The Cars debut album was a commercial and critical success. The pressure was on for a follow-up, and the band delivered big time with their 2nd album, “Candy-O“. The album was packed with more Cars classics, including the subject of this episode, “It’s All I Can Do”, a song that shows the strengths of each band member– everyone contributing something special top this great track.

“It’s All I Can Do” (Ric Ocasek) Copyright 1979 Lido Music Inc

…and check out this previous episode on The Cars:


Time for another edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’m your host, Brad Page, sending these love letters to the music we cherish, care of the Pantheon podcast Network. Each episode I pick a favorite song and we look at it in detail, trying to understand what makes it a great song. You don’t have to be a musician or have any advanced knowledge, because we don’t get into music theory or technical stuff here. If you’re willing to listen, then this podcast is for you.

On this episode, we’re exploring a track from a band that came onto the scene as the 70’s were coming to a close, and their sound was critical in launching the sound of the 80’s. This is The Cars with “It’s All I Can Do”.

We talked about The Cars on this show once before, back in episode number 43, “Just What I Needed”. So you can check out that episode for an overview of the band’s history. This time, we’ll pick up where that episode left off.

They released that first album in June 1978. A year later, their second album, “Candy-O”, hit the shelves. That first album was considered one of the strongest debut albums of all time, and it still is. Rolling Stone ranks it in their Top 20 Greatest Debut Albums. So when it came time to record their second album, the pressure was on, and they delivered… no sophomore slump here.

“Candy-O” ended up charting higher than the debut album. It made it to #3 and would eventually sell over 4 million copies. There were three singles released off of “Candy-O”. “It’s All I Can Do” was the second single. The song features Rick Ocasek on rhythm guitar, Elliot Easton on lead guitar, Greg Hawks on keyboards, David Robinson on drums, and Benjamin Orr on bass and lead vocals.

The song begins with a bass drum hit and a quick open and close of the hi-hat. One guitar on the left with a slightly distorted tone is playing staccato, muted power chords. The bass in the center is duplicating that guitar part. On the right, there’s another guitar playing smoothly strummed, ringing chords. Sounds like there’s maybe some reverb, perhaps some chorus effect on that guitar. The rest of the tracks are pretty dry, and Greg Hawks is playing a simple but effective melody on the keyboards.

Rick Ocasek is universally acknowledged as the architect of The Cars’ sound, and he wrote all the songs on the album; but every member of the band contributed something special, and to me, the magic ingredient of the best Cars songs is the vocals of Benjamin Orr. He had a great voice and so perfectly suited to The Cars sound.

For the second half of the verse, the guitar that was playing those clean, ringing chords on the right is going to suddenly shift to playing heavy, distorted chords. Listen for the change.

Then David Robinson is going to do a short drum fill on the toms to launch us into the first chorus, and those toms are pretty high in the mix.

The instrumentation behind the chorus is pretty minimal, not a lot of overdubs, just the basic band performing, but each player is doing something just a little different enough that it sounds nice and full, with Greg Hawke’s melodic keyboard part just riding on top. Let’s bring the vocals back in and listen to that again.

Both The Cars’ first album and “Candy-O” were produced by Roy Thomas Baker, one of the most famous and successful producers of the 1970s. Baker is probably most known for working with Queen, including producing “Bohemian Rhapsody”, so he knew how to layer vocals. Though the cars kept the production tricks to a minimum on this album, there are moments where the Roy Thomas Baker effect shines through those rich backing vocals at the end of the chorus. Here is a good example.

That chorus leads immediately into the second verse, and notice that clean, ringing guitar is back.

That’s one of my favorite lines in the song—“When I was crazy, I thought you were great.” We’ve probably all had a time in our lives where we were so crazy in love that we couldn’t see just how bad that person was for us.

And the distorted guitar returns.

Greg Hawkes is playing pretty much the same keyboard part that he played on the first chorus, but he’s using a different sound this time. Here’s the sound again from the first chorus. And here’s the keyboard sound on this second chorus. They add an extra six beats in there to lead us into the guitar solo.

And I’ve mentioned before on this show that I love Elliot Easton’s guitar playing. And this is another great example of a tasteful, melodic, memorable guitar solo by Elliot Easton. Check it out.

One thing we haven’t looked at yet is David Robinson’s drum part on the verses. What he’s doing is pretty subtle, but it’s not just a straightforward drum beat. He’s put some pretty clever twists into it. Let’s listen.

Also on this final verse, Greg Hawkes has added a new keyboard part. You can imagine a string section playing this part. It really adds a new layer of drama to this last verse. Listen to how it builds through to the end of the verse.

And that’s another great line; “As soon as you get it, you want something new”.  How many of you have been on one end of that in a relationship?

Listen to the way the guitar and the keyboard are going to answer each other. It’s the guitar on the right, the keyboard on the left.

Like the way Benjamin sings this line here.

“It’s All I Can Do” by The Cars

The Cars released six albums between 1970 – 1987. Five of them were top 20 hits. Four of them reached the top ten. They split up in 1988.

Benjamin Orr died from cancer in 2000. The remaining members reformed for one more album in 2011. But without Benjamin Orr, it just wasn’t the same.

Rick Ocasek died in 2019. David Robinson has more or less retired from the music business and owns an art gallery in Rockport, Massachusetts. Elliot Easton is still active and has a number of musical projects that keep him busy, and Greg Hawkes does session and touring work, working frequently with Todd Rungren.

Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to listen to this show. I always appreciate it. New episodes of the podcast come out on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll be back soon with another episode. You can keep in touch with the show on our Facebook page, or on our website,, where you’ll also find all of our previous episodes. And you can find the show on your favorite source of podcasts, whether it’s Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher– wherever you listen to podcasts, you’ll find this show. We are part of the Pantheon Network of podcasts, the place for music related podcasts, so be sure to check out some of the other shows, too.

Thanks again for listening to this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast featuring The Cars and “It’s All I Can Do”.


The Cars

Candy-O (Album)

Rolling Stone (Greatest Debut Albums)

Roy Thomas Baker

Bohemian Rhapsody

David Robinson’s Art Gallery

Elliot Easton

Greg Hawkes

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Few bands left a legacy as deep and as lasting as The Ramones.  You literally couldn’t count the number of bands who were influenced by these 4 New York ne’er-do-wells. They created a sound and a look that virtually created a whole genre of music.  Let’s have a listen to one of their classic tracks, “I Wanna Be Sedated”.

“I Wanna Be Sedated” (Jeffrey Hyman, John Cummings & Douglas Colvin) Copyright 1978 Bleu Disque Music Co., Inc and Taco Tunes


This ain’t no Mud Club or CBGB’s– this is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. My name is Brad Page, and each episode of this show, I pick a favorite song and we poke it and prod it, unearthing all the elements that go into making it a great song. Musical knowledge or experience is not required here, the only prerequisite is a little curiosity and a lot of love for music.

On this edition, we’re digging into a song by the progenitors of punk, the forefathers from Forest Hills– The Ramones and “I Want To Be Sedated”.

The Ramones came together around 1974, when guitarist John Cummings and bassist Doug Covid recruited Jeffrey Hyman to play drums in their new band.

