In 1964 the Shangri-Las got on a sudden hot streak with their sultry recording of “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”, written by George “Shadow” Morton.
Morton had bluffed his way into the Brill Building by telling Lieber and Stoller that he was a songwriter (he wasn’t), and when he was asked what kind of songs he wrote, he said “hit songs” (also a lie). But Lieber and Stoller took his word for it and asked him to write a song. A week later, Morton came back not only with a song, but with a quartet of teenage girls from Long Island City called The Shangri-Las. Lieber and Stoller liked both the song and the girls, and signed them to a contract (well, their parents signed the contract; they were still minors at the time). I saw somewhere that there might have been some controversy about the Shangri-Las already being signed to another label, but I couldn’t substantiate that claim.
And that’s just one of several nebulous stories that surround the Shangri-Las and their first couple of hits. We look at a few of the ones that are connected to their second, much larger hit. Have fun with it.
WHAT! you say. We’ve been waiting a month and he brings us a Taylor Swift song?
Well…yeah. But don’t click away just yet.
Here’s the thing: I want to expand the scope of the show a little bit, and recently I heard a rather high-level discussion of Swift’s work on another podcast called Switched On Pop, which looks at songs and artists from a musical standpoint rather than a conceptual one. If you’re not well-versed in the language of music (and I’m not), you might find some of it tough to understand (and I do), but it’s still a pretty interesting show. Their look at Taylor Swift was one of their earliest episodes, so they were still looking at the 1989 album and “Shake It Off” as a new phenomenon. Anyway, they inspired me to take a modern-day look at her, a few years after her transition from Country to Pop.
And, since some people are kind of stubborn about modern-day artists, I thought it’d be a fun challenge to try and draw those folks in. Not you, of course–you’re a very open-minded person. Other people.
But this was the leadoff single from her first purely pop album, and the reaction was generally positive, though there were some people who decried her turning her back on the Country music scene. And I get that–I do miss all that banjo in her music.
As promised, here’s the clip of Dwayne Johnson lip-synching along with Taylor Swift:
For what it’s worth, later in the show he synchs the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” to win the game. Also, Jimmy Fallon commenting that Johnson probably sings the song in his car proved to be kind of prophetic, because….
…here’s Johnson in a clip from his show Ballers, which aired just a few months later. Which means he was probably learning “Shake It Off” for Lip Sync Battle around the time he shot this episode.
There’s an old Doonesbury strip (Aug 1977) where rock star Jimmy Thudpucker is sitting on Bob Dylan’s porch, chatting with Dylan (who appears as a disembodied voice coming from inside the house), and they’re discussing the fact that then-President Jimmy Carter has just called him, looking for a quote to use during his next presidential chat with the public. Apparently the President thinks very highly of Dylan, who doesn’t necessarily agree with this assessment:
And there’s a little bit of this with the Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac song “Rhiannon”: Nicks saw the name in a book and was taken with it, so she began to write a song centered around the image that the name presented to her. In fact, she began a series of songs about the Rhiannon that she had in her head.
Later on, she discovered that Rhiannon was a Welsh goddess whose attributes dovetailed rather nicely with the character she’d envisioned in her head. So when the song became a hit, she began to attribute the song as being about “a Welsh witch” (I can barely type that–no wonder I had trouble saying it). But the fact is, she knew nothing about the Welsh mythology when she first wrote the song.
That doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the song, but it does, at least a little bit, suck away some of the mystique that Nicks attached to it during the live performance, methinks.
Warren Zevon was a talented musician and songwriter who had a lot of friends in the business, but didn’t have the commercial success that his contemporaries had.
One day in 1975 he, along with guitarists Waddy Wachtell and LeRoy Marinell, are just goofing around with their guitars when someone asks them what they’re playing. Zevon, referring back to a joke he’d recently heard, told that person that they were writing “Werewolves of London”. The joke actually started to take shape, but was quickly abandoned.
