Thursday, May 31, 2012

No. 735 – Burnin’ for You

Performer: Blue Öyster Cult
Songwriters: Donald Roeser, Richard Meltzer
Original Release: Fire of Unknown Origin
Year: 1981
Definitive Version: None

Laurie doesn’t wear a seatbelt when she drives in the city (only on the highway), and it drives me nuts. I’ve told her that if we’re in a crash and she dies because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, I’ll hate her forever. She doesn’t care. Well, she cares, but not enough to change. I’ve stopped bothering her about it.

I’m something of a fanatic about wearing seatbelts. I like to tell the story of Derrick Thomas. Derrick Thomas, for those who don’t know or have forgotten, was an All-Pro linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Years ago, the SUV that Thomas was driving to St. Louis for an NCAA Tournament basketball game flipped and rolled on an icy patch of freeway. One passenger was killed instantly. Thomas was paralyzed from the waist down and died of a heart attack in the hospital a couple of weeks later. A third passenger was treated and released the same day. Which passenger was wearing the seatbelt? It was Thomas.

I’m kidding. Of course, it was the guy who was treated and released. In other words, no one had to die that day, but they did because of one little thing that they didn’t want to bother with.

As you might suspect, there’s a reason for my fanaticism. Just before the end of my junior year of high school in 1981, my buddy Jim and I went out for lunch at McDonald’s.
Jim drove, and he drove a Buick Grand Prix, not quite a land yacht, but a lot of car for a 16-year-old kid. I don’t think this song was on the radio at the time—more likely it was something from Back in Black, which Jim played a lot—but it could have been. Anyway, Jim looked down to change the radio or tape … and didn’t see the car that had stopped in front of him to make a left turn.

We plowed into it going 30 mph, which meant I—not wearing a seatbelt—plowed head-first into the windshield going about 30 mph. I wasn’t knocked out, but I when I opened my eyes, I saw that I had put a huge crack into the windshield. If we had been going faster, I might have gone through.

Everyone was OK, albeit a little shaken up. The guy in the car in front of us was an associate at high school, who ironically just minutes earlier in a general assembly for student-body government elections for the next year called Jim out by name from the stage. What’s that about no good deed going unpunished?

Anyway, I never lost consciousness, but Jim’s Dad was insistent when I went home for the day that I go to the hospital to get everything checked out, just in case. Mom took me, and it ended up being a disaster. I wasn’t an emergency case, so we were made to wait and wait … and wait.

Well, Mom wasn’t having it. She was asleep when I had come home and wasn’t thrilled to take me to the hospital even though she did. She certainly was in no mood to wait on a doctor, so she said, we’re leaving—even though I hadn’t seen anyone yet. I felt OK—I had a hard head—so I didn’t fight it.

In the parking lot, Mom got so disoriented about finding the exit that in her frustration, she drove through a lowered gate, breaking it off. As you can imagine, for someone who had just been in a pretty decent-size car wreck, that was a little upsetting. Before long, we were home, Mom was back asleep and I was feeling lucky that all I had was a bit of a bump on the ol’ pumpkin.

But I never again have ridden in a car, bus or truck (including a taxi)—even when going around the block—without buckling up first. I might be hard-headed but not that hard-headed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No. 736 – Broken Wings

Performer: Mr. Mister
Songwriters: Richard Page, Steve George, John Lang
Original Release: single, Welcome to the Real World
Year: 1985
Definitive Version: None

At the start of my final semester at Wabash in January 1986, I found myself in an ideal situation—a perfect situation, really.

I had finished almost all of my requirements for graduation. I had completed my major (English); I had completed my minor (an amalgamation that my adviser and I called pre-journalism). I had completed all of core classes—science, math, language, etc. Heck, I already had even been accepted into J school at Northwestern.

All I had to do to graduate was to take four classes—any four I wanted—to fulfill the credits requirement. So I did what anyone in my situation would have: I took an independent study and three Tuesday-Thursday classes, so I would have four-day weekends every week.

My independent study was English lit from the Restoration up to the 19th Century. I had been unable to take that class due to scheduling, and it was my only gap in the genre. My adviser, Dr. Herzog, would administer the study, and it was essentially a list of essential reads and papers. It was a guaranteed A, and a relatively easy one.

So all that was left was choosing the right three Tuesday-Thursday classes. I should back up a bit. Back then at Wabash (don’t know about now), you went to a class either Monday-Wednesday-Friday for an hour each day, or you went Tuesday-Thursday for 90 minutes each day. It depended on when the class was scheduled. I always had at least one class every day until that final semester.

Tuesday-Thursday classes were at 8, 9:45, 1 and 2:45. No sense getting up early to make an 8 a.m. class, so what was available that I could take the three other times? The first choice was obvious: Religion 1 at 9:45.

It was taught by the Rev. Hall Peebles, who was a lecturing legend at Wabash. He could talk at length in his syrupy southern drawl about the Old Testament for the entire 90 minutes, never looking at a single note and never putting anyone to sleep. I took that class entirely just so I could hear his lectures.

The other two classes were more up in the air. I chose a modern drama class, because, well, it fit the needed slot, and another English class, because it would be my first literature class with Dr. Rosenberg, and my roommate, Matt, wanted to take it, too.

It was Black American lit—Ellison, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Malcolm X, etc.—and it was a fun class. But, because it was a small class—eight to 10 students—unexcused absences weren’t tolerated. I found that out the hard way.

I went home to be with Beth for the long weekend at Valentine’s Day in 1986, which means multiple consummations and, of course, lots of WSNY on the radio during that time, as I mentioned. That meant hearing this song on an almost daily basis. Anyway, I was having such a great time that I decided to stay till Wednesday and skip all of my Tuesday classes.

I was caught up in my reading, and I didn’t have any tests for which to study or papers that were due. I figured Matt could cover for me as far as notes for the English class went; the other classes, well, I’ll figure that out. Other people skip class all the time, so why not? Now was a perfect time to do it.

Well, Dr. Rosenberg thought differently and called me out over it when I got back on Thursday. His point was a valid one: It wasn’t the class-skipping, per se; it’s that—yes—in a class that that’s small, everyone is important in contributing to the discussion for the benefit of others. He wasn’t wrong, but I didn’t regret doing it either.

