Tag Archives: 1976

Still not my (trick-or-treat) bag

At the Green Bay Record Convention on Saturday, one of the record diggers asked whether I had any spooky or eerie music. No, sorry. But I did have a suggestion. So here, adapted from a blog post written 10 years ago, is my take on Halloween and my recommendation for that gent.

Halloween is not my thing.

We always went trick-or-treating when we were kids, but we never had the cool costumes. Our parents raised three boys on a rather modest income, so we would get a mask — usually a popular cartoon character — and that would be about it. Just the way it was.

Masks meant a choice of the lesser of two evils: Wear my glasses under the mask and have the mask not fit properly, or go without my glasses and not see anything clearly. I remember going as Superman because it was easy enough to scare up a cape, and you didn’t need a mask. (And you could take the glasses on and off as needed.)

On Halloween 1970, we were visiting my grandmother, so we had to go trick-or-treating in her town that Saturday night. Grandma lived in an old rental house in a rundown neighborhood hard by the railroad tracks in a small central Wisconsin town. We were kids, so we never really noticed. It was just Grandma’s neighborhood.

My brothers and I — we were 13, 11 and 6 — had covered a couple of blocks when we walked up to a low-slung one-story house with a flat roof and a bunch of junk in the yard. It faced the tracks. We rang the doorbell and shouted “Trick or treat!”

After a short while, the door creaked open and a disheveled middle-aged woman peered out. Startled, it took her a couple of moments to comprehend what we were doing there. I was only 13, but somehow, I knew what was going on. She wasn’t expecting anyone.

The woman didn’t say much — maybe “Oh, my” — and then walked away from the door. Through the screen door, we saw her rummaging around a table. She came back to the door and dropped a couple of pennies into each of our bags.

The woman who wasn’t expecting anyone didn’t have anything to give anyone, either. I suppose we kept on trick-or treating that night, but that was it for me. Done forever.

I’ve always wondered whether the kids in that little town just knew — or were told — not to go down to that house. We were visitors, and kids, and didn’t know any better.

Ever since, Halloween has not been my thing.

However, in the spirit of the season, I will confess …

gomeztish.jpg

— I greatly prefer “The Addams Family” over “The Munsters.” Make of that what you will.

— Horror movies? Also not my thing, though I watched enough of them late at night in the mid-’70s. I had a girlfriend who liked them more than she liked me. The ones I enjoyed most had Vincent Price in them. He was cool, as my friend Andrew explained long ago in one of his lovingly crafted Halloween countdown posts over at Armagideon Time.

— I like “The Cask of Amontillado,” an Edgar Allan Poe story in which a man is plied with wine, then sealed behind a brick wall and left to die. I discovered it in high school. Some 20 years later, in 1995, I also dug the “Homicide: Life on the Streets” episode partly based on that story.

“The Cask of Amontillado” also is one of the cuts on the only album I associate with Halloween. It is, of course, “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” the first album by the Alan Parsons Project. It’s a prog rock concept album based on Poe’s stories.

By the mid-’70s, Parsons was highly regarded for his work as an engineer on albums by the Beatles, Paul McCartney, the Hollies and Pink Floyd. He then became a producer, then created “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” with Eric Woolfson, who pitched him the idea.

More than 200 musicians played on that 1976 album, which was arranged by Andrew Powell.

You know “The Raven” from that album. It wasn’t the single — that was “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” — but it became more widely played, and rightly so.

So, for your Halloween listening pleasure … two treats only. No tricks.

“The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the Alan Parsons Project, from “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” 1976.

(Arthur Brown does the wild vocals on the latter.)

My copy is the original vinyl. I haven’t heard the late ’80s CD version, to which Parsons added readings by Orson Welles and extra synthesizers.

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Filed under October 2017, Sounds

The rest of the story

When last we left you, the kid with the red bag was sharing his finds from last weekend’s Green Bay Record Convention.

One of them was this record, which I’ve had since the ’70s.

j geils bloodshot

“It’s on red vinyl!” the kid with the red bag said.

Ooooh, I thought, wish I’d found that. But then I let it go. It was more fun for the kid with the red bag to have that red vinyl.

Fast forward to today, a week later.

I walk into Rock N’ Roll Land, one of our fine indie record stores in Green Bay. I am scarcely two steps in the door before my friend Todd reaches behind the counter and pulls out a record.

“Here you go! I knew I had a copy” he said, smiling gleefully.

bloodshot my red vinyl

Not only did Todd have a copy, but it was one of the dollar records. It has a bad skip or scratch. Doesn’t matter because I already have a good copy, albeit on black vinyl.

Thanks, man. It’s a fun thing to have, a wonderful gesture and much appreciated.

Proof again that you should visit your local record store on Saturday afternoon. You might find a nice record like this.

j geils blow your face out lp

“(Ain’t Nothing But A) House Party,” J. Geils Band, from “Blow Your Face Out,” 1976, one of the greatest of all live records. Also available digitally. It’s the scorching live version of their cover of The Showstoppers’ 1967 hit, first recorded by the J. Geils Band for “Bloodshot.”

