Taking stock of The Corporation

50 years ago, as January turned to February in the winter of 1969, a Milwaukee band was playing at Club Sahara, a popular place on the east side of Green Bay.

Lots of Milwaukee and Chicago bands made the rounds of Midwest clubs and roadhouses back then, and Club Sahara was one of those stops.

That week, that band was The Corporation. That week was quite a week for The Corporation, a six-piece group.

50 years ago this week, in the first week of February 1969, Capitol Records released The Corporation’s self-titled first album without the benefit of a single.

As The Corporation played Green Bay, some of the band members sat down with a writer from the local paper to talk about it all.

“Originality and experimentation are the marks of the 8-month-old group’s music. A high decibel count is also one of its telling points on stage,” my friend Warren Gerds wrote in his Night Beat column, trying to explain it all to the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s mostly older readers.

“The emphasis is on sound, loud and relying on complex harmonies. The music could be called electric jazz at certain points and underground at others.”

Uh, yeah, well …

“We don’t like to define our music in any special class. We’re not strictly an underground group. We like to appeal to everybody,” drummer Nick Kondos said.

“We just want to do our own thing,” bass player Ken Berdoll said.

Gerds continued …

“The Corporation is unique. That’s probably why Capitol, a record producer and song publisher, likes it. It slams out original songs, and when it does play other groups’ hits, the songs are altered to match its involved style. Not everyone will like the music of The Corporation. Guy Lombardo lovers would cringe at its way-out approach.”

Well, this was 1969. Conventional newspapers struggled to bridge the generation gap. My friend Warren, just a couple of years out of college, was assigned that thankless task.

The second side of “The Corporation” is taken up by one song, a cover of John Coltrane’s “India.” It’s an epic bit of psych and jazz rock, a trip that goes on for 19 minutes, 27 seconds.

“It’s a very free song,” Berdoll said.

“Because of this ‘freeness,’ The Corporation reaches for the hip in most songs,” Gerds wrote.

So dig the hip.

Here’s “India” by The Corporation, from “The Corporation,” 1969.

And here’s the entire album, released 50 years ago this week.

The band members, from left on the album cover: Danny Peil (vocals), Patrick McCarthy (organ and trombone), Gerard Smith (lead guitar and vocals), Ken Berdoll (bass and vocals), Nick Kondos (drums and vocals) and his brother John Kondos (guitar, flute, harp, piano and vocals).

Some accounts incorrectly identify The Corporation as a Detroit band. That’s because Detroit producer John Rhys heard them at a Milwaukee club and pitched them to Capitol Records, who signed them. “The Corporation” was recorded at Tera Shirma Studios in Detroit.

It was a regional hit, reaching No. 3 on the charts in Milwaukee in March 1969. However, it reached only No. 197 on the Billboard Hot LPs chart. Capitol also released “I Want To Get Out Of My Grave” b/w “Highway” as a single in 1969.

After that debut album, The Corporation had a falling-out with Capitol Records, which dropped them.

In 1970, the group released two more albums — “Get On Our Swing” and “Hassels In My Mind” — and a single on Age of Aquarius, a custom label pressed by Wisconsin’s Cuca Records. Not long after that, The Corporation dissolved.

(As always, a hat tip to Gary Myers for his indispensable research books on Wisconsin bands.)

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Filed under February 2019, Sounds

I gotta get out of here

They say the wind chill could reach 40 below tomorrow. Maybe the next day, too.

It’s a flashback to 1972. We’d just moved. New house, new school, for the fifth time in nine years. Kids are resilient, but for me, that was the toughest move.

At 14, during my last year of junior high, I’d finally made it into a nice circle of friends. Not the popular kids, but a group you might call the class leaders. Got to know some girls. Got invited to a couple of parties. All innocent enough, yet trusted enough to not spill the beans when some of the basketball players drank too much at another kind of party.

Then, BOOM. I went from junior high in Sheboygan one week directly into high school near Wausau, 180 miles to the northwest, the next week. So much for freshman orientation.

Being the new kid and trying to make new friends again is hard enough. Then the temperature dropped out of sight for two weeks. Thus the flashback.

