icymi: new ’77 Music Club oral history of the Urban Verbs

Hi! I edited this dope oral history of the late-70s/early-80s Washington D.C. new wave band Urban Verbs and co-produced it with Carly for our podcast, ’77 Music Club.

Over the past few months, we interviewed founding members Rod Frantz and Robin Rose, as well as early promoter and later bassist Bill Harvey, and producer Mike Thorne. The resulting podcast episode is an hour long edit of nearly six hours of fascinating conversations, and I’m extremely proud of it.

There are so many holes or shallow, glossy footnotes in history; right now feels like such an exciting time for journalists, historians, and storytellers. We can go back and tell these untold stories or fill out these sketches and recognize people who might have been overlooked the first time. We hope we were able to do that with this episode. Give it a listen.

Oh, and we have an exclusive, never-before-seen, lengthy letter that Brian Eno wrote the band in 1978 offering to produce them, if that’s any additional incentive to click on through.

Okay thanks bye.

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hi, hello, listen to the new ’77 music club episode now

al-green-love

I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU – Al Green – Hi Records – 1972

Al Green’s 1972 album I’m Still In Love With You is a personal one: an album for smooth Saturday nights and sweet Sunday mornings, for both weddings and double digit anniversaries. It recalls time spent with family, friends, and lovers, and inspires memories to be made in the future. It’s an album made for lasting connections, and is undoubtedly one that is best enjoyed when shared.

In this episode, we examine the foundation of this iconic record and explore the greater musical landscape from which it was born. We discuss the one-of-a-kind house band that gave the album its distinct sound, the Southern stronghold that informed the album’s character, and the producer who oversaw it all, mixing all the elements together to create what is arguably one the greatest American soul records of the 20th century. An album is only as good as the sum of its parts, and here, we examine how I’m Still In Love With You remains an upstanding example.

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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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’77 music club, episode 8: graham nash’s songs for beginners

The year is 1970. America is in the midst of political turmoil: the Vietnam War faces extensive grassroots backlash, four students are killed at Kent State University in Ohio, and women strike for equality in New York. The music world is not without its share of anguish: the Beatles announce their breakup, American Top 40 is about to make scoring a hit record even more important to artists, and both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin overdose and die within weeks of each other. Graham Nash is dealing with his own personal unrest. Fresh off of two breakups, romantically with Joni Mitchell and professionally with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and politically charged, Nash takes to the studio to record his debut solo album, Songs For Beginners.

Assembled with the assistance of a slew of members of the crescendoing Laurel Canyon music community, Songs For Beginners succinctly captures the trifecta of traits that have defined Nash’s songwriting: gut-punches of raw emotion, crafted with a pop sensibility in mind, and full of rallying cries for social and political activism. Nash openly and unabashedly shares his most personal feelings, whether they are intimate depictions of heartbreak or outraged shouts, in a manner that will influence folk-rock and indie singer-songwriters for generations to come.

In this episode, we examine Graham Nash’s powerful lyrics and their lasting impression on society, discuss the wealth of music released during the Laurel Canyon era and the importance of creative incubator communities, and get deep into our feels about the relationship between Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell that fueled this album.

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check out episode 7 of the ’77 music club podcast

In 1982, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released their debut album, The Message, but putting their sound to vinyl had been a long time coming. Formed in the south Bronx in 1976, prolific DJ Grandmaster Flash and his team of MCs (Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Rahiem, Mr. Ness, and Keith Cowboy) started playing and rapping at house parties, with local fame and notoriety soon to follow. When “Rapper’s Delight” became the first hip-hop record to garner national attention in 1979, the door opened for the Furious Five to release their sound to the masses and come to commercial and critical success.

Released against a backdrop of an economically ravaged and crime-ridden New York City, The Message is widely heralded as the record that made social-consciousness a subject that could be covered by hip-hop. It’s an album that has received considerable praise, from creating a template from which hip-hop could expand, to setting technological standards by blending hip-hop and electronic music, foreshadowing the evolution of EDM.

In this episode, we examine The Message’s connection to modern hip-hop and rap, speak about the lyrical and musical techniques that excite us every time we listen to it, and take a look at the music that influenced the album, as well as what makes it an enduring influence on artists today.

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*Yes, I’m aware I skipped episode 6, but I guess that’s why our episode archive exists, isn’t it?

Check out episode 4 of the ’77 Music Club podcast on Tom Tom Club

tom-tom-club

The year is 1981 and pop culture is exploding around the world — Raiders of the Lost Ark premieres, the wreckage of the Titanic is found, and Lady Diana Spencer marries Charles, Prince of Wales. The music industry is coming out of one of its worst slumps in decades, dealing with the backlash against disco music, and tucked away at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads record their first album as Tom Tom Club.

The album will become one of the most popular post-disco dance records of the ’80s and gross more than any of the four albums Talking Heads had released to that point. It incorporates international musical techniques and influences, giving the songs a flavor that expands the post-punk art rock sound Tina and Chris had established with Talking Heads, and sets the tone for the new directions that they would take in their musical careers.

While this album can definitely be dated to the early ’80s, we are in love with how it simultaneously sounds fresh and exciting to millennial ears. In this episode, we explore the sound combinations that make this album the joyous thing that it is, discuss its legacy and relevance, and speak about why Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz are two artists who inspire us big time.

(I try to love all of our episodes equally, but I think this one might be my absolute favorite and our best one yet, so check it out.)

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