm the memory.

In the 1970-71 TV season, Glen Campbell’s show followed “The Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS on Sunday nights. That was appointment television. My grandfather died as that TV season began, so I’m certain we spent a few Sunday nights watching TV with Grandma, most likely during the holidays, when Sunday wasn’t a school night for a 13-year-old.

Here’s about 18 minutes that may give some idea of what that was like. His guests, ever so briefly, include the Smothers Brothers, John Hartford, Nancy Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, and Sonny and Cher.

However, television eventually gave way to the radio for me. Glen Campbell faded from my radio until the mid-’70s. His new songs? Too much corn.

Along the way, Glen Campbell became a train wreck. He’s almost unwatchable in a “Tonight Show” clip with Don Rickles and Dom DeLuise from September 1973. He’s jacked up on something, and even Johnny Carson acknowledges it. Then along came Tanya Tucker, and more drugs and alcohol, and Glen Campbell became tabloid fodder. Didn’t really think much about him for a long time.

Fast forward to the last decade. Fellow music bloggers have pointed the way to gems from Glen Campbell’s long career, helping me rediscover his greatness.

Then, in June 2011, came his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Our family knows all too well what that means. You lose a loved one long before they go. We bought tickets for “The Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour” stop in Wausau, Wisconsin, in December 2011, but the show we’d hoped to see was postponed. He had laryngitis, it was said. We couldn’t make the rescheduled date.

Shortly thereafter, we had a second chance. The Goodbye Tour came back around, this time in Green Bay in June 2012. We passed. No regrets. We chose to remember a vibrant Glen Campbell instead of a 76-year-old man who was a year into an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

You’ve heard all the hits again this week. So please enjoy these tunes, proof again of Glen Campbell’s gift for interpreting other people’s songs.

“Grow Old With Me,” Glen Campbell, from “Meet Glen Campbell,” 2008. A cover of one of John Lennon’s last songs. (Also available digitally.)

“Times Like These,” Glen Campbell, also from “Meet Glen Campbell,” 2008. The Foo Fighters never sounded so elegant.

“Wichita Lineman/By The Time I Get To Phoenix” the Dells, from “Love Is Blue,” 1969. The great Chicago soul group acknowledges Glen Campbell’s greatness at his peak. Only Glen Campbell can make the Dells sound rough by comparison.

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Filed under August 2017

Paul and John and Andy and Jeff

On Twitter today, a reminder of the power of a random meeting.

On this day 60 years ago, at a church picnic in Woolton, a suburb of Liverpool, 15-year-old Paul McCartney met 16-year-old John Lennon for the first time. They changed the world.

Who had that kind of impact on your life? For me, it was the kid across the alley.

Late in the summer of 1966, my family had moved from a rental flat on the south side of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to a rental home on the north side of town. We went from a neighborhood with few kids to a neighborhood that was full of them.

I’d just turned 9 that summer. The kid who lived across the alley, the kid who became my best friend for three glorious years in the late ’60s, was a year younger. Andy turned me on to sports.

We played baseball and football in our long back yards and basketball on the hoops in the alley between our houses. We were kids, so of course we also played baseball with a Superball, which was equal parts insane and tremendous. But we went down to the diamond with the high fence for that.

We collected baseball cards, then football cards as one season gave way to another. We’d stay home to watch the Packers with our dads in the early game on Sunday afternoons. Then we’d meet in the back yard to play our own game, then plop down in Andy’s living room to watch the late-afternoon AFL game.

By the time my family moved to another rental house on the south side of Sheboygan in the late summer of 1969, I was way deep into sports. Years later, another friend from that time said I was the most sports-crazy kid he knew. Guilty as charged, and no apologies.

Andy turned me on to sports, and it changed my world. So many of the good things that have happened in my life have happened because of sports.

When we moved back to the other side of town, I was 12 and Andy was 11. We did not see each other again for more than 45 years. We reconnected on Facebook, then in real life. We’re still in touch, Andy in Milwaukee and me in Green Bay.

Our paths have been remarkably similar. Both of us have had long careers in the media, Andy in broadcast, me in print. Both of us got into those careers through sports. Both of us are married with one child, and our kids are the same age. We look at the world in much the same way. We dig a bunch of the same things.

Which brings us back to the Beatles.

