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Friday, April 24, 2009

Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour - The Best Of The Second Series

Music from Theme Time Radio Hour is obviously popular. The CD branch of ISIS magazine, Chrome Dreams, has now issued its third compilation, this one focused on music played on TTRH during the show's second season.

"The Best Of The Second Series" contains 50 tracks from Season 2's 25 shows, music ranging from The Carter Family's Hello Stranger to T-Bone Walker's Cold, Cold Feeling. As usual with the commercial releases, the compilation contains no Dylan commentary nor other TTRH features past the music. The blurb notes that Derek Barker (editor of ISIS as well as the author of several very good books) provides extensive liner notes." The blurb over at ISIS also relates the interesting piece of trivia that 369 songs were played over Season 2.

The compilation doesn't look like it's hit the Amazon shelves yet, but it can be found at either ISIS or at the Chrome Dreams sites.


On a somewhat related and unhappy note, as you probably know Together Through Life started leaking all over the interwebs late Wednesday. Several well-intentioned but misguided people have sent me links to the stolen album, including even the "Friends and Neighbors" bonus disc, which would be amusing if it wasn't so sad.  I've also had to remove one link from my blogroll because of this. 

Let me make it clear.  I do not want the links.  I do not want the stolen albums.  I do not want to be linking to them not matter how well-meaning your intentions. Personally, I can wait until Tuesday, which is the release date and when I expect Together Through Life to show up in my mailbox.

I've said it before, I'll say it again.  The whole bootleg/illegal download thing is a messy subject, and ultimately it's up to your own conscience as to how you handle it.  I'm not interested in debates, rationalizations, or explanations on the subject. I have my own personal guidelines, which yes, are probably inconsistent upon examination.  But they are mine, as are my opinions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"One of the Ancients By Now, Who All Moderns Prize"

Dreamtime correspondent Benny Desmond from one of our favorite radio shows dropped us a line after seeing our post on Muddy Waters' Blow Wind Blow, the very first song from the very first Theme Time Radio Hour, "The Weather." Benny passed on his own favored video of Blow Wind, and I can but agree. It's a knockout.

Not much information with the video, and one could argue that you don't need more than the music. But because I am who I am, I had to go find out more about it, of course. It's likely a November 28, 19 and 70 performance at/on The Beat-Club music show broadcast from Bremen, Germany. Muddy also performed Honey Bee on the same broadcast, and you can find that clip at YouTube too.

A "Weather" Quiz

I've recently been going through the TTRH archives and so have a lot of trivia fresh in my mind. For our Faithful Fans, Theme Timeakeers as we like to think of you all, here's a quiz on the "Weather" show. This isn't our Host's long-promised quiz, but think of it as a start...

1. Mr. D. paraphrases an English poet from the 18th century in his description of Muddy Waters. Provide Bob's quote (that one should be a gimme), name the poet Bob is quoting, and for 2 bonus points, provide the original quote and the work it's taken from.

2. Name the first celebrity who does a voice promo on the "Weather" show.

3. Who are the two Minnesota celebrities Bob names?

4. What singing group does Mr. D. say "he might have seen" on tour, and where would he have seen them?

5. What language does Our Host speak after playing Stevie Wonder?

6. What city does Mr. D. say he's "playing a lot of artists" from, and why is that appropriate?

7. Who wanted to be Dean Martin and what song did both he and Dino cover?

8. Name the lead singer of The Prisonaires and what was he imprisoned for?

9. What two means of musical communication are used by those without access to traditional media?

10. What West Coast winds are "like the winds of the apocolypse"?


1-3 - Stick with the Underground Garage

4-7 - You get a free tour of the Abernathy Building

8-10+ - You may be me

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before...

If you're still trying to get the "Big Orange Head" joke that Our Host told in the "Goodbye" show, don't strain the brain, bubies.

Go take a look at this post over at Gordon Bressack's My Mind and Welcome To It blog, which relates the joke as told by a certain character whose name will not be unfamiliar to the Theme Time Radio Hour regular...
I first heard this joke sitting around a table in an Italian restaurant in Studio City with several people all in the comedy business including Maurice La Marche (impressionist, voice of The Brain among many others), Billy West (voice of Stimpy and numerous others), John DiMaggio (most well known as the voice of Bender on Futurama) and Eddie Gorodetsky (well-known and prodigious comedy/sit com writer). Eddie told the joke and we all fell off our chairs laughing.
Be sure to read the comments, which are as interesting - if you're interested in thinking about how comedy works, that is - as Bresseck's post itself. 

Bresseck made the post just about a month ago, making you wonder when Eddie G. told him the joke.  Recently?  Was it on his mind because of the "Goodbye" show?

As another of the commenters notes, like all jokes, Big Orange Head has a multitude of variations, "no two joke-tellers tell a joke exactly the same way."  Here's a video of the Big Orange Head joke, updated for the digital age.

Thanks to "zinzoe" over at the Expecting Rain forums for the lead.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The NY Daily News on "Goodbye"

The link is over in the TTRH News & Views column to your right, too.  But I wanted to make a couple of comments that I can't do there.

