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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Can Sirius XM Radio handle its $3.4b debt?

excerpted from The Boston Globe:

As the purchase of XM Satellite Radio by larger rival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. closed yesterday, questions remained over whether the combined company can handle its $3.4 billion in debt, including $1.1 billion due next year.

Also murky was how quickly the companies can mesh their technologies without angering consumers....

...In the past, the companies have mentioned offering a "best of both" service for $17 a month, compared to the current price for one of the services at $13 a month.

Sirius and XM haven't disclosed which programming the best-of service will include. And there's no guarantee Howard Stern will be available to XM customers or that Sirius customers will see Major League Baseball games, for instance....

Full story

Saturday, July 26, 2008

FCC Finally Backs Union of XM, Sirius

Excerpted from The Washington Post:

The government has approved the long-delayed merger of the nation's only satellite radio companies, combining Sirius and XM into a single entity with 18 million subscribers.

The decision last night came almost a year and a half after the companies first proposed joining. Based on yesterday's closing share prices, the deal is valued at $3.3 billion, not including debt.

...The companies must cap prices for three years after joining and allow consumers to choose the channels they want and pay less for packages of channels. Radios that allow a la carte channel selections will eventually be available for car dashboards -- the largest area of growth. The companies said they would introduce radios that receive both XM and Sirius channels...

Full article

Thursday, July 24, 2008

XM/Sirius Merger: "I think it's fair to say an agreement in principle has been reached,"

via The WSJ:

WASHINGTON - A majority of commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission have reached a deal to approve Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.'s long-pending purchase of XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.

The final hold-out, Republican commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, agreed to vote to approve the deal after winning several concessions from the companies involving enforcement issues.

"I think it's fair to say an agreement in principle has been reached," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in an interview Thursday morning. "We're still trying to work out the language."

A deal was reached with the companies late Wednesday night to pave the way for Ms. Tate's vote on the merger, Mr. Martin said. Four of the commissioners had already voted on the deal, but they had split 2-2 on whether to approve it.

The two satellite radio companies agreed to enter into a consent decree to resolve complaints they violated FCC rules. Those violations include using excessive power levels on some radio units sold to consumers and erecting several unauthorized towers to boost their satellite signals.

The companies have agreed to pay almost $20 million to settle the complaints, with XM paying about $17.5 million and Sirius paying about $2.2 million.

Ms. Tate is expected to vote on the deal as soon as Thursday. The FCC isn't expected to formally release its decision for a few days, as staff attorneys draft the final paperwork for review by the five commissioners...

...The companies are expected to bring new a la carte radios on the market in the next three months that would provide consumers more choices in which stations they receive from the two services. ...

Full article here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Episode 56 - Ho Daddy! The Surf & Turf Episode

Direct link to mp3.

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It's Summertime, the living is easy, and our July Twenty-Ought-Eight show is all about solar rays and happiness, direct from the sun and fun capital of the world, Merrimack, NH.

Summer Days, Summer Nights

Leading us off, a 19 and 67 song in praise of Trans-Love Airways, strobe lights, blue jeans, Harley-Davidsons and warm summer nights in San Francisco. Direct from the Summer of Love, Eric Burdon and the Hippie incarnation of The Animals with San Franciscan Nights.

[San Franciscan Nights - Eric Burdon and The Animals]

As anyone who has spent any time in San Francisco can tell you, "warm" would only be used to describe a San Franciscan night by someone who's never lived there. But hey, it's still a pretty song, and one that could only have been written in the summer of 1967, when all of us wanted to wear flowers in our hair.

This was the second incarnation of the Animals, much more psychedelic than the earlier blues-oriented Animals of the `early 60s, whose big hit was House of the Rising Sun. The New Animals would also have a string of hits during the late `60s, each one getting successively weirder, until culminating with 19 and 68's Sky Pilot, a seven-minute song that included gunfire, bagpipes and dive bombers, and which had to be split over two sides of a 45. Nevertheless, Sky Pilot (Parts 1 and 2) made it to #14 on the charts.


Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

There's a movie I watch every summer, on a warm night, all the lights off, just the glow of the tube lighting the room. Now - don't laugh at me - that movie is Dirty Dancing, which is one of my favorite summer movies of all time.

Some movies just get the time and place right on, and Dirty Dancing hits the summer of 19 and 63 and the Borscht Belt world of summer resorts perfectly. Maybe that's no surprise, as screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, herself called "Baby" as a girl, used the memories of her own childhood to write Dirty Dancing.

You know the plot: Young Jewish girl goes to summer resort, falls for dancer on wrong side of tracks. Hotel workers spend nights gyrating hips. Obnoxious college kid moonlighting as waiter knocks up hired help. Doctor Father confused about who's sleeping with who. Sister sings Wiki-Wacky-Woo. Old Jewish couple revealed as master thieves. Everybody dances at the end.

And nobody puts Baby in a corner.

One of the things that make Dirty Dancing so great is the soundtrack, much of which was based on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's personal record collection. That soundtrack includes our next song, Mickey & Sylvia's Love is Strange, a hit from thirty years before the movie was made.

[Love is Strange - Mickey & Sylvia]

Love is Strange was written by Bo Diddley, but was credited to Ethel Smith, who was Bo Diddley's wife at the time, because he was in the middle of a legal battle with his record label over who owned what. "Who owned what?" might be the best phrase to describe Love is Strange and its history, as its distinctive riff was lifted for numerous songs - including the roller skate rink hot hit of 19 and 62, Rinky Dink and 1963's Killer Joe by The Rocky Fellers.

You can make up your own mind how closely either song resembles Love is Strange by checking out the Dreamtime podcast blog (that's right here), where I've posted YouTube videos featuring both songs. For the record, Dave "Baby" Cortez was sued over Rinky Dink's close resemblance to Love is Strange - and lost - while The Rocky Fellers weren't. On the other hand, Mickey & Sylvia might have thought a band named The Rocky Fellers was already punishment enough.

Surf's Up!

Hey! What's that I hear? I think it's time to hit the beach!

[Ho Daddy! - Bob Denver]

I have many guilty pleasures - indeed, Jailbait claims that my life is one big guilty pleasure - and one of those guilty pleasures is my love of surf movies from the `60s. One of the best from that genre that did not have Annette Funicello in it, but did have James Darren, Bob Denver, Tina Louise, Nancy Sinatra and Paul Lynde was 1964's For Those Who Think Young.

A "hodad" or "hodaddy" is surfer slang meaning someone who adopts the surfer look, even to the extent of having a surfboard that he never uses, because he's on the beach to pick up girls, themselves referred to by the surfing crowd as "Betties."

While one story has it that the term "Betty" came from The Flintstones character Betty Rubble (an obvious sexual hysteric who Barney isn't satisfying in bed, according to that great surfing mystery, The Dawn Patrol), "Betty" was being used by surfers to refer to an attractive girl long before the cartoon was a glimmer in Hanna-Barbera's eye. "Betty" is probably derived from Bettie Page, fabulous pin-up and bondage star of the `50s, whose life story is worth a Dreamtime by itself.

Jerry Fielding, who is credited with writing the music for For Those Who Think Young, must have consulted with some real surfers to come up with the authentic lyrics. Besides "hodaddy," you'll hear Denver refer to "hot doggers," "gremmies," (inexperienced surfers), "pearl diving," "the nose," and "going over the falls.

The Man Who Walked on Water

Believe it or not jazz babies, the godfather of California surfing was novelist Jack London, who, while trying to learn to surf in Hawaii saw what London later described as a "brown-skinned god" shoot past him on a surfboard.

That brown-skinned god was one George Freeth, son of an Irish sailor and a Polynesian mother, who would later become the All-Father of California surfing.

