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Month: March 2021

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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139: And When I Die

Laura Nigro was a sixteen-year-old musical prodigy who was trying on several last names, as creative types sometimes do. She happened to be “Nyro” when she finally started to catch on in the music industry, so Laura Nyro she became.

Nyro was never a huge star in her own right. But she left behind a musical legacy in a bunch of songs that became big hits for other artists. That’s a roster that would include Three Dog Night, the Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Nyro wrote “And When I Die.” Peter, Paul & Mary made it kinda-sorta famous. But it was Blood, Sweat and Tears that really brought it to the fore. David Clayton Thomas’ voice, combined with Dick Halligan’s arrangements made for a relatively light-hearted romp through the graveyard. And while BST’s version is musically different from Nyro’s, they never lost sight of that gospel feel that it had, even as they gave it the cowboy instrumental section.

In doing the research for this show, I went down a little bit of a rabbit hole of listening to Laura Nyro’s music. I may have to do a whole bunch of shows dedicated to her sometime soon. Nyro is definitely an under-appreciated talent.

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