Break My Stride

Hi, there:

Don’t freak out; the picture here is supposed to be blurry. There’s a sharper version of it below.

The show is taking a little break, but don’t worry: it’s only going to be a couple of weeks. And if you’ve already heard this weeks No Show Show, then please read all the way through anyway, because there’s going to be a Call To Action for you to participate! (You can click that link to go straight to the bottom of the page, where I have a special request to make of you.)

A couple of weeks ago I traveled to Orlando to attend the Podcast Movement conference. It was pretty much four solid days of me and three thousand other people talking almost exclusively about podcasting.

When you do a show like this, as a solo podcaster and (believe it or not) a relative introvert, sometimes you get into your own head and get locked into routines, or means of working, or some other such. And while I belong to a few podcaster groups online, there’s still nothing like getting together with actual human beings who are all as passionate about their hobby (or their business, some of them are in it for money) as you are. And so many of them have the same anxieties that you do! How do I make the show sound better? How do I build my audience? What microphone-mixer-headphones-internet provider-whatever should I buy?

The point is, I thought that this would be a good time to take a short timeout and think about the direction of the show with regard to its sound, the basic structure, my pacing, whether I want to lock into a specific show length, stuff like that. In addition, I have a couple of other podcast ideas cooking (completely unrelated to this show), and I’d like to explore just how realistic those ideas are.

From a technological standpoint, I’m also making some changes. I’ll be switching podcast hosting providers, which shouldn’t affect you at all if you listen via Apple, or Google Podcasts or Podcast Republic or other podcatching software, but it will affect the way this website behaves for a short while, because the links in EVERY post are going to have to be fixed, one at a time. At any rate, I want to ensure that all the redirects are in place so that those of you who subscribe to the show don’t miss out on anything.

Here’s the other thing I learned in Orlando, though: it’s possible to be a victim of your own success. In the broader scheme of podcasts in general, I know that I’m one of the little fish, and I’m OK with that. Those of you who are reading this are a smallish-but-dedicated group, and I’m all kinds of grateful for your listenership (is that a word?) and your feedback. But the fact is, while I’ve got that little Fair Use statement in the corner of the webpage somewhere, that’s not going to be very meaningful if a record label takes it in their head to issue a Cease & Desist letter my way.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on this podcast, oh no. But I do have to think a little more deeply about this project, and the next one(s) that I work on, and what all of it is going to look like.

Next up is the fact that school starts this week, and in my current position as someone who’s essentially Middle Management in a high school, I need to concentrate on the paying gig for a little bit, until the New School Year dust settles.

And then there’s another thing that’s forcing me to take some time out, but this is more of a Good News thing.

This is my current setup. And while it works pretty well, that round table actually impedes my getting some of my stuff done. So my daughter, who is a very capable person when it comes to this sort of thing, helped me design a new table that will allow me to run cables underneath (right now there’s a whole lotta electronic spaghetti back there, and organize my equipment a little better, and give me some more usable work room. And, it’s tough to see here, but the table and the black cabinet next to it aren’t the same height, so everything will match in that respect. (They won’t be the same color, though.) She’ll be building me a new work space that should make my life a lot easier moving forward. AND, should future projects involve a second personality, it’ll already be ready to go with a second microphone arm. (In fact, the one that’s here will become the third, spare arm.)

I’m giving her instructions to take a bunch of pictures so that we can follow the progress together, and I’ll be posting them to the various social media outlets, ’cause I don’t want to fade away completely on you folks.

So here’s the Call to Action:

Without you, How Good It Is would be nothing but me blathering on to nobody. You’re the thing that keeps me and this project going, and as I do my pondering about what happens next, and how it happens, your opinion is at least as important as mine. Anytime I’ve heard from a listener, whether positive or (occasionally) negative, I do think deeply about what they’ve offered me, even if it’s a request. Especially if it’s a request, because you’re just so good at thinking of stuff that I should have thought of! So please take the time to complete the Listener Survey. There are 14 questions and most of them are multiple-choice, so it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to complete. You’ll be doing me a huge favor, and you’ll be helping me to make the show a better one overall.

