It’s all too much

50 years ago, as September turned to October in 1969, Green Bay was waiting for the Beatles.

It had been almost a year since the Beatles’ previous LP, the one they called “The Beatles” and the one everyone else called The White Album.

The Stiller Company, which had long sold records from its music department, in late September promised the “new Beatle LP” and listed a release date of Friday, Oct. 3. But Oct. 3 apparently came and went without that new Beatles record. For the next two weeks, the “new Beatle L.P.” was “coming soon!”

The Beatles’ new record apparently finally arrived in Green Bay sometime in the third week of October 1969, when the Stiller Co. ad listed the new “Beatle L.P.” as being in stock along with new albums from The Band, Tom Jones and, uh, one Laura Nyrol.

The new Beatles record, of course, was “Abbey Road.” Imagine, just imagine, the anticipation for that.

Fast forward 50 years to today. The recently reissued 50th anniversary “Abbey Road” shot up to No. 1 in the UK and to No. 3 here in the States. Apparently quite a bit of anticipation for that, too. Or was that just marketing hype?

I think I’m good with my copy of “Abbey Road,” which I bought used decades ago. (Mine appears to be a pressing from the Capitol Records plant in Jacksonville, Fla., though not a first pressing.)

I don’t want or need any of the seven formats in which it’s been reissued, though I hope my friend Timebomb Tom sells a bunch of them:

  • Super deluxe edition with three CDs and a Blu-Ray, plus a book
  • Double CD set with a second disc of demos and outtakes
  • Single CD with just the stereo remix
  • Triple LP box set with two additional discs of demos and outtakes
  • Single LP with just the stereo remix
  • Single picture disc LP with just the stereo remix
  • Super Deluxe digital audio, with 40 tracks to stream or download in hi-res 96kHz/24 bit audio

Though I have always loved the Beatles and will always love the Beatles …

Though I have a dozen Beatles records (and have sold “Live at the Star-Club” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, Volumes 1 and 2”) …

Though I have a bunch of wonderful Beatles memorabilia, particularly “Yellow Submarine” stuff, much of it given as gifts …

Though I recently bought rough, loved-to-death $1 copies of six Beatles LPs, including what appears to be a first Jacksonville pressing of “Abbey Road” …

I think I’m good with most everything Beatles now, too.

Janet just smiled when I said that to her the other day.

At some point, you have to say it’s all too much.

… Though I still want to visit Liverpool and London and stroll across the Abbey Road crosswalk some day.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under October 2019, Sounds

The timelessness of protest

You don’t need me to tell you what’s going down in this country these days. You know what the score is.

Did you say you’re a public servant?
Well, then let me ask you why
You’re keeping the public uninformed
When you’re not feedin’ us with lies

Listen to our founding fathers
Sit down and read the Bill of Rights
You’d better learn how to play the game by the rules
Or you’re gonna have an awful fight

Sounds a lot like today, right?

This is Chi Coltrane, the singer and pianist most know from the hit single “Thunder and Lightning,” dropping some thunder and lightning on the president in 1972.

There it is, the timelessness of protest.

‘Cause I will not dance to your music
And I will not drink your wine
And I will not toast to your success
Because you’re no friend of mine, oh yeah, you know it
You’re no friend of mine

Nope, no friend of mine then, no friend of mine now.

“I Will Not Dance,” Chi Coltrane, from “Chi Coltrane,” 1972.

This was from Coltrane’s debut LP. So what happened to Chi Coltrane?

After “Let It Ride,” the follow-up LP, came out in 1973, Coltrane recorded sporadically. In 1977, she moved to Europe, where she found a more passionate following and released three records during the ’80s. Her last LP of new material was “The Message,” one of those European releases, in 1986. She returned to Los Angeles in 1993 and built a recording studio.

Ten years ago, in 2009, Coltrane resumed performing. That year, she also released a career retrospective comp with three new songs. In 2012, she released a live CD of a “comeback concert” in Vienna on her own label.

Now 70, Coltrane remains popular in Europe, particularly Switzerland and Germany, playing shows there as recently as last year.

1 Comment

Filed under September 2019, Sounds

It was anything but nirvana

Seen today on Twitter.

After “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the radio in the fall of 1991, I vividly remember the first time I heard it.

It came on the radio while I was sitting in the car, parked outside Osco Drug and the old Port Plaza Mall in downtown Green Bay.

My immediate reaction, for better or worse: “What the f*ck is this?”

