Episode 2.5: PARALLEL LINES

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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

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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

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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

Subscribe on iTunes

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

Click to expand thumbnails
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

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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

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

  • 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)

Episode 15: MUSIC

music-51445a6e936ff

MUSIC – Carole King – Sony Music – 1971

By the final months of 1971, she was a bona fide superstar. A Los Angeles Times Top 10 Woman of the Year and platinum album seller, her solo singles chronically became hits, and in June of that year, she sold out Carnegie Hall. Her talent, relentless ambition, and steadfast belief in both had taken her to the height of musical recognition without compromising any of her originality — an exemplary feat that was emblematic of the dawning of the freer, more authentic era for women that the 1970s would come to be. She had named herself Carole King at age 14, and now, the woman that Brooklyn’s Carol Klein became was enjoying something else on her terms: her own success.

The album that brought it to her, of course, was Tapestry, but late in 1971, Carole King released her follow-up, Music. Though it received mixed reviews upon its release, Music showcases several of the tricks in Carole’s bag, with influences spanning jazz to R&B to classic pop, arrangements varying from the quiet and simple to the symphonic, and ranging in emotion while never losing her trademark intimacy. This is an album that is more than just a juggernaut’s endearing postscript — it is a declaration of confidence, awareness, and love.

Listen to Music: 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, yes, we did do Music instead of Tapestry, even though Tapestry is an iconic album with a ton of material circulating about it. See, that’s one reason why we’re not doing it — because so much has already been said. Wanna know more? (Because this whole not-covering-the-album thing is something you’ll see a lot around here.) Head to our FAQ section.
  • Carole King has had a prolific career since she was a teenager. You’ve probably (definitely) heard some of her early songs with Gerry Goffin like “The Loco-Motion,” “Up On The Roof,” and “One Fine Day.” (If you haven’t, then where have you been?)
  • Her band The City only produced one album. It’s good. Carly has been hunting for it for ages on vinyl, so if anyone ever comes across it and wants to be a good samaritan, just @ us.
  • James Taylor, you a good friend. A good, good friend.
  • Here’s Robert Hillburn’s Women of the Year profile of Carole King.
  • Check out our further reading section below to read Rolling Stone’s original review of Music. (It’s not very kind, but we’re gonna be talking about it a lot.)
  • “Brother, Brother” is totally a sister/response song to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” Bop over to our master playlist on Spotify to hear them back to back and tell us if you agree or disagree.
  • Hi, Time. We’re here to remind you that baby boomers are the original Me generation. (No shade to baby boomers or to Me generations; just sayin’.)
  • Carole has credited Toni Stern as a collaborator who helped give her the courage to write on her own after Gerry. Here’s some more about her.
  • Throwback to our Graham Nash episode “It’s Going to Take Some Time” might remind you a bit of the mature breakup themes on Songs For Beginners.
  • Yes, the Carpenters covered “It’s Going to Take Some Time.” Yes, they used a flute. Yes, it was hokey AF. We have been here with our distaste for flutes before. They just ain’t funky.
  • All those songs with similar syncopations that Carly explained? Yeah, you can find them all back-to-back in our Spotify playlist. Dig in. Geek out.
  • I never wanted to be Danny Kootch. I always thought it was the stupidest fucking nickname in the world.” — Danny Kortchmar AKA “Kootch”
    • No really, one day we’re going to do an episode all about the Section.
    • It’ll be just like a Jack Stratton Holy Trinities episode. (PS — You should really, really watch this one and also, if you dig funk, you should really, really listen to Vulfpeck.)
    • ICYMI in our Jackson Browne episode, read more about the Section in our further reading links below.
  • Throwback to our Al Green episode (wow, we are very self-referential this week) for a reminder about all that guud Willie Mitchell juju.
  • Even your faves stan their own faves. Case in point: Carole King writing “Carry Your Load” to sound like a Laura Nyro song, whom she greatly admired.
    • Fun but random fact about Laura Nyro: If you can find an original copy of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, pull out its liner notes and sniff them. Really. They should still smell like lilac perfume. That’s intentional.
  • OMG wow spoiler alert: Carly and Carrie don’t always agree on everything! Case in point: our healthy lil debate/discussion about the production and instrumentation of “Music.”
  • Here’s Carole’s OG demo of that Monkees song.
  • “Song of Long Ago” is friendship feels, so shoutout to all the bub friends out there.
  • Okay, but “Brighter” is such a sweet and lovely song, it just makes our hearts swell.
    • No, really, if anyone knows how to get Nancy Meyers to use it in one of her movies, please let us know. It’s peak turtleneck-and-beautiful-kitchen-and-happy-people music.
    • If you’re ever feeling too good about yourself, remember that Cameron Crowe was reviewing albums for the San Diego Door when he was 14 years old. (Shoutout to Cameron Crowe; we really like you.) Read his review of Music here.
  • If anyone can get us a time machine to the Troubadour circa 1972, that would be awesome, thank you.
  • New here? Forgetful? Find out what we mean when we say “RihannaMagic.GIF” in our handy dandy show glossary.
  • HONESTLY, if you can find a copy of PBS’s American Masters: Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter, you will be a VIP friend of the pod. Its existence has all but been erased from the internet.
  • Carrie was wrong; Emmylou Harris’s “Luxury Liner” came out in 1976, not 1975.
  • You know we’re all about that legacy — who lives, who dies, who tells your story?
    • First, Carole King is still very much a presence in music today. In 2015, she received a Kennedy Center honor. In 2016, she headlined the British Summer Time Festival and played Tapestry live in its entirety for the very first time. This year, she released a song to support the Women’s March. Woke.
    • Second, some great artists you should check out who carry on her songwriting style and musical influence (we’ll put them all in the playlist): Sara Bareilles, Greta Morgan, Diane Birch, Vanessa Carlton… the list could go on, but here are some A+ starters.
    • Third, she even has a musical about her life (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) that’s been on Broadway for 3+ years now. Talk about legacy.
  • If you wanna talk to us: hit us up over email, like us on Facebook, or even feel free to slide into our DMs on Twitter.
  • Shoutout to our one star reviewer on iTunes, whoever you may be. They don’t want you to win. We love you anyway. 

