Episode 2.8: AFTER THE GOLD RUSH

neil-young-after-the-gold-rush

AFTER THE GOLD RUSH – Neil Young – Reprise – 1970

After the March 1970 release of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s Deja Vu album, each member of the group embarked on their own solo work. Neil Young’s output was After The Gold Rush, an introspective, sometimes controversial, but ultimately hopeful collection of songs. The album presents its themes of heartbreak, loss, environmentalism, racism, and ambivalence without affectation; Young is simply offering points to consider, and it is up to us how we choose absorb and interpret them.

Initially met with mixed reviews by critics, After The Gold Rush grew to become one of Neil Young’s most beloved albums, laying a foundation that numerous artists in the subsequent decades have built upon. In this episode, we discuss the political themes of this album that are still relevant today, dissect Neil Young’s versatility as a songwriter, connect the Laurel Canyon sound to today’s Americana artists, and, bewilderingly, manage to reference DJ Khaled once again.

Listen to After The Gold Rush: 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’ve officially been a podcast for a full calendar year! Here’s a video from the early MTV days that reflects our mood.
  • Hey, sorry not sorry for spamming you with this. We had a ton of fun on Chris Frantz’s Talking Head radio show at WPKN. You will have fun listening (if you have not already). Listen to it in the archive here.
  • We’re doing #MWE! AKA, a Twitter thing where, every day for the month of February, music writers, fans, etc. pick an album they’ve never heard before, listen to it, and tweet a review. Follow us on Twitter to see our diverse picks so far.
  • We turn tf up for dad rock, if you haven’t noticed already.
  • Seriously, though, why do so many songwriters compare the turbulent changes of life to sailing or the sea?
  • We’re going to be dropping references to SO. MANY. SONGS. in this episode, including a bunch of great covers of “After The Gold Rush.” They’re all collected in our master playlist on Spotify for your listening pleasure.
    • Just gonna leave one more shoutout for those Trio harmonies here tho
    • If anyone has any more information about that screenplay Neil was making music for, hit us up.
  • We discussed the Great Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell Breakup of 1970 at length in our Songs For Beginners episode. If you need to catch yourself up, re-listen to it here.
  • Someone please remind Nikki Haley that music has always been political, FFS. (Like, girl. You’re the former governor of South Carolina. You’ve definitely heard “Southern Man” in your lifetime, for starters.)
    • This 👏 song 👏 is 👏 complicated!  👏
    • Unlike Patti Smith and “Rock and Roll N****r,” Neil Young actually admitted it’s problematic, which we appreciate.
    • See our further reading notes below for a must-read story about how Merry Clayton — who did a fire cover of this song — ended up grudgingly doing backing vocals on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” It is essential.
    • There are a lot of different viewpoints to be had when it comes to this song. We’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Get at us on email or slide into our DMs on Facebook or on Twitter if you’ve got opinions you’d like to share.
    • At the end of the day, culture is cyclical, as we’ve said many times before, but not always in a good way. It’s embarrassing that this song is still relevant nearly 50 years later.
  • If you’re new here: we stan sequencing. Get used to it.
  • See our further reading links below for more about Jack Nitzsche’s storied musical history.
  • RIP Webster Hall. We won’t speak of what’s to become of you, but it cannot be good.
  • See our further reading links below to read Rolling Stone’s early review of After The Gold Rush that will make you scratch your head and say “…wut?”
  • Carly has a special classification of songs that are “breakfasts of songs.” Ask her about it.
  • A huge slew of musicians past and present have been influenced by Neil Young. Check out our playlist for a bunch of references (including ones that will definitely make you think “Wait, is Ryan Adams… cosplaying… as Neil Young?”)
  • Neil is still going strong. He just starred in a weirdo Western movie directed by his girlfriend Daryl Hannah and recently put his enormous archive online. So, um, yeah.
  • First time here? Miss an episode? Just feel like listening to something again? Visit our episode archive to dig through all the albums we’ve covered so far.
  • Oh, and here’s a bonus outtake from the episode as a special birthday gift for you all. You are so welcome.

Favorite track: Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Carly) | Southern Man (Carrie)
Least favorite track(s): After The Gold Rush (Carly) | Birds (Carrie)

Album credits

  • Neil Young — guitar, piano, harmonica, vibes, lead vocals
  • Danny Whitten — guitar, vocals
  • Nils Lofgren — guitar, piano, vocals
  • Jack Nitzsche — piano
  • Billy Talbont — bass
  • Greg Reeves — bass
  • Ralph Molina — drums, vocals
  • Stephen Stills — vocals
  • Bill Petrson — flugelhorn
  • Howard Grimes — drums, rhythm section
  • Al Jackson, Jr — drums

Further watching:
Neil Young: Don’t Be Denied (Fantastic BBC/PBS American Masters documentary) | 2009
Neil Young: Heart of Gold | 2006
VH1 Legends: Neil Young | 2000
“After The Gold Rush” live at Farm Aid | 1998  
Neil Young goes record shopping and finds bootleg Neil Young albums | 1972 (?)
“Southern Man” live with CSNY at the Fillmore East | 1970

Further Reading:
Neil Young: Heart of Gold | 2015
Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life and Cars (Neil Young’s latest memoir) | 2014
Waging Heavy Peace (Neil’s first memoir) | 2012

The Story Behind The Song: “After The Gold Rush” | Team Rock (November 2016)
Watching Neil Young Movies With the AARP | Pitchfork (March 2016)  
Retrospective Reviews: Neil Young After The Gold Rush | Noisey (October 2014)
Merry Clayton on 20 Feet From Stardon, Ray Charles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and “Gimme Shelter” | AV Club (August 2013)
After The Gold Rush: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time | Rolling Stone (May 2012)  
After The Gold Rush rerelease review | Pitchfork (December 2009)  
In Memoriam: Jack Nitzsche | The Guardian (August 2000)
After The Gold Rush review | Rolling Stone (October 1970)

Episode 2.7: EASTER

Patti_Smith-Easter

Easter – Patti Smith Group – Arista – 1978

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

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

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

 

Listen to Easter: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript correction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 2.6: RIVER

joni-mitchell-blue-river

“River” – Joni Mitchell – Reprise – 1971

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

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

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

Listen to River: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript correction

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

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

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

Episode 2.5: PARALLEL LINES

blondie-parallel-lines

Parallel Lines – Blondie – Chrysalis Records – 1978

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

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

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

Listen to Parallel Lines: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 2.3: 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 2.1: SOME GIRLS

somegirls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to Some Girls: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

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

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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

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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)