The legend goes that Freeth borrowed a surfboard from an uncle, and finding the 16-foot board too unwieldy to carry, chopped it in two. The truncated board was not only easier to carry, Freeth found he was able to surf a helluva lot more easily too, and soon earned a reputation as someone who could do about anything in or on the water.

The impressed London talked up Freeth to anyone who would listen, and Freeth was eventually recruited by Henry Huntington - he of the famous beach - to come to California. Huntington was trying to promote his new pier at Redondo Beach, and crowds started to gather when Freeth - billed as "The Man Who Can Walk on Water" - began swooping through the pier's pilings on his surfboard.

Freeth's exploits were legendary - wrestling sea lions into submission, saving seventy-eight people from drowning, rescuing a capsized Japanese fishing skiff and surfing it to the shore, saving its crew of seven. That last exploit prompted Congress to award Freeth with the Medal of Honor.
Freeth also invented the crawl stroke and the the torpedo-shape life float that lifeguards still use to this day. Freeth started the world's first water polo team and founded the San Diego lifeguard corps. His proteges won both gold and silver medals in the 1912 Olympics. Freeth himself probably would have won a slew of medals, but he lost his amateur status because he took Henry Huntington's money.

Freeth died in 1919, age 35, a victim of the Spanish influenza epidemic that was raging through the world. Today, if you take a stroll on the Redondo Beach boardwalk, you'll find a bust George Freeth, one of the few memories left of the Man Who Walked on Water.

The Case of the Missing Navel

I have this theory that all men of a certain age had the hots for Annette Funicello, as I certainly did, and as I did for another Disney girl, Hayley Mills.

The last of the original Mouseketeers to be cast, Annette also turned out to be the most popular. Even though Annette herself knew she had an unremarkable singing voice, by age 16 she was in the studio, recording 15 albums for Disney, which resulted in a string of pop hits during the `50s and `60s.

In 1963, Annette took to the beach, starring with Frankie Avalon in what was essentially the same movie repeated five times over the next two years, culminating with 19 and 65's Beach Blanket Bingo.

Here's Annette with the theme from the first of those infamous beach movies, Beach Party, from 19 and 63.

[Beach Party - Annette Funicell0]

One of the more enduring - and kind of endearing - urban legends surrounding Annette and the beach movies is that Walt Disney himself gave Annette the go-ahead to do them, but with the caveat never, ever to "show her navel." And thus that is why you never see Annette in a bikini in any of the beach movies, even though nearly every other girl on the beach is fruggin' around in the skimpiest two-pieces allowable by 1960 standards.

However close study - and believe me, I've studied those movies closely - reveals that Annette also reveals in 19 and 64's aptly named Bikini Beach, where her belly button is shown repeatedly to God and everyone else in all its glory.

[Left- Annette's belly button. Photo via The Myth of the Hidden Navel]

Annette wrote a charming autobiography several years ago titled, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, which I heartily recommend if no other reason that it's one of the few autobiographies I've read where there are no stories of exploitation, abuse, or backstabbing.

If not fully a charmed life, as she now suffers from multiple sclerosis, Annette seems to have had a pretty good one, and one that she's appreciated even through illness. To us, she'll always be our favorite Disney Girl, and we offer her our best wishes from Dreamtime.

Fugue for Tinhorns

Hey, I see that Jailbait has the lobster tails and steaks on the grill, so I think it's time for the turf portion of our show. Here's a song that I can almost guarantee you'll know, but I bet you can't tell me the title.

And nope, it's neither Paul Revere or Can Do.

[Fugue for Tinhorns - from Guys and Dolls]

That was Fugue for Tinhorns - from Guys and Dolls, and like I said, you probably know the song, if not the name.

If you've been to Vegas, or even a carnival, you've probably seen a chuck-a-luck cage. It kind of resembles an hour-glass-shaped birdcage. It contains three dice, the dealer tumbles the cage, and you bet on the dice roll.

