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.

Episode 74–Quarter to Three

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Sometimes when I’m looking for a show to cover, I look at any potential patterns I may have been following, just to break out of them. Have I been doing too many hard rock songs? Too many from a given decade? Too many of a specific genre? That sort of thing. I like to use some songs as an entryway to discovering other songs. So, for instance, I know that “Classic Rock” songs tend to pull in the downloads, but I’ve gotten comments from people who tune in to hear about “Another Brick in the Wall” but stay to learn about “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

So in searching for patterns, I also look for songs I don’t like to see if I can defend them, or make them somehow interesting to me (looking at you, Episode 30), or just get into “What haven’t I done so far?”

And that’s pretty much why I went looking for a song that begins with the letter Q.

But as usual, it turned into one of those things where your basic party song turns out to have a richer history behind it than one would ordinarily suspect. (A lot of times I think I’d like to cover a song and the research turns out to be a bust.) So check out the story behind Gary US Bonds’ song and how its popularity with another hitmaker led to his working on Bonds’ comeback hit:

Incidentally, I’ve started doing the artwork for each episode early in the process, since it makes for a great procrastination project. How am I doing so far?

Episode 73–Classical Gas

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Let me open up with an apology for the delayed show. Those who know me well know that there was a medical issue in the family that distracted me, and that’s got to come first, right?

For me, “Classical Gas” is one of those songs that passes in and out of my consciousness. I forget about it for a long time, and then I can’t get enough of it for awhile. And when I did that trivia question last week about instrumentals, “Classical Gas” returned to my radar and I said, “Ooh, I gotta do this one!”. Coincidentally, a listener happened to request that I cover the song, and I was only too happy to oblige, having already started the research. (My reply to him was “boy are you in for a surprise.”)

This is the video that Williams re-scored for its use on the Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour. Try to picture it using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; I don’t think it works nearly as well. (Also, this video–which was posted to YouTube by Mason Williams–sounds like a slightly different mix, but I could be wrong on that one.)

And I didn’t promise you this in the show, but I’m going to link it here anyway, because I like it so much. This is the cover of “Classical Gas” by Vanessa Mae from 1995:

And here is the episode itself, for those who like to listen or download from here:

Me and The Boss

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The Boss and The Jester (if you believe some “American Pie” theories) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction concert, 1988.

So about a million years ago, back in Episode 8 (“Like a Rolling Stone”), I spent a bunch of time during that show talking about the snare shot that opened the song, and how it was practically the Shot Heard Round The World and how it Changed Everything on the rock and roll landscape.

I still believe that, and that particular episode of the podcast remains one of my favorites (if you do nothing else, follow the link to the interactive video and have a blast).

But as it turns out, this past weekend I came across a quotation from Bruce Springsteen that underlines and validates everything I said, and maybe a little more poetically, because, you know, Bruce Springsteen can be a brilliant lyricist and I’m just some guy spouting off. Springsteen was the person who inducted Bob Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and this was part of his speech:

The first time that I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother, and we were listening to, I think, WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody kicked open the door to your mind, from “Like a Rolling Stone.” And my mother, who was no stiff with rock & roll, she said, “That guy can’t sing.” But I knew she was wrong. I sat there, I didn’t say nothin’, but I knew that I was listening to the toughest voice that I had ever heard. It was lean, and it sounded somehow simultaneously young and adult, and I ran out and I bought the single. I played it, then I went out and I got Highway 61, and it was all I played for weeks. Bob’s voice somehow thrilled and scared me. It made me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent. And it still does. But it reached down and touched what little worldliness a 15-year-old kid in New Jersey had in him at the time.

See? Bruce Springsteen agrees with me, so I can’t be wrong.

Episode 70–Iko Iko

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This week’s episode arose from an essay I published on my blog several years ago. I was looking back on some of the stuff I wrote and found this particular piece, and thought, with a little re-writing it might make a decent episode of the podcast. So, re-write I did, and I’m generally happy with the result, though I’m once again fighting off a respiratory thing.

James “Sugarboy” Crawford

Anyway: James “Sugarboy” Crawford wrote “Iko Iko” in 1953, and recorded it with his band, the Cane Cutters. That version didn’t go anywhere, chart-wise, and neither did any cover that followed, until 1965, when Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, using audio from the Dixie Cups’ fooling around between takes, added a backing track and turned their version, with its nonsensical lyrics, into an international hit. The song became such a big deal that the Dixie Cups eventually received partial writing credit for the song because of all the changed lyrics.

And that’s all I’m saying here, go listen to the show.

And please don’t forget to share the show, and/or leave a rating somewhere.

Episode 69–In the Year 2525

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In the early 80s, When I was in college and working at the campus radio station, once in awhile we’d play this song and announce that it was from the album, “Zager and Evans’ Greatest Hit.”

Because we were hysterically funny that way.

