Tag Archives: 1971

Our 3 Christmas wishes

The first wish

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.

In 1965, Charles Schulz started drawing Snoopy as a World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron. But “it reached a point where war just didn’t seem funny,” he told biographer Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Even so, Snoopy and the Red Baron inspired this novelty Christmas song with explosions, with gunfire and with a solid message of hope that came as the Vietnam War escalated.

The second wish

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

"Someday at Christmas" LP by Stevie Wonder, 1967.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, from “Someday at Christmas,” 1967.

My friend Derek reminded me of this one on Christmas Eve morning last year. Thanks, man. When Stevie sings of “men” throughout this one, songwriter Ron Miller clearly means everyone, of any age.

I have this cut on “A Motown Christmas” from 1973, a record we’ve had since we had only a few Christmas records. The others from way back when? “The New Possibility: John Fahey’s Guitar Soli Christmas Album” from 1968 — here’s some of that — and “A Festival Of Carols In Brass” by the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble from 1967.

The third 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.

War is over, if you want it

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2020, Sounds

Christmas Eve with Louis and Irma

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day almost 50 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.

And now, we’re fulfilling another Christmas wish.

Thirteen years ago, when this blog was not even a year old, our new friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is, and Rob has long since become an old friend, so we cue up this one for Rob every Christmas Eve.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print. 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 that.

Speaking of Christmas wishes, still hoping to meet Rob in real life someday.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2020, Sounds

Fully involved

“War” started with the Temptations, but it was seemingly too hot to handle.

The story goes that Motown didn’t want to sully the Temps’ reputation by releasing a protest song as a single. (If that’s so, please explain “Cloud Nine,” “Psychedelic Shack” and “Ball Of Confusion [That’s What The World Is Today],” all culturally aware Temptations singles produced by Norman Whitfield and released before “War.”)

So Whitfield handed “War” to Edwin Starr, who performed the blistering version everyone has known for 50 years, a No. 1 single in the summer of 1970. In so doing, perhaps Whitfield got a version closer to what he’d originally imagined for it.

Perhaps you could say the same for “Ball Of Confusion.” It was a smash for the Temptations, also in the summer of 1970, and then Whitfield handed it to Starr for “Involved,” his 1971 LP.

Because “Ball Of Confusion” was such a big hit for the Temptations is perhaps why Whitfield fully unfurls his freak flag on Starr’s cover of it. This version is built on Bob Babbitt’s familiar bass line but Whitfield’s production takes it far out, man. Waves of psychedelic echoes surround Starr’s scorching vocals. Random dialogue floats past.

With 4 minutes left, that bass line cuts out and Starr starts preaching. “Roaches! Rats! Black folks living in hate. Ain’t no justice. … You make your own heaven and hell right here on Earth.”

“Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today),” Edwin Starr, from “Involved,” 1971.

Fun fact: “War” is the first cut on back-to-back Edwin Starr LPs — “War and Peace” from 1970 and “Involved” from 1971. The former was cobbled together in the wake of the smash single. The latter is a proper release, as evidenced by the quality of the sounds that followed it on Side 1.

So you know “War.” And now you’ve heard Edwin Starr’s freaky cover of “Ball Of Confusion.” Now behold “Funky Music Sho’ ‘Nuff Turns Me On,” the third and final cut — and the third Norman Whitfield-Barrett Strong composition — on Side 1 of “Involved.” It’s a furious shot of funk, with Starr blasting his way to the final grooves.

“Funky Music Sho’ ‘Nuff Turns Me On,” Edwin Starr, from “Involved,” 1971.

Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau thought this LP was “Norman Whitfield’s peak production,” even though he thought Whitfield wasted 12 minutes on “Ball Of Confusion.”

As always, you make the call.


Filed under October 2020, Sounds

Getting down … to Earth

Got nothing else to do during the pandemic, so I’ve been playing a bunch of my records. Listen, OK, listen, OK, listen, OK, listen, OK. Not necessarily ripping them, though.

"Down To Earth" LP by Eddie Floyd, 1971

Then I dropped Eddie Floyd’s “Down To Earth” on the turntable the other night, and right out of the gate … WHAT is this? Oh, yeah. Gotta rip this.

Expecting more of Eddie Floyd’s smooth Memphis soul and R&B vocals, it was anything but. It’s Eddie Floyd and guitarist Steve Cropper getting heavy and getting freaky with some help from songwriter Sir Mack Rice. They’re all experimenting. It is 1971, after all, and times are changing.

“Down To Earth” begins with a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.” I did not expect that heavy rock guitar intro, nor for things to go from there to smooth soul to some Doobie Brothers-style rocking out to taking it back down before steaming through a furious finish.

