Monthly Archives: March 2013

The empty playground

One way to keep in shape during the long Wisconsin winters is to run inside. The track at our Y provides a bird’s-eye view of the basketball courts. So, as I plod around the track, I keep an eye on those playing ball below.

One day, there were two boys, maybe middle school age, joyfully working on their half-court shots.

Another day, they’d set up a small stage for a fitness event. It sat near the half-court line. There were three or four girls shooting around. One of them — a high school freshman, so maybe still just 14 or 15 — hopped up on the stage and joyfully started shooting rangefinders from there.

Last week, it was me, joyfully shooting the short-range jumpers no one shoots anymore. I step onto that court and the years just seem to fall away. I am 17 again, or 27, or even 37. The rhythms are the same now as in the ’70s. The feel of the ball spinning in your hand is the same now as in the ’80s.

Basketball is great that way, because all you need is a ball and a hoop. If there’s no one around, you can still go.

Saying this more wistfully than anything, there really is no one around anymore. My knees, ankles and Achilles long ago demanded that I retire from any kind of competitive basketball. Almost everyone I played with has retired, too. Yet, from time to time, I just shoot.

There used to be a battered radio at the base of the basket. Now I listen to the iPod while I shoot.

The beat goes on.


“Growing Older But Not Up,” Jimmy Buffett, from “Coconut Telegraph,” 1980. Also available digitally.

I’m growing older but not up
My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck
So let the winds of change blow over my head
I’d rather die while I’m living then live while I’m dead

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under March 2013, Sounds

Under the Motown covers

Was there ever a record company better at getting mileage out of its songs as Motown?

One artist would cut a song. Then it would be covered by another, and perhaps another, and perhaps still another. The hit version might not necessarily be the first version. That was Motown’s genius.

Hear, then, three examples of familiar Motown songs covered by other Motown artists. All three were written by the great Barrett Strong and the legendary producer Norman Whitfield.


“War,” the Temptations, from “Psychedelic Shack,” 1970. The LP is out of print but is available digitally.

This is the original version recorded in 1969, but Motown sat on it, preferring to not piss off the Temptations’ fans with such a political song. It was a No. 1 hit for Edwin Starr in 1970.


“I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” The Undisputed Truth,” from “The Undisputed Truth,” 1971. The LP is out of print. The song is apparently not available digitally. Too bad. This version cooks.

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles recorded the original version in 1966, but Motown owner Berry Gordy didn’t like it. It was a No. 2 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1967. Marvin Gaye also recorded it that year, but Motown didn’t release it as a single until 1968, when DJs started playing it off the “In The Groove” LP. It was a No. 1 hit.


“Smiling Faces Sometimes,” Rare Earth, from “Ma,” 1973.

The Temptations did the original version in 1971. The Undisputed Truth had a No. 3 hit with it later that year.

Rare Earth’s “Ma” also is featured over on our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, which delivers vintage vinyl one side at a time. Check it out.


Filed under March 2013, Sounds