FMF Episode #12 – Johnny

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DJ: Hello and welcome to another episode of Feel Me Flow!  Today we are going to dive into the mysterious phenomenon that surrounds a man named “Johnny”.  Johnny seems to be the go-to character for rock songs.  It seems like everyone has written about a Johnny, or vicariously lived through a Johnny in the music world.  John has been in the top 20 most popular baby names of the U.S. since the census began.  It was the most popular name for males until 1924 but remains in the top 20 to this day.  Other forms of John include Johnny, Johnathan, Jack or Jackie.  We’re gonna stick to one form today; Johnny.

In our previous episode, we celebrated Bob Dylan’s 76th birthday with tributes, covers, and odes to Bob himself.  Our Johnny themed show is going to start off with some more Dylan followed by a plethora of songs about Johnny the rock star, Johnny the heartbreaker, Johnny the jerk, and a few cartoon Johnny’s may make an appearance. Here’s Bob Dylan doing what some claim is the first “rap” song; “Subterranean Homesick Blues”.  Mix up that medicine, Johnny!

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DJ:  Whew!  What a crunchy set of music.  Finishing off our lead set was garage rock lo-fi staple, Ty Segall.  Ty is by far one of the most active musicians in the rock world right now.  After releasing his debut album in 2008, Ty has put out over fifteen albums with various bands over the last nine years.  He released three albums in 2012 alone!  This dude writes.

Before Ty, we heard an old punk jam from The Gizmos.  The Gizmos hail from Bloomington, IN and have changed lineups more times than a struggling baseball team.  Never released an official full album, the band put out four EPs and split record before calling it quits.  We played “Johnny Got A Gun” from the compilation Rock & Roll Don’t Come From New York.

A one-two punch about Johnny B. Goode carried us through the middle of the set.  First, we heard the legendary “Johnny B. Goode” from the almighty Chuck Berry.  The intro has become synonymous with the song, but lifted from a Louis Jordan song “Ain’t That Just Like A Woman“.  Chuck actually wrote five songs in total about his famed Johnny.  After the success of “Johnny B. Goode”, Chuck would go on to write “Johnny B. Blues”, “Go Go Go”, “Lady B. Goode”, and “Bye Bye Johnny”; the latter of which we played a cover of.

The Rolling Stones released their eponymous debut EP in January of 1964.  “Bye Bye Johnny” was the lead track on the album, leaving the absolute possibility that this track was the first Stones song many people heard.  Crazy, man.

Now, we’re gonna listen to Bad Company tell us the story of Johnny hearing The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” and becoming a rock star.

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DJ:  After hearing “Love Me Do”, Johnny started a band, hit the big time, and died in his hotel room after a night of pills and whiskey.  Sounds pretty typical, doesn’t it?  Nice job, Bad Company.  Bad Company was the typical classic rock sound to me, what do you think?

Bruce Springsteen wrote “Johnny 99” during his recording sessions for Nebraska after reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.  The entire album is bleak and quiet, with topics limited to murder, despair, and longing; its amazing.  Philadelphia, PA punk band The Loved Ones covered Bruce’s “Johnny 99” on their Distractions EP.

Annie Clark (St. Vincent) was named the Record Store Day Ambassador in 2017.  After earning a Grammy for her 2014 LP St. Vincent, the songstress toured with acts like The Black Keys and Pixies; and even made her directorial debut.  Annie gave us “Prince Johnny” from that Grammy-winning effort.

After a minor charting hit in 1960 with “One Boy”, Joanie Sommers landed a #7 hit single with 1962’s “Johnny Get Angry”.  Once called “The Voice Of The Sixties”, Joanie wouldn’t repeat the success she found with “Johnny Get Angry”.  This so-called “Johnny” was a figurehead of songwriting for girl groups in the 60’s.  We’ll hear more from that later.

Imelda May capped off our second set with “Johnny Got A Boom Boom”.  Imelda has found success in Ireland and the UK but hasn’t been able to break through in the U.S. markets.  “Johnny Got A Boom Boom” comes from her 2007 LP Love Tattoo; although we played the radio edit mix from 2010.  Imelda released her latest album Life Love Flesh Blood in April of 2017.

We’re gonna jump into a bit of alternative rock now, with Pearl Jam playing us a track from 2009’s Backspacer.  Here’s “Johnny Guitar”

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DJ: In February of 1963, a young Quincy Jones(π) brought over 200 demo recordings to Lesley Gore’s family’s house.  The only one that Jones and Gore agreed on was “It’s My Party”.  The story goes as Aaron Schroeder’s music firm had the demo and didn’t really like Quincy’s version.  Phil Spector heard the demo in Aaron’s office and requested to record it with The Crystals.  At a Charles Aznavour concert, Quincy and Phil chatted about the track and Phil let Quincy know he was doing it.  Quincy bailed on the concert, went to the studio and pressed 100 test copies of the single.  Over the next two days, he mailed them to radio stations across the country.  By Friday, Lesley heard her hit on the radio.  Smart move, Quince.

Johnny Thunders left New York Dolls in 1975 and started his own band The Heartbreakers (not the Tom Petty band).  He recorded one album with them and a few solo albums afterward.  Johnny died tragically in 1991 in New Orleans in a shroud of mystery.  Some say OD, some say murder, and the autopsy revealed he had leukemia.  No one really knows what happened to Johnny Thunders.

The Kinks played us his namesake track from their 1968 LP The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.  The character that Ray Davies created for the song would make a return in the song “One Of The Survivors” on their album Preservation Act I.

