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

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

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TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Music]

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

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

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

Here’s the first verse.

[Music]

Here’s the first verse.

[Music]

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

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

And that brings us to the chorus.

[Music]

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

Here’s the third verse.

[Music]

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

[Music]

Let’s bring up the vocals here.

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

Bloodrock – “D.O.A.”

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

Then, as today… controversy sells.

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

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

Trick or treat…

[Music]

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

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

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

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Music]

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

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

Let’s pick it back up from the intro.

[Music]

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

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

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

And that takes us into the next chorus.

[Music]

I love her phrasing on that last line:

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

That guitar refrain returns, and Bettye does some improvising.

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

[Music]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Music]

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

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

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little bit of a guitar fill there from Andy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy adds a new high pitched vocal to that part.

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

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

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

“Making Plans For Nigel” – XTC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRANSCRIPT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andy Clark’s playing some nice tack piano here.

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

The vocals are suddenly doubled and panned left and right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sleep That Burns” – Be-Bop Deluxe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Sabbath were at a standstill when it came time to make their 5th album. The ideas just weren’t coming to guitarist Tony Iommi, and without his massive guitar riffs… well, there just wasn’t any Black Sabbath. Weeks were wasted in the studio until he stumbled onto the riff that became “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath“, and then they were off to the races. That song became the opening cut from the album that would bear its name; and the song that would bring that album to a close is “Spiral Architect“, one of the most epic songs the band ever produced. On this episode, we explore the making of this album along with an examination of one of their most ambitious tracks, “Spiral Architect”.

“Spiral Architect” (Words & Music by Black Sabbath) Copyright 1974 Westminster Music Ltd.

TRANSCRIPT:

Well, welcome back to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast network. My name is Brad Page, and each episode of this show, I pick one of my favorite songs and we’ll explore it together, listening to all the elements and components that make it a great song. You don’t have to know anything about music theory or be a musician to enjoy the show– no technical stuff here. We’re just listening to the performances, arrangements and production that go into creating a great song.

On this edition of the podcast, we’re listening to the Masters of Metal, the band that created the template for literally thousands of bands that would follow; one of the most influential bands in rock history, and a song that, by any measure, is one of their creative peaks on record. We’re of course talking about Black Sabbath, and a song called “Spiral Architect”.

Guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward and singer John Michael “Ozzy” Osborne came together in Birmingham, England in 1968, first as the Polka Tulk Blues Band that also included another guitarist and a saxophone player. But they soon slimmed down to a four piece and changed their name to Earth.

But after discovering there was another band named Earth, they changed their name to Black Sabbath. As the story goes, inspired by the Boris Karloff movie of the same name, they released their first album in February 1970– on Friday the 13th. of course– though it didn’t come out in the US until June 1. It’s considered by many to be the first heavy metal album, though no one really called it that at the time. But this was something new, something different, something distinct from psychedelia or blues rock. There had been heavy bands before, but Black Sabbath were tapping into something new.

[Music]

The album sold pretty well. This wasn’t the kind of band that was going to have hit singles, at least it didn’t seem like it at the time. But these were the days when albums mattered. FM radio was at its peak creatively and you weren’t dependent on three-minute pop singles. There were other ways to find your audience.

Less than a year later, they released their second album, “Paranoid”. What can you say about this album? It’s in the pantheon of classic albums. It refined and defined the sound of heavy metal. It reached number one on the UK charts and number twelve on the US charts.

[Music]

They followed that with “Masters of Reality”, their third album released in July 1971. Think about that. Three albums of all new material, released within a year and a half of each other… all three of them, classic albums. Incredible. And this is not unique to Black Sabbath. This was the pace of the music industry at this time. Artists were under pressure to deliver one, two, sometimes three albums in a year. And it’s unbelievable to see how many artists delivered. They were able to produce album after album of great material in such a short amount of time.

So, of course, Black Sabbath were at it again, releasing their fourth album, “Vol. Four”, in September 1972. They had gone to Los Angeles to record this one, renting a mansion in Bel Air, where the party never stopped. In fact, it followed them right into the Record Plant recording studio. The drugs were beginning to affect the work, but they were able to pull it together for another solid album.

[Music]

The exhausting cycle of record, then tour, then record, then tour some more, wore on them. And by 1973, they had to cancel a US tour for their own health and sanity. But, guitarist and de facto band leader Tony Iommi was itching to make another record.

