It’s never a recipe for making great art when you’re under pressure to deliver an album to a rival record label due to contractual obligations… though Jimi Hendrix was never satisfied with the result, the Band Of Gypsys album became a very influential album and remains a favorite among Jimi fans and guitar players of all stripes. On this episode, we journey back to New Years 1970 to explore “Message of Love” from this legendary album.

“Message Of Love” (Jimi Hendrix) Copyright 1970 Experience Hendrix LLC

 — Hey, I was just thinkin’… now would be as great time for you to check out the other Rock Podcasts on the Pantheon Podcasts network!

TRANSCRIPT:

Greetings to all, here on the third stone from the sun and beyond. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast beaming across the cosmos on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and each episode of the show, I pick a song and we explore it together, listening to all the nuances that make it one of my favorite songs. You don’t need any musical skill, knowledge or experience here– just a love for music and a little curiosity.

Well, here we are at the start of a brand new year, and I was trying to think of an appropriate subject for a January 1st episode. I thought, “we’ve talked about a lot of guitar players on this show…” I love guitar players. But I realized that, after over 140 shows, we’ve still never talked about one of the most important guitarists of all time. So let’s rectify that. It’s about time we talked about Jimi Hendrix.

Of course, Jimi Hendrix is a legend, with a legacy of some really important and influential records. It’d be tempting to pick a song like “Purple Haze” or “Voodoo Child”, “All Along The Watchtower”, or his version of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Those are all historically important tracks. But I wanted to do something different.

So, I chose a song from very late in his career when Jimi was at a turning point in his career– at a crossroads, to use a cliche. So, we’re going back to a New Year’s Eve over 50 years ago, when 1969 gave way to 1970, with Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys ringing in the new year at the Fillmore East, playing “Message Of Love”.

[Music]

Everybody knows that Jimi Hendrix is a legend, an icon. There are literally dozens of books written about him; there are documentaries. So I’m not going to go over a detailed history of Hendrix, but to understand how Jimi Hendrix ended up playing at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve, first we have to go back to his early years in New York City.

Jimi Hendrix was a working musician, paying his dues and playing as a sideman to people like the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. In 1965, he ended up as a guitarist in Curtis Knight’s band, playing cover songs on the New York and New Jersey circuit. Jimi eventually grew tired of that and formed his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.

It was during a stint playing in Greenwich Village, New York, when he was“discovered” by Chas Chandler, former bassist for The Animals, who was transitioning into being a manager. Chandler brought Jimi over to England, and they put together the Jimi Hendrix experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. And the rest, as they say, is history.

 Now here’s where things get messy. Back in ‘65, when he was playing with Curtis Knight, Jimmy had signed an exclusive recording contract with a guy named Ed Chaplin. Jimi had also signed a contract with producer Juggie Murray. But hey, look, Jimi was a struggling musician, just trying to find some success– any success. He was a guitar player, not a lawyer, and he was naive. He’d sign anything if he thought it could help him at the time.

But now, with the Jimi Hendrix Experience having hit records on the Warner Brothers label, Ed Chaplin came a calling in 1967 with his contract from two years earlier, and he sued.

Hendrix had made some recordings with Curtis Knight back in ‘65. Those records are not very good, but Chaplin licensed them to Capitol Records, who then released two albums worth of that stuff. In fact, at one point, you had the legit Warner Brothers records competing against the Capitol stuff at the same time.

Here’s a song from the Curtis Knight sessions; it’s an instrumental called “Knock Yourself Out”, which Jimi got a co-writing credit on.

{music]

Eventually, a settlement was arranged with an agreement that Ed Chaplin and Capitol Records would get the rights to one Jimi Hendrix album. Hendrix had just finished recording “Electric Ladyland”, which was a double album, so it was agreed that the next album would be given to Capitol.

But things in the Hendrix camp were tough. First, Chas Chandler had left the fold, and not long after, Noel Redding quit.  Jimi brought in his old army buddy, Billy Cox, to play bass. Then Jimi rounded up a bunch more musicians, adding additional percussionists and a second guitar player. He called the band “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows”, and this was the band that played at Woodstock.

[Music]

But a month later, Jimmy broke up that band. It just wasn’t working for him.

Meanwhile, the pressure is on. He still owes one album to Capitol, and Jimi didn’t even have a band. So, Jimi, Billy Cox, and drummer-vocalist Buddy Miles put together a band. They made a deal with promoter Bill Graham to play four shows at the Fillmore East in New York: two shows on New Year’s Eve, and two shows on New Year’s Day, 1970. All four shows would be recorded, and they would release the best tracks as a single live album to fulfill the Capitol Records contract.

Before the show, Jimi, Buddy and Billy, calling themselves “Band of Gypsys”, worked up a set consisting mostly of new material, including “Machine Gun”, one of Jimi’s most incredible guitar performances.

Both Buddy and Billy were veterans of R&B bands, and they brought a funkier, soulful groove to the songs that the Jimi Hendrix Experience just never had. Buddy was also a great singer, too. His lead vocals are featured on two songs on the “Band of Gypsys” album. Buddy introduces this track on the record.

[Music]

The song starts off with a chromatically ascending riff before kicking off into the main riff of the song.

[Music]

Let’s just hear Jimi’s guitar on that riff.

[Music]

Behind that, Billy Cox is playing a pretty busy bass part over a pretty simple drumbeat, laid down by Buddy Miles. Let’s hear their parts.

[Music]

They only play through that riff twice before starting the first verse, which is a variation on the main riff, simplified a bit to leave room for the vocals.

[Music]

I really like the backing vocals there. One of the things about Jimi’s previous band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was that they didn’t have a strong vocalist in the band to back up Jimi. Buddy Miles was a powerhouse singer, and he adds a lot. And with Billy Cox chipping in, these backing vocals were kind of a whole new sound for Jimi.

[Music]

After a few lines of the verse, we get a new short riff with Jimi and Billy playing the same part together mostly. And that brings us back to the verse riff.

[Music]

And that brings us to another new riff. This one’s a little more rapid fire, with Jimi and Billy doubling the part, and Buddy scat singing the riff with them.

[Music]

Now here we have a somewhat quieter or gentler part. Jimi is playing some of those chords he was famous for; as much as he’s thought of as an incredible lead guitarist– and he was– he was also a killer rhythm player.

[Music]

Jimi’s rhythm guitar playing is as identifiable as his lead playing. Let’s hear this part again without the vocals, so that we can hear a little more of his guitar.

[Music]

The verse riff, the backing vocals come back in, but this time, Jimi’s just going to vamp a bit around the riff. At this point, Jimi is going to crank up the volume and play a solo, and I think now is as good a time as any to talk about Jimi’s guitar sound. Though he played other guitars, Jimi was primarily associated with the Fender Stratocaster. As a left-handed player, he would take a right-handed Strat, flip it upside-down and restring it, and that’s what he was playing this night with the Band Of Gypsys.

Now, playing the guitar upside-down like that meant that things like the volume & tone controls and the vibrato arm were in a different position than they would be if you were playing it normally. And Jimi was able to take advantage of that, particularly with the vibrato or whammy bar.

Jimi also pretty consistently used Marshall amplifiers, I think typically Super 100’s, but don’t quote me on that. But that was the standard beginning and end of his signal chain: a Fender Strat into a Marshall amp. But what went between his amp and guitar? That’s another story that changed frequently.

