Episode 3.5: Raw Like Sushi

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Raw Like Sushi – Neneh Cherry – Virgin – 1989

By 1989, 25-year-old Neneh Cherry had already lived multiple vibrant lives. The child of bohemians (her mother, artist Moki Cherry, and her step-father, jazz musician Don Cherry). The 14-year-old high school dropout-turned-downtown-club-kid. The 16-year-old touring the UK with The Slits. The lead singer of post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic. Wife and mother. Divorced single mother, lover, and collaborator. All of these eclectic experiences and identities shape the 10 tracks of Cherry’s debut solo album Raw Like Sushi. Like Cherry, the album is impossible to pin down as one thing; it’s feisty and assertive, using a melting pot of influences from rap to funk to dance pop to convey a young woman’s truths without waiting for permission to do so.

Though the album is nearly 30 years old, it’s one we have found ourselves listening to often in recent months, marveling at its prescience and continued relevancy. Not only do we hear 2018 ring in its girl power-inspiring anthems, assertions of female sexuality, or rebuking of Men Behaving Badly. We hear its decade-defining production reflected in current artists attempting to recreate specific dated sounds of the past — and use this album as a reminder that we need to understand where we have been to know where we are going.

In this episode, we unpack the layers of this album’s lasting sonic influence, discuss and debate the ways its topics remain relevant in today’s cultural and political climate, and salute Neneh Cherry’s prolific unfuckwithable baddiness.

Listen to Raw Like Sushi: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hey, hi, hello! Our apologies for our lengthy absence, but this is our side hustle and our real lives got lowkey busy, but we’re back!
  • This album is only two years older than us. Is that weird?
  • Shoutout to Viv Albertine and her dope 2014 memoir for turning us on to Neneh Cherry.
  • Peep our further watching links below to see Neneh performing with the Slits.
  • Okay but like… you could live under a rock and still have likely heard “Buffalo Stance”
    • Let’s get this bread.
    • Who knew the word “buffalo” had so many different connotations?
    • “We went over [to America] with our funny little posse from London. And in the black department, [“Buffalo Stance”] wasn’t black enough, and in the white department, it was too black. So it was just this weird middle satellite, floating around.” — Neneh Cherry, Pitchfork, 2014
    • Check out our further watching links to see that iconic Top of the Pops performance. SHOUTOUT TO BADDASS WOMEN WHO GET SHIT DONE.
  • Rolling our eyes forever at the manboys and scumbros of the world.
    • Here’s a CliffsNotes guide to the Nicki Minaj – Cardi B. beef, if you’re curious about how they approach diss tracks like this.
  • Why are teens so scary???
  • Okay but “Kisses On The Wind” brings up such a complicated discussion about girls acting older than they are and the ramifications, false (or maybe not!) confidences, and power dynamics involved. We could talk all day about this stuff; hit us up if you have thoughts.
  • Shoutout to New York City, the greatest worst city in the world!!! Love you and hate you so much!!!
  • “The Next Generation” is pre-woke, don’t @ us.
  • While we’re randomly talking about Paula Abdul, please enjoy this, the single greatest video on the internet.
  • “Phoney Ladies” is also pre-woke!
    • Susan Collins: Resign, bitch.
    • There’s a special 🙂 place 🙂 in 🙂 hell 🙂 for 🙂 women 🙂 who 🙂 don’t 🙂 help 🙂 other 🙂 women 🙂
  • We’re both super into this weird current music trend we’ve been in for a couple of years now with bops throwing it back to ‘80s production techniques. (Hi Jack Antonoff! Hi Rostam! Hi Dev Hynes!)
  • We could spend a longgggg time talking about how many artists Neneh Cherry has inspired, but to save space, we’ll just direct you to our massive Spotify master playlist for a bunch of recommended listening.
  • After an 18-year absence, Neneh Cherry is back on her game, making great music for our times. Her latest release, this month’s Broken Politics, is no exception.
  • As always, find and follow us on Facebook and Twitter if you don’t already.

Favorite track(s): Buffalo Stance and Inna City Mama (Carly) | Buffalo Stance and Heart (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Love Ghetto (Carly) | Inna City Mamma (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Neneh Cherry — Vocals, programming
  • Sandy McLelland — Background vocals
  • Chandra Armstead — Background vocals
  • Cameron “Booga Bear” McVey — Background vocals, executive producer, mixing, beats
  • Phil Chill — Programming, beats, background vocals
  • Claudia Fontaine — Background vocals
  • Nellee Hooper — Vibraphone
  • Jerod — Guitar
  • Alvin Moody — Bass
  • Nick Plytas — Programming
  • Jeff Scantlebury — Conga
  • John Sharp — Programming
  • Tim Simenon — Beats
  • Dynamik Duo — Beats
  • Mark Saunders — Multi-instruments, beats
  • Wil Malone — Conductor, programming, string arrangements
  • Gordon Dukes — Background vocals
  • Mushroom — Programming

Further watching:
Montreux Jazz Festival interview | 2012
Performance + Interview on Arsenio Hall | 1993
“Manchild” live on Top of the Pops | 1989
”Buffalo Stance” live on Top of the Pops | 1988
The Slits – The Man Next Door live | 1981