David Hinckley, in today's NY Daily News, does a credible job reporting on Wednesday's "Goodbye" show. Hinckley is the same journalist who reported last year that Season 3 would begin on September 19th 2008, which it didn't. However, unlike last year's article which read as if it been tossed off in a couple of minutes, Hinckley appears to have put some legwork and thought into his speculation that this really is goodbye for Theme Time Radio Hour.

Right now, neither Dylan nor Sirius XM has made any definitive declaration beyond rerunning shows. A note on the XM "Deep Tracks" page last week mentioned "the fall season"; then that disappeared, and the company isn't returning phone calls.
That isn't entirely true.  The "note" he refers to on the Deep Tracks site is back, probably because an "encore" show airs later today.  It reads in full:
Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour | This Week: "Goodbye"
8:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Take a trip back to the golden age of radio with music hand-selected by Bob Dylan, from his personal collection. Listen as he weaves his own brand of radio with dreams, schemes and themes. This week Theme Time Radio Hour is 90 minutes and says "Goodbye" until the Fall season. Next week we begin a season of replays from this and past years.
The bolding is mine.

That blurb notwithstanding, Hinckley goes on to list all the solid reasons on we may have heard the last original TTRH.  Lee Abrams gone; the Cadillac sponsorship ended; Sirius XM desperate to cut costs.  And as he says, you can't listen to the "Goodbye" show without feeling that it's really over.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Return To Me - Dean Martin

Audiences of Mr. D.'s current European tour shouldn't feel too bad that - so far - they've missed out on hearing any live performances from Together Through Life. He's been treating different venues to rarities, including the first-ever live performance of Return to Me, a hit for Dean Martin in 19 and 58, and which Dylan covered in December 2000 for use in "The Sopranos."

Not only Elvis wanted to be Dean Martin, to paraphrase Our Host's remark in the "Weather" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour. Dylan's version of the song was eventually released on "The Sopranos" soundtrack album, and you can find the mp3 at Amazon at the link above.

Return to Me was co-written by Carmen Lombardo, younger brother of the better-known Guy. He also wrote Snuggled On Your Shoulder, which Bob Dylan would adapt for his own purposes for "Love and Theft"'s Floater. You can hear Lombardo's original and compare the two on Episode 12 of the Dreamtime podcast, where we explore the roots of that album in Love, Theft, and Emails.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Theme Time Radio Hour Bookends

Muddy Waters' Blow Wind, Blow the first song played on Episode 1, "The Weather" first broadcast on Wednesday May 6, 2006.

Woody Guthrie's So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh (Dusty Old Dust) the last song played on Episode 100 "Goodbye" first broadcast on Wednesday April 15, 2009.

Although it may be making too much out of it, I'll note that Dusty Old Dust was Woody's showcase song on the premiere episode of Back Where I Come From.

That episode's theme? "The Weather." And you can read about it and hear it right here: Episode 45 - Back Where I Come From: The Roots of Theme Time Radio Hour.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

He Didn't Say Yes, But He Didn't Say No...

... in answer to our first question. Although Our Host bade us "Goodbye" in just about every way possible during today's 90-minute special, he never came right out and said that this was the end of Theme Time Radio Hour, although it is the close of Season 3. On the other hand, Mr. D. had nothing to say about "seeing us real soon" or even in the Fall for that matter, either.

You can look at the show as a proper wrap-up to TTRH, the 100th episode, lots of great music with Woody Guthrie's Dusty Old Dust (So Long, it's Been Good to Know Yuh) as the appropriate in many ways finale, a surprise appearance by Ellen Barkin midway through, Mr. D. inviting us to the wrap party at Elmo's (if the lights are still on); and a vinyl recording of an old radio promo, complete with crackle, hiss, and needle bump telling us at the very end ...

...look us up again, the records will spin when we come your way...

... and maybe the records will spin again. You can also look at the close as someone very carefully keeping the door open for another season, just in case. On the positive side, we do have those two "missing" shows, and the blurb for TTRH on Deep Tracks reads:
This week Theme Time Radio Hour is 90 minutes and says "Goodbye" until the Fall season...
On the negative si... But what the eff. Who needs to be negative?
"... We are never really satisfied, are we? - we are always craving another bite of food, love, magic, knowledge or power from the various hands that feed us. Guess that's just the good ol', grace-fallen, human condition.

Anyway, if TTRH has actually stopped for good today, I think it's important to acknowledge and be deeply thankful for our opportunity to listen to a hundred plus hours of pure Americana radio magic from the greatest song and dance [man] of them all!"

On a couple of other TTRH-related notes. When you hear Mr. D. close today's show you'll hear him say, "this past year..." While there's a tendency to start treating everything said or played on TTRH as a clue ("Ellen Barkin's gone! Pierre has a cold! Where's George Jones?") kind of like we were watching Mao floating in the Yangtze River, I think that's more evidence that Seasons 2-3 started out life as one big year-long Season 2. Even the deejay following TTRH alluded to that, mentioning that a "Goodbye" show was appropriate, as they had done a "Hello" show at the start of Season 2.

