Results for The Beatles

interviews

Mark Lewisohn

January 10 marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles stateside debut, Introducing the Beatles! This was 10 days before Meet the Beatles!, but whether you were introduced to these lads from Liverpool or you met them, you were hit with a thunderbolt—one that has continued to electrify decades after. So what were these four like before they were fab? Who were John, Paul, Ringo and George as young men, performing in skiffle groups like the Quarrymen and jet setting to Hamburg with Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best? To get insight into these early days, leading up to Beatlemania and their smash debut, we turn to leading Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn. He worked with the band on The Beatles Anthology and now has a new book out called The Beatles All These Years, Volume 1: Tune In. In its 800 pages, Lewisohn reveals who had the biggest row with Stu (Paul), who had the biggest appetite for prellies (John), and most important, who was the biggest stud (Ringo). He also sheds light on John's complicated relationship with women and why The Beatles were so ahead of its time, even in 1962.

Go to episode 425

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Yoko Ono

This week Jim and Greg welcome music legend Yoko Ono. While many know her simply as John Lennon's widow, Yoko is also an accomplished artist in her own right. Since coming into the spotlight, Yoko has often been reviled her for her radical views and radical music (and for "breaking up the greatest pop group in the world"), but she recently found a new role as a heroine in the indie rock underground. A new generation of musicians who didn't grow up with the same kind of reverence for The Beatles have claimed Yoko as their own. This was especially evident at the Pitchfork Music Festival, where she headlined Saturday's show. Yoko not only played to an audience of thousands people — young and old — but she invited Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Cat Power's Chan Marshall on stage with her to perform.

Recently Yoko has been busy working on some new albums. The first is Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, which features two discs of artists covering songs by John Lennon. She's also released a couple of disc of her own work. Yes, I'm a Witch is a collection of remixes of Yoko's songs by artists such as Peaches, Le Tigre and The Flaming Lips. This was followed by Open Your Box, a collection of dance remixes. The title is a testament to the artist's strong will. It stems from her song "I'm a Witch," which she was reluctant to officially release when she penned it years ago. She explains to Jim and Greg that it wasn‘t as acceptable at the time to come out with such strong lyrics. But, it’s much easier in 2007 to proclaim yourself a bitch.

John and Yoko both influenced each other's music greatly. Greg explains that Yoko's collaboration with her husband brought out the“beast”in him as a guitar player But, Greg wanted to know what Yoko first thought of John's“simple”pop songs considering how avant-garde her compositions were. Yoko explains that she actually found that approach quite refreshing. He helped her to understand how beautiful even the most simple, fun songs can be.

It would be unfair to categorize Yoko strictly as avant-garde. In addition to influencing John's undoubtedly mainstream music, she's also influenced contemporary bands like Cibo Matto and Deerhoof. Jim and Greg talk to the artist about hearing elements of the song "Why" in The B52s' pop hit "Rock Lobster." Yoko explains that she never looked at this as any kind of vindication, but that John actually found great joy in hearing "Rock Lobster" for the first time.

Go to episode 86

Donovan

This week Jim and Greg talk with legendary '60s singer/songwriter Donovan. In honor of his 40th anniversary in the music business, Donovan has written an autobiography, released a box set, and set out on tour. A contemporary of Bob Dylan and The Beatles, Donovan was acclaimed for his finger-picking style, which he garnered from The Carter Family and demonstrates for our hosts.

Jim and Greg also want to know about the sex, drugs, and rock and roll in Donovan's life. Specifically, they discuss his experience being busted for drugs in 1966. His arresting officer, Sgt. Pilcher, later targeted fellow British rockers Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones and John Lennon.

Another part of the Donovan mythology involves the origin of his song "Mellow Yellow." As Jim points out, many people believe that Donovan was alluding to the ability to get high by smoking banana peels. While Donovan does not refute this idea, which was tried out by Country Joe McDonald, he also admits that part of the song's imagery was taken from a“marital device”he saw advertised in a magazine. In his book, Donovan also suggests that Andy Warhol may have been inspired by the "electrical banana."

Jim and Greg also ask Donovan about covers of his songs. They play for him the Butthole Surfers' rendition of "Hurdy Gurdy Man." Other notable covers include Hüsker Dü's "Sunshine Superman," Eartha Kitt's "Hurdy Gurdy Man," and My Morning Jacket's "Wear Your Love Like Heaven."

Go to episode 7

Hal Blaine of The Wrecking Crew

halblainealbum Hal Blaine may not be a household name, but if rock ‘n’ roll is all about the beat, then the 86-year-old drummer is arguably one of the biggest rock stars alive. It's his stamp you hear on some of the biggest records of the 1960's and early '70s. He recorded with Elvis, The Mamas and the Papas, Sam Cooke, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters, Jan and Dean and even Barbra Streisand. That's 38 chart-toppers to be exact, and over 5,000 songs. So if we're comparing successful outputs, that really makes his only rival The Beatles!

Of course the idea of a session musician is something we're familiar with today, but many listeners can probably still remember their own revelation that their favorite acts might not have played their own songs. You expect that of The Monkees, but The Beach Boys? The Byrds? Many of their songs were actually recorded by Hal Blaine and The Wrecking Crew – a loose organization of California studio players whose members included Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer and more. There was an unspoken pact to keep their hit-making machine a secret, but as time has gone on, they've gotten their due. Hal Blaine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and last month saw the release of The Wrecking Crew, a new documentary directed by Denny Tedesco, son of crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco.

Go to episode 488

Lawrence Lessig

Next up, Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This album received a lot of critical praise in 2004 (it even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists). It's a completely modern work that could not be made without recent digital technologies. The rub? It cannot be purchased anywhere, and most people who have heard it don't own a hard copy. This is because according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art, and how music in the digital age is changing, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century, protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place, but these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry — so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling — but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

Digital copyright laws also affect the consumer. In fact, Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows listeners to take part in the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. While our guest doesn't condone illegal behavior, he hopes to see existing laws change, rather than prosecute fans who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label, he says, he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. Lessig would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him, backing away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 12

Lawrence Lessig

Next up Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This was an album that received a lot of critical praise and attention. It even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists. It is a completely modern work that could not have been made without recent digital technologies. The rub here is that it could not be purchased anywhere, and many people who heard it don't even own a hard copy. This is because, according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art and how music in the digital age has changed in other ways, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place; however these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry, so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling, but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

To demonstrate this point, Jim and Greg discuss the evolution of one song in the 20th century. Whether it was called“To the Pines,”"In the Pines," or even“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,”musicians like Leadbelly and Nirvana would quote and reference each other, essentially engaging in a dialogue and helping to inspire one another. This kind of songwriting and recording is the definition of a musical community and has been around since music itself. The sad truth is that such a community can't legally exist today. Listen to the songs that may have been lost had this been the case before the digital age:

  • Bill Monroe - "In the Pines," recorded between 1936-1941
  • Leadbelly - "In the Pines," 1947
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford - "To the Pines, To the Pines," 1949
  • Joan Baez - "In the Pines," recorded between 1960 - 1963
  • The Grateful Dead - "In the Mines," 1966
  • Nirvana - "Where did you Sleep Last Night," 1994
  • Rancho Deluxe - "In The Pines," 2005
  • Smog - "In The Pines," 2005

Other versions include:

  • Clifford Jordan - "Black Girl," These Are My Roots, 1965
  • Mark Lanegan - "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," The Winding Sheet, 1990
  • Dolly Parton - "In the Pines," Heartsong, 1994
  • Louvin Brothers -“In the Pines,”Tragic Songs of Life, 1956
  • Youth Gone Mad feat. Dee Dee Ramone - "In the Pines," Youth Gone Mad, 2002

Digital copyright laws affect the consumer as well. In fact, Professor Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, music fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows the listener to be a part of the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. Our guest does not condone illegal behavior, but strives to change existing laws rather than prosecute people who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. He would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him and back away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 134

Cheap Trick

35 years ago some boys from Rockford, IL headed over to Japan to play some shows. Since they didn't have much fame in the U.S., they never expected to be mobbed by 5,000 fans at the airport, a la The Beatles. But, now, of course, Cheap Trick is a household name in its own country. The live recording At Budokan went on to sell over 3 million copies. Cheap Trick members Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and Nielsen's son Daxx (sitting in for Bun E. Carlos on drums) give us live At Budokan live on Sound Opinions and talk about the decision to travel overseas, meeting idols like Fats Domino and why they are the band that will steal your guitar, but never your girlfriend.

Go to episode 407
specials

1967

Not to make you feel old, but it's been 45 years since the "Summer of Love," the year of the hippie, and some of the most influential music in rock history. So Jim and Greg have decided to look back at the watershed year 1967. Television viewers were treated to memorable performances by The Who, The Doors and The Rolling Stones. Aretha Franklin recorded her famous Atlantic release "Respect." Fans from around the country gathered in California for the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. But during this episode Jim and Greg focus on the single LP's that changed the way people thought of the studio and a collection of songs. 1967 gave birth to the idea of album as art.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band is, of course, the most prominent example of studio innovation on album in '67. Recorded at Abbey Road by George Martin on mono, stereo and four-track recorders, Sgt. Pepper's was a critical and commercial success. But, as they stated during our Revolver Classic Album Dissection, Jim and Greg don‘t think it’s The Beatles‘ best. Nor is it the best album of that year. They’d point people to the landmark recordings The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd, Forever Changes by Love and The Velvet Underground and Nico by The Velvet Underground. Jim and Greg talk about these albums' innovations in terms of recording and artistic ambition. They also hear from Joe Boyd, who produced Pink Floyd's first single in 1967 and Jac Holzman, who discovered Love and signed them to Elektra.

Go to episode 323

The Compact Disc

Rock Doctors

Thirty years ago this month, the team from Phillips developed the technology behind Compact Discs. Since the pressing of the first CD, the music industry has become completely revolutionized. By 1999 CDs brought in 15 billion dollars to record labels. But, that same technology has also lead to the industry's downfall.

To honor, and mourn, the CD in its old age, Jim and Greg each play a song that illustrates what the shiny disc has meant to them. Jim plays a song from the first album he purchased on CD, The Beatles' Revolver. Previously "And Your Bird Can Sing" was only available on the UK release, but after the advent of CDs, Jim was able to have it in the US.

