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.

Episode 39–Under the Boardwalk

Before I start this week’s windup, let me point you to a different podcast for a moment. The guys at the TMDR Podcast describe their show as being simultaneously about nothing and about everything, but they keep the shows confined to a couple of topics. I’ve been listening in on their discussions of the HBO series Westworld, and just this week they did a show where they spent some time reviewing several different podcasts, How Good It Is being among the shows they reviewed.

I have to say, I was blown away by the level of praise they gave to the show, and I just wanted to thank them yet again, and offer up this link (click on their logo at right). Go check them out; I think you’ll have some fun.

Back in the mid-1980s I went to a Fourth of July event on Long Island. Among the pre-fireworks entertainment was music provided by The Drifters. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there were LOTS of ex-Drifters simply, er, drifting about, and many of them had gotten together and were touring as The Drifters. What’s more, all of these groups could legally do so in many places around the country.

As it happened, I was young and naive, and kinda-sorta listening to their lead singer and the way he was singing staccato style, because he was older and couldn’t hold his notes for any appreciable length of time.

So did I see The Drifters or did I see “The Drifters”? There’s an element of “both” in my eyes, because there were so many people paid to be one of The Drifters that this group could easily be made up of former members. But that didn’t mean I was watching Ben E. King or Clyde McPhatter.

“Under the Boardwalk” was recorded the day after their lead singer Rudy Lewis died. They recruited a former member from several years ago, and before long a new version of the group had cranked out their second-biggest hit.

As usual, your podcatcher software should already have this, but if it doesn’t, you can always play it back right here:

Or, if you’re so inclined, you can go directly to the Podomatic site and download it on your own. And please leave a review wherever you get your shows from, it really helps drive traffic. Thanks!

Episode 37–Walk This Way

Before I do anything else, let me give a shout-out to a friend of the podcast, and one of its first fans who wasn’t related to me. Connie Paulson provided the artwork that you see in this post. You can see more of her stuff if you hook up with the show’s Facebook page.

 

In 1975 Aerosmith was pretty much just another rock band with a modest hit, but when they got writer’s block, a trip to a Mel Brooks movie inspired them to come up with a title, and then Steven Tyler wrote the lyrics over the next day or so–twice, as the story goes. The song was a hit, and ten years later, it was a hit again when Aerosmith teamed up with rap act Run-DMC to cover the song. Check out the video; it’s fun, it’s very creative, and you barely notice that most of the band is missing:

Your favorite podcatcher should have the show by now, but feel free to play it right here, if you’re so inclined. Or, if you prefer to download the episode on your own, follow this link.

And remember: you can also listen to the show via iHeartRadio, Google Play Music and TuneIn.com, which means you can also play it through your Amazon Alexa! (“Alexa, play How Good It Is on Tune In Dot Com.”)

Episode 34–Thompson Twins

As a group, the Thompson Twins went through several permutations of their lineup, with the band’s membership count as high as seven in 1981. But before long they’d pared themselves down to a trio, and did terrible things to their hair, as so many of us did in the 1980s. Except me, but I’ve never been one of the cool kids, so.

 This week we’re taking a look at those early incarnations of one of the bands that helped define the Second British Invasion, and helped bring New Wave music from its post-Punk roots into the Pop mainstream. And that’s about the most Rolling Stone thing I’ve written.

I don’t know where you’ve been getting the show from, but the show is now available on iHeartRadio! You can see the whole thing here. So if that’s your thing, now you have a link to me there as well. Oddly enough, though, iHeartRadio is representing all of the shows’ lengths in seconds as minutes. So this 11:14 show is listed as being 679 minutes. Weird, and I hope that this gets straightened out in a bit.

If you’re using Podcast Republic, or iTunes or something else, you should already have the show in your podcatcher. If you prefer to listen online or to download the episode, you can do that here:

 

And yes, I know I mis-pronounce “bass” early in the show. I gotta stop recording after midnight.

Episode 27–Bette Davis Eyes

Kim Carnes started writing songs at the age of four, and was a member of the New Christy Minstrels for a little while, before she got a publishing deal with Jimmy Bowen in 1969. A couple of years after that she released her first solo album, but it wasn’t until 1980, when she re-connected with another former New Christy Minstrel, Kenny Rogers, to sing “Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer”. Later that year she covered Smokey Robinson’s “More Love” and between those two tracks, Kim Carnes was “suddenly” a famous musician.

The picture sleeve for the 45, which is the same as the album’s cover, except for the banner across the top.

The following year, Carnes’ album Mistaken Identity was released, and the leadoff single, “Bette Davis Eyes” took over the first half of the Summer of 1981, after which Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” picked up and finished off the next ten weeks. Even Bette Davis herself was happy enough with the song that she wrote letters to Kim Carnes and songwriters Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss, thanking them for making her a “part of modern times. ” And when the song won two Grammy awards, Davis sent them all flowers to celebrate.

