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Episode one hundred and fifty-eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “White Rabbit”, Jefferson Airplane, and the rise of the San Francisco sound. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-three-minute bonus episode available, on "Omaha" by Moby Grape. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Erratum I refer to Back to Methuselah by Robert Heinlein. This is of course a play by George Bernard Shaw. What I meant to say was Methuselah's Children. Resources I hope to upload a Mixcloud tomorrow, and will edit it in, but have had some problems with the site today. Jefferson Airplane's first four studio albums, plus a 1968 live album, can be found in this box set. I've referred to three main books here. Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane by Jeff Tamarkin is written with the co-operation of the band members, but still finds room to criticise them. Jefferson Airplane On Track by Richard Molesworth is a song-by-song guide to the band's music. And Been So Long: My Life and Music by Jorma Kaukonen is Kaukonen's autobiography. Some information on Skip Spence and Matthew Katz also comes from What's Big and Purple and Lives in the Ocean?: The Moby Grape Story, by Cam Cobb, which I also used for this week's bonus. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start, I need to confess an important and hugely embarrassing error in this episode. I've only ever seen Marty Balin's name written down, never heard it spoken, and only after recording the episode, during the editing process, did I discover I mispronounce it throughout. It's usually an advantage for the podcast that I get my information from books rather than TV documentaries and the like, because they contain far more information, but occasionally it causes problems like that. My apologies. Also a brief note that this episode contains some mentions of racism, antisemitism, drug and alcohol abuse, and gun violence. One of the themes we've looked at in recent episodes is the way the centre of the musical world -- at least the musical world as it was regarded by the people who thought of themselves as hip in the mid-sixties -- was changing in 1967. Up to this point, for a few years there had been two clear centres of the rock and pop music worlds. In the UK, there was London, and any British band who meant anything had to base themselves there. And in the US, at some point around 1963, the centre of the music industry had moved West. Up to then it had largely been based in New York, and there was still a thriving industry there as of the mid sixties. But increasingly the records that mattered, that everyone in the country had been listening to, had come out of LA Soul music was, of course, still coming primarily from Detroit and from the Country-Soul triangle in Tennessee and Alabama, but when it came to the new brand of electric-guitar rock that was taking over the airwaves, LA was, up until the first few months of 1967, the only city that was competing with London, and was the place to be. But as we heard in the episode on "San Francisco", with the Monterey Pop Festival all that started to change. While the business part of the music business remained centred in LA, and would largely remain so, LA was no longer the hip place to be. Almost overnight, jangly guitars, harmonies, and Brian Jones hairstyles were out, and feedback, extended solos, and droopy moustaches were in. The place to be was no longer LA, but a few hundred miles North, in San Francisco -- something that the LA bands were not all entirely happy about: [Excerpt: The Mothers of Invention, "Who Needs the Peace Corps?"] In truth, the San Francisco music scene, unlike many of the scenes we've looked at so far in this series, had rather a limited impact on the wider world of music. Bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company were all both massively commercially successful and highly regarded by critics, but unlike many of the other bands we've looked at before and will look at in future, they didn't have much of an influence on the bands that would come after them, musically at least. Possibly this is because the music from the San Francisco scene was always primarily that -- music created by and for a specific group of people, and inextricable from its context. The San Francisco musicians were defining themselves by their geographical location, their peers, and the situation they were in, and their music was so specifically of the place and time that to attempt to copy it outside of that context would appear ridiculous, so while many of those bands remain much loved to this day, and many made some great music, it's very hard to point to ways in which that music influenced later bands. But what they did influence was the whole of rock music culture. For at least the next thirty years, and arguably to this day, the parameters in which rock musicians worked if they wanted to be taken seriously – their aesthetic and political ideals, their methods of collaboration, the cultural norms around drug use and sexual promiscuity, ideas of artistic freedom and authenticity, the choice of acceptable instruments – in short, what it meant to be a rock musician rather than a pop, jazz, country, or soul artist – all those things were defined by the cultural and behavioural norms of the San Francisco scene between about 1966 and 68. Without the San Francisco scene there's no Woodstock, no Rolling Stone magazine, no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no hippies, no groupies, no rock stars. So over the next few months we're going to take several trips to the Bay Area, and look at the bands which, for a brief time, defined the counterculture in America. The story of Jefferson Airplane -- and unlike other bands we've looked at recently, like The Pink Floyd and The Buffalo Springfield, they never had a definite article at the start of their name to wither away like a vestigial organ in subsequent years -- starts with Marty Balin. Balin was born in Ohio, but was a relatively sickly child -- he later talked about being autistic, and seems to have had the chronic illnesses that so often go with neurodivergence -- so in the hope that the dry air would be good for his chest his family moved to Arizona. Then when his father couldn't find work there, they moved further west to San Francisco, in the Haight-Ashbury area, long before that area became the byword for the hippie movement. But it was in LA that he started his music career, and got his surname. Balin had been named Marty Buchwald as a kid, but when he was nineteen he had accompanied a friend to LA to visit a music publisher, and had ended up singing backing vocals on her demos. While he was there, he had encountered the arranger Jimmy Haskell. Haskell was on his way to becoming one of the most prominent arrangers in the music industry, and in his long career he would go on to do arrangements for Bobby Gentry, Blondie, Steely Dan, Simon and Garfunkel, and many others. But at the time he was best known for his work on Ricky Nelson's hits: [Excerpt: Ricky Nelson, "Hello Mary Lou"] Haskell thought that Marty had the makings of a Ricky Nelson style star, as he was a good-looking young man with a decent voice, and he became a mentor for the young man. Making the kind of records that Haskell arranged was expensive, and so Haskell suggested a deal to him -- if Marty's father would pay for studio time and musicians, Haskell would make a record with him and find him a label to put it out. Marty's father did indeed pay for the studio time and the musicians -- some of the finest working in LA at the time. The record, released under the name Marty Balin, featured Jack Nitzsche on keyboards, Earl Palmer on drums, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Red Callender on bass, and Glen Campbell and Barney Kessell on guitars, and came out on Challenge Records, a label owned by Gene Autry: [Excerpt: Marty Balin, "Nobody But You"] Neither that, nor Balin's follow-up single, sold a noticeable amount of copies, and his career as a teen idol was over before it had begun. Instead, as many musicians of his age did, he decided to get into folk music, joining a vocal harmony group called the Town Criers, who patterned themselves after the Weavers, and performed the same kind of material that every other clean-cut folk vocal group was performing at the time -- the kind of songs that John Phillips and Steve Stills and Cass Elliot and Van Dyke Parks and the rest were all performing in their own groups at the same time. The Town Criers never made any records while they were together, but some archival recordings of them have been released over the decades: [Excerpt: The Town Criers, "900 Miles"] The Town Criers split up, and Balin started performing as a solo folkie again. But like all those other then-folk musicians, Balin realised that he had to adapt to the K/T-event level folk music extinction that happened when the Beatles hit America like a meteorite. He had to form a folk-rock group if he wanted to survive -- and given that there were no venues for such a group to play in San Francisco, he also had to start a nightclub for them to play in. He started hanging around the hootenannies in the area, looking for musicians who might form an electric band. The first person he decided on was a performer called Paul Kantner, mainly because he liked his attitude. Kantner had got on stage in front of a particularly drunk, loud, crowd, and performed precisely half a song before deciding he wasn't going to perform in front of people like that and walking off sta
Episode one hundred and fifty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “See Emily Play", the birth of the UK underground, and the career of Roger Barrett, known as Syd. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-five-minute bonus episode available, on "First Girl I Loved" by the Incredible String Band. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Resources No Mixcloud this time, due to the number of Pink Floyd songs. I referred to two biographies of Barrett in this episode -- A Very Irregular Head by Rob Chapman is the one I would recommend, and the one whose narrative I have largely followed. Some of the information has been superseded by newer discoveries, but Chapman is almost unique in people writing about Barrett in that he actually seems to care about the facts and try to get things right rather than make up something more interesting. Crazy Diamond by Mike Watkinson and Pete Anderson is much less reliable, but does have quite a few interview quotes that aren't duplicated by Chapman. Information about Joe Boyd comes from Boyd's book White Bicycles. In this and future episodes on Pink Floyd I'm also relying on Nick Mason's Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd and Pink Floyd: All the Songs by Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin. The compilation Relics contains many of the most important tracks from Barrett's time with Pink Floyd, while Piper at the Gates of Dawn is his one full album with them. Those who want a fuller history of his time with the group will want to get Piper and also the box set Cambridge St/ation 1965-1967. Barrett only released two solo albums during his career. They're available as a bundle here. Completists will also want the rarities and outtakes collection Opel.  ERRATA: I talk about “Interstellar Overdrive” as if Barrett wrote it solo. The song is credited to all four members, but it was Barrett who came up with the riff I talk about. And annoyingly, given the lengths I went to to deal correctly with Barrett's name, I repeatedly refer to "Dave" Gilmour, when Gilmour prefers David. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A note before I begin -- this episode deals with drug use and mental illness, so anyone who might be upset by those subjects might want to skip this one. But also, there's a rather unique problem in how I deal with the name of the main artist in the story today. The man everyone knows as Syd Barrett was born Roger Barrett, used that name with his family for his whole life, and in later years very strongly disliked being called "Syd", yet everyone other than his family called him that at all times until he left the music industry, and that's the name that appears on record labels, including his solo albums. I don't believe it's right to refer to people by names they choose not to go by themselves, but the name Barrett went by throughout his brief period in the public eye was different from the one he went by later, and by all accounts he was actually distressed by its use in later years. So what I'm going to do in this episode is refer to him as "Roger Barrett" when a full name is necessary for disambiguation or just "Barrett" otherwise, but I'll leave any quotes from other people referring to "Syd" as they were originally phrased. In future episodes on Pink Floyd, I'll refer to him just as Barrett, but in episodes where I discuss his influence on other artists, I will probably have to use "Syd Barrett" because otherwise people who haven't listened to this episode won't know what on Earth I'm talking about. Anyway, on with the show. “It’s gone!” sighed the Rat, sinking back in his seat again. “So beautiful and strange and new. Since it was to end so soon, I almost wish I had never heard it. For it has roused a longing in me that is pain, and nothing seems worth while but just to hear that sound once more and go on listening to it for ever. No! There it is again!” he cried, alert once more. Entranced, he was silent for a long space, spellbound. “Now it passes on and I begin to lose it,” he said presently. “O Mole! the beauty of it! The merry bubble and joy, the thin, clear, happy call of the distant piping! Such music I never dreamed of, and the call in it is stronger even than the music is sweet! Row on, Mole, row! For the music and the call must be for us.” That's a quote from a chapter titled "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" from the classic children's book The Wind in the Willows -- a book which for most of its length is a fairly straightforward story about anthropomorphic animals having jovial adventures, but which in that one chapter has Rat and Mole suddenly encounter the Great God Pan and have a hallucinatory, transcendental experience caused by his music, one so extreme it's wiped from their minds, as they simply cannot process it. The book, and the chapter, was a favourite of Roger Barrett, a young child born in Cambridge in 1946. Barrett came from an intellectual but not especially bookish family. His father, Dr. Arthur Barrett, was a pathologist -- there's a room in Addenbrooke's Hospital named after him -- but he was also an avid watercolour painter, a world-leading authority on fungi, and a member of the Cambridge Philharmonic Society who was apparently an extraordinarily good singer; while his mother Winifred was a stay-at-home mother who was nonetheless very active in the community, organising a local Girl Guide troupe. They never particularly encouraged their family to read, but young Roger did particularly enjoy the more pastoral end of the children's literature of the time. As well as the Wind in the Willows he also loved Alice in Wonderland, and the Little Grey Men books -- a series of stories about tiny gnomes and their adventures in the countryside. But his two big passions were music and painting. He got his first ukulele at age eleven, and by the time his father died, just before Roger's sixteenth birthday, he had graduated to playing a full-sized guitar. At the time his musical tastes were largely the same as those of any other British teenager -- he liked Chubby Checker, for example -- though he did have a tendency to prefer the quirkier end of things, and some of the first songs he tried to play on the guitar were those of Joe Brown: [Excerpt: Joe Brown, "I'm Henry VIII I Am"] Barrett grew up in Cambridge, and for those who don't know it, Cambridge is an incubator of a very particular kind of eccentricity. The university tends to attract rather unworldly intellectual overachievers to the city -- people who might not be able to survive in many other situations but who can thrive in that one -- and every description of Barrett's father suggests he was such a person -- Barrett's sister Rosemary has said that she believes that most of the family were autistic, though whether this is a belief based on popular media portrayals or a deeper understanding I don't know. But certainly Cambridge is full of eccentric people with remarkable achievements, and such people tend to have children with a certain type of personality, who try simultaneously to live up to and rebel against expectations of greatness that come from having parents who are regarded as great, and to do so with rather less awareness of social norms than the typical rebel has. In the case of Roger Barrett, he, like so many others of his generation, was encouraged to go into the sciences -- as indeed his father had, both in his career as a pathologist and in his avocation as a mycologist. The fifties and sixties were a time, much like today, when what we now refer to as the STEM subjects were regarded as new and exciting and modern. But rather than following in his father's professional footsteps, Roger Barrett instead followed his hobbies. Dr. Barrett was a painter and musician in his spare time, and Roger was to turn to those things to earn his living. For much of his teens, it seemed that art would be the direction he would go in. He was, everyone agrees, a hugely talented painter, and he was particularly noted for his mastery of colours. But he was also becoming more and more interested in R&B music, especially the music of Bo Diddley, who became his new biggest influence: [Excerpt: Bo Diddley, "Who Do You Love?"] He would often spend hours with his friend Dave Gilmour, a much more advanced guitarist, trying to learn blues riffs. By this point Barrett had already received the nickname "Syd". Depending on which story you believe, he either got it when he started attending a jazz club where an elderly jazzer named Sid Barrett played, and the people were amused that their youngest attendee, like one of the oldest, was called Barrett; or, more plausibly, he turned up to a Scout meeting once wearing a flat cap rather than the normal scout beret, and he got nicknamed "Sid" because it made him look working-class and "Sid" was a working-class sort of name. In 1962, by the time he was sixteen, Barrett joined a short-lived group called Geoff Mott and the Mottoes, on rhythm guitar. The group's lead singer, Geoff Mottlow, would go on to join a band called the Boston Crabs who would have a minor hit in 1965 with a version of the Coasters song "Down in Mexico": [Excerpt: The Boston Crabs, "Down in Mexico"] The bass player from the Mottoes, Tony Sainty, and the drummer Clive Welham, would go on to form another band, The Jokers Wild, with Barrett's friend Dave Gilmour. Barrett also briefly joined another band, Those Without, but his time with them was similarly brief. Some sources -- though ones I consider generally less reliable -- say that the Mottoes' bass player wasn't Tony Sainty, but
