Aaron’s Radio Show

Episode 16

My Three Songs with David Hilgen

 

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Notes

Episode Notes

EPISODE SIXTEEN – My Three Songs with David Hilgen:  Welcome, everyone, to Episode Sixteen. This is the sixth 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. Bastards of Young – The Replacements (1985)
  2. This Time Tomorrow – The Kinks (1970)
  3. Doin’ It To Death – Fred Wesley and the JBs (1973)

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 16. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my guest is fellow High School alumnus David Hillegom. David, you're the third person from our high school class to be on the show. You know, I think I finally found my demographic sweet spot. How are you today?

David Hilgen:

Hi, Aaron. I'm super thanks for having me. You know, you mentioned the high school we had a pretty big graduating class. So it was difficult to know everyone. I wasn't particularly involved in school activities. For me, it was four years of carefully cultivated anonymity. But still, it was a good experience. Overall, I'm glad we are able to connect today.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm so glad you decided to be on the show. And I really thank you for your time for being on My Three Songs. I know you learned about the Radio Show through our high school Facebook group; what made you decide to be on the show,

David Hilgen:

I listened to the first couple programs. And I thought I can do this. I can talk about music for 25 minutes, I can talk music for 25 years. Frankly, I briefly considered stealing your idea and creating my own program. But I thought why don't I see reach out and join Aaron for discussion of songs. And I love that this show was called My Three Songs instead of My Favorite Songs; it really opens up the conversation to include really any three songs that are meaningful, even if they aren't favorites. And, frankly, geeking out to music is one of my favorite things to do.

Aaron Gobler:

I think you kind of summarized my hope for the show in that some people are very passionate about music, and some may not be so super passionate, but definitely have songs that are meaningful to them. And it's great to hear their stories about those songs, because I think each of us has some part of our life that is connected to a song here or there. So before we get started, tell me 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 like is it mostly in the background

David Hilgen:

Every day there is music in my life, every day. Sometimes it's background music while I work, often after work. I literally own 1000s of CDs collected over several decades. I regularly watch music documentaries and concert films. In my home I have a display of Blue Note records album covers on a wall currently holding three tickets or tickets to three upcoming concerts. This fall ... anyone who knows me knows I love my dog, Mike. My current dog is named Jazz. Okay, my previous two dogs were Brubeck named for Dave Brubeck, of course and Harley, who was named for acclaimed Jazz. bagpiper, Rufus Harley, who was from Philadelphia; very few people know about Rufus Harley. And I also, I create a lot of videos for my tennis club for a volunteer organization and used to, for my daughter's former volleyball teams. So I love trying to find the right musical soundtrack for these videos. So in short, I would say it's a key part of my life.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you still have a lot of vinyl stored somewhere in your house?

David Hilgen:

I have about two crates of vinyl then that I do not touch because it's cumbersome. It's you know, it's I I've replaced almost everything that I want to on CDs or digital. So yeah, so I still have some vinyl that I haven't gotten rid of. But I will one day I'll move one day and they won't go with me.

Aaron Gobler:

I used to have an enormous amount of vinyl and I gave away a lot like you were saying about CDs I gave away a lot of my my vinyl that I had on CD ... that was not like ... I kept on my Beatles albums or my Yes albums. It's ... some other ones that that just had meaning to me, where I just felt like I had a certain value in vinyl. That I still ... to the chagrin of my family ... still have a lot of vinyl in the garage. So I can appreciate that.

David Hilgen:

Aaron let me ask you then so sure we grew up in the same neighborhood. Where did you buy your records?

Aaron Gobler:

I would say Mad's records on Lancaster Avenue. I then Sam Goody opened up. I mean Mad's was there forever and Sam Goody opened up in that new shopping center further down the road. Oh! Plastic Fantastic in Bryn Mawr ... probably as I got older I would you know, I had car and such that's I do recall shopping there. How about you?

