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I don’t hear a single.

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It looks like I’ve finally made my Satanic Majesties Request, or maybe my Self Portrait — the album that makes people shake their heads and say, “He’s lost the plot.”

My latest Bandcamp effort, The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower, has stalled out with fewer downloads — and, I think, fewer listens — than any of its three predecessors.

Apparently, fire sirens and machine-translated French lyrics just ain’t what the music-loving public wants in the year 2015.

(Give it time, I say. By the year — oh, let’s say 2037 — I will be regarded as a genius, ahead of my time in my ambitious fusion of otherwise unrelated elements.)

Bandcamp’s inscrutable popularity rankings currently list The Midnight Loneliness as the eighth-most-popular recording with the tag “Allentown.”

Which says little, really, except that the music-listening public doesn’t seem to like recordings tagged “Allentown” any more than it does fire sirens.

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The Midnight Loneliness is also currently the 80th-most-popular Bandcamp recording with the tag “french.” I can only assume that sound I hear is Vercingetorix weeping from beyond the grave.

The good news? Well, you won’t get to listen ’til late in the year, but I’m already working on tracks for a second recording of atonal diddley-bow solos.

Yeah, next time around I’m gonna give the people what they want.

Just in time for spring.

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Anybody wanna buy a ballpark?

Assuming this is real, and it seems like it is, online bids are being accepted for a 4,000-seat independent-league ballpark in the Rockford, Illinois, area.

Looks like a cute little place — I dig that saucy little indentation down the right-field line.

There’s no shortage of parking, nor of advertisers.

And the opening bid is just $1.5 million, as compared to a previous valuation of $8 million! What a deal. (Perhaps the basement is wet or the neighbors are loud, or something.)

I probably wouldn’t ordinarily care about this … but because of the cold and snowy winter, two whole weekends of college baseball have been washed out here in the Lehigh Valley, and I’m yet to see a live pitch this spring. It *looks* like that will finally happen this weekend, but that’s not guaranteed either.

So maybe I’m a little eager when it comes to baseball.

Anyway, I’m gonna go look between the cushions. I’ve got until April 2 to come up with that $1.5 million.

The sunflower.

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Today’s post, in two-part summary:

1.) I do not speak French.

2.) I invite you to hear and enjoy my new album, The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower, which was recorded entirely in French.

# # # # #

A little more context, perhaps.

Over the past year-plus I have been confronted by a gradual slipping of my communications skills. This is a concern, as these skills are at the heart of both my job and my leisure hobbies.

- I don’t think my writing and other communication at work is as sharp as it used to be. It still gets the job done, but not very imaginatively.

- My inspiration for this blog and my other blog has very much dwindled. I don’t write for fun nearly as often as I used to, and when I do, I don’t do it well. (I have continued to write the other blog on a weekly basis, but only because that’s the pace I promised the readers … and in any event, that blog’s going bye-bye in a few weeks.)

- I feel less and less interested in sharing my opinions on anything with the world. I am not culturally deep enough to have much of interest to say; my perspective is lacking. Plus, no one gives a damn, really.

- I find that my ability to remember words and facts is not what it used to be. I can’t always find stuff on the tip of my tongue. (It’s not sliding enough to make me worry. And in some ways it might be healthy: I’m consciously trying not to be a know-it-all any more. Still, I find it mildly frustrating, and at times it poses a minor block to my ability to communicate.)

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Faced with these assembled setbacks, the idea of recording an album in a language I do not speak seemed oddly appropriate, appealing and potentially therapeutic.

It summoned new kinds of inspiration, while allowing me to throw conventional forms of inspiration out the window. It took hold of my imagination and lifted my spirits, which in and of itself was worth the effort.

The original idea was for a group of lulling, lilting bossa nova tunes with lyrics whispered in French — a language I took a quarter-century ago, vaguely remember, but have never used.

Real bossa nova guitar requires chops I can only dream of. So the project mutated. Some of it is Latin-influenced; some of it is not.

Midway through the project, I also decided to spice up the gentler acoustic tunes with a brassy layer of fire alarm. These alternative presentations appear at the end of The Midnight Loneliness, and I hope my listeners will enjoy them as much as, if not more than, the originals.

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I recognize that The Midnight Loneliness will not be amusing to anyone who actually speaks French. They will find any number of mispronunciations, not to mention lines where Google Translate — yup — handed me phrasings no real speaker of the language would use.

