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!


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”.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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”:


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”.


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.


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


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.


You can hear them slow the tempo down there.


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.


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


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.


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.


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,, 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.

Jimi Hendrix

Band of Gypsys

Message of Love

Fillmore East

Fender Stratocaster

Marshall amplifier

Octavia pedal

Fuzz Face


Wah-wah pedal

Billy Cox

Buddy Miles

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) 


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


And that takes us into the next chorus.


I love her phrasing on that last line:


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


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


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


That guitar refrain returns, and Bettye does some improvising.


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


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


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.


The Beatles had many peaks in their career, but their August 15, 1965 concert at Shea Stadium may be the high point. It was certainly their ultimate live performance and the pinnacle of Beatlemania. On this episode, I’m joined by author Laurie Jacobson; her new book, “Top Of The Mountain“, tells the story of that record-breaking concert. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the events leading up to the performance, including the tale of the man who made it all happen, Sid Bernstein.

More on Laurie’s book here:

And check out our other Beatles episodes:
The Beatles – “Rain”
Special Edition: The Beatles “Get Back” Documentary
The Beatles – “Hey Jude” (with special guest James Campion)

Welcome, welcome. Glad to have you here. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast network, and I’m your host, Brad Page.

Back in February 1964– 59 years ago– the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and literally changed everything about rock music overnight. That’s when the Beatles conquered America, where it all started here. But if you want to look at where Beatlemania peaked, at least in terms of their first phase, it would have to be 18 months later, on August 15, 1965, when the Beatles played before a sellout crowd at Shea Stadium in New York at the time. The largest concert in history, and still one of the most important chapters in the story of rock.

Laurie Jacobson is an author, and her new book tells the behind-the-scenes story of The Beatles at Shea Stadium. The book is called “Top of the Mountain”. And it’s not only a detailed look at the concert itself, it’s the incredible story of how the concert came to be in the first place, as well as the story of the people who put the show together and the fans who were there. And it’s also full of some terrific photographs taken at the show; many of them have never been seen before.

You guys know that I’m a big Beatles fan, so I asked Laurie to come on the podcast and talk about the night the Beatles took over Shea Stadium and her new book, “Top of the Mountain”.

BRAD: Laurie Jacobson, welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. Usually on this show, we focus on one song, but today we’re going to do something a little different. Because I read your book, and it is such a great story, I really wanted to talk to you about it.0

So your book is called “Top of the Mountain”, and it tells the story of the Beatles legendary concert at Shea Stadium in August 1965. So, first, let’s get some facts and figures out of the way. This was the Beatles second US tour. It was actually the opening night of the show, the first show of that tour on August 15 at Shea Stadium in New York. And they played in front of 55,000 people. Is that right?

LAURIE: 56,000

BRAD: 56,000 — which was not only the Beatles biggest concert, but it was the biggest concert audience ever at that time. It was a record they held until 1973, when Led Zeppelin broke the record with a 56 plus thousand attendance at a show in Tampa, FL. But this is a really significant event. I believe no band had ever played at a stadium before this show, is that true?

LAURIE: Not a stadium of this size. And even The Beatles had played couple of smaller stadiums, but not a huge baseball stadium like this.

BRAD: Right. Nothing approaching 56,000 seats. No one had ever done that before.

LAURIE: No one. Not Elvis. Not Sinatra. Nobody had ever played in front of this many people. Nobody had ever received the paycheck The Beatles received for that night. And 56,000 rock and roll fans had never laid eyes on one another before in such large numbers.

BRAD: Yeah. So let’s introduce the cast of characters. Of course, we all know who the four Beatles are, but there was also Brian Epstein, the Beatles manager, right? Talk about Brian Epstein.

LAURIE: Brian Epstein was, you know, a very cultured, refined young man. His parents were in the furniture business in… my dad was in the furniture business also, and they, of course, had a stereo department, and they began selling records. And Brian did the exact same thing. It’s just a natural for your stereo department. And one day, somebody came in and asked for a record by The Beatles, and Brian had never heard of them before, but he decided to check them out because they were playing just down the street at The Cavern. So he was really… and here is Brian, in his suit & tie and very buttoned up. And The Cavern is this basement former fruit cellar with no windows, and hot, sweaty kids on lunch break coming to hear The Beatles. And he was really impressed. And he had the foresight to recognize that these guys could go places with a little help from him.

BRAD: Yeah.

LAURIE: And then he hoped and prayed that America would call. He tried and tried, with no success, little to no success, about getting them on the air in America. And suddenly one day, his prayers were answered when another cast member, Sid Bernstein, called Brian.

BRAD: Yeah. And probably the single most important person in this story is Sid Bernstein. So tell us, who was Sid Bernstein?

LAURIE: Sid Bernstein was a New York concert promoter. He booked pretty concerts with people like Judy Garland and Tony Bennett, people like that. And he believed in keeping himself sharp. So, he was taking a class, and the class assignment was to read newspapers from other countries. Well, Sid could only read English, so that limited him to the British newspapers. And of course, he goes right to the entertainment section, since that’s his field. And he keeps seeing these little blurbs about a group called The Beatles playing small cities in and around the UK. And the word “pandemonium” is always associated with their concerts. So of course, this immediately catches his eye. And then he follows them weekly. And this word “pandemonium”, who are these guys? He starts making some calls, he finds out that Brian represents them, and he, Sid, is like, “I got to have these guys here, I got to book them”. And he found Brian’s phone number and basically got Brian’s mom on the phone and said, can Brian come out to play? Brian was so thrilled that America was finally calling, and Sid had this great idea to book The Beatles at Carnegie Hall, where no rock and roll group had ever been booked. And I think the only reason Carnegie Hall said yes was because they didn’t know they were a rock and roll group, right?

So Sid set the concert several months out, and he said, “Believe me, by the time the concert rolls around, they’ll be on the air here, I can promise you that.”

So in the interim, Ed Sullivan is passing through Heathrow Airport with his wife, and comes in contact with thousands of girls screaming for the arrival of The Beatles. And of course, he says, “What’s going on?” Finds out, discovers that Sid has already booked them at Carnegie Hall and calls Sid Bernstein, who he knew very well, and asked if he could ride Sid’s coattails. Basically, “Can I have them on my show three or four days before they appear at Carnegie Hall?” Well, Sid thought this was great. That guarantees his show to be a sellout.

BRAD: And I think this is really important, because the familiar narrative is, like you said, Ed Sullivan just happens to see all of the pandemonium, like you said, around The Beatles, and books them for his show. But Sid was there first. Sid had booked them for Carnegie Hall long before they were ever booked on The Ed Sullivan Show, long before they ever got any radio play in the States. I mean, he was really the first guy in the States to really see the potential at the time when Capitol Records in the States couldn’t care less about The Beatles, they were actively ignoring The Beatles. But here’s Sid, who’s really the first guy to step up and to have the vision of what their success could be in the States, before Ed, before Capitol, before Murray the K, before any of that.

LAURIE: Absolutely.

BRAD: So he books them at Carnegie Hall for February 12, 1964. He books it 11 months before the show again, before the Beatles were making any waves anywhere in the States, but the show ends up selling out in 40 minutes. Because, of course, by the time we get towards The Ed Sullivan Show, they’ve had a few hits in the States and of course they are massive on The Ed Sullivan Show. But then through the rest of 1964, Sid kind of has a rough time, right?

LAURIE: Well, yes and no. On the one hand, because of this success, he becomes the conduit for the British Invasion. He’s the number everyone has now. The Stones, the Animals. Jerry and the Pacemakers, The Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits. Everybody is calling Sid to come to America, and he actually starts booking the television show “Hullabaloo”, and he is bringing all these groups over to America, and he’s doing really great, but he made a big mistake: He booked The Animals for a five-night run in New York, thinking they would be as popular as The Beatles. And, hey, nobody was as popular as The Beatles. So the first two nights were a big success, and the last three nights of that five-night run, he lost his shirt and now he’s in some financial hot water.

BRAD: He needs a big score.

LAURIE: Yeah, he’s just had a baby. His wife is kind of upset with this turn of events, and, yeah, he needs the big score. So he thinks to himself, “who’s the most popular group in the world? The Beatles. And hey, I have a great relationship with Brian Epstein, so what’s the biggest venue I could possibly book them in?”

He thinks Madison Square Garden… No, not big enough. And he settles on Shea Stadium, which was only a year… Brian was really fussy, and Shea was brand spanking new, still had the sparkle on it, and he thought, yes, he’ll approve of this. So he calls Brian with the idea, and Brian immediately says, No. 56,000 seats. Are you crazy? We will never be able to sell that.

BRAD: No one ever had, no band, no pop artist ever had.

LAURIE: Right, correct. And at this point, there were still a lot of naysayers about The Beatles. It’s a fad, it will never last. It’ll be over by the end of the year.

BRAD: Right.

LAURIE: So he didn’t want to lay The Beatles open to a stadium that was only half filled, where all these people could say, you see, just as we said.

BRAD: And I think wisely, he was just trying to protect his boys. Right. He didn’t want to book them into a half full arena for the embarrassment and the bad press. It’s not an irrational thing for Brian to be hesitant to do it. But then Sid offers them an incredible deal.

LAURIE: Yeah. And Brian’s formula had been to play smaller places and have a line outside the door.

BRAD: Right.

LAURIE: That’s the look he was going for. So, yes, when tickets ranged from like $4.50 to $6.50, Sid says to Brian, I will pay you $10 for every empty seat in the stadium.

BRAD: Right? He not only guarantees them $100,000, which is a huge paycheck at the time, but he also says, for every empty seat, I’ll give you $10. I can’t think of another deal like that at the time, Sid was really taking a big risk there.

LAURIE: Yes, but Sid believed, and he was the only one who believed. Not even Brian believed that this could happen.


LAURIE: So Brian says, that’s a deal I can’t turn down, but here’s my stipulation: I want 50% of the $100,000 in three months. And until I get that, you cannot advertise the concert.

BRAD: Right? No advertising, no publicity. But somehow, I want you to sell half the tickets to this show.

LAURIE: Sid is like, uh, how can I possibly raise $50 grand without advertising, right? And Brian says, well, I didn’t say you couldn’t talk about it.

BRADE: So this is really a fascinating part of the story, of how Sid begins to sell these tickets. Walk us through that, because it’s just so great.

LAURIE: And, Brad, this is actually my favorite part of the story.

BRAD: I believe it. It’s so good.

LAURIE: I just love this. So… Sid’s really depressed, right? He’s like…

BRAD: And his wife is none too happy.

LAURIE: She’s ready to go home to mom. “Are you crazy? What have you done Sid?” And Sid, by the way, he was a very large man, very heavy, and he knew the best entertainment and the best restaurants in New York. So I just see him walking down the street, eating a slice of pizza here, a hot pretzel there, thinking, “Woe is me. What’s going to happen?” And he takes his son in his stroller to Washington Square Park. And, you know, Sid was known by this time amongst all the kids for bringing all the great British groups over. He was pretty much the Pied Piper of Rock And Roll. So, wherever he went and kids saw him, they ran up to him to find out the latest news. And when they asked, “What’s going on, Mr. Bernstein?” He said, “Well, I’m bringing the Beatles to Shea Stadium in August.” Well, I mean, the girls begin screaming. One of them faints. They’re throwing money at him. And he realizes, “Okay, maybe this could be something.” He runs to the post office, he rents a PO Box, he runs back to the park. He tells the girls how much the tickets are and the PO Box address. And every day, he goes to the park, and he tells teenagers this story and gives them the address. And after three weeks, he finally works up enough courage to go to the PO Box. He forgets his key! He’s so nervous, because this is it, if there’s nothing in that PO Box, he’s a dead man.

BRAD: Right.

LAURIE: They open the box for him and when the post office workers find out who’s there, they all come running out of the back to see who is the man behind this box. And he’s like, “What’s going on?” They drag out bags and bags of mail. He had to get his car to bring it all home.

And inside those envelopes, he had rubles, he had yen, he had money from behind the Iron Curtain. So, at a time when there was only long-distance phone calls and letter writing, these kids in Washington Square Park spread the news about the concert around the world.

BRAD: It’s amazing. It’s like a scene from a movie, that you probably wouldn’t believe it if it was in a movie, but you can picture Sid and his wife at their kitchen table just opening these, letter after letter, pulling out money for tickets.

LAURIE: I mean, coins fell.

BRAD: Yeah. And then they came up with a way to go through all these bags and bags of mail. He actually hires some local neighborhood girls or something to help him process all of these letters, right?

LAURIE: Yes. They had a babysitter who was in nursing school, and he asked her if she had six or seven friends who might want to work for them every night until they went through all of these envelopes. And over a three-week period of time, they managed to go through more than 50,000 envelopes.

BRAD: I think you said in the book that it takes them three months to process it, and they end up with over 3000 envelopes that they don’t even open, because by that time, they’ve sold all the tickets, the show sells out and he ends up with $304,000. Is that right?

LAURIE: Yes. So when he meets Brian in January of ‘65, Brian is expecting $50,000 and he is able to give him the full $100,000.

BRAD: Right? Yeah. Brian’s looking, probably questioning whether he’s even going to get his $50,000. And Sid ends up handing him the complete $100,000 check. What a great story.

LAURIE: Really. It’s a wonderful story, and it’s so wonderfully innocent and so speaks to the time. So, now Sid has the hottest show in town that nobody knows, right?

BRAD: Yeah. Because he still can’t talk about. So he’s they start to prep for the show and then his expenses start to rack up for the staging and all of that kind of stuff. And then I believe the mayor of New York tells him he has to cancel the show. What was that all about?

LAURIE: You know, he had to jump through a lot of hoops with the city, I bet, to make this happen. He had rented the stadium on his name alone. That’s how well known he was in New York. He picked the date and the stadium said, we’ll hold it for you until the money comes in. But the mayor wasn’t so sure. They were very fearful, first of all, of security. What were they going to do if 10,000 fans decided to rush the stage?

BRAD: Right.

LAURIE: How were we going to get the Beatles in and out of the stadium without them being injured? What’s going to happen to traffic that day in New York? I mean, they had a million questions.

BRAD: And again, nothing like this had ever been done before, a rock show on this scale. But New York was pretty well aware of what Beatlemania looked like, because, of course, they had already been through the chaos around the Ed Sullivan performance. So they had a taste of it. They could see what could potentially happen. So you can understand the concern.

LAURIE: Oh, sure. And they had seen the thousands of kids around the Plaza in ‘64 when The Beatles stayed there and had done their ‘64 tour. So they knew that it could be absolute chaos out there.