I was hoping that the deejay might mention something pro or con abut the future of TTRH, but all he had to say was not to worry about getting your show fix, as they had lots of TTRH in their archives, which can either be inferred as a reference to the summer, or forever. Everyone being careful, as I said. And maybe that's the most positive sign of all.

One item for the Season 3 roundup that I wanted to include. "Absolutely Sweet Marie" over at the TTRH forums maintains an invaluable list of artists played on the show, which I use regularly as a reference source. As ASM notes, it's interesting that the undisputed champ of "most played" durings Seasons 1 and 2 - George Jones - had not a single spin for Season 3.

For those interested, Tom Waits and Dinah Washington have tied as "most-played" over the 100 shows, each with 10 appearances on the turntable. Maybe most surprising to me was the resurgence of The Rolling Stones, who for awhile seemed destined to be played on every Season 3 show.They came from way back in the pack to tie with Elvis Costello and Van Morrison for 2nd place.

And finally, my sincere thanks for the many comments, emails, even a few phone calls, and good wishes we've received since we started Dreamtime way back in the summer of 2006. I haven't made up my mind yet where I'll take the site and/or podcast if Theme Time Radio Hour is indeed over, but stayed tuned. You'll be the first to know where we'll go from here.

If this is the end, it's not goodbye. ~ Fred, Jailbait, and the Dreamtime Top cats, April 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Theme Time Radio Hour Season 3 Roundup

Although we'd be happy to be proven wrong, we're willing to bet the ranch that this week's "Goodbye" show will be the final show for Season 3 of Theme Time Radio Hour.  As we wind up, here's a few highlights and some sad notes from the season...

"Picasso From Belgium"

Theme Time Radio Hour fan and show cataloger extraordinare, Pierre Ponette, better known on-line as "Picasso from Belgium" passed away in September 2008, a month before the start of Season 3.  Thanks to the prompting of "adamdean" and the agreement of the Expecting Rain forum administrators, the TTRH forum was recently renamed to "Picasso's Theme Time Radio Hour" in his memory.

Dreamtime Gets A Scoop

The Dreamtime blog became the first media outlet to break the news of Season 3's start date of October 8th after receiving an email from an anonymous source at XM Radio in mid-September.

There was no official announcement about the new season from Sirius XM past a one line statement on their XMX program page on October 1st.  With the release of a new edition of Dylan's Bootleg Series, Tell Tale Signs, happening during the same week all Bob Dylan-related promotion appeared to be ceded to the Sony publicity machine.

On October 7, the day before the start of Season 3, the "Legacy Records" division of Sony issued a press release promoting both Tell Tale Signs and Theme Time Radio Hour.  The release noted that Season 3 themes would include "Money," "War," "Presidents," "Cats" and "Famous People."

A brief article in the October 16 edition of Rolling Stone (online and on newsstands a week earlier) reported some additional themes, including "Sugar," "Carnivals," and "Furniture." The article also related that the November 19th show, "War," would be 90 minutes, the first hour-and-a-half show TTRH had ever aired.  The online Rolling Stone article was later updated with audio excerpts from the "Money" and "War" episodes.

Money (That's What I Want)

The first episode of Season 3 aired on Wednesday, October 8, 2008. As reported, the theme was "Money."  Ellen Barkin provided the show's traditional "It's Night in the Big City" opening, and Dylan introduced Season 3 with:
“Welcome to Season 3 of Theme Time Radio Hour, and we’re glad to have you. We’ve had a lot of fun the last couple of years, presenting the greats and near-greats, the fondly remembered and the almost forgotten, performing a wide variety of music on a veritable cornucopia of subjects.
But as we start Season 3 we’re gonna take our cue from a sign Harry S. Truman kept on his desk: The Buck Stops Here. And not just the buck, the yen, the shekel, the nickel and dime, and if you still subscribe to the barter system, maybe a bushel of corn. So break open your piggy banks and cash in your bonds. This week’s episode of Theme Time Radio Hour is most definitely cash and carry.”
The show followed the same general format as Seasons 1 and 2 with music ranging from a 1926 cut by Papa Charlie Jackson, You Put It In, I'll Take It Out to 1997's It's All About The Benjamins by Puff Daddy, interspersed with commentary by Dylan. The "Caller on Line..." segment returned with a twist, with Dylan conducting a conversation in Spanish with a caller who wanted to know the conversion rate between dollars and pesos and closed the conversation with a request for a song by "Amigo Hombre," better known as "Buddy Guy."

At the close of the show, Dylan noted that with so much more music yet to be played, the following week's show would also be on "Money." Announcer "Pierre Mancini" again read the closing credits, which were slightly changed from previous seasons. The "associate producer" of Season 3 is now one "Nina Fitzgerald," replacing "Ben Rollins," who himself had replaced Season 1's "Sonny Webster."  If there's a Season 4, it's likely that the pseudonymous producer's - who is rumored to be Bob Dylan's manager, Jeff Rosen - name will be "Ella Simone," continuing the nod to jazz greats.

