February 1, 2016

EP. 107 — Mind-Blowing Secrets Behind Your Favorite Music

The history of the music industry is littered with weird and possibly apocryphal stories of how people were discovered and how songs came to be. Sam Phillips, the man credited with discovering Elvis, tells the story of a shy 18-year-old Presley coming into his studio and Phillips having the gut instinct to shout something like, “say, this kid’s gonna be a star!” It’s a fine story, except Phillips wasn’t even there the day Elvis first went into Sun Records. It was his assistant Marion Keisker who heard Elvis first and thought to pass him along to her boss. We like to think of our artists as chess pieces in a heroes journey. It fits the story in our minds to have Elvis be discovered by Obi-Wan Kenobi and for them to have the determination to know ‘Hound Dog’ would be a big hit. But ‘Hound Dog’ was first recorded 4 years earlier by Big Mama Thornton. The history of the music industry is a surprisingly messy thing. Keith Richards comes up with the main riff to ‘Satisfaction’ and forgets how to play it the next day. What sounds like divine inspiration to us might very well be an accident. On this week’s podcast Jack sits down with Hrishikesh Hirway, the brilliant mind behind the podcast ‘Song Exploder’, to talk about his process and what he learns breaking down popular songs instrument-by-instrument. Later he talks with Peter Matthew Bauer of The Walkmen to talk gear culture, how demos are made, and Michael Jackson’s magical $20,000 mixing board.

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