BRAD: So in the days before the show, just kind of, as we lead up to the events of the show, The Beatles fly from Heathrow Airport to New York City; they stay at the Warwick Hotel. That must have been another chaotic scene.

LAURIE: Oh, yes. I mean, thousands, I can’t even imagine, but thousands of kids on the street, mostly girls. The hotel was full of girls that somehow sneaked in or had their parents rent a room there, or they disguised themselves as maids. And there were kids on top of the elevator, where they could have been crushed.

BRAD: The day before the show, the Beatles played on Ed Sullivan. They played, I think, like a six-song set. And then the day of the show, it’s a hot and humid day, right, like an 87-degree humid day in New York?

LAURIE: Yes. Sweltering summer day. And The Beatles had been partying pretty good, too. Bob Dylan was in town, and some of their other friends, The Ronettes, were coming by to see them, and there was a lot of smoking pot and playing records, and they couldn’t go out unless it was in secret.

BRAD: Right. So they were making the best of their quarantine.

LAURIE: And this was their life then, on the road. I mean, literally wasn’t safe for them to leave the room. Not much of an, you know, at a time when people’s security now is massive. They basically had three guys and Brian watching out for them. So the day of the concert comes around, and they’ve already decided that they are going to have to fly The Beatles in a helicopter over to Shea Stadium. And George was really not fond of flying.

BRAD: Yeah. George was a notorious bad flyer.

LAURIE: Yes. And the helicopter made him virtually weep with fear. The pilot of the helicopter said, “Well, you guys have been trapped in your room, you haven’t even been able to see any of New York. Let me show you the Empire State Building. Let me show you the Chrysler Building.” And he’s zooming through, up above, and George is literally white knuckling, crying, “get me down out of here, please.” All of this was filmed for the documentary. They had, um, a cameraman on the helicopter with them. So all of this was caught on film.

And of course, they could not land in the stadium, because they were afraid that kids would rush the helicopter and there could be terrible damage there. So they landed across the street, really across the way, where the New York World’s Fair was held. As well thought out as this was, they suddenly realized, if we drive The Beatles over in a limo, that limo is going to be mobbed. Kids will jump on it and God knows what will happen. So now, how are we going to get them into the stadium? And one security guy is looking around, and he sees a Wells Fargo armored truck; no windows, sitting unused, and won’t be needed for the next couple of hours. So he talks to the driver and commandeers this armored truck, finds four Wells Fargo badges in the front seat. He gives one to each of The Beetles, and he loads them up in the back of the truck. Poor George also is claustrophobic. George, now, who is green from the helicopter, is now being forced into the back of this truck, and they are safely driven into Shea Stadium.

BRAD: Now, before we talk about the show, I think one of the interesting side stories is that Sid was also, I believe, he was managing the Rascals, right? The band The Rascals. The Rascals didn’t play at the show, but he had a bunch of promotion for them going on, right? He was really trying to get their name in front of the audience.

LAURIE: Oh, Sid was really the ultimate old school promoter, actually. The Beatles did a press conference in a ballroom at the Warwick, and Sid had plants in the audience asking The Beatles, “Have you heard the Rascals yet? What do you think of them?” They never heard of them. But Sid just was getting that name out there. So, when kids coming into the stadium were looking into the dugout where they knew The Beatles would make their entrance, they saw some guys with long hair and they mistook them for The Beatles, and went running down there. Well, it was The Rascals. And yes, Sid had buttons and photos and all kinds of stuff that they were signing and handing out. And he also took the opportunity to flash “The Rascals are coming, The Rascals are coming” on a small welcoming screen in the stadium.

BRAD: Which I think Brian wasn’t too crazy about.

LAURIE: Yes. Brian quashed that immediately. I interviewed Felix Cavallari of The Rascals on his experience there that day. And he said Brian just very quietly said, “If that is not removed in the next 10 seconds, Sid, we shall be leaving.” And so Sid immediately had that taken down. “No one rides on the coattails of The Beatles” is what Brian said. He was always watching out for his boys.

BRAD: Right. That’s just a great story, though. And, typical for the shows of the day, this was kind of like a review show, where The Beatles weren’t the only ones that performed. There was a handful of opening acts. Why don’t you talk a little bit about some of the folks who opened the show for The Beatles? And could you imagine– 56,000 people are there, and not one of them is wanting to see you.

LAURIE: That’s exactly right. The first group was the fantastic sax player King Curtis. And um, he played behind a group called Discotheque Dancers, who demonstrated the hot dances of the day. And actually, one of the ladies, I found three of the five ladies from that group.

BRAD: Yeah. You actually interview them in your book.

LAURIE: Oh, yeah. And one of them said, “Well, my dad went with me that night, and he took 80 color slides that evening and we looked at them once and they’ve been in a drawer ever since. Would you like to have them?” Um, yeah!

BRAD: So you’ve got some great photographs in the book, and I imagine a lot of this stuff has never been really publicly seen before. You have those photographs. You also spoke to a number of, at the time, young folks who attended the show, and you’ve got some photographs from some of those people. Tell us a little bit about some of the other people in the book who contributed some of these great photographs.

LAURIE: You know, it sounds like I’m making it up to say at this late date, I have hundreds of photos that people have never seen, but I actually do. One guy, Mark Weinstein, was 17 years old, and he was bound and determined to get on the field. He sneaked into the bowels of Shea Stadium. He began trying every door he came to; they were all locked. And finally, one doorknob turns in his hands, he opens it, and the room is full of cops. And he thought “Oy vey”. He said to me, “I thought, Oy vey, if I run, I’m done.” So, he just thought really fast, walked in, faked a British accent, told them he was a friend of George Harrison’s and he was supposed to take photos that night, but had gotten separated from the group, and they led him right out onto the field. He took 60 photos from the edge of the stage, all of which are in the book, and one of which is the cover of the book.

BRAD: And that is a great shot of George and John.

LAURIE: I love that shot too. It was the last shot of the night, and there was another gentleman, who had to be coerced to even go to the concert, and he didn’t even know who The Beatles were. He decided he was also going to try and get into the stadium. And the door that was unlocked and opened to him led right into their dressing room. I mean, he opened the door, and there they were.

BRAD: It’s incredible.

LAURIE: With just like ten other people. So he walked in and just started taking photos. And he also got onto the field and took more photos. So, I have several photos that George Orsino took and, let’s see… Carly Simon’s brother Peter was there, and he was, I believe, 18. And he took some wonderful photos of the fans. So yeah, just, they covered it.  Like, Marvin Gaye was there. He was introduced to the audience. He didn’t perform, but my friend dawn from the Discotheque Dancers, she had danced, backing up Marvin Gaye. So when her father saw Marvin Gaye, he took his picture. That’s the only picture that exists of Marvin Gaye at Shea Stadium.

BRAD: It’s great.

LAURIE: And he’s holding his own little movie. Oh, I wonder what happened to that.

BRAD: The photographs in the book are just, I mean, they’re great. Between the photographs of the crowd and the band, it really does a great job of just capturing the energy and the excitement of that night.

LAURIE: Oh, the girls running across the field, and The Beatles pointing to the runners and encouraging them, and the police running after them. Just kids, scaling the walls to get in, and what kills me is the security that Sid had to arrange, and that Brian insisted on. And here are these people literally just walking in, walking into their dressing room, walking out onto the know again today. It could have been a terrible situation.

BRAD: Right.

LAURIE: But there was nothing but love and joy out there.

BRAD: Yeah. Sid does get Ed Sullivan to agree to introduce them at the show. And Sullivan makes kind of a side agreement with Brian Epstein to film the show, and Sid gets cut out of that whole thing, which is a shame.

LAURIE: Yes. And you know, Sid could have chosen to introduce The Beatles. Sid could have taken that moment for himself, but that’s not who Sid was. And he realized that the country’s association with Ed and The Beatles was where it was at, and so he graciously invited Sullivan to introduce them. Sullivan couldn’t say yes fast enough.

BRAD: So, after all the buildup, The Beatles play a short 30-minute set, which was standard for the day. They play twelve songs:

Twist and Shout
She’s A Woman
I Feel Fine
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Ticket To Ride
Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby – which is Georgia’s showcase
Can’t Buy Me Love
Baby’s In Black, which I think is a really interesting choice
Act Naturally – that’s Ringo’s moment
A Hard Day’s Night
I’m Down

But, I mean, that’s a tight little set there. This was before the two-hour concerts, the marathon Bruce Springsteen concerts that we get these days. You got 30 minutes of The Beatles, and they were out of there. I believe that’s the same set they played all on the rest of the tour.

What are some of your favorite moments of that set? I’m sure you’re pretty familiar with the film by now, having written the book and everything. What jumps out to you when you think about that set?

LAURIE: Well, I love “Twist and Shout”, and that’s a great opener, especially after the crowd had been waiting so long. There were several other opening acts I didn’t mention and lots of radio personalities in between. I mean, it just was, you know, the crowds got there at six, I think the stadium opened at six, and the show started at seven, and The Beatles didn’t go on ‘till nine. So “Twist And Shout” is a great opener.

BRAD: “Help!” had just opened a few weeks before. They had filmed in the interim between when Sid books the show and they actually perform the show, they film the movie “Help!” and, of course, record that track & the album during that time. So that was pretty current material for them.

LAURIE: And, you know, they reprised “Hard Day’s Night”, of course, because that was still so uppermost in fan’s minds.

BRAD: No “She Loves You”, No “I Want To Hold Your Hand”…

LAURIE: Yeah, they were moving away from that, trying to play their more current stuff, and as a matter of fact, “I’m Down”, this was the first time they had played that.

BRAD: That was just a B side.

LAURIE: It’s the only song John’s on the organ, which was, um, almost uncomfortable for him. He said, I didn’t know what to do without my guitar. There I am, standing behind this organ, which was something so new for him.

BRAD: Yeah. But probably every Beatles fan is fairly familiar with that footage, probably seen it. But it’s not only the final moment of the show– it really is, to me, that’s the greatest moment of the show. And John is just having a blast pounding away at that electric piano or whatever and it’s one of McCartney’s great vocals on that song. He really gets his best Little Richard voice out for that. But it’s such a great moment. The footage of them playing “I’m Down” at Shea Stadium is just so great.

LAURIE: You know, they were a little bit afraid to go out there. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were also there, and they were in the dressing room with the Beatles. And Mick had gotten a little beat up on his way into the dressing room, some tough guys from Brooklyn were like, “You think you’re so great,” bam, bam, and they’re hitting him. And The Beatles were like, uh oh, what’s exactly going to happen out there? And Cousin Brucey assured them that they were going to be met with nothing but love. And from the moment they step out there– that’s my favorite moment of the documentary, they start looking around, they just can’t even believe what they’re seeing, right? It’s stunning, this number of people. And by the time they’re through with their set and they’re into “I’m Down”, and they know nobody can hear them, John has started to introduce songs, just speaking gobbledygook.

He knows nobody can hear them and it doesn’t matter what they say. And now he’s on this electric piano, and he knows nobody can hear that either. And you’re right, he’s pounding it, he’s playing it with his elbow. Ringo looks over and thinks, well, he’s just lost it. And George is trying desperately to stay serious and finally, he just can’t. He just can’t stay serious anymore, John has completely cracked him up, and he makes his way over to John. And that is the shot that Mark Weinstein caught.

BRAD: The cover of the book, and the photo is in the book as well. It’s just a great shot of John and George grinning ear to ear. You know, it’s the last song of the set. They know they’ve pulled it off, what a release that must have been. But I can imagine the terror stepping on the stage the beginning of that set. And then everything they went through to get to that emotional moment at the end of it.

Speaker C: Truly, if The Beatles remember only one concert, this is the concert they remember. You know, there was just nothing like it ever. And yes, that release must have been just, I mean, they did it. They really did. That’s where the title of the book comes from. Several years later, John was out one evening with Sid Bernstein and they were reminiscing about that night, and he said to Sid, “I saw the top of the mountain on that glorious night.”

BRAD: That’s great. So, when all is said and done, concert’s over, everybody goes home. When Sid tallies it all up, he ends up making a total of $3,000 for the show.

LAURIE: Incredible. I know. I don’t know where it all went. And Felix Cavalieri said Sid was a wonderful, honest, kind, generous, savvy man, but not all managers have both the business sense and the financial sense. Sid knew what he was doing promotion-wise. He recognized great talent when he heard it, but he wasn’t that great with the money end of it.

BRAD: But as you said, this assured him a place in history. I remember in the 80’s, going to my first Beatle conventions, Sid was a frequent speaker at those. And this was 20 years after the show. And people still loved to come and hear him tell his story as of the show. And I imagine he did that right up until the day he passed.

LAURIE: Yes, he lived to be 95 years old and was so proud, so proud of this great achievement, as well he should be, because frankly, this concert changed the world.

BRAD: Yeah, well, let’s talk a little bit about how this show changed history– where it fits and the impact it had.

LAURIE: Well, clearly, this was the future. And technology woke up the next morning and said, we flunked. Nobody could see them. Nobody could hear them. And this is all we’re going to see from this day forward, so we better get on board. And four years later, there was Woodstock. So they got on board in a big strapping hurry.

BRAD: Yeah. People forget that at this time, what they were using for a PA system was basically the same setup that they used for the announcers of the ball games, which were nowhere near adequate in terms of just pure volume and sound quality. That stuff sounds atrocious. There wasn’t all the big PA systems and monitors and all that stuff you have now, none of that stuff existed back.

LAURIE: Right. And no diamond screen to see them. You know, we didn’t even mention also at this concert were teenagers like Meryl Streep and Joe Walsh and Steve Van Zant, and Whoopi Goldberg was nine, she was there. Two future Beatle wives. And Meryl Streep was way up in the nosebleed seats with her little “I Love Paul” sign. And she said, “I had a better view of New Jersey than I did of The Beatles”. Everybody was just so happy to share the space with these guys they loved so much. But clearly, later on, people want to see them.

BRAD: Sure.

LAURIE: Technology got the big wake-up call. Madison Avenue saw 56,000 young people together and realized, we’re only selling these kids acne medicine. There is potential here for a lot more money. So, boom. The boomers immediately get on the map. So everything raced to catch up with this new young generation that was changing the world.

BRAD: Just an amazing time for music. And music was driving the culture in a way that it never had before.