Lee Abrams, who had left XM Radio in April 2008, is now credited in the "Special Thanks To..." section, along with regulars Coco Shinomiya and Samson's Diner.  Engineer "Tex" Carbone, who apparently received a promotion midway through Season 2, is now referred to as the "Director of Studio Operations."

It can't go unremarked that the airing of the Theme Time Radio Hour "Money" episodes coincided with the start of a global financial meltdown.

Commerce & Art

Sirius completed its acquisition of/merger with XM Radio in late July 2008, but left programming on both satellite radio stations virtually unchanged until November of that year.

On November 12, the company announced major programming changes, some of which impacted Theme Time Radio Hour.  The show moved its Wednesday air time to an hour later, 11 a.m. ET, and began airing on both Sirius and XM, expanding the show's audience to Sirius subscribers. However, Sirius also discontinued the XM Radio XMX station, which had broadcast TTRH continuously on Wednesdays.

Cadillac's on-air sponsorship of the show also ended at around this same date.

Although Sirius XM doesn't disclose information on audience size for any of its shows, it was obvious that the deletion of XMX and its 24-hour broadcast of TTRH caused a serious decrease in both the show's satellite and internet listeners. Live "listening parties" ended, posts on TTRH noticeably dropped off in on-line forums, and complaints poured into TTRH-related sites, including Dreamtime, that listeners could no longer conveniently hear the show.

Beginning February 8, 2009, The Spectrum (Sirius Channel 18 and XM Channel 45) began airing repeats of the program in a four-hour block each Sunday from 4-8 pm ET. Each block begins and ends with an encore of the most recent TTRH episode from the previous Wednesday, with two older shows aired in between those episodes.  While the additional programming provided welcome expanded listener access to the show, its arguable that the damage was already done, and that TTRH lost a sizable portion of its rumored 2 million+ listeners during Season 3.

The Return of the "Lost" Season 2 Shows

Another troubling outcome of Sirius's acquisition of XM was the reduced oversight of TTRH that was evident throughout the season. The show's home page, never regularly updated, became completely out of date during much of Fall 2008, containing dead links to the canceled XMX channel and a graphic still displaying the original 10 a.m. air time for several weeks after those changes had been made.

Other problems included repeat episodes of TTRH not airing on scheduled date/times, and the show's closing credits - apparently kept separate from the episodes themselves - not being used for several shows.

The "War" episode was the first episode of Season 3 to not include credits during its premiere airing. Repeat broadcasts included the credits, as well as the information that the following week's  theme would be "Fruit," also referred to on TTRH as "Fruit Bowl."

The title of one of the so-called "lost" episodes from Season 2, announced by XM Radio but never released, "Fruit" would be the first aired during Season 3 of what would turn out to be all the missing episodes, which included "Street Maps," "Something," and "Nothing."

The appearance of the "lost" Season 2 shows led to an interesting theory conjectured in the Expecting Rain TTRH forums: that Season 2 had originally been planned as one 50-episode season scheduled to run over a year's time, similar to Season 1. For reasons unknown, but possibly having to do with the Sirius acquisition, Season 2 was cut off six months into the season at Episode 25, with some, if not all, of the remaining 25 shows becoming Season 3 six months later.

There is some circumstantial evidence from both Seasons 2 and 3 to support this theory, including the fact that Season 2 opened with "Hello," and Season 3 will close with "Goodbye," bracketing themes possibly originally intended as the bookends for one season.

Radio Radio

The ever-expanding list of TTRH compilations grew to include Radio Radio in 2008, a 4-CD box set from "Mischief Music" containing 112 songs, all from from Season 1 of TTRH. As with all other commercial TTRH compilations, Radio Radio does not contain any Dylan commentary or other Theme Time features.

The "Friends & Neighbors" episode from Season 1 will be part of the "deluxe" Together Through Life package, scheduled for release the week of Aprl 27, 2009.  As with the promotional "Baseball" CD, the "Friends & Neighbors" disc is expected to be the complete show and include Dylan's commentary.

"The Theme Time Radio Hour Compendium," a tie-in book originally announced for October 2008, was not released. The publication date on several on-line sites was briefly changed to October 2009, and is now listed as October 2010.  However, the book is no longer cataloged on its publisher's - Simon & Schuster - site, and can be presumed to be delisted.

Derek Barker's massive and fascinating book, "The Songs He Didn't Write," published in 2008, lists songs that Bob Dylan has covered over the course of his career. While only touching on TTRH peripherally, the book makes a strong case that many - if not most - of the music selections played on the show were picked by Dylan himself. Highly recommended reading.

More Commerce Than Art

While considered by fans to include some of the best episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour, the show's Season 3 was somewhat overshadowed by the ongoing economic soap opera that is Sirius XM Radio.  Appropriately on Halloween Day 2008, The Motley Fool web site declared the company "the world's scariest stock."