Even the radio — my constant companion — added to the isolation I felt. Part of it was navigating my way to a new home on the dial. The local FM radio station, top 40 during the day, free form at night, was quite different than AM Top 40, the only format I’d ever known.

The songs on the radio didn’t help.

Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” America’s “Horse With No Name.” The Addrisi Brothers’ “We’ve Got To Get It On Again.” Don McLean’s “American Pie.” Downers, bummers, vaguely haunting, reflecting some kind of loneliness or loss, reinforcing a sense of isolation. Exactly where my head was at. I hear those songs today, and I still keenly feel what I felt during that bitterly cold winter of 1972. They aren’t among my favorites, save for one, Nilsson’s “Without You.”

Yet winter always gives way to spring. Track and field season started. I met a guy, my fellow team manager, who has been my friend ever since. We bonded over songs on the radio and lots of other things. More friends came along. More opportunities came along.

Better songs came along, too. I got the hang of FM radio, particularly the late-night free-form portion. But there was some adjustment necessary. As in the realization and acceptance that, all right, these are the kinds of songs they play on the radio now. Like this one.

“Halo of Flies,” Alice Cooper, from “Killer,” 1971. This is one of the first records I bought that first year in that new place. My copy still has the 1972 calendar that came with it.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under January 2019, Sounds

Gone in threes: 2018

They go in threes. They always go in threes.

All the President’s Men (and women): William Goldman (screenplay), James Karen (Hugh Sloan’s lawyer), Allyn Ann McLerie (Carolyn Abbott)

The art of the movies: Pablo Ferro (“Bullitt,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” titles), Bill Gold (“A Clockwork Orange,” “Casablanca,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “Funny Girl,” “Klute” posters), Robert Grossman (Airplane! poster)

Badasses: Barbara Cope (groupie known as “The Butter Queen”), Mary Ellis (British World War II pilot), Kitty O’Neil (stunt woman and race driver)

Baseball’s best: Oscar Gamble (that magnificent Afro, plus “They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.”), Willie McCovey (“Stretch”), Rusty Staub (“Le Grand Orange”)

Basketball pioneers: Willie Naulls (member of NBA’s first all-black starting lineup with Celtics in 1964), Dick Tinkham (ABA co-founder), Tex Winter (created triangle offense)

Beatlemania: Tony Calder (“Love Me Do” promoter in 1962), Geoff Emerick (sound engineer), Roy Young (keyboard player in 1962)

Behind the scenes: Rick Hall (FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals), Joe Jackson (Jackson family patriarch), Mitzi Shore (co-founded The Comedy Store in Los Angeles)

Black power: Rosanell Eaton (North Carolina voting rights advocate), Elbert Howard (Black Panther Party co-founder), James Wells (part of 1961 sit-in at South Carolina lunch counter)

Blues brothers: Lazy Lester, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Otis Rush

The Bucks stop here: Bill Alverson (negotiated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar trade to Lakers in 1974), Len Chappell (forward on first Bucks team in 1968), Robert Indiana (created memorable MECCA floor in 1977)

Burt Reynolds’ guest stars in “Hawk,” 1966: Philip Bosco, Peter Donat, Robert Mandan

By the book: Todd Bol (created Little Free Library), Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe

Cartoons: Stephen Hillenburg (“SpongeBob SquarePants”), Lee Holley (“Ponytail”), Mort Walker (“Beetle Bailey,” “Hi and Lois”)

Clint Eastwood’s co-stars: Bradford Dillman (“The Enforcer,” “Sudden Impact”), Sondra Locke (six films and his companion for 13 years), John Mahoney (“In The Line Of Fire”)

Covered: Andie Airfax (designer, Def Leppard, Metallica album covers), Gary Burden (designer, Neil Young, Doors, Eagles album covers), Robert Matheu (photographer, the Stooges, MC5)

Directors: Milos Forman (“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus”), Warren Miller (ski/snowboard films), Hugh Wilson (“Police Academy,” also created “WKRP in Cincinnati”)

Elvis world: D.J. Fontana (drummer), Jeanie Greene (backup singer), Jerry Hopkins (biographer)

