Music To “Fall” Back On – 1971

I have written quite a bit on the fact that my Jr. High years were possibly, the best years of my life.  I’m talking seventh and eighth grade, specifically.  For many people, these were the worst years.  Not me–I loved this time in my life.

Why?  I used to think it was exclusively because of this boy named Mark.   He was my first real love (with all due respect going out to Herb Y.).  I was 12 and in  seventh grade in the Fall of 1971.   He was an older man–an eighth grader and from Kenedy, a town located some six miles away and our arch rivals in football.   While I loved this young man as much as my inexperienced heart allowed, in retrospect, he wasn’t the only reason that made his period was so incredibly memorable. 

It was really the last time I remember being truly happy.  It was a time when  it was okay to indulge in the silly caprices of youth.    All I cared about was being this boy’s girlfriend, ridiculously popular, a cheerleader and the Queen of Jr High. 

Don’t worry–there was no title per se and if there was any reigning to do, I only did it in my head.  My crown was my audacity, I guess.  And I wore it proudly.  But make no mistake, I was audacious.    I’d even say arrogant, too.   I could get embarrassed and ashamed if I let myself think too much about my horrifically adolescent behavior.

So I won’t…not here.

This period was also the last time I was part of a cohesive, nuclear family.  Beginning in late 1972, my father’s pants had a hard time staying on and well, that lead to a very, very, nasty divorce a few years later;  a divorce in which I became uniquely and tragically involved; a place where no child should ever be.  Understandably, that had a definite bearing on my life.   I mean, I’m 51 and I’ve never married.  Never even came close.   And you thought I was being picky??????   No, it was never as easy as that, though I wish it would have been.

Anyway, the fall of 1971 was a special time and it set a precedent for every autumn to come.  This time of the year, this wondrous Indian Summer we always experience,  “gets” to me, but for some reason, and I don’t know why, this year I’m much more reflective.   I always love the fall and go through this certain homage to it every year, but this go round, it’s hitting me harder.  I seem to be experiencing more tactile memories.   I am remembering exactly what those magical days felt like, smelled like, sounded like.

Well, for starters, they felt great.   I  can remember knowing that, even as it was unfolding.   There was a certain palpable energy about the period.   It was as if I could almost run my hands through the ether of a typical day and see the clear, squiggly contrails it could produce.  Yes, these were days that felt so present and alive and so did I.   These were wonderfully happy times.  

They smelled  great, too….like the Magic Markers I’d use to make locker signs for the seventh and eighth grade football players.  This was one of our duties as Jr. High cheereleaders and locker signs went in the players’ lockers so they’d see these colorful inspiratons the minute they’d open the door and shove their books inside.  They were really nothing more than “Go Mike” or “Fight Mike” or “Mike, Beat The Cubs” printed by hand on typing paper and then adorned with all kinds of colors and flower power or peace signs–whatever the groovy emblematic norm was for late 1971.    But the problem was me–I didn’t have and still don’t possess an ounce of artistic acumen.  I mean,  I can’t even draw conclusions!!   Because of that, I used to hear complaints from the players whose names I drew for that week.   They HATED their locker signs and I meant no disrespect, I just was extremely untalented as an artist.   You could always tell the players who I drew locker signs for that week.  They played “uninspired” football the night of the big game;  hardly compelled to go, fight…or defeat the cubs in any form or fashion. 

Just ask Mike.

My artistic abilities might have stunk, but the Fall of 1971 didn’t.   As I said, it  smelled like Magic Markers.  And it also smelled like the cinnamon candle I’d burn as I made the locker sign.   This particualr candle was shaped like an owl and came in a can that had to be opened with a can opener.  It was  intensely cinnamon scented.   I don’t think I’ve ever smelled a candle since that has been so…so “epically” cinnamon.   If I can ever get a whiff of old school magic markers along with the curiously strong essence of a cinnamon owl-shaped candle that only came in a can, I know I could be automatically whisked back in time, faster than anything of which H.G. Wells could conceive.

And how did 1971 sound?  Like like every pop song that ever spewed forth from the speakers of my AM clock radio by my bed which was always on.

It sounded a lot like Lee Michaels and his hit, which reached #6 in the Fall of 1971, “Do You Know What I Mean”

Lee Michaels was born Michael Olsen in Los Angeles in 1945.   He began his career with The Sentinels,  a San Luis-Obispo based surf group.  He joined an early version of The Family Tree band at moving to San Francisco in the mid 60’s.   In 1967, he signed with A&M Records, releasing his debut, Carnival Of Life, later that year. As a session musician, he played with Jimi Hendrix, among others.

