Summertime Blues

3:56 PM, Jun 12, 2010   |    comments
  • Aethan Hart at KDAL in 1976 with a CP 16-A camera.
  • Aethan Hart covering the nurse's strike, 6/2010. Photo by Mark Zdechlik, MPR.
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ST. PAUL, Minn -- The magic of summer comes to us in these northern climates with the warmth of the sun and the promise of long hours of daylight. The dark of winter is gone along with the great expanses of snow and ice. Briefly, windows and doors open to let in sounds that don't include scraping snow shovels, spinning tires, snowmobile engines or cars failing to start.

The music of summer always holds the scent of escape. School was Out for Alice Cooper, The Beach Boys were seeking California Girls, It was Summer in the City for the Lovin' Spoonful and Martha and the Vandellas were Dancing in the Street right after a Heatwave. Summer songs bask in the golden glow of a season that makes them unique in our memories. Few of us have a clear memory of spring or fall songs, but it doesn't take long to come up with a list of musical memories connected with a summer breeze, heading out on the highway or being wiped out after a Hard Day's Night.

Won't be long till summer comes, now that the boys are here again (The Boys Are Back in Town)

Looking back at my time working at KDAL-TV in Duluth, it is difficult to recall many bright, clear summer days. True summer days were rare in the air-conditioned city. At times there would be a temperature difference of fifteen degrees between downtown by the lake and up over the hill. However, there was one day that strikes a note as distinct as George Harrison's powerful opening chord played on his Rickenbacker 12 string guitar on the single, A Hard Day's Night. (The Lennon/McCartney composition was released as a single in the U.S. in July of 1964 making it a summer song.) 

On what proved to be a memorable summer day, reporter Bill Cortez and I followed up on a call heard over the police scanner involving a farmer in rural Douglas County, Wisconsin. The farmer had threatened a survey crew on the road outside his property. He was believed to be armed and the crew called on the sheriff's department to come to their aid. Bill and I left downtown Duluth where it was cool and cloudy, crossed the High Bridge to Wisconsin and motored into the woods and farmlands of rural Douglas County.

We had a map and the fire number of the farm. In addition, we were familiar enough with the area to find it fairly quickly, even in those pre-GPS days. The temperature had risen as we drove away from Lake Superior and the pure blue sky was devoid of clouds. It was a perfect summer day.

When we arrived, there were several deputies on the scene, they were excited to break out their new equipment purchased with Law Enforcement Assistance grants. (The federal program was designed to provide local law enforcement with equipment and technology.) Among new equipment being taken out of the cars were M16 rifles. I felt somewhat out gunned as I unloaded my CP16A 16mm camera from my news vehicle and filmed the officers loading cartridges into the magazines of their rifles. The sun glinted off the cartridges and the clicking sound of the shells filing the magazines mixed with the birds singing in the trees that lined the rural road. No summer music was heard except from the birds and an occasional police radio transmission.

After they strapped on their new combat gear, several of the deputies walked off the road toward the farm house. The driveway to the farm was an unpaved grass path, wide enough for one vehicle, with tire ruts on both sides. We felt like we were news pioneers following the Conestoga wagons into uncharted territory. Bill and I waited for the deputies to get into the property before we began our walk down the path. The contrast between that mid 70's law enforcement operation and the ones I videotape today is startling. Now the media is kept great distances away behind yellow tape and all roads are blocked.

I carried my 16mm sound camera and also hung my silent 16mm Bell and Howell 70DR on my shoulder. Also in tow was a still camera tripod that we used for supporting our film cameras. Bill was a larger person than I was and being the reporter/News director, he took the lead. It was a long walk through the weeds and the sunlight filtered through the trees as we navigated the curving path. Throughout the walk Bill would use hand motions to communicate with me and most of them were "keep down" gestures. Since he was ahead of me and a more significant target, I thought the gestures were somewhat unnecessary, but I did stay back and hunch down a little.

We arrived at the end of the road and were able to film the deputies talking to the farmer and solving the problems of the survey crew. The altercation was over before it began. Bill and I walked back to our car and loaded up our equipment. On the drive back to the station we listened to the AM radio and The Boys are Back in Town was playing. We were heading back to Duluth after our warm summer day's rural law adventure; the twin guitars of the song fit our mood.

The same Thin Lizzy song proved to be road music later that summer when Eric Eskola and I embarked on our first and only overnight road trip (we were a small market station) to St. Paul to cover the state Independent Republican convention. During a summer that forecast the rise of disco music, the lads from Dublin provided a great song for the young journalists from Duluth.

But we might even leave the U.S.A. (Going Up the Country)

Hartbeat staff and friends shared their favorite summer songs. What's yours?

