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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Different times.

Lou Reed’s Rock n’ Roll Animal is not a particularly subtle album.

But as I listened the other night to the R’n’RA version of “Sweet Jane,” I found myself thinking more about the subtleties of Reed’s first verse.

Which, as we all know, goes something like this:

Standing on the corner
Suitcase in my hand
Jack is in his corset, Jane is in her vest
And me, I’m in a rock n’ roll band
Riding in a Stutz Bearcat, Jim
Those were different times
All the poets studied rules of verse
And the ladies, they rolled their eyes.

I am drawn to Reed’s lyrical choice of the Stutz Bearcat.

Other cars would have fit in that lyrical hole — especially if you get rid of the word “Jim,” one of early Reed’s favorite space-filling exclamations. But the Bearcat was the car he chose.

Stutz Bearcats went out of production a good 40 years before there were rock n’ roll bands. So presumably Reed’s narrator (or Jack, who is a banker, or Jane, who is a clerk) is loaded enough to afford a ride that would have done Babe Ruth proud.

The Bearcat was pre-Prohibition America’s idea of a hot rod — one of those cars that looks fast just standing still. If there had been rock n’ roll animals in 1920, they would have driven Stutz Bearcats.

Since I automatically assume any and all Lou Reed lyrics are set in New York City (except maybe for the ones on Berlin), I find it droll to imagine a bright yellow Stutz popping and coughing its way along in congested New York traffic, in among the Ford Galaxie 500s and Rambler Ambassadors. There are a million stories in the naked city.

Another — and probably much more likely — interpretation is that the narrator is living in the Sixties present but reflecting on the Roaring Twenties.

That is, he’s thinking of different times when poets studied rules of verse, etc., but he hasn’t personally lived through them. He’s thinking about people who rode in Stutz Bearcats as he takes the subway to Brooklyn.

Plus, every Stutz Bearcat I’ve ever seen a picture of has been a two-seater. So the narrator wouldn’t have had room to share a ride with both Jack and Jane, if that’s how you read the verse.

Still, the lyrics of “Sweet Jane” are pretty open-ended. They don’t give too many concrete definitions of what the narrator’s doing or what his relationship to Jack and Jane is.

And, just for myself, I enjoy the thought that there’s an actual Stutz Bearcat ride involved in the lyrics. It lends a Jay Gatsby touch to the scenario. I like to imagine  Jack and Jane, in particular, as well-off young people looking for something they can’t put their finger on.

So what would a ride in an actual Stutz Bearcat have been like? Well, thanks to YouTube, we can get some idea. (There is some dispute in the video comments as to whether this is an actual Stutz Bearcat or a replica. It may be the latter but I imagine it is still pretty close.)

You’ll just have to mentally substitute New York City in the background, Jim.

Encore Performances: Sept. 27, 1975: Baby, when I think about you, I think about love.

Don’t worry — I’m not gonna completely give over this space to re-running my song-by-song AT40 liveblogs from my old blog.

But this one is timely, it being the last week of September and all. Plus it has one of the better ledes I ever wrote on one of these posts. So it comes out of the archives too. Enjoy.

In Stephen King’s novel “‘Salem’s Lot” — my favourite of his lengthy list of books — the last full week of September, 1975, is the week the vampires start to take over the backwoods Maine town of Jerusalem’s Lot.

It was also a week when zombies took over the American Top 40 countdown.

OK, so I exaggerate a little bit. But that week’s Casey-fest was singularly bland, boring and unappealing.
Faced with a choice between another hearing of “Run Joey Run” or a set of fangs to the neck, I would be hard-pressed to decide.

Before we get into the Top 40 (with favourites in bold as always), here’s my usual rundown of what was happening that week. I’ll try to keep it shorter than last time:

* President Ford dodges the second assassination attempt against him in three weeks’ time. Former bookkeeper Sara Jane Moore shoots at him outside a San Francisco hotel and misses.

* “Busing Battle” is the cover story of Time magazine.
A story inside the issue quotes promoter Sid Bernstein comparing Scotland’s Bay City Rollers to the Beatles.

* The Eagles are on the cover of Rolling Stone; the Pittsburgh Steelers’ snarling Mean Joe Greene is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

* In Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming College and Wilkes College face off in the sixth annual Fez Bowl, a Shriners-sponsored event.

* Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still alive.

* “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is first screened in the U.S.

* Yankees pitcher Lindy McDaniel and Harmon Killebrew of the Royals (yup) make the last appearances of their lengthy careers.
Killebrew goes 1-for-7 in his final three games that week to drop his 1975 batting average to .199.

* The Philadelphia Spectrum arena hosts Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra on Sept. 22; Isaac Hayes on Sept. 26; and a Flyers-Penguins hockey game on Sept. 27.