Greg chooses to play "Get It Together," from the James Brown box set Star Time. For him the CD era was an opportunity to get access to music you might not otherwise hear. The labels were curating their back catalog with box sets of early Elvis or Robert Johnson.“Get It Together”was a track Greg searched for for years, and thanks to CDs, he got to hear it again.

Go to episode 172

Songs About Money

This week on Sound Opinions, Jim and Greg play their favorite songs about money. It's a show honoring public radio's favorite season—the spring pledge drive.

Go to episode 17

Desert Island Jukebox

All year long, Jim and Greg take turns dropping coins in the Desert Island Jukebox, talking about songs and albums they‘d need with them if stranded on an island. But now, at the year’s end, they're gonna take a break and let some of their favorite past guests do the heavy lifting. Hear what music they can't live without:

  • Lindsey Buckingham: The Beatles, Revolver
  • Trombone Shorty: Louis Armstrong, "On the Sunny Side of the Street"
  • Fred Armisen: Stereolab, "Cybele's Reverie"
  • Trey Parker: Elton John, "Indian Sunset" and Live in Australia with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
  • Matt Stone: James Brown, "There Was a Time"
  • Peter Hook: Nico, "Chelsea Girl"
  • Kelis: Rhye, "Open"
  • Robert Plant: Low, The Great Destroyer
  • Kerry King of Slayer: Ozzy Ozbourne, Blizzard of Oz
  • Dave Lombardo of Slayer: Amy Winehouse, Back to Black

Plus, check out our 2009 Desert Island Jukebox Special.

Go to episode 474

Holiday Spectacular 2009

The Cassette Years: Part 2

Go to episode 212

The Elephant 6 Collective

The recent death of Olivia Tremor Control co-founder Bill Doss has Jim and Greg thinking about the legacy of the musical collective he was a part of: The Elephant 6 Recording Company. This week, they revisit their conversation about Elephant 6 with the collective's chief producer, Robert Schneider. For those new to this crazy universe, Elephant 6 was a label started by childhood friends from Ruston, Louisiana. The bands that came out of this group of music-lovers included some of the most beloved of the indie rock nineties: Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. Schneider was the chief songwriter, producer, and lead singer of Apples in Stereo. He explains how he and his friends first heard the psychedelic pop of the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd hanging around Ruston's college radio station as kids. The collective's most important albums, among them The Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle and Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, bear the sonic mark of those early listening sessions.

Greg calls The Olivia Tremor Control the trippiest of the Elephant 6 groups. He and Jim discuss their debut release, Dusk at Cubist Castle, a double album whose subtitle,“Music from an Unrealized Film Script,”points to the music's psychedelic nature. Greg calls Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel the“soul child”of the collective. Jeff went for a stripped down approach that was moving and easily identifiable for many listeners. This is evident in the band's 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a concept album about tragedy, and at times, Anne Frank. The longest lasting of all the Elephant 6 acts is Apples in Stereo. In addition to being the collective's four-track guru, Schneider was always the“pop craftsman.”In 2007 Apples reformed and put out New Magnetic Wonder, a return to power pop form for the group, and one of their best recordings to date.

Go to episode 353
classic album dissections
Revolver

The Beatles Revolver

Later this summer Revolver will celebrate its 40th anniversary. To honor that occasion, our own rock scientists, Drs. DeRogatis and Kot, decided to dissect The Beatles' masterpiece. In their interview with Geoff Emerick, the man who engineered the album at Abbey Road, and wrote a memoir on his time with the band, they break down what made the music so revolutionary. A sampling of the fun facts and analysis:

Tomorrow Never Knows

The last song on Revolver was actually the first one written. In December 1965, after a mind-expanding acid trip, John Lennon wrote what would later become "Tomorrow Never Knows." The completely unique four-track song, with its organ drones, backward guitar, bird calls, and megaphone vocals, perfectly encapsulates what Revolver was about: revolution. Geoff Emerick shares two facts about Lennon's lack of technical prowess. First, not being able to communicate how he wanted his vocals to sound technically, Lennon simply asked Emerick to have his voice sound like monks singing on a mountaintop. Also, the backwards guitar part was a happy accident. Lennon, not knowing how to run a reel-to-reel machine, simply loaded the tape backwards and liked what he heard.

Rain

The interesting thing about this song is that it wasn't even released as part of the original Revolver album. It was the B-side of a single (paired with "Paperback Writer") that was recorded during the same session. EMI expected The Beatles to write and record not only an amazing album, but hit singles as well. Jim recommends fans burn their own complete Revolver with the addition of these singles.

Yellow Submarine

Geoff Emerick's description of recording "Yellow Submarine" is one of the most entertaining in his book. The session was attended by a raucous group of notable guests including Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull and Patti Harrison. In the middle of recording, Lennon decided that he wanted to sound like he was singing underwater, and in fact, suggested that he do just that. Out of desperation, the engineer agreed to try it, and placed the microphone in a milk bottle filled with water. In order to protect the microphone he used a condom provided by longtime Beatles roadie Mal Evans.

Eleanor Rigby

Emerick was really innovative in how he recorded different instruments. This is particularly evident on this song, written by Paul McCartney, which incorporates an eight-piece string section. In fact, none of the Beatles actually played on "Eleanor Rigby." In order to get the best possible sound, Emerick placed the microphones just inches away from the two violas, two cellos and four violins. Beatles fans are so used to this song that it's hard to imagine what it would be like to experience it for the first time in 1966, let alone on the same record as traditional-sounding rock songs like "Good Day Sunshine" and "Got to Get You Into My Life".

Taxman

Revolver marks significant growth in the band's sound, as well as for the individual Beatles. George Harrison really matured as a songwriter on this album, which has an unprecedented three songs written by him, as opposed to chief songwriters Lennon and McCartney. While Harrison is often thought of as the more transcendental Beatle, Jim notes that "Taxman" expresses a very normal, earthly concern: paying taxes. While Harrison grew as a songwriter, Emerick admits that he still struggled with the guitar during some of the recording of this album. After wrestling for almost nine hours with the song's famous guitar solo, the part ended up being handed over to Paul McCartney, who hit it in on the first take.

Go to episode 25
RevolverRevolver available on iTunes

The Beatles Revolver

Revolver recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. To honor that, our own rock scientists, Drs. DeRogatis and Kot, decided to dissect The Beatles' masterpiece. In their discussion, as well as in their interview with Geoff Emerick, the man who engineered the album at Abbey Road, you‘ll hear an in-depth breakdown of what made the music so revolutionary. Here’s a sampling of fun-facts and analysis listeners will hear about the different tracks:

Tomorrow Never Knows

The last song on Revolver was actually the first one written. In December 1965, after a mind-expanding acid trip, John Lennon wrote what would later become "Tomorrow Never Knows." The completely unique four-track song, with its organ drones, backward guitar, bird calls, and megaphone vocals, perfectly encapsulates what Revolver was about: revolution. Two interesting points come up in Jim and Greg's discussion with Geoff Emerick about Lennon's lack of technical prowess. Not being able to really communicate how he wanted his vocals to sound technically, he simply asked Emerick to have his voice sound like monks singing on the top of a mountain. Also, the backwards guitar part was merely a happy accident. Lennon, not knowing how to run a reel-to-reel machine, simply loaded the tape backwards and liked what he heard.

Rain

The interesting thing about "Rain" is that it wasn't even released as part of the original Revolver album. It was the B-side of a single (paired with "Paperback Writer") that was recorded during the same session. EMI expected the Beatles to write and record not only an amazing album, but hit singles as well. Jim recommends fans burn their own complete Revolver with the addition of these singles.

Yellow Submarine

Geoff Emerick's description of recording "Yellow Submarine" is one of the most entertaining in his book. The session was attended by a raucous group of notable guests including Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithful and Patti Harrison. In the middle of recording Lennon decided that he wanted to sound like he was singing underwater, and in fact, suggested that he do just that. Out of desperation, the engineer relented and agreed to try it with the microphone placed in a milk bottle filled with water. In order to protect the microphone he used a condom provided by longtime Beatles roadie Mal Evans.

Eleanor Rigby

Emerick was really innovative in how he recorded different instruments. This is particularly evident on this song, written by Paul McCartney, which incorporates an eight-piece string section. In fact, none of The Beatles actually played on "Eleanor Rigby." In order to get the best possible sound, Emerick placed the microphones just inches away from the two violas, two cellos and four violins. Beatles fans are so used to hearing this song so it's hard to imagine what it would be like to experience it for the first time in 1966 on the same record with more traditional sounding rock songs like "Good Day Sunshine" and "Got to Get You Into My Life."

Taxman

Revolver marks significant growth in the band's sound, as well as for the individual Beatles. George Harrison really matured as a songwriter during the recording of this album, which has an unprecedented three songs written by him, as opposed to chief songwriters Lennon and McCartney. While Harrison is often thought of as the more transcendental Beatle, Jim notes that "Taxman" expresses a very normal, earthy concern: paying taxes. While, Harrison grew as a songwriter, Emerick admits that he still struggled with the guitar during some of the recording of this album. After wrestling for almost nine hours with the famous“Taxman”guitar solo, the part ended up being handed over to Paul McCartney, who hit it in one take.

Go to episode 117
Purple Rain (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)Purple Rain available on iTunes

Prince Purple Rain

Believe it or not, Prince's blockbuster album Purple Rain turns 30-years-old this month. To mark the occasion, Jim and Greg give Purple Rain the Classic Album Dissection treatment. They talk to former Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman about their relationship with Prince and the making of the album. Wendy & Lisa are now a musical duo, and also score music for TV shows like Heroes and Nurse Jackie, which won them an Emmy Award in 2010. But back in 1984, they were part of Prince's first major recording and performing team — Wendy on guitar and Lisa on keyboards. As Jim and Greg explain, it was unique for Prince to be collaborate on this level. The auteur even shared songwriting credits with The Revolution. Jim and Greg also credit Wendy and Lisa with opening Prince up to new music and new sounds.

