Nov 152010


Here’s our second episode of Saturday Night Shut-In, the roughly 33-minute, 33-second–Rock Town Hall podcast hosted by yours truly.

[audio:|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 2]

Download episode 2 (31 MB).

This week, inspired by a recent conversation with my teenage son, I dip into my childhood singles collection, a scratchy, fingerprinted mess of ’50s through early ’70s nuggets, many of which were given to my by my then-mustachioed, wide-collared velvet shirt-wearing, piano-playing, baseball-and-music–loving uncle. It was a fine preteen rock ‘n roll education, in which I learned the values of kicking it out, midrange, walking basslines, chooglin’, and patience for the big payoff in a 3-minute single that seemed to last forever when I was 11 years old. Through the years I’ve also continued to dig the extra visceral charge provided by the gradient, as my sophisticated son puts it, or surface noise, of these old records. Maybe you will too. Enjoy!

I encourage fellow Townspeople to contribute their own episodes. Contact me off list if you’re interested. We already have a couple of Very Special Guest Shut-Ins lined up!


  13 Responses to “Rock Town Hall’s Saturday Night Shut-In: The Thrill of Gradient”

  1. misterioso

    Mod, nicely done. Good for your son for being into old jazz and blues and such. I think it’s a shame that most “rock people” of our generation fail to experience the glories of jazz and blues of an earlier time. (Which to me means pretty much pre-1970.) It is an almost inexhaustible wealth of material.

    Some great, um, gradient going there. I’m not sure why, but I never really bought singles when I was growing up in the 70s. Not until I really started collecting records in college did I pick up old singles and people started giving me their collections, sort of like your uncle’s. So, now, from time to time, we have scratchy singles nights down in the basement where the turntable is set up. A lot of fun is had, since the eclecticism of the 45s collection is rather severe–as is the volume of the surface noise. But I do rather enjoy the pop and crackle that accompany my 45s of Paul Revere and the Raiders “Good Thing” and Johnny Nash’s “Stir It Up” and M’s “Pop Musik” and so forth.

    And thanks for Seger’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man. Shoot, what a great song. Never get tired of it. Enjoy this “performance”

  2. Glad to hear you’re still having 45 nights around a real turntable! On thing I find especially cool about “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” is how from start to finish it’s at the same fever pitch, that level of excitement that bands usually don’t get to until the third verse, following the middle eight and the solo.

  3. hrrundivbakshi

    I’ve said this before, but the vocal in “RGM” is really a masterwork in proto-rock vocalizing. There are just so many moments in the lyric where the young Seger really, truly *nails it*.

    “I ain’t good looking, but you know I ain’t shy…
    Ain’t afraid to look a girl (huh) in- the- eye.”


  4. alexmagic

    I’m enjoying these a lot, Mod. Good Sunday Morning listening. Also a nice representation of the more genteel side of Rock Town Hall (not that I would object to future episodes where people literally fight each other on mic while post-’67 Beach Boys songs played, either).

    Funny you should mention the idea of the Beatles covering Peppermint Twist after the song ended. While it was playing, I finally made the connection between Peppermint Twist and Blue Suede Schubert, which somehow hadn’t occured to me before. I wonder if maybe Innes had the same thought as you re: their Chuck Berry covers.

  5. I’d never considered The Beatles’ appropriateness for covering “Peppermint Twist” until the night I did that. Then the next day HVB made the “Blue Suede Schubert” tie-in on a video I’d posted of the song on my Facebook page. Ringo wouldn’t have been as adept as that drum beat as the Starlighters’ drummer, but I think the band could have kicked it out in their own way.

    As it is, it’s always been my favorite Twist, with “Let’s Twist Again” second. The oringal “Twist” isn’t bad, and the dance itself is about the only dance I feel I’m pretty good at doing. In other words, it’s a hard dance to do poorly.

  6. BigSteve

    Can you explain the use of the term ‘gradient’ in this context? I’m familiar with its use in topography, but none of the more mathematical etymologies I can find by googling make sense here. Granted I am immune to the charms of surface noise, especially on that Stevie Wonder song where the distortion keeps me from enjoying the song. That Tommy James track is excellent though.

    Quick pince nez: the original version of I Hear You Knocking is by Smiley Lewis, though Fats’ version is nothing to shake a tonearm at.

  7. Gradient is the term my son used, which is a term that guys who do editing to their game-play videos and post them on YouTube do (as my son does) use to mean the effect of dirty, old film stock. Does that make sense? Because I’d never heard the term used in this context, I explained his use of the term by my almost constant references to “surface noise.”

    I just knew I was gonna get a Pince Nez for referring to Fats’ version as the original. Ha!

    The Stevie Wonder track is my least favorite, but I find it interesting for how atypical is seems among his songs – and how much it sounds like it was intended as a Four Tops song.

  8. BigSteve

    I gathered from context that he was using it to mean surface noise, but that and the reference to old film stock don’t seem to have anything to do with the actual meaning of the term. In computer graphics it seems to mean a shading technique.

  9. Sir, you may pull the Pince Nez on me, but are you trying to pull it on my son? This may be an RTH first! 🙂

  10. mockcarr

    Here’s my attempt at healing:

    I figured that the connection was that since Mod’s son & friends use the word for an effect which makes their stuff look “old” because it’s faded and washed out like old film stock, the surface noise is kind of a gradient effect applied to the vinyl, since it usually takes some time for a old song to get that grubby and played. Plus the surface noise becomes part of the song, like the fading or shading from a gradient become part of the images.

  11. I don’t know about BigSteve, but I feel much better! Thanks, mockcarr. (And I hope BigSteve knows that I’m messing around with mock indignation and he surely was with mock Pince Nez-ing.)

  12. Just getting around to listening to this. Great work, Homes. Excellent call w/ Meat City – I never tire of hearing it.

    I need to give a shout out to “Apple Peaches Pumkin Pie” I know if you still had the single, it woud have made the cut!

  13. Dude, don’t remind me of that night… 🙂

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