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Posts Tagged ‘records’

Where’s That Confounded Bridge?

In 1970s, 1973, British bands, Led Zeppelin, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on August 12, 2016 at 10:22 pm

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Earlier this week, my 20-sided dice told me to listen to Led Zeppelin’s classic 1973 album, Houses of the Holy. I listened to it several times. I will now report my findings.

I have no specific memories of March 1973. Just hazy impressions.

I was in second grade at a smallish Catholic school in southeastern Pennsylvania. Each morning, I’d eat breakfast while I listened to powerhouse AM Philadelphia radio station WFIL on the radio. After I’d leave my house to walk to school, I would turn around at two or three specific spots to wave to Mom, standing inside the front door. Eventually, of course, there was no looking back, and I’d make the short trek to school.

My second grade teacher had a name that to this day I probably wouldn’t be able to spell. I am sure there was a basic second grade routine, but the details are lost to me now. Friday mornings, all the kids from first through eighth grade would walk in two neat rows over to the church for Mass. Our First Holy Communion would be happening in May, so it’s a safe bet that we were practicing for that.

In short, my life in March 1973 was about as different from that of Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert “Don’t Call Me Bob” Plant’s life that year as you can possibly imagine.

In fact, it might sound improbable, but I think I was unaware of the existence of Led Zeppelin in 1973, despite their lofty status as Rock Gods. I certainly liked music, and my tastes were gradually being formed, but no one was guiding me toward the kind of heaviness that Zeppelin represented. I can safely say that I had no idea that Led Zeppelin had released their fifth album, Houses of the Holy, in the spring of my second grade year.

Despite this, Robert Plant and I did share one common interest in 1973: spinning tales of the endless journeys of thousands of adventurers on some kind of mystical quest.

When school ended each day, I would wait for the old man crossing guard to part the traffic on Concord Road and I’d head down the long catwalk back into our neighborhood. As I walked, I’d often gaze at the ground and imagine that it was the terrain for some kind of epic journey being taken by massive groups of explorers or soldiers, facing danger at every turn. On rainy days, water streaming down the street would become mighty rivers on which imaginary sailors took endless, perilous journeys. Some survived, some did not, but the journey/battle/quest went on forever. At least in my mind. Each afternoon on my way home from school, I’d pick up the story where I’d left off the day before.

Though I certainly hadn’t heard the song, I was essentially acting out “No Quarter,” a dark story song from Houses of the Holy. It’s a mysterious song about a shadowy group of (presumably) men who are facing a raging snow storm and the “winds of Thor,” as they walk “side by side with death,” while “the devil mocks their every step.” The point of the march? To “carry news that must get through” and to “build a dream for me and you.”

I don’t know precisely what Plant was getting at with those lyrics, but hearing them now reminds me of those tales I’d make up during those walks home from school so long ago. Tales that existed completely in my head for more than 40 years, until I mentioned them to my wife Donna last night.

Of course, I guess Robert Plant and I both have Homer to thank for putting these kinds of stories in our heads. And in the head of any kid who ever grew up anywhere over the last few millennia.

I missed out on Houses of the Holy in 1973. When I think of the music from March 1973 that might have resonated with me, I find that it’s the soul songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 from late March of that year that feel the most foundational to my musical tastes. In short, the songs by the Spinners, Stylistics, O’Jays and so many more are the ones that I was probably hearing the most those mornings on WFIL, and they’re the ones that sank deep into me. Bands like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd–whose Dark Side of the Moon was also released in March 1973 and whose popularity has arguably eclipsed that of Houses of the Holy–would have to wait for me to catch up to them.

But I did catch up eventually. I’m sure that I had heard all eight songs from Houses of the Holy on rock stations like WMMR by the time drummer John Bonham’s death brought Zeppelin to an untimely end in 1980. I got over my fear of “heavy” music and began to dive into Zeppelin’s albums, first by borrowing them from my high school classmate Dave, and then by buying them one by one for about $5.00 at my local Listening Booth record store.

And so it was that about 10 years after its release, I heard Houses of the Holy for the first time. I don’t remember the first time I listened to it, beginning to end, but I was likely amazed at how I’d already heard every song from the LP on ‘MMR. Houses of the Holy was just that damn important to the burgeoning “classic rock” culture of the early 1980s.

I don’t know that Houses of the Holy was universally acclaimed at the time of its release, but I think it holds up well. It’s a diverse album, ranging from raging Zep stompers like “Dancing Days,” “Over The Hills and Far Away,” and “The Ocean” to the ethereal “The Rain Song,” still one of the most gorgeous songs Plant has ever sung (and dig those mellotron-generated strings!). Plus, you get a goofy reggae tribute, “D’yer Mak’er” and the James Brown parody, “The Crunge,” both rare displays of a Zeppelin sense of humor. Where is that confounded bridge, anyway?

During my college years, I was falling in love with all kinds of new music, but I wound up burrowing deeper into the classic rock canon as well. More than a few times, Houses of the Holy would be the soundtrack to college dorm backgammon matches. Yes, indeed, I knew how to party.

