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Emphasizing musicians’ gender is an increasingly debatable practice. After all, “female” isn’t a genre. Still, though, we here at ’77 Music Club believe that women have made incredible contributions to music that, for too long, have lingered in the shadows of their male peers. We’ve strived to have a hand in the telling of musical stories from a different perspective in all of our episodes; often, that means gravitating towards telling stories about other women.

Earlier this year, we celebrated International Women’s Day with an excessively long Twitter thread lauding some of our many favorite women who have made (and continue to make) music that has shaped our world. Today, we’re back to soundtrack IWD’s sister holiday, International Day of the Girl. We rounded up our favorite episodes featuring women who have challenged the status quo and let the world know that you don’t need to be a generic white dude to make some goddamn great music. These women have inspired countless girls to pick up guitars or basses or microphones and speak their truths. Tune in, turn it up, and join our musical girl gang. If we get enough people, we’re getting jackets.

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Episode 1: Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks

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Episode 2: Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different

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Episode 4: Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club

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Episode 13: Grace Jones – Nightclubbing

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Episode 15: Carole King – Music 

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Episode 2.4: Fleetwood Mac – Tango in the Night

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Episode 2.5: Blondie – Parallel Lines

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Episode 2.6: Joni Mitchell – “River”

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Episode 2.7: Patti Smith – Easter

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Episode 2.10: Siouxsie and the Banshees – Juju

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Episode 3.1: Laura Nyro – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

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Episode 3.2: Viv Albertine discusses The Slits, Dionne Warwick, feminism, and more

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Episode 3.4: Nico – The Marble Index

Episode 3.1: Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

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Eli and the Thirteenth Confession – Laura Nyro – Columbia – 1968

The source of inspiration for her peers and generations of songwriters to come, Bronx-born Laura Nyro has a legacy that has only grown in legend and mysticism since her untimely death in the early ‘90s. Lauded by Carole King, likened to Joni Mitchell, and emulated by some of today’s cleverest singer-songwriters, her style was singular, speaking of and to the female experience in a way that was at once specific and universal, relatable and abstract.

In this episode, we comb through her 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, a collection of songs so rife with evocative imagery and sense of self that it brought up many of our own memories, connections to our own experiences as young women in 2018, and of course, musical earworms. For a 50-year-old album recorded and produced by a 20-year-old girl, this prodigious record still remains astonishingly relevant.

Listen to Eli and the Thirteenth Confession: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Hello, and welcome to a new season of the pod! Literally nothing has changed; we’re just calling it a new season because we took a break (because we are our own bosses who determine when and why we go on hiatus and when and why we come back!)
  • Some things we mentioned to check out:
    • The Rock & Roll Explorer Guide to New York City is a dope book if you’re into New York and music and history and where they all intersect and want to know where everything happened. We were pleased to moderate the discussion for the book’s launch at Rough Trade this week.
    • ‘80s Redux is a dope book if you’re into music and the ‘80s and photography of cool people doing cool things.
  • So, uh, more than a year into this pod and this is the first time we’ve actually covered a ‘60s album. Can you believe?
  • We’re gonna talk about this a lot because we’re so shook by it, but something to keep in mind during this whole thing: Laura Nyro was just 20 when this was made. TWENTY.
  • Lol here we are again debating an album’s season.
    • Is Eli and the Thirteenth Confession a fall? Or a summer?
    • Do other normal people classify music like this?
  • Don’t forget to hit up and follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear all these songs, the covers that actually made money, and more!
  • “YES, WE KNOW.” — all of you when Carrie says she hates flutes
  • See our further watching links below to see the debut of “Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Cry your eyes out when you hear they were yelling “beautiful” at her, knowing she spent her whole life since thinking they were booing.
  • Evergreen Take: “Dated” doesn’t always necessarily mean bad or unenjoyable.
  • “Lonely Women” clearly created a divide in interpretation between the two of us. Slide into our DMs or email us to let you know what you think. It’s complicated and we’re interested.
  • In case you missed it, this album is feminist as hell, and it’s fascinating and surprising to see how much of it translates to today.
  • See our further reading links below for some more info about Laura Nyro’s relationship with Maria Desidero, who may or may not have been the inspiration for “Timer” and “Emmie.”
  • We definitely have very specific wishes of songs that we’d want other bands or artists to cover — so specific we can hear how they’d sound in our brains — that will likely never, ever happen. Message us to find out / Please tell us if you’ve done this too so we don’t feel too weird.
  • Don’t listen to “December’s Boudoir” unless you’re ready to get the Sunday Sads.
  • Talk to us about anything and everything ~feminism~ we covered re: “The Confession” — i.e. second wave feminism vs. fourth wave, “as a father of daughters…” — ANYTHING! We love to talk about this stuff.

