127: Foreign Influence

I don’t know why it fascinated me so much recently to poke around with songs that had foreign lyrics in them. But, here we are. This week’s show (and I promise I’m done with the premise for awhile) looks at four songs between 1969 and 1984 which have non-English phrases in them. Some of them have been hilariously misunderstood for a long time. One of them is pretty obvious but I decided to throw it in anyway. And one may come as a surprise to you, especially if you don’t speak Spanish.

As promised, here’s an episode of the European game show Jeux Sans Frontières from 1975. This episode comes from Engelburg, Switzerland:

And here’s another, airing from Vilamoura, Portugal in 1980:

And just for laughs, here’s this week’s episode:

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115–Cold Turkey

So I’m sitting here in my home office-slash-podcast studio, researching and writing this week’s episode, and setting up the audio clips, and my dog is sitting at my feet pretty much the entire time. And as soon as I cracked the microphone open, he decided he needed to leave the room. Did he need to go outside? No. He just wanted to be in the next room. How’s that for a criticism?

Ah, well. At least I have you. Right? RIGHT??

John Lennon’s first non-Beatles single for which he gets sole writing credit was misunderstood and probably alienated Beatles fans, but you can’t deny the power of Eric Clapton’s guitar riffs and the claustrophobia of the mix provided by Klaus Voormann’s bass and Ringo Starr’s drumming. And it should be noted that the moaning and screaming at the end actually pre-dates Arthur Janov’s book The Primal Scream, so once again Lennon was a little bit ahead of his time. (Albert Goldman’s book about Lennon suggests that he and Mick Jagger got advance copies of the book, and that John Lennon actually underwent primal scream therapy for awhile. However, Goldman’s book appears to have only a casual relationship with the truth.

It’s allergy season and I’m sounding great, my friend. Have a listen.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 106–Proud Mary

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.

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 105–Under the Covers, Part 6

True story: I hire models from Fiverr to do these pictures. All three of them, coincidentally, are from the same (non-US) nation. I don’t do that on purpose but I’m starting to think I have a “type”.

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.

Finally, as promised: here’s the original French song I discussed during the show. Check out those lyrics; it’s rather poignant.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 102–The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

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.

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Incidentally, here’s the link to the Flaming Lips/Amanda Palmer video that I discuss during the show. It’s definitely Not Safe For Work. You have been warned.

For you independent types who don’t use Google Podcasts or some other podcatcher software, here’s the show for your listening/downloading pleasure:

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

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 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 79–The Boxer

Click here for a transcript of this show.

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 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.