Episode 2.10: JUJU

siouxsie-and-the-banshees-juju

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 11: I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU

al-green-love

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 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 7: THE MESSAGE

grandmaster-flash-the-message-album-cover

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

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

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

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

Listen to The Message: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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

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

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

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

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

 

Episode 6: #1 RECORD

Big-Star-1-Record

#1 Record – Big Star – Ardent Records – 1972

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

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

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

Listen to #1 Record: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 4: TOM TOM CLUB

tom-tom-club

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

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

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

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

Listen to Tom Tom Club: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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

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

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

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

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

“OKAY, BYE!”

 

Episode 2: THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT

 

bettydavis

THEY SAY I’M DIFFERENT – Betty Davis – Just Sunshine Records – 1974

The world was not ready for Betty Davis.

Before Prince, Madonna, and Beyoncé were boldly owning race, gender, and sexuality in their music, there was Betty Davis: raw, explicit, and brazenly emancipated from everything expected of women in 1974.

At 16, Davis moved to New York, became a model and scenester, and fell into a crowd of friends and lovers that included Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Miles Davis (whom she later married — for a year). After her debut album underperformed, she took full creative control and produced her follow-up entirely on her own. The result was They Say I’m Different: a bold, unfiltered album that exposes the power of a woman confident with her gender, race, and sense of self.

In this episode, we discuss the impact of this album on society: how it fit into the time it was released, and how it has influenced artists today, both musically and politically.

We recorded this episode on Sunday, just hours before this year’s Grammys. We waited anxiously for Beyoncé’s masterpiece Lemonade to be deservedly rewarded. The album is a clear continuation of Betty’s legacy: aggressively independent, proudly black, profoundly female, and willing to take names of those who object; the words Betty growls on 1974’s “Don’t Call Her No Tramp” are echoed in Beyoncé’s howl on 2016’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself.”

It’s the kind of music that can scare people. Betty’s provocativeness led to her mainstream demise, but she laid the groundwork for women like Beyoncé who came after her. When we recorded this episode, we were excited for this to be a way to say “Look how far we’ve come.” Instead, the results of this year’s Grammy ceremony showed us that, 42 years later, this kind of music still scares people, and we still have a long way to go.

Listen to They Say I’m Different: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

 

Subscribe on iTunes 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • This is pretty much everything that was happening in music in 1974.
  • Shoutout to ABBA.
  • Shoutout to CBGB’s first year.
  • Betty Davis was married to Miles Davis from 1968 to 1969, and is often credited with introducing him to the emerging psychodelic rock scene (particularly through her friend, Jimi Hendrix), and inspiring his genre-changing album Bitches Brew.
  • Shoutout to Macy Gray. Our apologies for our subpar attempt at singing that song from our childhood to convey similarities between your voice and Betty’s.
  • A clear line from Betty Davis to Beyoncé can be drawn for more than one of their shared characteristics. We are definitely not the only ones who think so.
  • Here are the lyrics to He Was a Big Freak. Maybe don’t open them up on your work computer if your boss is around.
  • Betty Davis and Jimi Hendrix were close friends. So close, that Miles Davis thought they were having an affair, even though Betty was pushing for the two to work together. Ultimately, Hendricks died before any collaboration could take place. 
  • If you know what the instrument from the intro to “Don’t You Call Her No Tramp” is, let us know. Hit us up: @77MusicClub on Twitter or 77musicclub@gmail.com and always feel free to get in touch.
  • Peep the related articles below to read in full what the New York Times had to say about Betty in 1974.
  • Most people had a strong reaction to Betty’s music in her heyday — but not always in a good way. The NAACP wanted radio to ban her songs and called her “a disgrace to her race.” She did not react kindly to this.
  • Peep all the name drops in “They Say I’m Different” with the full lyrics here.

Favorite track: Special People (Carly) | Shoo-B-Doop and Cop Him (Carrie)
Least favorite track: 70s Blues (Carly) | 70s Blues (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Betty Davis – Producer, Vocals
  • Debbie Burrell – Vocals
  • Elaine Clark – Vocals
  • Mary Jones – Vocals
  • Trudy Perkins – Vocals
  • Mike Clark – Drums
  • Nicky Neal – Drums, Vocals
  • Willy Sparks – Drums, Vocals
  • Ted Sparks – Drums
  • Pete Escovedo – Timbales
  • Victor Pantoja – Congas, Percussion
  • Errol “Crusher” Bennett – Percussion
  • Buddy Miles – Guitar
  • Jimmy Godwin – Guitar
  • Cordell Dudley – Guitar, Vocals
  • Carlos Morales – Guitar, Vocals
  • Larry Johnson – Bass
  • Merl Saunders – Electric Piano
  • Fred Mills – Keyboards, Vocals
  • James Allen Smith – Keyboards
  • Hershall Kennedy – Clavinet, Keyboards, Organ, Electric Piano, Trumpet, Vocals
  • Tony Vaughn – Bass (Vocal), Clavinet, Keyboards, Piano, Electric Piano, Vocals
  • Mel Dixon – Photography
  • Bob Edwards – Assistant Engineer
  • Tom Flye – Mixing
  • Ron Levine – Cover Design
  • Bill Levy – Art Direction

Further watching:
Nasty Gal: The Many Lives of Betty Davis — documentary coming soon

Further reading:
Cult heroes: Betty Davis – blistering funk pioneer and female artist | The Guardian (July 2016)
Betty Davis: A Cult Genius Revealed, Once Again | MTV (July 2016)
Sleazy Listening: Betty Davis Rides Again | The New York Times T Magazine (November 2009)
Nasty Gal: Betty Davis | Dazed (July 2007)
A Funk Queen Steps Out of the Shadows | SFGate (May 2007)
The Pop Life | The New York Times (June 1974)