Episode one hundred and fifty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Was Made to Love Her", the early career of Stevie Wonder, and the Detroit riots of 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-minute bonus episode available, on "Groovin'" by the Young Rascals. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Resources As usual, I’ve put together a Mixcloud playlist of all the recordings excerpted in this episode. The best value way to get all of Stevie Wonder's early singles is this MP3 collection, which has the original mono single mixes of fifty-five tracks for a very reasonable price. For those who prefer physical media, this is a decent single-CD collection of his early work at a very low price indeed. As well as the general Motown information listed below, I’ve also referred to Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder by Mark Ribowsky, which rather astonishingly is the only full-length biography of Wonder, to Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul by Craig Werner, and to Detroit 67: The Year That Changed Soul by Stuart Cosgrove. For Motown-related information in this and other Motown episodes, I’ve used the following resources: Where Did Our Love Go? The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound by Nelson George is an excellent popular history of the various companies that became Motown. To Be Loved by Berry Gordy is Gordy’s own, understandably one-sided, but relatively well-written, autobiography. Women of Motown: An Oral History by Susan Whitall is a collection of interviews with women involved in Motown. I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B by J. Andrew Flory is an academic look at Motown. The Motown Encyclopaedia by Graham Betts is an exhaustive look at the people and records involved in Motown’s thirty-year history. How Sweet It Is by Lamont Dozier and Scott B. Bomar is Dozier’s autobiography, while Come and Get These Memories by Brian and Eddie Holland and Dave Thompson is the Holland brothers’. Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson by "Dr Licks" is a mixture of a short biography of the great bass player, and tablature of his most impressive bass parts. And Motown Junkies is an infrequently-updated blog looking at (so far) the first 694 tracks released on Motown singles. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A quick note before I begin -- this episode deals with disability and racism, and also deals from the very beginning with sex work and domestic violence. It also has some discussion of police violence and sexual assault. As always I will try to deal with those subjects as non-judgementally and sensitively as possible, but if you worry that anything about those subjects might disturb you, please check the transcript. Calvin Judkins was not a good man. Lula Mae Hardaway thought at first he might be, when he took her in, with her infant son whose father had left before the boy was born. He was someone who seemed, when he played the piano, to be deeply sensitive and emotional, and he even did the decent thing and married her when he got her pregnant. She thought she could save him, even though he was a street hustler and not even very good at it, and thirty years older than her -- she was only nineteen, he was nearly fifty. But she soon discovered that he wasn't interested in being saved, and instead he was interested in hurting her. He became physically and financially abusive, and started pimping her out. Lula would eventually realise that Calvin Judkins was no good, but not until she got pregnant again, shortly after the birth of her second son. Her third son was born premature -- different sources give different numbers for how premature, with some saying four months and others six weeks -- and while he apparently went by Stevland Judkins throughout his early childhood, the name on his birth certificate was apparently Stevland Morris, Lula having decided not to give another child the surname of her abuser, though nobody has ever properly explained where she got the surname "Morris" from. Little Stevland was put in an incubator with an oxygen mask, which saved the tiny child's life but destroyed his sight, giving him a condition called retinopathy of prematurity -- a condition which nowadays can be prevented and cured, but in 1951 was just an unavoidable consequence for some portion of premature babies. Shortly after the family moved from Saginaw to Detroit, Lula kicked Calvin out, and he would remain only a peripheral figure in his children's lives, but one thing he did do was notice young Stevland's interest in music, and on his increasingly infrequent visits to his wife and kids -- visits that usually ended with violence -- he would bring along toy instruments for the young child to play, like a harmonica and a set of bongos. Stevie was a real prodigy, and by the time he was nine he had a collection of real musical instruments, because everyone could see that the kid was something special. A neighbour who owned a piano gave it to Stevie when she moved out and couldn't take it with her. A local Lions Club gave him a drum kit at a party they organised for local blind children, and a barber gave him a chromatic harmonica after seeing him play his toy one. Stevie gave his first professional performance when he was eight. His mother had taken him to a picnic in the park, and there was a band playing, and the little boy got as close to the stage as he could and started dancing wildly. The MC of the show asked the child who he was, and he said "My name is Stevie, and I can sing and play drums", so of course they got the cute kid up on stage behind the drum kit while the band played Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love": [Excerpt: Johnny Ace, "Pledging My Love"] He did well enough that they paid him seventy-five cents -- an enormous amount for a small child at that time -- though he was disappointed afterwards that they hadn't played something faster that would really allow him to show off his drumming skills. After that he would perform semi-regularly at small events, and always ask to be paid in quarters rather than paper money, because he liked the sound of the coins -- one of his party tricks was to be able to tell one coin from another by the sound of them hitting a table. Soon he formed a duo with a neighbourhood friend, John Glover, who was a couple of years older and could play guitar while Stevie sang and played harmonica and bongos. The two were friends, and both accomplished musicians for their age, but that wasn't the only reason Stevie latched on to Glover. Even as young as he was, he knew that Motown was soon going to be the place to be in Detroit if you were a musician, and Glover had an in -- his cousin was Ronnie White of the Miracles. Stevie and John performed as a duo everywhere they could and honed their act, performing particularly at the talent shows which were such an incubator of Black musical talent at the time, and they also at this point seem to have got the attention of Clarence Paul, but it was White who brought the duo to Motown. Stevie and John first played for White and Bobby Rodgers, another of the Miracles, then when they were impressed they took them through the several layers of Motown people who would have to sign off on signing a new act. First they were taken to see Brian Holland, who was a rising star within Motown as "Please Mr. Postman" was just entering the charts. They impressed him with a performance of the Miracles song "Bad Girl": [Excerpt: The Miracles, "Bad Girl"] After that, Stevie and John went to see Mickey Stevenson, who was at first sceptical, thinking that a kid so young -- Stevie was only eleven at the time -- must be some kind of novelty act rather than a serious musician. He said later "It was like, what's next, the singing mouse?" But Stevenson was won over by the child's talent. Normally, Stevenson had the power to sign whoever he liked to the label, but given the extra legal complications involved in signing someone under-age, he had to get Berry Gordy's permission. Gordy didn't even like signing teenagers because of all the extra paperwork that would be involved, and he certainly wasn't interested in signing pre-teens. But he came down to the studio to see what Stevie could do, and was amazed, not by his singing -- Gordy didn't think much of that -- but by his instrumental ability. First Stevie played harmonica and bongos as proficiently as an adult professional, and then he made his way around the studio playing on every other instrument in the place -- often only a few notes, but competent on them all. Gordy decided to sign the duo -- and the initial contract was for an act named "Steve and John" -- but it was soon decided to separate them. Glover would be allowed to hang around Motown while he was finishing school, and there would be a place for him when he finished -- he later became a staff songwriter, working on tracks for the Four Tops and the Miracles among others, and he would even later write a number one hit, "You Don't Have to be a Star (to be in My Show)" for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr -- but they were going to make Stevie a star right now. The man put in charge of that was Clarence Paul. Paul, under his birth name of Clarence Pauling, had started his career in the "5" Royales, a vocal group he formed with his brother Lowman Pauling that had been signed to Apollo Records by Ralph Bass, and later to King Records. Paul seems to have been on at least some of the earliest recordings by the
Transcript You'll have noticed that my experiment with timings has been only a qualified success. While my buffer did allow me to get episodes going out weekly for a while, they've started to lag again, as events and health have derailed things -- though I have managed to get a bonus episode up for Patreon backers every week. As the upcoming episode is the second one in a row to have a significant delay, I've decided that that's a sign the weekly rate for the main podcast is clearly unsustainable with these longer episodes, even with the skip weeks -- but it's also clear that I can do a main episode every two weeks without any problem, and can get a bonus episode done every week, and that that is very, very sustainable even in times of stress. I now know for sure what my productivity rate can be. So this is an official announcement that for the foreseeable future, this is a fortnightly podcast, with episodes going up every other Monday, but with backer bonuses every week. It may return to the weekly schedule at some point, but for now that's the plan. Episode 156, on Stevie Wonder, will be up on Monday, and then the episode after that, on Pink Floyd, will be on the seventh of November. See you then.
Episode one hundred and fifty-five of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks, and the self-inflicted damage the group did to their career between 1965 and 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a nineteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Excerpt From a Teenage Opera" by Keith West. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many Kinks songs. I’ve used several resources for this and future episodes on the Kinks, most notably Ray Davies: A Complicated Life by Johnny Rogan and You Really Got Me by Nick Hasted. X-Ray by Ray Davies is a remarkable autobiography with a framing story set in a dystopian science-fiction future, while Kink by Dave Davies is more revealing but less well-written. The Anthology 1964-1971 is a great box set that covers the Kinks’ Pye years, which overlap almost exactly with their period of greatest creativity. For those who don’t want a full box set, this two-CD set covers all the big hits. And this is the interview with Rasa I discuss in the episode. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start, this episode has some mentions of racism and homophobia, several discussions of physical violence, one mention of domestic violence, and some discussion of mental illness. I've tried to discuss these things with a reasonable amount of sensitivity, but there's a tabloid element to some of my sources which inevitably percolates through, so be warned if you find those things upsetting.  One of the promises I made right at the start of this project was that I would not be doing the thing that almost all podcasts do of making huge chunks of the episodes be about myself -- if I've had to update people about something in my life that affects the podcast, I've done it in separate admin episodes, so the episodes themselves will not be taken up with stuff about me. The podcast is not about me. I am making a very slight exception in this episode, for reasons that will become clear -- there's no way for me to tell this particular story the way I need to without bringing myself into it at least a little. So I wanted to state upfront that this is a one-off thing. The podcast is not suddenly going to change.  But one question that I get asked a lot -- far more than I'd expect -- is "do the people you talk about in the podcast ever get in touch with you about what you've said?" Now that has actually happened twice, both times involving people leaving comments on relatively early episodes. The first time is probably the single thing I'm proudest of achieving with this series, and it was a comment left on the episode on "Goodnight My Love" a couple of years back: [Excerpt: Jesse Belvin, "Goodnight My Love"] That comment was from Debra Frazier and read “Jesse Belvin is my Beloved Uncle, my mother’s brother. I’ve been waiting all my life for him to be recognized in this manner. I must say the content in this podcast is 100% correct!Joann and Jesse practically raised me. Can’t express how grateful I am. Just so glad someone got it right. I still miss them dearly to this day. My world was forever changed Feb. 6th 1960. I can remember him writing most of those songs right there in my grandmother’s living room. I think I’m his last living closest relative, that knows everything in this podcast is true." That comment by itself would have justified me doing this whole podcast. The other such comment actually came a couple of weeks ago, and was on the episode on "Only You": [Excerpt: The Platters, "Only You"] That was a longer comment, from Gayle Schrieber, an associate of Buck Ram, and started "Well, you got some of it right. Your smart-assed sarcasm and know-it-all attitude is irritating since I Do know it all from the business side but what the heck. You did better than most people – with the exception of Marv Goldberg." Given that Marv Goldberg is the single biggest expert on 1950s vocal groups in the world, I'll take that as at least a backhanded compliment. So those are the only two people who I've talked about in the podcast who've commented, but before the podcast I had a blog, and at various times people whose work I wrote about would comment -- John Cowsill of the Cowsills still remembers a blog post where I said nice things about him fourteen years ago, for example. And there was one comment on a blog post I made four or five years ago which confirmed something I'd suspected for a while… When we left the Kinks, at the end of 1964, they had just recorded their first album. That album was not very good, but did go to number three in the UK album charts, which is a much better result than it sounds. Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon got to number one in 1960, but otherwise the only rock acts to make number one on the album charts from the start of the sixties through the end of 1967 were Elvis, Cliff Richard, the Shadows, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Monkees.  In the first few years of the sixties they were interspersed with the 101 Strings, trad jazz, the soundtrack to West Side Story, and a blackface minstrel group, The George Mitchell Singers. From mid-1963 through to the end of 1967, though, literally the only things to get to number one on the album charts were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Monkees, and the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. That tiny cabal was eventually broken at the end of 1967 by Val Doonican Rocks… But Gently, and from 1968 on the top of the album charts becomes something like what we would expect today, with a whole variety of different acts,  I make this point to point out two things The first is that number three on the album charts is an extremely good position for the Kinks to be in -- when they reached that point the Rolling Stones' second album had just entered at number one, and Beatles For Sale had dropped to number two after eight weeks at the top -- and the second is that for most rock artists and record labels, the album market was simply not big enough or competitive enough until 1968 for it to really matter. What did matter was the singles chart. And "You Really Got Me" had been a genuinely revolutionary hit record. According to Ray Davies it had caused particular consternation to both the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, both of whom had thought they would be the first to get to number one with a dirty, distorted, R&B-influenced guitar-riff song.  And so three weeks after the release of the album came the group's second single. Originally, the plan had been to release a track Ray had been working on called "Tired of Waiting", but that was a slower track, and it was decided that the best thing to do would be to try to replicate the sound of their first hit. So instead, they released "All Day And All Of The Night": [Excerpt: The Kinks, "All Day And All Of The Night"] That track was recorded by the same team as had recorded "You Really Got Me", except with Perry Ford replacing Arthur Greenslade on piano. Once again, Bobby Graham was on drums rather than Mick Avory, and when Ray Davies suggested that he might want to play a different drum pattern, Graham just asked him witheringly "Who do you think you are?" "All Day and All of the Night" went to number two -- a very impressive result for a soundalike follow-up -- and was kept off the number one spot first by "Baby Love" by the Supremes and then by "Little Red Rooster" by the Rolling Stones. The group quickly followed it up with an EP, Kinksize Session, consisting of three mediocre originals plus the group's version of "Louie Louie". By February 1965 that had hit number one on the EP charts, knocking the Rolling Stones off. Things were going as well as possible for the group. Ray and his girlfriend Rasa got married towards the end of 1964 -- they had to, as Rasa was pregnant and from a very religious Catholic family. By contrast, Dave was leading the kind of life that can only really be led by a seventeen-year-old pop star -- he moved out of the family home and in with Mick Avory after his mother caught him in bed with five women, and once out of her watchful gaze he also started having affairs with men, which was still illegal in 1964. (And which indeed would still be illegal for seventeen-year-olds until 2001). In January, they released their third hit single, "Tired of Waiting for You". The track was a ballad rather than a rocker, but still essentially another variant on the theme of "You Really Got Me" -- a song based around a few repeated phrases of lyric, and with a chorus with two major chords a tone apart. "You Really Got Me"'s chorus has the change going up: [Plays "You Really Got Me" chorus chords] While "Tired Of Waiting For You"'s chorus has the change going down: [Plays "Tired of Waiting For You" chorus chords] But it's trivially easy to switch between the two if you play them in the same key: [Demonstrates] Ray has talked about how "Tired of Waiting for You" was partly inspired by how he felt tired of waiting for the fame that the Kinks deserved, and the music was written even before "You Really Got Me". But when they went into the studio to record it, the only lyrics he had were the chorus. Once they'd recorded the backing track, he worked on the lyrics at home, before coming back into the studio to record his vocals, with Rasa adding backing vocals on the softer middle eight: [Excerpt: The Kinks, "Tired of Waiting For You"] After that track was recorded, the group went on a tour of Australia, New Zealand, a
A Request