The first version of chuck-a-luck was played with a tin horn, and since chuck-a-luck players were considered small-time by their more sophisticated brethren, they acquired the name tin horn gamblers, which eventually became shortened to tinhorn, meaning any cheap gambler.

While there's no evidence that the horses named in Fugue for Tinhorns were real, Equipoise, whose name is mentioned by "Rusty Charley" as being the great-grandfather of "Epitaph", was a famous thoroughbred from 1928 to 1938. "Known as the "Chocolate Soldier," Equipoise won 29 of 51 races in six years of racing and was named Horse of the Year twice.

Here's one more song dedicated to the Sport of Kings to add to our turf portion of our show, Willie Egan and Big Boy Groves doing You Can't Beat the Horses from 19 and 56.

[You Can't Beat the Horses - Willie Egan with Big Boy Groves]

In 19 and 62 Willie Egan lost all his equipment in a nightclub fire, and broke and worn out from the music business, retired and went to work as a hospital orderly. Twenty years later a fan tracked him down after hearing his solo singles on an LP that a British label had put out. Everybody - including the label - had thought Willie Egan was dead, but when he found out that he was a hit in Europe, he went to London, revived his career, and cut a new record in 1984.

Willie Egan, a man who couldn't beat the horses, but did all right anyway.

It's a Cruel, Cruel Summer

Cruel Summer was originally cut by the British girl group, Bananarama in 1983, and then re-recorded by the Swedish group Ace of Base in the late `90s. Me, I like the hip-hop version Blestenation, using samples from Bananarama's original, did for Blue Crush, another one of my all-time summer movie faves... and that's what I'm going to play for you now to close out the show.

This is Fred Bals, your summertime theme deejay left all alone and putting in a hot day at the studio while Mr. D. takes his leisure at the beach.

Here's hoping your summer is cool rather than cruel, the back of your neck doesn't dirty and gritty, and those summertime blues stay far away.

[Cruel Summer - Blestenation]


With Theme Time Radio Hour on hiatus, Dreamtime is on a once-a-month podcast schedule for the duration. We'll be back in August with a new show. Thanks as always for listening, and remember to enter our Dreamtime Constant Listener Contest, underway right now. Send us an email with your guess on the date that Theme Time Radio Hour returns with Season 3, and get the opportunity to win a copy of Million Dollar Bash, as well as a CD of Poetry Readings direct from the Dreamtime studio with those nifty stewART covers.


You've been listening to the Dreamtime podcast – occasional commentary on Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. Dreamtime is researched and written by Fred Bals and is a Not Associated With production. As the name says, we're not associated with XM Radio, Bob Dylan, or much of anything else.

Some of the music on Dreamtime is provided via the Podsafe Music Network. Check it out at

Remember that the Dreamtime team loves to get email. You can write us at

The Dreamtime top cats are Curly Lasagna and Shaggy Bear. Our announcers are the notorious honky-tonkin' sisters, Jailbait and Joyride.

Until next time, dream well.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Congrats to Kevin from Maryland - Winner of the Dylan Tix!

Many in the Dreamtime audience get their info from the blog through its feed rather than visiting, so, even though I've updated the "Dylan Tix" post from yesterday with the info, here it is again for my feed reading audience.

We received a flurry of email , almost all around the same time.  Kevin from Maryland, who noted that he "lived in the Pittsburgh area for 11 years and would be happy to make the trip back..." was the first in our mailbox and our winner of the two tickets to the NAMU Music Festival on August 8 and 9.. Congratulations, Kevin!  And thanks again to Christina at the Advance Guard for offering Dreamtime the tickets.

