“Gotta be Rock-Roll music, if ya wanna dance with me.” Chuck Berry, 1957
I love music; all my family and friends know I love music easily as much as I love numismatics,
if not more; somehow, that confession seems nearly blasphemous in a coin blog!
I’ve now returned from my five-day road trip to Baltimore for the Whitman coin show. I was
looking for an unusual twist to this week’s blog, not just the old “I bought blah, and ran into
Blah” routine, so I decided to give my readers a note by note description of the music a 67-year
old coin person listens to on a round-trip journey of 1,100 or so miles.
Like most coin people, I spend a lot of time talking to myself on the road, but when I tire of me, I go for the stack of CDs I keep in the console between the front seats of my Rav 4. Many music
lovers no doubt have hundreds of CDs, as do I, and when I go on a road trip, I always grab a
stack of my favorites and put them in the console. I simply play whatever’s on top and work my
way through the stack that way.
Here’s what the aging Hippie listened to this trip...
“The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in ’68…” Joni Mitchell, 1970
“Blue” -- Joni Mitchell -- Reprise Records – 1970 -- 10 songs
Discovering Joni Mitchell in the late ‘60s was one of the most important and significant musical
events in my lifetime. Her first four albums – Song To A Seagull; Clouds; Ladies Of The
Canyon; and Blue – still reward my ears to this day. They present to me an in-depth study of the
innermost feelings of an incredibly gifted musician who wrote about her life for anyone who
cared to listen.
The CD in question is her fourth album, “Blue.” Sadly, it signals the end of the line for my taste in Joni; with her fifth album his highness here decided she’d gone commercial and lost touch with the qualities in her music that made him such a fan in the first place. The title track, “Blue,” is about a New York folk artist, David Blue. Interestingly enough, in 1970 I was at the Fillmore East in NYC and David Blue opened the show – followed by the NYC debut of Cat Stevens, and ending with a phenomenal set by Traffic!
“Oh, show me the way to the next whisky bar…” The Doors 1968
“The Doors: Legacy” – The Doors – Elektra Records – 1967-1970 compilation – Disc #1 --
The Doors! You either love them or you can live without them. Many music fans think of them as just an artsy-fartsy, not really rockin’ n rollin’ sort of band, and others, well, to paraphrase the band’s own song “Back Door Man,” “The fans all know what the non-fans don’t understand.” These guys rock and I like to imagine I cut a dashing figure zipping South down the Jersey Turnpike at 70 mph singing “break on through to the other side” at the top of my lungs.
This two-disc CD was a gift from my son a few years back at Christmas, and it has gotten a steady workout – both discs – ever since. It features many songs from the earliest days to the end of their careers, and it’s one of those discs where I continually find my fingers reaching out to turn the volume up “just one more notch” whenever guitarist Robbie Kreiger goes into one of his incredible acid-fused guitar jams – some 50 year-old habits never die (I mean the guitar appreciation, not the acid). Whew! Hard to top this disc, but let’s see what’s next in the old console.
“She must have been a former beauty queen, now she’s a naughty girl…” The Move, 1970
“Shazam!” – The Move – Fly Records CD – 2010 – Originally 1970 on A&M Records – 14
Songs including four not on the original vinyl.
“I’ve said this time and time again” he said, again, thinking maybe someone will listen this time. If you consider yourself a rocker and you are not familiar with an English ‘60s rock band called The Move, your rock n roll groove is incomplete. On the Shazam! album they do songs that you should look up on YouTube when you have an idle moment. Try “Beautiful Daughter;” “Fields of People;” “Blackberry Way;” and my favorite, a superb rendition of Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing on My Mind.” They released several albums of original material in the ‘60s and it wasn’t until Shazam! that they even recorded anyone else’s music. Oh, yeah, did I mention they became the Electric Light Orchestra?
“They try to beat my time, she tells them in a nice way that she’s mine all mine…” The
"The Best of the Temptations” -- Motown Anthology 1995 – Disc 1 of 2 -- 20 or so tunes, I
Man, if you grew up in the ‘60s like yours truly, the impact of the Temptations, indeed, the entire “Motown Sound,” probably still shows in the way you strut the stuff on the dance floor today! Songs like “The Girl’s All Right With Me;” “Don’t Look Back;” “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue):” “The Way You Do The Things You Do;” and of course, the ubiquitous “My Girl,” were on my lips and on my radio day and night from 1964 to 1969. Funny how most of my favorites are from an album titled “The Temptations Sing Smokey,” as in William “Smokey” Robinson. Man, oh man, truly the soundtrack of my life and a trip down memory lane with a million stops at each tune! And we heard them all on AM radio, kids!
“Without you, I don’t know what I’d do, Sweet Sue…” The Crows, 1954
“What will be, will be, C’est la Vie, C’est la Vie…” The Wrens, 1955
The Crows & The Wrens – The Gee and Rama recordings, 1953-1956. West Side 2000. 25
Okay, I gotcha. Just who the heck are the Crows and the Wrens you say, and what is the musical attraction? There was a musical genre, circa 1948-1959 or so, that was based on vocal group harmony singing, mainly done on street corners and in hallways, and mainly in the inner-city areas of America’s post-war era. Most groups consisted of a lead vocalist and three or four voices in the background. Some of the groups were “discovered” and went on to record many records, while other groups came and went almost daily, all looking for that big break.
