Episode 96–Deacon Blues

Aja, by Steely Dan, was one of the first albums I purchased with my own money. It wasn’t that I was so enamored by Steely Dan; I’d just heard a lot of good stuff about it so I took a chance.

And while fourteen-year-old me heard a ton of good stuff in it, doing a re-listen these many years later has only cemented this album in my Top Ten of all time. (Small wonder that so many others agree with me on that one.)

Aja was released to rather mixed reviews, but over a relatively small amount of time, many of the critics who didn’t like it at first were won over. It just took a second or third listen to appreciate that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were doing something genuinely new, fusing multiple genres into a cohesive whole.

As I strongly suggested during the show, go back and listen to this album with headphones. You’ll be amazed at the intimacy of every element on it.

You’re welcome.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 95–Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen was a local favorite and a darling of the critics, but that sort of thing doesn’t cut any ice when you’re Columbia Records and your artist has already released two albums without scoring any hits.

But Springsteen had an epiphany about what his next album should sound like, from both a lyrical and a sonic sense, and it was the start of his reputation as a serious perfectionist when it came to his recordings. The result was the album Born to Run, and its title track, which were both released on the same day: August 25, 1975.

The album went to Number 3 and just a couple of weeks later, Springsteen made a kind of history by being the first rock star to land on the cover of both Time and Newsweek Magazines during the same week, on October 27. According to biographer Peter Ames Carlin, that wasn’t a coincidence: Jay Cocks of Time found out that Maureen Orth of Newsweek was doing a piece about Springsteen and convinced his editor to run a piece as well. Time’s piece was all about his music, though, while Newsweek concentrated on the publicity machine that put someone like Springsteen on the map.

Image result for springsteen time newsweek -site:pinterest.com

I, being only 12 years old at the time, remember seeing the covers but didn’t read either magazine because we didn’t have a subscription. But a pretty big deal was made about it in the newspapers and on TV at the time, so I have a memory of that too.

And as promised, here’s the video of the Springsteen pastiche that appeared on Sesame Street:

Next week’s show was inspired by a suggestion from a listener. In the meantime, have fun with this week’s show:

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 94–Touch of Grey

The Grateful Dead were definitely a rock band, and at the same time they managed to defy most definitions with regard to their specific genre. Sometimes they were funky, sometimes they were bluesy, sometimes they were jazzy, sometimes even gospel. Usually they were jamming, and rather than discouraging fans from recording their concerts, they encouraged it, often even giving them opportunities to plug recorders into their own equipment. Going to a Dead concert was a weird, beautiful, communal experience, and I think the closest equivalent in the absence of Jerry Garcia and Company would be…I don’t know, maybe Phish? The one time I went to a Phish show was in 1999 at what was then the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Now the PNC Bank P.A.C.), and it was a very similar vibe, right down to the joint being passed down the row from god knows where.

They started out as The Warlocks in 1965 but changed their name after they discovered that The Velvet Underground had already released an album with that title. Stories vary with regard to how they came up with the new name: Phil Lesh says that he found it in a Britannica World Language Dictionary; Garcia’s story is that he found it in an old dictionary of folklore. At any rate, the name stuck and the concerts became known as special events to be experienced.

But while they were enormously popular, their records didn’t exactly burn up the charts. While it took them a few years to crack the Hot 100, it was over 22 years before they saw their one and only Top Ten record. And coincidentally, that’s the one we’re talking about in this episode.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 93–Vehicle

This week’s show was suggested by someone in the Listener Survey, so thank you, Kind Stranger, for making that suggestion. Maybe next time I do this sort of thing, I leave an optional space for putting your names in.

So the car in the episode artwork isn’t THE vehicle in question, but it’s the same make and model, and (I think) year. There are some stories that say it was a 1964 others that say it was a 1965. Both stories came from the Ides of March lead singer and songwriter Jim Peterik, so I went with a ’65 and called it done.

The Ides of March, incidentally, got their name from the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. They were originally the “Shon-Dels,” but Tommy James got there first, with a name that was close enough not to matter. Bass player Bob Bergland suggested the name change after reading the play, because they were still in high school and he’d read it as an English class assignment. They’d already gained some local acclaim with a song called “You Wouldn’t Listen,” which went Top 10 on the WLS surveys in June 1966 and made it to #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. See? You thought the Ides were a one-hit wonder, didn’t you.

At any rate, here’s Episode 93. Have fun with it!

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 92–Dancing in the Moonlight

Apologies for the delay; once again I’ve been at a podcasting conference and I got in from Boston a little later than I expected to. This one was geared entirely toward educational podcasts (and yes, I do consider this show educational, though it’s probably more in the “edutainment” corner), and I picked up a lot of information I’m hoping to take to my school and see what we can do about getting something launched with my students.

Aaaaanyway, I don’t have a lot of backstory to add to this one, other than that two separate requests for this came in through the Listener Survey (it’s still open; scroll down if you’re still interested in playing along), and because the surveys are anonymous, I have no idea who put the requests in. But thank you so much for your input!

