129 episodes

A podcast which goes through the history of rock and roll music, one song at a time, starting in 1938 and ending up in 1999.

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs Andrew Hickey

    • Music History
    • 4.8 • 26 Ratings

A podcast which goes through the history of rock and roll music, one song at a time, starting in 1938 and ending up in 1999.

    Episode 105: "Green Onions" by Booker T.and the MGs

    Episode 105: "Green Onions" by Booker T.and the MGs

    Episode 105 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Green Onions", and how a company started by a Western Swing fiddle player ended up making the most important soul records of the sixties. 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 "He's So Fine" by the Chiffons.
    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/
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    Resources
    I used three main books when creating this episode. Two were histories of Stax -- 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 more general overview of soul music made in Tennessee and Alabama in the sixties, but is useful as it's less likely to take statements about racial attitudes entirely at face value.
    This is a good cheap compilation of Booker T and the MGs' music.
    If the Erwin Records tracks here interest you, they're all available on this compilation.
    The Complete Stax-Volt Singles vol. 1: 1959-1968 is a nine-CD box set containing much of the rest of the music in this episode. It's out of print physically, but the MP3 edition, while pricey, is worth it.
    Patreon
    This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?
    Transcript
     
    And now we come to the end of the backfilling portion of the story. Since "Telstar" we've been looking at records from 1962 that came out just before "Love Me Do" -- we've essentially been in an extended flashback. This is the last of those flashback episodes, and from next week on we're moving forward into 1963.
    Today we're going to look at a record by a group of musicians who would be as important to the development of music in the 1960s as any, and at the early years of Stax Records, a label that would become as important as Chess, Motown, or Sun. Today, we're looking at "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MGs, and how a white country fiddle player accidentally kickstarted the most important label in soul music:
    [Excerpt: Booker T. and the MGs, "Green Onions"]
    Our story starts in Memphis, with Jim Stewart, a part-time fiddle player. Stewart was in a Western Swing band, and was hugely influenced by Bob Wills, but he wasn't making any real money from music. Instead, he was working a day job at a bank.
    But he was still interested in music, and wanted to be involved in the industry. One of the gigs he'd had was in the house band at a venue where Elvis sometimes played in his early years, and he'd seen how Elvis had gone from an obscure local boy all the way to the biggest star in the world. He knew he couldn't do that himself, but he was irresistibly attracted to any field where that was *possible*.
    He found his way into the industry, and into music history as a result of a tip from his barber.
    The barber in question, Erwin Ellis, was another country fiddle player, but he owned his own record label, Erwin Records. Erwin Records was a tiny label -- it was so tiny that its first release, by Ellis himself, seems not to exist anywhere. Even on compilations of Erwin Records material, it's not present, which is a shame, as it would be interesting from a historical perspective to hear Ellis' own playing.
    But while Ellis was unsuccessful both as a fiddle player and as a record company owner, he did manage to release a handful of rockabilly classics on Erwin Records, like Hoyt Jackson's "Enie Meanie Minie Moe":
    [Excerpt: Hoyt Jackson, "Enie Meanie Minie Moe"]
    and "Boppin' Wig Wam Willie" by Ray Scott, who had written "Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll" for Billy Lee Riley, and who was backed by Riley's Lit

    • 46 min
    Episode 104: "He's a Rebel" by "The Crystals"

    Episode 104: "He's a Rebel" by "The Crystals"

    Episode 104 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "He's a Rebel", and how a song recorded by the Blossoms was released under the name of the Crystals.  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 "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto.
    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/
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    Resources
    As always, I've created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode.
    A lot of resources were used for this episode.
    The material on Gene Pitney mostly comes from his page on This is My Story.
    Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era by Ken Emerson is a good overview of the Brill Building scene.
    Girl Groups by John Clemente contains potted biographies of many groups of the era, including articles on both The Crystals and the Blossoms.
    I've referred to two biographies of Spector in this episode, Phil Spector: Out of His Head by Richard Williams and He's a Rebel by Mark Ribkowsky.
    And information on the Wrecking Crew largely comes from The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman.
    There are many compilations available with some of the hits Spector produced, but I recommend getting Back to Mono, a four-CD overview of his career containing all the major singles put out by Philles.
     
