mike@wyep.org's blog


The Roots & Rhythm Mix this Sunday will be spending Father's Day exploring "Musical Dads and their Kids," sets of music by artists and his son or daughter.

You'll hear from Steve and Justin Townes Earle; Johnny and Rosanne Cash; John and Lilly Hiatt; Levon and Amy Helm; Muddy Waters and Big Bill Morganfield; Woody, Arlo, and Sara Lee Guthrie; Bob and Jakob Dylan; Loudon III and Rufus and/or Martha Wainwright; Bob and Ziggy Marley; John and Bonnie Raitt; and James and Ben Taylor.

The Roots & Rhythm Mix can be heard every Sunday from 11 AM to 2 PM on WYEP. This week's special guest host is Dave Blaushild.


Happy Father's Day to all dads, whether you make music or are just a music fan!

We just got the word that Farm Aid is returning to Western Pennsylvania for 2017. The show will take place September 16 at KeyBank Pavilion in Burgettstown and will feature Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Dave Matthews with Tim Reynolds, Jack Johnson, The Avett Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson, Blackberry Smoke, Valerie June, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Insects vs Robots. More artists are expected to be announced later on.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, June 23.

This will be the second time that Farm Aid has taken place in Burgettstown (it was also there 15 years ago), and it's only the third occasion that the festival has happened in Pennsylvania (it was located in Hershey in 2012). Pennsylvania is behind only Illinois as the state that has hosted the festival most often (Farm Aid has been held in Illinois five times since its 1985 debut; including the upcoming event, PA is tied with Virginia as the host site most frequently).

Pennsylvania was chosen as the Farm Aid site again in part because agriculture is the Commonwealth’s leading economic enterprise. It is also home to 58,200 farms and is the birthplace of organic agriculture in the United States.

"Family farm agriculture is the heart of Pennsylvania," Farm Aid President and Founder Willie Nelson said. "What’s happening in western Pennsylvania and the region shows us that we can count on family farmers to strengthen our communities and connect people. Whether we live in rural or urban places, food — and music — brings us all together."

Keep listening to WYEP and checking our website, Twitter, and Facebook to find out how you can win tickets to the festival from us!



It's no secret in Pittsburgh that Mayor Bill Peduto is a big music fan. Many of us have seen him out at concerts -- sometimes in the audience, occasionally on stage, and he's even been known to drop backstage at WYEP's annual Summer Music Festival. So our own Morning Mix host Cindy Howes decided to be a facilitator, seeing if she could put the mayor together with a major artist. (It's like her Pairings feature, I guess, but instead of matching "music & menus," she's matching "music & mayors.")


It all started after President Trump namechecked Pittsburgh in his speech announcing he was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement. Mayor Peduto issued multiple responses to this reference to our city, including this one:



Peduto's tweets drew reaction from a number of musicians, including retweets related to his comments by Rosanne Cash and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Also a reply from Aimee Mann:



This is where Cindy joined the story. She jumped in to make a virtual introduction between Mann and Mayor by way of a musical suggestion:



 And it turned out that Mayor Peduto was on board with this notion:



 To which Aimee Mann tweeted:



We certainly have abundant evidence of Mayor Peduto's tambourine skills. Here he is with the local group Lohio:

And Donora tweeted a pic of Peduto with them:


And, of course, we all likely recall what happened with Guster last year. After Guster performed in an alley by a dumpster, Peduto tweeted about it and the band tweeted back, Peduto later joined us on WYEP to announce that Guster would be performing at the 2016 Three Rivers Arts Festival. The next day, Guster told Peduto that he was going to perform with them, and the mayor conditionally agreed as long as they wrote a song about Pittsburgh.


And then it happened:

(The mayor walks on stage for his incredible spoken-word part beginning at 5:45 in.)


So will the mayor actually play tambourine with Aimee Mann? Time will tell. As of right now, Mann has a string of concert dates booked in June and July -- before she heads to tour Europe in the fall -- but nothing in the Pittsburgh area. We'll keep our eye on the situation and let you know if any concert opportunities emerge. Because what other major city has a mayor as musically plugged-in and as cool as ours?


Listen to WYEP's 50th anniversary celebration of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, exploring the history, impact, and legacy of the album as a whole as well as each song on it.


As part of our celebration of this anniversary, join WYEP for an intimate evening at Eleven on Sunday, June 11th with a culinary tour of this iconic album. All proceeds from the five-course, wine-paired dinner inspired by the album benefit WYEP. Get more info or make your reservation here.



Friday, June 2, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' landmark Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the U.S. Although nearly every aspect of the album -- from the music to the album cover to the rest of the artwork -- has become culturally iconic, let's time-travel back to a world that did not yet know any of it. Let's recall and explore the pre-Pepper state of mind.


