David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 310: Pig Iron (People Gonna Talk)

December 19, 2023

Believe it or not, this entry is Christmas-themed . . . kind of.

An unintended consequence of this song series is my attempt to reconstruct my life via music, something which might be easier if I didn't have somewhere in the nature of 50,000 songs that have swirled around in my life.* Especially difficult to reconstruct is my initial immersion into music as hobby or passion, not simply as background music. I can't remember my first record player (probably some old "close and play") or even when I got my first stereo, even though I can remember generally my first 45s and LPs, many already discussed elsewhere in this series. I have to assume that since I got all of these while they were popular, I had something to play them on (not my sisters' turntables, for instance).

"American Pie" (1971)

"It Don't Come Easy" (1971)

"Me And You And A Dog Named Boo" (1971)

"My Sweet Lord" (late 1970).

The Joker [the album] (1973)

The Carpenter's Ticket To Ride [the album] (1970)

Pig Iron [self-titled album of Pig Iron] (1970)

Those last two were presents from my rather clueless grandmother, clueless mostly about what an 8- or 9-year-old would like. I know The Joker was the first album I bought, and given the three-year gap between the other two albums and it, I wonder if I had anything that could play the long-playing album in 1970. If I didn't, then, again, I remind everyone of the clueless grandmother who didn't ask my parents. All I know is that one Christmas, either 1970 or 1971, these were the presents from my mysterious grandparents (actually grandmother and step grandfather) from North Carolina. Generally, I lean toward 1971 because I think I have memories of "unwrapping" these in the new house my parents had purchased that year.

However, in the obligatory research to do this blog, I learn that The Carpenters' Ticket To Ride was a re-release of their 1969 debut album, Offering, re-packaged as Ticket To Ride in 1970 to milk the recognition from Close To You, released earlier in 1970. It seems more likely she grabbed this album because it would have been so prominently displayed in whatever seedy record store she uncomfortably visited in North Carolina. Whenever it was, I got these two records that same Christmas. I know I was eventually disappointed that Ticket To Ride didn't really sound like "Close To You." However, this Pig Iron? I was completely befuddled. I believe I have written about this before (in personal blogs or poems), but I imagine my grandmother sidling up to a record store clerk in Wilmington, North Carolina, asking for recommendations for her grandson, only to be handed the clerk's cousin's release, Pig Iron.

At least Pig Iron had a fascinating cover, something I could lose myself in as opposed to Richard and Karen perched precariously on a sailboat.

In retrospect (again), I realize the cover was a famous print with the band superimposed into it. That print is a picture of the 1869 joining of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railways at Promontory Point, Utah (God, you gotta love Google Images!). At the time, it sure seemed similar to the cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. So much so, that I tried to find famous people superimposed like the band.

What about the music you ask? Whenever I finally listened to it, I was mostly uninspired. It didn't take me long to realize that the band was surfing in the same waters as Blood, Sweat and Tears or Chicago. Lots of brass, but also lots of blues' licks. Some songs stood out, such as "Easy Time Now" and "Wake Up, Mr. Charlie," even if the latter sounded a lot like a bluesier "Wake Up, Little Susie."

"People Gonna Talk" was the album opener, and so how I wish I could remember how my virgin ears heard the song. In going back and listening to it for the first time in 50 years, it's not bad. There is a really cool bass line, especially near the end, and the bluesy guitar licks do echo Terry Kath. However, back then, barely understanding a genre like Chicago and BST dabbled in, what did I make of it, beyond boredom? I had to have already been aware of "Your Make Me So Very Happy" and "Spinning Wheel," and probably "25 or 6 to 4" and "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is," so did I for a moment think my grandmother had found good stuff under the wrong band name? To cut her some slack, it would take me a few more years to covet my sister's Chicago VIII, a few more years to buy my own piece of Chicago (Chicago XI), and somewhere in the 1980s to realize "You Make Me So Very Happy" was Blood, Sweat and Tears, not Chicago.

Given my own ignorance, why do I remember my grandmother at all through the strange band name of one of my first albums? After all, I have now leaned that there was a European band also called "Pig Irön," with the requisite umlaut. One guess on the type of music that Pig Irön plays. I may have eventually appreciated the kind of blues rock the un-umlauted Pig Iron played, but never the kind of metal that their European counterparts (presumably) played.

And, yeah, I know I said very little about "People Gonna Talk" here. In the end, it may be more than anyone has said in 50 years.

*This number is a best guess estimate based upon the number of songs I believe I have owned in some form, plus 10 or 12 thousand more that I have heard enough to recognize. I am guessing this is still way under the actual. I really ain't a numbers' guy.

Pig Iron. "People Gonna Talk." Pig Iron. Columbia, 1970. Link here.

Day 309: Neko Case "This Tornado Loves You"

Day 311: Billy Squier "Christmas Is The Time To Say 'I Love You'"

See complete list here.