Episode 3.2: Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more

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The Slits now-iconic 1979 debut Cut is an unusual, but delightful, melting pot of sounds: strains of UK punk mix with Jamaican reggae, girlish chants dance with abrasive DIY noise. Slipping between the grooves and finding a home within the mix — perhaps most indecipherably, or even curiously, to the casual listener — is the influence of the early-60s pop standards of Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach.

Growing up in post-war Britain in the 1960s, Slits guitarist Viv Albertine heard plenty of Warwick’s hits while listening to pop radio. Later, as a scrappy young woman running around London with next to no money and not much to do in the early-to-mid ‘70s, she came across a compilation album — Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One — in a used record shop with her bandmates. It became not just an album that they spent countless hours listening to together, playing it front-to-back over and over again, but one they — particularly Viv and lead singer Ari Up — would study, dissecting songs to their individual parts and taking note of the details, attempting to learn how to emulate Warwick and Bacharach in their own unique way.

For the past 40 years, the Slits have served as touchstones for female musicians, often cited for blazing a necessary trail for the coming riot grrrl movement and beyond. Today, we have the privilege of being able to look to Viv Albertine, and the Slits as a whole, for inspiration and empowerment, and are finally beginning to see their important role in history recognized in more mainstream circles. But in their formative years, female role models, particularly musicians, were much harder to come by; Dionne Warwick was one of them.

In this very special episode, we are so pleased to discuss Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part One with Viv Albertine herself. Join us for a wide-ranging conversation that touches upon Warwick, Bacharach, and Hal David’s influence on the Slits’ music, as well as their own lives as young women in late-70s and early-80s London, the importance of representation, and so much more.

Listen to Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part OneSpotify | YouTube
Listen to the Slits’ Cut: iTunesSpotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes
(and while you’re there, rate and review us in the iTunes store)

Read the full transcript of our interview with Viv Albertine here

Episode notes and postscript corrections

First and foremost: We’ve said this a million times, but we truly cannot recommend Viv’s books more or praise them highly enough. Both have had a tremendous impact on us, and we have yet to meet anyone who has read either and cannot say the same.

Support your local small bookstore or check them out here:
To Throw Away Unopened | 2018
Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. | 2014 

Follow our master playlist on Spotify to hear every song we discussed today
Follow Viv Albertine on Facebook and Twitter 

Follow ’77 Music Club on Facebook and Twitter or shoot us an email if you have thoughts

Further watching:
Here to be Heard: The Story of The Slits documentary trailer | 2017
Viv Albertine in conversation at British Library | 2016
The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls (BBC women in punk documentary) | 2014
“Typical Girls” music video | 1979
The Slits live performance and interview | 1970s; specific year unknown

Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach: Live at the Rainbow Room | 1996
Burt Bacharach… This Is Now
(BBC documentary) | 1996
“Walk On By”
live
| 1965
“Don’t Make Me Over” live | 1963

Further reading: 
On Viv and the Slits
New Doc on The Slits Questions Why These Pioneering Punks Have Been Overlooked | Paper (May 2018)
Viv Albertine Has Used Her Rage to Write Herself into Punk History | Noisey (April 2018)
The Slits Are Refusing to be Written Out of Music History | Noisey (October 2017)
The Slits’ Viv Albertine Defaces Male-Focused Punk Exhibition | Pitchfork (July 2016) ed note: HYFR, BAMF move.
How we made Cut | The Guardian (June 2013)
Like Choosing a Lover: Viv Albertine’s Favorite Albums | The Quietus (April 2013)
Girls Unconditional: The story of the Slits, told exclusively by the Slits | Loud and Quiet (July 2009)
Cut re-release album review | Pitchfork (February 2005)

On Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David
Anyone Who Had a Heart: My Life and Music (Burt Bacharach’s memoir) | 2014
My Life, as I See It  (Dionne Warwick’s memoir) | 2010

50 Essential Albums of 1967: Dionne Warwick’s Golden Hits, Part 1 | Rolling Stone (September 2017)
Burt Bacharach interview: what was it all about? | The Telegraph (June 2013)
Dionne Warwick: ‘I refused a couple of Bacharach and David songs’ | The Guardian (November 2012)
Dionne Warwick sings Hal David’s last lyrics | CNN (September 2012)
Music And Lyrics: Burt Bacharach and Hal David | NPR (May 2010)
Bacharach and David: Reconciled and Honored | LA Times (May 1993)
Singers: Spreading the Faith | Time (July 1967)

 

Episode Credits:
Creator and co-host: Carly Jordan

Co-host, editor, producer: Carrie Courogen
Special thanks to: Becky Kraemer and Viv Albertine

Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more (full transcript)

The following phone interview conversation took place on June 24, 2018. It has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Carly Jordan: Thank you so much for talking to us for the show. I was really psyched that you wanted to talk about Dionne Warwick.