The Revolver album was released in August of 1966, which The Beatles immediately followed up with their final U.S. concert tour. They concluded the tour in San Francisco's Candlestick Park, which famously became their last standard concert appearance as a band.


It took awhile for word to leak out to the public that the band would no longer perform live. And when it did, The Beatles' future intentions were generally misunderstood. A widely-distributed article by Tom Cullen, the European Staff Correspondent for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, declared in late November 1966, "As things stand, there is general moaning and gnashing of teeth because the fabulous foursome -- John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr -- have decided to go their separate ways."




While that assertion no doubt sounded dire to fans, the article admitted that "The Beatles will continue to cut records from time to time. They may even make films together." How did this square with the suggestion of a band break-up? Well, the reporter wrote, "They are unlikely ever to tour again as a group, and personal appearances are considered to be the lifeblood of popularity in the pop world."


And yet, even around the time this article was being read by disappointed fans around the country, The Beatles had already regrouped and were recording music for their next album. On November 24th, the band had convened at EMI Studios in London to begin work on their follow-up to Revolver. They began with "Strawberry Fields Forever," and would also be diligently working on  "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Penny Lane" before the year was out. (Even though "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were issued as a single and not included on the eventual album, that was not the plan as work on the next album began.)


On January 22, 1967, the London Sunday Times ran a Paul quote that again suggested that band had broken up: "Now we're ready to go our own ways. We'll work together if we miss each other. Then it'll be hobby work. It's good for us to go it alone." When asked about his new moustache, Paul responded along the same lines: "It's part of breaking up The Beatles. I no longer believe in the image. I'm no longer one of the four mop-tops."


It seems like odd comments to make, as The Beatles had been hard at work recording "A Day in the Life" during the previous week. It does, however, add context to the personification of another musical group that would be somewhat of an organizing principle for Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and its usage of Beatlemania-era wax statues of themselves in the cover photo.


To reassure everyone that The Beatles were marching steadily on, the very next day (January 23rd) a band spokesman rushed out the news that a fresh single, featuring "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever," was planned for a February 17 release in the United Kingdom and somewhere around that date in the U.S., as well.


Further, a United Press International wire service report informed the public that "The Beatles are now working on another 12 numbers for their next album, to be released sometime in the spring, along with a one-hour television spectacular of their own centered on the recording."


A Honolulu DJ and newspaper columnist named Dave Donnelly (whom I will refer to multiple times due to the very interesting information about which he wrote) observed wryly in a February 1 column, "All of the premature talk of the Beatles breaking up is going to do wonders for their upcoming single." He also shared with his readers that "The Beatles -- for all the rumors and press agentry -- have been busy recording. And recording perfectionists they are, too. Brian Epstein, Beatle boss, reports that their new record is 'just superb.' The question is, for the Beatles, is 'superb' good enough"?


Two days later, Donnelly debuted the new Beatles single to his radio listeners and subsequently shared these observations in print:


As expected, it's strange. Accompanied by double string quartet plus harpsichord, the Liverpudlians have outdone themselves musically. There's even a brass section, and on Penny Lane, a wild trumpet solo. Strawberry Fields Forever is over four minutes long, and the ending is too much. It's going to take several listenings to really hear what's happening. With the Beatles world wide popularity, and with rumors of a split, this may be the record to knock off the Monkees.


(The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" was currently reigning supreme on pop charts both sides of the Atlantic.)


The single made one Massachusetts music columnist excited for the announced next album. "Be on the look out for the next Beatle's [sic] album," she wrote. "It's scheduled to be released in early spring. I'm hoping that they keep the 'Strawberry Fields Forever' theme throughout the album since this is the best material they've ever created. In any event, it will be interesting as usual to see what they do come up with."


Others were still confused about the band's future. In a "Platter Chatter" column in a Van Nuys, CA, newspaper, the writer declared, " 'Strawberry Fields Forever' may be the last record for the Beatles, since they are due to pursue their own careers sometime in the immediate future."


Honolulu's plugged-in Dave Donnelly wrote on March 11, "A one hour special is being filmed in conjunction with the release of the new Beatle album, tracks of which the Beatles are now recording." He continued,


Typical of the film is a recent session at the E.M.I. Records studio in London. There were 41 of the Great Britain's finest classical musicians in formal evening dress. They are backing the Beatles on at least one track in the new album. Also seen (besides the Beatles and their wives) will be Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful, Donovan and Gipsy Dave, Keith Richard and Monkee Mike Nesmith (who just happened to be in town). There were seven cameras handy, and any of the guests could film away to their heart's delight. Apparently some daring film editor will try to construct something out of the madness, but the results may prove surprising. The new album certainly will.