A Request


Transcript Hi. We're still on a skip week, the main podcast will be back next week, but as we've now reached a point in the podcast where more of the people discussed are living than dead, I'd just like to say something, and make a request. I've seen several people asking people mentioned in the podcast if they're listeners, on Twitter and other social media, and I would very much rather people stop doing that. Please don't tag any living subjects of my podcast episodes into tweets about those episodes. I can't stop you, of course, and I'm not meaning to shame anyone who has, as they've done it for the best of reasons, but it makes me extremely uncomfortable. I've had people take offence before at things I've written about their work which I didn't intend to be offensive. Creative people will often focus on a single negative aside in what is otherwise a wall of praise, and it can cause them real upset. I can't stop any subjects of podcast episodes from listening to them, but the podcast is not ultimately for them. The very best case scenario is that knowing those people are going to hear the podcast makes me uncomfortable and restricts what I say, making the podcast less good. The worst-case scenario is someone takes legal action because of something I've said, and the podcast has to end altogether. But mostly, I just know that if someone I've talked about is going to listen to my podcast, there's a good chance that they'll pick up on one casual remark I didn't even think about and ruminate about it all day. And I don't want to make people I admire have bad days. So please, do keep telling your friends about the podcast, but don't tell the stars I talk about. I know you all mean well when you do it, but it can cause far more harm than good.
Episode one hundred and fifty-four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is the last of our four-part mini-series on LA sunshine pop and folk-rock in summer 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Baby, Now That I've Found You" by the Foundations. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Resources There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Turtles songs in the episode. There's relatively little information available about the Turtles compared to other bands of their era, and so apart from the sources on the general LA scene referenced in all these podcasts, the information here comes from a small number of sources. This DVD is a decent short documentary on the band's career. Howard Kaylan's autobiography, Shell Shocked: My Life with the Turtles, Flo and Eddie, and Frank Zappa, Etc.,  is a fun read, if inevitably biased towards his own viewpoint. Jim Pons' Hard Core Love: Sex, Football, and Rock and Roll in the Kingdom of God is much less fun, being as it is largely organised around how his life led up to his latter-day religious beliefs, but is the only other book I'm aware of with a substantial amount of coverage of the Turtles. There are many compilations of the Turtles' material available, of which All The Singles is by far and away the best. The box set of all their albums with bonus tracks is now out of print on CD, but can still be bought as MP3s. Errata I say that the clarinet and saxophone have the same fingerings. This is not strictly true -- they have very, very, similar fingerings, and the same when you're just starting out on both instruments, but the clarinet has a wider range and overblows at a perfect twelfth rather than an octave. For a beginner, as Volman and Kaylan were, they're the same though. Also, for the first day or so it was uploaded, this episode included an excerpt of the studio version of "Everyone's Gone to the Movies" by Steely Dan rather than the demo version on which Volman and Kaylan sang. That has been fixed. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript We've spent a lot of time recently in the LA of summer 1967, at the point where the sunshine pop sound that was created when the surf harmonies of the Beach Boys collided with folk rock was at its apex, right before fashions changed and tight sunny pop songs with harmonies from LA became yesterday's news, and extended blues-rock improvisations from San Francisco became the latest in thing. This episode is the last part of this four-episode sequence, and is going to be shorter than those others. In many ways this one is a bridge between this sequence and next episode, where we travel back to London, because we're saying goodbye for a while to the LA scene, and when we do return to LA it will be, for the most part, to look at music that's a lot less sunshine and a lot more shadow. So this is a brief fade-out while we sing ba-ba-ba, a three-minute pop-song of an episode, a last bit of sunshine pop before we return to longer, more complicated, stories  in two weeks' time, at which point the sun will firmly set. Like many musicians associated with LA, Howard Kaylan was born elsewhere and migrated there as a child, and he seems to have regarded his move from upstate New York to LA as essentially a move to Disneyland itself. That impression can only have been made stronger by the fact that soon after his family moved there he got his first childhood girlfriend -- who happened to be a Mouseketeer on the TV. And TV was how young Howard filtered most of his perceptions -- particularly TV comedy. By the age of fourteen he was the president of the Soupy Sales Fan Club, and he was also obsessed with the works of Ernie Kovacs, Sid Caesar, and the great satirist and parodist Stan Freberg: [Excerpt: Stan Freberg, "St. George and the Dragonet"] Second only to his love of comedy, though, was his love of music, and it was on the trip from New York to LA that he saw a show that would eventually change his life. Along the way, his family had gone to Las Vegas, and while there they had seen Louis Prima and Keeley Smith do their nightclub act. Prima is someone I would have liked to do a full podcast episode on when I was covering the fifties, and who I did do a Patreon bonus episode on. He's now probably best known for doing the voice of King Louis in the Jungle Book: [Excerpt: Louis Prima, "I Wanna Be Like You (the Monkey Song)"] But he was also a jump blues musician who made some very good records in a similar style to Louis Jordan, like "Jump, Jive, an' Wail" [Excerpt: Louis Prima, "Jump, Jive, an' Wail"] But like Jordan, Prima dealt at least as much in comedy as in music -- usually comedy involving stereotypes about his Italian-American ethnic origins. At the time young Howard Kaylan saw him, he was working a double act with his then-wife Keeley Smith. The act would consist of Smith trying to sing a song straight, while Prima would clown around, interject, and act like a fool, as Smith grew more and more exasperated, and would eventually start contemptuously mocking Prima. [Excerpt: Louis Prima and Keeley Smith, "Embraceable You/I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"] This is of course a fairly standard double-act format, as anyone who has suffered through an episode of The Little and Large Show will be all too painfully aware, but Prima and Smith did it better than most, and to young Howard Kaylan, this was the greatest entertainment imaginable. But while comedy was the closest thing to Kaylan's heart, music was a close second. He was a regular listener to Art Laboe's radio show, and in a brief period as a teenage shoplifter he obtained records like Ray Charles' album Genius + Soul = Jazz: [Excerpt: Ray Charles, "One Mint Julep"] and the single "Tossin' and Turnin'" by Bobby Lewis: [Excerpt: Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'"] "Tossin' and Turnin'" made a deep impression on Kaylan, because of the saxophone solo, which was actually a saxophone duet. On the record, baritone sax player Frank Henry played a solo, and it was doubled by the great tenor sax player King Curtis, who was just playing a mouthpiece rather than a full instrument, making a high-pitched squeaking sound: [Excerpt: Bobby Lewis, "Tossin' and Turnin'"] Curtis was of course also responsible for another great saxophone part a couple of years earlier, on a record that Kaylan loved because it combined comedy and rock and roll, "Yakety Yak": [Excerpt: The Coasters, "Yakety Yak"] Those two saxophone parts inspired Kaylan to become a rock and roller. He was already learning the clarinet and playing part time in an amateur Dixieland band, and it was easy enough to switch to saxophone, which has the same fingering. Within a matter of weeks of starting to play sax, he was invited to join a band called the Nightriders, who consisted of Chuck Portz on bass, Al Nichol on guitar, and Glen Wilson on drums. The Nightriders became locally popular, and would perform sets largely made up of Johnny and the Hurricanes and Ventures material. While he was becoming a budding King Curtis, Kaylan was still a schoolkid, and one of the classes he found most enjoyable was choir class. There was another kid in choir who Kaylan got on with, and one day that kid, Mark Volman came up to him, and had a conversation that Kaylan would recollect decades later in his autobiography: “So I hear you’re in a rock ’n’ roll band.” “Yep.” “Um, do you think I could join it?” “Well, what do you do?” “Nothing.” “Nothing?” “Nope.” “Sounds good to me. I’ll ask Al.” Volman initially became the group's roadie and occasional tambourine player, and would also get on stage to sing a bit during their very occasional vocal numbers, but was mostly "in the band" in name only at first -- he didn't get a share of the group's money, but he was allowed to say he was in the group because that meant that his friends would come to the Nightriders' shows, and he was popular among the surfing crowd. Eventually, Volman's father started to complain that his son wasn't getting any money from being in the band, while the rest of the group were, and they explained to him that Volman was just carrying the instruments while they were all playing them. Volman's father said "if Mark plays an instrument, will you give him equal shares?" and they said that that was fair, so Volman got an alto sax to play along with Kaylan's tenor. Volman had also been taking clarinet lessons, and the two soon became a tight horn section for the group, which went through a few lineup changes and soon settled on a lineup of Volman and Kaylan on saxes, Nichol on lead guitar, Jim Tucker on rhythm guitar, Portz on bass, and Don Murray on drums. That new lineup became known as the Crossfires, presumably after the Johnny and the Hurricanes song of the same name: [Excerpt: Johnny and the Hurricanes, "Crossfire"] Volman and Kaylan worked out choreographed dance steps to do while playing their saxes, and the group even developed a group of obsessive fans who called themselves the Chunky Club, named after one of the group's originals: [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "Chunky"] At this point the group were pretty much only playing instrumentals, though they would do occasional vocals on R&B songs like "Money" or their version of Don and Dewey's "Justine", songs which required more enthusiasm than vocal ability. But their first single, released on a tiny label, was another surf instrumental, a song called "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde": [Excerpt: The Crossfires, "Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde"] The group became popular enough locally that they be
Episode one hundred and fifty-three of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Heroes and Villains” by the Beach Boys, and the collapse of the Smile album. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a sixteen-minute bonus episode available, on "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by the Electric Prunes. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Resources There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode. As well as the books I referred to in all the Beach Boys episodes, listed below, I used Domenic Priore's book Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson's Lost Masterpiece and Richard Henderson's 33 1/3 book on Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle. Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher.  His books can be found at Andrew Doe’s Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins’ The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. And Philip Lambert’s Inside the Music of Brian Wilson is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson’s music from 1962 through 67. Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson by Peter Ames Carlin is the best biography of Wilson. I have also referred to Brian Wilson’s autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, and to Mike Love’s, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys’ music in general, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it, including the single version of “Heroes and Villains”. The box set The Smile Sessions  contains an attempt to create a finished album from the unfinished sessions, plus several CDs of outtakes and session material. Transcript [Opening -- "intro to the album" studio chatter into "Our Prayer"] Before I start, I'd just like to note that this episode contains some discussion of mental illness, including historical negative attitudes towards it, so you may want to check the transcript or skip this one if that might be upsetting. In November and December 1966, the filmmaker David Oppenheim and the conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein collaborated on a TV film called "Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution".  The film was an early attempt at some of the kinds of things this podcast is doing, looking at how music and social events interact and evolve, though it was dealing with its present rather than the past. The film tried to cast as wide a net as possible in its fifty-one minutes. It looked at two bands from Manchester -- the Hollies and Herman's Hermits -- and how the people identified as their leaders, "Herman" (or Peter Noone) and Graham Nash, differed on the issue of preventing war: [Excerpt: Inside Pop, the Rock Revolution] And it made a star of East Coast teenage singer-songwriter Janis Ian with her song about interracial relationships, "Society's Child": [Excerpt: Janis Ian, "Society's Child"] And Bernstein spends a significant time, as one would expect, analysing the music of the Beatles and to a lesser extent the Stones, though they don't appear in the show. Bernstein does a lot to legitimise the music just by taking it seriously as a subject for analysis, at a time when most wouldn't: [Excerpt: Leonard Bernstein talking about "She Said She Said"] You can't see it, obviously, but in the clip that's from, as the Beatles recording is playing, Bernstein is conducting along with the music, as he would a symphony orchestra, showing where the beats are falling. But of course, given that this was filmed in the last two months of 1966, the vast majority of the episode is taken up with musicians from the centre of the music world at that time, LA. The film starts with Bernstein interviewing Tandyn Almer,  a jazz-influenced songwriter who had recently written the big hit "Along Comes Mary" for The Association: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] It featured interviews with Roger McGuinn, and with the protestors at the Sunset Strip riots which were happening contemporaneously with the filming: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] Along with Frank Zappa's rather acerbic assessment of the potential of the youth revolutionaries: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] And ended (other than a brief post-commercial performance over the credits by the Hollies) with a performance by Tim Buckley, whose debut album, as we heard in the last episode, had featured Van Dyke Parks and future members of the Mothers of Invention and Buffalo Springfield: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] But for many people the highlight of the film was the performance that came right before Buckley's, film of Brian Wilson playing a new song from the album he was working on. One thing I should note -- many sources say that the voiceover here is Bernstein. My understanding is that Bernstein wrote and narrated the parts of the film he was himself in, and Oppenheim did all the other voiceover writing and narration, but that Oppenheim's voice is similar enough to Bernstein's that people got confused about this: [Excerpt: Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution] That particular piece of footage was filmed in December 1966, but it wasn't broadcast until April the twenty-fifth, 1967, an eternity in mid-sixties popular music. When it was broadcast, that album still hadn't come out. Precisely one week later, the Beach Boys' publicist Derek Taylor announced that it never would: [Excerpt: Brian Wilson, "Surf's Up"] One name who has showed up in a handful of episodes recently, but who we've not talked that much about, is Van Dyke Parks. And in a story with many, many, remarkable figures, Van Dyke Parks may be one of the most remarkable of all. Long before he did anything that impinges on the story of rock music, Parks had lived the kind of life that would be considered unbelievable were it to be told as fiction. Parks came from a family that mixed musical skill, political progressiveness, and achievement. His mother was a scholar of Hebrew, while his father was a neurologist, the first doctor to admit Black patients to a white Southern hospital, and had paid his way through college leading a dance band. Parks' father was also, according to the 33 1/3 book on Song Cycle, a member of "John Philip Sousa's Sixty Silver Trumpets", but literally every reference I can find to Sousa leading a band of that name goes back to that book, so I've no idea what he was actually a member of, but we can presume he was a reasonable musician. Young Van Dyke started playing the clarinet at four, and was also a singer from a very early age, as well as playing several other instruments. He went to the American Boychoir School in Princeton, to study singing, and while there he sang with Toscaninni, Thomas Beecham, and other immensely important conductors of the era. He also had a very special accompanist for one Christmas carolling session. The choir school was based in Princeton, and one of the doors he knocked on while carolling was that of Princeton's most famous resident, Albert Einstein, who heard the young boy singing "Silent Night", and came out with his violin and played along. Young Van Dyke was only interested in music, but he was also paying the bills for his music tuition himself -- he had a job. He was a TV star. From the age of ten, he started getting roles in TV shows -- he played the youngest son in the 1953 sitcom Bonino, about an opera singer, which flopped because it aired opposite the extremely popular Jackie Gleason Show. He would later also appear in that show, as one of several child actors who played the character of Little Tommy Manicotti, and he made a number of other TV appearances, as well as having a small role in Grace Kelly's last film, The Swan, with Alec Guinness and Louis Jourdain. But he never liked acting, and just did it to pay for his education. He gave it up when he moved on to the Carnegie Institute, where he majored in composition and performance. But then in his second year, his big brother Carson asked him to drop out and move to California. Carson Parks had been part of the folk scene in California for a few years at this point. He and a friend had formed a duo called the Steeltown Two, but then both of them had joined the folk group the Easy Riders, a group led by Terry Gilkyson. Before Carson Parks joined, the Easy Riders had had a big hit with their version of "Marianne", a calypso originally by the great calypsonian Roaring Lion: [Excerpt: The Easy Riders, "Marianne"] They hadn't had many other hits, but their songs became hits for other people -- Gilkyson wrote several big hits for Frankie Laine, and the Easy Riders were the backing vocalists on Dean Martin's recording of a song they wrote, "Memories are Made of This": [Excerpt: Dean Martin and the Easy Riders, "Memories are Made of This"] Carson Parks hadn't been in the group at that point -- he only joined after they'd stopped having success -- and eventually the group had split up. He wanted to revive his old duo, the Steeltown Two, and persuaded his family to let his little brother Van Dyke drop out of university and move to California to be the other half of the duo. He wanted Van Dyke to play guitar, while he played banjo. Van Dyke had never actually played guitar before, but as Carson Parks later said "in 90 days, he knew more than most folks know after many years!" Van Dyke moved into an apartment adjoining his brother's, owned by Norm Botnick, who had until recently been the principal viola pla