Doug was the first one to change his name. Inspired by a fake name that Paul McCartney used to use, he changed his name to Dee Dee Ramone. He convinced the others to change their names, too. So, John became Johnny Ramone and Jeffrey became Joey Ramone.  It didn’t take long for Dee Dee to realize that he wasn’t any good at playing bass and singing at the same time, so Joey took over lead vocals, and then he realized that he couldn’t sing and play the drums. So their would-be manager, Tommy Erdelyi, changed his name to Tommy Ramone and became their drummer.

They played their first gig in March 1974. Their songs were fast, short and loud. Dressed in black leather jackets, these guys were not Greenwich Village hippies. This was something new. They became regulars at CBGB’s, and in 1975, they signed a contract with Sire Records. They released their first self-titled album in 1976, a total of 14 original songs. The longest song clocking in at a breakneck 2 minutes and 35 seconds. That album is a classic.

They recorded two more albums, but by 1978, Tommy was tired of the relentless touring and left the band. But he would continue to work with them as their producer. They recruited a new drummer, Mark Bell, who had played with Richard Hell, Wayne County, and a band called Dust, and rechristened him Marky Ramone.

They started work on their fourth album, “Road to Ruin”, co-produced by Tommy and Ed Stasium. The Ramones never strayed far from their trademark sounds. But “Road to Ruin” shows just a tiny hint of advancement. There’s some acoustic guitars, short guitar solos, and some of the songs even crack the three minute mark. I think it’s one of their better records, and it contains one of their most enduring songs. “I Want To Be Sedated”.

Their constant touring schedule brought them to London during Christmas 1977. The band was exhausted, and when everything in the city shut down for Christmas, they were stuck at their hotel with nothing to do, nowhere to go. Apparently, after one show, Joey had said to their manager, “put me in a wheelchair and get me on a plane before I go insane”. All of this would work its way into the lyrics to this song.

The song is credited to Joey, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone. It’s the track that opens side two of the album.

Like so many great Ramones songs, the track kicks off with a bang, with all instruments coming in together.

From what I can tell, there are probably four guitar parts here. There’s a guitar panned all the way to the left and another to the right. It’s possible that that’s just one guitar in stereo, but I think it’s two separate parts. Those guitars are just chugging away on the power chords, while there’s a third guitar in the middle playing in a higher register. Then there’s another guitar, also in the center channel, playing a twangy single note part, Dwayne Eddy-style. This is a good example of how multiple, pretty simple guitar parts can be layered together to create one big guitar sound.

Let’s take a listen to Joey’s vocal. There’s some classic 1950’s Sun Studio style echo on his voice.

And let’s check out the bass and the drums.

And that guitar break is even simpler than it sounds.

And here’s a key change.

And the hand claps return for this final section.

And that one note guitar part comes back here, too.

The Ramones – “I Want To Be Sedated”

The Ramones recorded over a dozen albums of original material. None of the records were that commercially successful. The band struggled their entire career. It’s so ironic that now that the band has long since broken up and all the original members are gone, now they’re probably more well-known than ever. They still probably sell more t-shirts than records. I bet half the people wearing Ramone’s t-shirts barely know anything about the band. But there’s no question how important they are in the history of rock and roll and how influential they were. Spanning decades, they inspired the British punks in the ‘70’s well as bands like Nirvana in the 90’s. It’s just a shame the guys didn’t live long enough to enjoy this success.

Joey Ramone died from lymphoma in 2001. Dee Dee died from a heroin overdose in 2002. It was prostate cancer that took Johnny Ramone in 2004, and Tommy died from cancer in 2014. But Marky Ramone, who plays drums on this song, is still with us today.

And that will do it for this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes are released on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so I’ll be back with you in about two weeks with a new show. You can find all of our previous episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon, Google, pretty much anywhere where podcasts are available. And of course, they’re all on our website too:

Keep in touch with us on Facebook, just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, or on Podchaser, where you can leave reviews and comments and feedback.

This show is part of the Pantheon family of podcasts, where you’ll find plenty of other great music related shows to check out.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. Remember to support the artists you love by buying their music. Take a few bucks out of your pocket and buy that album, that CD, or those m p three files. Now everybody sing along, as the Ramones play us out with “I Want To Be Sedated”.


The Ramones


Sire Records

Wayne County

Dust (Band)

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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.


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, 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, 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.

Never heard of Starbelly? You should have. But it’s not your fault. There was a bit of a resurgence of “power pop” bands in the late-90’s/early 2000’s that generated a lot of GREAT albums, but for some inexplicable reason, not much commercial breakthrough (Fountains Of Wayne being one of the few exceptions). Starbelly’s debut album “Lemon Fresh” was simply brilliant, and it’s one of my favorite records. On this episode, we dive into “This Time“, the song that opens this album, along with a special guest to tell the story– Cliff Hillis, Starbelly guitarist & vocalist who played on this album.

“This Time” (Dennis Schocket) Copyright 1998 Eleven Twenty Ate Music/ASCAP

— This show is one of many great music-related podcasts on the Pantheon network. And remember to follow this show, so you never miss an episode.

When The Shazam tumbled out of Nashville in 1994, they should’ve landed as one of the biggest rock bands in America. Instead, they merely left us with 5 fantastic albums of hard-rocking power pop that lodged them on my list of all-time favorite bands. If you’ve never heard them before, here’s your chance to discover their greatness with a song called “On The Airwaves” – certified one of the Coolest Songs In The World.

“On The Airwaves” (Hans Rotenberry) Copyright 1994, 1999, 2000 Clut Guckle Music (SESAC)

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


Welcome to the “I’m in Love With That Song” podcast, where we use the wisdom of Solomon, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus… but maybe not the speed of Mercury, to explore the magic and mysteries of music.

I’m Brad Page, your host here on the Pantheon Podcast network. Each episode, I pick a favorite song of mine and we delve into it together, discovering what makes it a great song. To date, we’ve explored well over 100 songs; this episode features a song that’s been on my to do list since day one. This is one of my favorite songs, from one of my favorite bands ever. You maybe never heard of this band before, and that’s okay, in fact, I envy you a bit because you get to discover this band for the first time. This is The Shazam with a song called “On The Airwaves”.


Shazam was founded around 1994 by Hans Rotenberry. Hans fell in love with music at an early age. His first two favorite singles were Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” and “Love Me Do” by the Beatles– off to a pretty good start, I think.

He’d been playing in bands as a guitarist and writing songs, but he was never able to find the right singer. So, probably out of frustration more than anything else, he decided to try singing these songs himself. So he went into the studio with drummer Scott Ballew and producer Brad Jones to record some demos. It worked out well enough that they decided to make it official and put a band together. Hans and Scott recruited a 16-year-old bass player named Mick Wilson, and The Shazam played their first gig on August 11, 1994.

They built an audience the old-fashioned way, by playing shows, including the big power pop festivals. And in 1997, they released their first self-titled album. There’s not a bad song on it. Here’s a track from that record. It’s called “Oh No”.


In 1999, they released their second album, again produced by Brad Jones. It’s called “Godspeed The Shazam”. At this point, they weren’t sure if they’d ever get to make another record, so they really went for it on this album. It’s an all-out, go-for-broke effort. Another killer album. Check out this track, it’s called “Sunshine Tonight”.


