Highway HIFI Podcast

Welcome to Highway Hi-FI Podcast. We go track by track through the underbelly of music history using research and trivia to locate the roots of our obsession with vinyl records.

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Remember: Shop at record shops, go to shows, buy vinyl, and support the people who make and distribute the music that we love.

EPISODE 60: In Recognition of Peter Laughner

No one man can make a scene. But perhaps one can be an embodiment of it. A representation of what makes a place and its music intertwined. Like his beloved Cleveland itself, the emblematic and occasionally problematic Peter Laughner was on the fringes of the American music canon. A shadowy presence in a shadowy place at the time when rock n roll was dark, smart, and powerful. But that is the thing about underground music...it can happen in the most unlikely places. And underground music needs people with vision and determination to make it live.

Though most of Laughner's renown comes from being a member of both the proto-punk master-blasters Rocket from the Tombs and then his short-lived stint in their seminal art-punk offshoot Pere Ubu, he was involved in scores of other bands as well as being a writer and critic of music at one of its most important periods.The real tragedy of Peter Laughner, beyond his self-destructive tendencies and untimely death, is that he is often remembered most for his self-destructive tendencies and untimely death. Though his importance has been well documented in his circles of influence, his reflective writing, his other-worldly guitar playing, and the scarce snippets of music that were available through bootlegs and a single disjointed compilation, his status as a rock n roll victim and burnt out luminary overshadow the music itself.

Today, we will play an interview with Nick Blakey, a Northwestern Ohio music archivist and a producer on the boxset who spent a decade working on the project. He speaks about what he has learned about Peter Laughner, the sometimes grueling process of culling hours of tapes to a 5 LP set, his perspective on hero worship, and a myriad of fascinating stories about his years as a fan, record collector, bootleg trader, musician, researcher, writer, and archivist. You can order your copy of the Peter Laughner 5LP box set at Smog Veil Records

Highway Hi-Fi is a proud member of the Pantheon Music Podcast Network - Home of the Finest Music Podcasts

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Find the LP Set: Smog Veil Records


EPISODE 59: First Wave Ska

In the late 50s, the streets of Jamaica were alit with music. Bands would bang out jazz and rhythm & blues songs every night, catering to large crowds of people desiring only to dance all night. It was a disco, but outside in the streets, every night of the week, from dusk till dawn, like Mardis Gras and a discotheque crammed into one big outdoor dance-off. However, there was a singular prevalent problem. The bands...they wanted breaks, and the breaks lasted too long and people wanted to keep going. A compromise of sorts was agreed upon, a sound system would be brought in and allowed to be play records during an intermission. No one knew it then, but this compromise would eventually be the end of those bands and the start of ska's rise to prominence.

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The Four Records Featured on this Episode:

Roland Alphonso - Phoenix City

Stranger and Patsy - When You Call My Name

Eric Monty Morris - Little District

Derrick Morgan - Man Pon Moon

Resources:

Sister Iggy

EPISODE 58: Interview with Kindercore Vinyl

In Athens, Georgia, a town which is a musical landmark in its own right, there is an out of the way industrial building that’s become home to one of the rarest and coolest parts of the music industry, a record pressing plant. Kindercore Vinyl stands as one of only about 30 operating record presses in the US, the only one in Georgia, and one of the only that is functioning with brand new presses featuring the first real technological breakthrough in maybe 50 years. And they have plans for more innovations that may drastically change the face of record creation. We were fortunate to spend several hours touring the plant, seeing the operation, interviewing, and, as it happens when record folk get together, talking about music. It was amazing.

This interview is the first in an ongoing series about the people who are truly vital to the vinyl record industry and the fans of vinyl records all over the world. If you are looking to the future of the industry, there’s no better place to start than Kindercore Vinyl. Cash sat down with us among stacks of record stampers, boxes of labels, a virtual cornucopia of beautifully colored records. We talked about how the company came to be, the brilliant new technology, misconceptions about what effects the sound of records and what doesn’t, the secret cache, and then we go off on our mutual love of 90s indie rock and artists who helped mold our love of music. Before we play the interview, we need to stress how wonderful the folks at Kindercore were for taking the time to share their love of records with us. You absolutely should check out their work at Kindercore.com or on social media.