Although not a surprise, it was kind of neat to read how far people were willing to travel to catch Mr. D. Hundreds of miles, in some instances.  As Jackie Gleason once said of Miami Beach, Bob Dylan fans really are "the greatest audience in the world."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Two Free Tickets to See Bob Dylan - Pittsburgh, PA - August 8 & 9

UPDATE: Congratulations to Kevin from Maryland, 
the winner of the two free NAMU tickets!

The folks over at the New American Music Union, obviously cognizant of the quality of Dreamtime listener/readers, have kindly provided us with two tickets to the NAMU Music Festival being held in Pittsburgh, PA on August 8 and 9, 2008.

Bob Dylan and the Cowboy Band will be taking the main stage on Saturday, August 9th, headlining a show that includes The Raconteurs and Gnarls Barkley. More info on the concert can be found by clicking on the link above.

Dreamtime has two tickets - a $100 value - for the Festival that we're giving away !!FREE! FREE! FREE!! on a first-come, first-served basis to the first listener/reader who emails us at One ticket covers both days of the Festival, so you can bring a friend along. This giveaway only covers the tickets. You're responsible for your own travel and lodging, of course.

So, if you're in the Pittsburgh area - or decide you want to be - and want to catch Mr. D.'s show on Saturday, August 9th, here's your chance. Drop us a line at - and be sure to include your name and address so the NAMU people can send you your tickets. Good luck! And, btw, Dreamtime will be expecting a full concert report from you.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

So what do "Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning," and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" All Have in Common?

All three songs, as different as they are, were written by one Chip Taylor, born James Wesley Voight, in Yonkers, New York.

If Chip's birth name or the photo to your left brings a question to mind, the answer is "yes," he also happens to be Jon Voight's brother, adding "uncle to Angelina Jolie" to his list of credits.

The New Yorker had a piece on Taylor the week of the 7th, noting the recent release of Taylor's latest CD, New Songs Of Freedom. As the article relates, Smith has had one helluva life in 64-odd years. He first tried his luck as a pro golfer, but moved into music - and the famous Brill Building - after a wrist injury. Golf, incidentally, is where Taylor picked up the "Chip" nickname, as in "chipping a shot."

Chet Atkins heard one of Taylor's country songs, and not quite believing anyone who could write country like that was really from New York, asked to hear more... and liked what he heard, launching Taylor into a successful career as a country music writer, penning hits for Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings among others.

But Taylor liked R&B just as much as country, and by the mid-60s had also written The Troggs/Jimi Hendrix classic Wild Thing, possibly one of the most suggestive songs ever composed. In contrast, Taylor also wrote the near-hymn-like (at least when compared to Wild Thing) Angel of the Morning, a #7 hit for Merrilee Rush and The Turnabouts in 1968, and an even bigger hit in 1981 for Juice Newton, hitting #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (for four weeks) and #4 on the Hot 100, as well as #22 on the Country chart.

Apparently not satisfied with being an awesome cross-over song writer, Chip Taylor also has had an extraordinarily successful career as a pro gambler - I'm not making this up - specializing in handicapping the ponies and playing blackjack well enough to get him banned from most Atlantic City casinos. Taylor's gaming career was so successful that he quit the music business in 1981, only taking it up again 12 years ago.

And he still plays the ponies.

Here's a link to Chip Taylor's personal label label, Train Wreck Records. As Chip notes on the site:

When Chip got back into the performing business in the mid-1990s he reflected back on his prior experience with the music business. He had not been pleased with how the big labels had handled his unique music that didn't exactly fit within one of the established genres. Given the new climate in the industry that allows small labels a better chance to compete, Chip decided to start his own company.

Train Wreck also has (or had, it looks like there's been no new episodes since 2006) a podcast, Church of the Train Wreck, which you can subscribe to through an iTunes search or from here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Christopher King and Greil Marcus on Disaster Songs

A 30-minute WNYC podcast on the "disaster song vogue" of the early 1900s. Includes excerpts from the magnificent box set from 2007, People Take Warning, as well as commentary from the compilation's producer, Christopher King, and from Greil Marcus.