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A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs

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.
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#16 in the Top 100 Music History All time chart

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Episode 143 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Summer in the City’”, and at the short but productive career of the Lovin' Spoonful. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More" by the Walker Brothers and the strange career of Scott Walker. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources As usual, all the songs excerpted in the podcast can be heard in full at Mixcloud. This box set contains all four studio albums by the Lovin' Spoonful, plus the one album by "The Lovin' Spoonful featuring Joe Butler", while this CD contains their two film soundtracks (mostly inessential instrumental filler, apart from "Darling Be Home Soon") Information about harmonicas and harmonicists comes from Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers by Kim Field. There are only three books about the Lovin' Spoonful, but all are worth reading. Do You Believe in Magic? by Simon Wordsworth is a good biography of the band, while his The Magic's in the Music is a scrapbook of press cuttings and reminiscences. Meanwhile Steve Boone's Hotter Than a Match Head: My Life on the Run with the Lovin' Spoonful has rather more discussion of the actual music than is normal in a musician's autobiography. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Let's talk about the harmonica for a while. The harmonica is an instrument that has not shown up a huge amount in the podcast, but which was used in a fair bit of the music we've covered. We've heard it for example on records by Bo Diddley: [Excerpt: Bo Diddley, "I'm a Man"] and by Bob Dylan: [Excerpt: Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind"] and the Rolling Stones: [Excerpt: The Rolling Stones, "Little Red Rooster"] In most folk and blues contexts, the harmonicas used are what is known as a diatonic harmonica, and these are what most people think of when they think of harmonicas at all. Diatonic harmonicas have the notes of a single key in them, and if you want to play a note in another key, you have to do interesting tricks with the shape of your mouth to bend the note. There's another type of harmonica, though, the chromatic harmonica. We've heard that a time or two as well, like on "Love Me Do" by the Beatles: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love Me Do"] Chromatic harmonicas have sixteen holes, rather than the diatonic harmonica's ten, and they also have a slide which you can press to raise the note by a semitone, meaning you can play far more notes than on a diatonic harmonica -- but they're also physically harder to play, requiring a different kind of breathing to pull off playing one successfully. They're so different that John Lennon would distinguish between the two instruments -- he'd describe a chromatic harmonica as a harmonica, but a diatonic harmonica he would call a harp, like blues musicians often did: [Excerpt: The Beatles, "Love These Goon Shows"] While the chromatic harmonica isn't a particularly popular instrument in rock music, it is one that has had some success in other fields. There have been some jazz and light-orchestral musicians who have become famous playing the instrument, like the jazz musician Max Geldray, who played in those Goon Shows the Beatles loved so much: [Excerpt: Max Geldray, "C-Jam Blues"] And in the middle of the twentieth century there were a few musicians who succeeded in making the harmonica into an instrument that was actually respected in serious classical music. By far the most famous of these was Larry Adler, who became almost synonymous with the instrument in the popular consciousness, and who reworked many famous pieces of music for the instrument: [Excerpt: Larry Adler, "Rhapsody in Blue"] But while Adler was the most famous classical harmonicist of his generation, he was not generally considered the best by other musicians. That was, rather, a man named John Sebastian. Sebastian, who chose to take his middle name as a surname partly to Anglicise his name but also, it seems, at least in part as tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach (wh...