Fast company: Dan Gurney (Formula One, Indy cars, NASCAR), Tom McEwen (drag racing’s Mongoose), David Pearson (NASCAR)

Gone, country: Roy Clark, Freddie Hart, Billy ThunderKloud

Gospel voices: Clarence Fountain (Blind Boys of Alabama), Edwin Hawkins, Yvonne Staples

Heard, but not seen: Douglas Rain (HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey”), Ray Szmanda (the Menards guy), Doug Young (Doggie Daddy on “The Quick Draw McGraw Show”, Grand Poobah on “The Flintstones”)

Inventive: Charles Harrison (helped design modern View-Master), Dorcas Reilly (created green bean casserole for Campbell’s), Glenn Snoddy (the fuzz pedal, quite by accident)

John Wayne’s co-stars: Michele Carey (“El Dorado”), Tab Hunter (“The Sea Chase”), Jerry Van Dyke (“McLintock!”)

Kids, just kids: Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8 (Guatemalan children who died in Border Patrol custody); Garrett Matthias, 5 (irrepressible cancer patient who ended his obit with “See ya later, suckas!”)

Legends: Aretha Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Burt Reynolds

Last laughs, the men: Marty Allen, Harry Anderson (“Night Court”), Will Jordan (impressionist who channeled Ed Sullivan)

Last laughs, the women: Nanette Fabray, Charlotte Rae (“The Facts of Life”), Greta Thyssen (’50s Three Stooges shorts)

Lombardi’s Glory Years champions: Ben Agajanian, Bob Skoronski, Jim Taylor

Mad men and women: Jane Maas (advertising trailblazer), Nick Meglin (Mad magazine editor), Dick Tuck (political prankster)

Marvels: Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Doctor Strange), Stan Lee (helped create many Marvel characters), Marie Severin (Spider-Woman)

Nightclubbing: Vic Damone, Morgana King, Nancy Wilson

Now you know: Naomi Parker Fraley (the real Rosie the Riveter), Peggy Sue Gerron (inspired Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”), Nancy Grace Roman (NASA astronomer who was the “Mother of Hubble”)

Odd couplings: Penny Marshall (Oscar’s secretary Myrna), Carole Shelley (Cecily Pigeon), Neil Simon (playwright)

Outlaws: Tony Kinman (Rank and File), Ray Sawyer (Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show), Tony Joe White

Playboys: Russ Heath (drew “Little Annie Fanny”), Art Paul (art director, created the Playboy rabbit logo), Maurizio Zanfanti (Italian swinger who claimed to have had sex with 6,000 women)

#Resist, WWII style: Sonia Orbuch (she fought with the Polish Resistance as a teenager), Freddie Oversteegen (she fought with the Dutch Resistance as a teenager), Joachim Ronneberg (Norwegian Resistance fighter who skied in, helped sabotage German heavy water plant)

Score! Galt MacDermot (“Hair”), John Morris (“The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein”), Patrick Williams (“The Streets of San Francisco” among many films and TV shows)

Session men: Joe Osborn (bass, Wrecking Crew), Melvin Ragan aka Wah Wah Watson (guitar, Funk Brothers), Eddie “Chank” Willis (guitar and sitar, Funk Brothers)

Sitcom sidekicks: Ken Berry (“F Troop,” “Mayberry R.F.D.,” “Mama’s Family”), Bill Daily (“I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Bob Newhart Show”), David Ogden Stiers (“M*A*S*H”)

Songwriters: Bob Dorough (first jazz, then “Schoolhouse Rock”), Ron Dunbar (“Give Me Just A Little More Time,” “Band Of Gold,” “Patches”), Tony Hiller (“United We Stand”)

Soul singers: Barbara Alston (Crystals), Dennis Edwards (Temptations), Denise LaSalle

Space, the final frontier: Alan Bean (walked on moon, Apollo 12, 1969), Donald Peterson Sr. (spacewalked, Challenger’s first mission, 1983), John Young (walked on moon, Apollo 16, 1972)

Sports voices: Bob Beattie, Keith Jackson, Lee Leonard

Star Trek, stardate 1967: Harlan Ellison (wrote “City On The Edge of Forever”), Roger Perry (Capt. John Christopher, “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”), Celeste Yarnall (Yeoman Martha Landon, “The Apple”)

