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

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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

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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

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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

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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 81–Runaway

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Happy Father’s Day! I’m releasing this episode a little early so I can spend the day Sunday with my family. Our plan is to go to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. I’m hoping to see Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman costume and a Batmobile. I hear there’s a terrific collection of musical instruments, including Steve Cropper’s guitar and Herbie Hancock’s keytar. Who knows, maybe the Musitron is in there!

Don’t know what that is? You need to listen to the show, post-haste. Get clicking.

Next week’s show (Under the Covers, Part 4) may be a little late because I’ll be on the road to a family event. You Have Been Warned.

Episode 79–The Boxer

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Let me mention up front that this episode was inspired by an Instagram friend of the show, who suggested that I cover a Paul Simon song. Somehow our messaging bollixed up, but yes: I realized that this is an act I should have visited a long time ago. So thanks for the nudge.

For a weekend where most people are expected to take it kind of easy, with the beaching and the barbecuing and remembering those who died so that we could do the first two, this has been a very hectic weekend for me, hence the late delivery of this week’s show.

This was definitely one of those episodes where, the more research I did, the more there was to see. And then it got really complicated, and I had to move stuff around…and in the end, the writing still took about as long as it usually does, so that was kind of weird-yet-relieving.

1970’s Bridge over Troubled Water was the last studio album for Simon and Garfunkel. Sure, they reunited several times for live performances, some of which were recorded and released, but their last studio collaboration, in 1975, yielded only the single “My Little Town,” which appeared on Still Crazy After All These Years (for Simon) and Breakaway (for Garfunkel). Even the B-side of “My Little Town” had two short solo tracks on it.

But, like so many of the final projects of the great artists from the rock era, Bridge Over Troubled Water was an immense piece of work, with the duo doing their best to stretch their sound both sonically and technologically. They were fracturing as an act, but the quality of their collaboration on this album is undeniable. And I’d argue that you can’t even say that about The Beatles.

And it began with this track, which was released in March 1969, nine months before the rest of the album. It’s deceptive in that the listener probably has no idea just how complicated this record is. Fortunately for you, in a few minutes you’ll be standing a little closer to the truth. So here’s this week’s show, for your listening or downloading pleasure:

And, of course, please share the show with someone you think might enjoy it, and leave a rating somewhere.

Episode 78–My Generation

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The Who was gaining popularity in the UK, but they hadn’t reached the point of having huge amounts of money yet. So when Pete Townshend found himself accidentally(ish) living in a posh neighborhood near Buckingham Palace, he noticed that everyone around him was treating him badly. So on his twentieth birthday, while sitting on a train, he composed this song, as a means of getting back at all the rich people who were mean to him.

Why didn’t I think of that!? Oh, well.

Here, incidentally, is their performance during which Townshend nearly gets his head blown off. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a clip of the entire performance.

Here’s this week’s episode for your listening and/or downloading pleasure:

Finally, this is the artwork related to the trivia question for this episode. 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.

Incidentally, I’ve gotten several positive comments and suggestions from listeners and I really appreciate them. Keep them coming!

Episode 77–Somebody to Love

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The Great Society was one of a number of 1960s bands with that name, but the thing that makes this one distinctive is that it had a singer by the name of Grace Slick. They were playing in clubs in the San Francisco area, and frequently opened for another local band by the name of Jefferson Airplane. When the Airplane lost their lead singer (on generally good terms), Marty Balin reached out to Grace Slick, and she accepted their offer, not knowing that Columbia Records was about to offer the Great Society a record deal. But it was this incarnation of the Jefferson Airplane that finally broke through to the public, and they pretty much stayed that way until a couple of members left in 1970 to form Hot Tuna. Eventually they regrouped and, in 1974, upgraded their technology (I guess?) to become Jefferson Starship.

I should note that while I often use digital sources (CDs or streaming downloads) for the music on this show, in this case both of the Great Society tracks I play in this episode came from a vinyl album I discovered in a thrift store in Selma, NC, titled San Francisco Roots, which is a compilation of music from bands based out of that area in 1964-65. I’ve run them through a little noise reduction, but it’s still pretty clear that you’re getting some surface noise on this one.

And as usual, here is the file for your downloading/listening pleasure.

If you’re enjoying the show, please bear that in mind when I start begging for money. Also, maybe share it out with like-minded people and leave a rating on your favorite podcast software. It doesn’t really do much for my visibility, but it’s a nice ego boost.