Thanks for everything, Jim

It’s been almost 10 years, March 2013, since I took this picture of an old 45 record holder in my friend Jim’s basement.

Later that year, Jim moved to Missouri to be closer to a daughter, so the days of digging for records in his tiny basement are long gone. Now Jim Young is gone as well. He died earlier this month. He was 71.

Jim was friendly but quirky. I went digging at his home in Appleton, a half-hour away, maybe a dozen times, and I never found out what he did for a living. His obit offers few clues. He served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

“Jim loved music, spending most of his life collecting vinyl,” the obit reads.

There was a lot of vinyl in that tiny basement, all neatly organized and stored. Shelves lined the walls. Crates on tables filled most of the rest of the room. He organized a couple of record shows, but mostly worked out of his house.

Jim lived on one side of a tiny duplex. He kept his collection on the main floor, but I never saw it. He collected mostly country music, I think. When it came time for a sale, Jim set up this tent in the back yard.

The top photo is from May 14, 2011. The temperature was about 50. The wind chill was in the 30s. The bottom photo is from Sept. 11, 2011, a much nicer day. There were a lot of $1 records in the boxes in those tents.

I bought a lot of records from Jim back then, filling out my collection with mostly $1, $3 and $5 records, none particularly valuable, none in plastic sleeves. One day, I came home with 20 records for $20. Another day, 13 for $13.

As for the records I bought from Jim …

Dionne Warwick’s “Soulful,” which was good, and “In the Valley of the Dolls,” which was not. The first R.B. Greaves and Chi Coltrane LPs I ever saw. “Lonely Weekends” by Charlie Rich, bought solely for “Who Will the Next Fool Be.”

Though Jim’s tastes and his records were fairly mainstream, I found The Chi-Lites’ “(For God’s Sake) Give More Power to the People,” the cool Philadelphia International comp “Philadelphia Classics” and The Electric Indian’s “Keem-O-Sabe.” The latter sounds cringeworthy, but actually is solid Philly pop produced by Len Barry and featuring studio players who wound up in MFSB.

Some records seen in Jim’s basement stayed there. “A-tom-ic Jones,” by Tom Jones, I bought elsewhere. Joe Tex’s “Soul Country,” I still don’t have.

On my last trip to Jim’s basement, in November 2013, I found “New Country Roads” by Nat Stuckey, “What’s New Pussycat?” by Tom Jones and “Band Of Gold” by Freda Payne (which I already had, but my first one skipped).

Here’s Jim at a show he organized in February 2009. See how he tilted records at the back of boxes for a nice presentation? I’ve done that when I’ve sold records.

I’ll do it again this weekend, keeping Jim’s memory alive when I help my friends Jeff and Jolee set up their crates at the Green Bay Record Convention.

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Filed under October 2022, Sounds

Nine days in October

40 years ago this month, in October 1982, I witnessed four unforgettable events over a nine-day span. Now if I could only remember more of the details.

Ticket stubs, ALCS, World Series, Warren Zevon show, all from October 1982

Friday, Oct. 8 — American League Championship Series Game 3, California Angels vs. Milwaukee Brewers at Milwaukee County Stadium.

What I remember: Somehow I was offered one of the company tickets for this game. I went with some people from the Wisconsin State Journal, where I worked. My lingering memory is simply being wowed by sitting so close to the field, fourth row of the lower grandstand between home plate and first base.

What I don’t remember: Anything about the game. The Brewers won 5-3. The Brewers had lost the first two games of the best-of-five series in California, so every game in Milwaukee was do or die.

Saturday, Oct. 9 — ALCS Game 4, Angels vs. Brewers at County Stadium.

What I remember: These were our tickets in the left-center-field bleachers. I went with my girlfriend, who’d just had her wisdom teeth removed and understandably wasn’t feeling great. (She somehow still married me five years later.) The weather was terrible. It was 60 but drizzling. The game started an hour and 44 minutes late, then had rain delays of 12 and 19 minutes.

I’d ordered our tickets by mail after the Brewers qualified for the postseason in early September. I got two strips of bleacher tickets for all six possible home ALCS and World Series games. (This, I looked up: They cost $39 each plus $3 for postage and handling, for which I had to get an $81 money order and mail it from Madison to Milwaukee.) I’d never popped for something so expensive for any kind of event.

What I don’t remember: Anything about the game. The Brewers won 9-5.

I had to work the next day, so my friends from Green Bay took our Game 5 tickets. That was the day the Brewers won the AL pennant to advance to the World Series. From his vantage point in our seats in the left-center-field bleachers, my friend watched the postgame celebration on the field. He saw one gent dancing on the field. This gent was not wearing pants. “Now that,” my friend told me later, “is national exposure.”

