As much as I enjoyed listening and learning and sharing the genius of Hal Blaine through his Top 10 records of the 1960′s, none of them had the significance in my life as these few songs from 1970. These six songs, to my ears, personify the best of pop music of the time.
Maybe I’m simply getting old and starting to sound like my Dad (who claimed that “no one before or since could sing like Peggy Lee”). Maybe it’s the immediate comfort I feel listening to them, being transported back to my youth when little but baseball and music much mattered. (Truth is, music and baseball, shared through and with my family, are still my great passions today). Maybe it doesn’t matter why I think these are six of the best ever.
Whatever the root, whatever the cause, here are the Top 10 songs Hal Blaine played on in 1970. Listen and love.
I grew up in Upstate New York where it got really cold really early and stayed cold for a long time. Being addicted to sports of all kinds, I found things to do with my time: football until the snow was too deep to run in, street hockey on the side streets were they employed the all-natural “drive on it ’til it thaws” method of plowing. But, like Rogers Hornsby said, most of the winter was spent looking out the window waiting for spring. I distinctly remember throwing open the windows on an April afternoon and playing this full blast on my Sears stereo (that I’d bought with money from my paper route). I’m pretty good at transcribing drum tracks but, to this day, I still can’t figure out how they made this happen. There are hand claps and maracas at bar 3 and what sounds like quarter notes on the bass drum. Otherwise, I’m baffled. But, it’s spring and I’m opening the windows…
Maybe I should’ve written about this one first, being that it appears on the record before Cecilia.
My wife hates the “Desert Island Disc” game. She thinks it’s stupid: “I don’t live on a desert island and, even if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be worried about what records I have. I’d be worried about how to get the hell off…”. It’s really surprising we’ve been happily married for so long.
I’m not a big fan of the game myself, truth be told. Not because I don’t have a list of records I’d take; it’s because there’s not a boat big enough to take all the records I would need.
But, I know this album and, specifically, this song would be the first on the list, hands down, no question. My older brother, a pianist, for whom I owe much of my earliest musical influence, used to play this song. The lyrics — “when you’re weary/feeling small/when tears are in your eyes/I’ll dry them all” — are so universally poignant. Art Garfunkel’s voice, like that of an angel, never before and never since has been as captivating. It embodies everything about the decade that had just passed: the end of the innocence of my brother and his friends, the need rather than the desire to lay down arms, the weariness that came with experiencing a lost — or seemingly lost — cause.
Musically, it starts so quietly and becomes so big. First, piano. Then, vibes. Then, crashing cymbals and explosions in the background. Then, the harmonies and the strings and the beating of the toms in the background, explosions all along the way. To this day, it still gives me chills every time I hear it.
I think wisdom is the ability to admit your childhood foibles — including the ones you commit as an adult — without embarrassment. As a somewhat geeky though, I’m told, cute kid, I was insanely jealous of some of the guys in school who I thought were better looking Better stated: I was jealous of the ones who had the ability to talk with girls as if they were actually human not beings from another planet. This song made me jealous…all those birds suddenly appearing whenever those guys walked into the room.
I remember seeing Karen Carpenter sitting behind a drum set, lip syncing this tune on the TV. I couldn’t understand why Hal Blaine was credited as the drummer. Was he dressed as Karen Carpenter? What I love about the drumming on this song is the sound of the toms…he hits them about 3 times through the whole song…and they sound perfect!
I posted on this song recently as part of my 20 Guilty Pleasures list, saying it reminds me of my brother-in-law and a can of Coors beer. But, all bets are off when you listen to it with a “karaoke ear”. What I mean is this: close your ears to everything on the record except the drums. Great tom sound at :31; he gets way funky at :57 and I spent years trying to work out the exact timing of the breaks at 1:24 and 2:18. (He comes in on the “and” of “three” on the first break but the “and” of “two” in the second break. Bastard!).
I just realized who Crackin’ Rosie is: she’s a store-bought woman! Am I an idiot?
Being that my first knowledge of Neil Diamond came with (ugh) Jonathon Livingston Seagull, it’s still hard to believe he was a sex symbol at one time. But, it’s true. Women in my sister’s group of grown-ups (now in their mid-50′s) got a real wiggle in their knickers when Neil sang “Oo, I love my Rosie child”. That and the guy who starred with Marcus Welby on that doctor show.
No one before or since could sing like Peggy Lee Marilyn McCoo.
Yes, that’s a picture of me, circa 1970, ready to score the next big hit. Hal, eat your heart out.
The Music Junkie at Fusion 45