Episode 2.7: EASTER

Patti_Smith-Easter

Easter – Patti Smith Group – Arista – 1978

After a debilitating injury stood between her disjointed second album and the imminent recording of her third, Patti Smith wrote a poem that would inform her next collection of songs by taking her physical pain and turning it into sonic glory. The poem “Easter” detailed her own “resurrection,” her journey to triumph over hardship. A concept was born and the album that would share the poem’s title became Smith’s greatest commercial breakthrough.

Containing the monster hit “Because The Night,” the controversial “Rock N Roll N****r,” and raucous, protest-ready “Till Victory,” Easter is a celebration not only of human will, but of female power. Negotiating for complete creative control over her album (a year before 9 to 5 brought gender inequity in the workplace to the national spotlight), Smith made no concessions to how male record executives thought she should present herself. Appearing raw and unpolished on the album cover, growling her desires and bellowing her neuroses in her music, and standing by her artistic convictions, Patti Smith demanded that women be seen on their terms, exactly as they wanted to be.

Forty years on, Easter remains a catalyst for feminism, a stronghold for lyric poetry, and an icon of blood-pumping, heart-racing, hair-raising rock and roll.

 

Listen to Easter: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript correction

  • While the cover of Horses was shot by Patti’s close friend and ex-boyfriend Robert Mappelthorpe (who has taken numerous stunning, iconic photos of her as a muse), Easter was shot by Lynn Goldsmith, who is one of our favorite rock photographers. Her Instagram is dope and you should check it out.
  • “How did everyone let Jimmy Iovine have a unibrow for, like, 30 years?” is truly one of the hard-hitting questions that keep us up at night. (No, really, it was just so so so bad.)
  • Turn tf up for feminist activism. The revolution will be soundtracked by Patti.
  • Discuss: who, if anyone, could Patti Smith be compared to, artistically?
  • Hi, we love when women sing men’s songs, bye.
    • Check out our further watching links below to see the rendition of “Because the Night” dedicated to Fred Smith this summer. (Sadly, it’s missing her introduction, but, yes, she really did say that.)
    • Be sure to hit up our master playlist on Spotify for all the song references we just dropped — from Jimmy Iovine’s “hello female singer, you should sing this male singer’s song” tracks to Patti Lupone’s take on “Because the Night” to the Garbage and Screaming Females cover
    • The Angelfish cover of “Kimberly” isn’t on Spotify, but you can listen to it here.
    • Unrelated but sort of related: could we call people on the phone more?
  • Here’s more info about the history of “Ghost Dance” as a Native American prayer song.
  • “Babelogue” is so full of wonderful imagery that you really should read the lyrics to it to fully digest it all.
  • “Rock and Roll N****r” is a prime example of your fave is problematic.”
    • Here’s our friendly reminder that you can — and should — hold people you admire accountable for faults that can be fixed. To look the other way would be idol worship, and we don’t play like that.
    • Patti. Patti, Patti, Patti. WHY?
    • Discuss: Do you think this was a creative, artistic choice for the sake of art, or a deliberate decision made knowing it would push buttons and create controversy?
    • Moral of the story: WORDS. MATTER.
  • To learn more about this “wild woman” theory, check out this book that was recommended to us and we are now recommending to all of you.
  • Here’s a trailer for that movie “Privilege (Set Me Free)”
  • Patti. Girl. With that Sunday night CBGB reference, you super aren’t fooling anyone into viewing the subjects of this song as anonymous people.  keeping the subjects of this song anonymous people.
  • This is literally called Art Songs 101
  • Here’s a site that’s definitely not at all from the late-90s era of Geocities site building (nope, no way) about Arthur Rimbaud’s Une Saison En Hell.
  • GO. SEE. PATTI. SMITH. IF. YOU. CAN. AND. HAVE. NOT. DONE. SO.  ALREADY.
    • It will probably maybe definitely change your life.
    • READ. HER. BOOKS. (they’re in the further reading links below). They will gut you emotionally. 

Favorite track(s): Till Victory and Space Monkey (Carly) |Till Victory (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rock and Roll N****r (Carly) | Privilege (Set Me Free) Carrie)

Album credits:
Patti Smith – vocals, guitar
Lenny Kaye – guitar, bass guitar, vocals
Jay Dee Daugherty – drums, percussion
Ivan Kral – bass guitar, vocals, guitar
Bruce Brody – keyboards, synthesizer

Richard Sohl – keyboards on “Space Monkey”
Allen Lainer – keyboards on “Space Monkey”
John Paul Fetta – bass on “Till Victory” and “Privilege”
Andi Ostrowe – percussion on “Ghost Dance”
Jim Maxwell – bagpipes on “Easter”