Thursday, Oct. 14 — Warren Zevon show, Madison Civic Center.

What I remember: I was 25, and I hadn’t seen a lot of shows, so I thought the whole thing was tremendous. Zevon alternated between pounding the piano and playing it delicately, and between singing fiercely and elegantly. I vividly remember Zevon dedicating “The Envoy,” the title cut on the album of the same name, to Philip Habib, Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East at the time. I bought two tickets for this show, hoping someone could go along. That didn’t happen, so I ate one. That’s why you see a full ticket above.

"The Envoy" LP cover, Warren Zevon, 1982

“The Envoy,” Warren Zevon, from “The Envoy,” 1982.

What I don’t remember: (All this, I looked up, too.) The show started 25 minutes late. For whatever reason, it took Zevon that long to get out to the stage. Once there, he played for an hour and 45 minutes. “Johnny Strikes Up The Band” was the opening number. “Werewolves of London” was one of the encore numbers, complete with a “werewolves of Madison” line. I can’t find a full setlist from the show, but here are some of the other songs he performed that night: “A Certain Girl,” “Join Me In L.A.,” “Roland, the Headless Thompson Gunner,” “Charlie’s Medicine,” “Jungle Work,” “Play It All Night Long,” “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” Accidentally Like A Martyr,” “Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me,” “Cadillac Ranch,” “Excitable Boy,” “It Ain’t That Pretty At All” and “Carmelita.”

It might have gone something like this. Here’s Zevon from two weeks earlier, Oct. 1, 1982, at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J.

Saturday, Oct. 16 — World Series Game 4, St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Brewers at County Stadium. The Cardinals had a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, so the Brewers needed to win.

What I remember: We were back in our seats in the left-center-field bleachers. This time, it was a beautiful day. It was all so dazzling, far more so than the ALCS the previous week. So much hype, so much hoopla, so much fun. Milwaukee hadn’t hosted a World Series since 1958, the year after I was born. It was the first time for a lot of us of a certain age. (As it’s turned out, it’s been the only time for a lot of us of a certain age.)

What I don’t remember: Anything about the game. The Brewers won 7-5.

Four unforgettable events over nine days.

All these years later, just a delightful blur.

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Filed under October 2022, Sounds

Traveling in time

Tom Jones concert, Indianapolis, Sept. 26, 2022

When we were up north last weekend, we walked past a small-town corner drug store. Flashback.

We didn’t go in, but I stood there on the corner, wishing I could step inside and find baseball cards, comic books, 45 rpm records and/or some candy (and, Janet says, cosmetics suitable for teenage girls who didn’t have much money).

That would have taken us back to 1969, a time when, at 9/8 Central, we watched “This Is Tom Jones” on ABC.

Tom Jones was one of my role models as I was growing up. You gotta learn your way somehow, and he seemed a pretty good guide to a 12-year-old.

I vividly recall watching “This Is Tom Jones” with my grandmother — and probably my aunt and my girl cousins as well — all of whom thought he was great. A wonderful family time long gone.

In 1969, I never imagined I’d someday see Tom Jones live, but in 2003 we did, at the local casino ballroom. Backed by a Vegas-style show band, he was great.

Never thought we’d have the opportunity to see Tom Jones again, but as it turned out, seeing Tom Jones was to be a gift for me this year. (Never mind that I screwed up the plans almost immediately, jumping online to buy the tickets pretty much right after Janet asked me where I wanted to see him.)

Fast forward to Monday night in Indianapolis. Tom Jones is 82 now, a world treasure still in spectacularly full voice. A tremendous show, almost 19 years after our first show, and much better than our first show.

Sir Tom is moving gingerly these days because he’s getting a hip replaced at the end of October. He did the entire show while sitting on a stool, as you see above. “Now I’m hipper than hip,” he said, dropping a dad joke as he opened the show.

That is Tom Jones’ appeal today. He’s seen and done it all, and is still here to sing and tell those stories with considerable style and affection. (BTW, all parties have gracefully aged out of the panty-tossing era. The only fabric flashed Monday night was a Welsh flag unfurled in the front row.)

Sir Tom introduced the third song with a leisurely retelling of the story of how his first No. 1 hit came to be in 1965. The Murat Theatre crowd jumped to its feet when it heard the first few notes of “It’s Not Unusual.”

