Tag Archives: 1979

Kind of absurd, but great memories

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Hard to believe that Steve Goodman has been gone 30 years today. Leukemia.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we met at the merch table after a show in Madison, Wisconsin? When he autographed my record to Joe, and not to Jeff? I still smile at that.

No, it’s been 31 years since he opened for fellow folk singer Leo Kottke at the old Madison Civic Center, a show I remember nothing about.

Kinda wondering what people remember of Steve Goodman today.

Probably most know him for the songs he wrote about his beloved Chicago Cubs. If you’ve visited here during the Christmas season, you know his charming live version of “Winter Wonderland” is one of our seasonal faves.

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

I probably was introduced to Steve Goodman’s music in 1976 or 1977 by my friend Pat Houlihan, a folk singer from central Wisconsin who also introduced me to the music of John Prine, who was Goodman’s friend. I liked Goodman and Prine for the same reason. There’s a lot of humor in real life. They saw that, and wrote songs accordingly.

So let’s listen to some Steve Goodman. He wrote or co-wrote all but one song.

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“Men Who Love Women Who Love Men,” an irreverent but perceptive take on sexual identity.

“The One That Got Away,” a duet with Nicolette Larson on a song wistfully remembering life’s missed opportunities.

Both from “High And Outside,” Steve Goodman, 1979. His second-to-last major-label record, on Asylum. Goodman produced it, but the arrangements are almost too lush, too rich for his sometimes-thin voice.

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“You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” a country music spoof co-written with John Prine, and a hit for David Allan Coe. Goodman improvised the final verse to include references to Mama, trains, trucks, prison and getting drunk, which Coe thought every great country song needs.

“City Of New Orleans,” which really launched Goodman’s career when it became a hit for Arlo Guthrie in 1972.

Both from “Artistic Hair,” Steve Goodman, 1983. A wonderful collection of live performances from over a 10-year period. I’m generally not big on live records, but this is really the only way to get the essence of Steve Goodman.

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“Souvenirs,” a duet with John Prine on the familiar song written by Prine and first heard on Prine’s second LP, “Diamonds In The Rough,” from 1972.

“Talk Backwards,” a goofy take full of double-speak.

Both from “Affordable Art,” Steve Goodman, 1984. This was the last record released before Goodman’s death. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Thanks to Clay Eals, Goodman’s biographer, for the 30-year reminder.

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

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Filed under September 2014, Sounds

Stevie Nicks? USC Song Girls? Yes!

Crate diggers do it all the time. Whether it’s an LP or a 45, we’re always looking for fillers. Maybe we need a better copy of a record that’s been loved to death.

Or maybe we buy a record for one cut. This is one such record.

I’ve always liked the title track to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” but never owned it until today. I’ve always dug the USC Trojan Marching Band as the backing group.

Lest my pal JB cop all my material for his radio show, I should mention that this record carried a list price of $15.98 when it was released in the fall of 1979. That’s $50 in today’s dollars. Would you pay $50 for a new double LP today?

I picked it up for $2, just so I could have a nice rip of this at long last.

“Tusk,” Fleetwood Mac, from “Tusk,” 1979.

Part of the appeal of “Tusk” is, shall we say, visual.

In that early video, there was the sight of Fleetwood Mac and that USC marching band recording it live at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Oh, yeah, and Stevie Nicks wearing a sun dress and twirling a baton.

The first video comes from the old “Solid Gold” TV show. It features clips from the “Tusk” video along with the USC marching band in the “Solid Gold” studio. Oh, yeah, and the USC Song Girls also are in the studio to dance for no apparent reason. It’s not clear what the “Solid Gold” audience made of all that.

This behind-the scenes video on the making of the song “Tusk” apparently comes from “Fleetwood Mac: Documentary and Live Concert,” a 1980 release which appears to be out of print. It includes this great exchange:

Stevie Nicks: “Who are we to deserve the USC band to play for us?”

Christine McVie, carrying a glass of wine as they walk across the field: “Stevie, don’t be so humble.”

Stevie Nicks: “Oh, no, but I mean, really, that’s a lot of people playing …”

Oh, yeah, and later, more of Stevie Nicks in that sun dress, twirling that baton.

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Filed under May 2012, Sounds

A little magic from NRBQ

NRBQ was, and is, a cult fave. I know. I went underground to see them.

The news that NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino died on Friday night reminded me of those long-ago gigs in Madison, Wisconsin. It was the mid-1980s. WORT, our local indie, free-form radio station, was playing NRBQ in advance of a show. The message, essentially, was “This stuff is OK, but you really ought to see them live.”

So I went down to Headliners, which was a music club built below street level. Situated next to the Church Key, a cramped bar in an old church, Headliners was more spacious. You probably could squeeze 1,000 people into it. NRBQ drew a nice crowd for a college town, but nothing close to capacity.