Around this time, they were joined by an unofficial fourth member, Jeremy Asbrock. Jeremy had been working with them as a recording engineer and he was a friend of the band, but he was also a great guitar player and he would join them on stage to fill out their sound.

The band headed to the UK for some pretty high-profile gigs, including a BBC event at Abbey Road, and opening for Paul Weller at Earl’s Court.

The record label was looking for some new material to release, something they could get out quick, capitalize on some of the success they were having and make a few bucks to offset the cost of that UK trip. The band didn’t have anything ready, but Hans had a handful of songs that he was working on for a solo album, which they quickly turned into Shazam songs. Hans also had the idea to record a cover version of the Beatles “Revolution Number 9”, which was kind of a dare, but the record company said OK. And so the Shazam did one of the most audacious things I’ve ever heard: their take on “Revolution Number 9”.


So they took their version of “Revolution 9”, along with those repurposed solo songs and a couple of old Shazam leftovers that they re-recorded, and they put them together on a seven song EP that they called “Rev 9”, which was released in 2000.

Now, one of those leftovers was a demo from 1995 that they had never finished. They polished it off and used it as the opening track for the “Rev 9” EP. Little Steven, on his radio show “Underground Garage”, would choose this song as one of the coolest songs in the world. In fact, years later, when Little Steven would release a series of CD’s that collected all of the coolest songs in the world, for Volume One, song number one, he chose this song: “On The Airwaves”.


“On The Airwaves” was performed by Scott Ballew on drums, Mick Wilson on bass (playing an 8-string bass, actually), and Hans Rotenberry on lead vocals and guitars. He also played a Theremin and a bunch of other sound effects, as we’ll hear. The song was produced by Brad Jones.

The song begins with what I think is one of the greatest opening riffs of all time. It’s a big sounding, epic introduction that just demands attention, and that rattling tambourine is a nice addition. Let’s play through the intro. After two times around on the riff, Scott does a drum fill and Mick’s bass follows the guitar.

Then we hear the first of those sound effects at the end of that last chord. Hans is going to pluck at that single guitar string to hold the tension before letting loose with the title of the song, and they break into the main riff.


Speaker C: Essentially, that’s a 4-note part. But there’s so much going on, it sounds massive. First, let’s hear the bass guitar. Mick is playing an 8-string Hamer bass through a Big Muff fuzz pedal.

Then there’s an overdubbed guitar part in the left channel on the final mix. I believe this was played on a Hamer Standard, through either a Vox AC 30 amp or a Peavey Classic 30. There’s also a Big Muff pedal on this guitar, too. And then there’s a bunch of overdubbed instruments playing that same riff. There’s a couple of Theremins, a Mellotron on the saxophone setting, a vocoder, and a bunch of guitars run through various effects.


It makes for one glorious cacophony of sound waves blasting out in all directions.

The Shazam never made a video for the song, but if they did, Hans envisioned them in some post-apocalyptic world, driving across the wasteland, broadcasting their message to all the last surviving misfits.

Here comes the first verse. There’s a slight pause, and then Hans comes in with the vocals. Sounds like he’s doubled his vocals here. Scott is doing some great drumming all through this song. Let’s go back and listen to his drums, especially those tasty little fills.


We hear a couple of guitar parts there. There’s a rhythm guitar part. Let’s hear that. And then there’s a second guitar playing this part:


And for good measure, let’s hear what the bass is doing there. You can really hear that he’s playing an 8-string bass here. Let’s go back and hear that altogether.


Here’s the second verse, and I love this verse.

“Radio of the deevolution, what do you say?
The lunatics, the hit parade,
Don’t listen, Mayday Mayday
Talking about the only thing we know, on the airwaves .

Let’s listen to that vocal track first.


I love that. Now, underneath that, there’s still all of these crazy sound effects going on. The theremin, mellotron, radio static, manipulated tape echo… There’s even a piano part which you’ll hear towards the end. Let’s listen to all of that.


I can picture them barreling across the post-apocalyptic wasteland, broadcasting this out. Let’s go back to the final mix and hear it all together and see what you can pick out in the background now that you know it’s there.


That brings us to the bridge, which begins with a pretty heavy riff.

So let’s explore this next part. First, I just want to listen to Scott Ballew’s drums, because he’s playing great during this part. And there’s more of those radio effects going on, including some nonsense vocals, very low in the background.  Let’s hear a bit of that.


And let’s pick it up when the vocals come in.

“Late at night we’re singing tunes
from deep inside our basement rooms,
lurking on our secret frequency
and in the dark red meters glow a message to the freaks”

And now there’s a nice little piano part under that, and from there, it builds back up for the final refrain

[Music]Notice the tambourine here. There’s the sound of a classic tape echo here. Probably an Echoplex, manipulating it by hand, slowing the tape down to get that descending echo. And let’s listen to what the bass is doing here at the end. You can really hear that 8-string in full effect.


Play that back all the way through, with what I assume is a little bit of vocoder at the end.

After the “Rev 9” EP, The Shazam released another full length album called “Tomorrow The World” in 2002. That’s a great album…in fact, that may be my favorite Shazam album.

After that, Mick Wilson left the band and they recruited a new bass player, Mike Vargo, and Jeremy Asbrock finally joined the band as an official full-time member. They released one more album, “Meteor”, in 2009. That album was produced by Mack, a legendary producer who worked with Queen and ELO, just to name a few.

But unfortunately, things just came to an end, as they often do. I wish I understood why some artists catch on and others don’t. In my opinion, The Shazam were one of the best bands to come along in the last 30 years. Seriously, I would stack them up against any band that’s made a record in the last 30 years. They should have sold a million records and played stadiums, but it just didn’t happen.

The good thing, though, is that this music is still out there. You can find these CDs, you can stream all of these songs –and I want you to do it. Go find The Shazam. You will love this music, I promise.

Bassist Mick Wilson more or less retired from the music biz, though he does still play around. His replacement, Mike Vargo, is still playing and he’s actually got a pretty successful career going, including playing Paul McCartney in a McCartney tribute project.

Sadly, drummer Scott Ballew took his own life in April 2019.

I want to thank both Jeremy Asbrock and Hans Rotenberry for helping me with this episode. Hans was especially generous with his time. Jeremy has earned a great reputation as a hired gun guitarist and he’s just launched a new band called Rock City Machine Company. Check them out.

And Hans, he put out an album with Brad Jones in 2010 called “Mountain Jack”. It’s a great record.  And as we speak, he’s compiling material for a deluxe reissue of the “Godspeed The Shazam” album. And when that’s available, I’d love to have him on the show. Maybe we can do a track by track or something. That’d be fun.

Anyway, thanks to both Jeremy and Hans for sharing their stories with me, and I thank you for listening. I’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. If you’d like to get caught up on all of our previous shows, you’ll find them all on our website,, or listen to the show on your favorite podcast app. We’re on Amazon, we’re on Apple, we’re on Google Podcast, we’re on Spotify and Pandora and iHeartRadio… you name it, we’re on there.

Remember to support the artists that you love, like I love The Shazam, by buying their music, and you can support this show by just telling people about it. Won’t cost you a thing, and it really helps spreading the word. I’ll see you soon. Thanks for listening to this episode on The Shazam and “On The Airwaves”.

Join me and my special guest Mike Wagner to celebrate the holidays with his song “Christmas With You”, as performed by Sheila Swift. It’s time for some end-of-year thank-you’s as well. Happy Holidays!