And it didn’t affect his opinion of me in the long run: I aced the class.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No. 737 – Human Beings

Performer: Seal
Songwriter: Seal
Original Release: Human Being
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

At the end of 1998, Debbie was shown the door from the Wexler Foundation over personnel issues. As I mentioned, the office manager hated Debbie because Debbie was viewed as competition. She couldn’t have that, so she essentially got Debbie fired.

That was fine with me. As someone who was in a similarly poisonous office environment, too, I had a lot of empathy for Debbie’s plight. I told her that there were better days ahead, and she agreed. The holidays were coming, and that would provide plenty of diversions—and besides, no one hires for full-time office work during that time of the year anyway.

After 1998 rolled into 1999, Debbie set about finding work. She said she could go back to being a legal secretary. She had done it for years, and she knew she could have another such job right away, but she didn’t want to go back to the old routine. Fine. I’ll hunker down at The Dispatch for the time being. I make enough to pay the bills, so we’re OK there. Do what you want.

The funny thing is, I remember little about the actual job search itself. On the one hand, I seem to recall that it took awhile for Debbie to land a job. The issue wasn’t that she had some black mark on her record because of her last job but that she had nearly 30 years on her secretarial career. Debbie wasn’t expecting to make as much as she just had, but she also had to get more than entry-level wages.

On the other hand, if that were the case, we would have spent a lot of time together during the day before I went to work in the afternoon, and I don’t remember anything significant along those lines happening either, so maybe she found her job right away. I seem to recall that she was down in the dumps over the prospect of not finding a job for a while because of her advancing age (and why I associate this song with that timeframe), but now I’m not sure.

Regardless, Debbie eventually landed her fish. It was at Lutheran Social Services, which did many of the same things that the Wexner Foundation did but for Lutheran students instead of Jewish students. She would have to take a slight cut in pay from what she had been making, but she was glad to have the job regardless.

There was one problem: She had almost no vacation privileges for the year, and because we didn’t take winter vacations, I had all of my time still coming—three weeks worth. Well, the National was in Atlanta that year, so that would be one, and I loved taking the week of the World Series off, so I could watch the games without having to work. That’s another.

And then the All-Star Game is in Boston, and I had a connection that could get me into the Fanfest … Solo baseball trips, here I come!

Monday, May 28, 2012

No. 738 – Hang On to This

Performer: Days of the News
Songwriter: Travis Meeks
Original Release: Days of the New (III)
Year: 2001
Definitive Version: None

Like a lot of people who were affected by 9/11 only through what they had read or seen on TV, I went through a depressive period. But mine had less to do with seeing the buildings coming down—bad enough as that was, of course—than it did ancillary reasons that stemmed from that fateful day.

The first one was work. As you can imagine, working on Sept. 11, 2001, at a daily newspaper was a bit hectic. The Business section was asked to be off the floor by 7, so we could help out the overwhelmed news desk. Because it was a Tuesday, that was Wheels day. After BBT went away, I was put in charge of the Wheels (cars) section, which typically meant going through the wires and finding the right stories, then designing the page, editing the stories and sending it out on time Thursday.

But on 9/11, we were asked to get that section done that day, so Barb, who was the business copy desk chief, picked the stories to expedite the process. And as soon as I got in, I worked on them without haste. It was, as you can imagine a pretty mindless process.

The problem with that was there was a problem with one of the stories. I can’t remember what it was now, but I seem to recall that it had something to do  with repeating a story that had been published earlier in another section. That seems likely, because inter-department communication at the Dispatch was atrocious, so this sort of thing happened all the time, unfortunately.

However, there was a big difference when news or features used a business story that we had already run and when we did the reverse. If news or features pimped off us, well, that was no big deal, but if business did the same thing, it was an unconscionable act. When the section came out, and the problem was discovered, the nighttime managing editor, who was an old-school newspaper hardass (and for whom I respected that), lowered the boom. And Barb, in the time-honored tradition of managers at that newspaper when faced with wrath from above, threw an underling under the bus—in this case, me.

Yes, it was my section. Normally I’d be happy to take the fall for my mistakes. Well, not happy, being a perfectionist and all, but you know what I mean. It’s my section, my responsibility, but this was a special circumstance, and I was a victim of the circumstance.

Not good enough. This incident was brought up as a major black mark on my record when I had my usual six-month’s late annual review, even though technically it shouldn’t be included in my work for the latest year in question, which ended in April 2001. The chronology was beside the point. Really?! This happens once, ONCE, under trying conditions when I had nothing to do with it save not catching the mistake, and it ends up as paper-trail fodder for potentially firing me later?

Is it any wonder that I was willing to leave that newspaper for a “job” that paid me nothing? No, the wonder is why I stayed as along as I did. The Wheels fiasco was the final push I needed to get out of there as soon as I could.

The second thing I alluded to at the outset was that soon after 9/11 was a time when I could have gotten back together with Debbie if I had so chosen, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

No. 739 – Had to Cry Today

Performer: Blind Faith
Songwriter: Steve Winwood
Original Release: Blind Faith
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None

I’m going to bend the timeframe a bit here, but it’s my blog, my rules, right?

Blind Faith was a band that flew below my radar until I was in my mid-30s, which is a pretty remarkable achievement considering I the familiarity I had with Cream, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. I wasn’t even exposed to Blind Faith until I got the Clapton Crossroads box set at Christmas in 1991.

But one day in 1998, I decided to pull out Blind Faith, which was from Debbie’s CD collection, and give it a spin. I liked it from pretty much the opening notes of this lead track all the way through.

Debbie had kin who lived on the Ohio River in Manchester, which is about as close to going back in time as you can get short of visiting an Amish community. I half expected to go into the town drugstore and buy a pack of 1955 TV Bowmans. Debbie was born and lived there a few years before moving to Columbus when she was a kid, and she still had uncles, aunts and cousins who lived there.

In spring of 1998, while I was listening to this album almost in an endless loop, we made a trip down to see everyone, and I’m pretty sure that that was the last time I was there before we broke up. I associate this album with driving to Manchester, thus bending the time-space continuum, because the real memorable trip there happened the year before.

Debbie’s mom turned 80 in 1997, and Debbie decided she was going to pull a fast one on her. For various reasons, Debbie’s mom hadn’t been back to her hometown in decades—mostly because she had suffered a stroke years before we met that left her paralyzed on her right side, so going anywhere on her own was impossible.