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Filed under March 2016, Sounds

For sweet Meadowlark

One of the great joys of growing up in the ’70s was experiencing the last days of free-form FM radio. Even in central Wisconsin, our local top-40 station turned freaky late at night.

After 10 p.m., the WIFC jocks played anything and everything. There were deep album cuts from David Bowie and Uriah Heep followed by mind-blowing cuts from Gil Scott-Heron and the jazz sax player Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

My introduction to Rahsaan Roland Kirk in 1976 was “Theme For The Eulipions,” which was the first cut from an album called “The Return of the 5,000 Lb. Man.” That noirish tune oozes cool over its 9-plus minutes.

After buying that record at Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin — which was cool enough to stock it — I found a most pleasant surprise.

The album’s second cut is a rollicking cover of “Sweet Georgia Brown” done in a roadhouse style familiar to anyone who knows how the Harlem Globetrotters used the song as their theme.

rahsaanrolandkirk500lbmanlp

“Sweet Georgia Brown,” Rahsaan Roland Kirk, from “The Return of the 5,000 Lb. Man,” 1976. It features Hank Jones on piano and Milt Hinton on bass.

This is for the wonderful Meadowlark Lemon, the Globetrotters star who died Sunday. He was 83.

We watched him countless times on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” By the time I was old enough to take myself to see the Globetrotters in their annual New Year’s Eve game in Milwaukee, Meadowlark had left the team.

Now I kinda wish I’d bought this Meadowlark Lemon funk/soul/disco record when I came across it while digging for records in my friend Jim’s back yard a few years ago. It’s from 1979.

meadowlark lemon my kids

 

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Filed under December 2015, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 2

No requests yet, but the dashboard shows people searching for a certain Philly band’s Christmas music.

So we’ll make that wish come true tonight.

salsoulxmasjolliescd

“Christmas Medley,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976.

This is 12 minutes of soul, salsa and dance bliss, putting together “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Halls,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Jingle Bells,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “The Christmas Song,” “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “The First Noel” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

You need this at your Christmas party. Don’t get too far away from the mistletoe as you get down to this.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

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

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

Don’t be frightened

There are lots of scary things out there these days.

Please feel free to insert the political joke of your choice at this point, but this is not really about that. No, it soon will be Halloween, which isn’t my bag.

If Halloween is your bag, please go visit the lovingly crafted posts by my friends Dane over at All Eyes and Ears and Andrew over at Armagideon Time. They really dig it, and they do a nice job with it. Each will have a full month’s worth of Halloween posts for your trick-or-treat pleasure.

In the unlikely event I want to get into the Halloween frame of mind, I’ll dig out “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” the 1976 debut LP by the Alan Parsons Project. I’ve long loved its musical interpretations of Edgar Allan Poe stories. Perfect mood music for the moment.

“The Raven” is the song everyone remembers from this record, and rightly so. Great song. But did you know “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether” actually was the single?

To get you in the mood for Halloween, here’s another cut off that record.

“The Fall of the House of Usher,” the Alan Parsons Project, from “Tales of Mystery and Imagination,” 1976.

This is a 15-minute instrumental epic, complete with five movements titled “Prelude,” “Arrival,” “Intermezzo,” “Pavane” and “Fall.” It’s the only cut on the record on which arranger and conductor Andrew Powell shares a writing credit with Parsons and executive producer Eric Woolfson.

By the time he teamed up with Parsons for this record, Powell already had worked with Donovan, Leo Sayer, the Hollies, Al Stewart, Humble Pie and John Miles. Powell and Parsons worked together on all the Alan Parsons Project records that followed.

While you’re surfing: You also may wish to wander over to The Midnight Tracker, our other, more lightly traveled blog, for a little bit of click or treat.

Bonus video: Suggested by my friend Larry in the comments. Enjoy “The Raven” by Glass Prism, recorded in 1968 and released in 1969.

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Filed under October 2011, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 12

We were talking the other night about Christmas presents for our son, who’s 15, a sophomore in high school. At issue was whether we have that one big gift, the one with the wow factor.

I was thinking back to when I was 15, what that one big gift was. It was Christmas 1972. That one big gift was this:

That is a suede leather Converse All-Star basketball shoe, gold with black trim. I, too, was a sophomore the year I got a pair. It was a big deal. I’m not sure my parents fully understood the attraction, but they popped for the $15 — almost $75 in today’s dollars — to get them. I wore them until they wore out, then kept them around for years as something close to sandals.

There are other good memories of that one big gift. The Tickle Bee game, G.I. Joe, the Packers helmet and jersey, and, of course, that Panasonic AM-FM radio.

Now we have one big gift for you. More of our favorite Christmas tunes, the ones without which it wouldn’t be Christmas.

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971. A remastered version is available on  “Gimme Some Truth,” a 4-CD compilation released earlier this year.

“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967. (The link is to a double CD also featuring “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron,” their debut album from 1966.)

“Merry Christmas, mein friend!

“Winter Wonderland,” Steve Goodman, from “Artistic Hair,” 1983. I bought this record at his show in Madison, Wisconsin, in April of that year. He signed it “Joe — Hello.”

“It’s kind of absurd/when you don’t know the words/to sing/
walkin’ in a winter wonderland!”