Tony was ambitious. He was watching Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, the Rolling Stones and The Who put out one monstrous album after another. And he wanted a piece of that action, too. He was concerned that Black Sabbath was stagnating and he was putting a lot of pressure on himself.

So they headed back to LA, back to the same studio and that same mansion, figuring it worked for them last time. Except this time, it didn’t.

Maybe it was the pressure, maybe it was the drugs. Maybe it was the surroundings or the distractions, probably combination of all of that. But Tony developed some kind of writer’s block. The ideas just weren’t coming. They spent days, weeks working on new material, but nothing came of it. Eventually, Tony gave up and the band returned to England with nothing to show for it.

Back in England, they set up shop in an 18th century Gothic castle that had been outfitted with a recording studio. Of course, the place was rumored to be haunted; sounds like a perfect place for Black Sabbath.

So they got back to work, but for days, it wasn’t any more productive than their sessions in LA. Until Tony came up with the riff that would become the title song of the next record, “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. That was the key that unlocked his writer’s block. And then they were back in business.

They ended up with a really strong album. The record opens with the title cut, an instant Black Sabbath classic. And the album ends with “Spiral Architect”, one of their most ambitious tracks. “Spiral Architect” is credited to all four members of the band: Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osborne. As usual with most Sabbath songs, Geezer wrote the lyrics.

The album was produced by Black Sabbath and engineered by Mike Butcher. The song begins with Tony Iommi’s acoustic guitar. He’s playing a series of arpeggiated patterns that use a lot of open strings on his guitar, which allows certain notes to ring out clear for long stretches.

[Music]

Then the electric guitar takes over and the whole mood changes where the acoustic guitar has kind of an intimate, melancholy feel to it. The electric guitar riff sounds big and majestic. Sounds to me like there’s an electric guitar on the right and an acoustic a little lower in the mix on the left. Then when the band comes in, there’s another electric guitar added on the left. I’m not sure if the acoustic guitar is still in there or not. See what you think. Here we get a new riff. This one has almost a jazzy prog-rock element to it. I don’t know if they intended it or not, but I think that riff has a spiral feel to it. And then there’s a simple but pretty effective drum fill by Bill Ward that leads us into the first verse. Now let’s hear that all together and onwards into the first verse.

[Music]

Interesting chord progression behind the verse. Probably not what most people would expect when they think of Black Sabbath. Let’s hear just the instrumental track.

And this is a great vocal from Ozzy. He’s in really good form here. One thing you will always hear on Ozzy vocals is double-tracking. From what I’ve read, he will record one line at a time, and then sing that line again, trying to match it as closely as he can. And he’ll do that, one line at a time, through the whole song. Of course, you can never do it 100% the same, but that is what makes double-tracking special, as opposed to using a short echo or chorus effect ,or digitally copying the part. Those small little differences are what can make double-tracking sound magical.

[Music]

Next, we land at the first chorus. Musically, this part is great, too. There’s a string section here that really adds some drama. And I like the way Geezer Butler’s bass primarily hangs around one note while the rest of the music swirls around him. Let’s hear just the instrumental tracks first.

[Music]

It leads back to the main riff at the end of the chorus there. Let’s hear it with Ozzy’s vocals added back in.

Bill Ward is augmenting his drums there with timpani, those big kettle drums that booming sound really adds to the orchestral feel. It just makes that part sound so epic. Let’s back it up a bit and listen for those timpani drums.

Let’s listen to Bill Ward’s drum fill there. And here’s the second verse.

Then comes the second chorus, and the lyrics here are a little different this time around.

You know, Black Sabbath has this reputation for being dark and foreboding, and of course they’ve earned that. But not every song is like that. This song is really life-affirming. Geezer Butler wrote these lyrics sitting on his front yard watching the sun come up… life was good, and I think that’s what this song is about. At least that’s what I take from it. In a world that can often be harsh, you got to learn to appreciate the good.

“Of all the things I value most in life,
I see my memories and feel their warmth
 and know that they are good.”

Let’s hear that full chorus.

[Music]

That leads us into an extended instrumental section. But there’s no wailing guitar solo in this song. Instead, you’re taken further on this epic journey largely by the strings.

