Everyone is missing someone today, on Thanksgiving.
Savor those memories.
Make new memories.
Enjoy the day!
“Be Thankful For What You Got,” William DeVaughn, from “Be Thankful For What You Got,” 1974. The LP on the Roxbury label is long out of print.
William DeVaughn had much to be thankful for.
He was a government employee, a draftsman who sang on the side. He wrote this in 1972. Its original title: “A Cadillac Don’t Come Easy.”
DeVaughn paid $900 to have his song recorded at a Philadelphia studio called Omega Sound. One of his producers, John Davis, was a session player with MFSB, the house band at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios. Davis and co-producer Frank Fioravanti came up with a more sophisticated arrangement — the one heard here — and recorded it with members of MFSB at Sigma Sound.
Much of the month that’s passed since our last post has been spent moving my 89-year-old father into assisted living.
A big part of that has been dealing with things he accumulated — and for whatever reason — held onto. He wasn’t a hoarder, but it still was too much stuff, some of it kept for no apparent reason. Chalk it up to the mindset of someone who grew up during the Great Depression.
Everyone collects stuff. I’ve collected baseball cards and football cards and basketball cards, Batman cards and Green Hornet cards and James Bond 007 cards, Beatles cards and Monkees cards, comic books, coins and old pop bottles. I collected bobbleheads long before that became a thing. I don’t collect any of those things anymore.
Of course, I still collect records, as I have for more than 40 years.
Having dealt with all my dad’s things, I wonder whether I have too much stuff. I have about 1,200 vinyl records, the vast majority of them LPs. There must be at least 100 records I’ve bought but never listened to. Is that a bad thing? Does that happen to other record diggers?
All those records bought but never heard, set aside for a day when I have more time, a day that never seems to come.
But I did sit down pretty much right away and listen to the Ike and Tina record I bought last month at Tin Dog Records. When Don Covay died at the end of January, I pulled out the only Don Covay record I have — bought it at least a couple of years ago — and listened to it for the first time. About the same time, I pulled out a Booker T. and the M.G.’s record I bought in Chicago last summer and listened to it for the first time.
I know this because I ripped all three of these records to digital.
As I did when I found the “Hell Up In Harlem” soundtrack back in January.
But as I listened to that record, I discovered it was missing the last cut on Side 1. A record about 2:43 shy of a load. Typical Motown bull to leave it off the reissue pressing. I mentioned it on Facebook, and my man Greg in Minnesota came to the rescue.
So please enjoy a song I don’t have from a record I do have.
Goodbye, indeed. It probably went out in the Great Record Purge of 1989.
That year, some friends were having a big rummage sale. We sent over a bunch of stuff, including a bunch of records I’d bought in my teens and 20s that I wasn’t listening to in my early 30s. After collecting records for almost 20 years — hell, simply after growing up — your tastes change.
On record digs, I still come across some of those records. “Yeah, I used to have that one,” I think to myself. But there are few regrets. Certainly no regrets for dumping any and all Ted Nugent records. Nor for any Styx record released after 1974. Nor those Hot Tuna records. Nor those Starcastle records. Nor, really, even a Rolling Stones record considered to be one of their best.
I didn’t go to the rummage sale, but I vividly remember the lovely Janet telling me that more than one person had dug through the vinyl and said “Hey, there are some good records in here.”
For 40 years, it’s been debated what, exactly, Jack Bruce did on this fierce, fuzzed-out instrumental jam with Zappa and drummer Jim Gordon.
Did Bruce — then just six years moved on from Cream — play bass, as the liner notes and Zappa himself insisted? Or did he play cello, as Bruce tried to tell an interviewer almost 20 years later? All the evidence points to bass, and Bruce listed “Apostrophe” among his “special appearances” on his website.
AM, Then FM turns 7 this week. To celebrate, a story of a long-ago record hunt.
Those of you who are regulars know how much I dig Bob Seger’s early stuff. The first Seger song I came to know and love, I heard on the radio in 1974. That single was “Get Out Of Denver,” the breathless rocker from “Seven,” the seventh LP by a still-young Seger.