LAURIE: Yes. People literally went from maybe ten friends gathered around your parents’ hi-fi to crowds of this size. Many of the opening act people, as well as the fans in the audience that I interviewed, said how empowering it was to be in the presence of 56,000 people who felt the same way that you felt. That was a life changing event for many of the people there. It was really amazing to talk to them and the fans I spoke to that were there, and literally, from Meryl Streep on down to just your basic fan, they still had the amazing enthusiasm that they had that night. They never lost it. It was still the most incredible event that any of them had ever attended.

BRAD: That’s great. Well, the book is called “Top of the Mountain”. It’s Sid Bernstein’s story, which is a fascinating story; t’s the story of dozens of people who attended the show and played their little part in the show by taking photographs or just being witnesses to the event; and, of course, it’s The Beatles story of what was, at the time, the biggest concert in rock history, and still stands as, I think, one of the most significant concerts ever.

Laurie, I really love the book. It was just a great, fun read. Thank you for coming on and talking about it, because it’s been a blast talking to you about the book and the concert.

LAURIE: Thanks, Brad. I so appreciate that, I really do.

BRAD: Sure. What do you got coming up next? Anything on the agenda for you?

LAURIE: This was my 6th book, and I primarily am a Hollywood historian, and I have written lots and lots about the history of Hollywood scandals and mysteries and all kinds of aspects of Hollywood history. And I think that my next book is something I’ve been preparing for for a very long time, which is a history of the Sunset Strip.

BRAD: That should be great.

LAURIE: So there will be lots of music there.

BRAD: Yeah, a lot of stories to tell there, that’s for sure. Well, Laurie Jacobson, thank you so much for doing the show with me. I really appreciate it. Good luck with the book and the books in the future. And thanks for the conversation.

LAURIE: I had a ball. Thanks, Brad.

BRAD: Thank you, Laurie.

And as always, thanks to all of you for listening. Go pick up a copy of Laurie’s book. You’ll love it. I’ll be back in a couple weeks with a new episode. Until then, you can listen to all of our previous shows, including more episodes on the Beatles, on our website– is the place you’ll find them.

I always appreciate your reviews and your feedback. And if you want to support the show, the best thing you can do is to tell a friend about it, because your word-of-mouth recommendations, they’re the best advertising we could get.

Thanks again for listening to this show and all of the other shows on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’ll see you next time right here on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast.

Perhaps the most influential compilation album of all time, the original Nuggets album was lovingly assembled by guitarist/author Lenny Kaye in 1972. Collecting some of the greatest psychedelic garage rock onto one collection was no small feat, but the album went on to inspire tons of musicians in the US and the UK. On this episode, we honor the 50th anniversary of this landmark collection with a look back at some of the best tracks by these long-gone, and mostly forgotten, bands.

— And remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.


We’re back with another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and if you’re a music lover like me, I’m sure you’ve had this experience before: You hear about a record, maybe someone tells you that you should check it out, or you just keep seeing it referenced in articles or interviews. So you take a chance on it, and it opens up a whole new world of music for you. Well, today on the show, we’re going to take a look at an album that did that for me in a big way. This episode we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the compilation album known as ““Nuggets””, and we’ll be listening to some of the great psychedelic proto-punk garage rock songs from the late ‘60’s.


Lenny Kaye is probably most known for playing guitar in the Patti Smith Group – he played on her first four critically acclaimed albums. He was also a record producer, but before all that, he was a writer and a music journalist. Lenny loved the psychedelic garage rock of the 1960’s, and in 1972, he compiled 27 of the best garage rock singles onto a double album called ““Nuggets””.

The original ““Nuggets”” album was released by Electra Records 50 years ago this month, in October 1972. ““Nuggets”” would go on to become hugely influential, inspiring generations of bands. In the 1980’s, Rhino Records revived the “Nuggets” brand and not only reissued the original “Nuggets” album, they created a whole series of “Nuggets” albums, eventually releasing about 15 albums worth of this stuff. And that’s when I first discovered these records.

In 1998, Rhino collected the best of those songs into a CD box set of over 100 tracks. And we’re going to be listening to a selection of tracks from that box set. Some of these songs are on the original “Nuggets” album, but all of them can be found on that “Nuggets” box set, which I highly recommend.

All of these songs represent a time when kids all across the country, inspired by the Beatles and the Stones and dozens of other bands, went out and bought their own guitars and drums, taught themselves how to play and started bands in their basements or garages, hence the term “garage rock”.

The sound of these records is rough. The performance is even rougher. Any particular skill at your instrument, including vocals, was, uh, a plus, but not required. This was music created in the passion of the moment. It’s about inspiration, not technical skill. As Bill Inglett put it in his liner notes to the box set, “Attitude ruled over aptitude”. Or to paraphrase Lenny Kaye, this is the sound of teenagers yearning to play in a band.

And even though this music was a product of the social norms breaking down at the time free love, psychedelic drugs and all of that, there’s also a certain innocence or naivete to this music that I find charming, as odds that sounds.

So, here’s a baker’s dozen of great tracks from “Nuggets”, starting with Count Five – “Psychotic Reaction”. Originally a surf rock band from San Jose, CA, they were captured by the British Invasion and changed their name to Count Five. They wore vampire-inspired capes on stage. After being rejected by the major record companies, they signed to a small Los Angeles label called Double Shot Records and released “Psychotic Reaction” in June 1966. Singer and guitarist Sean Byrne came up with the song one day in health education class. It became a big part of their live shows with the “rave up” section in the middle, no doubt inspired by The Yardbirds, giving their lead guitarist named Mouse a chance to let loose on his fuzz-tone guitar. The song actually made it to number five on the Billboard Hot 100.


That’s “Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five.

Next up, Michael and the Messengers, “Romeo and Juliet”. The Messengers were originally a high school band from Winona, Minnesota. The bass player reformed the band in college and they released a version of “In the Midnight Hour” on Chicago’s USA Records label. That was enough of a regional hit that the Messengers got picked up by Motown Records, which left the tiny USA label without their hit band. So USA put together their own version of the Messengers. It was actually a band from Leminster, Massachusetts– not far from where I went to high school– called the Del Mars, that USA renamed Michael and The Messengers and recorded this version of “Romeo and Juliet”. Despite the fact that there was nobody named Michael in the band, that didn’t stop them from having a minor hit with this single in 1967.


Michael and the Messengers with “Romeo and Juliet”

Tthis next track is by The Sparkles. It’s called “No Friend of Mine”. The Sparkles were a band from Texas, and their single “No Friend Of Mine” is a perfect specimen of garage rock. Nasty fuzz guitar? Check. That buzzing organ sound? Check. A lead vocal that’s somewhere between spoken word and screaming frustration? Check. it’s a textbook example.


“No Friend Of Mine” by The Sparkles

Let’s check out another track. This one is by the Gollywogs. It’s called “Fight Fire”. Now, a band called the Blue Velvets came out of El Cerrito, CA as far back as 1959. But when they signed to Fantasy Records in 1964, the label changed their name to The Gollywogs. They hated that name. They released a handful of singles, including “Fight Fire” in 1966. A year later, the band would change their name again– this time to Credence Clearwater Revival. That’s right. This is CCR before they were CCR. Let’s have a listen to “Fight Fire”.


The Gollywogs with “Fight Fire”.

Next up is The Rationals with “I Need You”. The Rationals formed in Ann Arbor, Michigan around 1963, signed to a local label and released a bunch of singles that did well in Michigan, but not so much elsewhere. Their version of the Kinks song, “I Need You” released in 1968, one-ups Dave Davies with an even gnarlier guitar sound.


The Rationals and their version of “I Need You”.

Now let’s hear a song by the Sonics called “Psycho”. This is the earliest song of this bunch, released way back in January 1965. But it’s as intense and wild as anything on this list. The Sonics started in Tacoma, WA, and in November ‘64 had a regional hit with a song called “The Witch”, which became the biggest selling local single in the Northwest’s history. They released their first album in 1965 called “Here Are the Sonics”. And it is a seminal piece of garage rock history. Recorded on a two-track recorder with only one microphone for the drums, this album features all their best songs, including this track, “Psycho”. By 1968, the band had split up, but they managed to influence Nirvana, the White Stripes, and are often referred to as the first punk band.


“Psycho” by the Sonics.

Things start to get psychedelic on our next song. It’s The Balloon Farm with “A Question Of Temperature”. Before The Balloon Farm formed, two of the members played in a band called Adam, where every member changed their first name to Adam. Their first and only single was a song called “Eve”. Of course.

When that band split, those two guys formed a new band, and named it The Balloon Farm after a club in New York with the same name. “A Question of Temperature” was their only hit, released in October 1967. Reached 37 on the Billboard chart. But it has everything you want in a psychedelic pop song: A pulsating beat, breathy vocals, fuzz-tone guitar and trippy sound effects. It’s a classic in my book.


“A Question of Temperature” by The Balloon Farm.  One of the members of The Balloon Farm was a guy named Mike Appel, who would later go on to manage Bruce Springsteen. But that’s a story for another podcast.

Next is the DelVettes with “Last Time Around”. The DelVettes were a Chicago band that recorded a handful of singles for the Dunwich label. They released “Last Time Around” in May 1966. It features a killer riff on bass and fuzzed out guitar, with a nice chorus. And it’s another tune that shows the influence of The Yardbirds, with its rave -p style solo right in the middle.


“Last Time Around” by The DelVettes.

Now here’s a song by The Elastic Band called “Spaz”. Straight out of Belmont, CA, came the Elastic Band. Get it? Elastic Band. I can’t tell you anything about this group, except that they released two singles. And this one, “Spaz”, managed to get released by ATCO Records, a legit major label, in 1967. And I don’t know what to say about this song. Just listen to this:


“Spaz” by The Elastic Band.

Now, if there’s any song in this episode that you recognize, it’ll be this one: The Strawberry Alarm Clock with “Incense and Peppermints”. This song actually hit number one on the Billboard charts in 1967, and it’s a lot poppier than most of the tracks we’ve been listening to, but no less psychedelic, with its fuzz-tone guitar and vintage 60’s organ sound.

The band was from Glendale, CA, and originally known as The Sixpence, but changed their name after the song was first released. There’s actually a pretty convoluted history to this song. It started out as an instrumental by band members Mark Weitz and Ed King and initially released as a B-side to a single by The Sixpence. Apparently, most of the band members didn’t like the lyrics, so the lead vocal ended up being sung by a guy who wasn’t even in the band. He was a friend who was just hanging out at the recording session. Weitz and King never got songwriting credits. The credits went to John Carter, who wrote the lyrics, and his partner Tim Gilbert, who actually had nothing to do with the song. Guitarist Ed King would later join the original lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd– About as far away as you could get from the sound of the Strawberry Alarm Clock.


“Incense And Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Next: Love – “7 and 7 Is”.  If the Strawberry Alarm Clock was the most commercially successful of this bunch of songs, the band Love was the most influential. An interracial band at a time when that was rare in rock, fronted by Arthur Lee, singer songwriter, guitarist, keyboard player. Lee had a distinct vision, not like anybody else. Love came from LA, but had a sound miles away from the sunny “California Dreaming” sound. Love was the first rock band signed to Electra Records, and released their first album in early 1966. By the summer, they released a brand new single, “7 and 7 Is”. The song explodes with a pent-up teenage frustration, never lets up on the intensity until a bomb literally goes off at the end. This song has been covered countless times, by everyone from Alice Cooper to Billy Bragg to Rush. Here’s the original:


“7 And 7 Is” by Love.

And here’s The Blues Magoos with “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet”. The Blues Magoos arose from the Bronx in New York, playing around Greenwich Village under various names, before they changed their name to the Blues Magoos in 1966. They released their first album, “Psychedelic Lollipop” in November ‘66, which featured their single, “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet”, one of the most infectious bits of garage rock you’re ever going to find. It actually reached number five on the Billboard charts, featuring a driving bass line, a pseudo sitar-sounding guitar riff, and the sound of the vox continental organ, such a key element to so many garage rock tunes.


“We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet” by the Blues Magoos.

And one last tune: The Remains with “Don’t Look Back”.  The Remains were a Boston band formed in 1964 at Boston University by Barry Tashian, who would eventually end up in Emmy Lou Harris’s band. But at this time, he was freshly back from a trip to Europe, where he was inspired by bands like The Kinks to start his own group back home. They built a following in and around Boston and signed with Epic Records. They appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and even scored the opening slot on the Beatles final US tour in 1966. But they never broke into the big time. Too bad, too, because they had the chops and the talent to do it, but it just never came together for them. “Don’t Look Back” was their final single, released in August 1966. Should have been a hit.


“Don’t Look Back” by The Remains.

It’s funny… when the original “Nuggets” album came out in 1972, most of these songs were five, six years old at the most, but they were already considered artifacts of another time. Here we are, 50 years later– a lifetime ago. But if you look out there somewhere, you’ll still find bands being inspired by these songs from the first psychedelic era.

These days, that DIY spirit, “I want to do that too”, has moved out of the garage and into the bedroom, with digital technology. Things have shifted to software; towards beats and samples, and away from guitars and amplifiers, which I admit, bums me out. But that’s okay. It’s not like anyone’s confiscating all the guitars.  And the spirit of “Nuggets” is still there. That idea that passion is more important than technical chops, that anyone can make music if they put enough heart and soul into it. And there’s nothing more rock and roll than that.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. You can find all of our previous shows on our website,, as well as on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon… we are everywhere podcasts can be found.

Leave comments or reviews on Podchaser or wherever you listen to the show. And don’t forget to check out the other great shows on the Pantheon network.

We’ll see you again in two weeks with another new episode. Until then, here’s one more nugget– The Knickerbockers with “Lies”.


B.B. King created a sound with his electric guitar that changed the world and made him a legend around the world. In this episode, I’m joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Daniel De Vise, author of King Of The Blues: The Rise & Reign of B.B. King to share 5 songs that encapsulate the story of this iconic musician.

Order your copy of Daniel’s book here:

— And remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.


Welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and we’ve got a special episode lined up this time. You all probably know by now that I love guitars and guitar players, and there is no guitar player that I’ve loved as much, or for as long, as I’ve loved B.B. King. This September 16 would have been BB’s 97th birthday. Daniel De Vise as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. His biography of B.B. King, called “King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King”, was published last year, and it is excellent. So I’ve asked Daniel to come on the show to talk about B.B. King and why he’s one of the most important artists of the last 100 years. We’ve picked five songs to illustrate his career, his impact, and the path that his life would follow. So, let’s get into it. Here’s my conversation with Daniel De Vise.

