Feb 152021

I’ve seen a couple of stories the past week from artists talking about their songwriting process. I love reading and hearing about how artists wrote a particular song.

First, there’s this Guardian piece with Nick Lowe talking about the writing of “Cruel to Be Kind.” Great little piece, but Nick may regret sharing this memory:

Ian Gomm, from the Brinsley days, had taught me the triumphal chord at the top of the song, where I sing “B-a-a-ab-y, you gotta be cruel to be kind”, so he has a co-writing credit.

Friend of the Hall Gomm posted this article on his Facebook page and recalled adding more to the song than that single chord.

A richer article written by the song’s author itself, Peter Holsapple of The dB’s, appeared on our Rock Town Hall Facebook page, courtesy of the excellent Steve Hoffman Music Forums. It’s actually a 2008 New York Times article about the song “Love Is for Lovers,” the single from the band’s third album, Like This. Maybe we even covered this back in 2008, but hey, “It’s COVID-19, Jake.” It’s interesting to read Holsapple’s aspirations for the song and the confluence of circumstances that he felt went into its failure to even sniff the charts.

These are both good tales, but what’s your favorite songwriter tale about the writing of a song?

On a related note, I wish there was a Boomer edition of the podcast (and now Netflix series) Song Exploder. which is all about the writing of a song. My problem is that so many of the artists are youngsters way outside my tastes that I really have to focus to appreciate what these people put together. Although I’m exhausted by paying attention to some milquetoast artist like Bon Iver telling me about the creation of his boring song, I usually do appreciate the process. To give you an idea of how much I hunger for a version of this podcast with artists whose music I dig, the Netflix series episode with REM and “Losing My Religion” was a relative godsend for me. Some of you may know how I feel about REM and that song.


  86 Responses to “How We Wrote This: Nick Lowe, The dB’s…”

  1. BigSteve

    That bit about Ian Gomm stuck out when I read the article too. I would have thought that the chord in question was just a simple Fmaj7 (the song is in the key of C). I guess you could also play it as a D9, but I don’t understand what’s so special about it. Lowe had been writing songs for a few years at that point, even if he might like to portray himself as a bumbling primitive. The idea that it’s a “common disco chord” seems a bit off too. I’m wondering if the interviewer had trouble translating what Lowe actually said.

    It was definitely interesting to read that the Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes song The Love I Lost was the inspiration for Cruel To Be Kind.

  2. I’ve been reading a book titled Anatomy of a Song which is a compilation of short interviews with the various people involved in the making of different famous songs; whether singer, songwriter, producer, or musicians. Each song gets a few pages dedicated to it taking about 4 to 9 minutes to read (if you know what I’m saying) so I’ve been reading it over a few weeks. It’s a fun read.

    A Fogerty interview is included for Proud Mary. First he talks about bringing the song to CCR, and how he felt the guys weren’t getting the right feel so he had to teach them all their parts.

    Then during the recording he tells them that he doesn’t think they are getting the background vocals the way he hears them, so he sends the 3 of them to a bar, and records all the backgrounds himself. They were all majorly pissed off, but didn’t fight back when they heard the playback.

    It made me laugh. Fogerty is a lot like Michael Jordan. There was all this winning going on year after year, and no one but him enjoying any of it or sharing any of the credit.

  3. The only song I like by legendary creep and generally flaccid songwriter John Phillips is Me and my Uncle. He supposedly wrote it on a bet when he was blackout drunk and had no recollection of doing so.

  4. chickenfrank wrote: “Each song gets a few pages dedicated to it taking about 4 to 9 minutes to read (if you know what I’m saying)…”

    I know what you’re saying, and that means I’m going to have to buy my own copy!

    My favorite songwriting story – and I’m afraid I’m going to get a detail mixed up and get flagged by a more intense Beatles historian, like EPG or Andyr – involves Paul McCartney getting an acetate of The Who’s upcoming single “I Can See for Miles” and then feeling the heat by that song’s greatness. McCartney, in some piece I read ages ago, then decided he had to top it. He sat down and wrote “Paperback Writer.”

    That story ties into that Michael Jordan Top Dog impulse that chickenfrank referred to. I love knowing that artists actually do compete. That it’s not all about chasing the muse, man.

    The night before the 2016 election, I attended an amazing Elvis Costello show celebrating the anniversary of Imperial Bedroom. Costello told stories about how each song came together. The story behind “Kid About It,” if memory serves, hit a chord for me. If I’m remembering any of the details right, EC heard the news of John Lennon’s assassination, immediately called Pete Thomas to meet at a pub. They got hammered while talking about how much Lennon and the Beatles meant to them. Then Elvis walked alongside some river and came up with the song.

  5. I’m all for bands taking a competitive approach to other bands. It’s when the competition extends from “those other bands aren’t as good as us” to “you other guys in my own band aren’t worthy of me” that I start to laugh at the alpha dog. Some guys need that attitude to reach the heights they do, but don’t expect to get invited to many birthday parties if that’s your approach.

  6. garlic salt

    Maybe a little bit too well known for you guys, but I’ve always found the conflicting stories around the writing of Willin’ (or more, what happened after it). Zappa and Lowell George have each given a bunch of different versions of what happened and it would be interesting to find out what the real story is.

  7. garlic salt, I’ve never heard a single story about that song, which is the only song by Little Feat that I fully love. Can you summarize the conflicting stories or point us to them? Thanks!

  8. Moderator, McCartney’s creative response to Townshend’s braggadocio was “Helter Skelter.” Paperback Writer? Really? Why not really show your ignorance and suggest his response was “I’m Down.”

