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

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

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

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

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

Click here for a transcript of this show.

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 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 28–You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling

The Righteous Brothers were originally part of a larger group called The Paramours. In 1962 they split up, and members Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield began appearing in local clubs in southern California as a duo. One night, when they finished singing a song, a Marine from a nearby base shouted at them, “That was righteous, brother.” When they were signed to Moonglow Records shortly thereafter, they were asked to come up with a name for the act, and they recalled that incident. “Righteous Brothers” sounded about right for them so they ran with it.

About two years later, they were playing in a show at San Francisco’s Cow Palace, where a record producer was conducting the band. That conductor was Phil Spector, who was looking to add some male voices to his Phillies label. Spector’s first move was to hire Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a song specifically for his new act. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” was the result of that hire.

I’ve seen two different versions of the ad. Most of the descriptions mention the plug for Ready Steady Go!, as this one does, but there’s another version that doesn’t have the plug but does feature Oldham’s actual signature at the bottom. I’m not sure which one is the real one, but this is the one that doesn’t require me to pay a fee.

Shortly after the record was released, the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, got Cilla Black to rush-record a cover for quick release. It started to out-pace the Righteous Brothers’ version, until two things happened: first, the label caught wise to what was going on and flew the Righteous Brothers to the UK for a week-long publicity tour that included some TV appearances. Meanwhile, Andrew Oldham, the manager for the Rolling Stones, spent his own money to promote the version from across the pond. In short order, the American version was topping the UK charts, and Cilla Black’s was dropping rapidly.

Naturally, if you iTunes or some such, you’ve already got this in your library. But if you don’t, you can click on the player below to listen or download.

Oh—and, as promised in the last post, here’s a photo of my basement studio:

The laptop on the left holds my audio elements while the one on the right is my “everyday” machine that I use for recording. The Audacity file you’re looking at is the unedited, unprocessed (via Auphonic) version of this week’s show. You can see I use two mice; one is wireless and the other one isn’t. The wired one is the one that I use for the left-hand machine, because it gives me (I think) more control and that’s where I really need it.

There’s another panel of foam squares just out of frame to the left, and a third one behind me. My mic is on a boom that’s clamped to the table. And that’s my script between the computers and resting on both keyboards.

Hope you liked the tour!

Episode 21–Edwin Hawkins

Sad news from the world of music this week as we learn that Edwin Hawkins has died at the age of 74. I have to confess that this came as a surprise because I started doing the math and realized that Hawkins was in his mid-20s when “Oh Happy Day” became a hit. For whatever reason I thought he was at least twenty years older THEN.

Hawkins was the founder of the Northern California State Youth Choir, and the choir recorded some songs to make a fundraiser album, which unfortunately didn’t get pressed until after the event for which they needed the money. That event was a choral competition, and the NCSYC came in second, perhaps because “Oh Happy Day” wasn’t one of the songs they sang. As it turns out, that wasn’t one of their favorite songs!

The unexpected success of “Oh Happy Day” led to the group being asked to provide the backup singing for Melanie’s tribute to her experience at Woodstock, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers experienced some more success on the Gospel charts over the years, and lead singer Dorothy Morrison gained acclaim as a backup singer for several rock artists.

And I’m sure you know the drill by now, but if your RSS feed is failing you somehow, there’s always the player below for listening or downloading:

And please feel free to leave comments here, or leave a review on your favorite podcast software.

Episode 4: Get Together

One of several labels used for the 45 of this song. I think this was the retail version of the original release, based on what the promo label looks like.

Chester (“Chet”) Powers was a musician who was well-known in the café scenes on both coasts, and certainly had his influence on other musicians. He’s also known for being a member of the band Quicksilver Messenger Service. But for all that, he only wrote one song that was any kind of a commercial success, and that was after a virtual parade of artists had already recorded it.

This episode also features a 2-1/2 minute clip from a show called “The Life and Times of Dan Ingram”, a special program that runs for about six hours (no kidding) about one of the greatest disc jockeys of the Rock and Roll Era. It originally aired on RewoundRadio.com a little over a year ago. Thanks so much to Allan Sniffen, the heart of that website and the guy who knows pretty much everything there is to know about WABC-AM’s Musicradio days. And if you go over there, you’ll immediately recognize that this show’s title is absolutely an homage. (No, I didn’t tell Allan that until after he’d agreed to provide me with the clip. Heh.)

Coincidentally (because I’m terrible at planning ahead), I’m typing this post on Thursday evening, September 7. Today happens to be Dan Ingram’s 83rd birthday. Happy Birthday, Big Dan!

Dan Ingram at WCBS-FM.

I got to meet him back in the summer of 1984 when he was doing the Top 40 Satellite Survey for CBS Radio, and he couldn’t have been a nicer, more giving fellow, especially considering the way my 21-year-old self was sputtering my way through the interview. He had a fabulous way of putting me at my ease. Unfortunately, I no longer have the tape of that interview. (Divorce can be a suck-fest, kids.)

Here’s a link to one of Allan’s other labors of love:

Musicradio77.com is a collection of stories, photos, airchecks and other goodies for anyone who was a fan of WABC in its Musicradio heyday. Click on the music note at left to visit that site.

As usual, if you haven’t subscribed via iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, you can download the file  or just listen right here:

And of course, I wouldn’t complain too loudly if you went to iTunes and gave me a positive review. Even if that’s not your podcast catcher, every little bit helps.