Album credits:
Carole King – Vocals, piano, electric piano, electric celeste, backing vocals
Ralph Schuckett – organ, electric piano, electric celeste
Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar – acoustic and electric guitars, backing vocals
James Taylor – acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Charles Larkey – electric and acoustic bass guitar
Joel O’Brien, Russ Kunkel – drums
Ms. Bobbye Hall – congas, bongos, tambourine
Teresa Calderon – congas
Curtis Amy – tenor saxophone, flute
Oscar Brashear – flugelhorn
William Green – woodwind, flute, saxophone
William Collette – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Ernest Watts – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Plas Johnson – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Mike Altschul – woodwind, flute, saxophone
Abigale Haness – backing vocals
Merry Clayton – backing vocals

Favorite track(s): Sweet Seasons and Music (Carly) | Sweet Seasons and Brighter (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Surely (Carly) | Surely (Carrie)

Further watching: 
Carole King’s Kennedy Center Honors induction | 2015
Carole King: “I never thought about gender” (MSNBC intervew) | 2015 
A Conversation With Carole King
(book discussion at JFK Library) | 2012
Hotel California: LA From the Byrds to the Eagles | 2007

Further reading:
A Natural Woman: A Memoir | 2012
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — And the Journey of a Generation | 2008 (side note — this is a huge favorite of both Carrie and Carly)

An Oral History of Laurel Canyon, the ’60s and ’70s Music Mecca | Vanity Fair (March 2015)
The Section: Knights of Soft Rock | Rolling Stone (April 2013)
Music review | Rolling Stone (January 1972)

Episode 14: COMPUTER WORLD

computerworld

COMPUTER WORLD – Kraftwerk – Warner Bros. Records – 1981

If you imagine a Venn diagram of musical genres, you may not immediately think of Kraftwerk being the common ground for artists creating and performing pop-rock, funk, soul, and hip-hop. Yet, there in the middle, connecting them all, is that small electronic band from Düsseldorf: four men who blurred the line between human capability and digital precision.

Ironically, the band that would go on to inspire musicians from all genres never aspired to make names for themselves individually. Seeking only to expand the scope of musical technology and to comment on a changing world, Kraftwerk’s music grew to be so profound that they came to be known as the “Beatles of electronic music.”

