my dudes: we talked dad rock on this week’s podcast and it is everything

Episode 10 of the ’77 Music Club podcast just dropped, and you are in for a banger:

Before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, classic American rock icons, they were just five kids from Gainesville, Florida who had driven cross country to Los Angeles with $200 and hopes of landing a record deal for their southern rock group Mudcrutch.

Their ascent would be a slow one; the group signed with Shelter Records in 1974 and released a single, only to be dropped from the label. The band broke up. The band got back together and found themselves with a new opportunity to release an album — this time with a better name: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Released in 1976, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ self-titled debut is an amalgamation of styles and influences. It travels from classic blues to swampy country to classic ‘50s rock in songs that are abruptly short and full of anxious, pulsing rhythms that weren’t too deviant from the emerging punk scene. It’s no wonder people didn’t know what to do with them or how to classify them when the album was released.

Though the album contains songs that are now staples of American pop culture, ingrained in our collective consciousness — songs like “American Girl” and “Breakdown” — it would be a few years before Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers cemented their status as household name rock stars — but it’s a status they’ve held onto.

In this episode, we discuss the variety of musical influences on early Heartbreakers work, dive into Tom Petty’s sparse songwriting style, and talk about why Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ enduring, four decade long careers truly inspire us.

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’77 music club’s latest: marquee moon

On March 31, 1974, a young band called Television played their first gig at recently-opened Bowery dive CBGB. Not long before, they had helped Hilly Kristal put the CBGB stage together; now, they were performing in the club that they would help to immortalize. Television, comprised of Tom Verlaine, Richard Lloyd, Richard Hell (replaced by Fred Smith in 1975), and Billy Ficca, soon became the de facto house band at CBGB, appearing regularly and becoming a staple of the growing scene that would come to include the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Dead Boys, and Patti Smith, to name a few.

With their popularity growing, the logical next step would have been to record an album, but Television bided their time. They chose to hone their sound, to develop and grow as a band, so by the time they were signed to Elektra Records in 1976, they were more than ready to begin work on what would become the seminal Marquee Moon. Released in early 1977, the album is regarded as one of the greatest of the punk era, containing songs that continue to be referenced today in covers and samples.

We chose this album as the first to be covered from our show’s namesake year because of its grit, its timeliness and timelessness, and its particular way of getting under your skin and making you feel more electrically charged than you were when you began the album. In this episode, we explore how Television’s and CBGB’s beginnings are inextricably linked, dive into Marquee Moon’s darkness and dreaminess, and outline the continuation of the band’s sound, proving that their legacy still thrives today.

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psa: episode 5 of the ’77 music club podcast is now live

By 1972, British music had fully renewed itself on the American scene in the form of glam rock. David Bowie, Slade, and Roxy Music were all part of this musical landscape that Marc Bolan and his band T. Rex expanded and exemplified. Glitter, platform boots, sci-fi imagery, and ’50s rock n’ roll roots made this sub-genre exciting, fresh, and new to kids of the ’70s who may not have realized that this was the rock n’ roll of Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, and Little Richard — just amped up and fuzzed out for the new generation.

T. Rex’s album The Slider made full use of all of these elements to create a vibe that spoke to a new generation of rock fans. The album was the pinnacle of the dreamworld that Marc Bolan created, and it leaves us spellbound more than 40 years later. In this episode, we theorize over some extremely poetic lyrics, attempt to decode Bolan, introduce a new hashtag (#RespectTheSequence), and somehow, somehow connect T. Rex to DJ Khaled.

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Psssst – Episode 2 of the ’77 Music Club is up now

The world was not ready for Betty Davis.

Before Prince, Madonna, and Beyoncé were boldly owning race, gender, and sexuality in their music, there was Betty Davis: raw, explicit, and brazenly emancipated from everything expected of women in 1974.

At 16, Davis moved to New York, became a model and scenester, and fell into a crowd of friends and lovers that included Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Miles Davis (whom she later married — for a year). After her debut album underperformed, she took full creative control and produced her follow-up entirely on her own. The result was They Say I’m Different: a bold, unfiltered album that exposes the power of a woman confident with her gender, race, and sense of self.

