Tag Archives: Spinners

Change of seasons

Baseball season is almost over. That used to mean the start of an even more exciting time — basketball season.

Over a roughly 25-year stretch that started in the late ’60s and ended in the early ’90s, basketball was my great passion.

It was the game I hoped to play … until I got cut in seventh grade. It was the game I stayed close to as a team manager in high school … until they hired a coach everyone hated. It was the game I played into my 40s … until my ankles and Achilles said it was time to go.

The lovely Janet also was a basketball fan. We were fortunate enough to see lots of NBA games during the ’80s, when our once-beloved Milwaukee Bucks were good and when we were treated to playoff showdowns against Bird’s Boston Celtics and Dr. J’s Philadelphia 76ers at the old Milwaukee Arena. Do you remember the floor?

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But those days are gone. The NBA is all but unwatchable these days.

Besides, it won’t be long before The Spectrum, where those Sixers played, will be gone, too. We never made it to The Spectrum.

Neither did our friends over at Barely Awake in Frog Pajamas, who nonetheless have written a lovely tribute to The Spectrum. It says everything I could have hoped to say about the place, from pretty much the same vantage points of distance and time.

They also dug up a great picture of Dr. J dunking on Lonnie Shelton. They also laid out some nice Philly soul. Here’s more from Philly.

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“The Rubberband Man,” 1976, from “The Best of the Spinners,” 1978. Philly soul meets the dance floor. A tune that suggests the athleticism of the NBA that was.

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“Cheaper To Keep Her,” MFSB, from “Love is the Message,” 1973. (It’s out of print, but the song is available digitally.) Philly soul meets jazz. A tune that suggests the sophistication of the NBA that was.

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“Never Love Again,” Dusty Springfield, from “A Brand New Me,” 1970. (It’s out of print, but is available digitally.) This is Dusty in Philly, doing tunes written by Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff (and Roland Chambers on this one), arranged by Thom Bell and performed by the studio musicians that became MFSB. An all-star lineup that suggests the NBA that was.

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Filed under November 2009, Sounds

And so our story concludes

Does it seem to you that the ‘70s were a more adventurous time than now? Perhaps it’s just that we were younger then.

Bruce Heikkinen was 17 when he started working in radio at the beginning of that decade. Who does that today?

When he was 24, already a seasoned radio pro after jobs at four stations, the artist formerly known as Bruce Charles headed off to college. He went to the University of Wisconsin-Stout, over in the western part of the state, and worked at the campus radio station.

In 1978, a friend asked Bruce, “Hey, do you want to go to Washington with me?”

“I’ve never seen the Capitol,” Bruce said.

“No,” his friend said. “I’m going to the state of Washington.”

So off they went, leaving college in search of adventure. Bruce had $100 in his pocket. They drove west, found a lady who rented them a place, found jobs and forged new lives.

Having learned that “talking and entertaining people wasn’t work,” Bruce found a new gig that wasn’t work, either. He spent 25 years selling advertising for AT&T and US West. Based in the Seattle area, he “traveled all over the West on a good expense account,” enjoying its benefits at a time when business was booming.

“Have you seen ‘Mad Men’ on AMC? That was us.”

These days, Bruce Heikkinen has moved on to his third career. He runs a small advertising agency in the Seattle area. He still does some voice work. He lives on 20 acres about 25 miles south of Seattle. This is the view from his deck.

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These days, Bruce has a side gig that takes him beyond Mount Rainier, to taverns, saloons and roadhouses all over western Washington.

“About 15 years back, an old wino died at the pub I went to. We had a memorial and I did the eulogy for him, saying some kind words and some thoughts about life and afterlife. It turned out he was a very interesting man, a Navy diver who tried out for the Olympic swim team, had a Purple Heart from World War II and more, a lot of things no one knew or he ever shared with others.

“After that, on occasion, I’m asked to be the MC/Tavern Preacher for wakes in some of the ‘finer establishments’ for the dearly beloved. I’ve found out there’s something interesting about everyone! I try to make that individual look like a saint even though that might not be the case.”

Lest you think our man is getting too pious, remember that he’s from Wisconsin.

“Plus I get free beer!”

Ah, yes, that rock ‘n’ roll spirit is alive and well.

Bruce, would you like to cue up some of your favorite tunes for us?

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“I Got A Line On You,” Spirit, from “The Family That Plays Together,” 1968.

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“What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye, from “What’s Going On,” 1971.

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“I’ll Be Around,” the Spinners, from “The Spinners,” 1972.

Thanks, man, then and now.

6 Comments

Filed under February 2009, Sounds

20/20/20 vision, Part I

One of our local used record sellers had a “spring cleaning tent sale” in his back yard last weekend.

Jim promised “thousands of $1 LPs … under the tents!!” Indeed, Jim had lots of swell stuff.

When I was done rummaging through the boxes in the two tents, I had 20 albums for $20. That’s the raw material for a brief series of posts that begins … now!

Welcome to the first installment of 20 Songs from 20 Albums for $20.

Nothing real deep here. Just enjoy the tunes, coming at you more or less at random, the way I came across all these goodies under the tents.

“You’re the Love of My Life,” the Spinners, from “Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow,” 1977. Out of print. The link is to a CD release with this album and part of another Spinners album, “Labor of Love,” from 1981.

Great opening guitar riff and horn charts on this classic slice of Philly soul.

“When the World’s At Peace,” the O’Jays, from “Back Stabbers,” 1972. The album is out of print, but this tune is available on “The Ultimate O’Jays,” a 2001 CD release.

A nice, nasty bit from the place where Philly funk meets James Brown.

“Always Something There To Remind Me,” R.B. Greaves, from “R.B. Greaves,” 1969.

R.B. covers the great Burt Bacharach-Hal David tune.

“See Saw,” Tom Jones, from “I (Who Have Nothing),” 1970. Out of print, and not on any CD release I can find. However, it is on “This Is Tom Jones,” a 2007 DVD release of some of his classic TV variety shows.

TJ covers a little bit of Memphis soul by Don Covay and Steve Cropper.

More to come! (As soon as I rip them.)

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Filed under May 2008, Sounds