I am not bothered, and I hope they can find a way around their expectations and not be bothered either.

It was not my goal to pass for an authentic French speaker (or lyricist). If I had wanted that, I would have taken the necessary steps to pursue it, like taking a refresher course in the language and finding a more trustworthy translator.

Being an amateur, with all that entails, was more fun — and much more in tune with the curious spark that led to this recording in the first place.

The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower, like my earlier recordings, is available as a free Bandcamp download. The lyrics, in French and English, can be read on the home page if you want to know what’s (more or less) going on.

So check it out. Consider downloading it, even. That’ll make me happy, and downloading doesn’t obligate you to actually listen.

(I thought about offering a prize to anyone who emails me a screenshot showing a Midnight Loneliness track playing on their iPod, iPhone, iTunes or other audio player. I don’t really have any prizes beyond gratitude … but if you listen, send me a snapshot anyway.)

Thanks.

MidnightLoneliness4

Behind.

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The Internet remains a wonderful tool for solving all of those little mysteries I’ve been carrying around for years. God only knows what I’d be without it.

Speaking of which, the ‘webs tonight have cleared up something I’ve wondered about for close to 30 years … a rock n’ roll mystery, and thus fair game for discussion on this blog.

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Years ago, somebody (possibly a Beach Boys-loving cousin) gave my dad a copy of the band’s 1973 live album The Beach Boys In Concert. He’s never been a BBs fan, but I took a shine to some of their music, and as a kid, I remember hearing the album several times.

In Concert, while surely improved by studio sweetening, is an excellent document of the band’s live show before it completely toppled over into nostalgia. Plain and simple, the record rocks. Compare the studio version of “Marcella” with the onstage version and tell me you disagree:

Not only was the music good, but Ed Caraeff’s cover photography provided evocative images of the live experience for a kid who hadn’t been to a concert yet. In particular, there’s one shot of Carl Wilson at the mic, spotlights bouncing off his hollowbody Epiphone Sheraton, that nails the touring-troubadour vibe as well as any live photo I’ve seen. He looks simultaneously like he’s working magic, and like he’s just another guy doing his daily job.

(Remarkably, it doesn’t seem to be on the ‘Net. Maybe it doesn’t speak to anyone else the way it spoke to me. Go buy the record and you’ll see it. — Edit: Actually, you can see it front and center in the video for the live version of “Marcella.” It appears at about 1:45 in.)

Caraeff’s gatefold photography also offered a curious glimpse at the petty bitchiness of the rock n’ roll life, in a clue the average listener could only guess at.

One of his backstage pictures shows early-’70s Beach Boys drummer Ricky Fataar slumped down in a chair in some interchangeable sports-arena dressing room, accompanied by an unidentifiable man in a football jersey.

I say “unidentifiable” because — in a crude bit of pre-Photoshop photo manipulation — the other guy’s face is blocked by the random and somewhat jarring image of an eight-ball.

Of course I knew the meaning of the term “behind the eight-ball” as a kid. I could only wonder what sort of backstage backstabbing could lead to such treatment. I assumed that the person pictured must have been well and truly on the outs with the BBs organization.

eightballI wasn’t the only person who wondered about it. A Google search turned up all manner of online speculation among Beach Boys fans. Among the leading candidates:

– Jack Rieley, the band’s short-tenured manager around that time. (Nope, the Internet chorused; Rieley is bulkier of build than the guy behind the eight-ball.)

– Brian Wilson, then making only occasional live appearances — and, by some tellings, only occasional contact with reality. (Nope again. ’72 Brian was also larger than the man in the picture, and at any rate, the Beach Boys didn’t have any clear reason to punk him that way.)

– Dennis Wilson, who — bereft of drumming duties — was kind of a man without a country in the ’72-’73 Boys’ live act. (Very likely nope. Dennis appears unaltered on the front and back covers, and in at least one gatefold shot.)

– Ed Carter, Beach Boys road guitarist. (I forget what the nope here was, but it wasn’t him either.)

It turns out that the guy behind the eight-ball wasn’t persona non grata after all. In fact, he would continue to be part of the band’s live show for the better part of the next decade.

According to multiple sources, the censored dude next to Fataar was keyboardist Carli Muñoz, who toured as the band’s keyboardist from 1970 to 1981. (Muñoz is one of several sidemen credited in the liner notes to In Concert, though his name is misspelled “Carly.”)

