Posted in 1970s, 1971, 1980s, 1985

Episode 40–Murray Head

Murray Head is one of those guys whose name you may or may not know, but you’re certainly familiar with some of his work.

In 1970 he worked on a concept album with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The first single from that album was written and recorded before the entire rest of the album, and it was released by the record company to gauge interest in the idea of an entire album built around that idea. The song did poorly in the US, at least at first, but international sales were enough that MCA Records gave the go-ahead to the rest of the album. And that’s how the original double album Jesus Christ Superstar came to be.

Fast-forward several years and Tim Rice again taps Murray Head to help him with a concept album, one that uses the chess rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union (no, literally: which country had the best chess players was a big deal in the 1970s and 80s) as a thinly-veiled metaphor for the Cold War. And once again, the success of the album leads to the production of a stage musical, called Chess.

And these two successes put Murray Head in an interesting place in the record books.

Podomatic has been having some headaches with the RSS feeds lately because they’ve been switching to more secure feeds, but they swear that all is well and you should have this show in your podcatcher already. And if you don’t, then feel free to listen to it or download it from the player below:

And, of course, your feedback is always welcome. Reviews in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts from do help boost the show’s profile overall.

Posted in 1950s, 1958, 1970s, 1971

Episode 29–Rockin’ Robin

It was originally spelled “Rock-In Robin,” which is a distinction that’s too tedious to elucidate verbally, and it was Bobby Day’s biggest hit. But while Bobby was known for his songwriting, he didn’t write this one.

It was written by songwriter and record executive Leon René, and for some reason he let the song lapse into the public domain, so I guess he wasn’t such a hot executive. Anyway, that means if you want to cut your own record, or maybe record a version for background music to enhance a project you’re doing, have at it! Change the words? No problem! You don’t need anyone’s permission! The caveat, however, is that you have to come up with your own recording. Use an existing one, and you’re almost certainly infringing on a copyright.

If your favorite podcast catcher hasn’t found this week’s episode yet, there’s always the player below, from which you can listen or download for your future listening pleasure.

And, as usual, leaving a rating in your favorite software is always appreciated. Which reminds me: I didn’t realize that the show wasn’t available via Spotify; that should be fixed within  the next couple of days.

Posted in 1970s, 1971

Episode 26–Stairway to Heaven

In 1970, Led Zeppelin band members Robert Plant and Jimmy Page wanted a new song to use as the centerpiece of their concerts. so they retreated to a cottage in Wales, as you do in these situations. And when they emerged, they had the genesis of the song that’s made so many “Best of…” lists, it’s actually created some backlash over the years, including from Robert Plant himself.

Despite being a single album, Led Zeppelin IV was originally packaged in a gatefold design, as though it was a double album. If you opened it out, this was the outside cover. That picture in the frame on the right is an oil painting!

The song proved so popular when the Album-Oriented Rock stations played it that people immediately asked, “Where can I buy this single?” And the answer was, You can’t. Go buy the album.

 

 

The inner gatefold; the only time their lyrics were printed anywhere on their albums.

The album was Led Zeppelin IV (or, just “the fourth album”, or Zoso if you like reading too deeply into things), and the song was “Stairway to Heaven” (because, duh). And while “Stairway” was never released to the public as a 45 single, the album sold like hotcakes, becoming one of the top ten selling albums of all time.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t a 45RPM record, however: a promotional copy was sent to radio stations (see below–note the small spindle hole), and a jukebox copy was created for play in those machines.

I’m sure you know the drill by now: If you have iTunes or some other podcatcher, you already have this one in your library. For downloading or listening while you’re doing other stuff, you can click on the player below.

And, naturally, every little bit of feedback helps!

Posted in 1970s, 1971, Reverb

Back it Up A Little

Image result for harrison my sweet lordThis week the podcast visited a chunk of George Harrison’s life, specifically the aftermath of the copyright infringement lawsuit surrounding “My Sweet Lord” and the tune inspired by the suit, titled “This Song”.

With regard to “My Sweet Lord,” someone commented, “I always did like the black gospel singers singing “Hare Krishna”. Most of them probably had no idea what they were saying.” And he’s at least partially right. If listeners weren’t listening too closely, they may not have realized that the backup singers were singing “Hare Krishna”, in part because for the first couple of verses, they sing “Hallelujah”. It’s certainly possible that they stopped listening too closely after that point.

After the song’s bridge, the backups stop singing “Hallelujah” as a response to each line, instead moving on to the first part of the Hare Krishna mantra:

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama

According to his autobiography I Me Mine, it was always George’s intention to have the voices singing “Hare Krishna” in alternation with “Hallelujah,” largely to demonstrate that they mean more or less the same thing. They do, in fact, return to “Hallelujah” a couple of times before switching to a Vedic prayer (I’ve replaced a few letters containing diacritical marks with typical Roman letters, to make it a little easier to read here):

Gurur Brahmā, gurur Visnur,
gurur devo Maheśvarah,
gurus sāksāt, param Brahma
tasmai śrī gurave namah.

Which, according to Joshua Greene, translates as:

I offer homage to my guru, who is as great as the creator Brahma, the maintainer Vishnu, the destroyer Shiva, and who is the very energy of God.

It’s one of fourteen verses of a hymn praising Hindu teachers.

But there’s another element to the backup singers that you may find surprising: it’s not a Gospel group singing. Now, on the Billy Preston version, it’s absolutely a Gospel group. As I noted on the podcast, those are the Edwin Hawkins Singers, who had a hit of their own with “Oh Happy Day”, and had also just been noted for singing backup for Melanie on her breakout hit “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” So who’s providing the backup voices for “My Sweet Lord”?

They’re all George Harrison, hence the credit on the album sleeve to “the George O’Hara-Smith Singers”!