Episode 2.11: A NEW WORLD RECORD

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A New World Record – Electric Light Orchestra – United Artists – 1976

Get out your cargo shorts and fire up the grill, because this week we’re going back to Dad Rock territory with ELO’s landmark 1976 album A New World Record. Often thought of as the best representation of ELO’s sound — and the pinnacle of Jeff Lynne’s arrangement, writing and production — this set of songs draws from a bevy of richly melodic influences, from the Beatles to the Beach Boys to ‘50s street corner doo-wop to possibly even John Cale.

With such perennially loved sounds baked into its foundation, what makes A New World Record sound dated to modern ears? How could arrangements and orchestrations of such timeless origin be connected so deeply to one decade? Is it possible, in 2018, to genuinely love this album for what it is, with no trace of irony? Join us for a discussion about that, musical legacies and evolution, and song connections — and maybe, if you listen closely, you’ll hear a dad joke or two.

Listen to A New World Record: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hello, and welcome to another episode with your sensitive and feels-feeling hosts!
    • We are highkey passionate the concepts of legacies, preserving history and learning from it, keeping stories and traditions alive, and, as millennials, carrying the torch. As always, we would love to talk to you about how we, as millennials, can carry the torch.
  • We’ve discussed the broad landscape of music that came out in this same time period on several occasions. For more historical context or further discussions, check out our episodes on Television’s Marquee Moon, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut, Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty, Rolling Stones’ Some Girls, Blondie’s Parallel Lines, and/or Patti Smith’s Easters.
  • Seriously, though, when is the last time Jeff Lynne was seen without his sunglasses?
  • Take: “Dated” doesn’t always necessarily mean bad or unenjoyable.
    • And we don’t care if it’s not cool, among millennials especially, to like ELO. We super don’t care. We know we are not cool.
  • Shoutout to Kelly Groucutt and Bev Bevan for being underrated groove champs on this album.
  • “Tightrope” is really just a Beatles song with classical embellishments. Don’t be like this guy and tell us we’re drunk for thinking there’s a connection.
    • It’s also a great ~welcome to the album song~
    • We are highkey here for all of Grace Spelman’s music nerd playlists, but Welcome to the Album, a playlist comprised solely of excellent opening tracks, is truly fantastic.
    • A friendly reminder that at the end of the day, all of the songs have been written. Originality comes when you incorporate past influences and build upon them to make something new and unique. All good art is stealing, and appropriation is the sincerest form of robbery.
  • Shoutout to the Traveling Wilburys. Again. We love those guys.
  • Telephone songs are so cool in that times change, but sad phone calls have stayed relevant.
  • Shoutout to songs that namecheck influences.
    • Question: What would “Rockaria!” sound like if it got “Genius of Love”-d tho? Or if “Genius of Love” got Jeff Lynne-d?
  • “Yerffej Ennyl.” Bruh.
  • @ people who grew up with great expectations for the 21st century: we are sorry. We wish we had robots and stuff like that, too.
  • Yeethoven (pronounced YAY-to-ven, sorry) is an absolutely brilliant orchestral mash-up project by the Young Music Foundation that saw their debut orchestra performing Beethoven interspersed with tracks from Kanye West’s Yeezus. Trust us, it’s fascinating to hear the similarities and see how classical music is very much still relevant in modern music today.
    • It was such a banger that they did it again with songs from The Life of Pablo and it slammed.
    • (Carrie hardcore stans for appreciating Kanye West as an extremely talented producer and  musician, if you’re new here.)
  • Here’s more about how the band used a Moog in a really awesome, early-adaptive way.
  • This video of James Jamerson basslines, animated, from our fave millennial funk torchbearers Vulfpeck is DOPE.
  • SOIP = summer of infinite possibilities. Any song that evokes a feeling of infinite, electric, so-young-and-alive feelings — no matter your age — is a SOIP song.
    • Shoutout to Fanny, again, for those slamming backing “higher and higher” vocals!
    • Seriously, someone please make us a mash-up of “Livin’ Thing” and “Love Train.” HOW does one not exist already?
    • Will we somehow find a relevant way to shoutout Christine McVie in every podcast episode? Stay tuned to find out.
  • If anyone can find us OG versions of “Above the Clouds” and “Do Ya” by The Move, we would really, really love that.
  • Gonna go ahead and file “Do Ya” under “Songs You’d Have To Have Your Head Buried In The Sand To Have Never Heard Before”
  • We promise we’re going to do an episode on the Wilburys at some point. Swear.
  • End of the night songs are great songs. Check out our Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers episode or our T. Rex episode to hear more what we have to say about them.
  • As always, hit up our master playlist on Spotify for all the songs we mentioned today in one place.

