Blowing Minds Across America

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(Pictured: Carole King, and another shot in the window of her Laurel Canyon house, like the cover of Tapestry.)

It’s been a while since I did one of these links-and-notes posts, and to keep it from running 1,000 words, there’s some good stuff missing. The cure is to get on Twitter if you’re not, and to follow me.

—A couple of weeks ago I wrote a thing for my Magic 98 blog about an American Top 40 long-distance dedication that appears to have been a fake. Surely there must have been more than one, but the 1981 incident I describe is the only one that’s largely confirmed.

—There are a lot of books about Laurel Canyon in the 60s and 70s, but even after you feel like you know everything about it, the whole damn thing still seems so magical that you don’t mind reading about it again. Vanity Fair published a new oral history of the scene with memories from Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Graham Nash, David Geffen, Glenn Frey, and lots of others.

—Outside of Laurel Canyon, nobody did more cocaine than the people of Casablanca Records.

—On the subject of Joni, the cover photo for her album Hejira was shot here in Madison after the epic 1976 ice storm that paralyzed most of southern Wisconsin. (One of my favorite posts in the history of this blog is the one I wrote about the storm in 2011.)

—Two posts you’ll want to read based on titles alone: “How Pioneering Blues Women Were All But Written Out of ‘Official’ Blues History,” and an older piece linked within it by the same author, Mark Reynolds: “Retelling the History of Black Music: Everything You Know About the Blues Is Wrong.”

—The Guardian traced the history of hidden tracks, endless loops, and etchings in the run-out groove of albums.

—Could WKRP in Cincinnati be responsible for the invention of classic-rock radio? Perhaps.

—Vulture ranked all of Billy Joel’s songs from worst to first. The list is notable first because there are only 121 of them, which strikes me as very few for a career as lengthy as his. It’s notable second because a song I have been trying to make into a hit for 35 years is ranked #4. Along similar lines, the Awl ranked every Weird Al Yankovic polka medley, which is a vital public service.

—Dangerous Minds uncovered some clips from a TV appearance the Bob Seger System did in 1970, and sweet mama that band kicked ass. Release the old albums, Bob. Dangerous Minds also recently posted the original demo of the Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought the Law,” which is different from the hit version but also insanely great, and a clip of Frank Zappa blowing the minds of housewives across America on The Mike Douglas Show in 1976.

—Bob Dylan is also blowing minds (again), with his new album Shadows in the Night, and with the fact that his first major interview in years was with AARP.

—Eventually, anything you can imagine will eventually be found on the Internet. So here’s a guy playing “99 Luftballons” on balloons.

—Here is a recording of Clarence Clemons doing Ashton Gardner and Dyke’s “Resurrection Shuffle,” which cannot be played loudly enough.

—In 1949, RCA introduced the 45, and they pressed a promotional disc that was apparently supposed to be played in record stores to entice customers to check out the new medium. The earliest 45s were color-coded by genre, which explains why some of the records in my father’s collection were on green, blue, and red vinyl.

—Small-town radio stations often have a better understanding of why they got the license than the major national companies do. So all hail the Freak, who pulled a 25-hour shift during the recent Super Bowl Sunday blizzard that struck the Midwest because he and his station knew he couldn’t do anything less.

—And finally, sometime circa 1970, the comedy troupe the Credibility Gap updated “who’s on first” for the rock era with the Who, the Guess Who, and Yes.

That takes us back to the first of the year, which is far enough. Hope you’ll click a few of these.

5 thoughts on “Blowing Minds Across America

  1. I am making my way through the new WKRP discs and they are a delight. I’m struck by the disproportional appearance of jazz materials around the studio of what purports to be a rock station. Posters from George Benson I can almost understand, but also Chuck Mangione, Herb Alpert stand alongside those of long forgotten rock bands like The Durocs. Most recent surprises: I’ve just spotted a promo poster for Pat Metheny Group’s American Garage album and seen the actual album cover for Earl Klugh’s Magic In Your Eyes sitting on the studio console in front of Dr. Johnny Fever. Evidently, Venus Flytrap had more influence on the playlists than I originally thought.

  2. Andy

    According to that article, Billy Joel hates L.A., and as a SoCal native I can state that the feeling is mutual.

    Well, “hate” is a pretty strong word, but let’s just say he doesn’t get the same amount of respect as he does back east.

    In the west, we pretty much bought into the commonly-espoused critical consensus that “Billy Joel is a hack”. It wasn’t until the internet came along that I realized that there are a LOT of people on the east coast, people whose opinions I respect, who think he’s a legit, amazing artist. Personally, I’m ambivalent. He’s got stuff I really like a lot, and stuff I can’t stand.

    My own personal favorite hidden gem of his is “James” (which came in somewhere in the 30’s on that list), from the “Turnstiles” album. It briefly got played on my local FM station, and I never forgot it. (Hard to believe, but before he committed the almost-unpardonable-sin of breaking through to the mainstream on a massive MOR hit with “Just the Way You Are”, he was seen as more of an FM artist.)

    1. “James” has always been a favorite of mine, too.
      Were I ever to find myself in conversation with BJ, the one question I would really be interested to ask is: “Who was James, and what did he think of the song?”

  3. davewillie2013

    “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is vastly overrated. A Phoenix oldies station has it in its rotation. Why? It’s more useful as a sleeping pill.

    I remember playing “Sleeping With The Television On” at my college radio station. Pure rock-n-roll. Should have been released as a single. Extremely underrated.

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