September 24, 2006

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out.

Here's "One":

Unplayable 45

This is a perfect example of a song I was embarrassed to like back when it was a big hit but that I'm not the slightest bit embarrassed by today. If you Google "embarrass," the first thing that comes up is Embarrass, Minnesota. I guess I like that.

I don't have much to say about Three Dog Night. Their name is a reference to sleeping with dogs to keep warm. The colder it is, the more dogs you need, so a really cold night is a three dog night, like maybe lots of nights in Embarrass, Minnesota, which I see calls itself "The Cold Spot," and highlights the record low temperatures (-57!).

You could make other band names using the Three Dog Night format -- just an idea for the comments. You know, like: Two Coffee Morning or Ten Blogpost Day. I never bought an album by Three Dog Night. In fact, this single was probably my brother's. Anyway, "One" was written by Harry Nilsson.
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one
And I do have an album by Harry Nilsson, the one most people who have one Harry Nilsson album have: "Nilsson Schmilsson." ("She put the lime in the coconut....")

UPDATE: Don't confuse this "One" with other "Ones." There's:
Darkness imprisoning me
All that I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

That's not Harry's song. He also didn't write:
One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night
It's one love

But the song Aimee Mann sings on the "Magnolia" soundtrack: that is the right "One."


Troy said...

The number theme reminds me of the old song (or perhaps it's only a joke?) "I went to bed at 2 with a 10 and woke up at 10 with a 2."

Long Island Bob said...

An underrated group I would put in the same category as The Guess Who.

Unknown said...

If you are not familiar with Aimee Mann's haunting version of "One" - it is great. I think it was on the Magnolia soundtrack. I love her melodic sense and kind of unusual voice. She is also kind of strange looking. I'm liking this 45's theme - I have a lot of embarrassing (ha ha) albums/singles.

J. Peden said...

"One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one"

That's funny and insightful. But I rejected the record immediately because it sounded so wimpy right off. So I really didn't pay any attention to it.

I didn't think at all about what "three dog night" meant. If someone would have told me, I probably would have been interested in the music enough to actually listen to it regardless - because I spent a lot of time way-back within striking distance of Int'l Falls, Minn., in the summer, and it was reputed to be the coldest place in the U.S. in the winter. It sounded bad and impressive. I was attracted. Now I realize I better get some dogs.

AmPowerBlog said...

I loved it back then, and I love it today..."the saddest experience you'll ever know..." I was kid when it first came out, but over the years I'm sure I had some of those sad experiences of "one." Nice post. I still have a box full of my old 45's and LP's, by the way, though not the ones from my childhood, like Elton John's "Benny and the Jets." Do you have that one? Love to see it up here in a post!

Burkean Reflections

Smilin' Jack said...

Hated it then, hate it now. The monotonous whining of those stupid lyrics (how do you "do" a number?) left a permanent aural stain on my memories of the late 60s.

Ann Althouse said...

"how do you "do" a number?"

Oh, the imagery that question stirs up!

Laura Reynolds said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura Reynolds said...

I don't have any extra enthusiasm for the song or the group, except that in 1971 at 14 yrs old, TDN was my first concert and first time I smoked pot.

I'd rather listen to "One" than the beaten down "Joy to the World"

Hazy Dave said...

Perhaps the last really big popular rock group that wrote almost none of their own material. Besides Nilsson, they did tunes by Randy Newman, Traffic, Argent, Elton John (their version of "Your Song" predates it becoming Elton's first hit), Otis Redding, Laura Nyro, The Band, Free, Spooky Tooth, Tim Hardin, etc... Not to mention the "professional songwriter" Tin Pan Alley heirs like Mann & Weil, Bonner & Gordon, and so on.

A couple of their earlier LP's were among the first dozen or so albums I ever bought, but I sold them at some used record store during the 70's. By the late 80's, however, the embarrassment had passed, and I purchased replacement copies (and a couple others I never had before) at a neighborhood rummage sale. Now proudly shelved with the other Guilty Pleasures!

Drew W said...

Hazy Dave is right. Aside from "One," Three Dog Night's best songs were by such A-list singer-songwriters like "Eli's Comin'" (Laura Nyro) and "Mama Told Me Not To Come" (Randy Newman) -- not to forget the early John Hiatt song, "Sure As I'm Sittin' Here." But from 1971 onward, their hits were always catchy, but usually in an annoying way: "Joy To The World," "An Old Fashioned Love Song" "Black & White" and the truly irksome "Shambala."

I wish it were easy to find a copy of Harry Nilsson's superb Aerial Ballet album, which featured spare, haunting versions of "One" and "Eli's Comin'," as well as the hit "Everybody's Talkin'" (mentioned in yesterday's NY Times Arts & Leisure piece on its composer Fred Neil). The album also included the lullaby "Little Cowboy," which sometimes turned up on the soundtrack to the TV series "The Courtship Of Eddie's Father," for which Nilsson also wrote the theme. Our vinyl copy of Aerial Ballet must have been a second pressing, because its cover featured a quote from John Lennon praising Nilsson that's not on every copy you might see.