To cap off their dissection, Jim and Greg talk about two specific songs from Purple Rain. Jim plays "Darling Nikki," one of the only songs on the album written solely by Prince. It was targeted by Tipper Gore and the PMRC for its suggestive lyrics, but Jim sees it as a love/lust story similar to The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood." Greg choses "When Doves Cry." With no bass line, multiple guitar parts and a multi-tracked voice, it's a perfect example of Prince's modern and avant-garde side.

Go to episode 449
Pet Sounds (Mono Version)Pet Sounds available on iTunes

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds

On May 16, 1966, The Beach Boys released their 11th studio album, Pet Sounds. It was a relative commercial failure for what was the biggest American band of the '60s. However in the ensuing 50 years, the album's stature grew. Today, its influence pervades to the point that it is almost universally acknowledged as one of the greatest albums ever released in the rock era. With Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson taking the album on tour again this summer, Jim and Greg feel it's the perfect time to give Pet Sounds a Classic Album Dissection.

Due to a great deal of pressure, emotional turmoil, and mental health issues, Brian Wilson quit the Beach Boys as a touring entity at the end of 1964. While the rest of the band was on the road, Wilson spent ten months in the studio crafting one of the most intricate and expensive pop records ever made. Working with the famed session musicians of the Wrecking Crew, Wilson took a classical composer's approach, layering instrument upon instrument to create lush, unique timbres. He collaborated with Madison Avenue writer Tony Asher on heartbreakingly earnest lyrics about his struggles to find his place in the world. The audience, the label, and his own bandmates didn't quite know what to make of Pet Sounds when it came out. But artists from The Beatles to R.E.M. to Radiohead picked up on its brilliance and modeled their own music on Wilson's ingenious arrangements. God only knows what rock would be today without Pet Sounds.

Go to episode 546
reviews
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm NotWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not available on iTunes

The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

One of the albums Jim and Greg review this week made so much news that they need to discuss it at the top of the show. The British band The Arctic Monkeys broke records this week when its debut album became the fastest selling in British chart history. While neither Jim nor Greg can fully comprehend this phenomenon, they both like the record. Jim gives the album a Buy It rating, but admits that The Arctic Monkeys are not nearly as amazing as the hype might have you believe. Greg likes lead singer Alex Turner's Streets-like approach to lyrics, but doesn't think the Arctic Monkeys are a great band yet. He gives Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not a Buy It too.

The Arctic Monkeys are not the first British band to face this kind of hype. There have been a number of UK bands who achieved rave reviews and huge success but were never able to break out across the pond. A look at lists compiled by British media outlets The Guardian and NME demonstrate this point. Bands like The Jam, The Stone Roses, The Libertines, Blur and The Smiths are up there with The Beatles and The Clash in the minds and hearts of British fans and critics, yet none of these groups achieved any major fame in the States. One theory given by Jim: Americans are discerning of imports ever since the first "British Invasion." Greg points out that there was a second British invasion in the '80s, and wonders if it is the very Britishness of some of these bands that prevent American fans from identifying. Or perhaps some tastes just don't translate.

JimGreg
Go to episode 10
One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found

One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found

Jim and Greg give the box set One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Groups Sounds Lost and Found their vote for best packaging. The four discs of girl group songs are contained in a highly girly hat box. However, while this is an exciting set to un-wrap, according to our hosts, the song collection is disappointing. That's largely because Rhino Records was unable to get the rights to songs produced by Phil Spector, the man Jim calls the architect of this genre. Spector gave his signature "Wall of Sound" effect to The Beatles and girl groups like The Ronettes (featuring Spector's then-wife Ronnie Bennett). Lost and Found only has a one obscure Ronettes track, however, and none of the major hits from The Shirelles or The Chiffons. Rather, it is packed with“second-tier”groups like The Honeys and The Goodees. In addition, it includes solo artists like Mary Wells, Cher, Dolly Parton, and even super-waif Twiggy, who were all trying to cash in, unsuccessfully, on the girl group sound.

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
LoveLove available on iTunes

The Beatles Love

Despite the fact that they have been disbanded for years, The Beatles are back with a new release entitled Love. The disc is the soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil production playing in Las Vegas and is a mix of Beatles' sounds drawn from master tapes. Thirty-seven named songs and dozens of unnamed tunes have been put together to make a sort of mashup, but it remains to be seen whether fans will accept this tampering with their beloved Beatles canon. The question for Jim and Greg, however, is why Capitol Records embarked on this endeavor. They would be completely in favor of something modern and innovative being done with the Fab Four's masters, but they both agree that Love is nothing more than a product for sale and a marketing ploy to entice fans to purchase future re-mastered albums. Love gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 51
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandSgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band available on iTunes

The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

A half-century has passed since America first heard The Beatles' eighth album, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The anniversary, along with a new remix of the album, has meant a deluge of nostalgia and media coverage. No doubt the album is important for its advancement of concept albums and studio production, but removed from the hype does the album hold up? Jim and Greg gave the album a fresh listen. For Greg, the album is about“sound over songs.”While innovative, this is not The Beatles at their songwriting best. He says it is“whimsical”and“charming”and if a new band put Sgt. Pepper's out today, he'd say Try It. Jim, thinks the album's praise is based too much on the context of the political and social atmosphere of 1967 and when removed from that context, the album doesn't hold up. Jim says the song writing is very conservative and the album is largely a“mess.”That said, Jim says Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! and A Day In The Life makes the album a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 602
NEW (Deluxe Edition)New available on iTunes

Paul McCartney New

The end of The Beatles certainly hasn't slowed the output of Paul McCartney. This year, Macca releases his 16th solo album called New. He's teamed up with a stable of pop music super producers like Mark Ronson (Lily Allen and Bruno Mars) and Paul Epworth (Florence & the Machine and Adele). Greg thinks the recording sessions with these hotshot producers brought bits of brilliance to the album. But the other bits are too undercooked and tired to earn the record more than a Burn It. Jim also appreciates the sound of the record. However, lyrically, McCartney has done better. Jim doubts McCartney's team has the courage to tell him, making New a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 413
Dig Out Your SoulDig Out Your Soul available on iTunes

Oasis Dig Out Your Soul

With their first two records Oasis re-invigorated the British pop world. Now they are back with number seven. Jim thinks that now it's time for Noel and Liam Gallagher to consider a career change. Perhaps stand-up comedy? He finds Dig Out Your Soul laughable, especially the pace. If Noel had picked up more of the slack the album might have been more successful, but Jim has to deem it a Trash It. Greg actually grew to be a fan of Oasis' earlier work, but he agrees with Jim on this one. He admits that they shamelessly rip off The Beatles, but that's the least of the Gallaghers' problems. Dig Out Your Soul is merely a third rate rip off, and the lyrics are even worse. So Liam and Noel get two Trash Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 150
The RedwallsThe Redwalls available on iTunes

The Redwalls The Redwalls

Next up is The Redwalls' self-titled album. The band has a quintessential rock and roll story: Band covers Beatles, Band gets signed to a major, Band tours the world, Band burns out. But, after being dropped by Capitol Records for insufficient sales, they didn't become disillusioned enough to scrap the dream. The Chicago natives packed up to record with Swedish producer Toré Johanssen, who has worked with Franz Ferdinand and The Cardigans. Greg thinks they outdid themselves with this effort. He explains that they stepped it up a notch lyrically, and he loves what Johanssen did with the arrangements. Jim agrees that the sound has been sharpened, and hears a more mature side of the men. Despite the fact that they aren't many years out, they can look back at their teens with some wisdom and humor. That gives The Redwalls a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 101
dijs

Greg

“What's the New Mary Jane”The Moles

Lately Greg has been binging on the music of Australian songwriter Richard Davies. Davies has worked as a solo artist and also released an album with Eric Matthews under the moniker Cardinal. But this week Greg is especially drawn to Davies' first band, The Moles, which merged baroque pop and psychedelia with a skewed sense of melody. The Moles' 1992 single "What's the New Mary Jane" lifts its title from a famous Beatles outtake, but it's much more substantive than what the Fab Four actually recorded. It's a twisted, druggy slice of pop music unlike anything else coming out during the grunge era, so it earns its place in the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 483

Greg

“Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby”George Harrison

Talking with Dhani Harrison reminded Greg of George Harrison's often un-sung guitar skills. And one of George Harrison's biggest influences was Carl Perkins. In fact all The Beatles adored Perkins and his rockabilly picking, Mersey beat sound they made famous. So for his Desert Island Jukebox selection this week, Greg wanted to choose a song that referenced the Beatles‘ love of Carl Perkins and Harrison’s terrific guitar work. "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" is his tribute to two quiet, talented guys.

Go to episode 210

Greg

“Watch Your Step”Bobby Parker

Musician Nick Waterhouse recently told Greg that he's always trying to make his music "swing." Except instead of swinging like Benny Goodman, Waterhouse wanted to swing more like blues-guitarist Bobby Parker. Specifically, Parker's 1961 track, "Watch Your Step", which at the time of its release was a huge influence on everyone from The Spencer Davis Group, to Carlos Santana, to John Lennon. Unfortunately for Parker, the general public wasn‘t nearly as smitten by the song, and it’s since faded into obscurity. Greg managed to find a copy of this rare release, and now he's eager for Parker to earn the recognition his riffs deserve. You can hear“Watch Your Step's”inspiration on songs like The Beatles' "I Feel Fine" and Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick".

Go to episode 430
lists

Revolver covers

To show the range of influence Revolver has had on the music industry, Jim and Greg commissioned this montage of covers from The Beatles' album:

  1. "Taxman" by Stevie Ray Vaughan
  2. "Eleanor Rigby" by Ray Charles
  3. "I'm Only Sleeping" by Rosanne Cash
  4. "Love You To" by Bongwater
  5. "Here, There and Everywhere" by Emmylou Harris
  6. "Yellow Submarine" by Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops
  7. "She Said, She Said," by Gov't Mule
  8. "Good Day Sunshine," by Jimmy James & the Vagabonds
  9. "And Your Bird Can Sing" by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs
  10. "For No One" by Rickie Lee Jones
  11. "Doctor Robert" by Bozo Allegro
  12. "I Want to Tell You" by Ted Nugent
  13. "Got To Get You Into My Life" by Earth, Wind & Fire
  14. "Tomorrow Never Knows" by Brian Eno
Go to episode 25

Tax Day Special

No matter what bracket you are in, no one likes paying taxes. Nothing makes things more tolerable, though, than great music. So Jim and Greg have compiled the perfect playlist for Tax Day:

Go to episode 541

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11

Tax Day Special

No matter what bracket you are in, no one likes paying taxes. Nothing makes things more tolerable, though, than great music. So Jim and Greg have compiled the perfect playlist for Tax Day:

Go to episode 280

Pop Stars vs. God

A big news story this week involves the ever-controversial Kanye West. The February issue of Rolling Stone features West on the cover posing as Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns. This is not the first time the rapper has been public about his conflicted relationship with Jesus, nor is it the first time a musician has pushed hot buttons with religion. Jim and Greg explore this issue and pick the top five instances when a rock star made religious waves.