Jimi was always looking for new sounds, and he would explore any new effects gadget that came his way. Guitar effects pedals were still a relatively new thing in the late 60’s. Jimi was friends with a guy named Roger Mayer, an electrical engineer who had worked for the British Navy. He started building effects devices for guitars, like fuzz pedals, and one of the earliest units he built was the Octavia, which takes the input signal from the guitar and generates that sound one octave higher, then mixes it back in with the original guitar sound, and adds distortion or fuzz. Like most guitar pedals, it would sit on the floor between your guitar and amp, with a button you’d press with your foot to turn it on and off.

Jimi first used the Octavia on the solo for “Purple Haze” in 1967. Roger Mayer would continue to tweak and modify the Octavia for Hendrix. And Jimi was using one of those later versions for this Band Of Gypsys show.

You can hear the Octavia most notably on the song “Who Knows” from this show. Jimi was also using a fuzz pedal built by Roger Mayer. It was either a Fuzz Face or an Axis Fuzz, depending on what you read. He had two other effects pedals on stage this night: a Vox wah-wah pedal, which you can hear on the song “Changes”:

[Music]

And he was using a Univibe, a new and pretty innovative pedal for its time. It’s a little tough to explain what a Univibe actually sounds like– it’s a cross between phasing, a chorus sound, and vibrato, but you can hear it in action on the song “Machine Gun”.

[Music]

Now, there is one other thing to take into account regarding Jimi’s guitar sound, and that’s the order in which the effects are plugged into each other. Believe it or not, it makes a big difference in the sound. For example, a wah-wah pedal plugged into a fuzz pedal sounds significantly different than the other way around, a fuzz pedal plugged into a wah. This can lead to endless rounds of debate and conjecture, but luckily, we have some photographs from this show that pretty clearly show the sequence of his pedals that night:

His guitar is plugged into a Vox wah-wah pedal, which is plugged into the Octavia, which is plugged into the Fuzz Face, that’s plugged into the Univibe, and then that is finally plugged into his Marshall amplifier. Wah pedal, Octavia, Fuzz pedal, Univibe.

Okay, so back to “Message Of Love”. At this point, the fuzz is really going to kick in, and Jimi’s going to go for his first solo.

[Music]

And now, Jimi’s going to step on that wah-wah pedal.

[Music]

Now Jimi’s gonna hit a harmonic and quickly bend it down with the whammy bar, then turn off the wah pedal for the rest of the solo.

[Music]

You can hear them slow the tempo down there.

[Music]

The band is going to break, and then Jimi is going to do a little scat singing, this time singing along to his guitar part.

[Music]

They’re gonna build it back up here. Jimi and Buddy are gonna add some vocals.

[Music]

It sounds a little rough coming back into the riff there. I can’t imagine they had more than a handful of rehearsals before these shows, so there’s bound to be some rough spots. But that’s what makes this a truly great live album. There’s a real “edge of your seat” energy to this record. They didn’t go back and fix up every mistake– this is how it really went down that night, New Year’s 1975.

Jimmy’s gonna cut loose with the second solo. Let’s focus in on Jimmy’s guitar.

[Music]

They bring back that chromatic climb from the beginning of the song to wrap it all up. Jimi’s just messing around with the whammy bar and some feedback.

[Music]

The Band of Gypsys – “Message Of Love”

The song has also been credited as “Message To Love”, but on all the versions of “Band of Gypsys” that I have, it’s referred to as “Message Of Love”. So that’s what I’m sticking with.

The “Band of Gypsys” album was commercially very successful. Critics didn’t necessarily love it, and Hendrix himself was never satisfied with it; he felt it was rushed and it didn’t sound great, and if it wasn’t for the contractual obligations, he wouldn’t have released it. Not that it mattered. By the time the album was released, the band had already broken up.

But the album has gone on to be very influential, paving the way for future funk rock acts. And it was an important touchstone, particularly for black artists making their mark in the rock world, like Living Color and Lenny Kravitz. And it remains one of my favorite Jimi Hendrix records, and just favorite guitar records in general.

Thanks for joining me for this musical journey on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. As always, I’ll be back in about two weeks with another new episode. Until then, get your fix of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast by listening to any of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, or find us on your favorite podcast app.

You can keep in touch with us on Facebook, just look for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast to find our page. And please support the show by sharing it with your friends and just telling somebody about it.

On behalf of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, I gently remind you to support the artists that you love by buying their music, and I’ll see you back here next time. Thanks for listening to this episode on Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys. Happy New Year, everyone.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Jimi Hendrix
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimi_Hendrix

Band of Gypsys
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Band_of_Gypsys

Message of Love
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Message_of_Love

Fillmore East
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fillmore_East

Fender Stratocaster
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Stratocaster

Marshall amplifier
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Amplification

Octavia pedal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octavia_(effect)

Fuzz Face
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzz_Face

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

Wah-wah pedal
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wah-wah_pedal

Billy Cox
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Cox

Buddy Miles
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddy_Miles

Vinyl records have made quite a comeback in recent years, entrancing new listeners and old fans all over again. “In The Groove” is a brand-new book, hot off the press, that’s a celebration of the vinyl record and the artwork & technology that surround it, as well as the record stores and dedicated fans that have built a community around buying, collecting and listening to them. On this episode, I’m joined by the man who put the book together, Dennis Pernu, to discuss this beautiful tome that should be on every fan’s bookshelf.

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome back, music fans & fiends, to another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, part of the Pantheon family of podcasts. I’m your host, Brad Page, and I admit it– I’m a physical media guy. Not really a fan of streaming and MP3 files. I’ve owned my share of cassettes and 8-tracks, and I still have a big library of CD’s. But my love affair with music began with the 12”vinyl record– the LP. There’s nothing like holding a well designed album cover in your hands while you’re listening to the record. And I’m glad to see people discovering and experiencing that again as vinyl has had a resurgence in the last few years, it’s great.

And whether you’re just getting into vinyl now or you’re an old timer like me, there’s a new book that I think everyone should check out. It’s called “In The Groove: The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution”. The book is really a celebration of everything about the LP, from its origins through its history, the equipment that it’s played on, the cover art that often becomes as iconic as the music inside it, the record stores that sold them and became places of community, and the community itself, the people who’ve made these records part of their lives.

This is a brand new book, it’s just hitting the shelves now and I really loved it. The man who’s really the brainchild behind this book is Dennis Pernu at Motorbooks. And so I thought I’d invite Dennis onto the podcast to talk a little bit about “In The Groove”, because I believe that the history of modern music is the history of the record album– and it’s all here in this book. So, here’s my conversation with Dennis Purnu about “In The Groove”:

BRAD: All right, well, thanks so much for joining me for this episode of the podcast. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the book, I have it right here in my hands. I really enjoyed it, and so I kind of wanted to get you to talk a little bit about it.  First, where did the idea of the book come from?

DENNIS: Well, the book was something that our publisher, Zach Miller and I, kind of brewed up. With a lot of publishers, they rely on authors approaching them with book ideas. But I would say that probably 90% of what we do at Motorbooks is stuff that we dream up in house, and then go out and find people to create the content for it. So, I mean, it just basically came out of one of our Monday morning conversations, kind of saying, “hey, we should do a book on vinyl”.

