Highway Hi-Fi Podcast
The Rise & Fall of Zamrock (Episode 49)

The Rise & Fall of Zamrock (Episode 49)

April 22, 2019

Under British control for decades, in 1911, Zambia was merged in with other South African countries to form Northern Rhodesia. For most of the colonial period, Zambia was governed by an administration appointed from London with the advice of the British South Africa Company. Zambia was rich with copper mines and there was an economic boom that carried into the 50s and 60s. This boom, combined with westerners moving into the country as missionaries and expatriates, allowed for Zambians to hear a lot of western music, including gospel, rock, and soul. There are 72 languages spoken in Zambia, so bands there would sing in English, which most people understood as it was the 'official' language

By the 60s, as rock music was reaching more and more people, Zambian rock bands were forming, playing mostly covers of Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, and others. A lot of the music seemed to be hitting the country all at once, like an injection of 15 years of rock and soul all at one time. These bands became so popular that all white establishments started allowing them to play.

Independence came in 1964 with Kenneth Kaunda becoming its first president. Kaunda eliminated all other political parties by the early 70s and when elections were held in 1973, and for at least the next decade, he was the only candidate. As far as authoritarians go, Kaunda was pretty good, for a while.

Zambia has one of the worst education systems of all the former British colonies. In 1964, they had fewer than 100 native-born college graduates. Kaunda setup a university in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital and instituted a policy of free notebooks, pens, and pencils for all students, regardless of how much money their parents made. Kaunda was also an outspoken critic of Apartheid, which raised ire on most of Zambia’s border’s, where white minorities were in control of countries like Angola and Zimbabwe. Hostilities at the borders added to an economic burden that was already out of control - these countries were Zambia’s main trading partners.

Kaunda instituted a nationalist ideology called Zambian Humanism, which combined loyalty to Africa, and Zambia in particular, a focus on African values, along with state control. Part of this policy, enacted in 1970, required that 95% of the music played on the radio had to be of Zambian origin. Because of that policy, Zambian rock bands had to change what they were doing. They had to start writing their own songs. That was the birth of Zamrock, and that’s what we’re talking about today.

A lot of the research for this episode came from the book "Welcome to Zamrock" which goes with two absolutely essential Zamrock compilations, which have the same name. Both the book and compilations were released on Now-Again Records which is an incredible label.

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Trivia Contest Information

Trivia Contest Information

April 11, 2019

To celebrate our impending 50th episode, we've created a trivia contest for you, our beloved listeners. 

For this quiz, we're playing 8 clips. From these 8 clips, we're looking for a word or phrase, specifically based on the artists, so you don't need to get the song names. 

The name of the quiz is "Mixed-Up Confusion"

When you think you have the answer, you can submit it to us in 1 of 3 ways:

  1. Email your answer to highwayhifipodcast@gmail.com
  2. Send us a direct message on Twitter with your answer. Our Twitter handle is @highwayhifipod
  3. Send us a message on Facebook

Answers need to be in by April 25th and we will announce the winner during our 50th episode.

The winner will be the first person who submits the correct answer. That person will receive a very special prize we had made specifically for this episode.

Another winner will be selected by randomly picking one of the other correct answers.

All entries will receive a copy of a mix made from our record collections as a thank you for listening and entering.

Cosmic Country, Part 2 (Episode 48)

Cosmic Country, Part 2 (Episode 48)

April 6, 2019

Perhaps it’s a fool’s errand to try to define what Cosmic Country is. Like numbering all the stars in the heavens or counting bubbles in your beer. We are those fools though. In the starry fringes of country and western music resides a sound that is powerful, dreamy, and utterly nebulous. And so in trying to wade through this style, it is important to recognize these waters were muddy to begin with and intentionally so. Today, the second part of our history of Cosmic Country.

Most of us know Cosmic Country when we hear it. It’s more a substance than a sound. Country music infected with soul, RnB, rock, and psychedelia. Dropping acid in the honkytonk. Swirls of static from AM radio while driving at high speeds down a desert highway. Country gospel delivered from somewhere in the atmosphere.

In this episode, we focus on what happened to Cosmic Country from the 80s until today, and where might it be headed?

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Cosmic Country, Part 1 (Episode 47)

Cosmic Country, Part 1 (Episode 47)

March 25, 2019

Perhaps it’s a fool’s errand to try to define what Cosmic Country is. Like numbering all the stars in the heavens or counting bubbles in your beer. We are those fools though. In the starry fringes of country and western music resides a sound that is powerful, dreamy, and utterly nebulous. And so in trying to wade through this style, it is important to recognize these waters were muddy to begin with and intentionally so. Today, the first of a two-part episode as we try to elucidate and illuminate Cosmic Country - Hardcore History style!

Most of us know Cosmic Country when we hear it. It’s more a substance than a sound. Country music infected with soul, RnB, rock, and psychedelia. Dropping acid in the honkytonk. Swirls of static from AM radio while driving at high speeds down a desert highway. Country gospel delivered from somewhere in the atmosphere.

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Jazz Album Cover Art and its Gloriously Mustachioed Beginnings  (Episode 46)

Jazz Album Cover Art and its Gloriously Mustachioed Beginnings (Episode 46)

March 9, 2019

When 78s were first sold, they were sold individually, with each side lasting between 3 and 5 minutes. The records were relegated to backs of furniture stores as if they were some sort of obscenity. Mostly, the reason for this was the packaging. At that time, records were wrapped in bland, blank paper like hooch or in cardboard sleeves, and sometimes had the name of the producer of the record or the store selling it.