It was the first time that I felt disconnected from what was on the radio. I was no kid anymore, but I wasn’t middle-aged, either. I was 34, just 10 years old than Kurt Cobain.

It was a time during which everything I loved about music seemed to be unraveling.

The radio, my close friend for more than 20 years, no longer spoke to me.

MTV, a joy to watch just 10 years earlier, was evolving into just another conventionally programmed TV channel.

Vinyl records were going away, replaced by CDs. I was going along with it, buying CDs.

This epic disruption in the force is evident by the massive gap in my record collection.

The last vinyl record I — or perhaps we — bought before The Great Disconnection was the Smithereens’ “11,” which came out in October 1989. I didn’t buy another new vinyl record for 18 years, until I picked up Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ “100 Days, 100 Nights,” which came out in October 2007. We’d seen her earlier that year while visiting New York.

I think back to the time of The Great Disconnection, probably sometime in the early ’00s. I remember the sparks from the flint, trying to rekindle a once-roaring fire.

One day, I walked through Amazing Records, a used record store here in Green Bay. How much fun all this once was, I thought. It doesn’t seem that it will ever be that great again, I thought. I didn’t buy anything.

One day, I went to a record show in a college gym. I looked at a lot of records, but felt much the same emptiness. At the end of the day, I bought a record to replace one of the records that went out in The Great Vinyl Purge of 1989. CDs were the future in 1989, so I got rid of dozens of records at a friend’s garage sale. “Hey, there are a lot of good records in here,” one garage sale shopper said. Yes, there were.

But that day at the college gym was a new day. I bought a replacement copy of Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “Great White North.”

In 2006, I discovered music blogs, as did the mainstream media. A story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tipped me to the first few “audioblogs” I followed. Record diggers ran some of those blogs.

A year later, in 2007, I followed their lead. I started this blog and I started record digging. It’s been great to have it all back.

It’s nice to be past The Great Disconnection ushered in by “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” That time was indeed a …

“Blue Period,” the Smithereens, from “11,” 1989. The last new vinyl record I — or perhaps we — bought for 18 years.

 

3 Comments

Filed under September 2019, Sounds

The black-and-white snapshot

My "Boston" record from 1976.

As noted yesterday on Facebook …

Boston’s debut album was released on yesterday’s date in 1976 — Aug. 25, 1976. I bought my copy at Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau not long after yesterday’s date in 1976.

Other records I bought in 1976:

  • The Alan Parsons Project’s “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”
  • The Eagles’ “Hotel California”
  • “The Best of George Harrison”
  • The J. Geils Band’s “Live/Blow Your Face Out”
  • Jackson Browne’s “The Pretender”
  • KISS’ “Destroyer”
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “One More From The Road”
  • Poco’s “Rose of Cimarron”
  • Stanley Clarke’s “School Days”
  • Synergy’s “Sequencer”
  • “Wings Over America”

I also bought records by Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, Kansas, Ted Nugent, Rainbow and ZZ Top in 1976, but I no longer have them.

Now, though, I look at those records and it’s a bit unsettling. Save for Stanley Clarke, where are the artists of color?

It is a snapshot of my life in 1976. Most of what I bought is what was on the radio in 1976, broadcast to a predominately white audience in central Wisconsin. Sure, there were songs by artists of color on the radio and played in the clubs, and I dug a fair number of them, but I don’t recall a lot of demand for soul, R&B and disco records. I clearly wasn’t demanding them.

I was 18, then 19, in 1976. I knew exactly one black person, a guy named Clarence Jenkins, a friend of a friend. He lived in an apartment above one of the downtown movie theaters. We went to the same two-year University of Wisconsin campus in Wausau. I didn’t know Clarence well at all.

I’d always liked soul and R&B music. I was introduced to it by WLS radio out of Chicago and WOKY out of Milwaukee before I was in my teens. But my knowledge of soul and R&B music was shallow, rarely going beyond the Top 40.

Fast forward to today. Much of my record digging over the last 15 or so years has been for ’60s and ’70s soul and R&B music that I either heard but overlooked back then or had never heard. These are some records from 1976 that I’ve since acquired. Most fall into the Heard But Overlooked Back Then category.

  • Eddie Kendricks’ “Goin Up In Smoke”
  • Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ “All Their Greatest Hits”
  • MFSB’s “Summertime”
  • Rhythm Heritage’s self-titled debut LP
  • Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” soundtrack
  • The Salsoul Orchestra’s “Nice ‘N’ Naasty”
  • The Spinners’ “Happiness Is Being With The Spinners” and “It’s A Shame”
  • Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life”
  • Vicki Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around” 12-inch single
  • War’s “Greatest Hits”
  • “Phillybusters, Vol. IV,” a compilation of Philadelphia International singles

And, no, these records aren’t all that adventurous even now. But it is progress, and a work in progress.