Viv Albertine: Oh, Dionne Warwick, yes! You don’t think that was a weird one?

CJ: No, I didn’t think that was weird at all.

Carrie Courogen: No.

CJ: We didn’t think that was weird.

CC: We thought it was really interesting.

CJ: Because in your first book, I remember reading about all of the different artists that influenced you when you were coming up in the ‘70s, and none of them were what I thought they were gonna be, and they were so varied and so interesting. So, I was not at all surprised that you chose Dionne Warwick.

VA: Oh, good! [laughs]

CJ: So, when did Dionne Warwick first come to your attention and what about her voice stuck out to you in particular?

VA: Well, I think I first probably heard Dionne Warwick in the ‘60s when I was just listening to chart music, because she had a couple of hits, but the reason I chose the album was because it was one of about four albums we had within the Slits, when we all sort of lived together and shared everything and had to go everywhere together because just the way we dressed enacted — we were being attacked all the time, so we spent so much time together and we just sort of pulled the few things we had. And, back in those days, you know you had a few albums ‘cause they cost so much. We got Dionne Warwick, I think, Golden Hits, Part One, which is her singing the Burt Bacharach – Hal David songs, from the record exchange shop, so, it was a used copy. And we absolutely sort of studied it, you know?

Continue reading “Viv Albertine talks Dionne Warwick, the Slits, feminism, and more (full transcript)”

Celebrate CBGB with us and the Morrison Hotel Gallery

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While we’re fans of several of the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s shows, their latest exhibit, CBGB: The Age of Punk, is one close to our musical interests here at the pod. With works from artists and photographers like Lynn Goldsmith, Chris Stein, and Mick Rock of the scene’s greatest icons, from The Ramones to Sonic Youth, the gritty, raw energy of ’70s and ’80s Bowery is sure to excite and inspire the punks in all of us to go out and make some noise.

CBGB: The Age of Punk will be on display at the gallery’s three locations (New York, Los Angeles, and Maui) from May 18 to June 17. For more information, visit www.morrisonhotelgallery.com.
Whether you’re planning on checking out the show or not, we rounded up our favorite episodes on the era here to transport you back to 315 Bowery for an hour or so. The time machine lust is very real.

 

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Episode 4: Tom Tom Club – Tom Tom Club

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Episode 9: Television – Marquee Moon

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Episode 10: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (fun fact, they played CB’s in their early days!)

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Episode 2.5: Blondie – Parallel Lines 

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Episode 2.7: Patti Smith Group – Easter

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Episode 2.9: Lou Reed – “Street Hassle”

Episode 2.10: JUJU

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Juju – Siouxsie and the Banshees – Polydor – 1981

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

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

Listen to Juju: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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

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

Album credits

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

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

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

 

Episode 2.9: STREET HASSLE

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“Street Hassle” – Lou Reed – Arista – 1978

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

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

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

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

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


Further watching:

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


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

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

Episode 2.7: EASTER

Patti_Smith-Easter

Easter – Patti Smith Group – Arista – 1978

After a debilitating injury stood between her disjointed second album and the imminent recording of her third, Patti Smith wrote a poem that would inform her next collection of songs by taking her physical pain and turning it into sonic glory. The poem “Easter” detailed her own “resurrection,” her journey to triumph over hardship. A concept was born and the album that would share the poem’s title became Smith’s greatest commercial breakthrough.

Containing the monster hit “Because The Night,” the controversial “Rock N Roll N****r,” and raucous, protest-ready “Till Victory,” Easter is a celebration not only of human will, but of female power. Negotiating for complete creative control over her album (a year before 9 to 5 brought gender inequity in the workplace to the national spotlight), Smith made no concessions to how male record executives thought she should present herself. Appearing raw and unpolished on the album cover, growling her desires and bellowing her neuroses in her music, and standing by her artistic convictions, Patti Smith demanded that women be seen on their terms, exactly as they wanted to be.