  • John Lennon makes the statement: "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus." While this was more a statement about the absurd level of fame the Beatles had attained, feathers were ruffled nonetheless.
  • Madonna kisses an African-American Jesus figure and includes images of cross burning and the stigmata in her video for "Like a Prayer." As a result, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson.
  • In a misinterpreted move, Sinéad O'Connor rips up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.
  • XTC releases "Dear God," causing a controversy by aggressively questioning the existence of God.
  • Marilyn Manson tells a Spin reporter, "Hopefully I'll be the person who puts an end to Christianity." This comment propelled Tipper Gore's organization, the Parents Music Resource Center, to start a campaign against the self-proclaimed Anti-Christ.
Go to episode 9

Unconventional Love Songs

It's easy to get overloaded with sugar on Valentine's Day, especially when it comes to love songs. So Jim and Greg welcome an antidote: Unconventional Love Songs. Here are their favorite, slightly off-kilter love songs.

  • The Byrds, "Triad"
  • Concrete Blonde, "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)"
  • Velvet Underground, "Venus in Furs"
  • The Beatles, "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"
  • Black Sabbath, "Sweet Leaf"
  • Alice in Chains, "Junkhead"
  • Lester Bangs & The Delinquents, "I'm In Love with My Walls"
  • Neil Young, "Will to Love"
Go to episode 168

Halloween Picks 2006

During the final segment of the show, our Halloween-loving hosts play their picks for scariest rock songs.

Greg

Greg's first choice is "Dead Souls" by Joy Division. This band didn't necessarily look scary, but they definitely have a dark history. Lead singer Ian Curtis suffered from epilepsy and would often have seizures onstage. He committed suicide in 1980, cementing the band's tortured image.

Greg's second song is Johnny Cash's cover of "The Mercy Seat" by Nick Cave. Cave is often associated with the Goth movement, but Cash is not someone you usually think of on a spooky Halloween night. This song fits perfectly into Cash's repertoire. It tells the story of a death row inmate on the last night of his life. Benmont Tensch's backing music in particular lends a haunting feel.

Jim

Jim wanted to illustrate Goth's influence on other genres with his first pick. The group Bloodrock is composed of your average hard-rock“buffoons,”according to Jim, but Jim can't think of anything more gothic than the subject of their song "D.O.A." It tells the tale of a car crash victim on his way to the other side (and it sounds like the bad side).

Jim's final track is by Susan Janet Dallion, otherwise known as Siouxsie Sioux. Siouxsie emerged out of the Bromley punk scene to join the Banshees and form her own distinctive sound. Her look and her sound solidified the singer as female Goth icon. The Beatles' song "Dear Prudence" isn‘t particularly scary, but Siouxie’s menacing vocals give it an ominous tone. In this rendition, Jim imagines that Prudence's fate is not unlike that of most horror film heroines.

Go to episode 47

Songs That Give You the Creeps

Have you ever heard a song and been totally weirded out by it? The theme of this year's Halloween show is songs that give you the creeps! These are tracks that can be thought of as universally eerie or creepy to you as an individual. Jim and Greg share two songs each that they think fit the bill, and then we'll hear picks from listeners!

Go to episode 569

Going Solo

Paul McCartney solo Paul McCartney released his first post-Beatles album 45 years ago this month, launching a commercially successful solo career that is still going strong. Sometimes members of a famous band go out on their own and fall flat on their faces. But in this segment, Jim and Greg share examples of artists going solo and living up to expectations.

Go to episode 490

Anxious Anthems

Forget “keep calm and carry on.” This week, Jim and Greg play their favorite "Anxious Anthems." Then they chat with some listeners to hear what songs make them nervous.

Go to episode 551

Anti-Love Songs

This year, we're celebrating Valentine's Day as only Sound Opinions can, with some anti-love songs! Greg and Jim share their favorite tracks that convey how much love can really stink sometimes. Then they chat with some listeners to hear what they have to say.

Go to episode 532

Desert Island Jukebox Highlights

As the hosts of the show, Jim and Greg are always given the tough challenge of picking just one song they can‘t live without to drop into the Desert Island Jukebox. But, over time, they’ve also asked some of their favorite musical guests to make this difficult decision. It's interesting to hear what music these artists want to be stranded with. Here are just some of the selections:

  • Thom Yorke of Radiohead - "The Old Man's Back Again" by Scott Walker
  • Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead - "Kool Thing" by Sonic Youth
  • Robyn Hitchcock - Revolver by The Beatles (in his mind)
  • Scott McCaughey - "Walking in the Rain" by The Ronettes
  • Peter Buck - "Daddy Rollin' in Their Arms" by Dion
  • Lupe Fiasco - "The Highwayman" by The Highwaymen
  • Julian Casablancas of The Strokes - "Moonlight Sonata" by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Jon Brion - "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tenille
  • Rhymefest - "All I Do," by Stevie Wonder
  • Jason Lytle of Grandaddy - "Roscoe" by Midlake
Go to episode 67

Murder Songs for Halloween

With Halloween looming large, Jim and Greg are feeling a bit morbid. They've got Murder on the brain. Here are their favorite“killer”tunes:

Go to episode 412

Anxious Anthems

Forget “keep calm and carry on.” This week, Jim and Greg play their favorite "Anxious Anthems." Then they chat with some listeners to hear what songs make them nervous.

Go to episode 653
rock doctors

Brendan

Even the healthiest music listener depends on recommendations from family and friends. But for more severe cases, Sound Opinions recommends people make an appointment with the Rock Doctors. When Brendan from Los Angeles contacted Sound Opinions H.Q. and described his symptoms, we immediately took him in to see the doctors and get a diagnosis. Brendan suffers from an ailment common among people of his generation: 90s-itis. Brendan loves music but hasn't moved forward since 1995. That was the high point of his music listening, and you can still find Weezer's Blue Album and Nirvana's Nevermind in his CD player. He loves the balance of noisy rock and melody in those albums. And, since he can no longer turn on an alt-rock radio station to hear a similar sound, he asks the Rock Doctors, "What sounds like '90s alternative in 2008?"

Greg's answer to this question is The Secret Machines. The group harkens back to that hard, but melodic sound. The group uses elements from that era like strong guitars and drums, and adds space rock. A fan of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and even The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, should love "Ten Silver Drops" by The Secret Machines.

Jim's prescription for 90s-itis is Wolf Parade. The Canadian indie rockers have a lot of energy and aggression that Brendan should appreciate. There's a nod to classic rock, but the band is not living in the past. He gives Brendan a dose of "At Mount Zoomer" by Wolf Parade and invites him back for a follow-up appointment in a week.

When Brendan returns he reports that he is slowly recovering. He enjoyed both prescriptions, but thinks he needs to give them more time. Brendan found both records slightly more mellow than he expected, but liked that they weren‘t“screaming.”Brendan now has two albums in his collection that were recorded in the 21st century, and that’s all the Doctors could ask for.

Go to episode 152
features

Instrumental: Rickenbacker Electric 12-String Guitar

Rickenbacker 12-string This week, we kick off a new feature called Instrumental where we examine the history of iconic instruments of rock. We start with the electric 12-string guitar and its most famous manufacturer, Rickenbacker. 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 601

In Memoriam: Rick Hall

Rick Hall Greg pays tribute to the late Rick Hall, a producer and owner at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. There, he worked with legendary artists like The Staple Singers, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and more. Hall died in early January at the age of 85. Greg chose to play Wilson Pickett's cover of The Beatles' "Hey Jude," which also featured a young Duane Allman on guitar. He thinks it's a great example of Hall's producing prowess and the kind of music he oversaw in Muscle Shoals.

Go to episode 633

Hooked On Sonics: Jody Stephens of Big Star

Hooked on Sonics is a segment where musicians share the songs that made them fall in love with music. Drummer Jody Stephens helped form pivotal Memphis rock group Big Star, alongside vocalist and songwriter Alex Chilton. Big Star, is, in many ways, more famous now than they were during their first 1970s incarnation. In the 1980s and 1990s, a whole new generation discovered the group after The Replacements and REM cited them as influences. Today, Jody works at the famous Ardent Studios down in Memphis; but as a kid, it was music from a completely different part of the world that got him Hooked on Sonics. That song was I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. But, as you'll hear, it all came around full circle.

Go to episode 606

Rock & The Occult

occultcover Ozzy Osbourne famously serenaded "Mr. Crowley," in his 1980 track. But, poet, novelist and noted occultist Alesteir Crowley has been name-checked, celebrated and explored in hundreds of rock songs. And he's just one example of how the occult has influenced rock and roll, or how it saved it, according to author Peter Bebergal. He talks to Jim and Greg about his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll on this Halloween edition of the show. First off, we're not talking about satanism here. There's no great definition of“occult,”because it carries so much baggage. But Bebergal explains that occult beliefs are a conglomerate of bits of mythology, religion and actual experience, which take the form of mystical or other states of altered consciousness. Despite darker connotations, occult beliefs attempt to understand reality in a way traditional religious practice cannot or chooses not to explore.

Then Jim and Greg get into the music. The occult has trickled into popular music since early blues recordings at the beginning of the last century. That evolved into the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley, the mystical references to the east in the music of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and even the Illuminati imagery of modern hip-hop.

For more great occult tunes, check out Peter Bebergal's playlist by following us at Beats Music.

Go to episode 465
news

Music News

They truly are the champions: Queen's Greatest Hits album just became the first record in history to sell more than 6 million copies in the United Kingdom. That's about one album for every ten Britons—or, as Jim puts it, a whole lot of Freddie Mercury's overbite.

