Don’t stand so close to me

As we started to emerge from the pandemic, I’d heard the experience at sports events with 25 percent capacity was wonderful.

My friend Al also had heard that, and wanted to experience it for himself, so we went to a Brewers game two weeks ago. It was indeed wonderful. No traffic jams, no parking hassles, no long lines. Beautiful.

But now, just two weeks later, they’re already up to 50 percent capacity at Brewers games with full capacity not far behind. Glad to have gotten in on it when we did.

An aversion to jam-packed settings may be something that lingers with me as we get past the pandemic. Just not feeling it.

The first show that popped up on my radar was The Monkees’ Farewell Tour with Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. Pass. Besides, we’ve already seen Davy Jones solo plus the Davy/Micky/Peter and Mike/Micky/Peter lineups.

The next show that popped up on my radar was Melissa Etheridge playing a new venue here in Green Bay. It’s a converted big box retail store. Pass.

A tsunami of show announcements has followed from venues big and small. But there hasn’t been much of anything I’d like to see. Oh, there’s 87-year-old Frankie Valli at our local arena. Pass.

Then I saw this the other day. It’s from an Alabama music writer with excellent taste in blog design.

Yeah, that seems inevitable. Venues and performers have been hurting. But if that’s so, it’s not going to get me back, either.

Full disclosure: We’ll be going to a jam-packed Lambeau Field to watch the Packers this fall. We’ll see how that goes.

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Filed under May 2021

A different kind of digging

February was Black History Month, a time to listen to a bunch of my records by Black artists.

March was Women’s History Month, a time to listen a bunch of my records by women artists.

Since then, though, I’ve been seeing someone else.

I have a new diversion as the pandemic drags on. (Get your COVID-19 vaccine shots, please.) I’m back to baseball cards.

Earlier this month, I went to a sports card show. It was pleasant enough, but I think I’ll stick to record shows. Kids rarely go to record shows, so you don’t see dealers condescending to them as they sometimes do at sports card shows. Some record dealers can be hustlers, but not to the degree that sports card dealers can be. Sports cards have become white hot during the pandemic. Some dealers seem like sketchy investment brokers.

My original baseball card collection, gathered from 1968 to the mid-’70s, has thousands of cards in it. All those cards are considered vintage cards these days, just as most of my records are considered vintage records. Some are valuable. They’re not for sale. At least not today.

There are 28 cards in my new collection. I’m not sure there will be a lot more.

Twelve are art cards created by Andrew Woolley, the Michigan artist behind Millburg Trading Cards. It’s fun to have cards that few others have, and good to have cards that support Alzheimer’s and autism awareness.

Ten are what’s known as group cards, with two or more players and headlines that have gone from corny to vintage cool over the decades: “Buc Belters,” “Power Plus,” “Bird Belters,” “Friendly Foes,” “Bird Hill Aces.”

Four feature Dick Allen, one of the all-time baseball badasses and one of my favorite players, including his 1964 rookie card. (Dick Allen belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame, by the way.)

The other two also are all-time baseball badasses, George Scott of the Brewers and Dave Parker of the Pirates. (Dave Parker’s new book, “Cobra,” written with Dave Jordan, is excellent. Parker also belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.)

Late last year, my friend Charlie over at the fine Bloggerhythms blog wrote about Dick Allen’s brief music career. He was the lead singer in Rich Allen and The Ebonistics, a Philadelphia doo-wop group. Here’s their single “Echo’s of November” on Groovey Grooves Records, a Philly label, from 1968.

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Filed under April 2021, Sounds

Pondering post-pandemic playlists

Saturday morning has become a time to haul myself out of bed by 9 a.m. and listen to WXPN radio out of Philadelphia.

My friend Bruce Warren always puts together a fine show — it’s one of the few places I hear new music these days — but yesterday’s show was especially good.

(I came to know Bruce some years back when he wrote and published Some Velvet Blog; he now writes and publishes 10 Bands, a Substack newsletter. Check it out.)

As Bruce played “Pump Up The Volume” — the 1987 smash from M|A|R|R|S — near the end of the third hour yesterday, I couldn’t help but think there’s going to be a huge resurgence in fun, upbeat grooves old and new — dance, funk, R&B, soul, rock, disco, country, what have you — as we exit the pandemic.

People are going to want to let it SNAP.

This also occurred to me a couple of weeks ago as I played some records for my Women’s History Month listening project. As you know, we go four records at a time for that kind of thing.

