Bonanza view masters, 1964

July 13th, 2014

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Bird count: 4.

Borrowed Tunes: The Osmonds - “Hold Her Tight” (1972)

July 11th, 2014

Because no video/audio of the Osmonds’ teamup with Led Zeppelin is readily available (see previous post), I’ll share my favorite clip of the Osmonds’ “Hold Her Tight,” which channels Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and shows where the brothers act was heading before family business priorities squelched it. I don’t expect Zeppelin to be getting litigious over it.

The Osmonds sing “Stairway to Heaven”

July 10th, 2014

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From Jay Osmond’s Stages (2011), p. 38: “Also in the 1970s, while in England at Earl’s Court (a large arena in London), we were honored when Led Zeppelin invited us to sing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ with them. It was a surreal moment for me as I played congas next to John Bonham.”

Katfish, “Dear Prudence” (1975)

June 23rd, 2014

I subbed today for Rush Evans on his Off the Beatle Path show on KOOP. What a glorious opportunity it was to air “Dear Prudence” by Katfish, a #52 hit in ‘75.

Borrowed Tunes: Ten Wheel Drive and Family Feud

April 28th, 2014

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Although Genya Ravin only had one charting single with her group Ten Wheel Drive (”Morning Much Better,” #74 in 1970), there’s a lot more to her story than that, such as her ’60s band Goldie and the Gingerbreads and her role in producing the Dead Boys’ debut LP.

The thing about “Morning Much Better,” though, is that I can’t hear it without thinking of the game show Family Feud, which debuted in 1976 with Richard Dawson as its kiss-distributing host. Although the show’s theme song (written by Walt Levinski) doesn’t borrow any melodic ideas from the single (written by Ten Wheel Drive band members Michael Zager and Aram Schefrin), they both share a distinctive banjo/blaring horn DNA.

Ten Wheel Drive featuring Genya Ravin - “Morning Much Better” (1970)

Walt Levinski (for Score Productions) - “Theme from Family Feud” (1976)

Borrowed Tunes: Bobby Goldsboro and Jeane-Claude Borelly

April 27th, 2014

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In early ‘76 the French trumpeting instrumentalist Jeane-Claude Borelly scored a minor #106 hit with a single called “Dolannes Melodie” (a theme for a 1974 film called Un linceul n’a pas de poches), which relies on a very distinctive riff taken from Bobby Goldsboro’s “Last Summer (The First Time),” a #21 hit in ‘73.

What a fascinating record “Last Summer” is, by the way - at once uncomfortable and arresting, with its coming of sexual age lyrics and beguiling arrangement. (Millie Jackson did an equally compelling version of it the following year.) Bobby Goldsboro is such a puzzle to me, with a catalog that alternates between deep pathos and shallow bathos, sometimes even within a single song. One day I’ll take the time to express this more fully.

Bobby Goldsboro - “Last Summer (The Last Time)” (1973)

Jeane-Claude Borelly and His Orchestra - “Dolannes Melodie” (1976)

“America’s Gone 7-Up” can collection from 1979

March 17th, 2014

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I collected these cans in the summer of ‘79 and was able to make the stacked up panorama shown in this picture. My decision to toss them out at the end of that summer was perhaps a formative anti-hoarding lesson for someone with an unmistakeable collector’s impulse. Each can offers up a single image suggesting a quintessential recreational activity for each state (photos - except for Minnesota - courtesy of usasoda.com):

Alabama (biking in historic Mobile)
Alaska (scaling the Alaska range)
Arizona (backpacking in the Grand Canyon)
Arkansas (picknicking in Hot Springs)
California (surfing the California coast)
Colorado (skiing in the Rockies)
Connecticut (hiking the Appalachian Trail)
Delaware (touring)
Florida (boating in the Everglades)
Georgia (fishing Lake Lanier)
Hawaii (snorkeling)
Idaho (rafting the Salmon River)
Illinois (cycling in New Salem State Park)
Indiana (playing basketball)
Iowa (ballooning)
Kansas (camping along the Santa Fe Trail)
Kentucky (horse racing)
Louisiana (boating in Lake Pontchartrain)
Maine (canoeing in the Allagash River)
Maryland (sailing in Chesapeake Bay)
Massachusetts (running the Boston Marathon)
Michigan (fishing in Lake Michigan)
Minnesota (dogsledding in the Superior National Forest)
Mississippi (sailing along the Gulf Coast)
Missouri (canoeing in the Ozark streams)
Montana (backbacking in Glacier National Park)
Nebraska (saddlebronc riding)
Nevada (wind sailing in Death Valley)
New Hampshire (climbing White Mountain)
New Jersey (canoeing in the Pine Barrens)
New Mexico (rounding up cattle)
New York (sight-seeing in Central Park)
North Carolina (golfing the Tar Heel Fairways)
North Dakota (cross country skiing)
Ohio (backpacking along the Buckeye Trail)
Oklahoma (horse riding near the Glass Mountains)
Oregon (climbing Mount Hood)
Pennsylvania (touring Independence Square)
Rhode Island (sailing in Newport)
South Carolina (playing tennis at Hilton Head)
South Dakota (hiking Mount Rushmore)
Tennessee (hiking the Great Smokies)
Texas (fishing the Toledo Bend Reservoir)
Utah (camping in national parks)
Vermont (iceboating in Lake Champlain)
Virginia (camping in the Shenandoah Valley)
Washington (kayaking in the Skagit River)
West Virginia (climbing the Seneca Rocks)
Wisconsin (fishing in Lake Winnebago)
Wyoming (hiking the Grand Tetons)

Anyone interested in constructing an alternate list?