In February 2009, laden with over $3 billion in debt and its stock trading for less than .12 a share (Sirius XM is currently trading for .35 cents a share at the time of this writing), the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Several reports noted that such a bankruptcy would enable the company to cancel and renegotiate its contracts with its costly independent productions, such as Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, and Theme Time Radio Hour, rumored to be XM Radio's single largest expense before the merger.

Online reaction ranged from the ridiculous - speculation that Ellen Barkin's absence from several of the show's introductions was tied into Sirius's financial problems - to the sanguine - opinions that the show would be unaffected, at least during Season 3.

As it turned out, the latter was accurate. A last-minute cash infusion by Liberty Media rescued Sirius XM from immediate bankruptcy, and Season 3 of TTRH continued on without interruption.  While still not financially healthy by any measurement, Sirius XM continued as a viable business into the first half of 2009.

Several analysts belive that Sirius XM's future depends on a successful transition from a satellite to internet radio subscription model, specifically tied into an iPhone/iTouch application.

The company killed an independent application that would have given Sirius XM subscribers the ability to tune into channels from both stations from their iPhones, uSirius StarPlayr, in early 2009, although a similar application still remains available. Sirius XM is now reportedly at work on their own iPhone/iTouch application, scheduled for release sometime during the summer of 2009.

What's In A Name?

Show titles during Season 3 tended to be fluid, with various episodes referred to by different names at different times by reporters, XM Radio, Pierre Mancini, and even Bob Dylan himself.  "Fruit" was occasionally called "Fruit Bowl," the announced "Streets" show was renamed as "Street Map," "Sugar" was expanded to include "Candy," the "count-up" show was variously referred to as "Eleven On Up," "Eleven And Up," or simply "Eleven-Up," "Family" was also called "Family Circle," and the "Noah's Ark" shows were also known as "Animals: Parts 1 and 2."

The "President's Day" show - first broadcast in Season 2 - became the first repeat episode for Season 3, airing on October 29, 2008, the Wednesday before the U.S. presidential elections. As with Season 2, Season 3 would see two more repeat episodes: "Christmas & New Year's", airing appropriately on Christmas Eve, 2008, and "Number One," airing on New Year's Eve.  The Christmas show would become the first TTRH episode to have been broadcast over all three seasons.

Notable episodes included the "Blood" and "War" shows, where Dylan played cuts from a Jerry Lee Lewis bootleg featuring two songs from the rock musical Catch My Soul and saying with obvious  delight: "You know, if anybody ever asks me why I do this radio show, I could just play them that - Jerry Lee Lewis singing Shakespeare."

The "Money: Part 2" show included one of the best TTRH "Caller on Line.." segments, with the caller insisting The Beatles' song title was Money Can Buy Me Love and calling Dylan, "Mr. Sixties."

A later episode, the "Something" show,would feature a real person as caller, Tennessee Thomas, drummer for the band, The Like, and daughter of Pete Thomas, longtime drummer for Elvis Costello.

Although Tennessee claimed to be on tour in Brooklyn, it's more likely she did the call-in recording for TTRH sometime while she was in New York for her appearance with her father on Spectacle: Elvis Costello With...

Our Host continued his recommendations of various real-world restaurants and watering holes throughout Season 3, including The Rojo in Birmingham, Alabama during the "11 On Up" show, and telling Tennessee to try the pizza at Totonno's in Brooklyn on "Something."

Less heard during Season 3 was "def poetry," with Mr. D. doing few readings and those usually excerpts rather than the full poem.  Email readings were also reduced in favor of the faux phone calls.  However, one notable email was read on the "Family/Family Circle" show.  In reply to a listener's aside that she copied various TTRH episodes to pass on to her family, Dylan stated that he "can't condone that," and concluded the call  with a forceful, "And stop giving my shows away!"

The comment generated exceptional angst among TTRH fans, with a few parsing the remark much more than it deserved while offering varous justifications, rationalizations and explanations for their own copying of the show.  It's doubtful that anyone anywhere stopped doing so or began "illegally downloading" it, as Dylan had wryly recommended in an earlier show, on the strength of his dictum.

The Future?

The future of Theme Time Radio Hour past Season 3 remains, as the Magic 8-Ball would have it, "murky."

The length of Dylan's original contract with XM Radio is unknown, only referred to publicly as "multi-year," and may expire in 2009, or may have been voided upon XM's merger with Sirius. Although Dylan's XM contract probably now pales against that of Sirius star Howard Stern, Sirius management may not be as enthusiastic as the show's original XM Radio champion, Lee Abrams, was to have Bob Dylan in their program line-up.  Dylan himself appears to enjoy hosting the show, but he's given no indication whether he wants to or plans to continue it.

It's unclear what effect the economic downturn might have on TTRH continuing into a Season 4.  On the one hand, if Sirius XM is looking to cut costs, the show may fall to the ax, especially if it no longer fits into the Sirius XM program model, its ratings have dropped, or its costs are no longer subsidized by a Cadillac sponsorship.