In this episode, we discuss the impact of this album on society: how it fit into the time it was released, and how it has influenced artists today, both musically and politically.

We recorded this episode on Sunday, just hours before this year’s Grammys. We waited anxiously for Beyoncé’s masterpiece Lemonade to be deservedly rewarded. The album is a clear continuation of Betty’s legacy: aggressively independent, proudly black, profoundly female, and willing to take names of those who object; the words Betty growls on 1974’s “Don’t Call Her No Tramp” are echoed in Beyoncé’s howl on 2016’s “Don’t Hurt Yourself.”

It’s the kind of music that can scare people. Betty’s provocativeness led to her mainstream demise, but she laid the groundwork for women like Beyoncé who came after her. When we recorded this episode, we were excited for this to be a way to say “Look how far we’ve come.” Instead, the results of this year’s Grammy ceremony showed us that, 42 years later, this kind of music still scares people, and we still have a long way to go.

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Introducing the ’77 Music Club podcast

Last Halloween, my best friend, Carly Jordan, had an idea: what if we turned all the time we spent analyzing every little thing about albums for fun and turn it into a podcast? Every other week, we’d discuss a different album and share our unconventional love of older music; we’d try to bridge a generation gap; we’d try to carry the torch.

After a few months of questioning if it was an appropriate time to release a music podcast, it’s here. In the coming months you’ll hear us talk about a variety of albums, from Betty Davis to Talking Heads to Big Star. But to start, we kicked off with our favorite (obviously) — this little known nugget from Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham from their days before Fleetwood Mac — because how could we not? Sneak a peak of each post below and be sure to follow (details below) for more.

77-music-club-buckingham-nicksTwo years before joining Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham had no idea what lay ahead of them. They were just two kids who wanted to make great music — and they just happened to be in love.

A cult favorite of Fleetwood Mac fans, this album is curiously still only available on vinyl. While bootlegs of the album can be streamed on YouTube, it has never been (officially) released on cassette, CD, or to streaming services like Spotify. This is perhaps part of the attraction to the album — this is music that doesn’t outright present itself; it must be found.

In this episode, we discuss why we both call this album our favorite of all time, what makes it unique, and why it still takes our breath away hundreds of listens later.

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Carly Simon Brings Passionate Memoir to Life at New York Discussion

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer

If you couldn’t guess from her lyrics, you would immediately be able to tell from the eloquence, candor, and unabashed honesty of Carly Simon’s speech that, if you hadn’t yet read her memoir “Boys in the Trees,” you were in for a ride.

Simon brought her new book to life Wednesday night in discussion with author and journalist Sheila Weller, who had previously written about Simon in her 2008 biography “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation.”

“Few women writers in any genre write as passionately about love as you do,” Weller noted. Simon is part of a small group of female rock stars who have paved the way for women today, spending the past forty years writing, singing, and talking publicly about love — and sex — openly, freely, and with a refusal to let society shame them. “Boys in the Trees” is an extension of that, picking up where her lyrics left off.

“I am not a person who lets go of the past easily,” Simon said. But there’s no bitterness or regret when she reflects on it, from a childhood marred by a debilitating stammer and family secrets to a storybook marriage dreamed of with ex-husband James Taylor crumbling under the strain of his drug addiction.

Nor was there any salaciousness when Simon spoke at length about the famous men in her life, including Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger, as well as Taylor, leaving the audience hanging onto every velvety smooth word. Rather, Simon’s seduction of an audience lies in her ability to speak and write from a sensitive, vulnerable, and deeply caring woman’s perspective.

Every word, every description drips with poetic romanticism. Chemistry with Mick Jagger while recording “You’re So Vain” was like “trying to stay within a pink gravity that was starting to loosen its silky grip on me.” She likens her relationship with Taylor to music, like they were a perfect fourth, the reedy tone of his voice piercing through her husk. Even after the end of their marriage, he still has a place in her heart, she said, as if her body contains a part of his DNA. Her biggest revelation: “I’ve stopped trying to stop loving. The parts that were loving are still in me. They’re still there.”

Although “Boys in the Trees” is largely about her relationships with men, there’s more to it than that.

