Song 26, Sunday, 7/21/2013 -- High Flyin' Bird by Richie Havens, written by Billy Edd Wheeler. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video is from a BBC TV appearance in 1969, and I'll admit that I can't tell if he's actually performing or lip-syncing, which performers often did (and still do) on TV broadcasts, but if this isn't live (and I usually can tell when it is and it isn't), then it's a bit of a different mix from the Mixed Bag track I have on my cassette. Either way, it really doesn't matter, because Richie Havens sounded pretty much the same live as on record. Before Woodstock, I hadn't heard of him, but in the fall of 1969 the entire Woodstock album was all over the radio in the Chicago area, and so I got to know that 2-record set very well, even though I didn't own it. Everybody came to know Richie Havens as the guy who opened the Woodstock concert with that signature strum style, and he applies that technique to this tune as well, to very inspired effect. Sadly, Richie died in April of this year, but he left behind a collection of truly memorable recordings. People who pay attention to folk songwriters from the era of Mixed Bag (1967) will probably recognize the name Billy Edd Wheeler, and may very well have seen it attached to other top quality songs of that period. There's a distinct possibility that another one of his tunes will show up on this list sooner or later.
Song 25, Saturday, 7/20/2013 -- Wasn't Born to Follow by The Byrds, written by Gerry Goffin and Carol King. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. Back to the LSESF 2 tape, after the usual Friday Friends Day break... The YT video visual is just a still graphic that includes the album cover for The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which contains the song, but if you play the video, you will at least hear a really good song. For a few years all I knew about The Byrds was the singles, most of which I really liked, but some time during the winter or early spring of 1970 I saw the film Easy Rider, which had this song as part of the soundtrack, and I really liked this one the first time I heard it. It took me a while to get the album, but it didn't matter much, because it seemed like everybody I knew had the Easy Rider album, so I got to hear this song a lot at the time anyway, and I enjoyed it every time I did. To this day, I often think of the Easy Rider scene that this song accompanies, and the appealing sort of back-to-the-land fantasy that it portrayed. It took me some time to figure out all the lines on this one, but they're really inspired and poetic, so the time spent listening and figuring them out was time well spent.
Song 24, Friday, 7/19/2013 -- Coal in the Riverboat by Bob Nichols, who also wrote the song. There is no YouTube video of the song, but you can hear it here. My old Berkeley housemate from the '80s, Bob Nichols, wrote this song, and actually had already made the recording by the time I moved into his house in Berkeley, in September of 1981. He had played it for me some time earlier, when he first wrote it, at a point where he and I got together and we played our new songs for each other. I thought it was a good song, but I wouldn't have called it a great one just then. A couple of months later I dropped by to visit him, at the house I would later be living in, and he was rehearsing the song with drummer David Rokeach, a truly talented player who later played drums for me on my recording At the Crossroads and then went on to play with the likes of Ray Charles. Anyway, hearing them rehearse the song, obviously Bob planned to record the song, and I thought Bob must have believed it was one of his best songs to be doing so, while I wasn't convinced it was that good at the time. When I heard the recording for the first time, though, I had to admit it sounded pretty good, and hearing it more and more, I decided that it was indeed one of Bob's best songs. Having heard it hundreds of times over the last 3 decades, I long ago decided that it is my favorite Bob Nichols song. He has some other really good ones, though, so his name might show up here again, on a Friday. I like all the lyrics on this song, but my favorite part is the ending bit, "Stop the rockets, stop the rain -- it's all the same." I think that's a pretty powerful lyric. Bob also told me that the recording included a couple of happy accidents. At the end of the fiddle solo, the fiddler and the guitar were supposed to play their parts at the same time, but the fiddle player screwed up, and Bob decided that indeed, it sounded better that way. Also, the backbeat echo on the ending part happened when the recording engineer hit the wrong button, and Bob told him he liked the effect, and they kept it. I'm glad they did.
Song 22, Wednesday, 7/17/2013 -- Ain't That Loving You Baby by The Youngbloods, written by Jimmy Reed. I couldn't find a YouTube video for this song, but you can find a video of the song here on what seems to be a Russian website. The video visual is just a still of the album cover, but if you play the video, you will hear a pretty good song. For a long time all I knew about the music of The Youngbloods was the album Elephant Mountain, which is a really good record, but some time in the mid-'80s I picked up their first album, called simply The Youngbloods, which has this song on it, as well as some other really good tunes. Jimmy Reed had a hit on the R&B charts with this song in the mid-'50s, and about 10 years later The Youngbloods did this really fine version of it for their first LP.