Likewise the next song, starting with a winding and good-natured retelling of the story of how he initially wasn’t impressed with the song brought to him by Burt Bacharach later that year. “What’s New Pussycat?” became a sing-along, with Sir Tom directing the choir as seen above.

I smiled throughout “Green, Green Grass of Home” because my friends long ago ruined this song for me. We’d play it on the jukebox at the bar and sing along. However, in our version, we smoked the “Green, Green Grass of Home” and added a lewd lyric I won’t repeat here. Alcohol was involved.

For those wondering when the faithful bolt for the bar and the restrooms during a Tom Jones show, his introduction of a Bob Dylan cover — “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below)” — does the trick.

Four songs later, and 13 songs into his show, Sir Tom tore into “Delilah.” Chills.

Interestingly, though, that was the last of the four long-ago hits he sang. No “Thunderball,” no “Daughter of Darkness,” no “I (Who Have Nothing),” not even “She’s A Lady,” which someone nearby so wanted to hear.

All good, because the Murat Theatre crowd pretty much lost its shit when Sir Tom strutted into a scorching cover of Prince’s “Kiss.”

Think about that for a minute. We no longer have Prince to perform “Kiss” for us. But we have Tom Jones, who so memorably covered it with Art of Noise in 1988 — a career-redefining moment almost 35 years ago now — still here to perform it for us, and to blow minds in the process.

Upon finishing, Sir Tom confessed to the wrought-out crowd that had he been better able to walk off stage, that would be when they’d take a break and return for an encore. So they just segued into the encore, starting with a lovely valedictory number, “One Hell of a Life” by Welsh songwriter Katell Keineg.

Then Sir Tom took us home to church. The Church of Rock N’ Roll.

Never thought I’d hear a better live version of “Strange Things Happening Every Day” than fellow baritone Sleepy LaBeef — and I saw him several times — but Tom Jones is still here to sing it for us and blow minds, and Sleepy LaBeef is not.

Our evening with Sir Tom ended with old friends, more or less a medley covering Chuck Berry (Sir Tom and Elvis went to see him in Vegas) and Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, both of whom memorably guested on “This Is Tom Jones” in … you know it … 1969.

Tom Jones’ setlist at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022: “I’m Growing Old,” “It’s Not Dark Yet,” “It’s Not Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat?,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “Sex Bomb,” “Popstar,” “Green, Green Grass of Home,” “One More Cup of Coffee (Valley Below),” “Talking Reality Television Blues,” “I Won’t Crumble With You If You Fall,” “Tower of Song,” “Delilah,” “Lazarus Man,” “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” “If I Only Knew,” “Kiss,” “One Hell of a Life,” “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Great Balls of Fire.”

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Filed under September 2022, Sounds

The night Van Halen came to town

You know me here as mostly a music blogger.

More formally, at least when writing for our regional history magazine, I am described as “a Green Bay writer and researcher who specializes in history projects on social media” and one who “curates and contributes content for … history groups on Facebook and has done long-term Twitter (history) projects.”

Yep, that’s me, too. Earlier this month, I tweeted:

You will find nothing about this Van Halen show in the next day’s Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Nothing about how loud it was. Nothing about how hot it was. Nothing about how tightly packed it was. Nothing about David Lee Roth’s “leather pants with the ass cheeks cut out.”

For that and more, future music historians will have to mine Facebook for it. There, the story of Van Halen’s show in Green Bay on Wednesday night, Aug. 18, 1982, is told in some of the 80 comments left on my posts in two local history groups, posts that were much the same as the tweet above.

Here’s a sampling …

My friend Mark: “7,044 crazy and screaming fans. Not only was the band extremely loud, but the crowd was also one of the loudest I’ve ever been a part of considering the venue. Saw them in Milwaukee the night before (it’s a long story), so my ears were shredded. It was a great score to get Van Halen in Green Bay.”

My friend Kim, a professional drummer: “My buddy and I stood outside for almost 6 hours so we could get as close to the front as possible. That was the LAST time I EVER did that ! It was absolute bedlam. One of those crowds that was so tightly packed, you could lift your feet off of the floor. And when that crowd began to sway in any given direction, you went with it or you went down. Now I know how those poor souls felt at the infamous Who show in Cincinnati a couple of years earlier. I lasted about 45 minutes and begged a security guy to get me the fuck out of there. Threw away my shirt, got a Pepsi and stood by the sound board. Regardless, I loved the show. They even played ‘I’m So Glad’ by Skip James/Cream. The soundtrack to the summer of ’82.”

Some others from the Facebook crowd:

“I was there and I’m thinking holy shit I’m seeing the biggest band on the planet. VH forever.”