The earliest indication I've been able to locate of the title of the Fab Four's next album was from April 14, in the Ottawa Journal:


Would you believe "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band?" That, my friends, is the title of the next album by The Beatles. The LP, which so far has taken seven months to record, is almost finished. Among the tracks are "When I'm 64," a novelty number in the early phonograph style featuring Paul McCartney; "A Day in the Life," a John Lennon solo in which he is backed by a 41-piece orchestra; "Good Morning, Good Morning," John and Paul dueting with musical accompaniment from Sounds Incorporated; "She's Leaving Home," arranged by Mike Leander and using string; and "Sergeant Pepper's Blues." "Meter Rita," is another John Lennon solo incorporating three four-track machines which took a month to prepare. Another gimmick of the number is a comb and paper played backwards! The uncompleted tracks are a George Harrison composition which he sings accompanied by Indian instrumentation; and Ringo's solo which hasn't yet been written. The album won't include 12 tracks since some of the numbers are of considerable length. It will be released in May.



(In fact, Ringo's solo -- "With a Little Help From My Friends" -- was not only already written but had been recorded on March 29th and 30th. "Within You Without You" had also already been completed in early April.)


While the title of "Lovely Rita" was misreported and it's unclear to what "Sergeant Pepper's Blues" was referring, the brief album overview is fairly accurate. The intrepid Dave Donnelly relayed much of the same information to his readers the following day, although he had one Lennon song listed as "Good Morning Good Morning Good Morning," and mentioned that "Both sides of the current ["Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane"] single may be included."


On April 21, the Detroit Free Press cautioned fans to remain patient. "Although the Beatles' album is scheduled for May release there may be a delay since they want to add pictures and souvenirs to make it into a deluxe package," it reported.


While, famously, no single was released from the Sergeant Pepper album ("Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were excised from the album after they were issued as a 45), some advance music did leak out. Dave Donnelly in Honolulu was playing one song from the album on his KPOI radio show and he discussed it in his April 22 column in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.


The new Beatle song which has been receiving much airplay is called A Day in the Life, and features John Lennon and a 41 piece orchestra. It's a fantastic record, and far removed from their earlier I Wanna Hold your Hand efforts. The song, which easily fits into the category of "pot pop," will included in the next Beatle album, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The L.P. won't be released for several weeks, due to problems with the album jacket. If this track is any indication of what the rest of the album is going to be like, and it probably is, then the L.P. could be the wildest pop album ever made by a name group. Flash: The new Beatle single will be called L.S. Mummble-Bee and sounds like a take off on the old Lucky Strike commercials, with psychedelic overtones.


This final detail, about the new single by The Beatles, was inaccurate. "Capitol is pretty annoyed at tapes being played of what is supposed to be a new Beatle single," said The Ottawa Journal on May 5. "The wax most stations are playing does come from the new Beatles album" -- presumably referring to the recording of "A Day in the Life" as mentioned by Donnelly -- "and was in all probability stolen from EMI. But the flipside most uninformed deejays are touting as The Beatles isn't the Beatles at all but a British comedy duo called Dudley Moore and Peter Cook."


Oops. The "L.S. Bumble Bee" was its correct title and was a then-new single by Moore and Cook satirizing psychedelia in general with a nod towards the Beach Boys specifically.


However, it was true that tapes of Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band had "leaked" to some radio stations. (A common enough occurrence in the internet age, but also not unheard of 50 years ago.) Donnelly reported in a later column that, according to a legal representative from The Beatles' U.S. label, "several copies apparently had been made from the originally pilfered one and came into the hands of about a half dozen stations across the country, all of which have now agreed to stop playing the album. One Los Angeles station needed a court suit to be persuaded, but others of us were more easily convinced."


Donnelly further editorialized:

While it is our opinion that two weeks of heavy air promotion for the album would be beneficial to later sales, the men at Capitol (who after all own the album and have not authorized its release) think otherwise.... Without a doubt, the Capitol decision makers underestimate both the public and the album in question. "Sgt. Pepper" will not only become the probably best selling album of 1967 (despite the furor over premature release) but will make a kind of milestone in pop music. From the psychedelic overtones of "A Day in the Life Of..." to the 1930's spoofing of "When I'm 64" to the lyrical and musical beauty of "She's Leaving Home" which is probably the finest single recording ever made by the Beatles or anybody else in the pop field for that matter.... There are no traditional "pop" songs in the album, no conservative cop outs to youth. This is a package for the musically mature, and we can only wait patiently until the album cover problems are overcome and the ban is lifted before once again dishing up the fantastic Beatles in their most fantastic venture to date. 