BRAD: And the book really is a celebration, I think, of everything that’s great about vinyl records. And you really cover all the bases in the book, from the history of the vinyl album through recommendations on gear, celebrating the great album covers, and the great record stores. How did you pick the people to contribute to the book?

DENNIS: Well, it’s interesting. Three of the five are folks that I’ve worked with in the past on our music publishing at Quatro. Gillian Garr, who’s especially prolific, and Richie Unterberger, they’ve all written books for us in the past, and so I kind of knew that they were well- versed in all aspects of vinyl and turntables and just being music lovers. So, I figured that once we divvied up the book and figured out a table of contents it wouldn’t be hard to find something for those three to do.

Matt and Ken, they wrote more about the nuts and bolts of collecting and of audio gear, for lack of a better word. I found them, they had worked on a book for UK-based publisher, and they’re both based in the UK, and they had written on the subjects before. So I approached them to lend their expertise to the book on those subjects.

BRAD Well, it covers all of these topics really well. I think Richie Unterberger takes the first chapter and he kind of gives a whole history, of kind of going back to before there was even LPs, when there were cylinders.

DENNIS: Right.

BRAD: Yeah, all of this stuff was not formal… We think of the twelve-inch LP and the seven inch single, but there were just all kinds of options. There was, I think, a 20-inch LP that was experimented with. Different speeds, like 80rpm– I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an 80rpm record, but just kind of an interesting history of how we got from this kind of haphazard  options into the formats that we all kind of came to know and love. But that’s a great chapter.

DENNIS: Yeah, I thought Richie did a really fantastic job of kind of digging into the prehistory of the twelve inch 33 1/3 Rpm record. And like you say, kind of showing how we got there from something that was far removed from that. Going back to, as you mentioned, the wax cylinders and other formats.  

BRAD: One thing that I learned, that I didn’t realize before, was that the speed of 33 1/3  actually derived from the records that they used from the early “talkie” motion pictures. I thought that was interesting. And he covers the rise and decline of the 45 single, and the offshoot of the EP. It’s just a really great history of the vinyl record.

[Music]

BRAD: And then you have a section of the book on record covers, and showing some of the classic album covers, as well as sort of the history of album cover art. And there’s definitely stages, right? The way album covers looked in the 50’s, very different from the 60’s, and moving forward. Martin Popoff wrote that section, I believe.

DENNIS: Yeah, I thought Martin did a really good job. Martin, he’s probably the preeminent metal guy, heavy metal writer in the world, but once you get to know him, you find out that he’s so much more than that. He’s really well-versed in all sorts of genres of popular music and rock and roll, and I thought he did a really good job of tracing the early sleeve art, going back to the late 40’s and the first twelve inch record, right up to today, really. And I thought he really explored the breadth of genres and sort of schools of art, and famous design studios and different folks who, like the Hypgnosis people, who became famous for their sleeve art over the years.

So, yeah, I mean, it’s all really basically a big celebration of kind of tactile experience, which I think we’re finding a lot of people are getting back to, or started to get back to, especially during the COVID years hunkered down at home, holding stuff in their hands and looking at it and staring at it, spinning on a turntable rather than listening to it on their phone.

BRAD: Right? Well, you can’t see it, the folks listening can’t see it, but here in my studio I have about 50 framed album covers all around on the walls. Because album cover art is… to me, I can’t separate, particularly with records that I grew up listening to, I can’t separate the album cover from the music, because it was part of the experience. It’s the old cliche about putting the record on and then sitting down with that cover in your hands and reading the liner notes and the lyric sheets and all that stuff, as you listen to the record.

And to me that’s all part of the experience, and you definitely lose that. I mean it was seriously diminished when we went to CD’s but it’s nonexistent really, when you go to streaming and I think that’s a shame. To me, album cover art is really a lost art form. I guess it is kind of making a comeback for many years, but it’s a very unique art form, I think, in that it’s a perfect blend between “art” art and commercial art.

DENNIS: Right.

BRAD: It’s art that’s meant to sell a product, but yet, within that, what you are able to do with an album cover is so much beyond what anyone else was able to do with any other kind of commercial art that I can think of. I mean, you could push the boundaries of commercial art to its extremes in album cover art. And that’s what I loved about it. There’s just something really unique and just special about album cover art. I think you can argue all you want about the sound quality of vinyl versus CD– we’ll be arguing about that forever– but there’s no disputing that album cover art is a unique thing about vinyl that just there’s nothing compares to it. CD’s certainly don’t.

DENNIS: There’s really two sides to it, right, that you kind of alluded to: There’s sort of the crass side which is this is an advertisement, really, for what’s inside. But on the other hand, it is, like you say, it’s a piece of art that someone put a lot of work and thought into.

[Music]

BRAD: Yeah, I mean, creative expression, kind of run wild in a commercial sense. I think there’s really something special about album cover art.

DENNIS: Definitely.

BRAD: And, like many hardcore music fans, I did my time as a record store clerk. So I really enjoyed the section of the book where they talk about some of the great record stores in the country and beyond. Most of them gone now, which is a shame. But the book kind of has a little celebration of some of the great record stores.

DENNIS: That was Gillian Garr. She’s based in Seattle. Again, she’s written a number of books for us and other publishers as well. But, yeah, there’s kind of a through line to that chapter, with all these chapters, which in her case, it’s kind of the history of the record store. The place where the merchandising happens. As with the album covers, we all have memories of those spaces where you would go into, and everyone, I think that the sound of albums, or the CD’s, flipping or clicking as people flip through them, is kind of ingrained in their mind.

And so she kind of explored the history of those spaces, and then within each, there’s sort of like one page, really kind of brief sidebar call-outs about some of the more remarkable record stores. In fact, they’re called “Remarkable Record Stores”, in the US and Europe for the most part, that people have heard of and frequented over the years. Some of them, as you say, gone, some of them still extant.

BRAD: They became places of community and y’know, you’d have customers who’d come and just stand at the counter and chat with you, for sometimes hours. You know, that was all part of it. It was a shared experience that again, kind of goes away when you’ve got Amazon and Discogs and things like that. But there’s still stores out there, and it’s still a fun experience to just poke through the bins and see what you can find. I love it.

DENNIS: Yeah, one of my favorite parts of that chapter is just, more so than the sidebars about actual record stores, is just looking at the photos, of the insides of record stores across the decades, and how the retail concepts differed so widely from one place to the next, and how they kind of evolved with listening stations and just racking and packaging and everything about it is just, like, fascinating to look at.

BRAD: Right.

DENNIS: One of my favorite photos in that chapter is of a place I actually visited once in Turku, Finland called uh, 8Raita, which means “8-track” in Finnish. And just fantastic… you know, Finland being Finland, they had, in the back corner, one of those rod hockey games that you probably remember as a kid. Probably as a way to keeppeople in the store and hanging out and spending their money more than anything else.

BRAD: Right. There was such a different experience between shopping at Kmart and shopping at your local indie record store is kind of a night and day kind of thing.

DENNIS: But it’s even nostalgic to think back… I kind of grew up in sort of a rural area, and I can remember in the late 70’s when grocery stores had a corner of the store dedicated to record albums. They were just kind of ubiquitous, and even the record section at Kmart or Woolworths back in the day was a fun place for a kid to hang out while their mom was buying groceries or whatever.

BRAD: Yeah, exactly. Just browsing through the bins and discovering new bands, and looking at the record covers and just wondering what that record sounded like.