Further Watching:
“Because the Night” live in Central Park | 2017   
Patti Smith Interview: Advice to the Young | 2012 (ed note: HIGHLY RECOMMEND) 
Dream of Life (documentary) | 2009 
Patti Smith’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2007
“Because the Night” on Old Grey Whistle Test | 1978 

Further Reading:
Devotion (Why I Write) | 2017
M Train | 2015
Just Kids | 2010
Babel | 1979

Patti Smith, The Godmother of Punk Rock, Shares Her ‘Devotion’ | WBUR (September 2017)
Easter review | Pitchfork (May 2017)
This advice. | Brooklyn by the Book (September 2016)
The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs | Pitchfork (August 2016)
Easter review | Creem (June 1978)  
Patti Smith’s Top 40 Insurrection (the Lester Bangs review) | Phonograph Record  Magazine (May/June 1978)

Episode 2.6: RIVER

joni-mitchell-blue-river

“River” – Joni Mitchell – Reprise – 1971

“It’s comin’ on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

In 1970, while at work on what would be one of her greatest pieces of work, Blue, Joni Mitchell wrote lyrics to “River,” an achingly confessional song of longing and loss that just happened to be set during the holiday season. In the ensuing decades, it took on a life of its own, accidentally entering into and securing a spot in the Christmas music canon as a modern classic. An unconventional carol, its heartbreak has served as a touchstone for all those bereft during what is proclaimed to be the most wonderful time of the year, a deeply personal song that has become a universal reassurance that it’s okay to not be okay.

In this special holiday episode, we unpack Joni Mitchell’s iconic song and its history and meaning beyond its attachment to Christmas, discuss the pop culture circumstances that allowed for it to be adopted by the holiday, and why it has remained a source of comfort for a vast array of people this time of year.

Listen to River: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript correction

  • It’s pretty hard to write a new Christmas song that will make it into the Christmas canon — check out our master playlist for a few examples.
  • See our further reading links below for some more deep reads about how “River” came to represent Christmas.
  • Here’s one essential appearance in pop culture that helped cement its place in Christmas.
  • Sometimes it’s nice to just listen to music that makes you feel your feels. Here’s a playlist for that.
  • And, yes, if you feel like it, a 37 track long playlist that’s just “River” on repeat actually exists.
  • Many thanks to all who have listened to our podcast this year, especially to those who have shared it or have reached out to us to talk about this music we love (and so much more). You all made this a small glimmer of goodness in an otherwise garbage fire of a year, and we hope we provided a little bit of the same relief to you, as well.

Further Watching: 
“River” live at the Royal Albert Hall (no visuals, just audio) | 1970

Further Reading:
‘River,’ the ‘thoroughly depressing’ Joni Mitchell song that somehow became a Christmas classic | Washington Post (December 2016)
The Music Midnight Makes: In Conversation With Joni Mitchell | NPR (December 2014)  
The Only Covers of Joni Mitchell’s “River” You Need | MTV (December 2012) 

Episode 2.5: PARALLEL LINES

blondie-parallel-lines

Parallel Lines – Blondie – Chrysalis Records – 1978

Perhaps one of the most emblematic albums to come out of the musical melting pot of ’70s New York, Blondie’s 1978 breakthrough Parallel Lines is an explosion of influences and styles. Not quite punk, not quite pop, not quite disco — its roster of songs launched Blondie to a new level of success by combining familiar sounds from a variety of genres, mixing the past with the present and looking towards the future, all while still remaining true to their underground roots.

Each member of the band found themselves pushed out of their comfort zone by producer Mike Chapman, and with this album, they hit upon the formula that would bring forth the distinct, iconic Blondie sound for years of records to come.

In this episode, we parse through the various influences and cultural contexts that make up each song, let our nerd flags fly with sonic connections, and continue our musings and discussion of why late ‘70s New York was such fertile ground for music that has endured for decades.

