Last week’s show was short, time-wise, and I promised I’d make up for it. And make up, I did, because this is one of my longer non-interview shows, clocking in at 20:30. If you listen to this show during your morning commute, you may have to circle the block a few times before going in to work.
But it’s so packed with stuff that I don’t think you’ll mind. This week we’re looking at songs that were inspired by books, a topic that’s turned out to be HUGE, and we’ll be visiting again in the future if you’re digging it.
John Fogerty had already picked up some popularity with his band The Golliwogs, but Uncle Sam came a-calling in 1966. In order to avoid being sent to Vietnam, he instead enlisted in the Army Reserves, where he served for a while until he was discharged honorably.
In the days that followed the discharge, he wrote a song that he knew immediately would be a hit on the level of the bigger songs of the Tin Pan Alley days. And, given that other artists recorded the same song within a few months of its release, he was correct in that regard.
The new owners of their label, Fantasy Records talked the band into changing their name to something a little less offensive in exchange for the opportunity to record a full-length album (rather than the singles they’d been making), and the band, not being fools, agreed immediately. The original name had come from Fantasy’s previous owner, so they weren’t really married to it anyway.
Thus it was that The Golliwogs became Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bayou Country their first album.
Thanks for your patience as the show migrates from one server to another. As I noted on the social media, I’m working hard to make it as invisible as possible if you listen via Google or Apple or Spotify, etc. And the website here is going to look kind of weird for awhile with a lot of double posts for previous episodes, until I pick my way through and fix them, one by one. Fun, Fun, Fun!
This week, we’re taking yet another look at a few songs which you may not have known were covers, and nearly all of them were suggested by a listener named Kim, who didn’t feel that a shout-out was necessary, but obviously I don’t feel the same way. Kim had a list of songs that could work, and I said “Sure” to most of them, with a single exception, and that’s mostly because the story is a little convoluted and I may have to turn it into an episode of its own down the road a ways.
Anyway: a new hosting partner means a new player here on the webpage for you, and I do have a little bit of customizing control over it (something I didn’t previously have at all), so I’m happy to hear your suggestions. And, of course, please let me know if you hit any weird technical snags.
Bear with me this week; I’m fighting off some kind of respiratory thing and I’m sounding like Peter Brady singing “Time to Change.”
By the way, isn’t it cool the way we get that flanging effect only when Marcia and Greg are singing solo, despite the group microphones?
Why yes, I am a fussbudget. Nice to meet you.
This week: it was Procul Harum’s debut single, and at last count it was the song most played EVER on UK radio. Not a Beatles or Stones tune; this one. How about that!
I feel a little badly because I didn’t really leave anything out of my script for the benefit of putting something cool here, so I guess you’re out of luck in that respect. But if you’re here to listen to the embed, I’ve got some good news for you: here it is!
Roberta Flack was one of those artists that the label couldn’t quite pigeonhole, which meant that they couldn’t find a way to make her accessible to listeners. As a result, her first two albums got some positive press, but the sales weren’t especially great.
It wasn’t until after her second album came out that a track on the first album caught the attention of a first-time movie director by the name of Clint Eastwood. He called Flack at home and asked if he could use the song in his film, a psychological horror film about a disc jockey called Play Misty For Me. It took a little bit of convincing (about two thousand dollars’ worth), and the song made it into the film.
When Play Misty For Me turned into a hit, Atlantic Records finally saw the light and released a slightly shorter version of the song on a single, and it became the first of several big hits for Flack over the next few years.
What most people don’t realize is that Flack’s recording was a cover of a song written and recorded in 1957, and covered rather faithfully several times after that. But once it hit for her, the covers began to sound more like Flack’s version. And while the song finally becoming a hit made its writer a ton of money, the truth is, he’s never really liked anyone else’s recording other than the one his then-girlfriend made.
Holy Cats. I completely forgot that my website host wasn’t working when I did Episode 97, and I didn’t do a post for that one. It was down for maintenance, and I never came back to it. Shame on me.
So for those of you looking for an entry for “Like a Virgin,” sorry. There isn’t one. We’ll just have to let it stand on its own.
In the meantime, I was thinking about doing the Sam Cooke song, but every time I hit the Internet to do some research, I’d bump into the Louis Armstrong song, so I figured, Why not do both in a single show? And so here we are, with a show that talks about both songs and the stories behind them. Especially interesting to me is that both songs picked up a following in Europe that didn’t have a lot to do with their performance in the US.
ADDENDUM: I noted during the show that next week’s episode was a listener request, and that wasn’t a lie. I should note, however, that the listener is another podcaster who calls himself Innkeeper Freddie, and he runs an interview podcast called Guestbook. Freddie runs a bed-and-breakfast or two in the heart of Washington, DC, and he interviews some of the people who stay at his B&B. Consequently he gets in a fascinating array of people, all of whom have some neat perspectives on life in general, plus the discussion is capped off with the “Seven Questions,” which is a fixed set of questions that he asks of all his guests. It’s definitely worth a listen, and you can check him out here. I got to meet Freddie a few weeks ago at the PRX Podcast Garage in DC, and now I’m playing catch-up with his show. He’s a really enthusiastic guy whose show isn’t getting the love it deserves.
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.
For reasons I can’t go into Until you are here Clarifying your situation Knowing you are having problems You will have to find Other transportation Unless you plan not to come.
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:
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:
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.