Houses of the Holy and I sometimes spend years apart, but every now and then I rediscover it and listen to it for days or weeks on end. This is what happened after I met an online friend named Tommy back around 2008 or thereabout. He was a big Zeppelin fan, and he reignited my love for Houses of the Holy. I never met Tommy in real life and he is now sadly gone. But I feel his presence, along with the presence of those still here–Rick and Greg from college, Dave and Joe from high school–with whom I’ve shared the mighty Houses of the Holy through the years. And even the presence of seven-year-old me, telling myself the story of “No Quarter,” as I walked home from school, long before I’d ever heard of “No Quarter,” Houses of the Holy, or even Led Zeppelin itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Vinylly Friday! Das Walter Pons Trio!

In 1950s, cocktail music, cover songs, EZ listening music, piano, records, Rich's House of Vinyl on February 13, 2016 at 1:59 pm

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Welcome to the first installment of “It’s Vinylly Friday,” a weekly (?) column in which I delve into a record or set of records that live here at Rich’s House of Vinyl. This week, I invite you to experience the “Zur Cocktailstunde” by the Walter Pons Trio!

I know nearly nothing about the Walter Pons Trio. The Internet gives up a little bit of information–some downloads on Amazon here, a couple of records for sale on eBay there–but not much in the way of biography. If there is a “Behind the Music” documentary on the trio of Walter Pons (piano), Heinz Macher (guitar) and Egon Bayer, I’ve yet to find it. This is not really a problem, as the four 10-inch records in the Zur Cocktailstunde series tell their own story, with just enough history to keep things interesting.

First, the music: we’re talking basic piano trio cocktail covers here, designed to be heard pleasantly in the background as you imbibe. Some of the record sides appear to have been recorded live, providing just the right amount of murmuring lounge ambience, without any overt, intrusive applause.

Donna and I were at Jake’s Flea Market, a gathering place of all manner of odd people and things in Barto, Pennsylvani. I was rifling through some very promising boxes of records that were going cheap when I found the four records shown at the top of this entry.

The covers are what sold us, and why not? Place these beauties together in a nice big square frame and you’ve got yourself a nifty, Poppy work of art. Not that I’ve done that yet, but the possibility lingers.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that all four records were inscribed to somebody named Mr. Chuck Roberts and signed by the inimitable Walter Pons himself:

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While the record above was signed by “Walter Pons + Colleagues” in 1964, the other records were autographed for “Dr. Roberts” back in 1957. And so the story comes together: sometime in the mid-1950s, a Dr. Roberts began to attend cocktail lounges where the Walter Pons Trio was playing. These lounges could have been in Germany, or maybe in the United States. It is, after all, possible that the Pons Trio would have had a following in the U.S.

Whenever the Trio would release a record in their Zur Cocktailstunde series, Dr. Roberts would be sure to buy it, maybe at a merch table in the cocktail lounge lobby. Over the years, Roberts and Pons got to know each other well, so that by 1964, Pons was comfortable addressing Roberts as “Chuck” when signing the record that Roberts bought on March 24 of that year.

Or maybe, the relationship between Pons and Roberts was strictly professional. Maybe Roberts was Pons’ personal physician. As a courtesy, Pons would give Roberts a copy of the Trio’s latest record whenever he visited Dr. Roberts for his annual check-up?

That’s where the mystery comes in, and that is certainly one of the reasons I enjoy finding autographed records; or records on which the owners have written their names or other notes. “Every picture tells a story,” Rod Stewart noted, and every signed/annotated record does as well. It’s up to those of us who experience these records long past their “sell by” date to fill in the story’s details.

Red Crate Records #001-004

In 1970s, 1970s soul, British pop, Curtis Mayfield, record collecting, Red Crate Records, Rich's House of Vinyl on March 1, 2015 at 10:22 pm

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The concept here is relatively simple, so won’t belabor it. However, here is a brief explanation:

I use a pair of 20-sided dice to choose records from my collection to play. Once I listen to them, I place them together in a red crate and eventually make a few mix CDs/playlists from whatever is in the red crate at that time. Starting now, I’m also going to write something about each record. Once I’ve written about four records, I’ll post an entry here.

Here’s the first entry. Red Crate Records #001-004.

Red Crate Record #001:
Music for Cooking with Gas
Harry Fields, His Piano and Orchestra
circa early 1960s

This album was made by the Caloric Corporation, a fine oven manufacturer. The front cover of this LP states “a la carte—music that’s rare and well done!”. I would imagine Music for Cooking with Gas was either given away when Caloric customers bought an oven or were able to buy the album cheap—say for $1.99—at a Caloric showroom. Or both.

No matter what led to its creation, a copy of Music for Cooking with Gas has been hanging around my record collection for years—maybe decades—and I’ve only just listened to it, at least as far as I can remember. Somewhat surprisingly, it’s a pretty good lite piano jazz album. It’s not going to take your brain through all kinds of crazy twists and turns like a Thelonious Monk record. Nor is it going to lead to some introspective place a la Bill Evans. And it brought won’t stir nostalgic Christmas memories the way Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas music does.

