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That Train Keeps a Rollin’

March 31, 2010

I’m not a fan of country music. Especially “new” country that’s trying to be rock but just comes out a twangy mess.

But I do like bad boys. And I love Johnny Cash.

At Folsom Prison. Released May 1968My first memories of Johnny Cash were early. His album Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison seemed to always be in rotation on visits to my Aunt and Uncle’s “cottage” on Findlay Lake, NY. That was a crazy place for the adults and us kids. Those are stories for another day.

My story is years later. 1990 I was living in Lakewood, OH on the first floor of a triplex. It was a nice house, that eventually became something of an Animal House. Also stories for another day.

1615 Ridgewood

Fourth of July, 1990. It’s hot. Some people are over. we’re attempting a cookout and drinking beer. We’re bored. Did I mention it was hot?

There’s air conditioning at the Corner Pub. And more beer. And a jukebox.

The Corner Pub on Madison at Ridgewood

So the six or so of us head down the street to the pub. Several barflies at the bar. It’s dark and cool and full of smoke already. We commandeer a table, order some beers and Billy and I head to the jukebox. And there it is.

Folsom Prison Blues.

Well we have to hear that. We play some songs. And go back for more. Let’s play it again. So we did. And a round of kamikaze shots ensued. And we played it again. Now a guy has moved from the bar to our table seeing as we are having so much fun on our own smoking and drinking and singing Johnny Cash.

And he says, “I’ll buy you another shot if you’ll play Folsom Prison again.” Well of course! In fact if you buy a round I’ll just keep playing it. And he did. And I played it again and again and again. And now the bartender is getting a little surly. But we’re just having a grand old time smoking and drinking and singing and then I see it. On the wall. A framed handbill advertising 10-Cent Beer Night. If you are not from Cleveland or even if you are, I found a pretty good article about it here: Remembering 10-Cent Beer Night.

I call this to the attention of the group and we proceed to take it down and slowly move it toward the door. And we almost made it. That made the bartender more than surly. In fact she was downright rude as she ordered us out. Heh heh. A few months later I was back at the Corner Pub and it had been screwed to the wall.

So when we got the juke running I went looking for places that still sold 45s. This was part of my first order with Continental Records. Continental Records Company Ltd.

Columbia Records 13-33153, 1968- New old stock at Continental Records

So because of that kamikaze-addled Fourth of July, and because that train keeps a rollin’ it stays in the jukebox.

I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone

March 11, 2010

The proliferation of merchandise attached to a band or a TV show is not new. My first experience with it was with The Monkees. There was tons of promo merchandise out there that played on The Monkees’ popularity. I had a talking hand puppet.

Pull the string and they talk! And sing the Monkees theme!

It eventually broke and they didn’t talk to me any more. But I still played with it. There were also records embedded on the back of cereal boxes. Way better than any lame prize inside.

Because of these things, I was a Monkees junkie by age 4.

And they were all but over by then.The show only lasted a couple of years, but as a very little kid I loved it. It’s been in and out of syndication and shown on TV many times. Whenever I find it, I watch. It was just silly fun with great pop songs. No, my favorite was not Davy. It was Mike. Then Mickey.

Some have dismissed them as a bubblegum pop band, but they were more than that. Even though they were a pre-fab group fitted together to take advantage of the fab four frenzy, they did have talent. They did play instruments, they sang and acted goofy and made it all look like great fun.

But their best songs were written by others you say. I say that happens everyday. And especially in the mid-sixties.

The Brill Building was the home of Aldon Music. The “don” in Aldon is Don Kirshner. Aldon Music and the Brill Building was home to the best songwriters in America at the time. Carole King & Jerry Goffin, Ellie Greenwich & Jeff Barry, Neil Sedaka, Leiber & Stoller and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart. It was a pop hit-making factory.