Trouser Press pans Horses

March 14th, 2014

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An entry in Nicholas Rombes’ A Cultural Dictionary of Punk (2009), p. 289, in which the phrase “There is nothing inherently wonderful about starkness” serves as a stand-alone entry in the T section:

“There is nothing inherently wonderful about starkness”: A sentence from a scathing 1976 article about Patti Smith by Ira Robbins, the editor of Trouser Press. Describing Horses - which had been released in December 1975 - as a “fairly good album, capturing a small part of the feeling one got seeing her at Max’s a year ago,” Robbins wonders why she has become a darling of the “straight press.” His critique rests on two objections. First, her music has been transformed from a sort of self-deprecating “imitation” of rock and roll into an actual, serious effort to be rock and roll… Second, her newfound success with Horses is a betrayal of her roots and of the New York underground scene…

In some ways, Robbins’s article predicts the countless attacks on punk and indie bands that would, in the coming decades, be accused of selling out, either because they signed to major labels or because they began adjusting their sound to accommodate the broader tastes of wider audiences.

But more than this, Robbins’s assault has the tone of a spurned lover or, worse yet, a forgotten one. Patti, why have you forgotten me? I love you. Please come back. It’s a feeling we’ve all had at one point or another about a favorite band, and about the betrayal we feel when that private experience goes public and everybody gets a chance to listen. In this respect, Robbins’s essay is not a hatchet job but a confession of love.

This blog post can be understood as a confession of love for this entry.

Words from Joe Jackson that I think about

March 8th, 2014

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Years ago I read Joe Jackson’s Cure for Gravity and blogged about it. Certain words of his that I didn’t write about in that post seem to have stuck in my head over the years, though. Here they are for your consideration:

…It still amazes me how much scorn some people can muster for musicians - or the wrong kind of musicians. The biggest fights are not necessarily between, say, jazzers and folkies, or rockers and baroquers. The greater the distance between two genres or subcultures, the more likely they are to be irrelevant, even invisible, to each other. It’s ironic, but this is the way that grudges and rivalries seem to work. Poor people don’t envy the rich nearly as much as they envy the poor person who gets a break… The history of rock ‘n’ roll teems with such wars of attrition…

Of course music per se is not always the issue, and it’s impossible to completely separate any kind of art - or any kind of product - from the preoccupations of its time. I like to say that I have no agenda. I say it because I don’t run with any particular gang, and because agendas are often no more than defensive postures we take up against other people’s agendas. But I do have an agenda of sorts, or a guiding conviction, and I may as well be honest about it. Music is either an art form or it isn’t, and I say that it is: the greatest of the arts, and one of the closest approaches we mortals have to the divine. And try as I might, I can’t seem to reduce it to the level of the matching handbag that goes with this year’s jacket. Nor can I inflate it to the level of tribal warfare.

The pronunciation of “Rio Grande”

March 5th, 2014

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I played Texocentric songs on last Sunday’s edition of Folkways for Texas Independence Day and I noticed that on the Cartwright Brothers’ 1929 “Texas Ranger” they pronounce “Rio Grande” as “RYE-oh Grand.”  I’d first noticed the Texas river pronounced that way on Stan Freberg’s 1955 “Yellow Rose of Texas,” which parodies Mitch Miller’s singalong hit version of the song and which also uses that pronunciation. (So does a version by Johnny Desmond released hot on Miller’s heels in the summer of ‘55 - another big hit.) I figured Freberg’s usage was an oversight that was especially regrettable since he mimics a Texan and I’ve only ever heard it as “REE-oh Grand” here in the Lone Star State.

The Cartwright Brothers threw me, though, because they were from the town of Munday in the Texas panhandle and their record came out so much earlier than the other ones.  Additional poking around has informed me that the town of Rio Grande in Ohio happens to be pronounced “RYE-oh” and that the majority of the employees of the Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad, which ran in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, also pronounced it that way. Maybe the railroad connection is the most relevant one here, with Munday close enough to the Intermountain area to adopt that quirk.  (Gene Autry’s 1933 version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” has him singing “REE-oh Grand.” He’s originally from Tioga, pronounced “Tie-OH-ga” in Northeast Texas.) Keeping my ears open…

Mitch Miller - “Yellow Rose of Texas” (1955) (”Rio Grande” at 1:12)

Cartwright Brothers - “Texas Ranger” (1929) (”Rio Grande” at :43)