    CDM, John Phillips is a flaccid songwriter? Introduce me to the charlatans who schooled you regarding the ins and outs of songwriting so I can beat the shit out of every single one of them.

    Bought a nice collection of records this morning. Among the winners was the first Go Go’s Lp. Again, if you haven’t seen the Go Go’s documentary (you know who I am addressing), sign up for Showtime’s 30 day trial and watch the thing. They are as worthy of conversation as anything else that’s discussed up here. Honestly, Peter Holsapple? I certainly don’t hear anything coming close to an “Our Lips Are Sealed” from his group of snot nosed AV room power pop zeros.

    Chickenfrank, I’m with Fogerty. Proud Mary will be around for eternity, and so will he for making that decision. He did the right thing..

  9. The Mamas and the Papas blow. If Michelle Phillips wasn’t hot, they wouldn’t have gotten half the attention that they did. Creque Alley? A show-tuney piece of shit. Monday Monday? Even worse.

    Look, I’m not the Herman’s Hermits fan that you are. I doubt even Peter Noone is. But I genuinely like some of their songs, and with one notable exception, I can understand why you might be willing to go all in on their catalog (Well, maybe I don’t understand it but I will respect it). But John Phillips was just an opportunist who happened to be in the right place at the right time to provide some gullible hippies with a soundtrack to their supposed revolution.

    Me and My Uncle is great. (Even a broken clock…) California Dreaming is okay. You can have the rest.

    As legendary diplomat, and all around discrete gentleman David Crosby once tweeted when asked if John Phillips could be a genius in addition to being a creep: “Don’t see genius there …do see creep.”

  10. CDM, just for the record, I could care less if John Phillips was an opportunist, tax collector, republican, or any other despicable sort of dick. He knew how to write a memorable song. And Michelle Phillips was no Barbie bozo. She really knew the ins and outs of singing harmony. I also give her a big thumbs up for sleeping with just about everyone within a 100 mile radius of Laurel Canyon. She liked having sex, a lot. Me too. I’m certainly not going to fault her for that.

    “California Dreaming” is okay? Again, what unbelievable knucklehead was your mentor during those impressionable years when you should have been listening to the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan?

    And who gives a shit what David Crosby thinks. When he gave that tweet, he was most probably out of his mind on heroin, crack, qualaludes, you name it.

  11. Since when did “memorable” equal good.

    Remember that Seinfeld episode where George tries to get his name stuck in a woman’s head by singing his last name to the tune of a deodorant commercial (“by Memnen”)? Have you ever heard Baby Shark? Both tunes are quite memorable.

    And the M&P harmonies are uniquely uninteresting for a band that’s supposed to be all about the harmonies, although, in fairness, maybe the fact that the songs are so pedestrian and cloying is to blame. It sets the singers up for failure right from the start.

    Seriously, you are a man of very strongly held opinions, some righteous and some asinine. For a guy who seems to have a very strict code of what constitutes good music, how do these guys make it into the cannon?

  12. You and I definitely disagree on songwriting criteria. In my book, memorable is always good. I know nothing about Seinfeld. Tried it, didn’t like it. And I believe I’m probably wrong there. I appear to be one of the few to find the show mediocre at best. That said, whoever was responsible for “Baby Shark” got the job done. You still remember it, even though it might be absolute nonsense. If you call yourself a songwriter, and you don’t think coming up with something memorable is important, it’s time to do something else.

    Do me a favor, next time you record your next track, try working something out for three or four part harmonies, parts that stretch out over verses, choruses, and bridges. What the Mamas and Papas do is not uniquely uninteresting. What they do is very involved and difficult. Most don’t bother going there because it’s very hard to master, let alone try. I know. I’ve worked very hard at it, and I sucked. That said, I’m a better man for trying because I learned something interesting and also developed an incredible appreciation for just about all popular harmony based music.

    The Mamas and Papas make the cannon because what they serve up has it all: great songs, arrangements, harmony, instrumentation, etc.

    You and I are about the same age. One of the big differences between you and me is that I took off my Fonzie jacket a long time ago. You need to do the same. Taking that thing off will allow you to appreciate a lot of good stuff, Not allowing yourself to appreciate what’s going on in something like “California Dreaming” is pathetic.

  13. And he wrote Kokomo!

  14. It’s that time of month again, when EPG resorts to the “Fonzie jacket” cut…

  15. …And I’ll keep making that cut until the fucking thing comes off!

    Nice one, Geo, and a perfect example of a memorable piece of work I don’t particularly enjoy, but one in which much songwriting skill was obviously at hand.

  16. I’m not suggesting you ever drop it. In fact, I’ve stored it in the mainframe.

  17. I had no idea he wrote Kokomo. This changes everything.

    So if something sticks in your head and is very “involved and difficult”, it’s good? Got it.

    I wasn’t aware there were bright line rules like this. I’ve got to rethink everything. “Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama…” I get it now. I can’t believe I’d written that song off for years as a colossal corn-laden turd. I now realize that I can’t trust my own ears.

  18. You’re welcome, CDM! If I can be of any further assistance, just say the word! Zoom conferencing works for me as well. I mean that! You’re taste is exceptionally awful, and I’d like to help you change all that.

    And just for the record, I Iistened to the DBs “Love is for Lovers” track and read the Holsapple piece. The real problem is that the whole thing is more like a long involved math equation that’s clever enough but fails to stick in the long term memory after repeated visitings. Plain and simple, it probably looked good on paper but didn’t translate that well as a recorded piece of music.

  19. 2000 Man

    CDM said:

    The Mamas and the Papas blow.

