Zager and Evans provided the soundtrack to one of the most eventful summers of the 1960s, and then they vanished, a true One Hit Wonder. What made this song catch the public’s imagination?
Album on my re-listen radar this week is John Barleycorn Must Die, by Traffic. Wanna feel like an underachiever? Steve Winwood was 22 when this album came out, and it was the band’s FOURTH.
Every now and again I check on the stats for the podcast. For those who don’t know, that means that I can look in on how many times a show has been downloaded, how many times it’s been played through the website, how many times it’s been played through other means, and so forth.
Recently I discovered that the podcast also has geography-related statistics. I can click on a link and it gives me a world map, in which the countries where the shows have been downloaded are highlighted in blue. The darker the blue, the more downloads there have been. So there’s no surprise in noting that the show is more popular in primarily-English-speaking countries than in others.
But I also discovered that if I click on the map, it drills down a little farther. Which means that I can tell that, for the past week, the show was more popular in, say, Nashville than it was in Raleigh, NC or in New York City.
And that’s pretty much all I know. There were 64 downloads in Nashville and 34 in New York City last week. But when I ran stats this morning, something a little weird caught my eye (and I’m going to be hazy on purpose with the details, now)
In the last week or so, the show has had 23 downloads from a town in Alabama. But not only do I know what town in Alabama, the stats report told me what STREET in that town in Alabama. I’ve never seen anything like this before, and of all the places listed, this is the only one. And because the street is kind of short, I could (if I were extra-creepy) go knocking on doors and find out within a few minutes who my Big Fan in that town is. I know, it’s already creepy that I looked it up in the first place, but I was genuinely curious about that listing and whether it actually led to something.
Or, maybe everyone on that block is a fan and they’ve only downloaded a couple of episodes each. Anyway, Hello, Alabama Fan(s)! I envy your proximity to a Publix! ’cause Publix is awesome and the closest one to me is literally a hundred miles away.
Anyway, I promise to use this power only for good, not evil. Though I presume it’s just a glitch. Also, I don’t know how to use it for good OR evil.
The Stone Poneys was the group that launched Linda Ronstadt’s career, but the sad truth is that Capitol Records was never interested in the rest of the band, instead pushing for her to be a solo artist from the beginning. It was only through a little persuasion on the producer’s part that convinced the label that she wasn’t quite ready to work on her own.
Indeed, when “Different Drum” came out as a single in September of 1967, the labels on the 45RPM release credit the band “Featuring Linda Ronstadt”. Ronstadt herself was still reluctant to leave the band, enough that she financed the Stone Poneys’ entire third album herself, losing a ton of money in the process, before finally embarking on her solo career.
The tune was written by Michael Nesmith, of The Monkees fame, and while he didn’t record the song himself until 1972, he did perform it (badly, on purpose) during an episode of The Monkees titled “Too Many Girls”. This would have been right around the time that the original recording, by bluegrass band The Greenbriar Boys, would have come out.
As usual, your podcatcher software should have the show by now, but if you want to download or listen to it here, have at it.
And, of course, your feedback is always welcome. If you’re enjoying the show, please tell all your like-minded friends about it!
The Stone Poneys’ only hit was pretty much the nail in the coffin for that band; Capitol Records took every step they could to cut them out of the loop and take on Linda Ronstadt as a solo artist.
Over the last couple of days I’ve done some nostalgic listening to some stuff I hadn’t heard in awhile.
Y’ever do that? You’re listening to something you haven’t heard in awhile, and you’re like, “Holy COW! Why am I not listening to that more often?”
Last week it was Lucinda Williams’ album World Without Tears. I came back to it when I stumbled over my own review for it on Amazon.com. that album was my entry to her stuff, and it’s amazingly beautiful and raw. Go listen to it however you can. Better yet, I’ll make it easy for you. The first track is supposed to sound warbly at first:
The other one I came back to after finding a copy of the vinyl in a consignment store recently. I was having trouble uploading this week’s episode to Podomatic, and I decided to listen to music while I was noodling it over. So I dug this out and threw it on the turntable:
I may need to cover some deeper tracks, people.
Apologies for the delay; I’m powering through a wicked chest cold, and then my podcasting host was giving me the blues about the audio file, so I eventually had to upload in a different format. I do hope this doesn’t affect your listening experience. Please let me know if it does!