Forty years on, Easter remains a catalyst for feminism, a stronghold for lyric poetry, and an icon of blood-pumping, heart-racing, hair-raising rock and roll.

 

Listen to Easter: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript correction

  • While the cover of Horses was shot by Patti’s close friend and ex-boyfriend Robert Mappelthorpe (who has taken numerous stunning, iconic photos of her as a muse), Easter was shot by Lynn Goldsmith, who is one of our favorite rock photographers. Her Instagram is dope and you should check it out.
  • “How did everyone let Jimmy Iovine have a unibrow for, like, 30 years?” is truly one of the hard-hitting questions that keep us up at night. (No, really, it was just so so so bad.)
  • Turn tf up for feminist activism. The revolution will be soundtracked by Patti.
  • Discuss: who, if anyone, could Patti Smith be compared to, artistically?
  • Hi, we love when women sing men’s songs, bye.
    • Check out our further watching links below to see the rendition of “Because the Night” dedicated to Fred Smith this summer. (Sadly, it’s missing her introduction, but, yes, she really did say that.)
    • Be sure to hit up our master playlist on Spotify for all the song references we just dropped — from Jimmy Iovine’s “hello female singer, you should sing this male singer’s song” tracks to Patti Lupone’s take on “Because the Night” to the Garbage and Screaming Females cover
    • The Angelfish cover of “Kimberly” isn’t on Spotify, but you can listen to it here.
    • Unrelated but sort of related: could we call people on the phone more?
  • Here’s more info about the history of “Ghost Dance” as a Native American prayer song.
  • “Babelogue” is so full of wonderful imagery that you really should read the lyrics to it to fully digest it all.
  • “Rock and Roll N****r” is a prime example of your fave is problematic.”
    • Here’s our friendly reminder that you can — and should — hold people you admire accountable for faults that can be fixed. To look the other way would be idol worship, and we don’t play like that.
    • Patti. Patti, Patti, Patti. WHY?
    • Discuss: Do you think this was a creative, artistic choice for the sake of art, or a deliberate decision made knowing it would push buttons and create controversy?
    • Moral of the story: WORDS. MATTER.
  • To learn more about this “wild woman” theory, check out this book that was recommended to us and we are now recommending to all of you.
  • Here’s a trailer for that movie “Privilege (Set Me Free)”
  • Patti. Girl. With that Sunday night CBGB reference, you super aren’t fooling anyone into viewing the subjects of this song as anonymous people. 
  • This is literally called Art Songs 101
  • Here’s a site that’s definitely not at all from the late-90s era of Geocities site building (nope, no way) about Arthur Rimbaud’s Une Saison En Hell.
  • GO. SEE. PATTI. SMITH. IF. YOU. CAN. AND. HAVE. NOT. DONE. SO.  ALREADY.
    • It will probably maybe definitely change your life.
    • READ. HER. BOOKS. (they’re in the further reading links below). They will gut you emotionally. 

Favorite track(s): Till Victory and Space Monkey (Carly) |Till Victory (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Rock and Roll N****r (Carly) | Privilege (Set Me Free) Carrie)

Album credits:
Patti Smith – vocals, guitar
Lenny Kaye – guitar, bass guitar, vocals
Jay Dee Daugherty – drums, percussion
Ivan Kral – bass guitar, vocals, guitar
Bruce Brody – keyboards, synthesizer

Richard Sohl – keyboards on “Space Monkey”
Allen Lainer – keyboards on “Space Monkey”
John Paul Fetta – bass on “Till Victory” and “Privilege”
Andi Ostrowe – percussion on “Ghost Dance”
Jim Maxwell – bagpipes on “Easter”

Further Watching:
“Because the Night” live in Central Park | 2017   
Patti Smith Interview: Advice to the Young | 2012 (ed note: HIGHLY RECOMMEND) 
Dream of Life (documentary) | 2009 
Patti Smith’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2007
“Because the Night” on Old Grey Whistle Test | 1978 

Further Reading:
Devotion (Why I Write) | 2017
M Train | 2015
Just Kids | 2010
Babel | 1979