In the credits for this song, besides guitar, Tony Iommi is credited for playing bagpipes. But in his autobiography, “Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath”, he says he never actually played bagpipes on this song. He wanted to. In fact, he bought a set of bagpipes, brought them into the studio and started blowing into them, but nothing came out. He spent hours on it, and eventually decided that these bagpipes must be defective. So he sent them back to the store. They checked them out and said, “there’s nothing wrong with these”. So he took them back into the studio and attached a vacuum cleaner to them, figuring that that would blow some air into them. But the only sound he got on tape was the noise from the vacuum cleaner. After wasting a few more hours on that, he gave up. I love that story.

Instead, they just went with the strings, which were arranged by Will Malones up in the mix.

And now the final verse. The strings are especially great here, too.

[Music]

Let’s hear the vocals on this final chorus.

[Music]

Now this end is very intriguing. It builds to this huge climax. Then there’s the sound of an audience applauding that was overdubbed by their engineer, Mike Butcher. He probably pulled that from some sound effects library or something.

Okay, fine. I can see how that’s a nice way to end the song, and the album, with a round of applause. But then the band comes back in, mostly the bass and drums, and just kind of jams for a minute for a short fade-out. Is that anticlimactic or is that representative of the never- ending song, the continuing journey, the endless spiral? You decide.

[Music]

Black Sabbath – “Spiral Architect”

The album “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” sold well. It became a fan favorite, and actually earned them some good reviews for once. More importantly, though, it’s a favorite among the band members themselves.

In his book, Tony said “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” was the pinnacle. Ozzy called it their “final album”, which of course, it wasn’t– they would make more albums after that– but what he meant was that after “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, they lost their way a bit. It was never the same. There would be good songs after that, but this was the beginning of the end.  Ozzy quit the band in 1977, but came back, and then was fired for good in 1979. Bill Ward left in 1980.

Of course, there would be reunions down the road, and pretty miraculously, all four original members are still alive today at the time of this recording. That’s saying something.

Thanks for joining me once again on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. We’re not going anywhere– we’ll be back in about two weeks with another new episode. In the meantime, you can find all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com, or find us on your favorite podcast app.

And if you’re still looking for even more music related podcasts, be sure to check out the other shows right here on the Pantheon Podcast Network.

If you want to support the show, the absolute best thing you can do is to tell a friend about it. Share the show with your music love and friends, because that helps to spread the word.

I can’t wait to get back here and do the next episode, so I will see you soon. Thanks for listening to this edition on “Spiral Architect” by Black Sabbath.

Queen were at the top of their game and weren’t resting on their laurels when they released “Somebody To Love” as a single in 1976.  Building on the layered vocals they pioneered on “Bohemian Rhapsody” the year before, “Somebody To Love” was inspired by Freddie’s love for Aretha Franklin.  On this episode, we examine the various elements of this outstanding track.

“Somebody To Love” (Freddie Mercury) Copyright 1976 Queen Music Ltd. Copyright Renewed All Rights Administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

If you enjoyed this episode, check out our previous show on “Keep Yourself Alive“:
Queen – “Keep Yourself Alive” – The “I’m In Love With That Song” Podcast – Music Commentary, Song Analysis & Rock History (lovethatsongpodcast.com)

— Don’t forget to follow this show, so you never miss an episode!

TRANSCRIPT:

Tie your mother down, because it’s time for another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’m your host, Brad Page, and each episode here on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I pick one of my favorite songs and we dive into it together, listening to all the elements that make it a great song. Don’t worry if you’re not a musician, because we don’t get into music theory or technical jargon, but the performances, the arrangement and the production– that’s all fair game here.

This time around, we’re revisiting a legendary band that, if anything, is more popular and respected today than ever. And this song happens to be one of their biggest hits. It’s Queen, with “Somebody To Love”.

Back in episode number 63, we explored “Keep Yourself Alive”, one of Queen’s earliest songs. If you’d like to hear that show, you can find it on our website or in your podcast feed.

This time we’re visiting Queen during their middle period, when they had just become huge stars; they had released “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and of course, it just knocked everyone out. It was a huge hit and the album that preceded it, “Night at the Opera”, was a masterpiece, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums of the decade.

So you would think the band would feel themselves under tremendous pressure for the follow up, but more than anything, they felt freedom. The success of “Night at the Opera” gave them freedom, financially and creatively. So during the summer of 1976, they headed into their next album with confidence.

They had worked with producer Roy Thomas Baker on the previous couple of albums, but this time they decided to produce the album themselves with the help of sound engineer Mike Stone, who had also worked on their last few albums.