Tears For Fears–specifically founders Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal–had been kicking around the music scene in the UK for a couple of years, and even had a pretty popular album over there before most people in the United States had even heard of them. (Which reminds me: yes, the story I tell about meeting Curt Smith is true. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was doing Seeds of Love publicity stuff solo because he and Orzabal had temporarily broken up the band.)
Even when it came time for the band to release a single in the United States, the label interceded and suggested that while “Shout” was a perfectly good song, it wouldn’t make for a very good debut song. They turned out to be right, and “Shout” was saved for later on, a move that turned the Songs from the Big Chair album, and Tears for Fears, into a huge success.
There’s more to the story, of course, but why waste it here when you can put it in your head? Either your podcatcher has it, or you’re gonna listen to/download it from here:
No episode next week; I’m taking a planned break. In two weeks, we’ll dig on some early Linda Ronstadt.
And of course, comments, tweets, FB notes, Instas–whatever. I love hearing from you!
The story behind Tears For Fears’ US debut single.
David Bowie had already released ten albums by 1976, and he was starting to feel the effects of burnout and a heavy cocaine habit. So where did he go to escape his drug habit? To the world’s Heroin capital, of course: Berlin!
Fortunately for Bowie and ultimately his fans, Heroin wasn’t really his thing, and he not only managed to get healthy, but he also managed to find some creative juice in that city. He wrote, or co-wrote, material for three albums, although only the second one was recorded mostly in Berlin. Those albums today are called the Berlin Trio, or sometimes the Berlin Triptych. They didn’t get a ton of love at the time, largely because Bowie was Bowie and he was streets ahead of everyone else. But “Heroes,” the title track from the second album, grew in stature and in its level of meaning for fans everywhere.
OK, so I promised you a few videos during the show. The first one is his first time performing the song on TV, on the Marc Bolan show. The instrumentation is clearly different but I think he’s singing live-to-track:
The second video is the warm-up to the third. If you’ve seen this one, you can just skip down to the next one. But a lot of people have heard the song without seeing the nearly two minutes of awkwardness that preceded it:
It was for that holiday special that Bowie produced this video, which also appears to be a live-to-track recording, with some extra echo and those extra fun pantomime moves.
But while all that’s fun, it’s probably not what you came looking for. This is probably what you came looking for:
Next week: a listener request takes us into the 80s for some Tears for Fears.
Thanks again for all your support!
Kansas was literally on the last day of rehearsing for their fifth album when their producer asked them if they had anything else. Guitarist and songwriter Kerry Livgren reluctantly broke out an acoustic song that he was convinced the rest of the band would hate, because it was practically the opposite of everything Kansas had done until then. But it turned out to be exactly the opposite: they loved it, and they fine-tuned the song to give some of the other band members something to do (extra guitar, violin part, and a smidge of percussion), and it turned into the album’s second single and the biggest hit of their career.
And that’s about it, there’s not much mysterious about this song. It’s been either used or referenced in countless pop culture arenas, and it’s been successfully covered a few times, curiously enough by Country singers most of the time. Many people know about Sarah Brightman’s cover of the song, but I’m going to encourage you to check out last year’s recording by Caroline Jones. (No, I don’t know why she’s singing in a pond, unless she wanted to do the exact opposite of Kansas’ video.)
This may come as a complete surprise to you, but if you don’t have podcast software on your mobile device, you can listen to/download the show right here!
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The Osmond Brothers got their real start in show business when they couldn’t get an audition for one television show, and they wound up on another.
Check out the audience reaction to them at first. It cracks me up every time.
This clip, incidentally, is from the show Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, which most people seem to remember as The Wonderful World of Disney. Shoot, I was watching the show as a small kid (right after Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and remember it under the second title, which wasn’t a thing until 1969. This episode was called “Disneyland After Dark”, and the conceit behind it was that Walt Disney himself would start to introduce the different performers on the show, but he’d never see the acts himself because tourists kept interrupting him. The show, as it originally aired on NBC, was available on DVD for awhile, but appears not to be available now.
The Disney gig led them to another show (The Andy Williams Show), and another. And finally, when they wanted to break out of their Variety TV Group image, they convinced their dad to let them record as a rock and roll band. So off they went to Alabama, as you do, and they put together an album that clearly had a Motown/R&B influence on it.
The addition of Donny Osmond to the act, and the use of him in exactly the way Motown was using Michael Jackson at the same time, allowed the Osmonds to release their first hit single, and their first Number One record.
What’s the secret to the song’s success? There’s a theory, and it involves fast food.
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