BRAD:  Daniel, thanks for joining me on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I read your book, “King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King”, and I really, really enjoyed it. So, I’m excited to have you on here to talk about B.B. King. We decided to pick 5 songs as a way to show the scope of his career. It’s no easy feat when you consider he released dozens of albums. But first, to get us started, can you give us just a quick overview of his story, where he came from, how his career got started, and how he ended up being, I think, one of the most important musical figures of the last century?

DANIEL: B.B. Was born in 1925, I think, on September 16, a day before my birthday, in Itta Bena, Mississippi, which is in the Delta. He was born into a sharecropping family, which is economically kind of like a system that came in after slavery was abolished for many black Americans in the south. You were nominally free, but kind of indentured to the land and to the landowner, because the way the system was set up, you were always in debt. You never get out of debt. You end up owing more than you make in most years, anyway. So this is like 100 pages of the book, but I’ll gloss over it. He first emerges out of impoverishment, out of poverty to become a tractor driver, which is kind of a higher-up job. And so that paid enough that he was actually earning money, which was cool. And his father had done that. His father was kind of an alpha male, hardworking dude, who also was a tractor driver. And the story might have ended there; I mean, that’s where it ended for Albert King, the father. He became a tractor driver and was able to raise a family and end the story. But B.B. had deeper ambitions. He had an ear, which I think was a remarkably gifted ear for music. He was really drawn to the field hollers, the people, shouting blues out across the fields. He was really smitten with the records that he heard. He had a great aunt who had a Victrola, and so he was able through that to listen to all this stuff like, Blind Lemon Jefferson was a huge star. So he heard recordings of Blind Lemon Jefferson, just playing the guitar and singing. So he heard whatever was popular, and then he just kind of fell for some new sounds. He heard electric guitar. The sound he heard that he really fell for was T Bone Walker. And that would have been in, like, probably ‘46, ’47, when T Bone had his big hit, “Stormy Monday Blues”. And he also, around this time, also was exposed to Charlie Christian, really great black jazz guitarist who sort of introduced solo guitar into jazz music. B.B. also had heard Lonnie Johnson, who’s not as familiar of a name, but people who really, really know their guitar history would posit Johnson, Lonnie Johnson, as one of the all-time greats. He was actually bending strings and playing solo guitar in the ‘20’s, in the blues idiom and jazz idiom both. He was recording all up through the 40’s & 50’s. So BB just really fell for this solo guitar sound. And that’s how he wound up straying from gospel singing and getting into playing and singing rhythm and blues on the guitar. And this takes us to the latter years of the 1940’s.

BRAD: One of the things that in your book that really jumped out at me– and it makes perfect sense, but you don’t think of it that way– with somebody like B.B. King, who’s been an icon for as many years as you and I have heard him, h was a master by then, but like everyone when he started out, he really wasn’t very good.

Speaker A: Um, right. I don’t know that anybody had written about this, but if you listen to BB’s first, very first recordings in 1949 for the Bullet label, which was out of Nashville, he couldn’t keep time at all. He wasn’t accustomed to playing with other musicians. And also his solo playing was rudimentary, let’s say, at the beginning; he sounds more like a guitar student than a guitar master at the very beginning. And what I think happened, and I say this in the book, I think between 1949 and 1950, he really buckled down and spent hours and hours and hours and hours playing. And he learned how to play with other players and he developed this wonderful lead guitar sound. He’d been doing acoustic, more like Robert Johnson-style guitar, and I think he learned, maybe only in the latter part of ‘40’s, tothe play electric guitar, and to do this kind of solo style that he’d learned from T Bone Walker. So, by the time of his first really professional singles, which were recorded for Sam Phillips in 1950, by that time he sounded pretty close to the BB King we know and love.

BRAD: And that kind of brings us up to the first song that we chose to talk about, which was a single from 1951, a song called “3 O’Clock Blues”, which is it’s a landmark record in BB’s career, right? Tell us about that song.

DANIEL: So by 1951, BB had cut and released a number of singles with Sam Phillips at the controls. And Sam Phillips was kind of a genius. But Sam, I would argue, and I think Sam Phillips’ biographer, Peter Guralnick, probably would agree, didn’t really know what to do with BB. I think he was thinking of BB King as a singer. You can’t fault him for that, because the guitar wasn’t a prominent instrument in 1950, even as late as 1951.

BRAD: Right.

DANIEL: I point out in my book that there weren’t a lot of songs that had gone to the top of the rhythm blues charts that featured guitar. Almost all the band leaders were pianists or horn players or just singers. So there just wasn’t a lot of precedent for somebody fronting a band, playing the guitar and singing. And so I don’t think Sam Phillips thought that way. He was thinking of BB as a singer, which he was. He was a fine singer. So the irony of all this is that Sam has a falling out with the Bahari Brothers– the Bahari Brothers being the gang who ran BB’s record label. So the Baharis were left with BB. They lost Sam Phillips as the engineer. And so the youngest Bahari brother, Joe Bahari, winds up recording BB’s next side. And the song that they chose was “3 O’Clock Blues”, which had been a hit for Lowell Folson, who was a pretty well-known West Coast blues guitarist. By this time, 1951, BB was a DJ operating out of Memphis, WDIA, which was the first all-black talent radio station. So Folson allowed BB to record the song, because BB had been spinning Folson’s version of it on the radio. And the way that I describe it in the book is BB set out to put his own stamp of sincere intensity on Folson’s song, whose lyrics, quote, I’m quoting from another writer, start out as an insomniac lament, but end up with a weepy farewell more suited to a suicide note. Close quote. It seemed perfect for Bibi’s emerging vocal style, fervent, intimate and intense.


DANIEL: It was sounding good. But after the first take, Joe Bahari didn’t quite have the sound he wanted. The pianist, who was Phineas Newborn, a wonderful top-drawer jazz pianist, but he didn’t have that rhythm and blues sound. So on a break, Joe Bahari hears this really great rock and piano, like, wait, that’s the sound I want in this song. Turns out the person playing the piano was Ike Turner, who’s not yet known, but he’s just this kid, like, the Prince of his day, you know, amazingly versatile. He can play anything. So let’s get rid of Phineas Newborn, the great jazz pianist. Let’s have Ike sit at the keys. And so Ike turned in this wonderful swinging piano, and the second take, it all came together.


DANIEL: I kind of say that in my book, that I think “3 O’Clock Blues” was the first song where the producer showcases BB and his guitar Lucille equally, they get equal prominence in the song. And prior to that, BB’s voice was overshadowing his guitar. So this is, in a way, this is where the story begins, and it shot like a bullet to number one on the rhythm & blues charts, and it became BB’s first number one.

BRAD: Yeah, there’s a few things fascinating about the track. For one, the fact that it was recorded in a YMCA, not in a studio, not in anything resembling a professional environment. It does feature some of the classic BB King licks; they’re in there, but he hasn’t quite developed the legendary BB King phrasing yet, and you don’t really hear that classic BB King trill or vibrato that he became famous for. There’s hints of it there, but it’s not fully developed yet. And the solo doesn’t really flow the way his later solos would. You can just hear that he’s made major leaps, but he’s still he’s still developing.


DANIEL: And early on, BB was obsessed with Roy Brown, the rhythm & blues singer, and if he’d stopped making records around this time, he might have been remembered as a great singer in the sort of Roy Brown mold. And that was what BB sounded like as a vocalist at first.

BRAD: Right. The next track– we’re going to skip ahead to 1964, and a single called “Rock Me Baby”, one of the most influential songs he ever released. Talk about that.

DANIEL: Okay, to unpack “Rock Me Baby”, let me first explain that at the beginning of the 60s, BB switched labels. He left the Bahari Brothers fold, the RPM records fold. The Bahari brothers… this is very difficult to completely explain because on the one hand, they kind of robbed BB blind. I mean, they took composing credits for songs that they hadn’t written. And then I picture them kind of paying him, like, one advance check on every song, and I doubt BB would see any more money, no matter how many copies sold. So that side of the ledger makes them look kind of bad. But on the other hand, they didn’t mess with him. They let him record the songs pure, sounding the same way they would sound if BB were to perform them live in a club. And they hired great musicians, great arrangers, the most important of whom was Maxwell Davis, just a wonderful musician and arranger. By 1961, ’62, BB had gone to the major label, ABC Paramount. But ABC Paramount didn’t know what the hell to do with him, and they kept recording him with the Ray Charles Orchestra and just, again, made the same mistake Sam Phillips had made a decade earlier; they thought he was a singer. For some reason, they didn’t realize they had this amazing guitarist on their roster. So they kept giving him these croony ballads to sing, and he was going nowhere in his career. So, meanwhile, the minor label, the race label, RPM, still had a trunk load of songs that he had cut for them. So they kept releasing them, through the first half of the into the second half of the 60’s. “Rock Me Baby” comes out, and just like everything that BB had done for RPM, it’s tastefully done. It’s simple, pure, no orchestration. It’s just a nice five- or six-piece blues song. And oddly enough, it became one of the most important songs that this RPM Records label would ever release under BB’s name. And the reason is, it hit at a good moment. I think that listeners out in the world were starting to– especially in Britain– were starting to discover first acoustic and then electric blues. It actually charted in the States, too. It reached number 34 on the Billboard pop chart.

Now, “Rock Me Baby” was originally, I think, a Bill Broonzy song that was originally called “Rocking Chair Blues”. And BB retooled it. And I think this is important: his arrangement of it is very musically disciplined. It has a very strong and memorable, and kind of dependable melody, that kind of doesn’t change, set against a simple repeated guitar riff that’s doubled on the piano. It’s very very simple and very disciplined, and it just works.


DANIEL: And Jimi Hendrix discovered it and put it on his repertoire when he started out as a solo artist, “Rock Me Baby” became one of his kind of standout songs.


DANIEL: And in Britain, it was the first big song of any stripe released by BB King. And this is very significant, because this is right when the people who would become the Stones and the Yardbirds were all just soaking up any black American music they could get their paws on, nobody had heard any BB King music at all in Britain. So, Eric Clapton discovered the song, I think the Animals, Eric Burton, The Animals wounded up covering it and so the song was a huge deal in Britain, and it was a significant single in America. It caused BB’s new label, ABC Paramount, to start rethinking their strategy with him because, hey, his old label had just gotten him onto the Top 40, which his new label had failed to do.

BRAD: Right. It’s one of his songs, maybe the song that’s been probably covered the most. I mean “Thrill Is Gone” is the song he’s most known for, but if you’re looking for cover versions, I mean “Rock Me Baby” was like a standard cover song, up into the ‘80’s. I mean, Johnny Winter did a killer version of it, Deep Purple used to include it in their set; I mean, it was a go-to song for so many of the blues-derived rock and roll bands. And, of course, we are more than ten years past when “3 O’Clock Blues” was originally cut. But here, you really hear that BB King phrasing, especially the way the solo pushes and pulls against the beat.


BRAD: Even that simple opening guitar lick; you can hear him kind of almost tugging back at the beat, just with that couple of notes lick there. It’s very distinctive. BB, and the vocal, it’s classic BB King too. The way he moves between belting it out to bringing it down to almost a gentle coo, all within the same line.


BRAD: And some of that vocal phrasing, like the way he sings the opening line “Rock me all night long”:


BRAD: It’s just quintessential BB, everything about this song. By now, the BB King style, both vocally and musically, I think, has been distilled. It’s all there at this point. He’s mastered that.

DANIEL: I guess I listened to most of these songs in chronological order as I was writing the book, and I get what you’re saying, because when I reached “3 O’Clock Blues”, from ‘51, yeah, I could tell that his vocals, although he still sounds like Roy Brown, he’s confident. And you can tell he’s been a DJ because he just doesn’t seem awkward anymore singing. And his guitar is starting to creep toward the sound that we know and love today. He knew how to do the vibrato very early on. I think I actually caught the vibrato on one of his very earliest Sam Phillips recordings, but he didn’t use it all the time. I don’t think he’d realized yet that that was going to be kind of his signature sound, you know?

BRAD: Right, exactly.

DANIEL: And over the years, both his voice, and we’ll talk more about his voice a little later in this, but his voice and his and his guitar attack just progressed toward the thing that we know and love and recognize today.

BRAD: So the following year, 1965, he releases a live album called “Live at the Regal”, which by any measure, is one of the most important guitar albums of all time. So first, let’s talk a little bit about this album. Talk about where this album came from.

DANIEL: Yeah. So that’s moving directly forward from the song we just discussed. “Rock Me Baby” went top 40, and that would have been an embarrassment to ABC Paramount, because they had this first-ranked blues guitarist and didn’t realize it. I think they finally decided, well, this Ray Charles orchestra thing isn’t working with BB. Maybe he’s not a crooner after all, maybe he’s a blues guitarist who sings. Thankfully for us all, they found somebody who did know what to do with him; they went to Johnny Pate, who was a fine jazz bassist turned producer. He had made a string of great singles with Curtis Mayfield, including “Keep On Pushing”.  And Johnny sat down with BB, and, you know, what are we going to do? How can we capitalize on this “Rock Me Baby” hit? And they basically decided they didn’t have time, really, to go and do a big studio album. So let’s do something live, that’s the quickest way to do it. And so it was just a matter of convenience that this landmark live record was made.

BRAD: A hugely influential record amongst guitar players, both in the States and in England. Particularly in England. I know Eric Clapton, he always sang the praises of this record. Just a really important record, guitar player wise. The song that I chose to talk about from this album is “You Upset Me Baby”. The original version was released in 1954, I think, but this version– it just cooks. It’s the first track that we’ve listened to so far on this show that features the bigger band sound with the horn section. It opens with a nice little guitar solo.


BRAD: But primarily it’s a great showcase for BB as a vocalist. He just sounds like he’s having a great night in front of a great audience.

DANIEL: So, “You Upset Me, Baby”, when it came out, I really seized on that song in my manuscript here, I wrote in my book, “it boasted neither his greatest lyrics nor his most accomplished guitar work, yet as a finished song”, and I’m talking now about the single from ten years earlier, “it was somehow more memorable than anything BB had recorded before. The reason was BB’s vocal. In hindsight, and this is 1954, this recording seems to mark the emergence of his unique voice as a blues stylist. BB was no longer channeling Roy Brown. His relaxed delivery, his conversational singing style, his tendency to lag behind the beat, the warm rasp that engulfed his voice at the end of each melodic phrase; from first to last, the vocal on “You Upset Me Baby” was unmistakably BB. King.” And also, I say it was also unmistakably ribald. And so you’re hearing all the same things in the “Live of the Regal” recording. The song was possibly the first recognizable, this is BB singing. There’s no question: this is BB. King.

BRAD: Right.

Speaker A: And then ten years later, it slots perfectly into this “Regal” set.