But Denny Zager and Rick Evans were, indeed, a One Hit Wonder. In fact, they were the very definition of the phrase, considering that they had NO other charting hits on either side of the Atlantic.

Denny Zager and Rick Evans, in that order.

That said, their one hit dominated the Summer of 1969 and provided the background soundtrack to a host of big news stories that took place during the six weeks it spent in the Number One position on the Billboard Chart.

I also learned after recording this podcast that Odessa Symphony, which provided the orchestral parts of the record, is composed entirely of high school students. The high school they came from is Permian High School, which is the setting of the book that later became the film Friday Night Lights. (The TV series was set in a fictional town.)

As promised, here’s the Futurama clip in which the song is parodied:

And although I didn’t promise it, here’s the opening to the Cleopatra 2525 show. Gina Torres, incidentally, is the one singing the show’s theme song:

And, of course, if your podcatcher doesn’t already have the show, you can listen or download right here:

And I’d like just a wee bit of credit for writing “Summer of 1969” here, and saying it at least twice during the show, without making any tired Bryan Adams jokes. You’re welcome.

Episode 68–Different Drum

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The Stone Poneys was the group that launched Linda Ronstadt’s career, but the sad truth is that Capitol Records was never interested in the rest of the band, instead pushing for her to be a solo artist from the beginning. It was only through a little persuasion on the producer’s part that convinced the label that she wasn’t quite ready to work on her own.

Indeed, when “Different Drum” came out as a single in September of 1967, the labels on the 45RPM release credit the band “Featuring Linda Ronstadt”. Ronstadt herself was still reluctant to leave the band, enough that she financed the Stone Poneys’ entire third album herself, losing a ton of money in the process, before finally embarking on her solo career.

The tune was written by Michael Nesmith, of The Monkees fame, and while he didn’t record the song himself until 1972, he did perform it (badly, on purpose) during an episode of The Monkees titled “Too Many Girls”. This would have been right around the time that the original recording, by bluegrass band The Greenbriar Boys, would have come out.

As usual, your podcatcher software should have the show by now, but if you want to download or listen to it here, have at it.

And, of course, your feedback is always welcome. If you’re enjoying the show, please tell all your like-minded friends about it!

Episode 63–Shel Silverstein, Part 2

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

Hi! Didja miss me?

Apologies for the big gap in shows; life was getting in the way, plus I got sick somewhere in between and, while my voice would have been pure comedy on your end, it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun on mine. No excuse though; I should have posted SOMEthing in the interim. I’ll do better next time.

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Ray Sawyer, 1937-2018

Six episodes ago we took a peek at the work of poet/playwright/singer/songwriter/Renaissance Man Shel Silverstein, and I guess the most notable thing related to that show that’s happened since then, is that Ray Sawyer, the singer/guitarist for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 81 after a short illness. Sawyer was the main singer on “Sylvia’s Mother” and “Cover of Rolling Stone”, among others.

So this week we’re looking at some more of his work, including what’s perhaps his most-covered song (and, oddly, a song that despite all the covers doesn’t seem to do anything on the charts; I think it’s just a song that people like to sing), and a quick look at his theater work.

With any luck, you’ve already got this in your podcatcher, but if not, here it is for your listening/downloading pleasure:

And please be sure to share the show with like-minded folks!

60–Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

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Yeah, yeah, I know: you were expecting Shel Silverstein again. Forgive me; I got Writer’s Block on it and couldn’t figure out a good way to organize my notes. 

Anyway. 

By the time 1962 rolled around, Neil Sedaka had been in the Top Ten eight times, but he still hadn’t cracked the #1 slot.

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Inspired by a doo-wop song he’d heard recently, he put together a song that had a similar structure but no doo-wops in it. He brought the song to Barry Mann, who didn’t like it until he added the “dom dooby doo dom dom” bit back in. That was deemed good enough for him to record, and it turned into the Big Hit of the summer of 1962, going to the top spot by the second week of August. 

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The happy couple in 2017

There’s a story out there in Rich Podolsky’s book about Don Kirshner (who produced the record) that says that shortly after the record came out, Sedaka proposed to his girlfriend, Leba Strasberg. Being the hopeless romantic that he is, though, Sedaka proposed over the phone, and Leba didn’t believe him. Sedaka had to put the song’s co-writer, Howie Greenfield, on the phone to convince her that he was serious. They’ve been married since September 11 of that year. 

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While there were a bunch of covers, it was the 1970 version by Lenny Welch that changed the tone of the song, and it probably inspired Sedaka to re-record it as a ballad in 1975, which he put on an album almost as an afterthought. It became the second single off that album, and Sedaka found himself in the Top Ten a second time with “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. Oddly enough, Sedaka’s self-cover was NOT the most successful cover of the song, but you’ll have to listen to the show to find out what was. 

Speaking of which, here’s your golden opportunity to listen to, or download the show, assuming your podcast software doesn’t already have it. 

And thanks so much to the folks who have left reviews! I love you guys!