    Patreon
    This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?
    Transcript
    A brief note -- there are some very brief mentions of domestic abuse here. Nothing I think will upset anyone, but you might want to check the transcript if you're at all unsure.
    Up to this point, whenever we've looked at a girl group, it's been at one that had, to a greater or lesser extent, some control over their own career. Groups like the Marvelettes, the Chantels, and the Bobbettes all wrote their own material, at least at first, and had distinctive personalities before they ever made a record.
    But today, we're going to look at a group whose identity was so subsumed in that of their producer that the record we're looking at was released under the name of a different group from the one that recorded it. We're going to look at "He's a Rebel", which was recorded by the Blossoms and released by the Crystals.
    [Excerpt: “The Crystals” (The Blossoms), "He's a Rebel"]
    The Crystals, from their very beginnings, were intended as a vehicle for the dreams of men, rather than for their own ambitions. Whereas the girl groups we've looked at so far all formed as groups of friends at school before they moved into professional singing, the Crystals were put together by a man named Benny Wells. Wells had a niece, Barbara Alston, who sang with a couple of her schoolfriends, Mary Thomas and Myrna Giraud. Wells put those three together with two other girls, Dee Dee Kenniebrew and Patsy Wright, to form a five-piece vocal group. Wells seems not to have had much concept of what was in the charts at the time -- the descriptions of the music he had the girls singing talk about him wanting them to sound like the Modernaires, the vocal group who sang with Glenn Miller's band in the early 1940s.
    But the girls went along with Wells, and Wells had good enough ears to recognise a hit when one was brought to him -- and one was brought to him by Patsy Wright's brother-in-law, Leroy Bates. Bates had written a song called "There's No Other Like My Baby", and Wells could tell it had potential. Incidentally, some books say that the song was based on a gospel song called "There's No Other Like My Jesus", and that claim is repeated on Wikipedia, but I can't find any evidence of a song of that name o

    • 41 min
    BONUS: I Read The News Today Oh Boy -- The Profumo Affair

    BONUS: I Read The News Today Oh Boy -- The Profumo Affair

    This month's ten-minute extra bonus episode on news events at the time we're looking at is on the Profumo Affair, and how a sex scandal transformed Britain. Click through to the full post to read a transcript.
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    Transcript
    Welcome to the second episode of "I Read the News Today, Oh Boy", the ten-minute bonus podcast I'm running monthly alongside the main podcast. In case you've forgotten from last month, in these bonus episodes I'm going to talk about aspects of the news that were happening at the same time as the music we're talking about, so you have some idea of the wider context in which the music was being made.
    This month, we're going to look at the Profumo affair, which was one of the most important moments in post-War British history, not for anything that actually happened, but because of the change in cultural attitudes it created. A brief warning -- this one contains some mention of suicide, violence against women, and gun violence.
    In 1963, the Conservative Party had been in power in Britain for twelve years, and as with any party in power for that long, it was starting to become unpopular. In that time there had been three different Prime Ministers -- Winston Churchill, who had returned to power in 1951 after losing the 1945 election, but who had retired before the 1955 election; Anthony Eden, who had replaced Churchill, and who had been Prime Minister during the Suez Crisis, which was the event that finally led to the realisation that Britain was no longer a major world power; and finally Harold Macmillan, an ageing, Patrician, figure who gave the impression of being an amiable but rather befuddled old man.
    But the government was finally brought down by the first British sex scandal among the ruling classes ever to go public. John Profumo was a minor minister, never in the Cabinet but with a long history of ministerial roles. He was as establishment as you could get, having been educated at Harrow and Oxford, and he was technically the fifth Baron Profumo, a member of the Italian nobility, though he inherited his title during the Second World War at a time when Britain was at war with Italy, and the title was abolished soon afterwards. He had been the youngest MP to be elected in 1940, he'd gone and fought in the war and risen to the rank of Brigadier, and he was married to Valerie Hobson, an actor who had appeared in films such as Bride of Frankenstein, Werewolf of London, Great Expectations, and Kind Hearts and Coronets. 
    Profumo had attended a party hosted by his friend Viscount Astor, where he'd been introduced by the society osteopath and artist Stephen Ward to Christine Keeler, a model who was twenty-seven years younger than him, and who had a very active love life. Keeler was involved with many men, and Profumo soon became one of them -- which caused problems with MI5. Because one of the other men with whom Keeler was involved was Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian spy in Britain who MI5 were trying to induce to defect, while Profumo was the Minister of War, in charge of Britain's defence. 
    Profumo and Keeler's affair was quite brief, and would have been hushed up as these things usually were, except that one of Keeler's other lovers, a jazz promoter named Johnny Edgecombe, attacked another man, a singer called "Lucky" Gordon, after being told by Keeler that Gordon had assaulted her. Edgecombe became angry when Keeler refused to testify in his defence, and took a gun round to Stephen Ward's flat, where Keeler was staying, and shot five rounds into the building.
    This brought Keeler to the attention not only of the police, but of the press, and the story was initially just about the shooting -- along with the excitement of the shooting itself there was also the prurient interest of a beautiful young woman with multiple lovers, and a chance for some good old-fashioned British racism, as Edgecombe and Gor