Prophetic words, as it turned out.


Meanwhile, back on April 27, The Guardian in England published a preview of the forthcoming album from a highbrow musical perspective:


Stockhausen is one of the improbably, if conscious, influences on the Beatles' latest LP, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," due to be issued on May 19. The last LP, "Revolver," issued last summer, pointed the way to avant-garde influence, but according to George Martin, the Beatles' recording manager, this one goes much farther towards abstract music, and there are "lots of odd accompaniments." The influence of Eastern music is again important (George Harrison rehearsed a full five-piece Indian group for one track) and all these developments reflect much more sophisticated musical taste in the moustachioed period. The odd title of the record is simply that of the first number.


Dave Donnelly heard the influence of drugs in the new album, as written in his May 6 column:


The new pop lyrics are reflecting the influence of drugs on young people. Witness "A Day in the Life" by the Beatles. And another cut from the forthcoming Beatle album, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," contains the lyrics "forty thousand purple holes in my arm." These are the cleanies -- the Beatles. Wonder what the new album by the baddies -- the Rolling Stones -- will be like.


One can only assume his "purple holes" line is a mangling of "four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire" from "A Day in the Life," despite the suggestion that it is from a different song.


Donnelly also broke the news of the album's track listing on May 17, and while it turned out to be inaccurate, it remains a fascinating (if perplexing) running order for the album:



2 - LOVELY RITA, sung by Paul


4 - WHEN I'M 64, sung by Paul

5 - A DAY IN THE LIFE OF..., sung by Paul and John

6 - SHE'S LEAVING HOME, sung by Paul and John

7 - FIXING A HOLE, sung by Paul

8 - GETTIN' BETTER, sung by Paul

9 - WITHIN YOU - WITHOUT YOU, sung by George and at 5:11 is the longest Beatle song to date.



12 - SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (Reprise), sung by Paul



Donnelly also reported that the release date had been pushed back to June 1, and that the cover art was causing the delay. "It's a complicated fold out affair," he wrote about the cover, "not unlike those in children's books and valentines, so we won't be able to do it justice by printing a picture of it."


An unrelated article in The Honolulu Advertiser later described the album's bonus elements. "Naturally, the musical contents (now silenced because of legal action by the recording firms) are explosive. But wait until you see the double-wallet cover. It will include four pages of Beatle pics, words of all songs (hurray! a first!), a postcard of Sgt. Pepper, a cut-out moustache for fan use, two badges, a pair of sergeant stripes, a stand-up photo of the four fellas dressed like members of Sgt. Pepper's Band. It's like Christmas coming early."


The London Times news service further discussed the album's cover in an article titled "Way-Out Record Cover Due for Beatles' Next LP":


EMI, naturally enough, has been a bit worried about the expense of publishing the cover. "The art work alone cost 50 times more than the art work on a normal LP," says Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of EMI. "But it's their best ever record and I hope we'll sell about seven million. I'm sure everyone will want one as a unique souvenir.


The Times also discussed the array of famous faces used on the cover photo.


It is all very harmless and nobody could possibly object to anything, but EMI has been a bit upset. It made them take Gandhi's face out, just in case anyone would think the Beatles were attacking him in some way. "there are millions of people in India who might be offended," says Sir Joseph.


"We simply had the idea of Sergeant Pepper," says Paul Mccartney. "He is a mythical band leader, and this is the record of his show, plus the sort of hand-out material he would give out."


"He would be a cult figure and he would have pictures of other cult figures in the background. We chose people who are our heroes. The trouble is, people start looking for deep psychological reasons, and of course they find them."


On May 20, the Michigan newspaper The Battle Creek Enquirer ran a feature on The Turtles ("Turtles Explain Why They Are 'Happy Together' ") in which it was revealed that the Los Angeles group had gotten their hands on an advance copy of the Sergeant Pepper's LP. "The new Beatle album, not yet on release, was discussed by members of the group," reported the Enquirer, "who were sent an advance copy. Howard [Kaylan] describes some of the cuts on it as being 'the most completely psychedelic songs I've ever heard.' "



That same day, the Associated Press distributed a story that the BBC had decided to ban "A Day in the Life" from U.K. airwaves. The story explained that,


The Beatles criticized the ban Friday night at a dinner party at the home of their manager, Brian Epstein, to celebrate the release of the new album, scheduled for June 1. McCartney said "The BBC have misinterpreted the song. It has nothing to do with drug taking. It's only about a dream."


"The laugh is that Paul and I wrote this song from a headline in a newspaper. It's about a crash and its victim," said Lennon.