Favorite track(s): Luckie and Timer (Carly) | Eli’s Comin’ and Stoned Soul Picnic (Carrie)
Least favorite track: December’s Boudoir (Carly) | December’s Boudoir (Carrie)

Album credits:

  • Laura Nyro — piano, vocal, harmonies, “witness to the confession”
  • Ralph Casale — acoustic guitar
  • Chet Amsterdam — acoustic guitar, bass
  • Hugh McCracken — electric guitar
  • Chuck Rainey — bass
  • Artie Schroeck — drums, vibes
  • Buddy Saltzman — drums
  • Dave Carey — percussion
  • Bernie Glow, Pat Calello, Ernie Royal — trumpet
  • George Young, Zoot Sims — saxophone
  • Wayne Andre, Jimmy Cleveland, Ray DeSio — trombone
  • Joe Farrell — saxophone, flute
  • Paul Griffin — piano on “Eli’s Comin'” and “Once It Was Alright Now (Farmer Joe)”

Further watching:
Laura Nyro in the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame | 2014
Laura Nyro’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2012
Alice Cooper discusses his love for Laura Nyro (ed note: OH MY GOD) | 2011
“Poverty Train” at the Monterey Pop Festival (with current intro from D.A. Pennebaker, Michelle Phillips, and Lou Adler) | 1967

Further reading: 
Laura Nyro remembered: “A musical force of nature” | Uncut (June 2017)
Laura Nyro’s Lasting, Eclectic Musical Legacy | NPR (December 2011)
Eli and the Thirteenth Confession, Maria Desiderio | Rabdrake Blog (October 2009)
An Enigma Wrapped in Songs | The New York Times (October 1997)
Laura Nyro’s legacy of passion | Entertainment Weekly (April 1997)

 

Episode 2.6: RIVER

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“River” – Joni Mitchell – Reprise – 1971

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

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

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

Listen to River: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript correction

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

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

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

Episode 8: SONGS FOR BEGINNERS

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SONGS FOR BEGINNERS – Graham Nash – Atlantic Records – 1971

The year is 1970. America is in the midst of political turmoil: the Vietnam War faces extensive grassroots backlash, four students are killed at Kent State University in Ohio, and women strike for equality in New York. The music world is not without its share of anguish: the Beatles announce their breakup, American Top 40 is about to make scoring a hit record even more important to artists, and both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdose and die within weeks of each other. Graham Nash is dealing with his own personal unrest. Fresh off of two breakups, romantically with Joni Mitchell and professionally with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and politically charged, Nash takes to the studio to record his debut solo album, Songs For Beginners.

Assembled with the assistance of a slew of members of the crescendoing Laurel Canyon music community, Songs For Beginners succinctly captures the trifecta of traits that have defined Nash’s songwriting: gut-punches of raw emotion, crafted with a pop sensibility in mind, and full of rallying cries for social and political activism. Nash openly and unabashedly shares his most personal feelings, whether they are intimate depictions of heartbreak or outraged shouts, in a manner that will influence folk-rock and indie singer-songwriters for generations to come.

In this episode, we examine Graham Nash’s powerful lyrics and their lasting impression on society, discuss the wealth of music released during the Laurel Canyon era and the importance of creative incubator communities, and get deep into our feels about the relationship between Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell that fueled this album.

Listen to Songs For Beginners: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

