All posts by Jake Brown

50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli

For the last year or so I’ve been setting the DVR to record “The Johnny Cash Show” on GetTV. Back in the golden era of variety shows, when everybody from Ed Sullivan and the Smothers Brothers to Carol Burnett and Glen Campbell had their own primetime shows, the Man in Black got his own one-hour program on ABC.

And it’s an awesome. Watching it is like taking a time machine back to an entertainment environment that feels almost entirely alien to today’s slick world where everybody on tv has perfect teeth, appropriately plucked eyebrows, and the exact same measurements. “The Johnny Cash Show” is funky and sincere and goofy and weird in the best way.

According to Johnny Cash: The Life by Robert Hilburn, ABC was hoping to piggyback on the success of CBS’s new hit, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Cash agreed to do it as long as he could tape the show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and select his own guests. The production company agreed to the former and evaded the latter.

It started out as just a summer replacement series, debuting on June 7, 1969 with guests Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, fiddler Doug Kershaw, and comedian Fannie Flagg, and running every Saturday night through September 27. The show’s initial run created enough buzz to be renewed for another 17 episodes, starting Wednesday nights in January 1970 and running through May 13, 1970.

The final season of the Johnny Cash Show kicked off 50 years ago today on September 23, 1970, from Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. It featured guests Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli along with the usual family of regulars: June Carter, Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins, and the Tennessee Three.

It was Ray Charles’ 40th birthday. Johnny Cash was 38. Arlo Guthrie was 23. And Liza Minelli was 24.

Like each episode in the series it begins with an instrumental, big band version of “Folsom Prison Blues” conducted by Australian arranger Bill Walker, and then our host introduces himself: “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”

• Johnny Cash – Medley: “One More Ride” / “Hey Porter” / “Orange Blossom Special” / “Folsom Prison Blues”

• Ray Charles and the Raylettes – “Finders Keepers”

Ray Charles – “I Walk the Line”

Ray Charles – “Ring of Fire”

Ray Charles - Ring Of Fire

From Love Country Style (Tangerine Records, 1970).

Continue reading 50 Years Ago on the Johnny Cash Show: Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie, and Liza Minnelli

New Gorillaz video: Strange Timez (ft. Robert Smith)

Video: Gorillaz – “Strange Timez” (ft. Robert Smith)

Gorillaz - Strange Timez ft. Robert Smith (Episode Six)

Directed Jamie Hewlett. From Song Machine, Season One, due October 23 on WMG.

If you would’ve asked me twenty years ago if Robert Smith would still be around and making relevant music in 2020, I would’ve scoffed and said he should’ve retired after Disintegration. If you would’ve asked me the same thing about Damon Albarn, I would’ve replied, “The guy from Blur?”

That is to say: I’m an idiot. And please ignore any predictions I make about the future.

Because Robert Smith is still going at it and doing good stuff and the kids love the Cure more than ever, and the guy from Blur has turned his Gorillaz into a mainstream hit machine. Which boggles my mind, but what do I know? Clearly, not much.

(I am, however, still holding a grudge against Albarn for dropping Del the Funky Homosapien from the project after the first Gorillaz album. Del rules.)

So here we are in 2020 and Robert Smith has teamed up with the Gorillaz for a new Covid-themed single and he even appears in the video as the man in the moon. Which seems perfect.

Battle war of the worlds, surgical glove world, bleach thirsty world
I’m twitching in the grimy heat, I think I might be spinning

It is indeed a strange time to be alive.

Gorillaz: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Video: Deep Sea Diver – “Impossible Weight” (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

Deep Sea Diver - Impossible Weight featuring Sharon Van Etten (Official Video)

Directed by Jessica Dobson, Peter Mansen, Tyler Kalberg. From Impossible Weight, out October 16th on ATO.

I saw Deep Sea Diver open up for Wilco back in November, which was the last concert I went to before covid, unless I’m forgetting something, which I totally could be, because this fucking pandemic has obliterated any real sense of time or memory. I would’ve sworn that show was at least three years ago but nope.