* Eddie Kendricks, Tavares and Paul Mooney appear on “Soul Train.”

So yeah, on to the 40.

No. 40, debut: “One of the most popular groups around today,” Casey declares:
Eagles, “Lyin’ Eyes.”

No. 39, debut: Average White Band going the ballad route with “If I Ever Lose This Heaven.” This is an OK groove but I like them better when they bring the funk.

No. 38, debut: Following a Beatles namedrop, we get Art Garfunkel with a limp, tremolo-soggy version of “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
No one likes Art like I like Art, but I’m not buying.

No. 37, debut: Jim Stafford, “I Got Stoned and I Missed It.” Couldn’t even bring myself to listen to this one.
Hey, there’s no damn law says I have to sit through these songs.

No. 36: Down 19 spots, the Carpenters, “Solitaire.”

Yes, I bolded the Carpenters.

My folks had a Neil Sedaka album with this song on it when I was a kid, and I’m sort of vestigially fond of it.
The line “Solitaire’s the only game in town” successfully evokes that feeling when it seems like the world is full of faces and you can’t connect to any one of them.

But that’s just me.

No. 35: Esther Phillips, “What A Difference A Day Makes.” The combination of Phillips’ ragged voice and the obligatory disco beat doesn’t work for me.
Hey, how come no one ever thought to have Phillips sing a duet with Roger Chapman of Family?

No. 34: “Tony Orlando and Dawn are really hot!,” Casey enthuses, and then plays “You’re All I Need To Get By.”
As TO&D records go, this one’s OK — none of that rinky-tink novelty edge you get in things like “Knock Three Times” or “Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?”

No. 33: The Number One soul hit this week, “Do It Any Way You Wanna” by the People’s Choice.
This is basically a rhythm track waiting for something to happen … something better than that meager vocal, that is.
There’s a section of this reminds me a little bit of the wordless vocal melody from “Undercover Of The Night,” but that might just be the sound of my mind capsizing under the weight of too many mediocre singles.

No. 32: John Williams, “Jaws.”
This is seriously the best thing so far, and that’s some sad action.

I wondered why all the instrumental movie music I hear seems to sound the same. I think it’s because all the instrumental movie music I know was either written by John Williams, or by someone trying to sound like John Williams.

No. 31: Michael Martin Murphey, “Carolina In The Pines.”
Second-rate John Denver … but Casey does do us the favor of telling us that Murphey is related to one of the 12 founders of Providence, Rhode Island.
So he’s got that going for him.

No. 30: Up 10, the Four Seasons with “Who Loves You (Pretty Baby)” or whatever it’s called.
Nice solid toonful pop. I give it a 95 ’cause I can dance to it.

No. 29: For the listeners of WOKL in Eau Claire, Wis., it’s Leon Russell with “Lady Blue” and another load of tinkly electric piano.
The first few lines of Leon’s vocal were so painful to listen to that I skipped to the next song.

No. 28: “Get Down Tonight,” KC and the Sunshine Band. I probably should have bolded this. Snappy funky pop — or is it poppy funk?

No. 27: Awwwwwww yeah! Finally something I really like: “Miracles” by Jefferson Starship. From the Number One album in the country, “Red Octopus.”
I’ve written before about how I love this song … it’s like bathing in a great warm cologne-scented hot tub overlooking the hills of Marin with a couple of big bombers and a bottle of Courvoisier.
Or something like that.

No. 26: Paul Simon and Phoebe Snow, “Gone At Last.”
Snow smokes him.

As I’ve said before, for all of Paul Simon’s poetic and melodic abilities, it seems like so many of his best records wouldn’t be nearly as good without the contributions of someone else.
Like Phoebe Snow; or the Jamaican musicians who brought “Mother and Child Reunion” to life; or Steve Gadd coming up with the drum pattern for “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover;” or the South African guys (most notably bassist Bagithi Khumalo) on “Graceland.”
Oh, yeah, and Art Freakin’ Garfunkel.

No. 25: Neil Sedaka, “Bad Blood.” Pallid, petulant and bitchy.

No. 24: Austin Roberts, “Rocky.” Featuring the line “Alone until my eighteenth year / We met four springs ago.”
If he was 18, and it was four springs ago, and he left Colorado Springs traveling eastbound at 65 mph and she left Boston heading westbound going 40 mph (damn traffic on the Pike), at what point did they run into each other, and at what force?

No. 23: Casey announces a song that was first a hit for Xavier Cugat in 1943, and he plays a little bit of it, and it’s pretty damn sprightly.
Then he plays the 1975 version of “Brazil” by the Ritchie Family.
Big brassy disco isn’t a bad thing, but now that I’ve heard Xavier Cugat (and I’m listening to it now), I might just like that better.