“All I Want for Christmas,” Timbuk3, 1987, from “A Different Kind of Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. Pat MacDonald grew up here in Green Bay and has returned. These days, he performs as pat mAcdonald — he insists on that spelling. His gig notices also say “Timbuk3 (no space!) is to be mentioned in a biographical context only.” So there!

“All I want for Christmas is world peace.”

“Merry Christmas Baby (alternate edit),” Elvis Presley, 1971, from “Reconsider Baby,” 1985. It’s out of print, and pricey if you can find it. It’s my favorite Elvis record, full of his blues tunes. That it’s on blue vinyl is just icing on the cake.

“Wake up, Putt!”

“Twelve Days of Christmas,” Bob and Doug McKenzie, from “Great White North,” 1981.

“OK, so g’day, this is the Christmas part.”

“Santa Claus and his Old Lady,” Cheech and Chong, from Ode single 66021, released December 1971. Also available on “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Cheech and Chong,” a 2-CD best-of compilation released in 2002.

“We could sure use a dude like that right now.”

No great lines, just great tunes

“White Christmas,” the Edwin Hawkins Singers, from “Peace Is ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.” 1972. It’s out of print with that title, but is available as “Edwin Hawkins Singers Christmas,” with essentially the same cover. This has a great solo by Tramaine Davis.

“Christmas Medley,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976. This is 12 minutes of soul, salsa and dance bliss. An instant party starter.

“Halleujah! It’s Christmas,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. Re-released in 2008 as “The Best of .38 Special: The Christmas Collection,” one of those 20th Century Masters reissues. This joyous, upbeat tune — written by guitarists Don Barnes and Danny Chauncey and lead singer Donnie Van Zant — ought to be a classic.

“Feliz Navidad,” Robert Greenidge, from “It’s Christmas, Mon!”, 1995. It’s out of print. Though Greenidge gets no cover billing on this CD, he’s playing the steel pan. He’s been with Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band since 1983. Earlier this year, Greenidge and his bandmates released “A Coral Reefer Christmas” on Buffett’s Mailboat Records label. This tune is not on that record.

“Christmas in the City of the Angels,” Johnny Mathis, from Columbia 1-11158, a 7-inch single, 1979. Though Mathis has recorded several Christmas albums, this cut never made it onto one. People ask for it every year. (This cut has gone from radio to tape to CD, and then ripped, so that may explain the sound quality if you find it lacking.)

Bonus gifts!

Some of our friends have sent along some tunes they thought you’d like.

“Must Have Been A Mighty Day,” Emily Hurd, from “Tins and Pins and Peppermints,” 2010. She’s a singer-songwriter from Chicago by way of Rockford, Ill., where we have a mutual friend. It’s been interesting to listen to her style evolve, moving from loose and gritty to far more poised and polished. This tune has a bit of both styles. She previewed this record for fans last year, then released it this year.

“Cashing In On Christmastime,” Charles Ramsey, 2010. He’s a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia who has some other nice, non-holiday stuff on his MySpace page. This genial, laid-back cut reminds me of Bob Dylan or Tom Petty with the Traveling Wilburys.

“Christmas Medley,” the Midwesterners, 2009. A pleasant little instrumental featuring Richard Wiegel, the guitarist in this band out of Madison, Wisconsin. He was one of the guitarists in Clicker, the much-loved ’70s Wisconsin rock/pop/glam/show band we write about from time to time.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

12 days of Christmas, Day 7

There isn’t much middle ground with “The Little Drummer Boy.” Either you like it, or you don’t.

It was written in 1941 by composer Katherine Davis, who called it “Carol of the Drum.”

It became a Christmas favorite in 1958, when Harry Simeone, a popular arranger for radio, TV and film, did a new version for a 20th Century Fox record, “Sing We Now Of Christmas.” The song, which he called “The Little Drummer Boy,” was sung by a group he called the Harry Simeone Chorale.

He’d been pitched the song by fellow arranger Henry Onorati, who’d done a version a year earlier with the Jack Halloran Singers. The only problem? Dot Records didn’t get that version out in time for Christmas 1957.

The story behind the song — a poor boy who plays his drum as a gift for the baby Jesus — is timeless. All too often, though, you hear covers that lack a sense of adventure. These don’t.

Obscure early ’70s funk/soul: “Little Drummer Boy,” Lenox Avenue, from the Chess 7-inch 2101, 1970. It’s out of print. (Shared last year by Larry over at Funky 16 Corners.)

Late ’70s dance/salsa: “Little Drummer Boy,” the Salsoul Orchestra, from “Christmas Jollies,” 1976.

Late ’80s drum machines: “The Little Drummer Boy,” Alexander O’Neal, from “My Gift To You,” 1988. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

A guaguanco, a style of rumba: “The Little Drummer Boy,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally.

Sweet, trippy sounds: “Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. (Quite the video for it, though!) They released a different version as a single in 1994.

Sweet, reverent sounds: “Little Drummer Boy.” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. Re-released in 2008 as “The Best of .38 Special: The Christmas Collection,” one of those 20th Century Masters reissues. If you seek it digitally, search for that title instead of the original.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2010