But twisty-turny is for Monk, introspection is for Evans and Christmas is for Guaraldi. Harry Fields was simply a very good musician who graduated from Julliard, built up some symphonic bona fides and learned his jazz chops from Art Tatum. Fields ultimately became a piano teacher to the stars—Mickey Rooney! Mae West! Judy Canova! Many more!—in Los Angeles. He may have made other records, but I don’t think recording was necessarily his first priority.

Caloric made Harry Fields a sponsorship offer too good to refuse. Whatever kind of deal went down that lead to Music for Cooking with Gas, the result is a thoroughly entertaining record that’s got some serious music behind it. And, yes, it probably does make an entrancing soundtrack for cooking in your Caloric oven.

Red Crate Record #002:
Bad Axe
Son Seals
1984
Alligator Records

Son Seals is a name I’d probably heard before, maybe via the Saturday Night blues show on WXPN that my father used to listen to, but I had never consciously heard any of his music. At some point in the last few years, this 1984 album fell into my collection. It might have come from one of the boxes of records that my friend Blanko Dave has passed on to me in recent years, though I can’t be 100% sure of that. But I know I didn’t buy this record.

I’m glad to have Bad Axe though. Listening to it for a second time now—the first time being during a dishwashing marathon the other night—I’m enjoying it immensely and thinking about how much Dad would have liked it. He liked a good blues record, and that’s precisely what Bad Axe is.

Generally speaking, I’m not sure if blues recorded in the 1980s has a very good reputation. There might be an assumption that blues from that oversized decade might be too big generic-sounding or too influenced by the rock that it initially inspired to be any good.

But none of that applies to Bad Axe. It is quite simply a solid blues record made by a solid blues guy for a solid blues label in the very solid blues town of Chicago, Illinois. Sure, the song about going back home where women have some meat on their bones might not be politically correct in some universe, but thank God that’s not my universe.

I read up on Son Seals and learned that he had a pretty tough life, though it sounded like he certainly did have some fun along the way. He also uncorked some heavy blues guitar solos, like the one I just heard in “Just About to Lose Your Clown,” along the way. A tough life, but well-lived, hopefully.

Red Crate Record #003:
No Dice
Badfinger
1970
Apple Records

Red Crate Record #004:
Superfly
Curtis Mayfield
1972
Curtom Records

Badfinger’s No Dice and Curtis Mayfield’s soundtrack to the movie Superfly will always be linked together in my mind. As well, they should be: my grandmother introduced me to them, together, back on a Christmas Eve in the mid-1970s. This is that story.

I did not use the aforementioned dice to pick these albums, which is appropriate considering the Badfinger album title. I consciously decided to make go with No Dice because I just bought a copy of the record today. This is the first time I’ve had a copy of No Dice in probably 30+ years.

Let’s say it was Christmas Eve 1973, though it could have been ’74 or ’75. Hell, it possibly could have been ’76, though it certainly wasn’t later than that. Among her presents to me, Grandma gave me two music cassettes (as she would have pronounced the word, CASSettes). One of them was No Dice, the other, Superfly.

I was already into music at the time and must have recently gotten some kind of cassette player/recorder, so cassettes would have been a logical present for Grandma to give me. What I have never understood was her choice of tapes.

I might have heard the big hit from No Dice, “No Matter What,” on the radio, but even if I did, I didn’t know it was performed by a band called Badfinger. No Dice was not something I would have thought to ask for, as it was something that I didn’t even know existed. But when I opened and Superfly, I do remember being suddenly curious, wondering what these tapes would sound like. From a very young age, I remember being open-minded about music and I was very fortunate to have family members who were happy to feed this open mind with excellent tunes.

I don’t know if Grandma made the choices or if she farmed that duty out to one of my young aunts who might have been hip to what I’d like. Maybe one of those aunts already had these tapes and was tired of them, though I’m pretty certain they did come to me new and shrinkwrapped.

However it was that these No Dice and Superfly tapes came to me, I listened to them enough that they left an impression that grew over time. Seeds were planted in the brain. My musical taste was being formed and power pop, as exemplified by “No Matter What,” one of the greatest pop songs ever, was going to part of the firm foundation of that taste. My appreciation for 1970s soul was certainly amplified by Mayfield’s masterful Superfly. Listening to these tapes put me on a road that would lead to many other albums and songs, some of which I’m still discovering. All thanks to Grandma, who may or may not have known who Curtis Mayfield or Badfinger were. Come to think of it though, if Mayfield or Badfinger appeared on the Mike Douglas Show, Grandma would have known about them.

Over the years, both of the cassettes Grandma gave me disappeared, probably at the point when I decided tapes weren’t so cool anymore. Eventually, I found a used vinyl copy of Superfly and I’ve had that LP for decades; I never followed up on No Dice, though in recent years I’ve been wanting to track down a copy.

Finally, at a newly-opened record store nearby called The Vinyl Closet, I bought No Dice on LP. I took in a whole stack of records that I didn’t need any more to get store credit. I came out with six records, a fraction of the number that I walked in with, but I was a happy guy. I finally had No Dice.