DENNIS: Exactly.

BRAD: Yeah.

[Music]

BRAD: You know, I think one of the most intimidating things for people who are just getting into vinyl is how do you do it– how do you choose your equipment? Because it is everything from cheapo Crosley turntables to multi-thousand dollar setups, and how in the world do you stick your toe in that water? And there’s a great chapter in the book, just kind of going over the different elements of the equipment necessary, and how to get started, and I think that’s pretty useful, particularly for people who are just kind of getting started in vinyl.

DENNIS: Yeah, I mean when we came up with the idea of the book and thought about, if we do a vinyl and turntable book, what should it be? Who should it be for? I wouldn’t say that we approached it as something that should be a primer for people just getting into the hobby… I mean, there’s definitely a part of that, but hopefully there’s something in there for people who have been into it for decades.

But like you say, um, one of the most intimidating parts of the whole thing is kind of sussing out the equipment and gear, and anyone who spent any time at all on a Facebook turntable Group knows how unforgiving some enthusiasts can be when it comes to that sort of thing. So, we kind of hoped it was kind of, maybe “gentle” is a good word for it, something to make it less intimidating.  Something that could say, you can figure this out too, and don’t worry about those guys with their $20,000 Macintosh systems or whatever.

BRAD: Right. Sometimes when you venture into those internet forms or whatever, you go in to try to get some clarity and by the time you’re done, you’re more confused than you were when you started. There’s so many opinions, and people are so entrenched in their particular opinion, that it’s hard to suss out what’s the right path. And I think that chapter in the book gives people a really good idea of where to start, and maybe where to head. Because the equipment itself, that’s a whole other side of it. Audio equipment is a journey in and of itself.

DENNIS: Right. But if you ask five people, you’ll get six opinions.

BRAD: Right, exactly. But I think that chapter in the book is a good place to start. So, anyone listening out there who hasn’t dabbled in vinyl and you’re curious about getting into it,  without having to spend thousands of dollars, check out that chapter of the book. It’s good advice.

[Music]

BRAD: And then there’s the last chapter in the book, just sort of about the culture of vinyl fans and that’s kind of, I think, a nice way to wrap up the book, because there is a great culture around just the passion for the music. And really, that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about the cartridges and the needles and all of that all that fun stuff, and whether you’ve got a first pressing, or the condition of the cover, and all that kind of… I mean, that’s all part of collecting, but ultimately, it’s the joy of the music that really matters, and the pleasure of putting on a great record and turning it up and listening to it.

DENNIS: Yeah. Again, there’s something like that’s so sensory about the whole experience beyond the audio portion of it… the smell of the record store, it gets down to that level for me. The feel of the record in your hands or the sleeve in your hands, it’s just all that kind of fun stuff. And I hope we were able to capture some of that in the book and turn some people onto it, or maybe make them consider exploring vinyl as a hobby.

BRAD: Yeah, I think so. I think the book is a great place for anyone to start their vinyl collection. If you’re just getting started, or if you’re curious about it, this is a great guidebook. It is, in its own way, a primer, but it’s also a celebration of all that’s come before.

And for those of us who grew up with vinyl records, you’re going to find something in this book to appreciate. I love this book, and I would recommend it whether you’re an old fan or a new fan. So I think you guys did a great job putting the book together.

DENNIS: Thanks, Brad.

BRAD: Yeah, well, thank you for joining me to talk a little bit about the book. It is available on, is it October 31, the official release date?

DENNIS: I, uh, think that’s correct, yeah, sometime in October.

BRAD: So by the time this episode is out and available, you can order this book from Amazon, or better yet, support your local bookstore and purchase it from there.

DENNIS: Definitely.

BRAD: The book is called “In The Groove – The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution”, a great book that should be on the bookshelf of any record fan. So thanks for the book, and thanks for joining me to talk about it. I really appreciate it. Thanks, Dennis.

DENNIS: Thanks for having me. Anyone who names their podcast after a Paul Westerberg lyric is all right by me.

BRAD: (Laughs) Thank you, sir. Thanks so much.

BRAD: And thanks, as always, to you for listening. Please pick up a copy of this book. You will enjoy it. “In The Groove – The Vinyl Record and Turntable Revolution”. Available now.

This podcast will be back in about two weeks with another new episode, so join me again then. All of our previous episodes, and there’s about 140 of them now, can be found on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, or in your favorite podcast app. Just look for us, you’ll find us there.

Keep in touch on Facebook or send an email to lovethatsongpodcast@gmail.com. And if you’d like to support the show, all I ask is that you tell a friend about it, because your recommendation is worth more than any advertising.

On behalf of everyone on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for listening. Now go dig out an album that you haven’t listened to for a while, put it on that turntable, crank it up, and get in the groove.

Welcome to our 2nd Sort-Of-Annual Halloween episode! This time we’re exploring the gory details of “D.O.A.” by Bloodrock, one of the most gruesome songs to ever make the charts. In predictable fashion, a song almost designed to get banned from radio & freak out your parents in the ’70’s, the song became a Top 40 hit.

“D.O.A.” (Rutledge-Hill-Grundy-Taylor-Pickens-Cobb) Copyright 1970 Ledgefield Music BMI

— Don’t be spooked by all the other great shows on the Pantheon podcast network — check them out! And don’t forget to follow our show so you never miss an episode.

TRANSCRIPT:

I’m Brad Page and this is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network.

It’s time for our special Halloween edition of the podcast where we explore the terrifying tunes, creepy compositions and sinister singles in celebration of all Hallows Eve.

This time we’re traveling back to 1971 for Bloodrock and their chilling performance of “D.O.A.”

Songs about horrible accidents and death were not unheard of on the pop charts; singles like “Leader of the Pack” and “Deadman’s Curve” date back to the early 60s and those were big hits.

But unlike those songs, there is no romanticism or sentimentality in “DOA”. Bloodrock tries to one up the gloom and horror aspects of bands like Black Sabbath with this gruesome tale of a terrible plane crash.

The band that would become Bloodrock came from Fort Worth, Texas. They performed under a few different names. They were led by Jim Rutledge, who was their drummer and their lead vocalist. In 1969, Terry Knight became their manager. Knight is mostly famous– or infamous is more like it– for managing Grand Funk Railroad. Knight was the one that changed their name to Bloodrock and signed them to Capitol Records. They released their first album, simply called “Bloodrock” in 1970.

Terry Knight convinced Jim Rutledge to quit playing drums and become their lead singer out-front. So by the time the band recorded their second album, 1970, Bloodrock was a six-piece band, including Lee Pickens and Nick Taylor, both on guitars, Stevie Hill on keyboards, Ed Grundy on bass, their new drummer,
Rick Cobb, and Jim Rutledge on Lee vocals.

The new album was called “Bloodrock 2” and “DOA” was the featured track on the album. The album version clocks in at 8 1/2 minutes; it was later edited down to 4minutes and 32 seconds, losing almost half of its original length, and issued as a single in 1971.

Though the song was banned by many radio stations, it still managed to reach #36 on the charts. All six band members share writing credit on the song, but the lyrics were inspired by a real-life experience from lead guitarist Lee Pickens. When he was about 17 years old, he actually witnessed a plane crash.
They took that and turned it into a fictional account with the song telling the story of the immediate aftermath of a plane crash. The song is sung from the first person perspective of one of the victims.