My lingering memory is not so much NRBQ’s songs, but its loose, joyous, energetic and irreverent stage presence. NRBQ played tunes from all kinds of genres. They also made the audience part of their show, happily fielding requests.

Some 20 years later, NRBQ played on a side stage at a big outdoor festival here in Green Bay. There might have been 20 people in the audience, tops, but we got the same kind of show I saw at Headliners years before. I found the following about that Green Bay show, posted last year on an NRBQ bulletin board. I don’t know who wrote it, but it’s accurate:

“It was an odd gig since no one in the audience seemed to know who NRBQ was. We talked to the guys after the 1st gig and when Terry (Adams) asked where the audience was, we told him that people seemed to be more into the Beatles cover band playing on another stage. Tommy said ‘Well, maybe we should play more Beatles songs!’ The 2nd night, sure enough, they played 3 Beatles covers … and everyone loved them.”

There aren’t a lot of NRBQ records in the racks behind me. They just don’t measure up to the live shows.

Here, though, is one track that captures a little bit of what NRBQ was like on stage. “Time for the box!” means it’s time to pick something from the Magic Box, which sits on stage and is stuffed with fans’ requests for covers.

“North To Alaska,” NRBQ, from “Kick Me Hard,” 1979. It’s out of print, but a 1989 CD release with extra tracks is available digitally. They’re accompanied by the Whole Wheat Horns — trombone player Donn Adams and sax player Keith Spring — on this cut.

This, of course, is a loosey-goosey cover of the old Johnny Horton song. One of those extra digital tracks is a loosey-goosey cover of “Spinning Wheel.”

Photo: Al Anderson, Tom Ardolino, Terry Adams and Joey Spampinato from the back cover of the “At Yankee Stadium” LP from 1978.

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Filed under January 2012, Sounds

A Christmas wish

In addition to peace on Earth, of course.

Some folks wanted to hear this.

“Christmas In The City Of The Angels,” Johnny Mathis, 1979, Columbia 7-inch 1-11158.

I came across this song about 25 years ago. It was part of a Christmas show I taped off the radio. It was released as Columbia 1-11158, with “The Very First Christmas Day” as the flip side. It’s out of print. I can’t find it available anywhere. Though Mathis has recorded several Christmas albums since the early ’60s, this cut apparently never made it to an album.

Have a great Christmas, everyone!

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Filed under December 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

Seen any good tunes lately?

The news that Gap Band bass player Robert Wilson passed away last weekend, though sad, brought back some sweet memories.

Back in the early ’80s, we more often saw good new music on MTV before hearing it on the radio in our corner of Wisconsin — if we heard it on the radio at all. That’s how we got into the Gap Band.

In their videos, lead singer Charlie Wilson had an engaging presence, seemingly the kind of guy the fellas wanted to hang with and the ladies wanted to get with. His brothers Robert and Ronnie were his sidekicks on MTV, as they were on stage.

The music was fun. It was solid, if not entirely original. Listen to their hits, as I did again this week, and you hear a nick of P-Funk here, a nick of Orleans there. Still, listening to the Gap Band isn’t the same as seeing them, and seeing them again is what summoned those sweet memories.

“Party Train,” anyone?

I could watch that over and over. Actually, I did, back then.

The best thing I read about Robert Wilson was written by Steven Ivory for EURweb. (Go read it. You might be surprised to learn who hired these brothers from Tulsa to be his backing band.)

Ivory cites a less-often-heard Gap Band tune as proof of Robert’s considerable skills. I gave it a listen, and he’s right. On the biggest hits, particularly “Party Train” and “You Dropped A Bomb On Me,” it’s not always clear where the bass ends and the synths begin.

But not on this one. Take it away, Robert …

“Shake,” the Gap Band, from “The Gap Band,” 1979. It’s out of print, but is available digitally.

As Ivory notes, “Shake” borrows from Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1978 cover of “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

And you were wondering how the Gap Band borrowed from Orleans?

“Stay With Me,” the Gap Band, from “Gap Band IV,” 1983. From left, that’s Ronnie, Charlie and Robert Wilson.

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Filed under August 2010, Sounds

That’s the ticket

Just wanted to remind you that we’re moonlighting again over at our other blog, The Midnight Tracker.

It resurfaces at the end of every month, emerging from the haze of time, reviving an old late-night FM radio show on which one side of a new or classic album would be played.

Tonight, we have a short but sweet side from a performer I saw almost 30 years ago, in a time when we imagined ourselves so sophisticated.

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Listen, and you’ll hear that the tunes on “Look Sharp” by Joe Jackson have scarcely aged a day in all that time since.

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“Happy Loving Couples,” Joe Jackson, from “Look Sharp,” 1979.

Check out the rest of Side 2 over at The Midnight Tracker.

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Filed under September 2009, Sounds