Episode 10: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Shelter Records – 1976

Before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, classic American rock icons, they were just five kids from Gainesville, Florida who had driven cross country to Los Angeles with $200 and hopes of landing a record deal for their southern rock group Mudcrutch.

Their ascent would be a slow one; the group signed with Shelter Records in 1974 and released a single, only to be dropped from the label. The band broke up. The band got back together and found themselves with a new opportunity to release an album — this time with a better name: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Released in 1976, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut is an amalgamation of styles and influences. It travels from classic blues to swampy country to classic ‘50s rock in songs that are abruptly short and full of anxious, pulsing rhythms that weren’t too deviant from the emerging punk scene. It’s no wonder people didn’t know what to do with them or how to classify them when the album was released.

Though the album contains songs that are now staples of American pop culture, ingrained in our collective consciousness — songs like “American Girl” and “Breakdown” — it would be a few years before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cemented their status as household name rock stars — but it’s a status they’ve held onto.

In this episode, we discuss the variety of musical influences on early Heartbreakers work, dive into Tom Petty’s sparse songwriting style, and talk about why Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ enduring, four decade long careers truly inspire us.

Listen to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: 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

  • Hi, hello, welcome. We hope this podcast distracts you from the garbage fire that is the world for at least 50 minutes or so.
  • Shoutout to Bowery Electric for an awesome three night celebration of Max’s Kansas City. We weren’t alive to see it in its heyday, but this was a nice homage.
    • Hi to any new friends we made over the course of the weekend!
    • For real, check out any kind of East Village days-of-yore events Bowery Electric puts on.
  • We love almost anything and everything Tom Petty (with and without the Heartbreakers) has released, but we’re covering the Heartbreakers’ debut, rather an album as iconic as Damn the Torpedoes, because we want to have conversations about albums without just rehashing what everyone else has already said. Check out our FAQ page for more on our philosophy.
  • Here for Dad Rock, always and forever.
    • Traveling Wilburys are peak Dad Rock — just wait until we get to them down the line.
    • No, seriously, just file this picture in the dictionary as the sole definition of Dad Rock and call it a day.
    • You could probably play a drinking game to how frequently we drop the term “dad rock” in this episode, but we don’t recommend it. Podcast responsibly.
  • Peep our further watching and further reading links below for two tomes on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that we cannot endorse more emphatically.
    • Petty is Warren Zanes’ incredibly in-depth, intimate, and breathtaking biography of Tom Petty that will make you feel all of your feelings and probably love Tom Petty more than you thought you could.
    • Runnin’ Down a Dream is Peter Bogdanovich’s epic, 4-hour long documentary of your dreams. It’s enthralling, candid, and thorough — so worth a binge session.
  • It all starts with Mudcrutch.
    • Listen to some of their original demos here or here.
    • Mudcrutch got back together in 2007 and have released two albums since. Listen to them here.
  • TBH,  we don’t blame the good people of 1976 for thinking Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were punk. It really doesn’t help that there was already a punk band — a staple at CBGB — who were also called the Heartbreakers…
  • We’re not going to get too too deep on lyrical analysis — Tom Petty’s songwriting is often sparse and without a lot of intentional metaphors to unpack; he’d probably roll his eyes and think we were really digging for bullshit if we went that route.
  • “Breakdown” is a fantastic combination of old and new. Seriously.
    • Listen to “Breakdown.” Then listen to Booker T. and the M.G’s “Green Onions.” Note the similarities.
    • Listen to “Breakdown.” Then listen to Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack.” Boom.
    • Listen to a live version of “Breakdown” where they weave the aforementioned classic into their own song.
    • All that seem like a lot? Follow us on Spotify to listen to all the great songs we just mentioned (and more to come!) in order of discussion for your listening-and-nerding pleasure.
      • Except for Suzi Quatro’s cover. That one you can watch here.
  • We love all the Heartbreakers, but honestly, people don’t talk enough about how MVP Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench are.
  • All roads go back to Gainesville. (Watch this. Trust us on this one.)
  • Sorry, but Carrie’s going to say “I love the way Tom Petty writes” a lot in this episode.
  • And Carly’s going to call people “cats” a lot, too. Just go with us.
  • 500% here for this video of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performing “Anything That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll” on Top of the Pops.
  • Want to talk about the symbiotic relationship and pop culture exchange between Britain and America in the mid-to-late 20th century? Talk to us.
  • “Strangered in the Night” could totally be a sister song to “Two Gunslingers.” If you’re a regular listener, you’ll know how much we love sister songs.
  • We went down a musical rabbit hole again, which is fun.
    • Listen to Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” Then listen to “Fooled Again.”
    • Listen to “Fooled Again.” Then listen to Sheryl Crowe’s “My Favorite Mistake.”
    • Did your brain melt a little bit?
  • Speaking of sister songs: “Luna” could easily be a sister song to “The Wild One, Forever.”
    • Tom made up “Luna” on the spot, which, like, not fair.
  • Listen, “American Girl” is a bop and we don’t have time for any haters.
    • Speaking of the Byrds… Roger McGuinn actually ended up covering “American Girl” in 1977. (It’s in our master playlist, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.)
    • Oh, and on that sister songs note: “American Girl” and “Free Fallin’” could be sister songs:
      • 🎶 She was an American girl, raised on promises, loves Jesus and America, too. She’s an American girl, crazy ‘bout Elvis, loves horses and her boyfriend, too 🎶
    • Slow this song down and you’ve got a haunting (but good) ballad.
    • Seriously. Don’t be that person who hates “American Girl” just because it’s popular. Just don’t.
    • Also, don’t be that person who wears the band tee-shirt without knowing anything about the band. Follow this trusty rule: Can you name two non-singles and the bassist? Then you can wear the band tee.
  • We love Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for myriad reasons. Just let us gush for a minute.
    • Okay, just a few: their never-ending hustle, their supreme musicianship, the fact that they’re just good human beans who got into music — and continue to make music — for all the right reasons, their humility, and total lack of egos.
  • If you missed the last (and only, so far!) Mudcrutch tour, we are truly sorry. (Carly feels your FOMO). If you did, and you’d like to talk about how magical it was with Carrie, hit us up.
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are currently on a North American tour to commemorate their 40th anniversary.
    • No, it’s not a greatest hits tour; it’s full of deep cuts to be stoked about.
    • If you can go: GO. (And say hi to Carrie if you see her at Newark and/or Forest Hills — yes, she knows she has a problem.)
    • If you can’t go: Hit up this awesome live recording of their 30th anniversary tour.
  • Again, come say hi on Facebook, Twitter, or email. We always love making pod friends.

