Episode 198 – Ed Ward

Virtual Memories Show #198: Ed Ward

“There’s a large narrative in this book: the popular music tradition of A&R, where songs were given to artists to record, was on its way out.”

Lifelong rock & roll journalist Ed Ward joins the show to talk about his new book, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963 (Flatiron Books). We get into how he discovered his calling, how he memorized Billboard charts the way other kids memorized baseball cards, the joy of being a “rootless cosmopolitan”, the music world’s shift from A&R to audience-driven songwriting (and why they were tired of guys named Bobby from Philadelphia), why Tutti Frutti is the “first” rock & roll record, how he wound up in Austin, the experience of meeting 50-somethings who don’t know Chuck Berry’s Maybelline, how he got hired at and fired from Rolling Stone, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy the first volume of Ed’s History of Rock & Roll!

“Every summer, minority females want ballads. Black labels knew that, consciously or not.”

It’s the last Virtual Memories podcast of the year! Lots of great conversation about music, culture, race and Ed’s burgeoning side-obsession with pre-expulsion Spain and its intersection of Jewish, Muslim and Christian populaitons, so get on it and go listen to the show!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

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About our Guest

Ed Ward is the rock and roll historian on NPR’s Fresh Air and has been involved with the SXSW music festival since its inception. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other music magazines. He is also the coauthor of Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll. He lives in Austin, TX.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the offices of Flatiron Books in New York City on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of me and Ed by me. It’s on my instagram.

Podcast: Crackers and Bagels

Crackers & Bagels: Josh Alan Friedman on The Virtual Memories Show

Virtual Memories – season 4 episode 4 – Crackers and Bagels

“Among the many things that writing does, it gives you the chance for revenge, clarification; there are a lot of basic human emotions that you can address by being able to write about them.”

Josh Alan Friedman, author of Black Cracker, is the third Friedman brother I’ve interviewed, as part of my “Capturing the (Other) Friedmans” series of podcasts. (I really gotta rename that.) Josh is an accomplished author and guitarist, and has plenty of stories of New York at its most sordid. We met up at a cafe in Times Square to talk about his old days writing for Al Goldstein’s Screw magazine, why it took him more than 30 years to write Black Cracker, his “Lewis & Martin” theory about his estrangement from his brother Drew, his parents’ successful divorce, and more!

“I want my list of works to be lean and mean and everything was urgent and had to be done. Nothing to play the market. My family’s had to suffer for that, that I haven’t done commercial jobs just to bring home the bacon.”

Along the way, we also develop an idea for a high-concept movie, talk lewdly in front of some tourists, pay homage to his literary idols, and figure out that therapy just gets in the way of making good art. If you’ve got a problem with any of that (especially the coarse language) then you should skip this episode.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! Related conversations:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

In 1987, writer-guitarist Josh Alan Friedman sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads (the Crossroads of the World: Broadway & 42nd Street) and moved to Texas. He’d just written Tales of Times Square, a cult classic. Josh’s latest book is Black Cracker, the story of his tumultuous childhood as the only white boy at Long Island’s last segregated school. In 2008, he wrote Tell the Truth Until They Bleed: Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. He has also written When Sex Was Dirty, and I, Goldstein: My Screwed Life (with Al Goldstein), and co-edited Now Dig This: The Unspeakable Writings of Terry Southern, 1950-1995. Josh also set off satirical fires and lawsuits as writer-half of the Friedman Bros, the most feared cartooning duo of the late ’70s and ’80s. Two anthologies remain in print, featuring the art of Josh’s brother, Drew Friedman: Warts and All, and Any Similarity to Persons Living or Dead is Purely Coincidental (Two). On the music front, as “Josh Alan,” he barnstormed the state of Texas for 20 years, rocking whole arenas with his Guild D-40. Copping three Dallas Observer Music Awards for Best Acoustic Act, he released four albums: Famous & Poor, The Worst!, Blacks ‘N’ Jews (the title of which became a documentary on Josh’s life) and Josh Alan Band.

Credits: This episode’s music is Jeff’s Boogie by Josh Alan (Friedman). The conversation was recorded at the Cafe Edison on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded in a hotel room in London on the same gear. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Josh Alan Friedman by me.