“Christmas With You” (Michael Wagner & Sheila Swift) Copyright 2018

The “Paisley Underground” scene birthed a lot of great bands in the ’80’s, but few went on to be as commercially successful as the Bangles. That success came with a price, as they were pulled away from the British Invasion and Power Pop sound that inspired them. But their first full-length album, All Over The Place, is one of the best records of the era. Before they were swayed by Prince or walked like Egyptians, they were one of the most promising successors to the sound of 60’s jangle pop.

“Tell Me” (Suzanna Hoffs/Vicki Peterson) Copyright 1984 Illegal Songs Inc/Banglophile Music


What is it about songs that capture your imagination or make a lasting impact on you? How is it that a song can somehow capture an entire experience, or express a complex idea much better than mere words? I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to answer those questions here, but we do try to understand what it takes to put a great song together; the performances, the arrangements, the production, and just maybe get a little insight into those bigger questions. This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’m your host, Brad Page, and today’s song is “Tell Me” by The Bangles.


To some people, The Bangles were just that other girl band from LA. But to me, they were one of the best bands to come out of LA in the 1980’s, boy or girl. They came together in 1981 after Susannah Hoffs and the Peterson sisters, Vicki and Debbie, met through the Musicians Wanted classified ads in the weekly Recycler newspaper. They bonded immediately over their love for The Beatles and 60’s rock in general.

They first gigged around LA as The Colors before changing their name to The Bangs. With their jangly guitars and those rich harmony vocals, they fit right into the growing scene in LA rooted in the sounds of 60’s garage bands and the British Invasion, what would later be known as the “Paisley Underground” sound. They recorded their first single in 1981 called “Getting Out of Hand”.


That single caught the ear of Miles Copeland, who signed them to his Faulty Products label, which was eventually folded into IRS Records.  With Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson, both on guitars and vocals, Debbie Peterson on drums and vocals and Annette Zelenskis on bass, the band set about recording a five song EP in 1982. Just as they were about to release the EP, they discovered there was another band called The Bangs, so at the last minute, they changed their name to The Bangles.

Shortly after the EP was released, Annette left to start her own project, Blood On The Saddle. She was replaced by the former Susan Thomas, who, using the stage name Mickey Steele, was a founding member of The Runaways. When she joined The Bangles, she changed her name yet again to Michael Steele.

In 1984, they released their first full length album, called “All Over the Place” on Columbia Records. For my money, this is one of the best albums of the entire 1980’s. Every song is a gem, and each song shows a different side of the band. I could have picked any song on this album to feature, it’s that good. But on this episode, we’re going to listen to one of the most rockin’ songs on the album.

“Tell Me” was written by Susanna Hoffs and Vicki Peterson. It features Susanna on rhythm guitar, Vicki on lead guitar, Debbie Peterson on drums and Michael Steele on bass. Both Susanna and Vicky handled the lead vocals together with Debbie on backing vocals. The album was produced by David Khan.

“Tell Me” was one of the earliest songs Susanna and Vicki wrote together dating back to 1982. And you can hear its roots in that garage band sound of their early club days in the best possible way. It may sound like a simple garage rock tune, but there’s some nice work here.

The song kicks off with a classic jangly guitar intro. Then a snare drum fill launches the riff. Vicki is playing the riff on electric, and it sounds like Susanna’s playing rhythm on an acoustic guitar. Here’s just the guitars.

Now, let’s let that play through to the first verse, and notice how the guitar riff drops out to make room for the vocal. Straight away, you can hear how well Susanna and Vicki’s voices blend together. Debbie’s voice adds to the harmony here. The second verse comes right on the heels of the first.

Vicki s playing a crunchy guitar part that slides between two chords. Simple but effective.

Here’s the chorus.

This is a great example of how the Bangles arranged their vocal harmonies.

Then Michael Steele gets a moment to shine with a cool bass part.

Here’s a guitar playing a single chord over the top. It’s a very clean tone with a tremolo effect that gives it a real shimmering sound. Then Vicki gets in a short surf guitar influenced solo.

Notice how the drums just never let up. Debbie is pounding them through the whole track. Listen to the bass during the chorus, too. It’s another great part.

And on the third verse, they break between the lines for Michael to take the lead.

“Tell Me” by The Bangles.

Short and sweet, all of two minutes and 15 seconds. Sometimes that’s all you need to make your point. In just over two minutes, you got a taste of everything this band has to offer; the blended vocals and harmonies, the garage punk energy melodic guitar riffing, and then each band member gets to show their stuff.

I think The Bangles were a league above the other bands they got lumped in with, both vocally and as musicians. They got forced into a much too slick commercial box during the 1980s, and by ‘89, they split. But they came back in 2003 with an album that was a return to form—“Doll Revolution”, and they followed that up with “Sweethearts of the Sun” in 2011. Both albums are worth checking out.

Though Michael Steele would leave the band again, their original bass player, Annette Zelenskis, returned for their most recent incarnation. The Bangles never made a bad album, but I still think this one, “All Over The Place”, is the one to beat.

Thank you for joining me on the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. New episodes of this show are released on the 1st and the 15th of every month, so we’ll be back soon. Until then, you can catch up on all our previous episodes on our website,

Let us know what’s on your mind. You can find us on Facebook; just search for the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast.

We are happy to be part of the Pantheon Podcast Network, so be sure to check out some of the other great shows that are part of the Pantheon family. That’s it for this episode. I will see you soon… For now, I leave you with “Tell Me” by the Bangles.

At the time they released their 2nd album in 1978, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers were a struggling band hoping to break through. They had plenty to prove, and there was still a punky edge to their sound– clearly evident on the first single from the album, “I Need To Know”. At a tight two-minute-and-twenty-six-seconds, there’s no fat on this track– just a great song, a taste of the brilliant music to come.

“I Need To Know” (Tom Petty) Copyright 1977 Almo Music Corp (ASCAP)

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


This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, and I’m your host, Brad Page. Each episode here on the Pantheon Podcast Network, we take a song and explore it together, listening to all the elements, the arrangements, the performance and the production that makes it a great song. Musical experience or knowledge is not necessary here, we don’t get into things like music theory. We’re just going to put our ears to work and see or hear what we discover.

All the way back in episode number two of this show, our second episode ever, we listened to Tom Petty and a song from his third album called “Even the Losers”, one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s been over a hundred episodes since then, so I think it’s time we revisit Tom Petty. On this edition of the podcast, we’re taking a deep dive into a song from his second album. This is a song called “I Need To Know”.


Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers worked their way up through the ranks, starting out in Gainesville, FL, eventually landing in Los Angeles with a record deal with Shelter Records. They released their first album in November 1976, and though the album featured the single “Breakdown”, which would become one of Petty’s most iconic songs, at that time, neither the single or the album got much attention at all. Here in 1976, this was a band still struggling to make it, even though they had a record out.

However, things were looking a little brighter over in the UK. They were getting some airplay there, and so the band headed to England for a tour as the opening act for Nils Lofgren. They appeared on Top of the Pops and the old Grey Whistle Test TV shows. Not bad for their first time out. But when they got back to America, they were still nobodies here.