Song 21, Tuesday, 7/16/2013 -- Reasons for Waiting by Jethro Tull, written by Ian Anderson. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is a bunch of stills of the band, many of them live shots, but it's at least more interesting to look at than a lot of these song videos, plus you can hear a really good song. I started my Jethro Tull collection with Benefit, their 3rd album, around the time of its release. I always thought I'd like the earlier 2 albums, and when I finally got around to adding them to the collection, I wasn't disappointed. This song comes from their 2nd album, Stand Up. Ian Anderson layered a few flute tracks in, to very nice effect, and the string section on this song doesn't overwhelm the understated romantic message of the lyric. If you like love songs, this is one I think you should know.
Song 20, Monday, 7/15/2013 -- Love Like a Man by Ten Years After, written by Alvin Lee. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of a record cover, but play the video and you will hear a really good song. This one is just a riff tune, but it's a very well done riff tune, based on a really hypnotic riff, and it's a fine reminder of just how good a riff tune can sound. Of course, Alvin Lee supplies some really impressive additional riffs in the guitar break, which is a large part of the appeal. I don't remember the first time I heard the song, but I think I might have heard someone play the riff even before I heard the song, and that riff was so good I had to hear it again. As many times as that riff comes around in the song, and as many times as I've heard this song, I've never gotten tired of hearing that riff, or the song. The music really carries this one, as the lyrics are not really that great, but at the same time they're not all that bad -- for years I couldn't figure out the first line, and when I actually got it one night while listening to the song, I thought it was actually kind of clever, and much better than I thought it might be.
Song 19, Sunday, 7/14/2013 -- Glory Train by Johnny Rivers, written by James "Jim" Hendricks. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is a bunch of stills of different freight and passenger trains, but it's more to look at than a lot of these YouTube song videos, and once again, it's a really good song. Johnny Rivers had a big hit in the summer of '64 with his version of Chuck Berry's Memphis, a record I heard and really liked, knowing nothing about Berry or any of the other '50s rockers. My Ohio cousin Jimmy also liked the record, and I remember him playing it when we visited the Bowling Green relatives that summer. I knew and liked a few other JR records, but I didn't know much about his Slim Slo Slider album, which was named for its Van Morrison cover title track, until I picked up a copy of it while living in Berkeley in the '80s. Besides this song, the record also has a few other gems, including 2 Gram Parsons covers, at least one of which is likely to end up on this list if it gets long enough. The songwriter on this one is a guy with an interesting history that included membership in a couple of early '60s folk groups with people who later became part of The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas and the Papas, as well as marriage to Mama Cass Elliot.
Song 17, Friday, 7/12/2013 -- Treat Me Like Dirt by Patti Rothberg, who also wrote the song. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. For a change, the YouTube video for this song is an actual music video, and not only that, but it's one of the few music videos I've seen that is as visually interesting to watch as it is musically interesting to hear. I really like the parts where the bass player walks into the pool and the piano comes falling out of the sky, as well as the bits with pigs in the motel room and the family with motor oil on their pancakes. Friday is Friend's Day, and my recording partner engineer/producer David Seitz introduced me to Patti back in 2003. I previously didn't know anything about her music but she loaned me a handful of VHS tapes that included live shows, music videos and her Letterman and Leno appearances. I quickly found that I liked every one of her songs, and really liked a lot of them. This song cracked me up the first time through, and after hearing it at least a hundred times, the humor still makes me smile.
Song 15, Wednesday, 7/10/2013 -- Penthouse Pauper by Creedence Clearwater Revival, written by John Fogerty. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a few stills of the band, but if you play the video, you'll hear a really good song while you're watching those stills. Everybody was rollin' on the river with CCR in the spring of 1969, and that put Bayou Country near the top of my list of LPs to get. When I finally did get the record, it sounded even better than I expected. I didn't know this tune before I got the album, but it became an instant favorite that first time through. Like most CCR tunes, the words to this song aren't deep or poetic, but Fogerty managed to turn an old and very simple idea into a fun and very singable lyric.
Song 14, Tuesday, 7/9/2013 -- Zig Zag Wanderer by Captain Beefheart, who also wrote the song, going by his real name Don Van Vliet. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of the Safe as Milk album cover, but while it's not much to be looking at, it's a really good song for the listening. I had seen stickers for the Lick My Decals Off, Baby album around when that album came out in 1970, and heard a bit from Trout Mask Replica, but at first I didn't really have a grasp of what the Captain was up to. Then around mid-74, I heard a couple of bluesy tracks on an Atlanta radio station and decided I needed to pay more attention to this guy. At some point in the next year or 2, I picked up the Safe as Milk LP, and even on the first time through, I liked every track, which doesn't happen that often -- for contrast, I liked yesterday's song a lot from the first time I heard it, but I couldn't say that for the entire album. This song is probably my favorite one from the SaM record, but it's a tough call, because the LP has 12 very good songs, and I understand the CD has a few bonus tracks as well, though at this point I can't tell you anything about them.