At the onset of accessible computer technology in the early ‘80s, Kraftwerk released Computer World. Listening to it today, in our society so inundated with all things digital, it is impossible not to marvel at what a harbinger it was of things to come. In this episode, we are joined by Kid Ginseng, DJ and head of New York electro-funk label Kraftjerkz, and lifelong Kraftwerk listener. Our discussion is a deep-dive into their background and influence, highlighting an artist who is continuing Kraftwerk’s legacy today.

Listen to Computer World: 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

  • First and foremost, a special thank you to our first guest, Kid Ginseng. If you dig electro music and turntablism, or just want something different and funky to dance to, check out the albums he releases from his label Kraftjerkz.
  • We love old music, but we love new music, too, and with our special guest episodes, we’ll be bridging the gap between the two. As we’ve said before — you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.
  • “Numbers” is a template for current electro beats. Listen to the track here for an idea of what that sounds like.
  • If you don’t have Planet Rock,” then you probably aren’t a good DJ. Just saying.
    • Peep our further reading section for more info about how revolutionary “Planet Rock” was in the hip-hop scene.
    • Hit up our Spotify playlist to hear some of the similar tracks, like “Cosmic Cars,” and pick out the connections.
  • No, really, Kraftwerk used Texas Instruments tools to create music. Way better than hacking your TI-83 to play some off-brand version of Super Mario Brothers in calc class. Not that we did that in high school. Of course we didn’t do that.
  • Kraftwerk probably predicted the nightmare that is online dating and the rise of Tinder, which is pretty pre-woke.
  • Talk about the double-edged sword of technology with us for a second. Yes, technology makes the creative process of making music accessible and open to innovation for almost anyone — good. But, it makes creating music accessible for almost anyone i.e. people don’t necessarily need skills anymore because they can rely on a machine to do it all for them — bad.
  • Kraftwerk was woke — they only used state of the art technology and recorded in the best of the best studios.
  • It feels partially quaint and partially eerie how accurate and prophetic a concept album about the rise of home computing made in the early ‘80s was, doesn’t it? 
  • Read more here about how they began incorporating sequencing on their Man-Machine album.
  • Emil Schult is a lowkey BAMF.
  • No, really, Kraftwerk stans cycling pretty hard.
  • Debate: Is Kraftwerk funky?
  • Hello, fellow millennials! That Coldplay song you love so much is actually built out of Kraftwerk’s melody on “Computer Love.” One good thing: they actually got permission before they used it, which apparently was an issue with people sampling Kraftwerk before.
    • Ugh. We hate lists so much sometimes, but here’s what Pitchfork had to say about “Computer Love” in their 200 Best Songs of the ‘80s list (scroll to number 53). It’s a pretty good blurb.
  • Late ‘90s/early 2000s electroclash takes a huge page out of Kraftwerk’s book — peep our Spotify playlist for some examples.
  • Sorry for talking about LCD Soundsystem again (but not really because it’s relevant).
  • Johnny Rotten + Kraftwerk = World Destruction.
  • Okay, but really. Sofia Coppola cannot curate a bad soundtrack, and the impeccable Marie Antoinette soundtrack is no exception to this opinion.
    • Aphex Twin draws inspiration and samples from Kraftwerk so often — again, hit up our master playlist to listen to some examples.
  • Here are two brief lists of notable times Kraftwerk was sampled: in hip-hop and from Computer World in general.
  • Hi! Do you have opinions about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? We would love to opine with you! Get at us on Facebook, on Twitter, or over email, if you have a taste for salt.

Album credits:
Ralf Hütter – album concept, artwork reconstruction, cover, electronics, keyboards, mixing, Orchestron, production, recording, Synthanorma Sequenzer, synthesiser, vocoder, voice
Florian Schneider – album concept, cover, electronics, mixing, production, recording, speech synthesis, synthesiser, vocoder
Karl Bartos – electronic percussion
Emil Schult – cover

Further watching: 
Kraftwerk: Pop Art documentary | 2013
Kraftwerk & the The Electronic Revolution | 2013
“Computer World” live at the Tate Modern | 2013

Further reading: 
The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time | Rolling Stone (December 2012) 
Sound Machine: How did a pop band end up in a museum? | The New Yorker (April 2012)
Kraftwerk Day Five: 1981 ‘Computer World’ Invents Electronic Funk | Rolling Stone (April 2012)
Who Knew That Robots Were Funky? | The New York Times (December 2009)
Kraftwerk: I Was a Robot | 2017
Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music | 2001