As for the music on these albums: wow! Still 40+ years later, “No Matter What” sparkles as a pop song and much of No Dice is nearly as enjoyable. Superfly is still enormous, a gritty slice of ‘70s soul that cuts deep with some serious social commentary that is probably still as relevant today as it was in 1972.

I’m not sure that Grandma French intended to introduce to me one of the first great post-Beatles pop albums and a landmark of ‘70s soul that Christmas Eve so many years ago. Why she picked these two tapes will always be an enigma to me and she’s not here to answer my questions about it anymore. But I think Grandma would be pleased to know that 40 years later, I listened to No Dice and Superfly one evening, loved them both and thought of her.

Thanks, Grandma.

333 Words About 3 + 3

In 1970s, 1973, funk, guitar solos, Isley Brothers, record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock, soul on November 1, 2013 at 2:28 am

The Isley Brothers weren’t midway through their career in 1973, even though they’d been around since the mid-1950s. But they were at the top of their game on that year’s 3 + 3 album.

Hearing this album was a revelation to me. Of course, everyone knows about “Shout” and “Twist and Shout,” as well as “This Old Heart of Mine.” I’m quite partial to “It’s Your Thing,” as well. But 3 + 3 finds the Isleys tapping into the sound and feel of mid-1970s funk and moving the genre along with their own innovations.

The first thing I noticed after listening to the entire album is how it’s pretty evenly divided between excellent Isley compositions and killer cover versions of recent pop hits. The album opens with the insanely catchy hit single, “That Lady,” an Isley original, and the quality never lets up, whether the band is tackling their own songs or those by James Taylor (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”) and the Doobie Brothers (“Listen to the Music”).  And, though Chris Jasper is credited with playing the “clarinet” on several songs, I’m pretty certain that it’s actually a “clavinet” that he is using to distribute liberal dollops of funk throughout the album.

While the entire album is quite enjoyable, 3 + 3 brings it all home toward the end, with the Isley’s magnificent cover of Seals and Crofts’ proto-yacht rock hit, “Summer Breeze.” The Isleys take their time with “Summer Breeze,” letting it develop at a languid pace that at one point, unexpectedly reminds me of British band XTC. I say unexpected because I would have never imagined that XTC would remind me either of the Isley Brothers or Seals and Crofts. One particular verse though, has a musical and lyrical vibe that would feel right at home on XTC’s classic (and languid) album, Skylarking.

All the languidness (languidity?) is clearly leading up to something: an explosive guitar solo by Ernie Isley that starts about four minutes into the song and rides “Summer Breeze” to a glorious conclusion two minutes later.

333 Words About Taj Mahal’s The Real Thing

In 1970s, blues, live albums, record collecting, records, rhythm and blues, Rich's House of Vinyl, soul on October 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

The essential point of this “Rich’s House of Vinyl” blog, aside from giving me a chance to write about music, is that I pick the records out using a pair of 20-sided dice. This suits my geeky side quite nicely, especially since, not be a Dungeons and Dragons kind of geek, I’ve never really had a context to use such dice and now I do.

The dice allow me to pull stuff out of my large record collection that I’ve actually never listened to. This is a good thing, since I don’t collect records just so they can sit around on a shelf (or, at the moment, on my living room floor) gathering dust. I actually want to listen to the things.

The dice were kind to me in presenting Taj Mahal’s early 1970s live album, The Real Thing. I think this record came my way when a friend passed along a box of great albums that had been passed to him from a friend. I had not gotten a chance to listen to but now I have, and I love it.

While I’ve known of Taj Mahal for years, I’ve never actually heard his music. I’ve also known that Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder were in a band together in the early ’60s, which was a good sign that I’d  like him. I’d always imagined that Taj Mahal was a mostly acoustic blues guitarist and singer, but he’s got much more going on than that. On this album, which was recorded live at the Fillmore East, Taj Mahal’s band plays electric guitar, bass and piano, drums, congas and four tubas. And those tubas rock, lemme tell ya. Taj Mahal himself plays a variety of instruments, including the ever-popular six-holed fife.

The result? A live show, rooted in blues but not afraid to take those blues to some exotic, jazzy places. A show that took place more than 40 years ago, but is introducing me to Taj Mahal today. The real thing, indeed.

333 Words About Royal Rappin’s

In 1970s, 1979, disco, funk, gospel, Isaac Hayes, Millie Jackson, record collecting, religion, Rich's House of Vinyl, soul on October 24, 2013 at 4:46 am

On a recent morning, I was sitting in my living room, enjoying Millie Jackson and Isaac Hayes’ 1979 album, Royal Rappin’s, when I heard a knock at the door. I discovered a very young boy and a very old man standing on my porch, anxious to speak to me about God and what He wants/doesn’t want.

