Aaron’s Radio Show

Episode 14

My Three Songs with Ellen Gobler

 

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Notes

Episode Notes

EPISODE FOURTEEN – My Three Songs with Ellen Gobler:  Welcome, everyone, to Episode Fourteen. This is the fourth in our series of episodes called My Three Songs where my guest chooses three memorable songs and we listen to the songs and talk about why they are meaningful to my guest.

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Three Songs

  1. Pretty Mary K – Eilliott Smith (2000)
  2. Shotgun Down the Avalanche – Shawn Colvin (1989)
  3. Message To My Girl – Split Enz (1984)

Aaron’s Radio Show has been licensed by ASCAP and BMI to include songs from their repertories in performances on this website.

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Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show ... with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 14. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we've talked about why they chose each song. Today my guest is someone I've literally known my entire life, my sister, Ellen Gobler. Hi, Ellen. We go way back, don't we?

Ellen Gobler:

Pretty much. There is the overlap of our childhood experiences and exposure to whatever Mom was listening to on the turntable, while she kept house. Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas, Peter, Paul and Mary. And then of course, Dad's love of all things. John Philip Sousa,

Aaron Gobler:

I want to thank you for being on My Three Songs. And I know you've been thinking about being on the show before. What finally made you decide to take the leap?

Ellen Gobler:

Guilt!

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, that can be a motivator.

Ellen Gobler:

It can be a motivator, no actually took me forever to pick out three songs. It's not fair. You know, like, who knew would be so tough? I think I could list like, I don't know, 15 to 20 on my "desert island list", that would never fail to entertain me. So picking three was really a painful experience.

Aaron Gobler:

And like "desert island" is an expression I think both of us had heard through like a radio station in Philadelphia ... "Desert Island Discs". And can you explain to our listeners what that is, in case they don't get that concept?

Ellen Gobler:

My understanding of it is if you were left on an island, and you had only several songs that you could listen to and never hear any other music? Which songs would you select? Because you would be hearing them a lot?

Aaron Gobler:

So like, ones you would never get tired of us and it would at least take your mind off the fact that you were stuck on a desert island.

Ellen Gobler:

I suppose. Although, you know, you never know these days, it might be good to be stuck on a desert island.

Aaron Gobler:

(Laugter) Yeah, I hear you. So before we get started, tell me like how does music fit into your life? Like, do you listen to it on a whim? Or is it a key part of your normal day? Or is it like mostly in the background?

Ellen Gobler:

Perhaps I'm not overwhelmingly sonically curious, or, as a listener, not always looking to expand or stretch my musical intake past my comfort zone, which might be perceived as narrow, but maybe I'm under estimating myself. I see music as more of an audible security blanket or as connective tissue in the moment. So I listen a lot of the time for the effect of a calming or familiar song. Sometimes it's a voice that just resonates or melodies that are interesting, or remind me of a time of happiness, or joy, then classical, mellow jazz, or acoustic Pope can also do that, for me, even if I don't know who the piece or who the artist is,

Aaron Gobler:

Do you, like, select a particular type of music to listen to, at certain times when you're in a certain mood or mindspace? Or do you just like have a favorites list that has a variety of things?

Ellen Gobler:

I think I have a library of music that I go back to all the time because it's comfortable. And it's older music that also was created in a time that was maybe less complicated. In the world and also just in life in general. You know, I would say that 90% of the day I have a song on repeat in my brain. So I generally have some sort of music playing in the background in the car or in the house or Larry does. And some are quieter just because I can get things done while I'm listening to them. But then I also have music I play intentionally loud, like back or Wilco, or Jayhawks, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Buffalo Springfield, Steely Dan and of course, the Beatles, just because there's a certain amount of joy in listening to something loud. So it really depends.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I'm just, I'm thinking of the David Bowie album, Ziggy Stardust ... on the back of the cardboard sleeve, it says "to be played at maximum volume." So I just made me think that there is some stuff that can bring us a certain energy just by being played at a higher volume.

Ellen Gobler:

One thing that, I think also is, is kind of essential to this conversation is that the history of listening and how, you know, when classical music was first performed, it was performed. And people talked and drank and made noise. And it was almost like when you go to a bar to hear a band, that's the way classical music I mean, we think of it as being this pure experience of sitting in a dead silent room and watching people perform. But it didn't start that way. And so I think the fact that when we would listen to the radio in Philadelphia with WFIL, and you know that radio was kind of this central element in what we heard and what our diet of listening was, and then we were going to the record store, and it was so precious, because you were buying this experience was to buy a record, and then you brought it home, and you put it on your record player, that it was this whole experiencial thing, whereas I think right now, music is so accessible, so easy, that maybe it's it's, I don't want to say disposable, but that it's just much less precious.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, so the novelty, it's more functional. And, and the, it's not as the whole experience, like you said, the whole tactile experience of taking the plastic off of the sleeve, and, you know, taking the record out, putting the needle down and, and all that it's it's less experiential, and, and more just like, I like the song, I'm just gonna play it.