    Nailed it. You didn’t need to expound on it at all. Music for upper middle class hippies to take home to mom and dad so their trust fund doesn’t go “poof!” when mom and dad find out their beloved Chad smokes dope and his girlfriend is on the pill and has no plans to give Chad’s mommy a grandbaby. When she finally did pop out a grandbaby it turned into Tucker Carlson.

    I have to get some time to catch up on this. BigSteve mentioning Cruel to be Kind and Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes just made my head explode. Man, that’s a great song and I can hear what Nick probably was going for.

    Oh yeah, Hoffman’s forums can suck all the fun out of music faster than a Texas snowstorm can turn off your record player. Most of them are too busy listening to their $500 power cord than they are to any music. Tell them you just like something and ten of them will tell you it’s “unlistenable” because it’s “brickwalled.” They know because they saw it on a graph somewhere.

  20. 2K Man, your impeccable taste in music and your built-in bullshit detector have always made you the Most Musically Righteous Townsman in my eyes.

    EPG, I’m ready for that zoom whenever the Mod pulls it together. I mean come on, at this rate, the pandemic’s going to be over before we have a Zoom, for chrissake.

  21. 2000 man, it’s great to have you back! Get comfortable! Take off your Fonzie jacket, the same one CDM refuses to take off, and enjoy the heartiness of RTH.

    When you’re done having the time of your life listening to that new Stones boot “Stewed and Keefed Mach II / Walker and Wheelchair Tour 2018,” give me a real reason why you don’t like the Mamas and the Papas, not some wanna be Billy Miller Kicks rant. I know you can do a lot better than that. The whole “I’m too cool for that shit” is getting really old at this point.

    Maybe you just got up. That Metamucil / coffee combo should be kicking in right about now. Take a dump, make a pot of coffee, put your cheaters on, and give me something that’ll really get my goat.

  22. Fuck the Moderator! I’ve been trying to get him to get the Zoom thing going forever. The truth of the matter is that he’s afraid of a get together because I’m going to show the gang what a pretentious ass he is. I’ll set it up if someone can tell me how to acquire the emails from all the RTH members.

  23. I made you, EPG, and I can break you.

    You know I don’t really feel that way – just wanted to say that one time in my life.

    For the record, that dB’s song “Love Is for Lovers” and that entire album is mediocre, in my estimation. Andyr said it best years ago: The dB’s never recovered from moving Gene Holder from bass to guitar.

    Losing Stamey and going down to a one-songwriter band couldn’t have helped either.

    As for the group Zoom call thing, EPG, I’ll see what I can set up. It’s a ball-ache to set up a group Zoom call. I’m on video conferences all day long. Sometimes they’re pretty good, but after the sixth one, they start to bum me out, as I miss being with people in the flesh.

  24. EPG said:

    “…give me a real reason why you don’t like the Mamas and the Papas, not some wanna be Billy Miller Kicks rant. I know you can do a lot better than that.”

    That is fuckin’ rich. You may use evidence to defend something you like, but you’re assaults on things you don’t like usually amount, “Of course I hate that; I’ve got GOOD taste.”

  25. Hey Moderator, don’t worry about setting it up. Just send me the members’ emails, and I’ll take care of everything. I’ve had over 100 Zoom meetings, one to one, group, whatever. Sit it out if you want. I want to get this thing going. Again, just send me the members’ emails.

    Geo, take a chill pill. In the meantime, let me know where you stand on the Mamas and the Papas. Although you drive me to drink, you’ve never appeared to have a need for the Fonzie jacket.

  26. BigSteve

    John Phillips also wrote San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).

  27. Yes he did. And that’s another winner. The B side of that single, “What’s the Difference,” is a nice track as well.

  28. Oh, I actually like the Mamas & Papas a lot. Not so much Kokomo. “I Saw Her Again Last Night” is my particular favorite; the part where the line “I saw her again” gets repeated as if starting the verse over is cool. I also like the backstory that this song was John’s way of getting back at Stationmaster Denny by making him sing this song about his affair with Michelle.

    They had a a whole schticky thing with the vocals like tacking on the irrelevant and ornate “Yeahs” in just about every song and their fashion sense can certainly be ridiculed in retrospect, but I do think that Phillips had a uniquevision of putting the group harmonies together, in a folky way rather than the more elaborate, jazzy Brian Wilson style.

    I saw a documentary on them, probably on Amazon a couple years back and Lou Adler was very clear that the Phillips vocal arrangements made them stand out immediately when he was auditioning them.

    Chill pill? Jeez.

  29. That’s pretty much how I see them as well. The documentary I saw years ago is currently up on You Tube. Here’s the link:


    It’s a low budget affair, but it’s still a pretty good overview.

  30. I may like The Mamas & Papas as much as any post-Beach Boys LA band from that time other than Buffalo Springfield and The Doors. Certainly more than I like The Byrds. Also, I’m not typically a fan of too many gimmicky harmonies, but I think they were great at them.

    And it’s good to see “Kokomo” getting some love.

  31. I don’t recommend that documentary. I just watched it and it seems to be a pre-transplant documentary when Phillips had the new version of the group. His contemporary interviews in the documentary increased the creepy factor. I vaguely remember Phillips on Howard Stern post-transplant when he was saying that he could drink again now that he had a fresh liver.

    The other documentary was after he had died. Even Michelle was looking old. But it had less of that phony-ass salvation angle.

  32. Don’t think Kokomo was getting any love from me. Ugh.

  33. Happiness Stan

    I can’t deny having quite a deal of love for enough Mamas and Papas songs to fill just under a side of an old fashioned bargain bin budget label compilation LP.

