Tag Archives: 2004

Letting go

Record diggers see an LP priced at $2 or $3, and they want to know one thing.

“What kind of shape is it in?”

As I sold records near the back door of the Green Bay Record Convention last Saturday, I often had the same answer.

“Good shape. These are my records. I bought them new in the ’70s and I played them back then, but I haven’t played them for a long time.”

They’d pull the black vinyl from the white plastic sleeve with the gold trim. They’d inspect it.

“This looks pretty nice.”

I took care of my records. But the time has come — it’s past time, really — to let some of them go. As they were paraded past, I was taken back to when and where I bought them. Good memories.

Z.Z. Top’s “Fandango” and “Tejas?” Yep, bought “Fandango” new, probably summer of 1975, and “Tejas” also new, probably as 1976 turned to 1977.

Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog?” Yep, bought that new, also probably summer of 1975.

Blue Oyster Cult’s “Agents of Fortune?” Yep, bought that new in 1976.

Eagles’ “Desperado” and “On the Border?” Yep, bought those new, but probably not until I started digging the Eagles in what I think was the spring of 1976. Pretty sure alcohol and warm weather were involved.

Somewhere in that stack of records at the top, which I sold to my friend Dave K., are the first four George Thorogood LPs, which I bought new from 1978 to 1980. Thorogood was a revelation in 1978. I really dug that sound. But I long ago moved on. Into the show crates those records went.

It also was a day for letting go of some of the records I bought during the early and mid-’80s: John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett, the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Bought all of them new, too.

I once loved all that stuff, but I haven’t listened to any of it for a long time. Those records need to be enjoyed. Hope the folks who bought them will dig them.

Having let go, we move forward.

Like almost everyone else in 1976, I bought “Agents of Fortune” for “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” It’s still a good song. Here’s a cover that sort of conveys how tastes change over 40 years. How you let go of one thing and embrace another.

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” The Beautiful South, from “Golddiggas, Headnodders & Pholk Songs,” 2004.

 

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Filed under March 2017, Sounds

The Monkees, the Beatles and Jesus

The shock wave that followed the news of Davy Jones’ passing last week shook loose this realization: There have always been four Monkees. You thought there always would be four. Now there are three. There will never again be four.

It was the same shock wave that followed the news of John Lennon’s death in 1980. There had always been four Beatles. You thought there always would be four. Then there were three. And then, 21 years later, there were just two.

Davy Jones was the man the Monkees could not lose, just as John Lennon was the man the Beatles could not lose. Davy Jones and John Lennon in the same breath? Absolutely. Going on without them? Unfathomable.

Time proved Davy Jones irreplaceable. Girls who loved the young Davy Jones kept that torch burning for years. Fans — including some remarkable names — kept finding the Monkees’ music fresh and vital decades later.

In his solo shows and on Monkees reunion tours, the 60-something Jones gracefully navigated fans’ expectations as he — and they — grew older. He’d walk out on stage, hear the cheers, smile and announce:

“Hi, I’m Davy’s dad. Davy will be out in a minute.”

Only the most fearless, confident entertainers can pull off a self-deprecating line like that with such ease and charm, immediately winning over an audience not sure what to expect from a man who long ago was a teen heartthrob.

Micky Dolenz is a better singer. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith are better musicians. But Davy Jones was a great entertainer, the straw that stirred the drink, and that’s why it’s impossible to imagine the Monkees without him.

Davy Jones and John Lennon were friends. Lennon enjoyed “The Monkees” TV show and thought the lads to be a bit like the Marx Brothers. High praise.

In a fascinating 2006 interview with a suburban Chicago newspaper, Jones said:

“He was a very big influence on my life, John Lennon, you know?
So were all the Beatles, and Ringo’s a good friend still.”

So when you think of the Monkees and the Beatles, remember their mutual admiration. “There’s talent there,” George Harrison was to have said.

But please, may we set the record straight on one thing? “The Monkees” TV show was not inspired by the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night.”

So says Bob Rafelson, who with Bert Schneider created the show. Rafelson told the Los Angeles Times’ Randy Lewis:

“This was a show I had written six years before the Beatles existed, and the pilot was based on my own life as an itinerant musician when I was 17 years old. What the Beatles did was to create a kind of permission for any rock ‘n’ roll to be a popular subject for television.”

