Posted in 1960s, 1965, 1968, 1969

Episode 33–Ron Dante

In the mid 1960s, a group called The Detergents released an album of novelty songs, and a couple of them caught on, but one did especially well, a parody of the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack.” Among that group was a young man named Ron Dante.

A few years later, Dante was chosen to be the lead voice for a fictional band that was tied in with a cartoon series. That band was The Archies, and they had a short string of hits, peaking with “Sugar Sugar” in 1969. Dante provided all the male voices on “Sugar Sugar,” and Toni Wine provided all the female voices. So yes, you appear to hear two women—one singing low and the other singing high—but in fact they’re both Toni Wine.

Wine left the group around the time “Sugar Sugar” became a hit, and the female portion of The Archies’ follow-up single was voiced by someone else. You’ll just have to listen in to find out who that was.

The Archies, around the “Sugar Sugar” era. From Left to right: Toni Wine, Ron Dante, Jeff Barry, Hot Dog (taking a break from conducting), Ron Dante, Toni Wine. Heh.

If your favorite podcast software doesn’t have it for you already, you can always click below to listen to/download this week’s episode.

Oh hey! How Good It Is is listed as a featured podcast on the Podcast Republic app! I’m gonna give them some love for a few weeks, you betcha.

 

Posted in 1950s, 1957

Episode 32–Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

There’s no doubt that Jerry Lee Lewis was a huge influence on the early days of rock and roll. There’s also no doubt that when he married an underage relative, he pretty much torpedoed his hitmaking career.

But his star burned brightly for a little while, and while the jokes continued, he did manage to restore his reputation, and his influence on the genre is undeniable. Elvis Presley once said that if he could play piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, he’d give up singing. And Elton John once said that hearing “Great Balls of Fire” was the first time he’d heard someone “beat the shit out of a piano.” This time around, however, we’re looking at his first hit, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On”, which has a bit of a checkered past before Jerry Lee got his hands on it. Maybe that’s what made it attractive to him, hm?

Jerry Lee Lewis is enshrined as one of the inaugural inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it’s a well-deserved place for him to be.

As usual, if your podcatcher isn’t catching pods today, or if you don’t use one, you can always click on the player below to listen and/or download.

Posted in 1970s, 1976

Episode 31–The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

In November of 1975, an ore freighter broke apart and went down very suddenly in a storm on Lake Superior. Singer Gordon Lightfoot thought that the story wasn’t getting enough attention and gathered some news clippings together, then used that material to write a song about the event.

This is the original article from Newsweek’s November 24, 1975 article.

The song was recorded within just a few weeks of the tragedy, and was released the following summer. Just a few days after the first anniversary of the sinking, the song hit Number One on the Canadian charts, and peaked at #2 in the US. I have to admit, though, that when the song came out, 13-year-old me had no idea that it was about a recent event. I figured it was either fictional, or it had happened many years ago. Imagine my surprise!

One of the last dives. The bell has been replaced, and someone is in the pilot house, leaving a can of beer there.

Nowadays, the ship’s location is considered mostly off-limits to all recreational diving and most research dives or equipment, now. It’s also located in a spot in Lake Superior where the border between the United States and Canada has moved several times, now. Right now the ship is on the Canadian side.

What’s that, you say? Your podcatcher hasn’t picked up the show yet? Don’t worry, you can listen to or download it by clicking on the player below. In addition, I hear it’s now available on Google Play, so you can use that if you like. I’m still working on Spotify, but they’re taking their time about it.

EDITED TO ADD: Holy cow, I can’t believe I forgot to post the video of the ship’s launching. There’s no audio, more’s the pity. If you’ve never seen a sideways ship launch before, you’re in for a treat because it’s pretty cool in general. The action starts at about three minutes in.

See you next week!

 

Posted in 1960, 1960s

Episode 30–Angel Baby

I realize it’s not fashionable to bash the teenagers these days, however in my head this one actually deserves the abuse. Most of you may not agree, but I’m gonna say my piece anyway and be done with it.

Rosalie Mendez Hamlin was just a young teenager when she joined a band and they recorded their only hit record in 1960, in a converted airplane hangar. But by the time the song hit the charts, the band had broken up and Rosie was just starting a decades-long fight to get credit for writing the song, and to get the royalties she deserved. One of the things that broke in her favor as part of the legal actions she needed to take was the fact that she’d mailed a copy of the song to herself. It’s not an iron-clad way of enforcing a simple copyright, but it did turn out to be a shrewd move on her part.