    Since I used to judge the worthiness of a band or artist by whether I could fill one side of a c90 with stuff worth repeat hearing means I’ve not listened to I Saw Her Again Last Night as often as maybe I liked. On the other hand, I did force myself to listen to one of their studio albums once and found it wanting.

    I only heard Kokomo for the first time last year, it didn’t grab me in the way other Beach Boys songs have in the past.

    I find Zoom calls a real drag, although I’ve never been a great one for phone calls either. They remind me how much I miss spending time with real humans, the one thing above all others which has practically broken me during the dark winter months. I’d make an exception for you guys if you can get it together, although the time difference might be tricky. I think I’d prefer hanging out with you guys than spending ten minutes in the company of either John Phillips or David Crosby.

  34. Good to hear from you, Stan. The Mamas and Papas LPs are indeed spotty. If asked to put together a 14 track UK comp, here’s what I’d propose: A 1 California Dreaming 2 Straight Shooter 3 I Call Your Name 4 Do Your Wanna Dance 5 Monday Monday 6 Spanish Harlem 7 Go Where You Wanna Go B 1 I Saw Her Again 2 Dedicated to the One I Love 3 Trip, Stumble, and Fall 4 Got a Feeling 5 Free Advice 6 Creque Alley 7 Nowhere Man

    Granted, most of the tracks are from the first album, which is when the problems began with Michelle sleeping around and John Phillips developing a taste for heroin.

    Ditto regarding Zoom. That said, who knows how long we’ll be quarantining in some capacity or another, with the 500 or so variants of covid that are coming out like roaches from under a mat. We all need a good laugh, and that’s why I keep pitching for the thing. Again, I’ll set it up. It’s nothing difficult. A monkey could put it together..

    To all, you can email me at the following address jurgenvollmer1961@gmail.com. Once I get enough addresses, I’ll send out a general email to see what date and time works best. I’m thinking a Saturday might be good. That said, I can be talked into anything.

    It may amount to nothing, but in the words of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Randle Patrick McMurphy, after trying his best to lift a heavy control panel in the defunct hydrotherapy room, “At least I tried.”

  35. Hi all,

    Just a reminder! I’m putting together the Rock Town Hall Zoom session. To those who already sent me their emails, big thumbs up. To those who haven’t, email me at jurgenvollmer1961@gmail.com at your convenience. I’m thinking some time next Saturday might might work for everyone. If not, just let me know. I want to come up with a date and time that’s convenient.

    Yours in Christ,

  36. Back to the original topic at hand, which was not the Mamas & Papas. This is an interesting clip of Paul Simon describing how the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came together.


    It’s a little reminiscent of the insufferable but ultimately enlightening Ray Manzarek spiel about “Light My Fire.”

  37. I tried to time code the link, but you may want to skip to about 5:15 if you have limited tolerance for Simon and Cavett.

  38. Here’s another link, more about putting the recording together. Interesting that by this time, Simon has gone to the “it came tome from the blue” schtick rather that the detailed thievery of the Cavett clip.


  39. Simon and Garfunkel, there’s yet another act that many RTHers scorn. And I agree that Paul Simon, especially early on was unbelievably pretentious, but he certainly cranked out a lot of winners. The Simon and Garfunkel catalog is pretty solid.

    One more thing, I’ve been listening to the Blues Breakers LP featuring Clapton. I see most of it as a pretty pointless exercise, but the overall sonic sound of the thing is terrific, especially the cover of Freddy King’s “Hideaway”. That is a killer track.

  40. EPG, why the unnecessary “early on” and the past tense regarding Simon’s pretentiousness?

  41. I didn’t bother following his career after his mid 70s output, which also meant I didn’t bother reading or listening to any interviews after that point as well. I assumed that character flaw got knocked out of him when the Saturday Night Live gang had him dress up in a chicken outfit while performing “Still Crazy After All These Years,” which I recalled being pretty funny. I stand corrected!

  42. I can do without that performance, but I think the version by the Cyrkle is great. It’s a good song. No?

  43. Even his top 40 stuff is effortlessly pretentious, but really good.

    Did you get the Dylan reference? She told me once that she thought both Simon and Dylan would hate that particular mashup.

  44. If the reference you’re referring to is the intro from Dylan’s “I Want You,” then I got it. I don’t know zip about Nellie, but her performance was pleasant enough.

    I do my best to separate one’s artistic work from his/her behavior. If I didn’t do that, I most probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate much of anything.

  45. BigSteve

    That Bridge Over Troubled Water video is quite interesting, and I’m not a huge fan of the song. I wish Paul had stuck to his guns, not written a third verse, and kept it a small gospel song. The bombast at the end ruins it. The weirdest thing about the clip is that most of the way through I didn’t realize the the old Jewish guy in the baseball hat with the deep voice is Art Garfunkel.

  46. She also plays it at the end in between fake sobbing, as in “The actual subtext of this cheery sounding breakup song is that I Want You.” I like that kind of embedded musical reference.

  47. BigSteve,

    I’m not sure the third verse is the problem, but rather the bombast. If they brought the harmony vocal and the band in, light strings and not overdone it, it probably would’ve been better. I’d hate to see it lose the “Sail on silverbird” part, where the melody change at first makes it sound like a bridge. But yeah, when the 1812 overture is in there by the end, it really does get slathered by cheese.

    Although the recording video was interesting, it had the stink of sculpted story. I don’t believe for a minute that they went to New York to record the Garfunkel vocal and then realized it should have a third verse, I’m sure that got added much earlier in the process, maybe after the first two, maybe at the studio, but no way after the whole thing was conceived as a two verse arrangement.

    I much prefer the Cavett interview which sounds like a pretty accurate account of how Simon came up with the basic song.