Don Kirshner was brought in to handle the music for the Monkees TV show. Boyce & Hart were already on board as a song writing team. And they wrote hit after hit for The Monkees. Including my favorite. “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”

A great screamin' rocker. Steppin' Stone by The Monkees

This is the B side of “Daydream Believer.” 1966, Colgems 66-1002. I don’t remember where I got this, but I bought it for the B side.

Amazingly, I can’t find a you tube video to post for this record. Nearly every other Monkees song is there, even my other favorite, “Mary, Mary.” But there are tons of covers, including The Sex Pistols and Johnny Thunders. And I found out that The Monkees weren’t the first to release this song. It was Paul Revere and The Raiders. YouTube – Paul Revere & the Raiders-(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.

So, because even The Sex Pistols think this song rocks. It stays in the jukebox. YouTube – Sex Pistols – (I’m not your) Stepping Stone.

The Power of Suggestion or Sleep Listening

March 5, 2010

Summer of ’78 I was 13. Go ahead do the math… The house I grew up in had no air conditioning. Still doesn’t. My bedroom was upstairs and had attic spaces on either side. It was unbearably hot in summer and freezing in winter.

But we’re talking about summer. And trying to sleep. I rigged fans at the windows to bring cool air in and blow out the hot air. I would lay in the dark and try to think cooling thoughts. It was miserable up there in the summer.

My fancy flip clock radio had a feature that would play the radio for a up to an hour and shut itself off.

The same clock radio I had

I would turn it down low and try to escape in music so I could fall asleep. There were certain big songs that summer, “Ebony Eyes” by Bob Welch, “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty and “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh. They were all played nearly every night, and were good to fall asleep to (In other words, I didn’t care much about them). But one song always woke me back up. “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears. I’m still mesmerized by that song.

When we got the juke working I started scouting around for places to buy 45s. I bought a lot of 45s from Continental Records.

Original Canadian release

This is one of them. Sniff ‘n’ The Tears’ Driver’s Seat/Slide Away on Atlantic #3604. I’ve never played the flip side. Driver’s Seat.mp3

The great thing about Continental Records is the records are all NEW old stock. He has a ton of titles so pack a lunch before you start looking. They are located in Canada so the shipping is a little high, and wait time for delivery is a little long, but I will repeat, NEW OLD STOCK. And some Canada-only releases. This is a Canadian release.

So “Driver’s Seat” stays in the jukebox. And it will always be summer.

Reelin and Rocking

February 26, 2010

"Reelin and Rocking" Chuck Berry 1958

“Reelin and Rocking” The B side of “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry. This is an original from my mom’s collection. 1958, Chess Records. Mom was 14 when she bought it, so I come by this stuff honestly I guess. This record is barely playable on a regular turntable, but luckily the jukebox just plows through. It’s more than 50 years old and it has been played a lot. A LOT.

When I write about these records I try to do a little research about them which usually jogs more memories about them, but I have very specific memories of me and my sister playing this record. And we weren’t allowed to play my mom’s records.

There was a trivia question posted online the other day from Mental Floss magazine asking if anyone could name the only number one hit by Chuck Berry. Yup, Chuck’s only number one to date is  “My Ding A Ling.” In doing my research I came across a mention of that song as released in 1972. It was live and recorded in Coventry, England at the Lanchester Arts Festival. Part of that show, was Reelin and Rocking which was also released as a single in 1972. It went to #27 on the Billboard charts. (According to a tour list I found, a couple of weeks later Chuck played the Allen Theatre here in Cleveland.) The album, The London Chuck Berry Sessions, of those live recordings and studio work, is an all-out who’s who of a British pick-up band. Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan of the Faces (and more) with Robbie McIntosh and Onnie McIntyre of Average White Band are among the notables. The London Chuck Berry Sessions – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

So yeah, 1972. I was seven. My sister was three. So I’m sure as my mom was driving us around somewhere we heard Reelin’ and Rockin’ on the radio. (I KNOW I heard My Ding a Ling.) And later she must have pulled out that little red box of 45s. And played her original 45. And I must have begged her to let me play those 45s on my little aqua record player. YouTube – CHUCK BERRY – ‘Reelin’ And Rockin” – 78rpm 1958. (this link is of the 78 rpm version, but it’s exactly like the 45)

And we jumped. We jumped on the bed. And played it over and over and over again. And we jumped on the bed some more. And we weren’t allowed to jump on the bed.

