This is the first of TWO episodes I’ll be publishing this week. You’re getting this one now, and another one sometime tomorrow, because I felt badly about taking my time with Episode 99.
As I mentioned during the show, the Phil Spector-produced Christmas album went through several re-issues and name changes between its release in 1963 and the early 1980s, including an unfortunate period when the album was remastered into manufactured stereo. In those days, that often meant that the higher-end sounds went to one channel and the lower-end stuff went to the other. It was a mess and really added nothing to the product overall.
At any rate, it was around the same time in the 1980s that a bunch of different events came together and allowed the song to finally break out. One was the reissue of the album on Rhino Records, in its original mono mixes. The second was Darlene Love’s appearance in a Broadway show, which led directly to her string of performances on David Letterman’s show on both NBC and CBS, and finally we have the cover version by U2 the following year. All of these things made for a resurgence in both the popularity of the song, and in Darlene Love’s career.
Stay tuned! Very soon we’ll take a look at a Nirvana song, by listener request!
First off, my apologies for the delay in this post. It appears that GoDaddy likes to do scheduled maintenance on Sunday nights, so I’ve been getting blocked out of the site on my end lately. At your end everything looks fine, but I can’t create new posts or transcripts or anything, really.
This week comes to us by request of Innkeeper Freddie, about whom I’ve gushed a little too much already. There are links to his show in the Episode 98 post below. He asked me to do this the day I met him, and who am I to disappoint.
“Purple Rain” the song was one of the last written for the movie, and it only became the title of the movie once the director managed to impress upon Prince how important it was to the scene he envisioned. Once he got a handle on that, Prince then asked him if the movie could also be titled Purple Rain. Given that hardly anyone expected anything to come of the film, the production company didn’t have a problem with it.
The extraordinary thing about the Purple Rain soundtrack is that three of the songs—including the title track—were recordings made of the first time the band ever played them for an audience, at the First Avenue Club in Minneapolis. The other two songs needed a bunch of post-production reworking, but “Purple Rain” only needed to be cut for length and not much else.
It’s unfortunate that, because of the Me Too movement, the film hasn’t really aged well (women are treated pretty poorly), which is a bit of a shame because, considering that it was a first-time director working with an entire cast that had never been in a film before, it’s not that bad. Also, as it turns out, Prince was a bit of a natural in the sense that the concert scenes were shot in about one-fourth of the typical time, partially because he didn’t want to do a million takes of every song, so the director set up multiple cameras and each song was performed three times, tops. And, as the story goes, Prince hit his marks exactly each time, making the editing much easier later on.
For those of you who listen or download here, enjoy this bounty:
The Grateful Dead were definitely a rock band, and at the same time they managed to defy most definitions with regard to their specific genre. Sometimes they were funky, sometimes they were bluesy, sometimes they were jazzy, sometimes even gospel. Usually they were jamming, and rather than discouraging fans from recording their concerts, they encouraged it, often even giving them opportunities to plug recorders into their own equipment. Going to a Dead concert was a weird, beautiful, communal experience, and I think the closest equivalent in the absence of Jerry Garcia and Company would be…I don’t know, maybe Phish? The one time I went to a Phish show was in 1999 at what was then the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Now the PNC Bank P.A.C.), and it was a very similar vibe, right down to the joint being passed down the row from god knows where.
They started out as The Warlocks in 1965 but changed their name after they discovered that The Velvet Underground had already released an album with that title. Stories vary with regard to how they came up with the new name: Phil Lesh says that he found it in a Britannica World Language Dictionary; Garcia’s story is that he found it in an old dictionary of folklore. At any rate, the name stuck and the concerts became known as special events to be experienced.
But while they were enormously popular, their records didn’t exactly burn up the charts. While it took them a few years to crack the Hot 100, it was over 22 years before they saw their one and only Top Ten record. And coincidentally, that’s the one we’re talking about in this episode.
UPDATE: Somewhere in the production process, the beginning of the show was truncated. I’ve replaced the episode and all should be well now. Apologies to anyone who was confused by the show beginning with me, mid-sentence.
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.
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So about a million years ago, back in Episode 8 (“Like a Rolling Stone”), I spent a bunch of time during that show talking about the snare shot that opened the song, and how it was practically the Shot Heard Round The World and how it Changed Everything on the rock and roll landscape.
I still believe that, and that particular episode of the podcast remains one of my favorites (if you do nothing else, follow the link to the interactive video and have a blast).
But as it turns out, this past weekend I came across a quotation from Bruce Springsteen that underlines and validates everything I said, and maybe a little more poetically, because, you know, Bruce Springsteen can be a brilliant lyricist and I’m just some guy spouting off. Springsteen was the person who inducted Bob Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and this was part of his speech:
The first time that I heard Bob Dylan, I was in the car with my mother, and we were listening to, I think, WMCA, and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody kicked open the door to your mind, from “Like a Rolling Stone.” And my mother, who was no stiff with rock & roll, she said, “That guy can’t sing.” But I knew she was wrong. I sat there, I didn’t say nothin’, but I knew that I was listening to the toughest voice that I had ever heard. It was lean, and it sounded somehow simultaneously young and adult, and I ran out and I bought the single. I played it, then I went out and I got Highway 61, and it was all I played for weeks. Bob’s voice somehow thrilled and scared me. It made me feel kind of irresponsibly innocent. And it still does. But it reached down and touched what little worldliness a 15-year-old kid in New Jersey had in him at the time.
See? Bruce Springsteen agrees with me, so I can’t be wrong.
