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Please Stand By

Hi, folks:

My original plan for this week’s episode changed when something happened over the weekend that could really make the episode much, MUCH better. So I’ve temporarily pushed that one back a couple of weeks, which means assembling a different episode entirely from scratch. So in that respect, I should have a new episode out tomorrow, just a couple of days late.

I know I’m being a little bit cryptic, but I’ve been burned on this thing before, so if it doesn’t work out then it’s no harm/no foul and I do the episode as originally planned. And if it does…you’re in for a treat.

Thanks for your patience!

143: Me and Bobby McGee

Since I was a young adult, I’ve liked listening to Janis Joplin. That bluesy rasp she always had going on really underlined her overall sound. And like so many others my age, I devoured her biography Buried Alive. One of the things that struck me then was the way so many of the people from her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, thought she’d ruined her voice because she’d sounded sweeter and purer as a teenager. Of course, they also bullied the hell out of her because she had an artistic mindset and she wasn’t a racist at heart. (She did drop the N-bomb from time to time because it was originally the only word she had in her vocabulary for Black people.)

The other thing that struck me was that in all of her photos she seemed like kind of a mess. Her hair was everywhere. She wore a million beaded necklaces. She had the baggy, shapeless clothes on. In short, she looked kind of scuzzy and while it kind of matched her sound, it belied the emotion behind her delivery. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I saw a black-and-white nude she’d done in 1967, that I was able to see her differently.

Kubernik: The 2020 Legacy of Janis Joplin

In that image, taken by Bob Seidemann but not released until after her death, her hair is a little more under control. She’s still wearing lots of necklaces, but now they’re nearly her only defense against the camera’s eye. She’s got some curves going on that you never suspected were there. But her face…her face is an expression of vulnerability, maybe even fright. You can see it in the cropped closeup to the right which I’m pretty sure is from the same session. Janis was always artistically naked on the stage, but now she was giving us a literal nakedness that allowed the young woman behind the bawdy broad to shine through.

And I think that might be at the heart of her rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Janis was able to channel more of a bittersweet sound than her usual Kozmic Blues thing, and then when the band opens up toward the end of the record, she’s just along for the ride.

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142: Anthony Robustelli

This week I’ve got something extra-special for you. It’s an interview with Anthony Robustelli, whom I got to speak with recently via Skype.

Anthony is a musician who has toured with lots of big-name performers, he’s written books about Steely Dan and The Beatles (with more to come currently on the back burner), he’s got a Beatles-based podcast that takes a whole new look at them, and his latest project is a 3D animated rock opera that takes place in the ashes of the 2016 election. Whether your politics lean red or blue, you’ll probably find it fun (though admittedly it’s a little more fun for the blue crowd).

This is a longer episode than usual—just a shade over an hour, total—but my hope is that you’ll have as much fun listening as I had chatting.

If you want to encounter him elsewhere on the web:

Where you can find him on the Twitter Machine.

LIkewise, here’s his Instagram profile.

His 3D animated rock opera, The So-Called President.

This is his main page.

shadybear.com Link to his production studio.

If you’re interested in checking out his Beatles book, this is the place to go.

And last but not least, here’s the direct link to his podcast, which is back up and running as of today! You should also be able to find it in Podcast Republic or your favorite podcatcher software: https://shadybearbklyn.podbean.com/

Enjoy.

No transcript this week, unfortunately. My apologies!

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141: Fire and Rain

James Taylor was a talented guy, but early in his career he was having a tough time getting a break. Even when the Beatles signed him to their label, it was at a time that the label was coming unraveled and promotion was scarce. Plus, Taylor had his own issues to deal with.

It took some time but he managed to get his act together, get himself cleaned up and get some talented people to work with him on his second album, which fortunately wasn’t on Apple Records. With some support from Warner Brothers, Sweet Baby James became a hit album, and “Fire and Rain” became a breakout his for Taylor.

“Fire and Rain” is one of those songs that seems to have a lot of weird theories surrounding its subject matter, and the best I can tell you is that most of them are close, but not close enough to be considered correct. But the real stories attached to the song are more compelling, if not quite as exciting.