Mom wrote her name on the record in case it got lost at parties. Then wrote her married name over it.

So when we finally got the jukebox working, mom gave me that little box of 45s. The box she took to every party. They were now mine. First thing I did was look for it. Yes. There it is. Chuck Berry.

So for the memory of the pure joy of jumping on a bed with your little sister to a rock and roll classic, it stays in the jukebox.

Green Onions

February 19, 2010

So as I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m going to highlight the records that always stay in the jukebox. I thought about putting them in some kind of order, but that means nothing. These are the records that stay. There is no order, only personal reasons.

Green Onions

That being said, I’m going to contradict myself right away and say this is the number one record that will always stay in the jukebox. “Green Onions” by Booker T and the MG’s. There. Done.

Just kidding. There’s more to it.

My record is a reissue. I can’t find any documentation as to when it was pressed. It’s in VG condition. I can’t remember where I bought this one. It was probably at the record show that is held periodically at the American Legion Hall around the corner. When Joe (remember him?) comes over to adjust the jukebox and make it happy again, what song does he pick to test his work? Yup, “Green Onions.”

“Green Onions” was first released in 1962. The year my parents graduated from high school. Just a few years before my time. According to biographies on the internet, Booker T. Jones was only 17 when working in the Stax studios as a “house” player with guitarist Steve Cropper, bass player Lewie Steinberg, and drummer Al Jackson, Jr. On a break during a recording session they messed around with some riffs they thought were reminiscent of Ray Charles and “Green Onions” was born. It went straight to number one on the R&B charts and number three on the pop charts. (For those of you saying wait a minute, what about Donald “Duck” Dunn? He replaced Lewie Steinberg in 1965)

There is something about the groove of the song. YouTube – Booker T & the M G ‘s Green Onions (HQ audio) Is it naughty? Not particularly, but there’s movement to it that I just can’t explain. It begs for a stroll or a Soul Train dance line. That melodic bass line layered over and under Booker T’s expert organ riff. Throw on top some white-boy lead guitar twang and pow! It’s a party.

If you have a favorite Stax release from the 60s, chances are Booker T played on it. Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, everyone’s backing band was Booker T and the MG’s  (By the way, even though it is an incorrect use of that apostrophe, that’s how they spell the name. Yeah, it bugs me too.)

Warped Sister 45 cover art

Meanwhile, I was happy to find out that Booker T is still at it. Last year he released a new album called Potato Hole. Why Potato Hole? I don’t know. Why “Green Onions?” I haven’t heard it yet, but I do have a Record Store Day score of Warped Sister/Reunion Time. I found it at Spin-More Records in Kent last summer. YouTube – 06 Warped Sister-Booker T Featuring The Drive By Truckers & Neil Young This one may end up a keeper in the juke as well.

“Green Onions.” Because it is a true American soul classic, it stays in the jukebox.

Soul Train line anyone?

The Namesake

February 12, 2010

1970 Wurlitzer Statesman

This lovely piece of electro-mechanical engineering lives in my basement. It came with the house. Really. During negotiations on the house we were going back and forth on the price, and the owners finally said XXX money and the jukebox stays. We said SOLD.

Of course, it didn’t work. And being flat-broke and house-poor, it sat. Lonely and sad.

And I pined for it. For several years.

There’s a little record store up the street. Royal Garden Records has no website. He’s open when he wants to be. And he’s more than a little cranky if you try to negotiate the price of something. But do you want a jazz record from the beginning of time? He has it. 78s, 45s and stacks and stacks of used 33 1/3 vinyl. Serious stacks. Nearly to the ceiling, stacks. Go look when you’re done reading. He may be open today. (23812 Lorain Rd., North Olmsted, OH)

I wandered in and started looking at all of the 45s. In alpha order, sleeved, and clean. He asked if I was looking for something in particular, and I said, “Yeah, someone to fix the jukebox in my basement.” And of course, he “knows a guy.”