Most of the recording for the album was done at the Manor Studio, an actual manor house owned by Richard Branson, the head of Virgin Records. They wrapped up recording with some sessions at SARM East and Wessex Sound studios. And in December 1976, the album was released.

With another nod to the Marks Brothers, they named this album “A Day at the Races”. The first single from the album was “Somebody to Love”. The song was written by Freddie Mercury and totally inspired by his love for Aretha Franklin. According to guitarist Brian May, Freddie wanted to be Aretha Franklin.

This was Freddy’s version of gospel, or at least as close as an Englishman born in Zanzibar was going to get. And Freddie was really proud of this song. He even said that “Bohemian Rhapsody” was okay, a big hit, but “Somebody To Love” was a better song. The band loved it, too. Brian May remembers thinking,” this is going to be something great”.

The song features Brian May on guitar, John Deacon on bass, Roger Taylor on drums, and Freddie Mercury on piano and lead vocal. The backing vocals are all by Freddie, Brian and Roger. Nobody else, just their three voices overdubbed multiple times.

I remember as a kid, the first time I saw the video for this song, I thought, “wait a minute, there’s only four people in this band”. I figured there had to be at least a dozen people. That was the first song where I learned about overdubbing.

So let’s get into it. If you listen closely, the very first thing you hear is a piano chord, very faintly in the background. I’m going to turn that up as much as I can just so you can hear it a little clearer. I assume that chord was there just to establish the key before they start singing. The next thing we hear is the solitary falsetto voice of Fredie Mercury.

[Music]

Then the sounds of Roger Taylor, Brian May and Freddie, overdubbed multiple times to create a virtual gospel choir.

[Music]

There’s a brief pause, and then Freddie comes in on piano. You can hear Roger Taylor hit his hi-hat, and then the bass and drums come in together.

All right, let’s talk about the rhythm or the meter of this song.

Now, I always say that we don’t get into music theory here. We try not to get too technical. And honestly, I’m not really interested in that stuff myself. But hang in there with me here because I want to look at the time signature of this song.

Part of what makes this song great is the feel of the song. And that feel, that groove, that rhythm is all due to the time signature. So let’s talk about it.

Your typical rock or pop song. Uh, most songs really are in 4/4 time. That means four beats per measure. You count 1-2-3-4 and then you loop back around, right? Some songs are in ¾  time. That’s three beats per measure. That’s most commonly associated with waltzes. This song is in 12/8 time.

That sounds complex, but 12/8 time actually has a really natural, flowing feel to it. And the thing that’s kind of cool about it is that it’s sort of a mix or a mashup of, 4/4 and 3/4 time together. It’s kind of like you have a 3/4 feel nestled within a 4/4 rhythm.

So you can count the song out as if it was in 4/4 time, like this: 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.

But when you go a layer deeper, you can feel the 3/4 rhythm, like this one, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3.

So, simplifying it a bit, you have four groups of three: 1-2-3, 2-2-3, 23-2-3, 4-2-3. So, you end up with this sort of swirling, spiraling feel– it works perfectly for this song.

And a little tip to store away for future reference: If you’re ever listening to a song and you can count it in both 3/4 and 4/4 time, and you’re not sure which one it really is, it just might be in 12/8 time. Now, let’s listen to this first verse:

[Music]

The first line of that verse, “Each morning I get up, I die a little”, that’s pretty bleak. The lyrics to this song are a little dark. It’s not a joyful song. Let’s focus on the vocals here.

[Music]

I really like the way Roger Taylor’s drums accent that part. Let’s listen to that.

There’s a little instrumental break before we get to the next verse.

I work till I ache in my bones”. I used to think he sang “Ache in my balls” there. But either way, I get the feeling.

[Music]

Okay, a couple of things to note here. First, John Deacon is playing a great bass part. And Freddie’s vocals during this section– Incredible.

[Music]

So great. He keeps that intensity up right into this next section.

This is the first time in the song that we hear Brian May’s guitar. Up until now, it’s just been piano, bass and drums with all the layered vocals. You don’t really realize just how stripped down the instrumentation is. Brian’s been sitting it out so far, but he starts to add some guitar tracks here. Let’s check those out.

I’m hearing three guitar parts, one on the left and one on the right. Both of those are playing pretty much the same thing. And a third guitar part right in the center.

