fbpx

170: I Fought the Law

How many times now have I gone into the backstory with a song and learned that the person who wrote it says something akin to, “Yeah, I knocked that one off in about fifteen minutes.”

Oftentimes they also think that the song isn’t going to amount to very much, which I find kind of funny. But it also supports a working theory I have that it’s not always the song itself, but the way it’s presented. The Crickets (sans Buddy Holly) and a few others approached it one way, but Bobby Fuller and The Clash looked at it differently, and it paid off for them.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Click here to support the show as a Patron. 

Video Newsletter

Hi, Cousins!

For those of you not in the know, this show has a Patreon page, which can be found here.

Patrons of the show get a weekly newsletter about 48 times a year, typically on Sunday. And once in awhile I’ll throw a special episode their way, which eventually becomes available to you as well, several months later.

In addition, I will occasionally do the newsletter in video form, but frankly it’s rather time-consuming, largely because I usually want it to look a certain way so I get weird about making things just so. So that only happens every few months.

In recent months, I’ve been writing entries about a new cereal developed by Snoop Dogg. It was originally called Snoop Loopz, and it promised “more marshmallows.” More marshmallows than what, I’m not sure. But I looked in several stores and couldn’t find the stuff.

This went on for months, me looking for Snoop Loopz and being unable to find it. Even in stores that carried other foods by Broadus Foods (that’s his company name), it was no dice.

According to the website, Broadus partnered with Post Consumer Brands (the folks behind Grape-Nuts and Honey Bunches of Oats, etc.) to produce the cereals. They moved away from the Snoop Loopz name—probably to avoid trademark issues—and are all sold under the Snoop Cereal umbrella, with each cereal having its own Snoop-like name.

Finally, I got a note from Cousin Mike about his discovery that the cereal had changed names, and could be found on Amazon. I’m all in, I say, and ordered one box each of the three varieties.

And to thank the Patrons for their patience and support, my wife and I sampled the three cereals and recorded the experience just for their benefit. Just for the giggles I did a regular video newsletter and tagged in the taste test as well.

So if you’re as curious about Snoop Cereal as I was, and you’re looking to support the show, hop on over to Patreon and drop a fiver.

169: Tiny Dancer

I don’t often play favorites on this show; in fact there have been a couple of songs I genuinely disliked, but I covered them anyway because the story behind them was kind of interesting. And I think you’d be hard-pressed to identify those songs, because I do try to be even-handed.

However.

I am going to take the time to gush about “Tiny Dancer” just a little bit, because it’s one of my favorite songs by Elton John, and it may even be somewhere in my all-time Top Ten, if I took the time to compose such a list. Actually, I’ve already taken that time, and here’s the episode.

Before you listen, however, I will note that my wife doesn’t really like this song, and I can’t convince her to sing along with me on the chorus. Ever. Spoilsport.

And, as promised, here’s the “Tiny Dancer” clip from the 2000 film Almost Famous:

Kate Hudson shoulda been a bigger star.

Click here for a transcript of this episode. 

Click here to become a Patron of the show. 

168: Windy

The Association was a band that just kind of floundered for awhile. First in was in their early years when they were known as simply The Men, then, in 1966 after their first album did well, the second one did…not so much.

Bones Howe
Bones Howe

Part of the problem, it seemed, is that the band members playing their own instruments was mostly not a good idea. So for their third album, Warner Brothers (which had purchased The Association’s label and therefore their contract) brought in a new producer. That producer, Bones Howe, in turn brought in a bunch of session musicians who later became known as The Wrecking Crew.

Insight Out
The Insight Out front sleeve.

The members themselves also made some changes with regard to their overall sound and the materials that they recorded, and they managed to break away from their Sunshine Pop sound and into a more eclectic feel. Some tracks were psychedelic, some were Baroque, some were folky, and there was even a touch of the Garage Band sound. That third album, titled Insight Out, performed about as well as the first one did and yielded two of their biggest hits.  And in this episode we learn a little about one of those songs.

Click here for a transcript of the episode. (The Blubrry player is supposed to provide one now; if you try it let me know how that works for you.)

Click here to become a Patron of the show. For your trouble you’ll receive a weekly newsletter about 48 times a year (hey, once in awhile I have to take a week off). It’s chock full of news, opinions, and the weekly Calendar of This Day in Music History.

167: Without You

One  of my favorite titles for an album comes from The Animals. They did a bunch of albums up to 1969, then for a year or two there were a couple of compilation albums after they broke up.  But in 1977 the Animals reunited and released a new album, titled Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted.

I don’t know what made me think of that. Anyway. (heh.)