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Episode one hundred and forty-six of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, and the history of the theremin. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "You're Gonna Miss Me" by the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode, most of which will be used in future Beach Boys episodes too. It’s difficult to enumerate everything here, because I have been an active member of the Beach Boys fan community for twenty-four years, and have at times just used my accumulated knowledge for this. But the resources I list here are ones I’ve checked for specific things. Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher. His books can be found at https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks Andrew Doe’s Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins’ The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. And Philip Lambert’s Inside the Music of Brian Wilson is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson’s music from 1962 through 67. I have also referred to Brian Wilson’s autobiography, I Am Brian Wilson, and to Mike Love’s, Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys’ music in general, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it, including the single version of "Good Vibrations". Oddly, the single version of "Good Vibrations" is not on the The Smile Sessions box set. But an entire CD of outtakes of the track is, and that was the source for the session excerpts here. Information on Lev Termen comes from Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky Transcript In ancient Greece, the god Hermes was a god of many things, as all the Greek gods were. Among those things, he was the god of diplomacy, he was a trickster god, a god of thieves, and he was a messenger god, who conveyed messages between realms. He was also a god of secret knowledge. In short, he was the kind of god who would have made a perfect spy. But he was also an inventor. In particular he was credited in Greek myth as having invented the lyre, an instrument somewhat similar to a guitar, harp, or zither, and as having used it to create beautiful sounds. But while Hermes the trickster god invented the lyre, in Greek myth it was a mortal man, Orpheus, who raised the instrument to perfection. Orpheus was a legendary figure, the greatest poet and musician of pre-Homeric Greece, and all sorts of things were attributed to him, some of which might even have been things that a real man of that name once did. He is credited with the "Orphic tripod" -- the classification of the elements into earth, water, and fire -- and with a collection of poems called the Rhapsodiae. The word Rhapsodiae comes from the Greek words rhaptein, meaning to stitch or sew, and ōidē, meaning song -- the word from which we get our word "ode", and originally a rhapsōdos was someone who "stitched songs together" -- a reciter of long epic poems composed of several shorter pieces that the rhapsōdos would weave into one continuous piece. It's from that that we get the English word "rhapsody", which in the sixteenth century, when it was introduced into the language, meant a literary work that was a disjointed collection of patchwork bits, stitched together without much thought as to structure, but which now means a piece of music in one movement, but which has several distinct sections. Those sections may seem unrelated, and the piece may have an improvisatory feel, but a closer look will usually reveal relationships between the sections, and the piece as a whole will have a sense of unity. When Orpheus' love, Eurydice, died, he went down into Hades, the underworld where the souls of the dead lived, and played music so beautiful, ...

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Episode one hundred and thirty-eight of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “I Fought the Law", and at the mysterious death of Bobby Fuller. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a fifteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Hanky Panky" by Tommy James and the Shondells. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com No Mixcloud this week due to the large number of tracks by the Bobby Fuller Four Resources Information about the Crickets' post-Holly work comes from Buddy Holly: Learning the Game, by Spencer Leigh. There are two books available about Bobby Fuller -- the one I consulted most is Rock and Roll Mustangs by Stephen McParland, which can be bought as a PDF from https://payhip.com/cmusicbooks I also consulted I Fought the Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller by Miriam Linna and Randell Fuller. One minor note -- both these books spell Bob Keane's name Keene. Apparently he spelled it multiple ways, but I have chosen to use the spelling he used on his autobiography, which is also the spelling I have used for him previously. There are several compilations available of the Bobby Fuller Four's material, but the best collection of the hit singles is Magic Touch: The Complete Mustang Singles Collection. And this is an expanded edition of the Crickets' In Style album. Erratum I say Sonny Curtis wrote "Oh Boy!" -- I meant Sonny West. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A warning, before I begin. This episode, more than most, deals with events you may find disturbing, including graphic descriptions of violent death. Please check the transcript on the podcast website at 500songs.com if you are worried that you might be upset by this. This episode will not be a pleasant listen. Now on with the episode... More than anything, Bobby Fuller wanted desperately to be Buddy Holly. His attitude is best summed up in a quote from Jim Reese, the guitarist with the Bobby Fuller Four, who said "Don't get me wrong, I thought the world of Bobby Fuller and I cared a lot for him, so I say this with the best intentions -- but he was into Buddy Holly so much that if Buddy Holly decided to wear one red sock and one blue sock and Bobby Fuller found out about it, Bobby Fuller would've had one red sock and one blue sock. He figured that the only way to accomplish whatever Buddy Holly had accomplished was to be as much like Buddy Holly as possible." And Reese was right -- Bobby Fuller really was as much like Buddy Holly as possible. Buddy Holly was from Texas, so was Bobby Fuller. Buddy Holly played a Fender Stratocaster, Bobby Fuller played a Fender Stratocaster. Buddy Holly performed with the Crickets, Bobby Fuller's biggest hit was with a Crickets song. Buddy Holly recorded with Norman Petty, Bobby Fuller recorded with Norman Petty. Of course, there was one big difference. Buddy Holly died in an accident when he was twenty-two. Bobby Fuller lived to be twenty-three. And his death was no accident... [Excerpt: The Bobby Fuller Four, "I Fought the Law"] After Buddy Holly quit the Crickets in 1958, they continued recording with Norman Petty, getting in guitarist Sonny Curtis, who had been an associate of the band members even before they were a band, and who had been a frequent collaborator with Buddy, and vocalist Earl Sinks. But while they kept recording, Petty didn't release any of the recordings, and the group became convinced that he wasn't really interested in doing so. Rather, they thought that he was just using them as leverage to try to get Buddy back. "Love's Made a Fool of You" was the record that made the Crickets lose their faith in Norman Petty. The song was one that Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery had written way back in 1954, and Holly had revived it for a demo in 1958, recording it not as a potential song for himself but to give to the Everly Brothers, reworked in their style, though they never recorded it: [Excerpt: Buddy Holly, "Love's Made a Fool of You"] When Holly and the Crickets had parted ways, the Crickets had recorded their own version of the song with Petty producing, which remained unreleased like everything they'd recorded since Buddy left. ...