Favorite track(s): Breakdown (Carly) | American Girl, Luna (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Luna (Carly) | Mystery Man (Carrie)

Album credits:
Tom Petty – vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards
Mike Campbell – electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Benmont Tench – piano, hammond organ, keyboards
Ron Blair – bass guitar on tracks 1–2, 4–5, 7–10, cello
Stan Lynch – drums on tracks 1–2, 4–10, keyboards

Jeff Jourard – electric guitar on tracks 2, 7
Donald “Duck” Dunn – bass guitar on track 3
Emory Gordy – bass guitar on track 6
Randall Marsh – drums on track 3
Jim Gordon – drums on track 6
Noah Shark – maracas, tambourine, sleigh bells
Charlie Souza – saxophone on track 3
Phil Seymour – backing vocals
Dwight Twilley – backing vocals

Further watching:
Runnin’ Down a Dream | 2007

Tom Petty MusiCares Speech: Rock & Roll Empowers America’s Youth | 2017
Tom Petty Q on CBC interview | 2014
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech | 2002

Further reading:
Petty (biography) | 2015
Conversations With Tom Petty (interview compilation) | 2005

Benmont Tench: The 40th Anniversary Interview | Keyboard Mag (March 2017)
40 Years Ago: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Release Their Debut Album | Ultimate Classic Rock (November 2016)
Tom Petty On Cheap Speakers And George Harrison | NPR (August 2014)
Tom Petty: Rolling Stones Were ‘My Punk Music’ | Rolling Stone (July 2014)
Tom Petty Knows ‘How It Feels’ | NPR (July 2006)
Mike Campbell Is More Than Just the Guitarist For Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | The Georgia Straight (August 1999)

Episode 9: MARQUEE MOON

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MARQUEE MOON – Television – Elektra Records – 1977

On March 31, 1974, a young band called Television played their first gig at recently-opened Bowery dive CBGB. Not long before, they had helped Hilly Kristal put the CBGB stage together; now, they were performing in the club that they would help to immortalize. Television, comprised of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Richard Hell (replaced by Fred Smith in 1975), and Billy Ficca, soon became the de facto house band at CBGB, appearing regularly and becoming a staple of the growing scene that would come to include the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, and Patti Smith, to name a few.

With their popularity growing, the logical next step would have been to record an album, but Television bided their time. They chose to hone their sound, to develop and grow as a band, so by the time they were signed to Elektra Records in 1976, they were more than ready to begin work on what would become the seminal Marquee Moon. Released in early 1977, the album is regarded as one of the greatest of the punk era, containing songs that continue to be referenced today in covers and samples.

We chose this album as the first to be covered from our show’s namesake year because of its grit, its timeliness and timelessness, and its particular way of getting under your skin and making you feel more electrically charged than you were when you began the album. In this episode, we explore how Television’s and CBGB’s beginnings are inextricably linked, dive into Marquee Moon’s darkness and dreaminess, and outline the continuation of the band’s sound, proving that their legacy still thrives today.

Listen to Marquee Moon: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

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

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We are 500 percent here for Fairfield Theatre Company’s Emerging Artists Series. It highlights the importance of providing a platform for developing musicians while simultaneously offering opportunities and experiences to expand a community’s interests with alternative live music you might have to take a trip into the city to hear.
    • If you’re in Connecticut: GO.
    • If you’re in New York: GO. It’s well worth the mini-field trip — people there are astoundingly nice (a teenager told Carly she looked “dope” and meant it) and everything is gorgeous and the venue itself is great. Also, the Metro North train ride was way better than any L we’ve been on, so maybe consider bopping up to Fairfield sometime instead of Bushwick. You know we’ll be there.
    • Here’s more information about the series, its upcoming featured acts, how to get tickets, and all that other logistical good stuff, if you’re interested.
  • If you’re into Kraftwerk, or into electronic music that’s less of that club trap stuff and more analog, atmospheric, transportive, and chill, check out Xeno and Oaklander.
  • If you’re into old-school, hip-hop style DJ sets with sick scratching, funky beats, and danceable samples, check out Kid Ginseng.
  • Brooklyn Flea’s annual record fair is a can’t-miss event and a great chance to score some of those albums you’ve been searching high and low for.  But, it’s extremely difficult to exercise self-control at the record fair. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
  • 1977 was one of the greatest years of our lives and we weren’t even born yet.
    • Marquee Moon and Rumours were released in the same week. Like. The year was stacked, you guys.
  • RIP CBGB. We didn’t know you personally, but we’ve consumed enough (too much) secondhand information to miss you.
    • An anecdote about how long we’ve been the goobiest nerds: when CBGB was closing, Carrie begged her parents to take her to one of the final concerts. Unsurprisingly, they were like “You are 15 years old. No.” Carly, also 15 at the time, cried and moaned “Nooo, I’m never going to get to go to CBGB!!!!” These are very true stories. You can ask our parents.
    • We do not speak of or even look at the men’s designer fashion store (or even use its name) that’s in CB’s place now. It’s offensive.
    • See our further watching section below to feast on some great docs about Hilly Kristal and CBGB. Just don’t watch the CBGB movie. It’s… not good.
    • Our further reading section is also stacked, by the way.
  • You can listen to Neon Boys’ early demos here for a taste of what Television would become.
  • You can listen to the Brian Eno demos here to understand just how developed their final recorded music was.
  • Marquee Moon was a commercial flop in the U.S., but it was a moderate hit in the U.K., and it ended up on countless year-end best-of reviews (not to mention more 10, 50, and 100 Best of All Time lists).
  • 20th Century Women gets early punk so right, but this quote is particularly spot on: “It’s like they’ve got this feeling, and they don’t have any skill, and they don’t want skill, because it’s really interesting what happens when your passion is bigger than the tools you have to deal with it. It creates this energy that’s raw. Isn’t it great?”
    • What’s so fascinating about Television is that they were punks who had both — talent and passion — and were still able to exude raw energy.
  • We’ve discussed this before, but we love how diverse the CBGB microcosm was. Talk to us about it. We weren’t alive to witness it ourselves.
  • This episode goes out to Karin Berg and many, many other women whose histories have been buried. We’re doing our best to make sure their contributions aren’t forgotten.
  • Apparently “Venus” is about LSD? Or falling in love? Or both? Maybe don’t ask Tom Verlaine, because he’s actually said he doesn’t always understand what he’s writing.
  • Shoutout to basslines you can groove to. We love ‘em.
  • Okay, but “Friction” totally sounds like it could be a Zeppelin song, despite sounding authentically Television at the same time. This just shows how complex their sound could be and how many influences Television pulled in.
    • See our further reading section below to check out the NME review of Marquee Moon and an insanely in-depth interview with Richard Lloyd that covers all the bases. Click on that link. Actually read it. It’s good. Seriously.
    • Lawrence Welk? Really? Really.
  • Fasten your seatbelts, grab your pool floaties, do whatever you gotta do to roll safe. We’re about to tackle “Marquee Moon.”
    • What. A. Side. One. Closer. Honestly. “Stairway to Heaven” is possibly the only song that can come close to comparing.
    • “Marquee Moon” has several runtimes: 9:58 on the original vinyl pressing, 10:38 on subsequent rereleases, and 14 minutes or longer live. As much as we lust after having an OG copy of an album, we gotta say: those extra 40 seconds are so necessary.
    • Where were you when you first heard “Marquee Moon?”
    • No, really, someone wrote an opinion piece arguing that “Marquee Moon” is the best after party song ever.
    • Ranking it eighth in their flawed — we’ve mentioned our disdain for this list before (love you, Pitchfork, but cannot with this), but if you want to talk about it, by all means, contact us — list of the 200 best songs of the ‘70s, Pitchfork got something so, so right, describing “Marquee Moon” as: “punk’s contrarian think piece; a 10 minute odyssey for the dreamers and Deadheads inside CBGB.”
    • There is so. much. imagery. in this song. We would be here for hours if we went through it line by line, but here are the lyrics if you want to give it a stab.
    • RihannaMagic.gif = how it feels when “Marquee Moon” hits 9:15.
  • Yes, that’s “Elevation” you hear sampled in “Lovefool.”
    • Appropriation is the sincerest form of robbery, pass it on.
  • Go with Carrie here: Lindsey Buckingham totally appropriated crazy recording techniques off of punk artists while recording Tusk. Let’s imagine he heard the microphone lasso story and gave it a try.
  • Listen to Tennis’s dreamy cover of “Guiding Light” here.
  • Seriously, though, someone make us a mashup of “Heaven” and “Guiding Light” and we will love you forever. Those basslines.
  • Shoutout to Carly for playing music teacher and giving all of us a walk-through of the popular major-major-minor-major chord formula.
  • Musical scavenger hunts are fun — and we might be the ones to bring up Carole King, Ricky Nelson, and Creedence Clearwater Revival all in relation to Television.
  • Hey! Wish you could listen to all the songs we compared to Prove It? Follow us on Spotify, where you’ll get them all in one place on our master playlist.
  • Television’s legacy, though small in recorded output, is vast in influence, from playing an integral role in the incubator community of CBGB to influencing the sound of countless bands to follow them, from Pearl Jam to R.E.M. to the Strokes.
  • Television still plays live dates together, although with guitarist Jimmy Rip in Richard Lloyd’s place.
    • Television is hitting the festival circuit this summer, if you’re interested.
    • Richard Lloyd is performing solo these days, including a set on June 3 in New York at the Bowery Electric. You know we’ll be there, so if you’re in the area, check it out (and come say hi).
  • As always, say hello on Facebook, Twitter, or email. We’ve had some wonderful conversations and made some great friends of the pod so far, and the more, the merrier.

