Episode 87–Hair

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

In the late 1960s, both the music scene and the theater scene were changing, and the 1968 premiere of the show Hair on Broadway was a confluence of the two.

Hair is generally considered to be the first rock musical, as opposed to a rock opera, where all the dialogue is sung, and apparently there are debates about which one was first because there were several concurrent projects going on. At any rate, several songs from the show became pop hits in their own right, albeit from artists other than the ones who performed on the original soundtrack.

Also (perhaps coincidentally), all of those hits were recorded and released during a short period of time, short enough that one of them actually kept another one out of the Number One slot on the Billboard chart.

As I noted during the show, here’s the clip of The Cowsills singing “Hair” on the Wonderful World of Pizzazz. (As I also noted, this clip has that watermark throughout, but it’s by far the best quality clip, so let’s all live with it.) Dig that laugh track, because people in gorilla suits are funny, I guess. Look closely and you’ll realize just how small the set was for this segment:

This episode is coming a few hours early; next week’s will likely arrive quite late in the day. Wife and I are going on a little road trip and I expect to be back home very late Saturday night. But don’t despair! It’s going to be another great, over-stuffed, super-size show!

In the meantime, however, feel free to enjoy this week’s great, over-stuffed, super-size show:

And, of course, please tell all your friends about this great podcast you’re listening to.

Episode 86–First Man on the Moon

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On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder and became the first human being to set foot on a celestial body that wasn’t the planet Earth.

Within no more than a couple of weeks, at least two records had been rush-produced and released, and a third only a few weeks after that, commissioned by President Richard Nixon as a tribute to be performed at a state dinner.

This is another over-stuffed episode, as I play those three records in their entirety and talk about some of the trials that the Apollo 11 mission went through, that doesn’t usually get into the history books.

Amstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked the surface of the moon, collecting samples and setting up experiments, while Michael Collins orbited the moon above them, hoping that all went well so that he wouldn’t be forced to return alone. He thought that something like that would mark him forever. Collins never did make it to the moon; in fact he left the Space Program shortly after Apollo 11 to become the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and later the director of the Air and Space Museum, overseeing its completion and opening to the public.

Among other things, the astronauts left a plaque behind on the moon, commemorating the historic event. And, if you’ve already heard the show, you know that the plaque is part of this week’s trivia question. Have a look:

Here, as usual, is the episode for your listening or downloading pleasure. Please be sure to share the show with someone you love, and/or leave a rating wherever you get your podcasts. Peace.

Episode 85–Can’t Give It Away on Seventh Avenue

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.

If you’re not already subscribing to the show, or if you’re a new listener (Welcome!), here’s the player/download link:

And, as usual, if you’re enjoying this show then please take the time to share it with someone else, and/or leave a rating on your favorite podcatcher.

If you’d like to purchase your own copy of the book, click here to get it from Amazon. This link will take you through the Amazon Smile portal, so if you’re a participant, the purchase will go toward your chosen charity.

Click here if you want to see more of Christopher’s writing (oh, I think you do).

NOTE: Because this show is largely unscripted, there is no transcript for the show at this time. My apologies to anyone who depends on those.

Episode 84–Chapel of Love

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The Dixie Cups began as two sisters and their cousin performing here and there in the New Orleans area, when they were discovered by Joe “You Talk Too Much” Jones and brought to New York to make an album with Lieber and Stoller.

Their first single was a Number One hit, making them the first American group to knock a British Invasion band off that lofty Billboard perch. And the band they bumped off? A group called The Beatles. (I think they were okay after that setback, though.)

If your habit is to read these show notes that I post, my apologies for repeating the Tarpon Springs story during this week’s show. I know that’s a little bit redundant for you. But yes, this week’s artwork is derived from the album I purchased, though I lopped off the top (just more black) and the bottom (catalog number) to make the whole thing more visible. Mea culpa.

Also, a technical note: I have no idea why my microphone sounds so hot this week; I promise I’ll be better in the future.

Next week I have something pretty special lined up, and the format of the show will be a little bit different, so Get Ready for Stuff!

Here’s Episode 84.

Episode 83–Kung Fu Fighting

Click here for a transcript of this week’s show.

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.

Here’s Episode 83.

Next week: back in Baltimore!

Episode 82–Under the Covers 4

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It’s been a long time since I did a show like this one, and the timing probably couldn’t have been worse.

As I note during the show, I’m on the road for the next several days, so I’ve got a condensed version of my usual recording setup. I can get the job done, but the recording and the editing process are very, very different from what I usually do. Typically after I write the episode I edit all my sound elements and then load them all into a piece of software that keeps them organized until I need them. Then I crack the mic open and play the elements as they’re needed. If I make a huge mistake, I have to find a point where editing won’t show. Because there’s usually background sound going on, I sometimes have to backtrack a lot. But generally it takes me 30-40 minutes to record a 15 minute show. Do a little editing and boom, it’s ready for processing and uploading.

This time around, it’s a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of my recorded voice, plus all the other elements patched in. Plus I have to control audio levels through software rather than through my mixing board, so it’s a whole other kind of thing. And maybe it’s me but recording this way kind of saps some of my vocal energy out of the project.

So after nearly a year, we return to the Well of Cover Songs, wherein we look at songs that you may not realize are covers of another artist’s work. And in my opinion, in each of these cases, the cover is the superior version. That’s not something you can always say (and I cite a specific example during the show).

At any rate, after a few hours of overtime, here’s Episode 82.

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

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

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!