Now, I am almost always preferential to the album version of songs as those usually represent the original intent, the way the song was meant to be heard, and I usually prefer the album versions anyway. But I gotta say, at eight minutes and 30 seconds, that’s pretty excessive for this song. So on this episode, we’re just gonna go with the single version.

So here’s how that version begins with Stevie Hill’s organ part.

[Music]

Sounds ominous, right? That’s because he’s playing a tritone, which for hundreds of years was called “Diabolus in Musica”– the “Devil’s Interval”.

This very distinct sound is created when you play a flatted fifth note. It doesn’t matter what key you’re in, just take the fifth note of that scale and play it flat; in other words, a half-step lower, or if you’re a guitar player, that would be one fret lower. And that note, in relationship to the root note of the scale, creates a very unsettling mood, almost disturbing… so disturbing, in fact, that for centuries the use of the flatted fifth
was frowned upon by the church.

In more enlightened times, it was used in classical music and in jazz in various ways, but it’s really earned its Devil’s Interval reputation in Heavy Metal. One of the earliest and still the best uses of the Devil’s Interval was in “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath. Check it out:

[Music]

So what you have here is the root note in this case, a G, followed by an octave, another G, then a D flat, your demonic flatted fifth.

[Music]

That’s so great. It’s really just two notes, but in relationship to each other, those two notes create such a feeling.

[Music]

Okay, back to Blood Rock and “DOA”. Let’s hear how they’re doing it.So first, let’s focus on the bass notes. We’re in the key of C, so the first note is a C.

[Music]

And that is followed by a G flat. There’s your flatted fifth. Let’s hear those two notes in sequence.

[Music]

From there, it goes to a D, and then right after that, to an A flat. And that A flat in relationship to the D is, you guessed it, a flatted fifth. So in essence, we’re getting double the devil’s interval here.

[Music]

Now over the top of that, he’s playing a two note pattern that, when you think about it, emulates the sound of an ambulance or police siren. Let’s hear all that together again.

[Music]

Here’s the first verse.

[Music]

Here’s the first verse.

[Music]

The imagery doesn’t get any more pleasant from here. You have to say that one thing that bugs me is that there’s no rhyme in that verse. There’s like four verses in this song, and two of them rhyme, two of them don’t. I’m just kind of picky about that kind of thing.

Anyway, at the break there, we hear an actual siren overdubbed along with that subliminal two note organ part. Let’s pick it back up into the second verse.

[Music]

Now, did you notice that transition? As we said before, the original version of this song is over eight minutes long, and they edited it way down to get it into this four and a half minute single version. And you can clearly hear and edit there right before the vocal comes in.

[Music]

That’s a pretty sloppy edit. Let’s play through the second verse.

[Music]

And that brings us to the chorus.

[Music]

There are those police sirens again. One of the excuses that radio stations gave for banning the song was that they said drivers listening to the song in their cars could be confused or disoriented by the sirens. But that sounds pretty lame to me. I think they just didn’t like the lyrics.

Here’s the third verse.

[Music]

Notice how the little hi-hat accent first appears in the left and then on the right.

[Music]

Let’s bring up the vocals here.

[Music]

There’s a pretty nice bass part under the chorus. Let’s bring that up a bit.

[Music]

And the reappearance of those sirens usher us into the final verse. There continue to be some pretty clunky edits leading into each of these verses. On this one you can hear that the beginning of the crash symbol hit is clipped off.

[Music]

So pretty effective use of the harmony vocals on the chorus. Let’s bring up the vocals one more time.

[Music]

And here at the end we get some classic tape manipulation to bring it all down.

[Music]

Bloodrock – “D.O.A.”

Call it shock rock, exploitation, call it cheesy, but back in the day the song was pretty extreme. I’ve read that Goldmine magazine actually called it the worst song ever to be released on vinyl. Though I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but it was certainly controversial. But it managed to crack the Top 40 and the
“Bloodrock 2” album has sold over half a million copies.

Then, as today… controversy sells.

Thanks for joining us for this Halloween edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’ll be back in about two weeks with another new episode. Until then, keep in touch with us on Facebook. Leave comments or reviews on podchaser.com and catch up with all of our previous episodes on our website. lovethatsongpodcast.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. And do me a favor: tell a friend about our show. That is the best thing you can do to support this podcast.

We are part of the Pantheon family of podcasts, along with plenty of other great music related shows. Thanks for listening to this episode on “D.O.A” by Bloodrock.

Trick or treat…

[Music]

Bettye LaVette is the epitome of perseverance. She cut her first record in 1962 at the age of 16, but it took over 40 years before she received the recognition and respect she deserved. In between, she weathered every injustice that the music business threw at her. But she never gave up, she never stopped working, she never stopped singing… in fact, she just got better. Bettye is more than just a singer; she’s an interpreter who can transform any song into something new & special. On this episode, we focus on a track from her 2007 album The Scene of the Crime, and trace the path that brought her to this album– one of my all-time favorites.

“I Still Want To Be Your Baby (Take Me As I Am)” (Eddie Hinton) Copyright Eddie Hinton Music (BMI) 

TRANSCRIPT:

So let me ask you a question: You have your favorite songs, right? What is it about those songs that you love? What makes those songs so great? Well, these are the questions that we try to answer here on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast.

I’m your host, Brad Page, and each episode I pick one of my favorite songs and we listen to it together trying to understand what goes into creating a great song. No musical knowledge is required here, we don’t delve into music theory or technical jargon. All you need are your ears and just a little bit of curiosity.

If I had to pick just a handful of women’s voices for my desert island collection, it would have to include Aretha Franklin, of course, Mavis Staples… and Bettye LaVette.

Many people don’t know Bettye LaVette, but she’s one of the greatest vocalists I’ve ever heard. On this episode, we’ll be listening to Bettye and a song called “I Still Want to Be Your Baby.”

The story of Bettye LaVette is a story of perseverance, of determination, and survival. Bettye LaVette was born Bettye Jo Haskins in January 1946. She grew up in Detroit, and when she was 16 years old, she recorded her first single, a song called “My Man He’s A Lovin’ Man” in 1962. It made it to the top 10 on the R&B charts.

[Music]

Her next couple of singles didn’t do as well, but she made it back onto the R&B charts in 1965 with “Let Me Down Easy.”

[Music]

She continued to record singles for various small labels. She recorded in Memphis with the Dixie Flyers and the Memphis Horns, and reached number 25 on the R&B charts with a song called “He Made A Woman Out of Me”, despite the fact that it was banned on some stations because it was deemed a little too sexual for some folks. I love this track, though.

[Music]

They were planning a full album for Bettye, but the deal fell apart due to conflicts between the producer and the label. Bettye picked herself up and managed to sign a deal with Atlantic Records in 1972. She headed down to the Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama and finally got to record her first full album with the legendary Muscle Shoals rhythm section.

That album was going to be called “Child of the 70s.” It was mastered and prepared for release. There was even a publicity tour scheduled. But at the last minute, the album was shelved. The label called Bettye and said, “We’ve decided not to go forward with this project. Please return your plane tickets.”

You can imagine how devastating that must have been. To this day, nobody really knows why the record was shelved. But Bettye picked herself up again and went back to work.

A few more unsuccessful singles were released. In 1978, she recorded a disco single called “Doin the Best I Can,” which actually became a pretty big disco hit, but Bettye had signed away all of her rights to the song so she didn’t make a penny from it.

