features 2019

Instrumental: Wah-Wah Pedal

Wah-Wah It's time for the next installment of our Instrumental series, where we trace the history of an iconic piece of musical gear. Next up: the wah-wah pedal. The wah has a distinctive sound that became a building block for psychedelic rock, funk, and even reggae – but its creation back in the mid 1960s was the product of a technological glitch. Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange join us to break down the history of the wah and unpack the science behind the pedal and demonstrate what it adds sonically to iconic riffs.

Jim and Greg explore how legendary musicians from Eric Clapton and Earl Hooker to Melvin“Wah-Wah”Ragin and Mikey Chung used the pedal. They ultimately note that, despite getting a bad rap for being gimmicky, the wah-wah pedal plays a critical role in a number of genres of music.

Go to episode 711

Rickebacker 12-String Guitar

rick

An instrument that is featured prominently in a number of '60s hits by bands like The Beatles and The Byrds, is the Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar. After the acoustic 12-string guitar was popularized by blues artists like Lead Belly and by the '60s folk revival, Rickenbacker began making an electrified version. After George Harrison used it on The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night," a 12-string craze began. The most notable adopter of the instrument was Jim (later Roger) McGuinn, who used it to define the sound of The Byrds on tracks like "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" The Beatles and The Byrds set the template for countless bands in the ensuing decades who used 12-strings, from power pop acts like Raspberries and Big Star, to jangle pop bands like R.E.M. and The Bangles, to contemporary artists like Temples.

To help discuss and demonstrate the Rickenbacker electric 12-string, we're joined by Daniel Escauriza and Shelby Pollard of Chicago Music Exchange. Jim and Greg also offer their favorite examples of Rick-heavy songs: "Awaken" by Yes and XTC's "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)."

Go to episode 710

Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators

roky Roky Erickson was a psychedelic pioneer who kept bouncing back to music despite many tragic challenges throughout his life. With The 13th Floor Elevators he helped spread drug-assisted enlightenment in one of the least accepting places in America: 1960s Texas. After their single "You're Gonna Miss Me" became a national hit, The Elevators appeared on American Bandstand and amassed a significant following, largely on the strength of Erickson's vocals. Combining elements of Little Richard, James Brown and Buddy Holly, Greg says Erickson had a punk rock approach to music as early as 1965.

With a larger audience came closer scrutiny, especially from Texas law enforcement. Roky was busted for drug possession twice in the late 60s and plead insanity to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Over his four year stay in Rusk State Hospital, Erickson battled schizophrenia and underwent electroconvulsive therapy. By the mid-70s Erickson was out of the institution and returned with darker music exploring paranormal and horror movie themes.

After another run-in with the law (this time for mail theft), long-time Elevators fan turned music publicist, Bill Bentley, organized a fundraising tribute album: Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye. From that album's release in 1990 until his death last month, the music community of Austin, Texas (including Okkervil River, Butthole Surfers and ZZ Top) shared the duty of supporting Erickson with his family, helping him thrive as a musician until the end.

Go to episode 707

Paisley Underground

bangles

Led by the four crucial bands The Bangles, The Dream Syndicate, The Three O'Clock and Rain Parade, the Paisley Underground was all about re-interpreting the bright, psychedelic music of '60s acts like The Beatles and The Byrds and blending it with the attitude of the '80s. They used droning guitars, grounded drumming and far out, but sometimes dark, lyrics to make an impact on indie rock forever. Even the inimitable Prince was smitten, naming his own estate and record label "Paisley Park," working with the Bangles and signing The Three O'Clock! Jim and Greg discuss the rise and fall of the Paisley Underground and share where its influence is seen today in music. They also talk about the 2019 collaborative album, 3x4, on which the bands cover each others' songs decades later.

Go to episode 703

The Shangri-Las - "Leader of the Pack"

leader 2019 marks the 55th anniversary of the song "Leader of the Pack" by The Shangri-Las. For one week in 1964, The Shangri-Las sat atop the Billboard Hot 100, in front of legendary groups like The Supremes, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Beach Boys. While it only stayed on the Hot 100 for 12 weeks, the track's impact has extended far beyond 1964. Sound Opinions producer Alex Claiborne talks with writer Ada Wolin about her book Golden Hits of the Shangri-Las and about the group's lasting impact on music and pop culture, as well as their influence over notable punk acts like Blondie and The New York Dolls.

Go to episode 703

Hooked On Sonics: Emily King

Emily King Both Greg and Jim applauded Emily King's latest album, Scenery, which moves deftly between pop, soul, funk, gospel and even a bit of rock. For our occasional series Hooked On Sonics, Emily tells us about the seemingly disparate threads that helped to shape her music, and the song that got her Hooked on Sonics: "Castles Made of Sand" by Jimi Hendrix.

Go to episode 700

Hooked On Sonics: Pedro The Lion's David Bazan

David Bazan Pedro The Lion released their fifth album, Phoenix, earlier this year. It's the first Pedro The Lion album in 15 years, though the band's only constant member, David Bazan, released five solo albums in that time. Bazan is a guy who grew up deep in the evangelical Christian subculture, and many of his songs are scathing critiques of that culture. That plus his father's work as a music pastor led to Bazan getting "Hooked On Sonics" by the instrumental "Axel F" from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack.

Go to episode 697

Hooked On Sonics: Nothing

Nothing "It has been stuck with me forever" is how Domenic Palermo, founder of the band Nothing, thinks of the track "Plainsong" from the Cure. Palermo talked with Sound Opinions about“Plainsong”for our series Hooked on Sonics where we talk with an artist about the song that got them interested in music. Palermo says he was first introduced to the song by his mom when he was about 10, but it wasn't until later in life that the lyrics truly spoke to him.

Go to episode 689