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:

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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:

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 61–Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Indian)

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John D. Loudermilk Jr. (March 31, 1934 – September 21, 2016)

John D. Loudermilk (the D doesn’t stand for anything) was a singer-songwriter who wrote a few hits for a few different artists, and he also fancied himself as a  prankster. So when he was asked by a Las Vegas radio station about his inspiration for writing the song “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Indian)”, he told a wild tale about meeting a band of Cherokees in a snowstorm. And when Casey Kasem’s crew got wind of the story, they called him to confirm it, and he changed it to sound even more dire. They bought it, Casey aired it, and now that the show is in re-runs, the story gets a national re-airing every now and again. And it’s entirely nonsense. But that also means we don’t really know what led him to write this song, which contains several elements indicating that Loudermilk really knew next to nothing about the Cherokee Nation. 

Don Fardon’s 45 sleeve

Does that make the song offensive? That seems to be a mixed bag, based on my research. Some people are pretty specific about the fact that it gets so many things just plain wrong. Some people don’t like the whole cultural appropriation end of things, where white guys (Loudermilk as the writer, Fardon and the Raiders as the performers) are singing about Native Americans in the first person. 

No, I don’t know why both records have orange sleeves. 

Some people also make a point of saying “I’m xx% Cherokee and it doesn’t offend me at all.” So in this respect, your mileage may vary.I asked my wife, who is part Cherokee, about it and she doesn’t like the song, largely because of the factual inaccuracies. I think she was pleasantly surprised that I knew what they were, though. But I don’t think she’ll be making a point of tuning in to this episode. Then again, I’m pretty sure she only listens when I play it back in my car and she’s there for it. 

At any rate: my apologies for the late delivery, but here’s hoping you enjoy it. As usual, your podcatcher should have it now (or very soon, anyway), or you can listen/download it from here: 

Thanks so much for the reviews I’ve seen, and the good words on Facebook. Next week will be a whole bunch of quick bits on Christmas songs, and then—finally—we’ll finish up the year with Part Two of Shel Silverstein. 

57–Shel Silverstein, Part I

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Image result for shel silverstein -site:pinterest.com

Shel Silverstein was a humorist, a poet, a cartoonist, and a musician who had a strong, if not especially obvious, influence on pop music through the late 1960s, up into the 1980s. Most people know him for his poetry books largely aimed at a children’s audience, but he also provided cartoons for Playboy Magazine, usually inserting a caricature of himself into the image: 

Image result for shel silverstein playboy cartoon -site:pinterest.com

And he’s also responsible for the dark, subversively comic Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book, an alphabet book you do NOT want your kids to read (but you should, because it’s hilarious): 

Image result for uncle shelby ABZ -site:pinterest.com

But Silverstein was a songwriter who had an especially strong relationship with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and that led to a couple of their bigger hits, including a song that was essentially a parody of the rock star life, but it led to the sort of fame that only he could imagine: 

Image result for dr hook rolling stone cover -site:pinterest.com

You know the drill by now–Either you have the episode, or you’re looking to get it here: 

And if you’ve taken the time to leave a rating somewhere, thanks so much for the boost! If you haven’t, that’s OK but please consider doing so. 

Episode 53–Both Sides Now

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Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. They’re still stunning to look at. 

The late 1960s was a great time for the fusion of folk and pop music, and a lot of singer-songwriters made their marks with recording their songs, and those of other performers, during that time. So it was when Judy Collins first heard Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides Now” down a telephone line one late night in 1967. Collins met with Mitchell and Al Kooper that very night in the bar  from which Kooper placed the phone call, and the song wound up as the opening track to Side Two of Collins’ seventh album, Wildflowers.

For whatever reason, though, the song wasn’t released as a single for about a year, but releasing the song turned out to be a great idea, because it turned into Collins’ first foray into Billboard’s Top 40 and propelled Wildflowers to the Number 5 position on their albums chart. 