By the 20s, record albums started appearing on the market. A record album then was basically just a photo album: a book with empty sleeves that you fill with your own records. That’s how the name record album came to be when describing an LP. Records were pretty fragile and using the album meant fewer records would break. Then, in the 30s, record companies started selling record albums pre-filled. These would be sold by artist or theme or genre. This was a great idea but they still had no artwork to differentiate the albums so it was hard to find what you wanted and often kind of confusing.

Columbia, who’d been making records for a while, hired a 23-year-old fresh out of Parsons design school to handle their advertising and marketing. His name was Alex Steinweiss. This was 1938. Steinweiss saw the album cover as an opportunity to increase sales. If the covers stood out, people would notice them.

For his first album cover, he and a photographer went to the Imperial Theatre on West 45th Street. Steinweiss convinced the owner to let them change the marquee for a few minutes on a night when the theatre wasn’t open. He swapped out some letters, lit the marquee, and snapped a photo. This photo turned into the first album cover art ever. The album was “Smash Song Hits by Rodgers & Hart”.

Today is the first of what we hope to be a continuing series focusing on album cover art. For this episode, we’re going to look at some of the coolest jazz record covers of all time and talk about the people who designed them. Many of these people, almost all men, go figure, created styles and thematic art that’s still being copied today. Unfortunately, a lot of these designers have been forgotten by most. Those are the ones we really want to spotlight.

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The Clise vs. The Squeeze [Angus MacLise vs. Doug Yule] (Episode 45)

The Clise vs. The Squeeze [Angus MacLise vs. Doug Yule] (Episode 45)

February 23, 2019

In this special episode, Ryan and Joe duke it out over who is the most essential least essential member of the greatest band of all time, The Velvet Underground: Angus MacLise or Doug Yule.

One of them never recorded a single note with the band while the other plays on more tracks than John Cale and Nico combined. One is unfairly maligned for his pop sensibilities and desire for fame and the other is unfairly praised for his staunch experimentalism and anti-consumerist proclivities. One was there at the onset and one witnessed the demise.

The Clise versus The Squeeze.

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Ach-Tunes - Artists who performed their hits in multiple languages (Episode 44)

Ach-Tunes - Artists who performed their hits in multiple languages (Episode 44)

February 10, 2019

As the relevance of rock and roll began to explode, labels and managers wanted to exploit and milk those hits for all they were worth, for fear of it being a fad and dying out quickly. To maximize popularity and exposure, labels in the UK would often prep bands for European tours by having their stars record their own hits in other languages. Most famously, the Beatles were strong-armed into recording German versions of both “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and She Loves You”. These were recorded in Paris and for I Want to Hold Your Hand, they simply recorded the new vocals over the existing instruments like a Liverpudlian karaoke night. With “She Loves You” however, the masters had been erased by EMI which had been standard practice at the time. They re-recorded the whole song, which made this the only song they recorded outside of London.

Today, we go over a marketing gimmick designed to expand popularity and ingratiate bands to potential fans across the globe. Some bands were far more prolific and successful with their foreign language recordings. Some were abysmal. Enough of them were fascinating.

These are some of the stories of bands and artists performing their own tunes in foreign languages.

 

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The Avándaro Festival - Why Don’t We Know More About It? (Episode 43)

The Avándaro Festival - Why Don’t We Know More About It? (Episode 43)

January 24, 2019

Are you as sick of Fyre documentaries as we are? We thought so. This week's episode is all about a festival that took place over two September days in 1971.  The festival was controversial and featured historic performances from Mexican psychedelic bands at the height of La Onda. It was also condemned by conservative government leaders, with the president of Mexico declaring, "While we regret and condemn the phenomenon of Avándaro, it also encourages us in our belief that only a small part of our youth are in favor of such acts and entertainment."

Find out how the festival came about, why it upset so many people, and hear about some of the best psychedelic bands you may know nothing at all about. Yet.

Join us, won't you?

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The Butthole Surfers in the 1980s - Fecal Manna from Heaven (Episode 42)

The Butthole Surfers in the 1980s - Fecal Manna from Heaven (Episode 42)

January 12, 2019

In this episode, we explore the world of the Butthole Surfers during the 1980s when they were the best live band in the country and one of the most interesting bands ever. Much of the show is spent on stories of debauchery, including feeding excrement to fish, exploring the flammability of New Jersey, ex-presidents touching defiled suitcases, and more! Join us, won't you?

 

Most of the research for this episode came from these three books:

Let's Go to Hell: Scattered Memories of the Butthole Surfers by James Burns

Scatological Alchemy: A Gnostic Biography of the Butthole Surfers by Ben Graham

Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad

 

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Silly Musician Anecdotes (Episode 41)

Silly Musician Anecdotes (Episode 41)

December 27, 2018

For this episode, we look back on stories we spent time researching but couldn't fit into an episode. That, and just plain goofy stories about goofy musicians.

Find out what Prince did to make Michael Jackson run screaming from a room. Find out how to pronounce Hasil Adkins first name correctly. Find out how Ryan's cold sounds after an hour of talking (not good). All that and more!!

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