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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.

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151: More Obscure Christmas

Oh, I do enjoy breaking format once in awhile to do special episodes like this one.

For this year’s Christmas episode, I return to the songs that you don’t seem to hear on the radio when the stations are playing All Christmas All The Time. You’d think that with the huge catalog of recordings to choose from (even if the list of songs is relatively limited), radio stations could go on for literally days without ever repeating a recording. But no, we’re going to get Mariah Carey and Trans Siberian Orchestra over and over and over again.

There was one station that managed to have a pretty deep catalog one year. It was out in Colorado and I think I went four hours before I heard a repeat. So that was pretty good. I don’t think they’re still doing that, though, more’s the pity.

I took a little more time to script this show than I did last year, so for those of you who are interested, there is a transcript this time. Last year, I was working off of notes, and it clearly shows. Hey, you live and you learn. Or you don’t live long. (h/t to Lazarus Long)

Here’s the playlist for this year’s episode:

  • Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer (1979 version)—Elmo and Patsy
  • Christmas Kisses—Ray Anthony and the Bookends
  • Christmas on the Block—Alan Mann Band
  • Crabs for Christmas—David DeBoy
  • Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)—The Darkness
  • How to Make Gravy—Paul Kelly
  • Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town—Joseph Spence

And finally, let me note that Jenna Getty has come through again with a Christmassy version of the theme music, funded by the Patrons of the show. I haven’t mentioned this enough: Patrons of the show got a special hour-long episode a couple of weeks ago as an extra “Thank You” for their support. Plus they get the Newsletter with my lame blatherings every single week, whether a show drops or not. And if you become a Patron of the show, you’ll have access to all of that. If that sounds interesting to you, please click the link below.

Have a great and safe holiday!

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144: Everlasting Love

The interesting thing about this song is that it was written for a specific singer. That said, it’s been a pretty big hit for many different artists over the years.

“Everlasting Love” was written in 1967 specifically to match Robert Knight’s voice, but it’s proven to be quite the malleable tune. It’s been rendered in R&B, in disco, in rock, in techno and god knows what else.

So the story behind the song isn’t incredibly interesting. Interesting, but not incredibly so. But the journey it’s taken to embed itself in the hearts of different generations is a fun one. Ride along with me, why don’t you?.

This is not the episode that I teased earlier. That one’s still coming; there’s an interview attached to it and we’ve had some scheduling issues.

As promised, here’s the video of the song by Sandra from 1987. It’s got a very 80s feel to it. I think that comes from the editing and the “backstage” feel it’s supposed to be conveying. I dare you to tell me I’m lying about the Natalie Wood thing:

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133: All I Wanna Do

When Sheryl Crow finished her debut album, she decided that it didn’t sound the way she wanted it to. So she actually convinced A&M Records to scrap it and let her start over.

The result was a collaboration between her and several other Los Angeles-area musicians who met weekly to help each other with their songwriting. That quickly turned into a project dedicated to putting together Crow’s second debut album. That group became the Tuesday Night Music Club, because that’s the night they’d meet, and it also became the title of that album.

Now, some controversy arose around the TNMC and the album that arose from it, specifically who got credit for what, and it may have led to the death of one of the members. But that all came later on and as a result I didn’t focus on any of that in this episode. Instead I stuck to Crow’s early career and what led to the Club, her (second) first album and how “All I Wanna Do” went from a throwaway track to her breakout hit.

And as ever, I’m thankful for your support.

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131: Candle in the Wind

Elton John and Bernie Taupin were in a remarkably productive period in the early 1970s. Over a span of just two weeks they’d not only written enough material for an album, they’d written enough for two. And they were thematically similar enough that all the songs could be combined into a single two-LP package. That became the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, which yielded three hit singles. It would have generated at least one more, but in the meantime John had cranked out yet another album (Caribou), and any more singles from Goodbye would have delayed Caribou‘s release.

So “Harmony” became a B side, and while “Candle in the Wind” had been released as a single in the UK, it never came out in the US. However, 1973 was early in the period when FM radio was starting to grow, and some radio stations were only too happy to play entire album sides without interruption. And since Side 1 of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road could be considered practically a single piece, “Candle in the Wind” got some FM airplay then. At any rate, it wasn’t an unknown quantity by the time 1986 rolled around and Elton played it in concert in Australia, where the song made it onto the live album he released the next year and it WAS released as a single, this time charting in the US and (again) in the UK.

Because the song had gotten some national attention it turned out that Princess Diana was familiar with it to the point where she’d told Elton John that she’d found herself identifying with some of the predicaments that the Marilyn Monroe of the song had faced during her lifetime. So when Diana was killed in a car crash at the same age that Marilyn was when she died, and when the Royal Family asked Elton John to play at Diana’s funeral, Elton asked Bernie Taupin to come up with new lyrics for the song.

And thus it was that “Candle in the Wind” found new life on the charts. But there’s more to the story than just that. Tune in and find out what!