"How anyone can read drugs into it is beyond me. Everyone seems to be falling overboard to see the word drug in the most innocent of phrases."


For their part, the BBC spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We have listened to this song over and over again. And we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug taking."


As the release date neared, the London Times reviewed the album on May 29, giving a rundown of the then-current pop scene and then scanning through Sgt. Pepper's track listing:


Fixing a hole is cool, anti-romantic, harmonically a little like the earlier Yesterday and Michelle; She's leaving home is a slow waltz reminiscent of old musical comedy but with a classically slanted accompaniment for harp and string quartet, and with ironical words about a minor domestic tragedy (the text, which are of consistently lively poetic interest, are printed in full on the back cover). There is a neat vaudeville number, When I'm 64, which comments pointedly on this old-time vogue and its relevance for modern beat song. George Harrison's Within you without you carried the manner of Indian music farther into pop that ever before.... Psychedelia can be diagnosed in the fanciful lyric and intriguing asymmetrical music of Lucy in the sky, as well as the sound effects of Lovely Rita (she is a parking meter warden), and the hurricane glissandi of A day in the life which has been banned by the B.B.C. for its ambivalent references to drug-taking.... I greatly enjoy the five-bar phrases of Good Morning Good Morning which is something like a novelty number; and the tidy simplicity and shapely bass-line of A little help from my friends, the only track that would have been conceivable in pop songs five years ago. Any of these songs is more genuinely creative than anything currently to be heard on pop radio stations.


Finally, on Tuesday, May 30th, with the U.S. release of the album imminent on June 2, 1967, Harold V. Cohen ran a brief item in his "At Random" column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Aside to the John-Paul-George-Ringo Cult: B-Day is Friday. That's when the new Beatles album comes out."


The rest is history.





Starting at 1 PM on Friday, May 26, WYEP will kick off an Album Sides Weekend. Every hour will start with the songs that represent one "side" of an album. We'll continue all weekend and on through the Monday holiday. WYEP's weekend specialty shows will be a part of the fun, showcasing great album sides from their genres as well.


Since the dawn of the CD era (and continuing into the digital world), albums have been primarily one single playlist produced by an artist. In the analog world of vinyl (and cassettes!), however, albums are divided into smaller, bite-sized chunks of sides. Sometimes one side of an album features an amazing group of 4 or 5 or 6 songs that make for a brilliant listening experience.


We're combing through our library to find the best album sides we can find, from classic 1960s albums that had only a vinyl LP originally, to recent albums that are released simultaneously on vinyl, CD, and as digital streams.


If you know of great album sides that you want to suggest that we should play during Memorial Day weekend, please do! Tweet at us, post on our Facebook wall, email us, call us - just be sure to let us know the artist, the album, and don't forget which side you want to suggest.


And listen to WYEP from 1 PM Friday 5/26 through midnight Monday 5/29 to hear plenty of terrific album sides.

Over the past week, WYEP solicited listeners to vote for the Worst Song Ever and listeners chose the 1974 hit "(You're) Having My Baby" by Paul Anka and Odia Coates to top the list. Despite being a #1 hit on the pop charts, the song has always had its detractors.


Following closely behind Anka was the 2005 rock hit “Photograph” by Nickelback, proving that songs that repel listeners are not limited to any one era or genre. The complete list of finalists is below.


All music is subjective, of course, and just about any song of note will attract a mix of admirers and haters. Some surprising songs were nominated by listeners to be included for consideration in the Worst Song Ever voting, including widely-acclaimed songs such as John Lennon’s “Imagine,” “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote,”  and “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel.


After analyzing all of the songs nominated by listeners, the year with more nominees than any other was 1976. That year produced three finalists: "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees, Starland Vocal Band's "Afternoon Delight," and "Silly Love Song" by Paul McCartney & Wings. It also featured other contenders like "Muskrat Love" by The Captain & Tennille and Elton John & Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."


The next biggest years with song nominations were 1983 (Styx, "Mr. Roboto"; Def Leppard, "Rock Of Ages"; Jackson Browne, "Lawyers in Love") and 1999 (Lou Bega, "Mambo No. 5"; Sugar Ray, "Someday"; Pearl Jam, "Last Kiss"), which illustrates that there appears to be a focal point of shame for each era of music.


And now on with the worst of the worst....