If all goes well with the migration and the studio makeover, the show should be back on September 22, just in time for Fall. In the meantime, however, I’ll keep you posted on updates as I move forward. Thanks so much for listening and for your patience!

Episode 90–Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)

What do you think? You like that picture? I PAID for that stock photo, like some kind of honest guy.

Despite this being perhaps The Hollies’ biggest hit in the US, it still managed not to make it to the Number One position on the Billboard Hot 100. It was kept out of that position by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” for both of the weeks that it spent at #2 with a bullet. And for all that time on the charts (11 weeks altogether), that’s a pretty popular song, considering that nobody understands the words. At least, not until you’ve seen them. Then they totally make sense. Plus, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not about what you think it’s about.

Below is the link for this week’s show for your downloading and/or listening pleasure.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: There won’t be a show for the next couple of weeks, because of some technical issues I’ll spell out later this week. Don’t worry, I will return!

Click here for a transcript of this week’s show.

Episode 89–Woodstock

The Summer of 1969 was also the Summer of Woodstock. Hundreds of thousands of people made their way to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York (they couldn’t get a permit for the town of Woodstock, but the posters had already been made, and you know how it goes…) for a few days of Peace, Love and Music.

Woodstock proved to be like nothing else, before or since. Attempts to replicate its feeling, or its scale, or anything else about it gets washed away by nostalgia and the sense that someone’s trying to make a buck off of it. And, of course, they are. They were trying to make a buck off the original show, too–in fact, the organizers were hoping to raise money to build a recording studio. That didn’t work out because financially the show barely broke even. But the film and record rights put them back in the black several months later.

Several acts were barely known at the time of the show, including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (performing for the second time ever), and Sha-Na-Na, which opened for Jimi Hendrix. Most of them have found a place in the rock and roll firmament following the show (e.g. Melanie was a relative unknown; Richie Havens, who opened the show, was barely known, Santana had been around for ten years but hadn’t broken through yet); others were pretty much unheard-of afterward (Keef Hartley Band? ).

In the wake of the show were three things that gained lasting fame, and they all happened around the same time, in early 1970. The first was this:

The other two? We talk about those in this week’s episode. I’m no spoiler.

Speaking of which, if you want to see the telegram sent to the band in today’s trivia question, look under the spoiler button below this week’s episode.

Finally, this is the text of the telegram related to the trivia question for this episode. See if you can find the hidden message! If you’ve heard the episode and you want to see what I’m talking about, click the button to show the art. If you haven’t heard it yet, go back and listen first. It’s OK, we’ll still be here for you.

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 88–Manson and the White Album

Click here for a transcript of this show.

This is the penultimate of my special episodes concentrating on the Summer of 1969, and this time around it concerns one of the more horrific crimes of the 20th Century–the Tate-LaBianca murders during the weekend of August 8 and 9.

The murders were incredibly savage, and intended to strike terror into the hearts of Californians, but the hidden agenda behind them was that they were meant to be a model for African-Americans to use as part of the uprising that, according to Charles Manson, was coming very soon, as predicted to him by The Beatles, when they seeded their self-titled album (usually just called “The White Album”) with clues.

Manson’s plan was to commit the murders, which would show Blacks “how to do it,” then he and his family would hide in a deep hole in the ground while the ultimate race war, which he called “Helter Skelter”, took place on the surface. Then, when the White race was wiped out and the Blacks realized that they hadn’t been in charge in so long that they had no idea what to do next, that’s when Manson and his followers would emerge from the hole and take over.

Crazy? Of COURSE it’s crazy. Before 1968, all Manson cared about was staging orgies. Then he heard this album and it short-circuited the wiring in his head.

So this week we look at a bunch of songs that Manson took as clues to the messages that The Beatles were sending to him, and just how badly he’d gotten it wrong.