Debbie had asked her mom several times if she had wanted to have us take her to visit after Debbie had re-established contact with her extended family, but she always said no. It wasn’t as though there was any bad blood, as far as I remember; Debbie’s mom just had no interest in going back to Manchester.

But she had no choice if she were kidnapped, and that’s what Debbie set out to do. She insisted to me that her mom wouldn’t know where she was until we got there, and she would be glad once she did get there. OK, I decided to be an accomplice to her little scheme. Debbie called the family, and they all said they’d be delighted to host a surprise 80th birthday party.

So we went over to pick up Debbie’s mom on a warm May weekend day in Debbie’s new Accord, which was large enough to maneuver her mom into the car. I handled the heavy lifting—and driving—and we were on our way to an unknown destination to see her granddaughter, who was living in Portsmouth. Debbie’s mom wasn’t the dullest knife in the box and noticed a few things here and there that led her to ask, ‘this is the way to Manchester, isn’t it?’ Oh no. It just looks like it.

When I made the final turn, and she realized we were in fact in Manchester, she began to cry at whatever bad memories she had, but the same instant, we were at the aunt’s house—I can’t remember her name now—where the surprise party was, and a whole army of folks were at the door, opening it and helping her out of the car and hugging her. By the time I got out of the car to help, Debbie’s mom was already smiling and laughing—and very glad to be there, just as Debbie said.

We had a great party. There must have been two to three dozen people in that house, and she reconnected with a whole bunch of people, swapping old stories and occasionally waving a good-natured finger at me and Debbie for sneaking her down there against her will. When it finally was time to break up the party hours later, she asked us to drive her around town, so she could see some of the changes since the last time she had been.

As far as I know, that would be the last time she went to Manchester and saw any of her extended family. (Debbie’s mom died a couple of years after we broke up.) But Debbie and her family, and I guess me to a certain extent, made sure that that last time was a good visit.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

No. 740 – Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)

Performer: Elton John
Songwriters: Elton John, Bernie Taupin
Original Release: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: Here and There, 1976

You pretty much had to be living in on another planet to have not noticed that Elton John was kind of big in the mid-Seventies. His music was everywhere, and, unlike Barry Manilow—whose music also was everywhere at that time—Elton John’s music actually was tolerable.

I was first exposed to this song at Marty’s house. His family also had a formal living room in the front of their house, also hued in pea green (what was up with that?), also more or less off limits to the kids—the young ones anyway—and also containing a giant piece of cabinetry that housed the stereo.

Marty’s older brother, Phil, had Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and I remember it was one of the first double albums—if not the first—that I had seen. By the time we were 11—again after Marty’s Dad had moved out—the kids got to be in the front room, and when Phil wasn’t around to kick our butts, we’d put on some records, and Yellow Brick Road got a few spins during this time.

But the thing that really sticks out when I hear this song is the first house Dad and Laura had after they married in 1978, on Southway Drive in old Arlington.

As I noted earlier, the kids got the largest bedroom, and Dad, at first, had three single beds in there, dorm style, for each of us. It was an attempt at being normal for us kids, but as a sullen teen, I wasn’t buying it. I didn’t like spending the night there, and I suppose I didn’t hide that fact, although I never said so in so many words. None of my friends were there; none of my stuff was there.

And it wasn’t as though I could’ve brought either along with me. Dad made it clear to me that he didn’t like Marty, and because I still was at pre-driving age, I couldn’t have any other friends over. I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood, and because I had learned the valuable lesson of not being noticed to avoid abuse in junior high, I wasn’t in any condition to be outgoing and meet anyone.

Dad also made it clear that he didn’t like that I still played with baseball cards at my age. They were kids stuff. I guess I was supposed to go out and get a job and a girlfriend at that age—not that I wouldn’t have minded the latter, of course—and anything short of that was some sort of failure.

So that was a lot of fun. (Whose life doesn’t suck when they’re 13?) But if Dad didn’t like what I was into at the time, the feeling was mutual. Mom had told me enough things about the divorce and the why it happened that I wasn’t exactly feeling affectionate to Dad. Due to typical teenage male friction, I was presupposed to take Mom’s side of the argument, but in retrospect, it wasn’t necessarily the right decision.

Anyway, I spent only a couple of nights in the bedroom, because I didn’t like the bed or the room. It was too bright, so it was nigh impossible—even when you closed the drapes—to not be awake by 7, which, of course, is the last thing that a 13-year-old wants on a weekend. Dad, of course, was up at the crack of dawn, and if you weren’t, too, you were a lazy ass.

However, the den was nice and dark. They had a large leather sofa that I could fit on, and if I slept on that, I could listen to their stereo with the headphones on. There even was a half-bathroom: a bonus.

So the den was where I spent the night when I actually would spend the night, and when I found that they had Here and There, that album became a regular play on those nights. I’d lie on the sofa in the dark with this song blasting at full volume, and I’d watch the mix lights flicker across the front of the stereo from green to red like I was a stoner caught in a brainloop.

It wasn’t as though I had anything else to do.

Friday, May 25, 2012

No. 741 – Getting in Tune

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Who’s Next
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: None

After I started, it became eminently clear that I needed a new computer. When we flipped the switch on the website In June 2000, my Apple beige box was 4 years old, which, of course is like 200 in human years. I might as well be trying to publish my entries via semaphore.

Besides, Scott was getting tired of me constantly asking him to download certain songs and make CDs for me, such as, say, a complete facsimile of the lost Lifehouse album, which, of course, contains this song.

Then there was the problem that it was a beige box that had the portability of a cinder block. It would be helpful if I could have my computer with me at the library if I was doing any research—or for that matter, take it with me down to the deck if the weather were nice.

As usual, I hemmed and hawed on my purchase for months before I pulled the trigger in March 2001. Debbie was off in France, and I was feeling lonely, so to cheer myself up, I went out one day before work to Circuit City and bought a blue clamshell Apple iBook laptop. I added a new printer, a scanner, which I thought I’d need for something, and a Zip drive. (Who didn’t need the capability of being able to back up 50MB of files onto a single storage disc?) I threw in a mouse, because I wasn’t yet ready to commit to using the trackpad full time. The total price was about what I had spent on my first Apple.

