Really Smooth Music

My good friend Rob was particularly disgusted by my Venerable Bede joke (sorry, Rob), so I’m going to try to make it up to him by posting one of his found history picks.

Video podcast Yacht Rock parodies the silky sounds of late-70s and early-80s pop acts like Steely Dan, Chicago, Hall and Oates, Toto, and Christopher Cross, in each episode reenacting the “secret history” of a different yacht rock classic. As host Hollywood Steve tells us from his “music nook”:

From 1976-1984 the radio airwaves were dominated by really smooth music, also known as Yacht Rock. These yacht rockers docked a remarkable fleet of number one hits, and every song has a story behind it. Let me tell you one.

Episode 1, for example, tells the story of how new Doobie Brothers member, Michael McDonald (with help from former Loggins and Messina front man Kenny Loggins) came to write “What a fool Believes,” transforming the Doobies’ earlier, guitar-rock sound into the yacht rock of their later years. Episode 2 documents the 1978 “back alley” song writing duel between Loggins and McDonald and yacht rock bad boys Hall and Oates. Episode 3 explains Loggins’ transition from the smooth sounds of yacht rock to the rockin’ beats of his Caddyshack and Top Gun years. Episode 6 is the most overtly “historical” of the bunch, featuring piercing insights from Ferris State University history professor, Dr. “Big Rapids” Gary Huey. Huey provides the Plymouth Plantation pre-history of yacht rock, complete with a doubly-anachronistic cameo by none other than Jethro Tull (appearing here as a kind of unholy hybrid of the 18th century agriculturalist and the 1970s hard rock flutist, Ian Anderson). From there it just gets weirder.

Have a good weekend, and in the immortal words of yacht rock producer, Koko Goldstein, “don’t loose the smooth.” Now I’m off to find me an ice cold Tab.

Hot for Teacher

Because I completely fell off the wagon towards the end of the year, I’m going to extend the Tops of All Time series for another month. All told, I didn’t do too badly—fourteen posts in just this category in just under fifty days—but this time I’m really going to try to post something every day.

Today and tomorrow we return to the field of cinema, which I’m quickly realizing is a gold mine for “best ever” history. Today it’s The 10 Best Teachers in Movie History from What will it be tomorrow?

Bonus—guilty pleasure

Top of the Pops

I can’t tell who’s in charge of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, but he or she is definitely dedicated. Since late October, a blogger named “Xadai” has been counting down his or her favorite music videos, beginning with one of my personal favorites, #500, Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” Each song gets its own post, which includes original historical commentary and a YouTube embed. As of this afternoon Xadai is down to #401, which at this rate means we should see #1 sometime in early spring.

No Second Troy

No Second Troy Last night I stayed out a little too late for a Thursday, but that doesn’t mean I slacked off completely. I spent the evening at the Rock and Roll Hotel listening to No Second Troy, a local band whose guitarist is a friend of my wife. Their name is an allusion to the Yeats poem of the same name, which is itself an allusion to Homer’s Iliad. Moreover, the stickers they handed out featured this image from one of their recent album covers, putting us in mind of Iwo Jima as well. By my count, that’s three good pieces of found history in one smokey club. Not bad for a night out.

Yellow Arrow

Here’s another instance of amateurs beating professionals to the punch.

There has been a lot of talk lately among a certain set of public historians (lots of it at CHNM, in fact) about moving networked historical information off the desktop and into the historical landscape using new mobile communications technologies like GPS, podcasting, WAP, and SMS. Unfortunately, none of this has gone very far. The Virginia Department of Transportation, for example, recently declined funding for CHNM’s first foray into this arena, a project called History Here.

But as with web history, amateur historians seem to be getting on with getting on. While we have meetings, Yellow Arrow is coming to Washington with an SMS walking tour of D.C. punk history. There’s a lesson in here somewhere.

Thanks to Josh—my partner in pushing us into the mobile space—for the tip.