Episode 152 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “For What It's Worth”, and the short but eventful career of Buffalo Springfield. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a twenty-five-minute bonus episode available, on "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" by Glen Campbell. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Erratum: I say Moby Grape never recorded the song "On the Other Side", but someone in the comments has pointed me to a demo of it which was released under the name "Stop" Resources As usual, there's a Mixcloud mix containing all the songs excerpted in the episode. This four-CD box set is the definitive collection of Buffalo Springfield's work, while if you want the mono version of the second album, the stereo version of the first, and the final album as released, but no demos or outtakes, you want this more recent box set. For What It's Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield by Richey Furay and John Einarson is obviously Furay's version of the story, but all the more interesting for that. For information on Steve Stills' early life I used Stephen Stills: Change Partners by David Roberts.  Information on both Stills and Young comes from Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young by David Browne.  Jimmy McDonough's Shakey is the definitive biography of Neil Young, while Young's Waging Heavy Peace is his autobiography. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A quick note before we begin -- this episode deals with various disabilities. In particular, there are descriptions of epileptic seizures that come from non-medically-trained witnesses, many of whom took ableist attitudes towards the seizures. I don't know enough about epilepsy to know how accurate their descriptions and perceptions are, and I apologise if that means that by repeating some of their statements, I am inadvertently passing on myths about the condition. When I talk about this, I am talking about the after-the-fact recollections of musicians, none of them medically trained and many of them in altered states of consciousness, about events that had happened decades earlier. Please do not take anything said in a podcast about music history as being the last word on the causes or effects of epileptic seizures, rather than how those musicians remember them. Anyway, on with the show. One of the things you notice if you write about protest songs is that a lot of the time, the songs that people talk about as being important or impactful have aged very poorly. Even great songwriters like Bob Dylan or John Lennon, when writing material about the political events of the time, would write material they would later acknowledge was far from their best. Too often a song will be about a truly important event, and be powered by a real sense of outrage at injustice, but it will be overly specific, and then as soon as the immediate issue is no longer topical, the song is at best a curio. For example, the sentencing of the poet and rock band manager John Sinclair to ten years in prison for giving two joints to an undercover police officer was hugely controversial in the early seventies, but by the time John Lennon's song about it was released, Sinclair had been freed by the Supreme Court, and very, very few people would use the song as an example of why Lennon's songwriting still has lasting value: [Excerpt: John Lennon, "John Sinclair"] But there are exceptions, and those tend to be songs where rather than talking about specific headlines, the song is about the emotion that current events have caused. Ninety years on from its first success, for example, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" still has resonance, because there are still people who are put out of work through no fault of their own, and even those of us who are lucky enough to be financially comfortable have the fear that all too soon it may end, and we may end up like Al begging on the streets: [Excerpt: Rudy Vallee, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?"] And because of that emotional connection, sometimes the very best protest songs can take on new lives and new meanings, and connect with the way people feel about totally unrelated subjects. Take Buffalo Springfield's one hit. The actual subject of the song couldn't be any more trivial in the grand scheme of things -- a change in zoning regulations around the Sunset Strip that meant people under twenty-one couldn't go to the clubs after 10PM, and the subsequent reaction to that -- but because rather than talking about the specific incident, Steve Stills instead talked about the emotions that it called up, and just noted the fleeting images that he was left with, the song became adopted as an anthem by soldiers in Vietnam. Sometimes what a song says is nowhere near as important as how it says it. [Excerpt: Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"] Steve Stills seems almost to have been destined to be a musician, although the instrument he started on, the drums, was not the one for which he would become best known. According to Stills, though, he always had an aptitude for rhythm, to the extent that he learned to tapdance almost as soon as he had learned to walk. He started on drums aged eight or nine, after somebody gave him a set of drumsticks. After his parents got sick of him damaging the furniture by playing on every available surface, an actual drum kit followed, and that became his principal instrument, even after he learned to play the guitar at military school, as his roommate owned one. As a teenager, Stills developed an idiosyncratic taste in music, helped by the record collection of his friend Michael Garcia. He didn't particularly like most of the pop music of the time, but he was a big fan of pre-war country music, Motown, girl-group music -- he especially liked the Shirelles -- and Chess blues. He was also especially enamoured of the music of Jimmy Reed, a passion he would later share with his future bandmate Neil Young: [Excerpt: Jimmy Reed, "Baby, What You Want Me To Do?"] In his early teens, he became the drummer for a band called the Radars, and while he was drumming he studied their lead guitarist, Chuck Schwin.  He said later "There was a whole little bunch of us who were into kind of a combination of all the blues guys and others including Chet Atkins, Dick Dale, and Hank Marvin: a very weird cross-section of far-out guitar players." Stills taught himself to play like those guitarists, and in particular he taught himself how to emulate Atkins' Travis-picking style, and became remarkably proficient at it. There exists a recording of him, aged sixteen, singing one of his own songs and playing finger-picked guitar, and while the song is not exactly the strongest thing I've ever heard lyrically, it's clearly the work of someone who is already a confident performer: [Excerpt: Stephen Stills, "Travellin'"] But the main reason he switched to becoming a guitarist wasn't because of his admiration for Chet Atkins or Hank Marvin, but because he started driving and discovered that if you have to load a drum kit into your car and then drive it to rehearsals and gigs you either end up bashing up your car or bashing up the drum kit. As this is not a problem with guitars, Stills decided that he'd move on from the Radars, and join a band named the Continentals as their rhythm guitarist, playing with lead guitarist Don Felder. Stills was only in the Continentals for a few months though, before being replaced by another guitarist, Bernie Leadon, and in general Stills' whole early life is one of being uprooted and moved around. His father had jobs in several different countries, and while for the majority of his time Stills was in the southern US, he also ended up spending time in Costa Rica -- and staying there as a teenager even as the rest of his family moved to El Salvador. Eventually, aged eighteen, he moved to New Orleans, where he formed a folk duo with a friend, Chris Sarns. The two had very different tastes in folk music -- Stills preferred Dylan-style singer-songwriters, while Sarns liked the clean sound of the Kingston Trio -- but they played together for several months before moving to Greenwich Village, where they performed together and separately. They were latecomers to the scene, which had already mostly ended, and many of the folk stars had already gone on to do bigger things. But Stills still saw plenty of great performers there -- Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk in the jazz clubs, Woody Allen, Lenny Bruce, and Richard Pryor in the comedy ones, and Simon and Garfunkel, Richie Havens, Fred Neil and Tim Hardin in the folk ones -- Stills said that other than Chet Atkins, Havens, Neil, and Hardin were the people most responsible for his guitar style. Stills was also, at this time, obsessed with Judy Collins' third album -- the album which had featured Roger McGuinn on banjo and arrangements, and which would soon provide several songs for the Byrds to cover: [Excerpt: Judy Collins, "Turn, Turn, Turn"] Judy Collins would soon become a very important figure in Stills' life, but for now she was just the singer on his favourite record. While the Greenwich Village folk scene was no longer quite what it had been a year or two earlier, it was still a great place for a young talented musician to perform. As well as working with Chris Sarns, Stills also formed a trio with his friend John Hopkins and a banjo player called Peter Tork who everyone said looked just like Stills. Tork soon headed out west to seek his fortune, and then Stills got headhunted to join the Au Go Go Singers. This was a group that was being set up in the same style as the New Ch
We start season four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs with an extra-long look at "San Francisco" by Scott McKenzie, and at the Monterey Pop Festival, and the careers of the Mamas and the Papas and P.F. Sloan.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Up, Up, and Away" by the 5th Dimension. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and Errata: An incorrect version of the file was previously uploaded, with the wrong section edited in at approximately 57 minutes. This was fixed about three hours after uploading, but some streaming services may have cached the wrong file. Also I say that John Phillips wrote "No, No, No, No". I got this from an interview with McKenzie, but he must have been misremembering -- the song is a cover version of "La Poupee Qui Fait Non" by Michel Polnareff, with English-language lyrics by Geoff Stephens Resources As usual, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at Mixcloud. Scott McKenzie's first album is available here. There are many compilations of the Mamas and the Papas' music, but sadly none that are in print in the UK have the original mono mixes. This set is about as good as you're going to find, though, for the stereo versions. Information on the Mamas and the Papas came from Go Where You Wanna Go: The Oral History of The Mamas and the Papas by Matthew Greenwald, California Dreamin': The True Story Of The Mamas and Papas by Michelle Phillips, and Papa John by John Phillips and Jim Jerome. Information on P.F. Sloan came from PF - TRAVELLING BAREFOOT ON A ROCKY ROAD by Stephen McParland and What's Exactly the Matter With Me? by P.F. Sloan and S.E. Feinberg. The film of the Monterey Pop Festival is available on this Criterion Blu-Ray set. Sadly the CD of the performances seems to be deleted. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Welcome to season four of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs. It's good to be back. Before we start this episode, I just want to say one thing. I get a lot of credit at times for the way I don't shy away from dealing with the more unsavoury elements of the people being covered in my podcast -- particularly the more awful men. But as I said very early on, I only cover those aspects of their life when they're relevant to the music, because this is a music podcast and not a true crime podcast. But also I worry that in some cases this might mean I'm giving a false impression of some people. In the case of this episode, one of the central figures is John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas. Now, Phillips has posthumously been accused of some truly monstrous acts, the kind of thing that is truly unforgivable, and I believe those accusations. But those acts didn't take place during the time period covered by most of this episode, so I won't be covering them here -- but they're easily googlable if you want to know. I thought it best to get that out of the way at the start, so no-one's either anxiously waiting for the penny to drop or upset that I didn't acknowledge the elephant in the room. Separately, this episode will have some discussion of fatphobia and diet culture, and of a death that is at least in part attributable to those things. Those of you affected by that may want to skip this one or read the transcript. There are also some mentions of drug addiction and alcoholism. Anyway, on with the show. One of the things that causes problems with rock history is the tendency of people to have selective memories, and that's never more true than when it comes to the Summer of Love, summer of 1967. In the mythology that's built up around it, that was a golden time, the greatest time ever, a period of peace and love where everything was possible, and the world looked like it was going to just keep on getting better. But what that means, of course, is that the people remembering it that way do so because it was the best time of their lives. And what happens when the best time of your life is over in one summer? When you have one hit and never have a second, or when your band splits up after only eighteen months, and you have to cope with the reality that your best years are not only behind you, but they weren't even best years, but just best months? What stories would you tell about that time? Would you remember it as the eve of destruction, the last great moment before everything went to hell, or would you remember it as a golden summer, full of people with flowers in their hair? And would either really be true? [Excerpt: Scott McKenzie, "San Francisco"] Other than the city in which they worked, there are a few things that seem to characterise almost all the important figures on the LA music scene in the middle part of the 1960s. They almost all seem to be incredibly ambitious, as one might imagine. There seem to be a huge number of fantasists among them -- people who will not only choose the legend over reality when it suits them, but who will choose the legend over reality even when it doesn't suit them. And they almost all seem to have a story about being turned down in a rude and arrogant manner by Lou Adler, usually more or less the same story. To give an example, I'm going to read out a bit of Ray Manzarek's autobiography here. Now, Manzarek uses a few words that I can't use on this podcast and keep a clean rating, so I'm just going to do slight pauses when I get to them, but I'll leave the words in the transcript for those who aren't offended by them: "Sometimes Jim and Dorothy and I went alone. The three of us tried Dunhill Records. Lou Adler was the head man. He was shrewd and he was hip. He had the Mamas and the Papas and a big single with Barry McGuire’s 'Eve of Destruction.' He was flush. We were ushered into his office. He looked cool. He was California casually disheveled and had the look of a stoner, but his eyes were as cold as a shark’s. He took the twelve-inch acetate demo from me and we all sat down. He put the disc on his turntable and played each cut…for ten seconds. Ten seconds! You can’t tell jack [shit] from ten seconds. At least listen to one of the songs all the way through. I wanted to rage at him. 'How dare you! We’re the Doors! This is [fucking] Jim Morrison! He’s going to be a [fucking] star! Can’t you see that? Can’t you see how [fucking] handsome he is? Can’t you hear how groovy the music is? Don’t you [fucking] get it? Listen to the words, man!' My brain was a boiling, lava-filled Jell-O mold of rage. I wanted to eviscerate that shark. The songs he so casually dismissed were 'Moonlight Drive,' 'Hello, I Love You,' 'Summer’s Almost Gone,' 'End of the Night,' 'I Looked at You,' 'Go Insane.' He rejected the whole demo. Ten seconds on each song—maybe twenty seconds on 'Hello, I Love You' (I took that as an omen of potential airplay)—and we were dismissed out of hand. Just like that. He took the demo off the turntable and handed it back to me with an obsequious smile and said, 'Nothing here I can use.' We were shocked. We stood up, the three of us, and Jim, with a wry and knowing smile on his lips, cuttingly and coolly shot back at him, 'That’s okay, man. We don’t want to be *used*, anyway.'" Now, as you may have gathered from the episode on the Doors, Ray Manzarek was one of those print-the-legend types, and that's true of everyone who tells similar stories about Lou Alder. But... there are a *lot* of people who tell similar stories about Lou Adler. One of those was Phil Sloan. You can get an idea of Sloan's attitude to storytelling from a story he always used to tell. Shortly after he and his family moved to LA from New York, he got a job selling newspapers on a street corner on Hollywood Boulevard, just across from Schwab's Drug Store. One day James Dean drove up in his Porsche and made an unusual request. He wanted to buy every copy of the newspaper that Sloan had -- around a hundred and fifty copies in total. But he only wanted one article, something in the entertainment section. Sloan didn't remember what the article was, but he did remember that one of the headlines was on the final illness of Oliver Hardy, who died shortly afterwards, and thought it might have been something to do with that. Dean was going to just clip that article from every copy he bought, and then he was going to give all the newspapers back to Sloan to sell again, so Sloan ended up making a lot of extra money that day. There is one rather big problem with that story. Oliver Hardy died in August 1957, just after the Sloan family moved to LA. But James Dean died in September 1955, two years earlier. Sloan admitted that, and said he couldn't explain it, but he was insistent. He sold a hundred and fifty newspapers to James Dean two years after Dean's death. When not selling newspapers to dead celebrities, Sloan went to Fairfax High School, and developed an interest in music which was mostly oriented around the kind of white pop vocal groups that were popular at the time, groups like the Kingston Trio, the Four Lads, and the Four Aces. But the record that made Sloan decide he wanted to make music himself was "Just Goofed" by the Teen Queens: [Excerpt: The Teen Queens, "Just Goofed"] In 1959, when he was fourteen, he saw an advert for an open audition with Aladdin Records, a label he liked because of Thurston Harris. He went along to the audition, and was successful. His first single, released as by Flip Sloan -- Flip was a nickname, a corruption of "Philip" -- was produced by Bumps Blackwell and featured several of the musicians who played with Sam Cooke, plus Larry Knechtel on piano and Mike Deasey on guitar, bu
Transcript This is the official announcement that episode one hundred and fifty-one will be up in precisely one week. I've just finished recording it, and am now in the process of recording episodes one hundred and fifty-two through one hundred and fifty-four while Tilt edits one hundred and fifty-one. For those of you who are Patreon backers, the Patreon-only Q&A is up now. This will be the start of season four, which is going to work slightly differently from previous seasons, because of the time off I gave myself. I now have a better idea of how much work I can do in parallel, and I've come to the conclusion that the most sustainable release pattern is going to be two weeks on, one week off, so you'll be getting four episodes every six weeks. I will still release Patreon bonuses on the weeks I don't release a mainline episode. The episodes are going to be written and recorded in batches of four, and the general plan is going to be that every batch of four will have a long episode -- a ninety-minute or two-hour one -- a short half-hour episode, and two other episodes which will probably be about an hour but can vary depending on time constraints. In this batch, episode 151 is going to be the long one, episode 154 the shortest, and the two in the middle will be middling length. So, join us back here in a week, for the ghost of James Dean, a prediction of the future, and the start of the summer of love.
July 2022 Q&A

