Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer of Steed, Part 1

The second floor of my Aunt Eileen’s house in Gary, Indiana wasn’t a proper second floor. The ceiling rose and fell to match the contours of the roof, including alcoves for windows and slopes to keep the snow or rain from overburdening the rafters. White stucco walls blended into the white stucco ceiling not at sharp angles, but with smooth curves that gave the ceiling the feel of an upside-down ski slope. I slept in the alcove by the window facing Kentucky Street for most of July and August of 1970.

Sending me to Aunt Eileen was easier for my dad than making me fend for myself while he worked. My mom was dead, and Aunt Eileen was her sister. My teenage cousins, Bob and Jim, shared their room with me, and in the nighttime darkness, Bob played WLS at a low volume until we all fell asleep.

Probably to keep me from thinking too much, Bob developed a game where we would guess song titles as soon as we could from their intros. They call it Name That Tune on TV, but we called it . . . well, we didn’t call it anything. I held my own in the game, and this week, I am going to talk about two related songs, one that figured prominently in the summer, and another that came along in the autumn when I was back home and often sleeping in yet another house that was not ours.

The first song got a lot of airplay while I was at Aunt Eileen’s. “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” by Robin McNamara (Steed 724) joined the Top 40 ranks on July 18, 1970, peaking at #11, and it must have captured someone’s imagination at WLS, because I heard it every night during August. The song had a groove I couldn’t get out of my head during the day, which turned out to be a good thing. I loved the part where Robin called out: “Now just the girls sing it,” and all of the male voices disappeared. The singers turned out to be the cast of Hair, of which Robin was an original member. I knew about Hair, but I was not offered a chance to see it that year.

It was a good thing I remembered the song, because, by the time I got back home and could buy records, “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” had disappeared from the bins. I never heard the song, except in my memory, from October, 1970 until the mid-1980s, when Rhino came out with the delicious Have a Nice Day series. I never heard it in stereo until I grabbed Volume 2 of the Rhino set. And oh, I played that song over and over the first few days I had it.

That was when I connected it to Saturday’s song, another Steed single that I did manage to buy. That was also when I connected it to Jeff Barry, my musical hero. I was pleased rather than surprised to find Jeff had produced and co-written the tune, as he had Saturday’s song.

Falling asleep on sweltering August nights under the rafters of a house in Gary was a lot more pleasant because of that radio and this song. Anytime I play it, it transports me back there. I can’t escape that memory. I think I’m glad about that.

Robin McNamara is a Boston area native, and you can learn much about his past and his present at his website. There, among other things, you can find a clip of Robin singing “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” on TV, complete with a couple of pairs of hands clapping between the camera and Robin. Watch for a flub when one pair of hands expects a nonexistent clap.

Saturday brings a single by a guy with an amazing voice. See you then!

The site is buggy today, so I can't post a poll. Check back when you can. Thanks.

Robin McNamara, Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me


Anonymous said...

Love it!

jb said...

Thanks a lot. Now I'm going to be walking around all day going, "Honey doggonit I dependuponit so lay a little lovin' own meh"--one of the greatest hooks ever.

caithiseach said...

jb, I did this to clear *my* head of the Jan & Dean Batman song, which is still trying to overpower the other Robin, McNamara. I'm very grateful for the great hooks here, because they made it possible for me to replay it in my mind for fifteen years before its CD reissue. I can only remember it in mono, though.

whiteray said...

Great tune, great story (as they tend to be here). Who did the drums, by the way?