Picture this: You’re a successful chart-topping band, but your managers are writing all your hits and ignoring the songs you’re writing. You wrote a track on your latest album that has potential, but the record company thinks you can improve it. So, without your managers knowing about it, you re-record it & release it as a single– and it’s a hit. That’s the story of Sweet and “Fox On The Run”.

“Fox on The Run” (Andy Scott, Steve Priest and Brian Connolly) Copyright 1975 (Renewed) Sweet Publishing Ltd. All rights in the US and Canada Administered by WB Music Corp. 

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It Came From Boston (Vol. 3): MIT graduate/Polaroid employee Tom Scholz recorded an album’s worth of songs in his basement in Watertown, MA after work, and somehow the record eventually sold 25 million copies worldwide. Along with Brad Delp, Sib Hashian and some other guys (maybe?), were they the inventors of Corporate Rock or the most successful DIY debut of all time? You decide.

“Hitch A Ride” (Tom Scholz) Copyright 1976 Pure Songs – All Rights Administered  by WB Music Corp.

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Pink Floyd released “Us & Them” in 1973, but it feels like it could’ve been written yesterday. Can we ever get past our compulsion to separate “us” from “them”? This is a song for the ages, with some brilliant performances across the board from everyone involved– band members, guest artists, backing singers and recording engineers alike. Let’s try to listen to this song afresh and rediscover what makes this classic track great.

“Us & Them” (Roger Waters, Richard Wright) Copyright 1973 Pink Floyd Music Publishers and Warner/Chappell Artemis Music Limited

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“War” was originally written for The Temptations, but when Motown was too squeamish to have one of their top acts release an overtly anti-Vietnam song, Edwin Starr stepped up and secured his place in history. His no-holds-barred delivery of “War” resulted in one of the most commercially successful protest songs ever recorded. Though Edwin Starr never reached these heights again, he left his mark with a song that transcended its Vietnam-era roots: It was one of the songs on Clear Channel’s no-play list after September 11, 2001.

“War” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong) Copyright 1970 Jobette Music Co, Inc.

On this episode, we revisit the great ’70’s hard rock/power pop album Attention Shoppers! by Starz. “X-Ray Spex” is a blast of punky pop with some interesting use of studio effects. Turn it up!

“X-Ray Spex” (Peter Sweval, Joe X. Dube, Michael Lee Smith, Brendan Harkin & Richie Ranno) Copyright 1978 Starzongo Music, Inc/Rock Steady Music, Inc/ASCAP

It Came From Boston: 5 experienced musicians come together to make something new: keyboard whiz Greg Hawkes; the bassist with the killer voice, Benjamin Orr; drummer David Robinson from the legendary Modern Lovers; one of the tastiest guitarists in the business, Elliot Easton; and singer/songwiriter/guitarist & mastermind Ric Ocasek. Merging classic guitar rock with the burgeoning synth-pop sounds to bring New Wave to the masses, The Cars defined that sound for the late-70’s/Early ’80’s. It all started on local Boston radio with this song. 

“Just What I Needed” (Ric Ocasek) Copyright 1978 Lido Music, Inc.

There’s no shortage of great songs in the Rolling Stones catalog, but “Gimme Shelter” may be the song that tops them all. Dark and foreboding as only the Stones can do, this track has all the hallmarks of the Rolling Stones at their best: iconic guitar riffs by Keef, Jagger at the top of his game, and the Watts/Wyman rhythm section doing what they do best (plus Nicky Hopkins on piano).  But what pushes this one from merely brilliant into sublime is the vocal performance by Merry Clayton– for my money, one of the greatest moments on record. All together, this one belongs on the Mount Rushmore of Rock. 

“Gimme Shelter” (Mick Jagger & Keith Richards) Copyright 1969 ABKCO Music Inc.

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.

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”