Favorite track(s): Marquee Moon and Friction (Carly) | Marquee Moon and See No Evil (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Torn Curtain (Carly) | Torn Curtain (Carrie)

Album credits:
Billy Ficca – drums
Richard Lloyd – guitar (solo on tracks 1, 4, 5, and 6), vocals
Fred Smith – bass guitar, vocals
Tom Verlaine – guitar (solo on tracks 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8), keyboards, lead vocals, production

Further watching:
Richard Lloyd interview | 2013
Punk Revolution NYC (Television comes in around part 4, but all parts are enthralling) | 2011
Rock and Roll Punk | 1995
Tom Verlaine interview | 1992
Hilly Kristal interview (Warning: you will get feels) | 1990
The Blank Generation | April 1976

Further Reading:
Television’s Punk Epic “Marquee Moon,” 40 Years Later | Pitchfork (February 2017)
How Television Made Marquee Moon, the Best Punk Guitar Album Ever | The Observer (February 2017)
1976-1978: CBGB’s House Photographer | Mashable (September 2014)
Friction: The Making of Marquee Moon (aka the brilliant, super long Richard Lloyd interview) | Uncut Magazine (March 2012)
Television’s Marquee Moon (from the 33 1/3 book series) | 2011
The Rise of New York’s ’70s Rock Scene | Vanity Fair (November 2002)
Marquee Moon review | NME (February 1977)
Everything is Combustible (Richard Lloyd’s forthcoming memoir) | October 2017

Episode 8: SONGS FOR BEGINNERS

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SONGS FOR BEGINNERS – Graham Nash – Atlantic Records – 1971

The year is 1970. America is in the midst of political turmoil: the Vietnam War faces extensive grassroots backlash, four students are killed at Kent State University in Ohio, and women strike for equality in New York. The music world is not without its share of anguish: the Beatles announce their breakup, American Top 40 is about to make scoring a hit record even more important to artists, and both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdose and die within weeks of each other. Graham Nash is dealing with his own personal unrest. Fresh off of two breakups, romantically with Joni Mitchell and professionally with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and politically charged, Nash takes to the studio to record his debut solo album, Songs For Beginners.

Assembled with the assistance of a slew of members of the crescendoing Laurel Canyon music community, Songs For Beginners succinctly captures the trifecta of traits that have defined Nash’s songwriting: gut-punches of raw emotion, crafted with a pop sensibility in mind, and full of rallying cries for social and political activism. Nash openly and unabashedly shares his most personal feelings, whether they are intimate depictions of heartbreak or outraged shouts, in a manner that will influence folk-rock and indie singer-songwriters for generations to come.

In this episode, we examine Graham Nash’s powerful lyrics and their lasting impression on society, discuss the wealth of music released during the Laurel Canyon era and the importance of creative incubator communities, and get deep into our feels about the relationship between Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell that fueled this album.

Listen to Songs For Beginners: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