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Episode one hundred and thirty-three of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "My Girl" by the Temptations, and is part three of a three-episode look at Motown in 1965. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Yeh Yeh" by Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources As usual, I've put together a Mixcloud playlist of all the recordings excerpted in this episode. This box set is the definitive collection of the Temptations' work, but is a bit pricey. For those on a budget, this two-CD set contains all the hits. As well as the general Motown information listed below, I've also referred to Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Enduring Soul of the Temptations by Mark Ribowsky, and to Smokey Robinson's autobiography. 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’. 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 For the last few weeks we've been looking at Motown in 1965, but now we're moving away from Holland, Dozier, and Holland, we're also going to move back in time a little, and look at a record that was released in December 1964. I normally try to keep this series in more or less chronological order, but to tell this story I had to first show the new status quo of the American music industry after the British Invasion, and some of what had to be covered there was covered in songs from early 1965. And the reason I wanted to show that status quo before doing this series of Motown records is that we're now entering into a new era of musical segregation, and really into the second phase of this story. In 1963, Billboard had actually stopped having an R&B chart -- Cashbox magazine still had one, but Billboard had got rid of theirs. The reasoning was simple -- by that point there was so much overlap between the R&B charts and the pop charts that it didn't seem necessary to have both. The stuff that was charting on the R&B charts was also charting pop -- people like Ray Charles or Chubby Checker or the Ronettes or Sam Cooke. The term "rock and roll" had originally been essentially a marketing campaign to get white people to listen to music made by Black people, and it had worked. There didn't seem to be a need for a separate category for music listened to by Black people, because that was now the music listened to by *everybody*. Or it had been, until the Beatles turned up. At that point, the American charts were flooded by groups with guitars, mostly British, mostly male, and mostly white. The story of rock and roll from 1954 through 1964 had been one of integration, of music made by Black people becoming the new mainstream of music in the USA. The story for the next decade or more would be one of segregation, of white people retaking the pop ...

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Episode 126 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “For Your Love", the Yardbirds, and the beginnings of heavy rock and the guitar hero. 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 "A Lover's Concerto" by the Toys. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ Resources As usual, I’ve created a Mixcloud playlist, with full versions of all the songs excerpted in this episode. The Yardbirds have one of the most mishandled catalogues of all the sixties groups, possibly the most mishandled. Their recordings with Giorgio Gomelsky, Simon Napier-Bell and Mickie Most are all owned by different people, and all get compiled separately, usually with poor-quality live recordings, demos, and other odds and sods to fill up a CD's running time. The only actual authoritative compilation is the long out-of-print Ultimate! . Information came from a variety of sources. Most of the general Yardbirds information came from The Yardbirds by Alan Clayson and Heart Full of Soul: Keith Relf of the Yardbirds by David French. Simon Napier-Bell's You Don't Have to Say You Love Me is one of the most entertaining books about the sixties music scene, and contains several anecdotes about his time working with the Yardbirds, some of which may even be true. Some information about Immediate Records came from Immediate Records by Simon Spence, which I'll be using more in future episodes. Information about Clapton came from Motherless Child by Paul Scott, while information on Jeff Beck came from Hot Wired Guitar: The Life of Jeff Beck by Martin Power. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Today, we're going to take a look at the early career of the band that, more than any other band, was responsible for the position of lead guitarist becoming as prestigious as that of lead singer. We're going to look at how a blues band launched the careers of several of the most successful guitarists of all time, and also one of the most successful pop songwriters of the sixties and seventies. We're going to look at "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds: [Excerpt: The Yardbirds, "For Your Love"] The roots of the Yardbirds lie in a group of schoolfriends in Richmond, a leafy suburb of London. Keith Relf, Laurie Gane, Paul Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty were art-school kids who were obsessed with Sonny Terry and Jimmy Reed, and who would hang around the burgeoning London R&B scene, going to see the Rolling Stones and Alexis Korner in Twickenham and at Eel Pie Island, and starting up their own blues band, the Metropolis Blues Quartet. However, Gane soon left the group to go off to university, and he was replaced by two younger guitarists, Top Topham and Chris Dreja, with Samwell-Smith moving from guitar to bass. As they were no longer a quartet, they renamed themselves the Yardbirds, after a term Relf had found on the back of an album cover, meaning a tramp or hobo. The newly-named Yardbirds quickly developed their own unique style -- their repertoire was the same mix of Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry as every other band on the London scene, but they included long extended improvisatory instrumental sequences with Relf's harmonica playing off Topham's lead guitar. The group developed a way of extending songs, which they described as a “rave-up” and would become the signature of their live act – in the middle of a song they would go into a long instrumental solo in double-time, taking the song twice as fast and improvising heavily, before dropping back to the original tempo to finish the song off. These “rave-up” sections would often be much longer than the main song, and were a chance for everyone to show off their instrumental skills, with Topham and Relf trading phrases on guitar and harmonica. They were mentored by Cyril Davies, who gave them the interval spots at some of his shows -- and then one day asked them to fill in for him in a gig he couldn't...