No. 22: The Osmonds, “The Proud One.” Weak, overproduced Frankie Valli remake. They shoulda covered Xavier Cugat.

No. 21: For the folks digging KFMS in Las Vegas, it’s the Pointer Sisters with “How Long (Betcha Got A Chick On The Side.)”
Funk with rhythm and attitude. Nothing the matter with that, especially this week.

No. 20: America, “Daisy Jane.” Almost bolded this one too. I sort of enjoy how earnest and moody it is.
Nice cello solo.

No. 19: Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds with “Fallin’ in Love.”
This always feels end-of-summery to me. Not sure if that’s an illusion created by the musical arrangement, or whether I think that way b/c I know it was a Number One hit in August of ’75.

No. 18: The Spinners, “Games People Play.” Hooky, soulful, rueful classic from a group with no shortage of classics.
I love the way the Spinners’ bass singer addresses the line “I took my time.”
I also love the way it takes off at the chorus.

No. 17: Yup, three straight bolds — this one for Tavares, with “It Only Takes A Minute.”
The lyrics are painfully inane (like that line about the flu attack putting you on your back for 30 days — what kind of grippe do they get in New Bedford, anyway?)
But the rest of the song eats the lyrics and spits ’em out.

Will we have four bolds in a row?

No. 16: Morris Albert, “Feelings.”
Nuh-uh.
I still don’t think this is anywhere near the worst single of the ’70s, nor deserving of its status of a pop-culture cliche.

Remember the Pepsi commercial where MC Hammer drinks the Coke instead, and breaks into an off-key rendition of “Feelings”?
Nowadays Hammer’s the punch line.
(Oh, and if you don’t remember that Pepsi commercial? Click here to watch it. G’wan.)

No. 15: Paul Anka and Odia Coates, “I Believe There Is Nothing Stronger Than Our Love.” Beats “Having My Baby,” I s’pose.

No. 14: Dickie Goodman, “Mr. Jaws.”
I don’t listen to novelty records. I don’t care how many people in the fall of 1975 did; I don’t.
I’d rather listen to Hammer sing “Feelings.”

According to ARSA, this was a Number One hit on stations in several markets, including New York City, Cincinnati and Buffalo.
That’s so horribly dreadful, I have to invent a new word to connote my disgust:
Pheeeeeeeeeyauuuuuughhhhhhhhhhh.

Wonder how many copies it sold in Jerusalem’s Lot.

No. 13: Earth Wind & Fire, “That’s The Way Of The World.” Now these guys could work a ballad and the funk.
The chorus sticks in my head for hours, or minutes anyway, and that’s what the game’s all about.

No. 12: Orleans, “Dance With Me.” Bland. The Eagles might have written this, if they liked women.

No. 11: Helen Reddy, “Ain’t No Way To Treat a Lady.”
Reddy’s final Top Ten pop single, barring an unexpected collaboration with Lady Gaga.

No. 10: BadCo, “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Nice edgy electric guitar from the delightfully named Mick Ralphs, whose name is a sentence.
Gotta love the sensitive longhairs singing about the “golden dreams of my yesterdays.”

No. 9: Sweet, “Ballroom Blitz.” I love British glam but I’m not gonna bold this ’cause it’s a little too camp for my taste.

No. 8: “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” Freddy Fender.
Mr. Huerta — and most other people who sing this song — do it too damn fast; it should go about half as fast.
Doug Sahm did it right.
You can hear it here.

No. 7: Janis Ian, “At Seventeen.”
Nowadays the ugly outcast kids don’t need to sit around feeling sorry for themselves; they can go start a punk band.
Thank heavens for Johnny Rotten.

No. 6: For the listeners of KOWB in Minneapolis, it’s Barry Manilow and “Could It Be Magic?”
This drips with overwrought drama; they could probably do a good job with it on “Glee.”

No. 5: David Geddes, “Run Joey Run.” Nope.
This was a Number One hit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Shreveport, Louisiana.
The people in Cedar Rapids and Shreveport, united by little else, both wanted to hear this song more than any other in September 1975.
More than “Miracles,” more than “Games People Play,” more than “It Only Takes A Minute.”

That’s some saaaaaaaaad business.

No. 4: Isley Brothers, “Fight The Power.”
Wow — social commentary on the Top Ten!
Who woulda thunk it, in among all those people blitzing ballrooms and makin’ love?

No. 3: Glen Campbell, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” 15 weeks on the countdown.
Pleasant countrypolitan that makes me think of Joe Buck from “Midnight Cowboy” … there was a load of compromisin’ on the road to his horizon, too.

No. 2: David Bowie, “Fame.” The Thin White Duke makes a last-ditch effort to make this countdown seem better than it was.
After teasing his upcoming special on the 40 Biggest Artists of the 1950s, Casey spins a disc by the most intelligent, forward-looking artist of 1975.

