Posted in 1960s, 1962, 1970s, 1975

60–Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Click here for a transcript of the show.

Yeah, yeah, I know: you were expecting Shel Silverstein again. Forgive me; I got Writer’s Block on it and couldn’t figure out a good way to organize my notes. 

Anyway. 

By the time 1962 rolled around, Neil Sedaka had been in the Top Ten eight times, but he still hadn’t cracked the #1 slot.

Image result for 1962 neil sedaka -site:pinterest.com

Inspired by a doo-wop song he’d heard recently, he put together a song that had a similar structure but no doo-wops in it. He brought the song to Barry Mann, who didn’t like it until he added the “dom dooby doo dom dom” bit back in. That was deemed good enough for him to record, and it turned into the Big Hit of the summer of 1962, going to the top spot by the second week of August. 

Image result for neil sedaka and wife recent
The happy couple in 2017

There’s a story out there in Rich Podolsky’s book about Don Kirshner (who produced the record) that says that shortly after the record came out, Sedaka proposed to his girlfriend, Leba Strasberg. Being the hopeless romantic that he is, though, Sedaka proposed over the phone, and Leba didn’t believe him. Sedaka had to put the song’s co-writer, Howie Greenfield, on the phone to convince her that he was serious. They’ve been married since September 11 of that year. 

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While there were a bunch of covers, it was the 1970 version by Lenny Welch that changed the tone of the song, and it probably inspired Sedaka to re-record it as a ballad in 1975, which he put on an album almost as an afterthought. It became the second single off that album, and Sedaka found himself in the Top Ten a second time with “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. Oddly enough, Sedaka’s self-cover was NOT the most successful cover of the song, but you’ll have to listen to the show to find out what was. 

Speaking of which, here’s your golden opportunity to listen to, or download the show, assuming your podcast software doesn’t already have it. 

And thanks so much to the folks who have left reviews! I love you guys!

Posted in House Keeping

Let’s Get Together, Yeah Yeah Yeah

So until very recently, this was my studio layout: 

From left to right: Left speaker; mixer (yes, it’s hanging over the edge of the table but it doesn’t ordinarily do that; laptop which plays all the sound elements; microphone mounted on the boom; rack containing my amplifier, CD/MP3 player, cassette deck and power conditioner; monitor for Computer #2 where the recording and editing takes place; right speaker is hiding underneath that monitor; Computer #2 and turntable with a copy of The Guess Who’s “Shakin’ All Over” on the platter. 

This was the space I was talking about whenever I mentioned the Bob Cratchit Studios, because it’s in my basement and it gets pretty cold down there in the winter. Oddly, it’s not especially cool in the summer, but at least it’s tolerable. 

There’s been some upheaval in my life lately, and the upshot of that is that the studio had to move out of the basement and up to the second floor of the house. and it had to happen this past weekend. So right now the studio is in many, many pieces which I’ll spend this week re-assembling. But that means that there’s no show this week. 

I’ve been pondering re-building the whole thing, including replacing that circular table that holds most of the equipment, but I don’t think I have the means to do that just yet. The other thing I have to think about is that when I was in the basement, I didn’t have to worry too much about vibrations coming from other parts of the house, just some stray noises like footsteps from upstairs or the dog barking at evildoers who are using the sidewalk out front. So part of my calculus will include sonic isolation, especially for that turntable. 

Anyway: my plan is to be back next week, with Part Two of my focus on Shel Silverstein. 

Posted in 1980, 1980s

59–Another Brick in the Wall

Click here for a transcript of this show. 

In the late 1970s, Pink Floyd had come up with a trio of very solid albums, one of which still hadn’t left the Billboard Top 200 since its release in 1973. And between that, the growing popularity of Pink Floyd as the musical basis for laser shows, and a lot of Album-Oriented Rock airplay, the band was becoming popular enough that their audiences were getting to the point of their being able to fill very large arenas such as stadiums.

On tour in 1977, at Madison Square Garden.

