The song that cemented Eddie Cochran’s place in the Rock and Roll firmament was written in about an hour by a 19 year old Cochran and his manager.
Murray Head is one of those guys whose name you may or may not know, but you’re certainly familiar with some of his work.
In 1970 he worked on a concept album with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The first single from that album was written and recorded before the entire rest of the album, and it was released by the record company to gauge interest in the idea of an entire album built around that idea. The song did poorly in the US, at least at first, but international sales were enough that MCA Records gave the go-ahead to the rest of the album. And that’s how the original double album Jesus Christ Superstar came to be.
Fast-forward several years and Tim Rice again taps Murray Head to help him with a concept album, one that uses the chess rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union (no, literally: which country had the best chess players was a big deal in the 1970s and 80s) as a thinly-veiled metaphor for the Cold War. And once again, the success of the album leads to the production of a stage musical, called Chess.
And these two successes put Murray Head in an interesting place in the record books.
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And, of course, your feedback is always welcome. Reviews in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts from do help boost the show’s profile overall.
It’s a glorious day here in Baltimore, so of course I’m inside maintaining this website. But don’t worry: I’ll be getting my fresh air later when I attend the Aberdeen Ironbirds game. Come find me in Section 115.
At any rate, I’m making a few changes to the older posts, eliminating the on-site players in favor of embedded players from the Podomatic website, so I can keep better track of my download/playback statistics. I don’t think this will create any hassles for you if you’re a regular reader of this site, but if it does, my apologies in advance (and please let me know if that’s the case).
I mentioned this on Facebook, but it bears updating and repeating here:
As of ten minutes ago, this show has:
- 304 plays, either directly at Podomatic or streamed through a mobile device—only one of which appears to have been “skipped”;
- 257 plays via embeds (since May 26, when I first started using the Podomatic embed);
- 5507 downloads;
- Uncounted plays from directly at this website (because that’s the way that goes, and why I’m making these changes)
I can’t possibly thank you so much for all of your support. If you’d like to translate that support into cash, I wouldn’t turn it down. Heh. (Seriously, though, I’ll be setting up a Patreon soon, as soon as I can figure out a decent Thank You kind of giveaway.) Also please take the time to give the show a rating and a review wherever you happen to listen to it.
Now go outside and get some fresh air on my behalf!
Before I start this week’s windup, let me point you to a different podcast for a moment. The guys at the TMDR Podcast describe their show as being simultaneously about nothing and about everything, but they keep the shows confined to a couple of topics. I’ve been listening in on their discussions of the HBO series Westworld, and just this week they did a show where they spent some time reviewing several different podcasts, How Good It Is being among the shows they reviewed.
I have to say, I was blown away by the level of praise they gave to the show, and I just wanted to thank them yet again, and offer up this link (click on their logo at right). Go check them out; I think you’ll have some fun.
Back in the mid-1980s I went to a Fourth of July event on Long Island. Among the pre-fireworks entertainment was music provided by The Drifters. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there were LOTS of ex-Drifters simply, er, drifting about, and many of them had gotten together and were touring as The Drifters. What’s more, all of these groups could legally do so in many places around the country.
As it happened, I was young and naive, and kinda-sorta listening to their lead singer and the way he was singing staccato style, because he was older and couldn’t hold his notes for any appreciable length of time.
So did I see The Drifters or did I see “The Drifters”? There’s an element of “both” in my eyes, because there were so many people paid to be one of The Drifters that this group could easily be made up of former members. But that didn’t mean I was watching Ben E. King or Clyde McPhatter.
“Under the Boardwalk” was recorded the day after their lead singer Rudy Lewis died. They recruited a former member from several years ago, and before long a new version of the group had cranked out their second-biggest hit.
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One of The Drifters’ bigger hits might have been a sequel to one of their earlier songs, but it was definitely a prequel to one of their later songs.
In 1971, Don McLean was a known artist but hadn’t yet hit it big with “American Pie.” Lori Lieberman was a 19-year-old singer-songwriter who’d recently scored a contract. Lieberman attended one of McLean’s shows and she was so struck by his performance
of the song “Empty Chairs” that she wrote a poem about it, more or less on the spot. She took the notes to her collaborators and they put together a song for her album. It became her first single, but it was quickly overshadowed when Roberta Flack covered it.
While the song was covered numerous times, including versions by artists as diverse as Perry Como and Michael Jackson, it wasn’t until The Fugees put together a hip-hop cover that the song gained new life. Lauryn Hill’s singing gives the song an extra emotional ache, perhaps because their original idea was to turn the song into a cautionary tale about substance abuse, an idea that the original writers didn’t support.
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It’s 1971 and Don McLean hadn’t yet hit it big with “American Pie,” so he was touring around and caught the attention of a singer-songwriter named Lori Lieberman, who was so touched by his performance that she wrote a poem which ultimately became a hit in multiple genres.
Before I do anything else, let me give a shout-out to a friend of the podcast, and one of its first fans who wasn’t related to me. Connie Paulson provided the artwork that you see in this post. You can see more of her stuff if you hook up with the show’s Facebook page.
In 1975 Aerosmith was pretty much just another rock band with a modest hit, but when they got writer’s block, a trip to a Mel Brooks movie inspired them to come up with a title, and then Steven Tyler wrote the lyrics over the next day or so–twice, as the story goes. The song was a hit, and ten years later, it was a hit again when Aerosmith teamed up with rap act Run-DMC to cover the song. Check out the video; it’s fun, it’s very creative, and you barely notice that most of the band is missing:
Your favorite podcatcher should have the show by now, but feel free to play it right here, if you’re so inclined. Or, if you prefer to download the episode on your own, follow this link.
And remember: you can also listen to the show via iHeartRadio, Google Play Music and TuneIn.com, which means you can also play it through your Amazon Alexa! (“Alexa, play How Good It Is on Tune In Dot Com.”)
The rumor goes that Aerosmith was inspired by a Mel Brooks movie to write the song that provided them with not only their first Top 10 hit, but that gave them the lever to make a comeback in 1986. As far as the rumor is concerned, let me quote another Mel Brooks movie: “It’s twoo, it’s twoo!”
While I’ve made the joke in the past about a band taking ten years to become an overnight success, Dire Straits was successful almost from the jump. After a false start with EMI records, the band found a friend in a BBC disc jockey to whom they’d merely turned for advice. That DJ liked what he heard and started playing their stuff, which turned into a contract with a local label, and which they parlayed into a contract with Warner Brothers Records. And all of it in about the space of a year.
Knopfler composed the song on the National Steel guitar you see in the picture here, but he wasn’t happy with it until he played it on a 1961 Stratocaster. He was so happy with the way it sounded that he stuck with the Strat for years afterward.
Given that Dire Straits was their first album, and it did so well worldwide, it was pretty clear early on that Knopfler is a ridiculously talented guitarist who has a way of making it look easy, and it seems to me that unless you’re a music aficionado, his talent is generally under-appreciated.
By now your favorite podcatcher should have this week’s show in your device, but if not, you can listen to it right here: If you’d prefer to download the episode directly, you can do so by going to this link (autoplays in a new window).