Monday, April 30, 2012

Starry Skies Back Home

Minnesota - Northern Light

Back in the day, before the world got so small, regional hits sometimes appeared on the pop charts.  One that was big where I grew up never made the national Top 40 - though it did crack the Top 100 - but is fondly remembered by many from Albert Lea to Zumbrota and all points in between: "Minnesota" by Northern Light.

Songs about places appeal to our natural hometown pride.  Shoot, name a city in Texas and odds are I can name a song about it.  Next to love songs, place songs may be the most durable genre.  That's because at heart they are love songs, too, directed not at a who but at a where.

NY - Frank Sinatra.  Georgia - Ray Charles.  Los Angeles - Randy Newman.  San Francisco - Tony Bennett.  Minnesota?  Northern Lights.

After the jump - what the Beach Boys would have sounded like if the beach was Lake Minnetonka instead of Malibu - and answers from Northern Light's David Sandler.

1 - The b-side of "Minnesota" was an instrumental version of the song - how about releasing a vocals-only version, such as the Beatles did with "Because" on their anthology?  The blend of lead and backing vocals is perfect.

David Sandler: I can mention your idea of a vocals-only version to the group.

2 - It was my belief that you co-wrote the song with Spence Peterson but the label on the 45 says "Stuart-Peterson."  Is that a stage name, a mistake, or was I wrong (and if so, who is "Stuart"?)

DS: "Stuart" is my middle name.

3 - Are you Minnesota born and raised?

DS: No. My parents were separated and I grew up in Iowa until I was 15 with my mother, then completed high school in Minnesota where I also attended the University of Minnesota. I have a lot of family here in Minnesota so I spent time here as a kid.

4 - Had you or Spence Peterson ever left Minnesota for Californ-i-ay or were the lyrics a bit of poetic license?

DS: My wife and I lived in California for almost three years where I worked with Brian Wilson on American Spring. "Minnesota" is somewhat biographical about my wanting to get back to the upper midwest.  

5 - Did you ever hear what Brian Wilson thought of "Minnesota"?

DS: I don't know if Brian ever heard "Minnesota."

6 - Who thought of adding the loon and how hard was it to find a recording to use?

DS: That was Spence's idea. Our engineer took care of finding the loon.

7 - What's the most memorable live performance Northern Light ever did of "Minnesota"?

DS: We played an open air concert in 104 degree heat with the group Kansas. I took my shirt off on stage it was so hot.

1 comment:

  1. Years ago I was out on a lake canoeing and in the twilight I heard the haunting call of a loon. I said to my brother, "That sounds like the start of "Minnesota." As I finished that sentence, the loon call was followed by the opening strains of the song. Turns out I had not heard a bird - someone at a cabin on the lake was blasting their stereo.