This posed a problem for the band, as they thought that A) people weren’t coming to the shows for the “right” reasons, which led to B)  they were feeling a growing separation from their audiences. After an unfortunate incident (fortunately on the last night of their Animals tour), the band took some planned time off to recharge, and Roger Waters took the opportunity to put together some songs that drew upon the bad experiences they were having, plus an offhand comment he made to producer Bob Ezrin and his friend, who turned out to be a psychiatrist. He came up with two separate concepts, which he presented to the other band members a year later: one eventually became his solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking; the other became The Wall

The text was hand-written by Gerald Scarfe; there’s no “The Wall” font but there’s something similar called “Floydian”. On the albums the text appeared in either black or red.  

The Wall was likely to just become another pretty good Pink Floyd album, even if it was a double album, but some financial setbacks for the band meant that David Gilmour was temporarily unable to do as much as he ordinarily would, and so Roger Waters brought in Bob Ezrin to help. Ezrin, uncredited at the time, helped Waters and Gilmour really beat the overall concept into a cohesive shape, and he made a couple of tweaks to one song that, despite the band’s initial reservations, ultimately made the song catchier while still retaining its original Pink Floyd-iness. That song became the centerpiece of the album and the band’s only Number One song, but what a monster Number One it was, topping the charts in nations around the world. 

Pink Floyd was going through so much stress that they actually broke up after a fashion; most of them stayed together but their keyboardist, Richard Wright, quit before the album was finished (or he was fired, depending on whom you ask). He was hired as a session musician for the tour, so nobody really knew that the band had fractured so badly. But it was the beginning of the end for Pink Floyd as so many people think of them. Their next album was a rehash of older material, and the one after that (The Final Cut) was leftovers from The Wall repurposed into an anti-war screed related to Britain’s conflict in the Falkland Islands. Wright was long gone by then, and Gilmour didn’t like the direction the album had taken, and that was pretty much it for them. 

So while it may have seemed as though The Wall was the impetus for the band’s breakup, in fact it was a masterpiece despite the fact that things were going so badly for its members…much like another British band that released a double album with a white cover. Hm, I just thought of that!

If your podcatcher doesn’t have the show already, you can always listen or download it right here: 

And of course, I’d be most appreciative if you left a review where other folks can see it. 

Posted in 1960s, 1967, Holiday Songs

58–Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

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

Arlo Guthrie in a still from
the 1969 film Alice’s Restaurant 

The early-to-mid 1960s was a great time to be a folk singer, whether or not you were the protesting type. And Arlo Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie, had the decade pretty much fall into his lap. It didn’t hurt that he was actually kind of good at it.  And when, as a freewheeling 17-year-old, he and a friend took a fateful trip to the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts to visit a couple of friends for the Thanksgiving weekend. It turned out to be an adventure that he later immortalized in a song. Between airplay on a single radio station in New York City and its inclusion on the Newport Folk Festival’s main stage, Arlo was able to get a record contract and the song became the entire first side of his debut album. 

And despite the song’s 18-1/2 minute length, and its subject matter (much of which was taboo then), and some of the language used (some of which is taboo now), the song continues to get radio airplay, in full, and unedited. 

Although the restaurant and the microbus are long gone, Guthrie continues to perform the song from time to time, though he’ll update the lyrics so that they’re either more topical or less offensive. Or both. 

And as usual, for the nine of you who don’t use the podcatchers, here’s the episode for listening or downloading:

And of course, if you DO use a podcatcher of some kind, please leave a rating and/or a review. I really appreciate the support. 

Posted in 1960s, 1968, 1970s, 1972

57–Shel Silverstein, Part I

Click here for a transcript of today’s show. 

Image result for shel silverstein -site:pinterest.com

Shel Silverstein was a humorist, a poet, a cartoonist, and a musician who had a strong, if not especially obvious, influence on pop music through the late 1960s, up into the 1980s. Most people know him for his poetry books largely aimed at a children’s audience, but he also provided cartoons for Playboy Magazine, usually inserting a caricature of himself into the image: 

Image result for shel silverstein playboy cartoon -site:pinterest.com

And he’s also responsible for the dark, subversively comic Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book, an alphabet book you do NOT want your kids to read (but you should, because it’s hilarious): 

Image result for uncle shelby ABZ -site:pinterest.com

But Silverstein was a songwriter who had an especially strong relationship with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and that led to a couple of their bigger hits, including a song that was essentially a parody of the rock star life, but it led to the sort of fame that only he could imagine: 

Image result for dr hook rolling stone cover -site:pinterest.com

You know the drill by now–Either you have the episode, or you’re looking to get it here: 

And if you’ve taken the time to leave a rating somewhere, thanks so much for the boost! If you haven’t, that’s OK but please consider doing so. 