No, wait, I lied. I do have another thing to add. When I was doing the research for this song, I discovered that most people don’t know that it’s performed by King Harvest, which makes sense since they broke up before the song was a big hit. But when you do the Google searches, some of the wrong guesses will pop up in your results. Some people think it’s Van Morrison, which is a pretty good guess actually, but he never covered the song. Neither did Elvis Costello, which is also a popular guess but not an especially good one. But the best guesses are the ones who kinda-sorta remember King Harvest but haven’t quite nailed it. That would be the nonexistent artist Kink Harris. It’s gotten to the point where you can do a search for “Kink Harris Dancing in the Moonlight” and get accurate hits to the song.

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 91–Under the Covers, Part 5

Holy Moly! The show is back!

For those of you who don’t follow the show on Facebook or Twitter, I’ll be posting the pictures here in another couple of days, outlining the New Studio Project. My return to the Podcast Zone was delayed a little bit by a faulty cable I needed to replace, plus I was getting into a weird funk. But fortunately I got a mental boot in the butt by Greg Yates over at the No Head Trash Nation Podcast. I met Greg a few weeks ago when I was in Orlando and, while he considers himself a relative newbie to podcasting, I’m constantly finding myself saying “Yeah, this guy knows his stuff.” “Holy cow, he’s right.” He and I spoke face to face for about twenty minutes and I’m practically ready to follow him into a burning house. Anyway, Greg’s a smart guy and you should check out his show.

But first, you’ve been waiting forever for this show! And here it is! The songs in this show were actually selected several months ago, and I lost the list. (That does seem to happen to me a lot, doesn’t it.) It turned up when I was cleaning out a computer bag, and I took it as a sign from above. Or from my computer bag, whatever.

At any rate, you probably know that most of the songs I talk about today are covers, but I’m pretty sure I still have a couple of surprises for you. Go check it out.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Break My Stride

Hi, there:

Don’t freak out; the picture here is supposed to be blurry. There’s a sharper version of it below.

The show is taking a little break, but don’t worry: it’s only going to be a couple of weeks. And if you’ve already heard this weeks No Show Show, then please read all the way through anyway, because there’s going to be a Call To Action for you to participate! (You can click that link to go straight to the bottom of the page, where I have a special request to make of you.)

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Orlando to attend the Podcast Movement conference. It was pretty much four solid days of me and three thousand other people talking almost exclusively about podcasting.

When you do a show like this, as a solo podcaster and (believe it or not) a relative introvert, sometimes you get into your own head and get locked into routines, or means of working, or some other such. And while I belong to a few podcaster groups online, there’s still nothing like getting together with actual human beings who are all as passionate about their hobby (or their business, some of them are in it for money) as you are. And so many of them have the same anxieties that you do! How do I make the show sound better? How do I build my audience? What microphone-mixer-headphones-internet provider-whatever should I buy?

The point is, I thought that this would be a good time to take a short timeout and think about the direction of the show with regard to its sound, the basic structure, my pacing, whether I want to lock into a specific show length, stuff like that. In addition, I have a couple of other podcast ideas cooking (completely unrelated to this show), and I’d like to explore just how realistic those ideas are.

From a technological standpoint, I’m also making some changes. I’ll be switching podcast hosting providers, which shouldn’t affect you at all if you listen via Apple, or Google Podcasts or Podcast Republic or other podcatching software, but it will affect the way this website behaves for a short while, because the links in EVERY post are going to have to be fixed, one at a time. At any rate, I want to ensure that all the redirects are in place so that those of you who subscribe to the show don’t miss out on anything.

Here’s the other thing I learned in Orlando, though: it’s possible to be a victim of your own success. In the broader scheme of podcasts in general, I know that I’m one of the little fish, and I’m OK with that. Those of you who are reading this are a smallish-but-dedicated group, and I’m all kinds of grateful for your listenership (is that a word?) and your feedback. But the fact is, while I’ve got that little Fair Use statement in the corner of the webpage somewhere, that’s not going to be very meaningful if a record label takes it in their head to issue a Cease & Desist letter my way.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on this podcast, oh no. But I do have to think a little more deeply about this project, and the next one(s) that I work on, and what all of it is going to look like.

Next up is the fact that school starts this week, and in my current position as someone who’s essentially Middle Management in a high school, I need to concentrate on the paying gig for a little bit, until the New School Year dust settles.

And then there’s another thing that’s forcing me to take some time out, but this is more of a Good News thing.

This is my current setup. And while it works pretty well, that round table actually impedes my getting some of my stuff done. So my daughter, who is a very capable person when it comes to this sort of thing, helped me design a new table that will allow me to run cables underneath (right now there’s a whole lotta electronic spaghetti back there, and organize my equipment a little better, and give me some more usable work room. And, it’s tough to see here, but the table and the black cabinet next to it aren’t the same height, so everything will match in that respect. (They won’t be the same color, though.) She’ll be building me a new work space that should make my life a lot easier moving forward. AND, should future projects involve a second personality, it’ll already be ready to go with a second microphone arm. (In fact, the one that’s here will become the third, spare arm.)