And finally, Number One:
“I’m Sorry” by John Denver.

And no, to answer your question, I don’t know who won the 1975 Fez Bowl.

Encore Performances: Sept. 22, 1973: Up all night with Freddy King.

My main man Jim Bartlett recently heard the American Top 40 countdown from the week ending Sept. 22, 1973, and wasn’t too thrilled with it.

I remembered that I’d blogged this one song-by-song a couple of years ago at my old blog. And so — in a spirit not of correction or disagreement, but merely of impish counterpoint — I dug out that review, tightened it up a little and took out a couple four-letter words. Here goes:

Return with us, won’t you, to a distant, different, autumnal America, with Casey Kasem as your guide?

Here’s what was happening in the week ending Sept. 22, 1973:

* Time magazine features a burlesque cartoon hamburger on its cover, teasing a story about McDonald’s.
But the real meat of the week’s news is a story in which Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal threatens hikes in the price of oil as a consequence of America’s support of Israel.
Just a few weeks later, following the start of the Yom Kippur War, the threat would come true, triggering the energy crisis of 1973.

* Musicians Gram Parsons, Jim Croce and Hugo Winterhalter die — Parsons by drugs and alcohol, Croce in a plane crash and Winterhalter of cancer.
Croce’s death triggers new interest in his work. He will posthumously have a No. 1 hit single, and will hold the Nos. 1 and 2 positions on the album charts the following January.
Parsons does not attain the same mainstream interest, but remains a cult artist of great fascination for country-rock types.
Winterhalter remains best-known, then and now, for his 1956 easy-listening hit “Canadian Sunset.

* Americans get to know the fall’s crop of new network television shows, including short-timers like “The New Adventures of Perry Mason,” “Calucci’s Department” and “The Girl with Something Extra.”
The season’s most memorable new shows, “Kojak” and “Happy Days,” will not debut until later on.

* Johnny Unitas makes his debut in the unfamiliar sky-blue-and-yellow garb of the San Diego Chargers after 16 years as a Baltimore Colt.
Unitas’s passing line is a meager 6-for-17 for 55 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions as the Washington Redskins stomp San Diego 38-0.
Unitas rallies to win the following week’s game against Buffalo, but it is his final win as an NFL starting quarterback.

* The Yankees have only three more games to play at historic old Yankee Stadium, which will close following the 1973 season for two years of extensive renovations.
But the biggest baseball story in New York — and everywhere else — is the Mets, who have climbed from fourth place to first over the past two weeks in the up-for-grabs National League East.

* Atlanta’s Henry Aaron is closing in on Babe Ruth’s record of 714 homers, which he will reach the following April.
Aaron is not baseball’s home-run leader for the 1973 season, though. As of Sept. 22, that title belongs to his teammate Davey Johnson, who has a remarkable 43 dingers despite never hitting more than 18 in any previous season.
(There were no such things as steroid rumors in 1973; a home run was still a pure and wonderful thing.)

* Helen Dollaghan’s crab-zucchini casserole recipe runs in the Denver Post.

* Kate Jackson, Lloyd Bochner and Cheryl Ladd star in CBS’s made-for-TV movie of the week, “Satan’s School for Girls.”

* The Lewiston, Maine, Evening Journal advertises a “HEAVY! DYNAMITE! FAR OUT!” sale on LPs at local store Grants City.
The top-selling LPs at Grants are Jethro Tull’s “A Passion Play,” “Chicago VI” and Cat Stevens’ “Foreigner.”
LPs with a manufacturer’s list price of $5.98 are being sold at Grants for as little as $2.94.

* The Grateful Dead wrap up an eight-show East Coast run featuring guest horn players Martin Fierro and Joe Ellis.
The innovation is not welcomed by most Deadheads, and this is the only run of shows in the Dead’s long history to feature a regular horn section.

And now, the Top 40 with Casey, with favourites in bold as always:

No. 40: Jax 5ive, “Get It Together.”

No. 39: “In The Midnight Hour,” Cross Country. I think an acoustic guitar-driven cover of “Midnight Hour” could be magic in the hands of Van Morrison. These guys don’t quite make it sing.

No. 38: “To Know You Is To Love You,” BB King. I always enjoy seeing the King of the Blues score on the pop charts. C’mon — 300 gigs a year for 15 or 20 years oughta entitle him to that.
I don’t think the song is astonishingly incredible, though.

No. 37: “Angel,” Aretha Franklin. The one that starts with Aretha going over to visit her sister Carolyn.
Beautiful and soulful like everything Aretha.

No. 36: “Rocky Mountain Way,” Joe Walsh. One of two songs on this countdown I played in a band I was in, back around 2001. I kept coming in too early on the chord change during the talk-box solo.