    • 10 min
    Apology for Delays

    Apology for Delays

    Transcript
    Hi, this is just a brief apology for the fact that things are going a bit slow at the moment with the podcast. I try to keep to a weekly schedule, but recently I've been having a bit of a flare-up of some of my chronic illnesses, which has in turn meant that I've not been sleeping very well, and it's very difficult to write or research when I'm brain-fogged. This has meant that instead of a seven-day episode turnaround, things have slipped a bit, and it's now taking about nine days, give or take, to get an episode done, and has done for a few weeks now. I'm recording this week's episode tonight, and it should be up soon – possibly tomorrow, maybe Monday – and I hope this flare-up passes soon and I can get back to my normal working speed. Thanks for your patience.

    • 44 sec
    Episode 103: "Hitch-Hike" by Marvin Gaye

    Episode 103: "Hitch-Hike" by Marvin Gaye

    Episode one hundred and three of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Hitch-Hike" by Marvin Gaye, and the early career of one of Motown's defining artists. 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 "Any Other Way" by Jackie Shane.
    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/
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    Erratum
    I say that Smokey Robinson was the only person allowed to be both a writer/producer and performer at Motown. That was Marvin Gaye's later statement, but at this point Eddie Holland was also still doing all those things.
     
    Resources
    As usual, I've created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. 
    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.
    And Motown Junkies is an infrequently-updated blog looking at (so far) the first 693 tracks released on Motown singles.
    There is a Complete Motown Singles 1959-62 box available from Hip-O-Select with comprehensive liner notes, but if you just want the music, I recommend instead this much cheaper bare-bones box from Real Gone Music.
    For information on Gaye specifically, I relied on Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz.
    The best collection of Gaye's music is The Master, a four-disc box covering his recordings from "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" to the very last recordings of his life.
     