Eddie Kendricks Goin' Up In Smoke LP

“Goin’ Up In Smoke,” Eddie Kendricks, from “Goin’ Up In Smoke,” 1976.

Phillybusters, Vol. IV

“No Tell Motel,” Don Covay, from “Phillybusters, Vol. IV,” 1976.

Although this song isn’t from 1976 — it’s from a year earlier — it’s also on that “Phillybusters” comp from 1976. It’s a perfect mashup, a perfect illustration of what I’d heard on the radio and what I had not.

“I’m Not In Love,” Dee Dee Sharp, covering 10cc.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under August 2019, Sounds

By the time we got to Woodstock

So many great adventures begin with someone asking, “Hey, want to come along?”

That’s how my friend Tony Baldwin found himself at Woodstock 50 years ago tonight, on Friday, Aug. 15, 1969.

Woodstock soundtrack LP

Tony was 17 at the time, living in Indianapolis and just about to begin his senior year of high school.

“If you’re not doing anything, you can come with us,” said Tony’s sister Jean, who was 21 or 22 at the time. So Tony piled into a VW bus with his sister, her husband Mike and another guy, a friend of theirs. They headed east.

“Thursday, we drove straight through. We stopped in New York City to see somebody there, but we weren’t there long. When we got to the site (in Bethel, N.Y.), it was Friday, early afternoon. It was of course people everywhere. We didn’t have a tent, but we parked the bus. It was total chaos, pretty much. We found a spot. It had already started,” Tony told me last night, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival.

“We had no idea what this thing was,” he said of Woodstock.

“We didn’t know where it was. We just followed everybody. We walked and walked. It took forever to get there,” Tony said.

“By the time we got there, it was late afternoon. There was no fence. It was already down. We didn’t have any tickets. We just walked over the fence, a chain link fence.”

Sounds great, right?

“If you see the movie, we are at the top of the hill. There was a hill, then a gully, then the stage. We couldn’t get any closer. There was music, but we didn’t know who it was. They had a poor PA system,” Tony said.

As 9:30 p.m. approached, the kids from Indy finally heard something clear enough to make some sense of it.

After a bunch of announcements from the stage — among them a marriage proposal, someone needing insulin, someone having lost a duffel bag with all their possessions — there was this:

“Let’s welcome Mr. Tim Hardin.”

“We heard Tim Hardin being introduced, then heard a little bit of him,” Tony said.

“That was it. We stayed at the site for no more than an hour. Can’t hear, can’t see, can’t get any closer.

“Then we left the top of the hill. It was after dark. We went to try to find our campsite. We made it back to our parking spot. By that time, it probably had started to rain. It was very hot and humid.”

The next morning …

“Saturday morning, the people I came with, they decided this is ridiculous. We’re gonna leave. We saw zero acts, we saw zero people. It’s miserable. It’s rainy. It’s not fun. We’re leaving,” Tony recalled.

“We left late Saturday morning, probably. We piled in the bus and we drove very slowly. It was just mud, ruts from the cars, and we followed the ruts out. We had the side of the bus open. I was in the back. The friend also was in the back. There were clothes, beer, in the back. We’re driving like 2 mph. It was like rush hour traffic.”

On the way out …

“A guy wants a ride. We said sure. He gets in, and the guy grabs Jean’s purse and takes off. The friend took off after the guy. Probably 10 minutes later, he comes back with the purse,” Tony said.

“We got to the highway, probably drove straight through back to home. We probably got home late Sunday.”

Some lingering memories …

— “I wish I did see all of it, but I didn’t have any say in it,” Tony said.

— “They were totally unprepared (for the crowd, which was estimated at 400,000).”

— “There was a guy being carried away. I don’t know what was wrong. They might have been carrying him to the first aid tent or to their campground.”

I was wondering …

How does someone from Indianapolis find out about a music festival in New York state? Maybe a magazine ad. I’ve seen those for Woodstock. Maybe a radio ad? If so, I haven’t found any. Tony doesn’t know how his sister might have learned about it.

“I don’t think they planned it too far ahead of time,” Tony said of his sister’s journey to Woodstock.

All these years later …

“We have the movie but not the record. We went to see the movie when it came out (in 1970). We didn’t see anything that was in the movie,” Tony said.