“That’s what I thought, too. #1 band in the world when they were here.”

“In the top 3 concerts I have been (to). Blew the roof off the BCVMA!”

“I was front row, best concert I ever saw.”

“It was hot, I was down front. A lot of sweat.

“I was there! I don’t remember After the Fire at all. It was LOUD. My ears rang for three days.”

“I was there. I never noticed at the time, but was later told DLR was wearing leather pants with the ass cheeks cut out.”

“That was the most memorable part! And he jumped up and down on the speakers in them.”

“I was there. Ran all the way through the field from the Midway (a hotel next to the Arena) to back of arena to catch up with Dave Lee Roth.”

“I was backstage. They catered in (fried) chicken for them, and they ran it through the exhaust fans in the dressing room. LOL. But (what) really surprised me was David Lee Roth was riding a bike around the floor of the Arena with another guy, then they went out the garage door riding past everybody tailgating and playing Frisbee to go watch the Packers practice. It was funny cause nobody even gave him a second look. I’m laughing cause I’m like, that’s David Lee Roth and no one recognized him. He did have sunglasses on, but his hair, he had the hair.”

Vicky Van Matre, who heard and saw it all while working behind the scenes at Brown County Arena shows for 31 years, from 1970 to 2001, has the last word:

“It was a fantastic night!”

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Filed under August 2022, Sounds

Postcards from summer camp

If you’re wondering, yes, the dry spell continues deep into summer.

Christmas with the Mexicali Brass LP cover

That this cheesecake Christmas record, found last weekend among the cheesecake records at the mighty Stardust Records in Thiensville, Wisconsin, is perhaps the highlight of the summer’s record digging, well, there you go.

∗ ∗ ∗

Nor have I found a great summer song this summer, one you play over and over and blast from the car speakers. (No, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” doesn’t count.) Have you?

Heard this one on WXPN on Saturday morning. It’s in the running.

“Don’t Bother Me,” by The Suffers out of Houston. Been digging them for several years now. Kam Franklin is the lead singer. They played the always delightful Thrasher Opera House in Green Lake, Wisconsin, in early June. We’d have been there, but we were in Ohio at the time.

∗ ∗ ∗

We did, however, have a wonderful evening of music at the Thrasher three weeks ago. We traveled an hour or so south by southwest — appropriate — to see Texas-Louisiana piano pounder and singer Marcia Ball.

Pizza, Marcia Ball and fireworks

Although, when I posted it to Facebook, most folks were most wowed — and rightly so — by our sausage-and-mushroom pizza from Christiano’s Pizza.

As we left the show, Green Lake’s Fourth of July fireworks — postponed five days because of weather — had just started. What you don’t see of the fireworks is the spectacular view as we drove along the lake, not only of what was in the sky above but also of hundreds of boats on the lake, their running lights sparkling on the water like so many stars in the sky.

∗ ∗ ∗

For those who appreciate Gone in Threes, the long-running annual year-end roundup of noteworthy deaths that appears here each January, this year seems like one of the busiest. I’m constantly adding to my running list or sending notes to myself to remember this one or that one.

Today, especially, has been a day. Bill Russell. Nichelle Nichols. Pat Carroll, too.

That’s Sam Gazdziak, one of my regular reads at RIP Baseball, wishing only the best for baseball great Willie Mays, who is 91.

∗ ∗ ∗

Which brings us here. Though the record digging hasn’t been great lately, the baseball card finds have been spectacular. (Yes, I’m still seeing someone else.)

Willie Mays baseball cards, 1963 and 1964

In just the last week, I’ve found these Willie Mays cards, all reasonably priced. You never see Willie Mays cards reasonably priced. It’s a bit like finding the butcher cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday and Today” LP in the wild.

The first two are from 1964, the first year I ever collected baseball cards. (I suspect they were thrown out as we moved from Missouri to Wisconsin the next summer.) The third one is from 1963.

∗ ∗ ∗

Finally, if all this seems a bit disjointed, please consider that I spent much of this weekend moving everything from our basement rec room into our laundry room in preparation for carpet cleaning next week.

Part of that entailed unearthing two sets of speakers — yes, speakers from THAT stereo — the compact Bose speakers and the desktop Cambridge SoundWorks speakers, both with speaker wires intact, both 30-plus years old.

Part of that entailed removing the old but solid bar in the corner of the rec room. The previous owners left it for us 31 years ago. They probably built it in the late ’60s or early ’70s. That thing was put together. Knocking it apart and hauling it up the stairs and outside in pieces was quite a workout.

That’s right, Senator Blutarsky …

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Filed under July 2022