How the Finalists Ranked:


#20 - Chicago, "You're the Inspiration" (1984)

#19 - Paul McCartney & Wings, "Silly Love Songs" (1976)

#19 - REO Speedwagon, "Keep On Loving You" (1980)

#17 - Richard Harris, "MacArthur Park" (1968)

#16 - Cher, "Believe" (1998)

#16 - Styx, "Mr. Roboto" (1983)

#15 - 4 Non Blondes, "What's Up?" (1992)

#13 - Chumbawamba, "Tubthumping" (1997)

#12 - Starland Vocal Band, "Afternoon Delight" (1976)

#11 - Jimmy Buffett, "Cheeseburger in Paradise" (1978)

#10 - Phil Collins, "Sussudio" (1985)

#9 - The Beach Boys, "Kokomo" (1988)

#8 - Lou Bega, "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of...)" (1999)

#7 - Debby Boone, "You Light Up My Life" (1977)

#6 - Starship, "We Built This City" (1985)

#5 - Billy Ray Cyrus, "Achy Break Heart" (1992)

#4 - Rick Dees, "Disco Duck" (1976)

#3 - Rebecca Black, "Friday" (2011)

#2 - Nickelback, "Photograph" (2005)

#1 - Paul Anka and Odia Coates, "(You're) Having My Baby" (1974)

On Friday, WYEP will be playing all of our music from the Morning Mix until the end of Grand Groove Radio at 8 PM from vinyl records. Although the song selection will be fairly close to what WYEP listeners expect to hear on a regular day, you'll once again hear the rich sound and the occasional crackle or pop that defines the vinyl sound.


Although WYEP's main on-air hosts play the occasional song from vinyl, they will still have to re-learn some old skills for the all-vinyl day. When was the last time that WYEP's hosts recall playing more than one songs back-to-back from vinyl? It's been a dozen years for Morning Mix host Cindy Howes. "Since 1997 for me," says Midday Mix host Kyle Smith. "It has to be the early '90s since I have," chimes in Rosemary Welsch of the Afternoon Mix. "Never!" declares the Morning Mix's Joey Spehar. So it might be a little bit of a high-wire act without a net at times.


Music lovers have an almost mystical attachment to vinyl. As digital music formats dominate the music landscape, vinyl has been making a significant resurgence. For several years now vinyl has been the only physical music format that has been growing in sales, and vinyl revenue to the music industry in 2015 (the last year that data is available) was at its highest level since 1988. The phenomenon is not necessarily rooted in nostalgia, however. While big-sellers in recent years include perennial favorites like The Beatles and Pink Floyd, newer artists like Adele and Alabama Shakes also make the list. And consumers from college-age to as young as nine-year-olds have been bitten by the vinyl bug.


Join us on Friday! It should be a fun day of great music, new and old.


"They reach into your room," Elton said, "Just feel their gentle touch." Every now and again, we all have to wallow in our misery. And we all know that "when all hope is gone, sad songs say so much." For a really good, nice wallow, the garden variety song with a tinge of depression just won't do. Overblown woe with a theatrical grandiosity is the ticket for today's on-the-go Sad Sack. We've collected a number of sad songs below and rated them from one to four boxes of tissues you'll need to soak up those tears from a trickle to a river.

And be sure to catch some of these, plus more music for Sad Sacks throughout the day, from 6 AM to 6 PM Friday January 13th on WYEP.


  • The Cure, "Boys Don't Cry"

Robert Smith and company have provided their share of good tear-jerkers over the years. In fact, when "Friday I'm in Love" was released in 1992, some fans wondered if Smith had been kidnapped and replaced by a bizarre double-agent from Happyland. "Boys Don't Cry" is one of the standard bearers for the goth-rock mainstays. (Even dubbing the band "goth" makes Smith sad.)

sample lyric: "I try and laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes/Because boys don't cry"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • Marvin Gaye, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

No one wants to be the last one to know any important info, let alone the tragic detail that your significant other is now another's other. That's rough. Gladys Knight recorded this song first, but while her version is soulful with some powerful singing, Marvin really makes you feel it. That slight raspiness in his voice comes across as a catch in the throat, kicking up the song into an extra tissue zone.

sample lyric: "Losing you would end my life you see 'cause you mean that much to me/You could have told me yourself that you loved someone else/Instead I heard it through the grapevine"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • Prince, "When Doves Cry"

On paper, it's got all the theatrical sadness one would need, but how can you be very sad when you're listening to such a joyful arrangement?

sample lyric: "How can you just leave me standing, alone in a world that's so cold?"

weepiness rating: 1 boxes of tissues


  • The Replacements, "Unsatisfied"

One can think of this song as the flipside to John Lennon's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" with The Beatles. Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, "When you're drowning, you don't say, 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.' You just SCREAM." With this Replacements classic, Paul Westerberg repeatedly rages against the lie that his life appears to be and cries for the satisfaction that never comes, and he imbues his vocals with every ounce of those emotions. But we'll still deduct one tissue box for being more angst-y than weepy.