Both “Angel Baby” and its B-Side, a track sung by a friend of the band who happened to be there for the session, are just plain bad recordings. As musicians, The Originals were not what you’d call virtuosos. As Max Bialystock says in The Producers, “I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?”

Here’s the B-Side. See if you don’t agree:

But I think that the raw, unpolished sound of “Angel Baby” may be part of its appeal. It was only a couple of years later that genuine garage bands dropped off the landscape, and among bands with that kind of sound, this one stands out as more of a prom theme than a party-all-night tune.

As usual, your podcast catcher should have captured this episode by now (ooh! It’s available at Google Play now!), but if not, feel free to click the player below for listening or downloading.

Next week we look at a different kind of disaster.

Posted in House Keeping

All I Ever Wanted

As I mentioned during last week’s show, the podcast is taking two weeks off so I can have some actual vacation time. But don’t worry! I’m still writing material (getting ahead of the curve? Let’s not count on that too heavily), and on April 7 I’ll be back with a new episode, in which I take the time to defend a song that I generally consider to be indefensible. Tune in for that bit of fun!

In the meantime, I leave you with this.

Don’t hate me.

Posted in 1950s, 1958, 1970s, 1971

Episode 29–Rockin’ Robin

It was originally spelled “Rock-In Robin,” which is a distinction that’s too tedious to elucidate verbally, and it was Bobby Day’s biggest hit. But while Bobby was known for his songwriting, he didn’t write this one.

It was written by songwriter and record executive Leon René, and for some reason he let the song lapse into the public domain, so I guess he wasn’t such a hot executive. Anyway, that means if you want to cut your own record, or maybe record a version for background music to enhance a project you’re doing, have at it! Change the words? No problem! You don’t need anyone’s permission! The caveat, however, is that you have to come up with your own recording. Use an existing one, and you’re almost certainly infringing on a copyright.

If your favorite podcast catcher hasn’t found this week’s episode yet, there’s always the player below, from which you can listen or download for your future listening pleasure.

And, as usual, leaving a rating in your favorite software is always appreciated. Which reminds me: I didn’t realize that the show wasn’t available via Spotify; that should be fixed within  the next couple of days.

Posted in 1960s, 1965, 1969, 1980

Episode 28–You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling

The Righteous Brothers were originally part of a larger group called The Paramours. In 1962 they split up, and members Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield began appearing in local clubs in southern California as a duo. One night, when they finished singing a song, a Marine from a nearby base shouted at them, “That was righteous, brother.” When they were signed to Moonglow Records shortly thereafter, they were asked to come up with a name for the act, and they recalled that incident. “Righteous Brothers” sounded about right for them so they ran with it.

About two years later, they were playing in a show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, where a record producer was conducting the band. That conductor was Phil Spector, who was looking to add some male voices to his Phillies label. Spector’s first move was to hire Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a song specifically for his new act. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” was the result of that hire.

I’ve seen two different versions of the ad. Most of the descriptions mention the plug for Ready Steady Go!, as this one does, but there’s another version that doesn’t have the plug but does feature Oldham’s actual signature at the bottom. I’m not sure which one is the real one, but this is the one that doesn’t require me to pay a fee.

Shortly after the record was released, the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, got Cilla Black to rush-record a cover for quick release. It started to out-pace the Righteous Brothers’ version, until two things happened: first, the label caught wise to what was going on and flew the Righteous Brothers to the UK for a week-long publicity tour that included some TV appearances. Meanwhile, Andrew Oldham, the manager for the Rolling Stones, spent his own money to promote the version from across the pond. In short order, the American version was topping the UK charts, and Cilla Black’s was dropping rapidly.

Naturally, if you iTunes or some such, you’ve already got this in your library. But if you don’t, you can click on the player below to listen or download.

Oh—and, as promised in the last post, here’s a photo of my basement studio:

The laptop on the left holds my audio elements while the one on the right is my “everyday” machine that I use for recording. The Audacity file you’re looking at is the unedited, unprocessed (via Auphonic) version of this week’s show. You can see I use two mice; one is wireless and the other one isn’t. The wired one is the one that I use for the left-hand machine, because it gives me (I think) more control and that’s where I really need it.

There’s another panel of foam squares just out of frame to the left, and a third one behind me. My mic is on a boom that’s clamped to the table. And that’s my script between the computers and resting on both keyboards.

Hope you liked the tour!

Posted in Production

From Me To You

Penny: So, how many people listen?
Wil Wheaton: Most people download it later, but usually a few thousand people listen live.
Penny: What? A few thousand people listen to you talk about nerd stuff?
Wil Wheaton: Again, right in the ears, straight to the feelings.