Patti Smith, The Godmother of Punk Rock, Shares Her ‘Devotion’ | WBUR (September 2017)
Easter review | Pitchfork (May 2017)
This advice. | Brooklyn by the Book (September 2016)
The Story of Feminist Punk in 33 Songs | Pitchfork (August 2016)
Easter review | Creem (June 1978)  
Patti Smith’s Top 40 Insurrection (the Lester Bangs review) | Phonograph Record  Magazine (May/June 1978)

Episode 2.5: PARALLEL LINES

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Parallel Lines – Blondie – Chrysalis Records – 1978

Perhaps one of the most emblematic albums to come out of the musical melting pot of ’70s New York, Blondie’s 1978 breakthrough Parallel Lines is an explosion of influences and styles. Not quite punk, not quite pop, not quite disco — its roster of songs launched Blondie to a new level of success by combining familiar sounds from a variety of genres, mixing the past with the present and looking towards the future, all while still remaining true to their underground roots.

Each member of the band found themselves pushed out of their comfort zone by producer Mike Chapman, and with this album, they hit upon the formula that would bring forth the distinct, iconic Blondie sound for years of records to come.

In this episode, we parse through the various influences and cultural contexts that make up each song, let our nerd flags fly with sonic connections, and continue our musings and discussion of why late ‘70s New York was such fertile ground for music that has endured for decades.

Listen to Parallel Lines: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • If you missed our guest stint on Little Water Radio’s program The Rest is Noise, listen to the archive of it here. We come on around 39 minutes in.
  • We have a thing for bands born out of CBGB. Check out our episodes on Tom Tom Club and Marquee Moon for more on this scene.
  • If you’ve read our FAQs, you’ll know that we’ve repeatedly said that we’re not trying to cover iconic albums because so much has been said about them already. Parallel Lines, however, is different — we think we have more to add to the conversation.
  • Here’s more about Richard Gottehrer, the producer on Blondie’s first two albums.
  • And here’s some more info on Mike Chapman, who produced Parallel Lines.
  • Six of the 12 tracks on the album were released as singles, and most of them had music videos to go with them. Peep our further watching links below to check them all out.
  • Bop over to our Spotify playlist to hear the Nerves’ original version of “Hanging on the Telephone” back-to-back with Blondie’s cover.
    • Shoutout to Clem Burke for being a gd champ on this album.
    • That double backbeat, tho. YOU KNOW we’ve stacked some ‘60s influencing examples in our master playlist, too.
  • PSA: Swim team practice will be held in the PROJECTION ROOM ABOVE THE AUDITORIUM.
  • Women 👏 owe  👏  Debbie 👏  Harry  👏  a  👏  whole  👏  heck  👏  of  👏  a lot.  👏
  • Watch this if you want to further tease out the Mike Chapman vs. Clem Burke comparison to Jimmy Iovine vs. Stan Lynch.
  • Also, fun fact: Robert Fripp plays guitar on “Fade Away and Radiate.” #TheMoreYouKnow
  • Discuss: Can liking commercial pop music be tasteful?
  • No, but really, we’re going to make a playlist called “Okay… sounds fake, but okay” about songs artists INSIST are totally innocent and innocuous but we definitely know better and they’re not fooling us. Get at us if you have any favorites.
  • Wow wow wow “Heart of Glass” is a lot.
    • Again, we always love to talk ‘70s New York. Hit us up if you wanna educate us or share stories.
    • Yes, disco and punk actually evolved out of the same geographic location and similar subcultures. Read this fantastic oral history of disco from Vanity Fair for more.
    • Listen to Blondie covering “I Feel Love,” then head over to our master playlist to hear the early demo “Once I Had a Love.”
    • Oh, and, also, shoutout to Kraftwerk.
  • There are a ton of bands that draw massive influence from Blondie — we’ve got a lot for you to listen to over on Spotify.
  • Blondie disbanded in 1982, but reformed in 1997 and are still around and kicking ass now. We highly recommend their latest album Pollinator for how well it merges the classic Blondie aesthetic with 2017 — something that’s not easy for many legacy bands to do. They avoid both the pitfalls of an old band trying to sound young and relevant and an old band too stuck in their past. Dig.
  • Thanks for being Blondie, Blondie.

