Hit Parade :: The Feat. Don’t Fail Me Now Edition
The history of the “featured artist” credit on number one singles.
To The Best of Our Knowledge :: Jeff Kripal at the Edge of Belief
Unconventional thoughts about religion, science, and the paranormal. Not that I necessarily endorse this, but it’s interesting to hear something outside of the typical.
Back Story :: Elementary, Mr. President
Robert Bork, Benjamin Spock, and Sherlock Holmes and their ties to American history.
Planet Money :: Yes in My Backyard
The radical and controversial solution to America’s housing crisis: building new housing in existing neighborhoods!
Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club, Part 2
This examination of the late 80s output of the two great bands of Athens, GA – R.E.M. and B-52s – fills me with painful nostalgia.
Have You Heard? :: The Problem with Fear-Based School Reform
Do schools work better when they’re “run like a business” and teachers and administrators are forced to work in a culture of fear where they’re expected to get results or else? Or do we recognize the nurturing mission of schools and support reforms lead by educators who know the children best? And how much of so-called “education reform” is rooted in anti-labor sentiment anyway? These questions and more are discussed on “Have You Heard?”
WBUR News :: Faneuil Hall, School Assignments
Boston’s ongoing history of inequality and racism are addressed in two current stories about Faneuil Hall, a building named for a slaveholder, and the lack of quality education for the city’s most vulnerable communities.
BackStory :: The Melting Pot
Stories of assimilation of immigrants, Native Americans, and hyphenated-Americans throughout our history.
Fresh Air :: The Pediatrician Who Exposed the Flint Water Crisis
Interview with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who exposed the Flint water crisis. She also discusses growing up as a child of Iraqi refugees.
99% Invisible :: Right to Roam
I’ve always been amazed by how Britain protects the rights of walker/hikers to cross land that’s privately owned. Whereas in the US, one is liable to be shot for doing so.
Ben Franklin’s World :: Brian Regal, The Secret History of the New Jersey Devil
If you’ve ever heard the legend of the New Jersey Devil, you imagine it as a cryptozooligical creature inhabiting the Pine Barrens. Turns out that the story originates instead with a 17th-century colonist named Daniel Leeds who published an almanac that ran afoul of the Quaker authorities!
Disney History Institute :: Winsor McCay and the Origins of American Animation
Early animation originated as part of a vaudeville act featuring a trained dinosaur.
99% Invisible :: Beyond Biohazard
A video podcasts explores the effort to let future generations know that something is dangerous without using language or symbols that won’t be understood.
Hit Parade :: The Deadbeat Club Edition
The first part of the story of how two very different New Wave acts emerged from Athens, GA in the 1980s.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: ASMR
Oh my goodness, this podcast made my head tingle!
Hidden Brain :: Emma, Carrie, Vivian
A scary story of American eugenics, racism, and misogony. And not as far removed from today as you’d want it to be.
All Songs Considered :: At 70, Smithsonian Folkways Is An Antidote To Music Algorithms
A history of one the most important record labels.
Hit Parade :: The You Give Rock a Bad Name Edition
I’m not much a fan of “hair metal” but Chris Molanphy does a fair job of evaluating Bon Jovi’s role in pop music history even as he admits how much he hates them.
Hub History :: Tent City
In 1968, Boston residents fought to stop luxury development and parking in the South End, winning community-informed affordable housing instead. Something we need to do again.
99% Invisible :: The Laff Track
I always hated the laff track on tv sitcoms, but this show made me appreciate why it exists, how it’s done, the artistry of syncing the right laugh, and why laff tracks have vanished today.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Emergency Alert System
I’ve always had an fascination for those tests of the Emergency Broadcast System. I taped one off the radio as a kid, I actually did them as a college radio DJ, and about 20 years ago I heard one that was NOT a test (warning for intense thunderstorms, which was both a relief and a bit underwhelming). Here is the story behind how they work.
Planet Money :: The Blue Pallet
Pallets are ubiquitous, overlooked, and seemingly hard to improve. This is the story of how CHEP pallets revolutionized the industry. My wife writes about pallets and her enthusiasm is infectious, so I loved this story.
The Nation – Start Making Sense :: It’s Time to Break Up Amazon
Reporting on the dangers of Amazon’s monopoly powers, as well as how mandatory non-compete agreements have helped corporations keep low-wage workers from getting better jobs.
Slate’s Hit Parade :: The Year Rap Music Broke
1986 is a significant year in rap music history, mainly due to RUN-DMC’s crossover hit “Walk this Way” which inadvertently helped revive the fortunes of the rock band Aerosmith (I was one of the kids who knew RUN-DMC well, but never heard of Aerosmith before their collaboration). Chris Molanphy tells the story of Def Jam Recordings, founded by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, and how in 1986 they unleashed not only RUN-DMC’s hit album Raising Hell, but also Radio by one of rap’s first solo acts with wide appeal, LL Cool J, and Licensed to Ill by the bratty white kids the Beastie Boys. Molanphy doesn’t end the story in 1986 though, but follows the ongoing careers of all four acts.
A good crop of podcasts this week featuring Parliament and owls, but not a parliament of owls.
