Listen to the story of this famous instrument
On December 4, 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley gathered round the piano at Sun Studios in Memphis. This impromptu jam was recorded, and released some years later as the Million Dollar Quartet.
Studio owner Sam Phillips had bought the piano six years earlier, when he set up Sun Records, an enterprise central to the birth of rock music. It was a 1949 Wurlitzer spinet piano, and it's been played by many great musicians on thousands of recording sessions.
Late in 2021, the piano was listed for sale by auction - with an expected price of about one million dollars. This instrument, and the store it was purchased from, are right at the heart of the rock and roll story.
Listen to songs with incredibly long titles
Song titles are usually short, memorable, something of the song’s essence in a short phrase. But not always. Some song titles go on and on and on. Some bulk up their titles by adding phrases in brackets.
Hoagy Carmichael may hold the record with a 30 word song title, The Faces have one with 28 words. Honourable mentions to Panic at the Disco, Brian Hyland, Pink Floyd, Lana Del Ray. The longest title I could find is by Christine Lavin, with 97 words.
It’s a small but significant, and really entertaining, musical sub-genre.
Listen to the latest NFSA Sounds of Australia
Every summer, Australia's National Film and Sound Archive adds recordings to its Sounds of Australia collection. Songs, speeches, recordings, events that say something about our big brown land and what it's like to get about on it.
The songs added this year are era-defining classics. From 1963, 14 year old Little Pattie's He's My Blonde Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy, a joyful celebration of surf and sounds.
There's The Triffids, and perhaps the most Australian song ever made, the hymn to love, loss and long drives that is Wide Open Road.
Somebody That I Used To Know, from the curious hybrid pop star Gotye also got a listing.
As did Renee Geyer, Australia's reigning queen of soul and one of its down under pioneers, for her first top 40 hit, Heading In The Right Direction, from 1975.
Listen to the Meat Loaf story
The 1977 overnight success of Marvin Lee Aday was at least a decade in the making. By the time he exploded out of our TV sets as Meat Loaf, he had been in the music business since the mid 60s, and had considerable theatre experience under his belt, in shows like Rocky Horror and Hair.
There was a huge dose of theatre in Meat Loaf's music. Was he a singer who acts, or an actor who sings? The man himself leaned to the latter, but probably believed it impossible to distinguish one role from the other. He had a bones-deep conviction about the righteous nature of rock and roll as an answer to teenage yearning, and to the haunting dreams that have as their central theme the notion that there must be more than this.
Meat Loaf (don't call him Meatloaf!) found the perfect partner in writer/producer Jim Steinman. Together, they made Bat Out Of Hell, which broke first in Australia. Its early success here convinced his reluctant record company to back the Bat, producing a global hit that became one of the best-selling records ever.
Meat Loaf has died - he was 74. If Bat Out Of Hell was his only achievement, he would have deserved a lofty place in the great rock and roll museum of feats and fame. Meat Loaf did so much more.
Listen to the Ronnie Spector story
The Ronettes were the high point of the early 60s "girl group" phenomenon. Their delicious harmonies were the sound of the times, and the Ronettes had many hits like Be My Baby, Walking In The Rain and Baby I Love You.
Lead singer Ronnie Spector was a music trail-blazer with a gift for the yearning vocals so popular with teen audiences at the time. Her singing style has been an enormous influence on music ever since. And the story of how she survived the cruelty dealt her by her husband, the convicted murderer Phil Spector, is an extraordinary tale of courage and resilience.
Ronnie Spector has died - she was 78. She was one of the great singers of the modern era, and a key participant in one of pop music's finest moments.
-Late one 1970s night, I walked across London in the rain, coming home from a screening of Let It Be, the Beatles film about making the album of the same name. I had enough money for the film, but not the train home. I got back to my off-Baker Street digs saturated and miserable. How could this great musical adventure have ended as the film seemed to portray it? Four "fab" friends as enemies, sniping and storming out, apparently distressed by the presence of John's new partner.
Film director Peter Jackson got access to all the original material - hundreds of hours of film and audio - and found an entirely different story. Four young men who still loved making music together, bringing each other's ideas to life. They were as close, still, as four people could be, their partnership strengthened by every new wave of fandom and hysteria.
But they'd been together a long time, Things, and times, were changing, and they were beginning to imagine, perhaps crave, life as four solo performers. Peter Jackson's epic Get Back documentary brings all this to life in beautifully restored film and sound. You go to work with the Beatles as they go about making hit records. That is not, by any means, an exciting job - it's slow, repetitive, frustrating, elusive. In that, the many hours of Get Back gets it very right.
But it's not for everyone. Many have criticised its length, and it goes way deeper than many fans would want. But it is a beautifully made and faithful account of The Beatles at work in 1969, getting near the end, making the last album they would release. I recommend it.
Listen to the Marvelettes story
Motown Records was founded by Berry Gordy in 1959, a bold adventure that very quickly became the sound of young America. Motown had the best and brightest black American talent, an extraordinary team of songwriters, and the legendary Funk Brothers house band.
But what was Motown's first number one hit? You win big at music trivia if your answer is Please Mister Postman, by the Marvelettes, released in August 1961. Wanda Young sang on that record at age 18, the oldest group member at the time.
Wanda eventually took over as lead singer, with the great Smokey Robinson writing songs specifically for her voice and style. Wanda died in December - she was 78.
Tune in to the story of Wanda Young, the Marvelettes and Please Mister Postman, the song that was heard all around the world.
Listen to songs that inspired dance crazes
For centuries, there's been a fascinating relationship between music and dance. Music inspires new dances, and then dances inspire new songs.
In the recorded music era, we began to see dance crazes. The Lindy, the Jitterbug, the Twist. The 60s was full of them, and more recently, there was Walk Like An Egyptian, the Macarena and more. Put on your red shoes and get dancing.
Listen to my Xmas 2021 playlist
Compiling a Xmas playlist is always a challenge: enough favourites to please everyone but not too many tunes that have been flogged in the shopping centres since early November.
My Xmas 2021 playlist includes the great band leader Louis Prima, a grumpy offering from the Pet Shop Boys, Beck's bent Little Drum Machine Boy, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, and a gem from Minnesota Indie band, Low.
Listen to the Mike Nesmith story
In 1966, American TV executives wanted the "youth" market. They'd seen the success of the zany Beatle films and wanted some of that action. But they didn't have a band. So they invented one.
The Monkees was a TV show about a band, played by actors Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. But the actors became the band, taking over from the studio musicians and songwriters who created the Monkees hit records.
When the Monkees split, Mike Nesmith went on to succeed as a solo act, a songwriter, and a pioneer of video in music. It was Mike that pitched the idea of a music clip television show to Warner Brothers - that became MTV. Inventing ran in the Nesmith family. His mother, Bette, invented the typewriter correction fluid that became known as Liquid Paper.
Mike died in December. He was 78.
Richard is a writer, podcaster, radio and TV broadcaster, an editor, and a lover of music. He tells the stories of how great songs are made, and of the people who make them.