Ellen Gobler:

Yeah, and you and I both witnessed the birth of the music video. So from that perspective, that was also another threshold that was crossed as far as how one would consume music. Embedded now had a visual aspect to it. Not always great. But it did present a whole different listening experience. So I think that we each have our own, what we bring to our listening experience and what we're expecting from it. And it's also I think, in some ways, consumption of music is a slightly more generational divide now than there was in the past. But, you know, I'm just speaking from my own experience, and, and my likes and dislikes.

Aaron Gobler:

Ellen, you selected three great songs. And I'm going to list the titles and artists, and then we'll experience each song and talk a bit about it. So the first song is "Pretty Mary K", by Elliott Smith, from 2000; the second is "Shotgun Down the Avalanche", by Shawn Colvin, which is from 1989. And then we'll finish up with "A Message to My Girl", by Split Enz, which was from 1984. So I found this an interesting set. I mean, you and I have listened to a lot of same music over the years. But I only knew of one of these songs. And I'm eager to hear your stories about them. So first, let's take a listen to "Pretty Mary K", by Elliott Smith. You know, Ellen, I'd never heard of Elliott Smith before I listened to the song and thank you for including it in the list. I found there a lot of similarities in his sounds with Crowded House which we'll talk about a little bit later. It also has this light, psychedelic Beatles sensibility about it. And then as I was learning more about Elliott Smith, I discovered that he died at 35; that was very, very sad. And is that part of the meaningfulness to you or what is what is the meaningfulness in the song to you?

Ellen Gobler:

Well, yeah, his death was a very, very sad moment for all of his fans as he seemed to be in a really productive phase and so creative yet simultaneously. It was known that he had many demons and bouts of depression. So I think that his composition lyrics and layered harmonies and intricate guitar playing are somewhat introspective. You know, in his mind-space, but also they're quite beautiful to hear because there many times there's a lot of melancholy. All of his, all of his life comes through in his songs. And that's what I think makes them really special to me. I love listening to his music, Larry and I had a great opportunity to see him live twice. Once electric and once acoustic and I really treasure those memories.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you seek out his music? Do you put it on at certain times? Or is it more like you might hear something from it in the background somewhere?

Ellen Gobler:

Well, so here's the funny thing about all three songs that I selected, which is that they fall into the category of music you will hear when shopping in a store. Okay. So I would say that I do enjoy listening to his music. And I do not get sad listening to it. Now that it's been so many years since his death. But I do hear his songs out and about because they are probably part of the genre of easy listening.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, so the like the Trader Joe's list, kind of thing.

Ellen Gobler:

... or the Bed Bath and Beyond. The people used to call it Muzak, you know, the elevator music? I don't judge it. I just didn't really think well, I must have good taste. If someone decided that this was something that a store employee would have to listen to on repeat and wouldn't go out of their mind then it must be relatively good song.

Aaron Gobler:

Ellen. The next song on the list is Shawn Colvin's "Shotgun Down the Avalanche". So let's take a listen to that. And then we'll talk about it on the other side. Ellen, this song is really beautiful and like the instrumentation is sparse. And of course, our her voice is like an instrument in the song; I found it very calming. But each time I listen to it, like the lyrics sound more pointed, and I wonder if the lyrics kind of belie the calm nature of the tune. And what inspired you to add this to your to your list?

Ellen Gobler:

Well, first off, Shawn Colvin is really great at pairing meaningful, meaningful lyrics with beautiful electric and acoustic guitars. And in this song, maybe a mandolin. And as you mentioned with her an incredible voice. I think the lyrics really paint a picture, as you mentioned, but there's a lot about snow and then you think of an avalanche. And you think of the chugging progression that runs through the song, and how snow might begin to be that progression. But it's true when you begin to listen to the lyrics. The lyrics sound like they're strife and conflict and an inability to resolve something. So yes, I think you're right, that the guts of the song and the lyrics are kind of at odds with the beauty. Or maybe it's bittersweet. And so the beauty is part of it. I would say that this song is definitely one that repeats in my mind, from time to time, but just the tune, and sometimes the lyrics. I'm always in awe of female singer songwriters, it seems like for a long time, it was a man's world in the music industry and women made inroads only by being strong and resilient and working the system as best they could. I could name you probably 25 female artists that you know, had to break barriers to get their music heard. But now, the same women are part of the canon of folk and standard music. So I would include Shawn Colvin in that list, her albums were in my CD rack. They were on my self-compiled mixtapes when I was in my late 20s. And I was starting to work really hard at becoming a grownup and I just think that the sound of her music always resonated with me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, and I have I've heard of her but I don't recall any particular music I've heard by her. I may have heard songs by her. But one thing I'm really enjoying about this is radio show show format is is it's exposing me to songs that now let me make me want to go back and listen to a catalog by an artist and if this song is emblematic of of, you know, just the the instrumentation and production and lyrics then then I want to go and listen to more of her more first stuff. The last song of the set is a song I'm very excited about including and this is the first song by Split Enz on Aaron's Radio Show. And we'll talk a lot about about Split Enz in a moment. This song is called "Message To My Girl", and we'll talk about it after we take a listen. Ellen, I'm certain that you and I went to at least one Crowded House concert together. And I mean, I had heard Split Enz music on MTV, I'm sure you did in the early 80s. But Crowded House, which included Neil Finn, and eventually Tim Finn from Split Enz, they captured me on their own merits, and they were a powerhouse of a wonderful songwriting and production. But of course, I digress. Because this song is from Split Enz. It is really a soothing and beautiful tune. I feel like all of your choices have an understated beauty and calmness in their simplicity. So you tell me, why is this song on your list?