July 2022 Q&A


While I'm still on hiatus, I invited questions from listeners. This is an hour-long podcast answering some of them. (Another hour-long Q&A for Patreon backers only will go up next week). Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at and There is a Mixcloud of the music excerpted here which can be found at Click below for a transcript: Hello and welcome to the Q&A  episode I'm doing while I'm working on creating a backlog. I'm making good progress on that, and still hoping and expecting to have episode 151 up some time in early August, though I don't have an exact date yet. I was quite surprised by the response to my request for questions, both at the amount of it and at where it came from. I initially expected to get a fair few comments on the main podcast, and a handful on the Patreon, and then I could do a reasonable-length Q&A podcast from the former and a shorter one from the latter. Instead, I only got a couple of questions on the main episode, but so many on the Patreon that I had to stop people asking only a day or so after posting the request for questions. So instead of doing one reasonable length podcast and one shorter one, I'm actually doing two longer ones. What I'm going to do is do all the questions asked publicly, plus all the questions that have been asked multiple times, in this one, then next week I'm going to put up the more niche questions just for Patreon backers. However, I'm not going to answer *all* of the questions. I got so many questions so quickly that there's not space to answer them all, and several of them were along the lines of "is artist X going to get an episode?" which is a question I generally don't answer -- though I will answer a couple of those if there's something interesting to say about them. But also, there are some I've not answered for another reason. As you may have noticed, I have a somewhat odd worldview, and look at the world from a different angle from most people sometimes. Now there were several questions where someone asked something that seems like a perfectly reasonable question, but contains a whole lot of hidden assumptions that that person hadn't even considered -- about music history, or about the process of writing and researching, or something else. Now, to answer that kind of question at all often means unpacking those hidden assumptions, which can sometimes make for an interesting answer -- after all, a lot of the podcast so far has been me telling people that what they thought they knew about music history was wrong -- but when it's a question being asked by an individual and you answer that way, it can sometimes, frankly, make you look like a horribly unpleasant person, or even a bully. "Don't you even know the most basic things about historical research? I do! You fool! Hey everyone else listening, this person thinks you do research in *this* way, but everyone knows you do it *that* way!" Now, that is never how I would intend such answers to come across -- nobody can be blamed for not knowing what they don't know -- but there are some questions where no matter how I phrased the answer, it came across sounding like that. I'll try to hold those over for future Q&A episodes if I can think of ways of unpicking the answers in such a way that I'm not being unconscionably rude to people who were asking perfectly reasonable questions. Some of the answers that follow might still sound a bit like that to be honest, but if you asked a question and my answer sounds like that to you, please know that it wasn't meant to. There's a lot to get through, so let's begin: Steve from Canada asks: “Which influential artist or group has been the most challenging to get information on in the last 50 podcasts? We know there has been a lot written about the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown as an entity, the Monkees and the Rolling Stones, but you mentioned in a tweet that there’s very little about some bands like the Turtles, who are an interesting story. I had never heard of Dino Valenti before this broadcast – but he appeared a lot in the last batch – so it got me curious. [Excerpt: The Move, “Useless Information”] In the last fifty episodes there's not been a single one that's made it to the podcast where it was at all difficult to get information. The problem with many of them is that there's *too much* information out there, rather than there not being enough. No matter how many books one reads on the Beatles, one can never read more than a fraction of them, and there's huge amounts of writing on the Rolling Stones, on Hendrix, on the Doors, on the Byrds... and when you're writing about those people, you *know* that you're going to miss out something or get something wrong, because there's one more book out there you haven't read which proves that one of the stories you're telling is false. This is one of the reasons the episodes have got so much longer, and taken so much more time. That wasn't the case in the first hundred episodes -- there were a lot of artists I covered there, like Gene and Eunice, or the Chords, or Jesse Belvin, or Vince Taylor who there's very little information about. And there are some coming up who there's far less information about than people in the last fifty episodes. But every episode since the Beatles has had a surfeit of information. There is one exception -- I wanted to do a full episode on "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass, because it would be an interesting lens through which to look at how Chess coped with the change in Black musical styles in the sixties. But there was so little information available about her I ended up relegating it to a Patreon bonus episode, because she makes those earlier artists look well-documented. Which leads nicely into the next question. Nora Tillman asks "Forgive this question if you’ve answered it before: is there literally a list somewhere with 500 songs you’ve chosen? Has the list changed since you first composed it? Also, when did you first conceive of this list?" [Excerpt: John Reed and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, "As Someday it May Happen"] Many people have asked this question, or variations upon it. The answer is yes and no. I made a list when I started that had roughly two hundred songs I knew needed to be on there, plus about the same number again of artists who needed to be covered but whose precise songs I hadn't decided on. To make the initial list I pulled a list out of my own head, and then I also checked a couple of other five-hundred-song lists -- the ones put out by Rolling Stone magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- not because I wanted to use their lists; I have very little time for rock critical orthodoxy, as most of my listeners will likely have realised by now, but because I wanted to double-check that I hadn't missed anything obvious out, and that if I was missing something off their lists, I knew *why* I was missing it. To take a ludicrous example, I wouldn't want to get to the end of the 1960s and have someone say "Wait a minute, what about the Beatles?" and think "I *knew* I'd forgotten something!" Then, at the start of each fifty-episode season, I put together a more rigorous list of the fifty songs coming up, in order. Those lists *can* still change with the research -- for example, very early on in the research for the podcast, I discovered that even though I was completely unfamiliar with "Ko Ko Mo" by Gene and Eunice, it was a hugely important and influential record at the time, and so I swapped that in for another song. Or more recently, I initially intended to have the Doors only have one episode, but when I realised how much I was having to include in that episode I decided to give them a second one. And sometimes things happen the other way -- I planned to do full episodes on Jackie Shane and Fontella Bass, but for both of them I couldn't find enough information to get a decent episode done, so they ended up being moved to Patreon episodes. But generally speaking that fifty-song list for a year's episodes is going to remain largely unchanged. I know where I'm going, I know what most of the major beats of the story are, but I'm giving myself enough flexibility to deviate if I find something I need to include. Connected with this, Rob Johnson asks how I can be confident I'll get back to some stories in later episodes. Well, like I say, I have a pretty much absolute idea of what I'm going to do in the next year, and there are a lot of individual episodes where I know the structure of the episode long before we get to it. As an example here... I don't want to give too much away, and I'm generally not going to be answering questions about "will artist X be appearing?", but Rob also asked about one artist. I can tell you that that artist is one who will not be getting a full episode -- and I already said in the Patreon episode about that artist that they won't -- but as I also said in that episode they *will* get a significant amount of time in another episode, which I now know is going to be 180, which will also deal with another artist from the same state with the same forename, even though it's actually about two English bands. I've had the structure of that episode planned out since literally before I started writing episode one. On the other hand, episode 190 is a song that wasn't originally going to be included at all. I was going to do a 1967 song by the same artist, but then found out that a fact I'd been going to use was disputed, which meant that track didn't need to be covered, but the artist still did, to finish off a story I'd started in a previous episode. Patrick asks:"I am currently in the middle of reading 1971: Never a Dull Moment by David Hepworth and I’m aware that Apple TV have
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Just a note before I begin, this episode deals with mental illness and with the methods, close to torture, used to treat it in the middle of the last century, so anyone for whom that's a delicate subject may want to skip this one. There's a term that often gets used about some musicians, "outsider music", and it's a term that I'm somewhat uncomfortable with. It's a term that gets applied to anyone eccentric, whether someone like Jandek who releases his own albums through mail order and just does his own thing, or someone like Hasil Adkins who made wild rockabilly music, or an entertainer like Tiny Tim who had a bizarre but consistent view of showbusiness, or a band like the Shaggs who were just plain incompetent, or people like Wesley Willis or Wild Man Fischer who had serious mental health problems. The problem with the term is that it erases these differences, and that it assumes that the most interesting thing about the music is the person behind it. It also erases talent, especially in the case of mentally ill artists. There are several mutually incompatible assumptions about creative artists who have mental health problems. One is that their music should be treated like a freak show, and either appreciated for that reason (if you're someone who gets their entertainment from someone else's suffering) or disdained (if you don't want to do that). Other people think that the mental illness *makes* the music, that great art comes from mental health problems, while yet others will argue that someone's art has nothing at all to do with their mental health, and is not influenced by it in any way. All of these positions are, of course, wrong. Mental illness doesn't stop someone from making great art -- except when it takes away the ability to make art at all of course -- people like Brian Wilson or Vincent Van Gogh are testament to that, and their best work has nothing to do with a freak show. But nor does it grant the ability to make great art. Someone with no musical talent who develops schizophrenia just becomes a schizophrenic person with no musical talent. But to say that mental illness doesn't affect the work is also nonsense. Everything about someone's life affects their art, especially something as important as their mental health. And the real problem with these labels comes with those artists who don't manage to develop a substantial body of work before their illness sets in. Those with real musical talent, but who end up getting put in the outsider artist bucket because their work is so obviously affected by their illness. And one of those is Roky Erickson, of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Erickson started his career aged fifteen with a group based in Austin, Texas, called the Spades -- and I hope that this wasn't intended as a racial slur, as the word was sometimes used at this time. Their first single, "We Sell Soul", released in 1965, shows the clear influence of "Gloria" by Them: [Excerpt: The Spades, "We Sell Soul"] That was a regional hit, and so their second single, the first song that Erickson had ever written, was recorded in the same style: [Excerpt: The Spades, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] But by December 1965, Erickson had left the Spades, and joined Stacy Sutherland, Benny Thurman, and John Ike Walton, the members of another band called the Lingsmen. They were joined by a fifth man, Tommy Hall, who became the band's lyricist, liner-note writer, and general spokesman, and who played an electric jug, creating an effect somewhere between bubbling and a wobble board. Hall started calling the group's music "psychedelic rock" in late 1965 after being influenced by Timothy Leary, and I've seen some people say he was the first person ever to use the term. The group released a rerecorded version of "You're Gonna Miss Me" on a small local label: [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "You're Gonna Miss Me"] That was released in January 1966, and later picked up by a larger label, International Artists, which was the home of a lot of Texan psychedelic bands, like the Golden Dawn and the Red Crayola. It spent most of the year slowly climbing the charts, eventually reaching number fifty-five -- the highest chart position the group would ever have. It was included on their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, released towards the end of the year, by which time Thurman had been replaced by Ronnie Leatherman on bass. The album's liner notes were written by Hall and had a large amount of advocacy for the use of psychedelic drugs -- as did the music itself, though some of this was a little more subtle, like the song "Fire Engine", where the line "let me take you to the empty place" was meant to sound like "DMT place", DMT being a psychedelic drug: [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Fire Engine"] Around this time, the band crossed paths with Janis Joplin, who was a big fan of the group and who they tried to get to join them, but Joplin decided to move to California instead. Tommy Hall was a huge advocate for both the potential of LSD to open people's minds, and of the general semantics of Alfred Korzybski, and his enthusiasm for both showed up on the group's second album. Unfortunately, not all of the group were of quite the same mind, and Leatherman and Walton left early in the sessions for that album, Easter Everywhere, which was considered not quite up to the standards of the previous album, though Erickson and Hall's eight-minute long "Slip Inside This House" is a favourite of most of the fans. [Excerpt: The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, "Slip Inside This House"] Unfortunately, the band started to disintegrate. The core of Erickson, Hall, and Sutherland remained together, but various bass players and drummers came and went -- though one of the band's rhythm sections, Duke Davis and Danny Thomas, was good enough that the band's label got them to back Lightnin' Hopkins on his album Free Form Patterns. According to reports I've read, Davis and Thomas were both on acid during the session, but they still play solidly throughout: [Excerpt: Lightnin' Hopkins, "Give Me Time to Think"] Another potential bass player at this point was a roommate of Erickson's, who Erickson tried to get into the band but who Hall turned down. Townes Van Zandt later went on to rather bigger things. Erickson also started to have some mental problems -- apparently taking LSD literally every day for years is not great for you. And when he was arrested for marijuana possession, he decided to use his mental health as a way to get out of a potential ten-year jail sentence, by getting three years in a psychiatric hospital instead. He later claimed that he was lying about his problems and acting mad to get this sentence, but he had been having problems before then. Hall and Sutherland and their current rhythm section finished up a few demos, and the record label put out one final album made up of outtakes, plus a faked live album with crowd noise overdubbed on some earlier studio recordings, but with their lead singer in hospital for three years the band split up. Hall became a Scientologist and quit the music industry altogether. If Erickson *was* faking his illness when he went into the hospital, he wasn't faking it by the time he came out. Psychiatric medicine was still in its infancy then. It's far from wonderful today, but at least in general you can be relatively sure that the treatment won't make you worse. That wasn't the case in the late sixties and early seventies, and Erickson was forced through multiple sessions of electro-shock therapy. (To be clear, electro-shock therapy can sometimes be effective for some conditions when done properly and with the patient's consent. This wasn't either.) When Erickson finally got out, he tried to put his life back together, and formed a new band called Bleib Alien, later renamed Roky Erickson and the Aliens, who made hard rock records with lyrics about science fiction and horror themes like zombies, fire demons, medical experimentation, and two-headed dogs: [Excerpt: Roky Erickson and the Aliens, "Two-Headed Dog"] Erickson became a cult artist, cited as an influence by everyone from Henry Rollins to ZZ Top, and intermittently released recordings for the next few decades, but he spent much of the time dealing with severe, untreated, schizophrenia. There are many stories about this time that get shared, and are easy to find online, but which I'm not going to repeat here because they tend to be shared in a freak-show manner. But by 2001 he was placed in the legal custody of his brother . This kind of situation is often abused, but in Erickson's case it seems to have done him good. His brother got him legal and medical help, and helped him start finally receiving royalties on some of his records. There was a one-off fiftieth anniversary reunion of most of the living original members of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and in 2010 Erickson released his finest album, a collaboration with the band Okkervil River, True Love Cast Out All Evil: [Excerpt: Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, "Ain't Blues Too Bad"] By all accounts the last years of Erickson's life were happier and more comfortable than any he'd had. He got to tour the world, playing for appreciative crowds, he got his schizophrenia under control, and he was a
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today we're going to look at a record which I actually originally intended to do a full episode on, but by an artist about whom there simply isn't enough information out there to pull together a full episode -- though some of this information will show up in other contexts in future episodes. So we're going to have a Patreon bonus episode on one of the great soul-pop records of the mid 1960s -- "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me"] Fontella Bass was actually a second-generation singer. Her mother, Martha Bass, was a great gospel singer, who had been trained by Willie Mae Ford Smith, who was often considered the greatest female gospel singer of the twentieth century but who chose only to perform live and on the radio rather than make records. Martha Bass had sung for a short time with the Clara Ward Singers, one of the most important and influential of gospel groups: [Excerpt: The Clara Ward Singers, "Wasn't It A Pity How They Punished My Lord?"] Fontella had been trained by her mother, but she got her start in secular music rather than the gospel music her mother stuck to. She spent much of the early sixties working as a piano player and singer in the band of Little Milton, the blues singer. I don't know exactly which records of his she's on, but she was likely on his top twenty R&B hit "So Mean to Me": [Excerpt: Little Milton, "So Mean to Me"] One night, Little Milton didn't turn up for a show, and so Bass was asked to take the lead vocals until he arrived. Milton's bandleader Oliver Sain was impressed with her voice, and when he quit working with Milton the next year, he took Bass with him, starting up a new act, "The Oliver Sain Soul Revue featuring Fontella and Bobby McClure". She signed to Bobbin Records, where she cut "I Don't Hurt Any More", a cover of an old Hank Snow country song, in 1962: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "I Don't Hurt Any More"] After a couple of records with Bobbin, she signed up with Ike Turner, who by this point was running a couple of record labels. She released a single backed by the Ikettes, "My Good Loving": [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "My Good Loving"] And a duet with Tina Turner, "Poor Little Fool": [Excerpt: Fontella Bass and Tina Turner, "Poor Little Fool"] At the same time she was still working with Sain and McClure, and Sain's soul revue got signed to Checker records, the Chess subsidiary, which was now starting to make soul records, usually produced by Roquel Davis, Berry Gordy's former collaborator, and written or co-written by Carl Smith. These people were also working with Jackie Wilson at Brunswick, and were part of the same scene as Carl Davis, the producer who had worked with Curtis Mayfield, Major Lance, Gene Chandler and the rest. So this was a thriving scene -- not as big as the scenes in Memphis or Detroit, but definitely a group of people who were capable of making big soul hits.  Bass and McClure recorded a couple of duo singles with Checker, starting with "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing": [Excerpt: Fontella Bass and Bobby McClure, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing"] That made the top forty on the pop charts, and number five on the R&B charts. But the follow-up only made the R&B top forty and didn't make the pop charts at all. But Bass would soon release a solo recording, though one with prominent backing vocals by Minnie Ripperton, that would become one of the all-time soul classics -- a Motown soundalike that was very obviously patterned after the songs that Holland, Dozier, and Holland were writing, and which captured their style perfectly: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me"] There's some dispute as to who actually wrote "Rescue Me". The credited songwriters are Carl Smith and Raynard Miner, but Bass has repeatedly claimed that she wrote most of the song herself, and that Roquel Davis had assured her that she would be fairly compensated, but she never was. According to Bass, when she finally got her first royalty cheque from Chess, she was so disgusted at the pitiful amount of money she was getting that she tore the cheque up and threw it back across the desk. Her follow-up to "Rescue Me", "Recovery", didn't do so well, making the lower reaches of the pop top forty: [Excerpt: Fontella Bass, "Recovery"] Several more singles were released off Bass' only album on Chess, but she very quickly became disgusted with the whole mainstream music industry. By this point she'd married the avant-garde jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie, and she started performing with his group, the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The music she recorded with the group is excellent, but if anyone bought The Art Ensemble of Chicago With Fontella Bass, the first of the two albums she recorded with the group, expecting something like "Rescue Me", they were probably at the very least bemused by what they got -- two twenty-minute-long tracks that sound like this: [Excerpt: The Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass: "How Strange/Ole Jed"] In between the two albums she recorded with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bass also recorded a second solo album, but after it had little success she largely retired from music to raise her four children, though she would make the odd guest appearance on her husband's records. In the 1990s she made a few gospel records with her mother and her younger brother, the R&B singer David Peaston, and toured a little both on the nostalgia circuit and performing gospel, but she never returned to being a full-time musician. Both she and her brother died in 2012, Peaston from complications of diabetes, Bass from a heart attack after a series of illnesses. "Rescue Me" was her only big hit, and she retired at a point when she was still capable of making plenty of interesting music, but Fontella Bass still had a far more interesting, and fulfilling, career than many other artists who continue trying to chase the ghost of their one hit. She made music on her own terms, and nobody else's, right up until the end.