Tony didn’t see or hear much of Tim Hardin on that Friday night at Woodstock. He didn’t see any of him in the documentary film, either. Nor did he hear him on the original soundtrack. Hardin’s set didn’t make the cut for the film or the record.

So here’s some of what you couldn’t see or hear, my friend.

Though this is billed as “complete 1969 Woodstock recording of Tim Hardin,” it’s not. Here are the first, third, ninth and 10th songs from Hardin’s 10-song Woodstock set — “How Can We Hang On to a Dream,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Simple Song of Freedom” and “Misty Roses.”

3 Comments

Filed under August 2019, Sounds

The most amazing Rhythm Ace

Russell Smith, first-rate singer, first-rate songwriter, died last week. He was 70.

The Amazing Rhythm Aces got lumped in with the country crowd in the latter half of the ’70s, but their sound — shaped largely by Smith — was a savory Memphis BBQ rub spiced with country, soul, R&B, swing, blues, calypso and rock.

When you dropped one of their records onto the turntable, it was time to kick back, put your feet up and pop open a cold beverage. You couldn’t help but smile at some of their songs and nod knowingly at the rest.

I could go on, but Russell Smith’s warm, laid-back voice and charming songs say so much more. A most pleasant listen, then and now. Enjoy.

The cover of "Stacked Deck," released by the Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1975.

Let’s start with “Stacked Deck,” 1975. That was the Aces’ debut, recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. If all you heard was “Third Rate Romance,” you had no sense of their versatility.

“Third Rate Romance.” The song that started it all. Still a damn fine song.

“The Ella B.” Swamp rock, choogling between Tony Joe White and John Fogerty.

“Who Will The Next Fool Be?” In which the Aces cover Charlie Rich.

“Emma-Jean.” Unrequited love for one of the “lovely lesbian ladies slow-dancing on the parquet floor” next door. Ah, life in the tropics.

“Why Can’t I Be Satisfied.” A bit like Fleetwood Mac at a jazz club, showcasing Barry “Byrd” Burton on guitar and some combination of James Hooker and Billy Earheart on piano and organ.

The cover of "The Amazing Rhythm Aces," released by the Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1979.

“The Amazing Rhythm Aces,” 1979, is another of my favorites. It was recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound with the Muscle Shoals Horns.

“Love and Happiness.” Russell Smith’s distinctive voice infuses this Al Green cover. A couple of Memphis guys.

“Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette).” This was my introduction to the Allen Toussaint song first done by Benny Spellman.

“Say You Lied.” She left. Fine harmonies and fine picking by Duncan Cameron.

The cover of "Chock Full of Country Goodness," released by the Amazing Rhythm Aces in 1994.

The Aces broke up in 1981, then got back together in 1994, releasing their own material. “Chock Full of Country Goodness” came out in 1998.

“The Rock.” He’s leaving. This one is co-written by Smith and Jim Varsos.

Technical note: I suppose the cool kids would just create a Spotify playlist, but I’m not on that, sorry.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under July 2019, Sounds

National anthem performances, ranked

On this Independence Day, a ranking of the top national anthem performances of all time. This is a highly subjective list. Yours likely will be different. That’s what makes America great.

1. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969. The national anthem as searing social commentary. A month later, he talked about it with Dick Cavett.

2. Marvin Gaye at the NBA All-Star Game, 1983. It was “groundbreaking,” Grantland wrote. It became “the players’ anthem,” sung by “the archbishop of swagger,” The Undefeated wrote. “You knew it was history, but it was also ‘hood,” said no less than Julius Erving, the mighty Dr. J himself.

3. Jose Feliciano at the World Series, 1968. Controversial at the time, it paved the way for Hendrix and everyone else who dared do the anthem a different way. Feliciano’s version came “before the nation was ready for it.” NPR wrote. It “infuriated America,” Deadspin wrote. Ever since, it has “given voice to immigrant pride,” Smithsonian magazine wrote.

4. Mo Cheeks helping a 13-year-old girl who forgot the lyrics, 2003. A beautiful moment of empathy and grace. “Treat people the right way. That’s all that is. It’s no secret. It’s no recipe to it,” the modest, humble Cheeks told the Oklahoman in 2009.

5. Whitney Houston at the Super Bowl, 1991. An epic performance at a time when America desperately wanted to wrap itself in the flag, ESPN wrote. Truth be told, this isn’t one of my favorites because it came at this time and in these circumstances, but it belongs in the top five.

Leave a comment

Filed under July 2019, Sounds