Speaker A: The reason why live at the Regal is so important, I think, is that he’d been doing this Ray Charles orchestra crooning stuff for a few years. And the fact that he was a great guitarist who also was a great singer, had not registered with anybody who mattered in the music industry. And “Live at the Regal” showed the double-barreled attack of his guitar and voice. And then the incredible effect he had on a black audience in a black club, just to such potent effect. It was like a revelation.


DANIEL: And the irony, though, as you know, because you read this, I interviewed a couple of his bandmates from that era, and they thought the record was crap. And the reason they didn’t like it was, Duke Jethro, the keyboard man, told me this, is that the band was paired up with the house band, so there’s two bands playing behind BB. And as a result of that, it’s not the tightest instrumental performance, because the house band at the Regal, they knew BB’s stuff, but it wasn’t, like, nearly so tight as a normal BB King performance would be with just his band. And so they didn’t like it. BB thought it was just okay, but it was still a very good BB King show. And that was good enough. Yeah.

BRAD: It’s interesting how those things turn out, right? Artist’s perspective of their own work versus how it’s received by the wider audience. And I love the record, but it is not my favorite BB King live record.

DANIEL: Well, Scott Barretta, the great, great blueshound from Mississippi, Scott told me his favorite BB King record is the next live record after this one, which is called “Blues is King”.

BRAD: That’s a great one, too. Yeah.

DANIEL: Much less well known and was recorded at a different Chicago club. And it is a wonderful record. Really, really powerful. It’s a breakup record, in fact.

BRAD: Yeah.

DANIEL: I would recommend it to anybody who’s interested.

BRAD: I like that record quite a bit, too. Yeah, so “Live at the Regal” was a landmark album. One of the things that you point out in the book, and I agree, is that for all of his amazing playing so many great songs… for a guy who put out something like 50 albums, there’s actually very few of the albums that are really great– like, great start to finish.

DANIEL: Yeah. I wrote an article for All Music, the website. Off the top of my head, I think in this All Music article, I advocate for the “Completely Well” album, which is the one that has “Thrill Is Gone” on it. That’s a really solid record, front to back.

BRAD: Yeah, and one of his better records, is an album from 1969 called “Live And Well”. And so that brings us to the next song that we were going to talk about, which is “Why I Sing the Blues”. Let’s talk about that song.

DANIEL: Yeah, so with that record, which became known as “Live And Well”, he starts working with a 26 year old white guy named Bill Szymczyk, who was this young, I think staff producer at ABC Paramount, who had the impulse that you and I were just discussing, which is, ABC has this amazing guitarist on their roster, and they’re not doing anything with him. So Szymczyk has this vision; He wants to set BB up with a group of really solid session guys in the New York studio and just see what they could do to modernize his sound, because his sound was desperately in need of modernization at that point. And I think BB wanted maybe to do another live set, so they wind up compromising, and half the record is live and half of it is Memorex– half of it is recorded in the studio. The whole record is very good. But the final cut on it, the closer, “Why I Sing The Blues”, is truly remarkable. And here’s how I describe it in the book:

“An eight-minute explosion of anger and hurt. A performance so propulsive and powerful that it left the listener wondering why the band had been holding back. “Why I Sing the Blues” was BB’s first overtly political statement.”  And I mean this. I listened to hundreds of his songs, and he had not done politics prior to this. All through the 60’s, he had not expressed himself politically in song. So, this song appeared as a single several months after James Brown’s landmark “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud”. BB’s message was both longer and angrier. BB had not addressed race in a song before, let alone slavery. Now he raged about urban blight and slum housing, the chitlin circuit and the welfare state. The Dylan length lyric, apparently co-written with a rhythm & blues writer named Dave Clark, unfolded as an extended sociological observation on black America, a theme Marvin Gaye would explore at album’s length two years later with “What’s Going On”.


BRAD: It’s such a great track on so many levels; It’s a considerably funkier song than anything he’d tackled to date, which, that alone, you can see the influence of the James Brown sound. Not that it sounds anything like James Brown, but until then, he hadn’t done anything that funky.

DANIEL: Yeah. I needed, Jerry Jemmott, the bass guy, to kind of explain this to me. I’ve been listening, obviously, to this stuff for all my life. But he was helping me to understand how BB and all his musicians were used to the swing beat. And with this record, BB and his musicians broke out a funk beat, which is the sound of Sly Stone and the sound of latter-day James Brown. So it was new for him, and it made him sound more modern.

BRAD: And it sounds great. I mean, he works, unlike some of the other trends, if you will, like he slotted into this sound fantastically. He sounds great. He sounds at home on this track.

DANIEL: And young and energetic, really good.


BRAD: It’s the first time, and one of the very few times in his whole career, really, where he addressed anything that remotely had a political spin to it.

DANIEL: Yeah, I wanted to say just a few words about that. He’d done a lot of work for the civil rights movement, but really shied away from getting any publicity for it. You will not, I promise you, you won’t find any write up of him, any of the many times that he played at, like, fundraisers for Dr. King or for, the NAACP or various different civil rights organizations. He was clearly involved in the movement, but it was all behind the scenes. And he’d chosen never to go political in any of his songs up to then, and it took the war and it took some different societal changes to get artists, both black and white, to kind of go there into political statements in their songs.

BRAD: Yeah. And he touches on all of that in this song. The history of slavery and racism, housing, economics, the war, along with a lot of classic BB King work. Between every verse, practically, there’s a guitar break. There’s a great solo at three minutes and 20 seconds.


BRAD: There’s another one at four minutes and 30 seconds. That, it’s like a string of pure BB King licks.


BRAD: It’s just like a textbook example of why he’s such a great guitar player. And then the song really doesn’t so much end as it just kind of runs out of… It’s like they’re just exhausted at the end of it, and they just kind of slowly peter out. It’s an interesting way to end the track and end the album, because it’s the last track on that album.


DANIEL: Yeah, and if anybody listens to this and hears that song and really loves that song, the reason I love the follow up album so much, “Completely Well”, it’s the same musicians, and by the time they reconvene to make “Completely Well”, their second album, it’s sort of like they met as friends and they’ve got their weed, they’ve got their wine, and they’ve got their familiarity. They were no longer session hands. They were like friends, because they’d done all this before and they’d probably really bonded on this very song that you and I are discussing. So, if you listen to the next record, “Completely Well”, it’s just a masterful record from start to finish.

BRAD: Yeah, to me, those records are like two of a pair, almost. They kind of go together really well and they’re two of his strongest records. Like we said, there’s a lot of records, unfortunately, in his catalog, that they all have their moments, but they’re not great front-to- back, but I would definitely recommend, for anyone looking, particularly if you’re looking for something with more of the modern sound, that “Live And Well” and “Completely Well” are two great places to start with his album catalog.

Okay, so one last track I wanted to bring us all the way to the end– to BB’s very last album, “One Kind Favor”, released in 2008, and the track that opens that album; it’s a Blind Lemon Jefferson song, which you talked about at the beginning of this conversation. A song called “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”. Because it’s a really poignant song for him to choose at this time; his performance of it is very poignant, and just the role that the song would play at the end of his life. Tell us some of that story.

DANIEL: He’d become this huge and increasingly renowned, celebrated titan of American music and popular culture. But his records of those final years weren’t consistently good. But he and his handlers came up with the idea of, I think maybe for posterity’s sake, of giving it one more really good try. So they found T-Bone Burnett. I interviewed him, he said, we started with T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson, which is, you can’t do better than that, and revisited the artists that BB had loved from the first time he cranked up his great aunt’s Victorola. T-Bone told me he consciously sought to invoke the sound and feel of BB’s recordings with Maxwell Davis and Modern Records in the 1950’s. Quote, “because I viewed them as by far the best example to BB King’s Records.” I mean, I got to agree with the man there, I think the modern record stuff is the best of BB’s work. There’s no guest artists, it’s BB and his band. He needed no help, he owns the set. And these are songs he’d known for 50 years. He was killing it. That’s what T-Bone told me. And the resulting album, the very first track, is this Blind Lemon Jefferson song, “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”. And I describe it in the book, “The prevailing theme of the album is weariness. BB, he knows he’s in his autumnal days, he sings with a sepulchral baritone, rising out of a funeral dance rhythm.”


DANIEL: It’s a really heavy record. More than one of BB’s musicians told me that they couldn’t listen to this record because, it’s like, “Man, BB, you know, don’t die yet. I mean, you’re not dead yet”. They really had a hard time listening to this album because it was so dark and so funeral.

BRAD: Well, the song ends up basically being his own instructions for his own funeral.

DANIEL: That’s right. He intimated as much to a dear friend of his toward the end of his life, Alan Hammonds, I believe, who was behind the BB King Museum. “Listen closely to that song, Alan”. And so they wind up following to the letter the lyrics of that song. When BB dies, his funeral, they got the white horses, and the golden chain, and thus was he buried.


BRAD: Yeah, it’s a really moving moment. And he definitely sounds all of his years on that track. But it’s powerful. It reminds me, it’s like those last few Johnny Cash records, right?

DANIEL: Well, that’s just exactly what I was going to say, I was going to jump in and say, if this is another example of him taking inspiration from other artists, you could very much see this as an answer to the American Recordings series. And it’s a very worthy record. I mean, you’re exactly right. It’s definitely one of the best.

BRAD: So there’s five great songs out of a lifetime’s worth of amazing music to get started with. But what was it that pushed you over the edge into writing this book? Because it’s not a small undertaking, writing a book like this.

DANIEL: Yeah, I chose BB partly because out of the artists I really, really revere, he hadn’t been the subject of sort of a literary biography since 1980, which is quite a long time. And then secondly, because I just thought I felt very animated by the question, is this the guy who created the solo guitar sound that became the prevailing solo guitar sound in pop music for the whole latter 30 years of the century? The best way I can think of to explain what that sound is, is if you ever watched Spinal Tap, when Nigel Tufnell is telling Meathead to keep his paws off his guitars, he talks about sustain and he says, you hear that? And goes, he actually makes the sound with his mouth because he doesn’t want to actually play the guitar. That’s the sound, that’s BB’s sound. And I just thought it was a great starting point to try to figure out if indeed BB was kind of the guy who popularized that sound. And that’s kind of why I set out to write it and everything else all the civil rights in the book and the kind of microcosm of the story of America, that’s in the book, and the finesse I tried to bring to the biographical mission, all of that is, I’m just very glad all that other stuff wound up in the book, but the initial charge that I gave myself was just to answer that question of, was he that guy?

BRAD: Yeah, well, I think the answer is yes.

DANIEL: I think so.

BRAD: Spoiler alert for the book, but the answer is yes, he is. In many it’s, you can never put your finger on the first of anything, but there are people like The Beatles that refine, right, that take a bunch of elements and refine them into something that becomes special. And BB King is one of those guys. He is in the rarefied few, of like a Dizzy Gillespie or a Louis Armstrong, an artist who is a spokesperson, a representative, an ambassador for a whole genre of music and a whole culture, because music is cultural. And that’s a heavy weight, a burden to carry. But he did it so elegantly for almost his entire career.

Daniel De Vise, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show and to talk about BB King. The book is called “King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of BB King”. And honestly, I encourage anyone who’s not just interested in BB King, but if you’re interested in the history of the blues, the history of the guitar, pick up the book. It’s a fascinating story and it’s told really well in this book. Highly recommended. So, thanks for writing the book, and thanks so much for coming on the podcast, Daniel.

DANIEL: Oh, no, no, thanks, it’s really, really kind of you to have me on. It’s been a blast talking to you. I can tell we like a lot of the same stuff, so it’s been a really pleasant time talking to you.

BRAD: Same here. Anything that you’re working on, um, coming up?

DANIEL: Well, yeah, actually, while I was working on this book, I had the occasion to talk to John Landis, the great filmmaker, a couple of times because I wanted to know why BB wasn’t in the “Blues Brothers” film.

BRAD: Right. Turns out, which you talk about in the book for anyone who’s interested. That’s in the book, yeah.

DANIEL: Yes. That’s answered in there. But anyway, I got to talking to John Landis, and long story short, I wound up selling my next book. It’s going to be paying homage the Blues Brothers; the film and the dudes, and the kind of transformational comedy that happened in Second City and Lampoon and Saturday Night Live, and leading up to this great film. And also, I’m going to explain that the real “Mission from God”, if you’re familiar with that film, the actual real-life Mission from God was that Aykroyd and Belushi wanted to help the careers of their favorite rhythm & blues artists—Aretha, Ray Charles, James Brown… most of those artists, even though they’re now regarded as probably some of the most important artists in the history of American pop music, at the time they were struggling and they decided to use their ephemeral but enormous fame to shine a light on their heroes. And so, it’s kind of a sweet story.

BRAD: Thank you, man, I really appreciate it.

DANIEL: Thank you.

BRAD: Take care. Have a good day, bye bye.

DANIEL: You too. Bye bye.

BRAD: Thanks to Daniel for joining us. And thank you for tuning us in. I hope you enjoyed that. Please join me here again in two weeks for another new episode. On behalf of everyone on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for listening. Now go explore the catalog of BB King, there’s so much great music there. You won’t regret it. See you next time.

Creedence Clearwater Revival were quite the phenomenon from 1967 to 1972. During that short period– only 5 years– they racked up ten songs in the Top 20, 5 of them making it to #2. In the middle of that run, they released “Run Through The Jungle” in April 1970. The song is often identified with the Viet Nam war, but we explore the true roots of the song and listen to the individual elements that make up this great track.

“Run Through The Jungle” (John Fogerty) Copyright 1970 Jondora Music


Hey, friends, it’s Brad Page, host of the ““I’m In Love With That Song”” podcast here on the Pantheon Network. It’s time to put on your explorer helmet and spelunking boots one more time, because we’re about to explore another song and see what we discover. As always, no prior musical knowledge or experience is required; we don’t get technical here. If you’re willing to just listen a little more intently, and want to learn more about what goes into making a great song, you’ve come to the right place.

This time, we are heading back to 1970 to cross paths with Creedence Clearwater Revival and explore one of my favorite songs of theirs, “Run Through The Jungle”.

The band that we know as Creedence Clearwater Revival began in El Cerrito, California, sometime around 1959. Back then, they were known as the Blue Velvets: John Fogerty on guitar, his brother Tom also on guitar, and both of them shared lead vocals back then, with Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums. Here’s a single recorded by the Blue Velvets in 1961 called “Come On Baby”. It was written by Tom Fogerty, and it’s Tom singing lead.