I’d heard of Muñoz before — most recently in the liner notes for Dennis Wilson’s reissued Pacific Ocean Blue album. Muñoz worked extensively with Wilson on Bambu, the never-released follow-up to Pacific Ocean Blue, until Wilson’s self-destructiveness drove him away. Five songs written or co-written by Muñoz appear on the bonus disc of Bambu recordings issued with the Pacific Ocean Blue re-release.

As is so often the case with sidemen and support players, Muñoz’s story is deeper and more interesting than that.

A native of Puerto Rico, he played in an early band with Jorge Calderon, who went on to become Warren Zevon’s longtime sideman and co-writer.

Muñoz also played with a wide-ranging variety of acts in addition to the Beach Boys — among them Wilson Pickett, Peter Cetera, the Association, and jazz drummer Chico Hamilton.

Today, he plays and records jazz and owns his own restaurant and nightclub in San Juan, where he often performs. (The site hasn’t been updated in a little while, so perhaps this is not the latest information.)

I cannot find a circulating explanation of Muñoz’s treatment on the In Concert cover. But he has confirmed to Beach Boys fans that it was him behind the eight-ball, and has even been known to autograph the picture, which is pretty cool of him.

Now that I’ve cleared this up, maybe I’ll spin the vinyl this weekend. Usually my ears gravitate to the vocals, but this time I’ll listen for the piano and organ parts, now that I know who’s playing them.

Even if I don’t know what he looked like.

The mercy of the rising water.

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My water heater went this morning, causing a minor basement flood and a few hours of irritation.

The flood didn’t destroy nearly as much crap as it should have, but there are a few wetted-down bits and scraps that are headed for the trash.

One of them is the back cover of a guitar magazine from sometime around 1985. I couldn’t let it go without posting it here, as a memorial to everything that was wrong with 1980s music.

What we have here is an ad for Kahler tremolos — the pitch-melting guitar devices more popularly known as “whammy bars.”

The impeccably coiffed gent at right, Kahler tells us, is Jeff Loven, and he’s just won something called the Kahler National Tremolo Competition.

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Before we go any further, let’s think back to the ’80s, and the offenses against taste committed by whammy bar-wielding hard-rockers in the age of lead guitar worship.

Eddie Van Halen pioneered the extreme use of whammy bars, and he at least was the first to do it; but he cleared a path for a whole decade’s worth of flashy, unmusical dive-bomb retching, usually paired with fingertapping and hyper-fast gnat-swarm picking.

Now imagine a national tremolo competition. Imagine every basement and corner-bar Eddie Van Halen wannabe whipping out their hottest licks. Imagine listening to all those tapes and trying to pick a winner. It makes one of those ten-day jam-band cruises seem heavenly by comparison.

(In the text of the ad, Loven enthuses: “Whether I need an air raid siren or a subtle tremolo effect, I can depend on my Kahler to deliver and stay in tune.” How wonderfully ’80s. Let us be glad we have escaped the days when lead guitar players felt like air-raid sirens were necessary parts of their repertoire.)

We will also take a look at Loven’s group, Obsession, because … well, the bass player seems to want us to look elsewhere, but we’re not so easily fooled.

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This is a full-on dork-off, locked in a four-way tie for last, and no drummer has ever been happier to be far away from the camera.

Jeff Loven, who still plays in the Midwest and apparently turned down an audition with the latter-day Guns n’ Roses, seems to have a sense of humor about the period. On his website, he says, “Looking back-why did we use that gawdawful Aquanet-yuck!

(When he met the mighty Van Halen, Eddie’s response was apparently: “Ya look like a woman, dude.” I can only imagine that was a comedown … and I can only imagine that Jeff Loven wasn’t the only young guitarslinger who heard that line from Eddie during the ’80s.)

To be fair, Loven is probably a great guitar player, and his bands have surely entertained a lot of people over the years. (More people than my writing ever has.)

And he was far from the only person to show up in the spotlight with poodly hair and whammy bar at the ready.

Look in any guitar magazine from that period (I’ve still got a bunch of them, so I speak from experience), and you’ll see multiple photos and articles that have dated just as poorly, all suffused with that ’80s absurdity.

Unfortunately for Jeff Loven and his bandmates, their photo just happened to be closest to the floor when my water heater spit the bit.