“People Get Ready,” Eddie Floyd, from “Down To Earth,” 1971.

Then we trippin’. Eddie covers the Detroit Wheels’ “Linda Sue Dixon” — Sir Mack’s LSD shout-out — followed by “My Mind Was Messed Around At The Time,” in which Eddie loses his lady because “I guess I got a little too high.”

“Linda Sue Dixon,” Eddie Floyd, from “Down To Earth,” 1971.
“My Mind Was Messed Around At The Time,” Eddie Floyd, from “Down To Earth,” 1971.

The last cut on the record, “Changing Love,” is equal parts Southern jam and full-on psychedelic soul as imagined by Floyd and Cropper.

“Changing Love,” Eddie Floyd, from “Down To Earth,” 1971.

Can’t say there’s a bad cut on the record.

(Yes, this post looks a bit different. Trying to learn the new-to-me WordPress block editor on the fly after 13 years with the original editor.)

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Filed under October 2020, Sounds

The smoker you drink …

50 years ago last night, on Tuesday, March 10, 1970, The Association played a show at the old Brown County Arena in Green Bay. I posted that music history tidbit to our local Facebook history groups last night.

Which led my friend Kim to ask …

“No idea if it’s true or not, but I had heard many years ago that the original James Gang with Joe Walsh was the opening act at this show. AND that the illustrious Mr. Walsh got arrested at the Midway Motor Lodge for possession of pot. After all these years, can anyone confirm or deny this story for me?”

Well, now. Can’t resist that one. It is mostly true.

The James Gang did not open for The Association at the Arena that night. However, the James Gang was on a bill with the Youngbloods at the Arena roughly 6 months later, on Friday, Sept. 18, 1970.

And, yes, Joe Walsh, 22, of Kent, Ohio, was busted for possession of marijuana after the Brown County Sheriff’s Department raided his room at the Holiday Inn on Friday, Sept. 18, 1970. He was freed on a $500 bond so the James Gang could begin a month-long tour of the UK three weeks later.

Joe Walsh — thereafter referred to as “Joseph F. Walsh” in the Green Bay paper’s court stories — apparently never returned to Green Bay to face the music.

On Monday, Nov. 2, 1970, Walsh missed his arraignment date. That day, the James Gang was off between shows in Dania, Florida, and Atlanta.

Four days later, on Friday, Nov. 6, 1970, Walsh was arraigned, represented by two attorneys from Milwaukee. That day, the James Gang played two shows at the Westbury Music Fair in Jericho, N.Y.

In late April 1971, Walsh’s lawyers were still arguing their case. Walsh’s case was continued to May 20, but there’s no further mention of it in the Green Bay paper. That day, the James Gang was off between shows in New York and Cincinnati.

Three local college students — a 19-year-old man, a 19-year-old woman and an 18-year-old woman — also were charged with possession in the wake of the bust at the Holiday Inn. Their cases were dismissed.

My guess, having covered the courts in the late ’70s: Either Joe Walsh’s case also was dismissed or the judge simply forfeited Walsh’s $500 bond and called it a day. $500 was a lot of money back then — $3,300 in today’s dollars.

Now, about that Youngbloods/James Gang show. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, it was a …

Weird Night at the Arena

Melanie, the pop-folk singer, was to have been the headliner. She canceled. She was said to have had “a bronchial ailment.”

So the Youngbloods took her place. They rehearsed on stage, then started the show, playing first. “The Youngbloods were plagued by electronic breakdowns, feedback and tuning troubles,” my friend Warren Gerds wrote in the next day’s paper. That, and the Arena’s poor acoustics swallowed up their sound.

Then the James Gang came on stage.

“The James Gang is a head band. Upon finding that out, about 100 listeners headed for the door. Others left in a steady, strong trickle,” Warren wrote. “The James Gang had no problems with acoustics because they overpowered the arena’s echoing traits.”

At the time, the James Gang was still touring behind its 1969 debut LP, “Yer’ Album.” Here’s a cut that “head band” may or may not have played that night in Green Bay, clearing the house on a night when only 500 people came out to a show in a 5,000-seat venue.

“Funk #48,” the James Gang, from “Yer’ Album,” 1969, which I saw while record digging not too long ago. All three band members — Joe Walsh, bass player Tom Kriss and drummer Jim Fox — are credited as co-writers.

This is the only James Gang LP on which Kriss plays. Dale Peters took his place for the next record, “James Gang Rides Again.” On which, of course, “Funk #49” was the first cut.

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Filed under March 2020, Sounds