And if the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, as Lennon suggested in 1966, then the Monkees must have been, too. Rafelson explains:

“This was a massive thing, They sold something like 23 million records in 1966 — and that was more than the Beatles, more than the (Rolling) Stones that year. They had more No. 1 hits. I tell this to people now, and they say ‘What are you talking about?'”

Ah, what a time it was. Imagine.

“Paperback Believer,” Mark Vidler (Go Home Productions), 2004, from “This Was Pop (2002-2007),” a free collection of the British producer’s mashups.

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Filed under March 2012, Sounds

Red, white and blue revisited

As we did last year, we’re dishing up some music for your Fourth of July party.

We have some red, some white, some blue, the makings for a fine gathering. However, you still won’t find any Greenwood, if you know what I mean.

Red.

You’ll need a little something to eat and a little something to wash it down.

“Red Beans,” Marcia Ball, from “Blue House,” 1994.

“Red Red Wine,” Neil Diamond, 1967, from “Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits,” 1968. That’s long out of print, but the song is on “Neil Diamond: The Bang Years, 1966-1968,” released earlier this year.

White.

Then you’ll need to chill.

“Ice Cream Man” and “Back Porch Therapy,” Tony Joe White, from “The Heroines,” 2004. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Blue.

Before enjoying a nightcap or two.

“Martini 5-0,” the Blue Hawaiians, from “Sway,” 1998. It’s out of print and apparently not available digitally.

“A Shot of Rhythm and Blues,” Dave Edmunds, from “Subtle As A Flying Mallet,” 1975. Also out of print and not available digitally.

Speaking of shots …

As you the blow the fireworks, be sure to …

“Pop That Thang,” the Isley Brothers, from “Brother, Brother, Brother,” 1972.

And as you reflect on it all …

“People Got To Be Free,” Dionne Warwick, from “Soulful,” 1969. Available on “Soulful Plus,” a 2004 limited-edition release from Rhino Handmade, and digitally.

Yes, people still got to be free, even today.

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Filed under July 2011, Sounds

And so another year ends

This summer marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Loesser, the great songwriter who came up with that holiday favorite, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and the best New Year’s Eve song ever.

I know that because I somehow managed to see “Heart & Soul,” a documentary about Loesser, twice this year on Turner Classic Movies.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has a great story behind it. Loesser wrote it in 1944 for their housewarming party, singing it with his first wife, Lynn Garland. They often performed it for friends at parties. Four years later, he sold the song to MGM. His wife didn’t approve. She’d always thought it was theirs alone, something special.

Well, it was special. MGM used it in the 1949 film “Neptune’s Daughter,” and it became a big hit, released by at least seven duos that year. Often covered since then, it’s a bit of an acquired taste. If breathy, baby-doll vocals are your thing, then you probably like it.

But the most special of Loesser’s tunes — at least at this time of year — is “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.”

Written in 1947, it’s been described as “the only notable jazz standard with a New Year’s Eve theme.” This sophisticated tune tempers an unrequited love with some hope. It’s great no matter who does it. Listen for yourself.

It’s the ’60s. You are in a nightclub, one hard by the tracks. You hear this …

soulxmascd

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (Recorded on Oct. 23, 1968, at Atlantic Studios in New York. That’s Duane Allman on guitar.)

Then you head to a nightclub uptown. You hear this …

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” the Ramsey Lewis Trio,” from “Sound of Christmas,” 1961.

… and this …

steveeydieholidayfeelinglp

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, 1964. (Sorry, Steve sits this one out.)

… and this.

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho,” 1967. It’s out of print.

Years later, a husband-and-wife duo revives that style.

setzerdigcrazyxmascd

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Brian Setzer and Julie Reiten, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2004.

This is for Jeff O. Better late than never, my man.

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Filed under December 2010, Sounds

That ’70s song, Vol. 11

In the third week of March 1970, the song topping many charts was one about faith, one with heavy, freaky, fuzzy guitars. You know the one.

“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum was just about all the church I wanted at the time. Going on a forced march through confirmation was a drag. Skepticism about organized religion may simply come with being in your teens, a time when you start thinking for yourself.

