120–The career of Paul Pena

Hi, gang. I’m recording in the Southern Studio this week (and next week) so apologies for audio issues. It’s a lot harder to do what I do when I’m using different equipment to do it. Case in point: what you’re getting here is actually the SECOND recording of the show.

You see, when I record the show, everything typically saves to a home server that I have. Unfortunately, when I saved the narration file (the part where I do all the speaking), not only did my recording software crash, my entire computer died. Blue Screen of Death and everything. And unfortunately my work couldn’t be saved, so I had to record it all over again. Not TOO frustrating when it’s already after 11:00 PM.

So now it’s going on 3AM and I’m pretty cranky because it’s all recorded and I’m writing this while waiting for Auphonic to finish processing the file. However: I think I’ve put together a decent story for you to listen to, about the guy whose recording career was jacked up by a clash of egos, but who still managed to do a lot because one of his unreleased songs got into the hands of Steve Miller.

Thanks again to Larry Glickman for suggesting this episode; I went down a bit of a rabbit hole of research but it was definitely worth it to hear some new (old) material.

I should also note a correction to a goof I made in the body of the show: I mentioned that Pena appeared at a festival in 1999; upon listening back I caught the mistake right away but I’d already taken my recording equipment apart (another hardship of the Southern Studio is that there’s no studio). He actually appeared in 1995.

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Click here for a transcript of this episode.

116–Mister Blue Sky

Out of the Blue was an honest-to-god masterpiece of an album, and probably the pinnacle of the Electric Light Orchestra’s use of the classical music instruments in rock and roll songs. And the centerpiece of this album was almost certainly Side Three.

The four songs that comprised that side of the album were collectively known as the Concerto for a Rainy Day, meant to evoke the emotional responses that we have to the weather. And when the sun emerges after a storm, and it’s just plain glorious outside, that’s the feeling that “Mister Blue Sky” manages to convey so masterfully. As Jeff Lynne himself said in the 2018 book Wembley or Bust:

The lyrics to ‘Mr. Blue Sky’ are simple and easy to visualize. When the song is playing, you can picture everything that’s going on and everybody knows what I’m talking about. It’s the thought of, ‘Oh, isn’t it nice when the sun comes out?’ And you know, it really is. ‘The sky is blue, wow, what a thing.’ It’s a simple kid’s story.”

A couple of housekeeping notes on this episode:

First, I screwed up some of the geography involved with Lynne’s writing of the album. The cabin was in Geneva, not Munich. However, he did record the rainstorm in Munich. Anyway, please forgive the error.

Second, I need to give credit to Soundjay.com for that needle-drop sound effect I used right before “Sweet is the Night.”

Third, some parts of this episode were a nightmare to record, so I’m sure my family is wondering why they heard me saying the same things over and over again. (This may also account for my geography error, too, but I should have caught that before committing the episode.)

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

112–Rhiannon

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Or, The Episode Where I Can’t Speak Welsh.

There’s an old Doonesbury strip (Aug 1977) where rock star Jimmy Thudpucker is sitting on Bob Dylan’s porch, chatting with Dylan (who appears as a disembodied voice coming from inside the house), and they’re discussing the fact that then-President Jimmy Carter has just called him, looking for a quote to use during his next presidential chat with the public. Apparently the President thinks very highly of Dylan, who doesn’t necessarily agree with this assessment:

DOUG ROCKS RECORDS - LEGEND

And there’s a little bit of this with the Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon”: Nicks saw the name in a book and was taken with it, so she began to write a song centered around the image that the name presented to her. In fact, she began a series of songs about the Rhiannon that she had in her head.

Later on, she discovered that Rhiannon was a Welsh goddess whose attributes dovetailed rather nicely with the character she’d envisioned in her head. So when the song became a hit, she began to attribute the song as being about “a Welsh witch” (I can barely type that–no wonder I had trouble saying it). But the fact is, she knew nothing about the Welsh mythology when she first wrote the song.

That doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the song, but it does, at least a little bit, suck away some of the mystique that Nicks attached to it during the live performance, methinks.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Don’t forget to leave a review on Podchaser so they’ll send some money to Wheels on Meals America through the #Reviews4Good program.