Tall in TV’s saddle: Wayne Maunder (“Lancer,” “Custer”), Clint Walker (“Cheyenne”), Robert Wolders (“Laredo”)

Witness to history: Melvin Dummar (claimed to have saved Howard Hughes in Nevada desert in 1967), Ernest Medina (commanding officer at My Lai massacre in 1968, but acquitted), Juan Romero (hotel busboy who held the dying Robert F. Kennedy in 1968)

Wrestlers: Larry “The Axe” Hennig, Bruno Sammartino, Nikolai Volkoff

Gone in Threes, the band

Fronting: Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane/Starship), Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries), Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks)

On guitar: Nokie Edwards (Ventures), Ed King (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Lynyrd Skynyrd), Danny Kirwan (Fleetwood Mac)

On bass: Alan Longmuir (Bay City Rollers), Craig MacGregor (Foghat), Jim Rodford (Argent)

On drums: Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (Michael Jackson, many others), Mickey Jones (Bob Dylan, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition), John “Jabo” Starks (J.B.’s)

On sax: Ace Cannon, Big Jay McNeely, Charles Neville (Neville Brothers)

Orchestral section: Hugh Masekela (jazz trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet), Hugh McDowell (viola, Wizzard, Electric Light Orchestra), Ray Thomas (flute, oboe, keyboards, Moody Blues)

Special mention

The stunner: There always is one death that takes your breath away. In 2018, it was a girl I dated long ago. She slipped away.

The last word

Some memorable obits: Kathleen Dehmlow from Minnesota (“She abandoned her children … She will not be missed.”), Rick Stein from Delaware (“Missing and presumed dead. … That is one story.”), Terry Ward from Indiana (“preceded in death by … a 1972 Rambler and a hip.”)

Noteworthy

— This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2018. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.

— Each year, I use three prime sources for this list.

First, the Wikipedia contributors who compile month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. That’s where we start.

Second, our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each month, along with a year-end roundup. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended.

Third, the folks at Mojo magazine, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful.

Other sources include Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.

Previous “Gone in threes” entries

20172016 * 2015 * 2014 * 2013 * 2012 * 2011 * 2010

Before “Gone in threes,” there was …

2009 * 2008

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Filed under January 2019

A revelation, a toast and a wish

Christmas begins like this.

An 11-year-old Michael Jackson will forever convey to me the excitement of Christmas morning. That Christmas songs could sound like this was a revelation to this 13-year-old kid in 1970.

“One more time, yeah! Santa Claus is comin’ to town. Oh, yeah!”

“Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” the Jackson 5, 1970, from “A Motown Christmas,” 1973.

Christmas continues with a toast.

“Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
“Ringing through the land
“Bringing peace to all the world
“And good will to man”

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967.

Christmas concludes with a wish.

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. I’d always had it on “Shaved Fish,” the 1975 compilation LP from Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, until I found the single last year.

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2018, Sounds

Our Christmas Eve traditions

The first one is for our friend Rob in Pennsylvania.

Eleven years ago now, Rob declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print and not available digitally, but Amazon will rip you a copy. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” the fine Christmas compilation CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine, if you can find it.

The other, of course, is our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day more than 45 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. That LP is out of print, but the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) seems to be fairly common.

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo, who was 69 at the time, died a little over four months later, in July 1971.

You just never know.

Embrace the moment, especially at Christmas.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2018, Sounds

A week in the life

The big news around here this week was that Paul McCartney will be playing a show at Lambeau Field on June 8. That’s a little over 2 miles from our house. Macca himself, practically in our neighborhood. But we’re not going.

We’re seeing him two nights earlier at the Kohl Center in Madison. That show was announced first, at the end of August. We were fortunate enough to get tickets. We’re good with that.

All of this got me to thinking about seeing the Beatles live. Some day, we’ll look back and say we did the best we could, given that we came along too late.

