Every 10th episode of “Music Raygun” is a “grab bag” with no specific topic discussed. But for this grab bag episode, there’s a theme: summer. What does that mean? Songs about summer, songs Kirk and Paul remember from particular summers, or just songs that “feel” like summer to them. So celebrate summertime with two people who don’t particularly even like summer, but love summer music. It’s the summer grab bag.
Nearly 60 episodes deep into this podcast but we’ve never before focused an episode on an iconic record label. Better late than never as the first label we chose for an episode topic is the iconic Def Jam Recordings. In addition to the holy trinity of the label’s early years—Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys—this one’s got Oran “Juice” Jones, Slayer and the Bangles. Plus lots more.
We’re celebrating Kirk’s birthday as he picks the clips for this entire show. It’s the long-promised “Music Raygun” smooth jazz episode. All the greats of smooth jazz are here, like Grover Washington, David Sanborn, Bob James and even Sting for some reason that makes sense in Kirk’s brain. In fact, this whole episode is like taking a long look inside Kirk’s brain. Don’t fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a smooth night.
Singer. Songwriter. Producer. Multi-instrumentalist. Power pop godfather. Technologist. Innovator. Born to synthesize. That's Todd Rundgren. He's the musical genius behind Nazz, Utopia and a long solo career full of hits from "Hello, It's Me" to "Bang the Drum All Day." And he's produced a vast and varied group of other artists. Like Badfinger, the New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Hall and Oates, XTC, the Psychedelic Furs and more. This episode covers Rundgren and several of the other artists mentioned. He's Todd Rundgren, a wizard, a true star.
In an episode that focuses on one instrument, Paul and Kirk look closer at some of the great pianists in history. Like Chico Marx. And Dennis DeYoung, of course. Kirk finally realizes, thanks to a little help from "Russian Doll," that he loves Harry Nilsson. Oscar Peterson teaches Dick Cavett to play piano like any of the great jazz pianists. Wolfgang humiliates Antonio right in front of the Holy Roman Emperor. Some snot-nosed college-boy piano player shows Billy Joel how it's done. Plus lots and lots more.
Kirk and Paul love exploring U.S. states and cities for their musical histories. But Philadelphia challenged them because it boats such an embarrassment of musical riches. There are so many good Philly artists from every decade and style. Who to pick? Well, this episode is serving you super Philly soul sounds of the '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s. There are punks from the '80s, alt-rock heroes from the '90s and a '50s doo-wop group. And also one living hip-hop legend born and raised in West Philly.
Here's a sort-of companion piece to our "Boy Bands" episode, but this one's all all-girl groups. Sorry, but there aren't any Spice Girls or Pussycat Dolls tracks. But you'll get some genuine '60s girl-group girl groups, of course. There's some '90s hip-hop and R&B. And both Kirk and Paul brought some '80s to the show. In fact, in an unplanned coincidence, both hosts independently picked a song each from the soundtrack album to the movie "Beverly Hills Cop." Knowing that, think you can guess which songs?
What was Kirk's teen angst like? What was Paul's like? If you've been listening to "Music Raygun" for a while, you can guess. And we suspect you'll get close to the mark. But there are a few curveballs here too. This episode features Nada Surf, Dream Academy, Metallica and Peter Gabriel. It has John Hughes movies and a Wes Anderson movie. It has Alyssa Milano. And Mr. Feinstein from Grant High in Van Nuys is here with his panel of teens to weigh in on punk music.
We're wrapping up another season of "Music Raygun" with our fourth B-sides episode. Twice a year, we look back on the previous six months' worth of episodes and revisit those topics for one more video clip each. Something that almost made the cut the first time around, something we forgot the first time, or something new we've discovered since. This time, you'll find B-sides for "Zbigniew Rybczynski," "New Jack Swing," "Off-Brand Picks," "TV Theme Music," "Bass," "Nile Rodgers," "Halloween II," "Dance III," "Boy Bands" and "Janet Jackson."
Janet Jackson's been a long time coming on "Music Raygun." We've talked about Michael Jackson. We've talked about the Jackson family dynasty. We've done an episode about Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. All along, we've insisted that Janet would have an episode of her own. Now that day has arrived. It starts with Janet's first TV appearance at age 8. And it ends with her 2018 Billboard Music Awards performance at age 52. And along the way, Kirk and Paul each name their top three Janet Jackson songs.