Just one problem. Because Seger was then still just a regional act, big only in the Midwest, the distribution of his records was hit or miss. Try as I might, I couldn’t find “Seven” in my hometown of Wausau, Wisconsin.
So I mentioned that to my friend Herb one day. Herb was two years older, and he promised to look for “Seven” when he went back to college in the fall.
There was one condition, though. Herb also couldn’t find a record he wanted in Wausau. If memory serves, he was looking for this one …
“First Base,” by the British prog rockers Babe Ruth. They covered Frank Zappa’s “King Kong” on it, and Herb was into Zappa.
So Herb said, “Tell you what. I’ll keep an eye out for your record and you keep an eye out for mine.”
Eventually, I found Herb’s record, and Herb found mine. My copy of “Seven” came out of a cutout bin, probably from somewhere in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Scott Sparling, whose website The Seger File is a tremendous resource about all things Seger, calls this “indisputably the best album never to make the Top 200 Billboard album chart.” This was Seger’s first record with the Silver Bullet Band. They opened for Kiss while touring in support of “Seven.”
You probably know “Get Out Of Denver,” so here are a couple of other cuts from “Seven,” as we celebrate seven years.
“Need Ya” and “School Teacher,” Bob Seger, from “Seven,” 1974.
The LP, and these songs, are out of print. Three of the other cuts on “Seven” — “Get Out Of Denver,” “Long Song Comin'” and “U.M.C. (Upper Middle Class)” — are available on “Early Seger, Vol. 1,” a 2010 release, and digitally.
“Need Ya” was the first single off the album, but went nowhere. Sounds to me to be influenced by Rod Stewart, and Sparling hears that, too. “Get Out Of Denver” came next and peaked at No. 80.
Sparling says the live version of “School Teacher” is a bit of a holy grail for Seger fans. He explains:
“Seger had a ‘long version’ of ‘School Teacher,’ which contained a long story
— told during the instrumental break — about working as a janitor
and watching a very sexy teacher walk home from work.
If there is a God of Boxed Sets … please, please Lord,
let the long, live version appear. It’s a classic.”
As the summer of 1974 wound to a close, “School Teacher” was an album cut listed as “hitbound” on WTAC, The Big 6, out of Flint, Michigan. It never made it.
“It’s 2014 and advertisers and movie producers are STILL using this goddamn song as a punchline. When you hear ‘You Sexy Thing,’ you know that you are about to see something unsexy on the screen because IRONY.”
True. We offer the Chevy Silverado ad as evidence.
“There are billions of songs out in the universe and yet ‘You Sexy Thing’ and ‘I Feel Good’ and ‘Spirit in the Sky’ get used over and over and over again. They need to be formally retired. They need to create a Song Nursing Home where “You Sexy Thing” can go and wither. Because it’s the worst.
It wasn’t even good to begin with.”
There, sir, we must disagree. So we gather here in defense of “You Sexy Thing.”
More specifically, we gather here to celebrate Hot Chocolate, the multiracial group that cranked out a string of memorably moody — yet kinda cool — pop-soul-dance songs in the ’70s and sent them across the pond from England.
Singer Errol Brown and bass player Tony Wilson wrote many of their great songs. Figures. A bass player writing all those great bass lines heard during the disco era. They were produced by British legend Mickie Most, who put them on his RAK label in the UK.
I don’t often come across Hot Chocolate records while digging. I have only two, and I don’t have the LP with “You Sexy Thing.”
“Cicero Park,” an album full of hypnotic, menacing songs, is one of mine.
You know two of the more disquieting cuts off that LP: “Emma,” which ends with a suicide, and the original version of “Brother Louie,” about an interracial love affair. You may even know a third. “Disco Queen” shoots down any gent’s hopes in the first line: “She don’t need no man to give her satisfaction. … Music is her lover. Music turns her on and on.” And yes, kids, there were women like that in the dance floors of the mid-70s.
Most memorable after all these years, though, is the title cut. We often heard it, a gloomy take on a doomed neighborhood, after our local Top 40 FM radio gave way to free-form programming after 10 p.m. It’s the kind of thing Norman Whitfield could have produced.