And you can hear that maybe a little bit of the headliner rubbed off onto this new song with its swirling chimes and its verses that assassin down the avenue.

But that was then and this is now
I tried so hard not to let you all down
It’s an impossible weight
So I’ll just let you down now

When I was 14 I got into the Monkees when MTV started showing the reruns. Riding the success of that revival, Clive Davis of Arista Records convinced Micky and Peter to a record a few songs for a new hits compilation. “That Was Then, This Is Now” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 5, 1986, peaked at No. 20, and stayed on the chart for 14 weeks. I turned 15 during its reign and I loved it. The album, Then & Now…The Best of the Monkees, stayed on the Billboard 200 for 34 weeks. I played the cassette nonstop.

In not too long I would start to pick up the original albums at garage sales and the Rhino reissues at record stores. My copy of Headquarters had a crack (not a scratch, a crack) that went all the way through, but if I lined it up just right it would still play.

None of that really has anything to do with Deep Sea Diver, but if you’re going to have a chorus that says “that was then and this is now” then you’re going to get a Monkees story out of me and that’s just the way it is.

Oh and also: Sharon Van Etten rules.

Deep Sea Diver: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten)

New Travis video: The Only Thing (ft. Susanna Hoffs)

Video: Travis – “The Only Thing” (ft. Susanna Hoffs)

Travis - The Only Thing (feat. Susanna Hoffs) (Official Video)

Directed by Fran Healy. From 10 Songs, due October 9 on BMG.

I bet you didn’t even realize how much you missed the sound of Fran Healy’s voice. Back in 2001, which--insanely enough--is almost twenty years ago, Johnny Loftus dubbed Travis the kings of “Nice Rock” and welcomed them and their fellow nice rockers Coldplay as an antidote to the Nu Metal clowns hogging the rock and roll airspace. Seems quaint now to even imagine rock and roll having any airspace to hog, but that’s a different story. Or is it?

At a time when the only guitars you’re going to find on the Hot 100 belong to Harry Styles and Taylor Swift, both of whom are perfectly fine and pleasant to listen to, maybe we’re overdue for a Nice Rock revival. Sure, it’s a long shot but wouldn’t it be…well, nice?

And maybe the chances of a breakthrough will be improved with addition of a voice that inspires even warmer feelings of nostalgia: that of tiniest Bangle, Susanna Hoffs, who has inspired everyone from Price to Matthew Sweet.

Aw, who am I foolin’? “The Only Thing” will pick up some plays on SiriusXM’s dadrock haven, The Spectrum (Ch. 28), or maybe Jenny Eliscu will find a place for it once or twice on XMU (Ch. 35). But the days are gone when the mainstream is going to embrace a pretty duet featuring pedal steel and clever lines like this:

You are the record in the record shop
Nobody wants to buy
You are the metaphor, the metaphor
The meta for the other guy.

That’s okay. So it goes. The niche of folks who care about music like this can stayed tuned to Glorious Noise and we’ll keep uncovering gems like this for you.

Travis: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Travis video: The Only Thing (ft. Susanna Hoffs)

New Sylvie Simmons video: The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls

Video: Sylvie Simmons – “The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls”

Sylvie Simmons: "The Thing They Don't Tell You About Girls"

Video by Ryan Sarnowski. From Blue on Blue, out now on Compass.

Sylvie Simmons is a writer for Mojo and author of the definitive biography of Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man (Harper Collins, 2012) and recently helped Debbie Harry write her memoir, Face It (Dey Street, 2019). She also plays the ukulele and writes gentle little songs that might sneak up on you and break your heart.

A few years ago her song “Hard Act to Follow,” originally released on her self-title debut (Light in the Attic, 2014), was featured in a Nicky Hornby movie. Which makes sense. Another author who is obsessed with music…

She told Pop Matters, “You shouldn’t make an album if you’re a music journalist and don’t use ukulele to do it. I was expecting to be quite humiliated, and it was quite the opposite. It was an absolute wonder to me.”

