The Analog Kid blog has been featuring out-of-print ’80s albums on “The Lost Boys” series for quite a while, and now it’s time for the ’70s to join the party! “Lost In The Flood: Hard-To-Find ’70s Albums” will give you the chance to listen to some great music from the ’70s that can no longer be easily acquired on-line or at your local record store (especially since many of you probably no longer even HAVE a local record store!).
This is Ian Kinsler. Ian used to play second base for the Texas Rangers, and he also used to be one of my favorite players. I say “also used to be” because he now plays for the Detroit Tigers, and he said some really nasty stuff about the Rangers when they traded him for Prince Fielder after the 2013 season. I could give you a ton of details here about why that went down and why I still have ill feelings towards Kinsler, but I will not bore you with those details. This is a music blog, after all, and I will attempt to stay on-topic. And today’s topic is the 1977 debut album from Ram Jam, featuring the worldwide smash single “Black Betty.”
But why, you ask, did I mention Mr. Kinsler on a post about a song and album that were released five years before he was even born? Anyone who attended one of Kinsler’s games at the Ballpark in Arlington while he was a Ranger knows the answer: “Black Betty” was Ian Kinsler’s at-bat music. Every time Kinsler made his way to the plate in Arlington, Rangers P.A. announcer Chuck Morgan would blast “Black Betty” throughout the park. I can’t even hear the song today without thinking about Kinsler, and at this point that means I generally try to avoid “Black Betty” whenever possible. (Note: my ill feelings towards Ian, like the wounds I suffered at Macho Grande, run pretty deep.)
I suppose that I need to talk some more about at-bat music now– otherwise, this is going to be a pretty short blog. After all, I can’t really tell you much about Ram Jam. They only made two albums, and “Black Betty” (a song written back in the ’30s by blues legend Lead Belly) was their only chart hit. The song reached #7 in the U.K. and made the Top 20 in America. That’s really all I’ve got on Ram Jam, so let’s talk some more about at-bat music, shall we?
I’ve loved baseball my whole life, and I spent what seemed like half of my childhood at Dodger Stadium. There was no at-bat music when Steve Garvey and Davey Lopes and Ron Cey came to the plate in Chavez Ravine– all you heard was stadium announcer John Ramsey’s booming, bigger-than-life voice:
“STEVE…GARVEY. FIRST BASE.”
That’s it. No “Black Betty.” No “Wild Thing.” No “Thunderstruck.” In fact, the only music you heard at Dodger Stadium back then came from the fingers of Helen Dell. Helen’s magical organ played “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the game, and of course she treated us to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. Her best tune, of course, was the anthemic “Duh duh duh duh duh duh– CHARGE!!” whenever the Dodgers needed a little pep in their step. There were no t-shirt canons, no “God Bless America,” no sushi and no “Enter Sandman.” We ate Dodger Dogs and peanuts and stale popcorn and frozen Carnation chocolate malts. And you know what?
“We liked it that way!!!!”
As the years have passed, the major league baseball game-day experience has obviously changed a great deal. I may still long for the old days most of the time, but I have actually grown to appreciate some of baseball’s modern luxuries. Dodger Stadium may have been a shrine to me back in the ’70s, but it was a shrine that didn’t sell ballpark nachos. The truth is that I didn’t even know what a nacho WAS until I moved to Texas in 1979. The Tex-Mex monster in me can barely fathom this now, but I didn’t even eat a jalapeno until I was a senior in high school in 1985. Today, I am a true connoisseur of the bad stadium nacho– the more fluorescent the cheese, the happier I am.
And you thought the Analog Kid couldn’t adjust to the modern world…
I even grew to appreciate at-bat music, as long as it was appropriate to the player. Juan Gonzalez was a dominating force at the plate for the Rangers back in the mid-to-late ’90s, and he always strode to the plate accompanied by “The Imperial March” from The Empire Strikes Back. Now that, my friends, was BAD ASS at-bat music. And it was also oh-so-appropriate, as Igor made every pitcher in the league his own personal Captain Needa during those MVP seasons. The guy had 101 RBIs in 1998– at the All-Star break. Sure, we know now that Juan was likely juiced up on midi-chlorians, but it was still really impressive.
I also remember Gonzalez using Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” on occasion for his at-bat music, which seemed a little odd unless you happened to remember Juan’s uniform number. Clever!
Good at-bat music can certainly enhance your overall ballpark experience, but bad at-bat music can ruin your entire season. I loved David Murphy during his first few seasons as a Ranger– he was small, but he played hard and scrappy and always seemed to come up with clutch hits. Then he had to go and change his at-bat music to some Christian power-ballad schlock (no, I don’t know the song’s name and no, I’m not wasting one more moment of my life on that crap in order to look it up). All of a sudden, Ranger games became an experience where I could count on at least four or five “nails on a chalkboard” moments every night. The Rangers decided to part ways with Murphy after the 2013 season, and my ears were declared free agents as well. Thank you, Jesus!
Ram Jam: Ram Jam
Epic Records, 1977
Vinyl rips courtesy of the Analog Kid (all songs other than “Black Betty”)
1. “Black Betty” (Ledbetter)
2. “Let It All Out” (Bartlett)
3. “Keep Your Hands On The Wheel” (Millius/Graves)
4. “Right On The Money” (Bartlett)
5. “All For The Love Of Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Salen/Butani)
6. “404” (Kenny)
7. “High Steppin'” (Bartlett)
8. “Overloaded” (LaPollo/Haberman)
9. “Hey Boogie Woman” (Bartlett)
10. “Too Bad On Your Birthday” (Resnick/Karp)
The first rule of The Analog Kid blog is that if you write about a song on the Analog Kid blog, you share the song on the Analog Kid blog.
Ram Jam: “Black Betty” [7″ Version] (Ledbetter)
Epic Records, 1977
X: “Wild Thing” (Taylor)
From the album Major League: Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Curb Records, 1989
AC/DC: “Thunderstruck” (Young/Young)
From the album The Razor’s Edge
Atco Records, 1990
Metallica: “Enter Sandman” (Hetfield/Ulrich/Hammett)
From the album Metallica
Elektra Records, 1991
The London Symphony Orchestra: “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” (Williams)
From the album The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture
R.S.O. Records, 1980
Steely Dan: “Hey Nineteen” (Becker/Fagen)
From the album Gaucho
MCA Records, 1980
Bonus Bonus Tracks!
The Analog Kid always dreamed of being a major league baseball player. My childhood dreams, of course, did not include my own personal at-bat music because at-bat music did not exist when I was a kid. Dreams never die, though, so I finally selected my at-bat music sometime around 1998. I was 31 at the time, but I still would have made fewer pop fly outs than Ian Kinsler.
Trio: “Boom Boom” (Remmler/Kralle)
From the album Trio And Error
Mercury Records, 1983