But Nilsson's famous lost weekend (which lasted a whole lot longer) getting extravagantly wasted with Lennon may not have been his most self-destructive act. I think it was the absurd re-release of his debut album Pandemonium Shadow Show together with his second (Aerial Ballet), for which ne needlessly re-recorded and remixed their tracks. After messing up two great albums to produce a newer and far less enjoyable one, he renamed it Aerial Pandemonium Ballet. (I'm not sure if another pop artist has ever done anything quite so dumb with their work.) You can still hear some unmolested tracks from those first two albums on the Personal Best compilation, but if you want the first two in their complete, original state, you'd have to spend $35.00 for a two-CD import that fits the first two albums on one CD and the worthless remix album on another.

And Long Island Bob is way wrong about the Guess Who, but I'll knock off for now.

JohnK said...


There is nothing embarassing about liking Three Dog Night. They are a very good pop band and very much defined the end of the 60s and the begining of the 70s. I think the release of Joy to World as sort a water mark between the end of the 60s and the begining of the 70s.

Bob_Minn said...

Ann, you may not know that you've touched on quite the in-state controversy. When Embarrass set the minus 57 record, they were in a battle with Tower, Minnesota for the lowest recorded low. The State newspapers (including the mighty Minneapolis Star Tribune, self-styled "Newspaper of the Twin Cities"), gave day-by-day updates on the race. Vicious debates surrounded the event, because the weather station for one city (yeah, use of the term city is rather loose on the Iron Range) is set in a valley/defile that either slightly warmed the air, or cooled it, on the night in question, depending on which city you're from. And yes, folks up there still talk about it to this day, in fact just two weeks ago when I was in Cloquet, Minnesota....

Can you tell that weather plays a prominent role in any Minnesota conversation (and that there is little else to talk about in Northern Minnesota in the dead of winter)? The Coen brothers nailed it in Fargo when the bartender talks about the weather with the deputy sheriff, in the context of a conversation about a triple murder involving a trooper...

JohnK said...

Harry Nilsson should have been waterboarded, draw and quartered and shot for doing "She put the lime in the coconut." Nilsson could bring peace to the middle east and cure cancer and his life would still have a net negative effect on the world thanks to that horrible song. UGH!!

Don't forget that Joy to the World was written by another great song writer Hoyt Axton. Three Dog Night really was the last group to get famous on other people's songs. Another good reason why they are a watershed group between the 60s and 70s.

Terrie said...

Three Dog Night was an unsual and underrated band in many ways. The lineup was three vocalists without instruments who shared the stage with their band, whose players supported them live and in the studio. As already noted here, they had access to some of the best songwriters of their era.

Chuck Negron and Cory Wells came from the blue-eyed soul tradition, while Danny Hutton was a folk singer. Prior to 3DN, Hutton had a hit record in "Roses and Rainbows":

Way up in the sky
I think I see why
The birds do all their singing 'cause
Roses and rainbows are you.

At least that's how I remember the lyrics. Yes, it was sappy and happy and snappy like a Cowsills' tune, but it brought Hutton to the attention of Brian Wilson during the recording of "Good Vibrations" and the infamous "Smile" album. Nevertheless, Hutton probably had the lowest profile of the three Three Dog Night vocalists.

Unfortunately, the first thing about 3DN that pops into my mind is Chuck Negron's longtime struggle against heroin addiction. I recall being so shocked when I first heard his TV confession.

Who knew you didn't have to be a bad-ass rocker with lamentable hygiene to shoot up? Other than David Gahan of Depeche Mode, I mean. Last I heard, Negron was still clean and sober. Good for him.

Ann Althouse said...

JohnK: I can't stand "Joy to the World" and don't generally care about Three Dog Night. I just like "One."

Rob said...

For some reason Three Dog Night's definitive collection of hits: "Celebrate-the Three Dog Night Story" is one of the cheapest things you can buy through Musicmatch, a stunning 43 songs for 5.99 right now. Therefore, I have more 3DN than any healthy adult should have. However, they do have many good songs. My favorites:
1. Out in the Country (before the breathin' air is gone, before the sun is just a bright star in the nightime)
2. Never Been to Spain (I've Never been to England, but I kinda like The Beatles)
3. Pieces of April (I've got pieces of April, but its a mornin' in May)
4. Mama Told Me Not to Come (That ain't the way to have fun, no!)
5. Easy to be Hard (And especially people who care about strangers, who care about evil, and social injustice. Do you only care about the bleedin' crowd? How about a needin' friend? I need a friend)

I always loved "Your Song" but once I heard Elton John's version I liked it better.