No. 35: “Hey Girl (I Like Your Style),” The Temptations. Don’t have any notes on this so it must not have floored me.

No. 34: “Ecstasy,” Ohio Players.
Every AT40 countdown has a crave-song — a song I listen to obsessively for hours, if not days, afterward.
Previous countdowns’ crave-songs have ranged from “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Commander Cody to “Sweet Thing” by Chaka Khan and Rufus.
This is this week’s crave-song.

I love the churchy piano … and the five-bar structure, which makes things just a little different but not too off-kilter …
… and most of all, Junie Morrison’s fervid, feverish lead vocal, which I’m going to guess is at least 50 percent improvised.
(I have trouble imagining the words of this song written out on a page.)

Junie’s voice lives about halfway between Teddy Pendergrass and Marvin Gaye, which is a damned nice place to be.
Only about 40 seconds into the song, he sticks a falsetto note that makes every hair I have left stand straight up.
In other singers’ hands, that would be overkill; but in Morrison’s case, he’s just locked in.

No. 33: “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day,” Chicago.
Gotta love the four-on-the-floor section at the end — a rare example of Chicago (esp. Cetera-fronted Chicago) bursting with energy.
Among their best singles, I’d argue, though “Saturday In The Park” will always be Number One in my heart.

No. 32: “I’ve Got So Much To Give,” Barry White. OK, this bold is mostly out of respect for the big man … that double-time high-hat thing kinda doesn’t do it for me.

No. 31: “Why Me,” Kris Kristofferson. More singer-songwriter self-flagellation, with an extra helping of … Jesus!
Oh boy.

Drinking game: Do a shot of whiskey every time Kris sings the word “Jesus.” You’ll be speaking Welsh in no time.

Elvis used to let his bass singer, J.D. Sumner, sing lead on this one onstage.

No. 30: “Stoned Out Of My Mind,” Chi-Lites, for the good burghers digging WVAM in Altoona, Pa.
Nice propulsive popping groove — time-and-a-half for that tambourine player! — matched to a lyric full of great old-school soul turns of phrase (“When you led me to the water, I drank it / I drank more than I could hold.”)
This could easily have been my crave-song if that meddling Junie Morrison hadn’t interfered.

From where I was, that opening chord sounded a lot like the opening chord of “Grease” … I started singing that descending horn line.
(You know the one.)

Casey doesn’t say the title before the record, but he does after the record.

No. 29: “Ghetto Child,” Spinners. I alternated between being charmed by this song (“I was just a boy punished for a crime that wasn’t mine”) and being put off by that weird phrasing on the chorus.
There’s, like, a bar with six-and-a-half beats in it.

Nice trading vox on this one. It’s a wonderful thang to have a group with multiple talented singers.

No. 28: “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” Conway Twitty. No. 1 country for the fourth straight week.
Not as teeth-gritting as it might have been.
Neil Diamond could probably rock this one nicely.

No. 27: “Get Down,” Gilbert O’Sullivan. “He’ll be visiting the U.S. next month,” Casey says, before and after the song.
What — is he kipping on your couch, Casey?

No. 26: “The Morning After,” Maureen McGovern. Businesslike Hollywood ballad with some pretty good harpsichord. 11 weeks on the chart; ex-Number One.

No. 25: “I Believe In You,” Johnnie Taylor. I continue to swear that this song is altogether too close, musically, to Van Morrison’s “Warm Love.”

Casey reminds us that he has another of those damn “Top 40 Artists of the Rock Era” specials coming up in a few weeks.
“Hope you’ll mark it down,” he says jauntily.
On what? My math folder?

No. 24: “Free Ride,” the Edgar Winter Group. Chunky, catchy, well-turned albeit eventually meaningless pop.
These guys were like a Grade B rock supergroup:
The “They Only Come Out At Night” album features cult guitar ace Ronnie Montrose (Sammy Hagar’s first employer); Dan Hartman of “I Can Dream About You” fame; Rick Derringer producing and guesting; and former Mitch Ryder drummer John “Johnny Bee” Badanjek.

No. 23: “Midnight Train to Georgia,” Gladys Knight and the Pips. I don’t have to speak on this, right?
You know this record is the bomb.
Up 10 notches in its second week.

No. 22, debut: Stones, “Angie.”
I still say “Moonlight Mile” is the best ballad these guys ever turned out; but I will, when pressed, admit a mild fondness for this.
Even though I know Mick Jagger is a poseur, I enjoy his vocal on this one.

No. 21: Doobies, “China Grove.” Can’t tell whether Casey calls this a “cookin’ town” or a “cookin’ sound.” Either works, I guess.
Some nifty touches for an ex-biker band, like the way they shift into half-time for the line “You can even hear the music at night.”