David Hilgen:

Yeah, well, same places we probably stood side by side buying records at one time and didn't even know it. The first album I bought, I can remember this it was the Beatles "Yesterday and Today" ... American release. And I went to Mad's to buy it. Actually, I went to Mad's to buy "Yellow Submarine" because that was a cooler cover. I couldn't reach it. And I was too shy to ask. So I saw I bought the one that I could reach. And that was my first album that I purchased. But I also shopped it Plastic Fantastic quite a bit. In fact, um, I had a music appreciation class with Dr. Giersch at Lower Merion, that was my first introduction to Jazz; he played Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" in his class. The next Saturday I was ... I lived in Ardmore ... so I hitchhiked to Bryn Mawr to Plastic Fantastic records to buy a Dave Brubeck album. And I still have that album today. It's "Dave Brubeck, Live at Carnegie Hall". So yeah, I mean, I, I collected a lot of vinyl for many, many years.

Aaron Gobler:

It was fun thinking of all those stores. So thank you for asking that question. Because it's rare to find record stores nowadays. You know, David, you selected three great songs. And I'm going to list each of the titles and artists and then we're going to experience each song and talk a bit about it. So your list starts with "Bastards of Young", by the Replacements from 1985; "This Time Tomorrow", by the Kinks, from 1970; and "Doing It to Death", by Fred Wesley, and the JB's, from 1973. So I had never heard any of these songs before; I know all the artists; I don't really know Fred Wesley ... but obviously James Brown ... and your the selections are from different genres. And I'm really curious to hear your your stories about them. So first, let's take a listen to "Bastards of Young", by the Replacements. David I confess I know of the Replacements, but I really couldn't have named a song by them ... this song has like a punk feel to it. But then overall I feel like it sounds rather pop. And I feel like it moves between those two styles. Why is the song meaningful to you?

David Hilgen:

Well, thanks for playing that; I was rocking out in my home office. Like I will rock out to Replacements any day of the week. I actually hesitated to include this song on my list because the lyrics really do touch a nerve with me; there are other replacement songs that if you asked me to create a playlist because you want to learn about the Replacements this wouldn't be in the top five because there are catchy songs there are songs I enjoy more than this, but this one I included because of the lyrics. If you know anything about the Replacements, you know that lead singer and songwriter for the Replacements is Paul Westerberg. And Paul has always seemed to be able to sort of capture the raw human emotions and and and tell stories that are often very sad and depressing but always always real. And I think of like other songs like "Unsatisfied" from the "Let It Be" album or "Here Comes a Regular" from "Tim" which is like if the show Cheers were a sad drama instead of a sitcom that would be "Here Comes a Regular". Or there's another song I mentioned "Answering Machine" where he asks the question "how do you say I miss you to an answering machine?" How do you say "I'm lonely to an answering machine?" These are just sad topics for punk music in "Bastards of Young" is in that vein, in the opening verse let you know right away that the placements are not here to cheer you up. It starts "God what a mess on the ladder of success. Will you take one step and miss the whole first rung?" You know? And then but it's the last verse that really hits you at least me, where he sings "the ones love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest, and visit their graves on holidays at best. The ones love us least are the ones we'll die to please. If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them." I will grant you it's not Shakespeare. But for emotional impact, it's pure poetry, especially if the words somehow resonate with you as they do with me. Without going into too many details, when I was 11, my father left us ... left the family. And then 10 years later, when I was 21, my mother died. So I and I've never been big on visiting gravesites. In fact, I've only been to my mother's grave twice, you know, at her funeral, and just earlier this year I visited. So yeah, I don't begin to understand any of this, as Paul talks about, so yeah, so the lyrics do have have an emotional meaning to me. And I think even if they don't speak to your personal situation, it's not hard to feel the pain and sadness, and the truth behind them.

Aaron Gobler:

There definitely is in the musicality of the song. It does kind of end on a very rough, kind of feel. Like it's unresolved.