Day One: Friday, Aug. 12, 1966. I was 9 when the Beatles toured America for the last time. We lived a mere 150 miles away when that tour opened at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago that Friday. But, again, I was 9. The Beatles weren’t on my radar except as Saturday morning cartoon characters.

Day Two: Wednesday, Aug. 30, 1972. John Lennon never toured America. I was 15, soon to be a sophomore in high school, when John played his last full-length show at Madison Square Garden in New York. It’s laughable to think it might have been publicized in any way in our corner of Wisconsin. That show might as well have been on the moon.

Day Three: Saturday, Nov. 30, 1974. I was 17, a senior in high school, when George Harrison went on his only tour of America in November and December 1974. Maybe they mentioned on the radio that George and Ravi Shankar were playing two shows at Chicago Stadium. Had I known about the shows, and had I somehow scraped together the money for a ticket, I suppose I could have driven the 280 miles to Chicago that Saturday. But realistically, none of that was a possibility. We probably had a basketball game or a party, or both, that night.

Day Four: Tuesday, July 16, 2013. We saw Paul McCartney at Miller Park in Milwaukee. We had seats in left field, on the field, stage left. It’s not every day you see one of the Beatles up close. Paul did not disappoint. Tremendous, wonderful, almost surreal.

Day Five: Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. We saw Ringo Starr at the BMO Harris Pavilion at the lakefront in Milwaukee. Ringo did not disappoint. Still irreverent, still cracking wise. We heard, and sang along to, “Yellow Submarine.” Peace and love, everyone, peace and love.

Never saw the Beatles. Never saw John. Never saw George. Saw Paul and Ringo. But there’s still some unfinished business.

Day Six: June 6, 2019. We’ll be in the same room with Paul McCartney.

Day Seven: TBD. I hope to walk across the Abbey Road crossing someday.

Maybe that’ll be in 2021, when I’m sixty-four.

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Filed under December 2018, Sounds

Downstairs at Prange’s

Imagine seeing a photo of something you thought existed only in memory. As you try to process it, the whole thing takes your breath away. Then you get catch your breath and settle down to scrutinizing the tiniest details of the photo.

So it is with this photo, posted earlier this month by the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center to its Facebook page. It carried this four-word caption: “Record department. H.C. Prange.”

When I grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in the ’60s and ’70s, everyone went down by Prange’s. It was the biggest department store in that city of 50,000 along Lake Michigan.

The record department was in the basement. You went down the main escalator and there it was, over to your right as you stepped off, a dazzling world of colorful and thrilling LPs spread out before you. 45s? Sure, but those you could get at the neighborhood dime store. Prange’s was the place where you came to ponder the mighty LP.

This photo is from 1969 or later. In the row going up diagonally from the lower left corner are the Beatles’ “Revolver” and “Magical Mystery Tour” and the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” the latter released as an import in 1969. I’d love to see this photo at higher resolution so I could try to ID some of the other records.

I never bought a lot of LPs at Prange’s — all I had was paper route money, and not much of it — but what I did buy were among the first albums I ever owned. I still have them all.

— I gave Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory” LP to my friend Mike for his 13th birthday. It came out in July 1970. His birthday was in October. Truth be told, I’d wanted it for myself. Instead, I got Creedence’s “Green River,” which by then was a year old. It all worked out.

Neil Diamond’s “Tap Root Manuscript,” released in November 1970. I also was 13 and had been listening to AM Top 40 radio almost non-stop all that year.

— Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” soundtrack, released in July 1971.

Wings’ “Wild Life,” released in December 1971.

Then there’s this.

When I was 13, I was tempted by, perhaps even obsessed with, Janis Joplin’s “Pearl.” It had been released in January 1971, midway through my eighth-grade year. I liked the music. Mostly, though, I thought her pose on the cover was kind of hot — and, yes, I already had some sense of someone being a hot mess — and I really didn’t want to try to explain that to my parents.

So I never bought “Pearl” at Prange’s. Truth be told, it’s only been in the last 10 years that I finally bought “Pearl.” I’ve since bought three or four copies, always looking for a cover in a bit nicer condition than the one before.

Maybe I’ll even frame it someday. It tells quite a story about a young record digger, even if only he recognizes it.

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Filed under November 2018, Sounds