In 1981 Bonnie Tyler had exactly one hit, 1977’s “It’s a Heartache”, so it was no mystery why people were calling her a one-hit wonder. Her record label cut her loose, so she found a new manager and talked Jim Steinman, the guy responsible for Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, into partnering with her for a new album. Steinman wasn’t easily convinced, but ultimately he came to her with a couple of older songs that he thought she could record, and when she agreed to those, he came to her with a nearly complete package: here’s the song, here’s who else is going to be performing on it, you just need to come in and sing your little heart out.
That doesn’t match with the popular narrative, that “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was originally written for Meat Loaf as part of his follow-up album to Bat Out of Hell, but it turns out that the guy responsible for that popular narrative about Meat Loaf was…Meat Loaf. But the story caught on, because if you listen to “Eclipse,” you could easily imagine its huge levels of production as being Meat Loaf-esque. But “Eclipse” wasn’t written for him, nor was the other song (a hit for Air Supply) to which he laid the same claim.
I was about 15 when I saw Devo performing on Saturday Night Live that October night in 1978. They performed “Jocko Homo”, which gave newcomers (like me) a little bit of an introduction to themselves with that lyric “Are we not men?/We are Devo”.
A friend of mine had already turned me on to Gary Numan a few months earlier, and this felt like the logical next step. And as I sat there in the darkened room (’cause I wasn’t supposed to be up), bathing in the glow from the TV, I was struck in much the same way I was a couple of years later when the B-52s appeared on the same show. “This is SO WEIRD,” I said to myself. “And it’s SO COOL.”
Mark Mothersbaugh jumping back and forth between the microphone and the keyboards, and when the band took off the yellow jumpsuits, and Mothersbaugh had trouble removing his because even though the pants were breakaway, he couldn’t remove the sleeves for some reason, and the whole thing told me that stuff was changing. Music is changing. Maybe even culture is changing. And then they played their cover of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and at first I admit I was a little put off, but I relaxed into it and even by the time that was over I was all, “yeah, this is cool.” And then it turned out that Jagger really liked it too.
Here’s a link to that performance on Tumblr. Who knows how long it’ll last.
Good stuff. Good memories.
Oh, here’s the cover they did for the Gateway commercial. It’s so stupid that you have to love it. I think this is from 2002:
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Apologies for the delay; I’m powering through a wicked chest cold, and then my podcasting host was giving me the blues about the audio file, so I eventually had to upload in a different format. I do hope this doesn’t affect your listening experience. Please let me know if it does!
Tears For Fears–specifically founders Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal–had been kicking around the music scene in the UK for a couple of years, and even had a pretty popular album over there before most people in the United States had even heard of them. (Which reminds me: yes, the story I tell about meeting Curt Smith is true. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was doing Seeds of Love publicity stuff solo because he and Orzabal had temporarily broken up the band.)
Even when it came time for the band to release a single in the United States, the label interceded and suggested that while “Shout” was a perfectly good song, it wouldn’t make for a very good debut song. They turned out to be right, and “Shout” was saved for later on, a move that turned the Songs from the Big Chair album, and Tears for Fears, into a huge success.
There’s more to the story, of course, but why waste it here when you can put it in your head? Either your podcatcher has it, or you’re gonna listen to/download it from here:
No episode next week; I’m taking a planned break. In two weeks, we’ll dig on some early Linda Ronstadt.
And of course, comments, tweets, FB notes, Instas–whatever. I love hearing from you!
In the late 1970s, Pink Floyd had come up with a trio of very solid albums, one of which still hadn’t left the Billboard Top 200 since its release in 1973. And between that, the growing popularity of Pink Floyd as the musical basis for laser shows, and a lot of Album-Oriented Rock airplay, the band was becoming popular enough that their audiences were getting to the point of their being able to fill very large arenas such as stadiums.
This posed a problem for the band, as they thought that A) people weren’t coming to the shows for the “right” reasons, which led to B) they were feeling a growing separation from their audiences. After an unfortunate incident (fortunately on the last night of their Animals tour), the band took some planned time off to recharge, and Roger Waters took the opportunity to put together some songs that drew upon the bad experiences they were having, plus an offhand comment he made to producer Bob Ezrin and his friend, who turned out to be a psychiatrist. He came up with two separate concepts, which he presented to the other band members a year later: one eventually became his solo album The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking; the other became The Wall.
The Wall was likely to just become another pretty good Pink Floyd album, even if it was a double album, but some financial setbacks for the band meant that David Gilmour was temporarily unable to do as much as he ordinarily would, and so Roger Waters brought in Bob Ezrin to help. Ezrin, uncredited at the time, helped Waters and Gilmour really beat the overall concept into a cohesive shape, and he made a couple of tweaks to one song that, despite the band’s initial reservations, ultimately made the song catchier while still retaining its original Pink Floyd-iness. That song became the centerpiece of the album and the band’s only Number One song, but what a monster Number One it was, topping the charts in nations around the world.
Pink Floyd was going through so much stress that they actually broke up after a fashion; most of them stayed together but their keyboardist, Richard Wright, quit before the album was finished (or he was fired, depending on whom you ask). He was hired as a session musician for the tour, so nobody really knew that the band had fractured so badly. But it was the beginning of the end for Pink Floyd as so many people think of them. Their next album was a rehash of older material, and the one after that (The Final Cut) was leftovers from The Wall repurposed into an anti-war screed related to Britain’s conflict in the Falkland Islands. Wright was long gone by then, and Gilmour didn’t like the direction the album had taken, and that was pretty much it for them.
So while it may have seemed as though The Wall was the impetus for the band’s breakup, in fact it was a masterpiece despite the fact that things were going so badly for its members…much like another British band that released a double album with a white cover. Hm, I just thought of that!
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