No. 20: “Yes We Can Can,” Pointer Sisters, rockin’ the ears glued to WBSR in Pensacola, Florida.
Stripped-down, uplifting, positive funk, like that formerly produced by …

No. 19: … “If You Want Me To Stay,” Sly and the Family.
10th week on the charts.
I could just listen to the bass line on this — it’s shifty, and funky, and sounds like it was played during a really great jam.
(Even though I know it might have been overdubbed by Sly in between overdubbing the drums and overdubbing the keyboards.)

No. 18: “Theme from Cleopatra Jones,” Joe Simon and the Main Streeters.
This is really two-bit Curtis Mayfield; and Simon’s voice is not up to some of the bellows he demands from it.
I’m just bolding it because ” ‘Theme from Cleopatra Jones’ by Joe Simon and the Main Streeters” absolutely screams early-’70s, more so than any other title and performer credit on any other single.
It’s like the perfect combination.

No. 17: “Live and Let Die,” Wings.
The theme song was the best part of the movie … uh, unless you found Baron Samedi frightening.

I think this is about the best anyone could do if challenged to write a song called “Live and Let Die.”
This is as good as that title gets.

No. 16: “Here I Am (Come And Take Me),” Al Green. Ex-Top Ten record, and absolutely exquisite.

No. 15: Allman Brothers Band, “Ramblin’ Man.”
Any time a band not known for singles produces a three-and-a-half-minute song that fulfills the basic requirements of a single, without compromising the band’s essential spirit, that’s cause for celebration.
And when the band pulls it off in the face of personal tragedy, that’s even bigger.

Dickey Betts’ flat, nasal delivery and his tendency to repeat every guitar lick at least six times are mere quibbles in the face of the Allmans’ triumph.

From the Number One LP in the nation, “Brothers and Sisters.”

No. 14: Eddie Kendricks, “Keep On Truckin’.” The breakdown goes on too long, and what the hell’s up with the gong crash?
Up 16 spots.

No. 13: War, “Gypsy Man.” Ex-Top Ten. They’ve been better and funkier, really.

No. 12: Elton John, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.”
I think I bolded this out of a sense of noblesse oblige; I don’t really buy the notion of Reg and his mates going out on Saturday night for some aggro.

No. 11: “My Maria,” B.W. Stevenson. OK song. Seemed to me like a predecessor of the crisp acoustic-rooted pop we hear today … like, I dunno, Jason Mraz or Sister Hazel or something.

No. 10: “That Lady,” Isley Brothers. Casey tells the story of how the Isleys were discovered on a Greyhound bus.

What’s cooler than having multiple strong vocalists in your band?
Call-and-response.

No. 9: “Touch Me In The Morning,” Diana Ross. Is she contractually required to have a spoken-word voiceover on every single?

No. 8: “Higher Ground,” Stevie Wonder. Up five notches for Stevie’s 15th Top Ten record.
He’s like Aretha — I need only say “Stevie” and the bold is obligatory.

No. 7: “Half-Breed,” Cher. I liked this OK, better than most Cher songs. I found it believable as a slice of life. God knows why, since I didn’t really buy the slice-of-life depicted in …

No. 6: … “Brother Louie,” Stories. The music sets an effective mood, but the story of the “whiter-than-white” guy who “tastes brown sugar” just doesn’t do anything for me.

Maybe ’cause it doesn’t resolve:
Louie falls in love with a black girl; takes her home to his parents; has a ferocious fight; and … what?
Does he throw something off a bridge, or disappear into his girlfriend’s radio, or take out a classified ad looking for a girl who likes pina coladas?
This is the Seventies — the golden age of story-songs — and we, the audience, demand a grabbier ending than that.

No. 5: “Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?,” Dawn. Hope the people listening to WGRQ in Buffalo dug this, ’cause I sure as shit didn’t.

No. 4: “Loves Me Like A Rock,” Paul Simon and the Dixie Hummingbirds. The ‘Birds didn’t get credit on the single, I don’t think, but they get credit in this house.
I read a book about them not long ago, and this song helped them get better gigs, nicer clothes and a new van; so it’s all right with me even if I can’t buy the notion of Paul Simon fronting a gospel group.

No. 3: “Delta Dawn,” Helen Reddy. She set a record the previous week, Casey says, by becoming the sixth solo female artist to hit Number One in a calendar year.

This is my favorite Helen Reddy song, which of course ain’t saying much.
But I heard that a cappella choral intro in my head for several hours a couple of days ago — before that Junie Morrison dude chased it out.

According to Wiki, Bette Midler cut this as a single as well, but when Reddy beat her to release, Midler was forced to put out “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” as her A-side.
Reddy for the win!

