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A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs
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A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

Author: Andrew Hickey

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Andrew Hickey presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre.
214 Episodes
Episode 170 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Astral Weeks", the early solo career of Van Morrison, and the death of Bert Berns.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-minute bonus episode available, on "Stoned Soul Picnic" by Laura Nyro. 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 At one point I, ridiculously, misspeak the name of Charles Mingus' classic album. Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is not about dinner ladies. Also, I say Warren Smith Jr is on "Slim Slow Slider" when I meant to say Richard Davis (Smith is credited in some sources, but I only hear acoustic guitar, bass, and soprano sax on the finished track). Resources As usual, I’ve created Mixcloud playlists, with full versions of all the songs excerpted in this episode. As there are so many Van Morrison songs in this episode, the Mixcloud is split into three parts, one, two, and three. The information about Bert Berns comes from Here Comes the Night: The Dark Soul of Bert Berns and the Dirty Business of Rhythm and Blues by Joel Selvin. I’ve used several biographies of Van Morrison. Van Morrison: Into the Music by Ritchie Yorke is so sycophantic towards Morrison that the word “hagiography” would be, if anything, an understatement. Van Morrison: No Surrender by Johnny Rogan, on the other hand, is the kind of book that talks in the introduction about how the author has had to avoid discussing certain topics because of legal threats from the subject. Howard deWitt's Van Morrison: Astral Weeks to Stardom is over-thorough in the way some self-published books are, while Clinton Heylin's Can You Feel the Silence? is probably the best single volume on the artist. Information on Woodstock comes from Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns. Ryan Walsh's Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 is about more than Astral Weeks, but does cover Morrison's period in and around Boston in more detail than anything else. The album Astral Weeks is worth hearing in its entirety. Not all of the music on The Authorized Bang Collection is as listenable, but it's the most complete collection available of everything Morrison recorded for Bang. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before we start, a quick warning -- this episode contains discussion of organised crime activity, and of sudden death. It also contains excerpts of songs which hint at attraction to underage girls and discuss terminal illness. If those subjects might upset you, you might want to read the transcript rather than listen to the episode. Anyway, on with the show. Van Morrison could have been the co-writer of "Piece of My Heart". Bert Berns was one of the great collaborators in the music business, and almost every hit he ever had was co-written, and he was always on the lookout for new collaborators, and in 1967 he was once again working with Van Morrison, who he'd worked with a couple of years earlier when Morrison was still the lead singer of Them. Towards the beginning of 1967 he had come up with a chorus, but no verse. He had the hook, "Take another little piece of my heart" -- Berns was writing a lot of songs with "heart" in the title at the time -- and wanted Morrison to come up with a verse to go with it. Van Morrison declined. He wasn't interested in writing pop songs, or in collaborating with other writers, and so Berns turned to one of his regular collaborators, Jerry Ragavoy, and it was Ragavoy who added the verses to one of the biggest successes of Berns' career: [Excerpt: Erma Franklin, "Piece of My Heart"] The story of how Van Morrison came to make the album that's often considered his masterpiece is intimately tied up with the story we've been telling in the background for several episodes now, the story of Atlantic Records' sale to Warners, and the story of Bert Berns' departure from Atlantic. For that reason, some parts of the story I'm about to tell will be familiar to those of you who've been paying close attention to the earlier episodes, but as always I'm going to take you from there to somewhere we've never been before. In 1962, Bert Berns was a moderately successful songwriter, who had written or co-written songs for many artists, especially for artists on Atlantic Records. He'd written songs for Atlantic artists like LaVern Baker, and when Atlantic's top pop producers Leiber and Stoller started to distance themselves from the label in the early sixties, he had moved into production as well, writing and producing Solomon Burke's big hit "Cry to Me": [Excerpt: Solomon Burke, "Cry to Me"] He was the producer and writer or co-writer of most of Burke's hits from that point forward, but at first he was still a freelance producer, and also produced records for Scepter Records, like the Isley Brothers' version of "Twist and Shout", another song he'd co-written, that one with Phil Medley. And as a jobbing songwriter, of course his songs were picked up by other producers, so Leiber and Stoller produced a version of his song "Tell Him" for the Exciters on United Artists: [Excerpt: The Exciters, "Tell Him"] Berns did freelance work for Leiber and Stoller as well as the other people he was working for. For example, when their former protege Phil Spector released his hit version of "Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah", they got Berns to come up with a knockoff arrangement of "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?", released as by Baby Jane and the Rockabyes, with a production credit "Produced by Leiber and Stoller, directed by Bert Berns": [Excerpt: Baby Jane and the Rockabyes, "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?"] And when Leiber and Stoller stopped producing work for United Artists, Berns took over some of the artists they'd been producing for the label, like Marv Johnson, as well as producing his own new artists, like Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, who had been discovered by Berns' friend Jerry Ragovoy, with whom he co-wrote their "Cry Baby": [Excerpt: Garnet Mimms and the Enchanters, "Cry Baby"] Berns was an inveterate collaborator. He was one of the few people to get co-writing credits with Leiber and Stoller, and he would collaborate seemingly with everyone who spoke to him for five minutes. He would also routinely reuse material, cutting the same songs time and again with different artists, knowing that a song must be a hit for *someone*. One of his closest collaborators was Jerry Wexler, who also became one of his best friends, even though one of their earliest interactions had been when Wexler had supervised Phil Spector's production of Berns' "Twist and Shout" for the Top Notes, a record that Berns had thought had butchered the song. Berns was, in his deepest bones, a record man. Listening to the records that Berns made, there's a strong continuity in everything he does. There's a love there of simplicity -- almost none of his records have more than three chords. He loved Latin sounds and rhythms -- a love he shared with other people working in Brill Building R&B at the time, like Leiber and Stoller and Spector -- and great voices in emotional distress. There's a reason that the records he produced for Solomon Burke were the first R&B records to be labelled "soul". Berns was one of those people for whom feel and commercial success are inextricable. He was an artist -- the records he made were powerfully expressive -- but he was an artist for whom the biggest validation was *getting a hit*. Only a small proportion of the records he made became hits, but enough did that in the early sixties he was a name that could be spoken of in the same breath as Leiber and Stoller, Spector, and Bacharach and David. And Atlantic needed a record man. The only people producing hits for the label at this point were Leiber and Stoller, and they were in the process of stopping doing freelance work and setting up their own label, Red Bird, as we talked about in the episode on the Shangri-Las. And anyway, they wanted more money than they were getting, and Jerry Wexler was never very keen on producers wanting money that could have gone to the record label. Wexler decided to sign Bert Berns up as a staff producer for Atlantic towards the end of 1963, and by May 1964 it was paying off. Atlantic hadn't been having hits, and now Berns had four tracks he wrote and produced for Atlantic on the Hot One Hundred, of which the highest charting was "My Girl Sloopy" by the Vibrations: [Excerpt: The Vibrations, "My Girl Sloopy"] Even higher on the charts though was the Beatles' version of "Twist and Shout". That record, indeed, had been successful enough in the UK that Berns had already made exploratory trips to the UK and produced records for Dick Rowe at Decca, a partnership we heard about in the episode on "Here Comes the Night". Berns had made partnerships there which would have vast repercussions for the music industry in both countries, and one of them was with the arranger Mike Leander, who was the uncredited arranger for the Drifters session for "Under the Boardwalk", a song written by Artie Resnick and Kenny Young and produced by Berns, recorded the day after the group's lead singer Rudy Lewis died of an overdose: [Excerpt: The Drifters, "Under the Boardwalk"] Berns was making hits on a regular basis by mid-1964, and the income from the label's new success allowed Jerry Wexler and the Ertegun brothers to buy out their other partners -- Ahmet Ertegun's old dentist, who had put up some of the initial money, and Miriam Bienstock, the ex-wife of their initial partner Herb Abramson, who'd got Abramson's share in the company after the divorce, and who was now married to Freddie Bienstock of Hill and Range publishing. Wex
Episode 169 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Piece of My Heart" and the short, tragic life of Janis Joplin. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode available, on "Spinning Wheel" by Blood, Sweat & Tears. 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 are two Mixcloud mixes this time. As there are so many songs by Big Brother and the Holding Company and Janis Joplin excerpted, and Mixcloud won’t allow more than four songs by the same artist in any mix, I’ve had to post the songs not in quite the same order in which they appear in the podcast. But the mixes are here — one, two . For information on Janis Joplin I used three biographies -- Scars of Sweet Paradise by Alice Echols, Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren, and Buried Alive by Myra Friedman. I also referred to the chapter '“Being Good Isn’t Always Easy": Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Dusty Springfield, and the Color of Soul' in Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination by Jack Hamilton. Some information on Bessie Smith came from Bessie Smith by Jackie Kay, a book I can't really recommend given the lack of fact-checking, and Bessie by Chris Albertson. I also referred to Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis And the best place to start with Joplin's music is this five-CD box, which contains both Big Brother and the Holding Company albums she was involved in, plus her two studio albums and bonus tracks. 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 contains discussion of drug addiction and overdose, alcoholism, mental illness, domestic abuse, child abandonment, and racism. If those subjects are likely to cause you upset, you may want to check the transcript or skip this one rather than listen. Also, a subject I should probably say a little more about in this intro because I know I have inadvertently caused upset to at least one listener with this in the past. When it comes to Janis Joplin, it is *impossible* to talk about her without discussing her issues with her weight and self-image. The way I write often involves me paraphrasing the opinions of the people I'm writing about, in a mode known as close third person, and sometimes that means it can look like I am stating those opinions as my own, and sometimes things I say in that mode which *I* think are obviously meant in context to be critiques of those attitudes can appear to others to be replicating them. At least once, I have seriously upset a fat listener when talking about issues related to weight in this manner. I'm going to try to be more careful here, but just in case, I'm going to say before I begin that I think fatphobia is a pernicious form of bigotry, as bad as any other form of bigotry. I'm fat myself and well aware of how systemic discrimination affects fat people. I also think more generally that the pressure put on women to look a particular way is pernicious and disgusting in ways I can't even begin to verbalise, and causes untold harm. If *ANYTHING* I say in this episode comes across as sounding otherwise, that's because I haven't expressed myself clearly enough. Like all people, Janis Joplin had negative characteristics, and at times I'm going to say things that are critical of those. But when it comes to anything to do with her weight or her appearance, if *anything* I say sounds critical of her, rather than of a society that makes women feel awful for their appearance, it isn't meant to. Anyway, on with the show. On January the nineteenth, 1943, Seth Joplin typed up a letter to his wife Dorothy, which read “I wish to tender my congratulations on the anniversary of your successful completion of your production quota for the nine months ending January 19, 1943. I realize that you passed through a period of inflation such as you had never before known—yet, in spite of this, you met your goal by your supreme effort during the early hours of January 19, a good three weeks ahead of schedule.” As you can probably tell from that message, the Joplin family were a strange mixture of ultraconformism and eccentricity, and those two opposing forces would dominate the personality of their firstborn daughter for the whole of her life.  Seth Joplin was a respected engineer at Texaco, where he worked for forty years, but he had actually dropped out of engineering school before completing his degree. His favourite pastime when he wasn't at work was to read -- he was a voracious reader -- and to listen to classical music, which would often move him to tears, but he had also taught himself to make bathtub gin during prohibition, and smoked cannabis. Dorothy, meanwhile, had had the possibility of a singing career before deciding to settle down and become a housewife, and was known for having a particularly beautiful soprano voice. Both were, by all accounts, fiercely intelligent people, but they were also as committed as anyone to the ideals of the middle-class family even as they chafed against its restrictions. Like her mother, young Janis had a beautiful soprano voice, and she became a soloist in her church choir, but after the age of six, she was not encouraged to sing much. Dorothy had had a thyroid operation which destroyed her singing voice, and the family got rid of their piano soon after (different sources say that this was either because Dorothy found her daughter's singing painful now that she couldn't sing herself, or because Seth was upset that his wife could no longer sing. Either seems plausible.) Janis was pushed to be a high-achiever -- she was given a library card as soon as she could write her name, and encouraged to use it, and she was soon advanced in school, skipping a couple of grades. She was also by all accounts a fiercely talented painter, and her parents paid for art lessons. From everything one reads about her pre-teen years, she was a child prodigy who was loved by everyone and who was clearly going to be a success of some kind. Things started to change when she reached her teenage years. Partly, this was just her getting into rock and roll music, which her father thought a fad -- though even there, she differed from her peers. She loved Elvis, but when she heard "Hound Dog", she loved it so much that she tracked down a copy of Big Mama Thornton's original, and told her friends she preferred that: [Excerpt: Big Mama Thornton, "Hound Dog"] Despite this, she was still also an exemplary student and overachiever. But by the time she turned fourteen, things started to go very wrong for her. Partly this was just down to her relationship with her father changing -- she adored him, but he became more distant from his daughters as they grew into women. But also, puberty had an almost wholly negative effect on her, at least by the standards of that time and place. She put on weight (which, again, I do not think is a negative thing, but she did, and so did everyone around her), she got a bad case of acne which didn't ever really go away, and she also didn't develop breasts particularly quickly -- which, given that she was a couple of years younger than the other people in the same classes at school, meant she stood out even more. In the mid-sixties, a doctor apparently diagnosed her as having a "hormone imbalance" -- something that got to her as a possible explanation for why she was, to quote from a letter she wrote then, "not really a woman or enough of one or something." She wondered if "maybe something as simple as a pill could have helped out or even changed that part of me I call ME and has been so messed up.” I'm not a doctor and even if I were, diagnosing historical figures is an unethical thing to do, but certainly the acne, weight gain, and mental health problems she had are all consistent with PCOS, the most common endocrine disorder among women, and it seems likely given what the doctor told her that this was the cause. But at the time all she knew was that she was different, and that in the eyes of her fellow students she had gone from being pretty to being ugly. She seems to have been a very trusting, naive, person who was often the brunt of jokes but who desperately needed to be accepted, and it became clear that her appearance wasn't going to let her fit into the conformist society she was being brought up in, while her high intelligence, low impulse control, and curiosity meant she couldn't even fade into the background. This left her one other option, and she decided that she would deliberately try to look and act as different from everyone else as possible. That way, it would be a conscious choice on her part to reject the standards of her fellow pupils, rather than her being rejected by them. She started to admire rebels. She became a big fan of Jerry Lee Lewis, whose music combined the country music she'd grown up hearing in Texas, the R&B she liked now, and the rebellious nature she was trying to cultivate: [Excerpt: Jerry Lee Lewis, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"] When Lewis' career was derailed by his marriage to his teenage cousin, Joplin wrote an angry letter to Time magazine complaining that they had mistreated him in their coverage. But as with so many people of her generation, her love of rock and roll music led her first to the blues and then to folk, and she soon found herself listening to Odetta: [Excerpt: Odetta, "Muleskinner Blues"] One of her first experiences of realising she could gain acceptance from her peers by singing was when she was hanging out with the small group of Bohemian teenagers she
