Music History

Published on December 15th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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The Ongoing History of New Music, Episode 805: 60 Mind-Blowing Things About Music in 60 Minutes

One of my great accomplishments of 2017 was the long-overdue construction of a new home office. After twelve years working on this program in a converted bedroom, I made the move to a full-feature workspace in the basement.

It’s lovely. For the first time since I started The Ongoing History of New Music in 1993, all my stuff is in one place: all the computers, audio gear, video gear, all the CDs, vinyl, books, magazines, files–everything!–is together. It’a marvelously efficient place to work.

This, however, was not an easy project. Renovations being what they are, it took a full ten weeks longer than anticipated. Planning, adjusting the planning, getting the required permits, scheduling the trades, ordering and taking delivering of the materials, sending the wrong materials back and waiting for the new ones–you name it, it happened.

And then there was the matter of all the stuff I had scattered around the house.

I feel terrible for Matt and Elisha, the two interns who had to haul thousands of books–most of them hardcover–out of storage and down into the basement where they had to be sorted by topic, alphabetized and neatly put on shelves. Matt had the horrible job of filing hundreds of CDs that I had neglected for a couple for years.

And then there were dozens of bankers boxes, many filled with forgotten research notes and newspaper clippings. Which brings us to this week’s show.

Collectively, me and the interns uncovered a lot of material that has never been used on an Ongoing History program. It would be a shame to let all that knowledge and all those factoids go to waste, right?

From those piles of boxes, I pulled out what I considered to be sixty of the coolest things that could find for presenting over six minutes.

Songs on this show:

My Chemical Romance, Welcome to the Black Parade

Weezer, El Scorcho

The Clash, Should I Stay or Should I Go

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Give It Away

The Killers, Mr. Brightside

Soundgarden, My Wave

The Monks, Drugs in My Pocket

Garbage, #1 Crush

Social Distortion, Ring of Fire

Our playlister Eric Wilhite has come up with this.

Here’s everything that was mentioned on the show:

  1. When they were touring the world, Duran Duran used to get the local age of consent printed on their setlist so as to avoid any ‘misunderstandings’.
  2. Authorities are always trying to control how much fun we can have. Take the case of New York City where, until recently, it was illegal to dance in a place that served alcohol unless you had a special cabaret license that cost thousands of dollars, required that you be fingerprinted and was denied to anyone with a criminal record. Crazy, right? The law came into effect in 1926 as a way to crack down on the speakeasies in Harlem, not just because of Prohibition, but because this was a way to stop whites and blacks from mixing. It was even illegal to play a radio or the piano in a bar until 1936. Midnight police raids were common. People were arrested for just swaying to music. Bar owners were charged. In the 80s, Rudy Giuliani used this law to crack down on hip-hop venues and raves, forcing dance parties into dangerous unlicensed warehouses and basements. Fortunately, though, New York has finally grown up and the anti-dancing laws were killed off—just this year.
  3. What was the highest concert ever? And let’s be very clear: I’m talking about altitude not anything involving chemicals. There are two ways we can look at this. First, we can look at gigs that took place without leaving the ground. That record belongs to a group of musicians from Germany and Bolivia who held a small concert for mountain climbers on Mount Acotango in Bolivia at an altitude of 19,911 feet. Second, we can look at concert performances aboard airplanes. That record belongs to Tony Hadley (he of Spandau Ballet) and 80s star Kim Wilde (among others) who performed a charity gig aboard a chartered British Airways 767 which reached 43,000 feet. But if we really want to get pedantic about it, the all-time altitude record holder goes to Commander Chris Hadfield aboard the International Space Station. He performed a show for people on the ground when he was in orbit at a height of 400 kilometres.
  4. Humans love music so much that we’re determined to export it to the rest of the universe. It started with our invention of radio, which inadvertently sent music into space starting about a hundred years ago. That means there if there’s life on any of the 300 or so earthlike planets within 50 light years of us, alien calls to our request lines should be lighting up right about…now. But our music exports aren’t restricted to radio signals. We’ve been sending physical musical product out there for decades. But what about the first song performed in space? On December 7, 1965, Wally Schirra and Thomas Stafford pulled out the harmonica and handbells they’d stowed away and performed “Jingle Bells” for the planet. Few people beyond Mission Control heard their amateurish playing. Still, they were first, right?
  5. Lip syncing is banned in Turkmenistan. Back in 2005, The batpoop crazy president, Saparmurat Niyazov says it created “a negative effect on the development of singing and musical art” and therefore outlawed it forever. By the way, he banned opera and ballet in 2001, saying that it did not correspond to the national mentality.
  6. The first documented example of fans throwing something at performers onstage was the Beatles on their first-ever tour of the US. They were constantly pelted with jellybeans.
  7. Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance grew up in a very, very Catholic family. He has so much of the fear of God injected into him that he was too scared to walk by the funeral home down from his house. He says that Sunday school was like a Vincent Price movie.
  8. The first proper songs to be licensed for inclusion in a video game was Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” in the Sega Genesis game Moonwalker in 1990
  9. When the Darkness was at their peak, all sorts of fans showed up to autograph sessions. One brought his grandmother’s dead dog—he was stuffed, but still.
  10. There was once a British band called the Dead Dianas. Their gig posters featured shots of the car accident that killed Princess Diana. They were banned a lot.
  11. At one point, in the last decade, a UN treaty could have made podcasting illegal. The UN’s World Intellectual Proper Rights Association want to prohibit the ability to aggregate and mirror content online whether it’s copyrighted on not. Obviously, that never happened.
  12. The guy who invented the underlying technology of the CD was a Seattle scientist named Jim Russell who came up with the basic principles in the 1960s. Thne Russell and the patents ended up with a Toronto company in the 1980s who tried to sue for licensing fees and royalties on CD technology and although there was eventually a settlement, he didn’t get a cut of anything.
  13. Back in 2008, Warner Music Group tried to bring liner notes to digital downloads on iTunes when they added interactive booklets to 75 albums on iTunes. The problem was the content used Flash and Apple stopped supporting that because of a security flaw. Disney tried something similar called CDVU+, no one cared.
  14. And when Weezer’s second album, Pinkerton, didn’t do as well as Rivers Cuomo had hoped, he dropped out of Harvard where had been studying music and hid in his room, which had the walls and ceilings painted black and had the windows blacked out with layers of fibreglass insulation. The plan was to purge himself of all weaknesses so he could concentrate on writing the perfect pop song. Must’ve worked, right?
  15. In 2006, F-Series Ford pickups offered a built-in laptop that could send email right from the cab and play MP3s. It was an option that cost $3000. Microsoft also offered a PC the size of a Crackerjack box that was installed in the dash and did the same sort of thing. It sold for $2000.
  16. The idea for noise-cancelling headphones originated in 1978 when Amar Bose—the guy behind Bose speakers—hated the headphones an airline provided him on a flight. But before they went on sale to the general public, the technology was used by the Air Force, the Army and aviation professionals.