In retrospect, I can’t stress enough how important that purchase ended up being. I took it everywhere (the computer, not the entire setup), because I could. It was with me when I went to the library in Columbus and later Cleveland doing research. It was with me when I spent a fall at Torch Lake compiling my research. It was with me when I went to Cooperstown to work in the Hall of Fame Archives for a month. It was with me when I moved to Chicago and began my job search.

It got so that anywhere I went, I looked for one thing—the nearest outlet where I could plug in Ol’ Blue. And if I could find an available phone jack or later an Ethernet connection, so much the better. At the time, I was on Earthlink and had essentially nationwide dialup service, because everywhere I went I made sure there was a local phone number to connect to that didn’t result in long-distance charges, which would have made such computing impossible.

It also got so I got overprotective of my computer to the point where much of the time, if someone ever had tried to rob me of it, I would, without hesitation, either not turn it over or fight him for it. Everything I had was on that computer, and if someone took it, well, you might as well kill me in doing it. Thanks to the miracle of thumb drives, I no longer feel that way about my current MacBook.

As it would turn out, I chose to make what turned out to be perhaps the single most important purchase of my life at what was a real crossroads in my life. It was that France trip where after less than a week after she had returned, Debbie announced that she wanted us to break up. She wasn’t happy that I hadn’t gone on the trip (I’ll get to that later), and the fact that I went out and bought myself a new toy while she was gone did nothing to alleviate her angst.

I don’t mean to sugarcoat the situation: Debbie and I didn’t break up because I bought a computer. The timing of the purchase could have been better, but it wasn’t going to change anything if I had bought a month sooner or later.

It did soften the blow later, however, when it allowed me to do things that made the computer worth dying for. Eventually, Ol’ Blue had to be retired for a computer that had Wi-Fi capability, but just in case there were any doubt, I still have it in a computer case under my desk. Me and Ol’ Blue went through a lot together; I can’t just cast that aside.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No. 742 – Suite Madame Blue

Performer: Styx
Songwriter: Dennis DeYoung
Original Release: Equinox
Year: 1975
Definitive Version: Caught in the Act, 1984

My high-school-graduation trip was the farthest West I had ever been; in fact, it was the first time I had been west of the Mississippi River. But San Francisco held my record for western-most point for less than two years, because in the summer of 1984, Dad and Laura decided to take me, Jin and Scott to Hawaii.

Laura is from Hawaii, and at the time her parents still lived in the house she grew up in in Ewa Beach, so we had free room and essentially board. Dad would pay for the plane tickets.

It would be a three-week tour, which sounds awesome, but this actually wasn’t an ideal situation for me. Beth and I had finally consummated our relationship the past December, and that summer we spent every moment we could finding ways to enjoy further consummations. Three weeks without that? It might as well be three decades!

But Beth took it upon herself to leave me with enough memories before then, so I would be able to have the situation, ahem, well in hand while I was gone. (Am I sharing too much here?)

Anyway, sexual fulfillment wasn’t the only way I prepared for the trip. I needed some music for the long plane trips. When I bought my stereo, I got a combination record player, radio and 8-track tape recorder. But what had made perfect sense in 1975 was hopelessly outdated by 1984 (OK, before then).

Jin, however, when she made a similar purchase years later, got a combo stereo with a cassette tape recorder instead, so I spent a weekend day over at Dad and Laura’s house making tapes. Jin’s room was Dad and Laura’s bedroom when they moved in, but they switched when they realized that Jin was going to be there full time, I wasn’t spending the night anymore and the kids’ room was the larger bedroom.

I brought over a few records that I wanted to tape a few songs from, but I also went through Jin’s collection. I already had a tape of The Who’s Woodstock bootleg, but I wanted to see what else might make it onto a couple of mish-mash tapes. Let’s see here, we have Split Enz, Rio by D-squared, and oh, Under a Blood Red Sky by U2—I’ll have some of that.

And she had the new Styx live album. By this time, Styx was so far over on the other side of the shark tank, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Chachi was their stage manager. Styx was cool up until Cornerstone, which was OK, I guess. But I couldn’t stand Paradise City, and as for Kilroy Was Here … enough said.

But the live album had a few good old songs on there, so I recorded this one, Crystal Ball and Come Sail Away onto a burgundy Aiwa tape that I still have in my tape collection packed neatly into kiwi crates in my storage garage. Those tapes became the official soundtrack of Hawaii, and after one more night with Beth for good measure, I was ready to embark on my great South Pacific Adventure.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No. 743 – Empty Spaces / Young Lust

Performer: Pink Floyd
Songwriters: Roger Waters, David Gilmour
Original Release: The Wall
Year: 1979
Definitive Version: None

I had left the interview with a good feeling, but because the folks at the News-Dispatch hadn’t offered me the job right away, I moved home with a certain amount of uncertainty about my future. Plan A was I would start my new career as associate editor of Harbor Country News. There was no Plan B.

Fortunately, I had a load of Christmas activities to take my mind off my job predicament for a while. It would be the first Christmas since 1981 where I wouldn’t be with Beth, but I had already moved on through Jessica, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And just when it was time to start thinking about my future, I got the call: The job was mine if I wanted it. Umm, yeah, OK, I guess.

My first order of business after doing a silent yes-yes dance while on the phone of course was finding a place to live. Although the News-Dispatch was in Michigan City, they wanted me to live in Harbor Country, which is the southwest corner of Berrien County. They wanted the person who was more or running the newspaper to live in the area. Why not? I’m 23; it’s not as though I have a lot of choice anyway.

They had a lead on an apartment for me in New Buffalo, which was both right on the Indiana border and on Lake Michigan. As soon as I got off the phone with them, I called to make an appointment to see it. The next day I was driving to New Buffalo, a town I’d never been in before.

The sky was purple blue black from the setting sun by the time I made it to New Buffalo, and my first impression of the town as I drove in from the south was that it looked like a Michigan lake town with about 3 feet of snow on the ground.

I’m sure I had seen that much snow at Torch Lake before, but it wasn’t like anything I’d seen in a long time. The plow piles were almost to the rooftops of one-story buildings. But then when you can see Lake Michigan yawning wide and frozen less than a quarter-mile from the main intersection in town, what would you expect in January? They call it lake-effect snow for a reason.

