Episode 81–Runaway

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Happy Father’s Day! I’m releasing this episode a little early so I can spend the day Sunday with my family. Our plan is to go to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. I’m hoping to see Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman costume and a Batmobile. I hear there’s a terrific collection of musical instruments, including Steve Cropper’s guitar and Herbie Hancock’s keytar. Who knows, maybe the Musitron is in there!

Don’t know what that is? You need to listen to the show, post-haste. Get clicking.

Next week’s show (Under the Covers, Part 4) may be a little late because I’ll be on the road to a family event. You Have Been Warned.

Episode 80–YMCA

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. .

Episode 79–The Boxer

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Let me mention up front that this episode was inspired by an Instagram friend of the show, who suggested that I cover a Paul Simon song. Somehow our messaging bollixed up, but yes: I realized that this is an act I should have visited a long time ago. So thanks for the nudge.

For a weekend where most people are expected to take it kind of easy, with the beaching and the barbecuing and remembering those who died so that we could do the first two, this has been a very hectic weekend for me, hence the late delivery of this week’s show.

This was definitely one of those episodes where, the more research I did, the more there was to see. And then it got really complicated, and I had to move stuff around…and in the end, the writing still took about as long as it usually does, so that was kind of weird-yet-relieving.

1970’s Bridge over Troubled Water was the last studio album for Simon and Garfunkel. Sure, they reunited several times for live performances, some of which were recorded and released, but their last studio collaboration, in 1975, yielded only the single “My Little Town,” which appeared on Still Crazy After All These Years (for Simon) and Breakaway (for Garfunkel). Even the B-side of “My Little Town” had two short solo tracks on it.

But, like so many of the final projects of the great artists from the rock era, Bridge Over Troubled Water was an immense piece of work, with the duo doing their best to stretch their sound both sonically and technologically. They were fracturing as an act, but the quality of their collaboration on this album is undeniable. And I’d argue that you can’t even say that about The Beatles.

And it began with this track, which was released in March 1969, nine months before the rest of the album. It’s deceptive in that the listener probably has no idea just how complicated this record is. Fortunately for you, in a few minutes you’ll be standing a little closer to the truth. So here’s this week’s show, for your listening or downloading pleasure:

And, of course, please share the show with someone you think might enjoy it, and leave a rating somewhere.

Episode 78–My Generation

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The Who was gaining popularity in the UK, but they hadn’t reached the point of having huge amounts of money yet. So when Pete Townshend found himself accidentally(ish) living in a posh neighborhood near Buckingham Palace, he noticed that everyone around him was treating him badly. So on his twentieth birthday, while sitting on a train, he composed this song, as a means of getting back at all the rich people who were mean to him.

Why didn’t I think of that!? Oh, well.

Here, incidentally, is their performance during which Townshend nearly gets his head blown off. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a clip of the entire performance.

Here’s this week’s episode for your listening and/or downloading pleasure:

Finally, this is the artwork related to the trivia question for this episode. If you’ve heard the episode and you want to see what I’m talking about, click the button to show the art. If you haven’t heard it yet, go back and listen first. It’s OK, we’ll still be here for you.

Incidentally, I’ve gotten several positive comments and suggestions from listeners and I really appreciate them. Keep them coming!

Episode 77–Somebody to Love

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The Great Society was one of a number of 1960s bands with that name, but the thing that makes this one distinctive is that it had a singer by the name of Grace Slick. They were playing in clubs in the San Francisco area, and frequently opened for another local band by the name of Jefferson Airplane. When the Airplane lost their lead singer (on generally good terms), Marty Balin reached out to Grace Slick, and she accepted their offer, not knowing that Columbia Records was about to offer the Great Society a record deal. But it was this incarnation of the Jefferson Airplane that finally broke through to the public, and they pretty much stayed that way until a couple of members left in 1970 to form Hot Tuna. Eventually they regrouped and, in 1974, upgraded their technology (I guess?) to become Jefferson Starship.

I should note that while I often use digital sources (CDs or streaming downloads) for the music on this show, in this case both of the Great Society tracks I play in this episode came from a vinyl album I discovered in a thrift store in Selma, NC, titled San Francisco Roots, which is a compilation of music from bands based out of that area in 1964-65. I’ve run them through a little noise reduction, but it’s still pretty clear that you’re getting some surface noise on this one.

And as usual, here is the file for your downloading/listening pleasure.

If you’re enjoying the show, please bear that in mind when I start begging for money. Also, maybe share it out with like-minded people and leave a rating on your favorite podcast software. It doesn’t really do much for my visibility, but it’s a nice ego boost.

Episode 76–You Never Even Called Me By My Name

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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.

Episode 75–Scenes From an Italian Restaurant

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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.

Episode 74–Quarter to Three

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Sometimes when I’m looking for a show to cover, I look at any potential patterns I may have been following, just to break out of them. Have I been doing too many hard rock songs? Too many from a given decade? Too many of a specific genre? That sort of thing. I like to use some songs as an entryway to discovering other songs. So, for instance, I know that “Classic Rock” songs tend to pull in the downloads, but I’ve gotten comments from people who tune in to hear about “Another Brick in the Wall” but stay to learn about “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”

So in searching for patterns, I also look for songs I don’t like to see if I can defend them, or make them somehow interesting to me (looking at you, Episode 30), or just get into “What haven’t I done so far?”

And that’s pretty much why I went looking for a song that begins with the letter Q.

But as usual, it turned into one of those things where your basic party song turns out to have a richer history behind it than one would ordinarily suspect. (A lot of times I think I’d like to cover a song and the research turns out to be a bust.) So check out the story behind Gary US Bonds’ song and how its popularity with another hitmaker led to his working on Bonds’ comeback hit:

Incidentally, I’ve started doing the artwork for each episode early in the process, since it makes for a great procrastination project. How am I doing so far?

Episode 73–Classical Gas

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Let me open up with an apology for the delayed show. Those who know me well know that there was a medical issue in the family that distracted me, and that’s got to come first, right?

For me, “Classical Gas” is one of those songs that passes in and out of my consciousness. I forget about it for a long time, and then I can’t get enough of it for awhile. And when I did that trivia question last week about instrumentals, “Classical Gas” returned to my radar and I said, “Ooh, I gotta do this one!”. Coincidentally, a listener happened to request that I cover the song, and I was only too happy to oblige, having already started the research. (My reply to him was “boy are you in for a surprise.”)

This is the video that Williams re-scored for its use on the Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour. Try to picture it using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony; I don’t think it works nearly as well. (Also, this video–which was posted to YouTube by Mason Williams–sounds like a slightly different mix, but I could be wrong on that one.)

And I didn’t promise you this in the show, but I’m going to link it here anyway, because I like it so much. This is the cover of “Classical Gas” by Vanessa Mae from 1995:

And here is the episode itself, for those who like to listen or download from here:

Me and The Boss

Image result for rock hall springsteen induction dylan 1988 -site:pinterest.com
The Boss and The Jester (if you believe some “American Pie” theories) at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction concert, 1988.

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.