11 episodes

‘The Secret Life of Songs’ is a new podcast series exploring ten classic pop recordings to get to the heart of why they mean so much to us. I'm a musician who writes and performs under the name 'sky coloured' and in each episode, I'll discuss and perform a different classic pop song, from Sam Cooke, to the Beach Boys, to Tina Turner, and more. It's intended to be an insight into how these amazing songs work, from a songwriter's perspective, as well as a personal interpretation of what they might have to say to us.

The Secret Life of Songs Anthony

    • Music
    • 4.8 • 20 Ratings

‘The Secret Life of Songs’ is a new podcast series exploring ten classic pop recordings to get to the heart of why they mean so much to us. I'm a musician who writes and performs under the name 'sky coloured' and in each episode, I'll discuss and perform a different classic pop song, from Sam Cooke, to the Beach Boys, to Tina Turner, and more. It's intended to be an insight into how these amazing songs work, from a songwriter's perspective, as well as a personal interpretation of what they might have to say to us.

    #10 - River Deep — Mountain High / Ike & Tina Turner

    #10 - River Deep — Mountain High / Ike & Tina Turner

    How does a record make us feel like we're in a vast space, one that we've never experienced, one that may not exist? In this episode, the last of the series, I look at the Phil Spector production, 'River Deep — Mountain High', performed in 1966 by Tina Turner, to explore how we hear space in music. It was a groundbreaking record in its time, costing an unprecedented amount of money to make, and it still sounds as if it's pushing at the outer limits of what can be captured on record. I'm interested in how we experience all that as listeners: how something so apparently small as a three-minute pop song can contain intimations of cavernous feeling and impossible depths.

    All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recording of 'River Deep - Mountain High' can be heard here. If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)

    • 24 min
    #9 - The Makings of You / Curtis Mayfield

    #9 - The Makings of You / Curtis Mayfield

    Since I first started listening to pop music, I've wondered about what's really going on in songs about love. Something seems to haunt expressions of romantic affection or loss, something that often seems to go beyond the strict meaning of the words. How can we explain the power of apparently simple songs about heartbreak and devotion? This episode looks into the history of American popular song to seek an answer to the question of meaning in songs about love, and to wonder what a classic love song - Curtis Mayfield's 'The Makings of You' - might be saying to us, if we could take into account the reverberations that echo from its musical histories.

    All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recording of 'The Makings of You' can be heard here. The version of 'Steal Away' heard in the episode is based on a performance by McHenry Boatwright, which isn’t on Spotify but can be found - at the time of publication - on YouTube.

    If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)

    • 27 min
    #8 - Walkin' After Midnight & Crazy / Patsy Cline

    #8 - Walkin' After Midnight & Crazy / Patsy Cline

    When Patsy Cline first heard Willie Nelson's demo version of 'Crazy', she didn't like it, thinking it sounded too vulnerable and heartbroken. Talked into it by her husband and her producer, she would make a record that seemed to capture something fundamental about the lives of its contemporary listeners, but while much has been written on Cline's status as a pioneering woman in the male-dominated world of country music, the fact that the song and many of her other famous singles - like her first hit, 'Walkin' After Midnight' - hint strongly that the persona of the singer is going mad, has been mostly overlooked. In this episode I look at both songs and ask why madness might have played such an important role in the career of the most important female country singer of the late 1950s, and what it might tell us about the lives of men and women of the era.

    All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recordings of 'Walkin' After Midnight' and 'Crazy', as well as Willie Nelson's demo recording, can be heard here.

    If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)

    • 24 min
    #7 - Cigarettes and Coffee / Otis Redding

    #7 - Cigarettes and Coffee / Otis Redding

    What does a chorus do in a pop song? Among our most basic assumptions about what will happen in a pop song is the expectation that it will lead us towards the fulfilment and clarity of a chorus, so it’s always interesting when a song chooses not to do this. Looking at this question in the context of Otis Redding’s 1966 version of ‘Cigarettes and Coffee’ can tell us something about what pop songs as a whole express to us: the way - perhaps unconsciously - listening to them shapes our understanding of the world.

    All the songs discussed in this episode, including Redding’s version of ‘Cigarettes and Coffee’, can be heard here. The original, by Al Braggs, isn’t on Spotify but can be found - at the time of publication - on YouTube.

    If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)

    • 26 min
    #6 - Jealous Guy / John Lennon

    #6 - Jealous Guy / John Lennon

    The history of rock music is in large part a history of men writing condescending and degrading songs about women, so it's interesting when a songwriter like John Lennon - with a track record of some of rock's most notoriously misogynistic lyrics - performs a song that at first listen appears to be apologetic and self-critical. In this episode, I look closely at the songwriting in his 1971 song, 'Jealous Guy', in the context of rock's historic sexism, to see how convincing this gesture of apology really is.

    All the songs discussed in this episode, including the original recording of 'Jealous Guy', can be heard here.

    If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)

    • 20 min
    #5 - Son of a Preacher Man / Dusty Springfield

    #5 - Son of a Preacher Man / Dusty Springfield

    The story of Billy-Rae, the preacher's son, and the singer of 'Son of a Preacher Man', stealing away from their parents to discover love in the back yard is contained in one of the most familiar and enduringly popular songs of the 1960s. The scene Dusty Springfield paints with such flair is one of the deep American South, so it might come as a surprise to learn that she was born Mary O'Brien in Enfield, north London, with Catholic parents originally from County Kerry. How - and why - did Springfield choose such a distant musical culture to inhabit in this celebrated song about sexual discovery? I look at the role the 'blues style' plays in the song, as well as the songwriters' brilliant use of song structure, in order to address questions of race and sexuality in blues-influenced pop music of the era.

    You can listen to the original recording of 'Son of a Preacher Man' here. If you've enjoyed the episode please leave a review on Apple podcasts! Thank you :)

    • 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

aisha ,

Gives you bigger ears

This series is so special ! I learnt more about listening and what a song can mean than I ever knew there was to know. Phewph !

Mickey Fynn ,

Like a warm informative bath

This podcast is great! Amazingly well researched, beautifully delivered and some nice cover versions of the songs Anthony is unpacking. A hidden gem!

FanOMusic2020 ,

A must listen for music fans

As someone who really enjoys the intellectual approach to popular culture (think of books like ‘Revolution in the Head’ by Ian MacDonald about The Beatles; or the music podcast ‘Political Beats’ which is akin to this, but covers entire careers) this podcast is a joy to listen to.

If you’re interested in the how and why a song works or was composed in a certain way; if you’re interested in what the specific chords and notes are; or if you’re interested in the cultural background and influences to a song; then this podcast will work for you.

I can not recommend this highly enough. And what I consider the hallmark of any good music podcast, as soon as it’s over I go and listen to the song it was covering with a new found appreciation for it, almost like I’m hearing it for the first time all over again.

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