The air was as cold as a bee sting when I pulled up in front of a large two-story red-brick building smack in the middle of the Whittaker Street “downtown” area. My contact was a woman who was the namesake of the jewelry and gifts store on the first floor of that building, Lyssa.

The apartment for rent was in fact upstairs, and I liked the location right away. I had heard that the Harbor Country office of my weekly would move to a downstairs office in the back of the building, so in addition to being in the middle of town, it would be right above where I’d be working.

The apartment had a separate entrance next to the front of the store and there were actually two apartments on the second floor. The one in the back was spoken for; the open one was in the front. It was a refinished one-bedroom apartment with a great room that had a living area and a massive kitchen, into which the door at the top of the stairs led. It had a pantry, a coat closet and a bathroom.

The bedroom was large enough to fit a single bed and that’s about it, and the bathroom didn’t have a shower, just a bathtub. But the rent was $300 per month and all utilities were paid. And it was warm. I was driving home that night, so I didn’t have a lot of time to waste. Besides, where else was I going to find an apartment in the dead of winter in this town? I took it.

I had to drive to her home to sign a lease, and the two things I remember about that was that it was pitch black by the time I reached it, and the house—a huge house—seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere. I signed the lease and turned over a security deposit and was soon on my way to complete my windsprint round trip.

At the time I was so excited by the sudden turn of events that I didn’t even contemplate an important logistical issue—how the heck I was going to move my furniture and get my car up there? And the whole time this was going on, I had this song running through my head in an endless loop. The move? I’ll figure that out. But will I find a dirty woman to show this stranger around? That was the real question.

(To be continued)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No. 744 – Jesus Is Just Alright

Performer: The Doobie Brothers
Songwriter: Arthur Reid Reynolds
Original Release: Toulouse Street
Year: 1972
Definitive Version: Farewell Tour, 1983

In 1983, I still was getting Christmas presents for my buds, and the obvious choice for Mike that year was Farewell Tour, the document of what at the time was billed as the Doobie Brothers’ grand finale in 1982, which Mike and I had attended in Cleveland.

I went over on Christmas Eve, and my purpose was two-fold—give Mike his present and watch his team, the Seattle Seahawks, or Seaschmucks as he called them because they were so bad for so long, play its first playoff game. Why a Columbus guy would pick the Seahawks as a favorite NFL team was beyond me, but then my favorite team when I was a kid was the Los Angeles Rams, so who was I to judge?

My plan was to go over to Mike’s, hang out, watch the game and then head home to get ready for dinner and midnight Mass with Beth. Fate, and my complete lack of comprehension skills at the time, however, had other ideas.

The game went great. The Seahawks blew out the defending conference champs Dolphins in the wild-card round to advance, and the coolest part for me was that the final touchdown was a pass to tight end Pete Metzelaars, who graduated from Wabash the spring before I started there and was a Wabash legend for leading the Little Giants basketball team to the national championship in 1982. When he caught the TD ball, I broke into an impromptu rendition of Dear Old Wabash.

Night had fallen by the time I had to go, but there was one problem: My car wouldn’t start. One might be willing to conclude that this was the result of my poor maintenance of the Fart. My idea of maintenance back in the day was to make sure there was gas in the tank and none of the tires was flat. But it had more to do with the conditions.

The wind chill was 30 below or something. It was ridiculously cold, so obviously the Fart was having temperature issues and I needed a jump. I ran back up and had Mike and his dad come out and help me with that. It took a while, but we finally got it started after several failed attempts.

The delay, however, was a real problem. Why? Well, when Mike and his dad came to the rescue, they must have put on about a half-dozen layers of clothes—it was 30 below, after all. I, however, had on only my down jacket—no hat, no gloves, no extra layers. You’ll recall that I said I was a FAILED Boy Scout.

When you’re 19, you don’t care about staying warm; you only care about looking good, and I wasn’t about to put a hat on to mess up my hair. And the only gloves I had were mittens that looked hopelessly lame, so they were safely hidden away from discerning eyes at home.

Well, no matter how uncool you think you might look when you wear something lame, you’re unquestionably more uncool if you have to cancel a date with your girlfriend on a major night because you’re so sick you’re throwing up, which is exactly what happened that night. I started feeling bad the instant I got home, and the rest was a blur. I was fine the next day—albeit a bit depleted—and I was lucky in all honesty that I didn’t get frostbite.

Beth thought I must have been touched by something. Yeah, a touch of idiocy—it’ll get you every time.

Monday, May 21, 2012

No. 745 – Higher Ground

Performer: Stevie Wonder
Songwriter: Stevie Wonder
Original Release: single, Innervisions
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

For the first New Year’s Eve after I moved to Chicago, Laurie came up with a plan that was different from the year’s before, which was good, because the one the year before couldn’t be repeated even if we tried.

To send us properly into 2006, Laurie and her posse decided to get together for dinner at Rose Angelis, which is an intimate Italian place near Lincoln Park. After dinner some of us—maybe half—were going to head to Martyr’s for the main event. Tributosaurus was going to become Stevie Wonder, which seems like a good New Year’s Eve choice.

Laurie and I dressed up in formal wear—it’s New Year’s Eve after all—and headed to Rose Angelis. Good luck was with us as we found parking on the same street one block away. This is no mean feat in an area where the parking is carefully controlled so residents have first priority. Although that’s a reasonable policy, it sure plays heck if you have a business in the middle of such a residential neighborhood.

When I say Rose Angelis is intimate, that’s no hyperbole. We were just there the other day for a wine-tasting benefit, and I had forgotten in the six years since I had last been how small the place really is. Each of the three dining rooms was a distinct room, and there were no hallways, so it really was like you were in someone’s converted house.

Our group had 14 people there, so our table took up an entire room—the room aside of the kitchen before you get to the main dining room in the back and the side outdoor dining area, which obviously wasn’t in use on New Year’s Eve. The food was excellent; I can’t remember what I had other than it was a pasta dish, but I remember that I had way too much for dinner. Laurie also was painfully full afterward, but fortunately we had a whole night of dancing ahead of us.

Laurie and I weren’t the only ones at our table wearing a suit and dress, but we were definitely in the 99th percentile of attire at Martyr’s, maybe 99.9. I was fine with being there that night, but I have to admit: Stevie Wonder is not one of my faves. I’m OK with everything up until Songs in the Key of Life and then it seems Stevie took a turn downhill until driving off the edge of Wuss Cliff in the ’80s. (Ebony and Ivory? Really, Stevie?)