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EPISODE 57: Elevator to Oblivion, The History of Muzak

What is the cost of silence? What part of the human condition is lost or found in the stillness of sound? At some point, our culture seems to have turned its back on reflective quiet, opting instead for an environment that is constantly using stimuli to condition the population to various ends. Even in an era of personal choice, piped-in music is ubiquitous these days as advertisements are embedded in our daily routines. No doubt the struggle of the avid music listener is to cut out the commercial carpet bombing of inoffensive instrumental pop standards so that we can enjoy, well, anything else really. Today’s episode is a look inside the history of the sinisterly omnipresent background easy listening….today, the history of Muzak.

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The Four Records Featured on this Episode:

The Bermudas - Chu Sen Ling

Lawrence Welk - Snowbird

Jackie Cohen - Bold

Link Wray - Facing All the Same Tomorrows

Much of the research for this episode was found in this book:

Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong; Revised and Expanded Edition by Joseph Lanza

Seifert 1000 Link

Hours of KMart Muzak

Stimulus Progression Video

Devo EZ Listening Album


Devo Smoking Jacket

EPISODE 56 - Bands Birthed from Movies and TV Shows

For the past few episodes, we have been examining the thin line that separates authentic from fraud in rock n roll.

The fantastical world-building of Mingering Mike showed how one can create true inspiration and beautiful art even without ever actually making music or having an audience.

The deception and tomfoolery of the music industry to create whole phantom biographies and personas as a means to some sort of end: financial, creative, critical or otherwise.

Today, the last piece falls into place. Not individuals trying to become stars. Nor stars trying to gain back some individuality. No, we are looking at bands that accidentally became real. Bands that took on a new life from an existence that was entirely, by definition, staged. Today’s episode we look at musicians and bands that broke free from the binds of television and movie screens to become actual stars.

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The Four Records Featured On This Episode:

Charlie Megira - Tomorrow's Gone

Magnet - Willow's Song

Spacelady - Major Tom

Silver Jews - Long Long Gone

Links from the show:

Pictures:

Gidget as a Gory

Spot the Mark David Chapman:

Bang Bang - The Conjoined Punkers:

EPISODE 55: Sham Bands and Other Hoaxes

There truly is a fine line between what’s real in rock n roll and what’s just an act. Judging the authenticity of an art form that at its heart is about transformative performance can be difficult, or worse, can take away from the power of it all. Where does one put the line in the sand beyond which is a total fabrication of aesthetic rather than an honest expression of self as art and music? Further complicating the matter is pinning down a measuring stick to determine the value of the music....record sales, billboard charts, financial accumulation, critical accolades, influence on other musicians. Sure, pre-packaged acts like the countless beautifully faceless boy bands seem to be an imitation of actual pop music but can that still count as art or even become art? So are the Monkees counterfeit rock n roll? Are their songs worth less because they were created and enabled by television producers? What about the Sex Pistols? Assembled, manufactured, marketed. So is most of Motown, for that matter. Even the beloved mop tops were shaped and molded and given matching Boots. All this to say, authenticity in rock n roll is on a sliding scale.

Today’s episode takes a look at the history of artists that played with the notion of what’s real in music. Artists, who after obtaining fame and success, switch their identity or persona as intentional deceit toward some end...freedom, art, homage, satire, money. Sometimes, they might just be bored. Or prone to the creative use of multiple personalities and dissociative identities. Or just wish they could re-write their autobiography. Sometimes, just for a big fuck you to someone special. Today is an examination of the history of hoax bands.

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The Four Record Featured on This Episode:

Sanford Clark - It's Nothing to Me

Bob Fryfogle - Six Feet Under

The Equals - Michael and the Slipper Tree

Nancy Dupree - What Do I Have?

Other Photos...

Devo as Dove

EPISODE 54:

Mingering Mike's Mysterious Mercurial Mind Trip

On January 21, 1977, Jimmy Carter pardoned the Vietnam War draft dodgers. This happened the day after Carter was sworn into office and it was this single act ended the career of Mingering Mike Stevens, who was a singer, producer, label owner, and movie director. For nearly a decade, Mike created a career of epic proportions with tenacity, dedication, and precision.