    We’ve discussed authenticity so often here but never specifically in the context of interviews. I’d say there are three types of interview subjects in ascending order of quality: those that somehow make themselves out to be the center of the story no matter how incidental; those that mouth tired conventional wisdom with little or nothing to add; and those that present a credible personal viewpoint with the proper context and humility.

    Clearly 90% of the rock documentary interviews fall into the second category. The most egregious example of the third category are Maria Muldaur’s segments in “No Direction Home” which make it sound as if she and “Bobby” were inseparable back in the Village days. On the other hand, Joan Baez who arguably was more central to Dylan’s story be a a degree of magnitude, is clear eyed enough to laugh at her own youthful overestimation of her importance in his story. That quality makes her observations credible and worthwhile. Authentic even.

  48. I love the 3 categories of rock documentary interviews breakdown! That alone could be a standalone piece, or at least a subthread here. A fourth category may be somewhere between your first and third: the false-humility stance, which usually attributes an artist’s amazing work to the muse or a god. Read between the lines and that muse or god is likely the artist sitting there telling you about the mysterious way in which he or she received the song.

  49. I think my classifications pertain more to individuals that are not the subject per se. In the two clips regarding “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” the younger Simon provides a detailed, believable, description of how he pieced the thing together. In the later analysis of the whole recording process, he goes for that tired old “from God’s lips to my ears” schtick. Yuck.

    Bob Dylan is not someone that you would ever expect honesty from, but he seemed to give up a lot of information in Chronicles about the raw materials that he copped to create himself. It felt surprisingly honest from that angle, but he didn’t really reveal anything about his actual process, even though there was a lot of discussion of the Time Out of Mind sessions.

    And while I get you regarding those it came through me claims, I sometimes think that it maybe did for Dylan. There are those stories about him being able to type out songs as if from a copy and a scene in Don’t Look Back shows him hammering something out. Baez told a story about him having some kind of disagreement with a snooty hotel employee and him sitting at the typewriter vexed and typing out “When the Ship Comes In” in minutes.

    The incident that makes me believe that this is more than apocryphal is the moment in the 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley where he asks Dylan how those early songs came to him. He claims they just came, he can’t really put a finger on how and recites the first bit of “It’s Alright, Ma.”

    “Darkness at the break of noon. Shadows even the silver spoon. The handmade blade, the child’s balloon. Eclipses both the sun and moon.”

    When Bradley asks if he can still do that, Dylan looks genuinely sad and says no he can’t. That thing he had is gone.

  50. Here’s a link to that Dylan interview. It sounded honest to me.


  51. And as far as Dylan goes he has consistently told the story of a mentor he had in NYC in the early ’70s named Norman Raeben.
    There are a lot of fascinating quotes and background here:


    Here’s just one part: “Dylan once unconsciously created songs with the no-time quality of painting. Many times he spoke of parallels between song and painting — one recalls, for example, Dylan’s introduction of “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” in concerts in 1965 as “a painting in maroon and silver” or “a painting in purple”, but only after studying with Norman Raeben was he to recapture his apparently lost ability to write such songs, now with the notable difference of conscious composition.”

  52. hrrundivbakshi

    Hey, gang! Good to see Gergley is still strutting around in his sequined Y-fronts. Sorry I’ve been away — I busted my shoulder real bad a few months ago (16 screws holding it together!), and it makes typing anything a b-i-t-c-h. But I do want to say a couple things:

    1. Mod, tell us again how much you (presumably) hate “Losing My Religion.” I need to bond with somebody about something, and that particular scorn-party would really do the trick. God, what a pice of shit that song is. Just thinking about it makes me remember what it feels like inside your nose when you walk into a men’s room stall and discover somebody left a giant log in the bowl.

    2. Gergs — if you can’t get behind Holsapple’s uncanny ability to write a pop song, then I dunno. Yeah, “Like This” sucks. But he gets a lifetime pass for having written ALL the catchy songs in the dB’s canon. Come on: “Bad Reputation”? Are you kidding me? Or go listen to the Stamey/Holsapple album “Mavericks.” It’s damn near perfect.

    Anyhow, more later, I hope.


  53. Thank god HVB is back among us! Automatic POST OF THE WEEK!

    I’m in the middle of a busy day, HVB, but I’ll try to find time to collect my thoughts and revisit “Losing My Religion.” What I have to share may shock – and dismay – you. Or maybe not.

  54. Holsapple blew it when he gave up his job at Radio Shack. Instead of writing shitty music, he could have saved the company from going under!

  55. Because I am pleased that you have returned to the Hall, HVB, I listened to “Bad Reputation.” Like every Dweebs song I hear, it comes off like a clever math equation that delights the members of the AV club to no end but means nothing to anybody who can’t survive on Wonderbread, Sprite, and Fun Dip. What is it with you? I thought you went to the hospital to get your shoulder fixed? Did they rip out your heart out as well while you were in there? I know they didn’t touch your dick and balls because they’ve been gone for years!

    I’ve gotta lotta shit to do, man. I thought we had all this worked out years ago, the whole animality + talent + brains = the best records of all time thing: Revolution, I Can’t Get Next to You, Street Fighting Man, Death or Glory, Respect,etc. We’re talking about records made by multitalented animals who were smart enough or had people smart enough to keep it together when the time came to commit vision to wax.

    You’ve been laid up for a couple of months, and the only light bulb that’s gone off in your head is the magic of Mavericks???!!!! God almighty!!!!!