As I promised during the show, here’s a sample of the old Smokey Stover comic strip that I referred to:

For my money, some of that art suggests that Bill Holman was a big influence on the MAD Magazine crew. It’s also likely that Holman himself was influenced by George McManus, the artist behind “Bringing Up Father.”

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Where I’ve Been

Where have I been?

Let’s start with: I’m okay, my family is okay, everybody’s okay. My wife, as you may know, was considered especially vulnerable to the virus and spent a lot of time in the Southern Studio, but she’s back home and everyone in the household is fully vaccinated, thank goodness. But that doesn’t have a lot to do with where I’ve been.

The fact is, I’m a victim of my own success.

This show is considered “big, for a small podcast” which typically doesn’t mean that much, but in recent months the show has seen a small surge in growth. This happens every now and again: I see a sudden uptick in downloads and then it levels off for a long while until another uptick comes along. My listenership managed to cross some critical thresholds this time around.

So it was time once again for me to think about choosing another provider to host the show. I’ve done it before and it’s typically not a big deal. In fact, it usually goes so smoothly that you don’t know the difference.

The problem that I bumped into this time is that the new host has limits for data uploads that I didn’t know about, because the show’s length (in minutes and seconds) isn’t usually enough to create a problem for me. It’s when I started migrating older shows into the new space that I suddenly had a problem, and I was prevented from uploading anything else until a month had gone by and the meter reset itself.

So my options were to buy more data to upload for a single cycle, or wait it out. I chose to wait it out, since I’d recently spent the money on the new hosting and the new theme music, some of which you haven’t even heard yet.

There’s a little more detail in this audio clip here, which should already be in your podcatcher:

Thanks for listening! I’ve got some exciting stuff coming up in the near future and moving into summer!

140: Cars

When I was in high school, there was a guy I knew named Phil. Phil and I shared an art class, a class I had to be talked into attending because I’d had a bad experience with an art class in the eighth grade. But I was told that the teacher was really good and kind of a cool guy, and sure enough he was.

Mr. L, our art teacher, let us bring in our own music to listen to while we worked. So one fine day in the spring of 1980, Phil brings in a bunch of 45 records, and one of them was this song.

“Cars” was the kind of tune that, at the time, was unlike anything I’d heard before, and I was both fascinated and hooked. The first opportunity I had, I went out and got my own copy of the record (I wasn’t very album-focused yet), and played that record hard.

Numan didn’t see a whole lot more action in the United States after that, probably because New Wave came along and nudged him out of the way, but I don’t think I’ll forget the impact of hearing that record for the first time, even on that crummy, bulky, big brown nearly-portable record player that so many schools used.

In retrospect, it occurred to me that you kind of have to see the original video–at least the first minute or so–to understand what they were doing with part of the Die Hard commercial, so here’s the original 1979 video:

And here’s the Die Hard commercial in full:

What song did you hear that just knocked you out on the first listen? Tell me in the comments!

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139: And When I Die

Laura Nigro was a sixteen-year-old musical prodigy who was trying on several last names, as creative types sometimes do. She happened to be “Nyro” when she finally started to catch on in the music industry, so Laura Nyro she became.

Nyro was never a huge star in her own right. But she left behind a musical legacy in a bunch of songs that became big hits for other artists. That’s a roster that would include Three Dog Night, the Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Nyro wrote “And When I Die.” Peter, Paul & Mary made it kinda-sorta famous. But it was Blood, Sweat and Tears that really brought it to the fore. David Clayton Thomas’ voice, combined with Dick Halligan’s arrangements made for a relatively light-hearted romp through the graveyard. And while BST’s version is musically different from Nyro’s, they never lost sight of that gospel feel that it had, even as they gave it the cowboy instrumental section.

In doing the research for this show, I went down a little bit of a rabbit hole of listening to Laura Nyro’s music. I may have to do a whole bunch of shows dedicated to her sometime soon. Nyro is definitely an under-appreciated talent.

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138: Wish You Were Here

In a relatively short period of time, Pink Floyd went from a band with a fairly small but loyal fan base to an international phenomenon. And it was taking its toll on the members of the group. Even as they were putting together this, probably their most cohesive album, they were largely working in isolation. Only occasionally were all four members in the studio at the same time as they worked on it.