Ellen Gobler:

Well, first of all, it's all those synthesizers and synth drum beats. Okay? What a time we had in the 80s with those in every song by Duran Duran and the rest of the crowd. I was just out of college in the early 80s. And I really loved the energy of Split Enz. And as you mentioned, it was followed by Crowded House. And it was really challenging, I could have picked my top 15 songs just within Split Enz and Crowded House for my Desert esert Island Discs. So this was a hard choice. But I do think that this song is less complicated than the future songs by Neil Finn and Crowded House. And it is really simple. And it has lovely lyrics. And it's kind of at the end, it swells with boldness as it reaches its final moments, which kind of feels almost celebratory. So this song just makes me happy. That's, that's it. I love. I love everything about it. And it's just it's just a nice song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Ellen Gobler:

I agree with you that all three of my songs were calming. I think knowing myself and my brain, that I tend to be a perfectionist or I really begin to get something done. And I think that listening to calming songs is a way that I self-soothe. I always have, I just don't usually pick music that is going to be more intense than whatever I'm experiencing. In that moment. I don't look to music to be that way for me.

Aaron Gobler:

And thinking back to these selections ... is there anything that you would like to share about the individual selections or something that maybe you're you've experienced or can imagine is some kind of like you were saying some kind of connective tissue between these three songs.

Ellen Gobler:

I think the songs are linked by the time period in which they were created, and their styles in some way connect them to their genres, you know, singer-songwriter, kind of folksy, more kind of like synth-pop group, and then more of a an individual kind of moody ... I'm writing and this is how I'm working out the depression in my life. I don't know. I think each piece kind of connects it to the person that created it as well as the time in which it was created.

Aaron Gobler:

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Ellen Gobler:

Sure, well, I think I really need to give a shout-out to Larry to thank him for some of them. I have a lot of respect for him and what he's brought to my musical world since we met in the late 1990s. He is very curious about music and sound in general, he's continually discovering different artists. So he's always got something playing. And he's introduced me to a wide variety of music including jazz, lounge, surf, and electronic music and a variety of interesting artists such as Elliott Smith, Wilco, Fiona Apple, Oranger, Goldfrapp, and even noisy bands such as Sleater-Kinney, and Sonic Youth. And I introduced him to music from the Jayhawks, Shawn Colvin, Suddenly Tammy, and Neil Finn, among others. So our combined tastes make for a great playlist, we're on a road trip, and also bringing up a young son who's now a teenager, he's been listening to all of our music. And I think, even though it might not be his go to music, he certainly appreciates the breadth and depth of the listening that Larry and I do, and what we have playing during the day or evening.

Aaron Gobler:

And there's, there's so many more songs out there that any one of us have heard or will be able to hear in our entire lifetime. Unless we just listen to music, like every single moment of the day. It does underscore that like, getting influenced by others, into what they're into, really is a remarkable way of expanding our own. Our own horizons of music.

Ellen Gobler:

Yeah, Aaron, I really agree with you on that. I think we all have our own tastes. But there's something to be said, for being open to hearing someone else's music, just like we're always saying that in a conversation if you truly listen to the other person and find the commonality, that you can at least begin to see that you're both human and that there are things you share, even if you have different likes or perspectives or beliefs. And I think musics the same way. So having heard the things that Larry listens to I've expanded my listening potential, and there's stuff that he listens to that I'm not a big fan of, but no one's making me listen to it. He's listening to it in his headset. So you know, it's, I think, I think it all helps us grow to, to sometimes step outside of our comfort zone. We don't have to stay there. But it's good to go there sometimes, and experience something new. So there's a lot to be gained by by listening to others music as well.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I agree completely. And I often see people on Facebook asking others to recommend stuff for them to listen to. So I think that's that's a great thing, too. A way to expand your music horizons. I want to thank you again, and this was a lot of fun. I had a good time.

Ellen Gobler:

I did too. It's great to chat about music.

Aaron Gobler:

And I want to thank you again for taking time to be on the program. And I look forward to talking to Larry on the program sometime in the future. And, to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. So until next time, keep your ears in mind open and let more music into your world.

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