In more chart news from across the pond, the U.K.'s top-selling album this week is So Long, See You Tomorrow, the latest from Bombay Bicycle Club. Which had Jim and Greg wondering… who, exactly, is Bombay Bicycle Club? Apparently it's an indie rock outfit known for sampling Bollywood show tunes, with the nephew of the late British songstress Kirsty MacColl on guitar. The Brits must have a thing for the initials BBC.

Meanwhile back in the States, rock fans have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. And for memorabilia dealers, that's meant big business. A chunk of the Sullivan Show set signed by the Fab Four is going for a million bucks, while a signed U.K. version of A Hard Day's Night is expected to take in $60,000. There's also a signed copy of With the Beatles floating around somewhere. If you're the owner, consider paying a visit to Antiques Roadshow—you're in for at least $45,000.

Funnyman Fred Armisen of Portlandia and Saturday Night Live fame will soon return to late-night TV, this time as a musician. When fellow SNL alum Seth Myers takes over Late Night later this month, Armisen will“curate”his music and lead the in-house 8G Band, Myers announced by tweet this week. Sound Opinions saw this coming in 2012, when Fred (a former Chicago punk rocker who played in the band Trenchmouth, as well as Blue Man Group) told Jim and Greg how he's always admired bands on TV. Live the dream, Fred.

Go to episode 429

Music News

First up in the news is the passing of longtime Beatles friend, manager and business associate Neil Aspinall. The man who many called the“fifth Beatle,”died earlier this week at the age of 66. He grew from childhood friend of the Paul McCartney and George Harrison to CEO of Apple Corps, and was known for his fierce loyalty to the band. But, as Jim and Greg explain, many fans blamed Aspinall for the slow release of Beatles archival materials, as well as Apple Corps' resistance toward moving into the digital age. But, as Jim points out, before launching any new Beatles venture, he had to get Paul, George, Ringo and Yoko on board — no small feat.

Go to episode 122

Music News

Katy Perry wasn't the only thing roaring at MTV's recent Video Music Awards. Digital sales for artists featured on the program have seen significant bumps. Among those feeling a lift were Lady Gaga's Applause, which saw a 20% rise and Bruno Mars' Gorilla, which had a staggering 175% sales increase.

In other chart news the British Phonographic Industry recently updated its sales award rules. So now, a little band called The Beatles has finally gone platinum. The official count only began from 1994, though, so actual sales of hit Beatles albums like Revolver and Help can only be estimated.

By now everyone's heard Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines. But, have you heard 86-year old Canadian composer John Beckwith's Blurred Lines? Well, thousands of listeners have, though perhaps not intentionally. Beckwith's 1994 recording for harpsichord and violin has gotten a huge boost in online streams ever since Thicke's song of the same name came out earlier this year. Blame it on Google, but it seems hard to mistake Thicke for Beckwith's sounds inspired by the Swedish hardanger.

Go to episode 406

Music News

First up in the news Jim and Greg discuss a recent TV commercial featuring music by The Beatles. The diaper company Luvs has taken the 1967 peace anthem "All You Need Is Love," and turned it into the jingle“All You Need is Luvs,”and some Beatles fans are worried that this soils the song's meaning. The Fab Four's songs have been used a few times in advertising, especially since the catalog has come under the joint control of Sony Corp. and pop singer Michael Jackson.

Also in the news is rapper 50 Cent's lawsuit against internet ad company Traffix Inc. The hip hop star is taking issue with Traffix Inc's recent ad campaign that features his cartoon image and encourages people to“shoot the rapper”and win $5,000 or five ringtones. While Jim and Greg agree this is pretty distasteful, they wonder if 50 Cent's real beef is that he didn't come up with the idea himself. The hip hop star has based his image on his own violent background, which includes being shot nine times.

Go to episode 87

Music News

Move over Elvis, there's a new king in town and that king…is a cowboy. Garth Brooks once again surpassed Elvis Presley as the best-selling solo artist of all time in the U.S., selling 135 million units. Brooks is thoroughly beating his competition, as the number two country artist on the list is George Strait at only 69 million units. While Garth reigns supreme in the solo category, The Beatles are the best-selling music act with 178 million units.

In other news, Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit against two companies that distribute mixtapes to individuals in prisons claiming licensing infringement. The defendants argued that their efforts were to prevent contraband within prisons, however it looks like they could be spending more time fighting the law than their consumers.

The punk band Stereofire Empire found a missing painting in the New Orleans House of Blues that was worth $250,000. One member of the group was an art collector and recognized the stolen item. While they returned it (ala the Scooby Doo gang), the culprit is still at large. rodrigue

Go to episode 477

Music News

Hard to believe, but The Beatles are so old that some of their music is now entering public domain in Europe. While a law is in place to extend copyrights in the E.U. from 50 to 70 years, that won't go into effect until 2014. That means that as of New Year's Eve 2012, early tracks like "Love Me Do" are up for grabs. Early tracks by Bob Dylan, however, have recently been protected. In order to avoid its catalog going into public domain, Sony Music has taken advantage of the law's“use it or lose it”clause. They released a compilation aptly titled, The 50th Anniversary Collection: The Copyright Extension Collection, Vol. 1. It's only available in certain European countries though, so American Dylan fans will have to be willing to pay big bucks on eBay.

This is typically the dry season for major album releases, but there have been a lot of buzzworthy singles. Jim and Greg run through some of the big ones. They never thought they'd utter the words "new David Bowie track," but we've got one called "Where Are We Now," with a Tony Visconti-produced album to follow. Then there's JT's new chart-topper "Suit and Tie." A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg made a plea for the gentleman of Outkast to come back together, and now we have both Big Boi and Andre 3000 appearing on a remix of Frank Ocean's "Pink Matter." But, Andre is quick to squash any reunion rumors. Last, but not least, are the ladies of Destiny's Child. There's a new song called "Nuclear" and plans for the three to appear together during the Superbowl Halftime Show. Guess motherhood has made Beyonce nostalgic.

Go to episode 373

Music News

It seems like just yesterday that the British first invaded rock and roll. But, many early recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who are so old they were about to fall into public domain. However, the European Union just extended that copyright law from 50 years to 70 years, giving record companies another two decades to collect big revenues. It's being called Cliff's Law after pop singer Cliff Richard, but other artists don't think the law will benefit them. Here in the U.S., copyright law allows for artists to reclaim ownership of their work after 35 years. So, many American musicians who made recordings in the 1970s, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Don Henley, are able to file claims. But the big four labels are heavily resisting, claiming that performers were mere employees doing“work for hire,”and thus have no rights.

In other news across the pond, U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on search engines, such as Google, to bar links to websites with pirated material. You expect these kind of restrictions in China, but not necessarily in England. Hunt has rejected suggestions that this is“an assault on the ‘freedom’ of the internet,”but for Google that's exactly what it is. They said they already work with copyright owners to remove infringing materials. So it looks like legislation is the next step.

Go to episode 303

Music News

Miley Cyrus has gone from Disney star to Flaming Lips devotee. She and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips have released a 23 song long free album called Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz. The album purportedly is a tribute to her dead pets as evidenced in a song like "Pablow the Blowfish." Jim thinks the record is nothing to write home about and is generally a waste of your time. Disagree? Call 888.859.1800.

EMI has stepped into the 21st century by doing something no other record label has done: allowing amnesty for samples. The company says the amnesty was put in place for“the aim of encouraging new sample requests from its broad catalogue as well as ensuring already existing samples are properly licensed.”It'll allow samplers who used EMI samples in the past to declare their samples“without the fear of a royalty back claim.”Too little too late or a big step forward, you decide.

Going Going Gone! We love a good rock auction here on Sound Opinions. Jim covers the auctioning off of rock inflatables by the English company Air Artists which includes inflatable Freddie Mercury and Brian May from Queen's 1986 The Magic tour; two life-size polystyrene and fiberglass casts used to make the inflatable Babylonian woman used on the Rolling Stones' Bridges to Babylon Tour; and the fiberglass train model used for AC/DC's Runaway Train concert. Also averrable for cold hard cash? A night's stay in the house that Bob Dylan and The Band wrote Music from Big Pink. Asking price per night - $650. Greg covers the auctioning off of the piano used to writeABBA's "Dancing Queen." ABBA cofounder Benny Andersson certified the piano and the asking price is $1.1 million. Finally The Beatles have their first recording contract up for auction. The band served as Tony Sheridan's backing band on the song "My Bonnie" recorded in Hamburg Germany. The asking price on this piece of Fab Four history is $150,000 just a little more than the $80 the band was paid to make the record in the first place.

Go to episode 510

Music News

Recently Jim and Greg saw a flurry of stories in the“People Will Buy Anything”department. John Lennon's Gretsch 6120 guitar, which he used to record The Beatles' classic "Paperback Writer," was sold to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for $530,000. And that's not the only famous guitar up for purchase: Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick is starting to auction off some pieces from his massive collection of vintage axes. Some of his guitars have reached prices as high as $8,500.

Meanwhile, the secret buyer of Elvis Presley's very first recording has been revealed, and it's none other than Jack White. The Third Man Records honcho paid $300,000 for the 1953 acetate of "My Happiness"/"That's When Your Heartaches Begin" and plans to reissue it on vinyl for Record Store Day.

Those all may sound like worthwhile purchases, if you‘ve got the cash. But the same can’t be said for some other pieces of music memorobilia showing up on the auction block. A plastic bag allegedly full of air from a Kanye West concert reached bids of over $60,000 before eBay shut down the auction. Many copycat listings have followed, including a bag of Ye's flatulence for the bargain price of $5.

Go to episode 486

Music News

In the news this week is Radiohead's decision to independently release its first studio album since 2003 as a pay-what-you-wish download. The announcement has sparked interest among fans and industry analysts alike, and Jim and Greg are eager to see how this experiment works out. When Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood were on the show last year, they discussed their hope to step outside the traditional record industry model, but they didn't seem to know how or when they would do it. And how Radiohead succeeds with releasing their album this way will be telling for other labels and bands who are looking for an alternative to the overpriced plastic disc.