Listen to Parallel Lines: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • If you missed our guest stint on Little Water Radio’s program The Rest is Noise, listen to the archive of it here. We come on around 39 minutes in.
  • We have a thing for bands born out of CBGB. Check out our episodes on Tom Tom Club and Marquee Moon for more on this scene.
  • If you’ve read our FAQs, you’ll know that we’ve repeatedly said that we’re not trying to cover iconic albums because so much has been said about them already. Parallel Lines, however, is different — we think we have more to add to the conversation.
  • Here’s more about Richard Gottehrer, the producer on Blondie’s first two albums.
  • And here’s some more info on Mike Chapman, who produced Parallel Lines.
  • Six of the 12 tracks on the album were released as singles, and most of them had music videos to go with them. Peep our further watching links below to check them all out.
  • Bop over to our Spotify playlist to hear the Nerves’ original version of “Hanging on the Telephone” back-to-back with Blondie’s cover.
    • Shoutout to Clem Burke for being a gd champ on this album.
    • That double backbeat, tho. YOU KNOW we’ve stacked some ‘60s influencing examples in our master playlist, too.
  • PSA: Swim team practice will be held in the PROJECTION ROOM ABOVE THE AUDITORIUM.
  • Women 👏 owe  👏  Debbie 👏  Harry  👏  a  👏  whole  👏  heck  👏  of  👏  a lot.  👏
  • Watch this if you want to further tease out the Mike Chapman vs. Clem Burke comparison to Jimmy Iovine vs. Stan Lynch.
  • Also, fun fact: Robert Fripp plays guitar on “Fade Away and Radiate.” #TheMoreYouKnow
  • Discuss: Can liking commercial pop music be tasteful?
  • No, but really, we’re going to make a playlist called “Okay… sounds fake, but okay” about songs artists INSIST are totally innocent and innocuous but we definitely know better and they’re not fooling us. Get at us if you have any favorites.
  • Wow wow wow “Heart of Glass” is a lot.
    • Again, we always love to talk ‘70s New York. Hit us up if you wanna educate us or share stories.
    • Yes, disco and punk actually evolved out of the same geographic location and similar subcultures. Read this fantastic oral history of disco from Vanity Fair for more.
    • Listen to Blondie covering “I Feel Love,” then head over to our master playlist to hear the early demo “Once I Had a Love.”
    • Oh, and, also, shoutout to Kraftwerk.
  • There are a ton of bands that draw massive influence from Blondie — we’ve got a lot for you to listen to over on Spotify.
  • Blondie disbanded in 1982, but reformed in 1997 and are still around and kicking ass now. We highly recommend their latest album Pollinator for how well it merges the classic Blondie aesthetic with 2017 — something that’s not easy for many legacy bands to do. They avoid both the pitfalls of an old band trying to sound young and relevant and an old band too stuck in their past. Dig.
  • Thanks for being Blondie, Blondie.

Favorite track(s): 11:59 and Heart of Glass (Carly) | Sunday Girl and Hanging on the Telephone (Carrie)
Least favorite track: I Know But I Don’t Know (Carly) | 11:59 (Carrie)

Album credits:
Deborah Harry – vocals
Chris Stein – guitar, 12-string guitar, E-bow
Clem Burke – drums
Jimmy Destri – electric keyboards
Nigel Harrison – bass guitar
Frank Infante – guitar

Further Watching:
Inside the Music: Blondie’s New York | 2014
Blondie’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2006
Rock and Roll Punk (Blondie comes in around part 2)| 1995
Nightmoves interview | 1978
“Hanging on the Telephone” music video
“Picture This” music video 
“Heart of Glass” music video

Further Reading:
Blondie’s Parallel Lines (from the 33 ⅓ book series) | 2016
Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk | 2014
Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie* (Ed note: this is mostly photography, but is co-authored by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. We only recommend authorized/legit biographies in our notes, ya feel?) 

Debbie Harry: June/July Cover Star (in-depth profile of both Debbie and Pollinator) | Nylon (May 2017)
There’s Something About Harry | Harpers Bazaar (March 2017)
Why Did ‘70s Rock Music Hate Disco So Much? | Noisey (February 2016)
Blondie: Success and Sexism | Mojo (March 2014)
35 Years Ago: Blondie Release Parallel Lines | Ultimate Classic Rock (September 2013)
Parallel Lines re-release review | Pitchfork (August 2008)
Parallel Lines review | Rolling Stone (November 1982)
Robert Christgau’s OG review | 1978

Episode 2.4: TANGO IN THE NIGHT

tango-in-the-night

TANGO IN THE NIGHT – Fleetwood Mac – Warner Brothers – 1987

The year is 1986. Fleetwood Mac had not released a new album in four years. And, with the radio favoring younger and more heavily pop hits like “How Will I Know” and “Papa Don’t Preach,” they were considered middle-aged and washed up, like most of their late-60s and ‘70s breezy, FM rock peers, barely a blip on anyone’s radar.

The band members themselves were fractured. Stevie Nicks checked into rehab to deal with a cocaine addiction that, over the course of the past decade, had created a hole in her nose — by the end of the year, she would be in the early stages of a long addiction to Klonopin, the drug meant to keep her off the coke. Drummer Mick Fleetwood, who had declared bankruptcy two years earlier, was in the midst of an outrageously expensive cocaine addiction, while bassist John McVie was drinking heavily, and keyboardist Christine McVie was celebrating her new marriage. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was holed up in his home studio, obsessively at work on his next solo album.