ABC Records, which distributed Shelter, had pretty much given up on the album in the States. It had been out for eight months and it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. They only sold 12,000 copies. But one of ABC’s promotion guys, a guy by the name of John Scott, heard the record and liked it, and figured he could do something with it. He had no budget and not much support from the label, but he believed in this record, in this band and he worked his ass off.

Slowly but surely, “Breakdown” was added to radio playlists across the country.  A year and a half after it was first released– a lifetime ago in the pop music world—“Breakdown” hit the top 40.


Then, the band were thinking about their next album. There’s a cliché, that also happens to be true: that an artist has their whole life to write their first album, and then six months to come up with their second.

Many bands burn through all their best material on their first album, then are immediately thrown out on the road to tour to promote that album, and then sent back into the studio to record their second album.

Not much time to write a bunch of good songs for that record, but for the Heartbreakers, luckily, magically, the songs for the second album came together pretty fast. There were a couple of tunes the band had found time to develop while they were on the road. “I Need To Know” was one of them.

“I Need To Know” was written by Tom Petty. It was released as the first single from the second album, called “You’re Gonna Get It”. The album was produced by Denny Cordell, Noah Shark and Tom Petty, and features Tom Petty on guitar and lead vocals, Stan Lynch on drums, Ron Blair on bass, Benmont Tench on keyboards, and Mike Campbell on lead guitar.

The song begins powerfully with all the instruments coming in at once. There are two guitar parts, I assume one’s played by Tom Petty and one by Mike Campbell. One is panned left, the other panned right.

That is just a great rock and roll guitar tone. Love it. The piano played by Benmont Tench is more or less panned straight up the middle. It’s lower in the mix, but he’s really rocking out here on this intro.

If you’re more familiar with Petty’s later material and that sort of sardonic, laid-back vocal style of his, it’s easy to forget just how in-your-face and punky his vocals used to be. Let’s listen to those vocals.

You can hear there’s some echo on his vocal there. One of my favorite elements of the arrangement of the song is next on the chorus, where the backing vocals repeat the title. After he sings the line, they are reinforcing his feelings and backing him up. It adds to the intensity of the song, increasing that sense of anxiety.

Let’s hear the chorus with the whole band.

Here’s the second verse, and let’s listen into the bass and drums this time around.

There’s a great scream coming up here that leads into the guitar solo. Let’s hear that scream.

And here’s the guitar solo by Mike Campbell. Let’s go back to the chorus one more time, with just the vocals and the keyboards. Because Benmont Tench is playing a really great part. Along with the piano, he’s also overdubbed an organ.

Now also if you listen closely to the last chorus, you can hear they’ve overdubbed a guitar playing these spiky little guitar stabs. They’re very low in the mix at first.

Those guitar stabs are a little more prominent this time.

“I Need To Know” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

“You’re Gonna Get It’, the second album from The Heartbreakers is kind of an overlooked album, coming after their debut album, which also had one of their biggest hits, “Breakdown”, and right before the “Damn The Torpedoes” album, arguably their masterpiece. It’s easy for this record to kind of get lost, but I think it’s a great album.

And we may never have gotten this record, or the great music that followed, if it weren’t for the behind-the-scenes people like John Scott, that promotions guy, who wouldn’t give up on this little rock and roll band.

Nobody makes it on their own. Every artist has people out of the limelight that put their heart and soul into supporting that artist. So, here’s a toast to people like John Scott, the people that no one ever hears about, but without them, we wouldn’t have gotten many of the great songs that we love. And of course, let’s pay tribute to Tom Petty himself, who died too early in 2017. He left behind a legacy of great songs, but I know he still had a lot more great music left in him. It was a huge loss.

Well, thanks as always, for being a part of this edition of the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. Share with us some of your favorite Tom Petty songs or memories. Post them on our Facebook page, or on Podchaser, or wherever it is that you listen to the show.

You can find our previous show on Tom Petty, along with a hundred other episodes on our website,, as well as on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google, Amazon– anywhere you can find podcasts, you’ll find our show.  And don’t forget to follow the show so that you never miss any of our new episodes.

We are but one of many shows in the Pantheon family of podcasts, where you’ll find a wide range of podcasts on musi,c from Bob Dylan to hip hop to heavy metal.

Thanks for listening to this show on Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers “I Need To Know”

Cheap Trick is one of the great American bands. The new book, This Band Has No Past: How Cheap Trick Became Cheap Trick by Brian Kramp details their history from the very beginning up to their breakthrough album, Cheap Trick At Budokan. It’s an incredible story of hard work & dedication. On this edition of the podcast, Brian joins me to discuss 5 songs that reveal how unique and special Cheap Trick was in their early years. If you only know this band from their hits, this episode is a good introduction to what makes Cheap Trick Cheap Trick.

Besides being an author, Brian Kramp is the host of the “Rock And/Or Roll” podcast, one of my all-time favorite podcasts– an absolute must-listen for every music junkie. Check it out.


‘Elo, Kiddies! Welcome to the “I’m in Love With That Song” podcast on the Pantheon Podcast Network. I’m your host, Brad Page Age, and I’ve got something really special lined up for you this time.

Brian Cramp is the host of the “Rock And/Or Roll” Podcast, one of my all-time favorite podcasts. And after a long hiatus, “Rock And/Or Roll” is back with brand new episodes. So I’m very excited about that. But in even bigger news, Brian has a new book out. It’s called “This Band Has No Past – How Cheap Trick Became Cheap Trick”. In this book, he tells the story of one of America’s greatest bands, from their very beginnings right up to their breakthrough album, “Cheap Trick at Budokan”.

The book is exhaustively researched and covers every detail. It was a very entertaining read, so I couldn’t be happier to have Brian join me on this episode to take a look at the early years of Cheap Trick.  For the uninitiated. That’s guitarist and primary songwriter Rick Nielsen, vocalist extraordinaire Robin Zander, the master of the 12-string bass Tom Petersson, and the incredible drummer, Bun E. Carlos.

Brian’s picked five songs as examples of why Cheap Trick is such a great band. And these songs are a great place to start if you’re just getting into Cheap Trick. So, we’re going to talk about these songs, talk about the band, and of course, talk about Brian’s new book. So here’s our conversation about how Cheap Trick became Cheap Trick.


BRAD: Well, Brian Cramp, welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’m a huge fan of the “Rock And/Or Roll” podcast, so I’m really happy to have you on the show. And I’m excited to introduce people to the new book, “This Band Has No Past – How Cheap Trick Became Cheap Trick”. The book will be available September 6, right

BRIAN: As of now, that’s the plan, yeah.

BRAD: September 6, 2022. But people can preorder it now, which I highly encourage people to do right now– go do it right now.

So, to get started, I know the book is, like, over 300 pages, and covers the earliest history of the band in great detail. So I know this is tough to ask, but if you could just give us a broad summary of where Cheap Trick came from and how the band came to be.

BRIAN: Yeah, that’s what the book really gets into. What I found interesting in telling the story is the collision that happened of the baby boom generation, and the British Invasion and the Beatles, and the British Invasion. And that’s exactly where Cheap Trick comes from.

All of them were teenagers, they loved the British Invasion and they all joined bands. So in the mid to late 60’s, all four members of Cheap Trick had their own band. They were all in different bands, but all in the Rockford area.