On the other hand, the poor economy may actually encourage both Sirius XM and the TTRH team to come to terms on continuing the show, especially if the ratings remain strong and both sides are happy with the contract.  Bob Dylan has something of a "Tiffany" effect with his associations, generating press and publicity, as well as attracting his fan base to side endeavors such as TTRH.

One positive indicator for a Season 4 is reminiscent of Season 2.  Two shows reported in Rolling Stone as scheduled for Season 3, "Carnivals" and "Furniture," have not aired.  Will they, like the "lost" shows of Season 2, eventually be broadcast in a new season of Theme Time Radio Hour?

Maybe we'll find out this Wednesday.


Picasso's Theme Time Radio Hour

Theme Time Playlists

TTRH on Wikipedia

Annotated Theme Time Radio Hour

Thanks to all Dreamtime listeners, readers and fans for a great Season 3!

Top photo courtesy "roland" under a Creative Commons license.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Donald, Where's Your Trousers? - John Henry and Savannah

Apropos of nothing, except I can't get the song out of my head after hearing it on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles at the close of the Adam Raised A Cain episode. It's interesting listening to what started life as a comic song becoming dark and portentous simply with a change in music.

I've just got down from the Isle of Skye,
I'm not very big but I'm awfully shy,
The lassies shout as I walk by,
"Donald, where's your trousers?"

Let the wind blow high, let the wind blow low
Through the streets in my kilt I go.
All the lassies cry, "Hello,
Donald, where's your trousers?"

I went to a fancy ball
It was slippery in the hall
I was afeared that I may fall
Cause I had nae on trousers.

The lassies love me, every one
They must catch me if they can
Ye cannae put the breeks on a Highland man,
saying, "Donald where's your trousers?"

I went down to London town
To have a little fun on the Underground
Ladies turned their heads around
saying, "Donald, where's your trousers?"

Sometimes called the unofficial Celtic national anthem, Donald, Where's Your Trousers? is a much more recent song than it sounds. It was written in 19 and 60 by Andy Stewart and Neil Grant. "Neil Grant" was a pen name taken by Iain Macfadyen, the head of BBC Scotland's delightfully named "light entertainment" division at the time. Macfayden or Stewart probably adapted the music from the traditional Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile, a song which may have also inspired the tune for What Shall We Do With The (A) Drunken Sailor?

Stewart, a Scottish musician and entertainer, would popularize Donald, Where's Your Trousers? in 1961, and it would chart a second time in the `80s. You can hear Stewart's version here on YouTube, which includes a spot-on Elvis imitation midway through. The strength of the song brought Stewart a world tour and an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. "Breeks," by the way, are the Scottish term for trousers. A highlight of Stewart's live show - which he performed in kilts - was his doing a Highland kick, and changing the lyrics to, "And now you know that Donald has nae trousers."

To give credit where credit is due, the names of the actors portraying "John Henry" and "Savannah," both of whom are doing a great turn on this song, are Garret Dilahunt and Mackenzie Brooke Smith.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Clarence Lee From Tennessee

In response to friend "Dreamtime Fan's" comment on our earlier post, here's Teri Garr reading Shel Silverstein's "Clarence," from Silverstein's seminal book of poetry, A Light in the Attic.

Uncredited in the show, an excerpt of Silverstein himself reading "Clarence" was played in this week's episode #99, "Big Clearance Sale." To paraphrase Otto Penzler, the term "Renaissance man" is usually abused, but if anyone deserved that title, it was probably Shel Silverstein.

Among other works, Silverstein wrote A Boy Named Sue; The Unicorn (a pseudo-Irish ballad, a hit for a pseudo-Irish band, The Irish Rovers, a staple at pseudo-Irish pubs, and a song which I half-expected and feared would show up on one of the "Noah's Ark" episodes); The Cover of The Rolling Stone; Sylvia's Mother; and a cautionary song about V.D., Don't Give a Dose to the One You Love Most.

Much of Silverstein's music edged into Dr. Demento territory, and in fact, he was a favorite on that show, but you can't deny his versatility and talent.  If you're around my age, you have the words of at least one Shel Silverstein song knocking around in your head, like it or not.  And kids love him, even when he's freaking out their parents. As Chris Zammarelli notes over at Bookslut: "A Light in the Attic has frequently been taken to task for such things as encouraging children to 'be disobedient' and to 'break dishes so they won't have to dry them' and for glorifying 'Satan, suicide and cannibalism.'"

Shel Silverstein: notorious perverter of Youth, once said in an interview...

"I would hope that people, no matter what age, would find something to identify with in my books, pick up one and experience a personal sense of discovery. That's great. But for them, not for me. I think that if you're creative person, you should just go about your business, do your work and not care about how it's received. I never read reviews because if you believe the good ones you have to believe the bad ones too. Not that I don't care about success. I do, but only because it lets me do what I want. I was always prepared for success but that means that I have to be prepared for failure too." ~ Shel Silverstein

A Peek at the Friends & Neighbors Disc

Amazon recently updated the images on their Together Through Life "deluxe edition" page, giving us a glimpse of what the bonus CD of the "Friends & Neighbors" TTRH episode exterior/interior will look like. There's been some speculation that the CD might contain only music from the show, but I think it's safe to say that, like the "Baseball" episode, this will be the full show, with Our Host's commentary included.