David Hilgen:

But I have sat down, I've sat down and tried to explain to my family, my 20 year-old daughter, my wife, why this song has meaning to me, I found myself like, cheering up a little bit. You know, good. That's, what it means today. But it's not ... it's not something I would break out at a party.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay. But you kind of see this as a mechanism to kind of observe how, how we deal with loss, or ... ?

David Hilgen:

Yeah, I just see truth in it. I see. And I see I see a little bit of my truth. He's not telling my story. I, I don't really know exactly what he's, he's singing about, or what Paul is singing about. But I see a little bit, I see a lot of truth in it. And I, like I said, it resonates with me on a personal level.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I really appreciate you sharing that story with me. And I think it's quite common not to really concentrate on lyrics on songs. Because like, in this case, the music is relatively loud. His singing style is kind of loud as well. And, it's good to sit back and actually, you know, take in the actual things that you're saying. And the way you describe it is very poetic. I know, you mentioned that, to me earlier that you were a big fan of the Replacements. So are the rest of the songs that they produce lyrically meaningful as well?

David Hilgen:

Typically, they produced songs like "Androgynous", which looks at gender issues, you know, so he can write very soft, lovely songs that aren't as sad and depressing, but he writes a lot of songs that speak to a certain truth. And a lot of the music is very catchy, too. So this is what, like I said, this isn't one you break out at the wedding, when you're DJing a wedding, although I would say fans of the Replacements know the song very well and sing along so it would be a fan favorite for anyone who likes the Replacements,

Aaron Gobler:

Right. The the next song in your list is "This Time Tomorrow", by the Kinks. And I'm really delighted to include a Kinks song in the show and so we'll get that a listen, and then we'll talk about it on the other side. David, first off, I think the Kinks are way underrated. Want to put that out there. But you know, after our conversation about lyrics, I was paying special attention to the words in this song. And I'm gonna take a wild guess it was written on an airplane. I feel like the songwriter was wondering like what adventure was in store the next day, like is it another plane ride or maybe like a spaceship? I'm guessing that the Kinks were flying a lot during this time. So what inspired you to add the song to your list?

David Hilgen:

Well, first of all, I agree. totally underrated. Ray Davies is a genius. I love the Kinks. Like I said they're probably number two behind the Beatles and my favorite British Invasion artists. I know there are a lot of people would disagree with me there; they are wrong. But I'm okay with that. For me, it's ... have you ever liked a song so much like a song that wasn't a big hit? But you want everyone to hear it because, you know, they need to hear this great song that no one's ever heard. That's what "This Time Tomorrow" is to me. It was not a single; I think it was from 1970. Yeah, it was not a single from that album; it was the same album that gave us "Lola". Okay. But it's, I mean, it's certainly known. I think Wes Anderson has used it in a movie, he actually used a lot of Kinks music in it. So it's probably my favorite Kinks song. But I would say most of my favorites from the Kinks weren't their big hits. They're the "Lolas" and "You Really Got Me". So why this song? In particular I, I'd say it's the music first. I'm a music first guy, lyrics second person. You know, the greatest poetry set to a bland melody will not hold my attention. I mean, there are some Dylan songs that are revered that I don't like because I don't like the music. But a catchy song with innane lyrics? I'm in. This is not one of those. This is a song that nails it on both fronts; I think. I think it's a beautifully crafted pop song, you're probably not far off on the inspiration for it. I think I did read a quote on Wikipedia about where this song comes from. So you're probably ... I think they were traveling a lot when they're on tour. So, but for me, it sounds it actually sounds hopeful. To me. It sounds obviously it's about tomorrow. After all, it sounds like someone hoping to connect with others and contemplating his place in the world. That makes any sense. In may or may not. There's one one particular line that that jumped out to me as "I'll leave the sun behind me and I'll watch the clouds as they sadly pass me by, seven miles below me, I can see the world and it ain't so big at all". I mean, that's, I think that's later in the song and, or that might be the bridge, I'm not sure. But it's just a song that I listened to all the time.