sample lyric: "I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied/I'm so dissatisfied/I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied/I'm so unsatisfied"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • Roy Orbison, "Only the Lonely"

Let's face it. Roy Orbison is one of the music world's Godfather of Sad Sacks. His most successful period of hit singles in 1960-'61 is littered with song titles like "Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)," "Today's Teardrops," "Running Scared," "Love Hurts," and the majestic "Crying." Even his perhaps best-known song, the relatively straightforward "Oh, Pretty Woman" from 1964, backs up the line, "I couldn't help but see, pretty woman, that you look lovely as can be" with the Sad Sack follow-up, "Are you lonely just like me?"

sample lyric: "There goes my baby, there goes my heart/They're gone forever, so far apart"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • Chris Isaak, "Somebody's Crying"

Isaak has never shied away from dipping his music in the same Well of Tears as Roy Orbison, and this song is a prime example. He even uses a propulsive drumbeat on the chorus reminiscent of "Oh, Pretty Woman." And while he doesn't have the stunning vocal range of Orbison to kick the song into drama overdrive, Isaak is a master of singing with doleful vulnerability. This song is a Hallmark Movie of the Week in waiting.

sample lyric: "I know somebody and they called your name a million times, and still you never came"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"

Morrissey is quite simply a towering figure in the annals of Sad Sack music. He's like a Sylvia Plath poem sprung to fretful life, spewing out woe-is-me tearjerkers like he's being paid under the table by Kleenex. He's churned out songs like "What Difference Does It Make?," "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," "I Want the One I Can't Have," "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," "Never Had No One Ever," and "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" like a one-man Brill Building of self-pity (and that's not even getting to his solo songs). This song is perhaps his "Stairway to Heaven" of misery, an epic and surprisingly radio-friendly anthem to ill-at-ease Sad Sacks everywhere.

sample lyric: "You go and you stand on your own and you leave on your own and you go home and you cry and you want to die"

weepiness rating: 4 boxes of tissues


  • Adele, "Someone Like You"

It's like the 2011 Saturday Night Live sketch when everyone couldn't help but bust out crying listening to this song. Basically nailed it. "You both needed a good cry so you were listening to Adele's 'Someone Like You.' "  "Do you do it too?" "Everyone with a heart and an iTunes account does."

sample lyric: "I heard that you're settled down, that you found a girl and you're married now/I heard that your dreams came true, guess she gave you things I didn't give to you"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • Merle Haggard, "Misery & Gin"

About 40% of all country songs could have been included on this list, so consider this entry as also representing all the cry-in-your-beer country weepers that are not from the boot-scootin' and bro-country end of the Grand Ole Opry spectrum. Merle was certainly no stranger to tearful tunes, from his very first single "Sing a Sad Song" to his 47th and final album in 2011 which included three songs with "blues" in their titles.

sample lyric: "Looking at the world through the bottom of a glass/All I see is a man who's fading fast"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • The Beatles, "Eleanor Rigby"

While most of your typical Sad Sack tracks are about affairs of the heart, Paul McCartney wrote this pocket melodrama about the futility of life itself--making the Orbisons and Morrisseys of the Sad Sack world come off as Up With People by comparison.

sample lyric: "Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name/Nobody came"

weepiness rating: 4 boxes of tissues


  • Best Coast, "Why I Cry"

It's a two-minute blast of upbeat music, but the lyrics paint a vignette of alienation and self-pity in which life is a Sisyphean "never-ending hill."

sample lyric: "Look to the future, nothing's there/Don't know why I even care"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • Eric Carmen, "All By Myself"

Even before the lyrics begin, the piano intro itself screams "here come the waterworks!" The verses are fairly compact but are packed with gorgeous touchstones of Sad Sackery: pining over lost youth, loneliness, insecurity. The choruses enter the scene like soaring eagles of melodrama, flying over awe-inspiring vistas of tear-drenched strings and ominous drum fills. And don't get me started with that Hugh McCracken guitar solo popping by like a comforting, shoulder-patting friend.

sample lyric: "Living alone, I think of all the friends I've known/But when I dial the telephone, nobody's home"

weepiness rating: 4 boxes of tissues


What are your favorite Sad Sack songs? Tweet us @WYEP and let us know, or post on our Facebook wall!

Listen for more sad songs on WYEP's Sad Sack Music Day on Friday January 13th, throughout the day from 6 AM to 6 PM.


We have a lot of special programming for the upcoming holiday weekend. Below is a list of what will be different and what will be the same on our programming schedule.