Now Simmons has released her follow up, Blue On Blue. Once again produced by Howe Gelb, the recording sessions were interrupted by a debilitating accident that ultimately required her to alter her ukulele style. “There were songs that took a lot more movement of my hand than I was able to do. But they’ll be on the next album.”

Simmons describes her new single as “a sad song that came out sounding happy. Songs do that sometimes; they have no respect for the people that write them.”

Sounds like the song turned out just the way it was supposed to!

Sylvie Simmons: web, twitter, bandcampamazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sylvie Simmons video: The Thing They Don’t Tell You About Girls

New Sufjan Stevens: Video Game

Video: Sufjan Stevens – “Video Game”

Sufjan Stevens - Video Game [Official Video - feat. Jalaiah]

Directed by Nicole Ginelli. Starring Jalaiah Harmon. From The Ascension, due September 25 on Asthmatic Kitty.

Soofy doesn’t wanna play your video game. That’s a metaphor, of course, but I can’t really picture him getting down with some Mario Kart either. I dunno. Maybe he does, but I can’t see it.

Either way, he’s not out there posting selfies and guesting on America’s Got Talent.

Stevens said, “It’s unfortunate that we live in a society where the value of people is quantified by likes, followers, listeners and views. So many people are seeking attention for the wrong reasons. I think we should all be doing our best work without looking for accolades or seeking reward.”

Is Sufjan the last person in America who cares about selling out?

He continues, “The main takeaway of ‘Video Game’ for me is: your worth (invaluable) should never be based on other people’s approval (ephemeral). Just be yourself. Keep it real. Keep it moving. Do all things with absolute purity, love and joy. And always do your best.”

I suppose if he wanted to sell out, he’d crank out another 50 States album. He’s already done Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon, so: Three down, 47 to go! Get on it! Do your best!

Sufjan Stevens: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Sufjan Stevens: Video Game

New Neil Young: Lookin’ For A Leader 2020

Video: Neil Young – “Lookin’ For A Leader 2020”

Neil Young - Lookin' For A Leader 2020 (Official Music Video)

From The Times EP, due September 18 on Reprise.

A new version of a song originally released during the George W. Bush administration, Neil updates the lyrics for today.

We got our election
But corruption has a chance
We got to have a big win
To regain confidence
America is beautiful
But she has an ugly side
We’re lookin’ for a leader
In this country far and wide

Good old Neil. We know he recently sued the Trump campaign for using his music at his rallies and now he’s calling him out in song.

Just like his big new fence
This president’s going down
America’s moving forward
You can feel it in every town
Scared of his own shadow
Buildin’ walls around our house
He’s hiding in his bunker
Something else to lie about

We’ve given Neil crap over the years for dashing out lyrics without putting much craftsmanship into the effort but sometimes the directness works. This is one of those times.

We don’t need a leader
Building walls around our house
Who don’t know black lives matter
And it’s time to vote him out

Yes it is. Make sure you’re registered. And make sure you cast your ballot. And if you don’t trust the USPS, you can drop off your ballot in person. Find out where. Your place probably has a secure dropbox where you don’t even need to get within six feet of anybody. Do it!

Neil Young: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Neil Young: Lookin’ For A Leader 2020

New Mountain Goats: As Many Candles As Possible

Video: the Mountain Goats – “As Many Candles As Possible”

the Mountain Goats - As Many Candles As Possible (Official Lyric Video)

Directed by Lalitree Darnielle. From Getting Into Knives, due October 23 on Merge.

Remember back when the Mountains Goats announced Songs for Pierre Chuvin how John Darnielle causally mentioned that “the entire band was decamped at an undisclosed location working on the next Mountain Goats album” when the pandemic started raging out of control and “the work schedule [they] had planned for spring probably wouldn’t be panning out”?

Well, they apparently got enough done in those first few days of March to make a whole album out of it. And that undisclosed location? Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee. So that’s pretty cool.

“As Many Candles As Possible” is the first single from the project and it’s a good one. I’ve been getting a little discouraged but the lack of guitars and abundance of what I half-jokingly call “jazziness” on recent Mountain Goats studio stuff, but this sounds like a badass rock and roll song with some gnarly lead guitar. It also features howling Hammond B-3 courtesy of Charles Hodges, the legendary Memphis organist who played on all the Hi Records hits recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios.