The Big Bang Theory, “The Fortification Implementation” (4/9/15)


A few people have asked me about the what sort of stuff I go through when I put this podcast together, so I figured it would be fun(-ish) for me to take a closer look at the entire process and share it with you.

PART I—THE HISTORY

Image result for wbau -site:pinterest.comI’ve long had an interest in radio. When I was in college in the early 80s I spent inordinate amounts of time at WBAU, the radio station that was run by students at Adelphi University. (WBAU went dark in 1995, and that’s a whole other story). I thought I would go into broadcasting, but a few things, rather ridiculous ones in retrospect, got in the way and frankly I floundered for a few years. But I never lost the bug. And most people agree that you never do.

The other thing I’ve always been pretty good at is telling stories. I’m not prolific about it but I also have a personal blog called Baltimore Diary, where I occasionally bang out pretty much whatever is on my mind. The problem with a blog like that is that it doesn’t have a lot of focus, so the audience will always be small. Not that I’m writing for the popularity or the glory, but you like to think that someone other than your immediate circle of friends is paying attention. (I’m going to cross-post this over there, so if you click on the link you’ll just wind up reading this again unless you scroll down.)

So, finding a way of combining the two has been a little bit of a conundrum for me. I’ve been listening to podcasts for several years now. Marc Maron’s WTF was one of the first, and coincidentally I was one of his first listeners, because I started searching for my first podcasts to listen to only a few weeks after he started his podcast. (The Maron thing is a little bit of an aside and I’ll come back to it in a bit.) One of the other podcasts I adopted early on was Cerphe Colwell’s progressive show, which was a couple of hours of music that was pretty much in my wheelhouse. That show moved over to a different platform and I was still using an iPod, so unfortunately we had to break up. But Cerphe’s show was the first inkling I had that I could do a music program, and do it on my own terms. There was another one I listened to pretty much from the beginning, but it got kind of stale and, while it’s still running, that’s largely because it’s got a band of rabid fans that are, frankly, living in the past and haven’t figured out that the show has refused to evolve.

PART II—THE BEGINNING

Life got in the way for a couple of years, what with relatives getting sick and dying, so nearly everything went by the wayside. But a few months ago I started thinking about it again. And it was around this time that I started looking a little more closely at other podcasts to see what they were doing, and how they were doing it, and how they sounded, and a number of other things. I wanted to do something that had a specific focus (unlike the blog), and had a topic about which I could talk knowledgeably. I came up with a few ideas and crowd-sourced it a little bit, and the one that I liked best, AND had the advantage of not being like a lot of others, was this one.

Image result for musicradio 77 -site:pinterest.comI also crowd-sourced the title of the show, which I’d lifted from something I’d seen on Allan Sniffen’s website, and despite this, he was nice to me in my first couple of weeks. A few people came up with alternative names, but what they had was either already taken, or I couldn’t get the domain name. Plus it was growing on me day-by-day.

Image result for doug miles media -site:pinterest.comI also need to give a shout-out to my fellow WBAU alumnus Doug Miles, who DID make the cross over into professional broadcasting. He’s got the Book Talk podcast, and he covers the Orioles Spring Training season down in Sarasota, and he’s got a bunch of other stuff going on pretty much all the time. He took the time to give me a bunch of pointers on getting the thing up and running. Eternal thanks to him for his encouragement.

Some people have suggested that it’s a lot like Song Exploder, and in a way I agree in the sense that Hrishikesh Hirway also concentrates on a single track for each podcast, but he’s got a different format, and he sticks to more recent tracks, whereas I’m reaching back for the older stuff. So, we’ve each got our little corner of the genre staked out.

I did a LOT of planning ahead on this, including mapping out something like the first ten episodes, because if I couldn’t sustain that much, then what was the point? To be honest, I lost the list and had to re-do the advance planning, but being able to do it again, and with largely different stuff, meant that I was probably onto something with the longer-term prospects of the show. I got a format together, I figured out what I wanted it to sound like, and I started shopping for equipment.

PART III—THE NUTS AND BOLTS

The first couple of shows were recorded in my dining room, on summer days when Wife was out of the house and the dogs were outside. I’d have to stop recording every time the air conditioners came on, or shut them off and put up with the heat. I decided, however, that there was still too much ambient noise in the area because my house has a semi-open floorplan to it, and I still sounded kind of “live”.  Plus, I had to assemble everything and then take it apart again after each recording session, and I could see where that would get a little taxing on my cables and such. So I moved the entire setup into my basement, where I could put it together and leave it there.