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today's backer-only episode is an extra-long one -- it runs about as long as some of the shorter main episodes -- but it also might end up containing material that gets repeated in the main podcast at some point, because a lot of British rock and pop music gets called, often very incorrectly, music-hall, and so the subject of the music halls is one that may well have to be explained in a future episode. But today we're going to look at one of the very few pop hits of the sixties that is incontrovertibly based in the music-hall tradition -- Herman's Hermits singing "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am": [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am"] The term "music hall" is one that has been widely misused over the years. People talk about it as being a genre of music, when it's anything but. Rather, the music hall -- which is the British equivalent of the American vaudeville -- was the most popular form of entertainment, first under that name and then under the name "variety", for more than a century, only losing its popularity when TV and rock-and-roll between them destroyed the market for it. Even then, TV variety shows rooted in the music hall continued, explicitly until the 1980s, with The Good Old Days, and implicitly until the mid-1990s. As you might imagine, for a form of entertainment that lasted over a hundred years, there's no such thing as "music-hall music" as a singular thing, any more than there exists a "radio music" or a "television music". Many music-hall acts were non-musical performers -- comedians, magicians, acrobats, and so forth -- but among those who did perform music, there were all sorts of different styles included, from folk song to light opera, to ragtime, and especially minstrel songs -- the songs of Stephen Foster were among the very first transatlantic hits. We obviously don't have any records from the first few decades of the music hall, but we do have sheet music, and we know that the first big British hit song was "Champagne Charlie", originally performed by George Leybourne, and here performed by Derek B Scott, a professor of critical musicology at the university of Leeds: [Excerpt: Derek B. Scott, "Champagne Charlie"] If you've ever heard the phrase "the Devil has all the best tunes", that song is why. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, set new lyrics to it and made it into a hymn, and when asked why, he replied "Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?" The phrase had been used earlier, but it was Booth who popularised it. "Champagne Charlie" also has rather morbid associations, because it was sung by the crowd at the last public execution in Britain, so it often gets used in horror and mystery films set in Victorian London, so chances are if you recognised the song it's because you've heard it in a film about Jack the Ripper or Jekyll and Hyde. But the music hall, like all popular entertainment, demanded a whole stream of new material. The British Tin Pan Alley publishers and songwriters who wrote much of the early British rock and roll we've looked at started out in music hall, and almost every British popular song up until the rise of jazz, and most after that until the fifties, was performed in the music halls. We do have recordings from the later part of the music-hall era, of course, and they show what a wide variety of music was performed there, from pitch-black comedy songs like "Murders", by George Grossmith, the son of the co-writer of Diary of a Nobody: [Excerpt: George Grossmith, "Murders"] To sing-along numbers like "Waiting at the Church" by Vesta Victoria: [Excerpt: Vesta Victoria, "Waiting at the Church"] And one of the most-recorded music-hall performers, Harry Champion, a London performer who sang very wordy songs, at a fast tempo, usually with a hornpipe rhythm and often about food, like "A Little Bit of Cucumber" or his most famous song "Boiled Beef and Carrots": [Excerpt: Harry Champion, "Boiled Beef and Carrots"] But one that wasn't about food, and was taken a bit slower than his normal patter style, was "I'm Henry the VIII I Am": [Excerpt: Harry Champion, "I'm Henry VIII, I Am"] (Incidentally, the song as written on the sheet music has "Henery" rather than "Henry", and most people sing it "Enery", but the actual record by Champion uses "Henry" on the label, as does the Hermits' version, so that's what I'm going with). Fifty years after Champion, the song was recorded by Joe Brown. We've talked about Brown before in the main podcast, but for those of you who don't remember, he's one of the best British rock and roll musicians of the fifties, and still performing today, and he has a real love of pre-war pop songs, and he would perform them regularly with his band, the Bruvvers. Those of you who've heard the Beatles performing "Sheikh of Araby" on their Decca audition, they're copying Brown's version of that song -- George Harrison was a big fan of Brown. Brown's version of "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am" gave it a rock and roll beat, and dropped the verse, leaving only the refrain: [Excerpt: Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, "I'm Henry the Eighth I Am"] Enter Herman's Hermits, four years later. In 1964, Herman's Hermits, a beat group from Manchester led by singer Peter Noone, had signed with Mickie Most and had a UK number one with "I'm Into Something Good", a Goffin and King song originally written for Earl-Jean of the Cookies: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "I'm Into Something Good"] That would be their only UK number one, though they'd have several more top ten hits over here. It only made number thirteen in the US, but their second US single (not released as a single over here), "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", went to number two in the States. From that point on, the group's career would diverge enormously between the US and the UK -- half their US hits were never released as singles in the UK, and vice versa. Several records, like their cover version of Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World", were released in both countries, but in general they went in two very different directions. In the UK they tended to release fairly normal beat-group records like "No Milk Today", written by Graham Gouldman, who was also writing hits for the Yardbirds and the Hollies: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "No Milk Today"] That only charted in the US when it was later released as a B-side. Meanwhile, in the US, they pursued a very different strategy. Since the "British Invasion" was a thing, and so many British bands were doing well in the States partly because of the sheer novelty of them being British, Herman's Hermits based their career on appealing to American Anglophiles. This next statement might be a little controversial, even offensive to some listeners, so I apologise, but it's the truth. There is a large contingent of people in America who genuinely believe that they love Britain and British things, but who have no actual idea what British culture is actually like. They like a version of Britain that has been constructed entirely from pop-culture aimed at an American market, and have a staggeringly skewed vision of what Britain is actually like, one that is at best misguided and at worst made up of extremely offensive stereotypes. People who think they know all about the UK because they've spent a week going round a handful of tourist traps in central London and they've watched every David Tennant episode of Doctor Who. (Please note that I am not, here, engaging in reflex anti-Americanism, as so many British people do on this topic, because I know very well that there is an equally wrong kind of British person who worships a fictional America which has nothing to do with the real country -- as any American who has come over to the UK and seen cans of hot dog sausages in brine with "American style" and an American flag on the label will shudderingly attest. Fetishising of a country not one's own exists in every culture, and about every culture, whether it's American weebs who think they know about Japan or British Communists who were insistent that the Soviet Union under Stalin was a utopia). For their US-only singles, most of which were massive hits, Herman's Hermits played directly to that audience. The group's first single in this style was "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter", written by the actor Trevor Peacock, now best known for playing Jim in The Vicar of Dibley, but at the time best known as a songwriter for groups like the Vernons Girls and  for writing linking material for Six-Five Special and Oh Boy! That song was written for a TV play and originally performed by the actor Tom Courtenay: [Excerpt: Tom Courtenay, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] The Hermits copied Courtenay's record closely, down to Noone imitating Courtenay's vocals: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter"] That became their first US number one, and the group went all-in on appealing to that particular market. Noone started singing, not in the pseudo-American style that, say, Mick Jagger sings in (and early-sixties Jagger is a perfect example of the British equivalent of those American Anglophiles, loving but not understanding Black America), and not in his own Manchester accent, but in a faked Cockney accent, doing what is essentially a bad impersonation of Anthony Newley. (Davy Jones,
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript In today's main episode we look at the career of Bobby Fuller, who many have speculated died because of in some way upsetting the Mafia. So in this bonus episode we're going to look at someone who had a much longer, more successful, career, and did so because he managed *not* to upset the Mafia. We're going to look at the involvement of Morris Levy in the birth of bubblegum, and at "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Hanky Panky"] The original lineup of the Shondells started out when Tommy James was only twelve years old, and still going by his birth name Tommy Jackson. They performed for three years under various names before, in 1962, recording their first single, "Long Pony Tail", under the name Tom and the Tornadoes: [Excerpt: Tom and the Tornadoes, "Long Pony Tail"] That was actually a cover version of a song originally recorded by the Fireballs, a group that Norman Petty had produced a couple of minor hits for at that point, and who would go on to have a number one with "Sugar Shack", but who are now best known for being the group that Petty got to overdub new instrumental backing on Buddy Holly's acoustic demos so he could keep releasing posthumous hits. "Long Pony Tail" was not a hit, and soon the group had changed their name to the Shondells, inspired by the local one-hit wonder Troy Shondell, who had had a hit with "This Time": [Excerpt: Troy Shondell, "This Time"] The group continued making records on tiny labels with no promotional budget for several years, until they recorded a song called "Hanky Panky". That song had been written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and released as a B-side by Barry and Greenwich's studio group The Raindrops: [Excerpt: The Raindrops, "Hanky Panky"] That record had never been a hit, supposedly because the song to which it was a B-side, “That Boy John”, made people think of John F Kennedy, who was killed shortly after the record's release. But a copy had been picked up by a musician in Michigan, who had added the song to his group's live set, and it had become popular. Another local group, the Spinners -- not the vocal group from Detroit, or the British folk group, but another group of the same name -- saw the reaction that band had from the song, and added it to their own sets. They hadn't got a copy of the record themselves, so they didn't know all the words, so they just made new ones up, other than "My baby does the hanky-panky". When Tommy James saw the reaction the Spinners had, he felt he had to grasp an opportunity. Back in 1960, Joe Jones had recorded "California Sun", a song written by Henry Glover, on Roulette Records: [Excerpt: Joe Jones, "California Sun"] Another group on the same local scene as the Shondells, the Princeton Five, had been playing that song in their sets -- and then a third local group, the Playmates, renamed themselves the Rivieras, ripped off the Princeton Five's arrangement of the song before the Princeton Five could record it, and made the national top ten with it: [Excerpt: The Rivieras, "California Sun"] The lesson was clear -- if a local band starts doing well with a song, it's winner-takes-all and whoever gets into the studio first gets the hit. So the Shondells went into the studio and quickly cut their version, based on what they could remember of what the Spinners could remember of someone else's live versions of “Hanky Panky”, making up new words where they didn't know the real ones. It was released on a tiny local label called Snap: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Hanky Panky"] The record was a very minor local hit, but didn't get any airplay in major markets, and the Shondells split up, and James joined a new group, the Koachmen. The Koachmen toured for a while, playing dead-end gigs and scraping a living for many months, with constant lineup changes, until eventually also calling it quits. It was then that James got the shocking news that "Hanky Panky" was now number one in Pittsburgh. Somehow a local dance promoter had found the record and started playing it at club nights. It had gone down shockingly well, so a Pittsburgh company just started pressing up more copies from the single, and it sold eighty thousand copies in ten days. The company pressing the record got in touch with the owner of Snap Records, who told Tommy that he needed to put together a new Shondells quickly. As it turned out, there was another band in the area who were called the Shandells (according to James' autobiography -- other sources say they were called the Raconteurs). James became their lead singer and changed the group's name to the Shondells, James went to New York to try to get the newly-successful record national distribution, and to get his new Shondells signed. There was the start of a bidding war, with Red Bird, Atlantic, RCA and others all interested... until Morris Levy of Roulette Records phoned the owners of all the other labels and told them "This is my record". James was quickly persuaded that it wasn't a good idea to refuse offers made by someone with Levy's mob connections, and Tommy James and the Shondells signed to Roulette Records. "Hanky Panky" was reissued and went to number one. The group had a series of hits from 1966 through 1967, including "I Think We're Alone Now", written for the group by their producer Ritchie Cordell: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "I Think We're Alone Now"] And "Mony Mony", a group effort written by several people including Cordell and James, inspired by a large flashing neon sign advertising Mutual of New York: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Mony Mony"] These early hits helped define bubblegum music, and were massively successful. Levy took a fatherly interest in James, and while he refused ever to pay the royalty rates in James' contract -- James estimates he is owed thirty to forty million dollars in unpaid royalties -- he did make sure that James got what Levy thought was a fair amount, and the two had a good relationship, though James resented much of Levy's attitude towards his music, and had very real qualms about working for a mobster. James particularly disliked the pressure he was under to produce hit singles rather than grow as an artist. James was, though, allowed to change styles as the times changed, and moved into psychedelic rock, co-writing and recording the number one hit "Crimson and Clover" with the group's drummer: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crimson and Clover"] And "Crystal Blue Persuasion", inspired by the Book of Revelation, with two other band members, which went to number two: [Excerpt: Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crystal Blue Persuasion"] In 1970, James went solo, having another major hit with "Draggin' the Line": [Excerpt: Tommy James, "Draggin' the Line"] He also co-wrote and produced the big hit "Tighter Tighter" for Alive N Kickin': [Excerpt: Alive N Kickin', "Tighter Tighter"] But two changes in the early seventies saw James lose his commercial momentum. The first was that he started more explicitly writing about his Christian faith, including titling a solo album "Christian of the World". The other, more serious, problem was that a mob war started in New York, with one of the families opposed to Levy's targeting Levy's friends. Levy made James get out of New York and move to Nashville to keep safe, and James moved into country music while he was there, but was unsuccessful in his new genre. James eventually escaped from Levy, as Levy's control over his music industry holdings slipped with his loss of dominance in the mob, but James never returned to commercial success, though his old hits continued to have influence on the next generation of bubblegum pop -- in 1987, Tiffany's cover version of "I Think We're Alone Now" was knocked off number one by Billy Idol's version of "Mony Mony". He currently tours as a nostalgia act, and finally receives royalties from his hits. He's often somewhat dismissed as a minor act, but James, with and without the Shondells, had a hugely impressive run of hit singles, and his catalogue is probably due reevaluation.
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Today we're going to take a look at someone who had two big hits, one of which has entered into American pop culture to a ludicrous extent -- long before I ever heard the song I was familiar with references to it in everything from the Simpsons to Stephen King books -- and the other of which is known all over the world, but about whom there's almost no available information, outside the liner notes to one CD. We're going to look at Shirley Ellis, and at "The Name Game": [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Name Game"] When I say there's almost no available information about Shirley Ellis, I mean it. Normally, with someone who had a couple of major hits in the mid-sixties, there's at least a couple of fan pages out there, but other than a more-perfunctory-than-usual page on Spectropop, there's basically nothing about Shirley Ellis, possibly because unlike most of her contemporaries, even though she lived until 2005 she never hit the nostalgia circuit. The information that is out there is contradictory as well. Some sources have her being born in 1941, while others place her birth much further back, in 1929. I suspect the latter date is more accurate, and that she trimmed a few years off her age when she became a star. Pretty much all the information I'm using here comes from the liner notes of the one CD currently in print from a legitimate source of Ellis' work, and that CD also has a problem which will affect this episode. Ellis released two albums, "In Action" and "The Name Game", which had nine tracks in common. On "In Action", they were overdubbed with crowd noises, more or less at random, to make them sound like they were live recordings, while "The Name Game" had the unadorned studio recordings. Unfortunately, the CD I'm using, for some unfathomable reason, chose to use the fake-live versions, and so that's what I've been forced to excerpt. Ellis grew up in the Bronx, in a family with roots in the West Indies, and started out as many young singers did, winning the talent contest at the Harlem Apollo. But her initial success came as a songwriter, when she wrote a couple of songs for the Sh-Booms -- the group who had formerly been known as the Chords before legal problems led them to rename themselves after their biggest hit: [Excerpt: The Sh-Booms -- "Pretty Wild"] She also wrote "One Two, I Love You" for the Heartbreakers, which pointed the way to the kind of novelty song based around counting and clapping rhymes with which she would have her biggest hits: [Excerpt: The Heartbreakers, "One Two, I Love You"] But while she'd had these minor successes as a songwriter, it wasn't until she teamed up with a more successful writer that she started to make the records for which she was remembered. Ellis was introduced by her husband's cousin to Lincoln Chase, who became her manager, record producer, and writing partner. Chase had already written a number of hits on his own, including "Such a Night" for Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Such a Night"] which had also been a hit for Johnnie Ray, and "Jim Dandy" for LaVern Baker: [Excerpt: LaVern Baker, "Jim Dandy"] As well as songs for Big Maybelle, Ruth Brown and others. Chase and Ellis spent a couple of years releasing unsuccessful singles under Ellis' full married name, Shirley Elliston, before releasing "The Real Nitty Gritty". Both song and artist soon had their names shortened, and "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis went to number eight on the pop charts: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Nitty Gritty"] A couple of follow-ups, starting with "That's What the Nitty-Gritty Is" were unsuccessful, and then Shirley got very unlucky. She recorded  a version of Chase's "Such a Night", which had been a hit twice before: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "Such a Night"] That started rising up the charts -- and then RCA released Elvis' recording from four years earlier, which had just been an album track, as a single, and that went top twenty, and stopped Ellis' single getting any traction: [Excerpt: Elvis Presley, "Such a Night"] But Ellis came back with "The Name Game", which she co-wrote with Chase, based on a game she used to play as a child: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Name Game"] That made number three on the charts, and became an ongoing reference point for a whole generation of Americans. The follow-up, credited to Chase alone, was based on another children's game, and made the US top ten, and also made the top ten in the UK: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "The Clapping Song"] For a while in early 1965, Ellis was a big star, big enough that her songs were getting novelty cover versions by people like Soupy Sales: [Excerpt: Soupy Sales, "The Name Game"] But unfortunately, her next couple of singles flopped, and people seemed to only want one kind of record from Shirley Ellis. She and Chase came up with some unsuccessful experiments, like "You Better Be Good World", an attempt at getting on the protest song bandwagon by singing about nuclear war, while also recording a Christmas song -- the two didn't really mix: [Excerpt: Shirley Ellis, "You Better Be Good World"] After that, more attempts at songs along the lines of her hits followed, like "The Puzzle Song", and "Ever See a Diver Kiss His Wife While The Bubbles Bounce About Above the Water?", but there were no more hits, and Ellis retired in 1968. Chase went on to record a solo album under his own name, which has sadly never been reissued on CD, but I found a vinyl rip on a dodgy MP3 site a while back, and it's fascinating stuff, somewhere between Frank Zappa and George Clinton at points, and quite politically pointed: [Excerpt: Lincoln Chase, "Amos X, Andy Lumumba, and Aunt Jemima No More"] Chase would die in the early eighties, but he and Ellis would go on to get credit for a hit song written almost twenty years after his death. In 1981, the disco artist Stacy Lattislaw would record "Attack of the Name Game", which was inspired by Ellis' hit, and so Chase and Ellis got co-writing credit for it: [Excerpt: Stacy Lattislaw, "Attack of the Name Game"] That wasn't a hit, but in 1999 Mariah Carey and Jay-Z built the number one hit "Heartbreaker" around a sample of that record, meaning that Ellis and Chase got credit for that, too: [Excerpt: Mariah Carey, Heartbreaker] That's not the only influence Ellis had in more recent times -- several people have pointed out the similarity in style between some of Amy Winehouse's records, like "Rehab", and Ellis' big hits. Shirley Ellis, unlike many of her contemporaries, never came out of retirement, and she died in 2005, probably aged seventy-six.
