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The Secret Life of Songs

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‘The Secret Life of Songs’ is a new podcast series exploring ten classic pop recordings to get to the heart of why they mean so much to us. I'm a musician who writes and performs under the name 'sky coloured' and in each episode, I'll discuss and perform a different classic pop song, from Sam Cooke, to the Beach Boys, to Tina Turner, and more. It's intended to be an insight into how these amazing songs work, from a songwriter's perspective, as well as a personal interpretation of what they might have to say to us.
11 Episodes
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How does a record make us feel like we're in a vast space, one that we've never experienced, one that may not exist? In this episode, the last of the series, I look at the Phil Spector production, 'River Deep — Mountain High', performed in 1966 by Tina Turner, to explore how we hear space in music. It was a groundbreaking record in its time, costing an unprecedented amount of money to make, and it still sounds as if it's pushing at the outer limits of what can be captured on record. I'm interested in how we experience all that as listeners: how something so apparently small as a three-minute pop song can contain intimations of cavernous feeling and impossible depths.All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recording of 'River Deep - Mountain High' can be heard here. If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
Since I first started listening to pop music, I've wondered about what's really going on in songs about love. Something seems to haunt expressions of romantic affection or loss, something that often seems to go beyond the strict meaning of the words. How can we explain the power of apparently simple songs about heartbreak and devotion? This episode looks into the history of American popular song to seek an answer to the question of meaning in songs about love, and to wonder what a classic love song - Curtis Mayfield's 'The Makings of You' - might be saying to us, if we could take into account the reverberations that echo from its musical histories.All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recording of 'The Makings of You' can be heard here. The version of 'Steal Away' heard in the episode is based on a performance by McHenry Boatwright, which isn’t on Spotify but can be found - at the time of publication - on YouTube.If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
When Patsy Cline first heard Willie Nelson's demo version of 'Crazy', she didn't like it, thinking it sounded too vulnerable and heartbroken. Talked into it by her husband and her producer, she would make a record that seemed to capture something fundamental about the lives of its contemporary listeners, but while much has been written on Cline's status as a pioneering woman in the male-dominated world of country music, the fact that the song and many of her other famous singles - like her first hit, 'Walkin' After Midnight' - hint strongly that the persona of the singer is going mad, has been mostly overlooked. In this episode I look at both songs and ask why madness might have played such an important role in the career of the most important female country singer of the late 1950s, and what it might tell us about the lives of men and women of the era.All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recordings of 'Walkin' After Midnight' and 'Crazy', as well as Willie Nelson's demo recording, can be heard here. If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
What does a chorus do in a pop song? Among our most basic assumptions about what will happen in a pop song is the expectation that it will lead us towards the fulfilment and clarity of a chorus, so it’s always interesting when a song chooses not to do this. Looking at this question in the context of Otis Redding’s 1966 version of ‘Cigarettes and Coffee’ can tell us something about what pop songs as a whole express to us: the way - perhaps unconsciously - listening to them shapes our understanding of the world.All the songs discussed in this episode, including Redding’s version of ‘Cigarettes and Coffee’, can be heard here. The original, by Al Braggs, isn’t on Spotify but can be found - at the time of publication - on YouTube.If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
The history of rock music is in large part a history of men writing condescending and degrading songs about women, so it's interesting when a songwriter like John Lennon - with a track record of some of rock's most notoriously misogynistic lyrics - performs a song that at first listen appears to be apologetic and self-critical. In this episode, I look closely at the songwriting in his 1971 song, 'Jealous Guy', in the context of rock's historic sexism, to see how convincing this gesture of apology really is.All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recording of 'Jealous Guy', can be heard here.If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
The story of Billy-Rae, the preacher's son, and the singer of 'Son of a Preacher Man', stealing away from their parents to discover love in the back yard is contained in one of the most familiar and enduringly popular songs of the 1960s. The scene Dusty Springfield paints with such flair is one of the deep American South, so it might come as a surprise to learn that she was born Mary O'Brien in Enfield, north London, with Catholic parents originally from County Kerry. How - and why - did Springfield choose such a distant musical culture to inhabit in this celebrated song about sexual discovery? I look at the role the 'blues style' plays in the song, as well as the songwriters' brilliant use of song structure, in order to address questions of race and sexuality in blues-influenced pop music of the era. You can listen to the original recording of 'Son of a Preacher Man' here. If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
The story of the Beach Boys starting out as preppy Californian surf-popsters to become Rock n Roll Hall of Famers responsible for 'Greatest Albums Ever' list perennial 'Pet Sounds' is a familiar one. This narrative tends to overlook the currents of tension and angst rippling under the surface of both the early pop hits and the Phil-Spector-meets-Maurice-Ravel grandeur of their mature work. 'God Only Knows', one of the most analysed and acclaimed songs in pop, is a case in point: how does this stately orchestral masterpiece (and wedding reception stalwart) manage to hide in plain sight so much fear and doubt: "God only knows what I'd be without you"?All the songs discussed in this episode, including 'God Only Knows', can be heard hereIf you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
The classic Motown duet, 'You're All I Need to Get By', seems to be about commitment - about a love which has recently been embarked on and which stretches ahead into the future - has come, perhaps surprisingly, to resonate with those mourning the loss of loved ones, including Marvin Gaye himself, who chose this song to play as he gave his eulogy at singing partner Tammi Terrell’s funeral. I look at this iconic soul recording, and in particular the song's use of pedal notes, extensions and inversions, to explore how it manages to chime with people in this way.All the songs discussed in this episode, including 'You're All I Need to Get By', can be heard hereIf you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)
The 1960s girl group genre might seem an odd place to find tragedy, particularly when it's wrapped in such apparently joyful music as The Chiffons' 'One Fine Day'. Legendary songwriting partners Gerry Goffin and Carole King manage the difficult trick of combining the bright-eyed optimism of new love with the sad certainty it'll never be realised in a song which takes in influences from both doo-wop and opera. It's a wonderful demonstration of the way minor chords and 'blue notes' can make a song more emotionally complex and true-to-life.All songs discussed in the episode, including 'One Fine Day', can be heard hereIf you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you.
How does a song make us feel like we want to go home? that we miss someone who has left us at a home that now feels nothing but empty? that they may never come home, though we'll never stop hoping? In this first episode, I look at Sam Cooke's song, 'Bring It On Home to Me', to introduce the concept of the 'home' chord and to explore all the ways Cooke uses melody, harmony, lyrics and more to achieve a powerful expression of missing someone, of longing for their return.All the songs mentioned in the episode, including 'Bring It On Home to Me', can be heard hereIf you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you.
Series 1 trailer

Series 1 trailer

2020-05-1300:59

‘The Secret Life of Songs’ is a new podcast series exploring ten classic pop recordings to get to the heart of why they mean so much to us. Hosted by Anthony T Jackson, a songwriter, it’s intended for musicians and non-musicians alike, a personal, reflective journey through some of pop’s greatest songs. The first three episodes will be released on May 21st, 2020, then fortnightly on Thursdays after that.The series is intended for anyone who loves music - musicians and non-musicians alike - who might want to hear a bit more about why songs affect us in the way they do. It’s a personal, reflective journey through some of pop’s greatest songs, but it’s also a celebration of the role song plays in our lives, the way that songs find their way into our deepest experiences and help shape our understanding of the world.
Comments (1)

Robbie Strachan

Love this! So informative, yet at the same time very soothing to listen to. Strongly recommend.

May 22nd
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