As I was greeting my visitors, I realized that Millie and Isaac were in the thick of it, it being their salacious rendition of the rockin’ disco hit, “Do You Wanna Make Love” (sample lyric: “Do you wanna make love/Or do you just want to fool around”). Cleverly intuiting that the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door were not interested in a debate over the pros and cons of making love, I slyly reached over to squelch the volume on my record player, which was conveniently next to the door.  I then listened as the boy preached the gospel to me and asked me if I thought God cared more about money and material things than a loving family. I said no, He probably didn’t, and as the boy agreed, he pointed to the scripture that confirmed our shared belief.

He and the older gentleman then handed me a copy of The Watchtower and asked if they could come back some time to discuss it with me. I did not flat out refuse their suggestion, though I am not sure when that meeting will take place.

As the Witnesses moved on to my neighbor, I returned to Millie and Isaac, who were continuing to discourse on the power of getting it on. Romance and sweet lovemaking are the topics Millie and Isaac preach about on Royal Rappin’s. Opening with the seductive “Sweet Music, Soft Lights and You,” wending their way through Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time,” bumping’n’grinding through the aforementioned “Do You Wanna Make Love,” before climaxing with a cover of the Anne Murray sapfest, “You Needed Me,” it’s all about the love, L-U-V, on Royal Rappin’s.

Sunday Singles! #4

In 45 r.p.m., record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, singles on February 20, 2011 at 12:02 am

Well, I fell off my “Daily Record” bandwagon this week, but I’m going to jump back on the horse this week. So here we go with this week’s “Sunday’s Singles,” the feature in which I listen to a bunch of 45s and write about ’em.

 “Lady Madonna”/”The Inner Light”-The Beatles (1968/peaked #4).
 “Hey Jude”/”Revolution”-The Beatles (1968/”Hey Jude” peaked at #1, while “Revolution” peaked at #12).
 “Let It Be”/”You Know My Name (Look Up My Number)”-The Beatles (1970/peaked at #1).
 “The Long and Winding Road”/”For You Blue”-The Beatles (1970/peaked at #1).
There are many things that can be said (and have probably already been said) about the Beatles, but the one point that I will note here is simply that I think it is a very cool thing to be able to listen to original Beatles singles on vinyl. This is particularly true of the single that closed out my last Sunday Singles entry, “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever,” which was released as a single before it was released in any other format. But it is also true of these tunes as well, which aptly demonstrate the range of late-period Beatles music from the Fats Domino homage, “Lady Madonna” to George’s Indian experiment, “The Inner Light” and his bluesy “For Your Blue,” to Lennon’s rocking treatise, “Revolution” (which features one of my favorite lyrics by anyone ever: “If you go carryin’ pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”) to the McCartney ballads “Let It Be” and “The Long And Winding Road.” They even made time for a comedy/lounge number, “You Know My Name (Look Up My Number).”

37. “One”/”Wing and a Prayer”-Bee Gees (1989/peaked at #7). “One” was the last Top Ten hit for the Bee Gees. It’s OK, not a bad comeback attempt, but not brilliant. Still though, I wouldn’t begrudge the Brothers Gibb their last stay near the top of the charts (one more single, “Alone” reached #28 in 1997).

38. “Fire and Ice”/”Hard to Believe-Pat Benatar (1981/peaked at #17).
39. “Ooh Ooh Song”/”La Cancion Ooh Ooh”-Pat Benatar (1985/peaked at #36).
40. “Legal Tender”/”Moon 83”-B-52’s (1983/did not chart).
Since these three singles all belong to Donna, let’s get her video perspective on them:

41. “Big Country”/”All of Us”-Big Country (1983/peaked at #17). I did not follow the career of Big Country past this, their only Top 40 hit, but this song never fails to remind me of my cousin Dianne who was and remains a fan of the band. I think she saw them in their heyday, but you’d have to confirm that with her.

42. “Calling All Cows”-Elvin Bishop (1975/did not chart). I don’t think this little toe-tapper was enough to entice the cows, but I enjoy it. I have a promotional copy, so both the A and the B side feature “Calling All Cows.”

43. “Fooled Around and Fell In Love”-Elvin Bishop (1976/peaked at #3). This one was far more successful for Elvin Bishop (though Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas sings it) than “Calling All Cows” and I have to say I love “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” very much. Always have. My copy of this is one of those “back-to-back hits” singles with the other side being a hit by another band. We’ll cover that one down the road a bit.

Thanks for tuning in!

Sunday Singles! #2

In 1950s, 1970, 1970s, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 45 r.p.m., country, pop, record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, singles, soul, soundtracks, Sunday Singles! on February 5, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Each weekend I play a few 45 r.p.m. singles and report on them. Here is this week’s report:

“Rose Garden”/”Nothing Between Us”-Lynn Anderson (1970/peaked at #3 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100”). We begin where we left off last week: with country singer Lynn Anderson. The single covered last time was a hit on the country charts, but did not have the massive crossover success of the opening track on this volume, the iconic Joe South tune, “Rose Garden.” The “Rose Garden” single was the first record my wife Donna ever owned.  

“The Hokey Pokey”/”The Bunny Hop”-Ray Anthony (1953/not sure of chart position). What if “The Hokey Pokey” really is what it’s all about?