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript Before I start, a warning. Even though this episode is short it deals with many, many, upsetting subjects. If you're likely to be upset by a story dealing with the death and disfigurement of small children, disability, mental illness, gun violence and eye injuries, you're probably best off skipping this episode altogether, as it deals with these subjects right from after the first excerpt of music until the end. It's not a happy story. In this week's main episode we talk briefly about a record that Paul Simon produced while he was in Britain, before "The Sound of Silence" became a big hit. The performer whose record he produced only released that one album in his lifetime, but it's a record that had an outsized influence on the British folk-music scene. So today, we're going to have a look at the tragic life of Jackson C Frank, and at "Blues Run the Game": [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] Jackson C Frank's life started to go badly, irrevocably, wrong, when he was just eleven years old. His family lived in Buffalo, New York, where the winters are long and cold, and Jackson was a Baby Boomer. Because of the tremendous number of new children going through the school system, the brick schoolhouse at the school he attended had been augmented with an annexe, made out of wood, and he was in that annexe, in a music lesson, when the boiler exploded and set fire to it. Jackson was one of the lucky ones. That fire took the life of fifteen of his classmates, and spurred a national movement towards banning timber buildings for schools and the institution of fire drills, which up to that point had not been a thing. Jackson got thrown out of a window by a teacher, and the snow put out the flames on his back, meaning he "only" suffered burns over sixty percent of his body, scarring him for life. He had to spend a year in hospital, have a tracheotomy, and have a metal plate put in his head. He developed thyroid problems, got calcium deposits that built up over the years and frequently left him in agony, and always walked with a limp and only had limited movement in his arms. Many celebrities did things to comfort the children, who became nationally known. Kirk Douglas came to the hospital to visit them, and later in his childhood Jackson was able to go and meet Elvis, who became a big inspiration for the young man. He spent his teenage years going around the local music scene, including spending a long time with a friend who later became known as John Kay of Steppenwolf, but then when he turned twenty-one he got a massive insurance payout that had been held in trust for him. I've seen different numbers for this -- it was either fifty or a hundred thousand dollars, and in modern terms that would be about ten times that much. Being a young man, he didn't want to invest it, he wanted to buy expensive cars. He wanted an Aston Martin and a Bentley, and Britain was where they made Aston Martins and Bentleys, so he caught a boat to England, and on the trip over started writing songs, including the one that would become his best known: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Blues Run the Game"] Once he was in the UK, Frank moved into Judith Piepe's flat, where he started a relationship with an eighteen-year-old nurse, who was also trying to be a singer. Frank encouraged her to follow her dreams and become a professional, and Sandy Denny would later record some of his songs, and wrote the song "Next Time Around" about him: [Excerpt: Sandy Denny, "Next Time Around"] While he was in London, he became well known on the folk circuit, regularly playing Les Cousins, and as Ralph McTell put it, "EVERYONE" sang 'Blues Run the Game'". Over the years, the song has been performed by everyone from Bert Jansch: [Excerpt: Bert Jansch, "Blues Run the Game"] to Counting Crows: [Excerpt: Counting Crows, "Blues Run the Game"] Frank's own version of the song was recorded on his one and only album,  which was produced by Paul Simon, as we heard in the main episode. That album also included songs like "Carnival", which has now possibly become the song of Frank's that has been heard by most people, as it was featured both on the soundtrack and in the dialogue of the 2019 film Joker: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Carnival"] The album didn't sell, and Frank returned to the US, after marrying Elaine Sedgwick, the cousin of Edie Sedgwick. He was missed when he left, and Roy Harper, another folk musician who played the same circuit, wrote "My Friend" about his departure: [Excerpt: Roy Harper, "My Friend"] When he came back in 1968 to do a couple of shows, though, his depression, which had always been bad since the fire, had worsened. Al Stewart said "He proceeded to fall apart before our very eyes. His style that everyone loved was melancholy, very tuneful things. He started doing things that were completely impenetrable. They were basically about psychological angst, played at full volume with lots of thrashing. I don't remember a single word of them – it just did not work. There was one review that said he belonged on a psychologist's couch." He was withdrawn, and wouldn't speak to people, and he had writer's block. To make matters worse, his home life was also going awfully. His insurance money had all run out, but Paul Simon had given him a loan of three thousand dollars, with Simon taking Frank's publishing as surety, so he could start a business, but the business failed and Simon kept the publishing. In 1971, when Art Garfunkel was recording his first solo album, he asked Frank if he had a song that might be suitable. Frank had actually written a new song, "Juliette": [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "Juliette"] Unfortunately, when he turned up to see Garfunkel, he brought along a few hippy friends, who all made fun of Garfunkel for being a sell-out, and so Garfunkel didn't record the song, though he did give Frank a new guitar. By the early seventies, Frank was in a very bad way. He and his wife had had two children, but one had died of cystic fibrosis, and the marriage had ended. He spent periods of time in psychiatric hospitals, and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, though he always said himself that he wasn't schizophrenic, he was suffering from depression because of the loss of his son. He was living off handouts from friends, even as his songs were inspiring new artists like Nick Drake, who recorded four of his songs: [Excerpt: Nick Drake, "Here Comes the Blues"] In the early eighties he was living with his parents, but then in 1984 while his mother was in hospital he got an idea -- he could go to New York and find his old friend Paul, and ask him for his publishing back, or maybe just for some money. He didn't leave a note, and his parents had no idea where he'd gone. He did go to New York, but he couldn't find his friend, and he ended up homeless, living on the streets, and in and out of psychiatric institutions. In the early nineties, a fan tracked him down and helped sort out some accommodation for him in Woodstock, where he'd lived in his twenties. By this time he was in an awful physical and mental state, and the fan described him as looking like the Elephant man because of the bloating from his thyroid problems and his joint issues affecting his posture (though I have to say that from the couple of photos I've seen of him at this time, that's quite an exaggeration). But just to rub salt in the wound, after the accommodation had been arranged, but before he'd had a chance to move, he was sat on a park bench in Queens, and some kids, shooting randomly with a pellet gun, hit him in his left eye, permanently blinding him in that eye. His rediscovery got a bit of publicity, and led to his album being reissued on CD. He also started writing again, and recorded some demos on a cheap cassette recorder in 1997, many of which have since been released on various compilations: [Excerpt: Jackson C Frank, "(Tumble) in the Wind"] But 1997 was also the year that Frank moved into a care home, and he wouldn't record any more after that. In 1998, Paul Simon finally returned his publishing to him, presumably having given up on ever getting his three thousand dollars back. And on March the third, 1999, one day after his fifty-sixth birthday, Jackson C Frank died of pneumonia. His game had finally run to its end.
This episode is part of Pledge Week 2022. Every day this week, I'll be posting old Patreon bonus episodes of the podcast which will have this short intro. These are short, ten- to twenty-minute bonus podcasts which get posted to Patreon for my paying backers every time I post a new main episode -- there are well over a hundred of these in the archive now. If you like the sound of these episodes, then go to and subscribe for as little as a dollar a month or ten dollars a year to get access to all those bonus episodes, plus new ones as they appear. Click below for the transcript Transcript A few episodes back, we took a look at the Who's early records, and in passing we talked about the Ivy League, the studio group who sang backing vocals on their first single under that name. In this bonus episode, we're going to look at one of the biggest hits any of the members of the Ivy League were involved in -- a record that became a massive hit, won a Grammy, and changed the career direction of one of the most important comedy bands in Britain. We're going to look at "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] In his book Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald makes the point that the quintessential line in British psychedelia is from George Harrison's "It's All Too Much", where Harrison sings "Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea". Whereas American psychedelia is often angry and rebellious -- understandably, since it was often being made by people who were scared of being drafted to fight in a senseless war, and who were living through a time of great instability more generally -- British psychedelia was tinged with nostalgia, both for childhood and for a lost past of the Empire that had now ended. Now, we're going to get into that in much, much, greater detail when we look at the records the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who and others made in this period, but suffice to say that *one* of the several streams of thought that shaped the youth culture of Britain in the 1960s was a nationalistic one, partly in reaction to a perceived dominance by American culture and a belief that there were things about British culture that deserved celebrating too. And part and parcel of that was a celebration of the popular culture of the 1920s and thirties, the height of Britain's influence in the world. This nationalism, incidentally, was *not* necessarily an entirely regressive or reactionary thing, though it certainly had those elements -- there was a strong progressive element to it, and we'll be unpacking the tensions in it in future episodes. For the moment, just take it that we're not talking about the sort of flag-waving xenophobia that has tainted much of modern politics, but something more complicated. This complex relationship with the past had been evident as early as the very early 1960s, with acts like the Alberts and the Temperance Seven reviving 1920s novelty songs in what would now be considered a postmodern style: [Excerpt: The Temperance Seven, "You're Driving Me Crazy "] That had temporarily gone into abeyance with the rise of the Beatles and the bands that followed in their wake, making guitar music inspired by American Black musicians the new popular thing in British culture. But that stream of the culture was definitely there, and it was only a matter of time before music business professionals would notice it again and start to try to capitalise on it. And Geoff Stephens did just that. Stephens was an odd character, who had entered the music business at a relatively late age. Until the age of thirty he worked in a variety of jobs, including as a teacher and an air traffic controller, but he was also involved in amateur theatrics, putting on revues with friends for which he co-wrote songs and sketches. He then went on to write satirical sketches for radio comedy, writing for a programme hosted by Basil Boothroyd, the editor of Punch, and started submitting songs to Denmark Street publishers. Through his submissions, he got a job as a song plugger with a publishing company, and from there moved into writing songs professionally himself. His first hit, co-written as many of his songs were with Les Reed, was "Tell Me When", the debut single for the Applejacks, which made the top ten: [Excerpt: The Applejacks, "Tell Me When"] Many hits as a writer and producer soon followed, including writing "The Crying Game" for Dave Berry: [Excerpt: Dave Berry, "The Crying Game"] And signing Donovan and co-producing his first two albums and earliest hit singles: [Excerpt: Donovan, "Catch the Wind"] Stephens had been making hits for a couple of years when he conceived the novelty record "Winchester Cathedral", which he recorded with John Carter of the Ivy League on lead vocals, imitating the style of Rudy Vallee, one of the most popular singers of the 1920s, who sang through a megaphone -- he became popular before electronic amplification was a big thing. The record was made by session players, and released under the name "The New Vaudeville Band": [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "Winchester Cathedral"] The record immediately began to sell. It became a massive, massive, worldwide hit, selling three million copies and inspiring a cover version by Rudy Vallee himself: [Excerpt: Rudy Vallee, "Winchester Cathedral"] Oddly, this wasn't the last time in the sixties that a major hit would be inspired by the sound of Rudy Vallee... But Stephens had a problem. People wanted the New Vaudeville Band to tour, and he didn't actually have a touring act. So he turned to the next best thing. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were a band of dadaist comedy performers who had a wonderful stage act, which among other things involved their lead singer Vivian Stanshall wearing a gold lame Elvis suit, their drummer Sam Spoons playing spoons and washboard, and comedy moments like band members holding up speech bubbles, so for example when someone took a solo, one of the other members might hold up a cardboard speech bubble saying "Wow! I'm really expressing myself!" Their repertoire largely consisted of novelty tunes -- some from the fifties, but mostly songs they'd learned from old 78s from the 1920s, like their first single: [Excerpt: The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, "My Brother Makes the Noises for the Talkies"] As Bonzos guitarist Neil Innes always told the story, Geoff Stephens was friends with the band's trumpet player Bob Kerr, and called him up asking if the Bonzo Dog  Doo-Dah Band wanted to be the touring New Vaudeville Band. Kerr was excited -- his band would get to be proper pop stars! But when he went to talk to the rest of the group, they were dismissive. They were conceptual artists and creative people, and didn't want to be a manufactured pop band. Bob Kerr, on the other hand, thought that being paid vastly more money to do exactly the same stuff he was doing for next to nothing sounded like a great idea, and quit the band. The next thing the rest of his bandmates knew, they were watching him on Top of the Pops, performing with a band with a spoons player, a lead singer who wore a gold lame suit, and band members holding up cardboard speech bubbles. Kerr had taken the group's entire act, and they had to reinvent themselves, turning from 1920s pastiche to modern rock music -- and the chances are very good that we'll be following them up in the future. But of course, as well as an act, the new group needed a singer, and for that Stephens turned to Alan Klein. Now, this is not the Allen Klein who we've mentioned in the main podcast, and who will be coming up again in future episodes. This Alan Klein was someone who had been on the margins of the music industry as a writer and performer for some time. He'd made records with Joe Meek: [Excerpt: Alan Klein, "Striped Purple Shirt"] and he'd co-written the musical What A Crazy World, which had been made into a film which featured his songs being sung by Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, Freddie and the Dreamers, and...Harry H Corbett: [Excerpt: Harry H Corbett: "Things We Never Had"] He'd also made a single solo album, "Well, At Least it's British", which took a satirical look at British life in the 1960s that was hugely influential on Britpop in the 1990s, though the record sold almost nothing at the time: [Excerpt: Alan Klein, "Twentieth-Century Englishman"] With Klein as the new lead singer, the New Vaudeville Band were a real band. And indeed, they had three more top forty hits in the UK, though their most successful song after "Winchester Cathedral" was a song that Stephens and Les Reed wrote for them which wasn't a hit for them: [Excerpt: The New Vaudeville Band, "There's a Kind of Hush"] That *did*, though, become a big hit for Herman's Hermits: [Excerpt: Herman's Hermits, "There's a Kind of Hush"] The New Vaudeville Band were shortlived -- they only had a handful of hits, and Bob Kerr soon left the group after falling out with their manager, Peter Grant -- another figure who we'll definitely be hearing a lot more from in future episodes of the main podcast. Kerr formed Bob Kerr's Whoopee Band with Sam Spoons and Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell, two other former members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and they had a quietly successful career doing the same act that the early Bonzos had -- all three men also joined in Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band reunion tours in 2006 and 2016. A revived version of the New Vaudeville Band, featuring only the drummer from the touring lineup, performed in the 70s and 80s to little success. But the group's biggest legacy remained their first hit, which actually won the Grammy for Best Contemporary (Rock & Roll) Recording in 1967, beating out a shortlist of "Eleanor Rigby", "Monday Monday", "Cherish", "Good Vibrations", and "Last Train to Clarksville". You can decide for yourselves if "Winchester Cathedral" was, in hindsight, a better record than those.
The Facebook community I talk about is at The post for asking Q&A questions is here The Patreon post for Q&A questions is here Transcript Hello and welcome to the start of 2022's Pledge Week. For those of you who don't know, this podcast is my full-time job, and I can only do it because of listener support, and the best way people can support me is to set up a regular donation through, and to reward those supporters I do short bonus podcasts that only backers can access, as well as doing occasional other bonus things for them. Now, I have been very, very, lucky when it comes to people backing me. For the first couple of years of the podcast I had to take on additional work because this wasn't paying enough, but now I have enough very generous backers that I can pay my mortgage, buy all the books and CDs I need for the research, pay Tilt for his time editing the podcast, and generally do the work without worrying about my finances the way I had to at first. This has been especially useful in the last year, when as you may have gathered everything *else* went wrong in my life -- to have that basic financial security because of people's generous donations has literally saved my life. I'm making that clear now because I don't want anyone to give a single penny they can't afford. If my Patreon donations continue at the same level they have been, I can continue making the podcast indefinitely without worrying, so don't give me money you can't afford. But, of course, the only way I can keep the donations at the same level is to remind people occasionally that the Patreon exists -- otherwise, the levels will slowly go down, as people lose their jobs or retire and can'tafford that extra dollar a month, or the podcast gets past the era of music they're interested in, or I say something that causes offence, or they just decide the podcast isn't for them any more. So, every year or so, for a week I do a pledge week, where every day for a week I put up one of the old backer-only ten-minute or so podcasts, that Patreon backers have had access to for a year or so. There are well over a hundred of these now, and only a tiny selection of them get posted in these Pledge weeks, so if you want to hear the rest of them you have to subscribe for as little as one dollar a month -- or ten dollars for a year. Again, I want to emphasise -- as long as donation levels stay around where they are now, the main podcast will always remain free, and will have no ads or any of the other things people do to monetise their podcasts. Nobody is under any obligation to pay me a penny, and you should only give what you can afford after looking after yourself and your loved ones and any charitable donations or so on. There are many more important uses for your money than my podcast, especially in difficult times like this, and I don't begrudge anyone listening for free. I'm making enough, and while it's always nice to have more, there's no pressure on anyone. But if you have a little spare cash left over after all that, and you want to help out, for the next week you'll get a taste of what you can get. Also, two weeks from today I will be doing two question and answer podcasts. One will be for backers only, and will be answering questions on a Patreon post I'm going to make, which only backers will be able to access. The other will be for the general public, and will be answering questions posted in the comments for the admin post I made a couple of weeks back. I'll link both posts in the notes to this episode. Also, while I'm here I'd just like to mention that my friend Shawn has set up a Facebook discussion group for the podcast, which I'll also link. I'm not on Facebook myself, and while I'm not looking at it myself, Shawn will pass on anything she thinks I should know about the discussions there -- but you can also use it to talk about my podcast without worrying that I'm looking over your shoulder. Anyway, for the next seven days, enjoy these old Patreon backer bonus episodes.
Comments (26)