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

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We are concert freaks and we saw some really great shows this week, all from artists you should really check out, that we have to call out: Lulu Lewis, Mokoomba, Roya, Wooing, Ryan Adams, Angelique Kidjo and Friends (some of which we aren’t going to talk about or mention).
  • On that note: Hello. Here’s a gentle, diplomatic reminder from your friends at the ‘77 Music Club: Bands are the sum of their parts. Please remember this. We have a lot of opinions (have we met?), but we’ll leave it at that. 
  • See our further watching section for a great short doc of Graham Nash’s history with the Hollies.
  • We love the music of Laurel Canyon. Here’s a playlist.
  • We long for the days of creative incubator communities. Here are some great articles about the Laurel Canyon scene, New York’s punk/post-punk/new wave scene, the Omaha indie rock movement, and the Market Hotel scene in Brooklyn worth checking out if you feel the same way.
  • SO. MANY. PEOPLE. play on this album. Check out the personnel list below. It’s stacked.
  • Pop music doesn’t have to be meaningless, algorithm-pleasing, saccharine drivel. Pass it on.
  • We are going to talk so much about Joni Mitchell and feelings on this episode, so get ready.
    • Here’s something tiny and lovely about Joni and Graham that will make your heart swell.
    • Blue is Joni’s own breakup album, and it heavily features her relationship with Graham. It is one of the most perfect, heartbreaking, profound albums ever. (Sorry if you disagree, but also, if you do, who are you and has your heart been replaced with a cold battery?)
  • For those of you wondering what “shook” or “shooketh” means, here’s a brief definition.
  • Follow our master soundtrack playlist on Spotify to hear how King Midas is a recurring character in Graham Nash’s songwriting.
    • Also, it’s worth noting that CSN songs about Joni Mitchell often use royal, fairy tale language. See: “Guinevere.”
  • A short history of Jerry Garcia just randomly deciding to play pedal steel guitar.
  • David Crosby and Graham Nash both dated Joni Mitchell and remained good friends. They are not friends now. We don’t have nearly enough time to cover their petty drama right now, but the headline on this article about the current state of their relationship is quite entertaining.
  • Here’s a definition of what the “silent majority” is, in case you weren’t alive for Nixon’s presidency or just didn’t pay attention in history class.
  • Preach, DeRay.
  • This is exactly how we feel when we listen to “Simple Man.”
    • Also, this.
    • “If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.” It’s fine. We’re fine.
    • Graham Nash is a grown man who unapologetically displays all of his feelings and we love him so much for that.
    • Will never be over this photo of Joni and Graham, truly.
    • See the further watching links below for a fantastic interview with Graham from the Library of Congress. His anecdotes on love at first sight are around 45:20.
    • Obviously, they’d never work out, because Joni is the “Cactus Tree.”
    • Okay, pause us for a minute to feel your feelings before the next song. We’ll be here when you get back.
  • Let’s talk about “Chicago.”
    • Oh my God, you guys. We are such nerds and we have always been such nerds, stanning for the ‘60s and ‘70s since at least the age of 12. Thank you for liking us.
    • Here’s a summary of the Chicago Eight (later reduced to seven) trials.
    • This core theme — we must stand up for what is right and fight this systematic injustice — is still so unsettlingly relevant. Can we pause and think about that for a second?
    • Read Graham’s thoughts about that changed “rules and regulations, who needs them?” lyric.
    • Go see Graham Nash live, if you can. “Chicago” is still a showstopper.
    • “Woke bae” is a thing, and Graham Nash is definitely one of the originals.
  • Seriously, we cannot put our finger on what iconic protest songwriter said something in the vein of “people still do write protest songs, the problem is that mass audiences haven’t heard them because of how fragmented the music industry is.” Please hit us up if you end up being better at Google than us. It’s driving us crazy.
  • Let’s try to make “We Can Change The World” the next march song. (We wish we didn’t have to say this right now.)
  • Graham Nash’s influence on artists can be seen anywhere from M. Ward to Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver (watch this live cover of “Simple Man” if you want to feel feelings) and is vast. See 2010’s Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners to see just how sweeping.
  • Graham Nash is still “shooting his mouth off” through art, whether it’s touring, recording new albums (his most recent, This Path Tonight, is quite good), painting, or photography. His philosophy is one we are behind 100 percent and one of the reasons why we have a great deal of respect for him: “This is what I do with my life. I get up in the morning and create. What an incredible life I get to lead. [….] I just want to make sure that, with every second I have left of my life, I need to be creating.”
  • Ask yourself: Why did you love music in the first place, and what can you do to add to the story? We’re trying to answer that question every day.
  • As always, hit us up with your thoughts on today’s episode or just to say hey. Like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or drop us an email.

Favorite track(s): Simple Man and Better Days (Carly) | Chicago (Carrie)
Least favorite track: There’s Only One (Carly) | There’s Only One (Carrie)

Album credits:
Graham Nash — vocals; guitar all tracks except “Better Days” and “Simple Man”; piano on “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; organ on “Better Days,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; paper and comb on “Sleep Song”; tambourine on “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Rita Coolidge — piano on “Be Yourself” and “There’s Only One”; electric piano on “Be Yourself”; backing vocals on “Military Madness,” “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Jerry Garcia — pedal steel guitar on “I Used to Be a King” and “Man in the Mirror”; piano on “I Used to Be a King”
Joe Yankee — piano on “Better Days” and “Man in the Mirror”
Dorian Rudnytsky — cello on “Simple Man” and “Sleep Song”
Dave Mason — electric guitar on “Military Madness”
David Crosby — electric guitar on “I Used to Be a King”
Joel Bernstein — piano on “Military Madness”
Bobby Keys — saxophone on “There’s Only One”
David Lindley — fiddle on “Simple Man”
Sermon Posthumas — bass clarinet on “Better Days”
Chris Ethridge — bass on “Man in the Mirror,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels — bass on “Military Madness,” “Better Days,” and “Be Yourself”
Phil Lesh — bass on “I Used to Be a King”
Johnny Barbata — drums on “Military Madness,” “I Used to Be a King,” “Be Yourself,” “Man in the Mirror,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; tambourine on “Chicago”
Dallas Taylor — drums on “Better Days”
P.P. Arnold — backing vocals on “Military Madness”
Venetta Fields, Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King, Dorothy Morrison — backing vocals on “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”

Production personnel:
Graham Nash — producer
Bill Halverson, Russ Gary, Larry Cox — recording engineers
Doug Sax — mastering
Gary Burden — art direction
Joel Bernstein, Graham Nash — photography

Further watching:
Graham Nash: “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life” | 2014
Hotel California: LA From the Byrds to the Eagles | 2007
The Hollies: Graham Nash | Documentary date unknown

Further reading:
Graham Nash Talks Life After Divorce, CSNY’s Future | Rolling Stone (August 2016)
Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life | Graham Nash’s memoir (2014)

Episode 7: THE MESSAGE

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The Message – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – Sugar Hill Records – 1982

In 1982, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released their debut album, The Message, but putting their sound to vinyl had been a long time coming. Formed in the south Bronx in 1976, prolific DJ Grandmaster Flash and his team of MCs (Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Rahiem, Mr. Ness, and Keith Cowboy) started playing and rapping at house parties, with local fame and notoriety soon to follow. When “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip-hop record to garner national attention in 1979, the door opened for the Furious Five to release their sound to the masses and come to commercial and critical success.

Released against a backdrop of an economically ravaged and crime-ridden New York City, The Message is widely heralded as the record that made social-consciousness a subject that could be covered by hip-hop. It’s an album that has received considerable praise, from creating a template from which hip-hop could expand, to setting technological standards by blending hip-hop and electronic music, foreshadowing the evolution of EDM.

In this episode, we examine The Message’s connection to modern hip-hop and rap, speak about the lyrical and musical techniques that excite us every time we listen to it, and take a look at the music that influenced the album, as well as what makes it an enduring influence on artists today.