 

Image result for behringer q1202usb 12-channel mixerMy first purchase was the Behringer Xenyx Q1202 12-channel mixer. It’s probably more than I need, input-wise, but I’ve also got the flexibility I’ll need to implement some ideas I have for future shows. And at about a hundred bucks, it wasn’t breaking the bank. I’d also purchased a couple of Behringer Image result for shure sm7 -site:pinterest.comUltravoice XM1800S microphones, but in the end I didn’t like the way they sounded. (They’re going to come in handy for a future project or two.) Until now I’ve been working with Wee One’s Shure SM-7 microphone. I DO like the way it sounds, but after all it’s not my mic. So this week I ordered one of my own, and I decided to take a step up. Come next week, How Good It Is will be recorded using an Electrovoice RE-20 microphone, which is my favorite of all time. I also Image result for re20 microphone in shockmount -site:pinterest.compurchased a shock mount to go with it, because I’m not going to be in a basement forever, Mom.

I have two other elements that I use. One is to help improve the sound and the other is to keep the production going smoothly.

The first is acoustic foam panels. Wee One got me a bunch of them as a Christmas present, which I mounted to doubled corrugated cardboard, and I purchased a second set and mounted those as well. So I record, surrounded by these two-foot-by-six-foot cardboard panels with acoustic foam on them, to help cut down the ambient noises.

And the other is a pair of laptops. One contains all of my sound elements: the theme music and the audio clips that I use during the show, and that’s jacked into my mixer. The other one does the actual recording, and is connected to the mixer’s output through a USB port. Software-wise, I use a program called Soundboard to store the audio clips so I can fire them at will. The only drawback to the version of Soundboard I’m using is that the clips have to be in WAV format, so I wind up converting some files  before I can use them. I use Audacity to record end edit the show. I’ve learned the hard way that you shouldn’t have other stuff running while you’re recording with Audacity because it can interfere with the recording buffer, creating a “skip” in the final playback product. (My professional tip for you today.)

I’d take a picture of the entire setup, but one of the laptops isn’t attached to the studio permanently; in fact it’s the one I’m typing on now (back in the dining room, am I). So next week I’ll take a photo and post it for the curious.

PART IV—POST-PRODUCTION

The show is very produced compared to other podcasts; I like to have some kind of stuff going on most of the time, which is a holdover from my radio style. That also means that the show is rather heavily scripted, because in many cases I’m timing things tightly. So editing the show usually takes a little while, but Soundboard has cut down on that and lately I’m just stitching together my beginning, middle and end. Once in awhile I’ll screw up and either re-do the entire segment I’m recording or, if I can find a decent point to edit, I’ll go back to that point and start over. I’m kind of proud of the fact that most of my edits are pretty invisible. I was good with physically cutting tape back in the day, and I’ve got a good ear for doing it digitally as well.

Image result for auphonic -site:pinterest.comOnce the show is edited, I upload it to a website called Auphonic for audio. Because the show is short, I can do all of my processing for free. But if it were longer, I’d pay for it because it’s made a huge difference in the show’s sound.

Image result for podomatic -site:pinterest.comFrom there, I upload it to this site, and to Podomatic, where the show is hosted, and it’s from there that your podcatcher gets it. I write up the post for this site and publish it, and after waiting a little while I publicize it on Facebook. The reason for the delay is that I’ve discovered, if I try to post on FB right away, Facebook can’t find the images. And sometimes it can’t even find the post! So I give everyone a little time to figure it out.

And now we get to the part where you come in!

PART V—WHERE YOU COME IN

You, my faithful listener/reader (and you’ve GOTTA be pretty faithful if you’ve gotten through nearly 2000 words and you’re still with me), will either read my Facebook post and come here directly, or you have iTunes or Spotify or some other pod organizing software, and it gets (usually) automatically downloaded to your device.

At this point I still don’t have a huge number of listeners, but that’s OK because the feedback I’ve gotten has been almost overwhelmingly positive. My strongest critic is my brother, who listens to a few at a time and then calls me to tell me what sounds crappy, and more often than not I agree with his assessments and have made adjustments.

So how do I decide what songs to cover?