Posted in 1950s, 1959, 1970s, 1978

56–Shout

Click here to view a transcript of this show. 

The Isley Brothers were an act that seemed to do well on stage, but they were having difficulty getting traction as far as record sales or radio airplay were concerned. While performing in Philadelphia, Ronald Isley recognized that their cover of Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops” was getting a terrific response from the audience, so he started ad-libbing a call-and-response section to keep the song going. It worked out so well that they kept doing the bit, and when they’d finished the series of performances, their producers suggested that they turn the bit into a single of its own. And a gigantic hit was born!

Ha, Ha! Just kidding. The song only went to #47 on the Billboard charts. But it became a popular party tune, and was covered repeatedly by numerous artists, including Lulu, who was only 13 years old and still performing as Lulu and the Luvvers. Here’s her 1965 appearance on Ready Steady Go. I like the full ending she puts on the record, and the way she gives up lip-synching before she’s quite done: 

Finally, 1978 rolled around and the song was used in the film National Lampoon’s Animal House, performed by a fictional band called Otis Day and the Knights, which re-activated the song’s popularity (and contributed heavily to the Isleys getting Gold certification for their version), and allowed the singer of the band (not the guy you see on stage, that’s a lip-synching actor) to put a real Otis Day band together and go on tour. Over ten years later they recorded an album with a new recording of “Shout”. 

The Knights, with Otis Day off-camera. That’s Robert Cray playing bass, second from right. I have to admit, at first I thought it was Matt “Guitar” Murphy. 

If you usually get your podcasts from somewhere else, well, you should already have it by now. Either that or you ran out of data on your plan and you’re waiting for the next cycle to come around. But anyway, if you listen and/or download from here, have at it:

And, of course, ratings and reviews are always welcome. Which reminds me to send a big Thank You to StampingJulie, who was too kind to me over at Apple Podcasts recently. 

Posted in 1980s, 1984

55–Ghostbusters

Dan Aykroyd, who is well-known for being interested in parapsychology, came up with the idea of creating a comedy horror film in the tradition of the movie comedians he’d grown up watching. The first draft was a bit of a mess, but Aykroyd is a good egg in this respect and knows that he’s a better Idea Guy than a Polished Script Writer, so he handed off the project to director Ivan Reitman and a few others, and threw in some jargon and other ideas along the ride. 

Reitman and his (and Aykroyd’s) agent Michael Ovits went to Columbia Pictures and, pulling a dollar figure out of a hat (roughly three times what Reitman spent on Stripes), got a budget of $25,000,000, which was HUGE for a comedy at that time. Columbia slated the film to open about a year later, which really put the team in a crunch position, especially since the script was still being re-written and there were lots of special effects to create. 

Parker says he still has this original shirt, but he doesn’t wear it because he doesn’t want it worn out. Instead he wears one of many copies he has. 

So many things could have gone wrong and made the film a flop (in fact, Columbia execs thought so at first), but it caught on with audiences, and part of that success was the support it got from its theme song, written by Ray Parker Jr after several other musicians had either turned down the project, or given it a shot and found lacking. But his original 20-second effort (what he was commissioned for) excited Reitman so much that he convinced Parker to write a complete song, and he’d support it with a video. That video became only the second one featuring an African-American artist on MTV. 

Cindy Harrell in the video. Shortly before making the video,
she married producer Alan Horn, and she retired from acting a few years later. 
They have two children, one of whom is actress Cody Horn.  

As I mention during the show, the video involved a lot of items painted on glass, and then the camera shot through the glass, giving everything a funky, ethereal look. 