This sense of alienation from each other and their newfound audience, plus the cynicism of the record label executives they met up with after the success of Dark Side of the Moon, gave rise to Wish You Were Here. (The story goes that they did, indeed, have someone ask them “Which one’s Pink?”) In addition, the band was sorely missing founding member Syd Barrett, who’d left the group a few years earlier after having a breakdown. There were a few attempts to bring him back, but Barrett just wasn’t able to bring the spark he’d had previously.

Wish You Were Here the album explores all of these themes separately, but I’d argue that “Wish You Were Here” the song ties all of them into a neat little bow. From that point there are only about twelve minutes left to the album. That leaves twelve minutes of a coda bringing the whole thing to a tidy close.

So where have I been the last few weeks? I’ve been doing some pondering about re-working the show a little bit, and getting some new elements in. So you’ll hear some big differences in the beginning of the show (and a little bit at the end), and I’ll be trying out a couple of other things soon as well.

Here’s a for-instance: the show has new theme music! Thanks to the generosity of the show’s Patrons, I was able to commission some custom music for the show. I’ll always have a soft place in my heart for “Surfing Day” but I think this new track has a little bit of the same feel and I hope you like it as much as I do. (You can hear it unsullied by my voice on the Facebook page.)

For what it’s worth, the show has been away for a few weeks, but I haven’t. I’ve been communicating with the Patreon crowd every Sunday morning via the newsletter. If you’d like to see what that’s about, click here to become a Patron of the Show. You won’t be able to see the recent newsletters, but you can see the ones from this past fall.

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A New Means of Support

Someone asked me recently about how to support the show financially if Patreon isn’t really your speed. I get that; we’ve got all got enough things to keep track of, and there may be other reasons not to enjoy Patreon.

Well, now there is an additional avenue: PayPal.

PayPal Reports Third Quarter 2018 Results | Business Wire

If you send a donation to the show via PayPal, you’ll still be able to get the weekly newsletter, albeit via email rather than through the Patreon site. It’s a (very) little extra work for me, but if you’re willing to take that step, it’s the least I can do. And never let it be said I didn’t do the least I could do.

Newsletters will be sent on a prorated basis according to your donation. The current donation level is $5/month, so if you send me a fiver, you’ll get the newsletter for 5 weeks. $10 will get you two months, and so forth. And you still get to be on the Wall of Fame, with no distinction between the donation method.

So you can either go to paypal.me/HowGoodItIs or click that gigantic PayPal logo above, and you’ll go straight to the show’s PayPal page. Or, if you prefer the old-school DIY route, use the howgoodpodcast@gmail.com address from the PayPal app.

And thanks for your continued support!

137: Same Old Lang Syne

It’s kind of melancholy for a song that many consider to be a Christmas song, isn’t it?

What you have in this tune is the true story of two people who re-encounter each other after several years of separation. And as they spend some time re-connecting, they both recognize that despite opening up to each other, it doesn’t mean that anything else is going to happen for them. The moment has passed them by, and they’re mostly just left with the restlessness and maybe even some self-pity that they hadn’t even realized they were experiencing earlier.

They’re glad they saw each other, and they still manage to come away sadder about their own situation, having gained and lost a shred of hope that this is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for.

Jill Greulich, the woman in the Dan Fogelberg song "Same Old Lang Syne."

Fogelberg always insisted that the story was true, but he never revealed the identity of the woman in the story. But shortly after he died in 2007, she came forward and did an interview with a Peoria, Illinois newspaper. Her name is Jill Anderson Greulich, and she says she hears from Fogelberg’s fans all the time, with almost invariably positive messages, and especially around the holidays.

It’s not really a Christmas song in the sense of Christmas songs we typically think of. It’s set during Christmas, but it’s not the overly-happy, sanitized Christmas we’re used to singing about. It’s more like the Christmas that actually happens to us.

And that’s not always a bad thing.

I meant what I said about the cookies. If you come up with a guess, hit me up on the social media and I’ll let you know if you got it.

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