In 1964, they signed a contract with Fantasy Records. The record company changed their name to the Gollywogs– which they hated. Blue Velvets wasn’t a great name, but I don’t know why the label thought Gollywogs was any better. I’d hate that name, too.

Anyway, the Gollywogs recorded quite a few singles. Here’s one from 1965 called, “You Got Nothing On Me”.

In 1967, the band changed their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Their first single as CCR, a song called “Porterville”, didn’t chart. But their second single, their version of “Susie Q”, that was a hit.

“Susie Q” would be their only Top 40 hit that was not written by John Fogerty. By now, John had become the driving force in the band. He was writing the songs, he was singing the songs, he was producing the records. Creedence Clearwater Revival was now essentially John Fogarty’s band.

A boatload of hit singles would follow. We may revisit a couple of them on the show in the future, you never know. But today, we’re going to focus on the song “Run Through The Jungle”.

Originally released as a single in April 1970, it was what they used to call a “Double A-sided” single, because both sides of the 45 record were earmarked for potential hits and radio play. The other side of this single was “Up Around The Bend”, which was indeed a hit, too. Both songs were included on their album “Cosmos Factory”. Released in the summer of 1970, “Cosmos Factory” was their fifth studio album. Creedence would eventually release seven studio albums; six of them became platinum albums, selling over a million copies each. In fact, “Cosmos Factory” would go on to sell 4 million copies. It’s their biggest selling album, and in my opinion, it’s their best.

“Run Through The Jungle” was the song that closed out Side One of the album. The song opens with a pretty psychedelic effect. Sounds to me like a piano in the middle with guitars panned left and right, heavy with echo. The guitar in the right channel begins to oscillate. That’s when the echo feeds back on itself. This is an ominous way to start the song.

There’s that tambourine that sounds like a rattlesnake. And then the main guitar riff comes in, which is sitting primarily in the right channel. Tom fills and hand claps in the left channel.

The rest of the band joins in and we’re off.

And that’s pretty much it. Musically, the song stays with the same riff for the duration of the song. That repetition of the riff, it’s almost like a drone. It’s hypnotic. It sets such a mood to me, it never gets boring. Here’s the first verse.

The vocals are thick with a slapback echo. It’s very 1950s style sound. Let’s listen to John Fogarty’s vocal track.

Now, here’s something interesting. This song has often been interpreted as being about Vietnam. The song came out in 1970 when the war was still raging, and the song’s been used in movies and tv shows as a soundtrack to Vietnam era scenes. But when Fogerty wrote this song, he wasn’t thinking about the jungles of Vietnam. He was thinking about the urban jungles right here in America. Here’s a quote from John Fogerty from an interview he did with Dan Rather back in 2016. He said, “the thing I wanted to talk about was gun control and the proliferation of guns.” I think that puts a whole different spin on the imagery in the song. Let’s pick it up at the second verse.

I know gun control is a controversial issue, so I’m going to let John Fogerty speak for himself. Here’s a clip from that same interview”

“I think I remember reading around that time that there was one gun for every man, woman and child in America, which I found staggering. We’re talking about privately held guns. Um, and so at somewhere in the song, I think I say 200 million guns are loaded. Not that anyone else has the answer. I did not have the answer to the question. I just had the question. I just thought that it was disturbing that it was such a jungle for our citizens re to just to walk around in our own country, at least having to be aware that there are so many private guns, um, owned by some responsible and maybe many irresponsible people.”

Let’s hear the vocal track for this verse again. And the first line has one of those classic idiosyncratic fogey phrasings on the word “Heard”.

John Fogerty takes a harmonica solo here, but let’s check out some of the backing tracks here as well. Like all Creedence songs, they keep it pretty basic. Just a couple of guitars, bass and drums.

First, let’s check out those bass and drums. That’s a pretty gnarly bass sound. Let’s listen to a little bit of that for a while. Here’s the main electric guitar part. I think this is two separate guitar parts. One in the left, one in the right. The one on the right is louder, but it could just be one guitar. There’s so much tremolo effect on the guitars, it’s hard to tell. It’s a great riff though.

That harmonica part along with the other guitar part played by Tom Fogerty, plus some overdubbed percussion and some acoustic guitar accents.

The harmonica continues to play on in between the vocal lines.

Let’s listen to a little bit more of that harmonica’s unsettling effects from the opening of the song return some of it played backwards this time.

“Run Through The Jungle” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Here’s an interesting fun fact for you: According to the Billboard Hot 100, Creedence has the distinction of being the band with the most number two hits without any number one hits. Over the course of their career, Creedence had ten songs that made the top 25 of those made it all the way to number two, but none of them made it to number one. Just an interesting bit of trivia.

Thanks for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes of this show magically appear on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so we’ll see you back here in about two weeks. Until then, you can catch up with all of our previous shows on our website, or on Apple Podcasts, Google, Amazon, Spotify. Basically, anywhere you can find podcasts, you’ll find our show.

You can keep in touch with us on Facebook, just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast and you can write a review on Podchaser or wherever it is that you listen to the show. And if you have friends who love music as much as you do, share this show with them. I really appreciate that.

We are part of the Pantheon network of podcasts, where you’ll find a ton of other great music related shows, so check them out.

And thanks again for listening to this episode on Creedence Clearwater Revival and “Run Through The Jungle”.


Credence Clearwater Revival

John Fogerty

Cosmos Factory Album

Dan Rather Interview with John Fogerty

Facebook Page for the Podcast


It’s nearly impossible to pick the “best” Beatles song, but by nearly every measurement– sales, chart success, cultural impact– it’s hard to beat “Hey Jude”. Author James Campion‘s new book, Take A Sad Song, is an in-depth look at the history and legacy of “Hey Jude”. He joins us on this episode for a deep dive into this legendary, iconic song. A true classic.

John Lennon & Paul McCartney Copyright 1968 Northern Songs Copyright 1968 Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

If you enjoyed this episode, please check out these other Beatles-related episodes:


Time for another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, right here on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page, and on this episode, I’m joined by author James Campion. He has a new book out called “Take A Sad Song” that’s an in-depth analysis of the Beatles song “Hey Jude”. So I invited James onto the show to talk about this song and this book. This is one of the longest shows we’ve ever done, but if any song warrants this kind of attention, it’s this one. So, without any further ado, here’s my conversation with James Campion on “Hey Jude”.

Brad Page: Well, James Campion, welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. You’ve got a new book out called “Take A Sad Song” that’s an in-depth look at the Beatles song “Hey Jude”. You really take a look at this song from every possible angle. I thought the book was a fascinating read.

And the main thing we do here on this podcast is to take a deep dive into an individual song, just to try to understand what makes it work, why it’s such a great song. And I truly do love this song. But to be honest, I’ve been almost too intimidated to cover this song on this show. It just seems almost too… too big, like, I’d just be biting off more than I could chew. So that was almost too much for me to handle. So, when I heard about your book, I really had to invite you on the show to talk about this song, so we could do it together. I feel like I need your expertise here to tackle this amazing song. So let’s get into it.

I assume most Beatles fans know the history of the song, but for those that don’t know the story, maybe you can just give us the background, tell us the origin story of the song, how it came to be written.

James Campion: Many people know this, that originally the song, or the melody that Paul had in his head was, “Hey Jules”. And the way the story goes is, Paul is 26 years old; he’s on top of the world, really. Biggest man in the world. He’s the most eligible bachelor in the world. He just meets Linda, for all intents and purposes. A couple of months earlier, he’s driving out to comfort Cynthia Lennon and Julian Lennon, wife, soon to be ex-wife, and son of John Lennon, who has just met the woman he will live with until his death in 1980. Yoko Ono. All of this is happening within weeks of each other in 1968.

And what rock star on top of the world is going out to drive an hour out of his way to comfort the ex-wife of his partner and best friend since he was 15 years old? And then to write a song and to have this song to sing to Julian? And although Julian for years had no idea the song was about him, and when John first heard the song after Paul wrote it, he’s like, “wow, this song’s about me meeting Yoko”. And Paul’s kind of like, “Well, I wrote it. It’s kind of like me meeting Linda”. But the origins of the song in that little melody, because Paul McCartney is a melody machine, he wrote the song driving with his Astron Martin up to visit Julian. And it’s a fascinating story, just on the origin of the song itself.

Brad Page: Yeah, absolutely. A few facts about the song: It was released August 6, 1968, almost 54 years ago. It was number one in 18 countries, stayed on the top of the US charts at number one for nine weeks. It was the Beatles biggest selling song of 1968. Really their biggest hit ever. Right?

James Campion: In America. Yeah. It’s nine weeks and at number one 19 weeks overall.  Internationally, I think it was number one in more countries than any other Beatles song, which is fascinating in itself, Brad, because we’re talking about 1968, and part of the reason why I loved working on this book and researching it; ‘68 is such a seminal moment in American and international history, but it is a very significant moment in the history of the Beatles, because for the first time in their career, since 1962, they were going up, up, up and up, and they just kind of hung out in the middle there. After ‘67, they weren’t going up anymore. They were just kind of part of the pop pantheon. But “Hey Jude”, of course, is the exception to that.

Brad Page: It was the first single on Apple Records, which that’s pretty significant. I mean, what a way to launch your record label! Unfortunately, it was kind of all downhill from there in a lot of ways. But, man, just as a Double-A side single, it’s totally killer.

James Campion: Yeah. “Hey Jude” and “Revolution”, of course. And again, the yin and the yang of the Beatles, the John and the Paul. But also, you mentioned it again, I tried to write about this in the first chapter, all the things that it’s the first of, and it is still to this day– the largest selling debut single for a record label. And why wouldn’t it be, right? The Beatles just were already on top of the world.

Brad Page: And it’s also, I believe, the longest in terms of actual song length of any number one pop single. Is that still true today?

Speaker A: That isn’t technically. So, as you know, in the last couple of months, Taylor Swift re-released her Red album. And, one of the songs on there, and the name escapes me, I’m sorry, the title was the ten minute longer version of that song. And that came in at number one.  Before that, “American Pie” technically is longer. And that was released in 197—’71, ‘72. However, as you might remember, Brad, they split that song up. Side A was three and a half minutes or something, and Side B was four minutes. So, it wasn’t a side, a single. They fit all seven minutes and 11 seconds of “Hey Jude” on the a side of that a-b single. So up until a couple of months ago, when Taylor Swift swooped in with a ten-minute song that made it to number one, yes, “Hey Jude” was the longest running number one song ever.

They went to a different studio, not Abbey Road. They went to Trident Studios in London and recorded it on the only eight-track player recorder in London. It’s really a sonic marvel. And some of the greatest engineers and of course, George Martin produced and engineered this thing to get it to be the wonderful record. Because it’s not only a great song, it’s not only written by a great songwriter, it’s not only played by an excellent and one of the greatest bands, but it’s a great record– because there is a distinction between how good a song is or how good a record sounds. You know what I mean?

Brad Page: Right, right, yeah. Trident would later become one of the most famous recording studios in the world, but at that time, I believe they were practically a brand new studio. Right?

James Camption: They were.

Brad Page: Yeah, yeah. They were breaking them in. And as you point out in the book, the piano that McCartney plays on this track was like the house piano there at Trident. It would later go on to be performed by Rick Wakeman on Bowie’s “Life On Mars”. I believe Queen recorded “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the same piano. Is that correct?

Speaker A: That is correct, yeah.

Brad Page: So, well, let’s get into the song. The song famously opens with just Paul’s vocal and piano. In fact, the very first note that we hear is just Paul’s voice. No reverb, just really dry, which I think that just makes it really intimate. It’s like he’s right in your ear. Talking right in your singing, right in your ear.

Brad Page: On that second line, where he sings the word “bad”, he actually drops that. It’s like the lowest note that he sings, I believe, in the song. And I absolutely think that’s not a coincidence; entirely intentional, that the words he chooses to use when he sings that lowest note tend to be, like, the bummer words of the song.

James Campion: Right, right. And you hit it right on the head. Think about this: this is 1968. This is AM radio. Because that’s where you played all the big hits and the sound effects and the booming DJ’s and all the traffic reports and the sports news and the car rumbling down the street that you’re listening to this, this song, you know? And here comes Paul, completely cold, out of the blue. Literally. And he sings the title and the melody of the song. I interviewed dozens of songwriters for the book: Musicologists, psychologists, sociologists, Beatle biographers, writers, music journalists… Almost every person, too, that I interviewed said, think about when you ask someone, how does “Hey Jude” go? What do you say? “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad”. There it is. There’s the song. He’s telling you the title, he’s telling you where he’s going. It’s amazing artistry, amazing craftsmanship. And by the way, The Beatles did that better than anyone. And I went through The Beatles catalog, and you probably know this as well, Brad, how many great Beatles songs start with just their voices telling you the title?

Brad Page: Right!

James Campion: “Help”. “Nowhere Man”, “She Loves You”. I mean, there’s at least 15. And it comes right out, “Hey Jude”, he’s telling you it all right now. It’s brilliant. And getting to the second part, you were saying about the song going down and up?  Some of the musicologists I interviewed said this makes it a classic lassic ballad in the American, in the great American songbook– or in the case of Paul, the great British songbook, in the sense where you have the lilting of the voice go up and back down again, up and back down again. And the words seem to reflect that.

Brad Page: Yeah, I love the way, “don’t make it bad”, and then “take a sad song”, and he goes up. He’s literally taking a bad moment or a bad feeling and making it better as he’s singing those actual words.

Brad Page: And then he hits the word remember, and then there’s a pause.

Brad Page: That’s so conversational I think, in the way that it’s like… I mean, if I say to my kids, “remember to take out the trash”, that’s one thing; If you say, “Remember– take out the trash”. That pause in there. To me, that whether it’s intentional or not, it hits you in a very specific way.

James Campion: Again, all the musicologists that I spoke to, and some of the songwriters I spoke to, pointed out that very point. Remember, this song is written in the second person. He is talking to someone. I think a lot of listeners hear him kind of talking to them like, “buck up, it’s going to be great.” But he’s talking to someone we know; he’s talking to Jules.  If we look back, but he’s talking to the thematic Jude. And by doing that, he’s bringing you in slowly. And the way George Martin arranged this, along with The Beatles, where each instrument, an acoustic guitar comes in, the tambourine, and the height and those beautiful fills by Ringo, it’s just an incredible way of arranging this conversation that Paul is having with you.

Brad Page: And then you get the line “let her into your heart, then you can start to make it better.” So you get that internal rhyme there, which is just classic old school songwriting.

