“Rain” was the first glimpse of The Beatles exploration of psychedelia. Perhaps more than any other Beatles track, this song highlights the rhythm section with brilliant performances by Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Add Lennon’s lyrics and great vocals, and you’ve got one of the best songs to come out of the trippy, mind-expanding ’60’s. On this episode, we take a closer look at the individual performances and studio trickery– backwards, forwards, sped up & slowed down– that went into this classic track. 

“Rain” (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) Copyright 1966 Northern Songs

The Temptations’ first #1 Hit on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart was “My Girl” in 1965. 4 years later, they had their 2nd #1 with “I Can’t Get Next To You”, and the difference between these 2 songs tells you a lot about the 1960’s. “I Can’t Get Next To You” features a different lead vocalist, a more aggressive, funky beat and a trippy vibe courtesy of producer & songwriter Norman Whitfield. The early Temptations songs are great, but for my money, they were never better than when they teamed up with Whitfield and created “psychedelic soul”. Let’s listen to each piece of the puzzle that created this masterpiece.

“I Can’t Get Next To You” (Barret Strong & Norman Whitfield) Copyright 1969 Jobette Music Co., Inc. All rights controlled and administered by EMI Blackwood Music Inc. on behalf of Stone Agate Music (A division of Jobette Music Co., Inc.)

If you know Richard Lloyd at all, it’s either as a member of Television (the first band to play CBGB’s) or as the guitarist on many of Matthew Sweet’s best tracks.  But Richard released some great solo work in between those gigs, including an album called Field Of Fire.  Overlooked & forgotten, this is one of the best records of the 1980’s (in my opinion, of course).  The title song features some of his best ever guitar work.

On this episode, we’re listening to a great rockin’ track called “Backtrack” that’s as close to “classic rock” as Richard Lloyd will ever get– and I mean that in the best possible way.  Keith Richards would be proud of this guitar riff.

“Backtrack” (Richard Lloyd) Copyright 1985 Richard Lloyd (ASCAP) Anapestic Music/Basement Music LTD. (PRS)

The Kinks earned their place in Rock History on the basis of “You Really Got Me”, “All Day & All Of The Night”, and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” alone.  But it didn’t take long for Ray Davies to stretch out beyond riff-driven, teenage anthems to write songs that could only have come from his imagination.  “Autumn Almanac” is one of the first Kinks songs to show Davies reaching for a whole new level of songwriting–  both musically and his interest in writing about characters, which would become the focus of his songwriting over the ensuing years.

“Autumn Almanac” (Ray Davies) Copyright 1967 Davray Music Ltd. Carlin Music Corp.

Stevie Wonder was on an unrivaled creative streak starting in 1972, releasing 5 brilliant albums in a row, culminating with Songs In The Key Of Life in 1976. That album spawned 2 hit singles, including “I Wish”, the subject of this episode.  A masterpiece blending funk with pop sensibilities, it’s a celebration of youthful innocence and simpler times.  How does this song make *you* feel?  Let me know on Facebook, write a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to this show.  And share it with your friends!

“I Wish” (Stevie Wonder) Copyright 1976 Jobette Music Co. Inc, and Black Bull Music c/o EMI April Music Inc.

After a few longer-than-usual episodes, I thought it was time for a quick take on a straight-forward rocker with a premise not often heard in rock, pop, metal or rap — Graham Day & The Gaolers (pronounced “Jailers”) with “Glad I’m Not Young”.

“Glad I’m Not Young” (Graham Day) Copyright 2008 Graham Day (MCPS)

Few bands have changed their sound as drastically as Yes did on their 90125 album, a radical departure from their previous progressive rock style.  But it ended up giving them their one & only #1 hit, “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”.  In this episode, we follow the song’s evolution from Trevor Rabin’s solo demo to the final production, including its innovative production techniques (such as being one of the first rock songs to use samples).  This was the most challenging episode I’ve done yet, but I think it was worth it.  If you enjoyed it, share it with your friends!

“Owner Of A Lonely Heart” (Trevor Rabin, Jon Anderson, Trevor Horn & Chris Squire) Copyright 1983 Carlin Music Corp, Unforgettable Songs And Affirmative Music

50 years ago today — July 16, 1969 — Apollo 11 was launched and human beings first stepped on the moon.  Let’s celebrate that occasion with the most famous song about space travel: David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, a song that exploits our fear and wonder of the final frontier. 

In lesser hands, this track could’ve been nothing more than a goofy, one-joke song for the Dr. Demento crowd, but the clever songwriting, brilliant production and a vocal performance that captures Bowie’s innate other-worldly, alienated style makes this track so much more than a novelty song.

“Space Oddity” (David Bowie) Copyright 1969 Onward Music Limited

Among the many high points in David Bowie’s catalog, “Station To Station” stands as one of his most epic compositions.  Written when Bowie’s life was at its most fractured point– having split with his longtime manager, suffering from cocaine psychosis and obsessed with the occult, “Station To Station” transcends the insanity to become one of his most monumental works.

This episode, we’re taking a deep dive into the live version of “Station To Station” from the 1978 Isolar II Tour, as captured on the Stage live album featuring brilliant guitar work from Adrian Belew.

David Bowie, circa 1976, drawing the Tree Of Life, a mystical
diagram referred to in “Station To Station”

Aqualung was the album that made Jethro Tull famous, and features 3 songs that became classic hits.  But the song at the heart of the album is “My God”, Ian Anderson’s very personal statement on religious institutions.  It’s the most instrumentally adventurous track on the album and features great guitar by Martin Barre and a flute workout from Anderson.

“My God” (Ian Anderson) Copyright 1971 Chrysalis Music, Ltd.