Is the downtrodden, scorned, deluded Delta Dawn a metaphor for 1973 America?
Discuss.

No. 2: “We’re An American Band,” Grand Funk Railroad. The other one of the songs I used to play in that band.
I can still see Don Brewer, massive Afro rampant, barking this into a microphone while playing with overdone gestures.
And so can you!

This song would hit Number One the following week, on Mark Farner’s 25th birthday, which probably would have meant more to Mark had he written or sung the song.

And this week’s No. 1:
“Let’s Get It On,” Marvin Gaye. Usually I think this one is overdone, overplayed and overused … but y’know, I was in the mood when I heard it this time.
(In the mood for the song. Pervert.)

Hope this post was worth 90 minutes of your time.

Water covers everything in blue.

As I get older, I start to have trouble attaching names to every stray scrap of music lodged in my brain.

And sometimes it drives me crazy.

For at least weeks, and maybe even months, I’ve been struggling to come up with the name of a song stuck in my head.

What made the task difficult was that I couldn’t remember most of the song — no melody, no chorus, no words.

All I remembered was the absolute very end. The last few seconds. A final melancholy lingering chord, topped by one last pizzicato “bing.”

I could hear it clearly, and it summoned up a particular sort of sun-going-down-on-a-cold-day kind of mood.

But I couldn’t identify it by name. And I couldn’t describe it well enough to ask anyone else to help me name it, either.

(I also had a vague sense that it was a relatively old song — Sixties sometime; woulda sounded good on an AM radio. But that didn’t really help in any concrete way.)

To add insult to injury, I actually remembered the name of the freaking song in the middle of a nighttime run a couple of weeks ago. But by the time I got home I’d let it out of my head again. (My thoughts, they are many and wayward.)

I thought perhaps this final chord and its pizzicato benediction would accurse me forever.

But the name came back to me earlier tonight. I have beaten the earworm, with at least a few shreds of my sanity still intact.

And the elusive chord belongs to …

I owned “The Soft Parade” on vinyl back in high school (still do, in fact), and I remember liking “Wishful Sinful” somewhat more than the other songs on the album.

Revisited all these years later, I’m not so convinced. Jim Morrison’s vocal delivery is at its loungiest, and Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger are as good as absent once the orchestra comes in.

I still like the chorus, though. John Densmore snaps into a sort of jazzy march, the studio bass player plays a propulsive walking bass line, the orchestra swells like the tide, and Morrison wakes up a little bit (“Wishful, sinful, wicked blue / Water covers you…”)

That chorus — or maybe it was the plangent oboe solo — helped lift an otherwise bittersweet and rather mopey song to No. 44 on the national charts.

The invaluable ARSA database shows the song getting respectable but not overwhelming radio play nationwide between March and May of 1969, including a top 5 placement in St. Charles, Missouri, and a brief appearance on a local top 40 here in Allentown.

Wonder how many Top 40 jocks talked right over that magic final chord, thus saving their listeners from months of obsession 20 years later?

Would that someone had done me the same favor.

“The credit goes to the kids.”

Tonight, I interrupt the Wheels of Fire series — a look at one mundane high-school cross-country season through the running log of one mundane freshman — for a pretty cool bit of news from last week.

Penfield High School cross-country coach Dave Hennessey — he’s the adult at far right of the Wheels of Fire logo/picture — last week recorded his 900th win at a boys’ or girls’ meet. (It was the girls’ team that scored the milestone win, apparently.)

Even before the big win, Coach Hennessey already ranked as the nation’s all-time leader in cross-country coaching victories, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Coach Henn, as he is generally known, had already been at Penfield for a dozen years when the above picture was taken in 1987.

Not only is he still there, but the years seem to have gifted him with some talented teams. Or perhaps they are just more focused and less goofy than the teams I ran on. Whatever the case, on the rare occasions when I see cross-country results in the D&C, Penfield teams usually seem to contend pretty well.

Penfield High is not one of those dynastic schools you read about that racks up 10 state championships in a row. But they seem to be consistently competitive — a pattern that started sometime after I graduated.

With typical modesty, Coach Henn credited his win total to “the kids” who “took forth a lot of great effort.”

As one of those kids, I hereby take credit for my lot of great effort. I guesstimate that I contributed, as one of the top six varsity runners, to perhaps a half-dozen of Coach Hennessey’s league-meet wins.

I had no idea I was making history at the time; I was just trying not to puke.

But seriously: Congratulations to Coach Henn for his skill, endurance, patience and commitment.

And a hat tip, too, to all those kids since 1975 — the jocks, the goofballs, the nerds, the misfits — whom he taught to run to win, and who found a place for themselves in the world of high school cross-country.

Hopefully Coach Henn has it in him to indoctrinate at least a few more classes into that group before he decides he’s set up enough chutes and spray-painted enough roots for one lifetime.