As usual, if you don’t have a podcatcher, or you can just listen/download by clicking on the player below:

 

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Feedback is always fun.

Episode 15–Thriller

It was the biggest album of 1982, and the title track was the last Top Ten single to come from it. That’s seven singles out of nine tracks total.

Michael Jackson wanted to top not only the success, but the ambition of his previous album, Off The Wall, and I think we can all agree that he more than succeeded. Thriller remains the largest-selling album of all time.

What! you say, bigger than Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Bigger than Dark Side of the Moon? Bigger than Bat Out of Hell? Yes, indeed. As of this week, the top 15 all-time sellers are:

Artist

Album Title Year

Sales (in millions)

Michael Jackson Thriller

1982

66

AC/DC Back in Black

1980

50

Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon

1973

45

Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell

1977

43

Whitney Houston / Various artists The Bodyguard Soundtrack

1992

42

Eagles Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)

1976

42

Bee Gees / Various artists Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack

1977

40

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

1977

40

Shania Twain Come On Over

1997

39

Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin IV

1971

37

Michael Jackson Bad

1987

35

Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill

1995

33

Celine Dion Falling into You

1996

32

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

1967

32

Michael Jackson Dangerous

1991

32

That’s THREE albums Jackson has in the all-time Top 15, and Off the Wall isn’t even one of them. (It’s way down the list, a spot or two below HIStory.)

This was one of the pictures originally considered for the album’s cover, which is why they used it for the Special Edition.

Anyway. Today we’re looking at the title track, a song that started as “Starlight” and ended with Quincy Jones’ wife recruiting Vincent Price to do a little white-boy rap.

Per our Standard Operating Procedure, if you’ve got a favorite podcatcher, you should be able to hear this week’s show already, or you can just click the player below:

And, as usual, if you were to go to iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts and leave a rating, and maybe even some feedback, well, that’d be nice too.

Episode 14: Six Feet From Stardom

Mick Jagger, as it turns out, became Carly Simon’s backup singer on “You’re So Vain” because he just happened to pop into the studio the day of recording. The bad news is, that put him on the list of candidates that people think Simon’s singing about.

Before they were famous, lots of artists sang backup for other artists. But once in awhile, they’ll lend their talent to someone else because it’s fun, or because they owe someone a favor or maybe just because they were asked to.

This week, we’re going to listen in on a bunch of songs that have famous people singing backups. Some of them are pretty well known; others may come as a surprise to you.

Per our Standard Operating Procedure, if you’ve got a favorite podcatcher, you should be able to hear this week’s show already, or you can just click the player below to listen/download it right here:

And, as usual, if you were to go to iTunes or wherever you find your podcasts and leave a rating, and maybe even some feedback, I’d be quite the happy camper.

Episode 5: In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins

Wait, Phil Collins did what?

He drowned a guy? Uh…no.

He humiliated a coward? No.

He shamed someone from his childhood? Also, no.

Many stories swirl around the meaning of Phil Collins’ breakout hit from 1981, and so many of them aren’t true. Collins was in a world of hurt following the breakup of his first marriage, and he channeled a lot of that energy into writing the Face Value album. This week I go into that a little bit (but only a little bit; it gets kind of tawdry), plus I talk about the sound that makes him instantly recognizable on so many records in the 1980s. And it’s a sound that’s making its way back into popular music these days.

Phil Collins during his appearance at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia during Live Aid. This particular still is from his performance of “Against All Odds”.

With all the changes in the weather we’ve been having, it’s been playing havoc with my voice. So if I don’t sound quite right, there’s a reason for it. Here’s hoping I sound a little better next week.

Also: for those of you not in the know, that weird squeaky noise you hear during the Peter Gabriel clip isn’t evidence that I use a cheap office chair, although it’s true, I do. That sound is part of the Gabriel song.

As usual, if you haven’t subscribed via iTunes or your favorite podcast catcher, you can download the file or listen right here:

Image result for angel gets his wingsAnd of course, I wouldn’t be especially upset if you went to iTunes and gave me a positive review. Even if that’s not your podcast catcher, every time someone says something nice about me in iTunes, an angel gets his wings. Right, Clarence?


Links Department:

This is a great video from Vox.com that explains the concept of gated reverb in greater detail.

In the podcast, I mention my suspicion that gated reverb is making a comeback. Also from the Vox article is this Spotify playlist which confirms my theory. (I do hope I linked that correctly; if not then go to the Vox link and listen from there.)

Article from the Miami Herald from last year about Phil Collins finally opening up to the story behind the song.

But naturally, his ex is going to speak her piece. See? Tawdry.

I wasn’t kidding about Ozzy Osbourne.