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Bonus Video: my Nashville record store finds

Last week I was ensconced at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, for the Podcast Movement conference. I also decided to stick around for a couple of extra days to soak up some Nashville culture and poke around through some used record stores. Here’s a little bit of my exploits.

Believe it or not, that’s the least crummy thumbnail that YouTube made available.

146: A Chat With John Hall

Episode 146 cover, a portrait of John Hall

John Hall has been around the block a few times, and he’s not finished traveling.

In fact, when he and I chatted via Skype a short time ago, he was in the middle of a move from New York to Tennessee, and making that move in between gigs for both his solo shows and with the band that cemented his position in the Rock and Roll firmament, Orleans.

In this episode we talk about the early days of his career, including how a couple of Orleans’ first few hits came to be. We also get into his time away from the band, working on solo projects and how that turned into dedicating himself to environmental causes. And how that, in turn, provided the impetus for him to embark on a political career for several years. He managed to sponsor some legislation that not only received vocal bipartisan support, it actually passed with a bipartisan vote. It was a pretty significant piece of law, and he’ll tell you about it during the show.

After a health scare, John returned to playing music, both with Orleans and with his solo projects. He chronicled his journey in a book called Still the One: A Rock and Roll Journey to Congress and Back a couple of years ago, and this past year he released a solo album called Reclaiming My Time. (These are Amazon links but I don’t get affiliate money for them.) And during the interview he also talks about a special project that Orleans is working on, which will be coming out in the fall.

During the interview, I made mention of Orleans performing “Dancing in the Moonlight” and mistakenly said I thought the clip was from the late 70s, when they first covered it as the title track for an album. In fact, that performance was from 2006 and I present it here:

Sorry, no transcript for this episode.

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145: I Honestly Love You

Original cover photo by  awatif abdulaziz  on  Scopio

Olivia Newton-John was already a pretty big star by the time 1974 rolled around, but she still hadn’t scored a Number One hit.

Then along came Peter Allen, who was coincidentally also from Australia. Allen was putting together an album of his own, and he enlisted Jeff Barry to help him with the songwriting. Together they put together “I Honestly Love You” and cut a demo. The intent of the demo was to have something to work from when they recorded it for the album.

Instead the demo wound up in the hands of Olivia Newton-John’s producer, who played it for the singer. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Except, not quite. There were a couple of other things that needed to happen. But if I told you here, why would you bother listening to the episode? I ask you!

Because this episode is running a few days late, you’re getting a treat: Episode 146, which will be an interview with John Hall, founder of the band Orleans, will drop either Monday or Tuesday, depending on how quickly I finish my post-production. Hall was a terrific interview and I hope to do a follow-up with him in the near future.

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144: Everlasting Love

The interesting thing about this song is that it was written for a specific singer. That said, it’s been a pretty big hit for many different artists over the years.

“Everlasting Love” was written in 1967 specifically to match Robert Knight’s voice, but it’s proven to be quite the malleable tune. It’s been rendered in R&B, in disco, in rock, in techno and god knows what else.

So the story behind the song isn’t incredibly interesting. Interesting, but not incredibly so. But the journey it’s taken to embed itself in the hearts of different generations is a fun one. Ride along with me, why don’t you?.

This is not the episode that I teased earlier. That one’s still coming; there’s an interview attached to it and we’ve had some scheduling issues.

As promised, here’s the video of the song by Sandra from 1987. It’s got a very 80s feel to it. I think that comes from the editing and the “backstage” feel it’s supposed to be conveying. I dare you to tell me I’m lying about the Natalie Wood thing:

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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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