That is Richard Avedon’s portrait of John Lennon on the Jan. 9, 1968, cover of Look magazine. I bought it two years ago when my friend Jim threw open his garage for one of his record sales.

I posted my find on Facebook. Andy saw it that night.

“I have that same issue with Lennon on the cover,” Andy told me.

Whoa. Cue the final chord of “A Day in the Life.”

And say hi to my friend Andy, won’t you?

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Filed under July 2017

The State of the Blog

This has not been a good week for writing on digital platforms.

First Fox Sports announced it was dropping writers in favor of video.

Then MTV News did pretty much the same thing.

Closer to home, the blogosphere continues to evolve. Those of us who’ve been doing this for a long while continue to see page views decline.

Yet I remain bullish on the blog, and on this blog.

I am encouraged and energized that my friends JB, Whiteray, DJ Pres, Casey, Andrew, Gunther and Soul Brotha Dave, all among my regular reads, keep on keepin’ on.

I am most encouraged and energized by the evolution over at the mighty Funky 16 Corners, where my friend Larry is taking the logical next steps. He is writing less but sharing more by hosting three regular live broadcasts: “Testify!” on Wednesday nights on WFMU, the Funky 16 Corners Radio Show on Thursday nights on Mixlr and now the Iron Leg Radio Show once a month on Cruising Radio. These shows, also available as podcasts after they air live, are highly recommended.

The content here hasn’t been much to write home about over the past year or so. Life intrudes. But there are still lots of tunes here at AM, Then FM World Headquarters to be explored.

More to come.

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Filed under June 2017

Dad and the Duke

Some years ago, my dad gave me a list of three songs he wanted for his funeral.

Last week, I passed them along to my cousin’s daughter, a Methodist pastor, she prepared my dad’s graveside service, which was yesterday.

She used two of them — the traditional hymns “How Great Thou Art” and “Nearer, My God, To Thee” — in her message.

The third one was left to me. Here you go, Dad.

My dad handled freight from the railroads from when he was 16 until he was 5o. He loved trains. He also loved swing music, which explains his request for Duke Ellington’s “Take The A Train.”

Now he’s riding with all those cats on that train.

The clip is from “Reveille With Beverly,” released in 1943, the year my dad graduated from high school.

Raymond E. Ash, 1925-2017

Here’s the view from his final resting place. That’s the rail yard in Wausau, Wisconsin.

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Filed under May 2017, Sounds

Celebrating some timeless joys

After a hiatus of many years, I’m collecting baseball cards again. But only a certain kind of card.

These cards. The 2017 Topps Heritage cards, which are based on the 1968 Topps card design. That year, 1968, was when an 11-year-old kid in Wisconsin really got into collecting cards for the first time.

Some of the players in the 2017 set are new to me, but there’s a wonderfully comforting feeling to being introduced to them in such a familiar way. I’m enjoying it.

It’s the same feeling I get when I play basketball, just shooting hoops by myself. Been doing that since I was about 11, too. I step onto that court and the years just seem to fall away.

Likewise record digging. There’s something wonderfully comforting about an experience that’s essentially the same today as it was in the earliest ’70s in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

Flash back to 1970, and there is 13-year-old me carefully examining the 45s in the record department in the basement of Prange’s department store or in the rack near the checkout at the Evans variety store. Then I’d look through the LPs, which seemed unattainable, far beyond my allowance.

One of my earliest 45s was “American Woman” by the Guess Who on that great orange RCA label. The flip side, “No Sugar Tonight,” turned out to be the Guess Who’s next single. You know that version, but here are two less-heard covers. They come via fellow bloggers, which is another of the joys of record digging, getting tipped to things you might not otherwise hear.

“No Sugar Tonight,” the Shirelles, from “Happy and In Love,” 1971, also on RCA. Thank you to Vincent the Soul Chef for this. Once a blogger, Vincent now serves up his Fufu Stew on Mixcloud. It’s from a fine mix called “Records Are Like Chocolate … The Revenge!”

“No Sugar Tonight,” Steel Wool, from the single on White Whale Records, 1970. Steel Wool is one of the aliases used by singer and drummer Buddy Randell, who’d left the Knickerbockers that year. Thank you to Andrew, the proprietor over at Armagideon Time, for this. It’s from one of his anniversary mixes.