Further reading:
Neneh Cherry Never Stopped Taking Risks. Now She’s Making Politics Personal | New York Times (October 2018)
Neneh Cherry Is Back and More Fashionable Than Ever | Vogue (August 2018)
Raw Like Sushi Sunday Review | Pitchfork (April 2018)  
Neneh Cherry Will Get an Overdue New York Debut | New York Times (January 2015)
Disorienting Eclecticism: Neneh Cherry’s Raw Like Sushi Revisited | The Quietus (May 2014)
Raw Like Sushi review | BBC (2009)
Neneh Cherry: Homestyle | Rolling Stone (February 1993)

Episode 14: COMPUTER WORLD

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COMPUTER WORLD – Kraftwerk – Warner Bros. Records – 1981

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

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

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

Listen to Computer World: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

(ps — while you’re there, please rate and review us in the iTunes store so more people can discover us and we can all be friends who talk about music together!) 

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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

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

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

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

Episode 13: NIGHTCLUBBING

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NIGHTCLUBBING – Grace Jones – Island Records – 1981

Music. Fashion. Art. Icon. Attempting to mix these to create an internationally acclaimed persona would be a daunting task for anyone with less magnetism than Grace Jones, who succeeded so overwhelmingly at becoming a cross-genre “It Girl” that she forged a path for future generations of singular artists to follow.

Already a well-known model and disco queen, Grace Jones began recording music in the late 1970s. The records did modestly well, but in 1979, Island Records founder and producer Chris Blackwell began working with her on a new musical aesthetic, combining funk, disco, reggae, and new wave styles to create something new — and uniquely Grace Jones. With the talents of Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Wally Badarou, Mikey Chung, Uziah Thompson, and other musicians who comprised the Compass Point All-Stars, the sessions that became Nightclubbing would go on to influence music through each subsequent decade.

As we seek to bridge the gap between the generations, there are few better examples of lasting musical, sartorial, and artistic inspiration than Grace Jones. In today’s episode on her 1981 album Nightclubbing, we explore the effervescent enigma of a woman who left her Jamaican home to travel the world, only to return to the Caribbean to create the music that would become the focal point of her legacy. We dive deep into the relationships between music and art, between the artist and the image, and between icon and legacy. 