And they happened to be identified by name — unlike the finger-tapping, spandex-wearing gent (not a celebrity; probably a model) who showed up in a guitar ad on the other side of the page:

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Encore Performances: Dec. 26, 1970: A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.

A friend of mine linked to this December 2010 post on his own blog. Then I shut down my blog and left him with a dead link. So I’m reposting here, so visitors to his site aren’t left wondering what he was linking to.

This is the last regular countdown of Casey Kasem’s first year of AT40.
And it features a number of idiosyncracies, including a Merry Christmas wish at the end; one song on the Forty that intentionally goes unplayed; and one of the uglier factual errors of Casey’s AT40 tenure.

But before we chronicle all that, a few historic highlights from the week ending Dec. 26, 1970:

* Admiral Elmo Zumwalt is on the cover of Time magazine, under the unusual headline “The Military Goes Mod.”
Stories inside the magazine cover a major strike by railroad workers; Pepper & Tanner, a company producing radio station jingles and commercials; and the recent passing of cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

* The Boston Bruins’ Bobby Orr occupies the cover of Sports Illustrated as the magazine’s Sportsman of the Year.

* National Lampoon magazine, like AT40, is new this year. Its December issue is Christmas-themed, and features a cover cartoon of a Chinese military jet shooting down Santa Claus.

* Don Cardwell, a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets pitching staff, is released by the Atlanta Braves after a mediocre season. His big-league career is over after 14 years.

* The last episode of the second season of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” airs on the BBC. It is perhaps best remembered for its controversial closing sketch, in which an undertaker tries to convince a man to eat his recently deceased mother.

* Tiger Beat magazine runs a cover contest in which readers can win one of David Cassidy’s puppies. Other stars teased on the front cover include Bobby Sherman, the Osmonds and the Bugaloos.

* Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley hold their celebrated meeting at the White House.

* Lillian Board, a fast-rising star in the world of track and field, dies at 22, three months after being diagnosed with terminal colorectal cancer. She held several world records and won a silver medal at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

* Guests on “Sesame Street” this week include members of the New York Mets and Knicks, as well as members of the cast of “Bonanza” and Bill Cosby.

* A young family in Rochester, N.Y., breathes a post-Christmas sigh of relief.
The past month-and-a-half has been especially crazy: In addition to Thanksgiving and Christmas, their first child has been born.
As it happens, the artist at Number One the week of Dec. 26, 1970, will again be in the Top Five when the family’s second child is born in July 1973.
But nobody’s thinking about any of that yet.

And now, the countdown, with favourites in bold as always.

No. 40, debut: Runt, “We Gotta Get You A Woman.”
Rundgren’s first-ever Top 40 appearance? I think so.
It has that great early-’70s Rundgren production quality. (As much as I like A Wizard/A True Star and subsequent meanderings, it’s a shame Todd flaked out before giving us one or two more straight pop albums with tunes like this.)
I happen to think the line “They may be stupid but they sure are fun” is playful, and a good example of writing in character, though I imagine not everyone in 1970 saw it the same way.

No. 39, debut: Redeye, “Games.”
This seems like an amalgam of pop influences.
The busy bass line reminds me of Motown’s James Jamerson; the vocal harmonies remind me of two of the guys from Crosby, Stills and Nash (not sure which two); and the howling lead guitar tone is taken directly from “American Woman.”
It’s not a half-bad song for all that, though.

No. 38: Down “20 points,” it’s Eric Clapton with the honky funk of “After Midnight.”

No. 37: Casey tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who spent all her money on roller skates in Detroit in 1955. And now she makes up to $25,000 a concert!
It’s Aretha Franklin with “Border Song (Holy Moses.)”
Aretha brings so much more church to the AT40 than all those explicitly religious hippie singles combined.

No. 36: Neil Diamond, “Do It.” His eighth hit this calendar year, Casey says.
With a bass-drum sound that smacks like a big wet heartbeat.

This reminds me of the auto reviewer Tom McCahill, who once described a car as being “as exciting as a pocketful of wet pancakes.”

No. 35: For the good folks listening to KAFY in Bakersfield, California, it’s James Taylor with “Fire and Rain.”
The best single thing JT ever wrote or recorded, and 14 weeks on the chart.