Listen to The Message: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Record Store Day is a wonderful initiative to get people out to buy vinyl (locally, ideally), and we really scored, but, we cannot stress this enough: support your local record stores as often as you can. Three classic shops in the West Village have closed in the past year alone, if that’s any indicator of just how important it is to support small businesses.
  • Fanny, you guys. Fanny. We’re so glad we discovered this rad all-female rock group and we wholeheartedly endorse the documentary through which we discovered them, Girl in a Band. See our Further Watching links below for a link to watch the doc (if for no other reason than to watch the standing ovation moment behind this perfect go-to GIF).
  • BRB, listening to our new, beloved copies of Marquee Moon (BTW — if Carrie’s dad called Adventure “the red one” one time, we may refer to it as “the black one” at some point in the future) on repeat. Yes, we will be lying on the floor (sorry we said “lay” in the episode; we know better). Yes, we will light multiple candles. It’s a thing.
  • Here’s a brief history of rap (as seen previously in our Tom Tom Club notes)
  • Sylvia Robinson was a total BAMF  — this speaks a bit to why Carly is totally obsessed with her.
  • Here’s some further reading on how funk influences hip-hop.
  • We love basslines. We love them entirely too much. Enjoy this playlist.
  • Hmm… doesn’t “It’s Nasty” sound so familiar? Oh, right. Yeah. That’s because it’s basically “Genius of Love.” Just like hip-hop references what came before it, we’re referencing what came before this episode. As in, revisit our Tom Tom Club episode and notes for a refresher on this particular bop and its history of being an iconic, oft-sampled song.
  • Laura Levine is up there with Henry Diltz and Mick Rock as one of Carrie’s favorite music photographers — you should really check out her work.
  • Hi, let’s talk about vocoders for a minute.
  • “It’s A Shame (Mt. Airy Groove)” makes a dip into social conscious rap — we’ll get into this more extensively in a minute — that is both of its time and ahead of its time at the same time.
    • Honestly, though, it IS a shame that we’re still thinking the same things called out in a song that’s 35 years old.
    • But, it’s not surprising. Every generation has their own “What’s happening to this world?” anthem, and each draws upon what has come before it.
  • Shoutout to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five for not letting toxic masculinity keep them from writing a song all about how much they admire another man.
    • “Dreamin’” is basically how we talk about our own heroes, though, so we’re not throwing any shade. We’d do it, too, if we could.
  • Gospel music certainly influences hip-hop (see current mastery of it from artists like Chance the Rapper); it’s just that “You Are” misses the mark.
  • You can’t understand “The Message” without understanding the history of New York in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. We went into the CliffsNotes version, but to go more in-depth, we recommend documentaries like NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell or Blackout (links below in our Further Watching section), or reading Love Goes to Buildings on Fire.
    • “The Message” is still excruciatingly relevant. New York didn’t get cleaner without some people paying a price. The problems evident in “The Message” still exist today, just amplified in smaller pressure cookers, exacerbated by issues like gentrification, the war on drugs, and the way the war on poverty has turned into a war on the poor.
    • The lineage of “The Message” is evident in current hip-hop, from Jay-Z to Kendrick Lamar. We’ll have some examples in our master playlist on Spotify.
  • The recording of “The Message” actually caused some discord within the group. According to this video note by Rahiem, each person auditioned to have a part on the track, and Melle Mel was the winner — but the rest weren’t pleased that it was just him.
  • “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” was a bonus track released first as a single, then as the final track on the 1982 UK release and subsequent reissues.
  • Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five doesn’t have a happy ending as a group; they’ve broken up twice and performed under different combinations of alliances with no real clear chance of getting the original group back together. Animosity between some members still exists: in 2015, Scorpio made headlines when he accused Grandmaster Flash of being a “fake” DJ.
  • Their legacy lives on, however, from the current hip-hop and rap scene to shoutouts in Hamilton to the Netflix series The Get Down.
    • Shoutout to anyone who has been lucky enough to see Hamilton by now. If you haven’t, and you can miraculously get your hands on tickets: GO. SEE. IT.
    • Seriously, watch The Get Down. It will bring you joy.
  • We have several issues with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction process, and we’re pretty sure we’re not alone — DM us, @ us, email us — we’d love to talk.
  • Pssst — if you like us, shares us with your friends, and please rate and review us in the iTunes store. We would very much appreciate it and you would be a friend of the pod for life.
  • As always, talk with us! Even if your question can be answered from our FAQ page here, never hesitate to shoot us an email, message us on Facebook, or follow and DM on Twitter to get at us with questions, comments, or just to say hi. We’ve had some great conversations so far.

Favorite track(s): It’s Nasty and Adventures…Wheel of Steel (Carly) | It’s Nasty and The Message (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Scorpio (Carly) | You Are (Carrie)

Album credits:
Grandmaster Flash (Joseph Saddler) – turntables, drum programming, Flashformer transform DJ device
Keef Cowboy (Keith Wiggins) – Lead and background vocals, writer and arranger
Grandmaster Melle Mel (Melvin Glover) –  Lead and background vocals, writer and arranger
The Kidd Creole (Nathaniel Glover, Jr) –  Lead and background vocals, writer and arranger
Mr. Ness/Scorpio (Eddie Morris) –  Lead and background vocals, writer and arranger
Rahiem (Guy Todd Williams) –  Lead and background vocals, writer and arranger
Doug Wimbish  – Bass guitar
Skip McDonald – Guitar
Reggie Griffin, Jiggs, Sylvia Robinson – Prophet Sequential
Dwain Mitchell – Keyboards
Gary Henry – Keyboards
Keith Leblanc – Drums
Ed Fletcher – Percussion
Chops Horn Section – Brass

Further watching:
Hip-Hop Evolution | 2016
Girl in a Band | 2015
Blackout | 2015
NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell | 2007
“The Message” music video | 1982
Grandmaster Flash explains his DJ theory | Date unknown, likely early ’90s

Further reading:
Grandmaster Flash Beats Back Time | The New York Times (August 2016)
Grandmaster Flash: ‘Hip-Hop’s Message Was Simple: We Matter’ | The Guardian (August 2016)
So What Exactly Is ‘the Get Down’? Let Grandmaster Flash Explain | Vulture (August 2016)
‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is the Embodiment of New York City’s Spirit | Culture Creature (June 2016)
The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time | Rolling Stone (December 2012)
Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever | 2012
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message (reissue review) | Pitchfork (July 2005)

 

Episode 6: #1 RECORD

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#1 Record – Big Star – Ardent Records – 1972

Towards the end of 1971, four young men from Memphis — some established musicians already, some just starting out — came together to record their debut album. Known collectively as Big Star, they delivered a set of songs that were at once intensely intimate and emphatically exuberant. Their music depicted how it feels to have boundless energy with limited places to spend it, coupled with curious, angst-ridden minds in search of kindreds. It is music that encapsulates the essence youth, yet remains universal and relatable at any age. It’s music that is very much of its time, yet still sounds fresh today.