Favorite track(s): 11:59 and Heart of Glass (Carly) | Sunday Girl and Hanging on the Telephone (Carrie)
Least favorite track: I Know But I Don’t Know (Carly) | 11:59 (Carrie)

Album credits:
Deborah Harry – vocals
Chris Stein – guitar, 12-string guitar, E-bow
Clem Burke – drums
Jimmy Destri – electric keyboards
Nigel Harrison – bass guitar
Frank Infante – guitar

Further Watching:
Inside the Music: Blondie’s New York | 2014
Blondie’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction | 2006
Rock and Roll Punk (Blondie comes in around part 2)| 1995
Nightmoves interview | 1978
“Hanging on the Telephone” music video
“Picture This” music video 
“Heart of Glass” music video

Further Reading:
Blondie’s Parallel Lines (from the 33 ⅓ book series) | 2016
Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk | 2014
Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie* (Ed note: this is mostly photography, but is co-authored by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. We only recommend authorized/legit biographies in our notes, ya feel?) 

Debbie Harry: June/July Cover Star (in-depth profile of both Debbie and Pollinator) | Nylon (May 2017)
There’s Something About Harry | Harpers Bazaar (March 2017)
Why Did ‘70s Rock Music Hate Disco So Much? | Noisey (February 2016)
Blondie: Success and Sexism | Mojo (March 2014)
35 Years Ago: Blondie Release Parallel Lines | Ultimate Classic Rock (September 2013)
Parallel Lines re-release review | Pitchfork (August 2008)
Parallel Lines review | Rolling Stone (November 1982)
Robert Christgau’s OG review | 1978

Episode 2.2: URBAN VERBS

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URBAN VERBS – Urban Verbs – Warner Brothers – 1980

In our very first oral history episode, we are extremely proud to present the story of Urban Verbs, an integral band in the shaping of Washington D.C.’s burgeoning punk scene in late 1970s and early 1980s.

With the frenetic energy of punk buzzing out of New York and London and the first bursts of post-punk already beginning to enter the airwaves, Urban Verbs stood at a crossroads of sonic and cultural possibilities. They had their own uncharted terrain on which they could create a scene of their own, with their own experimental sound: Their home base, the now-legendary 9:30 Club, spawned a singular new wave movement, one whose influence can still be felt among D.C. bands of today. Their unique meshing of the visual arts crowd with the music world helped to usher in a unification of the D.C. creative community.

Only circumstance separated the Verbs from widespread national acclaim, so with this episode, we offer a candid telling of a story that we feel deserves recognition, a story of music that still sounds as fresh, driving, and progressive today as the day it was recorded. These are the recollections of an extraordinary period in time, told by those who lived it.

Carly and Carrie would like to dedicate this episode to the memory of Robert Goldstein, whose music and essential contributions to the Verbs were a large part of the inspiration for this project.

Listen to Urban Verbs: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

Here, shared with the public for the first time, is the detailed, two page letter legendary producer Brian Eno wrote to the Urban Verbs upon hearing them for the first time at CBGB. Delivered to the band the morning after the show and featuring extensive handwritten marginalia, the letter reflects Eno’s enthusiasm for their unique sound, the potential he heard in it, and his eagerness to record them — at his own expense.

In it, Eno is remarkably candid, mulling over ideas that seem dated now (“I’ve often thought of the next generation of machines and computers,” he muses) but were ahead of their time, offering suggestions and praise in equal amount. “That was how far I could go before getting embarrassed,” he concludes. “I realize that this gush might surprise you somewhat, but you came at a good time for me.” 

 BRIAN-ENO-URBAN-VERBS-LETTER-CBGB-1 BRIAN-ENO-URBAN-VERBS-LETTER-CBGB-2

Click to expand thumbnails
Thank you very much to Rod Frantz for sharing this document with us.