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123–Candy Everybody Wants

So this week has been a brief return to work for me, as my school has been preparing for what education is going to look like when classes resume in September. And it’s been playing havoc with me. It’s a stressful time to be a teacher, you bet.

On top of that, I got my second shingles vaccination early this week, and I didn’t have the best of reactions to it, losing a couple of days to some of the side effects. It sucked hard, but it beats having shingles, given what I saw my mother and my father-in-law go through. I’ll take two days of chills over a month of painful rash.

ANYway, today’s episode comes to you as the result of a request by Paul Kondo over at Podcast Gumbo. Paul has done nice stuff for the show a few times, and he had me on as his guest a few weeks ago, so when he said he wanted to hear me talk about a 10,000 Maniacs song, how could I refuse?

I didn’t really have an excellent reason for choosing this song other than I like it, despite its rather dark message. But that became part of the story, of course. Natalie Merchant-era songs from 10,000 Maniacs had that habit of disguising rather incisive lyrics with jaunty melodies so it took the average listener a little bit of time to realize what they were really listening to.

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119–What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

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Another bit I worked way too hard on. But it’s worth blowing up if you’re so inclined.

R.E.M. had released two albums and hadn’t toured since 1989, so when it came time to put together the album that eventually became Monster, they were ready to break the mold a little bit and go back to rockers rather than the relatively quiet, introspective stuff they’d been putting out.

But the project was put through several different tests, including multiple illnesses and the deaths of a couple of Michael Stipe’s close friends a relatively short time apart from one another. At one point the band members were so annoyed with each other that it was thought briefly that they’d broken up.

But they managed to get it together and put together an album that got generally good reviews, especially for the way they were experimenting sonically.

“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” was inspired by an incident involving Dan Rather where he was attacked by someone who, when he was finally identified, turned out to have some severe psychiatric issues. At the time Michael Stipe and Company wrote the song, nobody had any idea who this person was, or if he even existed. But the phrase that Rather cited him repeating over and over during the assault became a bit of a catchphrase for awhile. And Rather himself came to have a sense of humor about it, as you can see in the 1995 clip from the David Letterman Show, below.

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Episode 105–Under the Covers, Part 6

True story: I hire models from Fiverr to do these pictures. All three of them, coincidentally, are from the same (non-US) nation. I don’t do that on purpose but I’m starting to think I have a “type”.

Thanks for your patience as the show migrates from one server to another. As I noted on the social media, I’m working hard to make it as invisible as possible if you listen via Google or Apple or Spotify, etc. And the website here is going to look kind of weird for awhile with a lot of double posts for previous episodes, until I pick my way through and fix them, one by one. Fun, Fun, Fun!

This week, we’re taking yet another look at a few songs which you may not have known were covers, and nearly all of them were suggested by a listener named Kim, who didn’t feel that a shout-out was necessary, but obviously I don’t feel the same way. Kim had a list of songs that could work, and I said “Sure” to most of them, with a single exception, and that’s mostly because the story is a little convoluted and I may have to turn it into an episode of its own down the road a ways.

Anyway: a new hosting partner means a new player here on the webpage for you, and I do have a little bit of customizing control over it (something I didn’t previously have at all), so I’m happy to hear your suggestions. And, of course, please let me know if you hit any weird technical snags.

Finally, as promised: here’s the original French song I discussed during the show. Check out those lyrics; it’s rather poignant.

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

Episode 101–In Bloom

You should be forewarned that this episode takes a brief detour into subject matter that’s a little bit on the touchy side. Specifically, there’s a mention of a musician’s gender identity and how it’s affected their relationship with their fans and the media. I hope that’s not a problem for ye.

Anyway, you’re getting two episodes this week, to make up for the lapse I did two weeks ago. So either this is the bonus episode because it’s Monday, or yesterday was the bonus episode and this one is a day late. How you choose to view that, I care not. Anyway, are we good now?

But the members of Nirvana had a tough time dealing with their quick rise to fame in 1990 and 91. They discovered that a lot of their new fans would be bopping about and singing along with their songs without having a lot of idea what the songs meant.

There’s an old Steve Martin routine where he’s playing the banjo onstage, and he comments that “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.” He even makes an attempt at it: “Oh death, and grief, and sorrow, and murderrrrr…” and that’s pretty much what Nirvana was going through, but in the other direction. Their songs had the benefit of being very catchy, even if the subject matter was kind of dark and alienated, so people were latching on to the hooks (‘scuse the pun, there) in the songs and not really thinking about the lyrics, or the emotions evoked. This provided a weird disconnect for them, and Cobain finally took that emotion and put it into song form. Which didn’t really help, of course, because now they’re singing along to a song that’s basically mocking them.

As the fourth single from Nevermind, “In Bloom” was Top Five in the US on the Album and Mainstream Rock charts, and Top 30 pretty much everywhere else. When the Singles box set came out in 1995, it re-surfaced on a few European charts for a bit. But at that point Cobain had already died by suicide, and Nirvana was no more.

Yeah, I think we’re good here.

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82–Under the Covers 4

itunes pic 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.