Another story getting headlines is the Phil Spector murder trial. Four years ago the legendary producer was charged with murdering actress Lana Clarkson, and last week the jury announced it was deadlocked. It will be months before a new trial is launched in Los Angeles, but with so much negative attention focused on Spector, Jim and Greg wanted to take this opportunity to discuss his legacy as a producer. He's had a history of violence, but, as Greg explains, he also completely reinvented music production. Using heavy orchestrations, layers of sound, and booming echoes of instrumentation, Spector created the "Wall of Sound" effect for groups like The Ronettes, The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Jim and Greg end the conversation with a great example of this sound-"River Deep, Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner.

Go to episode 97

Music News

The man commonly referred to as“the fifth Beatle,”Sir George Martin, died Tuesday at the age of 90. Martin, a producer, was originally known for bringing success to Parlophone Records in the 1950s by producing comedy albums by such performers and Peter Sellers, Peter Ustinov, and The Goon Show troupe.

Then, in 1962, Martin met with an unknown band called The Beatles. The group had been rejected by every label they had spoken to prior, and Martin, though not thoroughly impressed by their music, signed The Beatles to Parlophone. Luckily for them—and for the droves of Beatles fans-to-be—Martin had been seeking a new group to represent the rock ‘n’ roll scene emerging from the UK, and he liked their sense of humor. He taught the novice, live band about recording and producing.Between 1962 and 1970, The Beatles produced 13 albums and 22 singles under Martin's guidance. And though he went on to produce several big-name bands after that, Martin is most well-known for bringing The Beatles from obscurity to the forefront of popular music.

Listen to the Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection of George Martin-produced album Revolver here.

Go to episode 537

Music News

The wait is over…The Beatles have come to iTunes. The famous holdout between Apple Corp. and Apple has come to an end, and the Fab Four's entire catalog will be available for digital download. As Greg explains, both singles and albums will be available, but for premium prices. Because of this, Amazon immediately brought their album prices down. This marks the sixth incarnation of The Beatles catalog being reissued, not including their first foray into the digital world: the videogame Rock Band. Perhaps because of this, Greg thought the announcement was rather anticlimactic. Jim's response is outrage. He can't believe The Beatles estate is asking fans to re-purchase their music yet again. And he notes that the list of artists still not on iTunes is pretty small: AC/DC, Kid Rock and Garth Brooks.

Go to episode 260

Music News

Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana, recently launched a national tour, but many parents and tweens are finding it impossible to secure tickets through Ticketmaster. The Disney star (and daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus) is being compared to The Beatles because of how hot these tickets are. Even moments after tickets were officially for sale on the Ticketmaster site, secondary market websites like StubHub and Craigslist had scored tickets and were making them available for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. This phenomenon has got everyone from industry analysts to state attorneys general to 12-year-old fans suspecting that something fishy is going on. Ticketmaster has pleaded innocence and recently requested an injunction against RMG Technologies, one of the computer programs that have made it easier for ticket brokers to circumvent its protections. Jim and Greg agree that the issue merits investigation, but they're wondering what has taken so long.

In related news, Live Nation, the country's largest concert promoter and Ticketmaster's current business partner, has announced a $120 million deal with pop icon Madonna. The agreement gives Live Nation a cut of not only her touring revenues, but also record sales, merchandising, web sites, movies, TV specials and so on. With record labels floundering, it's easy to understand the appeal of such a deal-companies can no longer count on traditional revenue streams like selling albums, so why not delve into other arenas? But, Jim and Greg are a little concerned about one large corporation having such a monopoly over every aspect of the industry. Does this mean that in order for a band to get booked at a Live Nation venue, they need to ink a recording and merchandising deal with them? It will be interesting to see who follows Madonna's lead, and who follows the lead of the other newsmakers of the week…

That would, of course, be Radiohead. Last week Jim and Greg talked about the band's revolutionary,“pick your own price”distribution method. Now, only days later they‘ve already seen how successful it has been. In the week following the album’s release, the band sold 1.2 million copies of In Rainbows for an average price of $8. Not a bad debut, especially considering they‘ve done this without the assistance of a record company. There’s been some discussion about the quality of the songs, which are slightly below standard CD rates, but as Jim explains, many music fans are used to even lower quality digital files due to the proliferation of iTunes. The ingenuity of Radiohead's scheme is undeniable, but it always comes down to the music. Jim and Greg tackle that next.

Go to episode 99

Music News

Fans have long been wondering when the Beatles will finally come to iTunes. Well, according to Yoko Ono, not anytime soon. John Lennon's widow recently said fans shouldn‘t hold their breath, adding “There’s just an element that we're not very happy about, as people. We are holding out.” But, rest assured, that when Apple Inc. and Apple Corps. do come to an agreement, digital sales will start flying. When the Beatles released their reissues last year, they sold 2.25 million copies in the first five days of release.

Lady Gaga has a record breaking 13 nominations for MTV Video Music Awards. But, ironically, her videos will no longer be available on MTV.com. Gaga's label Universal has decided to take all its content off the music channel's website and show them instead on the label-owned Vevo. Jim and Greg think it will be interesting to see what kind of industry influence MTV can sustain without much music content on its airwaves or website.

Sometimes life does imitate art. "If I Was President" singer Wyclef Jean is, in fact, running for president. The Haitian born former Fugee announced his official candidacy for president of the devastated nation last week. While Jean faces a number of barriers on his road to the office, including controversies regarding his charities and taxes and, of course, celebrity, this got Jim and Greg thinking about some other pop politicos including Sonny Bono, who served in Congress and as the mayor of Palm Springs, Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil, who is an Australian Labor Party member of the Australian House of Representatives and is the Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts, and The Doobie Brothers' Jeff“Skunk”Baxter who now serves as a defense consultant and chairs a Congressional Advisory Board on missile defense.

Go to episode 246

Music News

First up in the news the sentence handed to Daniel Biechele, the tour manager of the band Great White. Biechele was ordered to serve four years in prison and three years probation for setting a fire in a Rhode Island nightclub in February 2003 — a blaze that killed 100 fans and injured twice that number. This was the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. The ruling represents a compromise between the defense and the prosecution, who were originally seeking a ten-year sentence. Meanwhile. victims' families are awaiting the trial of the club owners, to take place later this summer.

Another court case also made news this week. In the battle between The Beatles' Apple Corp. and Apple Computer over trademark infringement and their shared apple logo, the judge ruled against the Fab Four. The band was contending that Apple Computer and its iTunes Music Store had breached a 1980 trademark agreement by expanding onto their turf — the music industry. However, the judge, who does own an iPod, responded that“even a moron in a hurry,”could tell the difference between the two companies. Now we just have to wait and see if the Beatles will finally release their songs to the online music retailer. Hopefully this will not confuse any of the morons in a hurry out there.

There was also an update on Keith Richards' health status, which was discussed last week. After a mysterious fall on the island of Fiji, Richards was admitted to a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. On Monday, after complaining of headaches, he underwent an operation, which, according to his publicist, was 100% successful. The Stones' camp has not said how he fell or what the operation was for, but reports speculate that it was to drain blood from his skull. A spokesperson has, however, denied that there was more than one surgery or that Richards suffered any brain damage. Fans can expect to see the guitarist touring in June, and back to his old, randy self in no time.

Grant McLennan, frontman of Australian indie rock band The Go-Betweens, died in his sleep earlier this week. The singer/songwriter was 48. Greg discusses how The Go-Betweens, who were going strong up until McLennan's passing, were not necessarily commercially successful, but were very influential in the 1980s. Musicians like Bono and Morrissey and members of bands like R.E.M. and Coldplay have all sung the praises of McLennan and his partner Robert Foster. Many listeners will only know the band from their hit "Bachelor Kisses," but Greg points out that the songwriting pair penned many wonderful pop songs that were full of emotion and humanity. He chooses to play "Bye Bye Pride," and prompts listeners to pay attention to the oboe solo.

Go to episode 24

Music News

This year's crop of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were celebrated last week at a ceremony in Cleveland. 2009's class includes Metallica, Run DMC, Jeff Beck, Bobby Womack and Little Anthony and the Imperials. While Metallica is getting its props, heavy metal is consistently unrepresented. Greg would vote to nominate Slayer. Jim agrees and adds that progressive rock music is also due for some representation. Love ‘em or hate ’em, Genesis, Yes and Jethro Tull are certainly as influential, if not more, than Little Anthony.

On the same day that U2 released a second set of tickets for their highly sought-after fall tour, New York Senator Chuck Schumer unveiled new legislation to crack down on the secondary ticket market, or scalping. Schumer is riding the wave of popularity he got after criticizing Ticketmaster for sales of Bruce Springsteen tickets, but Jim and Greg don't blame him. Jim calls scalping“a plague”on the music industry, and both critics urge reform.

They may have stopped making music decades ago, but The Beatles' output is still going strong. This fall Apple Corps and EMI will release the band's entire catalog remastered digitally on CD. This is long overdue; their music hasn't been upgraded since songs were first put on CD twenty years ago. But, while fans might be excited for a new model, Jim and Greg see this as a very transparent attempt to keep dipping into the same profit pool year after year.

Go to episode 176

Music News

Greg Kot attended the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit this week, so he begins the news by reporting back some interesting tidbits. First he heard Intellectual Property“Czar”Victoria Espinel's presentation in which she outlined her 33-point strategy for dealing with internet piracy. She wants the private sector to do more to police illegal activity. But when questioned by Greg, she didn‘t seem concerned about the fact that 95% of Americans are engaged in illegal internet activity. Greg wonders if we’re "back to suing consumers."

Greg also hosted the keynote address featuring T. Bone Burnett. The iconoclastic producer, who is known for his work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and Robert Plant's Raising Sand album, again stood apart from the crowd when he announced that he advises young musicians to stay away from the internet. While this may sound like a luddite talking, Greg explains that Burnett is wisely suggesting that musicians worry more about their art than their distribution. Once that's figured out, everything else comes into place.

Next up are two chart curiosities. First, for over 50 years The Beatles have held the Billboard singles chart record for most appearances by a non-solo act. Now, they are dethroned by…Glee. The Fox cast recently paid homage to another chart-topper, Britney Spears, and those 5 covers, including "Toxic" sold over 400,000 downloads.