Favorite track(s): So Fine and Livin’ Thing (Carly) | Tightrope and Livin’ Thing (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rockaria! (Carly) | Shangri-La (Carrie)

 

Album credits:

  • Jeff Lynne – Vocals, lead, rhythm, and slide guitars, percussion, Wurlitzer EP200 electric piano
  • Bev Bevan – Drums, Minimoog drum, percussion, backing vocals
  • Richard Tandy – Wurlitzer EP200 electric piano, Minimoog synthesizer, Micromoog synthesizer, SLM Concert Spectrum, Electra x320 guitar, Hohner clavinet, Yamaha C7 grand piano, Mellotron M400, Maestro phase shifter, percussion, backing vocals, Systech flanger
  • Kelly Groucutt – Vocals, bass guitar, percussion, backing vocals
  • Mik Kaminski – Violin, Maestro echoplex, Univox univibe
  • Hugh McDowell – Cello, Systech phaser, Mu-Tron III, Mu-Tron phasor, Maestro echoplex
  • Melvyn Gale – Cello, Maestro echoplex
  • Mary Thomas – operatic vocals
  • Patti Quatro – uncredited backing vocals
  • Brie Brandt – uncredited backing vocals
  • Addie Lee – uncredited backing vocals

Further watching:
Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Wembley or Bust trailer | 2017 
“Livin’ Thing” live at Glastonbury | 2016 
Saturday Sessions: Jeff Lynne joins CBS This Morning | CBS (2015)  
“Tightrope” live on Zoom Tour | 2001  
“Tightrope” music video | 1976  
“Livin’ Thing” music video | 1976
Classics Album Interviews: Jeff Lynne on ELO’s A New World Record (radio interview) | BBC (August 1990)
Jeff Lynne and George Harrison Play Banjos | Date unknown, but appears to be from a documentary on George Harrison. Reach out if you know which one it is! 

Further reading: 
ELO’s Bev Bevan Talks Rock Hall Induction, Jeff Lynne Rift | Rolling Stone (December 2016)
ELO’s Jeff Lynne: My Life in 15 Songs | Rolling Stone (January 2016)
It’s A Livin’ Thing (Jeff Lynne interview) | The Quietus (June 2015)
ELO’s Jeff Lynne: ‘All those hipsters with beards are copying me!’ | The Guardian (October 2014)
In Defense of ELO | Square Zeros (June 2014)
Jeff Lynne revisits his roots with ELO and classic covers projects | Goldmine Mag (June 2013)
Electric Light Orchestra, “Telephone Line” | American Songwriter (April 2013)

Episode 2.10: JUJU

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Juju – Siouxsie and the Banshees – Polydor – 1981

In 1981, British rock was in a transitional phase. Punk had, by then, all but completely faded out, and new wave and post-punk were shaping fresh ideas of how rock could sound. It was in this environment that Siouxsie and the Banshees were set to record their fourth album Juju. After going through a lineup change before their previous release, and with guitarist John McGeoch now cemented as an official member, the band was ready to experiment with their sound, to create lyrical and melodic concepts that would mesh together cohesively as one work. The band created and molded the songs for Juju while on tour, working the songs out live and letting them take the dark, theatrical, romantic shape that would give the album its singular sound, the final product of which would help define the subset of post-punk that would come to be known as “goth rock.”

In this episode, we discuss this move from punk to post-punk, detail the Banshees’ stylistic choices and conceptual soundscapes, and (surprise) have a conversation about feminism and punk rock.

Listen to Juju: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hello, and welcome to our first post-punk/goth rock episode!
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees use a ton of romantic imagery in their lyrics. We highly recommend following along and checking out the lyrics to each song here.
  • Shoutout to Budgie for hitting those drums for his life, henny!!!!
  • @ VH1: We are full of fun facts and available to host a revival of Pop-Up Video. We’re cheap. Call us.
  • Hello, we’re never not on our feminist-soapbox bullshit, and Siouxsie and the Banshees are no exception.
    • See our further reading notes below for two woke as hell essays about the intersection of punk and feminist identity.
    • Siouxsie’s stylized look totally comes out of a stylized ‘60s girl group aesthetic — except she’s the one in charge, and you can tell she’s a totally unfuckwithable baddie.
    • Revisit our episode and our liner notes on Blondie’s Parallel Lines. We had A LOT to say about the way female artists created and controlled their own images — and the way that got twisted and co-opted by the media and their legacies.
    • Friendly reminder, though, that women can be smart and stylish at the same time!!! Women are complex creatures!!!
  • Be sure to follow our master soundtrack on Spotify for all the song references we’re dropping, from Brian Eno to Sonic Youth.
  • Shoutout to “Monitor” containing, like, three different meanings in one song. Words! They’re fun!
  • Is Sonic Youth the Kevin Bacon of rock and roll? Hit us up and tell us what you think, because we’ve talked about them in three episodes now, so.
  • We’re never not talking about how songs that were accepted in decades past would come off as problematic today. “Head Cut,” banger as it is, is definitely one of them.