  17. If you have a baby and want to instil a sense of rhythm, medical research you should bounce the on your knee or against your chest while music plays. That will give the kid a better-than-normal chance of appreciating beats and wanted to dance later in life.
  18. Psychologists say that introverts often make the best frontpersons for bands. Why? Because shy musicians tend to pick up on the crowd’s energy and can create a closer, more authentic connection with the audience. That seems a little counterintuitive at first, but when you think about it…
  19. The next time you’re shopping for wine, note the music playing in the store. A 1993 experiment showed that when classical music was played, people stopped and examined the labels more often and more carefully when compared to times when other genres of music were playing. They also bought more expensive bottles.
  20. And we’ve all seen TV shows where surgeons play music when they’re in the operating room. The first recorded instances of music being played during surgery goes back to medical journals published in the early 1950s. And according to Spotify, the most popular rock song played by surgeons is “Rock You Like a Hurricane” from the Scorpions. This is the eleventh most-popular—and it makes me a little nervous.
  21. A design firm in London once proposed phones that would shock their owners if it perceived them talking too loud.
  22. Tom DeLonge isn’t in Blink-182 anymore. He’s working full-time as a UFO researcher and is determined to expose the vast government coverup conspiracy of the existence of aliens. Meanwhile, his wife is designing children’s furniture.
  23. When the city of Reykjavik, Iceland, celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding in 1986, Bjork and the rest the Sugarcubes (her band at the time), broke into the government-run radio station and played songs they thought were “realistic.” They got arrested for that. Yet in 2000, after she became internationally famous, the government offered to give her an island. She declined.
  24. I ran across a survey that pitted the tastes of music critics vs. those of the general public. The public’s favourite albums were from Norah Jones, the Eagles and Meat Loaf. The critics professed to love, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Fall Captain Beefheart’s baffling 1969 album, Trout Mask Replica.I
  25. n 1977, the Ramones played a show in Marseilles, France. They played so loud and drew so much power from the mains that they caused a blackout in their part of the city.
  26. When all the members were on tour together, they had a very specific drinking schedule. Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, their backstage rider specified Maker’s Mark whiskey and Absolut vodka. On Sunday, the drinking called for tequila and Jameson Irish Whiskey. I couldn’t find out what they drank on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
  27. When Noel Gallagher was a teenager, he and his mates stole a milk truck after locking the driver in a public bathroom. They gave up when they realized there was nothing they could do with 20,000 quarts of milk.
  28. There was once an international rock festival in North Korea. The “Rock for Peace” concert took place over four days in May 2006. I have no idea who was on the bill.
  29. When a well-known musician commits suicide, psychologists warn of copycat suicides by fans. This is known as the Werther Effect. An example would be those who took their own life after Kurt Cobain died. The most pronounced example was when Marilyn Monroe died and suicides in the US rose by 12%.
  30. And When John Frusciante auditioned for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band was still doing the thing where they appeared onstage wearing nothing but socks over their privates. Part the audition required Frusciante to prove that he had enough of a package to hold up a gym sock.
  31. Vance Joy was a star Australian rules football player before he became famous as a singer. He even won rookie of the year in his league in 2008.
  32. When Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age first wanted to learn how to play guitar at the age of nine, he took polka lessons. Think about that the next time you listen to him play guitar.
  33. Matthew Schulz of Cage the Elephant spends his downtime on the road playing chess against the road crew.
  34. Dan Reynolds, the singer for Imagine Dragons, worked as a Mormon missionary for two years when he turned 19.
  35. And speaking of Mormons, the most-streamed song of any track released in the UK before 2010 is “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers. There have been just seven times since it was released in 2004 that it hasn’t been in the UK Top 100 Singles Chart.
  36. There is a new medical condition on the books known as “boy band-induced pneumothorax.” It’s caused by screaming and singing so loud at a boy band concert that your lungs spontaneously collapse. If that happens, you need emergency medical attention. This condition went down in the medical journals after a young girl was presented at a hospital after a One Direction concert.
  37. Bono often used to tour with his own fulltime priest and spiritual advisor, a guy named Reverend Jack Heaslip. He met U2 when he was a teacher and counsellor at Mount Temple High School in Dublin when the band members still boys. He died in 2015.
  38. Back to government in interference in music. Alexander Lukashenko is the president and dictator of Belarus. He has complete control over what artists gets played on Belarussian radio. Songs by foreign artists are limited to 20% but he’s banned so many local performers because he doesn’t like them that Belarussian radio stations have a hard time finding enough music to play.
  39. The average person spends $156 a year on music. Of that, about nine dollars goes to streaming music services.
  40. And if you visit Chris Cornell’s grave in the Hollywood Forever cemetery-which, by the way, is outlined with hundreds of orange carnations (at least when I was there earlier this fall), look across the road. He’s buried just a few feet from a memorial to Toto, the dog from The Wizard of Oz.