  56. Meet me in the alley behind Doc Watson’s next Tuesday night, EPG. You’re inability to appreciate the first two dB’s albums and go on with your animality routine, when you once tried to impress me by placing Lifes Rich Pageant front and center in your Now Playing stack, tells me you are long overdue for an ass kicking. That said, if you came up with the nickname The Dweebs for that band, I bow to you. I don’t think I’ll ever shake that association. It’s a perfect nickname for them.

    Seriously, there’s much that I can’t imagine you ever liking much about The Dweebs (and I’d put “Bad Reputation” real low on songs capable of giving you a tingle), but if you can’t dig “Big Brown Eyes,” we need to talk.

  57. You and I are going to go head to head Friday night. Know that it isn’t going to be pleasant. If I were you, I too would keep bringing up that Achiles’ heel reference. It’s not much, but you need something when you don’t have an entire leg to stand on.

    “Big Brown Eyes” was just fine on a mixed tape you made for me years ago. It holds up because it works in the context of that tape. I have sentimental reasons for liking it as well. Negate those factors, and what you have is yet another math equation delight for the AV gang.

    Yes, I alone am responsible for the Dweebs moniker. It’s especially apt, and I’m somewhat surprised it wasn’t coined when there was some minor Trouser Press hoopla for their first outing, which was about 6 months or so after they turned in their resignations at Radio Shack.

    Though I’ve made this point before, it appears it needs to be stated again. Why on Earth would anyone waste their time with the Dweebs when there’s so much great music to be enjoyed. Almost anything is better than listening to the Dweebs. For all their so called mastery of pop, they’ve never delivered anything even close to “Our Lips Are Sealed.” It’s astounding that someone with your Orson Welles like appetites would settle for something something so bland.

  58. …And here’s something real, real good: a four course meal that’s so utterly delicious that it goes down in two and a half minutes, if that.


    The Dweebs. Jesus. Give me a fucking break.

  59. That Otis Rush track is great, but don’t serve me pasta when I’ve sat down for a sushi dinner.

    In other words, apples and oranges…

    I think part of getting the value of The dB’s and so many underground bands from the early- to mid-’80s that you poo-poo is feeling a sense of kinship with bands at that time. I’m going to sound like the worst kind of snob here, but honestly, if you were starting a band during the dying days of Trouser Press, these bands were pioneers working toward a DIY dream.

    I think in those days you were operating from your own ivory tower, one that always felt it wasn’t worth trying to have a band or jump onto a grassroots movement if it wasn’t going to be something as magnificent as the British Invasion or some other legendary movement. I’m not criticizing you for this, mind you, and I’ve always been more of a Greatness Snob than most of our peers were back then, but I do think you had to have embraced the idealism and romanticism of the early ’80s underground scene to appreciate some of these artists. The dB’s had a sense of adventurism that was palpable. They weren’t aiming to be any form of classic rock or pop formalists, although their music was rooted in pop formalism.

  60. I found it interesting to learn on that show that Losing My Religion is a southern term of exasperation. I think Stipe used an example like, “My uncle’s wedding toast went on so long, I lost my religion”. That’s a cool term. I think the song suffers MOST from the association with that horribly pretentious video. Stipe flapping his arms around on that arty gray set really puts me off. The song itself hardly bothers me at all anymore.

  61. I understand your explanation. That said, I would never succumb to such nonsense. I certainly felt no need to be a part of that early 80s underground scene because just about all the music that came out of it sucked. And it sucked because the people in that scene, for the most part, be it the artists, producers, engineers, or whoever, had no idea of what a good record should sound like. Their supposed big influences were all people like Television, the Stooges, and all those no wave zeros who made records that might have been interesting but always sounded like shit. For the most part, the music is very mechanical, thin, tinny, and very, very white. Whether it came out on Homestead, Dutch East India, Twin Tone, whatever, it was the same garbage every time because of the following three scenarios: 1) The band has little talent, and they’re recording at a studio where the engineer fucks the sound up with too much treble and reverb, and bass is not an option. 2) The band has some talent, but they’re recording at a studio where the engineer fucks the sound up with too much treble and reverb, and bass is not an option, or 3) the band definitely has talent, but they’re recording at a studio where the engineer fucks the sound up with too much treble and reverb, and bass is not an option.

    And the truth of the matter is that just about all the people that were a part of that scene never recovered because they spent too much time in the thick of it, further screwing up their ability to figure out how to write and record a decent track. Scene camaraderie is fine and dandy, but one should never equate that as an essential ingredient in the making of a quality slice of music..

    All that changed around the time when Beck and Oasis got big. Records started sounding good again. The artists went after an overall sound that sounded like something recorded in the 60s or early 70s: up front vocals and danceable rhythms with heavy bass and drums that sounded like drums and not toys. And that trend stuck and continues to stick. I’m too much of an old fart to pretend to understand anything going on these days, but I do appreciate the overall pop sounds I hear. It doesn’t seem or sound like the 80s underground scene has had any kind of lasting influence on anyone getting any kind of airplay. Come to think about it, it really didn’t take that long to figure all that out. When the dog shits in the house, you clean it up and get rid of it as fast as possible.

  62. BigSteve

    “It doesn’t seem or sound like the 80s underground scene has had any kind of lasting influence on anyone getting any kind of airplay.”

    Miley Cyrus et al. covering the Replacements:


  63. Big Steve,there’s always the occasional exception. I always give credit where credit is due. Nice song, nice performance.

  64. I’m with chickenfrank on “Losing My Religion.” It’s not really my thing but it’s good, effective record. The video was really the problem.

  65. Wow, EPG, we are demonstrating unforeseen levels of kindness and wisdom in our golden years, but you lost me with…Oasis. I get that their records sound like they were given the necessary care of a coke-funded professional studio, but their music sucks the bad part of my ass. I’d rather listen to a Replacements album over their crap. But, wow, it would be a toss-up if my choices were Oasis or Husker Du.

