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164: Chinese Food on Christmas

To be honest, I didn’t really expect both of the musicians I approached this year to be both very open to the idea of an interview and so generous with their time. But I’m definitely glad that they were, especially because you get to benefit from the chats I had with them. And during this holiday season you get two long episodes instead of one semi-long one. Win-win all around!

Brandon Walker’s “Chinese Food on Christmas” isn’t as Baltimore-centric as David DeBoy’s song is, but it definitely has its origins in the fact that Brandon is from the Baltimore area, which is estimated to have about 100,000 people of the Jewish faith living here. Baltimore City is just under 600,000 people, so that’s a pretty big chunk of matzoh, there. And, of course, he shot the video at several spots in the immediate area:

      1. Hunt Valley Towne Centre is a local outdoor shopping mall just north of the city. And yes, they spell it like that.
      2. The Senator Theatre is in the northern part of town.  You may recognize it from several John Waters films.
      3. The Chinese restaurant (now gone) that appears near the end is in Owings Mills, MD. It’s perhaps best known for being where the Baltimore Ravens’ training facility is located.
      4. And, of course, some of it was shot in his mother’s basement. I don’t think you can tour that or anything.

So anyway, here’s my chat with Brandon:

And here’s the second, fun version of the video, which Brandon posted about  13 years ago:

As usual, interview episodes don’t have a transcript created by me, but I’m curious to know whether the transcript generator provided by Blubrry gets the job done for you.

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163: Crabs for Christmas

Over the last several years, radio stations have been snapped up by large corporations. Then, as a cost-cutting measure, certain functions have been centralized. One of these has been the stations’ playlists, the literal list of songs that a station has in its rotation. This has led to a homogenization of radio stations and it kind of makes them not as much fun to listen to when you travel.

That said, there are going to be variations to the playlists depending on requests and local tastes. For instance, Billboard lists the Top Song of 2022 as “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy, but in Charlotte, North Carolina it comes out as #16 for the year.

In Baltimore, there’s a Christmas-related song that’s a perennial favorite among the locals. However, it gets next to zero airplay anywhere else. And the song’s author and performer is fine with that, because he knows that the song is very Baltimore-centric. His name is David DeBoy, and his song is called “Crabs for Christmas.”

David DeBoy is a local  theater actor, a television and movie performer, a voiceover artist, a motivational speaker, and a generally cool guy. And I’m not saying that because he responded so quickly to my request for an interview. In today’s episode we spend some time talking about his career overall and some of the stories connected to “Crabs for Christmas.” And I think my opening question may have caught him by surprise.

Later this week I’ll have another Baltimore-oriented holiday song for you, and a chat with that song’s composer and performer.

Click here to visit Dave DeBoy’s website. 

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(Sorry, no transcripts for interview shows. However, the Blubrry podcast player is now supposed to generate one automatically, so let’s see how well that works. )

162: Reach Out (I’ll Be There)

Cover art for Episode 162: a woman walking a path reaches back to a man's hand.

Such a life I’ve had lately, what with getting Covid and then getting part of the house renovated…four weeks of a two-week project. And the job isn’t even done, but that’s not the contractor’s fault. (Replacement parts, don’tcha know.) And for some reason it’s taking forever to put the kitchen—the whole downstairs, really—back together.

Anyway.

This episode takes a peek at the song that arguably became the Four Tops’ signature hit. The funny thing is, none of the Tops thought it would be a hit. What’s more, none of them thought it SHOULD be a single, never mind a hit. But Berry Gordy isn’t called “genius” for nothing, and he not only released the single, he made it the lead (and title) track for their fourth album. Reach Out (the album) is definitive Four Tops, and marks the bridge between early 1960s Motown and the sounds they were producing in the second half of the decade.

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Click here for a transcript of this episode.

161: Stagger Lee

If you haven’t been paying attention (and, based on the download statistics, you haven’t), I’m part of a second podcast, where I take on more of a support role than as the lead voice. The show is called Words and Movies, in which my partner Sean Gallagher and I choose a pair of films and find the links between them.

In an upcoming episode, we discuss a film from 2007 called Honeydripper, starring Danny Glover. There’s a scene involving Glover’s character and a blind musician played by Keb’ Mo’, who sings a couple of bars of “Stagger Lee,” causing Glover to mutter, “I hate that song.” We don’t find out why until later in the film, but (spoiler alert) it’s because when he was younger, he’d been in an incident similar to the one outlined in the song.