Hartbeat Co-Curator Vivian Hart shares this one:

School was out for summer, so my best friend Jo and I planned to celebrate the end of our sophomore year at UMD and experiment with our independence from schoolwork, living with our parents and the summer jobs we'd had since high school. Both of us worked at the local Target Store; we were able to get a week off (without pay) to travel up Highway 61 on the North Shore of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Jo drove a little red Corvair with an engine in the rear that propelled us toward the scenic north and temporary freedom. The car sounded like an electric mixer that was challenged to churn up thick cake batter. We rolled down the windows so the cool summer breezes from Gitche Gumee blew our hair around as we listened to a little road music from the tinny sounds of the non-stereo radio that the Corvair provided. What could be better than the bluesy beat of Going up the Country from Canned Heat as we traveled further away from the responsibilities of our youth and into another country where they ate French fries with gravy? I was "going to someplace where I'd never been before" and it was good. Youth was pretty good, too, eh?

Hartbeat Director of Research, Greg Lew, has two favorite summer songs: Summertime by Billy Stewart (he thinks the arrangement with Stewart's unique scatting is better than the Janis Joplin version.) Greg's Oklahoma roots and riding his motorcycle in the rain leads him to pick Bob Seger's Against the Wind as part of his musical summer memories.

Duluth native Frank Stackowitz recalls listening to a Chicago radio station late at night on the hot second floor of his mother's house and sweating as the Lovin' Spoonful's Summer in the City played. Frank must be remembering one of those few Duluth summer days when it was warm enough to sweat. In a strange Hartbeat coincidence, Frank and Greg both picked Rock and Roll Heaven by the Righteous Brothers as a summer song favorite.

Los Angeles Bureau Chief Lloyd Mc Cloud votes for The Isley Brothers soul/funk version of the Seals and Crofts composition, Summer Breeze. This song has special meaning now that one of the prime musicians of The Isley Brothers, bassist Marvin Isley passed away this past week. 

Louisiana resident Kristen Dupré, wife of rising country star James Dupré (click here for the Hartbeat about James), selects Jump by Van Halen and Thinkin' Bout Somethin' by Hanson as her summer song picks.

Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson selected the 1974 Elton John hard rock song The _ _ _ _ _ is Back.

Jim Northup, author, poet, Ojibwe language camp organizer, veteran and creator of the Fond Du Lac Follies column (featured in the Circle newspaper and next year in a book of vintage Follie's columns) sent us this memory of time in a country where there is no winter. "One of my favorite summertime songs is one by Nancy Sinatra called, These Boots Were Made For Walking because in 1966 I was wearing boots and walking through some rice paddies, carrying an M14 rifle, and trying to survive. I was mostly hoping my boots didn't walk on a mine or booby trap as we called IEDs."

The Hartbeat goes on...

What's cooking on the Hartbeat Grill?

I'm reading Down the Highway, The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes. I read parts of the 2001 book previously, but after listening to Bob's XM/Sirius radio show I wanted some more information on the Duluth born musician.

It is with sadness that we note the recent passing of two great soul men. Marvin Isley was the bass player who helped the rhythm and blues group the Isley Brothers reinvent themselves into a band that had the 70's hits: That Lady, Fight the Power (Part 1), Choosey Lover, Living in the Life. Isley died in hospice near his home in Chicago at the age of 56.

Ali Ollie Woodson was the lead singer of the Temptations for thirteen years. He joined the group after the departure of Dennis Edwards and David Ruffin and took the group's music to a new level. He helped the Temptations avoid becoming another novelty act with the hits Treat Her Like Lady, Sail Away and Lady Soul. In his 30-year career Woodson was lead singer in the Drifters, the post-Teddy Pendergrass Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and as a background vocalist with Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Ali Ollie Woodson was 58 years old.

With all the marks of the Hartbeat Grill on it as a summertime classic, Prince has a new tune, Hot Summer. Check it out. It's not his best song yet, but it's done it that recognizable Nelson way.

The Musical Notes

Summertime Blues was written by Albert Lea native Eddie Cochran and his manager Jerry Capehart. The song was released in June of 1958. The Beach Boys and Blue Cheer also released versions of the song, but the June 1970 arrangement by the Who is considered by some to be the most "aggressive" version.

The Boys are Back in Town was a 1976 release by the Irish band Thin Lizzy. It was written by the band's bass player and leader, Phil Lynott and featured the twin guitar leads of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson The song is often played today at Irish rugby matches.

Going Up the Country was performed by Canned Heat and was the single from their 1968 album Living the Blues. Like many songs by blues groups of the 60's it is a near copy, with different lyrics of an earlier blues tune. Henry Thomas a Texas Bluesman and pan pipe player wrote Bull Doze Blues. It was one of 20 three-sides (78 rpm recordings) recorded between 1927 and 1929. What happened to Ragtime Texas Thomas after 1929 is shrouded in blues mystery, but his music has been recorded by Taj Mahal, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead.

Going Up the Country was featured in the movie Woodstock as well as on the Corvair trip to Canada.

The Photo Notes

The picture of Aethan Hart was taken in 1976 on the rooftop parking lot of KDAL TV in Duluth, Minnesota by a fellow KDAL photographer. A Canon FT 35mm camera and Tri-X film was used.

The digital image of Aethan covering the Twin Cities nurses strike on June 10, 2010 was taken by Minnesota Public Radio reporter Mark Zdechlik.

(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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