The end result would not be Buckingham’s third solo album, but Fleetwood Mac’s fourteenth. A shimmering, painstakingly crafted labor of love produced by Buckingham over the course of 18 months, 1987’s Tango in the Night would become a sort of sister album to the impossible-to-top Rumours: a monolithic story of a band in the throes of self-destruction. Only this time, they weren’t all stubbornly persevering together; they were being held together, puppeted, even, by Buckingham as he coaxed an album from a band that, mostly, just wasn’t there. It would be the last studio album the iconic quintet ever recorded together.

In this episode, we discuss the qualities each distinct songwriter brings to the collective group, how Buckingham’s experimental production style helped make Tango so reflective of its time, and why we will never tire of this crazy family and all of their drama.   

Listen to Tango in the Night: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • In case you didn’t have enough family drama this holiday, here’s an episode about your favorite lives-for-the-drama rock and roll band!
  • We don’t have 300 hours for our podcast, and the history of Fleetwood Mac, with all its various lineup changes and love affairs and stuff, is so long and complicated that it might take that long to explain. If you want to learn more history, there’s a really cool website called Google dot com.
  • Obviously, we recommend you revisit our very first episode on Buckingham Nicks, the album Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham made two years prior to joining Fleetwood Mac. It would be quite useful for your understanding of this album.
  • Speaking of Tusk, here’s the very earliest version of ‘77 Music Club, the first and only episode of Drunk Album Reviews.” You can probably guess why we didn’t continue it.
  • Poor Lindsey Buckingham. He’s always tryna make solo albums and then they end up getting incorporated into Fleetwood Mac projects.
    • In addition to Tango, see: The Dance, Say You Will, and Extended Play.
  • Banger? Bop? Wut? In case you’re new here, or in case you’ve forgotten, we have a glossary that will fill you in on pretty much any millennial slang (or our own made up slang, let’s be real) we use in the episode.
  • Lindsey Buckingham is a crazy mad scientist studio rat who loves to play with his toys and control almost everything about the production of anything he touches. See our further reading links below for more.
  • Discuss: Do the “oohs” and “aahs” that are really Lindsey pretending to be Lindsey and Stevie convince you that it is Lindsey and Stevie, or do you think it just sounds like Lindsey with a weirdly tuned voice?
  • Okay, honestly, you HAVE to watch this video of “Big Love” done acoustically. Warning: Your head might actually explode.
    • Still thinking “How the actual eff does one man do all that?” Watch this short interview where he explains his playing style and does “Big Love” ever so slightly slower so you can really see what’s happening. IT IS INSANE.
  • Sorry not sorry, but we’ve gotta say it. This album is some of Stevie Nicks’s absolute worst when it comes to both singing and songwriting. We just have to be honest and objective here.
    • (Street Angel is also very, very bad, but we pretend it doesn’t exist, so we won’t talk about it any further here.)
  • “Everywhere” is an undeniable bop that will play about nine out of the ten times you are ever in a CVS anywhere. This is a fact.
    • Check out our master playlist on Spotify to hear examples of how “Everywhere” really does harken back to Fleetwood Mac’s early blues-rock days, if you think about it.
  • Carol Ann Harris = “Caroline.” She wrote a book about her experience with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac. We don’t recommend it. It’s been proven to be full of fallacies many times over. Ugh.
    • But lolol Lindsey, YOU DIDN’T EVEN TRY.
  • Go ahead and file “Little Lies” under “Songs You Always Hear In Drug Stores,” too.
  • Okay, hear Carrie out. “Family Man” is Lindsey Buckingham trying so hard to be Talking Heads.
    • Funky bass-driven melody? Check. Hella danceable drum beat? Check. Basic lyrics about the mundanity of everyday life? Check. I mean, come on.
    • Granted, Lindsey is influenced by a multitude of sources (see: the Spanish-style guitar solos sprinkled throughout, the Beach Boys-esque harmonies), but his affinity for punk and new wave, and for boundary-pushing, has never been a secret.
      • This excerpt from a 1980 Rolling Stone cover story on Fleetwood Mac — in which Lindsey talks about his love of Fear of Music and John McVie is shocked to hear that there’s a married couple in Talking Heads — will never not be funny.
      • And here’s a 1987 review of Tango in Spin where the critic compares it to Talking Heads ‘77. So.
    • Again, hit up our Spotify playlist to hear some similar grooves back to back. Musical walks are fun.
    • Agree? Disagree? Drop us a line. We love to nerd out about this stuff with others.
  • Stevie Nicks self-references and recycles lines in multiple songs all the time and we have SO. MANY. QUESTIONS, but it seems like there are so few answers. So, if you wanna get all English class analytical with us about it, you know where to find us.
  • See our further reading links below for more about how Lindsey salvaged “When I See You Again” and other really terrible Stevie takes in an effort to get something good from her on the album instead of nothing.
  • Lindsey’s shoes were filled by Billy Burnette and Rick Vito on the Tango in the Night tour. There’s a full video of it that we’ll link to in our further watching section. It’s… interesting.
  • Stevie and Christine would later leave the band in the early ‘90s, although the classic, 5-piece Fleetwood Mac lineup reunited in 1997 for a TV special, tour, and live album.
    • Christine McVie left after this tour, due to severe anxiety, and didn’t rejoin the group until 2014.
  • Since 1987, Fleetwood Mac has produced only one new album of original material (2004’s Say You Will) and one four-track EP (2013’s Extended Play). Though Lindsey and Christine released an album as a duo this spring (it’s good, we recommend it), and the band continues to tour, it seems highly unlikely that we will ever see a final album from Fleetwood Mac, and we think, truthfully, that that is quite sad and disappointing.