Before The Kinks, we heard Pearl Jam and their idol Neil Young.  The groups have worked together before, including many live performances of “Rockin’ In The Free World” and on Neil’s 1995 LP Mirrorball.  Neil played us “Johnny Magic” from his 2009 album Fork In The Road, and Pearl Jam played us “Johnny Guitar” from Backspacer.

Alright, let’s hear the Big O lament about heartbreak.  Oh, and make sure to pay close attention to the NOFX song at the end of the set.

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DJ:  Otis Redding was perhaps the greatest soul singer to ever live.  It’s arguable, anyway.  In December of 1967, Otis’ plane crashed into Lake Monona after a show in Madison, WI.  Otis was only 26, but his impact on music would be felt forever.  There were four official posthumous albums released by him, and one of them was The Dock Of The Bay.  Otis had recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” only three days before his death.  We played “Johnny’s Heartbreak” from his final posthumous album, 1970’s Tell The Truth.

1972 brought the world reggae music in the form of the soundtrack to The Harder They Come.  The film starred Jimmy Cliff who performed on many of the songs on the soundtrack.  “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and the film’s title track were big singles for Jimmy.  The album featured other hit reggae singles of the era, including Toots And The Maytals‘ “Pressure Drop” and Desmond Dekker‘s “007 (Shanty Town)”.  The Slickers doing “Johnny Too Bad” represented the album.

Speaking of posthumous success, Sublime’s self-titled 1997 album exploded onto the alternative music scene when it was released.  Unfortunately, lead singer Bradley Nowell had overdosed on heroin right after recording it.  It’s a damn shame about Bradley, as Sublime’s music had such potential.  Nonetheless, we were given three albums and a couple compilations of great ska-punk-reggae music.  “The Ballad Of Johnny Butt” from that self-titled success played after The Slickers.

Our Set 4 Score went to Los Angeles punks Death Lens.  Death Lens has cranked out a handful of EPs since 2011 and compiled/re-recorded many of those tunes for their debut LP Fuck This.  We really dig their sound and look forward to catching them on tour if they make it our way as well as a physical release.  Look for more of Death Lens in the future!

Finishing off the set was a NOFX song referencing a whole slew of songs about Johnny. The entire next set contains songs that Fat Mike referenced in “Jaw Knee Music”.  I’ll break it down for you afterward.  Kicking things off is D.I. doing “Johnny’s Got A Problem”.

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DJ: Alright, so in “Jaw Knee Music”, Mike starts off singing “Johnny’s got a problem, Johnny’s outta control”.  The first track in our set was that very song; D.I.‘s “Johnny’s Got A Problem” from 1986’s Horse Bites, Dog Cries.

In verse three of “Jaw Knee”, Mike asks “Johnny, is he queer?”.  In the late 70’s, Josie Cotton moved to Los Angeles from Texas and found herself in the punk scene.  After hooking up with Larson and Bobby Paine, Josie would get offered the track and include it on her 1982 album Convertible Music.  She would appear in Valley Girl, but after a second effort in 1984 would she would ultimately fade out of the music scene.

Mike also sang the line “Johnny says he’s bound by only six strings to this world.”; a direct lyric lift from the Bouncing Souls song “The Ballad Of Johnny X”.  Originally recorded for the Punk Sucks compilation, the track would be re-recorded for their sophomore album Maniacal Laughter later that year.

Towards the end of “Jaw Knee Music”, Mike can be heard singing “Johnny questions sellout bands”.  After the Souls, Less Than Jake played us “Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts” from their 1996 album Losing Streak.  “Johnny Quest” was also re-recorded, but this time we played the rerecorded version; the original was on their debut Pezcore.

To wrap up our Jaw Knee Music set, we played The Replacements’ “Johnny’s Gonna Die” from their 1981 debut LP Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash.  Fat Mike quoted the song verbatim with the line “Johnny always needs more than he takes, forgets a couple chords, forgets a couple breaks.”  The track would be the slowest and longest on an 18 track-36 minute ear blast of an album.

Pretty neat, huh?  So much Johnny. Now we’re gonna head back to Ireland quick for some Thin Lizzy…

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DJ: Dire Straits’ Brothers In Arms was one of the first albums to be directed to a CD market.  When the album was released in 1985, the vinyl version had truncated songs to fit onto one disc, while the CD version was at full length.  It wasn’t until the vinyl resurgence of the 2010’s that the full-length vinyl version was remastered and made available.  “Walk Of Life” is about a man named Johnny busking his way through life playing oldies.

The Diaboliks were a little-known garage rock band from the 90’s.  Featuring a 3/4 female lineup, the band would put out a mixtape of an LP as a debut, a few EPs, and one full-length LP in 2000.  Lineup changes and band tension led them to split after the release of their full-length Three Fur Burgers…And A Hot Chilli Dog To Go!;  where we lifted “I Love Johnny Bravo” from.

So-Cal’s FIDLAR did “Hey Johnny” from their sophomore 2015 album Too.  I remember reading somewhere that if there was one punk album you bought in 2015, Too should be it.  I’ve agreed ever since I bought it.  Fuck it dog, life’s a risk!

Dave Grohl and Foo Fighters gave us “Hey, Johnny Park! from their 1997 sophomore album The Colour And Shape.  While the song never mentions a Johnny, Dave Grohl has said that when he was younger he had a neighbor kid friend that would call him Johnny Park.  After growing up and growing apart, he named the song as such in hopes that that neighbor kid would call him sometime.  I wonder if he ever did?

Well, that about wraps up our Johnny episode.  We probably could’ve done two of these with how much “Johnny” music is out there.  Maybe we’ll try a woman’s name next time.  Perhaps Mary?  We shall see… Join us next time for another episode of Feel Me Flow!

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