No. 34: Flaming Ember, “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper.”
Snappy Detroit soul, like the kind of thing the Jax 5ive would have recorded had they wanted to be more grown-up and topical.
(Well, OK, I guess a brother band recording a song about turning their back on their brother would have been kind of unlikely.)

Wiki sez these guys are in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Wha’?

No. 33: “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden,” Lynn Anderson.
This is about as country as … oh, Taylor Swift.

No. 32: Casey plays “Patch It Up,” the B-side of Elvis’ “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.”
“Patch It Up” is a little too manic, like it’s turned up a notch too high.
In terms of pacing, it’s kinda like the Elvis equivalent of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?”
Only not as good.

No. 31: Stephen Stills, “Love The One You’re With.” Annoying hippie krap.
Is it true that Stills had Jimi Hendrix record a guitar solo for this, then wiped it and replaced it with himself playing steel drums?

No. 30: Casey says this is “where No. 30 ought to be.”
He explains that he has to not play one of the songs on the Forty because he has to make time to play a double-sided Number One.
The song that drew the short straw: “Share The Land” by the Guess Who.
According to Pete Battistini’s AT40 book, Casey found time on the program to play two oldies, but couldn’t find time for “Share The Land.” (The oldies were apparently edited out of the XM radio rebroadcast.)

No. 29: In his second week on the chart, Elton John with “Your Song.”
Alas, Elton had not quite hit on his hitmaking formula, which was to write and arrange music so catchy, forceful, gentle or otherwise memorable that it rendered Bernie Taupin’s lyrics incidental.

No. 28: Led Zep with the overblown silliness of “Immigrant Song.”
Page’s production skills make the record sound like Vikings on the march.
But really, how did people see this skinny long-haired Limey croon “Valhalla, I am coming,” and not break into laughter?

Also, I always — for decades — interpreted the line “Our only goal will be the western shore” as “I wanna go where people twist and shout.”
Never quite understood what that had to do with conquering hordes.

No. 27: “Montego Bay,” Bobby Bloom, with 11 weeks on the 40.
Didn’t quite bold this, but I enjoy it more than I like most tropical-paradise songs (see Buffett, Jimmy.)
The percussion is catchy without being gimmicky.

No. 26, debut: Bee Gees, “Lonely Days.” Wet pancakes.

No. 25: Tom Jones, “Can’t Stop Loving You.” Would have been better if this had been the old Ray Charles tune — I bet Jonesy would have rocked that.

No. 24: Gladys Knight and the Pips, “If I Were Your Woman.”
Superb.

Sometimes I wonder what the fictional characters in songs ended up doing.
Like the girl in Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” — you think he charmed her into coming out for a ride with him, or do you think she stayed in the kitchen and made blueberry muffins?
Same deal in this song. Do you think the guy Gladys was singing to saw the light?
He would have been hard put not to.

No. 23: Chairmen of the Board with “Pay to the Piper.”
Seemed like minor Motown-style stuff to me.
I had no idea until I hit Wiki that the Chairmen’s recently deceased frontman, General Norman Johnson, wrote Honey Cone’s “Want Ads” and “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show.”

No. 22: Three Dog Night, “One Man Band.” Not among their absolute finest, but enjoyable enough.
The touches of Hammond organ give this a respectable score on the SEHOQ (Smith-Earland Hammond Organ Quotient).
Plus, they stick the dismount, giving us a nice a cappella ending.
It would be a solid 9.7 if not for the Russian judge.

No. 21: Andy Kim, “Be My Baby.”
He doesn’t sound so much like Neil Diamond here … that’s about the most I can say for this unnecessary cover.

No. 20: And here’s the man himself — Neil Diamond with “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”
The plunky flamenco guitar kind of distracts me; I would have liked to hear him take the first verse with piano alone.

Did any DJ, either intentionally or unintentionally, play this back to back with “I’m Not My Brother’s Keeper”?

No. 19: Perry Como’s first hit since 1958, “It’s Impossible.”
Adult contemporary in excelsis.

No. 18: Up 10 points, it’s King Floyd with — UHHHHHHHHH! — “Groove Me.”
It pains me to think that commenters on YouTube know this only as “the Homer ass groove music.”
(Don’t ask me to explain.)

No. 17: Up 13 points, it’s the Supremes and the Tempts with “River Deep, Mountain High.”
Featuring the immortal lyric, “When you were a young girl, did you have a puppy?”
I found that unaccountably funny.