But the thing is, everybody was in a band. I have a statistic in the book that by 1967, I think it’s two thirds of males under the age of 23 were in a band. I mean, it’s an insane number, but that’s because at that time, what else did they have to do? They barely even had television. But there was nothing else. There were records, instruments… there’s so many distractions for young people these days, but back then, the internet, video games, all of that rolled into one was a guitar and an amp. That’s what they had.

BRAD: Yeah.

BRIAN: And eventually, the book almost becomes kind of like a day-to-day telling of how they formed, how they built this catalog of songs played almost every night of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, even in bars, almost all of them in Illinois and Wisconsin. They made plenty of treks to Michigan, Iowa, Minneapolis, stuff like that, and a few trips outside of that Midwest. But almost everything they did from like ‘73 to through ‘76 was in Illinois and Wisconsin. But it was every night, and just 1 bar after another.

BRAD: Well, one of the things they always say about the Beatles is that they weren’t really that great of a band until they went to Hamburg and played every night for 8 hours a night. And nothing will hone you as a band, both as an individual musician and as a unit, as that kind of level of playing together, and these guys put in that many hours and then some.

It’s interesting how Rick Nielsen, I think is, when you think of 70’s guitar icons, he’s definitely one of those guys that comes to mind. But he started his career as a keyboard player.

BRIAN: Yeah, well, he played guitar before that. He would go back and forth in the early versions of his band, The Grim Reapers. The Grim Reapers and Toast And Jam kind of merged at one point, when they decided they wanted to write their own songs. And there was this guitar player named Craig Myers, who everybody I’ve talked to says he was just a genius, a virtuoso. So, yeah, Rick kind of became the keyboard player. He would play guitar once in a while, but like on the record. Yeah, they made one record for Epic, and he played guitar on the album

BRAD: The Fuse album, right?

BRIAN: Yeah, they were called the Grim Reapers and the record label made them change their name. So, Rick had this band, the Grim Reapers, going back to 1965, but when they joined forces with the guys from Toast And Jam, it was a completely different band. But they still used the Grim Reapers name, just because that was the name with the most notoriety for getting bookings. It was a completely different band called The Grim Reapers, basically.

BRAD: And the Grim Reapers have a connection to Otis Redding and the infamous plane crash, right?

BRIAN: Yeah, they were the opening band for that show. And also, it’s important to mention Ken Adamany, who became Cheap Trick’s manager and was a huge part of writing this book, a lot of my information comes from him and I mean, he’s become a friend. He told me he considers me a friend, which was insane. Yeah, Ken Adamany owned the club, The Factory, where Otis was supposed to be playing. And Ken Adamany was booking bands since the late 50’s. He had his own band called The Night Trains, which is interesting, because he eventually ended up playing with Steve Miller and Boz Skaggs, who were going to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. And Ken kind of went from playing in his own band to eventually just becoming a guy who booked concerts and promoted concerts. And then he started managing some of his bands, and eventually his entire career became Cheap Trick for a while, pretty much. But, yeah, he owned The Factory, booked Otis Redding; The Grim Reapers, yeah, they were supposed to open. This was not the band that I was just talking about with Craig Myers and Tom Peterson, this was the earlier version of the Grim Reapers. So, the only guy from Cheap Trick in that band was Rick Nielsen. But, yeah, they were supposed to open, and then Otis’s plane crashed into Lake Minona, which is really just 5, 10-minute drive from where I am right now. Yeah.

BRAD: All right, so I had asked you to pick five songs that would kind of be like a primer for the first period of Cheap Trick. And so, let’s dig into some of those songs. The first one that  you wanted to talk about was a song called “Downed”.


BRIAN: It’s hard to know when Rick wrote this song. It’s about a period when he thought about moving to Australia in, like, 1971.

BRAD: Yeah, that’s like one of the first lines of the song, right?  He references in Australia.

BRIAN: Yeah.  There’s even a newspaper article when the second version of Fuse that had Stewkey and Tom Mooney from Nazz in the band, when that band broke up, the newspaper said that all the guys were going to different places; Rick is going to Australia, Tom Peterson was going to Germany, Tom Mooney back to California, and Stewkey to Texas. That’s what it said in this newspaper article. And Rick has explained later that one of the reasons he didn’t go was because he couldn’t bring his dog [laughs].


BRIAN: I’ve seen him kind of imply, too, that he wrote this song at that time. But the thing is, this song was never played with Sick Man of Europe, the band that he had in ‘71 to ’73, and it was never played in the earliest years of Cheap Trick. So, it’s weird if he would have had this song and then they never played it, so I’m not sure when it, but it is one of the earliest Cheap Trick songs.

BRAD: Well, that’s interesting, too, that it’s one of their earliest songs, but it’s not on their first record. It’s on the second album.

BRIAN: Yeah, most of the songs on the second album they had for the first album, including “I Want You To Want Me”.

BRAD: Me which is so incredible, because the classic thing that everybody says about bands, they have a lifetime to accumulate the songs on their first album and then after that, they’re kind of spent. The sophomore slump and all of that. But here’s a band that had such an incredible catalog of songs that they were able to draw on that for not just their second album, but their third, and even beyond that, which is pretty incredible.

BRIAN: Well, Jack Douglas picked about 20 songs for them to record during the sessions for their first album. And three of those songs were “I Want You To Want Me”, “Surrender” and “Dream Police”.  And then none of them were on the album.

BRAD: Well, “Downed”, the intro of the song is great. It’s this descending melody, really strong melody, reminiscent of, like, “Dear Prudence”, but there’s a million songs that do that. It’s got the Cheap Trick patented harmony vocals in there, and then it kicks in with that really heavy riff. And to me, it just encapsulates everything that’s great about the Cheap Trick sound in that one song. You’ve got it all: you get the melody, you got the heaviness, it’s all there. It’s just a super strong track.

BRIAN: Yeah, it really is. It’s a brilliant piece of work.


BRAD: The second song that you picked is a song that brings us back to that first album, which there’s some history to this song, “The Ballad of TV Violence”. Why don’t you tell us the story of this track?


BRIAN: Yeah, this is another one. One of the earliest Cheap Trick songs, definitely one of like the first ten. This song, I think, is a perfect example of what was so different about Cheap Trick. If you picture a song like this in 1975, if you really listen to the song, and then ask yourself , “who the hell would write this?”  It’s a very different song. It’s a very unique, brilliant song, I think, but it’s really odd in a lot of ways, because the song is about Richard Speck, a mass murderer, and you’ve got Robin Zander kind of playing that role. By the end, he’s just screaming. Just screaming like a maniac.


BRIAN: It’s an insane song. I mean, there’s a concert they played, on Mother’s Day in a park in Rockford in 1975. And they play this song. And you’re just thinking, “This song is insane. And they’re playing it to a bunch of families in the park.” There’s an article in the newspaper about all the families out for this nice spring day. It’s Mother’s Day. And then the band is playing this song

BRAD: This song about a mass murderer. And the original title of the song was “The Ballad of Richard Speck” or something, right?

BRIAN: Yeah. Richard Speck was a spree killer in Chicago, in I think the late 50’s that happened.

BRAD: Yeah. He murdered a bunch of nurses, right?

BRIAN: Yeah. I think he murdered eight young women just in one night. This insane crime. Yeah.