And here are the tracks Eno ended up producing for the Urban Verbs:

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Here’s a publicity still of the Urban Verbs from the late ‘70s that’s cool af.
  • Here’s some extensive info about the ARP Odyssey synthesizer Robin Rose used.
  • While the Verbs were pioneers in the D.C. rock scene, this article from D.C. Whiz highlights some of their contemporaries, including the Slickee Boys, mentioned in this episode.
  • For a taste of what the B-52s were like around the time they played with the Urban Verbs, check out this in-depth look at their early days.
  • Here’s some more info on Mike Thorne’s career.
  • The awful Rolling Stone review is, surprisingly, nowhere to be found on the internet. And we mean surprisingly as in “we sometimes scare ourselves with how good we are at sleuthing and deep diving the murky online waters and we STILL couldn’t find it.”
  • The Washington Post covered the Urban Verbs extensively in their D.C. days. See our further reading links below to read everything from profiles of the band to reviews of their shows.
  • The Urban Verbs briefly reunited in 2008. Here’s an interview with the band from the time, and peep our further watching links below to see a 2008 performance of Terminal Bar.
  • More from Bob Boilen on the Urban Verbs.
  • The last time that all the original members of Urban Verbs publicly performed together was at the Katzen Arts Center in D.C. in May 2016. Check out our further watching links below to watch their performance.
  • See our further reading links below to read and listen to NPR’s poignant remembrance of Robert Goldstein.
  • Members of the Verbs, along with other DC bands and artists who continue their legacy, held a tribute concert for Robert Goldstein (which came to be known as RobertFest) at the new 9:30 Club in January 2017. A video of the entire show can be viewed in our links below.
  • In the mood for another oral history? The Washington Post did one in 2010 on the founding and subsequent life of the 9:30 Club.

Album credits:
Roddy Frantz — Vocals, Written-By — Lyrics
Robert Goldstein — Guitar, Written-By — Music
Robin Rose — Synthesizer
Linda France — Bass and piano
Danny Frankel — Drums and percussion
Mike Thorne — Producer

Further watching:  
RobertFest full concert | January 2017
Urban Verbs live at Katzan Arts Center | May 2016
Terminal Bar | 2008

Further reading: 
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation’s Capital | 2009

Ambient Genius (Brian Eno profile) | The New Yorker (July 2014)
Remembering Robert Goldstein, NPR’s Music Librarian and Our Friend | NPR (October 2016)
Urban Verbs’ Renewal (on a 1995 reunion at the 9:30 Club) | Washington Post (December 1995)
The Urban Verbs: Future Tense (debut album review) | Washington Post (March 1980)
The Urban Verbs (Pension Building show review) | Washington Post (March 1980)
The Urban Verbs (profile of the band) | Washington Post (February 1979)
Two Rock Groups Play CBGB’s (show review) | The New York Times (November 1978)
The Urban Verbs (Corcoran Gallery show review) | Washington Post (October 1978)

Episode 2.1: SOME GIRLS

somegirls

SOME GIRLS – The Rolling Stones – Rolling Stones Records – 1978

Disco. Punk. Blues. Rock. Country. Touching on each of these unique, diverse genres on one album looks like a recipe for disaster on paper. And yet, in the tight span of 40 minutes, that combination was the magic kick that the Rolling Stones needed to revive their careers.

Things were not looking good for the Stones by the late-70s. After getting carried away on their own popularity following a string of hit albums — Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main St. — they released a string of subpar ones. Drugs were becoming an increasing problem, and a heroin bust left Keith Richards facing serious legal issues and the threat of an extended jail sentence. Their early peers, bands like the Beatles, the Animals, and Led Zeppelin, had either broken up long ago or were on the fade. And now in their early 30s, they were considered too old to be trusted as rock stars anymore, quickly losing relevancy to the young punks and disco acts on the rise.

Suffice it to say, their next album had the power to make or break them. An experimentation with what was new, while still remaining true to the Stones’ established rock aesthetic, 1978’s Some Girls was a critical and commercial success that breathed new life into the band.

In this episode, we examine the influences of emerging musical movements like disco and punk on the Stones, how a decidedly British band made an album that captured the New York spirit, and why it stands up over time as a testament to the Rolling Stones’ continued legacy as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.

This episode is in memory of all the people who were killed and injured in Las Vegas this week, and to the lasting influence of Tom Petty. May it remind you why we all love and celebrate music in the first place.