Brian May, one of the great guitar players of all time. Both his style and his sound are immediately recognizable. That’s something that few guitarists really achieve. Some of that sound can be chalked up to his custom made “Red Special” guitar that he built himself, but it’s more than that. Any great guitarist, the sound is in the fingers, and he’d sound like Brian May regardless of what guitar or amp he was playing through. Let’s listen to this solo.

[Music]

Queen was just one of those bands where every member was at the top of their game. Let’s hear the next section.

[Music]

Another nice bass run from John Deacon. Let’s go back and hear that.

[Music]

And let’s go back and listen to just the vocal tracks for this verse.

[Music]

Of course, this is where they pause for the choral section that starts off soft, and slowly builds. Let’s play through this whole section and just listen to how the vocal layers continue to develop and change each cycle.

Roger Taylor builds up the drum part too, and hand claps are added. If you can listen on headphones here, I recommend it because you can really hear the subtle placement of different vocal layers across the stereo field that really adds depth to this section.

[Music]

Freddie is just great there at the end. And just when you think the song is over, they kick right back in.

[Music]

Let’s go back to the final mix, and notice how Freddie is pounding on one note on the piano here.

[Music]

I love that ending. It’s like he’s drifting off to sleep, just exhausted from pouring his heart out.

[Music]

“Somebody To Love” by Queen.

As far as I’m concerned, “Night at the Opera” and “Day at the Races” are two of a perfect pair. Two masterpieces. The fact that one band could create two albums like this back-to-back, only a year apart… it’s incredible, and a testament to just how great this band was. There were more great Queen albums to come, but for me, these two albums are the pinnacle.

Thanks for joining me for this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. We are part of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, home to many other shows that celebrate the artists and the music that we all love.

New episodes of this show are released on the 1st and the 15th of every month. So I’ll be back soon with our next episode. Until then, you can listen to all of our previous shows on our website, lovethatsongpodcast.com. You can also find this show wherever you listen to podcasts.

You can keep in touch with us on Facebook, just look for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast and you’ll find us. If you’d like to leave a review or comments, the best place to do that is on podchaser.com. And if you’d really like to support the show, the best thing you can do is just tell people about it. Share it with your friends.

Thanks again for listening to this episode on Queen and “Somebody To Love”.

On this episode, we pay a little tribute to the great Tina Turner, with an exploration of the song she wrote about her humble beginnings in a little town called Nutbush, TN.  Join us on a journey down Highway 19 to visit “Nutbush City Limits”.

“Nutbush City Limits” (Words & Music by Tina Turner) Copyright 1973 EMI Blackwood Music Inc and EMI Unart Catalog Inc.

— Don’t forget to follow our show, so you never miss an episode!

TRANSCRIPT:

Welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. My name is Brad Page, and I’m on a mission to uncover and rediscover my favorite songs, to get a better understanding of what makes them work and why I love them so much. Thanks for joining me on this journey here on the Pantheon Podcast Network. Everyone is welcome here– no musical knowledge or experience is required. If you love music and are even just a little curious about what goes into making a great song, you’re in the right place.

It’s reality that we are all getting older. I don’t care how young or old you are. We are all heading in one direction. And as we age, so do the artists that inspired us, that have moved us and, um, accompanied us through our journeys through life. Inevitably, we will lose these artists to the ravages of time.

The rock stars of my youth are no longer young. And over the last few years, we have lost so many artists that were such a part of our lives. And it’s just a fact that all of you will experience. Again, it doesn’t matter how old you are, or when you grew up… someday Janet Jackson will be an old woman; someday Britney Spears will be old; someday Taylor Swift will be an old woman. And that’s if they’re lucky– that they make it that far. There’s no shame or insult in that. It’s just the way it is. And nothing will shine a light on your own mortality than the death of an artist that you grew up with, that remains young and vibrant whenever you think of them.

This is all to set the tone for this episode because we’re talking about Tina Turner today, who passed away recently in May of 2023. I have been working on this episode off and on for a while. In fact, I first got the idea for this show back in 2017 when, on a road trip, we came near Nutbush, Tennessee. We never actually got to stop in Nutbush, but seeing the name reminded me of the song and that that would be a pretty good subject for a podcast episode.