Album credits:
Lindsey Buckingham — Guitars, keyboards, Fairlight CMI, lap harp, percussion and drum programming, vocals
Christine McVie — Keyboards, synthesizers, vocals
Mick Fleetwood — Drums, percussion
John McVie — Bass guitar
Stevie Nicks — Vocals

Favorite track(s): “Big Love” (Carly) | “Everywhere” and “Family Man” (Carrie)
Least favorite track(s): “When I See You Again (Carly) | “When I See You Again” (Carrie)

Further Watching:
Destiny Rules (truly the best Fleetwood Mac doc out there) | 2004
“Big Love” (acoustic, The Dance) | 1997
“Everywhere” (acoustic, The Dance) | 1997
“Seven Wonders” music video | 1987
Tango in the Night full concert | 1987
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks Tango interview | 1987

Further Reading:
The real story behind Fleetwood Mac’s Tango in the Night (interview with co-producer Richard Dashut and engineer Greg Droman) | Salon (April 2017)
Tango in the Night re-release review | Pitchfork (March 2017) (ed note: this is one of Carrie’s favorite pieces ever written for Pitchfork and/or on Fleetwood Mac, so it comes highly recommended.)
Stevie Nicks: Recording Tango in my ex-boyfriend’s bedroom was ‘extremely strange’ | Miami Herald (March 2017)
Fleetwood Mac: ‘Everybody was pretty weirded out’ (scroll midway to get to Tango stuff) | Uncut (January 2013)  
Lindsey Buckingham Leaves Fleetwood Mac | Rolling Stone (September 1987)
Tango in the Night review | Rolling Stone (May 1987)
Lindsey Buckingham, Lonely Guy | Rolling Stone (October 1984)

Episode 2.3: MOONDANCE

van-morrison-moondance

MOONDANCE – Van Morrison – Warner Brothers – 1970

Sequestered away in Woodstock, New York, at the end of the 1960s, Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison was on a quest. His previous album, Astral Weeks, was floundering commercially, and no one knew quite what to make of this Celtic troubadour who sang of mysticism and “gardens all misty wet with rain.”

Out of this artistic sabbatical came 1970’s Moondance, an album that drew influences from blues, pop, and jazz to create a through line of music that was at once inherently accessible, and, as the ensuing decades would prove, universally relatable. Within these melodies, Morrison used imagery of his trademark gypsies and mists and dreams and stories, while placing them within frames of groove-able basslines, wistful guitars, and even trendy (for the period) flutes. This amalgamation of influences proved to be just the right combination that Morrison needed to cement himself within the lexicon of great singer-songwriters, and why Moondance has since gone on to become one of the best-loved albums ever recorded.

Listen to Moondance: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We spared you a bunch of background info about Van Morrison’s pre-solo career and what happened when Astral Weeks was released, but if you want to learn more, there’s this cool thing called Google that will tell you all about it.
  • We love to call out when a certain album feels like a certain season to us, and although we often disagree, we both definitely think Moondance is a perfect fall album. Even better are albums you can identify as “rainy day albums” (fall rainy days are bonus), which this one most definitely is. (Sidenote, thank god we’re done with hotumn.)
    • Disagree? Agree? Hit us up and tell us your thoughts.
  • See our further reading notes below for more about that childhood memory that informed “And It Stoned Me.”
    • For a refresher on our feelings on saxophones in rock, revisit our Hall & Oates episode.
    • Here’s that gorgeous John Mayer cover we mentioned. You’re welcome.
  • We’ve discussed our distaste for the flute before. IT RARELY WORKS.
    • Benmont Tench agrees with us. Here’s his opinion on the “Moondance” flute.
    • So, yeah. If someone could please get us and Benmont Tench a mix of “Moondance” done without the flute, we’d love you forever.
  • Check out our master playlist on Spotify to hear the similarities between “Crazy Love,” “Waiting on the World to Change,” and “People Get Ready” side by side.
  • Shoutout to John Klingberg, who is a true MVP on this album.
    • See our further watching links below for the can’t-be-missed performance of “Caravan” from The Band’s iconic 1978 concert film The Last Waltz
    • “Caravan” clocked in at 181 on Pitchfork’s 200 Best Songs of the 1970s list. We’ve discussed our displeasure with this list countless times throughout our episodes, but add the fact that only one Van Morrison song makes an appearance on it to the list of reasons why we think it needs an overhaul.
    • Fun fact: Nick Hornby wants the version from The Last Waltz played at his funeral. Here’s some great writing on how great this version is.
  • To really see how Morrison’s use of homophones can change the meaning of “Into the Mystic,” take a peek at the Genius lyrics.
  • Also check out our further watching links for the live cover version of “Into The Mystic” by Zac Brown Band and Clare Bowen.
  • For a refresher on how we each feel about non-sequitur, surprise songs in albums, revisit our discussion on “Before They Make Me Run” from the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls.
  • Correction: Carly does, in fact, know that Northern Ireland is part of the UK. Our bad for the slip-up.
  • Shoutout to that transatlantic music trade. We dig how cool it is that so many iconic UK/Irish bands and artists have been able to take old American blues and turn it into something of their own.
    • See our further watching links for this cool documentary where Van Morrison talks about and plays with John Lee Hooker, as well as that Fillmore East show.
    • And if anyone can get us more info about John Klingberg, that would be super cool. Thanks!
  • Okay, special exception to the flute thing with “Everyone.” It works there.
  • Again, hit up our Spotify playlist to hear all the side-by-side comparisons between modern artists like John Mayer, Ryan Adams, and Father John Misty and Van Morrison.

 

Album credits:
Van Morrison — Rhythm guitar, vocals, tambourine
Jack Schrorer — Alto and soprano sax
Collin Tillton — Tenor sax and flute
Jeff Labes — Piano, organ, and clavinette
John Platania — Lead and rhythm guitars
John Klingberg — Bass guitar
Garry Malabar — Drums and vibraphone
Guy Masson — Congo drum
Emily Houston — Backing vocals
Judy Clay — Backing vocals
Jackie Verdell — Backing vocals


Favorite track(s): “Into the Mystic” (Carly) | “Caravan” and “And It Stoned Me” (Carrie)
Least favorite track: “Brand New Day” (Carly) | “Come Running” (Carrie)

Further watching:
John Mayer – “And It Stoned Me” | 2014  
Zac Brown Band ft. Clare Bowen – “Free >> Into the Mystic” | 2013
Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade | 2003
Van Morrison Cue The Music TV documentary | 1991
Van Morrison and The Band – “Caravan” | The Last Waltz (1978)
Van Morrison live at Fillmore East | 1970

Further reading:
The Words and Music of Van Morrison | 2009
Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison | 2003   

Moondance re-release review | The Au Review (October 2013) 
500 Greatest Albums of All Time – Moondance | Rolling Stone (May 2012)
Van Morrison: The Poet | Rolling Stone (November 1978)
Moondance review | Rolling Stone (March 1970)

 

Episode 2.2: URBAN VERBS

urban-verbs

URBAN VERBS – Urban Verbs – Warner Brothers – 1980

In our very first oral history episode, we are extremely proud to present the story of Urban Verbs, an integral band in the shaping of Washington D.C.’s burgeoning punk scene in late 1970s and early 1980s.

With the frenetic energy of punk buzzing out of New York and London and the first bursts of post-punk already beginning to enter the airwaves, Urban Verbs stood at a crossroads of sonic and cultural possibilities. They had their own uncharted terrain on which they could create a scene of their own, with their own experimental sound: Their home base, the now-legendary 9:30 Club, spawned a singular new wave movement, one whose influence can still be felt among D.C. bands of today. Their unique meshing of the visual arts crowd with the music world helped to usher in a unification of the D.C. creative community.

Only circumstance separated the Verbs from widespread national acclaim, so with this episode, we offer a candid telling of a story that we feel deserves recognition, a story of music that still sounds as fresh, driving, and progressive today as the day it was recorded. These are the recollections of an extraordinary period in time, told by those who lived it.

Carly and Carrie would like to dedicate this episode to the memory of Robert Goldstein, whose music and essential contributions to the Verbs were a large part of the inspiration for this project.

Listen to Urban Verbs: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

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Here, shared with the public for the first time, is the detailed, two page letter legendary producer Brian Eno wrote to the Urban Verbs upon hearing them for the first time at CBGB. Delivered to the band the morning after the show and featuring extensive handwritten marginalia, the letter reflects Eno’s enthusiasm for their unique sound, the potential he heard in it, and his eagerness to record them — at his own expense.

