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

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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

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 12: RUNNING ON EMPTY

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RUNNING ON EMPTY – Jackson Browne – Asylum Records – 1977

Running on Empty was an album that wasn’t supposed to work. Ten new cuts, all recorded live, in various parts of the country, over the course of two months? To his label, this sounded like pure folly, but Jackson Browne knew this was not just a way to fill time between studio albums; it was to be his labor of love.

Since becoming a recording artist at the age of 18, Browne had experienced life both as Greenwich Village bohemian in the ‘60s with the likes of the Velvet Underground, and as an essential contributor to the emerging Southern California rock sound in the early ‘70s. By 1977, he was looking for something new to try, something he hadn’t yet done — so in August of that year, he took his favorite sessions players on the road and hit “record.”

The collection of recordings that became Running On Empty would be Jackson Browne’s greatest commercial success, going platinum within months of its release. Today, it remains a strikingly fresh portrait of the realities of touring life, and whether referencing the road to the next gig or the road to the next phase of life, it’s the album’s universal displays of humanity that keeps the songs in your head long after the needle hits the runout grooves.

Listen to Running on Empty: 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 had a crazy busy two weeks full of music and things, so a quick debrief of stuff you should check out that we saw and did and loved:
      • Lulu Lewis — If you’re in the New York area, we highly recommend you come see them. We’ll probably be there, because we’re stans, but, also, they’re just a really good band out there making Harlem punk a thing.
      • Bowery Electric has been serving all summer long, from the Max’s Kansas City festival we hit up last month to the Johnny Thunders Birthday Bash. Check it out if you’re in the New York area — you’ll probably find something you like (and, also, you’ll probably run into us at some point).
      • Pitchfork Music Festival gets a solid two thumbs up from Carrie (which she can not say for every music festival she’s been to), so maybe check it out next year if you’re in the Chicago area or looking for a music adventure.
    • We got a little sidetracked this week by a Pitchfork-induced momentary rabbit hole of reasons why LCD Soundsystem is what we’ll call a “future classic” band. This included a nerd-out over their similarities to Talking Heads that resulted in this peak extra nerd playlist, because while we celebrate the past, we also think about the future.
    • Heyyyyy, here we are with another album from 1977 — you might notice its stark difference from our previous ‘77 episode on Marquee Moon.
      • The amount of iconic outputs from multiple musical genres in the ‘70s, but particularly 1977, never ceases to amaze us. Best year in pop culture. Fight us on this.
      • You can break down the differences and the reasons why they resonated with particular audiences in a million different ways, but at its most broad, let’s just say that Marquee Moon very much exemplified the East Coast/New York punk aesthetic, while Running On Empty can be held up as an example of the West Coast/Laurel Canyon/Cal Rock soft scene.
    • JB’s “These Days,” which was written when he was just a baby 18-year-old, will never cease to give the feels, and has been covered by everyone from Nico to, most recently, Drake. (Yeah.)
    • Let’s all get in a time machine and move to Laurel Canyon and hang out with the Jackson Browne/Glenn Frey/JD Souther crew, please and thanks.
    • Peep our further reading section to read that really well-written original review of Running on Empty from Rolling Stone in 1978 we talked about.
    • Running on Empty was initially just a way to buy time to conceive new material for another traditional LP, but it became a way to break the repetitive record-making pattern success brings. JB has said: “You go, ‘OK, great, let’s try to do something more like that.’ But that’s not what you were doing when you did it in the first place. You were just doing what you wanted to do next.”
    • Here’s that gorgeous Cameron Crowe essay from the 2005 re-issue that Carrie read an excerpt from. Read. Feel the chills. He’s the best.
    • Quick background info about the session players on this album:
      • The Section (Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar, Craig Doerge, Leland Sklar, and Russ Kunkel) were Asylum’s de facto house band and have played on a slew of ‘70s soft rock albums for everyone from Carole King to Linda Ronstadt to Warren Zevon. There’s a great article about them in our further reading section.
      • David Lindley and Jackson Browne have been long, long, longtime collaborators. You can read more about him in the links below, too.
    • Our bad. The author of that rad review comparing circa-1977 culture to “feeling like a trashed Holiday Inn room” was actually RJ Smith for Blender Magazine in a review of the 2005 reissue, not, as we cited in the pod, Robert Christgau.
      • Unfortunately, we can’t seem to find a working link for the full review — not even using Internet Archive’s Wayback machine — because Blender folded in 2009 and, apparently, took its archive with it.
    • Interested in the Nick Drake comparison “The Road” brings up? Follow us on Spotify, where we will lay it all out for you.
    • Sorry, parents. We couldn’t be a credible podcast if we didn’t bring up the “huh? really?” and not-so-PG-13 meaning behind “Rosie.” It’s not an internet theory we’re indulging in — it’s JB’s own words.
    • David Lindley is the real MVP on “You Love the Thunder,” bringing that gee-tar rock and roll edge to Jackson Browne’s soft piano rock.
    • @ Haim: Please cover “You Love the Thunder.” Thanks, bye.
    • Alright, buckle up. “Cocaine” has a LONG history.
    • CRAZY, right?
    • Wait, wait, wait. What’s this “bub” nickname? Welllll…. You can get a great little explainer of all the slang words and terms of endearment we throw around quite often on the pod in our handy, ever-evolving glossary.
    • They just recorded “Nothing But Time” in the tour bus and left in all the background noise from the road and the bus engine. Peak IDGAF goals.
    • If you have Running on Empty on vinyl, flip it over for some great Easter eggs in the track-by-track notes. Pro-tip: always read the liner notes.
    • If “The Load Out” doesn’t give you some feels, there’s a high possibility that you have an empty cavity in your chest where your heart is supposed to be.
      • Shoutout to roadies: we know you, we see you, we love you, we appreciate everything you do. Once again — bands are a sum of their parts, and that continues after the music is recorded and the performance begins.
      • Shoutout to Roadies, our beloved, now-canceled Cameron Crowe series. It wasn’t perfect, but it was earnest, and it had bucketloads of heart. Give it a watch if you haven’t seen it, and maybe give it a second watch (or even a second chance) if you already have.
    • “Stay” makes us the human version of the heart-eyes emoji, just so you know.
      • Head over to our master playlist on Spotify to hear the original Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs version that this is a reworking of.
      • Watch this fantastic version where JB and David Lindley perform it as a mashup with the Mickey and Sylvia song “Love Is Strange.” Swoon a little.
      • For the people in the back: We love concerts! We love live music! There are few feelings more magical and captivating.
      • We’ve experienced first hand — both as audience members and as performers — how integral the energy of an audience is for generating a great, on-fire performance. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and when you both give, MAN, is it good. MAN, do you want to ~stay just a little bit longer.~
      • Shoutout to JB for an almost too-perfect album closer, recognizing the under-recognized people on tour: roadies and good bub audiences.
    • Jackson Browne’s — and this album’s — legacy is long and ongoing.
      • Running On Empty, initially thought to be a crazy idea, ended up being his best-selling album and is on too many lists to count of the best live albums, best albums of the ‘70s, etc.
      • Some current artists who have Jackson Browne’s fingerprints all over them: Dawes, Wilco, Jim James, Jenny Lewis, Tristen… the list goes on and on.
    • Anyway, we love you JB Homie. You’re a good bub.

 

Favorite track(s): The Load Out (Carly) | Running on Empty and Stay (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rosie (Carly) | Love Needs a Heart (Carrie)

Album credits:
Jackson Browne – guitar, piano, vocals
Rosemary Butler – background vocals, co-lead vocal on “Stay”
Craig Doerge – piano, keyboards
Doug Haywood – background vocals
Danny Kortchmar – lead guitar, harmony vocals (on “Shaky Town”)
Russ Kunkel – drums, snare drum, cardboard box, hi hat
David Lindley – lap steel guitar, fiddle, co-lead vocal on “Stay”
Leland Sklar – bass
Joel Bernstein – background vocals (on “Rosie”) & tour photographer