As I listened to this batch from the late ’70s and early ’80s — Cuchi-Cuchi” by Charo and the Salsoul Orchestra, “You Broke My Heart In 17 Places” by Tracey Ullman, “Mad Love” by Linda Ronstadt and “Success” by The Weather Girls — I wondered: Where have all the fun records gone?

Once we get past the pandemic, I think we’re going to be blasting these grooves and having some fun.

But back to that third hour on XPN. Bruce started it with this one.

I blasted it. Summer’s coming. Told you we’re going to let it SNAP.

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Filed under March 2021, Sounds

Four records at a time

It took a pandemic for me to listen to a bunch of my records. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go.

Staying home and socially distancing wasn’t too bad until the weather turned cold up here in Wisconsin and really kept us inside. So I just kept dropping record after record onto the turntable. No ripping to digital. Just let it go, man.

Four records make for a nice night of listening while surfing or writing.

Some records take me right back to where I found them, a nice memory.

Some records have startling moments. Those, I’ll circle back on and rip a little something from. Eddie Floyd’s “Down To Earth” LP was the first eye-opener. Then the scorching “Involved” by Edwin Starr. Then “Dreams/Answers,” Rare Earth’s rarely-seen debut LP. Then a couple of alternate Beatles takes from the 2017 re-release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” 

There you have it, four records.

Four records also make for a nice visual presentation when you post to Facebook or Twitter. If you follow me either place, you’ve seen a lot of them, especially this month for Black History Month. Today will make it 23 such posts — 92 records, all by Black artists — over 28 days and nights.

From the Black History Month social posts, some records that’ll get more spins:

— “Young, Gifted and Black” is by far the best Aretha Franklin record in my crates. That was a $1 record. Looked rough, played fine.

— Didn’t know about Johnny Adams, but, man, could he sing.

— Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” has lost none of its punch.

— The instrumentals on “James Brown Plays New Breed (The Boo-Ga-Loo)” really cook.

— Ike and Tina Turner’s early live records are astonishing.

— Definitely going back for seconds on the “Cleopatra Jones” soundtrack featuring Joe Simon and Millie Jackson. That was a $3 record found in a box on the floor at a record show in Indianapolis.

— Timmy Thomas got a lot of mileage out of that syncopated beat on “Why Can’t We Live Together,” which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Found that at a record store that no longer exists.

There you have it. Eight records, two nights’ worth of listening.

When I spent a couple of nights listening to blaxploitation soundtracks last week, I circled back to the first record I ever wrote about here. I’m talking ’bout “Shaft.”

I was 14 when I bought this record in 1971.

With that, we quietly mark 14 years here at AM, Then FM. Can you dig it?


Filed under February 2021, Sounds

Fixing a hole in my knowledge

Time for a confession.

Because I came to know Beatles songs first as singles on the radio and then via the red and blue greatest-hits comps from 1973, I must confess that I’m still not all that familiar with some Beatles songs in the context of their studio records. That is to say, Beatles songs as the Beatles intended for them to be heard.

I’m working on that. Today, I dropped “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” onto the turntable.

Three years ago, one of my birthday gifts was the 50th anniversary edition of “Sgt. Pepper.” It’s a two-record set. The first record is the “Sgt. Pepper” everyone knows, but with a crisp new stereo mix produced by Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin. The second record is from the “Sgt. Pepper” sessions, presenting alternate takes or instrumental versions of all the songs in order, along with studio chatter here and there. It’s a fun thing to have. Here are a couple of cuts from the “Sgt. Pepper” sessions.

“Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Take 1),” from Side 3. Recorded March 1, 1967.

From the liner notes: “Take seven of the instrumental backing from this session was used as the basis for various overdubs. This is the first proper run-through.” John’s lead vocal is here, but the choruses are missing. In their place, dig Paul on the Lowrey organ and George Martin on piano.

“Within You Without You (Take 1 with Indian instruments),” from Side 4. Recorded March 15, 1967. An instrumental version.

From the liner notes: “The song’s recording began with a performance by musicians from the Asian Music Circle based in London. The featured instruments are: tabla (a drum first featured on a Beatles record in “Love To You”), swaramandala (which made the harp-like glissando on “Strawberry Fields Forever”), tamboura (a stringed instrument plucked to create an atmospheric drone for “Love To You” and “Getting Better”) and a bowed instrument called a dilruba.”

Both from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” 2-LP edition, 2017 re-release of the 1967 original.

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Filed under January 2021, Sounds