She wasn’t going to give up, though. She’d find a way to survive. In 1979, she joined the Broadway cast of “Bubbling Brown Sugar,” and she stayed in that production for four years. She kept recording records here and there all through the 80s and 90s, but none of them got much attention.

Then, a record collector in France had been searching for the master tapes of that 1972 album, “Child of the 70s.” In 1999, he found them. He licensed the recordings from Atlantic and released the album himself. 28 years after it was recorded, Bettye’s first album was finally released. And then people started to pay attention.

Between 2000 and 2006, the crowds grew bigger at Bettye’s shows, the records sold more copies, and the critics raved. Then, in 2007, she returned to the Muscle Shull Studio, now 35 years after her last sessions there to record her next album, and it’s a masterpiece.

Her record label reached out to Patterson Hood and asked him if he was interested in producing Bettye’s album. Patterson is a member of the Drive-by-Truckers, and he’s also the son of David Hood, the bass player from that legendary Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Patterson jumped at the chance to work with Bettye, and he set up the sessions at Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios.

Patterson lined up a stellar group of musicians, including the rest of the Drive-by-Truckers, along with some of the original Muscle Shoals players. He even got his dad to come in and play on a few tracks.

They called the album “The Scene of the Crime”, acknowledging that she was returning to the place where her ill-fated child of the 70s album was recorded.

The album opens with this song, “I Still Want to Be Your Baby”. And right off the bat, Bettyee establishes who she is with this track. She’s tough, she is who she is, she’ll love you and stick with you through the good times in the bad– but don’t try to change her.

What makes her version all the more interesting is that this song was written by a man, from a man’s perspective. Eddie Hinton wrote this song. He was another one of the legendary players at Fame Studios; he was their go-to lead guitarist. He was also a songwriter.

Eddie Hinton died in 1995 before this album was recorded, so he wasn’t around to play on the record. Otherwise, I bet he would have been there and would have approved wholeheartedly of Bettyee’s interpretation.

The song opens with two guitars, one in the left channel playing a simple riff, the other is in the middle only playing half of the riff an octave lower.

Both guitars are slathered in reverb. This is not fancy digital studio reverb. This is the sound of a real tube-driven guitar amp with its built-in spring reverb. You can really hear that distinctive spring reverb sound on these guitars. And the guitar in the middle also has some tremolo effect on it, set at a relatively fast speed. Let’s listen.

[Music]

After that four-bar intro, the rest of the band jumps in. There’s a third guitar in the mix, panned a little to the right. There are three guitar players on this album, Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and John Neff, all members of the Drive by Truckers. And I’m not sure who’s playing which parts, but just keep in mind that there are three distinct guitar parts on this song.

The rest of the band includes Shana Tucker on bass and Brad Morgan on drums, also from the Drive by Truckers. So you’ve got the whole Drive by Truckers band backing Bettye on this track. Also on keyboards is none other than Muscle Shoals legend Spooner Oldham.

Let’s pick it back up from the intro.

[Music]

Bettye LaVette was 61 when she made this record. And I think she’s never sung better. This is not the voice of a young diva. This is the voice of a woman, a woman who’s lived, who’s loved, been hurt, and who’s learned.

Frankly, I wouldn’t be interested in hearing a 20-year-old singing this song. “I’ve been this way too long to change now.” That would just sound ridiculous coming out of the mouth of someone that young. Here, Bettye’s singing, it’s pitch perfect, but the ragged edges of her voice adds gravitas. It rings true. Feels real.

Whatever abilities may diminish with age, the experience that comes with growing older can more than make up for it. As great as Bettyee’s performances from the 60s and 70s were, I think she’s an even better singer now. Here’s the first verse.

[Music]

The guitars are playing behind the verses actually pretty atmospheric. Let’s listen to a little bit of that.

[Music]

And that takes us into the next chorus.

[Music]

I love her phrasing on that last line:

[Music]

Here’s the second verse, and this is where Spooner Oldham joins in on the electric piano. Listen for that.

[Music]

This is the closest thing we get to a guitar solo in this song, and I like the interplay between the rhythm guitars here.

[Music]

Let’s bring Bettye’s vocals up in the mix for this last verse.

[Music]

That guitar refrain returns, and Bettye does some improvising.

[Music]

All three guitars begin to play off and around each other:

[Music]

You can really hear that tremolo on the guitar here at the end.

[Music]

Bettyee LaVette – “I Still Want To Be Your Baby”

Bettyee doesn’t play an instrument, and she doesn’t write songs. Bettyee does one thing, and she does it better than almost anyone else: she interprets songs. In 2008, she appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors for The Who, and sang a version of “Love, Reign O’er Me” that brought the house down. It was a show-stopping moment.

Bettyee’s continued to make records, including “Blackbirds” in 2020, where she recorded her version of songs by the great black women artists that inspired her. And just last month, September 2023, she released her latest album, Simply Called “LaVette”, that’s a return to the rootsy, bluesy and Americana sounds of this track. It’s probably my favorite album of the year.

Bettyew is 77 years old, a living legend, and still going strong, doing some of her best work today.

Thanks for checking out this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. If you’d like to know more, or share your thoughts, find us on Facebook or on Podchaser, where you can leave a review, rate us, and tell us what you think. And don’t forget to follow the show so that you never miss an episode.
We are part of the Pantheon podcast family– lots of great music-related shows to be found there, so check them out.

We’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. Until then, go support Bettye LaVette by buying a few of her albums. You will not regret it.

[Music]

Keyboardist Barry Andrews was out and new guitarist Dave Gregory came onboard for XTC’s 3rd album, Drums And Wires, as the band’s sound palette expanded. Written & sung by bassist Colin Moulding, “Making Plans For Nigel” became XTC’s first big hit. This episode, we explore the production, performance and the origin of this XTC classic.

“Making Plans For Nigel” (Colin Moulding) Copyright 1979 EMI Virgin Records Ltd

Remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome, friends. There’s no thugs in our house, so come on in and join us here at the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. My name is Brad Page and each episode of this show, I pick a favorite song and we explore it together, discovering all the elements that go into making it a great song. We don’t get into music theory here, so don’t worry if you’re not a musician or technically inclined. All that’s required here is a desire to listen.

This time, we’re exploring a song from one of the most creative bands ever. This is “Making plans for Nigel” by XTC.

Guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Molding started working together in the early 70’s. Both were singers and songwriters. Along with drummer Terry Chambers, they played in various bands with various names. By 1976, keyboard player Barry Andrews joined the band, and they changed their name to XTC.

They released their first album, “White Music”, in January 1978. And then, less than a year later, they released their second album called “Go To” in October 78. Two months later, Barry Andrews quit. He would go on to work with Robert Fripp and form the band Shriekback. But XTC decided to go into a different direction. They recruited a guitarist, a guy named Dave Gregory, who they knew from back in their hometown of Swindon.

They set to work on their third album, “Drums and Wires”. “Drums and Wires” earned its name due to the increased focus on drums and guitar sounds. The album was produced by Steve Lillywhite and engineered by Hugh Padgam, who were both the architects behind the gated, reverb drum sound that would pretty much define the sound of the 1980s.

Andy Partridge was the primary songwriter in XTC. He wrote eight of the twelve songs on the album. The other four tracks were Colin Molding songs. “Making Plans For Nigel” was one of Colin’s.

