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?

when you weren’t going to write a buckingham mcvie hot take, but the internet asked you to…

This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs (prompted by two anonymous asks and a couple of tweet requests)

Anonymous said: Buckingham McVie has been out for a full day and you’ve been MIA with a think piece! Could you please share your thoughts on In My World? I’m very interested to know what you think about it.

Here you go:

This is what it sounds like when things fall apart. This is the moment of realization, the wistful, liminal moment between doubt and acceptance. This is the sound of nostalgia, the sound of growing older and growing apart. This is the sound of understanding that not everything can always stay how it used to be.

“In My World” marks a strong return of the older and more contemplative Lindsey Buckingham that has emerged in recent years. He’s less bitter, more introspective. There’s a sense that Buckingham has begun to play archaeologist of his own life, digging into his past, trying to understand what it says about his present, and it’s clearly at play here.

Though it’s an odd choice to introduce a “duets” album with such a solo-leaning first single, three out of four other Fleetwood Mac members leave distinguishable marks on the track. The McVies are used delicately: a tickle on the keys from Christine here and there, noticeable only if you listen closely, John’s bassline pointed and spare. There’s no embellishment for the sake of embellishment; they play only what’s needed, but continuously push the song forward with a feeling of underlying anxiety. Mick Fleetwood’s chugging drums take what could be a soft and tender acoustic tune and give it a bite — with all anguish there is an underlying feeling of resentment.

Maybe we’re lost without the cost of who we used to be.

Joan Didion once wrote that we are all best advised to keep on nodding terms with who we used to be. Some, it seems, are more adept at that than others. Some become lost in the spectacle of the now when they lose touch of the unassuming then. At some point, the road splits, and the further two people drift down their respective paths, the more difficult it will be to coexist in the same sphere. Maybe, then, it’s best for both people to finally admit the need to retreat into their own individual worlds, though that’s not without reluctance.

It may seem obvious to interpret some of the song as a pointed message at Stevie Nicks, but it wouldn’t be obvious if the two didn’t make it so, well, obvious. After more than 40 years of creating public dialogues, of communicating with each other through song, this is to be expected. The elephant in the room is being addressed right away: Buckingham McVie is essentially Fleetwood Mac, just without Nicks, and what do they have to say for that?

It’s been 14 years — to the day — since Fleetwood Mac’s last full length album. These past 14 years have been a game of will-they-or-won’t-they record a follow-up, with the verdict riding on Nicks’s agreement. For 14 years, save for a four song EP in 2013, Nicks has gone back and forth in the press, one day confirming her involvement, the next denying it, until a March 2017 interview with Rolling Stone seemed to make the most definitive statement:

I don’t think we’ll do another record. If the music business were different, I might feel different. I don’t think there’s any reason to spend a year and an amazing amount of money on a record that, even if it has great things, isn’t going to sell. What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn’t all that much fun.

In my world, everybody stays, nobody wishes for words they couldn’t say.

You can’t have one foot in the door and one foot out. You’re in the band or you’re not. Buckingham gave the ultimatum to Christine McVie when she left the band in 1998. It wouldn’t be out of the question to assume he gave a similar one to Nicks, though that’s not to say that finding the words to do so was easy.

Even the grandest of disagreements can’t erase their 50 years of shared history. Buckingham’s animosity is laced with sadness. There’s a sense of longing, almost, that he could still fix things, that things could be the same as they were all those years ago, that it didn’t have to come to this. But people grow up and grow apart and things change and no matter how much we try or wish or dream about our own fantasy worlds, we have to move on, have to admit that we will never be the same as we were.

Sonically, “In My World” recalls the sound of Tango in the Night, from the usage of the “oohs” and “ahhs” prevalent on “Big Love,” to the glossy production, almost as if to give the darkness a sheen. Out of pain comes something of beauty. It’s sparse, though, full of space between the drums and simple guitar melody. That almost empty feeling would make sense in a solo composition — I can only envision it getting a quietly powerful acoustic performance similar to “Shut Us Down” — but as Fleetwood Mac-lite, it feels unfinished. Its incompleteness is most tellingly and painfully noticeable in the absence of the lush three part harmonies that have become synonymous with the classic Mac lineup. Perhaps this is deliberate: as much as it’s a song about letting go, there is still space; it’s still open to the possibility of another voice filling that empty spot.