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

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • We are concert freaks and we saw some really great shows this week, all from artists you should really check out, that we have to call out: Lulu Lewis, Mokoomba, Roya, Wooing, Ryan Adams, Angelique Kidjo and Friends (some of which we aren’t going to talk about or mention).
  • On that note: Hello. Here’s a gentle, diplomatic reminder from your friends at the ‘77 Music Club: Bands are the sum of their parts. Please remember this. We have a lot of opinions (have we met?), but we’ll leave it at that. 
  • See our further watching section for a great short doc of Graham Nash’s history with the Hollies.
  • We love the music of Laurel Canyon. Here’s a playlist.
  • We long for the days of creative incubator communities. Here are some great articles about the Laurel Canyon scene, New York’s punk/post-punk/new wave scene, the Omaha indie rock movement, and the Market Hotel scene in Brooklyn worth checking out if you feel the same way.
  • SO. MANY. PEOPLE. play on this album. Check out the personnel list below. It’s stacked.
  • Pop music doesn’t have to be meaningless, algorithm-pleasing, saccharine drivel. Pass it on.
  • We are going to talk so much about Joni Mitchell and feelings on this episode, so get ready.
    • Here’s something tiny and lovely about Joni and Graham that will make your heart swell.
    • Blue is Joni’s own breakup album, and it heavily features her relationship with Graham. It is one of the most perfect, heartbreaking, profound albums ever. (Sorry if you disagree, but also, if you do, who are you and has your heart been replaced with a cold battery?)
  • For those of you wondering what “shook” or “shooketh” means, here’s a brief definition.
  • Follow our master soundtrack playlist on Spotify to hear how King Midas is a recurring character in Graham Nash’s songwriting.
    • Also, it’s worth noting that CSN songs about Joni Mitchell often use royal, fairy tale language. See: “Guinevere.”
  • A short history of Jerry Garcia just randomly deciding to play pedal steel guitar.
  • David Crosby and Graham Nash both dated Joni Mitchell and remained good friends. They are not friends now. We don’t have nearly enough time to cover their petty drama right now, but the headline on this article about the current state of their relationship is quite entertaining.
  • Here’s a definition of what the “silent majority” is, in case you weren’t alive for Nixon’s presidency or just didn’t pay attention in history class.
  • Preach, DeRay.
  • This is exactly how we feel when we listen to “Simple Man.”
    • Also, this.
    • “If you hold sand too tightly in your hand, it will run through your fingers. Love, Joan.” It’s fine. We’re fine.
    • Graham Nash is a grown man who unapologetically displays all of his feelings and we love him so much for that.
    • Will never be over this photo of Joni and Graham, truly.
    • See the further watching links below for a fantastic interview with Graham from the Library of Congress. His anecdotes on love at first sight are around 45:20.
    • Obviously, they’d never work out, because Joni is the “Cactus Tree.”
    • Okay, pause us for a minute to feel your feelings before the next song. We’ll be here when you get back.
  • Let’s talk about “Chicago.”
    • Oh my God, you guys. We are such nerds and we have always been such nerds, stanning for the ‘60s and ‘70s since at least the age of 12. Thank you for liking us.
    • Here’s a summary of the Chicago Eight (later reduced to seven) trials.
    • This core theme — we must stand up for what is right and fight this systematic injustice — is still so unsettlingly relevant. Can we pause and think about that for a second?
    • Read Graham’s thoughts about that changed “rules and regulations, who needs them?” lyric.
    • Go see Graham Nash live, if you can. “Chicago” is still a showstopper.
    • “Woke bae” is a thing, and Graham Nash is definitely one of the originals.
  • Seriously, we cannot put our finger on what iconic protest songwriter said something in the vein of “people still do write protest songs, the problem is that mass audiences haven’t heard them because of how fragmented the music industry is.” Please hit us up if you end up being better at Google than us. It’s driving us crazy.
  • Let’s try to make “We Can Change The World” the next march song. (We wish we didn’t have to say this right now.)
  • Graham Nash’s influence on artists can be seen anywhere from M. Ward to Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver (watch this live cover of “Simple Man” if you want to feel feelings) and is vast. See 2010’s Be Yourself: A Tribute to Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners to see just how sweeping.
  • Graham Nash is still “shooting his mouth off” through art, whether it’s touring, recording new albums (his most recent, This Path Tonight, is quite good), painting, or photography. His philosophy is one we are behind 100 percent and one of the reasons why we have a great deal of respect for him: “This is what I do with my life. I get up in the morning and create. What an incredible life I get to lead. [….] I just want to make sure that, with every second I have left of my life, I need to be creating.”
  • Ask yourself: Why did you love music in the first place, and what can you do to add to the story? We’re trying to answer that question every day.
  • As always, hit us up with your thoughts on today’s episode or just to say hey. Like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or drop us an email.

Favorite track(s): Simple Man and Better Days (Carly) | Chicago (Carrie)
Least favorite track: There’s Only One (Carly) | There’s Only One (Carrie)

Album credits:
Graham Nash — vocals; guitar all tracks except “Better Days” and “Simple Man”; piano on “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; organ on “Better Days,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; paper and comb on “Sleep Song”; tambourine on “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Rita Coolidge — piano on “Be Yourself” and “There’s Only One”; electric piano on “Be Yourself”; backing vocals on “Military Madness,” “Better Days,” “Simple Man,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Jerry Garcia — pedal steel guitar on “I Used to Be a King” and “Man in the Mirror”; piano on “I Used to Be a King”
Joe Yankee — piano on “Better Days” and “Man in the Mirror”
Dorian Rudnytsky — cello on “Simple Man” and “Sleep Song”
Dave Mason — electric guitar on “Military Madness”
David Crosby — electric guitar on “I Used to Be a King”
Joel Bernstein — piano on “Military Madness”
Bobby Keys — saxophone on “There’s Only One”
David Lindley — fiddle on “Simple Man”
Sermon Posthumas — bass clarinet on “Better Days”
Chris Ethridge — bass on “Man in the Mirror,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”
Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels — bass on “Military Madness,” “Better Days,” and “Be Yourself”
Phil Lesh — bass on “I Used to Be a King”
Johnny Barbata — drums on “Military Madness,” “I Used to Be a King,” “Be Yourself,” “Man in the Mirror,” “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”; tambourine on “Chicago”
Dallas Taylor — drums on “Better Days”
P.P. Arnold — backing vocals on “Military Madness”
Venetta Fields, Sherlie Matthews, Clydie King, Dorothy Morrison — backing vocals on “There’s Only One,” “Chicago” and “We Can Change the World”

Production personnel:
Graham Nash — producer
Bill Halverson, Russ Gary, Larry Cox — recording engineers
Doug Sax — mastering
Gary Burden — art direction
Joel Bernstein, Graham Nash — photography

Further watching:
Graham Nash: “Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life” | 2014
Hotel California: LA From the Byrds to the Eagles | 2007
The Hollies: Graham Nash | Documentary date unknown

Further reading:
Graham Nash Talks Life After Divorce, CSNY’s Future | Rolling Stone (August 2016)
Wild Tales: A Rock & Roll Life | Graham Nash’s memoir (2014)