Episode 168 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Say a Little Prayer”, and the interaction of the sacred, political, and secular in Aretha Franklin's life and work. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-five-minute bonus episode available, on "Abraham, Martin, and John" by Dion. 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 I say the Gospelaires sang backing vocals on Doris Troy's "Just One Look". That's what the sources I used said, but other sources I've since been pointed to say that the vocals are all Troy, multi-tracked, and listening to the record that sounds more plausible. Also, I talk about ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" just after talking about white rock hits, but don't actually say they were white themselves. To be clear, ? and the Mysterians were Latino. Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by Aretha Franklin. Even splitting it into multiple parts would have required six or seven mixes. My main biographical source for Aretha Franklin is Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by David Ritz, and this is where most of the quotes from musicians come from. Information on C.L. Franklin came from Singing in a Strange Land: C. L. Franklin, the Black Church, and the Transformation of America by Nick Salvatore. Country Soul by Charles L Hughes is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties. Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm And Blues And The Southern Dream Of Freedom is possibly less essential, but still definitely worth reading. Information about Martin Luther King came from Martin Luther King: A Religious Life by Paul Harvey. I also referred to Burt Bacharach's autobiography Anyone Who Had a Heart, Carole King's autobiography A Natural Woman, and Soul Serenade: King Curtis and his Immortal Saxophone by Timothy R. Hoover. For information about Amazing Grace I also used Aaron Cohen's 33 1/3 book on the album. The film of the concerts is also definitely worth watching. And the Aretha Now album is available in this five-album box set for a ludicrously cheap price. But it’s actually worth getting this nineteen-CD set with her first sixteen Atlantic albums and a couple of bonus discs of demos and outtakes. There’s barely a duff track in the whole nineteen discs. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A quick warning before I begin. This episode contains some moderate references to domestic abuse, death by cancer, racial violence, police violence, and political assassination. Anyone who might be upset by those subjects might want to check the transcript rather than listening to the episode. Also, as with the previous episode on Aretha Franklin, this episode presents something of a problem. Like many people in this narrative, Franklin's career was affected by personal troubles, which shaped many of her decisions. But where most of the subjects of the podcast have chosen to live their lives in public and share intimate details of every aspect of their personal lives, Franklin was an extremely private person, who chose to share only carefully sanitised versions of her life, and tried as far as possible to keep things to herself. This of course presents a dilemma for anyone who wants to tell her story -- because even though the information is out there in biographies, and even though she's dead, it's not right to disrespect someone's wish for a private life. I have therefore tried, wherever possible, to stay away from talk of her personal life except where it *absolutely* affects the work, or where other people involved have publicly shared their own stories, and even there I've tried to keep it to a minimum.  This will occasionally lead to me saying less about some topics than other people might, even though the information is easily findable, because I don't think we have an absolute right to invade someone else's privacy for entertainment. When we left Aretha Franklin, she had just finally broken through into the mainstream after a decade of performing, with a version of Otis Redding's song "Respect" on which she had been backed by her sisters, Erma and Carolyn. "Respect", in Franklin's interpretation, had been turned from a rather chauvinist song about a man demanding respect from his woman into an anthem of feminism, of Black power, and of a new political awakening. For white people of a certain generation, the summer of 1967 was "the summer of love". For many Black people, it was rather different. There's a quote that goes around (I've seen it credited in reliable sources to both Ebony and Jet magazine, but not ever seen an issue cited, so I can't say for sure where it came from) saying that the summer of 67 was the summer of "'retha, Rap, and revolt", referring to the trifecta of Aretha Franklin, the Black power leader Jamil Abdullah al-Amin (who was at the time known as H. Rap Brown, a name he later disclaimed) and the rioting that broke out in several major cities, particularly in Detroit: [Excerpt: John Lee Hooker, "The Motor City is Burning"] The mid sixties were, in many ways, the high point not of Black rights in the US -- for the most part there has been a lot of progress in civil rights in the intervening decades, though not without inevitable setbacks and attacks from the far right, and as movements like the Black Lives Matter movement have shown there is still a long way to go -- but of *hope* for Black rights. The moral force of the arguments made by the civil rights movement were starting to cause real change to happen for Black people in the US for the first time since the Reconstruction nearly a century before. But those changes weren't happening fast enough, and as we heard in the episode on "I Was Made to Love Her", there was not only a growing unrest among Black people, but a recognition that it was actually possible for things to change. A combination of hope and frustration can be a powerful catalyst, and whether Franklin wanted it or not, she was at the centre of things, both because of her newfound prominence as a star with a hit single that couldn't be interpreted as anything other than a political statement and because of her intimate family connections to the struggle. Even the most racist of white people these days pays lip service to the memory of Dr Martin Luther King, and when they do they quote just a handful of sentences from one speech King made in 1963, as if that sums up the full theological and political philosophy of that most complex of men. And as we discussed the last time we looked at Aretha Franklin, King gave versions of that speech, the "I Have a Dream" speech, twice. The most famous version was at the March on Washington, but the first time was a few weeks earlier, at what was at the time the largest civil rights demonstration in American history, in Detroit. Aretha's family connection to that event is made clear by the very opening of King's speech: [Excerpt: Martin Luther King, "Original 'I Have a Dream' Speech"] So as summer 1967 got into swing, and white rock music was going to San Francisco to wear flowers in its hair, Aretha Franklin was at the centre of a very different kind of youth revolution. Franklin's second Atlantic album, Aretha Arrives, brought in some new personnel to the team that had recorded Aretha's first album for Atlantic. Along with the core Muscle Shoals players Jimmy Johnson, Spooner Oldham, Tommy Cogbill and Roger Hawkins, and a horn section led by King Curtis, Wexler and Dowd also brought in guitarist Joe South. South was a white session player from Georgia, who had had a few minor hits himself in the fifties -- he'd got his start recording a cover version of "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor", the Big Bopper's B-side to "Chantilly Lace": [Excerpt: Joe South, "The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor"] He'd also written a few songs that had been recorded by people like Gene Vincent, but he'd mostly become a session player. He'd become a favourite musician of Bob Johnston's, and so he'd played guitar on Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme albums: [Excerpt: Simon and Garfunkel, "I am a Rock"] and bass on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, with Al Kooper particularly praising his playing on "Visions of Johanna": [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"] South would be the principal guitarist on this and Franklin's next album, before his own career took off in 1968 with "Games People Play": [Excerpt: Joe South, "Games People Play"] At this point, he had already written the other song he's best known for, "Hush", which later became a hit for Deep Purple: [Excerpt: Deep Purple, "Hush"] But he wasn't very well known, and was surprised to get the call for the Aretha Franklin session, especially because, as he put it "I was white and I was about to play behind the blackest genius since Ray Charles" But Jerry Wexler had told him that Franklin didn't care about the race of the musicians she played with, and South settled in as soon as Franklin smiled at him when he played a good guitar lick on her version of the blues standard "Going Down Slow": [Excerpt: Aretha Franklin, "Going Down Slow"] That was one of the few times Franklin smiled in those sessions though. Becoming an overnight success after years of trying and failing to make a name for herself had been a disorienting experience, and on top of that things weren't going well in her personal life. Her marriage to her manager Ted White was falling apart, and she was
Episode one hundred and sixty-seven of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “The Weight" by the Band, the Basement Tapes, and the continuing controversy over Dylan going electric. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a half-hour bonus episode available, on "S.F. Sorrow is Born" by the Pretty Things. 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 Also, a one-time request here -- Shawn Taylor, who runs the Facebook group for the podcast and is an old and dear friend of mine, has stage-three lung cancer. I will be hugely grateful to anyone who donates to the GoFundMe for her treatment. Errata At one point I say "when Robertson and Helm travelled to the Brill Building". I meant "when Hawkins and Helm". This is fixed in the transcript but not the recording. Resources There are three Mixcloud mixes this time. As there are so many songs by Bob Dylan and the Band excerpted, and Mixcloud won’t allow more than four songs by the same artist in any mix, I’ve had to post the songs not in quite the same order in which they appear in the podcast. But the mixes are here — one, two, three. I’ve used these books for all the episodes involving Dylan: Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties by Elijah Wald, which is recommended, as all Wald’s books are. Bob Dylan: All The Songs by Phillipe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon is a song-by-song look at every song Dylan ever wrote, as is Revolution in the Air, by Clinton Heylin. Heylin also wrote the most comprehensive and accurate biography of Dylan, Behind the Shades. I’ve also used Robert Shelton’s No Direction Home, which is less accurate, but which is written by someone who knew Dylan. Chronicles Volume 1 by Bob Dylan is a partial, highly inaccurate, but thoroughly readable autobiography. Information on Tiny Tim comes from Eternal Troubadour: The Improbable Life of Tiny Tim by Justin Martell. Information on John Cage comes from The Roaring Silence by David Revill Information on Woodstock comes from Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns. For material on the Basement Tapes, I've used Million Dollar Bash by Sid Griffin. And for the Band, I've used This Wheel's on Fire by Levon Helm with Stephen Davis, Testimony by Robbie Robertson, The Band by Craig Harris and Levon by Sandra B Tooze. I've also referred to the documentaries No Direction Home and Once Were Brothers. The complete Basement Tapes can be found on this multi-disc box set, while this double-CD version has the best material from the sessions. All the surviving live recordings by Dylan and the Hawks from 1966 are on this box set. There are various deluxe versions of Music From Big Pink, but still the best way to get the original album is in this twofer CD with the Band's second album. Transcript Just a brief note before I start – literally while I was in the middle of recording this episode, it was announced that Robbie Robertson had died today, aged eighty. Obviously I've not had time to alter the rest of the episode – half of which had already been edited – with that in mind, though I don't believe I say anything disrespectful to his memory. My condolences to those who loved him – he was a huge talent and will be missed. There are people in the world who question the function of criticism. Those people argue that criticism is in many ways parasitic. If critics knew what they were talking about, so the argument goes, they would create themselves, rather than talk about other people's creation. It's a variant of the "those who can't, teach" cliche. And to an extent it's true. Certainly in the world of rock music, which we're talking about in this podcast, most critics are quite staggeringly ignorant of the things they're talking about. Most criticism is ephemeral, published in newspapers, magazines, blogs and podcasts, and forgotten as soon as it has been consumed -- and consumed is the word . But sometimes, just sometimes, a critic will have an effect on the world that is at least as important as that of any of the artists they criticise. One such critic was John Ruskin. Ruskin was one of the preeminent critics of visual art in the Victorian era, particularly specialising in painting and architecture, and he passionately advocated for a form of art that would be truthful, plain, and honest. To Ruskin's mind, many artists of the past, and of his time, drew and painted, not what they saw with their own eyes, but what other people expected them to paint. They replaced true observation of nature with the regurgitation of ever-more-mannered and formalised cliches. His attacks on many great artists were, in essence, the same critiques that are currently brought against AI art apps -- they're just recycling and plagiarising what other people had already done, not seeing with their own eyes and creating from their own vision. Ruskin was an artist himself, but never received much acclaim for his own work. Rather, he advocated for the works of others, like Turner and the pre-Raphaelite school -- the latter of whom were influenced by Ruskin, even as he admired them for seeing with their own vision rather than just repeating influences from others. But those weren't the only people Ruskin influenced. Because any critical project, properly understood, becomes about more than just the art -- as if art is just anything. Ruskin, for example, studied geology, because if you're going to talk about how people should paint landscapes and what those landscapes look like, you need to understand what landscapes really do look like, which means understanding their formation. He understood that art of the kind he wanted could only be produced by certain types of people, and so society had to be organised in a way to produce such people. Some types of societal organisation lead to some kinds of thinking and creation, and to properly, honestly, understand one branch of human thought means at least to attempt to understand all of them. Opinions about art have moral consequences, and morality has political and economic consequences. The inevitable endpoint of any theory of art is, ultimately, a theory of society. And Ruskin had a theory of society, and social organisation. Ruskin's views are too complex to summarise here, but they were a kind of anarcho-primitivist collectivism. He believed that wealth was evil, and that the classical liberal economics of people like Mill was fundamentally anti-human, that the division of labour alienated people from their work. In Ruskin's ideal world, people would gather in communities no bigger than villages, and work as craftspeople, working with nature rather than trying to bend nature to their will. They would be collectives, with none richer or poorer than any other, and working the land without modern technology. in the first half of the twentieth century, in particular, Ruskin's influence was *everywhere*. His writings on art inspired the Impressionist movement, but his political and economic ideas were the most influential, right across the political spectrum. Ruskin's ideas were closest to Christian socialism, and he did indeed inspire many socialist parties -- most of the founders of Britain's Labour Party were admirers of Ruskin and influenced by his ideas, particularly his opposition to the free market. But he inspired many other people -- Gandhi talked about the profound influence that Ruskin had on him, saying in his autobiography that he got three lessons from Ruskin's Unto This Last: "That 1) the good of the individual is contained in the good of all. 2) a lawyer's work has the same value as the barber's in as much as all have the same right of earning their livelihood from their work. 3) a life of labour, i.e., the life of the tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman is the life worth living. The first of these I knew. The second I had dimly realized. The third had never occurred to me. Unto This Last made it clear as daylight for me that the second and third were contained in the first. I arose with the dawn, ready to reduce these principles to practice" Gandhi translated and paraphrased Unto this Last into Gujurati and called the resulting book Sarvodaya (meaning "uplifting all" or "the welfare of all") which he later took as the name of his own political philosophy. But Ruskin also had a more pernicious influence -- it was said in 1930s Germany that he and his friend Thomas Carlyle were "the first National Socialists" -- there's no evidence I know of that Hitler ever read Ruskin, but a *lot* of Nazi rhetoric is implicit in Ruskin's writing, particularly in his opposition to progress (he even opposed the bicycle as being too much inhuman interference with nature), just as much as more admirable philosophies, and he was so widely read in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that there's barely a political movement anywhere that didn't bear his fingerprints. But of course, our focus here is on music. And Ruskin had an influence on that, too. We've talked in several episodes, most recently the one on the Velvet Underground, about John Cage's piece 4'33. What I didn't mention in any of the discussions of that piece -- because I was saving it for here -- is that that piece was premiered at a small concert hall in upstate New York. The hall, the Maverick Concert Hall, was owned and run by the Maverick arts and crafts collective -- a collective that were so called because they were the *second* Ruskinite arts colony in the area, having split off from the Byrdcliffe colony after a dispute between its three founders, all of whom were disciples of Ruskin, and all of whom disagreed violently about how to implement Ruskin's ideas of pacifist a