But there’s Superstitious and Uptight and Signed, Sealed, Delivered. My Meemaw’s favorite song when I was a kid was My Cherie Amour, and she got me the 45.

And then there’s this song—the only Stevie Wonder song on my list and the one big song that Tributosaurus didn’t play that night. Really?! How can you become Stevie Wonder on New Year’s Eve and not play Higher Ground? It should be the first song you play after midnight! (Instead, it was the obvious—and overplayed—Sir Duke.)

There was no after party, but we had had enough anyway. All in all, it was a fine night, but Laurie agreed later: New Year’s Eve 2004 was a hard act to follow.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

No. 746 – I Got ID

Performer: Pearl Jam
Songwriter: Eddie Vedder
Original Release: Merkin Ball EP
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

My plan was to write about Christmas 1995, my first real Christmas not only away from my family but also where I was more or less disinvited. But sometimes stories tend to get away from themselves, and what started out as a simple introduction turned out to be a full-length digression. I present it as my entry for the day.

When I first heard that Pearl Jam and Neil Young were making an album together, I was excited by the news, and when Mirror Ball hit the streets in the summer of 1995, I, like a lot of people I expect, were a bit disappointed by the results.

This was the collaboration? Don’t get me wrong; it was a great album, but with the exception of two lines in one song, it was a Neil Young album with Pearl Jam backing him up. There was no Eddie Vedder anywhere. Something must have happened.

It didn’t take long to find out what happened, which confirmed what I had suspected: Neil and PJ were on different labels, and neither label would release the other act, so Mirror Ball came out as all Neil. In fact, the words Pearl Jam are nowhere to be found in the liner notes, just the names of the band members. In December 1995, Pearl Jam released Merkin Ball, which had two songs where Neil played guitar and organ but Eddie sang.

Because this predated iTunes, this presented a dilemma: How in the heck do I assemble a “lost and complete” Mirror Ball, and what should be the song order? The how was simple: I had to tape the songs in the proper order and have just a tape recording.

The song order was a bit more difficult, because I was only guessing, and I’m still not certain I have it right. I decided to keep the original Mirror Ball in the order it was in and insert the Pearl Jam songs where they best fit. Long Road was easy. That had to be the last song of the album. The last song on Mirror Ball, Fallen Angel, sets it up nicely with Neil on pipe organ solo as an interlude before the majestic swale of Long Road. This placement was obvious from the first time I heard the song.

This song, however, was more of a challenge, and I’m still not sure I have it right. I tried a couple of things, and I must have made three or four tapes. At first I decided to spread the Pearl Jam songs out and use Peace and Love as the centerpiece, because it’s the only song where Eddie and Neil share vocals. I had this song in the No. 4 spot, but when I listened to the tape start to finish, it didn’t seem to work sonically.

I decided finally to put this song after Peace and Love. Because that song is the first time you hear Eddie, it makes sense to have him then “step into the spotlight” on the next song, this song, before the two longest songs—Throw Your Hatred Down and Scenery (already noted on this list) on the album.

Until I hear from Eddie or Neil himself—and, of course, I won’t—this is the proper song order as far as I’m concerned.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No. 747 – The Rhythm of the Heat

Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: Peter Gabriel (Security)
Year: 1982
Definitive Version: Plays Live, 1983

When I started at the Flint Journal, the change in workshift was a real eye-opener, or, rather, as much of an eye-opener as it can be when your eyes open only so much.

At the Daily Herald, I had the standard evening shift, and when I was in charge of overseeing paste-up, I worked from 4:30 to midnight or later to handle all the zone changes. Those hours suited my personality: I was a nite owl.

Then that all changed when I moved to Flint. I might still have been a nite owl, but I no longer could live that personality trait. I had to be to work at 6:30 in the morning, and after my job responsibilities changed to handle zoning at the Journal three months after I started, 5:30.

This was where my decision to live in Grand Blanc, away from the crime that plagued Flint, would cost me. Given that I was about a 15–20 minute drive to downtown, I would have to get up an hour before I had to be at work, at the latest—4:30. Ugh!

For the first several months of this, it was always pitch black out when I got up, when I left home and when I got to work. Usually, it would be pitch black out for a couple of hours afterward, too.

The Journal had assigned parking spots, but only so many cars were allowed on the actual lot next to the newspaper building. Those were for the poobahs, but the overnighters could park anywhere they wanted as long as they were gone by 9—a perk I would enjoy later.

My parking spot was in a gravel outlot a block East from the building, almost on the other side of a Montessori school (the first time I had heard of that system, by the way). Security guards regularly patrolled the grounds, and if you were feeling unsafe and wanted an escort, they would provide you with one.

I never felt afraid. Generally thugs aren’t patrolling empty downtown parking lots at 5 in the morning, and there wasn’t much else around that area to draw their attention, just a few nearby houses. It was very quiet.

On the next block to the West of the Journal was the Genesee Bank building, which was the tallest building in Flint. It’s since gone through several owners, and I don’t know who owns it now, if anyone, but I can still see the Genesee Bank sign at the top as it emerged through the dark.

I was listening to Plays Live a lot during this time, and I have a crystal-clear vision of walking from my car to the Journal building in the dead of winter in the dead of night (I don’t consider it to be the next day and thus morning until the sun comes up) after this creepy song was on my stereo. The looming, otherwise-dark façade of the Genesee Bank building made an imposing figure and fit the song like a tailored suit—as did my new city.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No. 748 – Green Onions

Performer: Booker T & The M.G.s
Songwriters: Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewis Steinberg, Al Jackson Jr.
Original Release: single
Year: 1962
Definitive Version: None

This is the oldest song on my list—one of two that’s older than I am. For the most part, I’m one of those guys for whom rock and roll didn’t really start until at least the Beatles came to America and more specifically when The Doors’ first album was released.

That isn’t to say I don’t have respect for the old-time rock-n-roll. I grew up on Chuck Berry; he was Dad’s musical hero, and his college band played more Chuck Berry than anyone else. The rest—Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis, and so on—are great, but it’s not something I seek out.

I’ve been familiar with this song since I first saw Quadrophenia in 1980. But it doesn’t really attach itself to a specific time, so I have a disparate memories attached to it.

