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.
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.
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:
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.
What do you think? You like that picture? I PAID for that stock photo, like some kind of honest guy.
Despite this being perhaps The Hollies’ biggest hit in the US, it still managed not to make it to the Number One position on the Billboard Hot 100. It was kept out of that position by Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” for both of the weeks that it spent at #2 with a bullet. And for all that time on the charts (11 weeks altogether), that’s a pretty popular song, considering that nobody understands the words. At least, not until you’ve seen them. Then they totally make sense. Plus, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not about what you think it’s about.
Below is the link for this week’s show for your downloading and/or listening pleasure.
This week, we’ve got a super-sized episode of the show (nearly an hour!) as I sit down with Christopher McKittrick, author of Can’t Give it Away on Seventh Avenue: The Rolling Stones and New York City.
Chris and I had a fascinating chat about the band and their long-term relationship with New York. All of them, whether collectively or as individuals, spent a lot more time there than you probably suspect, and McKittrick takes us along on the journey, demonstrating how the city infused itself into their lyrics, perhaps subtly at first in albums such as Goat’s Head Soup, but certainly more overtly by the time they got to one of their best albums, Some Girls.
Christopher took the time to run down a bunch of rumors related to the Rolling Stones, some of them started (as it turns out) by the band themselves. It’s a fascinating journey for fans of both the Stones, the City, and Rock and Roll in general.
If you’re not already subscribing to the show, or if you’re a new listener (Welcome!), here’s the player/download link:
So, once again, my apologies for the lateness of this episode, and a little bit for the sound. I’m still on the road and using a different set of tools to put this thing together. I’m kinda-sorta getting the hang of it, but at this rate I’ll be doing it all summer like this.
So here’s a fun little coincidence: I’m in Florida this week because my nephew got married this weekend. I thought I’d be a little bit cute and have this week’s episode be a wedding-themed song, like “White Wedding” or “Wedding Bell Blues”, but I settled on “Chapel of Love.”
On Wednesday, my wife and I spent the day walking in and out of the little shops in Tarpon Springs, a community so Greek that Zorba himself would say, “Hey, dial it back a little, willya?” And as it happened, one of the shops, near the end of Dodecanese Blvd, in the Lighthouse Shoppes building, is a used record store. I went in, not expecting to find much good, but instead I found…
…an original 1964 copy of the Chapel of Love album.
This is a sign, says I. And I decided to push that episode back a week so I could use that album for my source audio (no turntable on the road, alas), surface noise and all.
And that’s about it. I don’t have anything else good to tell you about Carl Douglas, because I used it all in the show. Except that he’s in his late 70s now and still performing.
Yeah, I know it’s supposed to be spelled with periods, but that really screwed with the file names, so let’s all just live with it, OK?
Victor Willis was hired on to be the voice of the Village People, but like Ron Dante and The Archies, he was pretty much all there was to the band until they needed to put in some live appearances. So, like The Monkees, a casting call went out. Sure, the criteria for being in the Village People were a little different from being in The Monkees, but most of the group was cast based on their ability to dance (and, presumably, grow a moustache) rather than on their musical talent.
But as a result of this, and the fact that Willis was a writer or co-writer on most of the Village People’s biggest hits, the group has gone through some lengthy legal hassles in recent years. In 2012 he regained some control over the tracks, and in another lawsuit he stopped performance of that year’s incarnation of the band when he discovered that recordings involving him were being used to promote the show. Recently–just a few weeks ago–he announced that he was going to re-boot the group, which also includes finding new characters to play the various parts.
But enough nonsense. Listen to the show and enjoy the effect that all the pollen in Baltimore is having on my voice.
Incidentally, here is the American Bandstand clip. From everything I’ve heard about Dick Clark, I’d be willing to bet that he was the one who caught the kids’ actions and told the tech crew to capture them on camera so that he could not-so-subtly coach the group into adopting the arm letters. .
David Allan Coe is one of those figures in the music firmament who people seem to either love or hate, at least as a performer. As a songwriter, he’s remarkably talented and for awhile his work was among the most in demand on the Nashville scene.
But it was a song he didn’t even write that put him on the map as a performer. Writing credit for “You Didn’t Even Know Me By My Name” goes to John Prine and Steve Goodman, both of whom recorded it before Coe got his hands on it, though nearly everyone agrees that Coe’s version is the definitive one.
By the way, I mentioned during the show that “Take This Job and Shove It” was another Country song that had a wry sense of humor and had a connection to this one. That connection is Coe, who wrote “Take This Job”.
This week’s episode is below. Enjoy it as you will. And please remember to share the show with someone if you’re enjoying it.
Come with me on the Billy Joel Tour of Long Island!
This week we’re looking at Billy Joel’s longest studio track, from his breakout album The Stranger. Joel was inspired by the last half of Side Two of the Abbey Road album, which also involved several shorter songs stitched together into a longer suite. And, as matters would have it, it’s the last half of Side One of The Stranger. Coincidence? Yeah, probably.
The song mentions several places on Long Island that are pretty easy to identify. But the big to-do about this song concerns the location of that restaurant. Billy Joel gave shout-outs to a lot of people and places on Long Island, so what restaurant was he talking about? That’s one of the mysteries we try to answer this week.
David Bowie had already released ten albums by 1976, and he was starting to feel the effects of burnout and a heavy cocaine habit. So where did he go to escape his drug habit? To the world’s Heroin capital, of course: Berlin!
Fortunately for Bowie and ultimately his fans, Heroin wasn’t really his thing, and he not only managed to get healthy, but he also managed to find some creative juice in that city. He wrote, or co-wrote, material for three albums, although only the second one was recorded mostly in Berlin. Those albums today are called the Berlin Trio, or sometimes the Berlin Triptych. They didn’t get a ton of love at the time, largely because Bowie was Bowie and he was streets ahead of everyone else. But “Heroes,” the title track from the second album, grew in stature and in its level of meaning for fans everywhere.
OK, so I promised you a few videos during the show. The first one is his first time performing the song on TV, on the Marc Bolan show. The instrumentation is clearly different but I think he’s singing live-to-track:
The second video is the warm-up to the third. If you’ve seen this one, you can just skip down to the next one. But a lot of people have heard the song without seeing the nearly two minutes of awkwardness that preceded it:
It was for that holiday special that Bowie produced this video, which also appears to be a live-to-track recording, with some extra echo and those extra fun pantomime moves.
But while all that’s fun, it’s probably not what you came looking for. This is probably what you came looking for: