Bill and Brian welcome journalist/Jersey music expert Jim Testa (www.jerseybeat.com) to talk about Television's Marquee Moon (1977, Elektra). Emerging out of the CBGB "punk" scene, Television struggled to find mainstream success with their quirky rock and only put out two albums before calling it quits (a third followed in the 90s after they reformed). Despite this, the band has gone on to be critically well regarded and highly influential. Jim Testa, who has been writing about music since before the release of this album, tells us about the early days at CBGB and discovering this music as it was released. Bill, Brian, and Jim discuss the Ramones, what the heck post-punk is, how Television is completely unique, what Robert Christgau had to say about the album, the quality of Tom Verlaine's voice, the strange rhythms in the songs, a little on what Brian thinks sounds "angular," what cinematic sounds like, Suicide (the band), and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Because Brian was a little busy, Bill brings some well researched facts about Aimee Mann's cover of the Harry Nilsson song "One!" He talks about the history of the song as it made it's way from Nilsson to Three Dog Night to Mann to the Magnolia soundtrack! Additionally, Bill reads some listener emails about cool comic books about music and how we obviously inspired Jeff Tweedy as he pondered what to name the latest Wilco album!
Brian and Bill are joined by podcaster Dan Drago (25oclockpod.com) to talk about Harry Nilsson's triumphant hit album, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971, RCA Victor). Nilsson started his career as both a recording artist and songwriter who finally broke when Three Dog Night covered his tune "One" in 1969. He enjoyed continued success with a series of unique albums through the 70s before retiring from the music business in the 80s. Dan shares how he knew Nilsson without knowing it, until he checked out this album after not getting an in-joke perpetuated by his brother and their friends' band. Bill, Brian, and Dan talk about Nilsson's influence on solo Beatles output, his collaboration with Randy Newman, the idiosyncratic humor found on this album, multi-Harry harmonies, the Bo Diddley beat, Badfinger and their sad story, how Nilsson wrote a song that feels like it wasn't written by anyone, Nilsson's continuing legacy, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian take a closer look at the song stylings of the iconic actor William Shatner by listening to and discussing his collaboration with Ben Folds on the latter's experimental pop record Fear of Pop Vol. 1. We talk about how this song hinted on what was yet to come. We also read a few listener emails that help us finally put the nail in the coffin on what the deal is with winter in Australia and New Zealand, explore more about how we want to discuss the technical aspects of music and production, and a shout out to our friends in the band Ayer Amarillo!
Bill and Brian take a deep dive into the unique and unexpectedly great work of William Shatner and his collaboration with Ben Folds, Has Been (2004, Shout! Factory). The iconic Star Trek actor was often maligned for his previous foray into pop music, 1968's The Transformed Man, but he found a willing collaborator who helped channel his spoken word poetry fantastic songs that muse on success, tragedy, and growing older. Bill and Brian talk about how they were pleasantly surprised when this came out. We came for Ben Folds but stayed for Shatner. We also discuss Pulp, Joe Jackson, anxiety in the face of success, relationships with dads, the passage of time, the Great Cosmic Joke, having fun at funerals, choosing how you feel, how Shatner took control of who and what he is with his own self-awareness, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill ask (and answer) the question: What is Kim's Deal? This is, of course, a reference to Pixies member and Breeders front woman Kim Deal, as we continue our conversation from our Doolittle episode by following her career with the band's hit single "Cannonball." Bill and Brian talk about who got the last laugh in the Kim/Black Francis feud, the very 90s-ness of the fact that this song was even a hit, and we read some listener tweets about the first day of Winter in Australia!
Bill and Brian welcome drummer John Petrick of the Stewart Dolly (thestewartdolly.bandcamp.com) to the podcast to discuss the Pixies sophomore full length release Doolittle (1989, 4AD). The band formed around the core of primary songwriter Black Francis and guitarist Joey Santiago after the two met at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before bassist Kim Deal and drummer Dave Lovering solidified the lineup. Signed to British indie label 4AD, the band took off with college radio and have since maintained their legacy as one of THE most important alternative bands. John shares how he discovered the band through looking up Weezer on allmusic.com. Bill, Brian, and John discuss Black Francis' name, whether or not his character in the songs reveals who he is in life, Joey Santiago's noisey guitars, Brian not knowing anything about superhero names, the monolithic nature of the album, how to learn to play bass using the Kim Deal method, how Black Francis' voice cracking during a particular song is John's favorite moment on the album, Ennio Morricone, a surprising amount about how the band is like the Beatles in many ways, and more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up their conversation on Sam Cooke's Night Beat by discussing one of his last releases ever, "A Change Is Gonna Come." Written after a particularly tense interaction at a motel, Cooke released this song hoping to affect change within the Civil Rights Movement. We talk about how the song's dense arrangement contrasts with what was produced for Night Beat, the difficulty of navigating racism as a pop icon in a time known for its social injustice, how anger can be used to fuel positivity, and a little on race relations and integration in general. Additionally, we read a listener email, asking us to explain some recording processes we often talk about, specifically the art of mixing!
Joining Brian and Bill to discuss Sam Cooke's landmark and influential Night Beat (1963, RCA) is Randy W. Hall, cohost of our podcast kin That Dandy Classic Music Hour (thatdandyclassicmusichour.com). Night Beat found Sam Cooke enjoying the benefits of his restructured contract, exercising his right to choose his own backing band, go into a studio, show off his skills as the father of soul, and put together one of the first purposely crafted albums. Randy talks about playing hooky from school and heading to his local record shop to discover the reissue of Night Beat on the shelf and then just being blown away when he put it on in his car. Bill, Brian, and Randy discuss the birth of soul, Motown vs. Stax, Cooke's conversational style, Sam's voice being out front, Dylan covering "Freebird," Barney Kessel's excellent guitar work, Billy Preston's excellent organ interplay with Ray Johnson's piano, the unfortunate circumstances of Sam Cooke's death, and more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Brian and Bill discuss one of the Ramones most recognizable songs "I Wanna Be Sedated," how the Ramones have become a ubiquitous legacy act without huge hits, and all the bands that have covered the song. Also, we read a listener email about the necessity of separating art from the artist.
Bill and Brian welcome musician (hellstroms.bandcamp.com), podcaster, and our new resident punk avatar Jack Fitzsimmons onto the podcast to talk about the Ramones' self titled debut (1976, Sire). The four kids who went on to change their names and the landscape of music grew up in the hostile environment of Queens, NY where they decided to embrace themselves as outsiders, turned up the volume, and pretended to be rock stars. Jack shares how he first delved into the band and this album while visiting family in Great Britain and meeting the punks from across the pond who idolized the Ramones. Jack helps us understand, from his perspective, what it means to be a punk and part of that culture. Bill, Brian, and Jack discuss the band's intelligence and their dumb image, the strange mixing choices on the album, the emergence of teenager culture, making mix tapes for former high school girlfriends, Dee Dee's troubles and sexuality, the birth of the punk cover, and much more as we talk about the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian continue talking about Waylon Jennings and his unique brand of "outlaw country" by discussing his duet with Willie Nelson "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)." A listener wrote in, giving us a lot of insight on this song and how it shows off Waylon's "big brass balls." We also read some tweets that corrected our British slang, challenged our perception of fandom, and lead us to talking about "who's in" and "who's out." We also read another email in which a listener heartily disagrees with some of our assessments on the La's album!
Joining Brian and Bill on the podcast this week is trunkworthy.com writer and co-founder David Gorman to talk about Waylon Jennings' Dreaming my Dream (1975, RCA Victor), a key album at the start of his "outlaw country" years. Tired of the Nashville machinery, Jennings was able to wrestle creative control away from his label and into his own hands, sparking a legendary run of albums. David talks about discovering Waylon through recommendations and his live albums before lauding him with accolades for his DIY ethic and unique vocal delivery. Bill, Brian, and David discuss how Waylon challenge the Nashville industry, his rapscallion ways, David's hatred for harmonicas, a theory for the concept of the record, the greatest cheatin' songs bracket, and more as we make our way through the album track by track!
Brian and Bill take a little time to discuss one of the tracks from the deluxe edition of the La's set titled album, "I Am the Key." After Bill tells a wedding story that he forgot to tell on the main episode and Brian fawns over the songs harmonies, the two take a really deep dive into two of Bill's favorite subjects: data sifting and Pearl Jam. A listener challenged our claim that Pearl Jam's Ten outsold Nevermind. We accept the challenge and take it to the mat. We discovered some surprising facts, including how the RIAA and Nielsen Soundscan work, what labels have to do to receive gold and platinum certifications, and of course which album really outsold which (on both US domestic and international levels)!
Bill and Brian dive into a wonderful, under-appreciated and under-discovered set of songs by Brit-pop forebears the La's with their self titled album (1990, Polydor/Go!). Best known for their single "There She Goes," which is perhaps better known Stateside as the 1999 hit for Sixpence None the Richer, the band has only put out this single album to date. But in the time since its release, the band has gone on to become a cult favorite. Bill and Brian discuss the evolution of this album under the guidance of several producers, how frontman Lee Mavers is still unsatisfied with the eventual Steve Lillywhite helmed version, the economical songwriting, how re-amping basses works, the intelligence and depth imbued into simple lyricism, the conundrum of tracking an album with so many great songs, how the heck to play the lead to "There She Goes," what great British rock band a particular song sounds like, what other great British rock band another song sounds like and how Brian is wrong about not liking a particular song, how a bit of contention and friction helps shape songs to be their best, and more in our track by track review!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian keeping diving into the vast catalog of great French artists by discussing Daft Punk and their super massive 2013 hit "Get Lucky." With a little help from Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, the electronic duo churned out a danceable tune. While discussing it we talk about tangentially vs. tangentally, Pharrell's career resurgence at about the time this song hit, disco music, we read a listener email that helps us clarify that a slide was indeed used on Foo fights "Oh George," and we discuss which Pavement albums are our favorites!
Brian and Bill sit down in the virtual lecture hall with Professor Jonathyne Briggs of Indiana University Northwest who literally wrote the book on French music with Sounds French: Globalization, Cultural Communities and Pop Music, 1958-1980 (2015, Oxford University Press). We get a cool history lesson on how rock and roll entered French pop in the 60s and its influence on France's culture through today. From chansons and Elvis Presley to the Beatles and Dylan and onto new wave and electronic music, we explore how an international audience reacted to, were inspired by, and innovated genres we only thought we were well versed in. Jonathyne kindly curated a play list of 10 songs that includes Franciose Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, Michel Polnareff, Telephone, Marquis de Sade, Alain Bashung, Les Rita Mitsouko, Louise Attaque, Air, and M83! We make our way through it, questioning and commenting as Bill mangles the pronounciation of everything, a track at a time.
It's Bonus Song Thursday! And Brian and Bill decide to mix things up a bit by doing an even deeper dive into a song from this week's album by spending way too much time discussing Pearl Jam's "Betterman" off the 1994 album Vitalogy. Bill tells the story of how PJ helped unlock his fandom of music while vacationing in the mountains of West Virginia with his family in 2000. He then talks about watching Touring Band 2000, the Pearl Jam concert film, and watching Eddie Vedder's hands to learn how to play Betterman, which of course leads to a little bit of a guitar demonstration. Additionally, we read a listener email that throws some artists at us that we should cover!
Bill and Brian are joined by rock journalist and music critic Steven Hyden (Pitchfork, Uproxx, Grantland, A.V Club) to talk about Pearl Jam's divisive third album Vitalogy (1994, Epic). Written on tour and recorded piecemeal and haphazardly, the band started to showcase its eclectic nature by featuring some noise collages and a more "punk" sound. Especially influenced by singer Eddie Vedder's trouble dealing with fame and the suicide of one of their closest peers Kurt Cobain, the album took on a darker, grittier tone that, although dismissed at the time, has become revered by Pearl Jam die hards. Steven talks about how Pearl Jam and their "feud" with Nirvana figures into his book, Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me, and how Nirvana helped shape his views on Pearl Jam and this album upon its release. Then Bill, Brian, and Steven discuss Dave Abbruzzese's excellent drumming and why his guns and sport cars got him dismissed from the band, how Eddie Vedder can be too good of a singer, how powerful the band is on "Corduroy," how using early takes both helped and hindered the album, PJ's penchant for trilogies, Vedder's ability to successfully write from a female perspective, how Pearl Jam has become the last huge rock act that has sustained its career, Vitalogy's similarities to Rust Never Sleeps, the importance of viewing this album as a whole, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!
Be sure to check out Steven's book, available at all fine book establishments, including at the following link!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill is once again joined by Jim Hanke of the Vinyl Emergency podcast (soundcloud.com/vinylemergency) to talk about Foo Fighters! We fast forward a little bit in the band's career to discuss a song from their 1999 album There Is Nothing Left to Lose, "Aurora." Jim talks about how this album reflected the band adopting a more mainstream sound but how this song stood out to him and has held up over the years. Bill defends his fandom of this song and the album while complimenting Nate Mendel's exceptional bass playing. Additionally, we read some listener email that gets us analyzing the Dumb and Dumber soundtrack in detail and revealing some great trivia about Lou Reed pre-Velvet Underground history!
Bill welcomes podcaster/music guru Jim Hanke from the Vinyl Emergency podcast (soundcloud.com/vinylemergency) to talk about Foo Fighters' self titled debut album (1995, Capitol/Roswell). Following the tragic suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, the band's drummer, Dave Grohl, was left with no band and an uncertain future. Instead of taking offers from Tom Petty to join the Heartbreakers, Grohl decided to take his future into his own hands and front his own group. Jim talks about his podcast, forgives Bill for not really owning vinyl, and discovering the Foos on Eddie Vedder's Self- Pollution pirate radio broadcast in early 1995. Bill and Jim also discuss the album's "indie" aesthetic, the influence of Nirvana on how the album is perceived, how Foo Fighters maybe haven't really ever put out a front to back great album, how Dave Growl has become the official spokesman of rock 'n' roll, how studio noise draws us in, the band's attitude toward and humor in music videos, William Goldsmith's heavy drumming, the album working in groups of 3, and much more as we make our way through the album track by track!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill and Brian follow up their interview with Those Pretty Wrongs, Luther Russell and Jody Stephens, about their debut album by discussing the b-side, ""Fool of Myself," to their 2015 single "Lucky Guy." The gentlemen talk a little about the Big Star "box," why this song doesn't quite fit with the rest of the album, and a little bit about a Badfinger "vibe." Additionally, we read a listener email about how we helped keep his sanity in check by mentioning the Beatles. Make sure to check out his web comic, crustedsalt.com!
Bill and Brian welcome legendary Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and acclaimed LA musician Luther Russell for a slightly different than usual episode. We had the pleasure to have the artists themselves provide a track by track commentary! Bill and Brian took the opportunity to head down to Memphis, spend time at Ardent Studios, and chat with Jody and Luther about the making of their album, the self titled debut from Those Pretty Wrongs (due out May 13th, 2016 from Ardent Music and Burger Records). Jody and Luther discuss the beginnings of the band, the cross continent writing process, recording at the historic Ardent using some of Chris Bell's guitars, their influences (such as Willis Alan Ramsey), and the positivity inherent throughout the album before we discuss the entire album, one song at a time. As we make our way through, we talk about how mean Eva Gardner could be (in film), Jody's dog's journey through some health issues, empty Chinese cities, arranging harmonies (that feature Danny De La Matyr!), a great story about a toy cube and sideshow freaks, the influence of Big Star's Alex Chilton and Chris Bell on the songwriting and their presence in the DNA of the music, remaining positive in the face of loss, and so so much more!
Make sure to check out the album from Those Pretty Wrongs, due out May 13th from Ardent Music in partnership with Burger Records!
Many thanks to Addison Hare for making this happen!
It's Bonus Song Thursday! Bill has returned from his world travels to join Brian in a follow up to our remembrance of Prince to discuss his performance as part of the George Harrison tribute from the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. On a stage filled with other distinguished artists such as Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood and others, Prince stole the show with his electrifying lead guitar. In the face of such a huge cultural loss, Bill takes the opportunity and some time to discuss his own recent personal loss and how the two compare and contrast. Additionally, we read a couple emails about great film soundtracks from the 90s!
Brian is joined by thegreatalbums.com's blog author (and previous on-air guest) Jeff Fiedler to discuss the recent passing of Prince Rodgers Nelson who died suddenly and unexpectedly on April 21, 2016. They queue up six of their favorites, talking about his immense influence over the 80s and early 90s. Jeff talks about a fortuitous Prince-related Halloween experience and Brian recounts a fateful drive with his friends when he was only 18. Along the way they touch on the fact that Prince, even in the face of failure, never stopped trying to move things along and always - always - made sure that wherever he was in his career, he never stopped bringing it live!