“Walkin’ My Baby Back Home”/”You Rascal You”/”All of Me”/”Shine”-Louis Armstrong (originally recorded in the 1930s, single is from the ’50s/not sure of chart position). I think Armstrong recorded at least a few of these tunes more than once in his long, historic career, but I’m fairly certain that that these versions were originally recorded in the 1930s and released as 78s, with this 45 being a reissue from the ’50s. I’ve had this 45 since I was a kid and I’ve loved it since then as well. I think there is something about Armstrong that kids just “get.” I remember being entranced and hugely entertained by it then and this evening Jimmy mentioned that he enjoyed hearing these songs as well. Louis Armstrong–the most influential singer (let alone trumpet player) of the 20th century?

“Close (To The Edit)”/”doDONNAdo”-Art of Noise (1984/did not chart). Though it was not a huge hit single, “Close(To The Edit)” did its part to put Art of Noise on the pop music map back in 1984. Noted producer Trevor Horn was involved in this single, which shouldn’t be surprising given its very “busy” sound.

“Kiss”/”E.F.L.”-Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones (1988/peaked at #31 on “Hot 100”). The meeting of Art of Noise, Tom Jones and a killer Prince tune was as inspired and fun as it was inevitable. Tom’s performance of this was a highlight of the TJ concert Donna and I saw one night back in the ’90s. I wonder what Prince thinks of it?

“Solid”/”Solid (dub)”-Ashford & Simpson (1985/peaked at #12 on the “Hot 100”, but also spent three weeks at #1 on R&B chart). “Solid” is, to me, a rarity–a really good, non-rap-influenced, non-disco-influenced 1980s soul tune. Even in 1985, they weren’t making them like this all that much anymore. I saw Ashford & Simpson perform this at Live Aid that year (more on Live Aid in a moment…)

“Deep & Wide & Tall”-Aztec Camera (1987/did not chart).
“Somewhere In My Heart”-Aztec Camera (1988/did not chart). I enjoy both of these uptempo singles, though both are just slightly tinged with that “’80s production” sound that ruined many a good song back in the latter half of that particular decade. I never really looked too deep into the Aztec Camera catalog (love their version of Van Halen’s “Jump” though) but I think I would have enjoyed their work had I dug deeper.

“Cruel Summer”/”Cruel Dub”-Bananarama (1984/peaked at #9 on “Hot 100”). This was the first of three Top Ten hits for Bananarama and probably my favorite. Good frothy fun.

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?”/”Feed The World”-Band Aid (1984/peaked at #13 on the “Hot 100”). Released in late 1984, Band Aid’s record didn’t actually chart until the first week of 1985. This song and USA for Africa’s “We Are The World” were the preludes for the Live Aid concert, held in Philadelphia, London and other cities throughout the world on July 13, 1985. 

“Hazy Shade of Winter”-The Bangles/”She Lost You”-Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1987/peaked at #2 on the “Hot 100”). I’ve always loved the Bangles’ cover of this Simon and Garfunkel song, though I once heard a DJ say she hated it. The b-side is an odd, but appealing little Joan Jett song. Both sides were from the soundtrack of  Less Than Zero, a movie I’ve never seen and have never cared to see based on a book I’ve never read and don’t plan to. Cool soundtrack though.

Thanks for tuning in!

 [Check out the original version of this entry on my Dichotomy of the Dog blog to see a video interview with Donna about the single: http://marimbadog.livejournal.com/248455.html]

Sunday Singles! #1

In 1975, 1980s, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1990s, 45 r.p.m., 45s@45, record collecting, records, singles, Sunday Singles! on January 30, 2011 at 2:57 am

Thanks to everyone who has tuned into this website to check out what I have to say about the Daily Record, a randomly chosen LP or CD chosen each day from my music collection. My analytics team tells me this blog has just had its best week yet!

In the ever-evolving way that this blog is emerging, I had decided that I’d take the weekends off from choosing a Daily Record. I’m sticking by that but I think what I’m going to do instead is to post an entry each weekend called “Sunday Singles!” These entries will be a continuation of a series of entries posted in my Dichotomy of the Dog blog last summer, in which I listen to a selection of 45s from my collection and comment on them, in alphabetical order by artist. This project was originally called 45s on 45 but since I’m clearly not going to be done listening by my 46th birthday, I’m going to change the name.

Anyway, here’s my first Sunday Singles entry, with the introduction from my original blog entry last June included:

Sunday Singles! #1 (Formerly 45s@45)

The day I turned 45 last week, I listened to Elvis Costello’s song “45” several times. It is a very clever and rockin’ song that plays on various meanings of the number 45: the year World War II ended, the number of revolutions per minute that a seven-inch vinyl single makes around a turntable, the songwriter’s 45th birthday, etc.

Listening to this song got me to thinking that I ought to listen to some 45s during this, my 45th year. Then my friend Steve and my nephew Mike both left 45-rpm single-related birthday messages on my Facebook page and I knew what I had to do.