Brad Page: And like you said, he’s having a conversation, relatively specifically between two men. It doesn’t exclude a conversation with a woman; but this comes up in your book, right?

James Campion: I want to give credit where credit’s due. The great Beatle musicologist and author Tim Riley, who gave me hours of his time, had this incredible light bulb go off. And Tim said, there is definitely a line to be drawn between “She Loves You” and “Hey Jude”. And “She’s Loves You”, it’s two young men, a young man telling another young man, “hey, you better get on this because she really loves you, and you’re blowing it. Okay?” And then, “Hey Jude”, here he is, a little older, a little wiser, and he’s saying the same thing to someone. “You found her, now go and get her.” “Don’t hold back. If you’re cold, you’re only making your world colder.” This is Paul’s way of communicating again. And I love the fact that we have that lineage in the way The Beatles communicate.

Brad Page: Yeah. I mean, there have been songs of two guys sort of fighting over a girl; you know, that sort of, “well, if you don’t take her, I’m gonna.” “If you don’t treat her right, I’m gonna take her”. Neither of those songs are that. [Referring to “She Loves You” and “Hey Jude”.] Both of these songs are one friend encouraging another friend to make a move, you know, to think positive.

That’s fairly unique, I think, in sort of the macho rock and roll culture, right?

James Campion: Totally unique. And one of the things that I used to love when I was a kid is when he says, you know, “it can’t be bad”. He’s saying, “she loves you and it can’t be bad.” Now, I believe that because Paul and John both lost their mothers at a very young age. Paul, over the years, because he has lived into his seventies, he’s said many times that they got each other through. That’s the bond that they had. And I really do believe that that sentiment, that empathy that those guys put in those songs is real.

Brad Page: The acoustic guitar comes in on the stereo version. That’s in the left channel. I believe the drums are also in the, primarily in the left channel. And there’s an overdubbed tambourine. Now, there’s an interesting history of the stereo mix, right?  That the stereo mix– correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the stereo mix wasn’t done until, like, a year later or something?

James Campion: Yeah. When they were doing the Alan Klein “Hey Jude” record, which is just a bunch of singles that didn’t come out in America on a record. But interestingly enough, when they did the mono mix of “Hey Jude”, they did it from the original stereo acetate. It’s very odd– they did a stereo mix, but they didn’t do a true mono mix. They had to do a mono mix from the stereo, two tracks. And then that later was made a true… not “true”, but you know what they used to say, “fake stereo”, but, right, there was no official studio stereo version or mix of that until, like, 1970, almost when The Beatles were broken up. Oh, and by the way, the stereo version, the one you hear in the “Number Ones” album, the one you hear on the “Hey Jude” album, the one you hear today on Spotify, is not seven minutes and 11 seconds. So, in case anybody, and I’m sure people are going to come out of the woodwork when they read my book, this thing isn’t seven minutes. It’s seven minutes and 8 seconds, or seven minutes and 9 seconds. Because the stereo version they did, to get rid of the hiss, they just faded at that extra 2 seconds. And let’s face it, they’re singing “na na” for four minutes. Nobody felt they would ever notice this. But you know, uh, we’re nuts.

Brad Page: Of course! Yeah, hardcore Beatle fans are going to notice every bit of minutiae, but for the average listener…

And so, then on that second verse, you get the line, “don’t be afraid”. And again, when he says the word “afraid”, another kind of, if you will, negative word, like “bad”, he drops his voice down on that.

James Campion: Right?

Brad Page: Then there’s that line, “The minute you let her under your skin”… the songwriters in your book talk about it; usually, when you talk about somebody getting “under your skin”, it’s a negative, it’s an irritant. Right here, he’s encouraging it. He’s telling you to open up, to be vulnerable, to let that person in. You’re open to that potential irritation. But there’s a benefit there, too. There’s a positive to that. I just think it’s a really interesting turn of phrase.

James Campion: Yeah. And that’s, you know, my good friend and a gentleman I’m working on a book with currently, Adam Duritz, lead singer and main songwriter for Counting Crows. He was nice enough to give me some time for the book, and he really nailed it for me. He’s such an emotional singer and songwriter that it makes sense he would come up with this. He said, you know, Paul is writing from such a vulnerable point, and he’s saying, if you really want to love and be loved, you gotta be willing to be hurt.

Brad Page: Yes.

James Campion: You gotta let go and just lay it out there, man. Otherwise, you’re just cheating yourself and the person you love.

Brad Page: Yeah, yeah.

Brad Page: At that point, the backing vocals come in. I’m pretty sure that that’s the three of them, right? John, George, and Paul overdub, doing the, at that point, it’s the “Ah” right, the “ooh’s”. But they harmonize on the word “better”. It’s one of the few times where the backing vocals are actually hitting a word.

Brad Page: I think there’s an extra measure in there, isn’t there like a 9th measure?

James Campion: Yes, there is.

Brad Page: Yeah. There’s just that little extra measure there that kind of gives Ringo a chance to do a bit more of a fill. One of those classic Ringo drum fills with the tea towels on him.

James Campion: Right.

Brad Page: That real muffled drum sound that so classic Ringo. And he hits the ride cymbal, which is kind of an interesting choice there. That’s usually more of a chorus kind of thing, right? But he goes right for that there. And it’s so obvious in the mix. It really jumps out. That ride cymbal in the mix.

James Campion: And again, credit where credit’s due: Rob Sheffield, the great pop culture writer and music writer for Rolling Stone magazine, another guy who gave me hours of his time over and over again. He kept saying, “Ringo is the best on this song”. This song is not a song if not for Ringo. Ringo gives it all on this. Listen to Ringo here. This is a band song because Ringo’s making it a band song. He’s not letting you think that this is a singer songwriter. This isn’t Paul’s lament. This is a Beatles song. Yeah.

Brad Page: Just one of the most unique drummers. There’s a sound that you can, you know, it’s Ringo. There’s also the bass guitar comes in there, which is overdubbed by McCartney. Sometimes on Beatle tracks, the most flashy performance is the bass part. But this song, he’s really, he really holds back. It’s just very… it’s basic, and keeps the focus on the vocal and the piano part. But it’s not your typical McCartney. Sometimes the bass parts steal the show on some of the Beatles tracks, you know… not here.

James Campion: Yeah. And again, I have to give credit to the musicologists that I interviewed for the book, pointing out that Paul is writing the bass line on the piano. This is a piano bass line. He’s a bass player, but he’s adding that bass player aesthetic to the piano. And I write extensively, and I learned much about how much the piano meant to Paul as a child, getting over his mother’s death. His father used to play the piano, really engaging him into playing. The family all hung around the piano that sings songs. When he was a child, he really, to the point where Paul actually, in his twenties, when he was already a famous Beatle, took piano lessons. So he’s adding all those different elements into this bass line. And interestingly enough, when they did the live to tape version of it for the David Frost show– that famous clip, you could see it on YouTube– you see George is playing sort of a bassy guitar.

Brad Page: Yeah, the Fender VI. The Fender Bass VI, which is a six-string bass guitar.

James Campion: Yes. And just such a great subtle, you pointed out, a subtle way because Paul does, and thank goodness, add so much with his bass in all the songs and all The Beatles songs. But here, you’re right, he pulls up, he lets that piano, that left hand, really tell the story of music, right?

Brad Page: And he’s just following that. He’s not really embellishing much on the bass part, which, again, it’s fairly unique for him. I think of all his many talents, I think the one that he doesn’t, that he doesn’t give himself enough credit for is as a bass player.  He’s my favorite bass player of all time.

At that point we get to the bridge, which is a descending chord progression. I always felt that when he’s saying, “don’t carry the world on your shoulders”, the chords are descending down, and to me, that kind of feels like you’re literally taking that weight off as the chords slowly descend there.

James Campion: The Beatles used that to great effect on dozens of songs. And Paul is utilizing, and we haven’t gotten into it, and if you want to, we can, Brad; you know, the origins of two melodies that Paul had ingrained into his system. Everyone takes something and then it incorporates it, whether it’s, you know, Bach, in the case of Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys, or the Mozart pieces that were used for Stevie Wonder; Paul is using two things. And I won’t get too deeply into it. I talk about it in the book, but in that bridge, there is a little bit of The Drifters’ “Save The Last dance For Me”.

James Campion: And it was Walter Everett who pointed that out to me, and we listened to it, and it’s there. There is echoes, there are fingerprints there of the music that made Paul want to pick up an instrument, that doo-wop sound, that late fifties, early sixties. It’s really amazing how he was able to combine sort of a gospel, African-American, southern feel in with a classically structured ballad.

Brad Page: In the book, you also talk about sort of a classic Irish piece of church music that you think was influential.

James Campion: If you listen to the first notes of John Nicholson’s, Ireland’s 1917 liturgical piece called “Te Deum”. But Paul goes in a palatable, more pop, more romantic way by lifting the melody, whereas the Te Deum, it’s much more solemn, written for like an organ, where Paul, but again, he’s taking these things. And in essence, and it was pointed out to me by Professor Devers and Professor Everett that Paul sang in the Liverpool Angelical Choir in 1950. So he was born in 42, so he had been, what, eight? So Paul is singing these songs. It has to be absorbing into him. And the fact that he’s writing this sense of comfort for another person, whether it’s Julian losing his dad and his family is breaking up, or he’s trying to implore John or himself or a friend to go after that woman of his dreams, the one that will complete him. To go back to something, uh, dare I say, religious or spiritual, really does speak to how important this song was for Paul. And nobody is suggesting that Paul ripped off or stole or was taking a homage to something. I truly believe these things were subconscious, and I doubt if he has, Paul now, he’d even remember that. But I think it’s in there purposely. I think the subconscious sometimes speaks to us when we’re being creative. And Paul is giving us the density of this early liturgical piece and saying, this is, again, a very important song I’m writing here. Yeah.

Brad Page: And I mean, let’s face it, in western music, at least, you’ve only got eight notes; There’s only so many combinations. I mean, sometimes it feels limitless, but it’s all in the little tweaks and spins you put on them. But they’re absolutely, no one’s going to invent a new note that no one’s ever heard before.

James Campion: And especially in pop music, let’s face it, this is pop music, certainly popular music, and it’s now considered a classic in the sense of rock class. But again, that’s what The Beatles did so well, didn’t they? You know, they changed it up. They did break molds.

Brad Page: And the second part of the bridge, the backing vocals change from “Ah” to “Ooh”.

And you mentioned it before that this is where the song sort of takes a break. He does that little “na, na, na”.

Brad Page: And you can actually hear George playing some electric guitar behind that, which actually echoes that little melody. So the few times George actually pops, his guitar pops out of the mix there. But in the book, you describe that little break, little piano break there as almost like a moment of Zen. I love that. It is a place to take a breath almost, and subconsciously reassess or something.

James Campion: Yeah. And it also foreshadows the na-na’s at the end. Yes, Brad, again, this is the combination of that magical thing that Paul talks about dreaming “Yesterday” and writing about it, but also his tactical, the structural things that The Beatles did so well. I talked about earlier about having the name of the song sung right off the bat to get people, jumps out of the radio. Here’s the song, here’s the melody. Everything you need to know is right here. What Paul’s doing there, I think, is he’s letting us breathe, as you mentioned, and I said a moment of Zen, because he’s going back to that “Hey Jude”. And it gets back to those two notes from the liturgical piece from 1917. Again, he’s letting you take a break there. And it’s amazing when there’s silence in a song like that. And it’s very quick, but when there’s silence in a song like that, it’s on purpose. But it also is something that we, subconsciously, we don’t get. But it’s there and it’s so important, man, it does reset the song.

Brad Page: And again, we got the line “don’t let me down”, and he hits a low note on “down”, about the lowest note in the song, and then we get lifted up again. And the way he sings that line, “you have found her”– the way he hits the word “her” there…

Speaker A: He uses different phrasing. I do spend some time, and did talk to vocalists and songwriters, about Paul’s phrasing here. Paul could have gone this way or that way, but he doesn’t. He changes it up for you. So even though it’s what seems like a pretty provincial ballad, is not because of the way he’s singing it. And you mentioned earlier about how he goes down on some of these words, which are significant. I also find it very significant that the first time he goes up high and, probably the highest point of his singing until he hits that real high note before the na-nas, is when he says, “take a sad song”, like he goes there. So the “sad song” is really the underlying theme of the song. There’s the sad song. And of course, I extrapolate that out in my book. 1968 was a pretty sad year with assassinations and war and riots. And he’s saying, we are in the midst of a sad song here. And I think it was Howard Sunes, one of his biographers told me, when Paul goes to the song, when he goes to music to describe an emotion, he’s not screwing around. That’s a big deal to Paul McCartney. So again, I hate to keep bringing this back to the fact that this seemed like a really important thing for Paul, but I really do think so. I think he really knew he was onto something here and he was trying to communicate some important elements and themes.

Brad Page: Yeah, yeah. There’s an interesting part where there’s an overdubbed voice, or maybe it’s a leftover voice that says, “let it out and let it in, Hey Jude”, kind of between the regular verses.

James Campion: I love that.

Brad Page: I love that too. That doesn’t happen anywhere else in the song. It happens here in sort of the third verse. And again, I always look at those things as just another creative way of giving you something new, that every time something cycles around, you’re just not repeating the first verse again. You’re building on that, you’re adding new elements. It keeps your ear interested and it makes the song exciting. It makes it something new in there that you didn’t hear before.

James Campion: You’re right. No, musically too. And that little part you’re talking about, “let it out, let it in, Hey Jude, begin”, you know, that whole bit, one of the things that was pointed out to me in his brilliant book, “The Recording Sessions”, Mark Lewison, who is the number one Beatle historian in the world, who was kind enough to send me back a couple of emails to sort of keep me on track. He lists out in that book all the parts in which, when Paul recorded it with the band, before he did the lead vocal, he recorded what they would call a guide vocal, which, you know, Brad, and they left a lot of that in that. You could hear that in there.

Brad Page: So you’ve got that there and then you’ve got John and Paul singing harmony and it’s just always so great.

James Campion: Yeah.

Brad Page: When the two of them sing together, there’s just really nothing like it. When they sing, “remember to let her into your heart” together, it’s just beautiful. John typically sings below Paul, but when you get to that line, “then you can start”, John goes high.

Brad Page: He goes over Paul. And that’s, that does not happen very much in The Beatles catalog.