Your podcatcher software, as usual, should have the show by now, but if you’re extra-macho about these things, feel free to listen or download from right here:

And, as usual, please tell your friends about the cool podcast you’re listening to! Thanks so much for your support!

Episode 87–Hair

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

In the late 1960s, both the music scene and the theater scene were changing, and the 1968 premiere of the show Hair on Broadway was a confluence of the two.

Hair is generally considered to be the first rock musical, as opposed to a rock opera, where all the dialogue is sung, and apparently there are debates about which one was first because there were several concurrent projects going on. At any rate, several songs from the show became pop hits in their own right, albeit from artists other than the ones who performed on the original soundtrack.

Also (perhaps coincidentally), all of those hits were recorded and released during a short period of time, short enough that one of them actually kept another one out of the Number One slot on the Billboard chart.

As I noted during the show, here’s the clip of The Cowsills singing “Hair” on the Wonderful World of Pizzazz. (As I also noted, this clip has that watermark throughout, but it’s by far the best quality clip, so let’s all live with it.) Dig that laugh track, because people in gorilla suits are funny, I guess. Look closely and you’ll realize just how small the set was for this segment:

This episode is coming a few hours early; next week’s will likely arrive quite late in the day. Wife and I are going on a little road trip and I expect to be back home very late Saturday night. But don’t despair! It’s going to be another great, over-stuffed, super-size show!

In the meantime, however, feel free to enjoy this week’s great, over-stuffed, super-size show:

And, of course, please tell all your friends about this great podcast you’re listening to.

Episode 86–First Man on the Moon

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder and became the first human being to set foot on a celestial body that wasn’t the planet Earth.

Within no more than a couple of weeks, at least two records had been rush-produced and released, and a third only a few weeks after that, commissioned by President Richard Nixon as a tribute to be performed at a state dinner.

This is another over-stuffed episode, as I play those three records in their entirety and talk about some of the trials that the Apollo 11 mission went through, that doesn’t usually get into the history books.

Amstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the surface of the moon, collecting samples and setting up experiments, while Michael Collins orbited the moon above them, hoping that all went well so that he wouldn’t be forced to return alone. He thought that something like that would mark him forever. Collins never did make it to the moon; in fact he left the Space Program shortly after Apollo 11 to become the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and later the director of the Air and Space Museum, overseeing its completion and opening to the public.

Among other things, the astronauts left a plaque behind on the moon, commemorating the historic event. And, if you’ve already heard the show, you know that the plaque is part of this week’s trivia question. Have a look:

Here, as usual, is the episode for your listening or downloading pleasure. Please be sure to share the show with someone you love, and/or leave a rating wherever you get your podcasts. Peace.

Episode 85–Can’t Give It Away on Seventh Avenue

UPDATE: Somewhere in the production process, the beginning of the show was truncated. I’ve replaced the episode and all should be well now. Apologies to anyone who was confused by the show beginning with me, mid-sentence.

This week, we’ve got a super-sized episode of the show (nearly an hour!) as I sit down with Christopher McKittrick, author of Can’t Give it Away on Seventh Avenue: The Rolling Stones and New York City.

Chris and I had a fascinating chat about the band and their long-term relationship with New York. All of them, whether collectively or as individuals, spent a lot more time there than you probably suspect, and McKittrick takes us along on the journey, demonstrating how the city infused itself into their lyrics, perhaps subtly at first in albums such as Goat’s Head Soup, but certainly more overtly by the time they got to one of their best albums, Some Girls.

Christopher took the time to run down a bunch of rumors related to the Rolling Stones, some of them started (as it turns out) by the band themselves. It’s a fascinating journey for fans of both the Stones, the City, and Rock and Roll in general.

If you’re not already subscribing to the show, or if you’re a new listener (Welcome!), here’s the player/download link:

And, as usual, if you’re enjoying this show then please take the time to share it with someone else, and/or leave a rating on your favorite podcatcher.