So, basically, I’m going to try to listen to a 45 (a- and b-sides) everyday while I’m 45. Once a week, I’ll tell you about them. Here are my first seven:

1. “The Look of Love (Part One)”/”Theme from Mantrap”-ABC (1982, peaked at #18/Top 40).
2. “Poison Arrow”/”Tears Are Not Enough”-ABC (1983, peaked at #25/Top 40).
3. “Be Near Me”/”A to Z”-ABC (1985, peaked at #9/Top 40).
These singles represent the first three out of five Top 40 hits that British “new romantic” band ABC had in the United States. The first, “The Look of Love (Part One)” features a delightfully self-pitying spoken word bit toward the end. The b-side of that single has the intriguing title, “Theme from Mantrap.” It doesn’t sound promising at first until the lyrics kick in and you realize that “Theme from Mantrap” is actually a noirish, piano ballad version of the second hit, “Poison Arrow.” I guess having a poison arrow helps you to trap a man, or something like that.

“Be Near Me” is my favorite of these three ABC hits, though I like their biggest hit, 1987’s “When Smokey Sings” (which I don’t have on a single but it hit #5 on the Top 40) quite a bit as well.

4. “Opposites Attact”/”One or the Other”-Paula Abdul (1990, peaked at #1/Top 40). “Opposites Attract,” the huge hit here is actually a duet with the Wild Pair, although in the video I believe it was a duet with MC Skat Cat or something like that.

The week I graduated college in 1988, I had this idea that I was going to start collecting all the singles that made the Top 40. Nifty idea, aside from the fact that:
a) the era of the late 1980s-early 1990s is arguably the worst time for Top 40 hits ever; and
b) the recording industry began to phase out seven-inch vinyl singles around 1990 in favor of the dreaded “cassingle.”

So, essentially I amassed a bunch of junk by the likes of New Kids on the Block, Milli Vanilli, Sweet Sensation and others before my project ground to a halt.

This means, of course, that once upon a time I owned all the smash hits from Paula Abdul’s debut album on single. The only one I still have is “Opposites Attract,” which I think I kept because I like the overly busy production of the b-side, “One or the Other.”

5. “Action News Theme [“As Heard on WFIL TV, Phila. Pa”]. this is a one-sided single that contains a 1960s or ’70s variation on the same theme song that you can still hear on Action News. Without the inane lyrics about moving closer to your world my friend so you’ll see all the gory wretchedness of human splayed out before you in convenient 30-second bits. That’s not exactly how the lyrics go.

6. “This Time”/”Fits Ya Good”-Bryan Adams (1983, peaked at #24/Top 40). I am not a fan of Bryan Adams and neither is Donna but, back in the day, she liked “This Time’, so she bought the single. Oddly enough, if I had to pick a favorite Bryan Adams song, I’d pick “This Time.” Donna and I are simpatico like that.

7. “General Hospi-Tale”/”General Hospi-Tale (instrumental)”-The Afternoon Delights (1981, peaked at #33/Top 40). This song ruled the lower reaches of the Top 40 for five weeks in the early autumn of 1981. I certainly remember it, whether I want to or not, but it occurs to me that maybe “General Hospi-tale” has fallen through the early ’80s nostalgia cracks to the point where some of you young’uns may not have heard it.

8. “Take On Me”/”Love Is Reason”-a-ha (1985, peaked at #1/Top 40). While it would be easy to attribute the overwhelming success of “Take On Me” to the innovative video that accompanied it, the fact is that “Take On Me” is one of the best, most sparkly pop songs of the ’80s. “Love Is Reason” isn’t nearly as good.

9. “Rain in the Summertime”/”Rose Beyond the Wall”-The Alarm (1987, did not chart). I never paid any attention to The Alarm, other than “Rain in the Summertime,” which I absolutely love. If I remember this correctly, I think some serious Alarm fans might have screamed “Sellout!” when this single was released, but I liked the song then and I like it now. Sadly, “Rain in the Summertime” did not crack the Top 40. The B-side, “Rose Beyond the Wall,” is sincere and earnest and kind of boring.

10. “Feelings”/”This World Today Is a Mess”-Morris Albert (1975, #6). This song was pretty damn ubiquitous in 1975, which is why it is surprising to me that it peaked at #6. I would have thought it had gone higher. In any event, I’m going to do something odd here: I’m going to defend “Feelings.” For what it is, I think “Feelings” is a decent tune and I like it better than the more uptempo B-side.

Here are two bits of trivia about “Feelings”: A) Morris Albert is from Brazil; and B) One of the lyrics in the Was (Not Was) song, “The Party Broke Up” (from their utterly brilliant Born to Laugh at Tornadoes album) is: “The singer just kept singing ‘Feelings’.” Marshall Crenshaw sings the word “Feelings” in that line. It’s the only word he sings in the entire song.

11. “Our House Is Not a Home (If It’s Never Been Loved In)”/”Wave Bye Bye to the Man”-Lynn Anderson (1969, peaked at #18 on the Billboard Top 40 Country Chart). A pre-“Rose Garden” single by Anderson, this was on the Chart Records label. Both the a- and b-sides are great country tunes. I don’t know where I picked this record up, but it was probably because of the unique label, which I will scan and include here when I get the chance. As much as I like the songs, both sides are essentially unplayable, scratched up almost beyond recognition. I like to think this is because this record got lots of action in some honky tonk jukebox, but who knows?

