Four Singles

August 24, 2010

Unlike a lot of music bloggers whom I read, I have no fond memories of going to buy 45s with money earned mowing the lawn.

Many of these bloggers are capable of recounting with remarkable precision the details and circumstances of the first single they ever bought.

I can’t.

I can tell you that the first album I purchased (on cassette) was Christopher Cross’ debut.

And my first live show was seeing a band on a tour that would be infamously remembered and still discussed almost three decades later.

Sure, like most kids, I mowed acres of lawn, but I never bought more than a handful of 45s.

For one thing, I eased into a relationship with music, taking a good eighteen months or so from the point where I was turning on the radio to the point where music was beginning to consume the bulk of my budget.

Also, I had a tape recorder and would rudimentarily tape the songs I wanted from the radio onto crude mix tapes.

The sound quality was charmingly primitive but – as I was taking my time committing to the relationship – it didn’t matter. When I finally went all in, it was with full-length albums on cassette.

So, I mostly missed the experience of the 45.

However, just because I didn’t buy 45s doesn’t mean that I didn’t have any of my own. As a young kid, my mom would purchase a single for me now and again when a certain song would catch my fancy.

I sifted through the contents of my head and – more or less – retrieved the first singles that I ever owned. Though a couple were on radio in late 1972, all of them were on the charts during the first half of 1973…

King Harvest – Dancing In The Moonlight
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box

It was sometime in autumn of 1972 when I started hearing Dancing In The Moonlight on the radio. The song still changes the atomosphere for me to a crisp October day as it might have been when I was four and would heard the song on the car radio.

I’m not exactly sure what it was about the song. It is ridiculously catchy and it made me suspicious that I was missing some happening communal event that occurred well after my bedtime. I pictured Max and the Wild Things from Where The Wild Things Are having their rumpus under the full moon as the song would play.

And it’s still groovy beyond belief. Is it possible to not be put in a better headspace listening to this song?

In fact, I nominate Dancing In The Moonlight as our global anthem.

Albert Hammond – It Never Rains In Southern California
from It Never Rains In Southern California

I doubt that I really considered the dire straits in which the protagonist of It Never Rains In Southern California found himself at the time. Again, I was four years old.

I did like sunshine, though and – as it was the dead of a Midwestern winter – the idea of a place where it was always sunny and warm sounded positively magical.

John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
from John Denver’s Greatest Hits

I seem to recall that Rocky Mountain High also served as a title for one of John Denver’s television specials at the time. I also seem to recall negotiating a cease-bedtime treaty to watch.

There he was – granny glasses, floppy hat – traipsing around in the mountains communing with nature, animals, granola-munching girls in bell-bottomed jeans with long, straight hair…

I was impressed with his style.

Jim Croce – Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
from Bad Bad Leroy Brown: The Definitive Collection

I was also impressed with the style of one Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, especially after seeing the cartoon that accompanied the song on Sonny & Cher.

So, two of the first, male role models I had – aside from my father and grandfather – would have been John Denver and a cartoon version of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

(and things didn’t end well for either of them)

Jim Croce is another artist that I keep intending to explore further than the dozen or so songs I know. Even if I don’t get around to doing so, both he and Bad, Bad Leroy Brown will forever occupy a special place in my heart.

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Noah, Noah, Everywhere…

May 4, 2010

Several co-workers got all excitible early last week over news reports that Noah’s Ark had been discovered.

It immediately took me back to being a kid and the spate of documentury films in the mid-’70s on the search for sasquatch, UFOs, and Noah’s Ark which were regular viewing fare on Saturday afternoon matinees at our hometown theater.

During the hulabaloo of the pious over this latest “discovery” of the bibilical mariner’s vessel, I heard one of them ask loudly to no one in particular about the a link from the “news” site to the original story.

“What’s sun dot co dot uk?”

Maybe there is an antediluvian cruise ship permanantly in port somewhere on Mount Ararat, but I think I’ll wait for a source other than the UK’s The Sun.

There’s no shortage of folks ’round here waiting for Jesus to bring the porkchops and I quickly forgot about this interest in the flood.

Then, a few days later, I came home from work to find Paloma watching Evan Almighty, a film starring The Office‘s Steve Carell as a modern-day Noah.

Still, I thought little of it as I ventured into the rain early Saturday morning to have some regular maintenance done on the car. I muttered to myself on the drive about the dismal performance of the windshield wipers, making a note to have them replaced.

“You’re going to love these,” Thomas, my mechanic, told me enthusiastically as he brandished a wiper blade. “These are like going from dial-up to a DSL.”

(Thomas is well aware that any automotive suggestions he makes to me are best expressed in non-automotive terms)

As I drove home, the storm increased in intensity, making for a good test of the new wiper blades and their performance was as good as advertised. I returned home, thinking that I would wait ’til later to do a few other chores.

I stretched out on the couch to the soothing sound of steady rain drumming on the eave outside the window.

Thirty-some hours and fifteen inches later, the rain finally stopped drumming on the eave outside the window.

It was a lot of rain but maybe I should have seen it coming.

There is no shortage of rain songs. Here are four that I felt like hearing today…

The Carpenters – Rainy Days And Mondays
from Gold: 35th Anniversary Edition

One of my earliest memories of music is The Carpenters and I can effortlessly picture sitting in the back seat of our Gremlin and there always being something on the radio from the duo. At five, that suited me just fine and it still does.

Albert Hammond – It Never Rains In Southern California

Right in the same time period during which The Carpenters were dominating the pop charts, Albert Hammond was also all over the radio with It Never Rains In Southern California and the five-year old me absolutely loved the song.

The 45 for the song was one of the first few singles I ever owned and, as I didn’t really develop an interest in music for another six or seven years, that was high praise indeed.

I Mother Earth – Rain Will Fall
from Dig

I Mother Earth’s debut Dig was recently featured over at the very cool Forgotten Disc Friday. I serendipitously discovered the band before Dig was released.

Out of college, I worked a couple of internships for record labels, including one in radio promotion. One afternoon, on my way out, my boss gave me a cassette and instructed me to critique it that evening. When I popped it into the player, I was blown away. It was demo recordings of I Mother Earth.

Combining the blistering, tribal rock leanings of Jane’s Addiction, the otherworldly poetry of The Doors, and percussive elements reminiscent of Santana (they actually toured with an ex-member performing percussion), I Mother Earth should have been huge. Our label lost them in a bidding war to Capitol Records who torpedoed their career by marketing them as a metal act. Well done, Capitol. Well done.

Garbage – Only Happy When It Rains
from Garbage

I loved the first few Garbage albums. I’d adored Blondie in my teens and, a decade later, Garbage filled a void that had been left when Blondie split up. Butch Vig parlayed a hot hand as a producer into one of the finest alternative rock acts of the ’90s.

I kind of lost track of Garbage and have only heard tracks here and there over the past decade. The songs I have heard were pleasant enough but didn’t lead me to believe that I missed too much.

And, as it was posted a couple years ago, you might have missed the near-miscommunication between lead singer Shirley Manson and me.