214 episodes

Andrew Hickey presents a history of rock music from 1938 to 1999, looking at five hundred songs that shaped the genre.

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.

    Episode 170: “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison

    Episode 170: “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison

    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 http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/



    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

    Episode 169: “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company

    Episode 169: “Piece of My Heart” by Big Brother and the Holding Company

    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 http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/



    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 ninete

    Episode 168: “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin

    Episode 168: “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin

    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 http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/





    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

    Episode 167: “The Weight” by The Band

    Episode 167: “The Weight” by The Band

    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 http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/

    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,

    Episode 166: “Crossroads” by Cream

    Episode 166: “Crossroads” by Cream

    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 http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/



    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 tra

    Episode 165: “Dark Star” by the Grateful Dead

    Episode 165: “Dark Star” by the Grateful Dead

    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 archive.org 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 t

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
184 Ratings

184 Ratings

Mapleblaze ,

đŸ‘đŸ»

Thoroughly entertaining and entertainingly thorough.

Poucetof ,

Great podcast

A must to all rock music lovers!

E D White ,

This project is absolutely amazing

This is a really unique podcast. If you are even slightly interested in the history of Rock, then this is a must listen. Each episode is a huge undertaking that will help make sense of artists and music that we grew up with.

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