Daily Record 1/26/11: Parallel Lines-Blondie (1978)

In 1970s, 1978, Blondie, new wave, pop, record collecting, records, Rich's House of Vinyl, rock on January 26, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Sometimes the facts get in the way of a good story. So what does one do? Go with the facts or the good story?

Such is the case when it comes to my memories of how I first acquired Blondie’s 1978 album, Parallel Lines.

First, some words about Parallel Lines. Blondie’s third album, Parallel Lines was released in September 1978 and was the band’s big breakthrough. It generated two Top 40 hits in the United States, including the #1 smash “Heart of Glass,” and numerous other songs were hit singles throughout the world. Parallel Lines established Blondie as a leading new wavin’, pop rockin’, smash hit single producin’ juggernaut, at least for a few years, after which the band imploded.

Parallel Lines is seriously high on my list of all-time favorite albums; has just about the greatest opening album 1-2-3 punch I can think of (“Hanging On  The telephone,” “One Way Or Another,” “Picture This”); and had an enormous effect on me as a 13/14-year music listener/human being; Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry, wearing that little white dress and a “don’t mess with me” look on the cover of the album, had a surreptitious but undeniable effect on me as a 13/14-year-old boy going through all those “special changes” that start happening around that age (but more on that if some of the other Blondie albums turn up in this Daily Records project).

Bottom line: more than 30 years after its release, I still find Parallel Lines to be an enormously entertaining album. Blondie’s masterwork (and that of producer Mike Chapman) doesn’t sound dated to me at all, but I suppose the older one gets, the less one should trust one’s instincts about whether something sounds dated or not. I suppose to my kids, Parallel Lines probably sounds like a dusty nostalgia trip. After all, for Jimmy, who is now the age I was when the album was released (13), listening to Parallel Lines is akin to the 1978 version of me listening to a record made in 1946. Yikes.

All of this leads to the day I bought Parallel Lines. Here is what I remember, followed by what actually happened:

One day in the spring of 1979, my friends Denise, Tomi and I caught a bus to Granite Run Mall. I’m not sure of the logistics of this, since we all lived in different areas: whether we prearranged to meet on the bus, whether we met at the mall, whether there was parental transportation that I’ve long since forgotten.

In any case, once we were at the mall, it’s a good bet that Chick Fil-A sandwiches and maybe even an Orange Julius were consumed. We stopped at Listening Booth and, while there, I made the bold decision to risk some of my paperboy money on this Parallel Lines album, from which I heard the songs “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another” on the radio. This was new, kind of unexpected music for me: while I could grasp the disco-y nature of “Heart of Glass,” there was an edginess to “One Way or Another” that fascinated me, particularly since the tune was sung by this wickedly fierce-looking woman wearing the aforementioned ice-cold stare and little white dress on the album’s cover. I bought the album.

Later, after making my Parallel Lines purchase, Denise, Tomi and I went to Things Remembered, where we all bought engraved I.D. bracelets. 

However, the mostly nondescript diary I kept in 1979 tells a different story and illustrates how I’m beginning to transpose and scramble memories as I get older. Here is my complete diary entry (misspelling intact) from March 24, 1979:

“Really bad bowling. Went to the mall with Deniece and Tomi and got Bootleg and I.D. bracelet.”

So, we see that most of the details are correct, with one crucial error: Parallel Lines is not mentioned, because I didn’t buy it that day. “Bootleg” refers to Aerosmith’s album Live: Bootleg!, which is the record I bought that day.

So if I chose the bad boys from Boston over Blondie on the day of the Things Remembered I.D. bracelet purchase, when did I buy Parallel Lines? Again, I turned to my diary for an entry from July 7, 1979:

“Went to Granite Run Mall with Deneice and Tomi. Got Lisa a Sgt. Pepper shirt and got myself Blondie’s Parallel Lines.”

[Note: the Sgt. Pepper shirt would have been tied into the Frampton/Bee Gees movie, not the actual Beatles album.]

Mystery solved, though I like the version better in which my girl friends and I buy I.D. braclets from Things Remembered on the same day that I bought Parallel Lines.

Finally, I should note that on that day when I bought Parallel Lines, my family was living at my grandmother’s house in Upland. Not long after my eighth grade graduation, my family moved out of the house in which I’d grown up in Aston, but the new house in Boothwyn wasn’t finished yet. We spent the summer of ’79 in transit, first at Grandma’s, then at Uncle Ed and Aunt Mary Jo’s place. I was feeling a little dislocated, but I do remember those first few listens to Parallel Lines at Grandma’s house, thinking how cool the album was and, by extension, how cool I was for listening to an album that was so cool.

Ending grade school and moving from the only neighborhood I’d ever known, I was leaving much of my childhood behind. But the day I bought Parallel Lines, a record unlike any I’d bought before, I found something new and different that I could bring along with me into whatever my new life was going to hold.

Parallel Lines and the adolescent version of me turned out to be a good match.