Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Singles Scene #17 - Aberfoyle Market

Rain, a lot of rain. It was raining and the wife and I popped out on a Sunday morning to the Aberfoyle Antique Market looking for a knick-knack that would look good on the corner of our deck. We found it, and old wood stove, and the Mrs. was running to the bank machine to get the money. But, it was raining. So instead of going with her, I wandered to the stall next door, which had records dangerously close to getting wet.

The albums were the usual lot of common stuff, things that as a long time record collector I either already had, or had long ago determined I didn’t want. But beside the albums, in four whole rows, singles! Hundreds of them, nicely stacked in the vertical for ease of flip-through. Haven’t bought some Canadian in while, I thought, and quickly hit BTO’s My Wheels Won’t Turn. Game on, and since I was picking up some Canadian anyway, I grabbed a few others: Mull of Kintyre; Rod Stewart’s Jeff Beck reunion, People Get Ready; ELO’s Telephone Line; Robert Plant’s Little by Little. Then I hit on something, Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song with Hey Hey What Can I Do on the flip. My heart skipped a beat: could it be my personal holy grail, a 1970 original of this very, very hard to find single? I have an early 80’s re-release, but this is different: the Red Atlantic label instead of Gold, first initials on song writing credit, no mention of previous release. Could it be? It may be, holy s@$t it might just be. 

Now I’m in, and I’m screaming for the wife to hand me cash while I hunt for just one more piece of Canadiana. It turns up in the form of something I love, Dan Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch, with the gorgeous Still Not Used To on side B. I look for the vendor, who picks through my pile, says $2.00 a record, which I might normally balk at if I didn’t have a possible gem, the single I have searched for since the late 1970’s, in the pile. He never noticed any possible value in the stack, but not wanting to appear like an easy mark, I offer him $10 for the pile, which he happily takes.

My Wheels Won’t Turn is the lead single of BTO’s 1977 album Freeways. By 1977, BTO had peaked, both musically and in popularity, and Freeways, while by no means a bad album, doesn’t match up to their earlier work.  My Wheels Won't Turn carries the grit of the best BTO material,  but lacks the melodic sensibility that took BTO beyond a mere hard rock band. Randy Bachman's singing, as well, lacks melody and enthusiasm. 

Dan Hill's Sometimes When We Touch  is such a well known piece there is probably not much point in reviewing it. It is a sappy bit of tripe, a love it or hate it song. As pointed out when I reviewed Hill's album, Longer Fuse, I love it, mostly because it found me when I was most susceptible to such a song, i.e. after I discovered music, before I discovered Led Zeppelin. It is worth noting, however, that unlike a lot of sappy pop songs through the years, it really is a well crafted composition.

The flip side of Sometimes When We Touch is my favorite Dan Hill song. Still Not Used To is the kind of song Hill does best. Acoustic guitar, his wonderfully expressive voice and a song that is both poignantly personal and self-effacing. Examining his then burgeoning career and how he feels about it,  Still Not Used To explores an artist having success and wondering how or why:

Still not used to having people, pay to hear me.Guess I'm still a child, tryin' so hard to please,tryin' to seek approval through my songs...

After this single, a lot more people paid to hear Dan Hill, he found a lot more approval for his songs. It was a life changing single, and giving both sides a hearing it's easy enough to understand why.

Sitting on the deck, typing beside the wood stove, Led Zeppelin's Hey Hey What Can I Do just finished and Dan Hill's Still Not Used To about to come on, I'd have to say it was a Sunday morning well spent.