According to a website dedicated to him, here is a list of his credentials: “Between 1968 and 1977 Mingering Mike recorded over fifty albums, managed thirty-five of his own record labels, and produced, directed and starred in nine of his own motion pictures. In 1972 alone he released fifteen LPs and over twenty singles, and his traveling revue played for sold out crowds the world over.”

So how is it that a prolific career can be so lost upon the world? His storied life remained completely unknown outside of his own family for nearly 30 years. Worse than being simply forgotten, it was as if Mingering Mike never existed at all.

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The Four Records Featured on this Episode:

Sorrells Pickard - Gates of Hell

Yays and Nays - Gotta Keep Travelling

Johnnie Frierson - Have You Been Good To Yourself

Robyn Hitchcock - The Bones in the Ground

Show Links

Mingering Mike Website

Biography about MM

LP/45 Images from mingermike.com:

EPISODE 53:

Shyver's Multiphone and Dial Up Music

Everywhere you look you are surrounded by dead technology. The car you’re driving, the television you’re watching, the phone or computer that’s playing this podcast. Next month it will be outpaced. Next year it will be outdated. And next decade it will likely be obsolete. Proponents of technology always hail the latest and greatest as the critical next step toward inventive actualization. However, you probably wouldn’t be collecting records or listening to this show if you didn’t have some notion of the elegance and importance of antiquated technology. Both as relics of times gone by and reflections of the shared needs that all humans share no matter the era.

This episode is an examination of an odd pairing of two technologies that seem to be falling toward the wayside...telephones and jukeboxes. Devices that required human interaction as well as modern technology on both ends of the line. Today an examination of Shyvers Multiphone and the legacy of Dial Up Music.

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The Four Records Featured on this Episode:

Uncle Dave Mason - Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy

Polaris - Summer Baby

Wedding Present - Davni Chasny

Art Neville - Girl From the Candy Store

Show Links:

Pictures:

Multiphone DJ Operators:

Teatrophone Poster:

Dynamophone/Telharmonium:

Dial-A-Song Ad:

EPISODE 52:

Green Vinyl (Music for and by Plants)

A middle aged lady with a beehive hairdo, cat eyed glasses, and an orange church dress sits at a piano in the middle of cathedral like Solarium in the Denver Botanical Gardens. She plays soft, chipper classical music surrounded by families of ferns: Maidenhair, Holly, Horsetail, Cloverleaf, etc. She is being filmed for Leonard Nimoy´s In Search Of, a television documentary show dedicated to the world’s mysterious phenomena. Her undergraduate experiments with music and plants would inadvertently start a chain reaction resulting in a handful of highly specific records made exclusively for Flora. In today’s episode we discuss Green Vinyl: music made for and by plants.

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The Four Records Featured on This Episode:

The Zodiac - Aries (The Fire Fighter)

Botanist - Stargazer

Johnny Cash - Look At Them Beans

Clint Eastwood - I Talk To The Trees

Episode Related Links:

EPISODE 51 - The Ye Ye Scenesters of Ye-sterday

In 1959, a new radio show hit the Parisian airwaves called Salut les Copains, which translates to "Oh, Hi!" The show couldn’t have been more popular with teenagers. And on that program, there was a feature called “Sweetheart of the week” which featured one female pop singer. Because of the popularity of the show, those singers were all nearly instant hits, however fleetingly it was for most.

In 1963, Salut held a concert to celebrate the launch of its magazine. That concert drew nearly 200,000 people and caused lecherous drooling riots in the streets of Paris. Journalist Edgar Morin dubbed the singers and attendees the Ye Ye Generation immediately following the concert and the name stuck.

Most of the ‘sweethearts’ were lolita like figures, rarely over 20 years old and looking sweet and innocent. Most of the songs were French versions of American rock and roll hits, as long as the hits were trite and vacuous. The competition to become a ‘sweetheart’ was fierce and because most of these girls were stylized to look nearly identical, it ended up being those singers who had a niche, or a personality, that made a memorable mark. Among the masses of one-hit wonders, there were several stars that transcended the scene.

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The Four Records Featured on this Show:

Christine Delaroche - Des Tigres Et Des Minets

Jacques Dutronc - L'espace d'une fille

Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg - Jane B

Francoise Hardy - Je n’attends plus personne


Much of the research for this episode was found here: Ready Steady Girls!

Notorious Les Sucettes Video