This was one of those episodes where, the more I found, the more there was TO find. And so what I thought would be a relatively short episode clocks in at close to twenty minutes. What a bonus for ye!

“Without You” has humble beginnings and a huge, happy ending, except for the composers, Pete Ham and Tom Evans. Although it was a huge hit for Harry Nilsson and later Mariah Carey, neither composer saw much money for it. They, themselves, didn’t see much potential in the song, so they buried it in the dead center of the album, at the end of Side 1. Then in 1975, after years of mismanagement and legal squabbles, Ham committed suicide shortly after learning that all of his money had disappeared. Then, in 1983, following a dispute over royalties from the song, which had been in escrow going back to the Apple Records era, Evans also committed suicide.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Click here to become a Patron of the show. As a Patron, you get access to a weekly newsletter that publishes at least 48 times per year (stuff happens once in awhile, ya know?). You also get occasional goodies like:

  • Giveaways
  • Special videos
  • Bonus Episodes
  • A Sense of Pride for Having Helped Foster an Independent Creator

166: Daydream Believer

I think that by now the Monkees have overcome their epithet of “Prefab Four,” which I suppose was clever but not especially accurate. At least three of the Monkees were musicians who could act. I’d argue that Micky Dolenz was an actor who could play music. (More on that below.) Having said that, however, he’s got one of the best voices of the rock and roll era, so my label comes from the fact that he came from acting rather than from music, as the others did.

Song Premiere: The Monkees, 'Me & Magdalena' : All Songs Considered : NPR

That they didn’t write most of their own music is really of no consequence, given that the pressure for artists to write their own material wasn’t really there yet. Similarly, the Monkees were under a tight contract, which made that difficult. Every move they made toward autonomy was met with resistance. In Michael Nesmith’s case, it meant some acrimony between him and the label.

At any rate, as I mention early in the show, “Daydream Believer” was the Monkees’ last Number One hit, but it was only  their second-to-last Top Ten in the United States.  (Their last was 1968’s “Valleri,” which peaked at #3.) After that, it was the bottom half of the Hot 100 for the band until a brief comeback in 1986.

Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. - WikipediaWhile the  band members had achieved the autonomy they sought, they were also drifting apart as a group. Dolenz had lost interest in drumming, preferring instead to let session musicians take over. Producer Chip Douglas also noted that Dolenz was the weak link musically. He said that Dolenz’ work on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. was cobbled together from several takes of the same song. The cancellation of the show and the poor reception of the film Head didn’t help either. Finally Peter Tork quit the group by  buying out his contract at the end of 1968. By the time their television special 33⅓ Revolutions per Monkee aired in April 1969, Tork was long gone.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Click here to become a Patron of the show. As a Patron, you get access to a weekly newsletter that publishes at least 48 times per year (stuff happens once in awhile, ya know?). You also get occasional goodies like:

      • Giveaways
      • Special videos
      • Bonus Episodes
      • A Sense of Pride for Having Helped Foster an Independent Creator

165: If You Could Read My Mind (featuring Mike Messner)

You might remember a few episodes back when I teamed up with Mike Messner. He’s the host of the Gordon Lightfoot appreciation podcast Carefree Highway Revisited. Well, Mike is back, and this time around we’re talking about Lightfoot’s first big American hit, “If You Could Read My Mind.”

I actually went looking around for the album that I’d first heard this song on, and it turned out that I was exactly correct about its title:

Superstars Of The 70's (Vinyl) - DiscogsVarious , - Superstars of the 70's - Amazon.com Music

This was a four-album box set that came out in 1973, so clearly the folks at Warner Brothers didn’t have a lot of hope for the rest of the decade, musically. However, this is a pretty amazing collection. I don’t think K-Tel ever put anything like this together. And it’s a shame that A) it’s never appeared in cassette or CD format; and B) it’s not likely to be, considering the nightmare it’s got to be to get the rights to them by now. (You can get it on 8-track tape if you’re so motivated, according to Discogs.)

At any rate, I’ve actually wanted to cover this song for a long while, but didn’t really have enough material for an entire episode, so I was glad to have Mike along for  the ride this time around.

Click here to support the show  via Patreon. As a reminder: Patrons of the show get a newsletter in their email box every Sunday, whether there’s a new episode or not. So I’ve been keeping them apprised of what’s been happening in the news and in my life. They’ve been following me through the “medical issue” that I alluded to early in this episode. And they’ll be getting something extra-special in the next week or two.

This show doesn’t have a transcript except for the one provided by the Blubrry player.

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.

Click here to become a Patron of the show. 

Click here to learn more about OrchKids. 

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. 

Click here to support this show through Patreon. 

(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.

Click here to become a Patron of the show.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.