When Matthew Sweet, Shawn Mullins & Pete Droge (aka The Thorns) recorded “No Blue Sky” almost in 2002, they had no idea that the skies over the Western US would be thick with smoke, or that a global pandemic would isolate us in our homes. “It ain’t right, it feels like forever…” pretty much sums up the year 2020. I’m fascinated in how songs can find new relevance years later. Let’s listen to this gorgeous song and watch the sun go down together.

“No Blue Sky” (S. Mullins, P. Droge, M. Altman, G. Phillips) Copyright 2003

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Emitt Rhodes had an extraordinary gift as a songwriter, a fantastic voice and was a remarkable musician– he was one of the first artists to record by himself, playing every instrument on his albums. He passed away in July 2020, leaving behind a small but significant collection of albums. In tribute to this under-appreciated talent, I’ve selected a song from his most successful band, The Merry-Go-Round, a song that itself is a celebration of great music & great bands. Psychedelic ’60’s pop never got better than this.

“Listen Listen!” (Emitt Rhodes) Copyright 1968 Thirty Four Music/La Brea Music Inc (ASCAP)

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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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The best British band from the ’60’s that never hit the bigtime in America– Small Faces. Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones and Ian McLagan would become rock legends due to their future projects (Humble Pie, The Who, The Faces, etc) , but it all started for them here. Small Faces recorded a number of psychedelic pop gems, but “Tin Soldier” may be the pinnacle. Shall we have a listen?

Small Faces – “Tin Soldier” (Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane) Copyright 1967 EMI United Partnership Limited

A Robyn Hitchcock song is so unique, it could only come from the mind of Robyn Hitchcock. From his first recordings with The Soft Boys in the ’70’s through to his solo work today, Robyn is a singular artist with a vision all his own. This is a track from my favorite Hitchcock album, Element Of Light.  

“Airscape” (Robyn Hitchcock) Copyright 1986 August 23rd/Bug Music

As mentioned during the podcast – the Glass Harmonica:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_harmonica

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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

Michael Carpenter is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer & engineer from Australia who, in a better world, would be a lot more famous. A master of hooks & harmony, he’s one of the best modern power pop artists out there. Here’s a track that’s a personal favorite of mine. Check it out & then go buy some of his music. 

“Kailee Anne” (Michael Carpenter) Copyright 2000 Michael Carpenter; Copyright 2000 Not Lame Recording Company

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)

70 years ago this month (June 2019), George Orwell’s “1984” was first published.  So let’s give George an ol’ Rock & Roll salute by looking at one of the many songs inspired by his book.  Sure, I could’ve done David Bowie’s “1984”, but that would be too easy.  I’m a big Utopia fan, so this is a good excuse to take a look at another one of their tracks.  It’s Utopia in dystopia!

For more 1984-inspired songs, check out Eurythmics “Ministry of Love”, Radiohead’s “2+2=5”, or “Standards” by The Jam, just to name a few.

“Winston Smith Takes It On The Jaw” (Utopia) Copyright 1983 Unearthly Music/Fiction Music (BMI) Terrestrial Music/Fourth Floor Music (ASCAP)