  66. Mr. Mod

    You really hate Bob Mould’s “Sheet Metals of Sound,” don’t you?

  67. hrrundivbakshi

    Yeah, Gergs really lost me with that Oasis thing. Hey, Plurbie — how do you feel about The La’s?

  68. On a purely sonic level, “Pleased to Meet Me” is great to me, thick and powerful. A lot of the songs are so-so but “Alex Chilton” and “Nevermind” kill me.

  69. As always, Moderator, you’ve leveled criticism that makes no sense whatsoever. I really don’t know much about Oasis, but I know a well crafted and produced record when I hear it. And if their kind of magic happened in a coke funded studio, that’s all fine and dandy with me. The means justify the ends. I wouldn’t call myself a big Oasis fan, but “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and :She’s Electric” are terrific in much the same way as The Cars’ “Just What I Needed.” Lyrically, their songs don’t add up to much, but neither does “She Loves You.” Sonically, they hit like a ton of bricks: catchy with lots of hooks, way up front vocals, and rhythmically rich compressed instrumentation. They had good taste. They listened to the right records at the right time and weren’t going to settle for less.

    Like I said previously, your beloved Dweebs don’t have anything close to those three Oasis winners let alone a single “Our Lips Are Sealed.”

    As far as the La’s are concerned, they have one winner, “There She Goes,” and it too has that same lyrical vapidness of the aforementioned, but it makes no difference whatsoever when you hear the thing blasting from the car audio. It slays over and over again. Why? They too wanted that same sixties sound and were also smart enough like Oasis and Beck to steer clear from the producer who thought Television’s first album had a good sound.

    No Oasis, Beck,and the La’s do not suck. Again, they all had great taste, which powered their few unforgettable grand slams. I’d take that over hundreds of fouls and out at first bunts any day of the week.

  70. 2000 Man

    Man, I really hate Oasis. Like in the same way I hate the Eagles.Yuck.

    I picked up an album back around November I think called Strum and Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987. i didn’t really know many of the bands on it, but there’s a handful I had heard and after getting it I feel like I remember a few things from listening to college radio all the time back then. Anyway, I really like it. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit. It’s like comfort food or something. It’s like this stuff: https://youtu.be/YMY6Yd6Vswc

  71. Geo, I haven’t heard that Mould album in ages, but YES! I actually bought that turd, I think because Tony Maimone played on it and I figured that alone could help that guy have even a little bit of definition in his music. No dice! My issue with Mould and Husker Du has always been the same: it’s all gray atop gray. There are sometimes hints of a catchy song, but it’s all presented like the grayish-brown mess that ends up on an artist’s paint tray – whatever that thing is called that they dab at in the movies.

    As for The Replacements, I don’t dislike them; I simply find them a little blah and by the numbers. Pleased to Meet Me is by far their best album: it’s the only one that doesn’t sound like shit, and it’s not hampered by Bob Stinson’s poor-man’s ’70s hockey rink guitar playing, or whatever he was up to.

    Gergs, your soft spot for Oasis and all that in-your-face British crap (dating back to the cheesier side of the British Invasion, as well) is endearing…until you get to Oasis. That’s where your high-minded concepts about “craft” and “taste” move into the sad, creepy side of a fetish. It’s like being into the Marilyn Monroe-Brigitte Bardot-style busty, bottle blonde and then finding yourself salivating over Loni Anderson. You don’t like hearing this stuff from me, but 2000 Man tells it to you straight. He’s got no axe to grind, no lingering discontent over you showing up with the Shithead hat. Listen to 2K. He’s looking out for you, as I am. He’s just not a dick about it.

  72. Losing My Religion: I’m with geo and chicken. I hated Losing My Religion. Then I saw an unplugged version and I realized that my hate was wrongly directed at the song when it was actually the video that I hated.

    Oasis: I’m in for Don’t Look Back IN Anger and Live Forever. Are they the greatest band ever? Are they the worst? Of course not. They are just yet another wildly overrated band that has a couple of decent songs.

    Crappy sounding production: The first Television album sounds great to me. The trouble with 80’s production is usually a combinations of bad digital reverb and heavy handed compression. I don’t hear those on Marquee Moon. You might not like the songs or performances but I don’t think the production is the culprit.

  73. Bob Mould’s guitar tone is confounding. I was working at the Warfield Theater in the early 90’s when Sugar played there. I was checking out his rig while I was setting up my bar and noticed that he had the three basic food groups represented: Vox AC30, Marshall Plexi half stack, and Fender Twin Reverb. Apparently he just had them all slaved together and dimed because his guitar was just a wash of white noise. I’m not a fan. Years later, I saw his with Jon Wurster and Jason Narducci (?) from Superchunk and he was playing Blackstars. His tone sounded much better although it was still a bit of a white noise wash lacking in warmth.

  74. CDM, that makes no sense. I would love to have all three of those amps. Using them all simultaneously is just silly showing off without a benefit. It’s like showing up at the club with a blonde, brunette, and redhead on your arms simultaneously. C’mon, you’ve only got one big bologna to go around.

  75. EPG may be the only person in the world with a low opinion of the sound of Marquee Moon. He lumps it in with “the Stooges, and all those no wave zeros,” whoever the hell that is but I don’t get it.

    The Television album doesn’t sound anything like the Stooges. It is heavy on the treble, but it’s very dry. It’s a beautiful recording made by a top notch engineer producer who recorded Exile on Main Street and Led Zeppelin. It doesn’t sound like those records because it aimed to capture relatively straight up guitar and drum sounds in an immediate way. Everything on there sounds great. There’s lots of production, doubling guitars, layering in subtle parts, but all to give the impression of a very powerful small combo in close quarters. When you hear even the first chords of See No Evil, it’s like the first time a record ever exactly captured the actual sound of an electric guitar through an amp.