No. 16: The Jax 5ive, “I’ll Be There.”
Magical, especially the beginning.
Casey says this one has moved three million copies.

No. 15: In its 14th week in the Top 20, the Carpenters with “We’ve Only Just Begun.”
I am loath to admit that, if I ever actually listened to it all the way through, I might find myself kinda connecting a little bit with this newlyweds’ tale.

No. 14: Ray Price, “For The Good Times.” On the other hand, I’ve tried to connect with this one, and never quite made it.

No. 13: Barbra Streisand, “Stoney End.”
Best thing Barbra ever did? Maybe.
It has that sort of New York City Laura Nyro-ish soul sound to it.

No. 12: Van Morrison, “Domino.”
I’ve been getting more and more into Van’s ethereal, free-form adventures lately — albums like Veedon Fleece and Common One.
But then, along comes a perfect slice of three-minute soul like this one, and I start suspecting that Van mumbling about Coleridge and Wordsworth for 10 minutes at a time might just be so much codswallop.

Plus, “Hey, Mister DJ / I just wanna hear / Some rhythm n’ blues music / On my radio / On my radio / On my radio” is one of the best lyrical ad-libs of all time.

No. 11: The Presidents (my brain always makes me want to add “of the United States of America”) with “5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years of Love.)”
I liked this one just fine.

No. 10: Badfinger, “No Matter What.”
Out of nowhere, my wife starts singing along!
I married well.

No. 9: Brian Hyland, “Gypsy Woman.” Casey mentions that this was a hit (for someone else) in 1961, which automatically makes it suspect.
I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.
Were there still gypsies in America in 1970?
Are there still now?

No. 8: Chicago, “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
For the people listening to KMEN in San Bernardino, Calif.
I like the lyrical touch about the diamond watch that “stops cold dead,” which makes up a little bit for the way the next verse runs out of steam in a hail of “I don’t know”s.

But of course, Robert Lamm could sing the menu at Lums and I’d still tune in.

No. 7: Supremes, “Stoned Love.” Who needs Diana Ross, anyhow?

No. 6: An ex-Number One from the Partridge Family, “I Think I Love You.”
I can only imagine the frustration of program directors in 1970 who wanted nothing more than to never hear this again, but who were forced to keep it on the playlist week after week by the doe-eyed adoration of their teenage listeners.

No. 5: “Black Magic Woman,” Santana. I didn’t listen, but I bet Casey didn’t play “Gypsy Queen” too — and I don’t bold “Black Magic Woman” unless it comes with “Gypsy Queen.”
I’ve always loved the way they explode from one into the other.

No. 4: Dawn, “Knock Three Times.” I dislike this …

No. 3: … so, to tweak my nose, Casey plays it twice instead of playing the No. 3 song.
(This error is not noted in Pete Battistini’s book, so I think the mistake was made in the XM rebroadcast, not the original airing. The real No. 3, which I would have liked to have heard, was “Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.)

No. 2: The Fifth Dimension, “One Less Bell to Answer.” Originally written for Louis Prima’s partner Keely Smith, according to Wiki.
Hmmmm.

And now, the two-sided Number One, with an unfortunate introduction:
After explaining that George Harrison was the only Beatle to grow up in a stable family setting — which is relevant to pretty much nothing — Casey mentions that George’s mom and dad are alive and well and living in the English countryside in a home their son bought them.
Unfortunately, Louise Harrison died in July 1970.
Casey would correct the error on his first regular countdown of the following year.

On the original broadcast, Casey played both “My Sweet Lord” and “Isn’t It A Pity.”
In the rebroadcast, we only hear the latter, which is a nice song, even though I’ve never been a big fan of the overloaded Spectorian sonics of All Things Must Pass.

And on that note, thus endeth the countdown, and 1970.
And this post.

The men don’t know …

Many years ago, I got rid of one of the worst, most unappealing LPs I’ve ever bought. Lately, I have a weird yen to hear it again.

I know it still sucks, and still isn’t worth my time, but I still find myself thinking about it.

We’ll get to the why in a minute. First, for the non-pop-obsessives in the crowd, we’ll start with the who, and the what, and the when …

# # # # #

The Knack came roaring out of Los Angeles’ clubs in the summer of 1979, riding the sudden, massive success of hit single “My Sharona” and the Get the Knack LP (six and five weeks at U.S. Number One, respectively).