"Friends & Neighbors" was the 17th episode of Season 1 of Theme Time Radio Hour, originally airing on August 23, 2006. Its playlist includes:

Howdy Neighbor - Porter Wagoner & The Wagonmasters
Don't Take Everybody To Be Your Friend - Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend - T-Bone Burnett
La Valse d'Amitie - Doc Guidry
Make Friends - Moon Mullican
My Next Door Neighbor - Jerry McCain
Let's Invite Them Over - George Jones & Melba Montgomery
My Friends - Howlin' Wolf
Last Night - Little Walter
You've Got a Friend - Carole King
Bad Neighborhood - Ronnie & The Delinquents
Neighbors - The Rolling Stones
Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals - Hank Williams
Why Can't We Be Friends? - War

While it wouldn't be my first choice as a commercial TTRH release, it's a good representation of what you get when you listen to the show, with music ranging from 1952 to 1995, with a heavy emphasis on cuts from the `50s, probably Mr. D.'s peak radio listening period as a kid in Minnesota. The musical highlight may be George Jones and Melba Montgomery's saga of wife-swapping, Let's Invite Them Over, which inspired one of Mr. D.'s greatest on-air rants...
“Now I love country music, but I say ‘What happened to it?'

"You hear a song like this and it's obvious it's about real people, and real emotions, and real problems, that's all, that's the country music we learned to love. Nowadays they want to sweep all the problems under the rug and pretend they don't exist. Well guess what folks – they do exist! And if you try and sweep 'em under the rug, they're just gonna pop up somewhere else. So we might as well all just face it and listen to the old style country music, the real country music. You know, about drinking and sleeping around. That's my kind of country music, and I hope yours. But I digress."
It was after listening to that outburst that I decided Mr. D. was deeply passionate about what was being played on TTRH, rather than just reading a script and collecting a check. One gets the impression that his friends and neighbors have heard a variation on that theme more than once. And God knows, it's true. If you didn't get the chance to read this Newsweek article, Is This the End of Traditional Country Music? when it was featured in the TTRH News & Views column, go read it now.

Commenters have questioned whether purchasing the "deluxe edition" is really worth the money (currently $15.99 at Amazon vs. $9.99 for the "regular" edition), given the fact that most people who care about TTRH probably already have a copy of the show, and the worth of the other bonus material - a DVD containing the so-called "Lost Interview" with Roy Silver - is problematic. And that's true. But the collector's mind isn't constrained by logic, of course, and many of us will pay the extra $6.00.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Big Clarence Sale Roundup

And that's not a typo, Mr. D., deciding to do a show as much about Clarences as in cleaning off the shelves of that dusty old stock for the big two-hour special this week.  And thus we had music by Clarence Ashley, Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown among other Clarences, and anecdotes about Clarence Darrow, Clarence Clemons, and Clarence Birdseye. Plus music that hadn't made the first cut from the "Work," "Happiness," "Noah's Ark," "Street Map," "Family," "Money," "Fruit," "Somethging," "Nothing," "Sugar," "Eleven on Up," "Sugar and Candy," and "Blood" shows.

Roger Murdock: We have clearance, Clarence.
Captain Oveur: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?
Tower voice: Tower's radio clearance, over!
Captain Oveur: That's Clarence Oveur. Over.
Tower voice: Over.
Captain Oveur: Roger.
Roger Murdock: Huh?
Tower voice: Roger, over!
Roger Murdock: What?
Captain Oveur: Huh?
Victor Basta: Who?
From my perspective "The Big Clearance Sale" ranks right up there as one of the best Theme Time Radio Hours ever... maybe because of the preponderance of stuff from the `30s and `40s, which I'm a sucker for. Maybe 'cause it had some yodelin', courtesy Mr. Rex Griffin, which I'm also a sucker for, much to the chagrin of both Jailbait Jones and the Top Cats.

Maybe because the show just felt looser than it usually does, not being totally constrained by a theme much other than "Clarence." I love the idea of the themes, but sometimes I think we get stuff that is only there because it fits the theme. Maybe because of the absence of email and phone calls, which again I like, but their absence was refreshing. Mr. D. just seemed to be totally into being a deejay with this show.

Maybe because Tex Carbone speaks!

As I've said before, I don't know whether next week's "Goodbye" show is going to be goodbye to TTRH altogether, although it's almost certainly the final show of Season 3. According to Rolling Stone, there are two Season 3 shows still unaired, "Furniture" and "Carnival."  I spoke to the reporter when he was researching his article on Season 3 and can tell you he was meticulous about verifying facts.  Every announced but unaired show from Season 2 eventually appeared in Season 3, so that's a good indication that we may have a Season 4.

But if this one and "Goodbye" is it for the show,it looks like we'll be going out on a high note.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Big Clearance Sale Today! 11:00 am to 1 p.m.