I love great vocalists and I grew up in the ‘50s with older brothers and sisters who loved R&B and rock n roll. Vocal group recordings are widely collected today and often a rare 45 or 78 rpm disc can bring thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars – sound familiar?
“Gee” by the Crows was released in early 1954, and it was unlike anything up to then in the
R&B vocal group scene; it became a national hit, a rare happening in the genre, and helped usher in the era of rock n roll. “Sweet Sue” by the group is among my all-time favorite recordings of any genre. In the R&B field, “C’est la Vie” by the Wrens is considered one of the greatest efforts ever set to wax, and in my opinion, that’s pretty near to the truth. This form of music is an acquired taste – I acquired mine 60 years ago – so if you never listen to the Crows or the Wrens, I’ll understand.
“You, and you alone, bring out the gypsy in me…” The Solitaires, 1959
Walking Along – the Very Best of the Solitaires. Collectables 2000. 29 tunes.
The Solitaires are from the same genre as the Crows and Wrens just mentioned, and this disc covers their entire career from 1954 into the early 1960s. All of their recordings originally were pressed on the Olde Towne (changed quickly to Old Town) record label. Songs like Blue Valentine, their first recording; Chances I’ve Taken (one of my personal faves); and Please Kiss This Letter are favorites with today’s collectors – and old farts like me who remember much of it from back in the day as they say today. I used to walk to school in the late ‘50s in Paterson, NJ, with my friends, all of us singing Walking Along, the best-selling record the group ever had and a standard on the radios of the time.
Easily my favorite by this prolific NYC vocal group is a tune titled Embraceable You. Written by
the Gershwin brothers in the Depression-era 1930s, this old “Tin Pan Alley” chestnut was given
a treatment so beautiful by the Solitaires that the hairs on my arms stands up every time I hear it! I wonder if George or Ira ever heard this world-class rendition of their beautiful song as
interpreted by NYC’s own Solitaires? YouTube it and hear what the vocal group sound was all
“You’ve got to win a little, lose a little, and always have the blues a little…” The Five Keys,
The Five Keys – The Aladdin Years, 1951-1956. Collectables 1995. 25 tunes.
These five guys from Newport News, VA – brothers Rudy and Bernie West, Ripley Ingram, Maryland Pierce, and Dickie Smith – may be the primary reason I love the early vocal group sound of 1948-1954 so much. Their recordings on the Aladdin label are legendary, and you’re not a collector if you don’t own original – and often quite rare – recordings by the group. I always dug what we collectors call “the sound,” but I was a victim of the commercial side of rock n roll until I was 14 years old. By that I mean if it was an “oldie” and on the radio, I was
familiar with the song.
In 1964 I started listening to WFUV, 90.7 FM in NYC to a show called The Time Capsule Show
that aired once a week. This show played the deeper side of R&B vocal groups, the groups who
never made it to radio play despite recording records. A whole generation of record collectors cut their eye teeth on this show, and it is still spoken of in great admiration 50+ years by NYC-area collectors.
One night the show played Red Sails in the Sunset by the Five Keys (1952) and I was astounded
that a vocal group of this quality and greatness was hitherto unknown to me! If you want to hear what turns me on as much as any guitar solo or rock record I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard a few – then YouTube up Red Sails. It may turn you off immediately, or it may fascinate you and you’ll listen through to the amazing vocal ending, but that’s not my call. Each time I listen to Red Sails, I am instantly transported to my second story bedroom in the house on the hill in Lake Parsippany, NJ, where the appreciation for this sound all began. Good times and memories, all.
“Takes him out to look at the Queen, only place that he’s ever been, always shouts out something obscene…” The Beatles, 1969
What can I say about this last disc that hasn’t been said before? Absolutely nothing! It’s the Beatles, for gosh sake, the Beatles. I do remember buying this record the night it came out in September, 1969 at Mario’s Records in Lake Parsippany, NJ. I remember it was a Friday night, and I also remember the fact that it cost $5.98 for the album; most albums at the time were $1.98, and some, $2.98 in rare instances.
Earlier that day, a friend at work who was in a band invited me to bring my friends to an all-day party with live music and all the other things associated with a Hippie party in the ‘60s, to be held the next day, Saturday. A dozen or so of us went and had a great time, and when I pulled out a brand-new copy of Abbey Road it was placed on the stereo immediately and the world stood still while forty freaks dug the newest Beatles album at full volume. Yep, loads of good times and good people associated with my Abbey Road memories. Oh, one more thing: I think the three-way guitar duel at the end of The End is one of the most exciting guitar jams ever recorded!
Just in case anyone is still with me here, thanks for reading this far! I will see you next
Wednesday for NumoBlog-A- Rootie #8! Peace n Love, Brothers and Sisters…