Michael Daly

wonderful. could listen all day to this

Oct 25th

Non Dairy Canary

Good grief. I long for the good old days, when the episodes came in at no more than about an hour long. I suspect Mr Hickey has forgotten the title of his own podcast.

Sep 13th


This podcast really hits the spot, great music, great history and stories I never hear before.

May 7th

Michael Mielech

Hope you get better. Yes, these are fucked up times. Got turned on to your podcast while listening to Let it Roll. I have learned an awful lot. Like, James Brown was hired by Little Richard to be Little Richard in small clubs he was contractually obligated to while Richard went off to be a star when he suddenly had huge hits. Boy, to go back in time and see that!

May 6th

Chris Paddock

I was enjoying this but your increasingly frequent attempts to placate the woke police by reminding everyone you're a white man is becoming tiresome. What does the colour of your skin have to do with musical analysis? Or even cultural analysis? Let it stand and fall with the quality of your research and arguments, I don't care what colour your skin is it what country you come from. I know these days that makes me some kind of racist but well, that's just dumb

Apr 15th

Nancy Gillard

Very interesting episode. extremely well researched and thorough.

Mar 15th


Hi Andrew - Jusr wanted to add my voice to what I'm sure will be a very large chorus among your listeners and say thank you for all the hard work you put into AHOR. Each episode has been very detailed and interesting, and I'm surprised you get them out at the rate you do. Good luck with everything. All the best, Francis

Mar 15th

Anthony Francis

Not a problem I'm on catch up No .94, your podcasts have filled out a lot of gaps in my music knowledge, thanks for putting it all in perspective of the times, highly recommend

Feb 25th

steven Coggans

All the best from Australia love your podcasts 👍👍

Feb 21st


All your work is appreciated and loved. Hope you feel better and life eases up on you from all angles. Take care and all the best

Feb 7th

You might want to add to your compilation of stack-o-lee versions the very energetic one sung by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Black Snake Moan. It seems to be based somewhat on the Johnny Otis version? That's a wonderful soundtrack in general and I was very surprised to hear that Samuel L. Jackson could sing so well. My favorite though is the Mississippi John Hurt version because it is simple and because it acknowledges the truth rather than glorifying. Stack O Lee is a cruel, bad man! Also, I expected you might say something about how the name is often modified, e.g. Stagger Lee.

Jan 1st

Jim Carey Connell

Feel the well soon fella. Learning lots off yer pods. Cheers 2U

Dec 14th

Mark Askew

Loads of us will be very sorry to hear this. Your health is more important than podcasts, no matter how brilliant they are (and they are brilliant). Please concentrate on your wellbeing.

Dec 12th

R Lutes

Great episode but missing was reference to/story of Abel Meeropol, Communist Party member who wrote Strange Fruit. Important detail that really needed to be there.

Sep 5th

Stuart Douglas

Growing up in the late aeventies andcearly eighties, The Shadows were the very definition of uncool. so it came as a massive surprise to me when editing Peter Howell's autobiography to discover the band were his musical heroes.

Jul 28th


great documentary. i learned a lot.

Feb 17th

Jack Brown

get well soon there is alot of episodes that we all can repeat!!; love on ya as mr Bowie once penned on the back of his albums

Nov 15th

Cory Acosta

the music's volume is so much higher then the narrator. it kills my ears in headphones when the music suddenly starts!

Nov 4th

Bernadette Andrade

Thank you. This is a poignant response to recent events.

Jun 2nd

Jerry McGinnis

Just found this podcast and so far it is fantastic! Thanks for your insight and storytelling, the history is fascinating!

Mar 11th
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