BRAD: It’s a horrific story.

Speaker C: Yes. And since it was in Chicago, it was virtually like a local event for Cheap Trick, you know?

BRAD: So “The Ballad of TV Violence”, it’s got a great stomping riff to it. I love how the guitar kind of follows the vocal. It’s like you said, Robin is just shredding his voice at the end of the song. I imagine this must have been the last session of the day, because I can’t imagine going back and singing anything else after he finishes this take. It’s intense.


BRAD: Well, another song off the first record that you picked is a song called “He’s A Whore”. What’s the story behind this one?

BRIAN: This song came after the last two songs we talked about, at least by a little bit, but they had it by ‘75. And I mean, this is kind of the quintessential Cheap Trick song, really, especially the early version of Cheap Trick. And you think about a song like this in 1975, it’s almost a punk song. It’s just a perfect example of how unique and original Rick Nielsen’s songwriting was at the time. Rick Nielsen’s songwriting is probably more influential than we even realize. You know, the bands like Kiss and even Cheap Trick, a lot of the people they influenced are not considered, by elitist or pretentious people or whatever, they’re not considered top-tier bands, or important bands, or whatever. But if you look at all these people that started bands in the ‘80’s and even the ‘90’s, tons of them were influenced by Cheap Trick. And Rick Nielsen was, his songwriting style was very individual and unique. The way he played guitar and the way he wrote songs, he really developed his own style. And I think this song is a perfect example. Nobody else would have written this song.


BRIAN: I think it’s just a brilliant song. But it’s so Cheap Trick. It really kind of sums it up about what was unique and special about the early years of Cheap Trick, I think.

BRAD: Yeah, it’s a classic Robin Zander vocal. And, I mean, he still sounds like that today, which is incredible. Then you’ve got Rick’s backing vocals, which are again, it’s a trademark Cheap Trick sound, those backing vocals that he does.


BRAD: The song clocks in at 2 minutes and 43 seconds. I mean, there’s not a second wasted in this song. And that’s, that’s a Cheap Trick thing, too. I mean, all of these songs we’re talking about today, but just in general, their songs are always tight. You know, “Downed” is just over four minutes; “Ballad Of TV Violence” clocks in at over five minutes. But that’s about as long as a Cheap Trick song ever really gets.


BRIAN: And a really interesting thing I have in the book is, Ken Adamany had told me a story about how Rick Nielsen, when he would write some lyrics, he would call Ken Adamany’s office, he was the manager of Cheap Trick, and he would dictate the lyrics over the phone to Ken’s secretary, who would take them down in shorthand and then she would type them up. So, then Rick had his lyrics typed, you know, and so Ken Adamany still has this piece of yellow paper from a legal pad, says “He’s A Whore” at the top, and then it’s a bunch of shorthand symbols. And the picture of that is in the book. It’s pretty amazing.

BRAD: Shorthand. Talk about a lost art, right?

BRIAN: It’s hilarious, too, because it’s all these shorthand symbols and you get town towards the bottom and you just see the word “gigolo”, because there’s no shorthand symbol for ‘gigolo”.

BRAD: That’s great. All right, so the fourth track on your list jumps ahead to the third album, a song called “Auf Wiedersehen”. It’s the first song we’ve talked about that wasn’t entirely written by Rick Nielsen; this one, Rick and bass player Tom Petersson share writing credit. But what’s the history of “Auf Wiedersehen”?

BRIAN: Well, they had it for the first album. They had this song, was written in ‘76. It seems like the original title of it was “Kamikaze”. There’s at least one article where the author refers to it as that. That might have been the original title. But again, this is a perfect example of how unique and interesting Rick Neilsen’s songwriting was, especially for the time; it’s another song that’s completely insane. I do a podcast with Ken Mills called “Cheap Talk” where Ken has laughed multiple times on the podcast about when I brought up the concept of you go see Cheap Trick at like a state fair, and by the end of the show, Rob Zander is just screaming suicide over and over at the top of his lungs. It’s a perfect example of early Cheap Trick and how out there it was. But also, it’s a great song. It’s such a cool song, the riffs are amazing.


BRAD: Yeah, you’re right, it’s a great riff. Great riff. It’s another pretty tight song, this one’s 3 minutes and 41 seconds long. You can clearly hear Tom Petersson’s 12-string bass at the beginning of it, which is kind of another element of their sound. Not that many people are playing– still today, not that many people play the 12-string bass. Kind of an integral part of their sound in a lot of ways. And Robin’s voice, this is his classic punky voice.


BRAD: In your book, you point out what a great mimic Robin was as just as a singer. He really is a guy who could sing anything.

BRIAN: Yeah. And it’s interesting, because when Robin first joined Cheap Trick, when he was like, 20, 21 years old, I don’t think he knew exactly what he was capable of. And I think he learned as he went. He mostly sang, like, folk music, and he was playing for years. He would play Neil Young. Bee Gees, early Bee Gees, Crosby Stills and Nash, he was doing a lot of stuff.

BRAD: Yeah, he was mostly performing as a duo with another guitar player, right? They were primarily acoustic kind of stuff.

BRIAN: Right. Yeah, he did that for years. And he had never really been in a rock band. He had a couple of flirtations with it. But if you hear the really earliest recordings that are available of Robin with Cheap Trick, you can tell that he really developed his vocals, and I think actually learned what he was capable of. You know, eventually Rick Nielsen just starts using Robin’s voice as another instrument. That’s another facet of Rick Nielsen’s songwriting is, he only could write some of the songs he wrote because he knew Robin could sing it.

BRAD: Yeah, there’s so many influences in there. You mentioned it right at the top that all of these guys were big fans of The Beatles and the British Invasion. So, you’ve got The Beatles influence and The Who and all of that. But there’s just elements of everything in his songwriting, and the fact that he had a singer who could pull off whatever he gave him, like whether it was a Beatles pop melody or just an all-out screamer, or something that had that kind of punky edge to it. He could write whatever he wanted and Robin could sing it.

BRIAN: Yep. Yeah, that was very important because it gave Rick Nielsen the freedom to just kind of go wild with his songwriting and run the gamut, from nice and sweet and syrupy to completely over the top insane screaming at the top of your lungs.

BRAD: And that brings us to the last song that you had on your list, which is “On Top of the World”, which is one of my favorite Cheap Trick songs. It’s got everything. It’s got that Peter Gunn style guitar riff at the top. Then it goes into that brilliant chorus that is super catchy. The verses have these very… it’s not a three-chord blues type of riff, there’s a lot of chords in there. It’s very kind of Beatlesque. There’s the piano in there, I assume that’s Rick playing the piano on the track? And then at the end, you have almost this ELO-style, Beatlesque bit at the end. I mean, once again, all the elements of what make Cheap Trick great are in this track.


BRIAN: So this is the only song I picked that they didn’t have in the early years. This is one that was actually written probably right before “Heaven Tonight”. They had never even played this song live before they recorded the album. But to me, this is one of the most incredible songs of all time, by anyone. And I think it’s really a quintessential example of exactly how brilliant Rick Nielsen was and exactly how great this band was. The arrangement of this song is stunning. I don’t know how anyone could not be impressed by a song like this. This is one of the best examples, I think, of the capabilities of Rick and the band. It’s an amazing, incredible song.


