Aww…

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We didn’t see where photographer Ellen Schmidt was credited for the pictures she took for the Star Tribune, but we really loved them! You can see a slideshow of her photos here. We also started a thread of photos from the block party on our facebook page here.

Thank you all so much for making it a wonderful day — we think it was the gigantic crowd which brought out the sunshine and put spring into gear. We’d like to especially thank, as Dave said when he was introducing Blaha on stage, all of you we see throughout the other 364 days of the year. Thank you for making the record store a special place.

Marine reservist Major Bill Hendricks started the Toys for Tots program in 1947, finding inspiration when his wife could not find a charity to take a homemade Raggedy Ann doll she hoped could go to a child in need.

In the sixty-nine years since, the organization has distributed more than 469 million toys to children. They stopped accepting second-hand toys in 1980, owing to the mixed-message implied and the time involved in refurbishing them, which previously had been done by Marine reservists.

In 1995 Secretary of Defense William Perry added the Toys for Tots program to the Marine Reserve Corps official list of missions. The organization distributes toys at other times of the year besides the holidays, for instance working with FEMA to provide toys for children during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

You can find opportunities to donate on their official website here.

Hendricks worked as a director of public relations for Warner Brother Studios when he founded the charity, and in its first year the familiar donation bins made their debut at Warner theaters. His position provided the opportunity to get celebrity support for the charity when it went national the following year.

This 1980 promotional record was sent to radio stations by Warner Brothers and features a side of celebrity spots, including Frank Sinatra, Michael MacDonald (of the Doobie Brothers) and George Harrison.

toys for tots

The failing New York Times crossword puzzle is celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary this week. If you’ve already finished today’s and the boss isn’t looking, this link will take you to a fun page about the puzzle’s anniversary and its history.

One of the things they’re doing to celebrate is inviting celebrities who enjoy the crossword puzzle to co-author one of their own with help from a regular contributor. Yesterdays was co-authored by classical pianist Emanuel Ax (and yes, we missed a few squares — but at least we didn’t cheat).

Ax, who lives in New York City, has always held a special place as one of our favorite pianists. Obviously, the idea of his duets with Yo Yo Ma is entertain if only because the man in charge of the marquee must have been very happy to have to only write “Ax/Ma” for the day, but the other reason is because Ax made several superb recordings with our own Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Today we’re listening to them perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 18 in B-flat.

happy together

“Happy Together” was released on Valentine’s Day, 1967 and two years later Doug probably spent 98¢ on this copy of the single, and we hope he and the recipient lived happily (together) ever after.

Are cats awesome, or just an enormous pain in our butts? The merits of our own Momar the Cat are the subject of household debate. Dave dotes on him but the little black and white trouble maker only makes rare visits to the record store, usually ending in disaster.

Whether Mo Cat enjoys the music we play or not is hard to tell. It seems he’s much more interested in the songs of the birds — maybe he would prefer we more often listen to Oliver Messiaen.

Anyway, here are a few songs we chose for the ten pound terror…

Henry Mancini’s “Song for Cat” is a mambo masterpiece, magically melding lush swing with soulful latin strut. The song was composed for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but like so many of the maestro’s best moments has a life of its own.

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The highlight of the 1957 album New Jazz Lp The Cats is a trio performance led by pianist Tommy Flanagan, but the record swings solidly in its opening track “Minor Mishap.” This song features John Coltrane, Idrees Sulieman and Kenny Burrell as soloists — one of the last Coltrane performances before his epic early Atlantic recordings.

Flanagan’s ponderous “How Long Has This Been Going On?” (with the rhythm section of Doug Watkins and Louis Hayes) is the sort of evocative make-out jazz our friend Mo Cat enjoys interrupting. Flanagan is underrated among pianists of his era, heard here at his best.

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Our last selection of songs for swinging cats comes from Quincy Jones’ appropriately slinky album, Quincy Plays for Pussycats. His take on “What’s New Pussycat?” is fun, but the best thing on this record is “Blues for Trumpet and Koto,” written by the reliably inventive Marvin Hamlisch (whose name is mis-spelled on the album’s credits). As with most of the great Quincy Jones Orchestra recordings on Mercury, the performers are not credited, so we don’t know who are the soloists in this big band based duet. We think its a perfect soundtrack for the afternoons when our Mo Cat wrestles with the clumsy mutt we adopted two years ago.

elvis and pricilla

SHE’S ALWAYS A WOMAN 

Billy Joel wrote “She’s Always A Woman” for his first wife Elizabeth Weber, who was also his business manager. The song contrasts her tenacious exterior with the way he knew her as a lover and wife. In the context of their divorce five years later lines like “she can wound with her eyes” and “steal like a thief” take on weighty new substance.

Rolling Stone called the song “misleadingly tender,” but everything about The Stranger struck a chord in 1977. Another single from the album, “Just the Way You Are,” took a similar (if less snarky) stance, and both were hits. That second tune was an artistic coup de grace for Joel, whose jazz leanings on his early Columbia albums were dismissed by critics, because the legendary Phil Woods played the solo.

Joel wrote “Just the Way You Are” as a birthday gift for Weber. According to the authorized biography by Fred Schruers for which Joel granted hours of interviews, Weber’s response when he played the song for her was calculating: “Do I get the publishing rights, too?”

The success of The Stranger started Joel on a streak which outlasted his first two marriages, but he rarely performed either love song after his divorce from Weber. Joel was generous in the separation until he was laid up in the hospital after a motorcycle accident in which he had badly injured both hands. In the biography he tells Schruers that Weber arrived at the hospital with contacts, asking him to sign over even more to her. Several years later he was forced to sue her brother for siphoning tens of millions out of his earnings.

A muzak version of “She’s Always a Woman” was playing in the plaza between the two towers of the World Trade Center moments before the South Tower collapsed.

ANNIE’S SONG

John Denver wrote “Annie’s Song” for his wife in 1974, and it was included on his hit album, Back Home Again. That’s Annie Martell next to him on the cover.

Initially,” she explained, “it was a love song and it was given to me through him, and yet for him it became a bit like a prayer.” The song is unique in Denver’s catalog as his only hit in the United Kingdom, although cover versions of other songs he wrote have been successful there. It was so popular there that an utterly dreadful version by flautist James Galway was also a hit.

Readers of Denver’s 1994 autobiography Take Me Home learned that then, and throughout their marriage, he was unfaithful to Annie, and although it was his drug use and infidelity which led to their divorce he flew into a rage over how the couple’s assets were being divided. He describes in detail cutting their bed in half with a chainsaw and choking Annie. “Before I knew it I had her on the kitchen counter and my hands were around her throat. And I stopped. I had almost lost control but didn’t.”

annies song

This gigantic Bandcamp album is a tribute/fundraiser for Leah and Rob Rule. Leah Rule was a manager of the Turf Club and the artists who contributed their wanted to express thanks for all the support she gave them & their bands.

After moving to a farm in Wisconsin, Leah Rule published a comic fanzine about her life there, Rural Fox (you can see some of her art here) — If you’re a regular readers you know how much we love comics! Leah and Rob also continued to host live music in their barn in Boyceville.

You’ll see it in this video for Martin Devaney’s song on the compilation, “Over my Shoulder.” You’ll also get a sense of how much Leah has been missed since she passed away in 2012 after a two-year fight with cancer.

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