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Year: 2021

148: Another Chat With John Hall

John Hall, you may remember from a couple of episodes ago, is the founder of the band Orleans. He recently released a solo album, his seventh (if you count the John Hall Band material). After spending some time in local and national politics, he returned to Orleans and they’re still making music. In fact, at the time of the previous interview they were putting the finishing touches on Orleans’ first Christmas album.

That album is now finished and is available for your purchasing and listening pleasure. It’s called New Star Shining, and it’s a great piece of work. There’s a lot of original material, a traditional Christmas carol and a single song from more recent holiday music canon. For lack of a better term, it’s a kind of Yacht Rock Christmas album. I think the rowdiest track on it is their version of “Winter Wonderland.”

John and I met in the atrium of a Nashville hotel (more details during the show itself), and I do hope you’ll forgive a little ambient noise. Plus, there was a little bit of both of us fidgeting with our handheld microphones. For all that, once again John comes through as a very thoughtful fellow. By that I mean he’s not spouting out canned answers to the questions I asked (although some of them were inadvertentely rehearsed–my recorder failed and we had to start over again). And even with that technical glitch, he was both gracious and forgiving, and managed to make me feel not as stupid as I originally felt when I looked at the recorder in horror and realized what happened.

Also, I’m a complete idiot because I didn’t ask for an autograph, or a selfie of the two of us, or anything. So this recording is the only evidence that we were in the same space together.

As an aside, the next day I was in the Podcast Movement conference and chatting with the people from ElectroVoice Microphones. I was using some new EV microphones for the interview. I told them about my interview “right over there in the atrium,” and some of the issues I had with the fidgeting noises and such. While we chatted, one of the EV reps walked away and then came back. He handed me a box and said, “Here, try this one.” It was a different model microphone, which he said would probably solve that problem. Boom! Free microphone! I used it to record some other material you’ll hear in an upcoming episode and I think you’ll notice the difference! This is why I worship at the Church of ElectroVoice. I did get the opportunity to thank them again a couple of days later.

So here is my follow-up interview with John, which we did during the first week of August this past summer. Enjoy!

Sorry, no transcript available for this episode. Enjoy this instead.

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147: 99 Luftballons

I gotta tell you, I’ve been trying like a maniac to record this episode for several days.

I typically take a break in August when I go to the Podcast Movement confab (every other year, it seems), and I come back with a bunch of actionable ideas and a few new contacts, and I kind of have to let it percolate in my head before I’m ready to come back.

In the meantime, I was working on a David Bowie episode, and I frankly got writer’s block. I was going in a hundred directions at once, and the story wasn’t jelling right for me, so finally I abandoned it in favor of this one.

And then, both of the computers that I use to produce this show died on me within a day of one another. I knew they were probably fixable, so I took them to my local shop, a guy I’ve used for years and would trust with my search history at this point. My problem is that he’s really, really good and other people have figured it out, so now instead of a few days, the repairs are more like two weeks.

I decided to persevere–after all, I don’t use the desktops when I’m in the Southern Studio, right? But for whatever reason, the laptop wasn’t cooperating with recording. I sounded bad. I mean, really bad. After three fixes and three re-tries, it still sounded terrible. But fortunately, I got the word that the computers were ready for pickup this morning. So I spent a chunk of the evening re-assembling my studio (with the able help of my daughter), and then re-re-re-recorded the show. By this point I nearly had the thing memorized and I barely glanced at the script.

Anyway, it’s been a frustrating few weeks and I thank you for hanging in there with me. I do have some cool stuff coming up over the next few episodes, some of it related to my trip to Nashville. I also have something that I’ve never done before: I’m working on a special Patron Exclusive episode which should be ready to go pretty soon. I had a pretty cool idea but it cost me a few bucks to get the source material, so I figured that the people whose donations made it possible for me to make that purchase should get first crack at it. And, incidentally, during this hiatus they got a newsletter every week except one, when I made the inexplicable mistake a couple of weeks ago of writing a newsletter and then not sending it out.

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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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