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POP 101: Now, Then & Back When

Episodes: 13 - 12 - 11 - 10 - 9 - 8 - 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1


Now Then & Back When #13:

Billy Joe Armstrong to the Hunt of the Snark

The overly emotive romantic needs a little touch of cyanide now and again. We finish up the topic Sentiment vs Sentimentality on the bad and naughty tip. How naughty & how bad? Christopher Walken naughty & Darlene Edwards bad. After a stroll down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, where we should all have learned better, we’ll end up back again with addictive sentiment. Hear this last heartfelt plea from home (where, after all, the heart is): Don’t let me catch you going to no strangers! Or maybe they would not be such strangers if I got to know them, too?


Now Then & Back When #12:

A Real Classic of Face-Sucking

This time its a lot less talk, and a lot more kissing. Kiss me! Kiss me a lot! Then kiss me, kiss me, Kiss me. And, after all is done, KISS ME! What, too mushy for you? The next installment follows immediately, with some refreshing nastiness to balance off all the sentimentality.


Now Then & Back When #11:

Love Ballads from some sentimental Points South

Our “back when” this time conjures up the Golden Age of Andalucia, where the romantic love song was born. Love ballads were stories passed in music form. It was easier for the minstrels, buskers & minnesingers to remember them that way. Granada, Cordoba or Seville were among the medieval birthing spots for this secular poetic form that mated North African Islamic, Sephardic Jewish and Spanish Catholic cultures. But we don’t need to go as far back as the 11th or 12th centuries. We can still find living examples of this tradition just South of the Border.


Now Then & Back When #10:

When the Heart Was A Lonely Hunter… in an Age of Sentiment

We start a new batch of four on the theme of Sentiment vs. Sentimentality. Professor Pop discourses at greater length than usual on this delicate topic. Then a whole panoply of performers bring true sincerity to two heart songs. And they are oldies. The songs, that is. The singers range from the early 20th century to a nowadays diva when she was but sweet sixteen.


Now Then & Back When #9:

Beautiful Brown Eyes meet Beautiful Dreamers

We finish off our Is It Folk or Is It Pop section with one more of each. But which of these beautiful songs is which? We’ll hear Beautiful Brown Eyes, first by rockabilly legend Gene Vincent, followed by country queen Kitty Wells, then by the three little Carter sisters (including June Carter, bride-to-be of The Man in Black), and finally by the amazing Solomon “Everyone Needs Someone to Love” Burke. After that we’ll switch to verses from Beautiful Dreamer, the posthumous song sensation of 1864, by singers too numerous to mention.


Now Then & Back When #8:

More Black Betties Than You Can Head-Shake At

Back in the day, believe it or not, folk music didn’t only mean acoustic emo anthems to personal angst. We’ll trace one folk ditty from a worksong that beat time for men building railroads or on prison chain gangs, to an entirely different working a beat. We may wind up at the whitest of Hair Rock, but not before revealing its black roots.


Now Then & Back When #7:

Hey Kids, Want Some (Big Rock) Candy?

We move from the twang of Yodeling Slim Clark to Oy-boys The Restarts, with stops at the Red-bashing HUAC hearings, and the gutter where Tom Waits for no man. All this in search of a place far heavier than the kiddie playland you thought you knew.


Now Then & Back When #6:

Is That a Folk Song or a Pop One?

A familiar baby elephant leads us into some songs that straddle the low fence between a folk song (popular as in of and by “the people”) and a pop song (composed by a person for sale to the masses).

Here we re-familiarize ourselves with two bad old boys, one from each category, e.g. Barnacle Bill the Sailor and Big Bad Bill… who became Sweet William. Both these tunes date from back in a time when men were men and women (sort of) liked it.

Then tune in next time for a not-so-innocent trip to The Big Rock Candy Mountain.


Now Then & Back When #5:

Oldies by Newbies

The last of our four short episodes on The Standards tries to tie a bow on the five classic tunes we’ve heard (Alice Blue Gown, Autumn Leaves, Blue Skies, Always, and Bewitched Bothered & Bewildered). There is also a valiant effort to bring together dead leaves, blue skies, Berlin and my Aunt Alice in a dream of peace.


Now Then & Back When #4:

A Mash of Always & Lorenz Hart

That’s Larry to you.

Here’s his B, B &B, a heartfelt and homoerotic ode to clinging trousers, with versions by three female chanteuses. But before it, a major mash-up on the theme of Always, a bunch on non-Berlin takes. If you want to try and guess who they are by, black out the visuals before you start; you can illuminate again after about five minutes.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Now Then & Back When #3:

Berlin and Beyond

As in Irving Berlin. This time we hear versions of two of the best among his many.

Blue Skies is a great example of what people needed to get through the Depression (the last one). Then his classic love ballad Always, in versions ranging widely from Deanna Durbin on film in 1944, through a sassy Sarah/bassy Billy Ekstine duet, Lady Day and Patsy Cline’s takes (pity, separately), and ending up with Billy Corgan. of all people,

When next we meet, it will be with a mash-up of other, non-Berlin Alwayses, plus a Lorenz Hart gem.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Now Then & Back When #2:

The Standards

Hello there. It’s been a while. Those who listened to/watched the slide show of the first blogcast (that ‘60s-centric one below) liked it, but suggested it was too long for new listeners. On investigating, I learned that the average attention span online is precisely 1.52 minutes—and my first blogcast clocked in at about 55.

So, here is the new, improved short (or shorter) format. It is now 10-15 minutes long and will post every few weeks. This way I might hear from folks with their comments, corrections, quips, whims and whines or just love notes.

This time we head right into asking just what people mean by songs being pop music “standards”? For starts here are two of ‘em. We’ll go waltzing around with an obscure young Alice, before putting that old chestnut Autumn Leaves on the fire.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Now Then & Back When #1:

Change Is Gonna Come Across the Universe

Welcome to Pop 101: Now, Then & Back When. Mark Freeman guides a look at pop music that features 3 or more takes of Soul sounds both old and new(from A Little Bit of Soap to Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come) before tripping out on a 60's psychedelic classic--Across the Universe. Then we unearth a movie music time capsule holding several As Time Goes Bys, and end with the show tune After You've Gone, climaxing with Fats Waller's huge jazz piano solo.