Postscript: My rediscovery of baseball cards brings with it one age-old problem. I’ve bought about 100 cards, yet have gotten only one Brewers player so far. Seems like it’s the hunt for Cookie Rojas all over again.

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Filed under April 2017, Sounds

Letting go

Record diggers see an LP priced at $2 or $3, and they want to know one thing.

“What kind of shape is it in?”

As I sold records near the back door of the Green Bay Record Convention last Saturday, I often had the same answer.

“Good shape. These are my records. I bought them new in the ’70s and I played them back then, but I haven’t played them for a long time.”

They’d pull the black vinyl from the white plastic sleeve with the gold trim. They’d inspect it.

“This looks pretty nice.”

I took care of my records. But the time has come — it’s past time, really — to let some of them go. As they were paraded past, I was taken back to when and where I bought them. Good memories.

Z.Z. Top’s “Fandango” and “Tejas?” Yep, bought “Fandango” new, probably summer of 1975, and “Tejas” also new, probably as 1976 turned to 1977.

Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog?” Yep, bought that new, also probably summer of 1975.

Blue Oyster Cult’s “Agents of Fortune?” Yep, bought that new in 1976.

Eagles’ “Desperado” and “On the Border?” Yep, bought those new, but probably not until I started digging the Eagles in what I think was the spring of 1976. Pretty sure alcohol and warm weather were involved.

Somewhere in that stack of records at the top, which I sold to my friend Dave K., are the first four George Thorogood LPs, which I bought new from 1978 to 1980. Thorogood was a revelation in 1978. I really dug that sound. But I long ago moved on. Into the show crates those records went.

It also was a day for letting go of some of the records I bought during the early and mid-’80s: John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bought all of them new, too.

I once loved all that stuff, but I haven’t listened to any of it for a long time. Those records need to be enjoyed. Hope the folks who bought them will dig them.

Having let go, we move forward.

Like almost everyone else in 1976, I bought “Agents of Fortune” for “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” It’s still a good song. Here’s a cover that sort of conveys how tastes change over 40 years. How you let go of one thing and embrace another.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” The Beautiful South, from “Golddiggas, Headnodders & Pholk Songs,” 2004.

 

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Filed under March 2017, Sounds

I’m still talking ’bout Shaft

This week marks 10 years of doing business on this increasingly lightly traveled corner of the web.

If you’re looking for something from Ten Years After or anything from Neil Young’s “Decade,” well, sorry.

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It was 10 years ago Sunday that we had the first audio clip here. Appropriately enough, it was John Williams’ theme to the old “Time Tunnel” TV show. The blog post that accompanied it was little more than practice. The image that topped that post is long gone, the boy in the picture on the verge of grad school.

It was 10 years ago yesterday that we had the first real tunes here, something from what was perhaps the second or third LP I ever bought, way back in 1971.

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“Walk From Regio’s,” Isaac Hayes, from the “Shaft” soundtrack, 1971.

In 10 years of record digging since we got started here, I’ve been looking out for interesting “Shaft” covers. This is one.

shaft-soul-mann-lp-2

“Bumpy’s Lament,” Soul Mann and the Brothers, from “Shaft,” 1971. Soul Mann actually was Sy Mann, a New York arranger, conductor and keyboard player. Strictly a studio knockoff on the Pickwick label, which I usually avoid, but fun to have found. Just a little different sound.

As for all that record digging, some good news. We are back in business when it comes to ripping all those old records, thanks to a new turntable just installed last weekend. Here’s the first thing ripped on that new turntable. Its volume may not be perfect. Still getting used to it.

live-ike-tina-turner-show

“Finger Poppin’,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show,” 1965. I’m always looking out for cool Ike and Tina records, and this certainly qualifies. It was recorded live at The Skyliner Ballroom, Fort Worth, Texas, and Lovall’s Ballroom in Dallas.

When I posted on Facebook that I’d found it at the Milwaukee record show a couple of weeks ago, my friend Larry Grogan of the mighty Funky 16 Corners blog offered this instant review: “Great album. … Great snapshots of a mid-’60s soul revue, multiple singers, cover songs.”

Which reflects perhaps the greatest joy of 10 years of doing this blog — getting to know and being part of a good group of like-minded record diggers and music buffs. I’ve met JB from The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ and Greg from Echoes in the Wind in real life and still hope to meet those on the coasts and elsewhere.

More to come.

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Filed under February 2017, Sounds