Their debut album, #1 Record, was released in the summer of 1972, and was followed by two more albums in the 1970s before the group disbanded, never reuniting until nearly two decades later. Big Star has since influenced some of today’s most enduring and celebrated artists; publications like Rolling Stone consistently rank the group’s albums among the greatest of all time, so the question must be asked: why is Big Star not a household name?

In this episode, we discuss #1 Record‘s origins, influences, and what kept it from commercial success. We also talk about why it is so personal to us, and why it’s the kind of music that, once found, cannot be forgotten.

Listen to #1 Record: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Yes, we threw some shade at The Classic. Desert Trip — you’re still okay. We are more than open to discussing opinions on the two classic rock festivals with you.
  • Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature may just be the only thing that makes Mondays suck less, and has led to us discovering a wide variety of music, both new and old. Check yours out and let us know how you like it.
  • Certain music evokes seasonal or weather related feelings for us, and we’re sure we’re not the only ones, but question for the crowd (let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or email): What are your favorite “season” albums? Or, do you have some other off-beat way you categorize music? We’re interested.
  • Here’s a more thorough timeline of the formation and evolution of Big Star.
  • Give us a semi-tragic story of a great album getting “lost” and we will probably love it.
  • We highly recommend the documentary Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me. See our further watching links below to watch the trailer and where to find it online
    • Here’s that Twitter thread on the rest of our favorite music docs that we mentioned. Check out ones you haven’t seen yet, or just rewatch some perennial faves.
  • Big Star has been called one of the pioneers of “‘70s power pop,” and, a full definition of what exactly that sub-genre is (because, to be honest, we were a little “okay, clarification, please” when we read this) can be found here.
  • “The Ballad of El Goodo” has been seen in some instances as a Vietnam War protest song, primarily due to these lyrics: “They’ll zip you up and dress you down and stand you in a row / But you know you don’t have to, you can just say no.”  
  • Yes, “In the Street” is the That ‘70s Show theme song.
    • Yes, they actually used a Cheap Trick cover version.
    • Again, no offense to any That ‘70s Show fans or anyone who worked on it, but we did not watch that show. So, sorry, this will be a relatively That ‘70s Show-free podcast.
  • Studio banter is the key to our hearts. 
  • If you’re new here: we love sequencing (so much that we’ve started using #RespectTheSequence), and, save for The India Song, side 1 of #1 Record is quite possibly one of the perfectly sequenced sides of any album, ever.
  • Chris Bell’s struggles with depression, anxiety, and sexuality have been speculated upon for years after his death, and “Try Again” can be seen as a window into his “tortured soul.”
  • Honestly, how can you not want to at least try to be a morning person, even if only for one day, when you listen to “Watch The Sunrise”?
    • Here’s Carrie’s mellow running playlist, good for slow runs when you’re still half asleep, long walks, or just chilling.
    • Carly will definitely be making a playlist with songs she considers to be a “breakfasts,” so stay tuned.
  • If someone can make a mashup of ST 100/6 over The Beatles’ “Because,” that would be so welcomed by us.
  • Big Star influenced a host of modern artists, from Elliott Smith and M. Ward to Wilco and REM. Follow us on Spotify — our master playlist has all the songs we referenced in this episode, along with some choice related music to draw out these comparisons.
  • We discovered this album on the internet, through an algorithm’s ridiculously accurate recommendation. Let us know if you’ve ever discovered (or rediscovered) an analog artist through some sort of digital means.
  • Feel free to get in touch with us! We have had some great conversations so far. We have an ever-evolving FAQ page here, but shoot us an email, like and message on Facebook, and follow on Twitter to get at us with your questions, comments, or just a “hello!”

Favorite track(s): Watch the Sunrise (Carly) | Feel (Carrie)
Least favorite track: The India Song (Carly) | The India Song (Carrie)

Album credits:
Chris Bell – vocals, guitar
Alex Chilton – vocals, guitar
Andy Hummel – vocals, bass guitar
Jody Stephens – drums
Terry Manning – electric piano, harmony vocals

Further watching:
Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s THIRD Live trailer | April 2017
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me trailer | 2012 | Currently available to stream on Amazon

Further reading:
Big Star: #1 Record/Radio City rerelease review | Pop Matters (October 2014)
The Ballad of Big Star | Grantland [ed. note: RIP, Grantland. We miss you.] (July 2013)
The 10 Best Big Star Songs | Stereogum (September 2012)
Depression, Quaaludes, and the Wildest TGI Fridays in America: The Real Story of Big Star | Noisey (March 2012)
You’ve Never Heard Big Star’s ‘#1 Record’?! | NPR (June 2011)
Big Star: The Unluckiest Band in America | NPR (February 2010)

Episode 5: THE SLIDER

t-rex-the-slider

THE SLIDER – T. Rex – T. Rex (UK)/Reprise (USA) – 1972

By 1972, British music had fully renewed itself on the American scene in the form of glam rock. David Bowie, Slade, and Roxy Music were all part of this musical landscape that Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex expanded and exemplified. Glitter, platform boots, sci-fi imagery, and ’50s rock n’ roll roots made this sub-genre exciting, fresh, and new to kids of the ’70s who may not have realized that this was the rock n’ roll of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Richard — just amped up and fuzzed out for the new generation.

T. Rex’s album The Slider made full use of all of these elements to create a vibe that spoke to a new generation of rock fans. The album was the pinnacle of the dreamworld that Marc Bolan created, and it leaves us spellbound more than 40 years later. In this episode, we theorize over some extremely poetic lyrics, attempt to decode Bolan, introduce a new hashtag (#RespectTheSequence), and somehow, somehow connect T.Rex to DJ Khaled.