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This week's episode of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs is the first of two bonus episodes answering listener questions at the end of the first year of the podcast.. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Resources As always, I've created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. Patreon backers can ask questions for next episode at this link. Books mentioned -- Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick, Before Elvis by Larry Birnbaum, Roots, Radicals and Rockers by Billy Bragg, Honkers and Shouters by Arnold Shaw. Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Hello, and welcome to the first of our two-part question and answer session. For those who didn't hear the little admin podcast I did last week, this week and next week are not regular episodes of the podcast -- I'm taking two weeks out to get the book version of the first fifty episodes edited and published, and to get a bit of a backlog in writing future episodes. I'm planning on doing this every year from now on, and doing it this way will mean that the podcast will take exactly ten years, rather than the nine years and eight months it would otherwise take, But to fill in the gaps while you wait, I asked for any questions from my Patreon backers, about anything to do with the podcast. This week and next week I'm going to be answering those questions. Now, I'll be honest, I wasn't even sure that anyone would have any questions at all, and I was worried I'd have to think of something else to do next week, but it turns out there are loads of them. I've actually had so many questions, some of them requiring quite long answers, that I'll probably have enough to not only do this week and next week's episodes based on questions, but to do a bonus backer-only half-hour podcast of more questions next week. Anyway, to start with, a question that I've been asked quite a bit, and that both Melissa Williams and Claire Boothby asked -- what's the theme music for the podcast, and how does it fit in with the show? [Excerpt: Boswell Sisters, “Rock and Roll”] The song is called "Rock and Roll", and it's from 1934. It is, I believe, the very first song to use the phrase "rock and roll" in those words -- there was an earlier song called "rocking and rolling", but I think it's the first one to use the phrase "rock and roll". It's performed by the Boswell Sisters, a jazz vocal trio from the thirties whose lead singer, Connee Boswell, influenced Ella Fitzgerald among others, and it was written by Richard Whiting and Sidney Clare. They actually wrote it for Shirley Temple -- they're the people who wrote "On the Good Ship Lollipop" -- but it was turned down for use in one of her films so the Boswells did it instead. The version I'm using is actually the version the Boswells sang in a film, Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round, rather than the proper studio recording. That's just because the film version was easier for me to obtain. As for why I'm using it, a few reasons. One is that it's of historical note, as I said, because it's the first song to use the phrase, and that seemed appropriate for a podcast on the history of rock music. The other main reason is that it's in the public domain, and I try wherever possible to keep to copyright laws. I think all the uses of music in the podcast fall under fair use or fair dealing, because they're short excerpts used for educational purposes and I link to legal versions of the full thing, but using a recording as the theme music doesn't, so I had to choose something that was in the public domain. Next we have a question from David Gerard: "piece of trivia from waaaaay back: in "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie", why "*democratic* fellows named Mack"? what's that line about?" [Excerpt: Louis Jordan, “Choo Choo Ch'Boogie”] Well, I've never actually seen an interview with the writers of the song, but I can hazard two educated guesses. One of them is boring and probably right, the other one is more interesting and probably wrong. The boring and probably right one is very simple -- the word "democratic" scans, and there aren't that many words that fit that syllable pattern. There are some -- "existential", "sympathetic", "diuretic" -- but not that many, and "democratic" happens to be assonant with the song's rhyme scheme, too -- the "cratic" doesn't actually rhyme with all those "alack", "track" "jack", and so on, but it sounds good in combination with them. I suspect...
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