Further watching:
“One time I sued John McCain” interview segment | 2014
Jackson Browne’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2004
“Running on Empty” (2004 induction ceremony) | 2004

Further reading: 
Session legend/producer Russ Kunkel on 13 career-defining records | Music Radar (April 2014)
The Section: Knights of Soft Rock | Rolling Stone (April 2013)
Behind the Song: Jackson Browne, “Running on Empty” |American Songwriter (December 2012)
Jackson Browne on Meeting David Lindley for the First Time | Fretboard Journal (March 2009)
Jackson Browne: The Rolling Stone Interview | Rolling Stone (August 1980)
Running on Empty (album review) | Rolling Stone (March 1978)

Episode 11: I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU

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I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU – Al Green – Hi Records – 1972

Al Green’s 1972 album I’m Still In Love With You is a personal one: an album for smooth Saturday nights and sweet Sunday mornings, for both weddings and double digit anniversaries. It recalls time spent with family, friends, and lovers, and inspires memories to be made in the future. It’s an album made for lasting connections, and is undoubtedly one that is best enjoyed when shared.

In this episode, we examine the foundation of this iconic record and explore the greater musical landscape from which it was born. We discuss the one-of-a-kind house band that gave the album its distinct sound, the Southern stronghold that informed the album’s character, and the producer who oversaw it all, mixing all the elements together to create what is arguably one the greatest American soul records of the 20th century. An album is only as good as the sum of its parts, and here, we examine how I’m Still In Love With You remains an upstanding example.

Listen to I’m Still In Love With You: 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

  • Hello! We’re coming to you on a new day now, because ~Summer Fridays~ are life.
  • This in-depth interview with Willie Mitchell shows just how much he has done, and why he was such a BAMF.
  • Wait, wait, wait. “BAMF” this, “bub” that? We throw out some words that aren’t always part of the common lexicon. We get it. Which is why we made this handy glossary to explain what we’re talking about when we talk about Dad Rock, who a “stan” is, and what it means to be “shook.”
  • Again, for the people in the back: Just like a band is the sum of its parts, solo artists are the sum of the people they work with. Countless people go into creating and bringing forth into the world the music that we love. Ignoring their contributions is unacceptable to us.
  • Honestly, for real, if you think you haven’t heard “Green Onions” before, do you live under a rock?
  • Here’s a brief history of Memphis soul and Hi Records’ and Stax’s places within it.
  • Get ready now — we’re going to be swooning about how much we love love and these long relationships Green sings about and saying “I love this song!” a lot this episode.
    • You could play a drinking game if you wanted to, but we don’t endorse that. Please pod responsibly.
  • If you’re new here: we love sequencing — so much that we’ve started using #RespectTheSequence in our liner notes and our Spotify playlists.
  • Here’s a simple, science-y explanation for why sound quality on vinyl can degrade the closer you get to the center of the album — hence, why Carrie assumes making a full, deep song like “I’m Still In Love With You” the very first track was more of a quality control choice than a creative one.
  • The Al Green drum sounds are SO. GOOD. You can thank Al Jackson, Jr. and Howard Grimes for that.
  • Hey! Wish you could listen to all the songs that sample Al Green? Follow us on Spotify, where you’ll get them all in one place on our master playlist.
  • No offense, but you’d have to have a cold, dead battery in the place in your chest where your heart should be if you don’t love “Love and Happiness.”
    • Peep our further watching section below to watch Al Green’s Kennedy Center induction ceremony (and shed a tear or two watching the Obamas grooving together).
  • Listen to Kanye West’sI Met Oprah,” which heavily samples “What a Wonderful Thing Love Is”
    • Throwback to our episode on The Message, where Carrie explained why Kanye is a great producer, even though he’s not a great person.
    • She’s sorry for being a lowkey Yeezy stan. She can’t help it.
  • Listen to Chance the Rapper’s “Give and Take” in our master playlist on Spotify.
    • Chance is a cinnamon roll and we are not embarrassed to stan for him.
  • HELLO! Let’s get slightly off-topic for a few minutes and talk about what a bop “Oh, Pretty Woman” is — particularly THIS BADASS ALL-FEMALE VERSION FROM 1990
    • This is what happens when you go on a YouTube spiral. Embrace those hidden treasures, but share them with others (obviously).
    • This version is STACKED: Emmylou Harris. k.d. Lang. Bonnie Raitt. Tina Weymouth — to name a few.
    • The rest of this concert is STACKED. To name just a few of the other performers: David Crosby. Bob Dylan. John Lee Hooker. B.B. King. Booker T. Jones. Roger McGuinn. Was (Not Was).
    • So, yeah, if anyone can tell us why TF this concert is so buried and unreleased (or, really, if you can help us locate a better quality audio rip), get at us. You would be a friend of the pod for life.
  • Anyway. “For The Good Times” is another cover song on this album.
    • Carly prefers the 1976 Kristofferson-Streisand remake of A Star Is Born. @ her if you disagree.
    • “For The Good Times” sounds a lot like “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” to be completely honest.
    • This song is too long in comparison to how short this album is. Bye.
  • We both kind of, sort of think the second side of this album is weak. Good and enjoyable, but it all starts to run together. Tell us if you disagree.
  • Al Green’s life has been interesting since the release of I’m Still In Love With You.
    • Here’s a brief explainer on that girlfriend-burn altercation thing, which was insane.
    • Green went back to gospel music not long after this and is now an ordained reverend who primarily releases gospel music.
  • Just a few artists Green has influenced (and whose music you can find in our playlist): Prince, Sade, James Blake, John Legend, Leon Bridges, John Mayer, Justin Timberlake… the list goes on and on and on.
  • Any questions? We might have answers over on our ever-evolving FAQ page.
  • Come say hi! Follow us on Facebook, @ us on Twitter, or shoot us an email. We love new friends!