So I called Joe. Took him a week to call back. Turns out he lives AROUND THE CORNER FROM ME. Kismet. He came over and took a look, poked around and said he’d be back with some parts. Another week later, he was back. He cleaned it, replaced relay switch-thingies, lights, and a couple of mechanisms. We put a record in. Fired it up, and IT WORKED.

Lights up like it's Christmas

Heaven. My own personal very loud record player. It sounded like crap. No bass. We replaced the tone arm and wiring. Well, Joe did. Replaced more little transistor-ish thingies and ice cube relays (they’re square and white — Joe again). I found some bass speakers Eminence – The Art and Science of Sound from Musician’s Friend and ordered them. The Mr. installed them and yeah, that’s MUCH better. About every three months or so it does something silly like only play “B” sides or play the same song over and over and not move on. So we call Joe, give him some beer money and he fixes it.

It holds 100 records

Yup it holds 100 records. Excellent. So I started collecting records. Again. I go to record stores, (See earlier posts from last summer) flea markets, estate sales, poke around on ebay, record shows and friends give them to me. My pal Greg has a pal in England who has sent over several UK release Clash 45s. Awesome. I’m up to about 1200 45s now. There’s a couple of boxes waiting to be cataloged next to me here in my home office. Since I’m a graphic designer, I make the little labels that go in the slots. The labels are color coded by decade, Christmas, novelty and instrumental. I have a master list of each record, the flip, label, release # etc.

It’s time consuming being this obsessive.

This leads to some upcoming blog posts. There are several 45s that always stay in the juke. Each week I’m going to pull one, scan it and explain why it stays.

That is if I can learn to be as obsessive about this blog as I am the records.


November 20, 2009

I just want to bite that lower lip

I finally saw Bruce Springsteen on November 10, 2009. I’ve been trying to figure out since then why I felt disappointed. It was just me that was disappointed. The reviews were great, the person I went with was in awe. Once I got home I DM’d Matt Wardlaw on Twitter to get his thoughts. Yup. It’s just me. But why?

I’m a good bit late. Like 30 years. Growing up in Cleveland in the late 70s/early 80s meant knowing Bruce from the legendary ’78 Agora concert. That concert was personal. I was 13 years old. And he was speaking to me. I was introduced to Bruce on WMMS (and by a boy I had a crush on in Junior High, but that’s another story). But I became a fan because of that concert. YouTube – Bruce Springsteen – GROWIN UP 1978. (not the Agora show but close)

So was that what I was expecting? The 1978 show? I expected everything and there’s no way a 3 hour concert can do that. There’s no way he could give me the songs I wanted to hear, my choices, directed at ME. And Cleveland. It looked like he was enjoying himself. For god’s sake he crowd surfed the floor with no worries; singing the whole way. Bruce sounded great. the band was right on it. Why am I disappointed?

I wasn’t disappointed in Paul McCartney in 1990. Was it just because it was Paul McCartney? My second cousin introduced me to the Beatles. She lived through Beatlemania. When I found out Paul was coming to Municipal Stadium, I called her to see if I got her a ticket, would she come to Cleveland and go to the show with me? She hesitated and then said she would. I was 25, she was 40. We had a gang of six going. We jumped on the rapid and took it downtown, everyone on the train was going to the show, and we were all singing together, and shrieking at our good luck. Like Beatlemania. It was the best show I’ve ever seen.

The next day she explained why she hesitated. She grew up (and still lives) in New York. About an hour from the city. In 1966, she had a chance to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. Her best friend had the ticket for her. Her parents said she could go.  She declined. Because it would have meant too much. I didn’t get it.

I do now.