There are a few songs where I know there’s an interesting backstory, and those come pretty easily. Other times, I’ll hear a song and just wonder if they have a story to them, and then the research begins. Occasionally I’ll hit a dead end (that is, there isn’t really much to tell), but that leads me into another story. Once in awhile I hear a bit of trivia on a radio show and that encourages me to dig a little deeper. (“Get Together“, Episode 4, is a good example of this.) And every now and again I look at what I’ve covered and see if I need to go in a different direction for awhile, e.g. have I done too many songs from the 60s and ignored the 50s? Have I concentrated on male artists too much? Rock vs. ballads vs. doo-wop vs. some other genre?

A couple of people have made suggestions, and one of them has already been turned into a show (H/T to Kevin), and another has given me an idea for something I want to do later, in the springtime (another H/T to Jerry).  For what it’s worth, I’m always open to new ideas, whether it’s about the sound, the content or some other detail (should I do more trivia questions?). I’m always happy to see comments and suggestions, whether it’s here or on the Facebook page.

Finally: a couple of people have asked me about monetizing the podcast somehow. That’s not my immediate plan; unless the show grows immensely in popularity, it’ll be a relatively inexpensive hobby for me. If I have to start paying for additional bandwidth and such because there are so many downloads, then I will have to think about doing something like that, but I’ll try to do it as unobtrusively as possible. The aim would be sustaining rather than profit.

One of the big takeaways I’ve gotten from this whole project is that it’s good to have something else to look forward to, that’s vastly different from everything else you do. And the other thing is something I’ve learned from several years of listening to Marc Maron (see, I told you I’d come back to him). His show was born out of the ashes of his previous job. At that point he was a mid-level standup comic and radio host, who lost the radio gig when his entire network, Air America, took a huge financial crash and went belly-up. But from those pieces he managed to rebuild—indeed, vastly improve—his career and, it seems, repair his personal life right in front of his audience. I’m not in that level of dire straits, thanks, but it taught me that there are always second acts, that there’s always redemption and a positive future, if you make the reach for it.

This post has been an incredible exercise in procrastination (hey, it was either this, or I start writing next week’s show), but it was also kind of fun for me to put together. Thanks again for all your amazing support, and for letting me into your head every week.

Posted in 1980s, 1981

Episode 27–Bette Davis Eyes

Kim Carnes started writing songs at the age of four, and was a member of the New Christy Minstrels for a little while, before she got a publishing deal with Jimmy Bowen in 1969. A couple of years after that she released her first solo album, but it wasn’t until 1980, when she re-connected with another former New Christy Minstrel, Kenny Rogers, to sing “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer”. Later that year she covered Smokey Robinson’s “More Love” and between those two tracks, Kim Carnes was “suddenly” a famous musician.

The picture sleeve for the 45, which is the same as the album’s cover, except for the banner across the top.

The following year, Carnes’ album Mistaken Identity was released, and the leadoff single, “Bette Davis Eyes” took over the first half of the Summer of 1981, after which Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” picked up and finished off the next ten weeks. Even Bette Davis herself was happy enough with the song that she wrote letters to Kim Carnes and songwriters Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss, thanking them for making her a “part of modern times. ” And when the song won two Grammy awards, Davis sent them all flowers to celebrate.

As usual, if you don’t have a podcatcher, or you can just listen/download by clicking on the player below:

 

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Feedback is always fun.

Posted in 1970s, 1971

Episode 26–Stairway to Heaven

In 1970, Led Zeppelin band members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page wanted a new song to use as the centerpiece of their concerts. so they retreated to a cottage in Wales, as you do in these situations. And when they emerged, they had the genesis of the song that’s made so many “Best of…” lists, it’s actually created some backlash over the years, including from Robert Plant himself.

Despite being a single album, Led Zeppelin IV was originally packaged in a gatefold design, as though it was a double album. If you opened it out, this was the outside cover. That picture in the frame on the right is an oil painting!

The song proved so popular when the Album-Oriented Rock stations played it that people immediately asked, “Where can I buy this single?” And the answer was, You can’t. Go buy the album.

 

 

The inner gatefold; the only time their lyrics were printed anywhere on their albums.

The album was Led Zeppelin IV (or, just “the fourth album”, or Zoso if you like reading too deeply into things), and the song was “Stairway to Heaven” (because, duh). And while “Stairway” was never released to the public as a 45 single, the album sold like hotcakes, becoming one of the top ten selling albums of all time.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t a 45RPM record, however: a promotional copy was sent to radio stations (see below–note the small spindle hole), and a jukebox copy was created for play in those machines.

I’m sure you know the drill by now: If you have iTunes or some other podcatcher, you already have this one in your library. For downloading or listening while you’re doing other stuff, you can click on the player below.

And, naturally, every little bit of feedback helps!