By this time, Colin was getting a little tired of the more quirky, angular stuff the band had been doing. And with the addition of Dave Gregory on guitar, he was able to push the band in a more pop direction. Not necessarily more commercial, just more accessible.

The fact is the band had all kinds of influences and with Barry Andrews’ departure, they could explore and incorporate sounds and styles beyond just the punk and new wave approach.

When Colin first presented “Making Plans For Nigel” to the band, he was strumming it on a nylon string classical guitar, and that wasn’t going to cut it for XTC. Andy Partridge contributed a lot to the arrangement of the song, and he worked with drummer Terry Chambers on the drum part. Influenced by the sounds of Devo, Andy referred to it as an “upside down drum part”, where Terry was moving a conventional rhythm around to different drums on the drum set.

Colin is following the tom pattern on his bass. Dave Gregory is playing staccato spiky chords on his guitar, while Andy is playing a two-note riff over the top.

You can hear a slow flanging effect on the drums. Terry is playing an insistent pattern on the floor tom instead of the hi-hat or symbol, as a drummer would typically do. In fact, he’s playing the hi-hat along with the bass drum. And just before the rest of the band kicks in, one of the guitars sounds like it’s momentarily stepping on a wah-wah pedal.

Again, that’s Dave Gregory’s guitar playing chords panned somewhat to the left and Andy playing that two-note bit on the right. Here comes Colin’s vocal:

Andy has to inject some weirdness… he just can’t help himself. So he adds that odd little backing vocal part.

The lyrics tell the tale of a boy with overbearing parents who’ve already mapped out the path of his life. It’s a song about parental domination. Colin said he chose the name “Nigel” because he knew a few Nigels at school, and thought the name fit the song. But the lyrics are somewhat autobiographical. Colin’s dad did not approve of him being in a band and wanted Colin to cut his hair. Back in those days, you could get expelled from school for having long hair and sure enough, Colin was expelled for refusing to cut his hair.

The song isn’t really a depiction of Colin’s life, he just used that as a starting point. But Colin did say that there’s “a bit of Nigel in myself”. There’s probably a little Nigel in many of us.

And some more quirky backing vocals from Andy there. Doubled on guitar, I think.

Little bit of a guitar fill there from Andy.

There’s a voice whispering, we’re only making plans for Nigel behind the lead vocal. Check it out.

Colin imagined Nigel working in middle management, so he gave him a corporate job at British Steel, more or less at random. Turned out to be a good choice because a month after the album was released, 100,000 union steel workers went on strike.

The British Steel Company was upset enough by the song that they found four of their employees named Nigel and had them tell the press just how great it was to work for British steel. And, as usual, this kind of publicity only helped XTC to sell more records.

They used a keyboard to create that metallic, industrial crashing sound that, along with the unique drum pattern, give the song a mechanized production line feel that matches the corporate industry conformity of the lyrics.

Now we’ve reached the bridge; Andy adds his distinctive harmony vocals here.

Andy is going to add a background vocal here, singing the line “In his work” with kind of a howling delivery that makes you wonder just how happy Nigel really is with his work.

That last time, Andy sings “In his world”. And then they repeat the main verse.

Let’s focus in on the drum part, and listen again to the way Terry Chambers plays the floor tom like it was the hi hat and uses the hi hat for accents.

And there’s another short guitar break played by Andy.

They repeat the verse again, but with different harmonies that add a sense of urgency to it. this time.

Andy adds a new high pitched vocal to that part.

Lyrically, the song is never sung from Nigel’s perspective. The whole song is sung from the perspective of Nigel’s overbearing parents. Nigel never gets to share his thoughts or feelings in his own song.

Another reference to British Steel. Here, the song breaks as they repeat the word “Steel” with that heavy echo. I imagine this was influenced by the reggae dub sound.

The rhythm guitars get a little busier here at the end.

“Making Plans For Nigel” – XTC

When the record company heard “Making Plans For Nigel”, they wanted it to be the first single from the album, and it turned out to be their first big hit, at least in the UK.

XTC is often compared to the Beatles, and I think that’s an apt comparison, at least in the sense that there was a certain tension between the two primary songwriters; there was a constant evolution from album to album; that no two records are the same; and that they were always exploring new sounds and new approaches to making records. Their songs were always smart, always clever and they knew their way around to catchy melody.

The fact that XTC never got the attention they deserved, especially in America, is just one of those frustrating things about the music business. But it doesn’t change the fact that as far as I’m concerned, they made some of the greatest albums ever.

Thank you for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. If you’d like to leave feedback or a review of the show, podchaser.com is probably the best place to do it. You can keep up to date with the show on our Facebook page, and you can find all of our previous episodes on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com or just search for us on Google Podcasts, Amazon, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and pretty much anywhere podcasts can be found.

And if you like the show, the best thing you can do to support us is to tell some friends about it– share it with other people. That helps the show to grow.

We are part of the Pantheon network of podcasts, where you can find a ton of other music related shows, so give some of those shows a listen. New episodes of this show are released on the first and the 15th of every month, so I’ll see you back here in about two weeks.

Until then, thanks again for listening to this episode on “Making Plans For Nigel” by XTC.

Guitarist/singer/songwriter Bill Nelson combined Prog Rock, Glam and Art Rock into the unique sound that was Be-Bop Deluxe. They were musically adventurous, but always maintained a strong sense of melody and a memorable hook or two, as evidenced by this track from their 3rd album Sunburst Finish, released in 1976. Let’s explore the “Sleep That Burns“.

“Sleep That Burns” (Bill Nelson) Copyright 1975 B. Feldman and Company Ltd. All rights assigned USA and Canada to Beechwood Music Corporation

Remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.

TRANSCRIPT:

Greetings, music fans. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast coming to you on the Pantheon Podcast network. My name is Brad Page, and each episode of this show, I pick a favorite song of mine and we explore it together on our never-ending quest to discover what makes a great song. No musical knowledge or skill is required here, just musical curiosity.

On this edition, we’re delving into a song by a band that had some success in the UK, but it never translated to the US. Nevertheless, I think they were a pretty interesting and pretty unique band. So let’s explore Be-Bop Deluxe and a song called “Sleep That Burns”

The band Be-Bop Deluxe was really the vehicle for Bill Nelson. A guitarist, singer and songwriter from Yorkshire, England, he attended Wakefield College of Art in the 1960s and did some recording as a guitarist for other artists and got a little bit of attention for his guitar work on an album by Light Years Away in 1971. Here’s some of Nelson’s playing on the Light Years Away song called “Yesterday”:

Nelson released his first solo album, “Northern Dream”, on his own label—that’s pretty adventurous for 1973.  He pressed up 300 copies, one of which found its way into the hands of the legendary BBC DJ John Peele, who played it on his show, which in turn got Nelson a record deal with EMI Harvest Records. By then, Nelson had formed a band of his own which he called Be-Bop Deluxe. EMI signed Be-Bop Deluxe and released their first album, “Axe Victim”, in 1974.

After the release of “Axe Victim”, Nelson fired everyone from the band and reformed the group with a new lineup, including drummer Simon Cox and bassist/vocalist Charlie Tumahai. a native of New Zealand.  This new version of Be-Bop Deluxe released their next album, called “Futurama”, in 1975.

The “Futurama” album really established their sound: a little bit progressive rock, a little bit glam, and a little bit of that Roxy Music art-rock sound, all anchored around Bill Nelson’s brilliant guitar playing.