At the end of the day, though, that feels like nothing more than wishful thinking, the lingering reluctance to let go and move on in a song about letting go and moving on. This is what it sounds like when things fall apart and you realize that, for your own sake, you cannot keep trying to put them back together.

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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love goes to buildings that are now luxury condos

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This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

New York is one of those few rare places where you can read about a place in the city one minute — an old building where someone once lived, an abandoned music venue, a corner where that one special scene in a movie from decades ago was shot — then find yourself actually there the next. Buildings are not just buildings. Streets are not just streets. At least, not to some people. At least, not to me.

The Apthorp. Macdougal Street. 52 West 8th Street. 315 Bowery. The Hotel Chelsea. I could write you a long list if I wanted to, a list of places that are not just addresses and buildings and random New York streets. They’re places that mean something. They hold memories, even if they aren’t really mine. The place didn’t make the place; the people who came before me did.

On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself standing on a random sidewalk, perhaps insignificant to 80 percent of the world, still, closing my eyes, trying to cull memories that are built on second-hand information from my brain. And then I open them and stare at another luxury development and wonder where exactly it is I am doing and what exactly it is I’m doing there. I try to place the people back into the picture and start to wonder why it’s becoming more and more difficult to feel even a tiny bit of spark of inspiration, a tiny bit of understanding of what things were like before this very moment.

These are supposed to be haunted streets, haunted with our ancestors’ spirits, those living and dead, those related to us not by blood, but by spirit. The dreamers and artists and thinkers and poets. These are supposed to be haunted streets, but it’s getting harder to feel their spirits, harder to close my eyes and truly feel, harder to summon energy of a time I can’t help but think I’ve missed out on.

Joan Didion once wrote, “I am trying to place myself in history. I have been looking all my life for history and have yet to find it.” I came to New York to be a part of history. To revisit history. To make my own history. But history is quickly being renovated or torn down or overshadowed by high rise buildings that may sparkle in the sunset but still sit empty, homes to nothing more than investments, at the end of the day.

I wonder if anyone in the future will feel the same way I feel now. I wonder if the places that are significant to me now, the places that I will tell stories of, will mean anything years from now, or if they’ll all be whitewashed beyond recognition, the way CBGBs is now a men’s clothing store and the Palladium is now an NYU dorm and Pearl Paint now houses $16,000 a month condos. Will it still feel the same? Will anyone care?

The city giveth and the city taketh away. The only constant about New York is that it’s always changing. Maybe I sound very young and very romantic and very naive, but I know this. I have known this. I have known that, in so many ways, this city is better — I know that I should be grateful, that I should be acknowledging how wonderful it is that crime rate is down and I don’t have to push a dead hobo from my doorway when I leave for work in the morning or worry too too much about getting mugged on the subway — but I can’t help but wonder if better is always actually better. Or, if it is, who is it really better for?

This usually happens right around the time I notice how goddamn quiet it is, how homogenized things are beginning to look, how alone with my thoughts I am. I live in New York. Isn’t it supposed to be dirty? Isn’t it supposed to be loud? Aren’t I supposed to be making calls to 311 every other day, while knowing in the back of my mind that this is what I signed up for? Because, really, this is what I signed up for. I signed up for the scary and the tough and the gritty and the unpleasant and the bad that’s supposed to make the good all the sweeter in the end.

I still believe that New York is the greatest city in the world, still believe in its infinite possibilities. I wouldn’t have stayed here for as long as I have if I didn’t. But New York doesn’t feel like a city for the very young very often anymore. Is cleaning things up really making this city better? Do we need another brunch place that specializes in vegan avocado toast or a Starbucks across the street from another Starbucks or, as I saw recently, scrawled on the window of what was once an Urban Outfitters (I know) whose doors had been shut to make way for new businesses, another fucking bank? Do we need another bucolic residential development or another new high rise that only a handful of people can afford to live in?

I’ve been searching for history, but it feels like it’s slipping away from me.