According to the Deep Tracks program guide, today's "Big Clearance Sale" episode of Theme Time Radio Hour will be a 2-hour special.  Adjust your illegal downloading accordingly.

"AWA" over at the Expecting Rain TTRH forums has an interesting theory which I'll requote here...
"...Season 2 sounded like it was brought to an end in a patch work way with a brief comment tagged on the end of a show to cut it off at 25, thus it is quite logical to assume that Season 3 was recorded with Season 2, originally meant to be Season 2 as well... which would thus make perfectly logical sense that Bob would start and end what was likely intended to be the full Season 2 with "Hello" and "Goodbye".

The fact that two of the themes mentioned previously, Carnival and Furniture (although, as Fred noted, there is a possibility Furniture might mean Clearance Sale but unless he plays some songs about furniture tomorrow, I'll doubt that very much) likely signal some run off for Season 4 (much like how some themes listed as coming in Season 2 didn't show up until Season 3) for programming reasons."
For those not as obsessively fixiated on TTRH as I am, what AWA is referring to is that Season 2 opened with the "Hello" show and Season 3 is rumored to be closing next week with a "Goodbye" show, at least according to a slip of the tongue of an XM deejay earlier this week.  There's been various indicators that at least some of the shows airing during Season 3 were recorded much earlier.  AWA's theory that Season 2 was originally designed as a 50-episode season, similar to Season 1, has a lot of credibility, not least being the "Hello" and "Goodbye" bookends, if we find that "Goodbye" is indeed next week's show.

If true, is "Goodbye" really going to be "goodbye" or just auf wiedersen? As AWA mentions, one positive note may be the two to-date missing shows, "Furniture" and "Carnival," both reported in Rolling Stone as scheduled for Season 3. If they don't air, perhaps there will be a Season 4... or maybe the two shows will become collector's Holy Grails, out there somewhere, but never found.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Season 3 - Winding Up? Winding Down?

Friday is our Theme Time Radio Hour Roundup Day, but we'll have to take a pass on any detailed commentary on Noah's Ark: Part 2 (a.k.a. "Animals") for a bit longer, as we haven't had the opportunity to listen to the show yet.

Here's the set-list, courtesy of the Expecting Rain TTRH forum and stewART:

I'm Just Wild About Animal Crackers - Irving Aaronson and his Commanders (1926) (Intro - excerpt)
They All Ask'd for You (The Audobon Zoo Song) - The Meters (1975)
There's a Moose on the Loose - Roddy Jackson (1958)
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane (1967)
Carried Water For The Elephant - Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell (1930)
Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear - Randy Newman (1972)
Fox on the Run - The Country Gentlemen (1971)
See Line Woman (AKA Sea Lion Woman) - Nina Simone (1964)
Coyote - Joni Mitchell (1976)
Possum Song - Johnny Mercer with Paul Weston and his Orchestra (1947)
Monkey Man - The Maytals (1969)
Bert the Turtle (The Duck and Cover Song) - Dick 'Two Ton' Baker (1953)
Calling All Cows - Lazy Bill Lucas & the Blues Rockers (1955)
Black Rat Swing - Memphis Minnie and Little Son Joe (1941)
On the Wings of a Snow White Dove - Ferlin Husky (1960)


Where else but Theme Time would you find Memphis Minnie and The Maytals on the same playlist?

Next week's theme is "Clearance Sale," a frightening subject, with its implications that "everything must go," including, we might fear, TTRH.

According to my records, TTRH aired 50 original shows during Season 1 and 25 original shows during Season 2. I count 23 original episodes aired so far in Season 3 (there have been three repeat shows). If we go by Season 2, there should be two more original shows, making a total of 100 altogether for the three seasons.

They've aired all the shows mentioned in the Season 3 press release (as well as all the missing shows announced for Season 2 for that matter). The Rolling Stone article on Season 3 reported two shows we haven't heard yet, "Carnivals" and "Furniture." I'm just guessing here, but I'm thinking that "Furniture" may be the "Clearance Sale" show of next week, furniture stores notable for their clearance sales, and we might get something like the "President's Day" show, a special that does a few furniture-related songs, and then songs on older themes.

There's no evidence of TTRH ending altogether with Season 3.  On the other hand, there's no evidence for it continuing into a Season 4, for that matter. We'll have to wait and see. I kind of like the idea of winding up the season - and if necessary, the series - on a "Carnival" theme.

But as I said before it's all a guess, and I'm often wrong.


On a "From Your Station Manager" note, I've had to enable comment moderation, meaning that I'll need to approve future comments before they'll appear for the time being.  Probably reflecting the Tough Economic Times, Dreamtime has been unusually inundated with comment spam over the past few days.  I had to delete 53 spam comments this morning.  It's unfortunate, and I'm hoping I don't have to disable comments altogether. I enjoy getting comments, and have ended up clarifying/correcting several posts thanks to them.  But you can always reach me through if you don't want to jump through the new hoops.