Favorite track: Love and Happiness (Carly) | Love and Happiness (Carrie)
Least favorite track(s): For The Good Times (Carly) | For The Good Times and One of These Good Old Days (Carrie) 

Album credits:

  • Al Green — lead vocals
  • Howard Grimes — drums, rhythm section
  • Al Jackson, Jr — drums
  • Ali Muhammed Jackson — drums
  • Charles Hodges — drums, organ, piano
  • Leroy Hodges — bass
  • Mabon “Teenie” Hodges — guitar
  • Wayne Jackson — horn section, trumpet
  • Andrew Love — tenor horn, tenor saxophone
  • Ed Hogan — tenor horn, tenor saxophone
  • Jack Hale, Sr. — horn section, trombone
  • James Mitchell — string and horn arrangements, tenor horn, baritone saxophone
  • Donna Rhodes — background vocals
  • Sandra Rhodes — background vocals
  • Sandra Chalmers — background vocals
  • Charles Chalmers — arranger, horn arrangements, string arrangements, background vocals
  • Larry Walsh — mastering
  • Pam Brady — assistant
  • Pete Welding — assistant
  • Robert Gordon — liner notes
  • Tom Cartwright — project director
  • Willie Mitchell — engineer, producer

Further watching:
Al Green’s Kennedy Center Honors induction | 2014  
Take Me To The River (documentary about Memphis music and bridging the generation gap) | 2014 | Full Documentary (Netflix) • Watch the trailer   
Al Green live concert (source unknown) | 1974
Willie Mitchell on Al Green and Hi Studio | Date unknown
Down To Earth (short doc on Memphis soul) | 2009 

Further reading: 
R&B Gold: Leroy Hodges Goes Hi | Bassplayer (June 2017)
Al Green, the soul legend and Kennedy Center honoree, is still tired of being alone | The Washington Post (December 2014)
100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Al Green | Rolling Stone (December 2010)
Let’s Stay Together/I’m Still In Love With You/Greatest Hits reissue review | Pitchfork (April 2009)
Memphis Magic: The Al Green Sound | Rolling Stone (October 1973)
I’m Still In Love With You review | Rolling Stone (November 1972)
Hi Records’ history | Hi Records official site (date unknown but hella old school and accessed through WayBack Archives because this page doesn’t *actually* exist anymore)

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, engrained 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

marqueemoon

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)