Aaron Gobler:

Your remark about the forward thinking of the song and then the describing the bridge about it's kind of metaphor for like, your problems are not as big as you imagined, or, you know, you're bigger than than other things. So you can do it. So go into tomorrow and just imagine what you can do.

David Hilgen:

I think the beauty of songs is, is they're open to interpretation. They're almost doesn't matter what Ray Davies was thinking, he wrote this ... what does it mean to you? Two great examples of songs that are misinterpreted, but it doesn't matter anymore. One of them is actually called "One" by U2. People like to play at weddings. And I'm pretty sure it's a song about divorce. But people love that song. And another song is "Good Riddance", by Green Day. Which, you know, is another breakup song but people think it's it's something they play at their graduations and stuff like that. It's it's an IT. That's, it doesn't matter what, what Billie Joe Armstrong meant when he wrote it. It matters what the listener thinks it means. It's not his song anymore. Once it becomes that popular.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah, I guess it's like creating any kind of tool and then losing control over how people are going to use the tool. That's a very interesting perspective. And then, ironically, or, in contrast, the last song on your list has really no, hardly any lyrics to it. And this is kind of almost a trademark of James Brown, and some of his songs; ... has lots of spoken word ... and a lot of fantastic music, but not too much lyrically. The last song in the set is called "Doing It To Death", which is labeled as being by Fred Wesley and the JB's. The JB's, of course, being James Brown's group ... with Fred on the trombone. So let's give it a listen. James Brown is such an American musical icon and I was really lucky to see him perform live in Oakland, California in 2003. And that was like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And he's, he's famous for like so many great songs. Uh, why is this particular song in your list?

David Hilgen:

Well, Aaron, I just gotta say, I know you're probably sitting at a microphone. I hope you got an opportunity to stand up and dance!

Aaron Gobler:

Hah hah hah!

David Hilgen:

I was moving. I was. So yeah. So James Brown ... so I arrived late to the James Brown party. I knew a couple songs when I was younger. "I Got You" (I Feel Good). "Mama's Got a Brand New Bag." I later acquired a, you know, 20 Greatest Hits CD. And so I was a moderate fan. But then I went to my local library and took out a four-CD box set called "Star Time". And that opened up a whole new world for me, I heard like, it's four discs, it covers the whole evolution of James Brown. It's four discs of just wonderful music. And by the way, public libraries for several years became my primary source for new musical discoveries. I was I was there all the time borrowing CDs and learning about old music and new music, but just discovering music that way. This song is on disc four of that compilation. I think it's the version on the on the disc is about five-and-a-half minutes long. I think you you played the single edit, which I could tell right away was different because Fred Wesley's trombone solo was a little bit truncated on that one, but they I don't know how they did that magic, but there is a, there's a twelve-and-a-half-minute version of that song ... you know, if you're a true fan, play that. But so this, this song, in particular became one of my favorite James Brown's songs. I mean, it's a ringtone on my phone. And I do play it all the time. It's actually something I seek out because I'm in the mood to listen to that song. I would play this at a wedding. In fact, I will play this asked me to play music at a wedding, this is going to be played at that wedding. A lot of people like to think James Brown ... or say that James Brown invented funk music. I don't know whether it's true or not, but he's certainly perfected it. And I think this is a perfect example of that. You listen to a lot of his stuff, and so much of his funk jams were just that. I mean, he would take his band into the studio for hours after performing and they would just jam, they would just make up vamps, and they plan over and over into late, they had something and that's where a lot of his 70s funk music came from. And you can ... especially when you listen to the twelve-minute version, he's like he calls out key changes throughout the song. Other than Fred Wesley. he calls out other like Maceo Parker, to, take solos. And he's just having fun and like, yeah, okay, that's great. Cut it. Record. Put that out, twelve minutes of music. It's really, it's really fascinating to hear the music being created live in the studio that way. And by the way, I don't know. I'm actually wearing my James Brown tee shirt today. As inspiration. I'm all in on James Brown. I have, besides albums, I have some concert DVDs, I have this little vinyl pop rock style of James Brown. And actually just recently read a book by James McBride called "Kill 'Em and Leave ... Searching for James Brown and the American Soul". It's a great book, not a straight biography, but uh, but a really interesting book brings me back to like, you know, Christmas Day 2006 ... James Brown dies. I'm visiting family in Indianapolis. And I'm like, Oh, my, oh, my James Brown died. And like, there was no one to mourn with. No one was a fan like I was. And I think that's the thing about being a music fan, isn't it? You know, it can be a communal experience, like going to a Springsteen concert. But it's often a very insular experience. You know, you're listening to music alone, you're reacting to it in a vacuum like a darkened room with headsets on and a long car ride. And so, I think what we're doing here is making it more of a communal experience. You know, we're talking about music ... does that make sense? I mean, how do you typically experience music?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, so lately I've a lot of music I listened to is really while I'm working. I do computer programming. So I find the music in the background is actually ... even with lyrics ... it still kind of keeps my head more focused in what I'm doing. And if it's too quiet, then I miss the music. I have to go find it and and put it back on. But, yeah, I mean, going to a concert and enjoying music with people who are, you know, enjoying the same kind of thing ... definitely a communal event there. But it's true. I think a lot of us just listening to music on our own and get certain connections to certain artists and songs that others might have like no understanding as to why we have that connection. And, I'm also thinking about how he influenced so many other artists and that the younger generation knows of Prince and Michael Jackson. But don't realize like, you know, that their moves and styles and so much of that has been borrowed from James Brown.