In the U.K. another hot young star is climbing the charts: Winston Churchill. The wartime Prime Minister ousted The Killers' Brandon Flowers from the top five, and he's now neck and neck with Phil Collins and KT Tunstall. Two of Churchill's most famous speeches appear on the RAF's Central Band's new album Reach for the Skies, marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Go to episode 254

Music News

First up in the news, Jim and Greg discuss the murder trial of famed producer Phil Spector. Spector was found guilty of shooting actress Lana Clarkson six years ago. This was the second trial for the man behind the sounds of The Beatles, The Righteous Brothers and The Ronettes. While the first jury was deadlocked, this one handed Spector a conviction that will lead to a minimum of 18 years in prison.

Jim and Greg have been following the debates in France concerning internet piracy with some interest. The French parliament recently defeated a highly anticipated bill that would have given users caught illegally downloading files two strikes before disconnecting them from the internet entirely. A re-vote is scheduled for later this month. Back in the states, President Obama tapped Recording Industry Association of America attorney Ian Gershengorn to join the Department of Justice's Civil Division. This is the fifth RIAA attorney to join the DOJ–not a promising precedent for file-sharing proponents.

While most of us are spending more modestly in today's economy, some Prince fans will be shelling out $2,100 for his limited edition Opus iPod. For that price, 950 devoted fans will get purple touch iPods loaded with live tracks and a 40 minute movie. Sounds absurd, but Jim and Greg agree that there is a market for high end, specialty items like this one. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead had luck with their box sets last year, and Pearl Jam recently released a deluxe reissue of Ten.

Go to episode 177

Music News

In the news this week is President Obama's appointment of Victoria Espinel as the new Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, or as she'll likely be known, IP Czar. Jim and Greg talk to Michael Bracy, the Policy Director at the Future of Music Coalition, about this appointment. Bracy gets the sense that Espinel stands pretty safely down the middle of copyright issues and believes the Obama administration is more concerned with access to internet and competition. He explains that until a legitimate digital media marketplace fully evolves, it remains to be seen how copyright laws should be changed and approached differently in the courts. Bracy and the folks at the FMC will be continuing discussions on this topic and more at their annual summit this weekend in Washington D.C.

One of the biggest music releases this year is actually not an album, but a video game. The Beatles: Rock Band was released to much hype and acclaim last month. Since the release of Guitar Hero in 2005, and then Rock Band in 2007, $3 billion worth of these games have been sold. It's a successful new revenue stream for an industry in dire need of a boost. Jim and Greg have been critical of games like this before on Sound Opinions. They wonder where the music fits in and suggest that perhaps music fans would be better off playing actual music. But there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that games like Rock Band encourage kids to learn music. Jim and Greg discuss these pros and cons with Greg LoPiccolo, one of the brains behind Guitar Hero and Rock Band. As the Vice President of Product Development at Harmonix, LoPiccolo was involved with bringing The Beatles on board.

Go to episode 201

Music News

Jim and Greg take time to pay tribute to Buck Owens. The country pioneer died recently at the age of 76 and was buried this week in his hometown of Bakersfield, CA. While most of the headlines simply refer to Owens as the“star of Hee Haw,”he made significant contributions to rock and country music. According to Greg, he was one of the first musicians to use the Telecaster. You can hear some of that great, gritty fuzz tone in "Who's Gonna Mow Your Grass." He also played with the original alt-country rebel, Merle Haggard. Owens was not the cornpone country singer that Hee Haw made him out to be, and for this reason he was respected by people like The Beatles, Dwight Yoakam and Steve Earle.

Go to episode 19

Music News

Fetty Wap tops the Billboard 200 chart with the release of his self-titled debut. The album release follows the drops of his three top-ten singles, "Trap Queen," "679," and "My Way." The rapper makes a splash as the first hip-hop artist in two years to land a premiere album in the #1 spot since A$AP Rocky's Long.Live.A$AP.

fettywap

The third time's the charm for The Beatles' 1 album, which you might remember from its original release in 2000 or its second remastered release in 2011. The new three-disc edition, out November 6, features promotional films and restored videos of the group. Greg wonders how many times the same album can be resold to the same audience. Despite the lack of any real change in content, Jim predicts,“It'll debut at #1.”

Thanks to a new interactive tool distributed by The Wall Street Journal, it is now possible to discover what's playing on jukeboxes across America, just by entering a zip code online. Data gathered from the jukebox vendor TouchTunes provide a look at more than 60,000 jukeboxes across the country and what music was played from September 2014 to August 2015. The map is broken up by zip code, displaying popular artists and genres in each area. Check out what tunes are gathering the most quarters here.

Go to episode 515

Music News

Music fans and industry analysts have long been wondering when The Beatles would go digital. Many suspected that a deal with iTunes was in the works. But no one could have predicted that the band's foray into the digital universe would be through a video game. Apple Corps has announced a deal with Viacom's Rock Band to feature the Brits in the hit-selling game series. The Beatles see this as a way to reach a new generation of listeners, but Jim doesn't think the game has much to do with music and is certain that members of the group could reach more fans merely by lowering ticket prices.

There have been two major reunion announcements that both daze and confuse Jim and Greg. The first is an almost confirmed rumor that Led Zeppelin will be going out on tour sans lead singer Robert Plant. This would leave only 2 of the original members, and no one, including the band's former promoter, is sure how they can call themselves Zeppelin. In other bizarre reunion news, the Jackson 5 will be coming to a town near you, only Jackson 4 might be a more appropriate name. Michael will be sitting this one out.

The final news story this week signifies another nail in the coffin of the music industry's glory days. One of the true music-loving record executives, Alan McGee, has announced that he is retiring from the biz. McGee founded Creation Records, which launched acts like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. More recently he has been managing acts like Oasis and The Libertines. Now on his Facebook page he states, "I think I'm a man of the times, kind of like Tony Wilson really. We don‘t really have a place in the music industry anymore because we actually like music." And Jim and Greg believe that’s the truth. Most of the higher-ups are money men, rather than music men. They are certainly going to miss McGee's passion.

Go to episode 154

Music News

After The Beatles finally announced the band would put its catalog on iTunes, Jim and Greg noted that only a few major artists remained holdouts. One such musician is Kid Rock, and according to a recent Billboard article, this might be a smart move if your goal is making money. Kid Rock's recent release Born Free has sold over 612,000 copies, but reporter Glenn Peoples says that he would have only sold 294,000 had digital singles been available. So by forcing consumers to buy whole albums, Kid Rock may have made an additional $3 million.

Next, Jim and Greg play catch up on some big news that broke over the holidays. Rock & roll experienced one of its greatest losses: Don Van Vliet, otherwise known as Captain Beefheart. Jim remembers Beefheart and his band's off the wall performance on Saturday Night Live. It illustrates what a unique performer he was. But, as Jim goes on, Beefheart wasn't just weird, he was an ambitious perfectionist – and one that influenced many and was imitated by none, according to Greg. To honor Captain Beefheart, Jim and Greg play "Ella Guru" from his 1969 album Trout Mask Replica.

Go to episode 267

Music News

A couple of stories this week speak to the listening habits of kids — and the experts want parents to be worried. The first study, from the NPD Group, says that up to 70% of U.S. kids aged (ages 9-14) download music in a given month. Almost half use iTunes, but the remainder are engaging in (illegal) file-sharing. The research group blames parents for not monitoring their children's computers, but as dads, Jim and Greg can attest — that's a fairly impossible feat in today's world.

The second report, released by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, states that teenagers listen to nearly 2.5 hours of music per day. To Jim and Greg, that's good news. But, what's in those songs you ask? According to the pediatricians, the average adolescent is exposed to approximately 84 references to explicit substance use per day, or 30,732 references per year. That's a large figure, but rock fans have been defending their devil music for years. Jim and Greg think the best defense for protecting innocent minds is discussing music with them. After all, on Sound Opinions everyone's a critic — and that includes kids.

Americans don't have the monopoly on peer-to-peer downloading. In fact, it just got a whole lot easier in Italy. The Italian parliament passed a new copyright law that essentially legalizes file-sharing. But this may not have been their intention. The law creates a provision that allows music files to be shared as long as they are non-commercial and degraded. Well, the not-so-tech-savvy legislators failed to realize that most digital music files are degraded.

NASA is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and to mark the occasion they've decided to beam The Beatles' song "Across the Universe" directly into outer space. This would be the first song ever played“across the universe,”and Jim and Greg wonder if it's smart to start with such a friendly, welcoming song. They think death metal or Barry Manilow might fend off alien invasion better.

The Grammy Awards are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Jim and Greg don't traditionally like to give much airtime to the awards, which notoriously overlook deserving artists, but they thought it would be fun to honor one of their favorite Grammy winners. This is a man whose first album won three awards and shot him to the top of the charts-beating Elvis! That man is none other than Bob Newhart. Bob's first comedy album The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart won Best Album of 1960, Best New Artist and Best Spoken Word. It also went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time. The curse of the Best New Artist certainly didn‘t seem to affect the successful comedian. We can’t say same about the Starland Vocal Band.

Go to episode 115

Music News

Proving the adage that everyone is a critic, the Vatican has released its first official Top Ten List of albums. The official Vatican paper, L'Osservatore Romano, has endorsed records by Oasis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Fleetwood Mac. And perhaps for the title alone, they also included Carlos Santana's Supernatural. It made a point of not including Bob Dylan, however, on the grounds that generations of less-talented Dylan acolytes have "harshly tested the ears and patience of listeners with their inferior imitations, thinking that their tortured meanderings might interest somebody."

In other music news, rock producer Ian Burgess passed away last week. As Jim explains, Burgess was one of the architects of the hyper-aggressive, yet melodic, indie rock sounds of the 1980's. He worked with a number of Midwest bands such as Naked Raygun, Pegboy and Big Black. He also served as a mentor to Big Black founder-turned producer Steve Albini. To honor Burgess, Jim and Greg play "I Don't Know" off Naked Raygun's 1985 album Throb Throb.