BRIAN: The arrangement and the melodies and the instrumentation and the musicians playing it, everything about it is pretty stunning. Yeah, I thought it was a good way to round it out and maybe the best example, just in terms of songwriting and arrangement, it’s one of the best examples you’re going to find of the brilliance of Rick and Cheap Trick.

BRAD: Yeah, and I think it points in the direction that the band would follow. You’ve got a guy who can write a song like this and of course, a guy who can sing it, but also a band who can execute on all these different parts and changes. It’s kind of like a little mini tour de force of what makes Cheap Trick such a great and unique band. It’s, it’s a great song.


BRIAN: Yeah, exactly. Both Jack Douglas and Tom Werman, who have worked with a lot of bands, both basically say Cheap Trick are the favorite band they ever worked with, the best band they ever worked with, the tightest band. They took the least amount of time in the studio. They would just hammer everything out, play it perfectly, because they had been doing it for so long by that point. And they were at the top of their game. But also, they were very creative and unique. Rick Nielsen always injects an element of kind of sloppiness or just wackiness into everything, which I think in some ways, is one of the reasons, maybe, that people don’t realize quite how talented and skilled he was, because he never took himself seriously and never really let anybody else take him seriously, either.

BRAD: Right.

BRIAN: But if you look past that, a song like this makes it so obvious how talented they were.

BRAD: So the book is called “This Band Has No Past”. Obviously, you’ve got to love a band to devote that much time and energy into writing a book about them like this. How did you first get into Cheap Trick?

BRIAN: Well, they were always around when I was growing up. But when I was a kid, everything for me was about heavy metal. So, I knew Cheap Trick, I had a couple of their records ‘cause I would buy records at my local record store for a buck. And so, in my first, like, 50 records I had, I had “In Color” and “Dream Police” in there or something. But they were not one of my favorite bands when I was growing up, it wasn’t until I got to college and it was really the revelation of the first album, which I had no idea about until I was in college and started just collecting records like a maniac. And when I heard the first Cheap Trick album, that was kind of the realization of, wait a minute, this is the same band? That album probably my favorite album of all time. It’s very different from anything else in Cheap Trick’s catalog. And it blew me away at the time. And then I got “One On One”, it’s another of my favorite Cheap Trick albums that I just had no idea about when I was growing up. Once I started getting their entire catalog, and learning more about them, they just became my favorite when I was in college. Of course, Kiss was my favorite band growing up.

BRAD: Yeah, me too.

BRIAN: That’s another thing: I went to college in Madison, where Cheap Trick were complete legends. That was like their home away from home. They were from Rockford, but Madison was where Ken Adamany, their manager, was based. They had a huge fan base there. I don’t know, it just went from there. But yeah, I became kind of obsessed.

BRAD: And what inspired you to write the book?

BRIAN: When I started the podcast– which was one of the smartest things I ever did– I met a lot of people; one of my earliest episodes, I had Greg Renoff on, and this is when he was just working on “Van Halen Rising”. I guess that was part of my inspiration. My original idea was to pitch a “33 1/3” book about the first album; that’s that I first started working on. And I started interviewing people, including some people from the record label. And then I talked to this guy named Jim Charney, who was part of signing the band to Epic, worked for Epic at the time. Turns out Jim Charney had been friends with Ken Adamany since the late ‘60’s. And he’s like, “I could put you in touch with Ken”. And for me, Ken Adamany was like this mythic figure. You know, anybody who was a fan of Cheap Thick just knows about Ken Adamany. But by the time I became a fan, that was kind of around the time they broke ties with Ken. So, Jim Charney puts me in touch with Ken Adamany, and then Ken Adamany gets involved. And that’s when I started to realize that might I have to expand the scope of this thing. And then I was supposed to go meet with Ken, and when the meeting finally happened, he got Bun E. Carlos to come. So, then I had this, like, three-and-a-half hour meeting with Ken Adamany and Bun E. Carlos, and it’s like “OK, OK… Now this is really turning into something.” So, this has been like five years in the making.

BRAD: What were the biggest things you learned writing the book?

BRIAN: I guess I learned that with a project like this, there’s a long period of time where you might not, would never even say it out loud or admit it to someone, but you’re not sure you can actually accomplish what you’re trying to accomplish. And at some point you get over the hump and then it’s a downward slope. And that’s an amazing moment when you realize, “I actually am going to pull this off. I actually can do this.” It’s an insane process to get from a blank page to a 400-page book. So I guess one lesson is, you can do it. I wasn’t anybody, but I just tried. So, if you want to do something like this and you think that you can do it, even if you feel like nobody else thinks you can, there’s no harm in trying, so…

BRAD: Well, we mentioned a few times throughout this episode, you host a podcast called “Rock And/O Roll”, you’ve been doing it for years and that’s how you and I first connected. And you’ve recently relaunched the podcast, which I am totally psyched about. So, just drop a few hints or tidbits about what you’ve got coming up on your podcast.

BRIAN: Well, I. Have a whole bunch of interviews in the can with guys from the history of power pop from the 70’s & 80’s, that’s one thing that’s coming up, and probably a series about Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’s con-man grifter manager. And then episodes here and there that’ll be similar to what I used to do.

BRAD: That’s awesome. I’m particularly looking forward to those power pop interviews, that’ll be great. I said it before, and I will never stop giving you credit for it, it was you and a handful of shows like yours that inspired me to start this podcast. This show would not have ever existed without you, so I thank you so much for that. And I thank you so much for coming on the show today. Brian Cramp, the podcast is “Rock And/Or Roll”. It’s available again on your favorite podcast service. The book is called “This Band Has No Past – How Cheap Trick Became Cheap Trick” It’ll be available September 6, 2022, published by Jawbone Press, right? That’s the publisher?

BRIAN: Yeah, they’re a publisher out of the UK. Do you have their Todd Rundgren book?

BRAD: Mm-hmm.

BRIAN: I figured.

BRAD: Yep. Yep. Yeah. So, Jawbone Press. You can order it from Amazon today. You can get it from your local bookstore. Brian, so good to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

BRIAN: All right, thanks, Brad.

BRAD: And thanks to everyone for listening to this episode on Cheap Trick. They’re an amazing band with a really rich, deep catalog. I hope this episode gave you a taste of what the band has to offer and inspires you to check out more of their records. You’ll be glad you did.

Brian’s podcast “Rock And/Or Roll” is part of the Pantheon Podcast Network, right alongside this show and dozens of other music related shows. So please check out “Rock And/Or Roll” and some of the other shows on the Pantheon Network of podcasts.

The “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast will be back in a couple of weeks with a brand new episode, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, follow us on Facebook and check out our previous episodes on our website,, as well as anywhere you can find podcasts.

Thanks again for listening to this episode on Cheap Trick. Farewell, sayonara, auf wiedersehen, so long.

Todd Rundgren never became a household name, but he has legions of fans around the world. I’m one of ’em. What has always drawn me to Todd, then and now, is not just his way with a tune and a willingness to do anything musically– it’s his search for something deeper, more meaningful, than your typical pop song. This is a prime example of melding melody and message, producing pop with purpose. What does it mean to be a “real man”? Todd answered that question in 1975.

“Real Man” (Todd Rundgren) Copyright 1975 Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp and Humanoid Music

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