RIP.

If you’ve ever visited the “FABULOUS LINKS” section of my blog, you might have noticed a link to 1973 Topps Photography, a blog dedicated to the uniquely deranged alternate universe that was Topps’ set of ’73 baseball cards.

The link will remain there for the foreseeable future out of respect to its proprietor, Chris Stufflestreet.

Chris — a longtime blogger on two of my favorite subjects, ’70s music and baseball cards — passed away earlier this week of a massive heart attack.

He was 39 years old. (My age.)

Chris clearly knew his stuff and did his research when it came to baseball cards and behind-the-scenes trivia.

His ’70s music writing was entertaining as well, though I didn’t read it very often, just because I covered the same turf sometimes and didn’t want to unconsciously lift anything.

(Or maybe I was trying to avoid that frustrating feeling when someone else writes something great on a subject near and dear to you, and you wish you’d come up with it instead.)

On a selfish level, I am saddened to know that that crazy ’73 set is never going to be completed, and I’ll never get to hear Chris’ insight and comments on the rest of the cards. A knowledgeable and entertaining voice has been stilled.

On a less selfish note, my condolences go out to his family and those fortunate enough to know him well.

His passing is a loss for all those who crossed his path — even if, like me, they were random visitors on the other side of a computer screen hundreds of miles away.

I think all of us who blog desire that connection — that feeling that our writing informs, or entertains, or otherwise touches a scattered, unknowable, but interested audience.

Chris’s writing did.

The taste of ’95.

Most of the cuisine of my senior year of college isn’t worth revisiting.

Mostly I remember lots and lots of steamed rice with soy sauce, and too much macaroni and cheese from a box, not to mention lots of take-out.

Another staple of my kitchen table brought together two food items sacred to any college senior — beer and pizza.

Someone in the newsroom of the Boston U. Daily Free Press had lucked into a fact-a-day calendar put out by Samuel Adams, the hometown brewer that, in those days, was at the forefront of the developing craft-brew movement.

One of the page-a-day entries featured a dirt-simple recipe for thick-crust pizza.

All it took was white flour, wheat flour, baking powder and a bottle of Sam Adams Boston Lager, along with whatever toppings were desired.

The recipe, in my unsteady hand.

I didn’t often have Sam Lager in my fridge back then, due to its relative cost. But I always had beer — inoffensive pale golden beer, perfect for mixing into baked goods.

A little tomato sauce and cheese from the nearby Purity Supreme grocery store (dubbed “Poverty Supreme” for its general grunginess), and you had yourself a warm, filling, homemade dinner. Nay — a warm, filling, homemade pizza dinner with beer. What more could a 21-year-old wish for on a chill New England evening?

To this day, my wife and I still have that fact-a-day calendar entry somewhere in our recipe files. It pops up every couple of years.

And you know where I’m going with this: I got the urge into my head to make it again.

Even though I have come to strongly prefer crisp, thin-crust pizza. Even though I am no longer 21. And even though I should know better than to do stuff like this … I still wanted to do it anyway.

So, I provisioned myself today with the bare necessities, and set about cooking.

I should have opted for either Sam Lager (to be true to the recipe) or some trashy canned beer (to be historically accurate.)

Instead, faced with a dizzying variety of beer, I chose a decent-looking lager more or less at random — Frankenmuth Brewery Pilsener, from Frankenmuth, Michigan. I knew it wouldn’t be too hoppy, anyway, which is the biggest concern when you cook with beer.

Ingredients.

 

The main ingredient goes in.

Jarred pasta sauce is true to 1995, though the Wegmans house brand is probably better than whatever I was buying then.

 

Ready for the oven. Yes, there are some onions scattered over one corner. I’m weird like that.

Thirty minutes at 425 degrees produced a nicely done if rather dark-topped pizza. (I seem to remember they looked like that in 1995, too.)

Done. (And poorly lit. It didn’t really look quite this diseased.)

Side-angle shot shows thickness of crust.

I thought it was OK, maybe even better than I remembered.

The crust was fairly light and not too bitter — it tastes a little of beer, but not in a bad way. The whole wheat flour lent the recipe a little bit of heft without making it leaden. The tomato sauce and cheese, meanwhile, were tomato sauce and cheese.

My kids weren’t totally sold on it; at one point my younger son referred to it as “gross-crust pizza.”  Most of the pizza in the pan — I’d say 85 percent of it — disappeared anyway.

I might actually make this again on some weekend night when I find myself short on inspiration and bereft of ingredients except cheese, sauce, flour and beer.

I couldn’t tell you anything I learned in my senior-year college classes, but I’m glad to offer you a quick and useful pizza recipe if you want it.

My parents must be speechless with disappointment.