  76. Chicken: Seriously! I could see having them and a/b-ing them to dial up specific cool sounds. I once saw that the guy from the Roots had a Fender Deluxe and a Vox AC15 and I thought that I would do the same if I were doing this professionally and had someone else lugging my gear around. Best of both worlds. I can’t say for sure that Bob Mould had them all chained together. Maybe he was switching. But I couldn’t tell the difference. No dynamics and no variation in tone.

    I genuinely like some songs by Husker Du and by Bob solo, but I’ve never really liked his tone or his voice, so now I’m thinking that those songs must be amazingly written.

  77. Just a couple of quick thoughts:

    For the five billionth time, I didn’t say I was an Oasis fan. I said they had three or four solid songs.

    Geo, Al, anyone else: I couldn’t get through Dylan’s Chronicles I book. A better title would have been Ramblings I. Am I missing something? Should I try and read it again?

    Looks like our Zoom session will be this Friday evening at 7:00. I will send out the link later today. Any questions? Email me at jurgenvollmer1961@gmail.com

    And Happiness, my apologies. This is the best time I could come up with based on members’ schedules!

  78. (1) Best not to read Chronicles straight through.
    (2) Best not to read it sequentially. Pick it up periodically and read a random section
    (3) Best to treat it as somewhere between fact and fiction.

  79. Thanks, Al! That’s pretty much what I thought!

  80. BigSteve

    I couldn’t find the recent interview with Bob Mould where he talks about how he records his guitar in the studio, but I found one from 2016:

    “I used a number of small variations with the amps, and that’s where I really got into the layering. I had three different half-stacks out there—two Blackstars and an old Hiwatt, with each head going to the same cabinet. So I had six different rhythm guitars essentially doing the same thing. I’d get three different tones with each guitar, miked close with a [Neumann] U 67 and a Coles [ribbon mic] about 10 feet out from the cabinet. And then each tone was spread across three tracks, so I had 18 tracks of guitar.”

    Needless to say, Bob has tinnitus.

  81. That explains a lot, Big Steve.

  82. I am off to look at yet another record collection. Know that I’ll be looking forward to tonight’s RTH Zoom session. I look forward to discussing the following topics:

    1) The Moderator’s explanation of why Oasis sucks
    2) The Moderator’s explanation of why the Byrds suck
    3) The Moderator’s explanation of why the first Television LP is so groundbreaking even though the second side is filled with snoozers
    4) The Moderator’s explanation of why the Lennon songs on Rubber Soul suck
    5) The Moderator’s explanation of why Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark sucks
    6) The Moderator’s explanation of why Pet Sounds is weak, even though he said the following to me while handing me a demo tape containing songs that would eventually become Nixon’s Head Gourmet: “This is more or less my Pet Sounds.”
    7) The Moderator’s explanation of why Doo Wop sucks
    8) The Moderator’s explanation of his assessment that Beggars’ Banquet suffers from poor production
    9) The Moderator’s explanation of why the Band’s second LP is a masterpiece.
    10) The Moderator’s explanation of his disturbing fascination with the Animals post Animalism output, which began around the same time Burdon formed a new band and renamed the act Eric Burdon and the Animals.

    That should cover the first 5-6 hours. Know that I’m more than happy to address other points of interest as well.

    And Moderator, if you could put something up on the main stage as a reminder of the gathering tonight, that would be great. Again, email me for the link or any additional info at jurgenvollmer1961@gmail.com


  83. hrrundivbakshi

    Mr. Moderator: right or wrong?

    1) The Moderator’s explanation of why Oasis sucks

    2) The Moderator’s explanation of why the Byrds suck

    3) The Moderator’s explanation of why the first Television LP is so groundbreaking even though the second side is filled with snoozers

    4) The Moderator’s explanation of why the Lennon songs on Rubber Soul suck

    5) The Moderator’s explanation of why Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark sucks

    6) The Moderator’s explanation of why Pet Sounds is weak, even though he said the following to me while handing me a demo tape containing songs that would eventually become Nixon’s Head Gourmet: “This is more or less my Pet Sounds.”

    7) The Moderator’s explanation of why Doo Wop sucks

    8) The Moderator’s explanation of his assessment that Beggars’ Banquet suffers from poor production

    9) The Moderator’s explanation of why the Band’s second LP is a masterpiece.

    10) The Moderator’s explanation of his disturbing fascination with the Animals post Animalism output, which began around the same time Burdon formed a new band and renamed the act Eric Burdon and the Animals.

  84. Per our earlier conversation, I’m revisiting Be Bop Deluxe Best Of album which I picked up used and cheap some time long past. First songs from the first album are very Bowie. And I do not like Ziggy era Bowie. Bill Nelson’s guitar does sound a lot like Gong’s Steve Hillage, they both use an 80’s flange effect, but I like Hillage’s hippie record, Fish Rising, a lot. This stuff is, at best, mildly interesting.

    They have the quality of early 70’s English bands that are decidedly not my taste. I certainly don’t recommend that EPG even think about it.

  85. I’m interested in the criteria and then the output of CDM’s Replacements mixtape. If I understand, it will be a collection of 10 or so songs that what? Are their best, your personal favorites, best picks to sway a non-fan, a fair representation of their entire career, proof of the value of Westerberg’s songwriting, a variety of rockers and sensitives??? What kind of list will it mostly be? What’s on it?

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