That is, until other artists picked it up. According to Wachtel, it was one of the toughest recordings he’d ever done, but the appeal of the finished product—to practically everyone but Zevon—was undeniable.It became Zevon’s highest-charting single, and even at that, it wasn’t the monster (heh) hit people remember it being.
Holy Moley, kids. It’s another overstuffed episode of the show for you. But, I guess that’s what happens when you’re dealing with a song that goes clear back to 1933.
“Blue Moon” was written by Rodgers and Hart, and it was going to be used in a movie, then it wasn’t. Then it was going to be used in another movie, then it wasn’t. Then it was again, and the publisher at MGM thought the melody would make a pretty nice popular song, so he convinced Lorenz Hart to change the lyrics. And it did take some convincing, for reasons you’ll get to hear about during the show.
While you’re here, let me give extra thanks to Bill Tyres for his permission to use the audio from one of his YouTube videos. You can find his over at his main webpage, or through his YouTube channel. Tell him I sent you.
And finally, as a little bonus, here’s Elvy Yost, singing the first incarnation of the song. She appeared on an episode of The Catch singing a later version of it (and it looked like a YouTube video in the show), but it doesn’t appear that she actually made a video for YT consumption.
The Go-Go’s (somehow that always looks wrong) started out in the late 1970s as a punk band in Los Angeles, and they were a pretty solid presence in that city’s Punk scene. But as they started to grow in prominence, they moved away from that edgy sound and into more of the pop scene.
When IRS records finally signed them in 1980, they cut their first album, which included a re-recording of their first single. If you listened to college radio, you probably remember the original version of “We Got The Beat,” which was an import here in the US and was actually part of their demo record. You probably also found yourself wondering what happened to it when you finally heard the song released as a single in the early days of 1982, while “Our Lips Are Sealed” was making its slow climb back down the charts.
Well…wonder no more, because I’ve got that story for you right here.
Last week’s show was short, time-wise, and I promised I’d make up for it. And make up, I did, because this is one of my longer non-interview shows, clocking in at 20:30. If you listen to this show during your morning commute, you may have to circle the block a few times before going in to work.
But it’s so packed with stuff that I don’t think you’ll mind. This week we’re looking at songs that were inspired by books, a topic that’s turned out to be HUGE, and we’ll be visiting again in the future if you’re digging it.
First up: this should be the end of the oddball uploads. The show itself is completely migrated, and I’ve gotten a few personal issues out of the way, so I should be back to Sunday night releases beginning next week.
Are we good now? OK.
This week’s show is a little bit on the short side, largely because there wasn’t as much story to tell as I thought there’d be, but I’m definitely going to wind up making up for it with next week’s show. At any rate: Styx’s attempt at a rock opera kind of concept was both very successful and very confusing to a big chunk of their fan base, who stayed away in droves. It managed to fracture the band at the end of the tour, and for thirty-five years they refused to play it in concert.
For those of you who are interested, here’s a picture of the original Kilroy from the World War Two era:
This image, in fact, can be found etched into the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, and it’s a pretty typical version of the image. Sometimes the words appeared below the line, or at another point, but you get the idea. And Kilroy does have dots for eyes; they’re kind of tough to see here because of the granite surface.
John Fogerty had already picked up some popularity with his band The Golliwogs, but Uncle Sam came a-calling in 1966. In order to avoid being sent to Vietnam, he instead enlisted in the Army Reserves, where he served for a while until he was discharged honorably.
In the days that followed the discharge, he wrote a song that he knew immediately would be a hit on the level of the bigger songs of the Tin Pan Alley days. And, given that other artists recorded the same song within a few months of its release, he was correct in that regard.
The new owners of their label, Fantasy Records talked the band into changing their name to something a little less offensive in exchange for the opportunity to record a full-length album (rather than the singles they’d been making), and the band, not being fools, agreed immediately. The original name had come from Fantasy’s previous owner, so they weren’t really married to it anyway.
Thus it was that The Golliwogs became Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Bayou Country their first album.