So it went on my list, which is a pretty long list of podcast ideas. But one good thing about songs is that there’s no shortage of great ones. So this episode has been in the works for a while. It was about 80% done, just waiting for an opportunity for me to finish it up. And then Tina died… which I’m always of two minds about these situations, because I don’t want to take advantage of, or jump on the bandwagon, or be seen as “cashing in” in any way on the death of somebody, especially an artist as important as Tina Turner. And make no mistake, she is an historically important artist, but she should be remembered, she should be paid tribute to and she should be celebrated.

So I’m going to go ahead with this episode. Keep in mind that most of this was recorded before she passed away. It wasn’t originally meant to be a posthumous tribute, but I think it’s still relevant today. S

So, in honor of Tina, let’s take a road trip down to Nutbush, Tennessee, with Ike and Tina Turner, and “Nutbush City Limits”.

[Music]

Ike Turner was a journeyman musician. It was his band, the Kings Of Rhythm, that recorded “Rocket 88”, considered by many to be the first rock and roll song. Though he wasn’t credited for it– it was credited to Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, which always ticked Ike off.

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Ike also worked as kind of a talent scout for Sun Records and Modern Records, and spent some time as a session musician playing piano on records for people like BB King and Howlin’ Wolf.

She ended up in East St Louis, playing with his band, the Kings of Rhythm, and that’s where he met Anna Mae Bullock in 1957. She became a fan of the band when she was 17. She saw them whenever she could, and then she began singing with the Kings of Rhythm. They made their first record together in 1958, a song called “Box Top” with Anna Mae, nicknamed “Little Anne” on backing vocals.

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They had their first big hit in 1960 with a song called “A Fool In Love”, this time credited to Ike and Tina Turner.

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Ike was the one who changed her name to Tina. By then, she was already pregnant with their first child. Ike was married to another woman at the time; he had already been married at least four times, maybe six times by then. When she was in the hospital having that baby, Ike hired another woman to pretend to be Tina on stage so he could keep playing gigs and getting paid. When Tina found out, she checked herself out of the hospital, went to the gig and punched out that fake Tina and then finished the gig herself.

In 1962, they got married. She was 23, he was 31, and Ike hadn’t even bothered to divorce any of his previous wives.

The abuse started early. When she told Ike she didn’t want to change her name to Tina, he hit her. That was the first of many. He slept around and abused her all through their relationship, and he worked her to exhaustion.

By 1966, the hits had started to dry up. Producer Phil Specter was also going through a dry patch when he saw Ike & Tina perform on “The Big TNT” show in late 1965. Go check out that performance on YouTube– they were on fire that night.

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Phil Spector, being the control freak that he was, was not about to work with another control freak like Ike Turner. So, they cut a deal: Spector paid Ike a bunch of money to stay away from the studio, and Phil would make the record without him. Though “River Deep Mountain High” is credited as an “Ike and Tina Turner” release, Ike really had nothing to do with making that record.

Though the song didn’t sell as well as everyone hoped, it’s become a true classic; on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, “River Deep Mountain High” came in at number 33.

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The Rolling Stones– and this time we’re talking about the band, not the magazine– The Rolling Stones loved this song, and invited Ike and Tina to support them on a British tour. It was the first of a few tours where Tina would open for the Stones, and this exposed her to a whole new, and much bigger, audience.

One of the interesting things about both Tina and Ike is that neither one of them really wanted to be known as R&B performers, even though that’s what paid the bills. Their musical preferences were really elsewhere. So they were perfectly happy to venture further into rock and roll. And that’s where they’d find their biggest hits, with their versions of songs like “Proud Mary”, “Honky Tonk Woman” and “I Want To Take You Higher:.

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Ike opened his own recording studio and Tina did some session work there, providing vocals, including for tracks by Frank Zappa.

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As they got more successful behind the scenes, life with Ike was getting worse. More cocaine meant more violence. She had attempted suicide in 1968. It wouldn’t be the last time. Eventually, she left him in 1976. Their divorce was finalized in March 1978.

But back in 1973, they were still together when Tina wrote “Nutbush City Limits”. While Ike was becoming more and more difficult to work with, Tina was finding her own footing. She wrote “Nutbush City Limits”. But after it became a hit, Ike tried to take credit for it. But clearly this is Tina’s song. She wrote it about the town she grew up in.

Unfortunately, there’s no credits on the album, and there doesn’t appear to be much documentation as to who played on the song. Mark Bolan of T Rex may have played guitar on the track; it is confirmed that he played guitar on at least one other Ike & Tina song, so it is possible. It’s also been claimed that James Lewis, a member of Ike & Tina’s backing band, played guitar on the track. They both could be on the track. Who really knows?