Episode 166 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Crossroads", Cream, the myth of Robert Johnson, and whether white men can sing the blues. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a forty-eight-minute bonus episode available, on “Tip-Toe Thru' the Tulips" by Tiny Tim. 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 I talk about an interview with Clapton from 1967, I meant 1968. I mention a Graham Bond live recording from 1953, and of course meant 1963. I say Paul Jones was on vocals in the Powerhouse sessions. Steve Winwood was on vocals, and Jones was on harmonica. Resources As I say at the end, the main resource you need to get if you enjoyed this episode is Brother Robert by Annye Anderson, Robert Johnson's stepsister. There are three Mixcloud mixes this time. As there are so many songs by Cream, Robert Johnson, John Mayall, and Graham Bond excerpted, and Mixcloud won't allow more than four songs by the same artist in any mix, I've had to post the songs not in quite the same order in which they appear in the podcast. But the mixes are here -- one, two, three. This article on Mack McCormick gives a fuller explanation of the problems with his research and behaviour. The other books I used for the Robert Johnson sections were McCormick's Biography of a Phantom; Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow; Searching for Robert Johnson by Peter Guralnick; and Escaping the Delta by Elijah Wald. I can recommend all of these subject to the caveats at the end of the episode. The information on the history and prehistory of the Delta blues mostly comes from Before Elvis by Larry Birnbaum, with some coming from Charley Patton by John Fahey. The information on Cream comes mostly from Cream: How Eric Clapton Took the World by Storm by Dave Thompson. I also used Ginger Baker: Hellraiser by Ginger Baker and Ginette Baker, Mr Showbiz by Stephen Dando-Collins, Motherless Child by Paul Scott, and  Alexis Korner: The Biography by Harry Shapiro. The best collection of Cream's work is the four-CD set Those Were the Days, which contains every track the group ever released while they were together (though only the stereo mixes of the albums, and a couple of tracks are in slightly different edits from the originals). You can get Johnson's music on many budget compilation records, as it's in the public domain in the EU, but the double CD collection produced by Steve LaVere for Sony in 2011 is, despite the problems that come from it being associated with LaVere, far and away the best option -- the remasters have a clarity that's worlds ahead of even the 1990s CD version it replaced. And for a good single-CD introduction to the Delta blues musicians and songsters who were Johnson's peers and inspirations, Back to the Crossroads: The Roots of Robert Johnson, compiled by Elijah Wald as a companion to his book on Johnson, can't be beaten, and contains many of the tracks excerpted in this episode. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before we start, a quick note that this episode contains discussion of racism, drug addiction, and early death. There's also a brief mention of death in childbirth and infant mortality. It's been a while since we looked at the British blues movement, and at the blues in general, so some of you may find some of what follows familiar, as we're going to look at some things we've talked about previously, but from a different angle. In 1968, the Bonzo Dog Band, a comedy musical band that have been described as the missing link between the Beatles and the Monty Python team, released a track called "Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?": [Excerpt: The Bonzo Dog Band, "Can Blue Men Sing the Whites?"] That track was mocking a discussion that was very prominent in Britain's music magazines around that time. 1968 saw the rise of a *lot* of British bands who started out as blues bands, though many of them went on to different styles of music -- Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack and others were all becoming popular among the kind of people who read the music magazines, and so the question was being asked -- can white men sing the blues? Of course, the answer to that question was obvious. After all, white men *invented* the blues. Before we get any further at all, I have to make clear that I do *not* mean that white people created blues music. But "the blues" as a category, and particularly the idea of it as a music made largely by solo male performers playing guitar... that was created and shaped by the actions of white male record executives. There is no consensus as to when or how the blues as a genre started -- as we often say in this podcast "there is no first anything", but like every genre it seems to have come from multiple sources. In the case of the blues, there's probably some influence from African music by way of field chants sung by enslaved people, possibly some influence from Arabic music as well, definitely some influence from the Irish and British folk songs that by the late nineteenth century were developing into what we now call country music, a lot from ragtime, and a lot of influence from vaudeville and minstrel songs -- which in turn themselves were all very influenced by all those other things. Probably the first published composition to show any real influence of the blues is from 1904, a ragtime piano piece by James Chapman and Leroy Smith, "One O' Them Things": [Excerpt: "One O' Them Things"] That's not very recognisable as a blues piece yet, but it is more-or-less a twelve-bar blues. But the blues developed, and it developed as a result of a series of commercial waves. The first of these came in 1914, with the success of W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues", which when it was recorded by the Victor Military Band for a phonograph cylinder became what is generally considered the first blues record proper: [Excerpt: The Victor Military Band, "Memphis Blues"] The famous dancers Vernon and Irene Castle came up with a dance, the foxtrot -- which Vernon Castle later admitted was largely inspired by Black dancers -- to be danced to the "Memphis Blues", and the foxtrot soon overtook the tango, which the Castles had introduced to the US the previous year, to become the most popular dance in America for the best part of three decades. And with that came an explosion in blues in the Handy style, cranked out by every music publisher. While the blues was a style largely created by Black performers and writers, the segregated nature of the American music industry at the time meant that most vocal performances of these early blues that were captured on record were by white performers, Black vocalists at this time only rarely getting the chance to record. The first blues record with a Black vocalist is also technically the first British blues record. A group of Black musicians, apparently mostly American but led by a Jamaican pianist, played at Ciro's Club in London, and recorded many tracks in Britain, under a name which I'm not going to say in full -- it started with Ciro's Club, and continued alliteratively with another word starting with C, a slur for Black people. In 1917 they recorded a vocal version of "St. Louis Blues", another W.C. Handy composition: [Excerpt: Ciro's Club C**n Orchestra, "St. Louis Blues"] The first American Black blues vocal didn't come until two years later, when Bert Williams, a Black minstrel-show performer who like many Black performers of his era performed in blackface even though he was Black, recorded “I’m Sorry I Ain’t Got It You Could Have It If I Had It Blues,” [Excerpt: Bert Williams, "I’m Sorry I Ain’t Got It You Could Have It If I Had It Blues,”] But it wasn't until 1920 that the second, bigger, wave of popularity started for the blues, and this time it started with the first record of a Black *woman* singing the blues -- Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues": [Excerpt: Mamie Smith, "Crazy Blues"] You can hear the difference between that and anything we've heard up to that point -- that's the first record that anyone from our perspective, a hundred and three years later, would listen to and say that it bore any resemblance to what we think of as the blues -- so much so that many places still credit it as the first ever blues record. And there's a reason for that. "Crazy Blues" was one of those records that separates the music industry into before and after, like "Rock Around the Clock", "I Want to Hold Your Hand", Sgt Pepper, or "Rapper's Delight". It sold seventy-five thousand copies in its first month -- a massive number by the standards of 1920 -- and purportedly went on to sell over a million copies. Sales figures and market analysis weren't really a thing in the same way in 1920, but even so it became very obvious that "Crazy Blues" was a big hit, and that unlike pretty much any other previous records, it was a big hit among Black listeners, which meant that there was a market for music aimed at Black people that was going untapped. Soon all the major record labels were setting up subsidiaries devoted to what they called "race music", music made by and for Black people. And this sees the birth of what is now known as "classic blues", but at the time (and for decades after) was just what people thought of when they thought of "the blues" as a genre. This was music primarily sung by female vaudeville artists backed by jazz bands, people like Ma Rainey (whose earliest recordings featured Louis Armstrong in her backing band): [Excerpt: Ma Rainey, "See See Rider Blues"] And Bessie Smith, the "Empress of the Blues", who
Episode 165 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Dark Star” and the career of the Grateful Dead. This is a long one, even longer than the previous episode, but don't worry, that won't be the norm. There's a reason these two were much longer than average. 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 "Codine" by the Charlatans. Errata I mispronounce Brent Mydland's name as Myland a couple of times, and in the introduction I say "Touch of Grey" came out in 1988 -- I later, correctly, say 1987. (I seem to have had a real problem with dates in the intro -- I also originally talked about "Blue Suede Shoes" being in 1954 before fixing it in the edit to be 1956) Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by the Grateful Dead, and Grayfolded runs to two hours. I referred to a lot of books for this episode, partly because almost everything about the Grateful Dead is written from a fannish perspective that already assumes background knowledge, rather than to provide that background knowledge. Of the various books I used, Dennis McNally's biography of the band and This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans are probably most useful for the casually interested.  Other books on the Dead I used included McNally's Jerry on Jerry, a collection of interviews with Garcia; Deal, Bill Kreutzmann's autobiography; The Grateful Dead FAQ by Tony Sclafani; So Many Roads by David Browne; Deadology by Howard F. Weiner; Fare Thee Well by Joel Selvin and Pamela Turley; and Skeleton Key: A Dictionary for Deadheads by David Shenk and Steve Silberman. Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is the classic account of the Pranksters, though not always reliable. I reference Slaughterhouse Five a lot. As well as the novel itself, which everyone should read, I also read this rather excellent graphic novel adaptation, and The Writer's Crusade, a book about the writing of the novel. I also reference Ted Sturgeon's More Than Human. For background on the scene around Astounding Science Fiction which included Sturgeon, John W. Campbell, L. Ron Hubbard, and many other science fiction writers, I recommend Alec Nevala-Lee's Astounding. 1,000 True Fans can be read online, as can the essay on the Californian ideology, and John Perry Barlow's "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace". The best collection of Grateful Dead material is the box set The Golden Road, which contains all the albums released in Pigpen's lifetime along with a lot of bonus material, but which appears currently out of print. Live/Dead contains both the live version of "Dark Star" which made it well known and, as a CD bonus track, the original single version. And has more live recordings of the group than you can possibly ever listen to. Grayfolded can be bought from John Oswald's Bandcamp Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript [Excerpt: Tuning from "Grayfolded", under the warnings] Before we begin -- as we're tuning up, as it were, I should mention that this episode contains discussions of alcoholism, drug addiction, racism, nonconsensual drugging of other people, and deaths from drug abuse, suicide, and car accidents. As always, I try to deal with these subjects as carefully as possible, but if you find any of those things upsetting you may wish to read the transcript rather than listen to this episode, or skip it altogether. Also, I should note that the members of the Grateful Dead were much freer with their use of swearing in interviews than any other band we've covered so far, and that makes using quotes from them rather more difficult than with other bands, given the limitations of the rules imposed to stop the podcast being marked as adult. If I quote anything with a word I can't use here, I'll give a brief pause in the audio, and in the transcript I'll have the word in square brackets. [tuning ends] All this happened, more or less. In 1910, T. S. Eliot started work on "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", which at the time was deemed barely poetry, with one reviewer imagining Eliot saying "I'll just put down the first thing that comes into my head, and call it 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.'" It is now considered one of the great classics of modernist literature. In 1969, Kurt Vonnegut wrote "Slaughterhouse-Five,  or, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death", a book in which the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, comes unstuck in time, and starts living a nonlinear life, hopping around between times reliving his experiences in the Second World War, and future experiences up to 1976 after being kidnapped by beings from the planet Tralfamadore. Or perhaps he has flashbacks and hallucinations after having a breakdown from PTSD. It is now considered one of the great classics of modernist literature or of science fiction, depending on how you look at it.  In 1953, Theodore Sturgeon wrote More Than Human. It is now considered one of the great classics of science fiction. In 1950, L. Ron Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. It is now considered either a bad piece of science fiction or one of the great revelatory works of religious history, depending on how you look at it. In 1994, 1995, and 1996 the composer John Oswald released, first as two individual CDs and then as a double-CD, an album called Grayfolded, which the composer says in the liner notes he thinks of as existing in Tralfamadorian time. The Tralfamadorians in Vonnegut's novels don't see time as a linear thing with a beginning and end, but as a continuum that they can move between at will. When someone dies, they just think that at this particular point in time they're not doing so good, but at other points in time they're fine, so why focus on the bad time? In the book, when told of someone dying, the Tralfamadorians just say "so it goes". In between the first CD's release and the release of the double-CD version, Jerry Garcia died. From August 1942 through August 1995, Jerry Garcia was alive. So it goes. Shall we go, you and I? [Excerpt: The Grateful Dead, "Dark Star (Omni 3/30/94)"] "One principle has become clear. Since motives are so frequently found in combination, it is essential that the complex types be analyzed and arranged, with an eye kept single nevertheless to the master-theme under discussion. Collectors, both primary and subsidiary, have done such valiant service that the treasures at our command are amply sufficient for such studies, so extensive, indeed, that the task of going through them thoroughly has become too great for the unassisted student. It cannot be too strongly urged that a single theme in its various types and compounds must be made predominant in any useful comparative study. This is true when the sources and analogues of any literary work are treated; it is even truer when the bare motive is discussed. The Grateful Dead furnishes an apt illustration of the necessity of such handling. It appears in a variety of different combinations, almost never alone. Indeed, it is so widespread a tale, and its combinations are so various, that there is the utmost difficulty in determining just what may properly be regarded the original kernel of it, the simple theme to which other motives were joined. Various opinions, as we shall see, have been held with reference to this matter, most of them justified perhaps by the materials in the hands of the scholars holding them, but none quite adequate in view of later evidence." That's a quote from The Grateful Dead: The History of a Folk Story, by Gordon Hall Gerould, published in 1908. Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five opens with a chapter about the process of writing the novel itself, and how difficult it was. He says "I would hate to tell you what this lousy little book cost me in money and anxiety and time. When I got home from the Second World War twenty-three years ago, I thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do would be to report what I had seen. And I thought, too, that it would be a masterpiece or at least make me a lot of money, since the subject was so big." This is an episode several of my listeners have been looking forward to, but it's one I've been dreading writing, because this is an episode -- I think the only one in the series -- where the format of the podcast simply *will not* work. Were the Grateful Dead not such an important band, I would skip this episode altogether, but they're a band that simply can't be ignored, and that's a real problem here. Because my intent, always, with this podcast, is to present the recordings of the artists in question, put them in context, and explain why they were important, what their music meant to its listeners. To put, as far as is possible, the positive case for why the music mattered *in the context of its time*. Not why it matters now, or why it matters to me, but why it matters *in its historical context*. Whether I like the music or not isn't the point. Whether it stands up now isn't the point. I play the music, explain what it was they were doing, why they were doing it, what people saw in it. If I do my job well, you come away listening to "Blue Suede Shoes" the way people heard it in 1956, or "Good Vibrations" the way people heard it in 1966, and understanding why people were so impressed by those records. That is simply *not possible* for the Grateful Dead. I can present a case for them as musicians, and hope to do so. I can explain the appeal as best I understand it, and talk about things I like in their music, and things I've noticed. But what I can't do is presen
Episode 164 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "White Light/White Heat" and the career of the Velvet Underground. This is a long one, lasting three hours and twenty minutes. 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 "Why Don't You Smile Now?" by the Downliners Sect. 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 I say the Velvet Underground didn't play New York for the rest of the sixties after 1966. They played at least one gig there in 1967, but did generally avoid the city. Also, I refer to Cale and Conrad as the other surviving members of the Theater of Eternal Music. Sadly Conrad died in 2016. Resources No Mixcloud this week, as there are too many songs by the Velvet Underground, and some of the avant-garde pieces excerpted run to six hours or more. I used a lot of resources for this one. Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story by Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga is the best book on the group as a group. I also used Joe Harvard's 33 1/3 book on The Velvet Underground and Nico. Bockris also wrote one of the two biographies of Reed I referred to, Transformer. The other was Lou Reed by Anthony DeCurtis. Information on Cale mostly came from Sedition and Alchemy by Tim Mitchell. Information on Nico came from Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon by Richard Witts. I used Draw a Straight Line and Follow it by Jeremy Grimshaw as my main source for La Monte Young, The Roaring Silence by David Revill for John Cage, and Warhol: A Life as Art by Blake Gopnik for Warhol. I also referred to the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of the 2021 documentary The Velvet Underground.  The definitive collection of the Velvet Underground's music is the sadly out-of-print box set Peel Slowly and See, which contains the four albums the group made with Reed in full, plus demos, outtakes, and live recordings. Note that the digital version of the album as sold by Amazon for some reason doesn't include the last disc -- if you want the full box set you have to buy a physical copy. All four studio albums have also been released and rereleased many times over in different configurations with different numbers of CDs at different price points -- I have used the "45th Anniversary Super-Deluxe" versions for this episode, but for most people the standard CD versions will be fine. Sadly there are no good shorter compilation overviews of the group -- they tend to emphasise either the group's "pop" mode or its "avant-garde" mode to the exclusion of the other. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I begin this episode, there are a few things to say. This introductory section is going to be longer than normal because, as you will hear, this episode is also going to be longer than normal. Firstly, I try to warn people about potentially upsetting material in these episodes. But this is the first episode for 1968, and as you will see there is a *profound* increase in the amount of upsetting and disturbing material covered as we go through 1968 and 1969. The story is going to be in a much darker place for the next twenty or thirty episodes. And this episode is no exception. As always, I try to deal with everything as sensitively as possible, but you should be aware that the list of warnings for this one is so long I am very likely to have missed some. Among the topics touched on in this episode are mental illness, drug addiction, gun violence, racism, societal and medical homophobia, medical mistreatment of mental illness, domestic abuse, rape, and more. If you find discussion of any of those subjects upsetting, you might want to read the transcript. Also, I use the term "queer" freely in this episode. In the past I have received some pushback for this, because of a belief among some that "queer" is a slur. The following explanation will seem redundant to many of my listeners, but as with many of the things I discuss in the podcast I am dealing with multiple different audiences with different levels of awareness and understanding of issues, so I'd like to beg those people's indulgence a moment. The term "queer" has certainly been used as a slur in the past, but so have terms like "lesbian", "gay", "homosexual" and others. In all those cases, the term has gone from a term used as a self-identifier, to a slur, to a reclaimed slur, and back again many times. The reason for using that word, specifically, here is because the vast majority of people in this story have sexualities or genders that don't match the societal norms of their times, but used labels for themselves that have shifted in meaning over the years. There are at least two men in the story, for example, who are now dead and referred to themselves as "homosexual", but were in multiple long-term sexually-active relationships with women. Would those men now refer to themselves as "bisexual" or "pansexual" -- terms not in widespread use at the time -- or would they, in the relatively more tolerant society we live in now, only have been in same-gender relationships? We can't know. But in our current context using the word "homosexual" for those men would lead to incorrect assumptions about their behaviour. The labels people use change over time, and the definitions of them blur and shift. I have discussed this issue with many, many, friends who fall under the queer umbrella, and while not all of them are comfortable with "queer" as a personal label because of how it's been used against them in the past, there is near-unanimity from them that it's the correct word to use in this situation. Anyway, now that that rather lengthy set of disclaimers is over, let's get into the story proper, as we look at "White Light, White Heat" by the Velvet Underground: [Excerpt: The Velvet Underground, "White Light, White Heat"] And that look will start with... a disclaimer about length. This episode is going to be a long one. Not as long as episode one hundred and fifty, but almost certainly the longest episode I'll do this year, by some way. And there's a reason for that. One of the questions I've been asked repeatedly over the years about the podcast is why almost all the acts I've covered have been extremely commercially successful ones. "Where are the underground bands? The alternative bands? The little niche acts?" The answer to that is simple. Until the mid-sixties, the idea of an underground or alternative band made no sense at all in rock, pop, rock and roll, R&B, or soul. The idea would have been completely counterintuitive to the vast majority of the people we've discussed in the podcast. Those musics were commercial musics, made by people who wanted to make money and to  get the largest audiences possible. That doesn't mean that they had no artistic merit, or that there was no artistic intent behind them, but the artists making that music were *commercial* artists. They knew if they wanted to make another record, they had to sell enough copies of the last record for the record company to make another, and that if they wanted to keep eating, they had to draw enough of an audience to their gigs for promoters to keep booking them. There was no space in this worldview for what we might think of as cult success. If your record only sold a thousand copies, then you had failed in your goal, even if the thousand people who bought your record really loved it. Even less commercially successful artists we've covered to this point, like the Mothers of Invention or Love, were *trying* for commercial success, even if they made the decision not to compromise as much as others do. This started to change a tiny bit in the mid-sixties as the influence of jazz and folk in the US, and the British blues scene, started to be felt in rock music. But this influence, at first, was a one-way thing -- people who had been in the folk and jazz worlds deciding to modify their music to be more commercial. And that was followed by already massively commercial musicians, like the Beatles, taking on some of those influences and bringing their audience with them. But that started to change around the time that "rock" started to differentiate itself from "rock and roll" and "pop", in mid 1967. So in this episode and the next, we're going to look at two bands who in different ways provided a model for how to be an alternative band. Both of them still *wanted* commercial success, but neither achieved it, at least not at first and not in the conventional way. And both, when they started out, went by the name The Warlocks. But we have to take a rather circuitous route to get to this week's band, because we're now properly introducing a strand of music that has been there in the background for a while -- avant-garde art music. So before we go any further, let's have a listen to a thirty-second clip of the most famous piece of avant-garde music ever, and I'll be performing it myself: [Excerpt, Andrew Hickey "4'33 (Cage)"] Obviously that won't give the full effect, you have to listen to the whole piece to get that. That is of course a section of "4'33" by John Cage, a piece of music that is often incorrectly described as being four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. As I've mentioned before, though, in the episode on "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", it isn't that at all. The whole point of the piece is that there is no such thing as silence, and it's intended to make the listener appreciate all the normal ambient sounds as music, every bit as much as any piece by Bach or Beethoven. John Cage, the composer of "4'33", is possibly the single most influential avant-garde artist of the mid twentieth
Episode 163 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay", Stax Records, and the short, tragic, life of Otis Redding. 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 "Soul Man" by Sam and Dave. 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 songs by Redding, even if I split into multiple parts. The main resource I used for the biographical details of Redding was Dreams to Remember: Otis Redding, Stax Records, and the Transformation of Southern Soul by Mark Ribowsky. Ribowsky is usually a very good, reliable, writer, but in this case there are a couple of lapses in editing which make it not a book I can wholeheartedly recommend, but the research on the biographical details of Redding seems to be the best. Information about Stax comes primarily from two books: Soulsville USA: The Story of Stax by Rob Bowman, and Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon. Country Soul by Charles L Hughes is a great overview of the soul music made in Muscle Shoals, Memphis, and Nashville in the sixties. There are two Original Album Series box sets which between them contain all the albums Redding released in his life plus his first few posthumous albums, for a low price. Volume 1, volume 2. 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 ends with a description of a plane crash, which some people may find upsetting. There's also a mention of gun violence. In 2019 the film Summer of Soul came out. If you're unfamiliar with this film, it's a documentary of an event, the Harlem Cultural Festival, which gets called the "Black Woodstock" because it took place in the summer of 1969, overlapping the weekend that Woodstock happened. That event was a series of weekend free concerts in New York, performed by many of the greatest acts in Black music at that time -- people like Stevie Wonder, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, the Staple Singers, Sly and the Family Stone, Nina Simone, and the Fifth Dimension. One thing that that film did was to throw into sharp relief a lot of the performances we've seen over the years by legends of white rock music of the same time. If you watch the film of Woodstock, or the earlier Monterey Pop festival, it's apparent that a lot of the musicians are quite sloppy. This is easy to dismiss as being a product of the situation -- they're playing outdoor venues, with no opportunity to soundcheck, using primitive PA systems, and often without monitors. Anyone would sound a bit sloppy in that situation, right? That is until you listen to the performances on the Summer of Soul soundtrack. The performers on those shows are playing in the same kind of circumstances, and in the case of Woodstock literally at the same time, so it's a fair comparison, and there really is no comparison. Whatever you think of the quality of the *music* (and some of my very favourite artists played at Monterey and Woodstock), the *musicianship* is orders of magnitude better at the Harlem Cultural Festival [Excerpt: Gladys Knight and the Pips “I Heard it Through the Grapevine (live)”] And of course there's a reason for this. Most of the people who played at those big hippie festivals had not had the same experiences as the Black musicians. The Black players were mostly veterans of the chitlin' circuit, where you had to play multiple shows a day, in front of demanding crowds who wanted their money's worth, and who wanted you to be able to play and also put on a show at the same time. When you're playing for crowds of working people who have spent a significant proportion of their money to go to the show, and on a bill with a dozen other acts who are competing for that audience's attention, you are going to get good or stop working. The guitar bands at Woodstock and Monterey, though, hadn't had the same kind of pressure. Their audiences were much more forgiving, much more willing to go with the musicians, view themselves as part of a community with them. And they had to play far fewer shows than the chitlin' circuit veterans, so they simply didn't develop the same chops before becoming famous (the best of them did after fame, of course). And so it's no surprise that while a lot of bands became more famous as a result of the Monterey Pop Festival, only three really became breakout stars in America as a direct result of it. One of those was the Who, who were already the third or fourth biggest band in the UK by that point, either just behind or just ahead of the Kinks, and so the surprise is more that it took them that long to become big in America. But the other two were themselves veterans of the chitlin' circuit. If you buy the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray of Monterey Pop, you get two extra discs along with the disc with the film of the full festival on it -- the only two performances that were thought worth turning into their own short mini-films. One of them is Jimi Hendrix's performance, and we will talk about that in a future episode. The other is titled Shake! Otis at Monterey: [Excerpt: Otis Redding, "Shake! (live at Monterey Pop Festival)"] Otis Redding came from Macon, Georgia, the home town of Little Richard, who became one of his biggest early influences, and like Richard he was torn in his early years between religion and secular music -- though in most other ways he was very different from Richard, and in particular he came from a much more supportive family. While his father, Otis senior, was a deacon in the church, and didn't approve much of blues, R&B, or jazz music or listen to it himself, he didn't prevent his son from listening to it, so young Otis grew up listening to records by Richard -- of whom he later said "If it hadn't been for Little Richard I would not be here... Richard has soul too. My present music has a lot of him in it" -- and another favourite, Clyde McPhatter: [Excerpt: Billy Ward and the Dominoes, "Have Mercy Baby"] Indeed, it's unclear exactly how much Otis senior *did* disapprove of those supposedly-sinful kinds of music. The biography I used as a source for this, and which says that Otis senior wouldn't listen to blues or jazz music at all, also quotes his son as saying that when he was a child his mother and father used to play him "a calypso song out then called 'Run Joe'" That will of course be this one: [Excerpt: Louis Jordan, "Run Joe"] I find it hard to reconcile the idea of someone who refused to listen to the blues or jazz listening to Louis Jordan, but then people are complex. Whatever Otis senior's feelings about secular music, he recognised from a very early age that his son had a special talent, and encouraged him to become a gospel singer. And at the same time he was listening to Little Richard, young Otis was also listening to gospel singers. One particular influence was a blind street singer, Reverend Pearly Brown: [Excerpt: Reverend Pearly Brown, "Ninety Nine and a Half Won't Do"] Redding was someone who cared deeply about his father's opinion, and it might well have been that he would eventually have become a gospel performer, because he started his career with a foot in both camps. What seems to have made the difference is that when he was sixteen, his father came down with tuberculosis. Even a few years earlier this would have been a terminal diagnosis, but thankfully by this point antibiotics had been invented, and the deacon eventually recovered. But it did mean that Otis junior had to become the family breadwinner while his father was sick, and so he turned decisively towards the kind of music that could make more money. He'd already started performing secular music. He'd joined a band led by Gladys Williams, who was the first female bandleader in the area. Williams sadly doesn't seem to have recorded anything -- discogs has a listing of a funk single by a Gladys Williams on a tiny label which may or may not be the same person, but in general she avoided recording studios, only wanting to play live  -- but she was a very influential figure in Georgia music. According to her former trumpeter Newton Collier, who later went on to play with Redding and others, she trained both Fats Gonder and Lewis Hamlin, who went on to join the lineup of James Brown's band that made Live at the Apollo, and Collier says that Hamlin's arrangements for that album, and the way the band would segue from one track to another, were all things he'd been taught by Miss Gladys. Redding sang with Gladys Williams for a while, and she took him under her wing, trained him, and became his de facto first manager. She got him to perform at local talent shows, where he won fifteen weeks in a row, before he got banned from performing to give everyone else a chance. At all of these shows, the song he performed was one that Miss Gladys had rehearsed with him, Little Richard's "Heeby Jeebies": [Excerpt: Little Richard, "Heeby Jeebies"] At this time, Redding's repertoire was largely made up of songs by the two greats of fifties Georgia R&B -- Little Richard and James Brown -- plus some by his other idol Sam Cooke, and those singers would remain his greatest influences throughout his career. After his stint with Williams, Redding went on to join another band, Pat T Cake and the Mighty Panthers, whose guitarist Johnny Jenkins would be a major presence in his life for several years. The Mighty Panthers were soon giving Redding top billing, and advertising gigs as featuring Otis "Rockin' Robin" Redding -- presumably that was another song in his live r
Episode 162 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Daydream Believer", and the later career of the Monkees, and how four Pinocchios became real boys. 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 "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf. 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, as even after splitting it into multiple files, there are simply too many Monkees tracks excerpted. The best versions of the Monkees albums are the triple-CD super-deluxe versions that used to be available from , and I’ve used Andrew Sandoval’s liner notes for them extensively in this episode. Sadly, though, none of those are in print. However, at the time of writing there is a new four-CD super-deluxe box set of Headquarters (with a remixed version of the album rather than the original mixes I've excerpted here) available from that site, and I used the liner notes for that here. also currently has the intermittently-available BluRay box set of the entire Monkees TV series, which also has Head and 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee. For those just getting into the group, my advice is to start with this five-CD set, which contains their first five albums along with bonus tracks. The single biggest source of information I used in this episode is the first edition of Andrew Sandoval’s The Monkees; The Day-By-Day Story. Sadly that is now out of print and goes for hundreds of pounds. Sandoval released a second edition of the book in 2021, which I was unfortunately unable to obtain, but that too is now out of print. If you can find a copy of either, do get one. Other sources used were Monkee Business by Eric Lefcowitz, and the autobiographies of three of the band members and one of the songwriters — Infinite Tuesday by Michael Nesmith, They Made a Monkee Out of Me by Davy Jones, I’m a Believer by Micky Dolenz, and Psychedelic Bubble-Gum by Bobby Hart. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript When we left the Monkees, they were in a state of flux. To recap what we covered in that episode, the Monkees were originally cast as actors in a TV show, and consisted of two actors with some singing ability -- the former child stars Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz -- and two musicians who were also competent comic actors, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork.  The show was about a fictional band whose characters shared names with their actors, and there had quickly been two big hit singles, and two hit albums, taken from the music recorded for the TV show's soundtrack. But this had caused problems for the actors. The records were being promoted as being by the fictional group in the TV series, blurring the line between the TV show and reality, though in fact for the most part they were being made by session musicians with only Dolenz or Jones adding lead vocals to pre-recorded backing tracks. Dolenz and Jones were fine with this, but Nesmith, who had been allowed to write and produce a few album tracks himself, wanted more creative input, and more importantly felt that he was being asked to be complicit in fraud because the records credited the four Monkees as the musicians when (other than a tiny bit of inaudible rhythm guitar by Tork on a couple of Nesmith's tracks) none of them played on them. Tork, meanwhile, believed he had been promised that the group would be an actual group -- that they would all be playing on the records together -- and felt hurt and annoyed that this wasn't the case. They were by now playing live together to promote the series and the records, with Dolenz turning out to be a perfectly competent drummer, so surely they could do the same in the studio? So in January 1967, things came to a head. It's actually quite difficult to sort out exactly what happened, because of conflicting recollections and opinions. What follows is my best attempt to harmonise the different versions of the story into one coherent narrative, but be aware that I could be wrong in some of the details. Nesmith and Tork, who disliked each other in most respects, were both agreed that this couldn't continue and that if there were going to be Monkees records released at all, they were going to have the Monkees playing on them. Dolenz, who seems to have been the one member of the group that everyone could get along with, didn't really care but went along with them for the sake of group harmony. And Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the production team behind the series, also took Nesmith and Tork's side, through a general love of mischief. But on the other side was Don Kirshner, the music publisher who was in charge of supervising the music for the TV show. Kirshner was adamantly, angrily, opposed to the very idea of the group members having any input at all into how the records were made. He considered that they should be grateful for the huge pay cheques they were getting from records his staff writers and producers were making for them, and stop whinging. And Davy Jones was somewhere in the middle. He wanted to support his co-stars, who he genuinely liked, but also, he was a working actor, he'd had other roles before, he'd have other roles afterwards, and as a working actor you do what you're told if you don't want to lose the job you've got. Jones had grown up in very severe poverty, and had been his family's breadwinner from his early teens, and artistic integrity is all very nice, but not as nice as a cheque for a quarter of a million dollars. Although that might be slightly unfair -- it might be fairer to say that artistic integrity has a different meaning to someone like Jones, coming from musical theatre and a tradition of "the show must go on", than it does to people like Nesmith and Tork who had come up through the folk clubs. Jones' attitude may also have been affected by the fact that his character in the TV show didn't play an instrument other than the occasional tambourine or maracas. The other three were having to mime instrumental parts they hadn't played, and to reproduce them on stage, but Jones didn't have that particular disadvantage. Bert Schneider, one of the TV show's producers, encouraged the group to go into the recording studio themselves, with a producer of their choice, and cut a couple of tracks to prove what they could do. Michael Nesmith, who at this point was the one who was most adamant about taking control of the music, chose Chip Douglas to produce. Douglas was someone that Nesmith had known a little while, as they'd both played the folk circuit -- in Douglas' case as a member of the Modern Folk Quartet -- but Douglas had recently joined the Turtles as their new bass player. At this point, Douglas had never officially produced a record, but he was a gifted arranger, and had just arranged the Turtles' latest single, which had just been released and was starting to climb the charts: [Excerpt: The Turtles, "Happy Together"] Douglas quit the Turtles to work with the Monkees, and took the group into the studio to cut two demo backing tracks for a potential single as a proof of concept. These initial sessions didn't have any vocals, but featured Nesmith on guitar, Tork on piano, Dolenz on drums, Jones on tambourine, and an unknown bass player -- possibly Douglas himself, possibly Nesmith's friend John London, who he'd played with in Mike and John and Bill. They cut rough tracks of two songs, "All of Your Toys", by another friend of Nesmith's, Bill Martin, and Nesmith's "The Girl I Knew Somewhere": [Excerpt: The Monkees, "The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Gold Star Demo)"] Those tracks were very rough and ready -- they were garage-band tracks rather than the professional studio recordings that the Candy Store Prophets or Jeff Barry's New York session players had provided for the previous singles -- but they were competent in the studio, thanks largely to Chip Douglas' steadying influence. As Douglas later said "They could hardly play. Mike could play adequate rhythm guitar. Pete could play piano but he'd make mistakes, and Micky's time on drums was erratic. He'd speed up or slow down." But the takes they managed to get down showed that they *could* do it. Rafelson and Schneider agreed with them that the Monkees could make a single together, and start recording at least some of their own tracks. So the group went back into the studio, with Douglas producing -- and with Lester Sill from the music publishers there to supervise -- and cut finished versions of the two songs. This time the lineup was Nesmith on guitar, Tork on electric harpsichord -- Tork had always been a fan of Bach, and would in later years perform Bach pieces as his solo spot in Monkees shows -- Dolenz on drums, London on bass, and Jones on tambourine: [Excerpt: The Monkees, "The Girl I Knew Somewhere (first recorded version)"] But while this was happening, Kirshner had been trying to get new Monkees material recorded without them -- he'd not yet agreed to having the group play on their own records. Three days after the sessions for "All of Your Toys" and "The Girl I Knew Somewhere", sessions started in New York for an entire album's worth of new material, produced by Jeff Barry and Denny Randell, and largely made by the same Red Bird Records team who had made "I'm a Believer" -- the same musicians who in various combinations had played on everything from "Sherry" by the Four Seasons to "Like a Rolling Stone" by Dylan to "Leader of the Pack", and with songs by Neil Diamond, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, Leiber and Stoller, and the rest of the team of songwriters around Red Bird. But at this point came the meeting we tal
Episode one hundred and sixty-one of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Alone Again Or", the career of Love, and the making of Forever Changes. 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 "Susan" by the Buckinghams 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 Bach's Partita No. 1 in B-flat minor in the episode. It's actually in B-flat major, but Amazon wrongly tagged the MP3 copy of Glenn Gould playing Bach's Partitas that I bought from them. Resources As usual, I have created Mixcloud mixes of all the songs excerpted in the episode. This episode's mixes are in two parts -- part one and part two. My main source for the episode is Forever Changes: Arthur Lee and the Book of Love by John Einarson, and I also referred a lot to Arthur Lee: Alone Again Or by Barney Hoskyns. I also referred to Pegasus Epitaph: The Story of the Legendary Rock Group Love , the autobiography of Michael Stuart Ware, and to the 33 1/3 book on Forever Changes.  This documentary is a very good look at Love's career. And this double-CD contains almost every track anyone other than a serious completist could want by Love. It has Forever Changes in its entirety, plus eleven of the fourteen tracks from the first album, every track except "Revelation" from Da Capo, both sides of the "Your Mind and We Belong Together"/"Laughing Stock" single, the non-album B-side "Number 14", and five of the better tracks from the second version of Love. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Before I start, I should just say that this episode involves some discussion of drug addiction, mental illness, and racism. In this episode and the next one, we're taking what is almost our final look at the LA pop music scene of the sixties. The story over the last ten episodes or so has been about how the Monterey Pop Festival precipitated an end to LA's dominance in music on the West Coast of the US, and how it was replaced by San Francisco. There will of course be LA artists turning up over the next thirty-odd episodes, especially as we see the Laurel Canyon scene, which is a separate but connected thing to the pop scene, take off towards the end of the sixties. We haven't seen the last of several of the artists from LA we've already looked at, but here and in the next episode we're going to look at the last gasps of the scene that had built up around Sunset Strip and the Hollywood recording studios, the one that encompassed proto-punk garage rock, jangly folk-rock, and modern jazz style harmonies. The influence of that scene would reverberate for decades to come, but the scene itself was largely at an end by the middle of 1967. This episode is an unusual one in some respects, because we're looking at a band who we *have* seen previously, but who haven't had an episode to themselves. Normally, when we've seen a band before, I'd just do a "when we last saw X" intro, but while about half an hour in the middle of the episode on "Hey Joe" was devoted to Love, and to how the band formed, we left the group before they'd even made their first album, and the story was being told in the context specifically of their relationship with that song. So I'm going to do a brief recap of what we covered there, so some of this may sound a little familiar to you. It'll be a much briefer version of the story than I told there, but will include different details. The core of the band that became Love was two Black men born in Memphis, Arthur Lee and Johnny Echols. Both had been neighbours in their very early childhood, but Lee's family had moved away to LA when he was small. But then Echols' family had also happened to move to LA, and the two had reconnected when Lee was seven and Echols was eight. They both grew up surrounded by musicians -- Echols was neighbours with Ray Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, and Ornette Coleman, and Adolphus Jacobs of the Coasters taught him guitar, while Lee was one of the kids who Johnny Otis involved in his pigeon-breeding club -- leading to a lifelong love of the hobby in Lee's case. Echols formed a group as a teenager, and when Lee joined it was renamed "Arthur Lee and the LAGs" in homage to Booker T and the MGs. Lee would say later "I was playing the organ at these gigs. Johnny Echols was playing the guitar and he was playing some of the best R&B guitar I ever heard. Not only was the playing the best but he was upstaging all the other guitar players in town, too. Johnny was playing behind his back, through his legs, behind his head, and even with his teeth. Talk about putting on a show … and this was before Jimi Hendrix made it big doing all that [and here Lee used an expletive]. That was Mr. Echols, the man with the guitar. I really did admire him." The LAGs released one single, "Rumble Still-Skins": [Excerpt: The LAGs, "Rumble-Still-Skins"] After that, Lee and Echols started to work a lot of sessions for small record labels. Lee would write and produce, while Echols played guitar -- though Echols has claimed later that he deserves a co-writing credit on many of the tracks. They would produce pastiches of Phil Spector hits, and of records by Curtis Mayfield, one of Lee's idols, like this track by Rosa Lee Brooks: [Excerpt: Rosa Lee Brooks, "My Diary"] The Mayfield impression on guitar there is by Jimi Hendrix, and the track is often claimed as the first Hendrix ever played on, though that's disputed and there's good reason to believe he played on a few before that. Then Echols was taken by their schoolfriend Billy Preston, with whom he would sometimes play gigs, to see a show at the Hollywood Bowl by a band Preston had got to know in Germany: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "She Loves You (live at the Hollywood Bowl 1964)"] Within a few days, Echols and Lee had bought themselves wigs to make themselves look like they had long hair, and formed a new band with a white rhythm section, who were variously called the Weirdos and the American Four. Instead of trying to sing R&B, Lee was now trying to sing in the style of white singers, especially Mick Jagger, originally as a joke, but as he later said “What started out as a put-on materialized as something real and positive.” The American Four also put out one single, which very much wore its influences on its sleeve: [Excerpt: The American Four, "Luci Baines"] At this point the group consisted of Lee and Echols on guitars and vocals, John Fleckenstein on bass, and Don Conka on drums. Incidentally, pretty much every book on the group spells Conka's name C-o-n-k-a, but I recently read an online article about him which stated that his name was spelled C-o-n-c-a, and that it has been persistently misspelled over the decades because Lee spelled it wrong and nobody ever checked with Conka.  As Conka's now dead and this is just something I've seen on a single website, with no way to check either way, I've spelled his name the standard way in the transcript of this episode, but thought it worth noting. Lee was never a very good guitarist -- he'd started out on keyboards and only learned the rudiments of guitar -- and they decided that they needed to let him just be the frontman, and get in a second guitarist, copying the lineup of the Rolling Stones, and also of the Byrds, whose style the group had now decided to emulate. They also changed their name, this time to the Grass Roots. This change in style was partly because there was another multiracial band on the scene doing Stones-type material, and rather than compete with the Rising Sons they wanted to stand out, but also because the Byrds had a large crowd of followers who would attend all their gigs, the same crowd of hipsters led by Franzoni and Vito who also followed the Mothers of Invention, and it would be a good idea to appeal to a devoted fanbase like that. Lee also thought they needed a good-looking white man up front, and so they decided to get in someone from the circle around Vito and Franzoni. Initially they got in a good-looking young man who Lee quickly nicknamed "Bummer Bob", but Bobby Beausoleil was soon out of the band, and instead they got in Bryan MacLean, a former roadie for the Byrds who had been performing a bit with people like Taj Mahal. MacLean had a bit of a reputation as a spoiled brat -- he was from a very privileged background, and for example Liza Minnelli was his childhood girlfriend -- but he was also a good rhythm guitarist and singer, he looked a little like Brian Jones, he was a talented songwriter, though his writing was always more inspired by show tunes than by the music the rest of the band were playing, and he was friends with the whole Vito and Franzoni crowd, and he could get them to come along to the group's shows. The new group were soon the hottest thing on the Sunset Strip scene, and started looking around for a record deal. They recorded some demos with, of all people, Buck Ram, the manager of the Platters and the Penguins, who we last talked about exactly a hundred and thirty episodes ago. A demo of Lee's song "You I'll Be Following" recorded in Ram's home studio in 1965, shows the sound this group had, a sound that seems to combine the jangle and block harmonies of the Byrds with the stomping rhythms of the Rolling Stones and a Jagger-like vocal: [Excerpt: Arthur Lee and the Grass Roots, "You I'll Be Following"] Soon the group had to change their name again, this time because another band was using their name. According to Johnny Echols, this was not a mere accident -- the group had annoyed Lou Adler by not showing him the proper respect in front of a woman he was trying to impress, and
As we're in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I'd upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I'm uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don't have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they're still worth listening to. Hello, and welcome to this week's second Patreon bonus episode. I'm recording this on December the twenty-third, so whether you hear this before Christmas is largely down to how quickly we can get the main episode edited and uploaded. Hopefully, this is going up on Christmas Eve and you're all feeling appropriately festive. Normally for the Patreon bonuses in the last week of December I choose a particularly Christmassy record from the time period we're covering in the main podcast -- usually a perennial Christmas hit like something off the Phil Spector Christmas album or the Elvis Christmas album. However, this year we're in the mid sixties, a period when none of the big hits of US or UK Christmas music were released, because it's after the peak of US Christmas music and before the peak of UK Christmas music. There were Christmas albums by people like James Brown, but they weren't major parts of the discography. So today, we're going to have a brief run-through of the Beatles' Christmas records. These were flexi-discs -- which for those of you who are too young to remember them were records pressed on very, very, thin, cheap plastic, which used to be attached to things like kids' comics or cereal boxes as promotional gimmicks -- sent out to members of the group's fan club. In a way, these were the Beatles' very own Patreon bonuses, sent out to fans and supporters, and not essential works, but hopefully interesting and fun. They very rarely had anything like a full song, being mostly made up of sketches and recorded messages, and other than a limited-edition vinyl reissue a few years back they've never been put on general release -- though one song from the discs, "Christmas Time is Here Again", *was* released as a B-side of the CD single of "Free as A Bird" in 1995: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Christmas Time is Here Again"] Other than that, the Christmas records remain one of those parts of the Beatles catalogue which have never seen a proper widespread release. The first record was made on October the 17th 1963, at the same recording session as "I Want to Hold Your Hand", at the instigation of Tony Barrow, the group's publicist, who also came up with a script for the group to depart from: [Excerpt, the Beatles' first Christmas record] Barrow apparently edited the recording himself, using scissors and tape, and much of that was just taking out the swearing. Incidentally, I've seen some American sources talking about the word "Crimble" being a word that the Beatles made up themselves, but it's actually a fairly standard bit of Scouse slang. The second Christmas record was recorded at the end of the sessions for Beatles For Sale and was much the same kind of thing, though this time they incorporated sound effects: [Excerpt: The Beatles' Second Christmas Record] That was never sent to American fans. Instead, they got a cardboard copy of an edited version of the first record (it's possible to make records out of cardboard, but they can only be played a handful of times). They wouldn't get another Christmas record until 1968, though British fans kept receiving them. The third record sees the group parodying other people's hits, including a brief rendition of "It's the Same Old Song" interrupted by George Harrison saying they can't sing it because of copyright, and an attempt to sing Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" and "Auld Lang Syne" at the same time: [Excerpt: The Beatles' Third Christmas Record] The fourth record, from 1966, was recorded during the early sessions for "Strawberry Fields Forever", and titled "Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas". For those outside the UK and its sphere of cultural influence, pantomime is a British Xmas stage tradition which is very hard to explain if you've not experienced it, involving performances that are ostensibly of fairy stories like Cinderella or Snow White, but also usually involving drag performances -- the male lead is usually played by a young woman, while there's usually an old woman character played by a man in drag -- with audience participation, songs, and old jokes of the "I do declare, the Prince's balls get bigger every year!" type. As the title suggests, then, the 1966 Christmas record is an attempt at an actual narrative of sorts, though a surreal, incoherent one. It comes across very much like the Goon show -- though like one of the later episodes where Milligan has lost all sense of narrative coherence: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas"] it's probably the best of the group's Christmas efforts, and certainly the most fully realised to this point. The 1967 Christmas record, "Christmas Time is Here Again", is even more ambitious. It's another narrative, which sees the group playing a fictitious group called the Ravellers, auditioning for the BBC: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Christmas Time is Here Again"] It also features parodies of broadcasting formats, which I've seen a few people suggest were inspired by the Bonzo Dog Band's then-recent Craig Torso Show radio performances, but which seem to me more indicative just of a general shared sense of humour: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Christmas Time is Here Again"] But that record has become most famous for having one of the closest things on any of these records to a full song, the title track "Christmas Time is Here Again": [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Christmas Time is Here Again"] As well as later being issued as the B-side of a CD single, that was also remade by Ringo as a solo record: [Excerpt: Ringo Starr, "Christmas Time is Here Again"] Although my favourite use of the song is actually as an interpolation, with slightly altered lyrics, in "Xmas Again" by Stew of the Negro Problem, one of my favourite current songwriters: [Excerpt: Stew, "Xmas Again"] "Christmas Time is Here Again" would be the last Christmas record the group would make together. For their final two Christmas releases, they recorded their parts separately and got their friend, the DJ Kenny Everett, who was known at this point for his tricks with tape editing, and who shared their sense of humour (he later went on to become a successful TV comedian) to collage them together into something listenable. The highlight of the 1968 record comes from George's contribution. George, a lover of the ukulele, got Tiny Tim to record his version of "Nowhere Man" for the record: [Excerpt: Tiny Tim, "Nowhere Man"] And for the seventh and final Christmas single, recorded after the group had split up but before the split was announced, Everett once again cobbled it together from separate recordings, this time a chat between John and Yoko, Ringo improvising a song and plugging his new film, and Paul singing an original Christmas song: [Excerpt: Paul McCartney, "Merry, Merry, Year"] George's contribution was a single sentence. In 1970, the fan club members got one final record -- an actual vinyl album, compiling all the previous Christmas records in one place. All the Beatles would in future record solo Christmas singles, some of which became perennial classics, but there would never be another Beatles Christmas record [Excerpt, the end of the third Beatles Christmas record]
As we’re in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I’d upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I’m uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don’t have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they’re still worth listening to. Transcript It's the middle of December, as you have probably noticed, and that means it's a time when the airwaves in both the UK and the US are dominated by Christmas music. The music that's most prominent in the UK will have to wait until we get to the seventies for a discussion, but this week and next week in these bonus episodes I'll be looking at a few American Christmas classics: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Here Comes Santa Claus"] If I'd been doing these Patreon bonus episodes from the beginning of the podcast, rather than waiting for the first six months or so to do them on a regular basis, I'd have covered Gene Autry in one by about the fourth episode. He's someone whose name you'll have heard a lot in the podcast -- he was an influence on all sorts of musicians we've looked at, in all areas of music. Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, Hank Ballard, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Fats Domino, and Les Paul all acknowledged him as someone they were trying to imitate in one way or another, and that's just the ones where I've been able to find clear confirmation. Autry was not, in any direct sense, a precursor to rock and roll. He didn't make records that included any of the elements that later became prominent in the new music, and he didn't have a rebellious image at all. But from the early 1930s to the early 1950s, he was the single biggest star in country music. He starred in many films, had his own radio show, had a line of comics about him, and he was so popular that even his *horse* had his own radio and TV show. British people from my generation may well remember Champion, The Wonder Horse still being repeated as kids' TV in the eighties. THAT's how big Gene Autry was, and so it's unsurprising that he influenced pretty much every singer of note in the rock and roll field. But he was also, along with Bing Crosby, one of the people who pioneered American secular Christmas music: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer"] I specify "American" secular Christmas music here, because one thing that differs between the US and the UK when it comes to Christmas is the music that's ubiquitous. In the UK, Christmas music mostly means glam rock -- you hear Slade and Wizzard incessantly, and other 70s artists like Mud. In the US, though, it means primarily the music of the forties and fifties -- the music of people like Gene Autry. Autry started his career as just another country singer, who performed as "Oklahoma's Yodelling Cowboy". His early recordings were very much in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, and were very different from his later clean-cut image: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Black Bottom Blues"] But in 1932 he had a hit with a song he wrote, which would soon become a standard of country music, a rather maudlin ballad called "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine": [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine"] As a result of that hit, Autry started appearing in films. The first film he appeared in was a serial -- The Phantom Empire -- in which he starred as a singing cowboy who is kidnapped by people from the underground super-science kingdom Murania, descendants of the lost tribe of Mu, and has to help them defend themselves from an evil scientist who wants to steal their radium. It may not surprise you that the writer of the film came up with the plot for it while on nitrous oxide, having a tooth extracted. Autry made another forty-four films in the next five years, and every year from 1937 through 1942 he was the top star of Western films in the US, as well as having a whole series of hits with songs like "Blueberry Hill": [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Blueberry Hill"] However, in 1942 he enlisted in the army, against the wishes of Republic, the film studio for whom he worked. They told him that if he was just going to go off and fight Nazis instead of making singing cowboy films, they were going to promote Roy Rogers instead. So from 1942 through 1945, Autry was off fighting in the Second World War. After he got back, he was the *second* most successful singing cowboy film star, after Rogers. It was in 1947 that Autry got the inspiration for the song that would define his career. He was riding his horse in a Christmas parade, known as the Santa Claus Lane parade, and he heard spectators saying "here comes Santa Claus": [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Here Comes Santa Claus"] "Here Comes Santa Claus" not only charted that Xmas, it charted the Xmas after as well. Given that Autry's recording career was slowly fading, it seemed to make sense for him to record another Christmas song about Santa and see if he could repeat his success: [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"] Not only did that go to number one -- and become the first number one of the fifties -- but "Here Comes Santa Claus" charted for the third year in a row. So of course, the next year (after an Easter single, "Peter Cottontail", which also charted, but didn't have the same repeat success as the Christmas songs), he recorded yet another Christmas single, "Frosty the Snowman": [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Frosty the Snowman"] The next year, he didn't release a Christmas single at all, and he seemed to lose momentum. In 1952 he released one final Christmas record, "Up on the Housetop": [Excerpt: Gene Autry, "Up on the Housetop"] But that had nothing like the success his earlier Christmas records had. He carried on making films and TV shows until the mid-fifties, and he finally retired in 1964. He died in 1998. His Christmas records still occasionally hit the charts in December, and regularly feature in the special Holiday charts Billboard publish every year.
As we're in the period between Christmas and New Year, the gap between episodes is going to be longer than normal, and the podcast proper is going to be back on January the ninth. So nobody has to wait around for another fortnight for a new episode, I thought I'd upload some old Patreon bonus episodes to fill the gap. Every year around Christmas the bonus episodes I do tend to be on Christmas songs and so this week I'm uploading three of those. These are older episodes, so don't have the same production values as more recent episodes, and are also shorter than more recent bonuses, but I hope they're still worth listening to. Transcript We talked in the last bonus episode about how the American Christmas music canon more or less ends in 1963. One record that just got in under that wire was "Little Saint Nick", recorded by the Beach Boys in October 1963 and released in December: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Little Saint Nick"] Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys' leader, was apparently inspired to write a Christmas song by Phil Spector -- Wilson turned up to at least one of the sessions for the Spector Christmas album, and had briefly played piano during a couple of takes of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", although he wasn't actually on the record itself, as Spector decided he wasn't a good enough player. The date the Beach Boys recorded their Christmas song, October the twentieth 1963, was actually a historic date for the group. We'll talk about this more in a few weeks' time when we next look at the Beach Boys in the main podcast, but they had gone through a bit of a lineup shuffle, and David Marks had played his last gig with the group the night before, while Al Jardine had rejoined the band shortly before that. That meant that this was the first session since their first single at which the Beach Boys were the classic five-person lineup of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine. There seems to be some confusion about what happened at that session, as they recorded two backing tracks. One of them became the "Little Saint Nick" that was a hit, but they also recorded a track that later became an album track called "Drive In": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Drive In"] But there also exists a recording of that backing track, but with the lyrics to "Little Saint Nick": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Drive In (Little Saint Nick version)"] I've seen conflicting accounts of how that track came to exist. Some say that they tried both backing tracks with the same lyrics at the original session, and that they then wrote the "Drive In" lyrics for the track that didn't make the cut as "Little Saint Nick", while others say that they actually sung the "Little Saint Nick" lyrics to the "Drive In" track as a joke a few months later, long after the original "Little Saint Nick" had already come out. Whichever is the truth, the version of "Little Saint Nick" that eventually came out as a single was this one, which became one of the last holiday classics in the US Christmas canon: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Little Saint Nick"] "Little Saint Nick" is very clearly modelled on an earlier hit by the group, "Little Deuce Coupe", and so it makes sense to me that the track that was chosen was the originally intended one, as musically that's quite close to the earlier song. "Little Saint Nick" was only a moderate success on the main chart, but it made number three on Billboard's Christmas Singles chart, which was enough of a success that the group decided the next year to record a full Christmas album. That album included a remixed version of "Little Saint Nick", with the backing track stripped down to sound more like the rest of the album's first side, which was rush-recorded with few overdubs. That album was recorded in a style that the Beach Boys did quite a bit at that time, with a side for "the kids" -- uptempo original songs -- and a side for "the adults", with orchestral versions of more traditional Christmas songs, arranged by the Four Freshmen's arranger Dick Reynolds, including a gorgeous version of "We Three Kings": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "We Three Kings"] The Beach Boys would have another attempt at making a Christmas album, in 1977, which went unreleased at the time -- mostly because much of it is truly terrible. However, there were a couple of worthwhile tracks on the album -- Brian Wilson's "Winter Symphony": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Winter Symphony"] And his brother Dennis' "Morning Christmas": [Excerpt: Dennis Wilson, "Morning Christmas"] Much of that album has since been released, with their 1964 Christmas album, on the compilation "Ultimate Christmas". Both Brian Wilson and Mike Love have since released solo Christmas albums. Both are patchy affairs, but Wilson's has a lovely version of "Joy to the World" as a bonus track: [Excerpt: Brian Wilson, "Joy to the World"] And it has a few other genuinely nice tracks, while the highlight of Love's is rather less impressive -- a reworking of "Shortenin' Bread" titled "Reason For the Season": [Excerpt: Mike Love, "Reason for the Season"] Both albums also include remakes of "Little Saint Nick", the one Beach Boys Christmas song that has really entered the consciousness of the general public. And while this podcast episode might have ended up being too late for you to still be hearing that one on the radio, I'm sure you'll start hearing it again, for the fifty-eighth straight year, come the last week of November 2021. Because some things, at least, stay the same no matter what's happening in the rest of the world.
Episode 160 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Flowers in the Rain" by the Move, their transition into ELO, and the career of Roy Wood. 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 "The Chipmunk Song" by Canned Heat. 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 Note I say "And on its first broadcast, as George Martin's theme tune for the new station faded, Tony Blackburn reached for a record." -- I should point out that after Martin's theme fades, Blackburn talks over a brief snatch of a piece by Johnny Dankworth. Resources As so many of the episodes recently have had no Mixcloud due to the number of songs by one artist, I’ve decided to start splitting the mixes of the recordings excerpted in the podcasts into two parts. Here’s part one and part two. There are not many books about Roy Wood, and I referred to both of the two that seem to exist -- this biography by John van der Kiste, and this album guide by James R Turner.  I also referred to this biography of Jeff Lynne by van der Kiste, The Electric Light Orchestra Story by Bev Bevan, and Mr Big by Don Arden with Mick Wall.  Most of the more comprehensive compilations of the Move's material are out of print, but this single-CD-plus-DVD anthology is the best compilation that's in print. This is the one collection of Wood's solo and Wizzard hits that seems currently in print, and for those who want to investigate further, this cheap box set has the last Move album, the first ELO album, the first Wizzard album, Wood's solo Boulders, and a later Wood solo album, for the price of a single CD. Transcript Before I start, a brief note. This episode deals with organised crime, and so contains some mild descriptions of violence, and also has some mention of mental illness and drug use, though not much of any of those things. And it's probably also important to warn people that towards the end there's some Christmas music, including excerpts of a song that is inescapable at this time of year in the UK, so those who work in retail environments and the like may want to listen to this later, at a point when they're not totally sick of hearing Christmas records. Most of the time, the identity of the party in government doesn't make that much of a difference to people's everyday lives.  At least in Britain, there tends to be a consensus ideology within the limits of which governments of both main parties tend to work. They will make a difference at the margins, and be more or less competent, and more or less conservative or left-wing, more or less liberal or authoritarian, but life will, broadly speaking, continue along much as before for most people. Some will be a little better or worse off, but in general steering the ship of state is a matter of a lot of tiny incremental changes, not of sudden u-turns. But there have been a handful of governments that have made big, noticeable, changes to the structure of society, reforms that for better or worse affect the lives of every person in the country. Since the end of the Second World War there have been two UK governments that made economic changes of this nature. The Labour government under Clement Atlee which came into power in 1945, and which dramatically expanded the welfare state, introduced the National Health Service, and nationalised huge swathes of major industries, created the post-war social democratic consensus which would be kept to with only minor changes by successive governments of both major parties for decades. The next government to make changes to the economy of such a radical nature was the Conservative government which came to power under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, which started the process of unravelling that social democratic consensus and replacing it with a far more hypercapitalist economic paradigm, which would last for the next several decades. It's entirely possible that the current Conservative government, in leaving the EU, has made a similarly huge change, but we won't know that until we have enough distance from the event to know what long-term changes it's caused. Those are economic changes. Arguably at least as impactful was the Labour government led by Harold Wilson that came to power in 1964, which did not do much to alter the economic consensus, but revolutionised the social order at least as much. Largely because of the influence of Roy Jenkins, the Home Secretary for much of that time, between 1964 and the end of the sixties, Britain abolished the death penalty for murder, decriminalised some sex acts between men in private, abolished corporal punishment in prisons, legalised abortion in certain circumstances, and got rid of censorship in the theatre. They also vastly increased spending on education, and made many other changes. By the end of their term, Britain had gone from being a country with laws reflecting a largely conservative, authoritarian, worldview to one whose laws were some of the most liberal in Europe, and society had started changing to match. There were exceptions, though, and that government did make some changes that were illiberal. They brought in increased restrictions on immigration, starting a worrying trend that continues to this day of governments getting ever crueler to immigrants, and they added LSD to the list of illegal drugs. And they brought in the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act, banning the pirate stations. We've mentioned pirate radio stations very briefly, but never properly explained them. In Britain, at this point, there was a legal monopoly on broadcasting. Only the BBC could run a radio station in the UK, and thanks to agreements with the Musicians' Union, the BBC could only play a very small amount of recorded music, with everything else having to be live performances or spoken word. And because it had a legal obligation to provide something for everyone, that meant the tiny amount of recorded music that was played on the radio had to cover all genres, meaning that even while Britain was going through the most important changes in its musical history, pop records were limited to an hour or two a week on British radio. Obviously, that wasn't going to last while there was money to be made, and the record companies in particular wanted to have somewhere to showcase their latest releases. At the start of the sixties, Radio Luxembourg had become popular, broadcasting from continental Europe but largely playing shows that had been pre-recorded in London. But of course, that was far enough away that it made listening to the transmissions difficult. But a solution presented itself: [Excerpt: The Fortunes, "Caroline"] Radio Caroline still continues to this day, largely as an Internet-based radio station, but in the mid-sixties it was something rather different. It was one of a handful of radio stations -- the pirate stations -- that broadcast from ships in international waters. The ships would stay three miles off the coast of Britain, close enough for their broadcasts to be clearly heard in much of the country, but outside Britain's territorial waters. They soon became hugely popular, with Radio Caroline and Radio London the two most popular, and introduced DJs like Tony Blackburn, Dave Lee Travis, Kenny Everett, and John Peel to the airwaves of Britain. The stations ran on bribery and advertising, and if you wanted a record to get into the charts one of the things you had to do was bribe one of the big pirate stations to playlist it, and with this corruption came violence, which came to a head when as we heard in the episode on “Here Comes the Night”, in 1966 Major Oliver Smedley, a failed right-wing politician and one of the directors of Radio Caroline, got a gang of people to board an abandoned sea fort from which a rival station was broadcasting and retrieve some equipment he claimed belonged to him. The next day, Reginald Calvert, the owner of the rival station, went to Smedley's home to confront him, and Smedley shot him dead, claiming self-defence. The jury in Smedley's subsequent trial took only a minute to find him not guilty and award him two hundred and fifty guineas to cover his costs. This was the last straw for the government, which was already concerned that the pirates' transmitters were interfering with emergency services transmissions, and that proper royalties weren't being paid for the music broadcast (though since much of the music was only on there because of payola, this seems a little bit of a moot point).  They introduced legislation which banned anyone in the UK from supplying the pirate ships with records or other supplies, or advertising on the stations. They couldn't do anything about the ships themselves, because they were outside British jurisdiction, but they could make sure that nobody could associate with them while remaining in the UK. The BBC was to regain its monopoly (though in later years some commercial radio stations were allowed to operate). But as well as the stick, they needed the carrot. The pirate stations *had* been filling a real need, and the biggest of them were getting millions of listeners every day. So the arrangements with the Musicians' Union and the record labels were changed, and certain BBC stations were now allowed to play a lot more recorded music per day. I haven't been able to find accurate figures anywhere -- a lot of these things were confidential agreements -- but it seems to have been that the so-called "needle time" rules were substantially relaxed, allowing the BBC to separate what had previously been the Light Programme -- a single radio station that played all kinds of popular music, much of it live performances -- into two radio stations that were each allowed to
Transcript This is just to let people know what's happening with the podcast over the next few weeks, as we head into a season which has holiday celebrations for many people, including me. The podcast has been keeping to a fortnightly schedule for the last few months, but at this time of year I have commitments to visit family and friends for Christmas and New Year, and I've learned that when I'm away from home I can't record and shouldn't even make the attempt. Also, a lot of people don't have time to listen to new podcasts over the Christmas period. So here's what's going to happen with the podcast between now and the beginning of the year. I'm recording a full podcast episode today, and that will be going up either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, depending how long it takes to edit, so two weeks after the last episode, and then there will be a gap for Christmas and New Year. I will be doing Patreon bonuses during that time on a weekly basis as normal -- they take much less recording time than the main episodes, and I can prerecord them in advance -- but the next main episode of the podcast after this week's will go up on Monday the ninth of January, a little less than three weeks after the last one, rather than the normal two.  However, to fill in the gap I'm going to put up a few old Patreon bonus episodes over Christmas week. Every year around this time my Patreon bonus episodes tend to be about something seasonal, and so I'll put up a few of the old ones on the main feed for those of you who haven't heard them. These are older bonus episodes, some from four years ago, and so not in the same style as my more recent work, and mostly around ten minutes or so in length, but they'll hopefully be of interest to anyone who is looking for something seasonal to listen to. Happy holidays to those who celebrate a winter holiday at this time of year, and my sympathies to those who don't or for whom it's a difficult time for whatever reason. I'll see you in a couple of days for the next proper episode.
Episode 159 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Itchycoo Park” by the Small Faces, and their transition from Mod to psychedelia. 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 "The First Cut is the Deepest" by P.P. Arnold. 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 Brian Potter co-wrote "Rhinestone Cowboy". I meant to say he co-produced the track for Glen Campbell. Larry Weiss wrote it. Resources As so many of the episodes recently have had no Mixcloud due to the number of songs by one artist, I've decided to start splitting the mixes of the recordings excerpted in the podcasts into two parts. Here's part one and part two. I've used quite a few books in this episode. The Small Faces & Other Stories by Uli Twelker and Roland Schmit is definitely a fan-work with all that that implies, but has some useful quotes. Two books claim to be the authorised biography of Steve Marriott, and I've referred to both -- All Too Beautiful by Paolo Hewitt and John Hellier, and All Or Nothing by Simon Spence. Spence also wrote an excellent book on Immediate Records, which I referred to. Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan both wrote very readable autobiographies. I’ve also used Andrew Loog Oldham’s autobiography Stoned, co-written by Spence, though be warned that it casually uses slurs. P.P. Arnold's autobiography is a sometimes distressing read covering her whole life, including her time at Immediate. There are many, many, collections of the Small Faces' work, ranging from cheap budget CDs full of outtakes to hundred-pound-plus box sets, also full of outtakes. This three-CD budget collection contains all the essential tracks, and is endorsed by Kenney Jones, the band's one surviving member. And if you're intrigued by the section on Immediate Records, this two-CD set contains a good selection of their releases. ERRATUM-ISH: I say Jimmy Winston was “a couple” of years older than the rest of the band. This does not mean exactly two, but is used in the vague vernacular sense equivalent to “a few”. Different sources I've seen put Winston as either two or four years older than his bandmates, though two seems to be the most commonly cited figure. Transcript For once there is little to warn about in this episode, but it does contain some mild discussions of organised crime, arson, and mental illness, and a quoted joke about capital punishment in questionable taste which may upset some. One name that came up time and again when we looked at the very early years of British rock and roll was Lionel Bart. If you don't remember the name, he was a left-wing Bohemian songwriter who lived in a communal house-share which at various times was also inhabited by people like Shirley Eaton, the woman who is painted gold at the beginning of Goldfinger, Mike Pratt, the star of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and Davey Graham, the most influential and innovative British guitarist of the fifties and early sixties. Bart and Pratt had co-written most of the hits of Britain's first real rock and roll star, Tommy Steele: [Excerpt: Tommy Steele, "Rock with the Caveman"] and then Bart had gone solo as a writer, and written hits like "Living Doll" for Britain's *biggest* rock and roll star, Cliff Richard: [Excerpt: Cliff Richard, "Living Doll"] But Bart's biggest contribution to rock music turned out not to be the songs he wrote for rock and roll stars, and not even his talent-spotting -- it was Bart who got Steele signed by Larry Parnes, and he also pointed Parnes in the direction of another of his biggest stars, Marty Wilde -- but the opportunity he gave to a lot of child stars in a very non-rock context. Bart's musical Oliver!, inspired by the novel Oliver Twist, was the biggest sensation on the West End stage in the early 1960s, breaking records for the longest-running musical, and also transferred to Broadway and later became an extremely successful film. As it happened, while Oliver! was extraordinarily lucrative, Bart didn't see much of the money from it -- he sold the rights to it, and his other musicals, to the comedian Max Bygraves in the mid-sixties for a tiny sum in order to finance a couple of other musicals, which then flopped horribly and bankrupted him. But by that time Oliver! had already been the first big break for three people who went on to major careers in music -- all of them playing the same role. Because many of the major roles in Oliver! were for young boys, the cast had to change frequently -- child labour laws meant that multiple kids had to play the same role in different performances, and people quickly grew out of the roles as teenagerhood hit. We've already heard about the career of one of the people who played the Artful Dodger in the original West End production -- Davy Jones, who transferred in the role to Broadway in 1963, and who we'll be seeing again in a few episodes' time -- and it's very likely that another of the people who played the Artful Dodger in that production, a young lad called Philip Collins, will be coming into the story in a few years' time. But the first of the artists to use the Artful Dodger as a springboard to a music career was the one who appeared in the role on the original cast album of 1960, though there's very little in that recording to suggest the sound of his later records: [Excerpt: Steve Marriott, "Consider Yourself"] Steve Marriott is the second little Stevie we've looked at in recent episodes to have been born prematurely. In his case, he was born a month premature, and jaundiced, and had to spend the first month of his life in hospital, the first few days of which were spent unsure if he was going to survive. Thankfully he did, but he was a bit of a sickly child as a result, and remained stick-thin and short into adulthood -- he never grew to be taller than five foot five. Young Steve loved music, and especially the music of Buddy Holly. He also loved skiffle, and managed to find out where Lonnie Donegan lived. He went round and knocked on Donegan's door, but was very disappointed to discover that his idol was just a normal man, with his hair uncombed and a shirt stained with egg yolk. He started playing the ukulele when he was ten, and graduated to guitar when he was twelve, forming a band which performed under a variety of different names. When on stage with them, he would go by the stage name Buddy Marriott, and would wear a pair of horn-rimmed glasses to look more like Buddy Holly. When he was twelve, his mother took him to an audition for Oliver! The show had been running for three months at the time, and was likely to run longer, and child labour laws meant that they had to have replacements for some of the cast -- every three months, any performing child had to have at least ten days off. At his audition, Steve played his guitar and sang "Who's Sorry Now?", the recent Connie Francis hit: [Excerpt: Connie Francis, "Who's Sorry Now?"] And then, ignoring the rule that performers could only do one song, immediately launched into Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy!" [Excerpt: Buddy Holly, "Oh Boy!"] His musical ability and attitude impressed the show's producers, and he was given a job which suited him perfectly -- rather than being cast in a single role, he would be swapped around, playing different small parts, in the chorus, and occasionally taking the larger role of the Artful Dodger. Steve Marriott was never able to do the same thing over and over, and got bored very quickly, but because he was moving between roles, he was able to keep interested in his performances for almost a year, and he was good enough that it was him chosen to sing the Dodger's role on the cast album when that was recorded: [Excerpt: Steve Marriott and Joyce Blair, "I'd Do Anything"] And he enjoyed performance enough that his parents pushed him to become an actor -- though there were other reasons for that, too. He was never the best-behaved child in the world, nor the most attentive student, and things came to a head when, shortly after leaving the Oliver! cast, he got so bored of his art classes he devised a plan to get out of them forever. Every art class, for several weeks, he'd sit in a different desk at the back of the classroom and stuff torn-up bits of paper under the floorboards. After a couple of months of this he then dropped a lit match in, which set fire to the paper and ended up burning down half the school. His schoolfriend Ken Hawes talked about it many decades later, saying "I suppose in a way I was impressed about how he had meticulously planned the whole thing months in advance, the sheer dogged determination to see it through. He could quite easily have been caught and would have had to face the consequences. There was no danger in anybody getting hurt because we were at the back of the room. We had to be at the back otherwise somebody would have noticed what he was doing. There was no malice against other pupils, he just wanted to burn the damn school down." Nobody could prove it was him who had done it, though his parents at least had a pretty good idea who it was, but it was clear that even when the school was rebuilt it wasn't a good idea to send him back there, so they sent him to the Italia Conti Drama School; the same school that Anthony Newley and Petula Clark, among many others, had attended. Marriott's parents couldn't afford the school's fees, but Marriott was so talented that the school waived the fees -- they said they'd get him work, and take a cut of his wages in lieu of the fees. And over the next few years they did get him a lot of work. Much of that work was for TV shows, which like almost all TV of the time no lo
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 Erratum I refer to the episode on "Stop! In the Name of Love". I meant of course the episode on "I Hear a Symphony" 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
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.
Comments (45)

Jason B

Appreciate your research, the digressions into connections both expected and unexpected. Your knowledge of your subject songs is encyclopedic and your appreciation for the artists, warts and all, shines through. thanks for your work and best wishes with your health and life in general.

Sep 1st

Russell Bride

Considering how much work must go into each episode, it seems to me that a weekly episode is very ambitious and that you managed to do that for so long is amazing. Fortnightly is totally reasonable and I'm sure we'll all be here waiting for you. Most importantly you keep yourself healthy and sane! Thanks for your work so far.

Aug 5th

Jonathon Long

Thanks so much for producing this podcast. Is it always facinating and educational. It is very thoughtful of you to frame your show with warnings and mentions of problematic topics and characters. I'm always keen to hear the new ones, though relistening to the older ones shows me the depth of your material or my inability to just listen. Thanks again, Jono from Melbourne, Australia.

Jun 16th

Non Dairy Canary

Poor Andrew Hickey really is losing the plot. The episodes get ever longer as they become more infrequent. 4 hours 39 minutes on Dark Star? Please. At this rate, episode 500 won't appear before the next millennium, and it'll be several months in duration. But maybe worst of all is his insistence on shoehorning his adherence to gender identity in to an episode that predates it by 30 years. Well, what do you expect from a middle-aged, white heterosexual male with a deep vein of misogyny?

May 23rd
Reply (4)

Michael Daly

absolutely fascinating - Holly was much more talented than I'd realised

May 13th

Non Dairy Canary

The editing of this episode is all over the shop, to such an extent that it is almost unlistenable.

Feb 27th

Donald Papier

To some, racism is like a 9 year old with a bottle of ketchup. It's put on everything.

Feb 5th

Donald Papier

How did you ever not give any mention to "Stagger Lee"?

Feb 4th
Reply (1)

James Savery

That was a great episode. I always loved that album and the story around it is a great one.

Jan 31st

Michael Daly

brilliant podcast and awesome episode (Honky Tonk)

Dec 30th

Michael Trombetta

Of all the great episodes you have put out, this was my favorite so far. Thanks for all the work you put into this podcast.

Dec 21st

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
Reply (3)

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
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