If you’d like to purchase your own copy of the book, click here to get it from Amazon. This link will take you through the Amazon Smile portal, so if you’re a participant, the purchase will go toward your chosen charity.

Click here if you want to see more of Christopher’s writing (oh, I think you do).

NOTE: Because this show is largely unscripted, there is no transcript for the show at this time. My apologies to anyone who depends on those.

Episode 84–Chapel of Love

Click here for a transcript of this show.

The Dixie Cups began as two sisters and their cousin performing here and there in the New Orleans area, when they were discovered by Joe “You Talk Too Much” Jones and brought to New York to make an album with Lieber and Stoller.

Their first single was a Number One hit, making them the first American group to knock a British Invasion band off that lofty Billboard perch. And the band they bumped off? A group called The Beatles. (I think they were okay after that setback, though.)

If your habit is to read these show notes that I post, my apologies for repeating the Tarpon Springs story during this week’s show. I know that’s a little bit redundant for you. But yes, this week’s artwork is derived from the album I purchased, though I lopped off the top (just more black) and the bottom (catalog number) to make the whole thing more visible. Mea culpa.

Also, a technical note: I have no idea why my microphone sounds so hot this week; I promise I’ll be better in the future.

Next week I have something pretty special lined up, and the format of the show will be a little bit different, so Get Ready for Stuff!

Here’s Episode 84.

Episode 83–Kung Fu Fighting

Click here for a transcript of this week’s show.

So, once again, my apologies for the lateness of this episode, and a little bit for the sound. I’m still on the road and using a different set of tools to put this thing together. I’m kinda-sorta getting the hang of it, but at this rate I’ll be doing it all summer like this.

So here’s a fun little coincidence: I’m in Florida this week because my nephew got married this weekend. I thought I’d be a little bit cute and have this week’s episode be a wedding-themed song, like “White Wedding” or “Wedding Bell Blues”, but I settled on “Chapel of Love.”

On Wednesday, my wife and I spent the day walking in and out of the little shops in Tarpon Springs, a community so Greek that Zorba himself would say, “Hey, dial it back a little, willya?” And as it happened, one of the shops, near the end of Dodecanese Blvd, in the Lighthouse Shoppes building, is a used record store. I went in, not expecting to find much good, but instead I found…

…an original 1964 copy of the Chapel of Love album.

This is a sign, says I. And I decided to push that episode back a week so I could use that album for my source audio (no turntable on the road, alas), surface noise and all.

And that’s about it. I don’t have anything else good to tell you about Carl Douglas, because I used it all in the show. Except that he’s in his late 70s now and still performing.

Here’s Episode 83.

Next week: back in Baltimore!

Episode 82–Under the Covers 4

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

It’s been a long time since I did a show like this one, and the timing probably couldn’t have been worse.

As I note during the show, I’m on the road for the next several days, so I’ve got a condensed version of my usual recording setup. I can get the job done, but the recording and the editing process are very, very different from what I usually do. Typically after I write the episode I edit all my sound elements and then load them all into a piece of software that keeps them organized until I need them. Then I crack the mic open and play the elements as they’re needed. If I make a huge mistake, I have to find a point where editing won’t show. Because there’s usually background sound going on, I sometimes have to backtrack a lot. But generally it takes me 30-40 minutes to record a 15 minute show. Do a little editing and boom, it’s ready for processing and uploading.

This time around, it’s a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of my recorded voice, plus all the other elements patched in. Plus I have to control audio levels through software rather than through my mixing board, so it’s a whole other kind of thing. And maybe it’s me but recording this way kind of saps some of my vocal energy out of the project.

So after nearly a year, we return to the Well of Cover Songs, wherein we look at songs that you may not realize are covers of another artist’s work. And in my opinion, in each of these cases, the cover is the superior version. That’s not something you can always say (and I cite a specific example during the show).

At any rate, after a few hours of overtime, here’s Episode 82.