Nelson had also been playing some keyboards on the albums, but for the next record, he wanted to expand that, so he brought in a full time keyboard player to the band. His name was Simon Clark, but since the band already had a drummer named Simon, they convinced him to use his middle name, Andy.

But changing up band members wasn’t the only changes on Bill Nelson’s mind. He wanted to mix things up on the production side, too. Their first album had been produced by Ian McClintock; Roy Thomas Baker was the producer on their second album. Nelson wasn’t really happy with either of them, so he wanted to produce the next album by himself.

The record company, though, thought he was too inexperienced to produce the album by himself, so they wanted him to co-produce with somebody else. EMI suggested John Leckie, who was a staff engineer at Abbey Road, and they felt he was ready for his first job as a producer. Nelson met with Leckie and they got along great. So they agreed to produce the next Be-Bop Deluxe album together.

Sessions began in October 1975 at Abbey Road. After a month or so of recording, the album was complete and it was released in January 1976. They named the album “Sunburst Finish”. The album features one of the all-time great album covers, and the record includes the track “Ships In The Night”, which would become their biggest hit, reaching number 23 on the UK charts. But I don’t believe it charted in the US.

Bill Nelson, though, has said many times that “Ships In The Night” is his least-favorite track from Be-Bop Deluxe, so we’re not going to explore that one here, even though I like it. We’re going to focus on another favorite track from this album, the song that closes out side one of the record, “Sleep That Burns”.

I should mention here that in 2018 the album was reissued as a deluxe 2 CD set that included the original version of the album, along with a new remixed version. I debated over which version to use here; I generally prefer to use the original versions, but some of the instruments and parts stand out a little better on that 2018 mix. But in the end, I decided to stick with the original mix. So just to be clear, we’ll be hearing the 1976 version here.

“Sleep That Burns” was written by Bill Nelson. Like everything else on the album, Nelson played all the guitars and sang the lead vocal. Charlie Tumahai played bass and did the backing vocals. Andy Clark provided the keyboards and Simon Fox plays drums.

The song is about dreams. Bill Nelson said, “I had a fascination with how we spend so much of our time asleep. Dreaming and dreams don’t make sense. I thought of the song as being kind of a movie.” And so, to set the stage for our theater of the mind, the song opens with the sound of an alarm clock going off and someone awakening from a dream.

If that big introduction sounds a little familiar to you, that’s because Bill Nelson came up with that part as sort of a homage to “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who.

There are many layers of guitars all throughout this song. Nelson’s main guitar at this time was a Gibson ES345. The color of that guitar is what gave this album its name, and he uses that guitar on many of these tracks. Let’s listen to the guitars on this intro.

There are two heavily distorted guitars playing those Pete Townsend chords, panned left and right. Sounds like there’s also an acoustic guitar or two playing those parts. Then there’s a cleaner electric guitar playing an arpeggiated part in the middle.

By the way, if some of these musical terms and guitar lingo is confusing to you, go back and listen to Episode 75 of this podcast called “The Language of Rock”, where we explain some of these terms.

There’s also a higher pitched part that sounds like a lead guitar line, but it’s actually Andy Clark on the mini Moog synthesizer. After two repetitions of the intro part, we head right into the first verse.

There’s a fantastic galloping rhythm to the verse, and a great guitar part that Bill Nelson is playing, these upper-register triplets played on his guitar. Let’s listen to just the instrumental parts on this verse without the vocal.

Just a couple of lines for the verse and then we hit right into the first chorus. No time wasted here.

A slightly different feel for the chorus, and Andy Clark’s piano comes forward in the mix. Clark is playing the Abbey Road Studio One piano, a 9-foot Steinway grand piano that no doubt appeared on dozens of classic recordings. Let’s hear a little bit of that piano.

I like that extra “All right” in the background there.

They repeat the intro riff before the next verse, and Andy’s synthesizer part is even more prominent this time.

“I’m locked in your dark world, where hearts hold the keys; half-opened, enchanted, half-truths and half-dreams”

Andy Clark’s keyboard parts add another layer on this chorus. I believe in addition to playing piano, he’s also playing a Melotron. It’s the very same Melotron the Beatles used on “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Let’s just hear that part again, this time with Charlie Tumahai’s bass up in the mix.

As we mentioned before, Bill Nelson envisioned this song as kind of a movie. He described this next section as a new scene in the dream, where you’re sitting in a cafe in some exotic place. Listen and you can picture that in your mind. Andy Clark’s using his Mini Moog again to create some sound effects. The band raided the Abbey Road Sound Effects library and made some of the background noises themselves by clinking plates and silverware together to create the sound of the cafe. The band also gathered around the mic to make the background chatter as well.

Andy Clark’s playing some nice tack piano here.

And then the dream gets darker, as dreams often do.

The vocals are suddenly doubled and panned left and right.

Bill Nelson does some nice guitar work here, recorded backwards. Back in the 70’s, there was no easy way to do this. You had to literally turn the tape over backwards and hope that what you were playing would work. Let’s hear just the guitar.

Spiraling piano leads us back into the intro riff and the next verse.

Here’s another chorus. This time, let’s see if we can bring up the drums in the mix.

Simon Cox on the drums. The drums are mixed pretty low on this track, it’s kind of a bummer.

Let’s pick it back up at the final verse. There are additional background vocals echoing the lead vocal on this verse. Bill Nelson’s added single guitar notes, sustained with feedback, on this chorus.

Nelson lets loose with a great guitar solo for this finale.

“Sleep That Burns” – Be-Bop Deluxe

Be-Bop Deluxe would record two more studio albums and a great live album before they disbanded in 1978.

Bill Nelson’s next project was a band called Red Noise, but they only released one album in 1979. Always a restless creative mind, bill Nelson’s sound and style has evolved a lot over the years and he’s released literally dozens of solo albums. He’s incredibly prolific.

Drummer Simon Cox went on to play with Trevor Rabin and a bunch of other projects over the years. He’s still out there kicking it somewhere.

Andy Clark joined Bill Nelson in Red Noise, he band that immediately followed Be-Bop Deluxe, but again, they only released that one album in ‘79. But Andy would go on to do significant work as a session keyboardist on some great records. He played on David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” album, including the song “Ashes to Ashes”. He plays on Peter Gabriel’s “So” album and “The Seeds of Love” album by Tears for Fears.

Bassist and vocalist Charlie Tumahai unfortunately died in 1995. After Be-Bop Deluxe, he played with The Dukes, a band that featured former Paul McCartney and Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, but that didn’t last long.

Charlie was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and in 1985, he returned back home and joined the legendary New Zealand reggae band The Herbs. He was also very active in the Maiori community and volunteered a lot of his time. Charlie was a hero to many New Zealanders, and it was a real tragedy when he died of a heart attack in December 1995. He was only 46 years old.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. There are plenty more like it if you want to check them out– all of our episodes are available on our website lovethatsongpodcast.com, or look for them in your favorite podcast app.

You can share your thoughts with us on Facebook or send us an email lovethatsongpodcast@gmail.com. And if you’d like to support the show, no need to send money or anything like that, the best thing you can do is to tell your friends about the show and get them to listen.

I’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. On behalf of everybody on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for listening and I hope you enjoyed this episode on Be-Bop Deluxe and “Sleep That Burns”