I love my baseball cards to death; however, they definitely aren't the only thing that I collect.
I've been a collector since the day that I first entered into this realm of existence. It started with accumulating super balls from vending machines, buttons from discarded clothing, and bottle caps from abandoned campsites in the forest preserve. Throughout the course of my childhood, I diverted my parents' funds into yo-yo's, lapel pins, Transformers action figures, "Livestrong" style wrist bands, racing die-casts, hats, wrist-watches and just about anything else that one can imagine. God bless my parents for putting up with my mini-hoarder tendencies.
However, as an adult, my collecting has been parsed down into two main avenues. One is obviously baseball/trading cards - after all, I do have an entire blog dedicated to that pursuit. The other one is record collecting, which naturally branches off of my passion for music, especially rock music which predates the mid-90's.
It's rare that these two pursuits should overlap - rare, but more than never. A few weeks back, those two worlds came crashing together, in the form of one of my treasured white whales:
Ever since I bought my first turn-table from a garage sale, around a decade ago, took it home and "restored" it with (literally) rubber bands and paperclips, the Cubs Power album that you see above is an artifact that I've chased and chased. From overpriced antique shops, to expensive record shops, a reasonably price copy of this black circle eluded me at every corner for many moons. Although, about three years ago, I did finally track down a copy at a local garage sale; however, the vinyl was scratched, while the sleeve and jacket were heavily warped and water damaged. Definitely not going to cut it.
Thus, after all this time and effort, I was ecstatic when I saw the almost pristine copy that you see above buried in the dollar record bin at the local Goodwill. Hot damn - I couldn't lay the money down fast enough!
Now, you might be asking yourself, "what exactly is this Cubs Power LP?" Well, please allow me to explain: in 1969, when the Cubs looked well on their way to their first World Series berth in 25 years, the franchise wanted to capitalize on their newfound glory and popularity. Naturally, just like the Chicago Bears would do a couple of decades later, they decided to cut a record.
The Cubs had just recently had a new fight song written for them, a little ditty called "Hey, Hey, Holy Mackeral," and thus needed to commit the catchy jingle to wax. Rather than settle for a 45 rpm single (which is also floating around out there), they also put out a long-player with the tune, a special message to the fans, recordings of the famed Bleacher Bums' (seen on the back) chants, a few additional baseball-themed songs, and more. Now, this Cubs-themed album certainly didn't make it's way onto the Billboard charts, but it sure did light up the local rankers and radio stations.
The project was released on local Chicago label, Quill Records, which made it's name on quality recordings of mid-western garage rockers like Shadows of Knight, the Del-Vetts, the Riddles, teh Skunks, et al. Cub Power was a little bit left of center for the label, but it quickly became a top seller.
Now, after all of these years, I finally have myself a playable copy of the regional disc - oh happy days! Please allow me to share these wonderful sounds with the baseball card blogosphere:
Here's a look at the track listing, via the label, for side one of Cub Power - subtitled "A Day at the Ballgame." We kick of the production with a spoken word introduction by Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse and a few esteemed veteran leaders of the 1969 Chicago Cubs: Ernie Banks, Randy Hundley and the captain, Ron Santo. From there, the track blends seemlessly into a recording of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," as (supposedly) performed by the entire 25-man roster.
If you feel so inclined, you may listen to those first two tracks below, courtesy of my shaky cell phone footage. I had to borrow my sister's record player as, unfortunately, my surround sound set up is currently in storage while the wife and I find our next residence. Figures - I finally track down my white whale record and my player is in moth balls.
As for the rest of the a-side, reliever Dick Selma leads the yellow, hard-hatted Bleacher Bums in cheers. During the regular season, Selma would take a towel and lead the chorus from the bullpen, much like a conductor would lead an orchestra. Furthermore, we also get an additional "Salute to the Fans" from other esteemed members of the Chicago Cubs, like Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams and broadcaster Lou Boudreau. However, if you want to hear these sweet sounds, you'll have to track down a copy yourself - I can't spoil it all!
At this point, the needle has reached the label - it's time to flip over to side two:
Side two is the more musical portion of the LP, featuring the song stylings of the more musically inclined members of the team. As noted at the top of the faded blue label, Opening Day hero Willie Smith, backup catcher Gene Oliver, and the unrelated utility-man Nate Oliver lend vocal assistance to the studio musicians billed as "The Bleacher Bum Eight." Of course, manager Leo Durocher stubbornly refused to play his bench players, so we know these guys had time to hit the studio.
Here, things kick off with the main event: "Hey, Hey, Holy Mackeral" gets things going on the b-side. This song was the "Go Cubs Go" of it's day and still remains popular among Cubs fans. The title and chorus is a blending of the catchphrases of the team's play-by-play men. WGN TV man Jack Brickhouse would exclaim "hey, hey," while, on the radio side, Vince Lloyd was known for uttering "holy mackeral" whenever the Cubs did something exciting.
On the next song, Nate and Willie ditch Gene and go out on their own with "Pennant Feeling," a parody of the Righteous Brothers' all-time classic "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." However, instead of singing about lost love, the Cub backups are belting about how they plan to bring that pennant fever feeling back to Chicago. Of course, we all know how that ultimately turned out. Think of it like a much more reserved version of the braggadocious "Superbowl Shuffle."
All in all, this parody definitely isn't making Weird Al Yankovic jealous; but, it is a fun, kitschy piece that warrants at least one listen:
The last song that I'm going to offer up on this blog post is an ode to our nation's pastime. For this one, Gene pops back up - clearly Willie and Nate realized that they just couldn't make it without their third member. "Baseball, Baseball" is a tune that sings the praises of green grass, spring weather, and the excitement of a home run robbery catch. It's not exactly "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," but it's sung by actual baseball players. So, it's got that going for it.
Unfortunately, my phone ran out of storage about a third of the way through the recording, so this is truly more of a preview and a full listen. My apologies - my phone is just too filled up with pictures of baseball cards for future posts. Whoopsie.
The album concludes with another recording of "Hey, Hey, Holy Mackeral;" however, this one is an instrumental version. Just like with one-hit wonders, anytime you can't generate enough content to fill an album or both sides of a single, make sure to include a instrumental version of your big hit on the b-side. Either that, or an extended dance remix. Just ask Rockwell, he'll tell you.
With that, we've skimmed through all of Cub Power - I hope you enjoyed your cursory listen.
In conclusion, this piece of fascinating baseball memorabilia, centered around my favorite team, makes an excellent addition to my "other" collection. I'm supremely pleased to finally call this album my own and truly surprised that it showed up in a discount bin, in such great shape, at my local thrift store. Seeing as it appeals to collectors of baseball ephemera, indie/regional records, and albums in general, it appeals to a lot of different markets. With that in mind, I've seen it priced for over fifty bucks and never less than twenty... clearly, someone didn't know what they had.
At any rate, it looks great in my milk crate, along with my other latest addition.
Nevermind another white whale of mine that I thought I might have to "nevermind" the search. Now, if only I could track down Never Mind the Bollocks... Perhaps I should start up a blog centered around my record collecting adventures too?
Eh, maybe someday. For now, I'll just bask in the glory and the sweet, sweet sounds of my latest 33 1/3 RPM finds.