I’m giving her instructions to take a bunch of pictures so that we can follow the progress together, and I’ll be posting them to the various social media outlets, ’cause I don’t want to fade away completely on you folks.

So here’s the Call to Action:

Without you, How Good It Is would be nothing but me blathering on to nobody. You’re the thing that keeps me and this project going, and as I do my pondering about what happens next, and how it happens, your opinion is at least as important as mine. Anytime I’ve heard from a listener, whether positive or (occasionally) negative, I do think deeply about what they’ve offered me, even if it’s a request. Especially if it’s a request, because you’re just so good at thinking of stuff that I should have thought of! So please take the time to complete the Listener Survey. There are 14 questions and most of them are multiple-choice, so it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to complete. You’ll be doing me a huge favor, and you’ll be helping me to make the show a better one overall.

If all goes well with the migration and the studio makeover, the show should be back on September 22, just in time for Fall. In the meantime, however, I’ll keep you posted on updates as I move forward. Thanks so much for listening and for your patience!

Episode 90–Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)

What do you think? You like that picture? I PAID for that stock photo, like some kind of honest guy.

Despite this being perhaps The Hollies’ biggest hit in the US, it still managed not to make it to the Number One position on the Billboard Hot 100. It was kept out of that position by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” for both of the weeks that it spent at #2 with a bullet. And for all that time on the charts (11 weeks altogether), that’s a pretty popular song, considering that nobody understands the words. At least, not until you’ve seen them. Then they totally make sense. Plus, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not about what you think it’s about.

Below is the link for this week’s show for your downloading and/or listening pleasure.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: There won’t be a show for the next couple of weeks, because of some technical issues I’ll spell out later this week. Don’t worry, I will return!

Click here for a transcript of this week’s show.

Episode 89–Woodstock

The Summer of 1969 was also the Summer of Woodstock. Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York (they couldn’t get a permit for the town of Woodstock, but the posters had already been made, and you know how it goes…) for a few days of Peace, Love and Music.

Woodstock proved to be like nothing else, before or since. Attempts to replicate its feeling, or its scale, or anything else about it gets washed away by nostalgia and the sense that someone’s trying to make a buck off of it. And, of course, they are. They were trying to make a buck off the original show, too–in fact, the organizers were hoping to raise money to build a recording studio. That didn’t work out because financially the show barely broke even. But the film and record rights put them back in the black several months later.

Several acts were barely known at the time of the show, including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (performing for the second time ever), and Sha-Na-Na, which opened for Jimi Hendrix. Most of them have found a place in the rock and roll firmament following the show (e.g. Melanie was a relative unknown; Richie Havens, who opened the show, was barely known, Santana had been around for ten years but hadn’t broken through yet); others were pretty much unheard-of afterward (Keef Hartley Band? ).

In the wake of the show were three things that gained lasting fame, and they all happened around the same time, in early 1970. The first was this:

The other two? We talk about those in this week’s episode. I’m no spoiler.

Speaking of which, if you want to see the telegram sent to the band in today’s trivia question, look under the spoiler button below this week’s episode.

Finally, this is the text of the telegram related to the trivia question for this episode. See if you can find the hidden message! If you’ve heard the episode and you want to see what I’m talking about, click the button to show the art. If you haven’t heard it yet, go back and listen first. It’s OK, we’ll still be here for you.

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 88–Manson and the White Album

Click here for a transcript of this show.

This is the penultimate of my special episodes concentrating on the Summer of 1969, and this time around it concerns one of the more horrific crimes of the 20th Century–the Tate-LaBianca murders during the weekend of August 8 and 9.

The murders were incredibly savage, and intended to strike terror into the hearts of Californians, but the hidden agenda behind them was that they were meant to be a model for African-Americans to use as part of the uprising that, according to Charles Manson, was coming very soon, as predicted to him by The Beatles, when they seeded their self-titled album (usually just called “The White Album”) with clues.

Manson’s plan was to commit the murders, which would show Blacks “how to do it,” then he and his family would hide in a deep hole in the ground while the ultimate race war, which he called “Helter Skelter”, took place on the surface. Then, when the White race was wiped out and the Blacks realized that they hadn’t been in charge in so long that they had no idea what to do next, that’s when Manson and his followers would emerge from the hole and take over.

Crazy? Of COURSE it’s crazy. Before 1968, all Manson cared about was staging orgies. Then he heard this album and it short-circuited the wiring in his head.

So this week we look at a bunch of songs that Manson took as clues to the messages that The Beatles were sending to him, and just how badly he’d gotten it wrong.

Your podcatcher software, as usual, should have the show by now, but if you’re extra-macho about these things, feel free to listen or download from right here:

And, as usual, please tell your friends about the cool podcast you’re listening to! Thanks so much for your support!