The band was critically roasted, and still is, for the hormonal nastiness in songs like “My Sharona,” “(She’s So) Selfish” and “Good Girls Don’t” — the last of which ranks among the most noxious Top 40 hits of the Seventies, and must have made some high-school girls’ lives hellish as the decade turned.

(You could argue it’s a song about female empowerment, in which the female lead refuses to conform to social mores, but … naaaah. That’s not what it’s about.)

For all the (justified) complaints, though, Get the Knack delivered a truckload of simple, ringing power-pop hooks that were impossible to ignore. And the band showed it was capable of winning pop performances when it wanted to be:

All of which made the band’s second album at least a minor Rock n’ Roll Event. Could the four lads with the Fab Four fetish tone down the repellent aspects of their act, shine up the appealing ones, repeat at Number One and build themselves a lasting career?

The second Knack album, …but the little girls understand, came out 35 years ago this month and delivered resounding answers: No, nope, nuh-uh and nein.

For my fellow late-’80s types, this is a follow-up album on a par with G’n’R Lies … though that one was probably better, just because it was evident to anyone with a pulse that Lies was a holding action and not a conscious attempt at a follow-up.

The songs on …but the little girls understand were short, derivative, unmemorable and at least as nasty as those on Get the Knack. Lead single “Baby Talks Dirty” out-sleazed both of its predecessors, combining frontman Doug Fieger’s mock-sexual gasps with a rip of the “My Sharona” riff; it died an ignominious death at No. 38.

Follow-up “Can’t Put a Price On Love,” bashed by critics as a rip from “Beast of Burden,” stalled at No. 62. The album as a whole topped out at No. 15 and disappeared. And, after a third album that only reached No. 93, so did the Knack.

# # # # #

I keep referring to “critics” as I write this. That’s something of a copout, as I can personally testify about both albums. I still own Get the Knack and, for a much briefer period, owned …but the little girls understand.

The latter album came into my orbit for a dollar and left it for 10 cents, and the resulting 90-cent budget deficit was the least of my losses.

Have I mentioned the packaging? Original copies of the second album came with a fold-out photo of the band members riding like kings in the back seat of a limo, with hordes of squealing girls pressing against it on the outside. So massively annoying and unnecessary. Did someone actually put this up on their wall?

Oh, and did I mention the album title? …but the little girls understand, capitalization aside, is an aggravating title on two levels. First, the Knack are worlds apart from Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf. Second, the title posits “little girls” as the main source of the Knack’s popularity — i.e., “the little girls understand why we moved so many records” —  and I have trouble imagining that young women were the ones snapping up all those copies of “Good Girls Don’t.”

And did I mention the music? Yeah, I guess I did, but I’ll mention it again. It’s poor.

So anyway, I bought the album years ago from a used bin; I hated it; I ditched it with extreme prejudice.

And yet, now, I have a warped desire to hear it again.

Why?

# # # # #

Some theories:

- I’ve gotten back into playing my old vinyl lately. Maybe I subconsciously wish I had all my old albums back, and out of my discard pile, this happens to be the one my mind has seized on. (Better this one than Uriah Heep Live. I think.)

- Maybe I want to scoff at it again. I’m not sure why that would be — I’m learning that life is short, and time is not worth wasting on stuff you don’t like. But, it’s possible.

- Maybe I think I’d find some value or quality in the record that I didn’t find when I was 17. (I find this theory only slightly more plausible than the one about “Good Girls Don’t” being a female empowerment anthem.)

- It’s not an album that’s been torn to bits, re-analyzed and re-assessed by the blogosphere — at least not the blogs I read — and maybe I’ve just developed a bias toward any artistic product that hasn’t already gotten a 70-inch thinkpiece from somebody who can outwrite me.

- The kitsch and tack of the late ’70s and early ’80s is always entertaining — remember, I’ve seen the Sgt. Pepper’s movie multiple times — and …but the little girls understand is kitsch and tack for the truly hardcore devotee. Anyone can sing “My Sharona,” but if you can sing “Mr. Handleman,” you’ve done some digging and put in some time.

Even though the ghostly (scratch: ghastly) presence of …but the little girls understand keeps working its way into my transom, I have faith I can fend it off.

I have made it clear to myself that, if I pay for this wretched album twice, that will make me the dumbest, most brain-dead sheep in all of American consumerdom.

So I think I can hold it off.

I’m pretty sure.

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