“Cicero Park,” Hot Chocolate, from “Cicero Park,” 1974. It’s the group’s first studio LP, and is out of print, but is available digitally.
One of the first LPs I ever had. Also my introduction to world music. Also for my friend Glick, who has been digging music with me for 40 years.
“Molina,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, from “Pendulum,” 1970.
I once really dug the “Green River” and “Cosmo’s Factory” LPs. “Pendulum” not so much, but this is a good song. I like the sax. Creedence was one of my faves when I was in my teens and 20s, but I’ve found them almost unlistenable since John Fogerty released “Centerfield” in the mid-’80s. I didn’t like that record and it somehow soured me on Creedence.
Not long after starting this blog, I wrote a Complete Idiot’s Guide to the J. Geils Band for the blog that eventually became Popdose. I’m qualified because I have all 14 J. Geils Band LPs. Idiot completist. As I listened to all 14, this struck me as one of their best records. I almost picked “Gettin’ Out,” a keyboard-driven rave-up with a bunch of showy solos, but went instead with this slow groover. It has sort of a Latin beat and features Jay Geils on mandolin and Seth Justman on piano and that slinky organ.
“Theme From ‘Enter The Dragon’,” Dennis Coffey, from “Instant Coffey,” 1974. (The LP out of print but the song is available digitally.)
Detroit guitar legend Dennis Coffey is one of the artists I’ve rediscovered since starting this blog. I have a bunch of his records now.
“The Blacker The Berrie,” the Isley Brothers, from “The Brothers: Isley,” 1969. (The LP is out of print. The song isn’t available digitally that I can find.)
Likewise the Isleys, who I somehow knew almost nothing about before starting AM, Then FM. I have a bunch of their records now, too. This cut also is known as “Black Berries.”
They were older guys who liked hassling younger kids for no apparent reason. Bullies, I guess.
You really couldn’t complain about them. To whom? Their parents? No way. Your parents? They’d just tell you to stay away from the guy. You just had to get a little tougher and perhaps a little smarter.
Maybe all they wanted to do was get into your head. If so, they succeeded. They’re still in there, four of them, 40 years on.
Two of these guys were bad news from the neighborhood. Hot-headed, unpredictable “stay off my property” types. The other two were from school. One of them stole my wallet. The other guy walked up to me one day, eyed up the star on my sweatshirt and punched me right smack in the middle of the chest.
You just never know what’s going on with someone, what’s in their head, what’s going on at home. So I took my parents’ advice and steered clear of those guys. Eventually, everyone went on with their lives.
Yet quite by happenstance, I know the rest of the story for all four of those guys.
The cat who punched me in the chest turned out to be a real nice guy. He’s dead.
The neighborhood guys turned out to be blue-collar workers and good family men. They’re dead, too. One of them, just the other day.
The guy who stole my wallet is the only one left, as far as I know. Which is about the nicest thing that can be said about him. This gent has lots of experience with the Wisconsin court system.
You wouldn’t have wished any of that on any of them in a million years.
“Title Theme (from ‘Three Tough Guys’),” Isaac Hayes, from “Tough Guys,” 1974. It’s out of print as such, but is available on this double CD with the soundtracks from “Three Tough Guys” and “Truck Turner,” a pair of 1974 films starring Hayes and featuring music by him. Also available digitally.
I don’t have this record. My copy of “Title Theme” came off the Oxford American 10th anniversary music sampler, which was a 2-CD set released in 2008 featuring music by Southern artists. This is from the Past Masters CD.
RT @CharlesPPierce: Singing along to William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful For What You Got" w/my Honduran barber is the most American thing that… 5 days ago
About the music
These are mp3s from my collection, taken from vinyl whenever possible. Enjoy. They are intended to encourage you to get out to the music stores, real or virtual, or out to support live music.
If you hold the copyright to something posted here, and you don't want it posted, please e-mail me at jeffash at new dot rr dot com and I'll remove it. Then again, who else is exposing your music to a new audience today?
About the words
The text is copyright 2007-2017, Jeff Ash. Text from other sources, when excerpted, is credited.