Listen to The Slider: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • First things first: we haven’t properly met, and we’ve gotten some great questions from listeners about who we are and what we do. You can read more about us (Carly and Carrie) on our about page, and answers to the most frequently asked questions on our new (and ever-evolving) FAQ page here.
  • We sound better! Thanks to our friend Jesse Berney for the mic recommendation.
  • We’re on Facebook! Like and follow us here, or just search for us. We are literally the only thing that comes up when you search 77 Music Club.
    • We’re also on Twitter! We tweet fun things! Follow us!
    • Last shameless self-promotion bit: follow us on Spotify, where we host a master playlist with all the songs we reference in each episode, as well as individual playlists from Carly and Carrie (your favorite kids who like music made before they were born and respect the art of sequencing) covering a slew of different themes, moods, and tunes we’re listening to in our off weeks.
  • Here’s a summary of how T. Rex morphed from psychedelic folk group Tyrannosaurus Rex to glam rock T. Rex.
  • Shoutout to A1 (again — no, this isn’t sponsored, but we wouldn’t be opposed to that…). If you’re in New York or visit sometime, we would love to go record shopping with you. 
  • “Ride a White Swan” was T. Rex’s real breakthrough to glam rock in 1970.
  • The 77 Music Club Soundtrack playlist (our master playlist) has “Metal Guru” and “My Sweet Lord” back to back, for comparison. Listen and let us know your thoughts.
  • Pitchfork placed “Metal Guru” at 154 on their best 200 songs of the 1970s (more about that later) — read what they had to say about it here.
  • “Panic” by The Smiths is also next to “Metal Guru” on our playlist — let us know what you think of the comparison.
  • Can anyone tell us where we can sit in on a college course called Glam Rock 101 (or something comparable)? Thanks.
  • Fun fact: Ringo Starr and Marc Bolan were bros. He did the photography for the album sleeve.
  • Another fun fact: The Slider was one of many albums recorded at the legendary Honky Chateâu. 
  • Hey, remember that time Dylan went electric?
  • Here’s another plug for our master playlist: compare and contrast Sheryl Crow’s “There Goes the Neighborhood” with “Rock On.” Tell us what you think.
  • Our last episode highlighted a band whose method was music first, then lyrics. With Marc Bolan, the lyrics came first, then the music. When met with criticism that T. Rex’s music was often repetitive or formulaic in composition, Bolan explained that this was intentional: the music needed to remain simple to let his complex lyrics shine.
  • “The Slider” definitely references drugs, definitely has exaggerated coke sniffing lines, and allusions to growing pot. Just @ us if you think we’re wrong, but it screams “Hm, do you get high? Do you? I don’t know, why don’t you tell us more.”
    • Jokes aside, RIP Marc Bolan. Bolan died in a car crash in 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday. An ironic twist to the tragedy: he feared a premature death, so never learned to drive, but still harbored a fascination with cars.
  • We see you with that Max’s Kansas City shoutout in “Baby Boomerang,” Marc Bolan. We see you.
  • Marc Bolan’s lyrics are bonkers poetry and we absolutely love them. Just read “Baby Boomerang” and see for yourself.
    • The songs were mostly nonsense, but rather than sounding like gibberish, Bolan seemed to be speaking in an alien code that, to this today, we’re still not cool enough to decode.” — Pitchfork, getting something right in their deeply flawed (our opinion) 200 Best Songs of the 1970s list.
    • The Shins covered “Baby Boomerang” in 2004 and you should definitely give it a listen.
  • Anyway, here’s “Spaceball Ricochet.”
    • Part of punk rock’s merits was that it heralded in a greater acceptance of songs that weren’t joyous or pompous, rather, songs that were real, songs that were honest about insecurities in their lyrics and weren’t pretending to be cool. We think “Spaceball Ricochet” stands as a precursor to the genre; we’d love to know your thoughts on this hypothesis.
  • Listen to “Buick McCane.” Then listen to the Black Keys. (They’re both in our playlist; and, actually, it’s been noticed more than once that they wrote a song that is basically “Mambo Sun,” so.) Let us know if you think they could totally kill a T. Rex cover.
  • “Telegram Sam” is about Marc Bolan’s accountant, not his drug dealer. Sorry.
  • Hear us out: “Telegram Sam” did the DJ Khaled pep talk before DJ Khaled.
    • Brief background: DJ Khaled is a producer and a (not that great, tbh) rapper who is famous on the internet (Snapchat, mostly) for videos he shares from his daily life, mostly sharing his “major keys” to success. One time he got “lost” at sea on a jet ski and documented the saga. It was nuts.
    • He has a new baby son and likes to share videos in which he gives him inspirational pep talks. Here is our favorite. Google for more. Your heart will thank you.
    • Anyway, DJ Khaled’s “You’re a boss. You’re a don. You’re an icon. You’re a legend. You’re doing such a good job” spiel is the 21st century’s answer to Marc Bolan giving his friends shoutouts: “Telegram Sam, you’re my main man. Bobby’s alright, he’s a natural born poet — he’s just out of sight.”
    • Lesson: Be a good friend. Pep talk your bros.
  • Can anyone tell us what “Rabbit Fighter” is about? Because we are truly stumped.
  • If “Ballrooms of Mars” sounds like a very Bowie-esque title (and song), don’t be surprised— Bowie and Bolan were bros.
  • Blast “Chariot Choogle” in the car, windows down, volume all the way up. You’ll feel amazing.
    • We will definitely be renting a Zipcar (we live in New York; give us a break), picking a road trip, and doing this once the weather gets warm. We will report back.

Favorite track(s): Telegram Sam and Ballrooms Of Mars (Carly) | Metal Guru (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rabbit Fighter (Carly) | Rabbit Fighter (Carrie)

Album credits:
Marc Bolan – vocals, guitar
Steve Currie – bass guitar
Mickey Finn – percussion, vocals
Bill Legend – drums
Mark Volman (“Flo”) – background vocals
Howard Kaylan (“Eddie”) – background vocals
Tony Visconti – production, sleeve photography, string arrangements
Ringo Starr – sleeve photography
Dominique Blanc Francard – engineering
Freddy Hansson – engineering
David Katz – orchestra contractor
Andy Scott – engineering assistance
Mark Paytress – liner notes
Chris Welch – liner notes

Further watching:
T. Rex – Get It On (Bang a Gong) on Top of the Pops | 1971 (Note: Bolan wears glitter under his eyes in a move that many music historians credit as the ushering in of glam rock)
T. Rex in Concert – Wembley | March 1972
Marc Bolan-Russell Harty interview | 1972

Further reading:
The Slider reissue review | Consequence of Sound (October 2010)
The Slider reissue review | Pop Matters (December 2010)
The Slider box set review | The Quietus (December 2012
The 10 Best T. Rex songs | Stereogum (June 2013)
Revisiting a Glam Milestone, T. Rex’s The Slider | Ultimate Classic Rock (July 2012)
The T. Rex Wax Co. Singles review | Pitchfork (January 2006)

Episode 4: TOM TOM CLUB

tom-tom-club

TOM TOM CLUB – Tom Tom Club – Sire Records – 1981

The year is 1981 and pop culture is exploding around the world — Raiders of the Lost Ark premieres, the wreckage of the Titanic is found, and Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales. The music industry is coming out of one of its worst slumps in decades, dealing with the backlash against disco music, and tucked away at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads record their first album as Tom Tom Club.

The album will become one of the most popular post-disco dance records of the ’80s and gross more than any of the four albums Talking Heads had released to that point. It incorporates international musical techniques and influences, giving the songs a flavor that expands the post-punk art rock sound Tina and Chris had established with Talking Heads, and sets the tone for the new directions that they would take in their musical careers.