In it, Eno is remarkably candid, mulling over ideas that seem dated now (“I’ve often thought of the next generation of machines and computers,” he muses) but were ahead of their time, offering suggestions and praise in equal amount. “That was how far I could go before getting embarrassed,” he concludes. “I realize that this gush might surprise you somewhat, but you came at a good time for me.” 

 BRIAN-ENO-URBAN-VERBS-LETTER-CBGB-1 BRIAN-ENO-URBAN-VERBS-LETTER-CBGB-2

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Thank you very much to Rod Frantz for sharing this document with us.

And here are the tracks Eno ended up producing for the Urban Verbs:

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Here’s a publicity still of the Urban Verbs from the late ‘70s that’s cool af.
  • Here’s some extensive info about the ARP Odyssey synthesizer Robin Rose used.
  • While the Verbs were pioneers in the D.C. rock scene, this article from D.C. Whiz highlights some of their contemporaries, including the Slickee Boys, mentioned in this episode.
  • For a taste of what the B-52s were like around the time they played with the Urban Verbs, check out this in-depth look at their early days.
  • Here’s some more info on Mike Thorne’s career.
  • The awful Rolling Stone review is, surprisingly, nowhere to be found on the internet. And we mean surprisingly as in “we sometimes scare ourselves with how good we are at sleuthing and deep diving the murky online waters and we STILL couldn’t find it.”
  • The Washington Post covered the Urban Verbs extensively in their D.C. days. See our further reading links below to read everything from profiles of the band to reviews of their shows.
  • The Urban Verbs briefly reunited in 2008. Here’s an interview with the band from the time, and peep our further watching links below to see a 2008 performance of Terminal Bar.
  • More from Bob Boilen on the Urban Verbs.
  • The last time that all the original members of Urban Verbs publicly performed together was at the Katzen Arts Center in D.C. in May 2016. Check out our further watching links below to watch their performance.
  • See our further reading links below to read and listen to NPR’s poignant remembrance of Robert Goldstein.
  • Members of the Verbs, along with other DC bands and artists who continue their legacy, held a tribute concert for Robert Goldstein (which came to be known as RobertFest) at the new 9:30 Club in January 2017. A video of the entire show can be viewed in our links below.
  • In the mood for another oral history? The Washington Post did one in 2010 on the founding and subsequent life of the 9:30 Club.

Album credits:
Roddy Frantz — Vocals, Written-By — Lyrics
Robert Goldstein — Guitar, Written-By — Music
Robin Rose — Synthesizer
Linda France — Bass and piano
Danny Frankel — Drums and percussion
Mike Thorne — Producer

Further watching:  
RobertFest full concert | January 2017
Urban Verbs live at Katzan Arts Center | May 2016
Terminal Bar | 2008

Further reading: 
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital | 2009

Ambient Genius (Brian Eno profile) | The New Yorker (July 2014)
Remembering Robert Goldstein, NPR’s Music Librarian and Our Friend | NPR (October 2016)
Urban Verbs’ Renewal (on a 1995 reunion at the 9:30 Club) | Washington Post (December 1995)
The Urban Verbs: Future Tense (debut album review) | Washington Post (March 1980)
The Urban Verbs (Pension Building show review) | Washington Post (March 1980)
The Urban Verbs (profile of the band) | Washington Post (February 1979)
Two Rock Groups Play CBGB’s (show review) | The New York Times (November 1978)
The Urban Verbs (Corcoran Gallery show review) | Washington Post (October 1978)

Episode 2.1: SOME GIRLS

somegirls

SOME GIRLS – The Rolling Stones – Rolling Stones Records – 1978

Disco. Punk. Blues. Rock. Country. Touching on each of these unique, diverse genres on one album looks like a recipe for disaster on paper. And yet, in the tight span of 40 minutes, that combination was the magic kick that the Rolling Stones needed to revive their careers.

Things were not looking good for the Stones by the late-70s. After getting carried away on their own popularity following a string of hit albums — Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. — they released a string of subpar ones. Drugs were becoming an increasing problem, and a heroin bust left Keith Richards facing serious legal issues and the threat of an extended jail sentence. Their early peers, bands like the Beatles, the Animals, and Led Zeppelin, had either broken up long ago or were on the fade. And now in their early 30s, they were considered too old to be trusted as rock stars anymore, quickly losing relevancy to the young punks and disco acts on the rise.

Suffice it to say, their next album had the power to make or break them. An experimentation with what was new, while still remaining true to the Stones’ established rock aesthetic, 1978’s Some Girls was a critical and commercial success that breathed new life into the band.

In this episode, we examine the influences of emerging musical movements like disco and punk on the Stones, how a decidedly British band made an album that captured the New York spirit, and why it stands up over time as a testament to the Rolling Stones’ continued legacy as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.