A little Q&A before we move on to the next episode:
What’s up with all the double posts, all of a sudden?
That’s a side effect of moving the show over to Blubrry from Podomatic. When Blubrry imported all the episodes, it created the duplicate posts, which it copied from Podomatic’s website. Episode 105 was never posted to Podomatic, and that’s where the duplicates stop. So I’ll have to go back and re-do all my posts to eliminate the duplicates. A pain for me, but it made the changeover more painless for you. I hope.
How did the show get its name, anyway?
It took me a while to come up with this name, but it derives from a comment I made in a Facebook group dedicated to music, called Oldies But Goodies and Good Music. Every now and again, someone would post a link to a song from the 90s or newer, and invariably there’d be a complaint from someone that it wasn’t an “oldie.” My response was usually, “It’s not how old it is, it’s how good it is.” Coincidentally, this is also the motto of Rewound.com, Allan Sniffen’s streaming oldies station. (If you have fun memories of the classic disc jockeys, you should definitely give it a listen.)
I’m going to give an extra Thank-You to Allan for helping me out with one of the first episodes I recorded. He provided me with some awesome audio that I was able to use in Episode 4 (Get Together).
Anyway, when I was searching for a name, some people made suggestions that were close but no cigar, and a couple of them were kind of close to this phrase, so I finally pulled the trigger after ensuring that the domain and show name were available.
Why do you do those stupid jokes about the “slash” and saying “ye” during the trivia question?
Those are homage.
“Slash” is a joke that Cousin Bruce Morrow has used on his SiriusXM radio show for many years. I literally grew up listening to Cousin Brucie and it’s just a hat tip to him.
“Ye” is a bit that the old Don & Mike radio show used to do once in awhile (I think it was more of a Don thing than a Mike thing). I know I’m using it incorrectly but it’s just fun.
(How am I using it incorrectly? “Ye” doesn’t mean “you,” it’s an archaic way of writing “the”, when printers and scribes used the letter y to represent the no-longer-used [even then] “þ” character, which was in fact pronounced “th”.)
Also homage: when I’m wrapping up the show and I say “That’s a full lid,” that’s a nod to The West Wing. It’s something that C.J. Cregg says when she’s telling the press corps that there will be no more news coming out of the White House for the day. It’s also something that real WH press secretaries have been known to say.
OK, what about the other weird joke, when you introduce yourself?
That’s just a little window into my soul that day. A lot of people kill time during their shows telling you about their entire lives but I can’t do that. Shoot, more people know about my life by reading my wife’s Facebook page than they do mine. But a little self-expression can’t hurt, right? Especially when it’s literally half a sentence.
How far in advance do you record the shows?
Not at all. I write over several hours’ span Saturday and Sunday, then I go into my recording space and set up my audio bits, record the show, edit it, run it through processing and post it. The writing takes the longest time to do because I’m always finding stuff, moving it around, trying to shape a coherent story. Recording, editing and uploading takes about two hours, depending on how well the initial recording goes. If I don’t have to edit, it’s a very quick process. But since I have to account for the music in the background (yes, I mix as I record), sometimes editing is a huge pain.
But I think I do a better job when I work under some kind of “get it done by Sunday night” pressure.
Do you like the songs you cover?
Not always, but I view that as a challenge. There are a couple of songs I’ve discussed which I really, really don’t like. I may understand them a little better, but I still don’t like them. However: if I can manage to make those songs interesting, then I’ve done a better-than-usual job.
And frankly, there’s some appeal in hearing from listeners—and there have been several—who have told me that they will listen to some shows despite not having much love for the song identified, and manage to come away with a different way of appreciating it, or are pleasantly surprised to learn the story behind it. I’m not converting any fans any more than I convert myself, but that’s OK. Chacun à son goût, as the French say (“each to his own taste”).
OK, that’s enough procrastinating for today. Tune in tomorrow and we’ll learn about “Proud Mary” together.