The song opens with one guitar, maybe played by Mark Bolan, in the center channel. After a couple of bars, another guitar with a wah-wah pedal appears in the left channel.

Here come the horns on the right. The drums come in there, but it’s just the kick and the snare drum. No hi-hat, no cymbals. And they’re going to hold off on the cymbals for quite a while. The bass is also going to lay back for a while.

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She’s telling us about her little hometown, but she’s not using full sentences. These are barely even phrases. They’re just impressions. A church house, gin house, schoolhouse, outhouse… but you can see the town taking shape in your head, right?

Highway 19 is a small rural state route that runs through this part of Tennessee, I believe it’s about 43 miles long. And a stretch of Route 19 between Brownsville and Nutbush is officially called Tina Turner Highway.

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When she hits the end of the chorus, the bass comes in, along with a clavinet. A clavinet is an electric keyboard instrument; it was based on the clavichord, an instrument from the Middle Ages. But the clavinet is a relatively new instrument, developed in 1964. It has a very distinctive sound. It’s almost guitar like, but not quite. It’s really its own thing. Of course, it was Stevie Wonder who really popularized the sound of the clavinet on songs like “Superstition”.  Here, the clavinet is kind of accentuating the bass guitar part. Let’s go back and pick it up right before the bass comes in.

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“25 was the speed limit, motorcycle not allowed in it.” I love that line, it’s so specific. You can also hear that a low, droning note on a keyboard comes in there.

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There’s a chime or a bell in the right channel. There’s some interesting choices of percussion in this song, and that bell will continue to pop up in the right channel. And the drummer is finally going to play some hi-hat coming up. Listen for that when the vocal comes back in.

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Listening to the horn part; at first I thought there might be a synthesizer playing along with them, but now I’m not sure. I think it’s probably just horns, but see what you think.

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Let’s hear that verse with the vocals.

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Let’s play that chorus again and listen to her vocal. She does a nice little scream in there. And the way she cracks her voice on the word “city”, that is a Tina trademark right there.

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Now this is where the song takes a total left turn, I think. There is a synthesizer solo that comes out of nowhere, and it feels totally incongruous to me. I don’t know if this was Ike’s idea, he’s credited as producer on the album. At the time, synthesizers were still pretty new. They probably thought they were doing something innovative or updating their sound. But now, to me at least, this is the thing that sounds the most dated about the song. I guess there’s a lesson in there about relying too much on conspicuous technology.

And there’s also that incessant percussion part in the right channel. And that brings us to the last verse where that synthesizer is going to have a little back and forth with Tina’s vocal.

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And that last line, “salt pork and molasses is all you get in jail”. Again, so specific. And I love the way she sings that line.

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And I love the way she phrases that line, “It’s called a quiet little old community”. There’s a long pause she puts in between “it’s called” and “a quiet little old community”. And the way she hits the word “quiet”, it’s just so great.

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Let’s pick it back up and play it out through the fade. “A one horse town. You have to watch what you’re putting down in old Nutbush.”

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Ike and Tina Turner, “Nutbush City Limits”.

Nutbush, Tennessee remains a small rural town. There’s a sign over the town grocery store proclaiming it as the “birthplace of Tina Turner”. And then there’s that stretch of Highway 19 that’s named after her, Tina Turner Highway. I’m sure if you go there today, there will be memorials, flowers and tributes laid out in her honor.

There have been memorials and tributes pouring in from every corner of the world, and the internet is full of them. It’s a safe bet that every music-related podcast has discussed Tina in some fashion lately. So, I’m not going to explain all of the ways that she made a difference, all of the barriers she broke down gender, race, age, and how many people she influenced. There are other podcasts that have done that and probably done it better than I can. We’ll never know how many women who, inspired by Tina’s example, escaped an abusive relationship. For that alone, she deserves our respect.

But it will always be the music that she’ll be most remembered for. That will be her lasting impact. Her records leaped out of the grooves with energy and intensity, and as a live performer, she was hard to top. Thanks for everything, Tina.

And thanks to you for listening. The “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast comes your way twice a month, on the first and the 15th of every month, so make sure you follow the show in your favorite podcast app so that you never miss an episode.

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Keep on listening and thanks for being here for this episode on Tina Turner and “Nutbush City Limits”