Listen to Some Girls: iTunes | Spotify | YouTube

Subscribe on iTunes

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

Episode notes and postscript corrections

  • Alright, the Rolling Stones had a lonnnnng history before they even got around to Some Girls, so we’ll spare you all our CliffsNotes and just direct you to Wikipedia to spiral from there.
  • We’ve discussed this before: the mid- to late-70s were an incredibly exciting time in music, particularly in New York. It’s no wonder the Stones wanted to play catch-up and pull in punk and disco influences to stay current.
    • We can hear a SLEW of influences on this album. Bop over to our master playlist on Spotify to hear them all.
  • LOL at the Stones being considered too old in the ‘70s.
  • Because of Keith’s legal issues stemming from a bust for heroin possession, Mick ends up being a driving creative force on Some Girls. For more about that, peep our further reading section below.
  • Okay honestly, if you don’t bop to “Miss You,” your brain might be broken.
    • Shoutout to Billy Preston for teaching Mick four on the floor.
    • Shoutout to Charlie Watts for that kick drum and being an all-around great drummer.
      • Watch this video. “My thing, whenever I play, is to make it a dance sound. It doesn’t matter whether it’s blues or whatever. It should swing and bounce.” Helllll yeahhh, Charlie.
    • Debate: Do you think the disco-influence in “Miss You” was the product of experimentation and jamming, or a pointedly calculated track?
  • Current artists are always going to be influenced by what came before, but we seem to be in the midst of a ‘70s and early ‘80s renaissance with bands like Vulfpeck, TOPS, etc.
    • That sentiment about all music being cyclical because there are only so many chords that we couldn’t source? It came from Tom Petty. He’s invaded our subconscious to the point where we could recall this interview he gave about 12 years ago, in which he says he’s found himself writing a song and “then [realizing] it’s somebody else’s song. […] But there’s only so many words and so many notes, so sometimes you do cross somebody else’s territory.”
  • Hi, we may be technically nerdy but you will never find us be superior purist snobs on this show.
  • Mick Jagger is a slut. There. We said it.
  • Shoutout to that pedal steel guitar for creeping into some punkier tracks.
  • No, really, Mick has no idea why he wrote “When The Whip Comes Down.”
  • Hahahahahahahaha “Some Girls” would never be made today hahahahahaha
  • No, seriously, can anyone provide any evidence that Mick did research at CBGB because “Lies” and “Respectable” sure sound like he did.
  • Someone compiled a list of all the times Keef sings lead on Stones’ songs, so there’s that.
    • TBH, “Before They Make Me Run” has strains of Mudcrutch in it, though, so we can’t complain too much.
    • Keef has lived an extraordinarily messy life. You should read about it in his memoir, aptly titled Life.
    • (Keef will outlive us all.)
  • “Beast of Burden” is easily one of the top 10 sexiest songs ever do not fight us on this.
  • From the Clash to Lou Reed to Joe Jackson — check out all the influences we hear in “Shattered” in our ever-evolving master playlist. (Yes, we plugged it again.)
    • PSA: Do not complain about New York if you do not live in New York. (We’re looking at you, Mick.)
  • What’s there to say about the Rolling Stones’ legacy? They’ve been around forever and are seemingly immortal, having influenced countless of musicians and fans for more than 50 years.

Album credits:
Mick Jagger — lead and backing vocals, electric guitar, piano, percussion
Keith Richards — electric guitar, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, piano, lead vocals
Bill Wyman — bass guitar, synthesizer
Charlie Watts — drums
Ronnie Wood — electric guitar, backing vocals, pedal steel, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, bass drum
Sugar Blue — harmonica
Ian McLagan — electric piano, organ
Mel Collins — saxophone
Simone Kirke — congas
Ted Jensen — mastering

Favorite track(s): Miss You (Carly) | Miss You (Carrie)
Least favorite track: Far Away Eyes (Carly) | Far Away Eyes and Before They Make Me Run (Carrie)

Further watching: 
Shine a Light (Martin Scorsese documentary on the Rolling Stones) | 2008
The Rolling Stones: Just for the Record – The ’70s | 2002
Keith Richards: Life (BBC documentary) | 2010
Some Girls tour interview | 1978

Further reading:
Rolling Stones’ ‘Some Girls’ (from the 33 1/3 book series) | 2011
Life (Keith Richards’ memoir) | 2010

How the Rolling Stones went disco: Inside the making of “Miss You” | Salon (August 2017)
How the Rolling Stones Bounced Back With ‘Some Girls’ | Ultimate Classic Rock (June 2015)
The Rolling Stone Interview: Jagger Remembers | Rolling Stone (December 1995)
Mick Jagger: Jumpin’ Jack Flash at 34 | Rolling Stone (June 1978)
Some Girls review | Rolling Stone (June 1978)

Episode 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