Twenty Thousand Hertz :: Six O’Clock Soundtrack
I always liked tv news music as a child too, particularly the Action News theme. Here’s the story of how news music is made.
Sound Opinions :: New Wave & Alison Moyet
Another defining musical style of my childhood, New Wave, is examined along with an interview with New Wave musical great Alison Moyet.
Code Switch :: The ‘R-Word’ In The Age Of Trump
An exploration of when it’s appropriate to describe someone or something as racist and why some journalists are hesitant to do so.
All Songs Considered :: George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars
Parliament Funkadelic are back and as funky as ever.
LeVar Burton Reads :: “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar
A sweet story about a girl from Lebanon who immigrates to England and finds her place through the study of owls and Welsh mythology.
Snap Judgement :: Senior Year Mixtape
The touching and heartbreaking of three students at a San Francisco high school over the course of their senior year.
Hit Parade :: The B-Sides Edition
The first live-audience Hit Parade episode features pub trivia questions about b-sides that became bigger hits than their a-sides and a performance by Ted Leo, “the nicest guy in punk.”
The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees
A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees. Science!
Radiolab :: Stereothreat
Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.
Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition
Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.
Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk
A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.
Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate
A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.
30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville
The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.
More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man
The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”
This is a big week for Podcast of the Week, because for the first time I’m able to recommend for your listening pleasure a podcast featuring me!
Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso :: Five Questions With Liam Sullivan
Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation. You’ll have to subscribe to Betsy’s podcast to find out. Better yet, you can listen to five questions with my wife.
Song Exploder :: “Stranger Things (Main Title Theme)”
Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein breakdown the creation of the theme song I can’t keep from dancing to.
Hit Parade :: Le Petty Prince Edition
Prince and Tom Petty both died to young in the past couple of years after emerging as superstar artists in the 1980s, and they even performed together in a epic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Otherwise, they wouldn’t seem to have much in common, but Chris Molanphy breaks down how their careers paralleled one another.
99% Invisible :: Oyster-tecture
Oysters helped create the City of New York and oysters may help protect the city from climate change.
What I’m listening to and what you should be listening to.
Have You Heard? :: Divided by Design: Race, Neighborhoods, Wealth and Schools
A history of racial segregation in neighborhoods and schools that is still feeding inequality to this very day.
To the Best of Our Knowledge :: What is School For?
I was worried that this would be peppered with corporate reform ideology and myths, but actually has some interesting stories on teacher burnout, multicultural studies, and the importance of the humanities.
The Truth :: Brain Chemistry
A funny/poignant audio drama about the life of a brain in a jar in the future, starring Scott Adsit of 30 Rock.
Hit Parade :: The Great War Against the Single Edition
It’s a good thing that Hit Parade is published infrequently, because I think I’m going to post every episode here. This is the story of how record companies from the 1960s to the 2000s tried to make people by the more expensive full albums in order to get a copy of a popular song. Deeply fascinating, with lots of Casey Kassem cameos.
99% Invisible :: The Athletic Brassiere
The hidden story of the sports bra (nee, the “Jock Bra”) and how it helped transform women in sports.
Snap Judgment Presents: Spooked :: A Friend in the Forest
The Snap Judgment spinoff podcasts tells creepy stories for the month of October, and this contemporary ghost story from Ireland is particularly eerie.
Once again, I’ve gone two weeks without posting the must-hear podcasts. But lucky for you, podcasts are asynchronous so you can listen to them any time!
First, I want to promote a couple of podcasts I recently started listening to that I think are worth subscribing to:
- Five Questions With Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso – This is the first podcast I’ve heard created by someone I know, an old friend from college. As the title aptly applies, Betsy interviews everyday people, asking them not just five questions but also providing five facts and asking to list five items on topic. The answers are always insightful and I seriously want to get to know and become friends with every single person interviewed in these podcasts.
- Slate’s Hit Parade – This podcast is actually part of a larger anthology podcast called the Slate Culture Gabfest and appears once per month in that feed. Host Chris Molanphy dedicates about an hour each episode to investigating where art and commerce intersect on the popular music charts by delving into the background of how certain songs become #1 hits. So far the podcast has told the story of UB40’s “Red Red Wine,” the circumstances behind The Beatles occupying all of the top five spots in 1964, the Elton John & George Michael’s “imperial periods” when they ruled the charts, and how “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “We Are the World” made big hits out of charity megasingles. Every episode is detailed and absolutely fascinating.
And some other podcast episodes you should listen too:
- Politically Re-Active with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu – this podcast remains a go to source for insights on our political climate, and the three most recent episodes deal with removing Confederate monuments, Charlottesville and the aftermath.
- The Gist – The Politics of Police Unions – I’m extremely supportive of labor organizations but equally troubled by how police unions have become vehicles for racism, right wing politics, and protecting the most violent and corrupt in their ranks. The interview with former Boston cop Tom Nolan gives some background.
- Hub History – Canoes and Canoodling on the Charles – this Boston history podcast introduced to me the history of the late nineteenth century recreational canoe craze and how kids used it to perform scandalous behavior.