“Pay attention to who you like. You can imitate them — you’ll get your own voice,” Simon advised young women. No, “Boys in the Trees” isn’t a story just about the boys. It’s a story about how one woman stopped emulating other voices and eventually found her own.

Boys in the Trees is available in hardcover or paperback from Flatiron Books.
Keep up with Carly Simon on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, and More Bring Refugee Benefit to New York’s Town Hall

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This piece originally appeared on Inspirer.

It wasn’t lost on many during Tuesday night’s Lampedusa: Concert for Refugees benefit that a series of concerts to raise awareness and funds for the current refugee crisis was in full swing just as the presidential election drew increasingly nearer.

In an election season where refugees have become such politicized figures, where they’ve been distilled down to talking points and memes and likened to a bowl of Skittles, the Emmylou Harris-helmed benefit was a humbling reminder that, above everything else, refugees are just people.

They’re just people. Men, women, and children, and in the current refugee crisis, 65 million of them around the world have been displaced from their homes. This isn’t a partisan issue; it’s a humanitarian one.

“You can start from a place of fear and suspicion, or you can start from a place of love and compassion,” Joey Ryan, one half of indie-folk duo the Milk Carton Kids said. “We’re all doing this to hopefully promote the latter.”

People behind the slew of Facebook comments that litter the event’s posts might want to question their decisions to boycott the concert series for political reasons. It wasn’t a political event. It was a momentary relief from the negativity and ugliness that has flooded the news cycle. There was no mention of either candidate, save for a brief comedic song from Nancy and Beth (actresses Megan Mullally and Stephanie Hunt’s musical alter egos). There were no accusations of who’s right and wrong in a political war over immigration, no damning critiques of anyone involved in either political party.

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The musicians held back from proselytizing; any remarks about the refugee crisis were brief and told in personal anecdotes. The Milk Carton Kids shared that their family histories are marked with immigration stories, that there were stark differences between the lives of distant relatives who made it in America and those who were turned away. Harris told a short story about meeting a former child refugee who came to America on the back of a train and is now a college graduate working with refugee services to give others the same kind of help he received.

It wasn’t a night about politics. It was a night about music, and the way it can unite people, especially when it’s for a good cause.

The evening began unassuming and intimate, with each musician sitting and playing in-the-round style, taking turns singing lead while others occasionally joined in, at times performing songs as an ensemble. They referred to it as a good old-fashioned guitar pull, as if they were just friends jamming together and not some of the most seminal names in rock and roll. But casual as they tried to be, each musician gave performances that were met with thunderous applause, reminders of just how much they could do with such sparse fanfare.

Harris hushed the crowd with a soft performance of “Making Believe,” joking afterwards that she was just beginning to realize how many sad songs fill her library. Buddy Miller lightened the mood with fiery guitar work and an electrifying rendition of “Gasoline and Matches” with Harris. Steve Earle reminded the audience that everyone, especially New Yorkers, came from somewhere else with “City of Immigrants,” and the Milk Carton Kids stunned the crowd with a Simon and Garfunkel-esque cover of Harris’s “Michelangelo.” Robert Plant’s take on the ancient folk song “Little Maggie” began simply and quickly crescendoed into a lush roar of sound from all of the musicians on stage.

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While the night’s political points had existed mainly in quiet undertones, in the subtle, yet pointed set list choices, its purpose was well made towards the end of the evening when special guest Joan Baez took the stage. Baez taught an entire generation of musicians that music could not just sound good, but it could do good, Harris explained. That work was, in a way, part of the reason why they were all gathered together on stage, part of the reason why Baez was nominated for a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that morning.

Before a passionate, poignant performance of “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” the First Lady of activist songwriting mused that maybe people were looking at the refugee crisis the wrong way.

“My father was an immigrant from Mexico and ended up becoming the co-inventor of the x-ray microscope,” she explained. “We shouldn’t be thinking about what immigrants are taking from us, but what gifts they can bring.”

Upcoming Tour Dates:
October 19 — Philadelphia, PA — Merriam Theater
October 21 — Washington, DC — Lisner Auditorium

To learn more about the Jesuit Refugee Service’s Global Education Initiative, visithttp://jrsusa.org.

Featured image: Ben Stas for the Boston Globe