This episode is in memory of all the people who were killed and injured in Las Vegas this week, and to the lasting influence of Tom Petty. May it remind you why we all love and celebrate music in the first place.

Listen to Some Girls: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

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(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Alright, the Rolling Stones had a lonnnnng history before they even got around to Some Girls, so we’ll spare you all our CliffsNotes and just direct you to Wikipedia to spiral from there.
  • We’ve discussed this before: the mid- to late-70s were an incredibly exciting time in music, particularly in New York. It’s no wonder the Stones wanted to play catch-up and pull in punk and disco influences to stay current.
    • We can hear a SLEW of influences on this album. Bop over to our master playlist on Spotify to hear them all.
  • LOL at the Stones being considered too old in the ‘70s.
  • Because of Keith’s legal issues stemming from a bust for heroin possession, Mick ends up being a driving creative force on Some Girls. For more about that, peep our further reading section below.
  • Okay honestly, if you don’t bop to “Miss You,” your brain might be broken.
    • Shoutout to Billy Preston for teaching Mick four on the floor.
    • Shoutout to Charlie Watts for that kick drum and being an all-around great drummer.
      • Watch this video. “My thing, whenever I play, is to make it a dance sound. It doesn’t matter whether it’s blues or whatever. It should swing and bounce.” Helllll yeahhh, Charlie.
    • Debate: Do you think the disco-influence in “Miss You” was the product of experimentation and jamming, or a pointedly calculated track?
  • Current artists are always going to be influenced by what came before, but we seem to be in the midst of a ‘70s and early ‘80s renaissance with bands like Vulfpeck, TOPS, etc.
    • That sentiment about all music being cyclical because there are only so many chords that we couldn’t source? It came from Tom Petty. He’s invaded our subconscious to the point where we could recall this interview he gave about 12 years ago, in which he says he’s found himself writing a song and “then [realizing] it’s somebody else’s song. […] But there’s only so many words and so many notes, so sometimes you do cross somebody else’s territory.”
  • Hi, we may be technically nerdy but you will never find us be superior purist snobs on this show.
  • Mick Jagger is a slut. There. We said it.
  • Shoutout to that pedal steel guitar for creeping into some punkier tracks.
  • No, really, Mick has no idea why he wrote “When The Whip Comes Down.”
  • Hahahahahahahaha “Some Girls” would never be made today hahahahahaha
  • No, seriously, can anyone provide any evidence that Mick did research at CBGB because “Lies” and “Respectable” sure sound like he did.
  • Someone compiled a list of all the times Keef sings lead on Stones’ songs, so there’s that.
    • TBH, “Before They Make Me Run” has strains of Mudcrutch in it, though, so we can’t complain too much.
    • Keef has lived an extraordinarily messy life. You should read about it in his memoir, aptly titled Life.
    • (Keef will outlive us all.)
  • “Beast of Burden” is easily one of the top 10 sexiest songs ever do not fight us on this.
  • From the Clash to Lou Reed to Joe Jackson — check out all the influences we hear in “Shattered” in our ever-evolving master playlist. (Yes, we plugged it again.)
    • PSA: Do not complain about New York if you do not live in New York. (We’re looking at you, Mick.)
  • What’s there to say about the Rolling Stones’ legacy? They’ve been around forever and are seemingly immortal, having influenced countless of musicians and fans for more than 50 years.

Album credits:
Mick Jagger — lead and backing vocals, electric guitar, piano, percussion
Keith Richards — electric guitar, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, piano, lead vocals
Bill Wyman — bass guitar, synthesizer
Charlie Watts — drums
Ronnie Wood — electric guitar, backing vocals, pedal steel, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, bass drum
Sugar Blue — harmonica
Ian McLagan — electric piano, organ
Mel Collins — saxophone
Simone Kirke — congas
Ted Jensen — mastering

Favorite track(s): Miss You (Carly) | Miss You (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Far Away Eyes (Carly) | Far Away Eyes and Before They Make Me Run (Carrie)

Further watching: 
Shine a Light (Martin Scorsese documentary on the Rolling Stones) | 2008
The Rolling Stones: Just for the Record – The ’70s | 2002
Keith Richards: Life (BBC documentary) | 2010
Some Girls tour interview | 1978

Further reading:
Rolling Stones’ ‘Some Girls’ (from the 33 1/3 book series) | 2011
Life (Keith Richards’ memoir) | 2010

How the Rolling Stones went disco: Inside the making of “Miss You” | Salon (August 2017)
How the Rolling Stones Bounced Back With ‘Some Girls’ | Ultimate Classic Rock (June 2015)
The Rolling Stone Interview: Jagger Remembers | Rolling Stone (December 1995)
Mick Jagger: Jumpin’ Jack Flash at 34 | Rolling Stone (June 1978)
Some Girls review | Rolling Stone (June 1978)