The interesting thing here, though, is that the song “Stagger Lee” was always about one man killing another. But when Lloyd Price recorded the song, he recorded two versions: one in which one man kills another over a dice game, and another where they merely get into a fight over a pretty girl. (The second version was for American Bandstand and for radio consumption in more conservative areas of the country.) The experience that Glover’s character went through as a younger man appears to be a mashup of both versions of the song.

At any rate, “Stagger Lee” as a song has a very rich history, and it turns out to be rooted in a true story. Many times, when doing the research for an episode I reach a point where the more I dig, the more I find myself going in circles. This time, I tapped a rich mine of information, to the point where I found myself having to decide what to keep and what to toss to keep the episode to a reasonable length.

Enjoy!

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

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160: Failing Upward, Vol 2

Pardon my allergies; I’ve sounded kind of rough for a week or so. There was a lot of throat-clearing to edit out of this one. I can’t even blame the Southern Studio on this one; it’s the direct result of spending too much time cutting the grass at home. (And THEN I can blame the Southern Studio a little bit, because I went there the next day and it certainly didn’t help matters.)

How does one spend too much time cutting the grass? By having an electric mower and starting the job with a battery that isn’t fully charged, that’s how.

This is an episode topic I’ve wanted to return to for a long time, but for some reason I kept procrastinating. But way, way back in Episode 11, I featured a bunch of songs that had mistakes in them which were discovered before the final product was released, but they decided they liked it better that way and ran with it. And today we return to that well for another dip.

The tough part with songs like this is curating the best ones to use. Led Zeppelin often left in stray noises because they didn’t really care (ringing phones), or because they were actually counting on it (squeaky pedal on Bonham’s drum kit). So finding one that was both inadvertent and improved the recording? Absolute Gold, Jerry. Similarly, The Beatles would make an error in rehearsal or elsewhere and decide that that was something they needed to retain/reproduce (e.g. the wine bottle rattling at the end of “Long Long Long”), so those weren’t really good candidates.

And, of course, you run into a story which is just plain wrong. Yes, Ronnie Van Zant was talking to the board operator when he said “turn it up” while recording”Sweet Home Alabama,” but he did not mourn the loss of doughnuts near the end. (What you’re hearing is, “Montgomery’s got the answer.”)

At any rate, I finally buckled down and did the necessary research, and I hope you have fun with this one as much as I did.

Incidentally, a big shout-out to the newest member of our Wall of Fame. Everyone say hello to Cousin Robert! If you want to join the family, you can click here to become a Patron of the show.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

159: The Yardbirds’ Jim McCarty

Picture of Jim McCarty during an interview.

Screen capture of McCarty during our Zoom-based interview.

Jim McCarty is one of the founding members of The Yardbirds, and he’s recently published his second book, She Walks in Beauty: My Quest for the Bigger Picture. It’s a journey that starts with the death of his wife Lizzie and then jumps back to earlier in his life, as he examines the various things that connect us to parts of the world that are just beyond our reach.

I was hooked immediately when I began reading this book, and no doubt you will be too. There’s a search for spirituality weaved among stories about his musical career with, and since, the Yardbirds, and how the two occasionally intertwined. You can order the book from this site, or you can check out all the usual outlets (but it’s guaranteed to be in stock there).

At any rate, because he’s living in France and I’m living in Baltimore, he and I communicated via Skype. It was supposed to be Zoom, but he couldn’t get it to work. Then I couldn’t get it to work. So we bailed out and jumped over to Skype, where my camera wouldn’t work but at least we could hear each other. I’m so glad we both persevered, because I think we had a fantastic conversation, and the date of the interview turned out to be important to both of us, for similar reasons.

At one point we talk about the Krishna Das cover of “For Your Love”, which I gave him a heads-up that I wanted to talk about, and it turns out that he was quite familiar with it, and a little bit more. There’s a short clip in the interview but the whole thing is here, and worth a listen. It’s probably in my Top Ten all-time tracks:

Enjoy!

Jim McCarty Official Website

Yardbirds Official Website

Sarcoma Foundation of America

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(Sorry, no transcript for this episode.)

158: Give It Away

Episode 158 Cover--Give It Away

When the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik first came out, I’d just left a job working in a record store and was doing some part-time work as a mobile DJ. I had a few regular gigs here and there on Long Island, which is where it’s at when you do that sort of thing, because you get to know your crowd and who likes what, etc. Weddings and birthday parties, etc. were just Death on a Triscuit, because you have guests of all different ages, and the old people want to hear one thing, and the young people want to hear something else, and there are always arguments about the volume…feh. I hated doing that stuff.