For example, my sophomore year at Wabash, on MTV’s Saturday night concert, one time the show was essentially Guitar Heroes. I can’t remember the celebration that was attached, but they had all these different guys, such as Dickey Betts from the Allman Brothers and Neal Schon from Journey and Tommy Iommi from Black Sabbath, playing short sets by themselves.

At the end, everyone came on stage, and they did this song. They must have done a 15-minute version, so everyone had a chance to solo—all the while Paul Shaffer played the familiar hypnotic beat over and over until he probably was ready to sue for repetitive-stress injury.

I have a clear vision of sitting on the floor in the living room at Dr. Herzog’s house during this show, and that would be the pre-eminent memory, except that that doesn’t do much justice to Booker bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, who died a couple of days ago.

Fortunately, I saw Booker T & the M.G.s in 2010. They were the warmup act for Mavis Staples, whom Laurie wanted to see. I wasn’t particularly interested to see either, but I went anyway—a free ticket’s a free ticket, right?

At the end of the night, there was no question who was the better performer. Even Laurie, who confessed she didn’t know who they were beforehand, conceded that Booker T & the M.G.s held the honors. Everyone was about the same age—70-plus—but the key is that age can be more of an impediment when your main instrument is your voice, and Mavis, sad to say, didn’t have it that night.

Booker T’s set was mostly instrumentals, including this locomotive standard, and age is less of an issue when all you have to do is get to the stage and wail away, which is pretty much what they did. All of them are fairly ginormous with the exception of Booker himself, and they mostly stood like statues while laying down an hour of some serious Staxian Memphis blues rock.

When they were done, as Laurie wryly noted later, they just put down their instruments and waddled off the stage. But their music held up, lean, muscular and sturdy even if their bodies hadn’t. I suppose that’s as solid a tribute as you can pay a musician.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No. 749 – If 6 Was 9

Performer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix
Original Release: Axis: Bold as Love
Year: 1967
Definitive Version: None

When Debbie and I announced to Dad and Laura in June 1995 before they went to Torch Lake for the summer that we were going to take our relationship to the next level and move in together, that was when the real ostracization from Dad’s side of the family began. It didn’t happen right away with everyone, but by Scott’s wedding in April 1996, it was more or less complete.

My biggest disappointment was my grandfather—everyone else I didn’t really care about. At the actual confrontation, Dad said with some foreboding that I would have to tell my grandfather, the family patriarch, as though he were going to rain down fire and brimstone from on high. Living together wasn’t the issue, of course. It was that it was me and Debbie.

So I told him. I explained how Debbie and I started doing things as friends and concluded that we had much in common and began to have genuine feelings for one another, so we began to actually date. The results were even better than we hoped, and now we were moving in together. His response in a nutshell: I’m happy for you, and I have no problem with this.

That was a weight off my shoulders. If my grandfather has my back, then I’m ultimately good with the family. And really that’s all I wanted anyway. Again, I wasn’t looking for immediate results; just give me the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’ll work out, and maybe it won’t, but I’m not doing this just to tick anyone off.

Anyway, Debbie and I had my grandfather over for dinner at our new place at the end of summer. He was our first invited guest after we had moved in together, and I knew that since Meemaw died he always was looking for dinner company, thus the invite. Debbie made chicken cordon bleu, a specialty that takes a lot of preparation, and we had a nice visit.

Then maybe a month or two later, I got the letter in the mail: He no longer approved of our relationship and he wanted to talk to me in person about it. Wonderful. I met him on his turf: The Clarmont, which is a glorious old-school steakhouse near German Village.

He was vague about why he had changed his mind when I asked, saying only that he had been made aware of things he didn’t know before and that now he could not in good conscience condone our relationship. In fact, although he didn’t say so, his goal clearly was to try and persuade me to see the same light he had been shone.

God only knows what Dad, Laura or both had told him, but I got an inkling when he began to talk about his concern that Debbie was worming her into my life to get at the family estate.

This was, frankly, an insult, and I told him as much. First, I wasn’t expecting to get anything anyway, and second, before Debbie and I even thought of dating, she had been sporadically going out with another lawyer at Dad’s office—the owner of the building Dad’s practice was in. He WAS a millionaire, AND he was interested in Debbie. But Debbie wasn’t interested in return.

Wouldn’t you think that if she were digging for gold, she would have stopped after she hit her big strike instead of continuing to dig likely in vain? This 6 wasn’t going to turn out to be a 9. But he couldn’t see the logic, or he didn’t want to try. It didn’t make much difference either way.

So our lunch ended as it begun—with each of us at polar ends and no common ground to be found. What common ground could there be if he wasn’t about to change his mind? I wasn’t going to dump Debbie. At least I had an excellent steak sandwich in my belly.

So is it any wonder that I had lyrics from this song, ‘I’m the one’s that’s gonna die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to.’ running through my head in a constant earworm during this time?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No. 750 – Bleeding Me

Performer: Metallica
Songwriters: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett
Original Release: Load
Year: 1996
Definitive Version: S&M, 1999

I finally capitulated on Metallica toward the end of the Nineties after having dabbled in them for about a decade. I can see why all of the hard-core fans went nuts over their “sell-out” with Load and Re-Load, but their mellowing if you will was the thing that got me to finally buy.

I was listening to both albums extensively in the fall of 1998 when my poker crew had one of my favorite outings. Steve’s mom, who was a teacher at Upper Arlington while we were there (I never took her English class), had retired and sold the home Steve had grown up in and moved to her summer place at Buckeye Lake, south of Newark.

She was traveling, so the house was available, and Steve scheduled a more-or-less all-day poker party. We’d get started in the afternoon, break for the Ohio State football game against Penn State and resume the game after until, well, who knows when.

I definitely remember that the ALDS—Cleveland and Boston, with Steve Nagy going for the Tribe in Boston—was on, or I should say, I made sure it was on in the kitchen, because everyone upstairs wanted to watch football. I remember this because I kept sneaking down to the kitchen to catch a score update, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

I had this song on my car CD player while driving the final winding road from the highway to Buckeye Lake on that gray, cool October afternoon. A light mist that waxed and waned throughout the day made it so it was already getting dark by the time we assembled at the proper destination.