Michaels’ choice of the Hammond organ as his primary instrument was unusual for the time, as was his bare-bones stage accompaniment: usually just a single drummer .  This unorthodox approach attracted a following in San Francisco, and some critical notice, but Michaels didn’t achieve real commercial success until the release of his fifth album (Fifth), which produced a surprise US Top 10 hit,  “Do You Know What I Mean”, which was nothing more than Michaels on the Hammond (the bass you hear belongs to that which was on the organ;  Michaels played the bass pedals with his feet) and a drummer.  Amazing, since the song sounded awfully robust musically speaking.  Who would have thought?

The Addrissi Brothers (Don and Dick) gave us a little more of that blue-eyed soul the Righteous Brothers doled out in earlier years.   Both brothers participated in their family’s acrobatic group, The Flying Addrisis, based out of Massachusetts.  In the 1950s, they got in touch with  comedian, Lenny Bruce about starting a singing career, and then moved to Califnornia.   They auditioned for parts on the Mickey Mouse Club but were rejected; however, they signed to Del-Fi Records (the same late 50’s label that gave us Donna and La Bamba and by default, Richie Valens).  Aside from the modest chart hit, “Cherrystone” in  1959 the brothers never saw much success and after a few more flops, they began working as songwriters.

Their biggest success as a songwriting duo was with “Never My Love”, a hit for The Association. In the 1970s they also charted several more hit singles of their own. They composed and performed the theme music for thew ABC TV showNanny and the Professor They worked together until Don died from cancer in 1984.

Their biggest hit as performers though, came in the fall of 1971…and it went something like this:

This is one of my all time favorites from the fall of 1971, or from any year, really.

The Stampeders were formed in Calgary, Alberta in 1964 as The Rebounds.  Members included Rich Dodson, Len Roemer, Brendan Lyttle, Kim Berly, and Race Holiday (great name, eh???) . They renamed themselves The Stampeders after the big Rodeo deal in Calgary every year.    In 1971 they struck gold with “Sweet City Woman”. 

The song features a banjo as a primary instrument, which is also mentioned in the lyrics: “The banjo and me, we got a feel for singing” not to mention French sung during the bridge, “Bon, c’est bon, bon, bon, c’est bon, bon, bon, c’est bon, bon, bon, bon, bon”

I will admit that like any 12-year-old, I had a very limited knowledge of the world.   The closet thing I got to anything French in South Central Texas was a Julienned potato that found its way into a hot frying pan filled with  Crisco, then somehow managed to jump on a plate next to a hamburger.   And when I would sing along with this song in the fall of 1971, I thought the Stampeders were singing, “Bouncy, bounce..bounce..bouncy, bounce bounce…..” and so on.   I kind of thought it was reference to the Sweet City Woman’s, sweet city boobs which had to have been bouncing along as she tried to make her way to wait for him at the end of the line….you know, waiting for that noon train that he so desperately needed to catch on time. 

Nah.  Turns out it was just French.

The song was written in reference to Canadian actress, Monica Parker, who started her career on a Toronto TV show called Sweet City Woman that also starred Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman.

Ah yes…can any year in which Laurie Kendrick could possibly call “formative”, NOT include something from the extremely prolific Chicago? 

No.

And the song I’m talking about is “Question 67 and 68”.  It was written by keyboard player and resident hottie, Robert Lamm and really, focused on the years in which he was dating a particular woman..1967 and 1968.  

In the fall of 1971, I fell in love with this tune which was recorded for their debut album, The Chicago Transit Authority, in 1969 with Lamm and Peter Cetera singing lead.  The song was the band’s “first boss hit-bound single that never was a boss hit-bound single,” and was released in the July of 1971 and ironically peaked at #71 on the Billboard Hot 100.   I have never understood why it never fared better.  It’s truly a majestic song.

Chicago was/is a group composed of band nerds from their hometown of the same name.  Yes, band nerds…no doubting that and while that might be the case,  they were/are extremely talented and this incredible musical knowledge placed them way ahead of their time.  They knew what they were doing and their use of horns, back beats and double riffs had never been heard before… not in rock music.    

Genuises, all of them.

