July 2022 Q&A

July 2022 Q&A

Update: 2022-07-30


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 http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/

There is a Mixcloud of the music excerpted here which can be found at https://www.mixcloud.com/AndrewHickey/500-songs-supplemental-qa-edition/

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 fi








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July 2022 Q&A

July 2022 Q&A

Andrew Hickey