Episode 82–Under the Covers 4

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

It’s been a long time since I did a show like this one, and the timing probably couldn’t have been worse.

As I note during the show, I’m on the road for the next several days, so I’ve got a condensed version of my usual recording setup. I can get the job done, but the recording and the editing process are very, very different from what I usually do. Typically after I write the episode I edit all my sound elements and then load them all into a piece of software that keeps them organized until I need them. Then I crack the mic open and play the elements as they’re needed. If I make a huge mistake, I have to find a point where editing won’t show. Because there’s usually background sound going on, I sometimes have to backtrack a lot. But generally it takes me 30-40 minutes to record a 15 minute show. Do a little editing and boom, it’s ready for processing and uploading.

This time around, it’s a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of my recorded voice, plus all the other elements patched in. Plus I have to control audio levels through software rather than through my mixing board, so it’s a whole other kind of thing. And maybe it’s me but recording this way kind of saps some of my vocal energy out of the project.

So after nearly a year, we return to the Well of Cover Songs, wherein we look at songs that you may not realize are covers of another artist’s work. And in my opinion, in each of these cases, the cover is the superior version. That’s not something you can always say (and I cite a specific example during the show).

At any rate, after a few hours of overtime, here’s Episode 82.

Episode 64–One Bad Apple

Click here for a transcript of the show.

The Osmond Brothers got their real start in show business when they couldn’t get an audition for one television show, and they wound up on another.

Check out the audience reaction to them at first. It cracks me up every time.

This clip, incidentally, is from the show Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, which most people seem to remember as The Wonderful World of Disney. Shoot, I was watching the show as a small kid (right after Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom), and remember it under the second title, which wasn’t a thing until 1969. This episode was called “Disneyland After Dark”, and the conceit behind it was that Walt Disney himself would start to introduce the different performers on the show, but he’d never see the acts himself because tourists kept interrupting him. The show, as it originally aired on NBC, was available on DVD for awhile, but appears not to be available now.

This would be later in the group’s career with Andy Williams, since Donny is part of the group now.

The Disney gig led them to another show (The Andy Williams Show), and another. And finally, when they wanted to break out of their Variety TV Group image, they convinced their dad to let them record as a rock and roll band. So off they went to Alabama, as you do, and they put together an album that clearly had a Motown/R&B influence on it.

It wasn’t their first album; in fact it was their SEVENTH. But it’s the one that broke big for them.

The addition of Donny Osmond to the act, and the use of him in exactly the way Motown was using Michael Jackson at the same time, allowed the Osmonds to release their first hit single, and their first Number One record.

What’s the secret to the song’s success? There’s a theory, and it involves fast food.


As usual, here’s the show for those of you who don’t dig podcatchers. And please share the show with someone you love.

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:

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Episode 20–Mercedes Benz

Neil Young sang “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away,” but Damn, Janis, couldn’t you have burned with us just a little bit longer?

Janis Joplin was a ball of raw talent who took a rough childhood and let it inform her musical style. And that almost certainly carried through to the listener. When she sounded sad, so did you. When she was feeling silly, it immediately conveyed. And when she sang in an anguished style, you were right there with her.

What’s more, her band members, whether it was Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Kozmic Blues Band, or the Full Tilt Boogie Band, really knocked themselves out to support her sound. Listen especially hard to the Pearl album, where a lot of the instrumentals were recorded over a ten-day span shortly after Joplin died.

But Joplin’s last recorded album track wasn’t even necessarily meant to be on the album. It was a piece that started out as an a capella goof during a technical breakdown while recording, and the producer decided that it needed to be on the album. What’s more, it needed to remain as-is, without any instrumentation.

I don’t know if her friends drove Porsches, but Janis certainly did. She bought the 1964 vehicle in 1968 for $3500 and used it as her day-to-day vehicle. The car now resides in Gull Lake, MI.

“Mercedes Benz” was based on a piece by Beat poet Michael McClure, and it was a comment on the futility of social climbing by gathering material goods. It was an interesting time for rock musicians, because they were starting to get recognition AND the money that comes with fame, and in a lot of cases they purchased expensive stuff such as cars and big houses even as they decried them in their songs. Despite this somewhat mixed message, the car company took the tone-deaf step of using it in one of their ads.

Next week: more surprise cover songs! I keep finding these things. And one in particular was a huge surprise for me.

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