After a hiatus of many years, I’m collecting baseball cards again. But only a certain kind of card.
These cards. The 2017 Topps Heritage cards, which are based on the 1968 Topps card design. That year, 1968, was when an 11-year-old kid in Wisconsin really got into collecting cards for the first time.
Some of the players in the 2017 set are new to me, but there’s a wonderfully comforting feeling to being introduced to them in such a familiar way. I’m enjoying it.
Likewise record digging. There’s something wonderfully comforting about an experience that’s essentially the same today as it was in the earliest ’70s in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
Flash back to 1970, and there is 13-year-old me carefully examining the 45s in the record department in the basement of Prange’s department store or in the rack near the checkout at the Evans variety store. Then I’d look through the LPs, which seemed unattainable, far beyond my allowance.
One of my earliest 45s was “American Woman” by the Guess Who on that great orange RCA label. The flip side, “No Sugar Tonight,” turned out to be the Guess Who’s next single. You know that version, but here are two less-heard covers. They come via fellow bloggers, which is another of the joys of record digging, getting tipped to things you might not otherwise hear.
“No Sugar Tonight,” Steel Wool, from the single on White Whale Records, 1970. Steel Wool is one of the aliases used by singer and drummer Buddy Randell, who’d left the Knickerbockers that year. Thank you to Andrew, the proprietor over at Armagideon Time, for this. It’s from one of his anniversary mixes.
Postscript: My rediscovery of baseball cards brings with it one age-old problem. I’ve bought about 100 cards, yet have gotten only one Brewers player so far. Seems like it’s the hunt for Cookie Rojas all over again.
Our premise, revisited: What a year this has been. Since we last gathered here just two weeks ago, we’ve lost even more music greats. Merle Haggard, Leon Haywood and Gato Barbieri — quite a cross-section there — and still another Van Zant, country singer Jimmie, cousin to Ronnie.
Time, then — well past time, really — to wrap up an appreciation of four music greats who are still with us. These are my four. Yours may be different. We started with three elders, Chuck Berry,Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. We end with …
The legend: Tina Turner.
Still performing? Apparently not. It’s been almost seven years since she last performed live. That was on May 5, 2009, at the Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England, the end to a 50th anniversary tour that featured 90 shows.
What we must acknowledge but won’t dwell on: Ike Turner.
Where I came in: I’m sure I’d seen Ike and Tina on TV before, but I certainly knew of them by the time “Proud Mary” was released in early 1971. That certainly warmed up a Wisconsin winter.
My evening with Tina: I’ve had two, thankfully. We first saw her in 1983, performing on a small side stage at Summerfest in Milwaukee, a night I will never forget. We then saw her at Alpine Valley Music Theatre, a big outdoor venue west of Milwaukee, on Sept. 14, 1987, on our honeymoon, a time I will never forget.
But about that first show. Tina Turner was just 43, but was considered an oldies act. She had split from Ike, had no record contract and was touring with two backup singers. Yet on that night, on that side stage in the middle of the Summerfest grounds, it was wild. To call her show sizzling or scorching or incendiary doesn’t do it justice. It was insane. You couldn’t believe what you were seeing and hearing. It was that good.
Appreciate the greatness: To get some idea of what we saw that night, kick back for an hour and watch this show. It was taped at the Park West in Chicago on Aug. 4, 1983, about a month after we saw her at Summerfest.
The set list: “Cat People,” “Acid Queen,” “River Deep Mountain High,” “Hot Legs,” “Get Back,” “Where the Heart Is,” “Nutbush City Limits,” “Givin’ It Up For Your Love,” “Nightlife,” “Help,” “Proud Mary,” “Music Keeps Me Dancing” and “Hollywood Nights.” (You may need to reset the video to 0:00.)
Then go back. So many great tunes from her time with Ike. These are some of my favorites from just some of my Ike and Tina records.
Not sure there are any light reads about the Vietnam War.
It’s been years since I read Michael Herr’s “Dispatches,” but I vividly remember that taking forever.
Perhaps it’s the constant reminder — then as now — that there, for the grace of the timing of my birth, go I, and how would I have handled all that. (For the record, I was too young for Vietnam. Saigon fell and the war ended seven weeks before I turned 18.)
My Christmas wish list had two books on it, one of them about Vietnam.
“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” examines how American soldiers — white, black, Latino, Native — deeply identified with music and used it to cope while serving in Vietnam in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
Our Christmas tree is long gone from the living room, yet I’m still slogging through that book. Maybe it’s best read with all those songs playing in the background.
You also bog down when you come to a passage like this, the story of a soldier named Jeff Dahlstrom, who arrived in Vietnam in September 1970:
“Music played a major part in the sensory overload of Saigon, where Dahlstrom went frequently. … No surprise that Dahlstrom’s memories of the Saigon streets were stirred by the appropriately titled ‘Stoned in Saigon’ by a largely forgotten English group named Free.”
When Daptone Records provided a sneak peek of the new record from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I took one look at the cover and my record nerd kicked in. Hey, I thought, that design is inspired by an old Chi-Lites record.
Whatever. The record came out at the end of the second week of January, and I picked it up as soon as I could. Two months later, we got to hear most of it at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, a scorcher of a soul revue on a late winter night.
Cool song off the record: “Long Time, Wrong Time,” on which the Dap-Kings walk their vintage soul sound over near the swamp for Miss Jones to chomp on.
I belong to almost no fan clubs, but I have been a member of Carlene Carter’s fan club for several years. When she started her gradual return to recording and performing in the mid-2000s, it was well below the radar, and the fan club was pretty much the only way to keep tabs on it.
Tipped by the fan club to a limited number of autographed copies of her new record, I managed to get one. Full disclosure, though: I’m not a big autograph guy. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.
Well, it sure was fun opening the package when it arrived in April. Carlene Carter has a lovely signature, doesn’t she?
I’ve loved Carlene Carter since her time with Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in the early ’80s, through her pop-country stardom in the early ’90s and now that she’s re-emerged after some struggles with addiction. On this record, Carter taps into her Carter Family influences and stands right beside them as one of America’s finest country singers.
Cool song off the record: “Lonesome Valley 2003,” an updated version of an A.P. Carter song. She’s always been one of the great duet singers. “Baby Ride Easy” with Dave Edmunds is sublime. Vince Gill is her partner on this one.
Full disclosure again: I’m not big into limited editions, either. But I managed to order from Secret Stash Records in Minneapolis when the red vinyl copies were still available. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.
Well, it sure was fun seeing that red vinyl light up the turntable in July.
Vic Pitts and the Cheaters were among Milwaukee’s hottest soul/R&B bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This record gathers a never-released bunch of scorchers, covers, ballads and instrumentals that were recorded in 1969 and 1970 at Ter-Mar Studios in Chicago, by then one of the last remaining pieces of what once was Chess Records.
Cool song off the record: “The Trip,” the one that’s playing in the picture.
Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time. (And, yes, I know I am long overdue in posting there.)