David Hilgen:

There's a video on YouTube, you can look for it; it's a Jackson Five rehearsal ... in Detroit black and white video, and little Michael Jackson is doing his best James Brown impersonation, and in this book that I mentioned, "Kill 'Em and Leave", there's a ... at the end of the book it explains how when James Brown died, how Michael came to the funeral home and just wanted to be with the body for a couple hours. He just, he was alone at the funeral home with the body of James Brown for hours. I mean, there was a real connection there.

Aaron Gobler:

There was a lot of information about James Brown's personal life in the news, shortly before he passed away. And I think that's also a complicated part of say, Michael Jackson, as well. And it does kind of bring up to me, you know, this challenge we have in our minds of like, enjoying the music that the artists created, while also recognizing damage they did to other people.

David Hilgen:

Yeah, well, yeah, James Brown was famously tough on his band. He fired his whole band once and hired a new band all in one day. He has a history of being abusive to some of the women in his life. But he was also active in the Civil Rights Movement. He did some great things. He left his fortune to children. Unfortunately, if you read this book that I mentioned, you'll find out that they didn't get that money, because a bunch of lawyers came out and started fighting for it. And so, yeah, I mean, it's, he was human, just like the rest of us. And I like his music. That's why I listen to it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah ... and there's so much of it, that there's more songs that, you know, I know, there's plenty of stuff that I have not listened to. But I do know, plenty of the songs that were not really huge, huge hits. I'm glad I I heard this one, I wouldn't have normally sought out this particular song. But I really, I really enjoyed what you were saying about how he, you know, did these like ad hoc recording sessions, I often would hear him yell out Maceo, you know, in a lot of his songs. And so I guess this is making a little more sense about his style of of recording. Is there anything else that you'd like to share about your selections?

David Hilgen:

Not really, I think I've said about as much as I can for these three, other than I could say that I could have joined you for My Thirty-Three Songs. That's how much I enjoy music and enjoy talking about it. You would most certainly lose listeners then!

Aaron Gobler:

(Laughter)

David Hilgen:

I have listened to every episode you've recorded so far. And I'm looking forward to hearing your guests talk about music, three songs at a time.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Great. Thank you. Thank you. And thanks again for taking your time today. And I it was a lot of fun.

David Hilgen:

Well, thanks for having me, Aaron. I'll see you at the reunion.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, very good. Very good. David. Thank you. 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. Until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

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