  41. If you’re an audiophile and a member of the 1 percent, there’s a set of speakers called the Enigma Veyron EV-1D from a manufacture called Kharma. Equipped with something called “Omega F Drivers,” the surfaces of the tweeter cones are covered in diamonds. These things retail for over $1 million a pair.
  42. Pascal Wallisch, who works as a psychology professor at New York University, gave 190 students in the faculty a test designed to determine how much of a psychopath each of them may be. Among the questions were statements like “For me what’s right is whatever I can get away with.” Then came the musical tests. Participants were played a large selection of music, from Top 40 hits to classical pieces making sure that most of the songs were unfamiliar to the students to eliminate personal biases. They were asked to rate how much they liked or disliked the 100 or so selections. Then came the real fun where the answers to the psychopathy questions were correlated with how the students rated the music. When all was said and done, about 20 songs that seemed to be very popular and very unpopular with the students who rated high on the psychopath scale. Here’s where it got interesting. Psychopathic-trending students really dug Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” and Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean.” These same people rated songs like “Money for Nothing” for Dire Straits and The Knack’s “My Sharona” really low. Same thing with classical music. Make of this what you will.
  43. The world’s biggest record show is held every November in Utrecht in the Netherlands. At least five hundred dealers set up for two days inside a giant convention hall.
  44. A radio station in Malmo, Sweden, had their signal hijacked for half an hour by someone who managed to play an English language ISIS recruitment song on repeat.
  45. Still with radio, a regulatory body has ruled it’s okay to use the F-bomb on Canadian radio as long as the broadcast is in French. The thinking is that the word has become very common in the French language, but if it’s used by a French speaker on the radio, it’s not as bad as if someone speaking English used it.
  46. Jack White wrote a children’s book this year based on the White Stripes song, “We’re Going to be Friends.”
  47. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker was based on old TV interviews with Tom Waits. When you see that old video, the similarities are obvious.
  48. The people at KFC-yes, the chicken place-follow less than a dozen people on Twitter. Five of them are named Herb and the other six are members of the Spice Girls. Think about that for a while and you’ll get it.
  49. And the hottest band merch of 2017? Fidget spinners. Everyone sold branded fidget spinners. Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Prince, Black Flag, Misfits, Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age, Fall Out Boy.
  50. And if you’re going to sneak drugs into a music festival, don’t do what this guy in Australia did. He slathered his pills with Vegemite and then hid his stash in plastic bags around his package. He didn’t count on there being a drug dog at the gate who went right for the drugs. Ow.
  51. When producers were pulling together the TV series that would be known as Mad Men, they offered Beck the chance to write the score. They offered the gig to him multiple times, but he turned them all down
  52. Still with TV, Morrissey was invited to appear on Friends—yes, the TV show—but declined because the script called for him to sing with Phoebe’s character. Maybe he had something against “Smell Cat.” (Google that if you don’t get the reference.)
  53. And one more piece of TV and music trivia: James Murphy was once offered a job as a scriptwriter for Seinfeld, but he turned that down in favour of sticking with his music, which resulted in LCD Soundsystem.
  54. Radiohead had to share songwriting credits on “Creep” with guy named Albert Hammond, who contended that “Creep” sounded too much like a song he write in 1972 for The Hollies called “The Air That I Breathe.” Albert Hammond is the father of Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes.
  55. And listen carefully to this song by Garbage. The moaning in the background of “#1 Crush” from the Romeo and Juliette soundtrack is actually Madonna. This sample is taken from her song “Bedtime Story,” which was co-produced by Garbage producer, Nellee Hooper. Who knew?
  56. If you play Spanish guitar, you know what I mean by “gut strings.” They were originally made from the intestines of slaughtered sheep. Those strings changed to nylon during World War II when all the gut string was allocated for use as surgical thread for wounded soldiers.
  57. Remember the famous synthesizer notes played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? The keyboard used was an ARP 2500. That very synth is on display at the National Music Centre in Calgary.
  58. Lemmy of Motorhead was a fixture at a venue called The Rainbow on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. After he died, they preserved his favourite chair at the end of the bar a tribute. You can also order a drink called a “Lemmy,” which is Jack Daniels and Coke.
  59. In 1996, Ringo Starr went to Japan to take part in an ad for a brand of apple sauce. Why? Because that’s what “ringo” means in Japanese.
  60. And in 2004, the people who make Preparation H approached the estate of Johnny Cash with piles of money, asking “pretty please” could they use his song “Ring of Fire” in a commercial for their hemorrhoid ointment. They said “no.”

Don’t forget that you can get the podcast version of this podcast through iTunes or wherever you get your on-demand audio.

The Ongoing History of New Music can be heard on the following stations:

We’re still looking for more affiliates in Calgary, Kamloops, Kelowna, Regina, Saskatoon, Brandon, Windsor,  Montreal, Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton, and St John’s and anywhere else with a transmitter. If you’re in any of those markets and you want the show, lemme know and I’ll see what I can do.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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