Glass shots were also popularly used in films as a cheap way of creating illusions that are more easily done nowadays with green screens and CGI imagery. In this shot from Star Wars below, only the walkway to the right (where the stormtroopers are standing) and the cone-shaped gizmo on which Obi-Wan Kenobi is standing is real and full-size. Everything else, including the pillar below the cone-shaped gizmo, is painted on a sheet of glass carefully placed in front of the camera. It’s like doing a matte shot on the cheap. 

By now you should be seeing the show in your podcatcher, but if not, give it a listen or a download right here: 

And, of course, leaving a rating wherever you get your shows is always appreciated. 

Posted in 1970s, 1973

54–Walk on the Wild Side

Click here for a transcript of today’s show. 

Lou Reed had been out of the Velvet Underground for about two years, and his first solo album had tanked, but people like David Bowie still believed in him, and brought him to London to record his second album. One of the songs he recorded during the ten days they spent on Transformer was a song he’d been noodling with for about a year. It started out as part of the score for a show that never materialized, but over time it morphed into a tribute to several of Andy Warhol’s “Superstars” at his studio-cum-crash pad, The Factory. 

Candy Darling
Holly Woodlawn

Jackie Curtis

Joe D’Alessandro (left) in a still from the film Flesh that was cropped to create The Smiths’ first album sleeve.

The song got a remarkable amount of airplay despite its subject matter (and because of how well it was coded), and propelled Transformer into the Billboard Top 30, cementing its place as a touchstone of the Glam Rock genre of music.

Incidentally, the album’s cover was photographed by Mick Rock, who’d accidentally over-exposed the image in the darkroom, but he liked the way it came out and submitted it as a possible cover anyway.

And if you know anything about this show then you know if you’re reading this, then your podcatcher software already has it, but if you’re not one of the billions of users of Podcast Republic, you can always listen to, or download the show from right here: 

And, as usual, leaving a rating and a review makes my world go round, so have at it.

Posted in 1960s, 1967, 1968, 2000

Episode 53–Both Sides Now

Click here to view a transcript of this show. 

Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. They’re still stunning to look at. 

The late 1960s was a great time for the fusion of folk and pop music, and a lot of singer-songwriters made their marks with recording their songs, and those of other performers, during that time. So it was when Judy Collins first heard Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides Now” down a telephone line one late night in 1967. Collins met with Mitchell and Al Kooper that very night in the bar  from which Kooper placed the phone call, and the song wound up as the opening track to Side Two of Collins’ seventh album, Wildflowers.

For whatever reason, though, the song wasn’t released as a single for about a year, but releasing the song turned out to be a great idea, because it turned into Collins’ first foray into Billboard’s Top 40 and propelled Wildflowers to the Number 5 position on their albums chart. 

Joni Mitchell, in the meantime, managed to score a recording contract of her own and recorded it, along with several other songs that had already been cut by other artists (including “Chelsea Morning”, which Collins had recorded and released as a single earlier that year) and a few new tracks. “Both Sides Now” became a stealth title track for her self-produced second album, Clouds, and finally propelled her into the public light. 

The song has been covered literally dozens of times from 1967 all the way up to this decade, and by artists of all ages and genres so clearly this is a song whose impact will be felt for many years to come. 

As usual, your podcast software should have this show by now, but if you dig listening to it from here (looking at you, Brother Of Mine), by all means have at it:

And, of course, I’d be thrilled beyond measure if you were to leave a comment or a rating/review wherever you get your podcasts. 

Posted in House Keeping, Production

What’s New, Pussycat

Hi-yoooooooooooooooo!

In an effort to make the show as a whole more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (and, let’s face it, to make it more visible to search engines), transcripts of each show will now be available. 

As it happens, because the show is heavily scripted, and because I’m weirdly obsessive about saving digital stuff, I still have the original Microsoft Word files for most episodes. I lost a few to accidental overwrites, but I’ll figure something out for those shows as well. 

So, beginning this week when the show returns for Episode 53, there will be a transcript linked from the episode’s blog post. In addition, I’ll be backfilling the older episodes over the next couple of weeks until everything is caught up. 

See you on Saturday!