While this album can definitely be dated to the early ’80s, we are in love with how it simultaneously sounds fresh and exciting to our millennial ears. In this episode, we explore the sound combinations that make this album the joyous thing that it is, discuss its legacy and relevance, and speak about why Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz are two artists who inspire us big time.

Listen to Tom Tom Club: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Here’s a brief timeline of Tom Tom Club’s formation and growth.
  • Tom Tom Club’s first album was not only a greater commercial success than the previous Talking Heads albums; they partially credit it with giving Talking Heads new life when a split seemed imminent.
  • Chris Blackwell is a real MVP and a true BAMF.
  • The chorus of “Wordy Rappinghood” is a riff on the Moroccan childhood tune “A Ram Sam Sam,” and, if you grew up in the ‘90s (or raised kids then), this version might ring a bell.
  • This documentary short on “Wordy Rappinghood” explains everything, in their own words (and, by the way, we could totally go for one of these for each song on this album…)
  • Some (very brief) notes on the origins of early rap:
    • Rap’s origin is based around NYC block parties uptown in the early ‘70s, but it wasn’t something people took seriously — commercially, at least — until the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979 and Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” in 1980.
    • Meanwhile, downtown, Blondie released “Rapture” in 1981, which was Billboard’s first #1 rap song, as well as the first rap video to play on MTV, opening the door for a broader interpretation of rap from a new musical community.
    • Here’s a little starter guide about the birth of rap.
  • Everyone and their mother knows “Genius of Love” and if you don’t, you’ve probably spent your life in a cave (sorry, but honestly…), because about a million artists have sampled or covered it.
  • This two and a half hour lecture with Chris and Tina at the Red Bull Music Academy is so thorough and comprehensive and pure geek heaven, and, at the same time, not nearly enough — it makes you (okay, us) want to have a longer conversation and soak in their knowledge and experiences even more.
  • Peep our ‘Further watching’ links below to watch two must-see performances of “Genius of Love” — one, a grand production from Stop Making Sense, the other, a sparse, acoustic performance from NPR’s Tiny Desk.
  • Here are the translated lyrics to “L’Elephant,” if you’d like a more thorough translation than Carrie’s 7th grade-level one. (She tried.)
    • Food for thought from Carrie’s subpar French: the French word for “to kill” sounds a lot like the phrase for “you are” — tuer vs. tu est — which, when repeated in the coda, could perhaps be interpreted as an implication or accusation of complicity. Or, it could just sound cool.
  • Listen to “Lorelei.” Then listen to “Suboceana” (from their third album, Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom). Repeat. Tell us if you agree with Carly’s belief that they are sister songs (we love sister songs).
    • “Lorelei” sounds like a song that would be a Pitchfork fave if it were released today, and makes us think of a slew of artists who are influenced by Tom Tom Club, from Tennis to Vampire Weekend to Haim (fun fact: Este Haim decided to switch from guitar to bass after watching Tina in Stop Making Sense) to Jenny Lewis (in all incarnations: solo, with Rilo Kiley, or with Nice As Fuck)
    • Honestly, we just really want a Jenny Lewis – Tom Tom Club cover session to happen.
  • “On, On, On, On” is the new resistance anthem, pass it on.
    • Again, another Nice As Fuck-y song — play NAF’s “Door” video. Play it again on mute with “On, On, On, On” playing in the background. Woke.
  • Pssttt — follow us on Spotify to hear all the songs we discuss on this episode that influenced and were influenced by Tom Tom Club in our ongoing master playlist.
  • A brief history of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz being WOKE AF:
    • This 1983 feminist bop called “This is a Foxy World” that is also our new resistance anthem (although we lament that it’s still a spot-on critique of today’s society)
    • On the “being a woman in rock” trope (circa 1984)
    • Being pre-woke about the changing music industry in 1999 (scroll to the part about $50 concert tickets — we would love to know what they think about the whole $500 VIP ticket racket that’s prevalent today).
    • This.
    • This badass segment in the “Girls in Bands” doc (starts around 27:30), but mostly this here-for-this-write-this-down-and-frame-it moment: “If you want to do something, just do it. Don’t talk about it — and don’t criticize other women. If they want to go out and swing on a wrecking ball naked, why not? Let them do what they want. We’re just smart, as women, because we have our balls neatly tucked inside where they’re protected, and that’s that.” 
  • We’re highkey into this pro-choice PSA from 1991 that featured Tina.
  • Here’s just one piece of context to what we mean when we describe “Booming and Zooming” as a Brian Eno-esque track.
  • The original vinyl album was rereleased with a cover of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk” replacing “Booming And Zooming” as the final track.
    • Fun fact: Tom Tom Club albums frequently include covers of a song previously done by men, with Tina singing lead, because they are not here for your gender stereotypes.
    • These include: “Under the Boardwalk” on Tom Tom Club, “Femme Fatale” on Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom (sure, Nico sang it for the Velvet Underground first, but it’s still a very Lou Reed song), and “You Sexy Thing” on Dark Sneak Love Action (which is our personal favorite).
  • Tom Tom Club became their full-time band after the Talking Heads split up; their most recent album, Downtown Rockers, was released in 2012.
  • We’re up on our legacy soapbox again and we would love to talk with you about how, as millennials, we want to make sure music that came before us lives on forever — email us, follow us on Facebook (thanks to everyone who asked if they could find us there — we’re on the ‘book now), or tweet at us
  • We are passionate about classic music that has legs beyond its era of origin, and established artists that continue to grow and expand and embrace new technologies and stay in touch with new generations of listeners. Tom Tom Club does this, and they have our utmost respect for that.

Favorite track(s): Genius of Love (Carly) | Wordy Rappinghood and Genius of Love (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Booming And Zooming (Carly) | Booming And Zooming (Carrie)

Album Credits:
Adrian Belew – Guitar
Chris Frantz – Drums, Co-Producer
Tina Weymouth – Bass, Vocals, Co-Producer
Monte Browne – Guitar
Tyrone Downie – Keyboards
Uziah “Sticky” Thompson – Percussion
Lani Weymouth – Vocals
Laura Weymouth – Vocals
Steven Stanley – Co-Producer, Engineer
Benji Armbrister – Engineer
Kendall Stubbs – Engineer
James Rizzi – Cover art

Further watching:
Tom Tom Club: Red Bull Music Academy Tokyo lecture | November 2014
Tom Tom Club: NPR Tiny Desk Concert | October 2010
Wordy Rappinghood doc | 2009
Genius of Love (Stop Making Sense) | December 1983

Further Reading:
Tina Weymouth Writes a Letter to Her Younger Self | i-D [Vice] (January 2017)
The Best 200 Songs of the 1980s | Pitchfork (August 2015)
Rockers Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth Talk Marriage | Rolling Stone (July 2013)
How We Met: Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth | The Independent (March 2013)
Talking Tom Tom Club: Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth Interviewed | The Quietus (July 2011)

“OKAY, BYE!”