James Campion: In fact, according to Tim Riley, never. That’s the only time that John went above him in a song, to his recollection. And this is a guy who’s written about every Beatles song several times. Now, I didn’t go that in depth, but I did quote him on that. Maybe somebody will go in and try to find another spot where John, now, there’s some times where John and Paul both go up—“It Won’t Be Long”, yeah, that kind of thing. And of course, “She Loves You”. And some of the high notes, they both sing, but yes, on a harmony, a single two- part harmony, John going up there and his voice sort of cracking, and it’s just the two of them singing… Oh, my God, it just breaks my heart every time, because I know what this song meant to John. “I thought this song was about go get Yoko”, and he was so in love with Yoko, you know, and it changed his life. It did. It changed his life. It changed everyone’s lives in the 1960’s. It changed the Beatles. So, to hear him singing that with Paul there, there’s just way more for us Beatles fans.

Brad Page: It’s just a beautiful, beautiful moment in the song. I just, I love that part. And then you get the next verse where you get the “let it out and let it in” the second time. He says that, which you actually talk about that line a few times in the book; you know, there’s just a lot said in “let it out and let it in”, just by itself, says a lot.

James Campion: It means nothing and it means everything. It really comes down to that. If you’re a poet or you’re a songwriter, or you’re someone who likes to deconstruct music the way I like to do it, and you do it on the show, that thing is just rings all the bells. I think it was Kylie Lotz, who goes by the name of “Petal” in her professional career– wonderful singer songwriter, young woman– just really nailed it when she said, it’s breathing, isn’t it? It’s just breathing.

Brad Page: The “Ooh’s” return in the harmony, and you get that line, “You’re waiting for someone to perform with”, which just is such a specific phrase that you know, so much of the rest of the song, I think anyone could apply it to their own personal feelings, but I’m not sure most people are looking for a partner to “perform with”, however you want to take that. But it’s just an interesting phrase to put in there that literally applies to the future of both John and Paul, Right” Because they both end up performing for the rest of their careers, as long as their partners are alive, with their significant other.

James Campion: Right.

Brad Page: But at that time, they weren’t. That line literally predicts the future.

James Campion: There’s no way that Paul didn’t know that when he wrote that. That’s what he’s saying now, did he think he was going to be in a band called Wings with Linda? No. Did John think? I think John did. I think John knew from the very beginning, because he did all those tape loops with her. He worked on the tape loop “Revolution Nine” with Yoko. She sings on “Bungalow Bill” with him. That line about, that is a very odd line for a love song. You find someone to perform with. Not perform sexually or…

Brad Page: No, it’s not a sexual thing at all.

James Campion: No. You’re going to go off and do this thing together. And this is a song about, you know, “you could do this”. You could do it. I’m right here with you. You don’t have to do it alone. So it’s pretty cool.

Brad Page: There’s another little George Harrison guitar fill that pops out there. Then you get the line– this is the line that always strikes me—“Don’t you know that it’s just you, Hey, Jude, you’ll do”. And that just touches me in a way that’s, it’s difficult for me to kind of really put that into words. But, you know– and I know Bruce Springsteen often gets a lot of crap for that line in Thunder Road where like, “eh, you’re not a beauty, but you’re all right”. And you could maybe say that here, that’s like, “you’ll do”. Well, that’s not like, you know, that’s not saying “you’re great”, “you’re awesome”… it’s “you’ll do”. But there’s something about that that’s just saying, it’s not hyperbole, it’s just like, “you’re good enough. You can do this”. “Don’t you know that it’s just you, you’ll do”, it moves me every time. And the way he sings “and don’t you know that it’s just you”, it’s probably his most soulful, most bluesy vocal effect, on the whole song.

James Campion: Yeah, I mean, his vocals, again, magnificent here. Uh, yes, I think this is the tightrope that he walks in this song. He’s saying, “I’m going to be there for you. I’m rooting for you”. But he also says, “you got this, you got this”. This is completely different than “All You Need Is Love”. But in a way, he’s telling Jude or Jules or you or me, you know, “you got this”. You got this. You don’t need a lot of mumbo jumbo. You don’t need the Maharishi. You don’t need a big steeple. You don’t need a ton of cash. You know, you could do this and whatever you want to apply to it. I think that’s what he’s saying.

Brad Page: Yeah, exactly. And then you get the line, “the movement you need is on your shoulder”. The most enigmatic line in the song.

James Campion: Yeah. When I saw him in ‘89, when he sang it, it gave me the chills, too. And then I find out later on that he told Bob Costas, Bob asked him, “do you ever think about the audience when you’re playing a song or singing to them?” And he’s like, “No, no. It’s just like being an actor. You’re doing lines, you’re trying to get through it, you’re in the song. You like to interact with the musicians on stage, but when I sing that line, I think of John.” And when you think of “the movement you need is on your shoulder”, which is such, as you said, perfectly enigmatic, could mean everything. And again, nothing. But John, of course, loved it. Paul just put it in there. He just had that in there. He even told John, “this is just a filler.” And he goes, “no, no, no, it’s the best line in the song”. And he respected John so much for it. And I think it was, again, Tim Riley, who told me, think about the ego and the it ownership, that John had a lot of those songs. If he did, when he did the Playboy interviews right before he died, he went through every Beatles song and he would say, “I helped him with this line. He helped me with that line”.  “I kept Paul from going to Saccharine here, we did this”, he always said over. And even during their dark times, when they were fighting with each other publicly, he always said, “’Hey Jude’, that’s Paul, Paul’s baby. Probably his best song.” So to have that line in there, and him to blow Lennon away with it, and Lennon insisting he keeps it in there, and that Paul plays it 30, 40 years later and it still thinks of John on stage. Just absolutely beautiful.

James Campion: I love the fact that it’s on your shoulder. It comes right after you’ll do. It’s about you. You can do this.

Brad Page: Right? Right. You can move mountains. You can do it. The song is so full of those little moments that are just uplifting to your soul.

There’s another pause for that short little “na na na”, which he adds a yeah, at the end, which I would normally think that would just be like an ad lib, but it’s actually doubled. And then you get the last verse, the “Hey Jude”, where he has that melisma on the voice, where you’re not just hitting a note, but you’re scatting around it. McCartney was so great at that. “Hey Jude” harmonies on that verse by John.

Brad Page: And then– and this is something that I feel foolish, because, again, one of my favorite songs, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this song… Never heard it till I read your book. But after they sing under your skin, John in the background says…

James Campion: Yeah, you can’t unhear that. Yeah. And it’s, and many people had a theory, and I throw them all in there, but I stick with the one that because Paul changed “heart” to “skin”, John was doing the harmony, and he blows the line, and then he just says, #@!&

And then when they were mixing it, I just wondered, why would they leave it in there? According to Jeff Emmerich, who was cleaning up the mix of it, John just came up to him and said, leave it in there. Leave it in there. No one will hear it. And if they do, it’ll be a little bauble for everybody. And, you know, biggest single in the history of Rhe Beatles, the biggest band on the planet, has the F-word in it, right?

Brad Page: That’s so great. And leave it to John to say, just leave it in there. But that would be my take on it, too. I think if you listen closely, it’s tough to tell, even when you isolate just the vocals, but I think you’re right that the previous verses “let her into your heart”, here he sings “let her under your skin”. And you can almost hear there, John start to sing “into” instead of “under”, and then, like, catches himself, and then lets the F-word fly because he blows the line.

Brad Page: It’s just funny. And again, when you think of The Beatles, how many people have played their songs backwards and forwards and inside out, looking for crazy stuff, backwards masking and whatnot? And this is right there, and nobody ever points that out, but it’s just great.

Then we get to really kind of the climax of the song, where they repeat the word “better”, climbing in pitch each time. There’s a classic Ringo drum fill. Under that little pause, Ringo hits a single hit on the hi hat. And then we are off into the second part of the song, which is a whole different animal. But I always hear– and I almost hate to put it this way, because I don’t mean it to be in a sexual way at all, but that “better, better” and then when he screams, yeah, it’s orgasmic.

James Campion: Oh, uh, no question.

Brad Page: You know, “orgasmic” just in the sense of release; build, climax, release. And it’s so emotional.

Brad Page: And that launches you into that second half of the song, that is longer than the beginning. I believe the first part of the song, where we are up until now is about three minutes. The remaining part of the song is four minutes, roughly, right?

James Campion: Yeah, it’s four minutes plus of just “na na’s”. So, we’re less than halfway through the actual record, but the song structure is over now. And now you have the “double amen”, or “plagal cadence” in the parlance of music, where you repeat that line over and over again. The famous, famous, nobody can forget it, everyone loves to sing along with it part. But before we leave the scream, I defy you to find, you could probably find equal, but is there one that’s better when someone goes up and up and up and he just exploded. And now he’s leaving that other part behind. He’s done talking to you, and now he’s making you feel like you’re part of something. He’s making Jude feel like, “don’t worry, you’re not alone here”. And that’s when the na na’s come in, and that’s where I feel he’s using gospel cords. He’s using gospel phrasing. He starts to do the melisma to get us there. The blues tropes.

Brad Page: Yeah. And as you just kind of pointed out, at this point, the song shifts from being very personal and intimate to being a communal experience. The first part is kind of like about you and making you feel better. Then you get to this part and it’s like, “You know what? We’re all together in this. We all have to figure this out, all have to work together if we’re going to survive, get through this together. We got to do it together.”

James Campion: Yeah. And of course, you know, that’s the sixties edict that The Beatles helped build.

Brad Page: You’ve reached a point in the song where you’ve transcended what you can say with actual words, and now you’re just chanting. He’s already said everything he could say to you in those first couple of verses now. It’s just the uplift of. It’s just like pure, unfiltered joy almost.

James Campion: And again, the “na na’s” break the barriers of language. I’m reminded of Paul playing it at the Kremlin, and I mentioned it in the beginning of the book, and I’m reminded of the thousands and thousands of young Russian kids singing “na, na, na”. And no matter where you go, you could sing that.

Brad Page: An interesting thing you also point out in the book is that, during this final section, the coda, if you listen closely in the right channel, you can hear some of those previous ad-libs from the initial run through. It’s still there buried in the mix.

I believe it repeats 18 times. Do I have that right? Is that the number?

James Campion: Yeah.

Brad Page: The number of “na na na’s”?

Speaker A: Yeah, it’s right around there. It’s fun to play with that and figure out how many, and I break it all down in the book. I can’t remember all of them right now. And George Martin said for years, music is mathematics. It’s magical math, but in the end, it’s math.

Brad Page: You just get this continual build here through the coda, where the second time around they add hand claps. I think it’s the fourth time around, the orchestra comes in, and then that’s where Paul comes in with that famous “Judy, Judy, Judy”. The 6th time around, I think the brass gets a little louder and he does that, you know, “you can make it, you’re not going to break it” ad lib in there. That’s great. The 7th time around, just riffing on the verse lines. “Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song. Make it better.”

Brad Page: Around the 10th time, the fade starts to begin, so you get this really long fade that just takes forever. The 11th time, I think you can hear him say, “don’t go back, Jude”. And then the second to last time, Paul’s voice comes up a little bit in the mix for one last little screaming ad lib in there. And then that song just rides out. Just what a communal experience again, you get from that, that whole end section. It’s just, I find it so emotional.

James Campion: Yeah, well, I think I titled the last chapter “Comfort and Unity”. He got the comfort part. “Hey, Jude, you could do this, buddy”. And then, we’re all doing it together. No one should ever sleep on the fact that, again, as Rob Sheffield so beautifully said, this is a band song all the way through. And I think somewhere around the fifth or 6th, they just stop trying to play the song, and they’re just into that whole plagal cadence. Like that the band is a groovin’, there’s a part where they just groove. They’re not doing staccato punches on the acoustic guitar. They’re just flowing, and the bass is going, and Ringo is just doing his thing, and it’s a full… and Paul is really banging on the piano, so it’s a full, full band song on the way out. As you just pointed out beautifully, each section builds on another, and it never makes it boring. Ever makes it boring.

Brad Page: I my book, it’s just one of the greatest songs ever written and ever recorded. It’s a perfect song, I think.

James Campion: Yep. I agree.

Brad Page: So your book, called “Take A Sad Song”, what inspired you to write a whole book about this one song?

James Campion: Well, when I was a kid, as I said earlier, it affected me greatly. I just saw, I came up with this idea in late 2019, but then my father got sick and passed right before the pandemic. And then the pandemic hit. And I was home and I had the time and I said, this song seems to speak to that. To this. We’re all alone, but we’re kind of together. We’re going through this thing. We’re going to try to survive this thing. And it seemed to work in 1968, because when all that craziness was happening during the summer, and then, of course, after the election, it just seemed to be ‘68 again. Everybody’s saying, well, this is the worst year since ‘68. And it just, I felt like I was in it, you know, it just spoke to me. So “Hey Jude” is my favorite Beatles song, period. And once I started looking up different things about it and all the stuff we talked about on this podcast, and also, I thought it would be really cool to just break down one song to figure out why songs work, not just this song, but why songs affect us. And that’s why I talked to a psychology professor and a sociology professor in musicology, and history and songwriters and biographers and music journalists. I just kept asking them, why? Why do we still care about these songs, this song particular? And I think I got the answer in the book. And it really buoyed my spirits during the pandemic, and I hope it does when people read it, because that’s what I meant to do, is make them understand why music affects us.

Brad Page: It’s a remarkable piece of work, and I really enjoyed your book. It was such a great insight into this song. It was just a great read. I loved every minute. It was a pleasure reading the book. It’s been a total pleasure having you on the show to talk about this fantastic song. So, thank you for writing the book, and thank you for joining me on the show.

James Campion: Brad, thank you. You do some great work here. I really enjoy listening to your breaking down songs. I think you’re doing some, you’re doing a service to all of us who love music. Thank you. Coming from you, I really appreciate that. And, um, I hope people get out of it as much as I enjoyed putting it together. It really was a lot of fun, and it made me love the song more, made me love Paul more, and it certainly made me understand and love The Beatles more.

Brad Page: James Campion, thank you so much for joining me on this episode. It’s been great. Thank you.

James Campion: Thank you, Brad.

Brad Page: And thanks to everyone for listening. I hope you enjoyed this show. James Campion is the author of a number of great books, including “Accidentally Like A Martyr”, which is a series of essays on Warren Zevon, and “Shout It Out Loud”, the story of how Kiss made the “Destroyer” album, which was a big help to me when I put together my previous Kiss episodes. This new book is called “Take A Sad Song: The emotional currency of ‘Hey Jude’”, and it’s available online and in bookstores today. Please check it out, you won’t regret it. And please join me here again in two weeks for another new episode. On behalf of everyone on the Pantheon Podcast network, I thank you for listening. Now go take a sad song and make it better.