Favorite track: Monitor and Spellbound (Carly) | Spellbound (Carrie)
Least favorite track(s): Night Shift (Carly) | Night Shift (Carrie)

Album credits

  • Siouxsie Sioux — vocals, guitar on “Sin in My Heart”
  • Steven Severin — bass
  • Budgie — drums, percussion
  • John McGeoch — guitar

Further watching:
What is Goth Music? A Brief Overview of Goth Subgenres | 2017
Rock Family Trees: Banshees and Other Creatures | 2001
Juju Live Tour | 1981
“Spellbound” music video | 1981
“Arabian Knights” music video | 1981
“Voodoo Dolly” live | 1981
Spellbound: The Story of John McGeoch (radio doc) | Date Unknown

Further reading:
The Story of Goth in 33 Songs | Pitchfork (October 2017)
In Romanticizing Riot Grrrl, We’ve Forgotten the Women of UK Punk That Paved the Way | Noisey (April 2015)
Siouxsie and the Banshees: “We Were Losing Our Minds” | Uncut (October 2014)
Dissecting the Deathly Mystique of Siouxsie and the Banshees | AV Club (July 2013)
Siouxsie and the Banshees: “We Were Losing Our Minds” | Uncut (October 2014)
Juju Re-Release Liner Notes | 2006
The Image of Siouxsie Sioux: Punk and the Politics of Gender | Academic paper (April 1995)

 

Episode 2.9: STREET HASSLE

lou-reed-street-hassle

“Street Hassle” – Lou Reed – Arista – 1978

In our second mini episode, we explore the titular track from Lou Reed’s 1978 “comeback” album. This is a song rich in narrative and evocative imagery, running over 11 minutes long and effectively capturing a moment in time in New York City from Reed’s unique perspective. It’s a ghost of a song, the effects of which can still be felt in the city of its setting, even though its events can no longer be experienced. 

Here, we parse through the three parts of this song, discuss its historical context, make connections and comparisons to another ’70s New York rock odyssey, consider the impact of Lou Reed’s songwriting on future generations of musicians, and get a little sentimental about the New York of yore, even though we totally weren’t there.

Listen to “Street Hassle”: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hi, hello, and welcome to another mini episode! Life comes at you fast, and while we work on a real-length episode and also do all the stuff we do in our professional lives, we thought we’d hit you with this snack-sized bit.
  • And, yeah, don’t worry — we’re definitely doing Velvet Underground and/or more solo Lou Reed in the future.
  • There’s a lot of background info about Lou and VU that we won’t bore you with here. There’s this cool thing called Google if you want to learn more.
  • See our further reading links below to read up on the long, contentious relationship between Lou Reed and Lester Bangs.
  • Here’s some science stuff about binaural recording.
  • This song is long and intricate AF, so put your headphones on and buckle up.
  • Shoutout to Lou for subverting gender norms in the Waltzing Matilda section!
  • Turn your volume WAY up and tell us if you agree or disagree with Carly about the beginning of the Street Hassle section sounding reminiscent of Christine McVie.
  • The Factory was wild!!! Here’s some more info.
  • Pop over to our master playlist on Spotify for a handful of songs to explain that “this song is in a bright major key even though the lyrics are dark!” thing.
  • If you want to feel shook at how city life remains still pretty much the same in 2018 as it did in 1978 and as it did in 1903, then you should definitely read this essay, Metropolis and the Mental Life.
  • BRUUUUUUUUUUCEEE
  • Do we have any artists, currently, who are disciples of Lou Reed? We’re not sure, but we loaded up our master playlist with some influences. And, as always, we’d love to hear what you think.


Further watching:

“Street Hassle” music video | Date unknown, more like a short film soundtracked by the song, but still cool
Live at an unknown location | 2003
Live at the Ritz | 1986
Live at the Capitol Theatre | 1984


Further reading:
Lou Reed: A Life (DeCurtis bio) | 2017

Lou Reed Found His Voice Again on “Street Hassle” | AV Club (October 2016)
Babe, I’m On Fire: The Making of Lou Reed’s Street Hassle | Uncut (October 2016)
Looking Back at Lou Reed’s Famously Contentious Relationship With Rock Critic Lester Bangs | Vulture (October 2016)
What Lou Reed Taught Me | NPR (October 2013)
Q&A: Lou Reed | Rolling Stone (November 1987)
Lou Reed’s Heart of Darkness | Rolling Stone (March 1979)
Street Hassle review | Rolling Stone (April 1978)
“Street Hassle” lyrics | Genius

Episode 2.8: AFTER THE GOLD RUSH

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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

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)