That said, “Spirit in the Sky” may have helped me start thinking independently about religion. It was that tune, and the wave of pop-rock singles that followed in its wake in the early ’70s — among them Ocean’s “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and anything from “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

I’m pretty sure we had the Norman Greenbaum single as kids. After all,  you could be sure it came with parental approval once you explained what it was about. I no longer have that 45, but I do have that tune.

In 1997, the folks at Rhino Special Products put it on a greatest-hits promo CD for Kahlua liqueur. “Spirit in the Sky” apparently qualifies as “’70s Party Music,” next to tunes from Foreigner, Brownsville Station, Foghat, Deep Purple, Joe Walsh, BTO and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Our 15-year-old son recently found that CD and is digging it. “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” was blasting from the stereo in the basement when I went to chase him into bed the other night.

Evan might need an introduction to “Spirit in the Sky,” but you don’t. So here’s a cool cover. I can’t remember where I came across this moody, crunchy version, but thanks to whoever put it out there.

“Spirit in the Sky,” The Upsidedown, from “Trust Electricity,” 2004. It’s the last cut on the debut record from these psych-rockers from Portland, Oregon.

They put out a second record in 2008, are working on a third, played SXSW last week and have gotten some of their songs on TV shows.

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Filed under March 2010, Sounds

What are you doing New Year’s Eve?

That’s the question posed by the great songwriter Frank Loesser, who also wrote another holiday classic — “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

We’ve seen plenty of New Year’s Eves, and we long ago left the crazy parties behind. We’ll leave Amateur Night to the amateurs.

The only time it’ll get anywhere close to wild for us is at midnight, when we’ll stick the fireworks in the snow and fire them off.

Just three questions for you, then.

Do you like your sexy, sophisticated New Year’s tune as a solo by one of America’s great female pop singers, served up in vintage nightclub style?

steveeydieholidayfeelinglp

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Eydie Gorme, from “That Holiday Feeling!” Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, 1964. (Sorry, Steve sits this one out.)

Or as a sexy husband-and-wife duet, paying homage to that style?

setzerdigcrazyxmascd

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Brian Setzer and Julie Reiten, from “Dig That Crazy Christmas,” the Brian Setzer Orchestra, 2004.

Or as a sizzling, sax-driven instrumental with a style all its own?

soulxmascd

“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” King Curtis, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (Recorded on Oct. 23, 1968, at Atlantic Studios in New York. That’s Duane Allman on guitar.)

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Filed under December 2008, Sounds

What came next

Better late than never, I guess, to start digging Al Wilson.

He’s the smooth R&B and soul singer best known for hitting it big with “The Snake” in 1968 and “Show and Tell” in 1973. When Wilson passed away earlier this year, I wrote about how I’d long known those songs but had not known much else about the man behind those songs.

Fortunately, a wonderful record store in Iowa City, Iowa — the appropriately named Record Collector — has helped fill in the blanks. I stopped there on our recent trip to Iowa and found two gems by Al Wilson in the back of the soul and R&B records in the back of the store.

One was a still-sealed copy of Wilson’s 1968 debut release, “Searching for the Dolphins.” That’s the one with “The Snake.” I’d picked up a used copy weeks before, but it was in pretty rough shape.

The other nice find at Record Collector was “Show and Tell,” released in 1973 on Rocky Road Records and distributed by Bell Records. Though used, it was in fine shape.

As was Al Wilson. You know the title tune. What came next on the album was pretty good, too.

The second cut, “I’m Out To Get You,” is an uptempo R&B groove with a terrific horn chart, a smooth bass line and some fine ladies doing the backup vocals.

Al Wilson is pretty laid back himself, confidently assuring a lady they’re going to get together. The arrangement is reminiscent of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” in a couple of quiet places, but when it’s all done, you know a more vigorous Wilson closed the deal.

“I’m Out To Get You,” Al Wilson, from “Show and Tell,” 1973. It’s out of print.

The song is available on “Show & Tell: The Best of Al Wilson,” a 2004 CD release with much of his mid-career material, including the first four cuts from this 1973 album. There’s nothing from his earlier albums released on Soul City Records, though.

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Filed under July 2008, Sounds