The house was cool, like a Florida stilt house, although the chance of Buckeye Lake overflowing was about the same as that of a farm retention pond. Downstairs was the kitchen that you entered through a covered porch on ground level. On the opposite side were the stairs that led to the dining bedrooms (two, I think), living room that had separate dining and sitting areas and then the front deck that looked over the lake. It had wood paneling and definitely looked like a summer lakeside cabin. I loved it.

Steve really wanted to make it a blowout, so instead of the usual six guys at the game—seven can strain a deck—we had 10 guys there. We broke into two tables with the idea that whenever a seat opened at one table, you could move back and forth. As the evening wore on, after OSU won in convincing fashion to much approval, we consolidated the playing, and I seem to recall that that was when my luck went from OK to why-bother bad.

I don’t remember specifically, but I’m pretty sure that that was one of the few times that I lost and lost fairly big. Not that that made any difference, of course. It was all about the camaraderie. So I was down maybe $20 after a full day of scarfing homemade Skyline Chili, pretzel rods, Butterfingers and Labatts, so what? At least the Indians won to take a 1-0 lead in their playoff series.

When we finally broke up the game just before midnight and helped Steve to straighten up the premises, it had been our longest poker outing barring Tom’s bachelor party on the New River, of course.

I had the Metallica back on as I made the drive home, winding around the lake this time and noting the other summer homes that more resembled trailers than the upscale cottages with which I was familiar at Torch Lake. The rain had stopped and everything was still—especially the large pitch-black void that lay beyond the houses. It was very serene, and I could see why someone would want to live there if he or she could.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No. 751 – Coyote Dance

Performer: Robbie Robertson & The Red Road Ensemble
Songwriters: Dave Pickell, Jim Wilson
Original Release: Music for The Native Americans
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None

When Debbie and I got home from our Brown County weekend, we spent the night at her place, which was typical. Debbie had her bathroom situation set up the way she liked it there, and because she had to get up and go in the morning, it made more sense for her to have the home-field advantage.

Another reason we liked staying at her place was we were out of range of prying eyes. Debbie used to tell me that on mornings when she’d make the 300-yard drive to my dad’s office, she occasionally would run into Dad coming to work on Third Street, and she noted with a certain smugness how he’d always crane his neck to see whether her car was parked in front of my place. Once she said he nearly plowed into a stopped car ahead of him because he was looking the wrong way.

But I liked the few times when we did stay at my place, because they were rare. One of the times was the day after we got back from Brown County. Actually, Mondays were the days she was most likely to stay at my place, because I had Monday off. As I’ve noted, I usually spent those days shopping before going over to Dad’s house for dinner.

But on this occasion, we had dinner at my place. I can’t remember what we had, but I remember the why: We had to carve the pumpkin we bought in Indiana along the drive back.

I had a better display opportunity than she did, so I got the pumpkin. I think she also didn’t want to get pumpkin gunk on her table. I had just bought my dining table and chairs, but I had no such gumption. I wanted to put them to use, and, after all, a little newspaper goes a long way.

I hadn’t carved a pumpkin since I was a kid, and I recalled as soon as I popped the top on it why I didn’t like to carve pumpkins—all the goop. Fortunately, I found to some delight that it’s a lot easier to scoop out all of the goop when you’re bigger.

I made a funky gap-toothed grimace on my pumpkin, and the best part was when Debbie added the candle. The candle she bought for it was pink, so at the right angle, it looked like my pumpkin had a tongue. It had a place of honor on the window sill in my bedroom, keeping a doleful vigil over Frankfort Street for any ruffians looking to make mischief.

OK, so that wasn’t the most compelling of stories, but when you have 100 or so songs from a narrow four-month span, you have to parcel them out carefully. And besides, how much did you pay for this blog?

Monday, May 14, 2012

No. 752 – Love Song

Performer: Elton John
Songwriter: Lesley Duncan
Original Release: Tumbleweed Connection
Year: 1970
Definitive Version: Here and There, 1976

Like most kids, I watched a lot of TV. It didn’t matter what it was as long as it held my interest, which means, of course, that I watched a lot of crap (Three’s Company, anyone?) that I would never in a million years now turn on my TV for, even if I still watched TV.

I watched the Sonny & Cher Show and then after their tumultuous breakup—the first time I was aware of supermarket tabloids—the Cher show. Back in the day, a half-clothed Cher could make a certain 11-year-old’s heart go pit-a-pat. Anyway, she did this song once. I had never heard it or of it before, and I liked it. There was something about this song that stuck with me far after seeing it on the Cher show.

At about the same time, perhaps a little bit later, I learned that my Dad had become more or less co-manager of a local band in Columbus, called The International Balloon Band. They were very much of the 1970s style of acoustical soft rock, like America, and they featured a chick singer who I can see clearly now—in fact, she bore a slight resemblance to Cher but with softer features—whose name eludes me.

Because I was just starting to understand and seek rock music, this was about as cool of a development as I could imagine. I suppose if Dad said he was now working for Topps, that would’ve resonated more with me, but this wasn’t bad.

One night he took me to see them. Now this was really cool. I’m 12, and I’m being snuck into Ruby Tuesday’s (no relation to the chain restaurant of the same name and still around, believe it or not) to see my Dad’s band. All I could think was I hope I don’t get beaten up by college kids.

Actually the bar let me in for an early set and then Dad had to get me out of there. I remember feeling very self-conscious that a lot of eyes were on me to see whether I was drinking, but back then I couldn’t have had less interest in that. I was there for the music … and, well, a Coke or Pepsi, whichever you have.

We had a table by the stage, and in my 12-year-old eyes, they were pretty good. They had an original song called Bicentennial Blues that I liked, and they did a killer version of this song.

I think I saw them twice, and soon after that they fell off my radar, so I don’t know what happened to them other than they broke up not too much longer after that, which is symbolic. I think Dad stopped co-managing them or something, or maybe it was just that it was something he did to get him out of the house more, because the International Balloon Band represents something of a demarcation point for me.

Before I heard of them, my Mom and Dad were together. After I had heard of them, they split—first temporarily and later permanently at the end of summer 1976. So Love Song conjures very much an ironic memory, considering the title.

When I found Here and There in Dad’s record collection soon after he and Laura moved into their first house in Upper Arlington, this song came back to me. Now, thanks to the marriage of 1970s and 2010s technology, I have a digital copy that keeps carefully preserved all the pops and cracks of the spinning vinyl.