111–Werewolves of London

Warren Zevon was a talented musician and songwriter who had a lot of friends in the business, but didn’t have the commercial success that his contemporaries had.

One day in 1975 he, along with guitarists Waddy Wachtell and LeRoy Marinell, are just goofing around with their guitars when someone asks them what they’re playing. Zevon, referring back to a joke he’d recently heard, told that person that they were writing “Werewolves of London”. The joke actually started to take shape, but was quickly abandoned.

That is, until other artists picked it up. According to Wachtel, it was one of the toughest recordings he’d ever done, but the appeal of the finished product—to practically everyone but Zevon—was undeniable. It became Zevon’s highest-charting single, and even at that, it wasn’t the monster (heh) hit people remember it being.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 108–Books on Vinyl

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.

As promised here are links to the stories I talked about during the show.

This is the link to “The Sound-Sweep.” It’s a little on the long side, but I think you’ll like it.

This is Ray Bradbury’s “Rocket Man.” I think it was scanned into someone’s computer because there are some weird typos.

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 96–Deacon Blues

Aja, by Steely Dan, was one of the first albums I purchased with my own money. It wasn’t that I was so enamored by Steely Dan; I’d just heard a lot of good stuff about it so I took a chance.

And while fourteen-year-old me heard a ton of good stuff in it, doing a re-listen these many years later has only cemented this album in my Top Ten of all time. (Small wonder that so many others agree with me on that one.)

Aja was released to rather mixed reviews, but over a relatively small amount of time, many of the critics who didn’t like it at first were won over. It just took a second or third listen to appreciate that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were doing something genuinely new, fusing multiple genres into a cohesive whole.

As I strongly suggested during the show, go back and listen to this album with headphones. You’ll be amazed at the intimacy of every element on it.

You’re welcome.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 95–Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen was a local favorite and a darling of the critics, but that sort of thing doesn’t cut any ice when you’re Columbia Records and your artist has already released two albums without scoring any hits.

But Springsteen had an epiphany about what his next album should sound like, from both a lyrical and a sonic sense, and it was the start of his reputation as a serious perfectionist when it came to his recordings. The result was the album Born to Run, and its title track, which were both released on the same day: August 25, 1975.

The album went to Number 3 and just a couple of weeks later, Springsteen made a kind of history by being the first rock star to land on the cover of both Time and Newsweek Magazines during the same week, on October 27. According to biographer Peter Ames Carlin, that wasn’t a coincidence: Jay Cocks of Time found out that Maureen Orth of Newsweek was doing a piece about Springsteen and convinced his editor to run a piece as well. Time’s piece was all about his music, though, while Newsweek concentrated on the publicity machine that put someone like Springsteen on the map.

Image result for springsteen time newsweek -site:pinterest.com

I, being only 12 years old at the time, remember seeing the covers but didn’t read either magazine because we didn’t have a subscription. But a pretty big deal was made about it in the newspapers and on TV at the time, so I have a memory of that too.

And as promised, here’s the video of the Springsteen pastiche that appeared on Sesame Street:

Next week’s show was inspired by a suggestion from a listener. In the meantime, have fun with this week’s show:

Click here for a transcript of this show.

Episode 93–Vehicle

This week’s show was suggested by someone in the Listener Survey, so thank you, Kind Stranger, for making that suggestion. Maybe next time I do this sort of thing, I leave an optional space for putting your names in.

So the car in the episode artwork isn’t THE vehicle in question, but it’s the same make and model, and (I think) year. There are some stories that say it was a 1964 others that say it was a 1965. Both stories came from the Ides of March lead singer and songwriter Jim Peterik, so I went with a ’65 and called it done.

The Ides of March, incidentally, got their name from the play Julius Caesar, by William Shakespeare. They were originally the “Shon-Dels,” but Tommy James got there first, with a name that was close enough not to matter. Bass player Bob Bergland suggested the name change after reading the play, because they were still in high school and he’d read it as an English class assignment. They’d already gained some local acclaim with a song called “You Wouldn’t Listen,” which went Top 10 on the WLS surveys in June 1966 and made it to #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. See? You thought the Ides were a one-hit wonder, didn’t you.

At any rate, here’s Episode 93. Have fun with it!

Click here for a transcript of this show.