Friday, December 23rd

  • 9AM-1PM: Kevin Gavin All-Request Holiday Music Special - For the 40th year, Kevin Gavin from our sister station WESA is hosting an all-request holiday music program, and it will once again be simulcast on both WYEP and WESA. We also invite you to visit the Community Broadcast Center during the broadcast for an open house including tours, holiday treats, and a visit from Santa. Kidsburgh will be here with some children-friendly activities. Click for more information.

(Grand Groove Radio & The Block Party will be preempted for a special music mix of some of the great musicians we lost in 2016.)

Saturday, December 24th

  • 2-5PM: The Soul Show Holiday Special - Host Mike Canton will bring you everything from James Brown to Jimi Hendrix to Caribbean steel pan. In addition, Mike will review The Soul Show's Top 10 albums of 2016.


  • 5PM-midnight: WYEP Holiday Mix - A continuous mix of holiday songs, traditional and new. Listen for a uniquely WYEP approach to the holidays featuring music both obvious and obscure.

(Big Town Blues & Rollin' & Tumblin' will be preempted for the WYEP Holiday Mix.)


Sunday, December 25th

  • midnight-11AM: WYEP Holiday Mix - A continuous mix of holiday songs, traditional and new. Listen for a uniquely WYEP approach to the holidays featuring music both obvious and obscure.


  • 11AM-2PM: The Roots & Rhythm Holiday Special - Holiday music with a rootsy flavor, handpicked by host Jesse Novak.


  • 2-5PM: WYEP Holiday Mix - A continuous mix of holiday songs, traditional and new. Listen for a uniquely WYEP approach to the holidays featuring music both obvious and obscure.


  • 5-8PM: An American Sampler Holiday Special - Folk and acoustic music with a holiday spin, brought to you by host Ken Batista.


  • 8-11PM: Bluegrass Jam Session (...with a touch of the holidays) - Host Bruce Mountjoy winds down the day with an edition of Bluegrass Jam Session that's almost back to normal but with just a slight holiday flair. Bruce will also showcase some of the best bluegrass from 2016.

(Beale Street Caravan, Dubmission, Keller's Cellar, Folk Alley, WYEP Coffeehouse, and the Sunday Mix will be preempted for the WYEP Holiday Mix.)




Last year, we had so much fun with it that we knew we'd have to do another one in 2016. So here we go again, from "ABC" by the Jackson 5 -- the first song on the list -- all the way to Red Hot Chili Peppers' "The Zephyr Song," our last track. (Should I have given a spoiler alert first? Nah, it's not the destination, it's the journey!)

I guess I should go over the parameters of the week, just so you know what to expect. All week, from December 5th through the 9th between 6 AM and 6 PM, the songs we play will be presented in alphabetical order by song title.

We're not playing our entire library alphabetically, though. We have around 20,000 albums in our library, so a quick back-of-the-envelope math suggests that it would take almost two straight years of continuous 24/7 airplay to plow through our entire library alphabetically!

Here are a couple of answers to questions we've heard from listeners about our A to Z Week:

Q: Do you allow cover songs during the A to Z Week?

Yes! However, only one version of any one song. So while we might play, say, Jimi Hendrix's cover of "All Along the Watchtower," we wouldn't also play Bob Dylan's original version. Otherwise, they would alphabetically come right next to each other and we don't want to play the same song twice in a row (great as they both are).

Q: Hey, I just heard a song with a title that begins with "The" in a different part of the alphabet! What gives?

We're using traditional alphabetization rules. (The way books are filed in your local library.) All song titles beginning with the words "A," "An," and "The" get those words dropped from the title. Numbers are sorted as if they are words. Titles that begin with non-alphanumeric characters (like a parenthesis or an apostrophe) are sorted as though that character was not there.

Q: Is there any date/year range or cut-off for songs included?

Nope. The songs we're playing this year during A to Z Week span from 1955 through to this year. Also, they're not limited by style (there will be rock, folk, soul, blues, reggae, and more) or geography (we'll have songs by local artists all the way to performers from Somalia, London, Jamaica, and Sweden).

Q: Why are you only doing this from 6 AM to 6 PM?

Well, we have a lot of great shows during the week (like the World Cafe, Grand Groove Radio, the Block Party, and WYEP Afterhours) that we don't want to mess with. We wouldn't incorporate their music into the A to Z mix because then it wouldn't show up during the show time. And we can't really do a separate A to Z during these other shows -- that would just be confusing. So each day, we'll pause the A to Z progression at 6 PM and then pick it up again at 6 AM.

If you have any other questions, feel free to send 'em my way at mike@wyep.org. And enjoy A to Z Week!


Mike Sauter

WYEP Director of Content and Programming


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