The Popdose Podcast: Episode 23 – R.I.P., Phil Ramone
The death of Phil Ramone last week saddened all of us at Popdose. But it got Jason out of podcasting retirement. For the first time since Nov. 2011, the trio of Dave Lifton, Jeff Giles and Jason Hare came together (not that way – sheesh, what’s wrong with you people?) to remember the music that Ramone produced or engineered in his career.
But that doesn’t mean that this was a solemn occasion. There are the usual digressions and juvenile jokes that you’ve come to expect from us. What, you think we’ve grown up in the last 16 months? Why would you think that?
0:00 We begin by catching up. Since the last time the three of us got together, Dave and Jeff became homeowners and Jason became a father. Jeff talks about his son’s lack of coordination and we recall a classic Louis C.K. routine about parenting.
13:14 We finally get to the matter at hand, the career of Phil Ramone. For once, we have a legitimate reason for talking about Billy Joel, and yet Jason still finds a way to bring it back to Starland Vocal Band. Dave and Jeff agree that seeing “Produced by Phil Ramone” on a record was a sign of quality and yet, unlike many other big name producers, he didn’t have a signature sound, and could get warmth even on a synth-heavy album like The Bridge. Jason specifically talks about what Ramone contributed to Joel’s 1977 breakthrough, The Stranger. Song: “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” by Billy Joel.
23:35 Dave recounts a conversation he had earlier in the day with our friend (and guest on Episodes 20 and 21) Peter Lubin, who hired Ramone to produce Martin Briley’s 1985 album Dangerous Moments. Song: “Dangerous Moments” by Martin Briley
27:09 One of the albums Ramone engineered early in his career was Getz/Gilberto by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto. Dave discusses the sound of Stan Getz’s saxophone on “The Girl from Ipanema.” Song: “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto.
28:50 We discuss our favorite Phil Ramone productions. Jason’s is The Stranger, while Jeff chooses Paul Simon’s There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. Song: “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon
30:42 Jeff brings up the subject of the back cover of The Stranger, which features Ramone, and how it shaped his views on music, art and the reasons he founded Popdose. Song: “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel (speaking of which, check out this AWESOME version of Jason performing it at his wedding!)
33:35 Ramone spent much of the last 20 years on high-profile projects and on advancing recording technology. Jeff remembers Russ Irwin’s Ramone-produced debut, which is too crappy to include in the show but you can find it on YouTube here. Dave finally gets around to talking about Still Crazy After All These Years and how Upper West Side Jewish angst was at the forefront of American culture in the mid-70s, which brings up the subject of the Woody Allen stutter video. Our juvenile humor comes out. Song: “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon
41:39 Jason won’t stop talking about The Stranger, and manages to bring George Michael into the equation. Dave talks about how Ramone’s background recording jazz taught him about the importance of the room, which is why even synth-heavy albums like The Nylon Curtain and The Bridge still sound human. Song: “Getting Closer” by Billy Joel
48:23 We talk about the various versions of Simon’s “American Tune” that Ramone produced, by Simon, everything but the Girl, and Simon & Garfunkel. Song: “American Tune” by Simon & Garfunkel.
52:03 The outro. Jason realizes he missed talking to us, but we’re re-thinking the whole thing.
* Special thanks to our own Ted Asregadoo, who was unmentioned in the podcast, but provided much valuable insight into the career of Billy Joel in advance of this episode.