Listen to Nightclubbing: 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

  • Forest Hills is honestly one of the most magical, historic venues in the city. Definitely try to get to a show there, if you can.
  • Fairfield, Connecticut and the people who live there are delightful, and the Fairfield Theatre Company is such a great space to check out a show. It’s so close to New York on the train! And it’s green! In this summer of subway hell, maybe skip the L and hit up the New Haven Metro-North line instead.
    • As we’ve mentioned before, we love love love FTC’s Emerging Artists Series. Here’s more info on the next installment on August 21 with Easter Island and Oak House. You know we’ll be there.
    • If you love harmonies and feels as much as we do, check out the Wild Reeds. You won’t be disappointed.
  • If you love punk, post-punk, rock, soul, psychedelia, and/or a combination of all of them, check out Lulu Lewis! We’ve mentioned them before, but we’re not gonna stop anytime soon because we really dig their music and hope you do, too.
  • We’ve mentioned this before, but once again, Chris Blackwell is a BAMF.
  • As is Alex Sadkin.
  • Revisit our episode on Betty Davis’s They Say I’m Different and let us know if you see any similarities between Betty and Grace.
  • TURN TF UP FOR COMPASS POINT 👏 👏 👏
    • Here’s a rad podcast we literally just found that serves as a mini audio-documentary on the studio and some of the cool people who passed through and the records they made.
    • ALSO, TURN TF UP FOR THE COMPASS POINT ALL-STARS 👏 👏 👏
    • Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Wally Badarou, Mikey Chung, Barry Reynolds, and Uziah “Sticky” Thompson are all killer musicians on their own, but the sum = magic
    • Peep our further reading for more on them.
  • A lot of Nightclubbing actually comes from sessions for Warm Leatherette; THAT’S how good they were.
  • Let’s talk about this album cover!
    • First and foremost: Grace Jones is the OG baddie, textbook unfuckwithable. (Confused what that means? Good thing we have our glossary.)
    • Especially, let’s talk about John Paul Goude. Here’s one article about their working relationship, but check out our further reading for more.
  • Here’s that “I came to slay” Grace Jones-Pee Wee’s Christmas Special appearance we were talking about. Childhood memories are crazy, y’all.
  • This album is full of cover songs, so check out our master playlist on Spotify for all the side by side comparisons.
  • Here’s that incredibly in-depth lecture with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth at Red Bull Music Academy. The link will take you right to the part where they discuss Compass Point and the creative community there, but we highly recommend watching all of it. It’s a good one.
  • Check out the further reading links below for a piece about Grace Jones’s androgynous impact on fashion and music that’s worth reading, if you’re interested.
  • Turnup for Stromae. (Carly recommends watching these videos for Tous Les Memes” or Papaoutai.”)
  • If “Pull Up To The Bumper” doesn’t give you time-machine-going-out feels, maybe this isn’t the podcast for you 👀
  • Turnup for Fonce Mizell.  
  • No, really, they don’t have street numbers at Compass Point, so if we ever by any chance get an apartment or house there, Funky Spaceship is on the short list of names.
  • Here’s some science stuff about how Compass Point’s engineers EQ’d the bass and the drums the way they did that creates that cool, loud-but-open sound.
  • Hey, if anyone knows a physicist who can make us a time machine, hit us up.
  • If you want to read Grace’s ironically titled memoir, follow the link in our further reading section below.
  • Here are the translated lyrics to “I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango),” if you’d like a more thorough explanation than Carrie’s subpar French can offer. (She tried. Also, if anyone wants to tutor her, she’s willing to re-learn.)
  • Visuals are a huge part of this album — see our further watching section below for some great links.
  • Buckle up. We’re about to take you down a musical rabbit hole: Compass Point edition. It’s gonna be fun.
    • Of course we’re going to bring up the rhythmic similarities between Grace Jones/Sly and Robbie and Frantz and Weymouth, even though it’s all mostly unintentional. They were all recording in the same place at the same time — studio osmosis is a pretty cool thing.
    • Add this to the list of mashups we’d very much like: Tom Tom Club’s “As Above So Below” vs. Grace Jones’s “Feel Up”
    • Tom Tom Club’s woke-and-dope sophomore album Close To The Bone isn’t on Spotify or iTunes for some reason (???), but we highly recommend you listen to it. YouTube is the real MVP — here you go.
    • Also, while you’re there — how great would a Grace Jones cover of Bamboo Town” be?
    • Okay, dig: the bassline on Grace Jones’s “Love is the Drug” sounds very similar to the bassline on Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless”
    • OMG THERE’S MORE! The “Crosseyed and Painless” bassline also sounds a lot like the bassline on “Feel Up,” so now we’ve come full circle.
    • “Y, tho?” you’re probably asking. The short story: it’s because all three basslines are outliers to pre-established bass aesthetics. Rather than being funky and melodic, as per usual, they’re pointed grooves (that happen to sound similar) and serve as anchors to keep busy, polyrhythmic songs from running away.
    • Wild, right?
  • Here’s more info about “Demolition Man” so you can learn what exactly Sting was talking about when he wrote it.
  • “I’ve Done It Again” is probably about an LSD trip, so, there’s that.
  • Grace Jones has an enormous legacy. Here’s a short list of information:
    • Grace Jones was and is a huge gay icon, and this album has been noted for its gay following.
    • Artists who have Grace to thank for paving the way for connecting music, fashion, and art: Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Madonna, Janelle Monae… the list goes on and on.
    • Grace’s influence on fashion has also been vast and long-lasting.
  • Finally, worth repeating here, the final paragraph of Grace’s memoir: “If people complain that I am not doing enough of my old material, not performing all the hits, I will stand in front of them, a formlessness that engulfs all form. I will put on another hat, crack my whip, scatter fireflies, fix them with a five-thousand-year-old stare, fit to fight to the bitter end, becoming a ghost with the passing of time. I will be ready for the afterlife, for my bones to be buried in the mountains of Jamaica, or the canals of Venice, or the dark side of the moon, or under the ground in the cities I’ve lived in and loved. And I will say: Do you want to move forward with me, or not? Do you want to know where I am going next? It’s time for something else to happen.

Favorite track(s): Feel Up and Pull Up To The Bumper (Carly) | Pull Up To The Bumper and Feel Up (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Art Groupie (Carly) | I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (Carrie)

Album credits:
Wally Badarou – keyboards
Monte Browne – rhythm guitar
Mikey Chung – guitar
Masai Delon – vocals
Tyrone Downie – keyboards, vocals
Sly Dunbar – drums, syndrums
Jack Emblow – accordion
Grace Jones – vocals, backing vocals
Barry Reynolds – guitar
Jess Roden – vocals
Robbie Shakespeare – bass
Mel Speller – percussion, vocals
Uziah Thompson – percussion
Chris Blackwell, Alex Sadkin – production

Further Watching: 
Grace Jones: One Man Show | 1982
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (trailer) | Forthcoming documentary

Further Reading:
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs | Jones’s irony, please memoir (2015)
Grace Jones: Warm Leatherette (re-issue review) | Pitchfork (June 2016)
Welcome to Planet Grace Jones | Paper Magazine (October 2015) 
Grace Jones Explores Androgyny in a New Memoir | Vogue (September 2015)
As Much As I Can, As Black As I Am: The Queer History of Grace Jones | Pitchfork (August 2015)
I’ve Seen That Face Before: Looking back on Grace Jones’s iconic Nightclubbing with the people who made it happen | Fact Magazine (May 2014) 
Grace Jones: Nightclubbing (deluxe re-issue review) | Pitchfork (May 2014)
Grace Jones pulls up to the bumper | The Guardian (June 2011)
Chris Blackwell | Interview Magazine (March 2009)
Grace Jones by Jean Paul Goude | V Magazine (February 2009) 

 

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 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)