    Transcript
    A brief note -- this week's episode contains some minor mentions of parental and domestic abuse, and some discussions of homophobia. I don't think those mentions will be upsetting for anyone, but if you're unsure you might want to check the transcript before listening.
    Today we're going to look at the start of one of the great careers in soul music, and one of the great artists to come out of the Motown hit factory. We're going to look at the continued growth of the Motown company, and at the personal relationships that would drive it in the 1960s, but would also eventually lead to its downfall. We're going to look at "Hitch-Hike", and the early career of Marvin Gaye:
    [Excerpt: Marvin Gaye, "Hitch-Hike"]
    One thing we've not talked about much in the podcast so far is the way that the entertainment industry, until relatively recently, acted as a safety valve for society, a place where people who didn't fit in anywhere could build themselves a life and earn a living without playing along with the normal social conventions. And by instinct, temperament, and upbringing, Marvin Gaye was one of those people.
    He was always someone who rubbed up against authority. He spent his youth fighting with his abusive father, and eventually left home to join the Air Force just to get away from his father. But he didn't stay long in the Air Force either -- he was discharged due to mental problems, which he later claimed he'd faked, with his honourable discharge stating "Marvin Gay cannot adjust to regimentation and authority".
    Back in Washington DC, where he'd grown up, and feeling like a failu

    • 29 min
    Episode 102: "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers

    Episode 102: "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers

    Episode one hundred and two of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers, and the early career 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 ten-minute bonus episode available, on "How Do You Do It?" by Gerry and the Pacemakers.
    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/
    ----more----
    Resources
    No Mixcloud this week, due to the number of songs by the Isleys.
    Amazingly, there are no books on the Isley Brothers, unless you count a seventy-two page self-published pamphlet by Rudolph Isley's daughter, so I've had to piece this together from literally dozens of different sources.
    For information about the Isley Brothers the main source was  Icons of R&B and Soul by Bob Gulla. 
    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.
    There are many compilations of the public-domain recordings of the Isleys. This one seems the most complete.
    This three-CD set, though, is the best overview of the group's whole career.
    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 look at one of the great Brill Building songwriters, and at a song he wrote which became a classic both of soul and of rock music. We're going to look at how a novelty Latin song based around a dance craze was first taken up by one of the greatest soul groups of the sixties, and then reworked by the biggest British rock band of all time. We're going to look at "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers.
    [Excerpt: The Isley Brothers, "Twist and Shout"]
    When we left the Isley Brothers, they had just signed to Atlantic, and released several singles with Leiber and Stoller, records like "Standing on the Dance Floor" that were excellent R&B records, but which didn't sell:
    [Excerpt: The Isley Brothers, "Standing on the Dance Floor"]
    In 1962 they were dropped by Atlantic and moved on to Wand Records, the third label started by Florence Greenberg, who had already started Tiara and Scepter. As with those labels, Luther Dixon was in charge of the music, and he produced their first single on the label, a relatively catchy dance song called "The Snake", which didn't catch on commercially:
    [Excerpt: The Isley Brothers, "The Snake"]
    While "The Snake" didn't sell, the Isley Brothers clearly had some commercial potential -- and indeed their earlier hit "Shout" had just recharted, after Joey Dee and the Starliters had a hit with a cover version of it. All that was needed was the right song, and they could be as big as Luther Dixon's other group, the Shirelles. And Dixon had just the song for them -- a song co-written by Burt Bacharach, and sung on the demo by a young singer called Dionne Warwick. Unfortunately, they spent almost all the session trying and failing to get the song down -- they just couldn't make it work -- and eventually they gave up on it, and Bacharach produced the song for Jerry Butler, the former lead singer of the Impressions, who had a top twenty hit with it:
    [Excerpt: Jerry Butler, "Make it Easy on Yourself"]
    So they were stuck without a song to record -- and then Dixon's assistant on the session, Bert Berns, suggested that they record one of his songs -- one that had been a flop for another group the previous year.
    The story of "Twist and Shout" actually starts with a group called the Five Pearls, who made their first record in 1954:
    [Excerpt: The Five Pearls, "Please Let Me Know"]
    The Five Pearls recorded under various different names, and in various different

    • 37 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
26 Ratings

26 Ratings

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Fantastic

Been listening for a long time. An extraordinary knowledge of popular music well presented and compulsive listening. Back him on Patreon.

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Back through the pages of time

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Puts you right in the room where it happened m

This podcast is great. I feel like I’m right there, recording with Elvis. If only!

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