Rumor has it that I’m turning 69 today. This means I’m exactly a year younger than Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers and Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Every year, I wonder if I can recall how old I am during the year. How could I remember when I turned 59? Je ne sais pas. Whereas I recall the mechanism for 52 (deck of cards), 57 (Heinz), 61 (Roger Maris), 64 (Beatles), 67 (chaos).
I’ve loved the number 69 at least since 1969 when I turned 16. It’s just the look. I also have been told that 69, or more specifically soixante-neuf, has a rather sordid meaning. But since I’m so young and innocent, I have no idea what that is.
On the other hand, turning 69 makes me recall a song on the first Steppenwolf album called The Ostrich. The depressing lyrics:
Then you’re free And forty years you waste to chase the dollar sign So you may die in Florida At the pleasant age of sixty-nine
In turn, this reminds me of the one thing I miss since I retired. I would take off work on my birthday. If my birthday were on Saturday, I’d take off Friday; if Sunday, then Monday. It’s difficult to blow a vacation day when I only worked two days in 2021, Election Day and the training beforehand.
Anyway, I don’t blog on my birthday, so see you manana.
When J. Eric Smith picked Steppenwolf as his favorite band in 1971-1973, I thought it was a respectable choice. I don’t think they’d make my Top Five at any junction, but possibly Top Ten.
For one thing, in this blog WAY back in 2007, I extolled the greatness of the eponymous first album. For another, I touted Monster, the title track of their 1969 album, back in 2016.
I had forgotten that I owned every album in between, all of these on vinyl. That’d be The Second, At Your Birthday Party, and Early Steppenwolf, when they were known as The Sparrows. Also, I have Steppenwolf Live, a 2-LP set from 1970, but nothing thereafter. And they’ve put out a LOT more albums, usually as John Kay and Steppenwolf. Well, I do have a greatest hits CD.
The group has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were nominated in 2017. However, “Born To Be Wild” was selected in 2018 in “recognition of the excellence of the singles that shaped rock ‘n’ roll, kind of a rock ‘n’ roll jukebox, records by artists not in the Rock Hall — which is not to say these artists will never be in the Rock Hall.” Surely, the group is worthy.
The songs, roughly 10-1
Who Needs Ya, #54 in 1970 Hey, Lawdy Mama, #35 in 1970 – which I heard when I finally watched Avengers: Endgame this summer Rock Me, #10 in 1969 Move Over, #31 in 1969 Sookie, Sookie – The first song on the first album. It’s a song by soul singer/songwriter Don Covey, who wrote Aretha’s hits See Saw and Chain of Fools; and Steve Cropper of Booker T. and the MGs. It was a failed single in the US, though it got to #93 in Canada. It was later the B-side of Magic Carpet Ride.
The Pusher, a failed single. But it got a lot of exposure on the Easy Rider soundtrack, which got to #6 on the album charts in 1970. Magic Carpet Ride, #3 in 1968 Born to Be Wild, #2 for three weeks in 1968. It was also on the Easy Rider soundtrack. It was kept out of the #1 slot by People Got To Be Free by The Rascals. Monster/Suicide/America. There was a TERRIBLE single version of this which somehow got to #39 in 1970. The Ostrich, the last song on the first album. The chorus:
But there’s nothing you and I can do
You and I are only two
What’s right and wrong is hard to say
Forget about it for today
We’ll stick our heads into the sand
Just pretend that all is grand
Then hope that everything turns out ok
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who’s the winner
We can’t pay the cost
I was thinking of what Halloween-themed song I could come up with, but I ended up in a totally different direction, though that back album cover is sufficiently appropriate for All Hallows Eve.
Monster is the title song of Steppenwolf’s 1969 LP that eventually reached #17 on the Billboard charts. The album got mixed reviews for being so overtly political, preachy, and pedantic. And it is, though I enjoyed it for that reason.
Actually, that track is listed as three songs: Monster/Suicide/America. Looking at the lyrics, it appears that not much has changed. From the bluesy Suicide section:
‘Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it’s all just an echo of what they’ve been told
Yeah, there’s a monster on the loose It’s got our heads into a noose And it just sits there watchin’
Our cities have turned into jungles And corruption is stranglin’ the land The police force is watching the people And the people just can’t understand We don’t know how to mind our own business ‘Cause the whole world’s got to be just like us Now we are fighting a war over there No matter who’s the winner We can’t pay the cost
Couldn’t those words have been written last year, rather than nearly a half-century ago? I understand John Kay, lead singer of Steppenwolf, and co-writer with Jerry Edmonton, is out there with a new iteration of the group, STILL performing it occasionally.
There was a single version of Monster, which got to #39 in 1970. I always hated the edit. I prefer playing the album, which I still have, and hear the whole 9-minute iteration.
Move Over, the other single from the Monster album, got to #31 in 1969.