Joni Mitchell, in the meantime, managed to score a recording contract of her own and recorded it, along with several other songs that had already been cut by other artists (including “Chelsea Morning”, which Collins had recorded and released as a single earlier that year) and a few new tracks. “Both Sides Now” became a stealth title track for her self-produced second album, Clouds, and finally propelled her into the public light. 

The song has been covered literally dozens of times from 1967 all the way up to this decade, and by artists of all ages and genres so clearly this is a song whose impact will be felt for many years to come. 

As usual, your podcast software should have this show by now, but if you dig listening to it from here (looking at you, Brother Of Mine), by all means have at it:

And, of course, I’d be thrilled beyond measure if you were to leave a comment or a rating/review wherever you get your podcasts. 

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.

 

Episode 22–Under The Covers II

Did you ever decide that you were in the market for something, let’s say you need a car, and all of a sudden you see advertisements for cars all over the place? Or, you learn a new word and suddenly you see it being used everywhere?

This is called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, and it’s a weird little trick our brains play on us. And recently, I was pranked by my brain in this manner.

Episode 9 was devoted to songs that you may not have known were covers of other artists, and I thought at that time that it was kind of a fun idea, and I’d like to come back to it once in awhile. Now, I was thinking maybe another 20 or 30 episodes down the road, but then Baader-Meinhof got in the way and I started really noticing it when it was pointed out that a song I was listening to was a cover of another recording. So, because I have a tendency to write stuff down and then immediately lose the notes, I decided to return to the concept a little more quickly than I usually do. And the fun thing is, I’m saving the one that came as the biggest surprise to me for another show.

So this time around we’re going to hear from musicians as diverse as Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Led Zeppelin and Linda Lyndell. Who? Just go listen, you’ll be fine, I promise. In fact, you’re going to be sad that you don’t know who Linda Lyndell is, especially when you find out WHY you don’t know who she is.

I noted this briefly at the end of the show, but something I noticed only while I was recording was that all of the songs enjoyed only modest success until the cover came out. But the other common thread is that the more successful artist made some sort of change to the song, almost as if that made the difference between whether or not the song was a hit.

As usual, if your favorite podcatcher isn’t getting the job done, you can feel free click on the player below to listen and/or download the show:

Also, my apologies for the late delivery of this episode; I had a technical issue that was frankly kind of scary, and had me wondering whether I’d be forced to A) re-record the episode after B) buying a new computer, but fortunately I managed to fix what was wrong and we’re only a few hours late.

Episode 14: Six Feet From Stardom

Mick Jagger, as it turns out, became Carly Simon’s backup singer on “You’re So Vain” because he just happened to pop into the studio the day of recording. The bad news is, that put him on the list of candidates that people think Simon’s singing about.

Before they were famous, lots of artists sang backup for other artists. But once in awhile, they’ll lend their talent to someone else because it’s fun, or because they owe someone a favor or maybe just because they were asked to.

This week, we’re going to listen in on a bunch of songs that have famous people singing backups. Some of them are pretty well known; others may come as a surprise to you.

Per our Standard Operating Procedure, if you’ve got a favorite podcatcher, you should be able to hear this week’s show already, or you can just click the player below to listen/download it right here:

And, as usual, if you were to go to iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts and leave a rating, and maybe even some feedback, I’d be quite the happy camper.

Episode 13: MacArthur Park

When Jimmy Webb got his heart broken, what did he do? Why, he did what any other red-blooded American would do: he wrote a couple of hit songs and made a million bucks off the incident!

OK, that’s not the most common reaction, but it’s what happened back in 1967, when he wrote a song that was turned down by The Association, but picked up by an actor who’d decided he wanted to conquer the music charts.

If you’ve got a favorite podcatcher, you should be able to hear this week’s show already, or you can just click on the player below to listen/download:

And, as usual, if you were to go to iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts and leave a rating, and maybe even some feedback, I’d be much obliged. Which reminds me: let me give a shout-out to Connie Paulson, who wrote such nice things on the Facebook page, and to Bob C. (dunno if he wants to be identified), who left a wonderful review on iTunes! Thanks so much, guys. That really warmed my heart a little bit.