So yeah, the Mountain Goats are digging into that deep Memphis soil, from the earliest days of rock and roll, through the funky soul of the sixties, all the way to the garage stomp of the Cramps, and beyond.

Seek out a cave by the ocean while you wait out the rain
Dial down the weak bits and crank up the gain.

Yeah!

The Mountain Goats: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Flat Five: Drip a Drop

Video: The Flat Five – “Drip a Drop”

The Flat Five - Drip a Drop (official lyric video)

Lyric video by Max Crawford and the Flat Five. From Another World, due November 13 on Pravda/Augiedisc.

Oh this is good. “Drip a Drop” is exactly what we need right now!

America, we’re giving you a warning:
We’re making love, not no stinking civil war!

If you’re not familiar, the Flat Five is basically all your favorite bartenders from the Hideout together in a band that emphasizes dreamy harmonies and effortless pop hooks. Actually, I don’t know if the three dudes in the group (Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, Alex Hall) ever served drinks, but Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor sure did. Hogan and O’Connor, of course, appear in the liner notes of half your record collection, contributing vocals alongside powerhouse singers Neko Case and Mavis Staples as well as clever songwriterly folks like Andrew Bird, Robbie Fulks and the Decemberists.

The Five released their debut album on Bloodshot in 2016 and now Pravda is putting out their new one. Keeping it all very Chicago!

The Flat Five: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Flat Five: Drip a Drop

When to Stop Trying Unsuccessfully to Sell a Song

A little over ten years ago we came across “Dispatches From a Guy Trying Unsuccessfully to Sell a Song In Nashville,” a new column for McSweeney’s by a guy in Indiana named Charlie Hopper, and it immediately made me question my implicit animosity toward modern mainstream country music. Or at least it made me think about the validity of some of those ideas about authenticity. And ever since then, over a total of 53 dispatches, Hopper has continued to explore the mechanics not just of the Nashville machine but also of art, dreams, responsibility, and ultimately coming to grips with the idea that life doesn’t typically work out as cleanly as a three-minute song.

Remember how excited we all got about Gary Benchley, Rock Star? Instead of our hero achieving indie rock glory within a year, imagine if Paul Ford had decided to stretch that story out over ten years with Benchley’s band never getting signed to Original Syn Records. It would’ve made a way more realistic story, and it wouldn’t have had to implode into cliches at the end. But Benchley was fiction.

Art has to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Life, on the other hand, tends to be a whole lot of middle.

Yesterday, McSweeney’s published Hopper’s final dispatch. It doesn’t really tie everything up neatly, but it’s a good ending. Maybe not the happy ending we’ve all been rooting for, but it’s good.

Maybe I’m going up. Maybe I’m making headway. Connections. Friends. An impression. Progress. Maybe I’m learning something. Or maybe this is a little time alone in which I will suddenly hit on an idea that nobody has said exactly that way before. Like a greeting card writer providing normal people the words they feel but can’t find, as Barbara Cloyd the songwriting coach tells us at her seminars.

Maybe I’m going down. Maybe I’m wasting time. Maybe I’m embarrassing myself and, later, when they realize how I misspent some of the valuable hours of their childhood, I’ll have been embarrassing my kids. I’m probably also squandering money and draining the possibly limited pool of tolerance my wife seems to have dammed up for me — money and tolerance that I will want later when it’s gone.

I’m going to miss Hopper’s column. I’m a middle-aged dad with a dayjob and an anachronistic interest in rock and roll that I mostly hide from my co-workers and from the other parents at my kid’s school. It feels ridiculous a lot of times to care about all these stupid bands as much as I do. But I do. And Charlie Hopper articulated the balancing act that folks like us struggle with as we attempt to act like reasonable adults.

Catch up on all of the Dispatches From a Guy Trying Unsuccessfully to Sell a Song In Nashville, and then follow Charlie Hopper on instagram where shares photos from around his neighborhood and writes about the records he’s listening to.