Go to episode 221

Music News

First up in the news Jim and Greg discuss Joni Mitchell's decision to team up with Starbucks. Her first album in almost 10 years will be released on the coffee chain's Hear Music label. Jim and Greg imagine that the singer/songwriter must have been impressed with the success of Paul McCartney's recent Starbucks-released album Memory Almost Full, especially considering her notorious distaste of the music industry. One group they are surprised to hear has joined the coffee family is Sonic Youth. The alt-rockers will release a compilation on Hear Music next year.

Jim and Greg update some stories they've discussed on current shows. The first concerns pop star Kelly Clarkson. When her album My December was released a few weeks ago, our hosts talked about Clarkson's high-profile feud with BMG chairman Clive Davis. The singer appeared to be taking a tough-girl stance and defended her artistic integrity, but now she's trying to lay it all to rest. Check out her retraction.

Another topic Jim and Greg covered on the show is the scrutiny hip hop lyrics have been facing post-Imus. A recent victim is Chicago rapper Twista. McDonalds decided to pull the speed rapper from its Live Trek tour because of his“controversial lyrics.”Twista's response is that he's been making the same kind of rhymes for years, but no one cared until Don Imus said something negative about black women. He also added that he usually cleans up lyrics for kid-friendly performances.

While the gossip pages are filled with celebrities who aren't forced to pay for their crimes, singer Ron Isley is no such lucky star. He is slated to begin his five-year prison sentence for tax evasion next week, but Def Jam is hoping that Isley fans can convince the government otherwise. They sent out a petition imploring people to“call, fax or email the White House immediately to help the 64-year old cancer sufferer.”If you'd like to join in the effort you can call the President at (202) 456-1414, email him at president@whitehouse.gov, or contact the Congressional Black Caucus.

Last week Eric Clapton held the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, IL, and Greg was there to see the action. He recounts how historic it was to see Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton play together 38 years after Blind Faith disbanded. Greg's other highlights were witnessing B.B. King give what might be his final performance and hearing Jeff Beck do a beautiful rendition of The Beatles' "Day in the Life." Check out Greg's entire recap here.

Go to episode 88

Music News

When they looked back at the end of the last decade, Jim and Greg described American Idol as one of the only major juggernauts in the music industry. Now, only a couple of weeks later, it looks like that monolith is crumbling. Simon Cowell has announced plans to depart the show, which debuted last week, to launch a U.S. version of The X Factor. In addition to being a major part of Idol, Cowell was a force behind the career popularity of Susan Boyle and British X Factor Leona Lewis. Jim and Greg wonder if Idol will be able to produce another Kelly Clarkson, Chris Daughtry or Carrie Underwood without Cowell. And, they wonder if X Factor will be the hit-maker to watch.

A world away from the American Idol business machine is a UK website called SlicethePie. Artists can use this site to get direct funding from fans, who in return receive a copy of the album, an exclusive relationship with the band, and possibly, a return on their investment. According to the site the standard deal is about a 16 cent return for every 1.63 invested per 1,000 albums sold. Now Slicethepie has announced its first real success story. U.K. rock act Scars on 45 has graduated from the fan-supported site to land a deal with Atlantic Records/Chop Shop Records. Chop Shop is run by Alexandra Patsavas, who supervised music on a number of Hollywood projects including Twilight, The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy. So, keep your ears open for Scars on 45 music the next time you tune into a primetime soap.

The 2009 numbers are officially in…but they aren't exactly clear. According to Nielsen SoundScan, overall music industry sales are up 2.1%. But as Jim and Greg explain, that's not necessarily worth celebrating. Album sales, which still account for the majority of revenue, are actually down 13%. What has gone up are digital music sales — and those don't add up. Of course, as Jim says, overhead with digital music is much, much lower. And, certain artists do have cause to break out the champagne, for example, Taylor Swift, who was the number one artist of 2009. She was followed by a phenom (Susan Boyle), and a recently departed (Michael Jackson). Michael Jackson wasn't the only posthumous winner. The number one selling album of the entire decade was by a group that stopped making music four decades ago: The Beatles.

Go to episode 216

Music News

Google Music entered the music-streaming fray this week with its new“All Access”service for Android. The world's top search engine is touting All Access as a combination of the best features of Pandora and Spotify. It offers curated“radio”stations alongside millions of tracks users can stream across devices. And Google is hoping users will pony up for that kind of access: unlike its competitors, Google's service will not offer a free option.

Forget the Desert Island - what music would you take to outer space? This week Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield made news by covering David Bowie's "Space Oddity" from the International Space Station. This isn't the first time rock has blasted into orbit. Last year Jim covered the auction of Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell's space mixtape, which featured tunes by Creedence Clearwater Revival and Marvin Gaye. So what tracks would Jim and Greg want to jam to in zero gravity? Greg picks Sun Ra's "Calling Planet Earth," whereas Jim sticks with a classic, The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun."

Go to episode 390

Music News

After a number of postponements, Lil Wayne has finally had his day in court. And the results weren't pretty. The multi-million selling rapper has been sentenced to one year in prison, and not the kinda digs most wealthy criminals face, but Riker's Island. This is the result of Wayne pleading guilty to gun possession last year. In an absurd chain of events, both of his previous sentencing dates had to be postponed–first because of“emergency dental surgery,”and then because the courthouse went up in flames. Greg likens Lil Wayne's situation to if Elvis or The Beatles had been jailed at the height of their chart success, and Jim wonders how fair this sentence really is.

Also in the news, Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse, committed suicide last week at age 47. Linkous had been battling severe depression for years, and his use of prescription drugs even left him paralyzed for several months. As Jim explains, Linkous used his life challenges in his music, and a new collaboration between the singer and Danger Mouse was set to be released this summer. To honor Linkous, Jim and Greg play "Grim Augury," a track from that album that also features another recently departed musician, Vic Chesnutt.

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Go to episode 224

Music News

This week everyone is talking about music from across the pond. That'd be The Beatles, of course. But, another British artist is also making headlines. UK rapper Speech Debelle has just been named the winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize after only selling 3,000 copies in her home country. As Jim and Greg explain, this is quite a contrast from the highly commercial acts rewarded by The Grammys. Speech Debelle is certain to see a sales boost after winning this prize, however it's uncertain whether she'll follow suit of past winners like PJ Harvey and Franz Ferdinand, or less successful ones like Roni Size who amazingly beat Radiohead.

Go to episode 198

Music News

The Beatles remasters were a big success story for Apple Corp. In one week they sold more than 600,000 albums in the U.S. and had 13 of the 14 best-selling catalog albums. So the question is, are they worth it? Jim and Greg give their answers. The sound is improved, but the packaging isn‘t much to write home about. And, as Jim says, how many new Beatles formats should fans be expected to buy? Greg thinks the real gems are the Fab Four’s mono mixes, but those are only available as a separate and pricey box set. Jim and Greg think fans deserve a little more for their money.

Two rock lawsuits are making the news. First, The Ellen DeGeneres Show is being sued by some of the largest record companies for copyright infringement. As viewers know, Ellen frequently and enthusiastically dances during the show. Unfortunately for her she doesn‘t like any fair-use beats. Instead she’s boogied down to over 1,000 copyrighted pop songs without permission. As Jim notes, the ironies abound: Ellen has not only hosted the recording industry's biggest award show, The Grammys, but she's been tapped as a new judge on American Idol, who works in partnership with Sony Music, one of the plaintiffs.

Next is an update on a lawsuit Jim and Greg discussed earlier this year. Guitar shredder Joe Satriani sued Coldplay for ripping off his composition If I Could Fly, in their track Viva La Vida. The suit has been dropped, and while no financial details have been revealed, Coldplay doesn't have to admit to any guilt.

Jim CarrollFamed poet, spoken word artist and punk rocker Jim Carroll passed away last week at the age of 60. Carroll may be best known for his 1978 book The Basketball Diaries, which was adapted into a film of the same name. He was also very involved in the CBGB's punk scene of the 1970s, and under the encouragement of Patti Smith, transformed his poetry into music. To honor Carroll, Jim and Greg play People Who Died from his 1980 album Catholic Boy.

Go to episode 199

Music News

The list of possible inductees for next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony has been announced. Among the first-time nominees are Kiss, LL Cool J, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Genesis. But there are some old faces, too. ABBA, The Stooges, and Donna Summer have all been up for induction before. Jim and Greg think they deserve recognition, but also have a healthy dose of skepticism whenever they talk about the Hall of Fame. It's notoriously conservative and often overlooks more fringe genres. Plus, as Jim explains, winners always run the risk of being encased in glass and wax in Cleveland.

A heavy debate on piracy and the internet is brewing in Europe. First, the controversial“Three Strikes”law in France has passed in the French assembly. This means that if a French citizen is caught downloading illegally three times, he or she will lose internet access and be subject to fines up to $450,000. Their neighbors in the U.K. are also concerned about this issue. British pop stars like Radiohead, Annie Lennox, and Robbie Williams are members of the Featured Artists Coalition, which recently released a statement coming down firmly on the side of the consumer and defending internet file-sharing as a promotional tool for up-and-coming artists. But artists like Lily Allen and James Blunt have taken the other side. Jim and Greg find this to be a bit ironic considering Allen's use of MySpace early in her career.

Before they launch into reviews of new fall albums, Jim and Greg take a look at how things are going on the charts. The Beatles are still the big winners, selling more than 2 million albums worldwide in just five days. But, as Jim points out, this is a fraction of what they might have sold back in the CD heyday of 1992, and a fraction of what they might have sold digitally. Another big chart winner is Jay-Z, who sold almost 300,000 albums of The Blueprint 3. Hip hop still dominates the charts, with big-selling albums by Drake, Lil Boosie, and Kid Cudi, whom Jim and Greg discuss later in the show.

Go to episode 200

Music News

Phil Everly died on January 3 at age 74 and as Jim explains, modern music wouldn't be what it is without The Everly Brothers making the connection between country, hillbilly folk and rock ‘n’ roll. It was Phil who hit the high harmony, inspiring countless vocal groups like The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beach Boys. And you can hear this timeless, forlorn cry in songs like "When Will I Be Loved" from 1960. Don't bother with Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong's tribute to the brother duo, which recently received a Trash It rating from Jim and Greg. But, do check out efforts by The Chapin Sisters and Dawn McCarthy and Bonny“Prince”Billy.

Go to episode 424