This is another biggie from that Golden Era.  “Maggie May” is a song written byRod Steward and Martin Quittenton and recorded by Stewart in his 1971 his album, Every Picture Tells a Story.

“Maggie May” expresses the ambivalence and contradictory emotions of a young man involved in a relationship with an older woman, and was written from Stewart’s own experience. In the January, 2007 issue of Q Magazine, Stewart admitted that for the most part, Maggie May was a true story, about the first woman he had sex with at a jazz festival in England.   The reference to returning to school in “late September” (which always baffled me because here in the states, we were already one month into school by that time) refers to the Michaelman term which is the first academic term of the academic year at most British and Irish universities.

Now, you know.

A one Bubba R. who dated my middle sister in the early 70’s, owned the eight track entitled,  “Ram”–Paul McCartney’s first significant effort as a solo artist since the break up of the Beatles.    It featured Paul holding a ram’s head. I wonder why I remember that.   Chalk it up to the special memories, I suppose.

Anyway, it was released in the United States as a single on  August 2, 1971 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 by the end of the month.  Paul won the Grammy that year for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for the song.

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is noted for its sound effects, including the sounds of thunder, lightning, and rain, heard between the first and second verse, the sound of a telephone dialing, and am amswering machine, heard after the second verse, and a sound of chirping sea birds and wind by the seashore. Linda’s voice is heard in the harmonies as well as the bridge section of the “Admiral Halsey” portion of the song.

Let’s listen, shall we????

According to McCartney,  “Uncle Albert” was based on his uncle.  “He’s someone I recall fondly, and when the song was coming out,  it was like a nostalgia thing”, said Sir Paul.  As for Admiral Halsey, he was referring to the American, Admiral  William “Bull” Halsey.  No reason was ever given for pairing them in a pop song.

And I’d like to take this opportunity to straighten something out lyrically, once and for all.

It takes place at 2:54 in the song.   

I always thought Paul, Linda and Co. were singing:

Admiral Halsey notified me, he had to have a bath (that’s what I heard sung in their English accents) or he couldn’t get to sleep..

I had another look and I had a cup of  tea and a pot of pie

Pot of pie…couldn’t get some milk so I put it in the pie…so sorry”

Here are the actual lyrics:

Admiral Halsey notified me,  He had to have a berth or he couldn’t get to sea.  I

I had another look and I had a cup of tea and a butter pie.

Butter pie…Butter wouldn’t melt, so  I put it in the pie..oh alright”

By the way, a Brit who once invaded my space explained what a Butter Pie is.   It’s savory pie; a main course made with onions and potatoes, not a dessert by any means.  It was  probably created a century ago for workers from the primarily  Catholic region of Lancashire (in Northwest England) to eat when the Church forbade the consumption of meat and beef on Fridays.

Now, you know THAT, too!!!

“Family Affair” was the fourth and final #1 hit for Sly and The Family Stone.    It was recorded with a rather somber, Hohner electric piano and a drum machine.   And that made it the first number-one hit to feature a programmed rhythm track. Sly Stone and his sister, Rose sing lead on the song which reflects both the good and bad aspects of being a family.   It was slightly different in that Sly’s delivery was in in this low funk-styled tone instead of his earlier gospel-based shout fest he was known for.   It was the most successful hit of Sly & the Family Stone’s career, peaking at number one on Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, while achieving the same on the Billboard R&B chart for five weeks..all in late 1971.  

Now, believe it or not, part of “Family Affair”  was partially recorded in a Winnebago.  Yes, you read that right…a Winnebego…as in a mobile camper with wheels and bad plumbing.   Sly didn’t use the Family Stone for this recording, with the exception of his sister.   His friends, Billy Preston and Bobby Womack played the keyboard and handled guitar lines, respectively, with Sly playing bass and programming the rhythm box.

According to the biography, Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History, Sly wasn’t crazy about this song and felt that it wasn’t strong enough to be released as a single.  After being urged to reconsider by his manager and label, Epic Records, he changed his mind.  

Sly move, Sly.

Come back here next week, same bat time, same bat channel and I’ll bore you to tears with a post that’ll include a few hits and their back stories from the year of our Lard, 1975.

..

6 comments

  1. Laurie, no one, and I mean absolutely NO ONE can write a little bon mott of their life and have it come out as well and as heartwarming as you can. I stand in total awe of your ability.

  2. Maggie May is also covered by a band called the pietasters, really good song. I like the leather jackets from the seventies.

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