At any rate, I was working in a bar in Franklin Square, NY at this point and this crowd absolutely loved this track. That was a cool bunch, with a lot of that adult alternative stuff. I enjoyed working there except for two things:

  1. The equipment was stored in the bar’s basement, which meant going outside into the alley out back, going downstairs to get it, dragging it upstairs and setting it up, and having to und0 it all at the end of the night;
  2. The setup was on floor level, which meant that any drunk moron could—and sometimes did—crash directly into my stuff. And since I was still playing records sometimes, that made for some audio disasters.

I would have stayed longer if I hadn’t broken my ankle and moved 30 miles away in the interim (long, long story there). I also liked my boss and he’d throw me other work from time to time. Ah, well.

Incidentally, I didn’t mention this during the episode but the song has been covered about a dozen times and sampled more than twice that many. In fact, Busta Rhymes’ “Break Ya Neck” owes so much to “Give it Away” that all of the musicians who played on “Give it Away” appear on the record’s credits as co-writers. (It’s not so much a sampling as it is Rhymes inserting the chorus into the song.)

Click here for a transcript of the episode.

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157: Planet Earth’s Greatest Hits

This is a show that I made a long while back specifically for the Patreon crowd. Those are the folks who have been supporting the program and helping me to cover some of the hosting and other costs attached to doing the show (e.g. subscriptions, software, etc.). In fact, it was so long ago that the show’s logo changed in the interim. I had to re-do the cover art to accommodate the change. (Changing the lettering is easy; the rest of it was more complicated than it should have been. But now I’m just kvetching.)

Their money also funded the source materials for this particular episode. As it happens, there’s only one place you can get it. And it’s only available on LP, though with the LP came the ability to download digital files as well. At any rate, because the LP set was quite expensive, I decided to create the episode as a “Thank You” to those folks. I also knew that I would publish it to everyone else in the future, around this time of year.

For those of you who don’t know: you can support the show financially at patreon.com/howgooditis. For a mere five bucks a month, you get a weekly newsletter where I share information from around the music world. The newsletter has a couple of Patron Saints, and that newsletter is delivered every single week (OK, there have been a couple of misses, usually due to illness) whether there’s an episode or not. So while there haven’t been any episodes in several weeks, the Patrons have been seeing newsletters.

So anyway: what we have in this super-sized episode is a look at the Golden Record. That’s the collection of music curated by scientists and then mastered onto a disc, which was put on Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 and blasted off into space. The Voyagers are billions of miles away, and while their discovery by aliens is unlikely (because space is BIG, yo), there’s a more-or-less permanent record (heh) of human culture out there in the universe.

This episode is a track-by-track view of the Golden Record. You don’t hear most of the tracks in their entirety, but you do hear something from every track. It’s a fascinating look at what was considered significant enough to represent the entire planet back in 1977.

156: Good Lovin’

For the last few weeks I’ve been having some weird troubles with the websites for both this podcast and the other one (wordsandmovies.com, in case you didn’t know), especially with the other one. Pages would load slowly on my end, or not at all, which made it very difficult for me to post anything. And in the case of this site, it rendered releasing new episodes nearly (but not completely) impossible. So, after many hours on the phone with my webhost provider—most of them on hold—I finally gave up on them and moved the sites to a new location.

A few bumps in the road were expected, and sure enough I got those. But for the most part everything has been going well over the last couple of days, so I took the time to record and post a new episode for you. (And apologies to the Patron crowd; that’s the time I usually spend writing the newsletter.) There are still a few glitches here and there, and I’ll be ironing those out as best I can. But I think in general we’re all back on track.

All that said, we’re looking at a rather faithful cover of a song that, in turn, was a cover of another recording. However, that first cover was rather different from the original. To find out how different, you’ll have to listen to the episode itself. But then, that’s why you’re here, isn’t it.

Despite being born in Westchester County, NY, Felix Cavaliere is closely associated with Long Island, enough so that he inducted Vanilla Fudge into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. Most of Vanilla Fudge is from New Jersey, so there’s that. I have to think that it’s because both Vanilla Fudge and The Rascals earned a lot of their performing chops in Long Island clubs. At any rate, it was the “live” feel and energy of their performing “Good Lovin'” that the record’s producers were hoping to capture when the track was cut, and it’s pretty clear that they succeeded, even if Cavaliere and company didn’t really like their performance on the record. In fact, they didn’t think it would sell very well at all.

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