Some songs call for you to speak out & demand action. Some songs explore the deepest depths of your soul. Some songs are timeless expressions of love. This song… it just kicks ass. Humble Pie was a guitar riff machine, and Steve Marriott was 5′ 5″ of vocal dynamite. Add a trio of the finest backing singers– Venetta Fields, Clydie King and Sherlie Matthews– and you’ve got a party.

“Thunderbox” (Clemson/Marriott) Copyright 1974 Almo Music Corp/Rule One Music (ASCAP)

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It’s been 40 years since the death of John Lennon, a senseless loss that still stings. Here’s one of my personal favorite Lennon tracks. We’ll follow it from its early stages through to the final album version.

“Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)” (John Lennon) Copyright 1974 Lenono Music (BMI) All rights controlled and administered by EMI Blackwood Music Inc

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There’s never been any shortage of drama with Fleetwood Mac… long before the soap opera of Rumours, there was the psychodrama of Peter Green (and Jeremy Spencer, and Danny Kirwan…). The saga of how Peter Green– one of the brightest guitarists to come out of ’60’s Britain, right up there with Clapton/Beck/Page– was lost to a drug-fueled spiritual black hole is one of the great “if only…” tales in Rock History. When he passed away in July 2020, I knew it was time to tackle a Green-era Mac classic… I just had to gin up the courage to revisit the nightmare that awaits in “The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Prong Crown)”

“The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Prong Crown)” (Peter Green) Copyright 1970 Palan Music Publishing Ltd.

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Rare Earth’s sound was equal parts funky soul and straight-up rock. For decades, when there’s cause for celebration, folks have been crankin’ up this chunk of funk rock. Let’s take a closer look at how Rare Earth carved their place in history with this track.

“I Just Want To Celebrate” (Nick Zesses, Dino Fekaris) Copyright 1971 Jobette Music Co., Inc (BMI)

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When Alice Cooper recorded “Elected” in 1972, it was a satire about a rich, grandstanding, self-obsessed celebrity running for president. He’s a “yankee doodle dandy in a gold Rolls Royce”. We all laughed. That kind of thing could never happen in real life, right…?

“Elected” (Alice Cooper, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith & Glen Buxton) Copyright 1973 Ezra Music Corporation, administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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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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Some bands take time to develop a unique sound, but Queen sounded like Queen right from the beginning. “Keep Yourself Alive” was the opening track on their first album, and it contains all the requisite Queen elements: the heavy riffs & orchestrated guitars, the vocal harmonies, dramatic musical shifts and Freddie’s powerful voice. The band would go on to scale bigger heights, but the magic was there from the start. Let’s have a listen.

“Keep Yourself Alive” (Brian May) Copyright 1972 Queen Music Ltd

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Hard to believe now, but Motown resisted releasing this song as a single. Marvin’s version sat on a shelf for months before being relegated to an album track– until some DJ’s discovered it, and the rest is history. It became Motown’s biggest selling hit at that time. And it’s a true classic. In this episode, we’ll look at how the track was put together and marvel at Marvin’s performance. One of the greats.

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong) Copyright 1966 Jobette Music Co, Inc., BMI

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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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